Biddy Early

?1798-1874; b. Faha, nr. Kilanena, Co. Clare; became renowned as a healer; lived mostly at Kilbarron, nr. Feakle, Co. Clare; m. four times; accepted gifts rather than money; power derived from fairies; began healing when a son suffered a bout of illness caused by fairies; priest threw her dark-blue bottle [var. black], given by fairies [to her son], into Kilbarron Lake at her death; was consulted by Prince of Wales; bur. Feakle in unmarked grave; figures significantly in folklore work of Lady Gregory and W. B. Yeats. DIH

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Edmund Lenihan, In Search of Biddy Early (Cork: Mercier 1987), 113pp.; Meda Ryan, Biddy Early: Wise Woman of Clare (Mercier Press 1978; rep. 1984, 1991); Bob Curran, A Bewitched Land: Ireland's Witches (Dublin: O'Brien Press 2005), 190pp. [incls. Alice Kyteler, Florence Newton, Bridget Cleary, Biddy Early, Moll Anthony, et. al.] See also Bryan MacMahon, The Death of Biddy Early (q.d.), a play.

See also Lady Gregory, ‘Seers and Healers: Biddy Early’, in Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland (1920; rep. edn. Colin Smythe 1970) [Chap. II], pp.31-68.

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Vision & belief: she is an important topic in Lady Gregory’s Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland (2 vols. 1920)

Shadowy Biddy: Biddy Early is referred to in Yeats’s The Shadowy Waters (l.15), and annotated as ‘a famous wtich in Co. Clare’ in A. N. Jeffares, A New Commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats (1984, p.441); see also Yeats’s Autbiographies, p.401.

Ballylee cure: W. B. Yeats quotes Biddy Early’s saying, ‘There is a cure for all evil betweeen the two mill-wheels of Ballylee’, in Celtic Twilight (1893), rep., in Mythologies, p.22.

Burn!: It is reported by tradition that Biddy Early contrived the burning down of a landlord’s house when he threatened to evict her, all remaining being his foot; received her bottle from her son who won it playing hurling with the fairies (see Irish Times report on Ronald Schuchard, lecturing at the Yeats Summer School, Sligo, 1995; Irish Times, 10 Aug. 1995).

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