Charles Dooley wrote:
>>The question is, where would this scolaige have studied them?
So-called "secret" knowledge isn't always so secret.
One of my interests in the witchcraft trials in seventeenth-century New
England. The vast majority of people in New England at that time were
opposed to using witchcraft, but almost everyone knew something about how to
do it, or thought they did, the way people today often think they know what
the druids were (white robes, mistletoe, golden sickles, Stonehenge--all the
misconceptions). Some of the divination practices common in the seventeenth
century were well known and documented. Others were part of oral folklore (a
large percentage of the people of New England, especially those in Essex
county, came from the same area of Old England--East Anglia--so their
cultural heritage was fairly similar). Every time I read trial transcripts,
it amazes me just how detailed an acquaintance the accusers had of the
methods used by witches--or what they thought those methods were. Everyone,
it seems, had some idea of what witches did (whether or not their ideas were
accurate is a whole other issue). For example, everyone knew how to
recognize whether a cow had died from the blast of a witch as opposed to a
stroke of lightning or some other "natural" cause. Everyone, it seems, knew
what a "witch's teat" looked like. When someone, under duress, confessed,
they knew exactly what they were expected to say, what they should claim to
have done. The judges certainly contributed to such statements by leading
the witnesses--and the judges themselves had very clear ideas about what
witches did and said.
My point in all this is that Aislingi Mac Con Glinne does not necessarily
reflect a formal knowledge of how poets might have done things, though we
know that poets were said to know how to invoke the du/ile and lampoon
someone to death. Aislingi Mac Con Glinne is itself a satire and may contain
popular notions in the way that Essex County court records reflect popular
notions of witchcraft or Synge's _Riders to the Sea_ reflects popular
notions of imbas forosnai or the film _The Exorcist_ reflects popular
notions of demonic posession and rites used to dispel it. On the other hand,
it porbably does reflect a popular idea that a scolaige would have knowledge
of charms and "spells" for all sorts of purposes--the knowledge that would
later be attributed to the "fairy doctor." But I don't think one should
assume that things were done exactly as described in the text.
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