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Subject: Re: possession and exorcism in early Ireland
From: Michele Cheung <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Scholars and students of Old Irish <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 1 Aug 2006 11:28:37 -0400

text/plain (60 lines)

This is way late for your period, I think written down in the 12th 
century, but you need it for comic relief considering your subject 
matter: The Vision of MacConglinne (Ancient Irish Tales, eds. Cross & 
Slover). It contains a demon of gluttony who possesses Cathal mac 
Finguine. The whole mechanism of the possession is described in 
scientific or at least metaphysical detail to a delightful degree, and 
the possessing demon (it hangs out in his throat a lot) has a speaking part.


Peter Dendle wrote:
> Dear list members:
> My name is Peter Dendle, and I'm an Assoc. Prof. of English at Penn 
> State. I have joined the list because I am finding myself stuck at a 
> very interesting point in my subject, and need to seek the help of those 
> outside of my own field. I know some listserves consider it rude to join 
> lists only for specific queries, but I hope it will not be taken amiss 
> if I pose to you my problem, in the event that someone might have 
> additional information, citations, or perspective that can help further 
> me in my thinking.
> Specifically, I am finishing up a book on demon possession in 
> Anglo-Saxon England. In brief, the book concludes that demon possession 
> was not a widespread part of Anglo-Saxon spirituality or culture, as it 
> seems to have been a part of Merovingian and Carolingian culture. There 
> is really only evidence for possession in late seventh and early eighth 
> century Northumbria/East Anglia. The anonymous reviewer of my book for 
> Medieval Institute Publications (Western Michigan Univ.) noticed that 
> this is just the time and place most influenced by Irish monasticism. 
> He/she suggested that I explore whether or not possession behavior and 
> its attendant exorcism may have been imported from Ireland.
> So far, I have not found any references to possession or exorcism in the 
> seventh century hagiography of Ireland: Tirechanís /Life of Patrick/ or 
> /Collection/ (ca. 664-668), Cogitosusí /Life of Brigit /(ca. 680), 
> Adomnanís /Life of Columba/ (ca. 690s), and Muirchuís /Life of Patrick/ 
> (ca. 690s?). Later works are of less potential interest, unless they can 
> be dated confidently, say, in the early eighth century. Jonas' /Life of 
> Columban/ has demoniacs, but that all takes place on the continent. My 
> current hypothesis, then, is that there is no evidence these beliefs 
> came over from Ireland. For all we know, possession had not yet taken 
> root yet in seveenth-century Ireland. Does that pass the "smell test" to 
> those of you more familiar with Ireland than I am?  Are there other 
> obvious sources that might turn up possession/exorcism accounts which I 
> should know about?  I've been using Richard Sharpe's /Medieval Irish 
> Saintsí Lives: An Introduction to Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae /(Oxford: 
> Clarendon Press, 1991) so far as my basic guide.
> Or, does anyone know specifically of any academic discussions of demon 
> possession in medieval Ireland that could help provide me with further 
> context?
> Thanks very much for your attention, and for any help anyone might be 
> able to offer me.
> Yours,
> Peter

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