Irish Scribal Culture As A Purveyor Of Charm Texts In The Eighteenth And Nineteenth Centuries

Pp. 33-42

  • Nicholas Wolf
Keywords: bilingualism, Brían Ó Fearraghaile, childbirth charms, Douglas Hyde, Irish language, scribes, toothache charms


Irish-language scribal culture demonstrated a significant interest in charms in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in part because of the more localized and intimate audience for such texts. Yet when folklorists later made note of the provenance of charms they collected from these scribal sources, they often failed to convey information about how charms came to be copied down and how charms fit into the larger intellectual context of their users. In fact, collectors preferred to highlight the oral aspects of folk practices, as in the example of Douglas Hyde’s massive collection of popular religious material, Abhráin Diadha Chúige Connacht (1906). It is argued here that the scribal context surrounding eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Irish charm exemplars deserves closer investigation so that the textual practices that surrounded the propagation of charms can be restored to their place alongside the words of the charms themselves.