Biddy Early was a famous Irish seer and healer, a cunning woman of the nineteenth century, often identified as Biddy 'The Healer', 'The Wise Woman' or 'The Witch'. Much of what is known about her has been passed down from oral tradition and blended into myth and folklore.
Born Bridget Ellen Connors in lower Faha near Kilanena in 1798, Biddy was the daughter of a small land farmer, John Thomas Connors and his wife Ellen Early. Biddy is described as being small in statue and pretty, a woman who kept her good looks throughout her life. While married four times, she always used her mother's maiden name, believing that her gifts were inherited through the female line. Her mother taught her all about herbs and how to make potions, just as her own mother had taught her.
Biddy’s powers of clairvoyance are credited to a mysterious blue bottle. How this “magic” bottle came into her possession, has since become part of her myth and legend. Some believe her late husband Pat Mally gave it to her before he died or her son before he died; others believe it came to her from the “sidhe”. There are some stories that say she was away with the sidhe, and went to live among them for a time as a child. As a little girl it was said she could see and talk to the sidhe in their own language, which was different from Gaelic and that they taught her how to use her gifts.
She was instructed that by looking into the bottle with one eye and keeping the other eye open, she would be able to see what ailed people and view the future. In exchange for this ability, she was never to charge money for her services, or she would lose the power. She could accept gifts, but was to give away whatever was left over from her own needs. She must never allow others to look into the bottle, or else they would either die or go mad. By using the bottle, Biddy always knew when a person was about to visit her, and whether they had gone to a doctor or a priest first. If they had, then she usually refused to treat them unless she was in a good mood.
Another great power which Biddy is accredited with was her ability to talk to and cure the wrath of the Fairies. People used to come to her who had been bewitched by the “little people”. One man had his entire herd of cattle had been cursed by the fairies and they all became violently ill. On the advice of one of his friends he went to see Biddy. After looking into her bottle, she saw the problem. He had planted a whitethorn bush along a fairy path in his field. She instructed him to go home and remove the bush. As soon as he had done this, his entire herd immediately returned to full health.
During the nineteenth century, superstitious belief in fairies and all things supernatural was very strong, and when something happened that appeared to be miraculous, without the aid of the church, it was commonly and easily attributed to witchcraft and the devil. As such the local church viewed Biddy with suspicion, and all the local clergy were totally opposed to her. As her fame spread they even tried to warn off people who went to visit her. One story of the churches opposition occurred in 1865. While visiting friends in Ennis, Biddy was charged with Witchcraft under the 1586 statute; however the case was dismissed due to a lack of sufficient evidence. Many of the local people stood their ground against the clergy, maintaining she did nothing but good works.
Before her death and despite their differences, Biddy had befriended one of the local priests and asked him not to let her bottle fall into the wrong hands when she died. According to her wishes, the priest took the bottle and hurled it intoI have no doubt that her bottle was never thrown in the lake, it is probably sitting in the
. Since then, such was the belief in Biddy’s legend, many attempts to trawl the lake in search of the bottle have been made, but to this day it has never been found. Kilbarron Lake
I hope you have enjoyed this post on Biddy Early, my favorite Irish Healer. As always I would love to hear your thoughts and how you yourself may incorporate Biddy into your own magickal workings.