Politicising Witches and Witchcraft Ireland: Now and Then

Guest lecture by Dr Elena Ogliari

📅 2nd May 2024, h 16:30

📍 Room T3, Piazza Indro Montanelli, 1 – Sesto S. Giovanni

✉️ Anna Pasolini‘s institutional address

Poster of the event showing a hooded elderly woman and the details of the lecture (2nd may 2024 at Polo di Mediazione Interculturale e Comunicazione at 16:30 in Room T3)
Poster Guest Lecture Elena Ogliari

The lesson aims to explore the unique characteristics of the Irish experience of magic and witchcraft in modern and contemporary times, by tracing the evolution of the portrayal of witches in Irish creative arts and their ‘exploitation’ in the socio-political arena.

Although contemporary representations of witches as self-empowered women do not lack in Irish literature, examples of which can be found in the works of Eavan Boland and Frank McGuinness, portrayals and discursive representations since the late nineteenth-century onwards have predominantly weaponized the figure of the Irish witch for (anti-)nationalist political agendas and to reinforce conflicting interpretations of Irishness and identity.

These narratives tend to overlook or distort the richness and complexity of beliefs in witchcraft, both historically and in present-day society.

Only in contemporary works, such as Siobhan MacGowan’s The Graces (2023), do we find critiques of the manipulation of the witch figure for political purposes and challenges to longstanding misconceptions about witchcraft in Ireland.

Short Reading List

  • Yeats, William B. “Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop.” The Poems: Second Edition, 1997, pp. 263-264. Available on Minerva Digital Library at UNIMI.
  • Yeats, William B. Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry. Walter Scott,1888. Chapter on “Witches, Fairy Doctors” available here https://sacred-texts.com/neu/yeats/fip/index.htm.

Useful resources / Further reading

  • Boland, Eavan. “Witching.” Collected Poems. Carcanet Press Ltd, 1995, pp. 65-67. Available on Minerva Digital Library at UNIMI.
  • Yeats, William B. “Witches and Wizards and Irish Folk-Lore.” Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland Collected and Arranged by Lady Gregory: With Two Essays and Notes by W. B. Yeats. Knickerbocker Press, 1920. Available online here https://sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/vbwi/vbwi20.htm.