Biddy Early. The Magical Lady of Clare by Gypsy Willowmoon

Born in Faha, near Feakle in East Clare 1798 - Died in April 1874 in Feakle in the Republic of Ireland. Biddy's parents were Tom and Ellen Connors.

Bridget Ellen " Biddy" Early was a traditional Irish herbalist who helped her neighbours. Biddy acted against the wishes of the Catholic Church and a local tenant farmer. Biddy had bright red hair and a talent - like her Mother, for concocting herbal remedies for common ails. Biddy is a woman after my own heart and actually reminds me of my Granny Hall from Belfast we all have her tenacity and temper and glimpses of her red hair.

She was accused of Witchcraft in County Clare. Biddy was known locally for her herbal work, people would seek her out at her cottage.

Born into a poor farming family as an only child, her parents were poor and feared eviction... Her Mother passed when Biddy was Only 16, then sadly her Dad passed 6 months after that. She went to live with relatives in North Clare, whom did not like her reputation... She ended up wandering the roads and working as a servant (domestic) on the Clare estate of a Limerick Landlord called Sheehy. Biddy also worked in a workhouse in Ennis known as 'The House of Industry'.... Which must have been very tough... Biddy learnt to read and write in the workhouse taught by another worker.

As far as we are aware, Biddy Early had 4 husbands.... Pat O'Malley who gave her a Son, then sadly died 5 years after the wedding. Biddy then married his Son, her stepson John... John died of liver related problems, himself and his Dad enjoyed the bottle...

Tom Flannery from Carrowoe - Who died when their son Tom was 8 from illness and later a third & fourth which was quite scandalous as Biddy was in her 70's and the groom only in his 30's ... She was something of a cougar it seems, going after the younger man... Tom Meaney - Husband

Unable to pay her rent due to her husbands (Toms) death, she was given an eviction notice. The night before it was enforced her dead husband visited with Biddy and told her, ' When the Police come the next day to tell them "Stay where they are." that they would leave and not return again. She did as she was bid - The 5 Policemen and the Sheriff were stuck to the spot - After two hours she told them to leave and not to return. The lock that she had put on them had broken, they ran home and never bothered her again. But was never seen again after her passing... Biddy Early was said to have had a Blue bottle in her possession, which showed the future...

It is said that her dead Son Tom, returned from death to give her this Blue bottle, as he was worried about how she would survive. He told her " Take this Mother and it will make a living for you." The strange thing is, it did... People came from far and wide to receive her premonitions, which were said to be amazingly accurate. It was also said if a person travelled for many miles to see Biddy Early - That she would meet them half way...

Biddy Early made potions that, today, would be called a cure all - Which was said to heal most ailments. Biddy Early was said to have a well beside her house which possessed the most magical powers, if given with her consent the waters could heal a person of any affliction...

She would heal the animals of her neighbours which was their livelihoods in those days - She would heal them with a drop of water from her well.

Biddy Early, like myself worked on a barter system - Meaning she never charged money but accepted services, Poteen or food for her services.

Biddy Early is referenced in W.B Yeats 'Celtic Twilight' poem first published in 1893 - 19 years after her death in 1874 at the age of 75 from natural causes.

It is said that Biddy Early could also speak to the Fae and that people who had been bewitched by the Fae would visit with Biddy for a cure - Like the farmer whom planted a Whitethorn bush along the Fae path in his field which brought the Fae's wrath into his life... Once he consulted with Biddy Early he went home and removed the bush - his entire heard are said to have immediately returned to health.

There was an article written about Biddy Early's marriage to her younger husband. In the Limerick Chronicle July 29th, 1869.

I think one of the reasons that the Church took against Biddy Early was for her popularity amongst her own peoples for her herbal work, plus she smoke and drank and moved to the beat of her own drum. She was quite spiritual and probably would have been unapologetic about it Which led to her being denounced by the Church.

A DR in Limerick questioned Biddy's healing methods and she went to court in Ennis and was charged under the Witchcraft statue of 1856 - The case was dismissed due to lack of evidence - The prosecution could find NO ONE to speak against Biddy - Which says a lot, in my opinion...

She apparently placed a curse of the Clare Hurling team and stopped them for over 80 years... In 1995 an Ennis man named Bill Loughnane wrote a letter defending Biddy to a local newspaper after Clare 'broke Biddy's Curse' by winning the 1995 All- Ireland hurling championships. This is what he wrote - " Biddy Early is fondly remembered in Co Clare as an extraordinary woman who devoted her time to comforting and healing the sick. She is not known to have ever cursed anyone. She experienced some difficulty with one local clergyman of the day who, for reasons of his own, would have labelled her a "Witch"... Biddy Early died in 1875 before the foundation of the GAA and long before there was any Inter-County competition!"

The Catholic Church and Biddy had made amends before her death, her Local Priest Father Andrew Connellan, anointed her on her death bed, and it is him who supposedly threw the Blue bottle into Kilbarron Lake, behind her cottage, after her death...

You can visit Biddy's home and leave offerings. It is said her presence is felt strongly. It is important to leave an offering on the altar, that seems to have been there for quite some amount of time - offerings of jewellery, whiskey, coins etc are welcome - Although I wouldn't leave money if I were you Wink

I think I would have enjoyed getting to know Biddy and learning from her, and all her ways with herbs and healing - The fact that all of the locals were loyal to Biddy and held her in such high esteem, aiding in her not getting charged with Witchcraft is because she always looked after them and made sure they were well. I think she was a formidable woman who also puts me in mind of Baba Yaga. The community held her in very high esteem, as she helped those who needed it and not for her own gain, I think Biddy Early influenced The Craft through her selflessness and loyalty to those she knew, helping them and/or their livestock. Also, in her work for the Fae, herbs and healing. She will forever resonate with me, just for sticking two fingers up to the Catholic Church...

Sources: The Limerick Chronicle

)O( Gypsy Willowmoon Xx

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