Irish Sorcerers and Sorcery

From A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland 1906

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CHAPTER V....continued

3. Sorcerers and Sorcery.

"One foot, one hand, one eye."—Spells of several kinds are often mentioned in our ancient writings, as practised by various people, not specially or solely by druids. But all such rites and incantations, by whomsoever performed—magical practices of every kind—had their origin in druidism. Usually while practising his spell, the sorcerer was "on one foot, one hand, and one eye," which, I suppose, means, standing on one foot, with one arm outstretched, and with one eye shut. While in this posture, he uttered, in a loud voice, a kind of incantation or curse, called glám dichenn, commonly extempore, which was intended to inflict injury on the maledicted person or persons. There are many notices of the exercise, by druids or others, of this necromantic function; and a similar posture was often adopted in other ceremonies besides the glám dichenn.

Celtar: Fe-fiada.—The druids and other 'men of might' could make a magic mantle that rendered its wearer invisible: called a celtar [keltar].

In an Irish version of the Aeneid, the writer, following his own native Irish legend, tells us that when Venus was guiding Aeneas and his companions to Dido's city, she put a "celtar" round them, so that they went unseen by the hosts till they arrived within the city: just as Athene threw a mist of invisibility round Ulysses as he entered the city of the Phaeacians.

Druids and others could raise or produce a Fe-fiada, which rendered people invisible. The accounts that have reached us of this Fe-fiada are very confused and obscure. Sometimes it appears to be a poetical incantation, which rendered the person that repeated it invisible. Often it is a mantle: occasionally a 'magic fog,' or a spell that hid natural objects—such an object as a well—and that might be removed by Christian influences. Every shee or fairy palace had a Fe-fiada round it, which shut it out from mortal vision. At the Battle of Clontarf (1014), the banshee Eevin gave the Dalcassian hero Dunlang O'Hartigan a fe-fiada or mantle, which, so long as he wore it, made him invisible, and protected him from harm during the battle; but when he threw it off, he was slain.*

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* See the episode of Eevin and Dunlang O'Hartigan at the Battle of Clontarf in my Short History of Ireland.