Based on innovative new research, this talk will explore what happened to suspected ‘witches’ in Ireland in the 200 years after criminal prosecution for practicing witchcraft had effectively ceased in 1711. Into the 20th century, across Ireland (including Ulster), ordinary people continued to believe in witchcraft and accuse each other of killing their cows, stealing their butter and milk by magical means, and, occasionally, of killing their loved ones. These accusations often led to assault, slander, and murder charges being brought before the courts. This talk will examine in detail these court cases, a truly hidden part of Ireland’s history, to uncover the extent of witchcraft belief in a period when scientific advance was supposed to have killed off such popular ‘superstitions’. Dr Sneddon will also talk about the continued use of ‘white’ witches and magical objects to ‘unwitch’ livestock and humans using written charms, herbs, spells, and incantations.
Dr Andrew Sneddon is Lecturer in History at Ulster University, Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and President of the Ulster Society of Irish Historical Studies. He has written numerous articles on British and Irish social, cultural and political history and is the leading authority on the history of Irish witchcraft and magic. He has written three books on the subject, the latest of which is entitled, Witchcraft and Magic in Ireland (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).