The Supernatural, Magic, and Religion

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In nineteenth and early twentieth-century Ireland, many committed Christians continued to believe in supernatural cursing and witchcraft; divination; holy wells; fairies; magical healing; and protective magic. These beliefs and practices were present in both Protestant and Catholic communities and were dynamic, evolving, and nuanced, diering according to region, locality, and personal preference. They were dismissed by journalists and the legal profession as superstitious throwbacks to an irrational, immoderate age. Church hierarchies denounced popular magic from pulpits and in church courts, as well as in print and in person, but this did little to eradicate them. Magic survived this opposition, and the medical, structural, and intellectual changes associated with modernity, because of its secretive nature and its selective appropriation of Christian doctrine and forms of devotion. It also helped people to deal with hard lives and uncertain futures and aorded, especially women, agency and a means of resistance against authority.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Religion in Modern Ireland (Oxford Handbooks)
EditorsGladys Ganiel, Andrew R. Holmes
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford Brookes University
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780191905162
ISBN (Print)9780198868699
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 22 Feb 2024


  • witchcraft
  • magic
  • divination
  • fairies
  • magical healing
  • charms
  • charming
  • holy wells
  • cures
  • cunning-folk


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