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Medicine, belief, witchcraft and demonic possession in late seventeenth-century Ulster

Abstract

Ireland's only published witchcraft pamphlet, written by Daniel Higgs, The Wonderful and True Relation of the Bewitching of a Young Girle in Ireland, What Ways she was Tormented, and a Receipt of the Ointment that she was Cured with (1699), works within the confines of late seventeenth-century demonology, while upholding the patriarchy of the fledgling Protestant Ascendancy. More importantly, it provides rare insight into early modern Protestant witchcraft beliefs, highlights the limits of contemporary medical care and provision and details the pathways of self-medication people resorted to. Higgs’ method of promoting self-medication as a cure to bewitchment and demonic possession was based on a remedy described in an obscure Renaissance magical text. To promote his ‘cure’ the pamphlet included a particularly vitriolic critique of the established Irish medical profession, as self-regarding and incompetent witchcraft deniers. This article uses Higgs’ pamphlet to explore the limits to/of medical knowledge in early modern Ireland and Europe.

  • Doctor
  • Gender studies
  • History
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