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The Templars, the Witch, and the Wild Irish:…

The Templars, the Witch, and the Wild Irish: Vengeance and Heresy in…

by Maeve Brigid Callan

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Maeve Callan's evocatively titled book looks at the rash of heresy and witchcraft trials which occurred between the 1320s and 1350s in Ireland. Unlike elsewhere in Europe, these appear to have been the only such trials which occurred on the island before the Reformation. The written evidence is sparse—as it is with pretty much every aspect of medieval Irish history—but Callan marshals what has survived to demonstrate that those heresy trials which were held owed more to ethnic tensions and a desire to one-up political opponents than to a genuine wish to root out religious heterodoxy. Parts of it turn into a bit of a slog through the opaque internecine petty wars which it often seems were a full-time job for the petty nobles of Gaelic Ireland during this period. Still, an interesting book and one which is an excellent example of the kind of work that can be done with even fragmentary evidence. ( )
  siriaeve | Nov 16, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0801453135, Hardcover)

Early medieval Ireland is remembered as the "Land of Saints and Scholars," due to the distinctive devotion to Christian faith and learning that permeated its culture. As early as the seventh century, however, questions were raised about Irish orthodoxy, primarily concerning Easter observances. Yet heresy trials did not occur in Ireland until significantly later, long after allegations of Irish apostasy from Christianity had sanctioned the English invasion of Ireland. In The Templars, the Witch, and the Wild Irish, Maeve Brigid Callan analyzes Ireland's medieval heresy trials, which all occurred in the volatile fourteenth century. These include the celebrated case of Alice Kyteler and her associates, prosecuted by Richard de Ledrede, bishop of Ossory, in 1324. This trial marks the dawn of the “devil-worshipping witch” in European prosecutions, with Ireland an unexpected birthplace.

Callan divides Ireland’s heresy trials into three categories. In the first stand those of the Templars and Philip de Braybrook, whose trial derived from the Templars’, brought by their inquisitor against an old rival. Ledrede’s prosecutions, against Kyteler and other prominent Anglo-Irish colonists, constitute the second category. The trials of native Irishmen who fell victim to the sort of propaganda that justified the twelfth-century invasion and subsequent colonization of Ireland make up the third. Callan contends that Ireland’s trials resulted more from feuds than doctrinal deviance and reveal the range of relations between the English, the Irish, and the Anglo-Irish, and the church’s role in these relations; tensions within ecclesiastical hierarchy and between secular and spiritual authority; Ireland’s position within its broader European context; and political, cultural, ethnic, and gender concerns in the colony.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:27 -0400)

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