Andrew SneddonJun 21, 2022
Representing Magic in Modern Ireland
Belief, History, Culture
Cambridge University Press 2022
Andrew Sneddon is a Lecturer in International History at Ulster University. His research explores Irish witchcraft, magic and the supernatural in a comparative framework from the medieval to the modern period. Sneddon is the author of Witchcraft and Magic in Ireland (2015) and his work has also appeared in Irish Historical Studies, the Historical Journal and History Ireland
In this interview, he discusses his new book Representing Magic in Modern Ireland: Belief, History, and Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2022), a short introduction to the study of magic and witchcraft across Ireland.
In Representing Magic in Modern Ireland: Belief, History, Culture (Cambridge UP, 2022), Sneddon argues that Ireland did not experience a disenchanted modernity, nor a decline in magic. It suggests that beliefs, practices and traditions concerning witchcraft and magic developed and adapted to modernity to retain cultural currency until the end of the twentieth century. This analysis provides the backdrop for the first systematic exploration of how historic Irish trials of witches and cunning-folk were represented by historians, antiquarians, journalists, dramatists, poets, and novelists in Ireland between the late eighteenth and late twentieth century. It is demonstrated that this work created an accepted narrative of Irish witchcraft and magic which glossed over, ignored, or obscured the depth of belief in witchcraft, both in the past and in contemporary society. Collectively, their work gendered Irish witchcraft, created a myth of a disenchanted, modern Ireland, and reinforced competing views of Irishness and Irish identity. These long-held stereotypes were only challenged in the late twentieth-century.
Aidan Beatty is a historian at the Honors College of the University of Pittsburgh.