It was a fine Irish day in County Clare when I made my visit to Biddy Early. I knew she was reputedly the last woman in Ireland to be charged with Witchcraft under the Witchcraft Act of 1586. That was in 1865 (only 3 centuries of terror). She was taken to court and acquitted- reportedly because no witnesses would come forth against her. She was born and lived all her life in County Clare: 1798 to 1874. A fiercely independent red head, she was famous for her healing skills and for her capacity to communicate with and cure the wrath of the faery folk. There is a story of her Blue Bottle (which has never been found)- she would gaze into the bottle and it would give her inspiration for the cure that was needed at that moment. People came from far and wide to obtain Biddy’s cures. I was keen to visit her place and feel herfor myself!
I knew it would be hard to find her. I had some clues from the internet. And her cottage was long for sale (still is, as a matter of fact, 1 acre of land and a ruined cottage, 75,000 euro- last year it was only 45,000 euro (approx.. $68,000AUD), so the irish economy must be picking up, or perhaps there is more interest in Biddy these days. But even the real estate map wasn’t very useful to find it. We (my intrepid investigator partner Geoff and me) knew the road she was on was on was a country road – an “R” road which usually meant that it was sealed and that there was enough room for 2 cars to pass each other(just).
True for this road. However, it was very winding and had almost no places to safely stop. After going up and down the road a few times and not spotting anything that looked like a ruin or even a forest entrance, we turned off the road and came upon an elderly gentleman at the front of his elderly house. “Do you know where Biddy Early’s cottage is?” (me, slightly embarrassed about my obvious eccentricities) “I do”, he said (without batting an eye lid, and as matter of fact as the sun rising every day) “I will take you there, follow me.”
As is the way of the Irish, he jumped in his car, and we followed him. No questions asked. He stopped on a bend in the road. Hazard lights on (ours anyway, he had that thing the Irish have which is a trust that other cars will drive around you and not into you…………… doesn’t always work, mind).
Next thing I know, I am walking up a gloomy muddy track with this man. The house is not far from the road. It is in a wood. I didn’t stay for long. I felt anxious about being with this strange man I did not know. I am not sure why. Geoff was only down on the road 100 metres (or less) away (down on the road with the car- he has a magical belief that staying with the car will stop someone from running into it) The picture of the cottage is above.
I could feel her there and was disturbed by my Irish gent guide who kept bobbing up and down at the window when I least expected him. I was sure I could see her shape in the wall. Take a look at this photo below.
There are rather threatening stories on the internet about Biddy Early’s spirit. That she does terrible things to cars that belong to people who come to visit. That she gets angry if you do not leave her a gift when you visit. That she did terrible things to the man who purchased her cottage in the 1970s and renovated it, trying to create a tourist attraction. Apparently he went broke. The cottage certainly doesn’t show any evidence now of ever being renovated.
I did not find her threatening. I did not leave a gift- although many others had (pics below): I did make a promise to come back and see her, and bring other witching women with me. She really liked that, I could tell.
This is a place for women. She is not the Last Irish Witch.