Images from the wild hunt

Self-making – Disability in Scottish Folk Magic – Gods in Wheelchairs

by Scott

I ‘m currently obsessed with the idea of parts of the self in Scottish folklore. Not just our bodies but what our spiritual DNA or what our sprit was once thought to be made of. It’s not just a mind, soul and body we are talking about here. It’s a convoluted and crooked construct with quite a few areas to explore. These conversations seem entirely missing from Scottish folk magic practice forums and debate. Exploring this topic I have allowed my inspiration to take me through the literature trail and reflected on the experience of those who are “othered” through the lens of disability and Scottish folk magic. There’s a lot held in concepts of otherness.

“The lame ride horseback, the handless drive herds, the deaf may be dauntless in battle;
better to be blind than burned on a pyre, dead men do no deeds.” [1]

With growth in research of the experiences of a variety of disenfranchised groups (women, queer citizens, refugees, migrants) across our current political situation, the ways in which we have defined, treated, and engaged with notions of ‘the Other’ historically become crucial to an understanding of social contexts and the evolution of particular discourses. 

Disability is still fringe to research concerns. Disability is mostly left out of the Scottish folk magic traditions discussion all together. It’s important to examine how marginalised disabled people are in the witchcraft, occult and folk magic communities and correct this. 

We know very little of the role disabled people played or play within the world of magic, liminality and community. Studies on the historical importance of disability in folk magic are really few on the ground. Studies on the histography of disability are few more in number but still limited. The studies I have drawn on tend to focus on one aspect of disability and are not intersectional. They focus on disability and excludes any other role or labels.

I haven’t found anything examining the social role disabled people played within the world of folk magic and as arbitrators of liminal forces and worlds except a few folk stories and witchcraft trails. There are a few allusions here and there to “eye of the innocent being used to scry through” but it’s a bit meh … 

“Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” John 5:14

This article explores these following questions – What was the role of disabled people in magical thinking? How can exploring the spirit DNA through the lens of otherness, including disability, help us understand the magical world view (the how’s and why’s) of our ancestors better? What does this all mean for us as folk practitioners and researchers?

A note on Terminology.

I am not a disabled person. I may use the terminology of disability experience a little clumsily. Please accept my apologies if I do. I use the phrase disabled people rather than impairment. My understanding is the world disables people. That is to say, the society creates barriers for people which disables them. For example, Vic Finkelstein argues disability primarily results from western industrialisation. Before this pre-capitalist and pre-industrial phase of society disabled people were not automatically excluded from participation. This is known as the social model of disability. It’s more convoluted but this is my convention for this article. For more about the social model of disability go here.

The ælf (elf) and the sìth.

Researchers such as Claude Lecoutex, Alfric Hall, Terry Gunnell along with myself and many others regard elves (or ælf) and the Sìth (the Scottish term similar to “fairy”) or the good folk are very closely aligned in purpose and function. They are our ancestral dead and a kind of melting pot/gateway to other spirits. In Norse, Anglo Saxon, Scots and Gaelic cultures these spirits are a source of blessing, protection and fortune as well as disease and pestilence and disability. You can read more about the thinking on this here and here and here.

In Scottish culture, a melting pot of the above influences, these spirits can mark us out as different – They can make us disabled if they choose. 

People could become impaired or disabled because they were touched by the hand of a ghost or a hand of deity like figures[2]. This is an interesting idea and something I would like to explore further. In Scottish Folk magic Disability and illness is caused by the Daoine Sith. It’s no surprise to find the worlds of the Aelf or the Sith interlinked with the world of death and disease. The Sith could also be helpful, but to seek out their help bargains must be struck or kept. Bargains with a high cost might just mean giving a bit more of yourself than you’re prepared to give. More on that later. 

To our ancestors othered folks, like disabled people, were marked by the spirit world. The involvement of the otherworld in disability born out in the language we use to describe disabled people. Different terms for disabled people have been floated like the Irish name Amadan (gods fool), the “moon touched” “lunatic” and the “mooncalf”, the oaf (from Old Norse for elvr or elf), or they could “be touched’ by spirits both in a bad and good way. Cretin was also used from Chretien, Christian Meaning they were gods children. A birth of a disabled child could also be a portent or a sign. All very important things to bear in mind as we explore the concept of disability in folk magic. These terms directly link disabled people to the other. Physically marked as difference by this connection. These are people outside of everyday society linking disabled people to the world of the Sìth in a way everyday folk are not.

Different reasons for disability

The disabled person is considered liminal or singled out for exceptional reasons. We could argue this meaning is ascribed because of society like below:  

“according to the prevalent social prescription, they are usually those who hold special knowledge about the nature of deviance: they decide whether the deviant is possessed by a ghost, ridden by a god, infected by poison, being punished for his sin, or the victim of vengeance wrought by a witch . . . By naming the spirit that underlies deviance, authority places the deviant under the control of language and custom and turns him from a threat into a support of the social system.”[3]

Looking through the literature around disability I found references to different cultural epochs reflecting different perspectives which supports the above quote.  In Roman cultures children born different were used as sacrifices or put to death at birth. The old term for children born with deformities was originally monster. Derived from the Latin monstrum, meaning something marvellous, originally a divine portent or warning. Sometimes they weren’t put to death but deified such as the Egyptian Ptah, a dwarf or the Greek cyclops Polyphenus. More modern thinking considers disability to be punishment for sin or alternatively considered holy as disabled people were viewed as undertaking purgatory on earth. 

At the time of the reign of astrology and the science of the sky disability was caused because you were born under a bad planetary sign. Those born under the influence of Saturn[4] were often sickly, pale, skinny, cold, rough, lethargic, slow, sad, thieving or grasping. Saturn was further linked to disabled people through a series of fifteenth century woodcuts. Hildegard Von Bingen 12th Century Medical writings suggests folk should be aware of what phase the moon is in when they try for a child in case, they produce enfeebled children. This is also reflected in earlier writing from the tenth century. I guess this is of some importance to astrologers or those who would seek to curse people using correspondence magic with sickly children.[5]

Image of Saturn as a man Holding  baby with a wooden leg representing disability. Disability and Scottish folk magic

In the Tudor era we have the idea of the disabled person as Natural Fools. The term “Natural Fool” refers to someone who is born disabled. There are rather famous Natural Fools such as “patch” (a nick name meaning fool) replaced by Will Somer and then Jane the Fool, a favourite of Anne Boylen, appearing in royal portraits. People perceived the natural fool to have a “lack of guile, their directness and their humour were valued as assets and woven into the fabric of court life. Believed to be closer to God and closer to the truth than other people, the ‘natural fools’ occupied a unique and valued position.[6] (emphasis my own). This suggests disabled people were valued for their advice and honesty but also their connection to god was stronger, considered more holy and wise.

A group of people in a room

Description automatically generated
King James and his fools ( will on the right and Jane on the left

The Tragic case of Janet Horne

Things seemed to have changed for disabled people and their parents when we read the witch trails. In Puritan New England in 1642 a young man was charged with consorting with the devil when a one eye pig was born in Denmark in 1683 a woman was killed for witchcraft for giving birth to a ‘monkey headed’ child. 

Disability drew my attention to the case of Janet Horne, who in 1722, was allegedly accused of being a witch as she gave birth to a disabled child and burned. The fact Janet was burned so horrifically make us realise she was Scottish. (Scotland had the stranglehold on burning witches). Janet was born in Dornoch, Sutherland. She was the last witch to be trialled in Scotland before the witchcraft act was repealed. People accused both Janet and her daughter. They accused Janet of turning her daughter into a pony and having her shod by the devil. People have interpreted Janet and her daughter as having disabilities. People think Janet was showing signs of dementia and her daughter may have had a condition affecting her hands and feet. Janet’s daughter managed to escape but Janet did not. A stone marks the place where she was executed in Dornoch. 

The name Jenny is a generic term for a witch and the witch trials for this case I haven’t been able to find.  It may be recorded under another name Janet Horne being a pseudonym for Witch. Janet, was however, the subject of Rona Munro’s last play performed in 2009 and the Scots Maker Edwin Morgan. 

In Dornoch there was a burning
With no sign of mourning
That January morning

This was the final solution
The last execution
Of an ancient persecution

For they called it witchcraft
An old woman’s stitchcraft
Or a bit of leechcraft

Century of enlightenment
Still thirled to torment
Thumbscrews and judgement

Janet made a pony
Of her daughter, says the story
Rode her for Satan’s glory

They tarred her and feathered her
Bound her and gathered her
Screaming and barrelled her

Burning in the peat-smoke
While the good Dornoch folk
Paused briefly for a look

Dear God were you sleeping
You were certainly not weeping
She was not in your keeping

Today there is a garden
Where a stone stands guard on
The spot she was charred on

O heart never harden![7]

Changelings, Disability, Scottish Folk Magic and the Sìth.

Disability and scottish folk magic
Replacing the baby

The overlap of the natural world with the other world is significant in Scottish culture. We have ideas of fairy folk intermarrying with non-fairy folk. There is the idea of families having significant amount of fairy blood in their blood lines of Scotland. “Scholars” suggest this explains away people born with fish scales, or mermaids’ tales or other congenital differences we have medicalised reasons for today. 

The idea of the overworld impacting ours is supported by the changeling concept. Aelfs and the Sìth were considered to steal babies. Similar stories have been found in Britain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Moravia, Greece, Lithuania, Bohemia, and Hungary. Parents who were certain these children were not theirs put them through ordeals. Swapping them with their own and leaving the weird copy or the changeling baby to wither away and die. This was the idea put forward by many educated Victorian people. More up to date, though still 30 years old, research exploring these otherworldly babies or changelings has been carried out by Susan Eberly. She argues “fairy” representation and characters are the community’s response to disability and birth defects. For example, The Good Folk seemed to have a penchant for young boys, especially those with blond hair and blue eyes. Eberly suggest this is because they might be suffering form Williams syndrome that gives the elfin noses, blond hair and blue eyes.

To combat the otherworld parents would put their swapped child through torment after torment in the hopes the Sith or Aelfs would see them suffering and replace them with the human child. Some of the abuses these suspected changelings were subject to were awful– hanging them over hot coals, leaving them on the shoreline of the sea, immersed in rivers, exposed to freezing temperatures, bathed in foxglove essence, beaten, threatened and subject to forms of exorcism. Not many of them survived as the treatment escalated to a point of death for the child. A societal endorsed form of infanticide. The example below is a more recent one:

“In April 1840 James Mahony, a man living on the country estate of Charles Riall, at Heywood, County Tipperary, was influenced by his neighbors into the belief that his son, John (aged six or seven), was a fairy. This was partly due to a curvature of the spine which had kept the boy in bed two years, and partly to his being a suspiciously “intellectual child.” On the night of Tuesday, 14 April, Mahony, with the connivance of neighbors, held the near-naked boy over a hot shovel, threatening to put him on it, and dragged him halfway to the water pump, proposing to drown him under it if he did not reveal the whereabouts of Mahony’s true son.”[8]

We have already heard about the association between witchcraft and disability with Janet Horne but let me draw on some examples for you to further illustrate the link between disability and the otherworld. 

There was once a person called Anne Jefferies who lived in Cornwall (Celtic nation though). In 1645, aged nineteen Anne reported seeing some folks who came over the hedge at the bottom of her garden. On seeing them she fell into a convulsive fit. 

After Ann took the fit, that looks a lot like epilepsy. She began a career as a fairy Dr, that is a local healer. Anne apparently went off food claiming the fairies fed her and was able to heal with a touch. People have suggested this was a form of Anorexia. She could foretell who would visit her before they showed up and demonstrated other clairvoyant activities. 

There are many more examples in the folk stories and literature if you care to look with the lens of disability.

What about those young babies who survived the torment or young people who became sicker later in life and recovered? What purpose would they serve a community? Especially if it was a community steeped in the magic of an ever-present otherworld and liminality.

‘John Rhys heard in the late nineteenth century of a woman called Nani Fach at Llanover, Wales, supposed to be one of the fairies’ offspring, and also, more specifically, of a farmer’s son called Elis Bach at Nant Gwrtheyrn, northwest Wales. ’[9]

It’s my experience which led to me thinking these “othered” children were closer to the other world and liminal, and therefore exceptional by their very nature. This of course offers them extraordinary gifts everyday people wouldn’t have. Let me put it another way. It was disabled and other othered people who had the gifts of folk magic, prophecy and seership. Not your everyday “normal” person. This is something you don’t see portrayed within witchcraft texts or even spoken about in folk magic circles I move in. Think about that. 

Trading body parts for magical powers

Let’s look at some of the lore where people have deliberately disabled themselves to gain magical abilities. Some academics (read everyday scholars and academics not disabled academics) might argue the loss of the limb/organ is allegorical or symbolic. I think this might suggest a certain subjective world view whichever way you address it.

We have many examples in folk lore where a strange stance is adopted to make magic happen. The Crane stance is a classic example of this. Some argue is suggests standing in an in between place. We have the eponymous example of the blind seer, disabling their sight in this world to see into the other or other mystical trade-offs. For example we have the one eyed Ó Dinn – who gave his sight for the gift of seeing into another world, The one handed Tyr, Hemdallr who gave up his hearing to be able to hear better in the other world, Hǫðr who was blind, the lame Völundr, Nuada of the silver arm, Mac Dathò, a reflex on the Irish Lord of the dead, bears a name that suggests son of two mutes to later antiquarians, Cú Chulainn went mute for a year. We have many examples where people enter the other world and come back changed or different, or unable to move. We also have famous examples of people being reborn in a cauldron after they have died but coming back without speech (found in the welsh tale Branwen uerch Llÿr). Trading the one human faculty for rebirth[10].

These examples, and I’m sure there are more to be found in different folk tales and stories if you care to look, are of exceptional people doing exceptional things, but they are disabled in some way. We aren’t looking at disabled people providing “inspiration porn” for non-disabled people. These people were all that and more and just happen to have a disability.  

Was the the role disabled people played in society marked by contact with the spirit world?

If they survived were they once the folk magic practitioners with second sight or “shaman” like abilities to their communities? 

Disability, Scottish Folk Magic and Shamanism

We need to unpick this a little bit I think to help it make sense. Please forgive me the use of the word Shaman. It’s a very lazy shorthand to describe ecstatic practices in academia. We know Scotland (maybe) had similar practices as attested to by Emma Wilby and for Europe Carlo Ginzberg. I’m not sure what the precise terminology would be for Scottish practices like this. It’s certainly not witchcraft as witches were something our ancestors fought against as evil. We could use Fairy Dr, or wise person, though this comes close as they managed fairy encounters out of all of the different types of practitioner it doesn’t feel accurate either. It’s probably something in Gaelic or Old Norse …shrug. The comparison I’m making is not directly comparable but illustrative. 

In “shaman” like practices “different” is presented as superior in a spiritual sense. Shamans routinely walk the line between life and death, male and female, the visible and the visionary. They are liminal beings just as we have established disabled people are. This doesn’t mean shamans are “outside” of society. No in fact, they are central to it. Not so much the witch in the cottage on the outskirts but the beating spiritual heart of their communities.

We have already seen how disease and difference is not medicalised in Scottish culture until much later. Modern pathologizing and the medical model doesn’t apply here. We know disease was caused by spirits. This is exemplified when we look at the elves and Sìth with their elf bolts and “fairy” blasts. Different forms of diseases come from different agents. By diagnosing the spirit or agent we can diagnose how to treat the illness. A surviving example of this categorising is found in the Romani idea of disease demons being born from the “marriage” (read forced marriage with rape) between the Queen of the Otherworld (or fairies if you like) called Ana and a king of corrupted souls. Other examples are found in the Slaik or Skyrie stanes of Scotland. We see this reflected in different prescriptions for different cures found in the Anglo-Saxon leech books. These are worth checking out if this interests you. An example is given below 

“If a man is in the water elf disease [waeter aelfadle], then the nails of his hand are dark and the eyes teary, and he will look down. Give him this as medicine [laecedome]: everthroat, hassock, the lower part of fane, yewberry, lupin, helenium, marshmallow head, fen mint, dill, lily, attorlathe, pulegium, marrubium, dock, elder, fel terre, wormwood, strawberry leaves, consolde. Soak with ale; add holy water to it. Sing this gealdor over it thrice:

“I have bound on the wounds the best of war bandages, so the wounds neither burn nor burst, nor go further, nor spread, nor jump, nor the wounds increase [waco sian?], nor sores deepen. But may he himself keep in a healthy way [halewaege?]. May it not ache you more than it aches earth in ear [eare?].

Sing this many times, “May earth bear on you with all her might and main.” These galdor a man may sing over a wound.”

“Against elf disease [aelfadle]. Take bishopwort, fennel, lupin, the lower part of aelfthone, and lichen from the holy sign of Christ [cross], and incense; a handful of each. Bind all the herbs in a cloth, dip in sanctified font water thrice. Let three masses be sung over it, one “Omnibus sanctis,” a second “Contra tribulationem,” a third “Pro infirmis.” Put then coals in a coal pan, and lay the herbs on it. Smoke the man with the herbs before undern [9 a.m.] and at night; and sing a litany, the Creed, and the Pater noster; and write on him Christ’s mark on each limb. And take a little handful of the same kind of herbs, similarly sanctified, and boil in milk; drip holy water in it thrice. And let him sip it before his meal. It will soon be well with him.”

Leechbooks

We know ecstatic practitioners work as conduits between the worlds. We also know the fairies and the Sìth represent a huge ancestral spiritual house (for want of a better word) at that very place. The Sìth act as agents of fertility and good of our communities, but also bring disease and ill fortune. Folk magic practitioners, like Fairy Dr’s, Wise folks operate to work these same frontiers. They help to heal ills, be they physical, spiritual or communal amongst many other activities and provide counsel. Though as we move forward in time the practices become very different from shamanistic practices as we might conceive of them today.

Disability is an outward manifestation of being touched by the otherworld. A mark declaring this person is exceptional as well as disabled. People who work between this world and the others are blended beings. Part one thing part many others. The parts of our spirit selves play an important role here. Disabled people who have been touched in such a way by the Sìth (and survived) are similarly blended beings. In fact, it could be this externalisation of survival marking the person as spiritually advanced. It shows a mark of contact with the other world. Survivorship not pathology is the message we are looking for here. We see this message loud and clear in certain stories throughout the lore and the activities of other characters from Myth we have briefly examined. We see this idea of survivorship in the Myths of Celtic nations such as found in the tale of the Talesin though perhaps coded within poetry. 

We have seen some of this in action in the story of Anna. Whose contact with the other world allows her to heal people in her community. We see these same techniques used throughout folk magic practice all over Scotland. 

Scottish folk magical practice has a  complicated idea of what folks might initially view as a mind, body ,spirit interaction. There is something else going on here. What we view as a static recognizable human “body” is a lot more liminal, It is made up of different aspects there is more to it than just having a “soul”. There is something impacted by spiritual forces and something our folk healers interact with on different levels. We are made up of lots of different “spiritual” parts. We certainly have a language in Gaelic and Scots referring to this. Bringing it to bear on the whole is a bit like a puzzle. More on this idea as we explore parts of the self in detail in future articles. 

Liminal Being – Still on the Outside.

In our quest to understand the world of Scottish folk magic we tend to place our own subjective understanding on the mindset of our ancestors. If things lie outside of our own experience, we tend not to focus on them as much, if at all. Folks are seeking to right these oversights. To correct our tendency to instances of navel gazing. We are embracing the plurality of the folk experience and what this means. 

Where does this all lead? I think we need to rethink, on a large scale, the role disabled and othered people have in the area of folk magic and other forms of magical practice. Looking at disabled people as exceptional and gifted because they have survived means we should be celebrating disabled people. Not viewing them as some of us do today as pathological burdens. 

Disabled people and those similar marked as different are perhaps this way because they have a role to play in helping us overcome and reconnect to the otherworld. Just look at Greta Thunberg. A young Autistic Woman being bullied by the American President because she speaks for nature. If this isn’t a powerful example of an otherworldly advocate, I can’t think of a better one.

Why would the ‘spiritual house’ of our ancestor’s mark people as such? Well perhaps at one time it was viewed very differently. Disability, Autism, Mental health, Trans and other queer identities and all the rest of the othering people experience today marks them very differently then we currently view them. This difference might have been a clear sign to communities this person has been given a gift to be a mediator between the worlds. It marked them as exceptional rather than deserving our pity. So , we should be seeking out the different and marginalised who hold the truth we might seek.These people are perhaps the true healers of our collective future.

Perhaps as we cut of ourselves and our “spiritual” selves away and apart from nature and the otherworld, we starting to pathologize and shun these people as different. We adopted the language of Sin. They became burdens. We scapegoated them and the Sìth. The cartesian split dividing us all from one another, as we divided body and soul and people from nature. We distanced ourselves and science pathologized what was once viewed differently. The cartesian spell was successful. No longer seen as exceptional disabled people became illness and corruption incarnate. 

I know from working alongside and advocating for young disabled people across Scotland they have abilities and perceptions I could only wish to have. People who have altered perceptions for whatever reasons are able to perceive things we everyday folk cannot. It gives them tremendous insight into the cruelty and beauty of this world. They all have uncanny abilities to spot bullshit too. Just speak to people with chronic pain and ask them how much more they notice about the world. It’s incredible the extra abilities people have.

If you would like to read more about this you might be interested in Gonzalo Bénard – an amazing artist and Shaman with Autism. He says “Autism, in these ancient wise cultures, is often called “The Shaman’s disease”. Definitely one to read. 

An imbas ..Concluding thoughts…An exercise in reflection…

The modern resurgence of the witch is amazing. As a queer able-bodied man, I love how the symbol (let’s call it that as it’s many things to many people) of the Witch appeals to folk who for whatever reason unite under it. It’s beautiful, its mostly, intersectional. Mostly. 

We need to examine ourselves for what we exclude so bear with this little reflective exercise. It is a bit of a rant. I thought about not including in the writing, but I have kept it in the hope It might be helpful to help people reflect on these ideas …

To see the power of the symbol we look to social media … 

Social media. The worst/best thing. The visual language of social media churns out endless Images and symbols the one I want us to think about here is the idea of “Witches”. 

The symbol of the Witch once symbolised the outsider to our modern romantic minds. The rise of western Witchcraft has brought it more into mainstream consciousness. Twitter might help an orange man influence a country, yet also brings you witches cursing it. It shows us people with tattoos, skulls on altars. It represents a majority able-bodied/white/ and a growing queer young adult demographic. We are all there on Instagram, twitter and Facebook. Cropping out what we don’t want people to see. Every. Day.

We are presented with the idea of the glamourous, secluded, temptress female Witch. Covered in unguents. A poisoner. A shapeshifter. A whore. Or Witch as Midwife or herbalist in the village. Community based or following the Old Ways. We know this is not a truism. These symbols of the witch play to the romantic idea of Witchcraft. It’s not True. We know there were male witches. Woman were most likely the accuser of other woman being witches as men if not more so. Woman were punished for having disabled babies. No magic in sight. There seems to be little to no herbalists and female solidarity when you look at the witch trials themselves. 

We create the symbols we need. 

Witchcraft is a political symbol. Taken up by the call of feminism. Anarchists. Pagans. Witchcraft is a religion to some. A form of pop psychology (spirits as archetypes anyone?) or a sign of folk group belonging to others. Witchy gangs abound.

We have the sky clad ritual titillation of Wicca. Witchcraft has taken on the mantel – body positivity it’s called. Able bodied, toned young things slide into sea, stream and wave. Thirst traps. Commodifying bodies as products. Trading flesh for follows. The body is political. I agree. Disabled and othered bodies more so. Why do I only chose my best angle? Why am I only seeing gym toned gendered able bodies I ask gently? 

We have academic ceremonial witches. Sorcerers basing their magic off astrology with all the maths and charts. People performing long form intense rituals who tend to PhD level intelligence. Traditional IQ is its measure – male, mostly white, middle class people of the academy think as the most important form of intelligence. Mensa can bite me. (See the bell curve for more info about why IQ tests aren’t all that). 

We have the witch as a feminist icon. A political force for fighting capitalism, ecocide and extinction rebellion and the patriarchy. A politicised witch with slogans such as “we are the children of the witches you couldn’t burn” (not an accurate reflection on what happened but a powerful slogan non the less). The outsider symbol made coherent to feminism is one thing. The outsider symbol of the witch priestess co-opted by TERF feminism or any other exclusionary philosophy like white nationalism is entirely something else. 

All of these images we see are curated. All the time. Each feeding subsequent power into the symbol. Self-perpetuating banality?All these symbols of empowerment, bodies and magic are almost entirely exclusive of disabled bodies, disabled and Autistic people, trans and queer bodies and folk. Mental health. A close second and third. Where is it and are we in all this? 

Burn the symbols of Spa day spell makers and able bodied and neurotypical minded folx. Stop marginalising those who don’t fit your views of the world. The true outsiders. Those with the power of liminality, otherness are scaring and enchanting us with their exceptionality still today. It’s this same exceptionality that can help us to heal the divides we are experiencing. If only we listen and include. 


[1] TERRY, P. (Trans.) (1990) Poems of the Elder Edda, rev. edn (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press) 

[2] ‘Anatomy of Babylonian Medicine’, presented as part of a seminar series on magic and medicine in the Department of Classics, University of Reading, February 1999.

[3] Ivan Illich, Limits to Medicine. Medical Nemesis: The Expropriation of Health, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977, p. 124.

[4] Metzler, I. Disability in Medieval Europe

[5] Eberly, S. (1988) Fairies and the folklore of Disability: Changelings, Hybrids and the solitary Fairy

[6] https://historicengland.org.uk/research/inclusive-heritage/disability-history/1485-1660/disability-in-the-tudor-court/

[7] https://www.nls.uk/learning-zone/literature-and-language/themes-in-focus/witches/source-6

[8] Sugg, R. (2018) Fairies: A dangerous History. https://longreads.com/2018/06/08/fairy-scapegoats-a-history-of-the-persecution-of-changeling-children/

[9] Sugg, R (2018) Fairies ; A dangerous History. Reaktion Books ltd.

[10] LOIS BRAGG (1997) From the Mute God to the Lesser God: Disability in Medieval Celtic and Old Norse literature, Disability & Society, 12:2, 165-178, DOI: 10.1080/09687599727317 

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