The Book of the Cailleach
Stories of the Wise-Woman Healer
Gearóid Ó Crualaoich
Published by Cork University Press
This powerful analysis of the 'wise woman healer' from the oral traditions of Ireland's rural communities, is unique in its depth and perspective. Stories, told and retold, embedded in the texture of culture and community, collected and studied for many decades, and here translated and made available to the general reader for the first time. The figure of the 'wise woman', the 'hag', the Cailleach, or the 'Red Woman' are part of an oral tradition which has its roots in pre-Christian Ireland. In the hands of Gearóid Ó Crualaoich these figures are subtly explored to reveal how they offered a complex understanding of the world, of human psychology and its predicaments. The thematic structure of the book brings to the fore universal themes such as death, marriage, childbirth or healing, and invites the reader to see the contemporary relevance of the stories for themselves.
"This is a breathtaking book. It returns to Irish folk material the emotional depth and imaginative meaning which it always contained in its natural context but of which it has often been stripped by the utilitarian and commonplace interpretations long in fashion. It reminds me once again why I am charmed and enchanted by this material, and more than that, why I regularly find in it answers to the deep-seated obsessions of my own. A real gem of a book, containing an exemplary methodology showing how the Irish folk tradition can be interrogated to find answers which are vitally important to our age and times."
Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill
Gearóid Ó Crualaoich is Professor Folklore and Ethnology in University College Cork and is regarded as one of the most original thinkers in these fields. He is the author of numerous academic articles and leading authority on the Cailleach.