Saturday, 19 September 2015

Portrait of a Wise Woman.

Bean Fasa, Wise Woman © Jane Brideson 2015.
Inspired by the Wise Women of Ireland & the stories of Biddy Early
Model: Mary Kelly

In the past, within rural communities, women guided people through life's changes.
At child birth women would turn to the Handy Woman, Bean Ghúline, the country midwife,
who had visited the Otherworld to refine her skills.
At death it was the Keening Woman, Bean Chaointe, who provided an essential service at funerary rituals.
For life's troubles in between the Bean Fasa, the Wise Woman, was consulted.

The portrait includes Biddy's cottage, hearth & famous blue bottle.

One function of the Wise Woman was that of Bean Leighis, woman healer, who diagnosed the maladies of people
and animals. Her knowledge encompassed cures for bodily ailments as well as mental disorders
and afflictions which had their cause in the Otherworld.

Detail of herbs: 1 Beirbhéine Vervain, 2 Caorthainn corraigh Valerian, 3 Samhadh bó Sorrel, 
4 Athair Thalún Yarrow 5 Beathnua Baineann St. John's Wort. 
Also Airgead Luachra, Meadowsweet & Iúr sléibhe Sage.
Click HERE to read more about the uses of these herbs.

Often an older, single woman, she was a source of wisdom, particularly regarding the Good People from whom she gained her knowledge.
It was the local Wise Woman who was called upon when mysterious injuries or illnesses appeared, when the butter wouldn't come or a changeling was thought to lie in the crib.
Accounts tell of these woman being in regular contact with the fairies, gathering herbs at dawn
and dusk, often attended by a spirit and having the ability to foresee the future. 

Detail - hare & fairy mound.
Accounts tell of several Wise Women transforming into a hares.

One Bean Fasa, in Co. Kerry, was described as frequently falling into a trance at funeral wakes, returning to the assembled company with knowledge gained from the Otherworld.

Detail - Hag Stone.
It was believed that some could see the Good People 
when looking through a natural holed stone. 

The folklore surrounding these figures describes them as almost supernatural elders and
stories of their exploits span many generations. Some were real women, such as Biddy Early,
whilst others appear to be mythical. 

Detail - Biddy Early's cottage under a full moon. 
Water from the well, once near the roadside, flows beneath.

Folklore concerning Wise Women, such as Máire Ní Mhurchu of Bheara, often portray them as personifications of  THE CAILLEACH.

Indeed, the Wise Woman, who often opposed the church and man-made law, was a powerful female, an authority figure viewed in oral tradition as an embodiment of our ancient goddesses.

The Wise Women of Ireland are remembered and honoured by those who visit the places associated with these real and mythical women.

Offerings at Biddy early's cottage © Jane Brideson.

The Hag of Bheara at various times of the year with offerings © Jane Brideson.

I will be producing Art Cards & Prints of  'The Wise Woman'.
To pre-order & for more info please contact me HERE
or on my Facebook Page THE EVER-LIVING ONES

Information about the following Wise Women - Máire Ní Chearbhaill of Carbury,
Máire Ní Mhurchú of Bheara, P Ní L of Tuosist, Eibhlín Ní Ghuinnníola of Dingle,
Máire Liam of Kilworth & Biddy Early of Clare, can be found in
Gearóid Ó Crualaoich's 'The Book of the Cailleach'.


  1. A remarkable and beautiful portrait, Jane. The background is fascinating too. I love the way your paintings are so steeped in history and legend!

  2. With every painting, I am more and more in awe of your skill and research. xo

  3. Thanks once again Valleypee! I really enjoyed painting this one. x

  4. Carol - thanks :) I do get very engrossed in the research. x

  5. I keep being drawn to She-who's in this painting Jane - I love all your art, but this one... I must answer that call. Thank you, without this, how would I have heard her x

  6. I am very happy that She speaks to you! x


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