CELT document G600015

Contra Incantationes

Witness list

  • C: Royal Irish Academy, MS 3 C 19


Contra Incantationes

The following scribal note is from MS 3 C 19, a copy of an Irish translation of the Lilium Medicinae, the Decem Ingenia, and Prognostica of Bernard of Gordon (for whom see Ériu 11, 174 ff). The translation was made by Cormac Mac Duinn Shleibhe, one of a noted Ulster family of physicians, about the middle of the fifteenth century. The scribe, Risdeard Ó Conchubhair (Richard O'Connor), came of a well-known family of physicians in Ossory. For other notes by him in this manuscript see Cat. of Irish MSS. in the Royal Irish Academy, pp. 1167 ff., and Father Paul Walsh's Gleanings from Irish MSS., 2nd ed., 123 ff. The scribal notes in these medical manuscripts are often of very great interest for their valuable commentary on contemporary events and for the information they give us about the kind of people the writers were; the environment in which they lived, their family connexions, and their own personal views on matters of public and historical interest. The earlier scribes of medical manuscripts were physicians — outstanding examples of this are the O'Connors of 3 C 19; and another interesting question arises out of the matter and style of some of the notes: Is it possible that some of these physicians were also in holy orders? The extract quoted below reads as though it might be the utterance not of a layman, but of an ecclesiastic. Certainly it is that of a man with a strong moral sense and a high degree of piety. The period in which Richard O'Connor lived was a difficult one for Irish priests, and it is interesting to consider whether he and other medical men of the Middle Ages in Ireland were not priests, as were many of their professional colleagues in England and on the continent. Bernard of Gordon himself was a very devout man, e.g. in the Preface to the Lilium Medicinae, quoting Galen: ‘No one can come nearer to God better than by study in the truth and for the truth. To the honour therefore of the heavenly Lamb who is the splendour and glory of the Father this book, entitled Lilium Medicinae. For in the lily there are many blooms and in each bloom seven white petals as it were  p.251 seven golden grains. This book likewise contains seven parts, of which the first will be golden, glowing and shining. For it will treat of many universal diseases, beginning with fevers …’ () Cf. the passage in Preface to Rosa Anglica where John of Gaddesden discusses his reasons for calling his book the Rose (ITS 25, pp. xxi, xxii). John himself was a priest, perhaps a canon. He held a stall in St. Paul's Cathedral. From O'Connor's observations on the subject of his note printed here it is obvious that the trend of his mind was didactic. It shocked him that Bernard did not expressly condemn practices that involved attempts to interfere with the ways of Providence. His style also shows traces of scholastic influences.

The note is inserted into chapter 14 (on the causes and cure of sterility), with a marginal warning that it is the scribe who is speaking (an sgribhneoir adeir so).

Winifred Wulff.

Unknown author

Edited by Winifred Wulff

Contra Incantationes


RIA 3 C 19

 222r a 21

Na pisseoga uero is iongnadh lium nachar orduigh Bernard enni ina n-aghaidh annsa capidel so o dorinnidh iomrad orra ina chuisibh, ⁊ fós nachar chuir capidel specialta orra fén, ⁊ go mormhor is iongnad lium Cormac da dhenam, acht munab é a n-adhuar ar son nach fhedir a leghes, ⁊ do réir mo bharamhla fen is cosmail gurob fhedir a leghis mar gach aimsiugad ⁊ gach temptation ele da ttabhair in diabal ⁊ a mhuinnter arna daoinibh. Oir is muinnter don dhiabal ⁊ is diabhail fen go firinnech lucht a ndenta. Mas edh gid be uias aimrid, d'fhior no do mnaoi, na bith ina eretici ⁊ cetera, acht creidiodh mar credes in eglais ⁊ denad faoisidin mhinic ⁊ gabad sacramint naomhtha na h-egailsi ⁊ estidh briathra ⁊ tegusc diles Dé, ⁊ aisigidh na neithi fuair go h-olc ⁊ na bith smuainedh aigi in t-olc cedna do dhenam  222r b aris, ⁊ denad derc ⁊ urnaighthi ⁊ aithrighe ⁊ treghenus, mad nech thuilnges a dhenam uias ann. Et iar sin guidhedh in t-Athair trocairech go minic fa chloinn d'fhaghail dó. Agus bith a fhios agad go ufuair Iachim ⁊ Anna ⁊ Elizabeth ⁊ Zacharia, noch dha roibh Dia buidheach ⁊ do bi glan o chair, clann o Dhia rena ghuidhi, ⁊ ni h-edh amhain, acht ni chuirim a g-conntabairt gidh be ar bith athcuinghidh dhiongmala shirfis in cristaidhi glan ar Dhia do ghnath go ufhuighe uadhi í. Ergo et cetera. Et tuig fos da mbedh gan pisseoga do ueit ann nach lughuidi is coir so do dhenam. Oir cuiridh Dia eslainti noch doni aimridecht mar dhioghaltas ar in b-phecach an uair nach den aithrighi. Mas edh no go n-díocharthar in pecadh ni leighesfaidher (?) in eslainti tainic trit, ⁊ no go leighestar in eslainti ni ginfidhir uadhi, ergo et cetera. Agus ni córa so do tuicsin isin eslainti so na in gach uili eslainti ele. Agus dlighidh in liaigh fós ueit glan o chair sul tionnsgnus a oibrecha.



Now as regards charms it is a wonder to me that Bernard did not prescribe anything against them in this chapter, since he mentions them in his section on causes, and moreover that he did not write a special chapter on them, and more particularly I wonder that Cormac did not 1 do so, unless the reason was that they cannot be cured. And according to my own opinion it seems that they can be cured, like every other trial and temptation that the devil and his followers send on human beings. For followers of the devil and devils themselves are those who use them. If so, whosoever is sterile, man or woman, let him not be a heretic, etc., but let him believe as the Church believes, and let him make his confession often, and receive the Holy Sacrament of the Church, and hear the words and true teaching of God, and restore the things he got wrongly, nor have thoughts of committing the same wrong again. And let him give alms and pray and repent and fast, if he be one who can do so. And after this let him pray the merciful Father often that he may have children, for be it known to thee Joachim and Anna, Elizabeth and Zacharias, with whom God was pleased, and who were free from blame, received children from God through prayer. And not that only, but I have no doubt that whatever fitting petition a good Christian is wont to ask of God he will obtain it, ergo, etc. And understand, moreover, that even were there no charms, none the less is it right to do this. For God sends a disease which causes sterility as punishment on the sinner when he does not repent. Therefore until the sin be put away the disease which came by it will not be cured, and until the disease be cured there will be no generation from him,ergo, etc. And this ought to be understood in any other disease also. And the physician also should be pure from blame before he begins his works.

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Title statement

Title (uniform): Contra Incantationes

Editor: Winifred Wulff

Responsibility statement

Electronic edition compiled and proof-read by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: School of History, University College, Cork

Edition statement

1. First draft, revised and corrected.

Extent: 2140 words

Publication statement

Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2011

Date: 2018

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: G600015

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT project for purposes of academic research and teaching only. More information about Winifred Wulff's Life and Work is available on the CELT website at https://celt.ucc.ie//wulff.html.

Source description

Manuscript source

  • Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, MS 439 (3 C 19), scribe Risdeard Ó Conchubhair, folio 222r a 21. For further details see Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy, 1167ff. Digital scans of this manuscript are available on the ISOS Project, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, see: http://www.dias.ie/isos/.

Select bibliography

  1. Paul Walsh, 'Notes of two Irish medical scribes', Irish Ecclesiastical Record 5:20 (July–December 1922) 113–22.
  2. Winifred Wulff, 'A Tract on the Plague', Ériu 10 (1926–1928) 143–154.
  3. Paul Walsh, 'Scraps from Irish scribes: Risdeard Ó Conchubhair', The Catholic Bulletin 19 (Augus, 1929): 730–746.
  4. Winifred Wulff, Rosa Anglica seu Rosa Medicinae Johannes Anglici (London 1929).
  5. Winifred Wulff, 'Two Medical Fragments', Irish Texts I, fasciculus 1, (London 1931) 47–51.
  6. Winifred Wulff, 'De Amore Hereos', Ériu 11 (1932) 174–181.
  7. Luke E. Demaitre, Doctor Bernard de Gordon: Professor and practitioner [Studies and Texts 51]. (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies 1980).
  8. Nessa Ní Shéaghda, 'Translations and Adaptations in Irish' (Statutory Lecture 1984, School of Celtic Studies), (Dublin: Institute for Advanced Studies 1984).
  9. Aoibheann Nic Dhonnchadha, 'Medical writing in Irish', in: J. B. Lyons (ed.), Two thousand years of Irish medicine (Dublin 1999) 21–26.
  10. Aoibheann Nic Dhonnchadha, 'Téacs ó scoil leighis Achaidh Mhic Airt', Ossory, Laois and Leinster 1 (2004) 50–75. [Contains an edition of another text copied by Richard O'Connor in 1590, extant in RIA MS 439, on the disease called 'sahaphati', with an English translation.]
  11. Aoibheann Nic Dhonnchadha, 'Winifred Wulff (1895–1946): beatha agus saothar,' in: Léachtaí Cholum Cille 35 (2005) 191–250.
  12. Aoibheann Nic Dhonnchadha, 'The medical school of Aghmacart, Queen's County', Ossory, Laois and Leinster 2 (2006) 11–43.

The edition used in the digital edition

‘Contra Incantationes’ (1938). In: Ériu‍ 12. Ed. by Winifred Wulff, pp. 250–253.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  editor 	 = {Winifred Wulff},
  title 	 = {Contra Incantationes},
  journal 	 = {Ériu},
  address 	 = {Dublin},
  publisher 	 = {Royal Irish Academy},
  date 	 = {1938},
  number 	 = {12 },
  pages 	 = {250–253}


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Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

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The present text represents Wulff's introduction, the transcribed Irish text; her English translation, footnotes and variant readings.

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Profile description

Creation: By Risdeard Ó Conchubhair (Richard O'Connor). between 1589 and 1592

Language usage

  • The text is in (Early) Modern Irish. (ga)
  • The front matter and translation are in English. (en)
  • Some terms and phrases are in Latin. (la)

Keywords: medical; prose; medieval; charms; incantation; translation

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2018-03-27: Bibliographical references added, additions made to header; new wordcount made. File reaprsed and validated. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2011-11-17: SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2011-11-04: File proofed (2); encoding finished; file parsed and validated; header modified. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2011-10-31: File proofed (1); strucutral and content encoding begun; provisional header created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  5. 2011-10-21: File captured by scanning. (text capture Beatrix Färber)

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