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fairy stroke


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[Ir. poc sídhe].

Abrupt, seemingly inexplicable changes in mental or physical well-being of both humans and animals were once popularly attributed in many nations to the fairy stroke. Most often the fairy stroke denoted a paralytic seizure; the colloquial English usage of ‘stroke’ for cerebral haemorrhage derives from this once widespread belief. Sometimes it was held that the victim had been carried away and a simulacrum, e.g. an infant or aged fairy or carved figure, substituted. In Ireland the fairy stroke was thought synonymous with the ill omen or ill fate that hung over those born in the time of Pentecost; thus the Hiberno-English kinkisha, kinkesha [Ir. Cincís, Cingcís, Cingcíse (gen.), Whitsuntide evil destiny] is usually glossed as ‘fairy stroke’. A person capable of directing such malicious power is known as the kinkishin or kinkeshin. Another Irish word that may translate fairy stroke is millteoireacht, (the act of) spoiling, destroying; e.g. Tá millteoireacht éigin air, ‘he has been stricken in some mysterious way’. Tommy McArdle's film The Kinkisha (c.1978) treats of this theme in a modern setting.

Subjects: Religion.


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