In the first place Ireland's aloofness may be alleged as a reason. The " Emerald Gem of the Western World " lies far away on the verge of Ocean, remote from those influences which so profoundly affected popular thought in other countries. It is a truism to say that it has been separated from England and the Continent by more than geographical features, or that in many respects, in its ecclesiastical organisation, its literature, and so on, it has developed along semi-independent lines. And so, on account of this remoteness, it would seem to have been prevented from acquiring and assimilating the varying and complex features which went to make up the witchcraft conception. Or, to put it in other words, mediaeval witchcraft was a byproduct of the civilisation of the Roman Empire. Ireland's civilisation developed along other and more barbaric lines, and so had no opportunity of assimilating the particular phases of that belief which obtained elsewhere in Europe.
Consequently, when the Anglo-Normans came over, they found that the native Celts had no predisposition towards accepting the view of the witch as an emissary of Satan and an enemy of the Church, though they fully believed in supernatural influences of both good and evil, and credited their Bards and Druids with the possession of powers beyond the ordinary. Had this country never suffered a cross-channel invasion, had she been left to work out her destiny unaided and uninfluenced by her neighbours, it is quite conceivable that at some period in her history she would have imbibed the witchcraft spirit, and, with the genius characteristic of her, would have blended it with her own older beliefs, and so would have ultimately evolved a form of that creed which would have differed in many points from what was held elsewhere. As it happens, the English and their successors had the monopoly, and retained it in their own hands ; thus the Anglo-Norman invaders may be given the credit of having been the principal means of preventing the growth and spread of witchcraft in Celtic Ireland.
Another point arises in connection with the advance of the Reformation in Ireland. Unfortunately the persecution of witches did not cease in the countries where that movement made headway—far from it; on the contrary it was kept up with unabated vigour. Infallibility was transferred from the Church to the Bible ; the Roman Catholic persecuted the witch because Supreme Pontiffs had stigmatised her as a heretic and an associate of Satan, while the Protestant acted similarly because Holy Writ contained the grim command " Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Thus persecution flourished equally in Protestant and Roman Catholic kingdoms. But in Ireland the conditions were different. We find there a Roman Catholic majority, not racially predisposed towards such a belief, debarred by their religious and political opinions from taking their full share in public affairs, and opposed in every way to the Protestant minority. The consequent turmoil and clash of war gave no opportunity for the witchcraft idea to come to maturity and cast its seeds broadcast ; it was trampled into the earth by the feet of the combatants, and, though the minority believed firmly in witchcraft and kindred subjects, it had not sufficient strength to make the belief general throughout the country.
A third reason that may be brought forward to account for the comparative immunity of Ireland was the total absence of literature on the subject. The diffusion of books and pamphlets throughout a country or district is one of the recognised ways of propagating any particular creed ; the friends and opponents of Christianity have equally recognised the truth of this, and have always utilised it to the fullest extent. Now in England from the sixteenth century we find an enormous literary output relative to witchcraft, the majority of the works being in support of that belief. Many of these were small pamphlets, which served as the " yellow press " of the day ; they were well calculated to arouse the superstitious feelings of their readers, as they were written from a sensational standpoint —indeed it seems very probable that the compilers, in their desire to produce a startling catch-penny which would be sure to have a wide circulation, occasionally drew upon their imaginations for their facts. The evil that was wrought by such amongst an ignorant and superstitious people can well be imagined; unbelievers would be converted, while the credulous would be rendered more secure in their credulity.
At a later date, when men had become practical enough to question the reality of such things, a literary war took place, and in this " battle of the books" we find such well-known names as Richard Baxter, John Locke, Meric Casaubon, Joseph Glanvil, and Francis Hutchinson, ranged on one side or the other. Thus the ordinary Englishman would have no reasonable grounds for being ignorant of the power of witches, or of the various opinions held relative to them. In Ireland, on the other hand (with the solitary exception of a pamphlet of 1699, which may or may not have been locally printed), there is not the slightest trace of any witchcraft literature being published in the country until we reach the opening years of the nineteenth century. All our information therefore with respect to Ireland comes from incidental notices in books and from sources across the water. We might with reason expect that the important trial of Florence Newton at Youghal in 1661, concerning the historical reality of which there can be no possible doubt, would be immortalised by Irish writers and publishers, but as a matter of fact it is only preserved for us in two London printed books. There is no confusion between cause and effect; books on witchcraft would, naturally, be the result of witch-trials, but in their turn they would be the means of spreading the idea and of introducing it to the notice of people who otherwise might never have shown the least interest in the matter. Thus the absence of this form of literature in Ireland seriously hindered the advance of the belief in (and consequent practice of) witchcraft.