The counter-tradition and symbolic inversion
in ‘Insubordinate Irish’
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This chapter describes what may be termed a ‘counter-tradition’ to that which proposes an anti-Traveller discourse in Irish tradition. This counter-tradition manifests itself in a story entitled Ortha an Ghreama (‘The Stitch Charm’), in which Jesus and Mary act as shamans or healers, ‘outsiders’ who morally arbitrate on the actions of the settled community. In Ortha an Ghreama, Travellers in the guise of holy people rebel against their marginalisation from the dominant discourse through their role in a countercultural healing process that incorporates both the physical and psychic healing of society as a whole. Folktales such as Ortha an Ghreama form a discourse in which Travellers are seen to subvert their assignation of ‘outcast’ or ‘negative Other’ as incorporated in ‘anti-Traveller’ folktales. The Traveller as depicted in Ortha an Ghreama is a figure indicative of an attitude of creative disrespect, engaged in a re-ordering of long-established discourses and imaginaries.

‘Insubordinate Irish’

Travellers in the text

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