07 June 2017

The Second Sight

Sarah Pearl Tweedy circa 1905
The phenomenon of Second sight has fascinated me for many years.  I was exposed to the Second Sight early in my life, before I even knew what it was.  My grandmother had the Second Sight.  She was Sarah Pearl McCain née Tweedy, born in Carbondale, in southern Illinois, in 1883.  She passed away in 1962, when I was only twelve years old, but I was close to her and despite her passing when I was young, I remember her countenance and personality well.  I also remember she had a unique quality to her; it is hard to describe in words, other than to say she had an other world quality.  I found out about her Second Sight through a child's eyes and ears.  I heard her friends and relatives talk about it and tell stories. She never mentioned it to me.  She had a strong case of it one could say.  She 'saw' things and had experience that exist in a world that is not well understood by our sciences.

The Second Sight is so called because normal vision was regarded as coming first, and with certain individuals a  supernormal vision developed.  The Gaelic term is An Da Shealladh which means "the two sights," meaning normal sight and the sight of the seer. There are many Gaelic words for the various aspects of second sight, but An Da Shealladh is the one mostly recognized by non Gaidhlig speakers, even though, strictly speaking, it does not really mean second sight. 

Simply put, Second sight is a form of extrasensory perception, the ability to perceive things that are not present to the senses, whereby a person perceives information, in the form of a vision, about future events or events at remote locations.  Other manifestations include knowing things about a person just by meeting them, such as their true nature and history, or sometimes by perceiving this by merely handling an object that the person owns.  In popular culture it is also called 'the sixth sense.'

The Second Sight happens in several peoples and cultures, but it is in Scotland perhaps that it is most recognized and studied.  My grandmother's Tweedy family originated in Scotland and migrated to Ireland very early in the 1600s or even late in the 1500s.  In Scotland, the Tweedys had a penchant for getting into feuds that resulted in legal issues and even their surname was proscribed at one time.  Migration from Scotland to Ireland and other parts of the Isles was an often used path for them to 'get out of town.'   I have found records of them in the 1620s with a group of native Irish in County Cavan and being listed as 'Irish.'  This means the clerk thought them born in Ireland.  I know many of the Tweedys spoke Irish and were often Protestant and in the Established Church (the Church of Ireland, i.e. Anglicans).

Her family migrated to the English Colonies in the late 1600s, oral history remembers the place of entry as Rhode Island.  The Tweedys migrated to the Carolinas in the early 1700s.  They were what popular history likes to call Scots-Irish.  They were an adventurous family as several of them were in Daniel Boone's party that crossed the Cumberland Gap in the 1770s.  Their history is one of trailblazing adventures, ferocious battles with Indians, and eventually settling in southern Illinois by 1805.  That area was very dangerous and very few white people lived there at that time. Hostile Indians were very active and their family records has accounts of Indian raids and several brutal deaths to members of the extended family.

As an adult my research discovered that the Second Sight runs in their family.  This is not unusual and Scottish families with the Second Sight often report it as an inherited trait.  I found records of a Tweedy woman that had been accused of witchcraft in the mid 1600s.  I do not know if the woman was a relation to my grandmother's family, but it is very possible.  In the mid 1600s people with the Second Sight were sometimes accused of witchcraft and brought to trial.  Such was the case of the poor Tweedy woman whose records I read.  She was arrested and a trial held.  I found the record of the trail, her charges, and also found the brutal method with which she was interrogated.  It involved a government paid witch hunter.  He would ask questions and then stick her with long metal needles, about the size of a small knitting needle.  If the wound bled it meant she was telling the truth, if it did not bleed, this indicated a lie.  Yes, I know what you all are thinking, that is insane.  She was found guilty and did not survive the ordeal.

17th Century witch pricking needles
In my work and travels I have discovered many accounts of families that have the Second Sight, particularly in the Southern Uplands and Backsettlments.  It was a normal aspect of Scots-Irish culture well into the 1900s and even today it is known.  When you read the literature written on the Scots-Irish in their traditional homelands the phenomenon of Second Sight or 'Seers' is a common theme. 'Seer' was a common term for people with the Second Sight in the Uplands from the Ozarks to the Appalachians.   I am researching Scots-Irish families that have a tradition of the Second Sight for a new writing project now.
I am collecting stories from Scots-Irish families now that have experience with the Second Sight, have old tales of it in their family, etc. So, anyone reading this who has a story, do please contact me, I would love to hear your Second Sight experiences.

Sarah Pearl Tweedy circa late 1800s

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