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[Perspectives] The blood price

Superstition is rich with stories of infant mortality. In Irish fairy lore, the changeling is a sickly replica of a healthy child: various rites and potions would be prescribed to trick the changeling into revealing its true nature, and drive it out so the human original could be returned. It’s a tradition with implications both sinister and benign. On the one hand, changeling beliefs acknowledged the awful likelihood of unspeakable loss. On the other, they codified the abuse of ill and disabled children, encouraged care givers to dissociate from children in poor health, and in extreme cases provided a pattern for selective infanticide.