Naas native Joe Cassidy was in his mid-thirties, working as a stonemason and married with two children, when he made the choice to make healing and divining his life’s work.
It’s not your average mid-life career change, particularly when you’ve a family to support. It’s a path that could lead to charges of charlatanism and ridicule. But for Joe, some 15 years ago, there was simply no other route to take.
“I was having medical problems. I was very sick. At the time they thought I might have different neurological conditions,” he said.
A trip to a top London doctor yielded a different result than might be expected from someone from in the medical profession.
“I was able to tell her all about her life, her father and the situation in her family,” said Joe. “At that stage, ‘Well, Mr Cassidy’, she said, ‘we deal with medical science but I think you are going to have to use this sixth sense you have, or it will be holding you back all your life’.”
With the tacit blessing of the medical profession, Joe embarked on a career as a healer and diviner. He has seen over 5,000 cases, treated sick children and animals, divined for water and ‘healed’ houses of bad energy.
Joe’s book, called ‘The Diviner’, was officially launched at a packed reception in Barker & Jones, Naas, last Thursday night. It is published by Penguin Ireland and is available in all good bookshops.
The Athgarvan resident says he decided to write the book because, after a decade working in the field, he feels he has built up some credibility in the sensitive field of divining and healing.
He also has a rising media profile, thanks to his appearances in the national media, including one on a TV3 programme where he healed a horse at an animal sanctuary.
As for the scepticism that he has encountered over the years, he shurgs it off and leaves the negativity behind him. His clients over the years have ranged from housewives to solicitors to record company executives, and everyone in-between.
The Cassidy house is no stranger to the world of book publishing. Joe’s daughter is the teenage fiction author Laura Jane Cassidy, 25, whose debut novel ‘‘Angel Kiss’ was published last year. The second in the series, ‘Eighteen Kisses’, is due out in May.
He also has a son Liam, 20, and is married to Jean, who he says stood by him 100 percent as he pursued his new path.
There is a history of ‘healing’ in the family. His grand-uncle Hugh Dwane from Athgarvan had a way with animals. He worked in Cork - ironically, as a butcher - and had a reputation as being the man to call if vets had a problem.
‘The Diviner’ focuses on the history of divining in Ireland as well as Joe’s own story, and the work he has done as a diviner and healer.
Joe didn’t have an easy start in life. In fact, the way he tells it, he was lucky to be alive at all.
“When my mother was pregant on me, she already had three healthy children. There were complications and she went into labour early,” he said.
His mother Mary later told her son that she overheard the ambulance crew talking about how, if it took the expected 29 minutes to rush from Naas to Holles Street, they might save her life... but if it was any longer, it was expected they would lose both.
Baby Joe didn’t die, but there were no great expectations for his long-term survival. He spent his first three months in an incubator.
“I know it’s 51 years ago, but she was told ‘you have three healthy children, Mrs Cassidy. Go home and pray God will take him, he will never be anything but a vegetable’.”
Even at home, Joe was an unresponsive baby, never crying when wet or dirty. But a chance meeting with local priest Fr Swaine on Naas’ Main Street changed all that, according to Cassidy family lore. The priest came up to the house for a cup of tea and blessed the child. “It was like flicking a switch,” says Joe.
He is dyslexic, but was always an animal lover as a child. “People used to bring me an injured bird or cat. It’s hard to say how it started, but if they found a bird or a cat, they would bring it up to Young Cassidy’.”
He later trained as a stonemason, but believes that not using the energy inside him led to his health problems in his 30s
Today, Joe’s work ranges from the aforementioned working with animals to hands-on healing on people. He doesn’t advertise his services, trusting instead in word-of-mouth referrals.
He maintains he never promises a particular outcome to worried parents or patients. But whatever he does seems to work for many of those who see him.
“I just say I can’t promise anything. People have come to me over the years where there wasn’t supposed to be a good outcome, adult or child. I’m not saying directly that it was me, but the outcome was not supposed to be too good for them, and people are still here today. I have spoken about one or two in the book.”
He says people don’t necessarily have to believe in his powers for them to have an effect. This is borne out in his work with children - youngsters, he says, don’t have the knowledge of or faith in what he does.
Another area of work for Joe is healing bad energy from land or houses.
He did quite a bit of work in this area during the Celtic Tiger years. New homeowners poured money into old houses, but would get funny feelings about the place and insist that things didn’t feel right.
“They would be having ‘bad luck’ in the place. I’d be called in, without me knowing any history of the house. I would pick up on the energy of the previous occupiers. Obviously I had no way of knowing what was going on. I worked with the energy that needed to be cleared and the house felt a lot better again.”
He also does ‘land healing’, which ties in with his work as a water diviner.
“It’s who we are. There were diviners years and years ago. As we’ve progressed, a lot of it was left behind.
“I think at the present moment, with the Celtic Tiger gone, a lot of people are starting to stop and think we are not better off. I don’t believe in coincidence... the book has been released at a time when people have time to stop and think who we are and where we are and where we have come from.”
‘The Diviner’, published by Penguin, is available in bookshops nationwide, RRP E12.99.