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The Power of Words

Studies on Charms and Charming in Europe

Edited by James Kapalo, Eva Pocs and William Ryan

Publication Year: 2013

The essays reflect the rich textual tradition of archives, monasteries and literary sources, as well as the texts still accessible through field work in many rural areas of Europe and known from the living practice of healers in local communities, and even of priests. The authors include representatives of folklore studies, contemporary and historical anthropology, as well as linguistics, the study of Classical Antiquity, mediaeval, Byzantine, Russian, and Baltic studies.

Published by: Central European University Press


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Table of Contents

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pp. v-viii

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pp. 1-12

This book of essays is the third in a series of books published as part of the on-going international cooperation of members of the Committee for Charms, Charmers and Charming established six years ago as a part of the International Society for Folk Narrative Research (ISFNR).1 Joint research had in fact begun earlier, in 2003, and continued in 2005 in the form of conferences held at the Warburg Institute of the University ...


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Chapter 1 A Genre in the Making.The First Study of Charms in Norway

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pp. 15-26

In Norway, as in most other European countries, the nineteenth-century collection and analysis of the older parts of the oral and written popular culture took Romantic national ideas as their point of departure. This meant, among other things, that collectors and scholars in the field of folklore were interested primarily in finding or extracting ...

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Chapter II The Making of a Charm Collector.Alexander Carmichael in Uist, From 1864 To 1882

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pp. 36-70

Contemporary scholarship on charms tends towards the analytic and synchronic, focusing upon the creation and refinement of universal typologies. Given the exceptionally multilingual and disparate nature of this particular branch of folklore scholarship, and indeed the lack of crucial contextual information in many older folklore archives, it could ...

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Chapter III Charm Indexes:Problems and Perspectives

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pp. 71-100

In the past twenty years interest in the study and publication of verbal magic texts has increased considerably. Quite a number of collections of Belarusian, Bulgarian, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Romanian, Russian, Serbian and Ukrainian charms have been published. But the more frequently new texts in various countries are published,...

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Chapter IV Medieval Narrative Charms

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pp. 101-116

Many of the narrative charms that have been collected by European folklorists can be traced back to medieval or ancient models. In this paper I present a brief survey of medieval narrative charms considered from four points of view: a) thematic classification; b) occurrence; c) language; d) efficiency....

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Chapter V The Historical Development of“Charm” Terminology in Hungarian

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pp. 117-132

1. Our beloved Hungarian folklore and language offer a treasure house for comparative philology and religion—but only if scholars examine the facts without bias and are not fooled by false preconceptions. One of the most common fallacies is the way of thinking that asserts that all Hungarian words, texts and rituals are historically invariable, and...


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Chapter VI The Marginality of Charms in Medieval England

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pp. 135-164

At the bottom of a page in a fourteenth-century copy of Gilbert the Englishman’s academic medical book, a reader has written the following charm:

Take these two verses and tie them on the right arm
with the Lord’s Prayer. And these [verses] are, ...

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Chapter VII Church Benedictions and Popular Charms in Hungary

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pp. 165-198

In this paper I am going to examine the Hungarian aspects of the connections between benedictions and charms. In Hungary, just as in the whole of Europe, charms as a form of verbal magic were once present in the practice of all social strata. In the latter centuries, however, they lived on mainly among the peasantry. In the early twentieth century the use of...

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Chapter VIII Benediction and Exorcism in Early Modern Hungary

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pp. 199-210

The textual relationship between medieval ecclesiastical benedictions and exorcisms and modern peasant incantations that have the function of benediction or malediction has long been recognised in European cultural history. Relying on the analyses and collections published at the beginning of the twentieth century, researchers of the history of ...

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Chapter IX Baltic and East Slavic Charms

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pp. 211-236

This article examines the parallels between Baltic (Lithuanian and Latvian) and East Slavic charms. Charm texts characterised by their common semantic and/or syntactic structure are regarded as typological parallels; along with them, universal charm motifs and complexes of images are also investigated....


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Chapter X The Năjit Between Prayers and Charms:A Study of the Romanian Manuscript Tradition1

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pp. 239-256

This study focuses on charms that are intended to treat a disease named năjit in Romanian, and more particularly a version of such charms illustrated by six texts preserved in manuscripts of the Romanian Academy Library in Bucharest. The analysis places particular importance on the textual motifs and, subsequently, on their preservation...

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Chapter XICharming The Moon:Moon Charms for Sick Childrenin Portuguese Ethnography

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pp. 257-264

In this paper I draw attention to a set of moon charms performed for sick children, which I propose to interpret in the light of the fundamental link between water, soul cycles and lunar phases. Let me start with the longstanding notion of water/soul oscillations between this world and the otherworld in the longue durée of European cultures....

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Chapter XII “Dear Merciful Mother”: The Virgin Mary in Finnish and Karelian Birth Incantations

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pp. 265-280

In her monograph Mythic Images (Siikala 2002), Anna-Leena Siikala points out that in order to perform a task successfully, a tietäjä, a specialist in a rite tradition, summons her or his assistants in the form of various supernatural beings. Siikala analyses a bathing formula recorded by Elias Lönnrot from a well-known tietäjä, Juhana Kainulainen,...

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Chapter XIII The Power of Words in Miracles, Visions, Incantations and Bewitchments1

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pp. 281-304

In the canonisation process of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary one of her maids reported the following story when once she met “a young man by the name of Berthold, who was dressed in a worldly manner”:

Calling him to her Elizabeth said: “You seem to be living your
life less discreetly than you ought to. Why do you not serve the
Creator?” The youth responded: “O my lady, I beg you, pray for ...

About the Editors

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pp. 305-306

About the Contributors

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pp. 307-310


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pp. 311-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9786155225482
Print-ISBN-13: 9786155225109

Page Count: 332
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: first