An International Journal on Charms, Charmers and Charming
Issue 1, 2011

General Editor: Mare Kõiva
Guest Editor: Jonathan Roper

To buy this issue, contact the editors. You can see the issue here (PDF) or click on article titles for individual PDF files.

  • Introduction
    P. 6

  • Secrecy and Ritual Restrictions on Verbal Charms Transmission in Greek Traditional Culture
    Haralampos Passalis
    Pp. 7-24

    The paper focuses on the ritual restrictions and taboos surrounding verbal charms transmission in Greek traditional culture. These restrictions and taboos which are closely connected with a strategy of secrecy based on the wide-spread belief that revealing the verbal part of charm renders the ritual ineffective, aim at protecting the transmission of verbal part which is considered as the main part of the ritual performance. Moreover, they can cast light on issues as the social status of performer, the owned state of magic, the problem of collecting charms in fieldwork, and even on the way of performance (the verbal part has to be recited in such a way so that it is not heard). Special attention is given to how this strategy of secrecy affects the construction of the verbal part by way permitting transformations, innovations substitutions, omissions, even texts which lack logical coherence without disturbing the efficacy of the rituals themselves.
    Key words: Greek traditional culture, performative context, restrictions, secrecy, taboos, transmission, verbal charms

  • Practical Texts in Difficult Situations: Bulgarian Medieval Charms as Apocrypha and Fachliteratur
    Svetlana Tsonkova
    Pp. 25-35

    The objects of this article are medieval Bulgarian charms, written in Old Church Slavonic language and preserved in manuscripts. The article is focused on two issues. Firstly, it deals with the charms as specialized texts, as a specific kind of Fachliteratur, with important practical function in coping daily life challenges and problems. The main purpose of these charms was to meet and solve the crucial quotidian issues, like health problems, provision of good luck and protection against evil forces. Secondly, the article refers to the position of the charms among the canonical Orthodox Christian texts. This position is examined in the context of practicality and of the historical changes in the society. This is also a question of the relations between the content of the charms and the content of the other texts from the same manuscript. In this respect the medieval Bulgarian charms are an interesting phenomenon, as they intermingle among canonical Orthodox Christian books, as service books and books of needs.
    Key words: apocrypha, apotropaic magic, daily life, medieval Bulgarian charms, medieval Fachliteratur, oral and written transmission of charms, practical magic

  • Immateria Medica: Charmers and their Communities in Newfoundland
    Martin Lovelace
    Pp. 36-47

    This paper offers a typology of charmers in Newfoundland, Canada. The ability to charm may be transmitted, often cross-sex, or may be ascribed by the community and adopted as a role by an individual who falls into the recognized categories of being a posthumous child, or a woman who marries a man who shares her own family name. Seventh sons and priests are ascribed the widest range of healing competency and are at the apex of a conceptual pyramid of power. Material is drawn from fieldwork conducted in 2010 and a review of holdings on charming contained in MUNFLA, the Memorial University Folklore and Language Archive. It is argued that it may be premature to conclude that charmers have lost their healing and social roles in Newfoundland communities and that in the case of wart charming, and blood stopping, the tradition continues.
    Key words: Ascribed healing roles, charming, folklore archives and appraisal of sources, Newfoundland, scarcity of verbal charms.

  • The Three Good Brothers Charm: Some Historical Points
    Lea Olsan
    Pp. 48-78

    The charm for wounds beginning “Three good brothers were going/walking” has been documented in written and spoken sources in various languages across the European continent from the medieval period. Ferdinand Ohrt's article in the Handwörterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens contained many examples of the formula from Northern European manuscript sources. There remain many more examples to be assembled from English manuscripts and from other cultural traditions This paper (including the Appendices) does not attempt to offer a comprehensive collection of Three Good Brothers charms. Rather, it seeks to understand and interpret selected instances of the charm's appearance from the evidence of selected manuscript contexts. The phrase 'Historical Points' in the title of this paper signals my attempt to elucidate the cultural contexts for the use of this wound charm at specific moments during, before and after its popularity in the manuscript culture of the medieval period.
    Key words: Tres boni fratres, Longinus, Neque doluit neque tumuit, encounter charm, Christ as healer.

  • Genre and Authority in the Scholarly Construction of Charm and Prayer: A View from the Margins
    James A. Kapaló
    Pp. 79-101

    This paper presents a critique and some theoretical reflections on the relationship between the genres of charm and prayer in folklore and religions scholarship. I draw special attention to the construction of the liminal genre of 'archaic prayer' in Hungarian scholarship and its relationship to magic and the 'charm' genre as elucidated in the work ethnographers Éva Pócs, Zsuzsanna Erdélyi and Irén Lovász amongst others. It is commonly recognised that scholarly distinctions between genres cut across emic categories and insider knowledge structures. Drawing on the work of Pierre Bourdieu, this paper critiques the discourse on archaic prayer in relation to the dichotomy between magic and religion and the emic/etic distinction through a focus on power/knowledge relations and the politics of language in the religious field.
    Key words: Bourdieu, charms, folklore, folk prayer, genre, folk religion

Successful and Fruitful Model – Lithuanian Charms Collection as a Contribution to the Research of Verbal Magic, pp. 102-103
A New Generation Study on Lithuanian Incantations, pp. 104-106

Charms, Charmers and Charming. International Conference at the Romanian Academy (Bucharest, June, 24–25, 2010), pp. 107-109

Back to Incantatio main page