An International Journal on Charms, Charmers and Charming
Issue 2, 2012

General Editor: Mare Kõiva
Guest Editor: Emanuela Timotin

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

  • From the power of words to the power of rhetoric: nonsense, pseudo-nonsense words, archaisms and artificially constructed compounds in Greek oral charms
    Haralampos Passalis
    Pp. 7-22

    Meaningless words, archaisms, glosses, neologisms as well as artificially constructed compounds often appear in charms. More specifi cally, the category of meaningless words (abracadabra, voces magicae, onomata Barbara, nonsense words, gibberish) has been considered as the most distinctive characteristic of verbal magic, and, as such, it has always constituted one of the most popular objects of study. Researchers have attempted to interpret the function of nonsignification, lack of meaning and referentiality in the inherent power of the sound of these words, in the special intonation of their performance, but also, in their implicative weight, namely in their connection to another type of referentiality, that of the so-called traditional referentiality, which connects these words to a wider context, whose power they evoke. However, most approaches to the special register of charms, with very few exceptions, have been based on texts of anterior periods, as well as on texts belonging to the written tradition of the genre. What happens, however, in the case of oral tradition, in the case, that is, of those charms that presuppose and require an oral performance and transmission? What is the frequency of occurrence of such words, what are the special characteristics of the register used in charms and in what ways does it differ from that of everyday speech? Furthermore, on the basis of which particular rules and criteria are these words formed and what function or purpose do they serve? These are the issues that the present study proposes to address, based on the examination of oral Greek charms, shifting its focus of attention from the alleged power of sound to the power of a rhetoric which accounts for the formation and explains the function of the specifi c register of oral charms.
    Key words: oral charms, oral/written tradition, nonsense words, pseudo words, artificially constructed compounds, sound patterns, power of words, rhetoric

  • Ivan the Terrible’s Malady and Its Magical Cure
    William F. Ryan
    Pp. 23-32

    This paper discusses the testicular hydrocele which afflicted Tsar Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible), Ivan’s alleged belief in witchcraft and employment of witches, the history of the Russian word kila, from its Greek origin to its employment as a Russian folk term for ‘a swelling, hernia’, and magic charms to cure it. From the evidence of two independent English manuscript dictionaries of Russian in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the word kila in Old Russian texts of that period meant exclusively the swelling of the testicles caused by witchcraft. It is argued that Ivan would have known the word in that sense, believed that his condition was caused by witchcraft, and would have looked for a magical remedy. There are no recorded charms for this purpose dating from Ivan’s lifetime, but there are from the seventeenth century. In more modern occurrences of the word kila it seems mostly to have reverted to its previous non-specific sense of ‘swelling’ or ‘hernia’ – but Russian occult and medical websites show that the ‘hydrocele’ meaning survives as a folk term and that the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century association with witchcraft is also still well known.
    Key words: kila, Ivan the Terrible, hydrocele, impotence, illness caused by witchcraft, historical survival of witchcraft beliefs

  • Typologie des formules magiques
    Claude Lecouteux
    Pp. 33-41

    This paper provides information on magical formulas in both medieval and nearcontemporary charms, based on a corpus of more than 1000 formulas, and tries to give a typology.
    Key words: oral and written formulas; pagan formulas; Christian formulas; vocabulary of the formulas

  • Verbal Charms from a Seventeenth-Century Manuscript
    Andrei Toporkov
    Pp. 42-54

    The article publishes nine Russian magical texts translated into English. All of them are taken from the Olonets Codex, a collection of charms dating back to approximately the second quarter of the 17th century. The collection of charms found in the Olonets Codex is unparalleled both in its scope and in its thematic diversity – not only for the seventeenth century, but perhaps within the whole corpus of Russian charm manuscripts.
    Key words: Russian charms, manuscripts, 17th century, Karelian-Vepsian language

  • Maria Lactans and the Three Good Brothers
    Eleonora Cianci
    Pp. 55-70

    This paper investigates a single motif embedded in the German version of the Three Good Brothers Charm: the oath on Mary’s milk. The charm for wounds has a very rich manuscript tradition and an incredible number of different versions in several languages due to a (plausible) parallel oral tradition; however, although each manuscript seems to arrange the motif pattern in a different way, it is possible to trace a kind of recurring layout. The reiteration of Mary’s milk in the different versions reveals a very old cultural tradition and a developing symbolic meaning of the Virgin in the Middle Ages.
    Key words: Maria lactans, Dri guot bruoder, Tres boni fratres, Three good brothers charm, verbal charms, Wundsegen, swearing by the milk

  • Termes albanais pour ‘incantation’
    Cătălina Vătăşescu
    Pp. 71-78

    L’auteur propose une liste des termes albanais faisant partie du champ sémantique du « charme » et de celui de l’« écartement des conséquences défavorables des charmes ». Les mots concernent les formules incantatrices, les actions (tant nuisibles que bienfaisantes) et les gestes qui les accompagnent, ainsi que les désignations des personnes qui prononcent les incantations et qui accomplissent les actions magiques. Le lexique du domaine des charmes en albanais s’avère ancien et riche. Il comprend des termes autochtones, des emprunts anciens faits au grec et au latin. Les mots en question sont la base de nombreux dérivés. L’analyse met en évidence une série de similitudes entre l’albanais et le roumain.
    Key words: incantation, charme, champ lexical, terminologie, langue albanaise

  • Get Dr Clague. Dr John Clague as Collector of Manx Charms
    Stephen Miller
    Pp. 79-95

    Dr John Clague (1842–1908) was a medical practitioner in the Isle of Man as well as a folklore and folk song collector. His mother was a herbal healer as was Clague before commencing his medical studies. Clague’s posthumously published reminiscences in 1911 contain the largest collection of charms (13) published to date as well as details of his encounters with charmers and healers during his rounds. Published with facing pages of Manx Gaelic and English (the two languages of the Island in this period) the question arises as to which language the charms were originally collected in. Surviving is a manuscript notebook containing texts of six of the charms; two others are known in Manx from earlier church court records. Clague’s collecting does not exhaust the material for the Island. There is one other contemporary collector, namely Sophia Morrison, whose manuscript material remains inedited and unpublished. Other material that remains to be examined are the printed and manuscript collections of the Manx National Heritage Library, especially the Manx Museum Folk-Life Survey. It is hoped that all this material can be gathered together at some date in a charm catalogue allowing its use by the wider community of charm scholars.
    Key words: Isle of Man, Manx Gaelic, English, Dr John Clague (1842–1908), Charm Collecting, Late 19th Century

  • Contemporary Charms and Charming in Adjara, Georgia
    Jonathan Roper
    Pp. 96-105

    This paper documents some charms recorded by the author in Adjara, Georgia, in 2006 (mostly for children’s ailments), and attempts to compare them with previously-recorded charms where appropriate. It also comments upon details of the charmers involved and their charming, as well as (briefly) on the method of filming imitations of charming in cases where real charming cannot be fi lmed.
    Key words: healing charms, Georgian charms, Adjara, video-documentation, imitations of charming, methodology of documenting charms and charming

James Alexander Kapaló, Text, Context and Performance. Gagauz Folk Religion in Discourse and Practice. Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2011, 352 pp. (Haralampos Passalis). Pp. 106-110
Т. А. Агапкина, А. Л. Топорков (ed.), Восточнославянские Заговоры: Аннотированный Библиографический Указазатель (East Slavic Charms: Annotated Bibliographical Index). Moscow: Пробел, 2011, 170 pp. (Svetlana Tsonkova). Pp. 110-111
T. A. Agapkina, Vostochnoslavianskie lechebnye zagovory v sravnitel’nomosveshchenii. Siuzhetika i obraz mira (East Slavic Healing Spells in a Comparative Light: Plot Structure and Image of the World), Moscow: Indrik 2010. 823 pp. (William F. Ryan). Pp. 111-113
A. L. Toporkov, Russkie zagovory iz rukopisnykh istochnikov XVII –pervoi poloviny XIX v. (Russian Manuscript Charms from 17th to First Half of the 19th Century). Moscow: Indrik 2010. 830 pp. 14 illustrations (William F. Ryan). Pp. 114-115
J. Roper (ed.), Charms, Charmers and Charming. International Research on Verbal Magic. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, 294 pp. (Emanuela Timotin). Pp. 115-117

Oral Charms in Structural and Comparative Light. International Conference at the Russian State University for the Humanities and at the Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow, 27–29 October 2011) (E. Kuznetsova, A. Toporkov), pp. 118-128

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