An International Journal on Charms, Charmers and Charming
Issue 4, 2014
General Editor: Mare Kõiva
Guest Editor: Daiva Vaitkeviciene
To buy this issue, contact the editors. You can see the latest issue here (PDF) or click on article titles for individual PDF files.
The fourth issue of the journal Incantatio continues publication of the research articles based on the presentations
at the Charms Symposium of the 16th Congress of the ISFNR (in Vilnius, June 25–30, 2013), supplementing them with other research
Material Artefacts in Oral Tradition: Notes and Family Lore on the Owners of the
Sandvik Manor Magic Art Manuscripts
This article aims to provide an overview of the owners of (and other persons who have handled) three eighteenth century magic
manuscripts over the course of nearly three hundred years. The presumed writer, a learned vicar with a library founded by his
father, kept secret the magic part of his studies and writings in the forests of southwest Sweden. His son, however, the local
doctor, became known as “a great sorcerer”. During the periods of the succeeding owners, the manuscripts were kept secret,
forgotten, lent out to be copied, hidden away, and reappeared. The manuscripts are from Sandvik Manor in the joint parish of
Burseryd-Sandvik in the forest of southwest Sweden. The original of one of these manuscripts, the so-called Black Book, BB,
is in the University Library of Lund, the original of another, the so-called Red Book, RB, is in the Cultural History Museum
in Lund, while a copy of the third, the Sandvik Notebook, SN, is in the Dialekt- och folkminnesarkivet (Department of
Dialectology and Folklore Research), Uppsala.
Key words: narratives, biographical notes, oral history, sorcerer, books/manuscripts on magic art, clergyman, doctor, healer, freemason
Charmers and Charming in Gervëèiai Lithuanian Community in Belarus
The article focuses on the social functioning of verbal charms within a community. The subject of analysis is a small Lithuanian-speaking community living in the vicinity of Gervëèiai, Belarus, near the Lithuanian border. The survey covers synchronic and diachronic perspectives. The diachronic analysis is based on materials from fieldwork carried out in the vicinity of Gervëèiai in 1970, and stored in the Lithuanian Folklore Archives. Between 2010 and 2012 the author conducted fieldwork within Gervëèiai community.
The article analyses the number and density of charmers within the area, and the social and demographic peculiarities of charming. Special attention is paid to circumstances of charm transmission and family connections that can often be observed between the charmer and his/her successor. In addition, the sacral aspects of charming are considered in the article: charming is viewed by charmers as a peculiar religious practice that has not been authorised by the church.
Key words: healing charms, Lithuanian charms, transmission of charms, charmer, community, religion
Plica Polonica in Belarusian Beliefs and Incantations
Apparently, there is no disease that attracts so much attention from researchers (both medical doctors and ethnographers) as
kautun (Plica Polonica, the Polish plait). However, to this day there is no generally accepted solution regarding the etiology
and history of the disease, which manifests itself in entangled hair and is accompanied by rheumatic pains, sores, rash, crooked
nails, blurred vision, as well as attacks of nerves, spasms and increased heart rate. This article will feature Belarusian materials
that represent the eastern extent of the area of beliefs related to Plica Polonica. The article is based on the folklore
and ethnographic data collected by the author over the past 20 years, and aims to analyse the ontology of the disease named
kautun, its involvement in human communication both with the body and with non-human beings. The article also provides
comments on the historical evolution of beliefs and magical practices associated with the Plica.
Key words: Belarusian ethnomedicine, healing ritual, kautun (Plica Polonica), incantations, contemporary beliefs, ethnographic fieldwork.
The Oral and Written Traditions of Latvian Charms
This article is about the oral and written traditions of Latvian charms, analysing them in a historical and cultural context.
The article examines healing charms mainly and contextualizes them by reference to similar texts from the European charm tradition.
The division into oral and written traditions is based on the assumption of their functioning, dissemination and transmission through
different generations, space and time. Schematically, the depiction of the influence on Latvian folklore and cultural history
relating to the spread and functioning of Latvian charms and folk medicine traditions, can be divided into three clusters:
1) the pre-Christian, 2) the Early Christianity and 3) a cluster of Lutheran and Herrnhut charms. The first two clusters are
associated mainly with the oral charm tradition, while the third, with written tradition.
Key words: Latvian healing charms, oral tradition, folksongs, written tradition, Books of Heaven.
The Golden Characters of the Letter Fallen from Heaven: A Study Case from the First World War
Laura Jiga Iliescu
The research here approaches the topic of the devotional values of the act of writing/reading aloud a formalised text.
Especially when speaking about the southeast European rural milieu up to the second half of the 19th century, the presence of
scribes and of readers was relatively rare, although not completely absent. We are dealing with people for whom writing/copying a
text and/or listening to a reader was not a habit or a daily practice, but a special event more or less attached to a ritual or the
ritualised context of performance.
The paper discusses the particular case of a certain version of the Apocrypha, ‘the Legend of Sunday’, also known as the
‘Epistle Fallen From Heaven’, a version today stored in the archive of the Institute of Ethnography and Folklore in Bucharest.
It was copied and carried by a soldier in the First World War, to protect himself from being injured or killed.
In the first part of the study I analyse the flexibility of this verbal structure, which allows interesting insertions by
the scribe in order to increase both the efficacy of the text and the receivers’ (!) belief in its miraculous power. In this
regard, the story within a story that I am speaking about worked as a vehicle to help the spread of a distinctive group of legends
and magic practices. My aim is to grasp the dynamics of the believers’ expectations in the effectiveness of writing/reading/holding
a special text.
Key workds: devotional writing, Heavenly Epistles, First World War, Romanian culture
From Written to Oral Tradition. The Survival and Transformation of the St. Sisinnios Prayer in Oral Greek Charms
The Sisinnios prayer or Gylou story, part prayer part exorcism, is an ambiguous narrative enjoying an intercultural as well as
a diachronic distribution. The text, which refers to the harmful influence and restraint – through the sacred intervention of
Saints or an Angel – of a female demon bearing different names (Lilith, Gyllo, Werzelya, Veshtitsa/Aveshtitsa etc., depending
on the particular ethnic culture from which it has emerged) has received substantial attention from researchers on an international
scale. In the Greek tradition, in which this female demon is known as Gyllo, Gyloy, Yello or Yalou, there have been recordings of
more than thirty versions of the text, spanning a time period from the fifteenth up to the early twentieth centuries. These recordings
are located geographically in various different parts of Greece, and have been used within the framework of a folk religious context
as a means of protection for newborn babies and their mothers. What is the effect of this particular story on the oral tradition of
charms, i.e. on those charms which are orally transmitted and performed? What forms has it assumed, and which particular elements of
the written tradition have been transmitted, incorporated, transformed, modified or omitted from charms in the process? The present
study aims, on the one hand, to contribute further to the exploration of the well-known myth, and, on the other, to offer additional
insight into the interaction between the written and oral tradition of charms in light of the fact that the Gylou story is
particularly susceptible to those interpretational studies which focus on the crucial processes of incorporation and transformation of
the written tradition in the field of oral charms.
Key words: Archangel Michael, Greek oral charms, exorcisms, Gylou story, female demon, folk religion, Saints,
St. Sisinnios prayer, written/oral tradition.
Tatiana Panina. Slovo i ritual v narodnoi meditsine udmurtov [Word and Ritual in Udmurt Folk Medicine]. Izhevsk: Udmurt Institute
of History, Language and Literature, 2014. 238 pp. ISBN 978-5-7659-0795-5 (Mare Kõiva), pp. 139-140
Rita Balkutë (ed.). Galia uþburti: kenkimo magija 1982–2012 metø uþraðuose [The Power of Magic: Harmful Magic in
Recordings from 1982–2012]. Vilnius: R. Balkutës fondas, 2013. 752 pp. ISBN 978-609-95585-0-9 (Maria Zavyalova), pp. 141-142
T. A. Agapkina, A. L. Toporkov, Vostochnoslavianskie zagovory: Materialy k functional’nomu ukazateliu siuzhetov i motivov.
Annotirovannaia bibliografiia [East Slavic Charms: Materials for a Functional Index of Plot Structures
and Motifs. An Annotated Bibliography]. Moscow: Indrik, 2014, 320 pp. ISBN 978-5-91674-322-7 (Will Ryan), pp, 143-144
Charms Sessions at the International Medieval Congress (July 7-10, 2014, Leeds, United Kingdom) (Svetlana Tsonkova), pp. 145-148
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