Slavic-Baltic Space through the Prism of Magic Books

  • Tatiana Minniyakhmetova
Keywords: Baltic space, Magic books, Russian, South Slavs


In the Slavic culture, one of the remarkable places as a monument of literary texts and traditional folk knowledge was occupied by manuscripts and books which belonged to the category of forbidden (by church) literature, to the so called false,  black or renounced books. Today, they are generally referred to as magical books and represent special section of superstitious and divination books.

The main problem in exploring of magical books of ancient Slavs is the absence of the so-called primary sources, and only the late, fragmented and highly subjective sources of medieval census-takers and chroniclers are available, therefore in the study we have to face the inconsistencies in some details or even distortions and mistakes.

The main part of works related to this topic is borrowings from other cultures, but later, when they began to be considered as “their own”, they did not cease to be influenced by local folk traditions and continued to fulfil their goals and functions.

The most interesting variant is represented by ancient Russian magic books borrowed from the early Middle Ages up to the last centuries and influenced both from the south and the west. Parallels in other cultures indicate the existence of archetypal texts containing certain rules concerning key points.

The article offers to review the history of some magical books that reached the Russians through the southern Slavs and the Baltic regions.