Current Issue Abstracts

Volume 15, Number 3, FALL 2020



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Medicine and Sacramentals: Performative Material Culture in the York Pageants
Denise Despres

This essay explores the relationship between medicine and medieval sacramental religion in York's pageant plays linked to the feast of Corpus Christi. The cycle play of Christ's baptism was assigned to the Barber-Surgeon's Guild at both York and Beverly, suggesting links between medicine and the play's subject matter. The York plays both acknowledge and advocate a culture of holy matter through references to charms common in the everyday healing practices of late-medieval England. In doing so, the plays provide us with paraliturgical rituals that cannot easily be dismissed as magic or superstition. Emerging evidence of overlap of prayer and devotional reading, charms, medicine, and devotional objects in the fifteenth century suggests that religious and medical paradigms and practices were thoroughly integrated in late-medieval and early-modern culture.

There Once Was a Frog: An Early Modern Frog in Ms. ROS 77
Alessia Bellusci

The article discusses an unpublished early modern Hebrew manuscript penned by the Italian Jewish physician Avraham Joel Conegliano (1665-1745) and today preserved at the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana in Amsterdam. Among its pages, the book conceals several floral remains and even a desiccated frog, an unprecedented finding in the research fields of both Jewish magic and Hebrew manuscripts. This article offers an overview of the manuscript and its contents and presents relevant biographical information on the author, highlighting the cultural and intellectual milieu in which Jewish physicians were trained, operated and transmitted their knowledge in Northern Italy at the end of the seventeenth-century.

"They Ride on the Backs of Certain Beasts": The Night Rides, the Canon Episcopi, and Regino of Prüm's Historical Method
Chris Halsted

The group ride through the air by night, one of the defining elements of modern witchcraft imagery, derives in the long run from the so-called "Canon episcopi," first attested in Regino of Prüm's 906 canon collection. This article argues that the language used in the Canon reveals gendered anxieties about the declining Carolingian empire. The Canon thus participates in an ancient discourse whereby transgressive magic was used to delineate accepted societal structure.

Stoikheion, Stuha, Zduhač: Guardian Spirits, Weather Magicians, and Talisman Magic in the Balkans
Éva Pócs

The present study aims to explore certain past beliefs held by a range of peoples living in south eastern Europe concerning guardian spirits and magicians, as well as specific, related notions of the soul. The phenomena in question are connected primarily by terminology: by the partially shared word-stock of stoikheion/stihio/stuha/zduhač (etc.), which refer to these magicians and guardian spirits; and by terms like telesma/tellestim/talasom, which exist in parallel and which denote the spirits of places or guardian spirits. The parallel phenomena discussed in this article suggestconnections that may have existed between elite magical practice and the popular tradition.


Wrapped Within: A Report on Ottoman Era Sudanese Amulets Excavated from Qasr Ibrim
Ruiha Smalley

The author, a volunteer at the British Museum, catalogued a number of Ottoman-period amuletic objects from the fortress site of Qsar Ibrim, Lower Nubia, on the east bank of the Nile in today's southern Egypt. This article examines several textile wrapped objects from Qasr Ibrim that appear to have an apotropaic purpose. These artefacts indicate that such traditions were in use during the Ottoman period in Sudan and illustrate a continuity of magical belief and practice over centuries.


The Dawn of Christianity: People and Gods in a Time of Magic and Miracles by Robert Knapp (review)
Giovanni B. Bazzana

Recycled Lives: A History of Reincarnation in Blavatsky's Theosophy by Julie Chajes (review)
Keith Cantú

Streghe, Sciamani, Visionari. In margine a Storia notturna di Carlo Ginzburg ed. by Cora Presezzi (review)
Fabrizio Conti

Cultures of Witchcraft in Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present ed. by Jonathan Barry et al. (review)
Sarah Ferber

William Blake and the Age of Aquarius ed. by Stephen F. Eisenman (review)
Jade Hagan

Classical Culture and Witchcraft in Medieval and Renaissance Italy by Marina Montesano (review)
Ann E. Moyer

Witchcraft and Demonology in Hungary and Transylvania ed. by Gábor Klaniczay and Éva Pócs (review)
Ileana Alexandra Orlich

Reflexive Religion: The New Age in Brazil and Beyond by Anthony D'Andrea (review)
Rodrigo Toniol

The Routledge History of Medieval Magic ed. by Sophie Page and Catherine Rider (review)
E. R. Truitt