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Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft

Volume 12, Number 3, Winter 2017


Defixiones and the Temple Locus: The Power of Place in the Curse Tablets at Mainz 
pp. 279 - 313 
Sarah Veale 

This paper surveys nineteen lead curse tablets from the sanctuary of Magna Mater and Isis in Mainz, Germany. Written in Latin, these tablets seek the divine help of Magna Mater and other deities in rectifying perceived injustices. When theorizing about cursing practices at the site, I argue that we need to look to the in situ context of the curse tablets and consider the other ritual deposits made at the sanctuary. The co-presence of votary items alongside curse tablets can aid our understanding of how the curse authors at Mainz viewed their practice, and in fact votive cult provides a compelling framework for understanding cursing at Mainz. The connection between the temple locus and cursing is illustrated by the uniformity of cursing rituals, the thematic content of the petitioners' requests, and the sites of tablet deposition. Thus, we need to reconsider the idea of cursing as a deviant religious practice and instead recognize all the ways that it fell within normative religious habits in Roman antiquity.

Cursus: An Early Thirteenth-Century Source for Nocturnal Flights and Ointments in the Work of Roland of Cremona 
pp. 314 - 330 
Ayelet Even-Ezra 

This article considers a demonological tractate authored in the 1230s by Roland of Cremona, a learned physician who became the first Dominican master of theology in Paris. The core of the article is an analysis of the interaction of the popular and the learned through his original, hitherto overlooked account of a popular practice he names cursus, a nightly orgiastic flight induced by smearing a certain ointment. Antedating by two hundred years the first known sources to mention flying ointments, and independent of earlier sources about the nightly ladies, I delineate its importance to the study of the medieval origins of the witches' sabbat.

What Père Lafitau Learned from the American Diviner 
pp. 331 - 361 
Jean-Olivier Richard 

This paper uses the writings of the Jesuit Joseph-Francois Lafitau (1681-1746) to draw attention to the role that missionary encounters played in the shaping of early Enlightenment attitudes toward magic. After spending five years among the Iroquois converts of the Sault Saint-Louis mission near Montreal, Lafitau developed important insights into the shamanic practices of the New World. Buried in his Moeurs des sauvages comparées aux moeurs des premiers temps (1724) these insights have yet to be read through the history of magic. They reveal how ceremonies witnessed in America and interpreted as curious remnants of Neoplatonic theurgy served Christian apologetics in eighteenth-century France. Lafitau's case suggests that, while the practice of magic was "waning" in some European circles, concerns about its existence and efficacy persisted both as a reality in distant lands and as an object of antiquarian inquiry

Building, Burning, and Rebuilding Bridges Anthropological and Historical Approaches to Witchcraft in Tanzania and Beyond 
pp. 362 - 401 
Eric Burton 

After a first, short-lived attempt in the 1970s, the cooperation of historical and anthropological approaches to witchcraft has recently experienced a renaissance. This article discusses both cross-fertilizations and persistent gaps in the interdisciplinary exchanges, arguing that the perception of witchcraft-related phenomena outside of Europe continues to suffer from insufficient historicization, while many historians of early modern Europe cling to a European Sonderweg which renders witchcraft in early modern as Europe unique and, ultimately, incomparable. Issues of interdisciplinary cooperation are then discussed using Tanzania as a case study.


Witchcraft and Folk Belief in the Age of Enlightenment: Scotland, 1670–1740 by Lizanne Henderson (review) 
pp. 402 - 404 
Michelle D. Brock 

Shi'ism in South East Asia: 'Alid Piety and Sectarian Constructions ed. by Chiara Formichi and R. Michael Feener (review) 
pp. 404 - 406 
Majid Daneshgar 

Johann Reuchlin (1455–1522): A Theological Biography by Franz Posset (review) 
pp. 406 - 410 
Jason Roberts 

The Virtue of Sympathy: Magic, Philosophy, and Literature in Seventeenth-Century England by Seth Lobis (review) 
pp. 410 - 412 
Ryan J. Stark 

Cas Gan Gythraul: Demonology, Witchcraft, and Popular Magic in Eighteenth-Century Wales ed. by Lisa Tallis (review) 
pp. 412 - 414 
Richard Suggett 

Agents of Witchcraft in Early Modern Italy and Denmark by Louise Nyholm Kallestrup (review) 
pp. 414 - 416 
Gerhild Scholz Williams 

Magic in Islam by Michael Muhammad Knight (review) 
pp. 416 - 419 
Edgar Francis 

Realizing the Witch: Science, Cinema, and the Mastery of the Invisible by Richard Baxstrom and Todd Meyers (review) 
pp. 419 - 421 
Oliver Gaycken 

Witchcraft, Witch-Hunting, and Politics in Early Modern England by Peter Elmer (review) 
pp. 421 - 424 
E. J. Kent 

Beliefs and Rituals in Archaic Eastern North America: An Interpretive Guide by Cheryl Claassen (review) 
pp. 424 - 428 
Lucianne Lavin