Binding Words: Textual Amulets in the Middle Ages (Magic in by Don C. Skemer

By Don C. Skemer

In the center a while, textual amulets—short texts written on parchment or paper and worn at the body—were inspiration to guard the bearer opposed to enemies, to heal afflictions attributable to demonic invasions, and to convey the wearer luck. In Binding Words, Don C. Skemer presents the 1st book-length learn of this once-common technique of harnessing the mystical strength of phrases.

Textual amulets have been a distinct resource of empowerment, promising the believer secure passage via a precarious international via an ever-changing mixture of scriptural quotations, divine names, universal prayers, and liturgical formulation. even though theologians and canon legal professionals usually derided textual amulets as ignorant superstition, many literate clergy performed a principal position in generating and disseminating them. The texts have been, in flip, embraced by way of a extensive cross-section of Western Europe. Saints and parish monks, physicians and village healers, landowners and peasants alike believed of their efficacy.

Skemer bargains cautious research of a number of dozen surviving textual amulets besides different modern medieval resource fabrics. within the technique, Binding Words enriches our knowing of well known faith and magic in daily medieval life.

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Extra info for Binding Words: Textual Amulets in the Middle Ages (Magic in History)

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Early Christians claimed that Moses had mastered the magic arts in Egypt, and he acquired such an enduring reputation for the use of magic in words that one of the chief handbooks of Jewish magic is titled The Sword of Moses. Pagans who thought Christ was a worker of magic found signiWcance in the fact that the Flight into Egypt had brought the Christ child to a land steeped in magic. Jack Goody, The Interface Between the Written and the Oral (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 65–67; Graf, Magic in the Ancient World, pp.

Before textual amulets came into common use, the Greeks used oral charms together with some form of physical therapy for healing. Homer describes how Autolycus’s sons bound the open leg wound of Odysseus while chanting a bloodstaunching charm (Odyssey 19:457–59). 6 From the Ptolemaic era, 4. Richard Parkinson, Cracking Codes: The Rosetta Stone and Decipherment (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999), pp. 138–39; Jewellery Through 7000 Years (London: British Museum, 1976), pp.

While the medieval church would grow to be a far more powerful and far-Xung institution than the Latin fathers had ever imagined, the authority of such patristic condemnations against textual amulets weighed heavily on medieval theology and canon law for over a millennium. Centuries of ecclesiastical strictures and penalties against “superstition,” coupled with a dearth of physical evidence, might even suggest that a vigilant church was successful in its relentless efforts to suppress the illicit production of textual amulets by people who were often ridiculed as devil-worshipping magicians, wicked idolaters, and village charlatans operating on the edges of society, outside church control.

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