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Charms among the Chants: Verbal Magic in Medieval Bulgarian Manuscripts

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 June 2021

Orietta Da Rold
Affiliation:
University Lecturer, Faculty of English, St John's College, University of Cambridge,
Peter A. Stokes
Affiliation:
Senior Lecturer, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
Philip A. Shaw
Affiliation:
Senior Lecturer, School of English, University of Leicester,
Rolf H. Bremmer
Affiliation:
Senior Lecturer in Medieval English and, by special appointment, Professor of Frisian at the University of Leiden.
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Summary

THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT medieval Bulgarian verbal charms preserved in manuscripts. Here, the focus is on the medieval written contexts. After the functional typology of the medieval manuscripts, specific aspects of their contexts, content and usage are presented. The mребн𝑢ų𝑢 (‘books of occasional prayers’), which are the most numerous type of manuscripts containing verbal magic, are discussed in particular. The written tradition is analysed in terms of interaction between canonical and non-canonical texts, and in relation to the daily life applications of verbal magic. In general, the year 1450 is kept as the chronological border. There are, however, important examples and parallels from later periods, which are included in order to demonstrate transmission and continuation.

The purpose of this article is to present a specific aspect of medieval Bulgarian written verbal charms, and to propose a hypothesis about the behaviour of Christian priests as practitioners of verbal magic. My aim is also to urge a more general scholarly discussion on the topic. This is very much needed, as the medieval and early modern Bulgarian verbal charms are rarely discussed in English language publications.

Functional typology of the source material

Significant numbers of medieval and early modern Bulgarian verbal charms are preserved in manuscripts. These books are written in Old Church Slavonic, and are dated between the thirteenth and nineteenth centuries. In my PhD thesis I analyse sixty-nine manuscripts, which contain 173 charms, together with seven amulets containing seven charms. All these charms have been published by previous collectors and researchers of verbal magic. Some of the published editions of charms do not provide exact and accurate dating. Thus, the numbers of manuscripts and their dating are approximate. There are fifteen medieval Bulgarian manuscripts containing verbal charms that date from before 1450: thirteen manuscripts from the fourteenth century, one from the thirteenth century, and one from the first half of the fifteenth century.

Type
Chapter
Information
Writing Europe, 500-1450
Texts and Contexts
, pp. 175 - 190
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2015

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