Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages

Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages

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Stephen A. Mitchell here offers the fullest examination available of witchcraft in late medieval Scandinavia. He focuses on those people believed to be ablea€”and who in some instances thought themselves ablea€”to manipulate the world around them through magical practices, and on the responses to these beliefs in the legal, literary, and popular cultures of the Nordic Middle Ages. His sources range from the Icelandic sagas to cultural monuments much less familiar to the nonspecialist, including legal cases, church art, law codes, ecclesiastical records, and runic spells. Mitchell's starting point is the year 1100, by which time Christianity was well established in elite circles throughout Scandinavia, even as some pre-Christian practices and beliefs persisted in various forms. The book's endpoint coincides with the coming of the Reformation and the onset of the early modern Scandinavian witch hunts. The terrain covered is complex, home to the Germanic Scandinavians as well as their non-Indo-European neighbors, the SAimi and Finns, and it encompasses such diverse areas as the important trade cities of Copenhagen, Bergen, and Stockholm, with their large foreign populations; the rural hinterlands; and the insular outposts of Iceland and Greenland. By examining witches, wizards, and seeresses in literature, lore, and law, as well as surviving charm magic directed toward love, prophecy, health, and weather, Mitchell provides a portrait of both the practitioners of medieval Nordic magic and its performance. With an understanding of mythology as a living system of cultural signs (not just ancient sacred narratives), this study also focuses on such powerful evolving myths as those of qthe milk-stealing witch, q the diabolical pact, and the witches' journey to BlAykulla. Court cases involving witchcraft, charm magic, and apostasy demonstrate that witchcraft ideologies played a key role in conceptualizing gender and were themselves an important means of exercising social control.And in this passage, the enumerated penalties make clear that to engage in any act of witchcraft, whether as the performer, or even as ... and property for fortune- telling and exile for the one who practices witchcraft and sorcery (sa annarrer ferr me5 galldra oc gerningar). ... her child in order to secure longevity.102 The same fine was to be leveled for rearing a child as a heathen.103 It then stated Law 161.


Title:Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages
Author: Stephen A. Mitchell
Publisher:University of Pennsylvania Press - 2011-06-06
ISBN-13:

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