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Charms and Charming in Europe (review)
Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft
  • Michael D. Bailey, Iowa State University
Document Type
Book Review
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Published Version
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In his introduction to this volume, Jonathan Roper defines charms as “the verbal element of vernacular magic practice” (p. 1). This is a concise and workable definition, and it establishes charms and charming as encompassing, almost inarguably, the most broadly diffused and commonly practiced kinds of magic in European history (only the equally enormous category of divination might give charming a run for its money). Yet as Roper and several of the authors of the articles collected here note, charms and charming have not received anywhere near the scholarly attention that have been lavished on narrower categories, such as maleficent witchcraft or learned Renaissance magic. The problem is one of sources. While learned magi left their own records, and theologians and prosecutors wrote furiously about the suspected evils of witchcraft, charms were so ubiquitous in common oral culture that they were rarely written down. When they were recorded, it was typically unsystematically, at least until the nineteenth century, when folklorists became interested in preserving what they regarded as important elements of popular culture, and of course those records, too, present certain problems as historical sources.

This is a book review from Magic, Ritual, Witchcraft 2 (2007): 106, doi:10.1353/mrw.0.0065. Posted with permission.

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University of Pennsylvania Press
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Citation Information
Michael D. Bailey. "Charms and Charming in Europe (review)" Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft Vol. 2 Iss. 1 (2007) p. 106 - 108
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