Folklore, Magic, and Witchcraft : Cultural Exchanges from the Twelfth to Eighteenth Century book cover
1st Edition

Folklore, Magic, and Witchcraft
Cultural Exchanges from the Twelfth to Eighteenth Century

Edited By

Marina Montesano

ISBN 9780367557676
Published August 20, 2021 by Routledge
316 Pages 18 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This volume offers 18 studies linked together by a common focus on the circulation and reception of motifs and beliefs in the field of folklore, magic, and witchcraft.

The chapters traverse a broad spectrum both chronologically and thematically; yet together, their shared focus on cultural exchange and encounters emerges in an important way, revealing a valuable methodology that goes beyond the pure comparativism that has dominated historiography in recent decades. Several of the chapters touch on gender relations and contact between different religious faiths, using case studies to explore the variety of these encounters. Whilst the essays focus geographically on Europe, they prefer to investigate relationships over highlighting singular, local traits. In this way, the collection aims to respond to the challenge set by recent debates in cultural studies, for a global history that prioritises inclusivity, moving beyond biased or learned attachments toward broader and broadening foci and methods.

With analysis of sources from manuscripts and archival documents to iconography, and drawing on writings in Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, and other languages, this volume is essential reading for all students and scholars interested in cultural exchange and ideas about folklore, magic, and witchcraft in medieval and early modern Europe.

Table of Contents


Marina Montesano

Part 1: Interpreting Folkloric Beliefs

1. The Tree of the Bourlémonts. Gendered Beliefs in Fairies and Their Transmission From Old To Young Women in Joan of Arc’s Domrémy

Andrea Maraschi

2. The Rejuvenating Blood: Marsilio Ficino and the Witches

Marina Montesano

3. The Circulation and Exchange of Ideas, Myths, Legends, and Oral Traditions in the Witchcraft Trials of Italy

Debora Moretti

4. Between Hell and Paradise: The Legend of the Soul of the Emperor Trajan

Vincenzo Tedesco

Part 2: Cultural Exchange among Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Communities

5. Artificial Creation of Human Life: Ibn Waḥšiyya as a Source of the Futūḥāt al-makkiyya

Michele Petrone

6. Fragments of a Jewish Magical Tradition in the Library of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

Flavia Buzzetta

7. Parallel Beliefs: Cultural Exchange between Jews and Christians on Magic and Witchcraft, and the Concerns of the Inquisition

Marina Caffiero

Part 3: Preachers as Mediators

8. Some Reports of Magic, Superstition, and Witchcraft in the Medieval Mirabilia Literature

Christa Agnes Tuczay

9. ‘Diabolical sorceries’. Vicent Ferrer’s preaching and the emergence of the witchcraft construct(s) in early fifteenth-century Europe

Pau Castell

10. Circulation of Magic and Folkloric Traditions in the Times of Antonino of Florence and Bernardino of Siena

Fabrizio Conti

Part 4: The Cultural Interpretation of Objects

11. Against the Body of Christ: Exchanges and Cultural Upheavals in Early Modern Italy

Matteo Al Kalak

12. The Natural and the Supernatural: Collecting, Interests, and Trials of the Nuncio Decio Francesco Vitelli in Venice, 1632–1643

Marco Albertoni

13. The Witch Unravelled: How Pieter Bruegel the Elder Developed a Visual Code to Depict Witchcraft and Sorcery

Renilde Vervoort

Part 5: Trading Ideas about Witchcraft

14. Ignorantia and Superstitio: A Discussion among Theologians and Inquisitors in the Sixteenth Century

Michaela Valente

15. The MP and the Astrologer: Rival Cultures of Witchcraft in the East Anglian Witch-hunt

Danny Buck

16. A Witchcraft Triangle: Transmitting Witchcraft Ideas Across Early Modern Europe

Liv Helene Willumsen

17. The Shape of Evil: Familiars and Shapeshifting Witches in Seventeenth-Century Finnmark

Amber R. Cederström

18. Circulating Knowledge in an Enlightened Discourse. Eberhard David Hauber’s Witchcraft Quarterly, 1738–1745

Rita Voltmer

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Marina Montesano is Full Professor of Medieval History at the University of Messina, a fellow of Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, and a member of the scientific committee of the International Society for Cultural History (ISCH). Among her most recent monographs is Classical Culture and Witchcraft in Medieval and Renaissance Italy (2018).


‘An engaging collection linking magical events and traditions – from painting to shapeshifting, collecting to witch trials, fairies to astrology – across time and location: surprising and informative.’

Marion Gibson, University of Exeter, UK

‘Held together by the complex concept of cultural exchange, helpfully explored in the introduction, this collection of case-studies illuminates numerous aspects of folklore, magic and witchcraft, both medieval and early modern, from northern Scandinavia to the Islamic world, with a particular focus on Italy, bringing much new European scholarship into reach for an English-speaking audience.’

Jonathan Barry, University of Exeter, UK