Communicating with the Spirits

Communicating with the Spirits

Gábor Klaniczay
Éva Pócs
in collaboration with Eszter Csonka-Takács
Volume: 1
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7829/j.ctt2jbnm1
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  • Book Info
    Communicating with the Spirits
    Book Description:

    Focuses on the problem of communication with the other world: the phenomenon of spirit possession and its changing historical interpretations, the imaginary schemes elaborated for giving accounts of the journeys to the other world, for communicating with the dead, and finally the historical archetypes of this kind of religious manifestation—trance prophecy, divination, and shamanism. Recognized historians and ethnologists analyze the relationship, coexistence and conflicts of popular belief systems, Judeo-Christian mythology and demonology in medieval and modern Europe. The essays address links between rites and beliefs, folklore and literature; the legacy of various pre-Christian mythologies; the syncretic forms of ancient, medieval and modern belief- and rite-systems; "pure" examples from religious-ethnological research outside Europe to elucidate European problems.

    eISBN: 978-615-5053-56-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-18)
    GÁBOR KLANICZAY and ÉVA PÓCS

    The essays collected in this volume come from a broader pool of studies. This is the first volume in a series of three, containing eleven essays of altogether forty-three articles based on the topics of the interdisciplinary conference held on “Demons, spirits, and witches” in Budapest, in 1999. Historians, ethnologists, and folklorists from four continents presented and discussed their research on this important area of universal human mental experience: the forms and the techniques of communication with representatives of other worlds, and the basic religious–ethnological concepts used for making sense from this experience.

    The 1999 conference was the culmination...

  5. Part I Discernment of Spirits and Possession
    • BREATH, HEART, GUTS: THE BODY AND SPIRITS IN THE MIDDLE AGES
      (pp. 21-39)
      NANCY CACIOLA

      In the 1230s William of Auvergne, Bishop of Paris, was moved to comment upon the various non-canonical beliefs and practices of his less learned contemporaries. Among them he described the cult of Lady Abundance, whose retinue of flying female spirits were known as the “nighttime ladies.” This belief, William states, was deeply implanted in old women who continually spread their superstitions among others of their sex: “In regard to the nighttime ladies, they [i.e., old women] chiefly persuade [other] women that they are good ladies, and that they bestow great good things on the households that they visit” (William of...

    • NON SUNT NISI PHANTASIAE ET IMAGINATIONES: A MEDIEVAL ATTEMPT AT EXPLAINING DEMONS
      (pp. 40-52)
      RENATA MIKOLAJCZYK

      We are in Padua, it is Easter of 1268.¹ Witelo, a famous Silesian scholar, alumnus of the Universities in Paris and Padua, addresses his friend, back in Poland, dedicating him a treatise, devoted to two intriguing questions: the predisposition of men towards goodness and the nature of demons.² Let me summarize the content of this interesting letter:

      The first part opens with a long exposition of the vegetative, sensible and intellectual powers of the human soul. It serves to show that a properly functioning hierarchy of these potentiae, where the highest intellectual faculties dominate the lower ones, presupposes the recognition...

    • DISCERNING SPIRITS IN EARLY MODERN EUROPE
      (pp. 53-70)
      MOSHE SLUHOVSKY

      Its religious essence notwithstanding, the discernment of spirits has never been merely a theological issue. Rather, it has always been a social practice, characterized by interwoven processes of examinations and self-examination, negotiations and ambiguity, chaos and incoherence. There has always been an unbridgeable gap between what exorcists’ guides and theological treatises argued and what took place when specific cases of supernatural behavior were to be discerned. This self-evident observation often gets lost in historical discussion of the discernment of spirits. This paper is meant as a contribution to the on-going process of remedying this oversight.

      In 1575, the Spanish beata...

    • MYSTICS OR VISIONARIES? DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS IN THE FIRST PART OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY IN FRANCE
      (pp. 71-83)
      SOPHIE HOUDARD

      We are indebted to Henri Bremond for having rediscovered French spiritual texts of the first half of the seventeenth century and for having enlightened the activity, indeed even the activism of spiritualists within the movement of the Catholic Counter-reformation (Bremond, 1967). Indeed, this “century of saints” is marked by the rapid expansion of French mysticism, a sheer mystical invasion (to use Bremond’s terms) which particularly flourished in Gallican France until the increasingly determined hunt against quietism, during the absolute monarchy, provoked its progressive and definite dispersion.

      In France as in many other countries, the Catholic Counterreformation demands a new kind...

    • POSSESSION PHENOMENA, POSSESSION-SYSTEMS. SOME EAST-CENTRAL EUROPEAN EXAMPLES
      (pp. 84-152)
      ÉVA PÓCS

      This paper will provide an overview of possession phenomena in Central and South Eastern Europe, followed by suggestions for their broad interpretation.

      Possession is one of the basic forms of communication with the supernatural. Theoretically it has close ties to the psycho-biological state of trance or—to use a term fashionable in ethno-psychiatry—to some forms of altered states of consciousness (ASC). In this perspective trance is a precondition or “psycho/biological condition” of the coming about of the experience of possession (Crapanzano, 1987, p. 14). According to narrower definitions, possession is an altered state of consciousness, which is accompanied by...

  6. Part II Contacts with the Other World
    • HOW WALDENSIANS BECAME WITCHES: HERETICS AND THEIR JOURNEY TO THE OTHER WORLD
      (pp. 155-192)
      WOLFGANG BEHRINGER

      The question how the Waldensians became witches has for long interested scholars. Although it did not play a prominent part in the historiography of Waldensian heresy (Döllinger, 1890; Grundmann, 1935; Leff, 1967; Molnar, 1993; Lambert, 1977; Merlo, 1984; Erbstösser, 1984; Audisio, 1989), historians of witchcraft have shown a long standing interest in the subject. The leading scholar of the “rationalist school,” the liberal historian and archivist of the municipal archive of Köln, Joseph Hansen (1862–1943),² has promoted the idea that Waldensian backwoodsmen and -women had been forced into confessions of witchcraft by the intellectual and physical constraints exercised by...

    • HOSTING THE DEAD: THANOTOPIC ASPECTS OF THE IRISH SIDHE
      (pp. 193-203)
      TOK THOMPSON

      My paper is an exploration of the relatively complex and particular relationship between the dead and the fairy folk of Western Ireland. However, it should be noted that both of these elements—fairy folk and the dead—are often considered separately as key symbols of Irish identity. Concerning the dead, writers such as Witoszek and Sheeran (Talking to the Dead: A Study of Irish Funerary Traditions) have characterized Ireland as a “thanatophiliac” nation, critically centered on notions of death and the dead, and the authors’ support their claim by citing many examples from modern and historical Irish life.

      The fairy...

    • VISIONS OF THE OTHER WORLD AS NARRATED IN CONTEMPORARY BELIEF LEGENDS FROM RESIA
      (pp. 204-212)
      ROBERTO DAPIT

      I would like to focus on a recurrent feature of contemporary popular narratives collected in the Resia valley (an ethnic Slovene area in Italy)—representations and manifestations of the world of the hereafter as obtained exclusively from recent testimonies gathered in the field. Narrative means here a complex of legends to be considered from the communicative standpoint not so much an aesthetic elaboration of items of entertainment as the expression of beliefs and, above all, individual or collective experiences. The age when narration stemmed from the desire to teach or entertain has almost come to an end in Val Resia...

  7. Part III Divination, Shamanism
    • TRANCE PROPHETS AND DIVINERS IN THE MIDDLE AGES
      (pp. 215-233)
      CHRISTA TUCZAY

      In ancient Israel it was widely believed that revelatory trance was caused by the Spirit of God. Prophesying in this altered state of consciousness was as common in the ancient Near East as in other places of the world. Scholars have often emphasized the artificial nature of ecstasy induced by prophets in the Old Testament. Revelatory trance in biblical times is said to have been induced through the rhythmical beat of music, group excitement, self-flagellation and other methods, including the use of hallucinogens.¹

      Divine revelation had a different social function in the Greek and Roman world than it had for...

    • SHAMANISM IN MEDIEVAL SCANDINAVIAN LITERATURE
      (pp. 234-245)
      PETER BUCHHOLZ

      “On ne peut pas tout lire.” A quotation. It is not very penetrating or original. It need not be quoted at all. Yet it is true. It is a short formulation of a feeling that all scholars, at least in the twentieth century, have experienced. The inevitable consequences of this statement in terms of what we usually call the development of science need not concern us here. (Preliminary studies are, no wonder, lacking.) The quotation is from page 15 of Mircea Eliade’s Le chamanisme et les techniques archaïques de l’extase published in 1951. Since then, the topic of shamanism has...

    • THE KING, THE CAT, AND THE CHAPLAIN KING CHRISTIAN IV’S ENCOUNTER WITH THE SAMI SHAMANS OF NORTHERN NORWAY AND NORTHERN RUSSIA IN 1599
      (pp. 246-263)
      RUNE BLIX HAGEN

      The young Danish–Norwegian king, Christian IV (1577–1648), led a dramatic expedition to the north of his lengthy realm during three spring and summer months in 1599. Their voyage proceeded to Vardø and further eastward into northern Russia. Looking back, this expedition emerges as having been an extremely daring project, and it may have been one of the most dangerous endeavors any European monarch was ever actively involved into. The king sailed northward with a naval fleet that consisted of half of the Danish–Norwegian navy, and most of the vessels were equipped with dozens of cannons. The purpose...

  8. LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 264-268)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 269-295)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 296-296)