Document Type

Book Review

Publication Version

Published Version

Publication Date

Winter 2009

Journal or Book Title

Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft

Volume

4

Issue

2

First Page

241

Last Page

243

DOI

10.1353/mrw.0.0158

Abstract

Textual amulets were among the most common magical devices employed in the medieval period. As Skemer defines them, they were "generally brief apotropaic texts, handwritten or mechanically printed on separate sheets, rolls, and scraps of parchment, paper, or other flexible writing supports of varying dimensions" (p. 1). Always short, they could range in length from just a few words (e.g., the very common amulet consisting of the names of the three kings of the gospel nativity story, thought to be effective against epilepsy) to a text that might fill most of a folio page (then folded repeatedly for portability). They were cheap and easy to produce. Skemer usefully distinguishes them from talismans, which he defines as being more expensive, elite items, typically engraved jewelry, gems, or metal disks that often bore decidedly learned astrological symbols and images, rather than holy names or snippets of sacred texts. The terminology Skemer employs is modern, but it seems clear that some distinction between these two levels of powerful, portable items, each bearing writing or signification of some kind, existed in the Middle Ages.

Comments

This is a book review from Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft 4 (2009): 241, doi:10.1353/mrw.0.0158. Posted with permission.

Rights

All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations used for purposes of scholarly citation, none of this work may be reproduced in any form by any means without written permission from the publisher. For information address the University of Pennsylvania Press, 3905 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-4112

Copyright Owner

University of Pennsylvania Press

Language

en

File Format

application/pdf

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