Document Type

Book Review

Publication Version

Published Version

Publication Date

Summer 2009

Journal or Book Title

Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft

Volume

4

Issue

1

First Page

111

Last Page

114

DOI

10.1353/mrw.0.0123

Abstract

In his foreword, Dieter Harmening, who literally wrote the book on superstition in medieval Europe (Superstitio: Überlieferungs- und theoriegeschichtliche Untersuchungen zur kirchlich-theologischen Aberglaubensliteratur des Mittelalters [Berlin, 1979]), explains why this new, compact “dictionary of superstition” [End Page 111] is needed. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, superstition was a topic mainly explored by folklorists, ethnographers, and historical linguists. They understood superstitious beliefs and practices primarily as the residue of very early cultures, and used superstitions as a point of access to pre-Christian Germanic societies. The mammoth Handwörterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens, published between 1927 and 1942, is marked by this approach to the topic. Ominously, Harmening also notes the work was marked by conditions in Germany at the time of its publication, when notions of early and “authentic” Germanic culture took on particular political force. Not only have those dark times passed, but scholars now approach superstition in very different ways. They recognize that many European superstitions do not derive from ancient ur-cultures but developed only in the medieval or early modern periods. Rather than using superstitions to access some lost, primeval past, they examine them as important elements of historical (and contemporary) societies.

Comments

This is a book review from Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft 4 (2009): 111, doi:10.1353/mrw.0.0123. 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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