Verbal Charms In A Nineteenth Century Swedish Book Of Magic

  • Alessandra Mastrangelo
Keywords: book of magic, healing, magic, Swedish verbal charms, words of power


This article deals with the analysis of a Swedish magic book dating back to the second half of the nineteenth century which I came across during a fieldwork in northern Sweden. The book consists of magical remedies and verbal charms for healing physical distress in humans and livestock, averting evil influences, and protecting against bewitchment. It represents a practical manual containing non-canonical words of power, whose purpose was the provision of verbal magical instruments for coping with everyday human problems, especially health-related issues. The article gives an overview of its content, introducing a healer and his healing methods, and publishes six charms from the book, together with translations into English. In terms of content, my attention is focused on the verbal charms, their formal features and narrative motives. Following earlier studies on the charm genre, I will characterise the charms from a structural and semantic standpoint. Concerning their textual and oral tradition, I aim to examine whether they can be located in the Swedish charm tradition and whether they present variation with other similar texts. As we shall see, they are texts which cross many borders: canonical / non-canonical, folk beliefs / Christian worldview, supernatural / natural.