Maria Lactans and the Three Good Brothers

Pp. 55-70

  • Eleonora Cianci
Keywords: Maria lactans, Dri guot bruoder, Tres boni fratres, Three good brothers charm, verbal charms, Wundsegen, swearing by the milk


This paper investigates a single motif embedded in the German version of the Three Good Brothers Charm: the oath on Mary’s milk. The charm for wounds has a very rich manuscript tradition and an incredible number of different versions in several languages due to a (plausible) parallel oral tradition; however, although each manuscript seems to arrange the motif pattern in a different way, it is possible to trace a kind of recurring layout. The reiteration of Mary’s milk in the different versions reveals a very old cultural tradition and a developing symbolic meaning of the Virgin in the Middle Ages.