Parchment, Praxis And Performance Of Charms In Early Medieval Ireland

Pp. 60-85

  • Ilona Tuomi
Keywords: Christian tradition, healing charms, manuscripts, medieval Irish charms, performative context, pre-Christian tradition, power of words, ritual performance, sound patterns, St. Gall Incantations, textual amulets


St. Gall MS 1395, a collection of fragments from various periods, includes a page of Irish origin and apparently ninth-century date, containing four healing charms known as the St. Gall Incantations, each followed by instructions concerning its ritual performance. A close study of this single vellum folio examining the characteristics of the text, scribal practices and the cultural setting in which the document was compiled, provides a basis for theorizing about Old Irish magical practices and their multidimensional performative context. By highlighting the investigation of the liaison between the words of the charm and the associated ritual, an attempt will be made to elucidate how the textual register of the manuscript translated into physical performance. Accordingly, questions of mise-en-page performance and the manuscript as a material amulet are addressed in order to understand the written environment of magical language as well as the practices of charming in early medieval Ireland.