The Golden Characters of the Letter Fallen from Heaven: A Study Case from the First World War

Pp. 95-110

  • Laura Jiga Iliescu
Keywords: devotional writing, Heavenly Epistles, First World War, Romanian culture


The research here approaches the topic of the devotional values of the act of writing/reading aloud a formalised text. Especially when speaking about the southeast European rural milieu up to the second half of the 19th century, the presence of scribes and of readers was relatively rare, although not completely absent. We are dealing with people for whom writing/copying a text and/or listening to a reader was not a habit or a daily practice, but a special event more or less attached to a ritual or the ritualised context of performance. 
The paper discusses the particular case of a certain version of the Apocrypha, ‘the Legend of Sunday’, also known as the ‘Epistle Fallen From Heaven’, a version today stored in the archive of the Institute of Ethnography and Folklore in Bucharest. It was copied and carried by a soldier in the First World War, to protect himself from being injured or killed. 
In the first part of the study I analyse the flexibility of this verbal structure, which allows interesting insertions by the scribe in order to increase both the efficacy of the text and the receivers’ (!) belief in its miraculous power. In this regard, the story within a story that I am speaking about worked as a vehicle to help the spread of a distinctive group of legends and magic practices. My aim is to grasp the dynamics of the believers’ expectations in the effectiveness of writing/reading/holding a special text.