Skip to main content

Prosaic Witchcraft and Semiotic Totalitarianism: Muscovite Magic Reconsidered

  • Valerie Kivelson and Jonathan Shaheen

Studies of witchcraft belief and persecution in Russia have been profoundly, and to a significant degree mistakenly, shaped by European understandings of witchcraft as fundamentally demonic and integrally linked to the power of the devil. Gary Morson and Caryl Emerson's concepts of “prosaics” and “semiotic totalitarianism,” derived from their readings of M. M. Bakhtin, offer a productive way to set imported preconceptions aside and to comprehend the specificities of Muscovite witchcraft beliefs. Pre-Petrine ideas about witchcraft conformed to no uniform, overarching ideological or explanatory schema, satanic or otherwise. Muscovite witchcraft operated instead as a diffuse, resolutely prosaic collection of beliefs and practices, whereas the more demonologically inflected European beliefs approached the imposed uniformity of “semiotic totalitarianism.” In this article, Valerie Kivelson and Jonathan Shaheen propose a corrective to a widespread propensity for reading Russian material through European paradigms and analyze Russian beliefs on their own, prosaic terms.

Hide All

1 We would like to express special gratitude to Will Ryan for his challenging ideas and extraordinary intellectual generosity and to Caryl Emerson, who graciously commented on this paper when we presented it at the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies convention in 2006. Thanks too to our fellow panelists, Claudio Sergio Ingerflom and John W. Hill, and to our anonymous referees. At the University of Michigan, Sueann Caulfield, Hussein Fancy, Susan Juster, Leslie Pincus, Helmut Puff, and Paolo Squatriti gave us their careful responses and encouragement, for which we are most grateful. Bulgakov, Mikhail, The Master and Margarita,trans. Burgin, Diana and Tiernan O'Connor, Katherine (Dana Point, Calif., 1995), 190.

2 Other conceptions undergird ideas of witchcraft outside Europe. See, for example, Siegel, James, Naming the Witch(Stanford, 2006), or the classic, Evans-Pritchard, E. E, Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic among the Azande(Oxford, 1937).

3 Gary Morson, Saul and Emerson, Caryl, Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics(Stanford, 1990), 28 (for “semiotic totalitarianism) and 15 (for “prosaics“).

4 As far back as the mid-nineteenth century, scholars noted the devil's small role, but this is the first exploration of absence and presence. See V. B. Antonovich, Trud Etn. Statistich. Eksped. V zapad. Russkii krai,1872, vol. 1; la. [Iakov Abramovich] Kantorovich, , Srednevekovyeprotsessy o ved'makh(1899; reprint, Moscow, 1990), 161–62; Buslaev, F, “Bes,“ in Moi dosugi: Sobrannyia iz periodicheskikh izdanii melkie sochineniiaFedora Buslaeva(Moscow, 1886), pt. 2, pp. 123. More recendy, Russell Zguta, “Witchcraft Trials in Seventeenth-Century Russia,” American Historical Revieiu 82,no. 5 (December 1977): 1187–1207; Ivanits, Linda J, Russian Folk Belief(Armonk, N.Y., 1989); Kivelson, Valerie A, “Male Witches and Gendered Categories in Seventeenth-Century Russia,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 45, no. 3 (July 2003): 606–31; Smilianskaia, E. B, Volshebniki, bogokhul'niki, eretiki: Narodnaia religioznost’ i “dukhovnyeprestupleniia” v Rossii XVIII v.(Moscow, 2003), 119–41; Uspenskii, Boris, “Pravo i religiia v Moskovskoi Rusi,” in Rossica/Rusistika/Rossijevedenije (Moscow, 2010), 194–286, esp. 220; Worobec, Christine D, Possessed: Women, Witches, and Demons in Imperial Russia(DeKalb, 2001).

5 The term prosaics,referring “to both an approach to prose and a view of the cultural world,” was first introduced by Gary Morson in Hidden in Plain View: Narrative and Cre alive Potentials in “War and Peace”(Stanford, 1987), 126–28, 218–23 and further developed by him in “Prosaics: An Approach to the Humanities,” American Scholar(Autumn 1988): 515–28,and “Prosaics and Anna Karenina,” Tolstoy Studies1 (1988): 1–12. The utilit)'of the concept in regard to Bakhtin's philophy comes from Morson and Emerson, whence also its definition below. They explain the notion at length, though it can be outlined here only in barest detail, and they summarize the history of the term and the distinction between their use of it and Jeffrey Kittay and Wlad Godzich's. Morson and Emerson, Mikhail Bakhtin, 15–36, 306– 65; Kittay, Jeffrey and Godzich, Wlad, The Emergence of Prose: AnEssay in Prosaics (Minneapolis, 1987), 474wl.

6 Morson, and Emerson, , Mikhail Bakhtin,28.

7 Ibid., 28.

8 Ibid., 30. At the center of diis heteroglossic space, though, is a set of shared, or at least sufficiently similar, meanings, by virtue of which communication is possible. Ibid., 23–25.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid., 32.

11 Ibid., 31.

12 Clark, Stuart, Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe (Oxford, 1997).

13 Stephens, Walter, Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief(Chicago, 2002), 180.

14 Richard Kieckhefer, “Mythologies of Witchcraft in the Fifteenth Century,” Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft1, no. 1 (Summer 2006): 106 (emphasis in the original).

15 For instance, Bever, Edward, The Realities of Witchcraft and Popular Magic in Early Modern Europe: Culture, Cognition, and Everyday Life (New York, 2008); Wilson, Stephen, The Magical Universe: Everyday Ritual and Magic in Pre-Modern Europe(London, 2000); similarly, Godbeer, Richard, The Devil's Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England(Cambridge, Eng., 1992).

16 A number of scholars have recently argued that our preoccupation with the mass panics distorts the picture of the run-of-the-mill witch trial, which generally transpired very differently: H. C. Erik Midelfort, “A Reflection on German Witch Hunting: Beyond the Legends of Panic,” Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft(forthcoming 2011); Wolfgang Behringer, Witches and Witch-Hunts: A Global History(Maiden, Mass., 2004), 2–4; Maria Toivo, Raisa, Witchcraft and Gender in Early Modern Society: Finland and the Wider European Experience (Aldershot, Eng.,2008).

17 Ankarloo, Bengt and Henningsen, Gustav, eds., Early Modern European Witchcraft: Centres and Peripheries(Oxford, 1990); Nenonen, Marko, “Witch Hunts in Europe: A New Geography,” Nordic Yearbook of Folklore 2006,vol. 62 (Oslo 2007): 165868; Sharpe, J. A, Instruments of Darkness: Witchcraft in England, 1550–1750(London, 1996); Dysa, Kateryna, “Orthodox Demonology and the Perception of Witchcraft in Early Modern Ukraine,” in Miller, Jaroslav and Kontler, Laszlo, eds., Friars, Nobles and Burghers—Sermons, Images and Prints: Studies of Culture and Society in Early-Modern Europe. In Memoriam Istvdn Gyorgy Toth (Budapest, 2010), 341–60; and Dysa, , Witchcraft Trials and Beyond: Trials for Witchcraft in the Volhynian,Podolian and Ruthenian Palatinates of the Polish-Lithuanian Commomvealth in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries(Budapest, 2011); Ostling, Michael, “Imagining Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland” (PhD diss., University of Toronto, 2008); Wanda Wyporska, Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland, 1500–1800(Basingstoke, forthcoming).

18 Stuart Clark, “Protestant Demonology: Sin, Superstition, and Society (c. 1520-c. 1630),” in Ankarloo and Henningsen, eds., Early Modern European Witchcraft,45–82.

19 Gasparov, Boris, “Introduction,” in Gasparov, Boris and Raevsky-Hughes, Olga, eds., Christianity and the Eastern Slavs,vol. 1, Slavic Cultures in the Middle Ages(Berkeley, 1993), 23. On the tangible, material, pragmatic aspect of Russian veneration of saints, see Greene, Robert H, Bodies Like Bright Stars“: Saints and Relics in Orthodox Russia, 1860s— 1920s(DeKalb, 2009); Kizenko, Nadieszda, “Protectors of Women and the Lower Orders: Constructing Sainthood in Modern Russia,” in Kivelson, Valerie and Greene, Robert H, eds., Orthodox Russia: Belief and Practice under the Tsars (University Park, 2003).

20 Ryan, W. F, “The Witchcraft Hysteria in Early Modern Europe: Was Russia an Exception?Slavonic and East European Review 76, no. 1 (January 1998): 64, 67. For earlier instances of this approach, see A. N. Truvorov, who wrote that “even those in higher society were filled with superstitious belief in the association of witches with the devil and with his unclean power,” in his “Voikhvy i vorozhei na Rusi v kontse XVII veka,” Istoricheskii vestnik36, no. 6 (1889): 701–15; and Smirnov, S, “Baby bogomerzkiia,” in Sbornik statei posviashchennykh V. O. Kliuchevskomu(Moscow, 1909), 217–40.

21 W. F. Ryan discusses the debate between those who see Russian witchcraft as demonic and those who do not in “The Witchcraft Hysteria in Early Modern Europe” and in his The Bathhouse at Midnight: Magic in Russia(University Park, 1999), 38–42. Ryan himself comes down strongly on the demonic side, but elsewhere he notes the many other supernatural beings and practices that enter into play.

22 Shashkov, A. T, “Iakutskoe delo o koldune Ivane Zheglove,” in Obshchestvennoe soznanie, knizhnost', literatura perioda feodalizma(Novosibirsk, 1990), 86?il4. Shashkov finds difconfirmation of this contention in O. D. Gorel'kina [Zhuravel’]. “Kvoprosu o magicheskikh predstavelniiakh v Rossii XVII v. (na materialakh sledstvennykh protsessov po koldovstvu),“ Nauchnyi ateizm, religiia i sovremennost’(Novosibirsk, 1987), 289–305.

23 Ryan, W. F, “What Are Russian Witches? Comparative Semantics and Legal History“ (unpublished manuscript, 2005), 3; and Ryan, , Bathhouse at Midnight,69.

24 Ryan, , “The Witchcraft Hysteria in Early Modern Europe,” 4984; and Ryan, , “What Are Russian Witches?Stoglav(St. Petersburg, 1863; reprint, Letchworth, Eng., 1971), chap. 93, p. 267.

25 Stoglav,chap. 17, pp. 136–37. On Rafli and the Gates of Aristotle, see Toporkov, A. L and Turilov, A. A, eds., Otrechennoe chlenie v Rossii XVII-XVIII vekov(Moscow, 2002); Turilov, A. A and Chernetsov, A. V, “Otrechennaia kniga Rafli,” Trudy Otdela drevnerusskoi literalury,no. 40 (1985): 260344; Ryan, Bathhouse at Midnight.19–21, 338– 41,343–45,393.

26 Johnston Pouncy, Carolyn, ed. and trans., The Domostroi: Rules for Russian Households in the Time of Ivan the Terrible(Ithaca, 1994), 114; Orlov, A. S, ed., Domostroi, po konshinskomu spisku ipodobnym(Moscow, 1908; reprint, The Hague, 1967), 22.

27 Only in condemnations of a few very particular behaviors did the Stoglavand Domostroiapply the label of demonism with any consistency: mummery and certain kinds of singing and dancing, and consulting “black” or prohibited books of magic and prophesy merited consistent labeling as “demonic” (besovskoe)or even “satanic” (sotonicheskoie). Pouncy, ed. and trans., Domostroi,112–13; Orlov, ed., Domostroi,10–11, 22–24.

28 Pouncy, ed. and trans., Domostroi,182; Orlov, ed., Domostroi,64–65. Pouncy wonders about the connection between magic and allowing peasants into the home in her notes to her translation, suggesting that Sil'vestr (the author of the text) may have viewed peasants as purveyors of witchcraft or may simply have voiced concern “about dirt or maintaining one's proper place in society.” Pouncy, ed. and trans., Domostroi,182nl9.

29 Pouncy, ed. and trans., Domostroi,113; Orlov, ed., Domostroi,22: “na potvor'stvo okormliaet” and “ob'iadenie piian'stvo bezvremennoe i rano i pozno.“

30 Stoglav,chap. 20, pp. 137–38. In 1564, denunciations of “godless [bezbozhnaia] Lithuania, loathsome-to-God [bogomerzkie]Latins, the most evil [zleishii]iconoclasts, pagan Lithuanians, and Islam” use the same terms freely for nonmagical enemies. Akty, sobrannye, v bibliotekakh i arkhivakh Rossiiskoi Imperii arkheograficheskoiu ekspeditsieiu imperaterskoi akademii nauk. Dopolneny i izdany Vysochaishe uchrezhdennoiu Kommissieiu,vol. 1, 1294–1598 (St. Petersburg, 1836; hereafter AAE),302, no. 267.

31 Stoglav,chap. 24, p. 141; chap. 93, p. 265.

32 Ryan, , Bathhouse at Midnight,38.

33 Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv drevnikh aktov, Moscow (RGADA), f. 210, Moskovskii stol, sdb. 485, 11. 28–33, 639–51, 692–95, 768–78, quote on 638–39. The documents cited from RGADA are decrees sent from Moscow, reports returned by local governors and other officials in the provinces, petitions from litigants, and reports on the trials and testimony in witchcraft cases from the seventeenth century.

34 AAE,267, no. 244.

35 Novombergskii, N. la, Koldovstvo v moskovskoi Rusi XVII veka(Material)’ po istorii meditsiny v Rossii, vol. 3, pt. 1) (St. Petersburg, 1906), reprinted in Slovo i delo gosudarevy, vol. 2, Materialy. Prilozhenie Koldovstvo v Moskovskoi rusi XVII-go stoletiia(Moscow, 2004), nos. 14,15,17, pp. 75–78, 79–80.

36 RGADA, f. 210, Novgorodskii stol, stlb. 96 (1649), 11. 11–12 (Verkha), 1–10 (Dmitrov),Kashin), 251–54 (Kostroma). Of the other decrees of Aleksei Mikhailovich's reign listed in archives and repeatedly described by scholars as prohibiting witchcraft, few actually mention magic or witchcraft. They generally condemn minstrels along with their mummery and musical instruments, as well as the infamous misbehavior of the Orthodox congregations on the eves of great holidays, but only a few directly address the issues of magic and witchcraft. For instance, RGADA, f. 210, Belgorodskii stol, stlb. 298,11. 377–80 (1648).

37 RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, op. 13, stlb. 734,1.196. The case refers to chapter 1, article 1, “Concerning Blasphemers and Heretics.” The Ulozhenie, the massive codification of laws compiled in the mid-seventeenth century, manifests a similar resistance to monologic organization. It has been characterized as a haphazard and disorderly collection of particular infractions and their penalties rather than an abstract or general system of legal precepts and principles. Richard Hellie, “Ulozhenie Commentary,” Russian History 15 (1988): 202–22; and his “Commentary on Chapter 3 of the Ulozhenie,” Russian History 17 (1990): 65–70.

38 Zhuravel', O. D, Siuzhet o dogovore cheloveka s d'iavolom v drevnerusskoi literature(Novosibirsk, 1996), 4546 (emphasis add£d).

39 “Povest’ o Sawe Grudtsyne,” in Pamiatniki literatury drevnei Rusi. XVII vek. Kniga pervaia(Moscow, 1988), 41. The tale is discussed and dated to the early eighteenth century by Pierre Gonneau, “Le Faust Russe ou I'histoire de Sawa Grudcyn,” Journal des savants (2004): 423–84. /

40 Stephens, Demon Lovers,convincingly argues that the preoccupation with women's sexual contact with the devil reflected theologians’ insecurity about the existence of the ineffable spiritual realm, of which physical contact offered unique proof. Whatever the underlying concern, the theme of sex with the devil was widespread in European ideas about witchcraft.

41 The distinction between willing and unwilling contact with the devil is developed in Sluhovsky, Moshe, Believe Not Every Spirit: Possession, Mysticism, and Discernment in Early Modern Catholicism(Chicago, 2007). For examples in Muscovite literature, see “The Tale of the Demoniac Solomoniia” and “Peter and Fevroniia of Murom,” in Skripil, M. O, ed., Russkiepovesti XV–XVI vekov(Moscow, 1958), 108–15; Pigin, A. V, ed., h istorii russkoi dernonologii XVII veka: Povest’ o besnovatoi zhene Solomonii(St. Petersburg, 1998); Iurganov, A. L, Ubit’ besa: Put’ ot Srednevekov'ia k Novomu vremeni(Moscow, 2006). In the case of Solomoniia, there is an implication that the demons might have been sent “by an evil man,” a sorcerer, but he is not connected with the rape.

42 These texts include polemical tales by Ivan Peresvetov, letters attributed to Ivan IV and Andrei Kurbskii, and Kurbskii's History.On this nexus of texts, see Valerie Kivelson, “Political Sorcery in Sixteenth-Century Muscovy,” in Kleimola, A. M and Lenhoff, G. D, eds., Cultural Identity in Muscovy, 1359–1584 (Moscow, 1997), 267–83.

43 Fennell, J. L. I, Prince A. M. Kurbsky's History of Ivan IV(Cambridge, Eng., 1965), 202–3, cited in Ryan, “The Witchcraft Hysteria in Early Modern Europe,” 58. We use Ryan's translation. The Historylikely dates to the seventeenth century. Its sixteenth-century origin is suspect for a number of reasons, not least of which is its unique preoccupation with witchcraft. Brian J. Boeck has demonstrated that the passages treating witchcraft are associated with some of the most inaccurate sections of the History,suggesting a late formulation by people not directly involved with the thoughts and actions described. His argument is compelling, but the recurrence of the fear of sorcery at court in other sixteenth- century texts bolsters the argument for authenticity. Boeck, “Eyewitness or Falsewitness? Two Lives of Metropolitan Filipp of Moscow,” Jahrbiicherfur Geschichte Osteuropas55, no. 2 (2007): 161–77. See also Edward Keenan, “Putting Kurbskij in His Place, or: Observations and Suggestions concerning the Place of The History of the Grand Prince of Muscovy in the History of Muscovite Literary Culture,” Forschungen zur osteuropaischen Geschichte24 (1978): 131–61. By the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Polish witchcraft bore all the demonological traits developed elsewhere in the Catholic west. On witchcraft in Poland, see Ostling, Michael, The Devil and the Host: Imagining Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland (Oxford, 2011).

44 On executions and visual dissemination, see Zika, Charles, The Appearance of Witchcraft: Print and Visual Culture in Sixteenth-Century Europe(London, 2007), 179209; Gaskill, Malcolm, Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy(Cambridge, Mass., 2005). On exorcisms and their theatrical public function, see MacDonald, Michael, ed., Witchcraft and Hysteria in Elizabethan London: Edward Jorden and the Mary Glover Case(London, 1991); de Certeau, Michel, The Possession atLoudun,trans. Smith, Michael B (Chicago, 2000); Watt, Jeffrey R, The Scourge of Demons: Possession, Lust, and Witchcraft in a Seventeenth-Century Italian Convent(Rochester, 2009). On theater, see Purkiss, Diane, The Witch in History: Early Modern and Twentieth Century Representations (New York, 1996).

45 BengtAnkarloo, , “Sweden: The Mass Burnings (1668–76),” in Ankarloo, and Henningsen, , eds., Early Modern European Witchcraft,285318; Ginzburg, Carlo, The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,trans. John, and Anne Tedeschi, (Baltimore, 1983); Jens Christian V. Johansen, “Denmark: The Sociology of Accusations,“ in Ankarloo and Henningsen, eds., Early Modern European Witchcraft,339–65; E. William Monter, “Scandinavian Witchcraft in Anglo–American Perspective,” in Ankarloo and Henningsen, eds., Early Modern European Witchcraft,425–42; Roper, Lyndal, Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany(New Haven, 2004); Wyporska, Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland.

46 Clark, , “Protestant Demonology,” in Ankarloo, and Henningsen, , eds., Early Modern European Witchcraft,4582; Macfarlane, Alan, Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England: A Regional and Comparative Study(London, 1970); Sharpe, , Instruments of Darkness; Thomas, Keith, Religion and the Decline of Magic(New York, 1971).

47 For leading questions, see, for example, RGADA, f. 214, Sibirskii prikaz, stlb. 586, 11. 7–15 (questions on 1. 13); RGADA, f. 210, Moskovskii stol, stlb. 54, stolpik 2,11. 74–80; RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 33, stolpik 1,11. 708–19.

48 Unclean forces: RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 95,11. 219–56; V. Borisov, ed., Opisanie goroda Shui i ego okrestnostei(Moscow, 1851), nos. 45–46, pp. 337–38, 339–44; RGADA, f. 210, stolbtsy razriadnykh stolov, Moskovskii stol, stlb. 54, stolpik 2, 11. 32–42, 195–213. Also in Novombergskii, Koldovstvo,no. 4, pp. 14–25. See also RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 33; RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 2565, 11. 286–95. The classical work on unclean forces is Vasil'evich Maksimov, Sergei, Nechistaia, nevedomaia i krestnaia sila. Sbornik(St. Petersburg, 1908; reprint, Moscow, 2007).

49 Uspenskii, “Pravo i religiia v Moskovskoi Rusi,” 220.

50 Thanks to our anonymous reviewer for raising the “silence of Muscovy.“

51 On legal changes under Peter, see Christine D. Worobec, “Decriminalizing Witchcraft in Pre-Emancipation Russia” (unpublished paper, 2006). We are grateful for her permission to read and cite this stimulating paper. On the eighteenth century more generally, see Lavrov, A. S, Koldovstvo i religiia v Rossii: 1700–1740 gg.(Moscow, 2000); Pokrovskii, N. N, “Ispoved’ altaiskogo krest'ianina,” in Pamiatniki kul'lury. Novye otkrytiia. Ezhegodnik 1978(Leningrad, 1979), 4957; Pokrovskii, “Tetrad’ zagovorov 1734 goda,” in A. T. Moskalenko, ed., Nauchnyi ateizm, religiia i soveremennosl’(Novosibirsk, 1987), 239–65; Smilianskaia, Volshebniki, bogokhul'niki, eretiki;Worobec, Possessed.

52 RGADA, f. 396, ed. khr. 4087,1. 5.

53 RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 1225, 51 11.

54 RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 1225,1. 12.

55 RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 186,11. 984–1001 (1. 992).

56 RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, op. 13, stlb. 734,11. 183–86.

57 RGADA, f. 210, Razriadnyi prikaz, op. 14, Sevskii stol, stlb. 230, 11. 1–2.

58 RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 564, 11. 154–234 (1. 199); RGADA, f. 210, Belgorodskii stol, stlb. 826,11. 81–96.

59 Borisovna Ippolitova, Aleksandra, Russkie rukopisnye travniki XVII–XVIII vekov: Issledovanie fol'klora i etnobotaniki(Moscow, 2008), 334–44.

60 RGADA, f. 396, ed. khr. 4087,1. 5.

61 Novombergskii, , Koldovstvo,no. 33; Novombergskii, N. la, Vrachebnoe stroenie v do- Petrovskoi Rusi(Tomsk, 1907), no. 11; Eleonskaia, Elena, “Zagovori koldovstvo na Rusi v XVII i XVIII stoletiiakh,” Russkii arkhiv 4 (1912): 613; Astakhova, A. M, “The Poetical Image and Elements of Philosophy in Russian Exorcisms,” VIIMezhdunarodnyi kongress antropologicheskikh i etnograficheskikh nauk, 3–10 avgusta 1964 g.(Moscow, 1969), 6:268– 69.

62 One seventeenth-century case centers on a Livonian witch who came to Russia and cast spells on livestock and rye: RGADA, f. 210, stolbtsy razriadnykh stolov, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 717; Novombergskii, N. la, Materialy po istorii meditsiny v Rossii,vol. 4 (Tomsk, 1907), no. 47, pp. 263–76. Another involves another cross-border bewitchment: a Lithuanian witch allegedly cast a spell on hops that would be carted across the border to Russia and bewitch Russians: RGADA, f. 210, stolbtsy razriadnykh stolov, Prikaznyi stol, sdb. 57, 11.552–61.

63 On her late appearance, see Johns, Andreas, Baba Yaga: The Ambiguous Mother and Witch of Russian Folktale (New York, 2004), 255.

64 RGADA, f. 214, ed. khr. 586, 1. 12. A similarly prosaic set of spells is listed in RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 734,11.174–94. For a particularly detailed lists of spells, see RGADA, f. 210, Razriadnyi prikaz, op. 14, Sevskii stol, ed. khr. 230, 11. 1–4; RGADA, f. 214, ed. khr. 586, 11. 7–15; RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 734, 11. 115–203. In one anomalous case, desperate litigants blamed witches for sending them terrifying visions: RGADA, f. 210, stolbtsy razriadnykh stolov, Moskovskii stol, stlb. 294,11. 336–41. Uspenskii argues that Orthodoxy was viewed not as a route to salvation but rather as a revealed truth. Salvation in this view was granted according to the charismatic grace of the divine, and therefore witchcraft or other human actions posed no theological or eschatological threat. Uspenskii, “Pravo i religiia v Moskovskoi Rusi,” 218–19.

65 Thanks to Will Ryan for stressing this point and pushing us to confront it.

66 For apples, cakes, and household implements as bearers of curses, see Diane Purkiss, “The House, the Body and the Child” and “No Limit: The Body of the Witch,” in Witch in History,91–144; Roper, The Witch Craze;Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 502–69.

67 For crosses under foot, see RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 300, 11. 1–99. The other case of a cross worn underfoot is the Zheglov case discussed below. On black books, see RGADA, f. 210, Belgorodskii stol, stlb. 768,11. 57–68, 93–95; RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 91, 11. 293–302; RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 672, 11. 54–128 (1672–73); RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, sdb. 749, 11.1–385; and RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 734,11. 115–203; RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 1677,11. 1–58 (1694), stlb. 2630,11. 1– 70 (continued in stlb. 2640 and 2646); and Valerie Kivelson, “What Was Chernoknizliestvo? Black Books and Foreign Writings in Muscovite Magic,” in Chester Dunning, S. L, Martin, Russell E, and Rowland, Daniel, eds., Rude and Barbarous Kingdom Revisited: A Festschrift for Robert O. Crummey(Bloomington, 2008), 115.

68 RGADA, f. 219, Belgorodskii stol, stlb. 599,11. 565–71, 654–70 (1663–67).

69 RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 129,11. 1–92; Zhuravel', Siuzhet o dogovore cheloveka s d'iavolom,84; A. N. Zertsalov, “K materialam o vorozhbe v drevnei Rusi: Sysknoe delo 1642–1643 gg. o namerenii isportit’ tsaritsu Evdokiiu Luk'ianovnu,” Chteniia v imperatorskom obshchestve istorii i drevnostei rossiiskikh(Moscow, 1895), bk. 3:1–38.

70 For the diabolic apparition, see RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 564, 11. 154–234. For Satan with the devil, see RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 653, 11. 20–87; stlb.1133, 11. 77, 179, published in P. Zenbitskii, “Zagovory (kontsa XVII veka),” Zhivaia starina,1907, no. 1: 6, and discussed in Toporkov, A. L, Zagovory v russkoi rukopisnoi traditsi XV–XIXvv.: Istoriia, simvolika, poetika (Moscow, 2005), 366. It is worth noting that in spite of the frequency with which magic was described as “demonic” (besovskoe)in decrees directed to its elimination, theterm was rarely used in actual trials. For an infrequent exception, see RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 569,11. 197–203 (1647–48, Kostroma). We are not including cases that invoke generic demons in spells, such as a love spell that calls on “33 demons“: RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, sdb. 184, published in Zenbitskii, “Zagovory (kontsa XVII veka),” 1–6.

71 RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 861,11. 29–34 (“otets moi Satana,” 1. 33); same case continued in sdb. 1006,11. 1–54.

72 Shashkkov, A. T, “Iakutskoe delo o koldune Ivane Zheglove,” Obshchestvennoe soznanie, knizhnost’ literatura perioda feodalizma(Novosibirsk, 1990), 86; also discussed in Toporkov, Zagovory v russkoi rukopisnoi Iraditsii,141.

73 Novombergskii, Vrachebnoe stroenie,no. 39. Toporkov notes that in the related body of love spells, the bewitched subject must renounce not only family but also natural entities: sun, moon, stars, winds, earth. In his thought-provoking discussion, he points out that the trope of renunciation of natal family occurs in both magical spells and in the oaths taken upon entering holy orders. He argues that these spells demonstrate that family and kinship had achieved “a high, sacral status,” which had to be forcibly broken in order to form new, even more binding relationships. In connection with our examination of prosaic as opposed to monologic explanatory models, we would add that such eclectic lists, naming heavenly beings (and sometimes celestial bodies) along with family members, show again an absence of clear typologies or taxonomies, and a muddying of registers, so that these can all be talked about, and renounced, in the same breath. Toporkov, Zagovory v russkoi rukopisnoi Iraditsii,143–44.

74 Zhuravel', Siuzhet o dogovore cheloveka s d'iavolom,43, 45. The other satanic cases she lists are RGADA, f. 210, Prikaznyi stol, stlb. 50 (1629), stlb. 95 (1635); RGADA, f. 210, Sevskii stol, stlb. 230 (1668–69).

75 Zhuravel', Siuzhet o dogovore cheloveka s d'iavolom,45.

76 Morson and Emerson, MikhailBakhtin,30 (emphasis in the original). Thanks to our anonymous reviewer for help in clarifying and sharpening this argument.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Slavic Review
  • ISSN: 0037-6779
  • EISSN: 2325-7784
  • URL: /core/journals/slavic-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 5 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 124 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 27th January 2017 - 17th August 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.