The early medieval west

Yitzhak Hen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Some time around the turn of the eighth century, in an Insular learning centre on the European continent, a diligent scribe copied a short list of magical practices and superstitions into a codex that comprises mostly canonical material and Carolingian capitularies. This short text, commonly known to modern scholars as the Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum ("a short list of superstitions and pagan practices"), is an appropriate starting point for this chapter because it not only stands at the core of any discussion of magic in the early medieval West, but it also exemplifies in a straightforward manner the numerous stumbling blocks one has to tackle when studying early medieval magical practices in their cultural, religious and social context. Let us, then, cite this short text in full: A SHORT LIST OF SUPERSTITIONS AND PAGAN PRACTICES 1. Of sacrilege at the graves of the dead.2. Of sacrilege over the departed, that is, dadsias.3. Of the spurcaliae in February.4. Of the little houses, that is, sanctuaries.5. Of sacrilegious acts in connection with churches.6. Of the sacred rites of the woods which they call nimidas.7. Of those things which they do upon stones.8. Of the sacred rites of Mercury and Jupiter.9. Of the sacrifice which is offered to any of the saints.10. Of amulets and knots.11. Of the fountains of sacrifices.12. Of incantations.13. Of auguries according to birds, or according to the dung or sneezing of horses or cattle.14. Of diviners or sorcerers.15. Of fire made by friction from wood, that is, nodfyr.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of Magic and Witchcraft in the West
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Antiquity to the Present
EditorsDavid Collins
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781139043021
ISBN (Print)9780521194181
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2015.


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