Witchcraft Continued: Popular Magic in Modern Europe

By Willem De Blécourt; Owen Davies | Go to book overview
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Curse, maleficium, divination: witchcraft on the
borderline of religion and magic

Éva Pócs

This chapter is concerned with a special form of witchcraft that is practised, to my knowledge, only amongst Hungarians living in Transylvania. It is possible that it is common among the Romanian population of Transylvania as well, but so far I have not found any relevant information in the Romanian literature. My analysis is based on fieldwork conducted several years ago with my university students in Csíkkarcfakva and Csíkjenofalva, two villages in the old county of Csík inhabited by Roman Catholic Hungarians.1 The two villages are in Transylvania, in the Hungarian block of the Székely land bordering on Orthodox Romanian areas. The Hungarians here have scarce cultural contacts with Romanians; indeed, the cases described below are almost the only examples of any connection between their respective religions. The time spent in the field was unfortunately insufficient for a comprehensive survey of the system’s functioning or for the elucidation of its social and mental environment. What we have managed to observe and record was in fact not so much the practice as the narratives about it, from which we can make only indirect and conditional inferences about the real situation. What follows is a preliminary overview of the findings based on around one hundred collected narratives.

Until recently, little was known about the religious variant of witchcraft described here.2 In Csík the priest actively participates in the system of witchcraft. He not only helps remove bewitchment from the sick, but helps carry out bewitchment as well. In this form, witchcraft as a social system regulating personal conflicts, and as an ideological system, has several features that distinguish it from other forms known in Central and Western Europe including aspects of divine jurisdiction, ordeal and divination; in fact, in many respects it functions subordinated to them. The classic West European suspicion-accusation bewitchments can be found in Hungarian and Transylvanian witchcraft trials from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, and some of its features are still discernible among the twentieth-century Hungarian population of both Hungary and Transylvania.3 Witchcraft as a


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