„Instruments of the Old Faith”: Magical Words in Three Medieval South Slavic Healing Rites for Snakebite


magical words
Hilandar HM.SMS.378
pre Christian

How to Cite

Kier, A. J. (2012). „Instruments of the Old Faith”: Magical Words in Three Medieval South Slavic Healing Rites for Snakebite. Poznańskie Studia Slawistyczne, (3), 75–87. https://doi.org/10.14746/pss.2012.3.4


The line between Orthodox Christianity and pagan/folk customs and beliefs in the fifteenth century Slavia  Orthodoxa was  not  precisely  drawn.  The  population  called  upon  spiritual forces of all kinds, to heal illnesses and injuries. Though the official position of the Orthodox Christian Church was to condemn and suppress these pre-Christian beliefs, certain elements such  as  magical  words  were included  in  Church-sanctioned  texts.  The  fifteenth-century South Slavic  trebnik (Hilandar HM.SMS.378) is one example of such a text. In addition to its  canonical  material,  it  contains  a healing  rite  for  a  snakebite,  which  blends  Orthodox Christian elements and pre-Christian ones, utilizing magical words. In this article, I examine Hilandar HM.SMS.378 – the magical words, the symbolism, and the  cultural  background  –  and  compare  it  with  two  similar  rites  from  a medieval  South Slavic lječebnik (‘book of healing’) transcribed by V. Jagićin 1878. I also discuss the possibility that the three rites share a common origin. 



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