Pécs 2007

Charms, Charming and Charmers

Conference at the Pécs Committee of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, May 11th-13th, 2007.

The lovely South Hungarian town of Pécs turned for three days into the European capital city of magic, when the ISFNR Committee on Charms, Charmers and Charming held its first conference in May 2007. This international forum offered a wide range of approaches and topics and covered extensive time periods, starting with Hellenistic age, leading to the Middle Ages, Early Modern Times and reaching the contemporary Europe. Some papers represented the philological methods of studying old manuscripts, others dealt with typological issues, international spread and historical development of charm types, or offered ethnographic and folkloristic insights into modern magical practices, their social uses and interpretations. One of the key issues, handled by all participants, was the question of contextualization of charms – of finding the relevant empirical, theoretical and historical framework for the formulation of research problems and making charms meaningful as textual phenomena, religious practices or elements of culture.

A glimpse of the conference hall:
Judit Kis-Halas, Emanuela Cristina Timotin, Andrei Toporkov (1st row from the left); Tatiana Minniyakhmetova and Zuzana Profantova (2nd row); Arne Bugge Amundsen (3rd row).
Photo by Ülo Valk.

The conference, arranged by the ISFNR committee for Charms, Charmers and Charming, the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Pécs, Hungarian Ethnographical Society, The Folklore Society (London) and held in the historical building of the Pécs Committee of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences was a great success due to its clear focus and a rich variety of perspectives that were offered. Arranging the conference with no parallel sessions, with no plenary papers and offering equal amount of time to all speakers fostered the discussion in a democratic, friendly and hospitable atmosphere. Charms that were once regarded as a marginal genre of folklore have become a lively field of interdisciplinary knowledge production.

Here we should acknowledge the role of some international leaders, such as professor Éva Pócs, one of the main organizers of the conference, who has developed a strong school of research on charms, charming and witchcraft. Participants are thankful to the effective team of local organisers and to Jonathan Roper, who is the leader of the ISFNR Committee on Charms, Charmers and Charming and who played crucial role in arranging this international forum, bringing together scholars from many countries. The Folklore Society of London generously sponsored the wine reception of excellent Hungarian wines, inspiring dialogues and supporting participants in building networks and friendships.

Ülo Valk
Tartu, Estonia

President of the Folklore Society, Will Ryan.
Photo by Ülo Valk.

The full version of this report was published in the 3rd issue of the ISFNR Newsletter.

Conference program:

Charms, Charmers and Charming

An International Conference

Friday, 11th May

10:00–11:00 Registration / Coffee
11:00–11:15 Opening of the conference
11:15–13:00 Session 1 (Chair: William Ryan)

Amundsen, Arne Bugge (Norway): A genre in the making – an analysis of the study of charms in Norway

Agapkina, Tatiana–Toporkov, Andrei (Russia): The project of charms’ index

Lielbardis, Aigars (Latvia): Charming traditions in nowadays Latvia

13:00–14:30 Lunch
14:30–16:30 Session 2 (Chair: Arne Bugge Amundsen)

Bozóky, Edina (France): Medieval narrative charms

Voigt, Vilmos (Hungary):’Báj-’. Historical development of ’charm’ terminology in Hungarian

Olsan, Lea T. (United Kingdom): The marginality of medieval charms

Stiùbhart, Domhnall Uilleam (United Kingdom): Scottish Gaelic charms and the creation of Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica (1900)

16:30–16:50 Coffee break
16:50–19:00 Session 3 (Chair: Vilmos Voigt)

Hoppál, Mihály (Hungary): Shamanic prayers or charms. Notes on the spirits in/of the text

Troeva-Grigorova, Evgenia (Bulgaria): Magical interaction with the other world. Dealing with demons

Tuczay, Christa (Austria): Up and away – the “godspeed” charm of the witches’ flight in protocols and as narrative elements in legends

Marks, Ljiljana (Croatia): ‘Not on wood, nor on stone...’ Magical formulae in Croatian legends about witches

19:30: Dinner

Saturday, 12th May

9:00–11:00 Session 4 (Chair: Lea Olsan)

Roper, Jonathan (United Kingdom): Estonian narrative charms in European context

Vaitkevièiene., Daiva (Lithuania): Baltic and Eastern Slavic charms: Typological parallels

Klyaus, Vladimir (Russia): Collation of Indoeuropean and non-Indoeuropean charm traditions (the Slavonic and Siberian material)

Minniyakhmetova, Tatiana (Austria/Russia): Charm parallels in Volga–Ural Region (Russia)

11:00–11:20 Coffee break
11:20–12:40 Session 5 (Chair: Ilona Nagy)

Bari¹iæ-Jokoviæ, Vanja (Serbia): Words that kill. Traditional curses in modern time

Profantova, Zuzana (Slovakia): Oaths, swearwords and curses (about the magic of words)

Bowman, Marion (United Kingdom): Cursing and Carma: cautious cursing in contemporary paganism

12:40–14:10 Lunch
14:10–16:10 Session 6 (Chair: Ülo Valk)

Raudalainen, Taisto-Kalevi (Estonia): The narrative (Aa-Th 803) and visual background of an Izhorian-Ingrian Finnish charm type.

Timotin, Emanuela Cristina (Romania): The nãjit (neuralgia) between prayers and charms. A study on the Romanian manuscript tradition

Bárth, Dániel (Hungary): Benediction and exorcism in early modern Hungary

Pócs, Éva (Hungary): Churchbenediction and popular charms in Hungary

15:50–16:10 Coffee break
16:10–16:50 Poster presentations

Domány, Judit (Hungary): Magic without Effect: Theocritus’ Idyll 2 reconsidered

Peti, Lehel (Romania/Hungary): The techniques of magical force in Moldavian csángó villages

Lehr, Urszula (Poland): Weather wizards and contemporary protecting resources

Dallos, Edina (Hungary): ‘The Magician and his Pupil’ (AaTh 325)

17:00–19:00 Meeting of the Collegium of ISFNR Committee on Charms, Charming and Charmers
/optional sightseeing in Pécs

19:30–20:30 Dinner
20:30 Wine reception given by The Folklore Society, London

Sunday, 13th May

9:00–11:00 Session 8 (Chair: Jonathan Roper)

Viljakainen, Maarit (Finland): The Virgin Mary in birth incantations

Ahsan, Mostofa Tarequl (Bangladesh): Charming as healing

BuŸeková, Tatiana (Slovakia): Two kinds of evil eye charms in Slovak rural tradition

Herjulfsdotter, Ritwa (Sweden): Folk therapy practices referred to in Swedish snake charms

11:00–11:20 Coffee break
11:20–12:50 Session 9 (Chair: Marion Bowman)

Kis-Halas, Judit (Hungary): Transformed tradition. The story of wax-casting women and their charms in South-Hungary

Iancu, Laura (Hungary): Magical curing of ‘bad illness’ in Moldavia (Romania)

Vivod, Maria (France): Suskálás – The ear-whispering. An example of charming from Hungary

13:00–14:30 Lunch
14:30–15:30 Session 10 (Chair: Éva Pócs)

Petreska, Vesna (Macedonia): The secret knowledge of the ’spell experts’ in Macedonian traditional culture

Butler, Jenny (Ireland): Neo-pagan charms

15:30 Closing discussion
16:00 Coffee
16:20 Visiting the Csontváry Museum
19:30 Dinner

The inaugural committee meeting of the ISFNR committee for Charms, Charmers and Charming, was held in Pecs, Saturday May 12th, 2007.

In short, the committee
1) agreed to hold one seminar on a particular topic in charms studies in 2008, possibly encounter charms (Begegnungsegen);

2) hopes to hold charms papers during the large ISFNR congress in Athens in the summer of 2009;

3) was informed that a book based on the London 2005 conference edited by J. Roper is due out in April 2008;

4) intends to produce a book based on the Pecs 2007 conference;

5) discussed forming an email discussion list on charms, charmers and charming;

6) expressed the desirability of publishing anthologies of the most typical (and most interesting) texts in bilingual editions;

7) expressed the desirability of expanding our range of contacts, especially to include specialists from southwestern Europe, classicists, and scholars from beyond Europe.