Healing Charms and Ritual Protection in Premodern Wales
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CitationLeach, Katherine. 2020. Healing Charms and Ritual Protection in Premodern Wales. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation explores premodern Welsh healing charms in order to demonstrate the ways in which the Welsh charm corpus conforms to broader, pan-European traditions while also innovating and adapting certain elements of the genre. Healing charms are universal across all languages and cultures. They can be understood as ritual means of addressing situations of sickness and anxiety through a combination of specific language and actions, sometimes augmented with herbal medical prescriptions. Healing charms are found in Welsh manuscripts featuring medicine, religious texts, poetry, and literary prose. They are most often in Welsh, or they are dual-language charms in Welsh and Latin, and sometimes English. On occasion, they can be found completely in Latin. To date, no major study of the Welsh corpus of healing charms has been completed, while the corpus of medieval and early modern English and European charms has been examined frequently by scholars. This study seeks to promote an increased general and scholarly awareness of and interest in the Welsh texts and their potential to help further develop our understanding of networks of knowledge transmission between Wales, England, and Europe. The majority of the charms in this dissertation are unpublished and previously unedited, and this project is first and foremost an anthology of charms in the Welsh corpus, beginning with the earliest medieval examples (mid-to-late fourteenth century), up to the middle of the seventeenth century.
Historic healing texts can illuminate nuanced aspects of knowledge production and exchange, highlighting the multilingual and multicultural networks of transmission in late medieval and early modern Britain and Europe. They can also offer insights into language use, religion, medicine, and popular practice. A comprehensive study of the premodern Welsh charms and rituals for healing and protection will shed light on the complex cultural and literary matrix of medieval Wales; one with shifting linguistic relations between not only Welsh and Latin, but also between English and Welsh during various periods of social, political, and religious reform.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365535
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