Desperate Magic: The Moral Economy Of Witchcraft In Seventeenth-century Russia by Valerie KivelsonDesperate Magic: The Moral Economy Of Witchcraft In Seventeenth-century Russia by Valerie Kivelson

Desperate Magic: The Moral Economy Of Witchcraft In Seventeenth-century Russia

byValerie Kivelson

Paperback | October 2, 2013

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In the courtrooms of seventeenth-century Russia, the great majority of those accused of witchcraft were male, in sharp contrast to the profile of accused witches across Catholic and Protestant Europe in the same period. While European courts targeted and executed overwhelmingly female suspects, often on charges of compacting with the devil, the tsars' courts vigorously pursued men and some women accused of practicing more down-to-earth magic, using poetic spells and home-grown potions. Instead of Satanism or heresy, the primary concern in witchcraft testimony in Russia involved efforts to use magic to subvert, mitigate, or avenge the harsh conditions of patriarchy, serfdom, and social hierarchy.

Broadly comparative and richly illustrated with color plates, Desperate Magic places the trials of witches in the context of early modern Russian law, religion, and society. Piecing together evidence from trial records to illuminate some of the central puzzles of Muscovite history, Kivelson explores the interplay among the testimony of accusers, the leading questions of the interrogators, and the confessions of the accused. Assembled, they create a picture of a shared moral vision of the world that crossed social divides. Because of the routine use of torture in extracting and shaping confessions, Kivelson addresses methodological and ideological questions about the Muscovite courts' equation of pain and truth, questions with continuing resonance in the world today. Within a moral economy that paired unquestioned hierarchical inequities with expectations of reciprocity, magic and suspicions of magic emerged where those expectations were most egregiously violated.

Witchcraft in Russia surfaces as one of the ways that oppression was contested by ordinary people scrambling to survive in a fiercely inequitable world. Masters and slaves, husbands and wives, and officers and soldiers alike believed there should be limits to exploitation and saw magic deployed at the junctures where hierarchical order veered into violent excess.

Valerie Kivelson is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of History at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Desperate Magic: The Moral Economy of Witchcraft in Seventeenth-Century Russia and Cartographies of Tsardom: The Land and Its Meanings in Seventeenth-Century Russia, both from Cornell, and Autocracy in the Provinces: Russian...
Title:Desperate Magic: The Moral Economy Of Witchcraft In Seventeenth-century RussiaFormat:PaperbackDimensions:376 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.27 inPublished:October 2, 2013Publisher:CORNELL UNIVERSITY PRESSLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0801479169

ISBN - 13:9780801479168

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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
Note on Names and Transliteration
Introduction: The Moral Economy of Desperation in Seventeenth-Century Russia
1. Witchcraft Historiography: Russia's Divergence
2. "Report on This Matter to Us in Moscow, Fully and in Truth": Documentation and Procedure
3. Muscovite Prosaic Magic and the Devil’s Pale Shadow
4. Love, Sex, and Hierarchy: The Role of Gender in Witchcraft Accusations
5. Undivided Spheres: Gender and Idioms of Magic
6. “To Treat Me Kindly”: Negotiating Excess in Muscovite Hierarchical Relations
7. Trials, Justice, and the Logic of Torture
8. Witchcraft, Heresy, Treason, Rebellion: Defining Muscovy’s Most Heinous Crimes
The Aftermath: Peter the Great and the Age of Enlightenment
Appendix A. List of Witchcraft Trials
Appendix B. List of Laws and Decrees against Witchcraft and Magic

Editorial Reviews

"Desperate Magic will surely take its place as a major resource for understanding the hitherto understudied world of late medieval Muscovite witchcraft. Based on incisive analyses of hundreds of documented secular court cases, Valerie Kivelson's in-depth study reveals an extraordinary tapestry of spells, potions, herbal remedies, and magic identified primarily with male witches. These all-knowing ved'my have little truck with the diabolism and anarchy so commonly associated with Western European witchcraft. Rather they emerge as threats to the perceived fragility of the moral order of society, top to bottom. The book stands as a compelling testament to the intricate complementarities of Muscovite and Western European witchcraft."—Michael S. Flier, Oleksandr Potebnja Professor of Ukrainian Philology, Harvard University