For revenge, lust and theft. Magical actions of inhabitants of Istria in the 19th century as a reflection of the unfavorable socio-economic conditions.

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Luka Šešo

Abstract

This paper analyses the manuscripts of Stjepan Žiža’s Customs of the Croatian People in Istria and Josip Ptašinski’s Folklore of Croats and Slovenes in Istria. Both manuscripts were written in the late 19th century, when the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts launched a call for collecting sources on the folklore of South Slavic peoples. Among the numerous manuscripts received by the Academy, these two are particularly important as their authors paid special attention to the description of “sorcery” performed by the Istrians in the early 19th century. Following the current theoretical literature, this paper treats the acts of “sorcery” as magical practices, since they invoke supernatural forces in order to obtain earthly benefits. These magical practices have been grouped into those aimed at revenge or satisfaction of lust, facilitating theft, and ensuring health or invulnerability. All analysed magical practices include blasphemy, brutality, and collaboration with Satan. Starting from the comments of the manuscript authors, who expressed their worries over the godless acts performed, the paper shows that the period in question coincided with a difficult socioeconomic situation. In an almost apocalyptic climate following the Napoleonic wars, particularly in the period from 1810-1830, the Istrian peninsula was struck by a devastating typhus epidemic and famine owing to unfavourable climatic conditions. Its population was decimated, crimes multiplied, and living expectancy was only 27 years. In such atmosphere, individuals and groups, primarily from the rural areas, resorted to magic in order to ensure health and wealth, or to satisfy their lust, in order to overcome the calamities of their everyday life.

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How to Cite
ŠEŠO, Luka. For revenge, lust and theft. Magical actions of inhabitants of Istria in the 19th century as a reflection of the unfavorable socio-economic conditions.. Povijesni prilozi, [S.l.], v. 52, july 2017. ISSN 1848-9087. Available at: <http://pp.isp.hr/?journal=PP&page=article&op=view&path%5B%5D=7>. Date accessed: 20 june 2018. doi: https://doi.org/10.22586/pp.v52i0.7.
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