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The Ambiguity Of Magic

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Chapter Summary

Once a sign was accepted as significant, early modern Scandinavian magic still offered multiple interpretations of the cause of magic: the inner self, spirits, God, or the Devil. This chapter attends to a closer reading of how signs of magic were constructed in narratives presented to the court. In analysing the range of significations of magic in the early modern period, the chapter considers how historical research has thus far dealt with the problem of ambiguity. It also considers the Swedish material with particular respect to the aspect of the ambiguity of bodily signs, the ambiguity of intentions behind magic, and the treatment of ambiguity at the local courts. In Swedish magic, the multivalence of meanings was inherent in all signs. Finally, the chapter concentrates on the analysis of the multiple meanings of eighteenth-century Swedish magic and the embeddedness of these popular discourses in the symbolical order of society.

Keywords: ambiguity; bodily signs; early modern Scandinavian magic; eighteenth-century Swedish magic; inner self; local courts



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