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Healers And Witches In Early Modern Russia

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores one aspect of the problem of early modern witchcraft as Aron Gurevich framed it: why did Russians of the seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries turn on the "sorcerers" and "witches" who provided them with healing of their illnesses and accuse them of witchcraft? What had changed in Russian society and culture to bring about the persecution of folk healers as witches? And why did State authorities choose to act on those charges? Parallel to studies of Russian witchcraft per se, the scholarly literature has produced examinations of folk medicine and its practitioners. For early modern Russian healers and their patients, the "dark forces beyond their control," to use Aron Gurevich's phrase, proved to be not the supernatural forces of disease and disaster, but rather the intrusive rule of the State.

Keywords: Aron Gurevich; healers; Russia; witchcraft



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