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Unclean Spirits Unleashed: Flying Bricks, Demonic Possession, and Blackmail in Russia, 1636

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image of Russian History

The spotty and dilapidated record of single trial of an alleged witch in the outskirts of Galich in 1636 serves as a window through which to view the workings of the highly stratified society, its interactions with local courts and central tsarist authorities, and, most importantly, the beliefs, fears, and interpersonal dynamics that drove low-ranking people to turn to the courts. Particularly valuable are the tangential references to common practices that normally did not reach the courts and therefore eluded the historical record. The case of the landlord Gorikhvostov and the “known witch” Mitroshka Khramoi, with its dramatic canvass of devilish spirits and supernatural havoc, reveals the universal acceptance, at the height of Muscovite witchcraft prosecutions, of healers working with roots and herbs, spells and prayers.

Affiliations: 1: University of Michigan,


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