The Magical Self: Body, Society and the Supernatural in Early Modern Rural Finland. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia (Academia Scientiarum Fennica). 2006. 521 pp.
ISBN 951-41-0997-X (hardback)
42 euros (hardback)
|HOW DID PERSONS IN THE PAST view their bodies, selves, and natural environment? Using personal narratives on traditional magic from one of the last cultures in Europe where sorcery and witchcraft were practiced, Laura Stark examines how a magic-oriented world view influenced early modern people’s thoughts, emotions, and unconscious behaviours. Although magic was conducted in secret, it was nonetheless a highly social activity. Thousands of recorded descriptions of harmful magic from 19th- and 20th-century Finland provide glimpses into the social pressure experienced by persons living before and during modernization. Why did persons carry out magic and narrate it within their communities? Why was a reputation for sorcery useful in 19th century village life? Magic and supernatural beliefs did not disappear from daily life simply because persons were educated in new scientific and materialist perspectives. What changed were the surrounding social and economic conditions which made magic a reasonable strategy in daily life. When these were transformed, so too were people’s modes of experience.
LAURA STARK is a Professor of Ethnology at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, and holds a PhD in Folklore Studies from the University of Helsinki. Her areas of specialization include nineteenth-century Finnish and Karelian folk cultures, particularly magic beliefs and practices; theory on gender, body, and self; and popular manifestations of Christianity, including pilgrimage. Works by her include Magic, Body and Social Order: The Construction of Gender Through Women’s Private Rituals in Traditional Finland (Finnish Literature Society, 1998), and Peasants, Pilgrims, and Sacred Promises: Ritual and the Supernatural in Orthodox Karelian Folk Religion (Finnish Literature Society, 2002).