© 2019 Ekaterina ANASTASOVA

2019 – №2 (18)

Author info:

Ekaterina Anastasova, Ph. D., works as an Аssociate Рrofessor at the Balkan Ethnology Department of the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies, Bulgarian Academy of Science (Sofia).

Mare Koiva, Ph. D., is a Leading Research Fellow and head of Folkloristics Department of the Estonian Literary Museum, as well as head of the Center of Estonian Studies (Tartu).

Key words: spells, healing words, authentic archival texts, verbal magic methods, charms and amulets, Christian pseudography, ritualistic dialogues, church songs, medical diagnostics, International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10)

Abstract:In the article, the readers can find analysis of a large collection of Estonian spells, or healing words, which was compiled and published by the famous folklorist and ethnographer Mare Koiva. The main parts of the anthology and its analytical section were reviewed. Special attention is paid to examination and analysis of the hierarchic structure of folk medical terminology related to various diseases. Also emphasized is a peculiar mode of working with folk medicine, applied in folkloristics for the first time: the author/compiler associated folk names and descriptions of diseases with professional medical diagnostics based on the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10). Mare Koiva reviewed spells in different languages and emphasized peculiarities of translations and adaptations to local specifics. Christian elements in the spell tradition were pointed out. The sphere of analysis also includes amulets and charms, as well as other objects of spell practice.


The review analyzes the collection Estonian Spells. Healing Words I (780 pp.), compiled by the famous Estonian folklorist and ethnologist Mare Koiva, published in the Estonian language in series VI of Monumenta Estoniae Antiquae publishing house, Tartu: ELM, 2019. Represented are the structure and contents of the work and its place in the context of charms and spells research by modern science in the last decades; highlighted are the fundamental character and large volume of analyzed materials, as well as originality of Mare Koiva’s innovative approach. This analytical approach combines a systematic choice of authentic archival texts of spells and charms, exposes their typology, and offers a multifaceted concept of folk medical knowledge. For the first time, the author and compiler of the collection review beliefs in regards to diseases in a traditional culture, in accordance with the international classification of diseases (ICD-10). Multiple texts of medicinal spells and healing formulae are represented, of various origins, types, structures, variability, and development dynamics. They are viewed in unity with peculiarities of verbal magic, and actional and attributive healing plan. Also reviewed is a comparative study plan that expands and amends the analysis and beliefs about the studied phenomena, by exposing their typological, regional, national, and local features.

Finally, the fundamental character of the study and uniqueness of Mare Koiva’s approach as an author allows the reviewer to recommend the collection to be translated into international languages (such as English or Russian), which would allow this essential work to become more affordable for global academia, as well as wider public interested in folk medicine problems.


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Citation link:

Anastasova Ye. (2019) Estonian Spells. Healing Words: Publication Experience [Jestonskie zagovory, lechebnye slova: opyt izdanija]. Medical Anthropology and Bioethics [Medicinskaja antropologija i biojetika], 2 (18).