Accepted Paper:

Setting the space right: contagious illnesses and magical barriers in Lithuanian folklore  


Asta Skujytė-Razmienė (Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on two types of magical barriers that were used by Lithuanian folk during the outbreaks of plague and cholera as measures of re-establishing borders between illness and health.

Paper long abstract:

When facing the danger of falling ill, the folk tried to guard themselves with the means of individual protection (e.g. amulets) or count on collective defence measures. According to Lithuanian folklore material from XIX-XXI centuries, during the outbreaks of plague, cholera or other contagious illnesses, creating magical barriers in order to prevent disease from spreading was a known practice. There are two known types of these special barriers that were used in the traditional community: 1) encircling the village/town with a furrow or 2) cutting off the roads with the help of specially woven linen cloth. Although these two methods were seen as a countermeasure against raging epidemics, it could be also perceived as an attempt to stabilize the space that demonstrates a link between people-inhabited space and the concept of health, when breaching one could mean danger for the other. In this paper I will discuss how the usage of magical barriers corresponds to the concept of inverse world and how it re-establishes boundaries between the spheres of illness and health.

Panel Medi03
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