Author:Vita Džekčioriūtė-Medeišienė (Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore)
Paper short abstract:
This paper discusses fright as a specific illness that has distinct corporeal traits (changes of the body, the transmission and elimination of fright) and its perception as a foreign body in traditional Lithuanian culture.
Paper long abstract:
Fright is a pathological state when an individual loses control over his/her physiological and psychological functioning. This paper, based on the material of Lithuanian folk beliefs, customs, and fright-healing practices from the end of 19th century to the first half of 20th century, discusses the physiological aspects of this pathology. This paper focuses on few of the corporeal aspects of this illness, namely changes of the body, the transmission of fright from one subject to another, and the elimination of fright from the patient's body.
The most important aspect of the corporeal concept of fright is its perception as a foreign body. This can be seen in Lithuanian folk beliefs where it was thought that the fright can be transmitted in two ways: through touching in stressful situations and through bodily liquids, namely mother's milk.
After catching fright corporeal changes manifest themselves as disability or various types of deformation in some parts of the body. Restoring physical symmetry is regarded as one of the aims when treating fright.
The treatment of this particular illness can be conceptualised in two ways: a) neutralising the illness by identification of its source or b) by elimination of fright as a foreign body through saliva, urine, vomit, by breathing it out and through specific parts of the body (e.g. armpit).
‘Healing’ as harmonization of ‘micro’ and ‘macro’ cosmos? Conceptualizations and practices of ‘health’ and ‘healing’ in Europe and beyond