In pre-modern societies, childbirth was an extremely dangerous time in a woman’s life, exposing her to the peril of a sudden death, permanent injuries, or unpleasant medical complications. To overcome the anxieties brought on by this dramatic and yet unavoidable event, most cultures developed and performed magical techniques for the protection of the mother and her child, which were transmitted in parallel with midwifery and medical knowledge. Medieval manuscripts of Jewish magic of Italian origin, as well as inquisitorial records, and anti-Judaic literature document that also late medieval and early modern Italian Jewish women turned to magic during pregnancy and childbirth, often following traditions shared by their sistren in the Jewish diaspora and their Italian female neighbors. After some methodological remarks on the study of Jewish magical sources vis-à-vis inquisitorial documents and anti-Judaic invectives for a more nuanced reconstruction of the lived religion and everyday life of pre-modern Italian Jews, the article examines several techniques for easing labor and producing childbirth amulets transmitted and used by Jews in Renaissance Italy. Grounded on both scripted traditions of Jewish magic and oral-aural lore that can be deduced from inquisitorial records and anti-Judaic polemical literature, the study sheds some light on Italian Jewish childbirth practices and, consequently, on certain aspects of premodern womanhood and motherhood that would otherwise be lost to us.

"Childbirth amulets against Lilith in early modern Italy"

alessia bellusci
2022

Abstract

In pre-modern societies, childbirth was an extremely dangerous time in a woman’s life, exposing her to the peril of a sudden death, permanent injuries, or unpleasant medical complications. To overcome the anxieties brought on by this dramatic and yet unavoidable event, most cultures developed and performed magical techniques for the protection of the mother and her child, which were transmitted in parallel with midwifery and medical knowledge. Medieval manuscripts of Jewish magic of Italian origin, as well as inquisitorial records, and anti-Judaic literature document that also late medieval and early modern Italian Jewish women turned to magic during pregnancy and childbirth, often following traditions shared by their sistren in the Jewish diaspora and their Italian female neighbors. After some methodological remarks on the study of Jewish magical sources vis-à-vis inquisitorial documents and anti-Judaic invectives for a more nuanced reconstruction of the lived religion and everyday life of pre-modern Italian Jews, the article examines several techniques for easing labor and producing childbirth amulets transmitted and used by Jews in Renaissance Italy. Grounded on both scripted traditions of Jewish magic and oral-aural lore that can be deduced from inquisitorial records and anti-Judaic polemical literature, the study sheds some light on Italian Jewish childbirth practices and, consequently, on certain aspects of premodern womanhood and motherhood that would otherwise be lost to us.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/5003213
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