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An extensive look at the cartography and folklore of the afterlife worlds as seen by our ancestors * Examines how ancient European cultures viewed the beyond, including the Blessed Isles of early Greek and Celtic faith, the Hebrew Sheol, Hades from Homer's Odyssey, Hel and Valhalla of the Norse, and the Aralu of Babylon * Shows how medieval accounts of journeys into the Other World represent the first recorded near-death experiences * Connects medieval afterlife beliefs and NDE narratives with shamanism, looking in particular at psychopomps, power animals, the double, the fetch, and what people bring back from their journeys to the spirit realms Charting the evolution of afterlife beliefs in both pagan and medieval Christian times, Claude Lecouteux offers an extensive look at the cartography and folklore of the afterlife worlds as seen by our ancestors. Exploring the locations and topographies of the various forms taken by Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, he examines how ancient European cultures viewed the beyond, including the Blessed Isles of early Greek and Celtic faith, the Hebrew Sheol, the pale world of Hades from Homer's Odyssey, Hel and Valhalla of the Norse, and the Aralu of Babylon, the land where nothing can be seen. The author also explores beliefs in Other Worlds, lands different from our own that are not the afterlife but places where time flows differently and which are inhabited by fantastic or supernatural beings such as fairies or dwarfs. Sharing medieval tales of journeys into the beyond, Lecouteux shows how these accounts represent the first recorded near-death experiences (NDEs) and examines how they compare with modern NDE narratives as well as the work of NDE researchers like Raymond Moody. In addition, he also explores tales of out-of-body experiences, dream journeys, and travels made by a double or fetch and connects these narratives with shamanism, looking in particular at psychopomps, power animals, and what people bring back from their journeys to the spirit realms. Analyzing the afterlife beliefs of the Middle Ages as a whole, Lecouteux concludes with a collection of medieval afterlife-related traditions, such as placing polished stones in the coffin so the departed soul can find its way back to friends and family at those times of the year when the veil between the worlds grows thin.
A collection of tales from the Middle Ages that reveal voyages to Heaven and Hell, the realm of the Faery, mystical lands, and encounters with mythic beasts * Shares travelers' accounts of voyages into the afterlife, alarming creatures of unparalleled strangeness, encounters with doppelgangers and angels, chivalric romantic misadventures, and legends of heroes * Explains how travelers' tales from the Middle Ages drew on geographies, encyclopedias, travel accounts, bestiaries, and herbals for material to capture the imagination of their audiences * Includes rare illustrations from incunabula and medieval manuscripts Heading off to discover unknown lands was always a risky undertaking during the Middle Ages due to the countless dangers lying in wait for the traveler--if we can believe what the written accounts tell us. In the medieval age of intercontinental exploration, tales of sea monsters, strange hybrid beasts, trickster faeries, accidental trips to the afterlife, and peoples as fantastic and dangerous as the lands they inhabited abounded. In this curated collection of medieval travelers' tales, editors Claude and Corinne Lecouteux explain how the Middle Ages were a melting pot of narrative traditions from the four corners of the then-known world. Tales from this period often drew on geographies, encyclopedias, travel accounts, bestiaries, and herbals for material to capture the imagination of their audiences, who were fascinated by the wonders being discovered by explorers of the time. Accompanied by rare illustrations from incunabula and medieval manuscripts, the stories in this collection include voyages into the afterlife, with guided tours of Hell and glimpses of Heaven, as well as journeys into other fantastic realms, such as the pagan land of the Faery. It also includes accounts from travelers such as Alexander the Great of alarming creatures of unparalleled strangeness, encounters with doppelgangers and angels, legends of heroes, and tales of chivalric romantic misadventures, with protagonists swept to exotic new places by fate or by quest. In each story, the marvelous is omnipresent, and each portrays the reactions of the protagonist when faced with the unknown. Offering an introduction to the medieval imaginings of a wondrous universe, these tales reflect the dreams and beliefs of the Middle Ages' era of discovery and allow readers to survey mythic geography, meet people from the far ends of the earth, and experience the supernatural.
A comprehensive examination of the intertwined mythology, folklore, and literary history of the little people Most people are familiar with the popular image of elves as Santa's helpers and dwarfs as little bearded men wearing red caps, who are mischievous and playful, helpful and sly, industrious and dexterous. But their roots go far deeper than their appearance in fairy tales and popular stories. Elves and dwarfs are survivors of a much older belief system that predates Christianity and was widespread throughout Western Europe. Sharing his extensive analysis of Germanic and Norse legends, as well as Roman, Celtic, and medieval literature, Claude Lecouteux explores the ancient, intertwined history of dwarfs and elves. He reveals how both were once peoples who lived in wild regions as keepers of the secrets of nature. They were able to change their size at will and had superhuman strength and healing powers. They were excellent smiths, crafting swords that nothing could dull as well as magical jewelry, and often entered into the service of lords or heroes. They were a part of the everyday life of our ancestors before they were transformed by fairy tales and church texts into the mythical creatures we know today. Lecouteux shows how, in earlier folklore, elves and dwarfs were interchangeable, gradually evolving over time to express very different kinds of beings. Revealing the true roots of these helpful and powerful beings, including an in-depth exploration of one of the most famous dwarf/elf/fairy beings of the Middle Ages, Auberon or Oberon, also known as Alberich, Lecouteux shows how the magic of dwarfs and elves can be rekindled if we recognize their signs and invite them back into our world.
A comprehensive A-to-Z reconstruction of the oral tradition of the Rom--gypsies--based on sources never before available in English * Presents the origin myths and magical traditions of the gypsies, including their legendary ties to Egypt, animal ancestors, and tree spirits * Examines the three major settings of gypsy folktales--the forest, the waters, and the mountain--and shows how their world is full of spirits * Shows how the religious concepts of the Rom testify to a profound syncretism of the pagan traditions and Christianity Although their own myths and their common name point to Egyptian origins for the gypsies, the Rom, as they call themselves, originated in India, as evidenced by studies of their language. They arrived in Europe in the ninth century and spread across the continent from East to West, reaching England in the 15th century and Scandinavia by the end of the 16th century. A nomadic people, these wanderers were reviled by local populaces wherever they went and regarded as misfits, intruders, foreigners, and thieves. Drawing on a number of sources never before available outside of Eastern Europe, Claude Lecouteux reconstructs the gypsy oral tradition to provide a comprehensive A-to-Z look at gypsy mythology, including their folktales, rites, songs, nursery rhymes, jokes, and magical traditions. Complete with rare illustrations and information from obscure sources appearing for the first time in English, this detailed reference work represents an excellent resource for scholars and those seeking to reconnect to their forgotten gypsy heritage.
Presents more than 600 magical prescriptions for healing and protection from both pagan and Christian sources * Examines the practice of diagnosing illness through magic and explores ancient beliefs about curses and other evil spells and about devils, demons, and ghosts * Includes spells from the heavily guarded gypsy tradition of magic and healing, drawn from newly discovered materials Since the beginning of history, people have sought remedies for the many ills that have beset them, from illnesses afflicting the body to threats posed by evil and hostile individuals. In many folk healing and pagan traditions, it was believed that one must gain the assistance of the guardian spirit of a healing plant or substance through prayers or offerings before its chemical properties would be effective. Drawing on his extensive knowledge of ancient texts, Claude Lecouteux presents more than 600 magical prescriptions from both pagan and Christian sources from the last 2,000 years, covering everything from abscesses and shingles to curses and healing animals. He explores ancient beliefs about curses and about devils, demons, and ghosts and provides an in-depth look at protection magic, including protection of health, animals, and cultivated land, protection against curses, witchcraft, bad weather, and beasts, protection of a home, and protection while traveling. He includes spells from the heavily guarded gypsy tradition of magic and healing, drawn from newly discovered materials collected by two Romanian ethnologists who lived and traveled with gypsies in Transylvania in the mid-19th century. The author also reproduces rare texts on magic healing from the 14th and 15th centuries. Revealing the vitality of these practices in the remoter areas of Eastern Europe, Lecouteux shows how the influence of this pagan worldview is still detectable in the work of modern folk healers in France and Scandinavia.
The legends of the Norse and Germanic regions of Europe--spanning from Germany and Austria across Scandinavia to Iceland and England--include a broad range of mythical characters and places, from Odin and Thor, to berserkers and Valhalla, to the Valkyries and Krampus. In this encyclopedia, Claude Lecouteux explores the origins, connections, and tales behind many gods, goddesses, magical beings, rituals, folk customs, and mythical places of Norse and Germanic tradition. More than a reference to the Aesir and the Vanir pantheons, this encyclopedia draws upon a wealth of well-known and rare sources, such as the Poetic Edda, the Saga of Ynglingar by Snorri Sturluson, and The Deeds of the Danes by Saxo Grammaticus. The author describes the worship of the elements and trees, details many magical rituals, and shares wild folktales from ancient Europe, such as the strange adventure of Peter Schlemihl and the tale of the Cursed Huntsman. He also dispels the false beliefs that have arisen from the Nazi hijacking of Germanic mythology and from its longtime suppression by Christianity. Complete with rare illustrations and information from obscure sources appearing for the first time in English, this detailed reference work represents an excellent resource for scholars and those seeking to reconnect to their pagan pasts and restore the old religion.
From Abracadabra to the now famous spells of the Harry Potter series, magic words are no longer confined to the practices of pagans, alchemists, witches, and occultists. They have become part of the popular imagination of the Western world. Passed down from ancient Babylon, Egypt, and Greece, these words and the rituals surrounding them have survived through the millennia because they work. And as scholar Claude Lecouteux reveals, often the more impenetrable they seem, the more effective they are. Presenting a wealth of material on magical words, signs, and charms, both common and obscure, Lecouteux also explores the magical words and spells of ancient Scandinavia, the Hispano-Arabic magic of Spain before the Reconquista, the traditions passed down from ancient Egypt, and those that have stayed in use until the present day.
Our pagan ancestors knew that every forest has brownies and fairies, every spring its lady, and every river malevolent beings in its depths. They told tales of giants in the hills, dragons in the lakes, marshes swarming with will-o'-the-wisps, and demons and wild folk in the mountains who enjoyed causing landslides, avalanches, and floods. They both feared and respected these entities, knowing the importance of appeasing them for safe travel and a prosperous homestead. Exploring medieval stories, folk traditions, spiritual place names, and pagan rituals of home building and site selection, Claude Lecouteux reveals the multitude of spirits and entities that once inhabited the land before modern civilization repressed them into desert solitude, impenetrable forests, and inaccessible mountains. He explains how, to our ancestors, enclosing a space was a sacred act. Specific rites had to be performed to negotiate with the local spirits and ensure proper placement and protection of a new building. These land spirits often became the household spirit, taking up residence in a new building in exchange for permission to build on their territory. Lecouteux explores Arthurian legends, folk tales, and mythology for evidence of the untamed spirits of the wilderness, such as giants, dragons, and demons, and examines the rites and ceremonies used to gain their good will. Lecouteux reveals how, despite outright Church suppression, belief in these spirits carried through to modern times and was a primary influence on architecture, an influence still visible in today's buildings. The author also shows how our ancestors' concern for respecting nature is increasingly relevant in today's world.
The use of talismans and amulets stretches back nearly to the dawn of man, from everyday items magically prepared, such as horns or coins, to intricate and beautiful jewelry imbued with protective powers. Drawing on his private collection of medieval manuscripts as well as his privileged access to the rare book archives of major European universities, Claude Lecouteux provides a comprehensive history of the use of talismans and amulets for protection, healing, and divine influence. He explores their use in the Western Mystery Tradition as well as Eastern and Middle Eastern beliefs about these magical objects and their incorporation--despite Church anathema--into the Christian tradition of Medieval Europe. Reviewing many different kinds of amulets and talismans used throughout the ages, such as a rabbit's foot, horseshoe, gris-gris bag, or an inscribed parchment charged through ritual, he details the principles and symbology behind each object and shows that their use is still as widespread today as any time in the past. Lecouteux explains the high magic behind the hermetic art of crafting amulets and talismans: the chains of sympathy, astrological geography, and the invocations required to activate their powers. He explores the work of adepts such as Agrippa, Albertus Magnus, and Athanasius Kircher, including an in-depth look at Kircher's work on planetary seals in his Oedipus Aegyptiacus. Illustrated throughout with period art depicting magical symbols, seals, and a wide array of talismans and amulets, this comprehensive study provides a practical guide to the historical development and step-by-step creation of magical objects.
Of all forms taken by the undead, the vampire wields the most powerful pull on the modern imagination. But the countless movies and books inspired by this child of the night who has a predilection for human blood are based on incidents recorded as fact in newspapers and judicial archives in the centuries preceding the works of Bram Stoker and other writers. Digging through these forgotten records, Claude Lecouteux unearths a very different figure of the vampire in the many accounts of individuals who reportedly would return from their graves to attack the living. These ancestors of the modern vampire were not all blood suckers; they included shroud eaters, appesarts, nightmares and the curious figure of the stafia, whose origin is a result of masons secretly interring the shadow of a living human being in the wall of a building under construction. As Lecouteux shows, the belief in vampires predates ancient Roman times, which abounded with lamia, stirges and ghouls. Discarding the tacked together explanations of modern science for these inexplicable phenomena, the author looks back to another folk belief that has come down through the centuries like that of the undead: the existence of multiple souls in every individual, not all of which are able to move on to the next world after death.