Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Malley, "Bible in British Folklore"

Brian Malley, in “The Bible in British Folklore,” Postscripts 2 (2006) 241-272, marshals a great deal of archival evidence for the magical use of Bibles in early-modern Britain. He concludes that “the British laity seem to have exploited the Bible as text and artifact in rather different ways than ecclesiastical Christianity.”

The evidence shows that (1) in contrast to the church’s emphasis on the Bible’s meaning, the laity exploited the Bible’s textual and artifactual properties as supernatural means to practical ends; (2) charmers made use of particular biblical (or taken-for-biblical) texts, whereas the Bible generally was used in exorcisms, which seem to have remained the purview of clergy; (3) lay traditions about the Bible seem to have been focused on specific issues, though a general uncertainty about what powers Bibles might have is also indicated. (p. 241)

The full article is available in .pdf from Equinox publishing.

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