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Woorden met bovennatuurlijke kracht

Op maandag 5 oktober houdt Keltologe en godsdienstwetenschapper Jacqueline Borsje (UvA) een lezing op het Meertens Instituut, in het kader van haar NWO-project 'The Power of Words in Medieval Ireland'. Een ieder is van harte welkom.

Plaats: Meertens Instituut, symposiumzaal.
Aanvang: 10.30u

Een samenvatting van de lezing en meer informatie over het project:

The power of words and the performative context
This paper gives a sample of the use of ‘words of power’ – words with which one believed to be able to influence and transform reality – in medieval Ireland. Texts of this kind exist in manuscript form, in narrative and non-narrative contexts. The verbal formulae may be accompanied by descriptions and prescriptions on the ritual that is (to be) performed with either spoken or written words. We also find demands with regard to the inner attitude of the performer. Attention will be paid to the ‘I’ in such texts and the use of proper names. A glimpse of how fixed formulations were actualised in new settings in time and space will be offered.
Jacqueline Borsje (UvA) is a specialist in the Academic Study of Religion and Celtic Studies. She is principal investigator of the NWO-VIDI research project ‘The power of words in medieval Ireland’ at the University of Amsterdam: and associate member of the Research Institute for Irish and Celtic Studies of the University of Ulster.

Informatie over het NWO-VIDI project van Jacqueline Borsje: The Power of Words in Medieval Ireland

This research project proposes to study medieval Irish 'words of power' words with which one believed to be able to influence and transform reality. These words were uttered for good or for evil: for example, to protect, to harm, to exert power, to heal and to inflict diseases. Such words are commonly known as e.g. curses, blessings, spells, charms, incantations, and prayers.

The aim of this project is to supply a survey and analysis of medieval Irish forms of 'words of power', by way of philological, diachronic and multidisciplinary study. A sample of the various forms, based on medieval Irish classifications, will be analysed with regard to 1) the contemporary use and context of the words; and 2) the ideology involved in world-views reflected in the texts and in the terminology used. Two sub-projects are envisaged: 1) on the words themselves; 2) on the users of the words.

Medieval Irish words of power have been neglected in modern studies of medieval European 'magic'. Within Celtic Studies they form a challenge from the early years of the discipline but thus far not yet taken up. Celtic Studies was first dominated by an 'oral/pre-Christian orthodoxy' (c.1940-c.1970), followed by a new 'literate-Christian orthodoxy' (c.1980-present). These ambiguous verbal expressions, however, challenge the dichotomies designed by modern research. They cannot be classified as either pre-Christian or Christian; they are often seen as a popular phenomenon and yet, the elite preserved them in manuscripts. Because they usually are an intricate mix of religious elements, they cannot simply be seen as 'reconstructions of the pre-Christian past' either. A fresh study of this fascinating material is needed for the full picture of the diversity in belief and the complexity of the literary inheritance of medieval Ireland; the results will contribute to our knowledge of medieval European culture.

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