Title

Invincible Blades and Invulnerable Bodies: Weapons Magic in Early Modern Germany

Publication Date

2015

Journal

European Review of History

Volume

22

Issue

4

First Page

658

Last Page

679

Department

History

Abstract

In the world of the occult, as in other realms, the tools and methods chosen by women and men reflected acceptable ways of “doing” gender. This paper will concentrate on magical spells and blessings intended to give men an advantage in sword fights, make them invulnerable, or turn them into perfect marksmen. Because magical practices associated with guns and blades were related to early modern thinking about masculine power and performance, they were less harshly treated than the kind of magic more often associated with women. Many of these hypermasculine spells drew on contemporary medical beliefs about natural sympathies, including the idea that sympathies existed between the dead and the living. For this reason, invulnerability and weapon spells usually included corpse-related materials (e.g., body parts, moss growing on human skulls, etc.). As learned belief in natural magic waned during the Enlightenment, stories of magic blades and bullets retreated from courts and battlefields into the world of fiction and fantasy.

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