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Witchcraft in Russia and Ukraine, 1000-1900A Sourcebook$
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Valerie A. Kivelson and Christine D. Worobec

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501750649

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501750649.001.0001

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(p.361) Chapter 8 Possession
Witchcraft in Russia and Ukraine, 1000-1900
Valerie A. Kivelson, Christine D. Worobec
Cornell University Press

This chapter addresses the appearance of demonic possession in seventeenth-century Muscovite witchcraft trials. Klikushestvo, usually translated as “shrieking” or “possession,” was a particularly dramatic form of magical affliction, one that horrified Russian communities and fascinated onlookers by its nightmarish manifestations. As recorded in both miracle tales and court records, possession was often, but not always, attributed to the malevolent acts of witches and sorcerers. Another disturbing condition in Muscovy and imperial Russia, often but not always observed alongside the other characteristics of klikushestvo and sometimes thrown into general symptomology of possession, was ikota — literally, hiccupping. With their dramatic manifestations, klikushestvo and ikota in the Russian lands and the less dramatic (but no less frightening) forms of demonic possession in the Ukrainian lands involved families and communities in shared collective performances. Performance in this sense does not connote any falsehood; rather it underscores the extent to which possession can never be a truly solitary act. It is theatrical in its essence, a public performance. Collective consensus, a shared assessment between afflicted and witnesses, completed and validated possession cases.

Keywords:   demonic possession, Muscovite witchcraft trials, klikushestvo, ikota, magical affliction, imperial Russia, Ukraine, collective performances, Muscovy, public performance

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