Invincible blades and invulnerable bodies: Weapons magic in early-modern Germany

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European Review of History, ISSN: 1469-8293, Vol: 22, Issue: 4, Page: 658-679

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Tlusty, B. Ann
Informa UK Limited
Arts and Humanities; Magic; Masculinity; Germany; Medicine; Early-Modern; Executioner; Corpse; Swords; Guns; Cultural History; European History
article description
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 materials from male corpses (for example, body parts, moss growing on dead men's skulls, and so on). 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.