"You will find it in the pharmacy": Practical Kabbalah and natural medicine in the Polish-lithuanian commonwealth, 1690-1750

Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

12 Scopus citations


Two basic tendencies seem to characterize scholarly analyses of Slavic-Jewish contacts in the field of popular magic. The first is an essentially binary framing of mutual influence: either Slavic culture is understood to reflect a Jewish impact, or Jewish culture to reflect a Slavic one. The second tendency is to scrutinize Jewish-Slavic contacts through the prism of linguistics, anthropology, sociology, or philology, while eliding specific historical contexts. Typical in both of these respects is Olga Belova and Vladimir Petrukhin's Jewish Myth in Slavic Culture, the latest and perhaps most exhaustive study of the Slavic-Jewish interface. The authors correctly depict popular magic as a field "particularly open to cultural contacts," emphasizing that Jews and Slavs "cooperated intensively in the sphere of demonology," and amass manifold examples from data collected by ethnographers over the span of three centuries. But they construe this cooperation exclusively as "Slavic borrowings from Jews" or "Jewish reflections of Slavic influences"; and they present it as a uniform longue durée without historical specificities and local dynamics.1 Useful as their compilation may be, we are thus left with some vexing questions. Was the Judeo-Slavic encounter a strictly back-and-forth dynamic? Did the intensity of those contacts perhaps vary according to geographic region or proximity to prominent Jewish communities? And in a broader context, to what extent did the attested Slavic-Jewish interaction in the sphere of magic differ from Christian-Jewish analogous encounters in other countries of Europe?.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHoly Dissent
Subtitle of host publicationJewish and Christian Mystics in Eastern Europe
PublisherWayne State University Press
Number of pages42
ISBN (Print)9780814335178
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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