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A Frog Under the TongueJewish Folk Medicine in Eastern Europe$
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Marek Tuszewicki

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781906764982

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781906764982.001.0001

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Demons and Witches

Demons and Witches

(p.233) Chapter Twelve Demons and Witches
A Frog Under the Tongue

Marek Tuszewicki

Liverpool University Press

This chapter talks about demons and witches. People believed that an illness or other health issue could be the work of supernatural beings such as demons, devils, or witches. These creatures were thought to do their mischief not by directly entering the victim's body, but usually by using magic. In the popular imagination, humans were constantly surrounded by demons and the like, though not all of these creatures drew satisfaction from making mischief. Ghosts and demons were thought to inhabit specific places, or to be in the habit of behaving in particular ways, and, left in peace, they would not interfere in human affairs. In the folk consciousness, any interference in a sphere perceived to be the domain of unclean forces was bound to render the meddler vulnerable to a more or less violent reaction on the part of those forces. The practical ramifications of this belief were visible in superstitions surrounding matters such as building and moving into a house. Places considered holy and which were reserved for the enactment of rites and rituals were by no means out of bounds to incorporeal beings. There is also a belief there were demons who, at the request of the rebbe, would protect the Jewish community from the local squire's insatiable greed. Almost every type of demon could be persuaded to help humans, and whether or not one was successful in this mission depended chiefly on one's cunning. Nonetheless, the dominant trope in folk tales is of demons harming or causing damage to humans, and even bringing death on them.

Keywords:   demons, witches, supernatural beings, ghosts, holy places, Jewish rites, Jewish rituals

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