The title of this book refers to the classic time and place for magic, witchcraft, and divination in Russia. The Bathhouse at Midnight, by one of the world's foremost experts on the subject, surveys all forms of magic, both learned and popular, in Russia from the fifth to the eighteenth century. While no book on the subject could be exhaustive, The Bathhouse at Midnight does describe and assess all the literary sources of magic, witchcraft, astrology, alchemy, and divination from Kiev Rus and Imperial Russia, and to some extent Ukraine and Belorussia. Where possible, Ryan identifies the sources of the texts (usually Greek, Arabic, or West European) and makes parallels to other cultures, ranging from classical antiquity to Finnic. He finds that Russia shares most of its magic and divination with the rest of Europe.Subjects covered include the Evil Eye, the Number of the Beast, omens, dreams, talismans and amulets, plants, gemstones, and other materials thought to possess magic properties. The first chapter gives a historical overview, and the final chapter summarizes the political, religious, and legal aspects of the history of magic in Russia. The author also provides translations of some key texts.The Bathhouse at Midnight will be invaluable for anyone--student, teacher, or general reader--with an interest in Russia, magic, or the occult. It is unique in its field and is set to become the definitive study of Russian magic.
From material Ryan (U. of London) collected for his doctoral dissertation at Oxford and a series of articles since then, he presents a general survey for English readers that incorporates both the written and oral traditions. He strives to avoid the extremes of seeing features either as particular to one culture or universal to all, and also the trap of being too descriptive and neglecting analysis. After outlining briefly the history of Russia, he looks at such topics as popular magic, wizards and witches, predictions from dreams and the human body, materia magica, geomancy, and Byzantine and post-Byzantine astrology. Paper edition (unseen), $22.50. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)