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The Trickster and the Witch: On the Romani Origins of "Captain Elin's Idol"
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9944-1241
2022 (English)In: Arv. Nordic Yearbook of Folklore, ISSN 0066-8176, E-ISSN 2002-4185, Vol. 78, p. 7-39Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

At the center of this article stands a striking but poorly understood artefact held at the Nordic Museum in Stockholm (NM.0159389): A piece of bovine leg bone carved in the likeness of a human skull. Traditionally described as an “idol,” the artefact belongs to a bundle of “witchcraft tools” (trolltyg) that have been attributed to the legendary witch, “Captain Elin,” loosely built on the historical person Elin Eriksdotter from Mofikerud, who was tried in a late witch trial in Näs, Värmland, in 1720. Scholars have long known that the attribution of the skull figure and most of the other items to Elin is false. In this article, we first describe how the association with “Captain Elin” arose, shedding new light on the creation of the legend and its association with the “witchcraft tools.” Secondly, we present new archival evidence that suggests an entirely different context for the bone artefact, namely in the encounters between Romani people and the majority population at the end of the Swedish Great Power era. We discuss the significance of this new context for the cultural memory of magic and witchcraft in Sweden, and for our understanding of the Romani minority’s place in early-modern society.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2022. Vol. 78, p. 7-39
Keywords [en]
Captain Elin, witchcraft, Nordic Museum, Romani people, Göta Court of Appeal, Gunnar Olof Hyltén-Cavallius, Anna Maria Adamsdotter
National Category
Ethnology History of Religions
Research subject
History of Religion
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-214402OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-214402DiVA, id: diva2:1733312
Projects
Romer i europeisk magihistoria: Transnationella förbindelser mellan ras, klass, kön och det ockulta, ca 1417 till 1900
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 31002950Available from: 2023-02-01 Created: 2023-02-01 Last updated: 2024-01-04Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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