"Since the beginning of history, people have sought remedies for the many ills that have beset them, from illnesses afflicting the body to threats posed by evil and hostile individuals. In many folk healing and pagan traditions, it was believed that one must gain the assistance of the guardian spirit of a healing plant or substance through prayers or offerings before its chemical properties would be effective. The Church decried these spells and practices as pagan superstition but did not seek to exterminate these beliefs, instead transferring the responsibility for their healing powers to the apostles and saints.
Drawing on his extensive knowledge of ancient texts, Claude Lecouteux presents more than 600 magical prescriptions from both pagan and Christian sources from the last 2,000 years, covering everything from abscesses and shingles to curses and healing animals. He examines the practice of diagnosing illness through magic and looks at the origins of disease according to the evolving beliefs of magic practitioners over the centuries. He explores ancient beliefs about curses and about devils, demons, and ghosts and provides an in-depth look at protection magic, including protection of health, animals, and cultivated land, protection against curses, witchcraft, bad weather, and beasts, protection of a home, and protection while traveling. He includes spells from the heavily guarded gypsy tradition of magic and healing, drawn from newly discovered materials collected by two Romanian ethnologists who lived and traveled with gypsies in Transylvania in the mid-19th century. The author also reproduces rare texts on magic healing from the 14th and 15th centuries.
Revealing the vitality of these practices in the remoter areas of Eastern Europe, Lecouteux shows how the influence of this pagan worldview is still detectable in the work of modern folk healers in France and Scandinavia. He also shows how the condemnation of unorthodox methods of healing has not vanished from the contemporary world: the medieval legislation against healing by wizards and bonesetters is echoed in modern health codes that challenge the authority of naturopaths and faith healers."