“To the good man – bread in the mouth”: Bread, Charms, and the Peasant Economy in 19th Century Russia

Isabella Palange (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

After the 1861 abolition of serfdom in the Russian Empire, the peasantry was plunged into economic instability. While the government failed to guarantee the peasantry their “daily bread,” bread remained a highly magical object. Herders were endowed with magical abilities, given to them “like bread,” while they were responsible for protecting the cattle, so production expectations would be met. Further, bread is found in numerous charms relating to the health of cattle and people. Baked by women, but central to male-dominated farming, bread crosses gender lines and acts as a source of power under desperate economic conditions.

Part of 05-10 Health, Magic, and Gendered Power in pre-Modern Scandinavia and Russia, Friday, November 03, 10:30 am–12:30 pm