Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
James A. Kapalo
ISFNR - Folk Narrative in the Modern World: Unity and Diversity
“She read me a prayer and I read it back to her.” Miraculous Literacy, the Mother of God and the “Reading” of Charms amongst the Gagauz
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields

This paper explores the polyvalent and gendered nature of the relationship between literacy, the practice of charming and the figure of the Mother of God amongst Gagauz women. The dream narratives of Gagauz women, through the intervention of the Mother of God, interweave the miraculous acquisition of literacy, the gift of healing powers and the transmission of charm texts. In these dream and vision narratives, the terms düş – the dream/vision/prayer – and okumaa – reading/charming/healing – carry a highly nuanced semantic load. In this paper I will illustrate a tripartite set of relations which emerge from dream narratives, in which the ability to remember is facilitated by the ability to read and the ability to read is associated with the ability to charm/heal and the ability to read/charm/heal is the miraculous gift of the Mother of God, the custodian of healing text/s. This research, which is based on interviews with 11 Gagauz healers conducted between 2005 and 2011 in villages in the Gagauz Autonomous Region in Moldova, establishes the link between gender identity, strategies of empowerment and the practice of charming.