Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
James Kapaló
Charms, Charmers and Charming
Charming without Borders: Gagauz charmers as religious, ethnic and linguistic ‘boundary-workers’
Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Pécs, Hungary
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
The Gagauz are a Turkish-speaking Orthodox Christian minority dispersed throughout several Balkan and South Eastern European countries. Although the Gagauz have an Orthodox Christian culture, an indigenous knowledge system in relation to sickness, healing and possession co-exists alongside canonical Church teaching and practice. There is a high degree of cultural contact between, on the one hand, Gagauz Christians and Turkish Muslims, aided by their common language, and on the other, between the Gagauz and other Orthodox Balkan peoples (Bulgarians, Romanians and Greeks). This is particularly evident in the healing and charming culture, with numerous examples of cross-cultural borrowing, multilingual practices, and inter-ethnic healer-patient relations. Minority peoples are often uniquely positioned to work across boundaries, drawing on the power of the Other in order to acquire magical, charismatic and religious capital. This paper is based on ongoing fieldwork, started in the July 2014, in Greece (Orestiada) and Bulgaria (Bulgarevo, Kumanovo, Karamanite) amongst Gagauz, Turkish and Tatar charmers and healers. Based on observations, I introduce some shared ritual healing practices and texts and explore the role of the Gagauz as cultural mediators across ethnic, religious and linguistic boundaries.