MARTOR no. 28 / year 2023

Marriage and Magic in a Transylvanian Village

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Tünde Komáromi
Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary, Hungary

Tünde Komáromi is an Associate Professor at the Department of Communication and Media Studies of the Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary. She carried out three different long-term fieldworks in Romania and Russia. Her research areas: the social significance of the ideology of witchcraft (based on historical sources and contemporary research); magical and religious healing; interethnic and interreligious relations in Transylvania; contemporary Russian and Romanian Orthodoxy; orthodox religious communities (monastic communities, communities formed in the sphere of influence of priests, churches); post-Soviet conversion stories; demonic possession; exorcism; contemporary orthodox demonology.

PAGES: 100-123

KEYWORDS: Magical binding; predestined partner; cursing; seer; clairvoyant; Orthodox priest; interethnic influences; marriage.


In this study I present the possibilities of magical influence on marriages, based on my fieldwork in a Transylvanian village. I investigate how, according to the villagers, the creation and dissolution of marriages can be magically influenced, and how they use magic to interpret the delay of the marriage, conflicts between spouses, broken relationships, and the death of a spouse. The location of the research is a village with an ethnically and religiously mixed population, where Reformed Hungarians, Orthodox Romanians and mainly Orthodox Roma live.

The study is divided into three parts. In the first part, I will focus on the recollections of the older generation, in the second part, on cases that happened in the lives of the middle-aged population, and in the third part, I will compare cases preserved in memory with contemporary cases. This comparison reveals that methods of magical intervention have changed, as have the kinds of problems that arise. From contemporary stories, it seems that the marriage prospects of an unmarried youth are no longer influenced by magic. If there is a suspicion that a marriage is being prevented by magical means (binding), people try to break this binding with the help of Romanian Orthodox priests or seers/clairvoyants. Priests and clairvoyants also pray over the clothes of those wishing to marry, and at the same time mothers fast for their unmarried children. Magic has been replaced by methods drawn from Romanian Orthodox religious practice, which are accepted and practised in secret by most of the Hungarians in the village.

Reflecting on the images of marriage being hindered by magical binding and of the predestined partner (RO: ursita/ursitul), I examine the relationship between Romanian and Hungarian beliefs and interpretative possibilities, referring to previous Hungarian and Romanian ethnographic research. In addition, I summarize everything that is important in relation to the specialists involved (seers or clairvoyants, Romanian Orthodox priests). According to local perception, the social institution of marriage can be influenced through magic. Marriage, divorce, and the death of one of the parties can also be interpreted magically within the local framework of interpretation.


Komáromi, Tünde. 2023. “Marriage and Magic in a Transylvanian Village.” Martor 28: 100-123. [DOI: 10.57225/Martor.2023.28.07]

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