MARTOR no. 28 / year 2023

Notes on the Iconography of Witchcraft in Romanian Art

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Bogdan Neagota
“Babeș-Bolyai” University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
ORCID: 0000-0003-0965-3385

Bogdan Neagota is historian of religions and ethnologist/anthropologist, associate professor (senior lecturer) at the Department of Classical Languages and Literatures from the “Babeş-Bolyai” University, Cluj-Napoca, where he is giving courses of Latin literature, history of ancient religions, folklore & ethno-anthropology. He is also co-founder (in collaboration with Ileana Benga, researcher at the Institute of Folklore Archive, Romanian Academy, Cluj-Napoca) of an ethno-antropological group (starting from 2004), Orma Sodalitas Anthropologica, with a large archive (audio and visual ethnographic materials), covering field researches made by B. Neagota, I. Benga and their collaborators in the last 18 years, especially in rural areas from Romania, Italy, Serbia and Ukraine ( Its research topics covers different aspects of the popular cultures, from the oral narrative traditions to the seasonal and family ceremoniality, popular religiosity (magic, daemonology, folk piety, pilgrimages etc.).

PAGES: 231-236

KEYWORDS: Magic; witchcraft; eschatology; icono-graphy; punishment.


In this article we seek to describe the methodology that gives shape to the various components of the documentation of the book and identifies the different fields to which the issues discussed belong: art history (iconography, religious art), late antique and medieval literature (apocryphal texts), ethno-anthropology (with ramifications in visual anthropology, ethnology, folklore studies) and the history of mentalities (where research into witchcraft takes place chiefly within historical anthropology). The aspects discussed in this reading note: the social and cultural contextualisation of iconography, through an exploration of its social, cultural and mentality-related forms of expression, which connect it at a profound level to traditional peasant/pastoral societies; eschatological iconography concerned with witchcraft in Romania, seen as an eschatological replacement, with preventative and punitive functions, for the punitive institutions of Central and Eastern Europe that were responsible for eradicating the phenomenon of witchcraft; a comparative treatment of eschatological themes in Romanian iconography, in the regional context of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, through a comparison between them and those of the region south of the Danube (Bulgaria) and of the northern Slav area (Ruthenia); the absence from iconography of the distinction between the morphological classes of magic, based on their trans-human magical agents, that we find in oral narrative traditions; a systematic handling of local eschatological iconography and oral narrative repertoires; the issue of cultural transmission and the structure and composition of mechanisms of transmission, whose orality consists not only of words but also of images; discussion of the linguistic and iconographic typologies advanced by the book’s authors.


Neagota, Bogdan. 2023. “Notes on the Iconography of Witchcraft in Romanian Art.” Martor 28: 231-236. [DOI: 10.57225/Martor.2023.28.16]

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