The Bathhouse at Midnight: Magic in Russia
512 pages/ 6" X 9" (1999)
ISBN 0-271-01966-2 / cloth: $65.00s
ISBN 0-271-01967-0 / paper: $22.50t
"This is clearly a magnum opus. . . it will immediately be a classic in its field."
Richard Kieckhefer, Professor of History and Religion, Northwestern University
"Ryan's book is the first synthesis ever attempted of the large body of scholarly literature on the history of magic and diviniation in Russia up to the eigteenth century and beyond. His book will long be the definitive treatment of the subject. The Bathhouse at Midnight will not disappoint the reader: it is truly magisterial, both broad and deep. Ryan's surveys are detailed and accurate, and his judgements are impeccable."
Robert Matthiesen, Professor of Slavic Languages, Brown University
The first general history of magic in Russia from Byzantium to the eighteenth
century, with some themes followed up to the present day.
The title of this book refers to the classic time and place for magic, witchcraft, and divination in Russia. The Bathhouse at Midnight, by one of the world's foremost experts on the subject, surveys all forms of magic, both learned and popular, in Russia from the fifth to the eighteenth century.
While no book on the subject could be exhaustive, The Bathhouse at Midnight does describe and assess all the literary sources of magic, witchcraft, astrology, alchemy, and divination from Kiev Rus and Imperial Russia, and to some extent Ukraine and Belorussia. Where possible, Ryan identifies the sources of the texts (usually Greek, Arabic, or West European) and makes parallels to other cultures, ranging from classical antiquity to Finnic. He finds that Russia shares most of its magic and divination with the rest of Europe.
Subjects covered include the Evil Eye, the Number of the Beast, omens, dreams, talismans and
amulets, plants, gemstones, and other materials thought to possess magic properties. The first
chapter gives a historical overview, and the final chapter summarizes the political, religious, and
legal aspects of the history of magic in Russia. The author also provides translations of some key
The Bathhouse at Midnight will be invaluable for anyonestudent, teacher, or general
readerwith an interest in Russia, magic, or the occult. It is unique in its field and is set to become
the definitive study of Russian magic.
W. F. Ryan is academic librarian of the Warburg Institute at the University of London, School of
Advanced Studies. He has published widely on the subject of magic in Russia and is co-author of
the Penguin Russian Dictionary (1995) and co-editor of numerous scholarly books, including
Anglo-Russian Relations in the Age of Peter the Great (1998).
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