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Skogsrået, näcken och Djävulen : erotiska naturväsen och demonisk sexualitet i 1600- och 1700-talens Sverige

Häll, Mikael LU (2013)
Abstract (Swedish)
Popular Abstract in Swedish

I stormaktstidens Sverige utgavs en fornsaga där den mytiske svenske kungen Vilkinus ligger med havsfrun. Under denna tid kunde vanliga människor som påstod sig ha sådana förbindelser dock råka illa ut. År 1630 förhördes pigan Anna Larsdotter, som misstänktes ha fött näckens monstruösa avkomma. ”Trollkarlen” Peder Jönsson avrättades tio år senare för könsumgänge och pakt med sjörået. Soldaten Sven Jönsson bekände 1707 samlag med skogsrået. Men, undrade en domstol, var väsendet ande, människa, djur – eller monster?

Att ligga med gestalter som näcken och skogsrået betydde samlag med Djävulen eller hans demoner – så resonerade kyrkan och staten i Sverige under 1600-talet och delvis även... (More)
Popular Abstract in Swedish

I stormaktstidens Sverige utgavs en fornsaga där den mytiske svenske kungen Vilkinus ligger med havsfrun. Under denna tid kunde vanliga människor som påstod sig ha sådana förbindelser dock råka illa ut. År 1630 förhördes pigan Anna Larsdotter, som misstänktes ha fött näckens monstruösa avkomma. ”Trollkarlen” Peder Jönsson avrättades tio år senare för könsumgänge och pakt med sjörået. Soldaten Sven Jönsson bekände 1707 samlag med skogsrået. Men, undrade en domstol, var väsendet ande, människa, djur – eller monster?

Att ligga med gestalter som näcken och skogsrået betydde samlag med Djävulen eller hans demoner – så resonerade kyrkan och staten i Sverige under 1600-talet och delvis även 1700-talet. Naturväsen hamnade i spänningsfälten mellan Gud och Djävulen, naturligt och onaturligt, mänskligt och djuriskt, andligt och kroppsligt, manligt och kvinnligt, verkligt och overkligt. Vad som i folktron kunde vara en kontakt med naturens magiska makter blev officiellt ett demoniskt brott mot naturens gudagivna ordning.

Genom rättsprotokoll, teologiska och naturfilosofiska skrifter, ballader, sägner och andra källor har Mikael Häll undersökt en tid där människor kunde dömas till döden för berättelser om älskog med naturväsen.

Mikael Häll är historiker, verksam vid Historiska institutionen vid Lunds universitet. Skogsrået, näcken och Djävulen är hans doktorsavhandling och den första boken med 1600- och 1700-talens svenska naturväsensföreställningar som huvudområde. (Less)
Abstract
This dissertation examines conceptions of erotic nature spirits and their association with demonic sexuality in 17th and 18th century Sweden. Its purpose is to reconstruct the various cultural and symbolic meanings which such notions had for the society of the day. Cultural history and the analytical concepts culture(s), liminality and figures of thought provide the general framework of the study. The primary sources are judicial records, folktales, ballads, sagas, and works of theology and natural philosophy. For example, the trial records, although sparse, show that people could be sentenced to death for alleged sexual contacts with nature spirits.

In the storytelling tradition of tales and ballads, the themes of erotic nature... (More)
This dissertation examines conceptions of erotic nature spirits and their association with demonic sexuality in 17th and 18th century Sweden. Its purpose is to reconstruct the various cultural and symbolic meanings which such notions had for the society of the day. Cultural history and the analytical concepts culture(s), liminality and figures of thought provide the general framework of the study. The primary sources are judicial records, folktales, ballads, sagas, and works of theology and natural philosophy. For example, the trial records, although sparse, show that people could be sentenced to death for alleged sexual contacts with nature spirits.

In the storytelling tradition of tales and ballads, the themes of erotic nature spirits often represented a seductive, unbridled and bewitching sexuality. Nature became “the Other”; a counter-image or dark mirror image to cultural order. The beings, envisaged as personifications and/or mediums of the superhuman powers of nature, were associated with liminal experiences relating to crucial circumstances in people’s lives – magic, marriage, betrothal, sexuality, pregnancy, gender-roles, alienation, deformity, disease, death, and so forth.

In the 1600s, the Swedish authorities strove to consolidate the Reformation by making orthodox Lutherans of their subjects. As the battle between God and the Devil was emphasized, popular magic and extramarital sexual acts were severely prohibited and prosecuted. According to most theologians, sleeping with a nature spirit meant abominable copulation with a demonic apparition; an incubus or a succubus. While, for example, certain natural philosophers had different ideas about nature spirits, this notion was considered plausible well into the 1700s. Folktales and trial confessions show more ambiguous conceptions of such beings. Individual worldviews informed by popular mythology and the necessities of survival were more malleable than the prescribed Christian faith. When it came to magically influencing nature, or taking the blame for misdeeds and misfortunes, nature spirits (and devils) could be perceived as more appropriate allies, or scapegoats, than God. Copulating with them could be envisioned as sealing a bond or pact with the magical powers of nature. Lacking express laws on such intercourse, Swedish courts summoned theologians as expert advisors, cited foreign legal commentaries addressing fornication with the Devil as a “sodomitical” vice against nature, and occasionally judged the crime according to existing laws on bestiality. During the 1700s, scholars gradually adopted a more sceptical approach to folklore and confessions of supernatural encounters, ultimately resulting in the authorities rejecting professed contacts with nature spirits and demons as mere superstitious delusions. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
supervisor
opponent
  • Docent Lennersand, Marie, Riksarkivet
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
nature spirit, demon, sexuality, devil, forest nymph, water spirit, troll, monster, incubus, succubus, magic, early modern, Sweden, popular belief, folklore, demonology, natural philosophy, witchcraft, bestiality, reformation, religion, crime, sin
pages
588 pages
publisher
Malört förlag
defense location
Sal 3, Historiska institutionen, Lunds universitet, Magle stora kyrkogata 12A, Lund
defense date
2013-03-15 10:15
ISBN
978-91-978751-2-7
language
Swedish
LU publication?
yes
id
e24f411b-f441-4632-a30d-0043a6179606 (old id 3459440)
date added to LUP
2013-02-08 10:50:26
date last changed
2016-09-19 08:45:02
@misc{e24f411b-f441-4632-a30d-0043a6179606,
  abstract     = {This dissertation examines conceptions of erotic nature spirits and their association with demonic sexuality in 17th and 18th century Sweden. Its purpose is to reconstruct the various cultural and symbolic meanings which such notions had for the society of the day. Cultural history and the analytical concepts culture(s), liminality and figures of thought provide the general framework of the study. The primary sources are judicial records, folktales, ballads, sagas, and works of theology and natural philosophy. For example, the trial records, although sparse, show that people could be sentenced to death for alleged sexual contacts with nature spirits.<br/><br>
In the storytelling tradition of tales and ballads, the themes of erotic nature spirits often represented a seductive, unbridled and bewitching sexuality. Nature became “the Other”; a counter-image or dark mirror image to cultural order. The beings, envisaged as personifications and/or mediums of the superhuman powers of nature, were associated with liminal experiences relating to crucial circumstances in people’s lives – magic, marriage, betrothal, sexuality, pregnancy, gender-roles, alienation, deformity, disease, death, and so forth.<br/><br>
In the 1600s, the Swedish authorities strove to consolidate the Reformation by making orthodox Lutherans of their subjects. As the battle between God and the Devil was emphasized, popular magic and extramarital sexual acts were severely prohibited and prosecuted. According to most theologians, sleeping with a nature spirit meant abominable copulation with a demonic apparition; an incubus or a succubus. While, for example, certain natural philosophers had different ideas about nature spirits, this notion was considered plausible well into the 1700s. Folktales and trial confessions show more ambiguous conceptions of such beings. Individual worldviews informed by popular mythology and the necessities of survival were more malleable than the prescribed Christian faith. When it came to magically influencing nature, or taking the blame for misdeeds and misfortunes, nature spirits (and devils) could be perceived as more appropriate allies, or scapegoats, than God. Copulating with them could be envisioned as sealing a bond or pact with the magical powers of nature. Lacking express laws on such intercourse, Swedish courts summoned theologians as expert advisors, cited foreign legal commentaries addressing fornication with the Devil as a “sodomitical” vice against nature, and occasionally judged the crime according to existing laws on bestiality. During the 1700s, scholars gradually adopted a more sceptical approach to folklore and confessions of supernatural encounters, ultimately resulting in the authorities rejecting professed contacts with nature spirits and demons as mere superstitious delusions.},
  author       = {Häll, Mikael},
  isbn         = {978-91-978751-2-7},
  keyword      = {nature spirit,demon,sexuality,devil,forest nymph,water spirit,troll,monster,incubus,succubus,magic,early modern,Sweden,popular belief,folklore,demonology,natural philosophy,witchcraft,bestiality,reformation,religion,crime,sin},
  language     = {swe},
  pages        = {588},
  publisher    = {ARRAY(0x8e05e40)},
  title        = {Skogsrået, näcken och Djävulen : erotiska naturväsen och demonisk sexualitet i 1600- och 1700-talens Sverige},
  year         = {2013},
}