The dissertation projects centers around several types of artifacts that have not been thoroughly researched yet for their common and especially 'text-anthropological' and praxeological aspects: The main focus is on leaden tablets or crosses with magical Christian inscriptions such as invocations of God and the heavenly powers, apotropaic formulae against devils and demons and/or excerpts from the bible and verses of liturgy. A recent survey has counted near to ninety examples of such objects from Central Germany, Great Britain, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean. As these objects were often overlooked or misinterpreted from an archaeological perspective, a further rise in numbers – also through a re-evaluation of older materials – is to be expected in the near future. Furthermore evidence from the written sources points to a use of non-durable materials for the same purposes. Therefore the known examples seem to be just the 'tip of the iceberg' and their scattered spatial distribution may be a result of local research history.
As the magical element of the inscriptions presents itself as a part of the religious life in the context of funeral rites and/or the protection of the living, other types of objects can be associated: From the High and Late Middle Ages there are numerous lead plaques or 'authentification tablets' naming the deceased and buried with him/her (German: 'Grabauthentiken'). They are mostly interpreted as a kind of 'personal ID' for a later reopening of the grave, but in several cases they also contain liturgical passages, invocations or creeds (in first person) and may therefore express eschatological views. Other associated artifacts are broken seal matrices from burials in southern Scandinavia as well as papal leaden bullae in French and English burials. The inspection of non-inscribed grave goods such as vessels for holy water and incense, leaden crosses and rods or traces of charcoal could as well lead to a more detailed picture of the religious practices concerning death and burial. Also pieces of costume and jewelry are of interested if they can be interpreted as protective or curative amulets, such as the so-called 'Thebal' rings. At least some of the leaden amulets were worn by the living, as is evident from perforations, textile traces, wear marks or indications in the texts themselves. It is unclear whether they were interred with the dead for continuous protection and/or because they were seen as taboo, and it is precisely this scientific viewpoint concerning the circumstances of their deposition in a grave that unites these types of objects.
During the project period the first step will be the collection of relevant literature as well as the generation of a material basis encompassing these types of objects. This artifact research will use, enlarge and revise the data base 'ODEGA' (hitherto containing more than 500 authentification tablets and related objects) which was begun during the first phase of the Collaborative Research Centre 933.
Through the inclusion of medieval written sources and imagery concerning the production of inscribed amulets as well as magic and 'superstition' in a wider sense, the development of funerary culture and the imaginations of afterlife the project finally aims at the analysis and interpretation of its centered artifacts according to the key terms of the CRC: What is the relation of materiality and text in these cases? Which actors and networks can be observed from them? Many of the selected texts give first-hand information about beliefs, hopes and fears of individuals. Therefore we can not only expect results concerning the relation between official doctrine and folk religion or magic, but also towards the milieu of practitioners and the expected efficacy of such objects as well as the changing formations of medieval religious practice in general.
Keywords: magic, middle ages, funerary cult, grave, lead, amulet, folk belief, ritual practice