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Between the Devil and the HostImagining Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland$
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Michael Ostling

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199587902

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587902.001.0001

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Translating the Devil

Translating the Devil

(p.227) 11 Translating the Devil
Between the Devil and the Host

Michael Ostling

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the question of ‘translating the devil’ through a careful examination of the history of translation of incubus as latawiec. Biblical ‘sons of God’ and ‘goat demons’ (Genesis 6, Isaiah 13, 34), patristic sylvani, and demonologicalincubi (Augustine, Malleus Maleficarum) were translated with the Polish latawiec—a folk-demon and treasure-hauling familiar. Because all these creatures are supernatural and imaginary, each ‘translation’ constitutes a misrecognized act of ethnographic comparison, with ironic results: the devils of Polish witch-trials resemble the pugs and hobgoblins of western fairy-tales. The witch is similarly a product of translation, a creature of the intersection of local folklore, cosmopolitan literature, and Roman Law.

Keywords:   translation, ethnographic comparison, incubus, latawiec, Bible, folklore, literature

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