The Bathhouse at Midnight
An Historical Survey of Magic and Divination in Russia
By (author) W. F. Ryan
Publication date:15 September 1999
Length of book:512 pages
PublisherPenn State University Press
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 texts.
The Bathhouse at Midnight will be invaluable for anyone—student, teacher, or general reader—with 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.
—Natalie Kononenko, Russian Review