The Bathhouse at Midnight

An Historical Survey of Magic and Divination in Russia

By (author) W. F. Ryan

Paperback - £33.95

Publication date:

15 September 1999

Length of book:

512 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271019673

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.

“A work of encyclopedic proportions, The Bathhouse at Midnight is sure to be the standard reference on Russian magic for years to come. For being essentially a catalogue, the book reads very smoothly. . . . Thus, this book can be read from cover to cover or, with the detailed table of contents and the index, it can be used to look up a particular phenomenon or beliefs. It will make a fine textbook, and for mature scholars, this is not only a valuable reference tool, but piece of scholarship very much worth emulating.”

—Natalie Kononenko, Russian Review