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Daemons Are ForeverContacts and Exchanges in the Eurasian Pandemonium$
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David Gordon White

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780226692401

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226715063.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 16 January 2022

Medieval and Modern Child Abductions

Medieval and Modern Child Abductions

(p.85) 4 Medieval and Modern Child Abductions
Daemons Are Forever

David Gordon White

University of Chicago Press

This richly illustrated chapter explores myths, folkways, and rituals involving the abduction of children, either in infancy or in utero, by female spirit beings, most often called “fairies” in Europe and mātṛs (“mothers”) or yakṣīs in India. In nearly all cases, these rites are performed or officiated by women. In Europe, it is thought that the abducted infant has been replaced in its cradle by an infant spirit being, called a changeling. In India, it is generally a fetus that is abducted and replaced in its mother’s womb, resulting in the birth of a sickly demon child. In both cases, protective fertility dæmons are called upon to aid in the recovery of the child. Attested with greatest frequency in western Europe (France, Belgium, England, Ireland, Wales) and western India (Rajasthan, Gujarat), rituals for the recovery of infant abductees generally comprise the following: the hanging of swaddling clothes at a dæmon’s forest shrine, in order to petition its intervention; the use of a cradle, basket or pouch as a ritual template for the return of the infant by its abductress; and the confirmation that the true infant has been returned by plunging it into the waters of a river.

Keywords:   fairies, changelings, tree shrines, cradles, women in religion, yakṣīs, goddesses, Catholicism, Buddhism, saints

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