Journal Article


The dragon as a household spirit: Witchcraft and economics in early modern and modern sources

Abstract

Many early modern sources from Eastern Germany and the Baltic area mention a household spirit in the shape of a flying snake. This so called dragon allegedly brought money and produce to its owner. Everything it brought it stole from somebody else. This household dragon appears in early ethnological literature, in scientific treatises and in witch trials. Early modern authors agreed that the household dragon was a demon in the shape of a snake-like monster. Even scientists who suggested alternative explanations for alleged dragon sightings failed to reject the demonological explanation outright. Alleged contact with such a dragon provoked a number of witch trials. Persons accused of being in contact with a household dragon were profit-oriented social climbers who had accumulated wealth quickly. Folk tales collected in the 19th and 20th centuries presented essentially the same motifs. In both, early modern sources and modern folk tales, dragon narratives were an extremely aggressive form of social criticism that condemned profit-oriented economic behavior.

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Authors

Dillinger, Johannes

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of History, Philosophy and Culture

Dates

Year of publication: 2022
Date of RADAR deposit: 2022-11-24



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