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Fraisketten, or Convulsion Chains

  • 19/04/2022
  • 18:00-19:30
  • Online talk
Chris Duffin (Natural History Museum) explores the Austro-Bavarian tradition of ‘Fraisketten’ or convulsion chains–polyamuletic chains combining items of religious and folk medicine origin.

Online talk, Tuesday 19 April 2022, 18:00

Fraisketten are strings of amuletic beads and other items, closely related structurally to rosaries. They are a distinctively Austro-Bavarian means of protection against ‘Frais’ – an ancient German term referring to all types of cramps, spasms, fits, convulsions and seizures, especially those associated with epilepsy, experienced during childhood. A Fraiskette chain combines items of devotionalia (such as crosses, pilgrimage medallions, reliquaries, breverl and bottles of holy oil), naturalia (such as various mineral beads, fossils, seeds and nuts, pieces of red coral, shells, teeth, mole’s feet, bird claws, polecat penis bones, stag beetle antlers and badger’s hair) and artificialia (such as coins and keys). They therefore represent uniquely personal amuletic safeguards and protections against childhood fevers, illustrative of local Catholic beliefs and perhaps recording family pilgrimages, syncretised with reverence for non-sacramental objects from country folk medicine traditions esteemed for their supposed prophylactic properties. Fraisketten were hung over the bedsteads of expectant mothers and young children, sometimes worn around the neck, and generally date from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Biography : Chris Duffin is a former school teacher, now a Scientific Associate at The Natural History Museum. He holds Ph.D. degrees in Zoology (UCL) and the History of Medicine (Kingston). A multi-award-winning palaeontologist, he has published extensively and edited a number of books. His folklore interests have mainly focused on the various cultural uses of a range of geological and zoological materials, particularly in medicine. He is currently President of the British Society for the History of Pharmacy.

Tickets £5.00 (£3.00 for Folklore Society members with the Promo Code: log in to the Members Only area to get the Promo Code): booking via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fraisketten-or-convulsion-chains-tickets-260189322267

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