2019 International Congress on Medieval Studies Report

September 14, 2019 in Abstracts of Conference Papers, Anniversary, Announcements, Bembino, Business Meeting, Conference, Events, International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, POMONA, Reception, Reports, Societas Magica, Uncategorized

Report:  Events Sponsored and Co-Sponsored
by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence
at the 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies
9–12 May 2019

[Published on 2 June 2019. With the achievement of our Activities at the 2019 Congress, we offer this Report (Abstracts of Papers Included), while we advance with preparations for the 2020 Congress. For updates, as they evolve, please watch this space and our Facebook Page.]

Central Rock Garden at WMU International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo May 2019. Photograph Mildred Budny.

Central Rock Garden. Photograph Mildred Budny.

In 2019, the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence celebrates its 20th year as a nonprofit educational corporation and its 30th year as an international scholarly organization. Accordingly, we hold both customary and extra-special events, both at the Congress and elsewhere. For example, shortly before the 2019 Congress, we

We have a tradition of celebrating landmark Anniversaries, both for our organization, with organizations which which we share anniversaries, and for other events. As described, for example, in our 2014 Anniversary Reflections. For 2019, our events aim to represent, to explore, to promote, to celebrate, and to advance aspects of our shared range of interests, fields of study, subject matter, and collaboration between younger and established scholars, teachers, and others, in multiple centers.

Now we Report the successful accomplishment of our Activities at the 2019 Congress.

Who, What, Why Not

Logo of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence (colour version)As in recent years, we co-sponsored Sessions with the Societas Magica (2 Sessions). It is the 14th year of this co-sponsorship, and the first year of co-sponsorship with the newly-founded organization Polytheism-Oriented Medievalists of North America (P.-O.M.O.N.A).

Also, like the 2015–2018 Congresses, we held

  • an Open Business Meeting, with a convenient downloadable 2019 Agenda, and
  • a co-sponsored Reception.

As usual, we publish the Program for the accepted Papers, as their Authors permit. Abstracts for previous Congresses appear in our Congress Abstracts, conveniently Indexed both by Year and by Author.

Background and Foreground

Glimpses of our co-sponsored Receptions at the Congress appear in the souvenirs of our Celebrations and in the Reports for the individual Congresses (2016, 2015, and 2014 Anniversary).

Agenda for 2017 Open Business Meeting of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence. 1-page Agenda set in RGME Bembino.

2017 Business Meeting Agenda

Agenda for the 2019 RGME Open Business Meeting (May 2019)

2019 Business Meeting Agenda

The Agendas for our Open Business Meetings are available for your perusal:

These 1-page statements serve as concise Reports for our Activities, Plans, and Desiderata.

While we’re here: Interesting, isn’t it, that these Agendas have rapidly become one of our Most-Downloaded Offerings? Some of them now stand among the Top 5 Most Popular Downloads on our site.

The most popular downloads still remain our copyright and FREE multilingual digital font Bembino, and some Booklets from our Symposia and Colloquia. So far, those “best sellers” — they are FREE — include:

These publications, like most of our Publications, are FREE, but we welcome donations, both in funds and in kind, for our nonprofit mission, with the option of tax-deduction for your DonationsWe look forward to your contributions.

Plant Life to Greet the Congress Attendees. Row of Hostas alongside the Walkway. Photograph Mildred Budny.

Plant Life to Greet the Congress Attendees. Photograph Mildred Budny.


Sessions for the 2019 Congress

Logo of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence (colour version)I. Sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence

1. In the Absence of Manuscript Evidence:
Considering Lacunae in Manuscript Studies

Session 28:  Thursday, 9 May 2019, 10:00–11:30 a.m.

The Aim
Detail of recto of leaf from an Italian Giant Bible. Photography by Mildred Budny

Opening Title and Opening Words of Luke. Despoiled Large-format Romanesque Bible made in Italy. Budny Handlist 1.

While our organization’s abiding mission is to consider the material evidence of written records “as carriers of text, archaeological artefacts, works of art, layers of history, and monuments of culture” (as declared in our Mission Statement), we must wonder what happens when lacunae — whether from scribal intentions, accidental omissions, temporal vicissitude, or other means — alter or limit the topography opened by a manuscript.

For example, how have previous receivers and transmitters negotiated these lacunae? How do editors amend, elide, or underscore them? How do scholars interpret the gaps and silences occasioned by them? This session may explore some options and present telling case-studies.

Co-organizers: Justin A. Hastings (Loyola University, Chicago) and
Derek Shank (Research Group on Manuscript Evidence)

Presider: Derek Shank


Ian Cornelius (Loyola University, Chicago)
and James Eric Ensley (Yale University)
“The Lost Medieval Exemplar of Beinecke Library, Takamiya MS 23

Abstract of Paper

Sarah Connell (Northeastern University)
“ ‛How Dangerous — Sd Any Thing Be Ommitted!!!!’
Editing and Encoding the Almanacks of of Mary Moody Emerson

Abstract of Paper

[Please note: The 2019 Congress Program Booklet misspells Sarah’s surname in both the Program for Session 28 (on page 83) and the “Index of Participants” (on page 202). We correct the mistake here.]

Alessia Bellusci (Yale University)
“Jewish Pizza in Exchange for Invisibility:
Reconstructing a Recipe for Achieving Invisibility from an Early Modern Italian ̶Hebrew Codex and Its Earlier Analogues”

Abstract of Paper

[Note:  Alessia was not able to present her paper at the Congress.  This change to the program is reported here and in the Corrigenda for the Congress Program.  We continue to report her intended paper and its Abstract, with appreciation for her aim to contribute to this Session.]


Jack Wiegand (Center for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto)
“Text without Context, Context without Text:  Examining Absence in the Case of Grettisfærsla”?”” 

Abstract of Response

Discussion for Lacuna Session at Kzoo 2019. Photograph Mildred Budny.

Discussion for the Lacuna Session. Photograph Mildred Budny.

2019 Poster for RGME Session on Manuscript Lacunae at the 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo.

II. Co-Sponsored with the Societas Magica

Logo of the Societas Magica, reproduced by permission2 Sessions

2. Animals in Celtic Magical Texts

Session 390:  Saturday, 11 May 2019, 1:30–3:30 p.m.

A variety of magical texts in Celtic contexts include animals or animal imagery in their spells. The creatures range from snakes, beetles, and worms, to dogs, wolves, deer, pigs, and birds — and many other creatures besides. The texts range from individual Irish incantations and collections, as found in the St. Gall Incantations, the Reichenau Primer, the Stowe manuscript, and in the Leabhar Breacc, amongst many others.

Harley MS 1023, f 64v 6a013488b5399e970c01b8d0ec13de970c

© The British Library Board. Harley MS 1023, folio 64 verso. Part-page framed illustration in ink of the Eagle Symbol of Saint John the Evangelist.

Some mantic operations, like the imbas forosnai ritual detailed in the early 10th-century Sanas Cormaic, include the use of pig-, cat-, and dog-meat in their formulae, whilst the tarbfheis described in some literary texts required the slaughtering of a bull. Charms designed to repel rats and other vermin were also employed, including their use into more modern periods. The medieval literate record also contains many occurrences of animals in relation to the magical actions of characters, whether human or divine, or of “magical animals” of various sorts appearing as messengers, omens, or agents and characters in their own right. Whether animals or animal parts are used as components or metaphors, sacrifices or spoken formulae, narrative elements or desired outcomes, Celtic texts have ubiquitous instances of animal imagery and involvement.

Papers in this session consider theoretical approaches toward the material of animal imagery, thematic explorations of different types of usage of animals, or attempts to survey, catalogue, and analyze the nature of particular animal appearances in these texts and operations, as well as anything else which may relate to the broad topic of animals and Celtic magical texts.

Phillip Bernhardt-House Introduces the 'Animals Sin Celtic Magical Texts' ession. Photograph Mildred Budny.

Phillip Introduces the Animals Session. Photograph Mildred Budny.

Organizer: Phillip A. Bernhardt-House (Skagit Valley College – Whidbey Island)

Presider: Phillip A. Bernhardt-House


Ilona Tuomi (Department of Early and Medieval Irish, University College Cork)
“Rodents, Rhymes, and Rituals:  The Irish Tradition of Charming Rats (to Death)”

Abstract of Paper

[Note:  Katherine was not able to present her paper at the Congress.  This change to the program is reported here and in Corrigenda for the Congress Program.  We continue to report her intended paper and its Abstract, with appreciation for her aim to contribute to this Session.]

Katherine Leach (Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University)
“Horn of Stag and Skin of Snake:  Animal Ingredients in Late Medieval Welsh Medical and Charm Texts”

Abstract of Paper

Gregory R. Darwin (Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University)
“ ‘Le glór binn a cinn / thug sí an rón mara ón tuinn’:  The Seal in Gaelic and Norse Tradition”

Abstract of Paper

3. Embedded in the Mainstream: Ritual Magic Incorporated in ‘Legitimate’ Texts

Session 295:  Friday 10 May, 3:30–5:00 p.m.

Although texts of ritual magic circulated widely during the later Middle Ages, the opprobrium they attracted both elevated the risks for their owner-users, and limited the physical lifespan of the codices themselves when they caught the attention of Church authorities. Consequently, texts of ritual magic often survive not as independently circulating treatises, but rather as subsections of more innocuous-seeming treatises on other topics such as natural philosophy or medicine. This session aims to bring to light and discuss this particular sub-category of magical treatises, their transmission histories, and the intertextualities between them and their textual “hosts”.

Panel for Mainstream Session Kzoo 2019. Photograph Mildred Budny.

Mainstream Session. Photograph Mildred Budny.

Organizer: Vajra Regan (Center for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto)

Presider: David Porreca (University of Waterloo)


Claire Fanger (Rice University)
“Scriptural Dreaming:  Revisiting the Ecstasy Defense”

Abstract of Paper

Chiara Benati (Università degli Studi di Genova)
“Scriptural References as Legitimation Strategy in Late Medieval German Magical Formulas”

Abstract of Paper

Vajra Regan
Not Underground:  Learned Lapidaries and the Reformation of Ritual Magic”

Abstract of Paper


Michael A. Conrad (Kunsthistorisches Institut, Universität Zürich)
“In Plain Sight:  The Promotion of Astrology and Magic at Royal Courts in the Thirteenth Century in Transcultural Perspective (A Response)”

Abstract of Response

III. Co-Sponsored with the Polytheism-Oriented Medievalists of North America (P.-O.M.o.N.A.)

4. Classical Deities in Medieval Northern European Contexts

Session 237:  Friday, 10 May, 1:30–3:00 p.m.

Pigment on Canvas. Nicolas_Fouché, Pomona (1700), Budapest, Museum of Fine Arts, via Wikipedia Commons

Nicolas Fouché, “Pomona” (circa 1700). Budapest, Museum of Fine Arts. Via Wikipedia Commons.

After the suppression of polytheistic religious activities in the fourth century CE, some sites and images — and certainly citations in literature — of the classical Greek and Roman (and occasionally other Mediterranean) deities had a “second life” in places like Italy, Spain, Greece, and North Africa. However, even if imported and syncretistic cultus to these deities existed in more northern climes (including the former Roman provinces of Germania, Gaul, and Britain), the various Latin and vernacular literatures of the Germanic, French, British, and Irish peoples of medieval and later periods gave some of these deities a “third life,” and often one rich in interpretive possibilities for the learned authors who discussed them.

Whether the authors derived their knowledge of these deities from various classical, biblical, or patristic sources, the influence specifically of Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae, or their own re-interpretation of originally local practices, this tendency gave rise to such intriguing instances as

  • the Gorgons, Fates, and Furies being interpreted as celestial, terrestrial, and chthonic triads of sisters who were the daughters of Orcus in Irish commentaries on the Amra Choluim Chille (an elegiac poem for the sixth-century Colum Cille / St. Columba of Iona),
  • Snorri Sturlusson suggesting in the thirteenth century that Thor’s father was the Graeco-Ethiopian hero of the Trojan War, Memnon (who was worshipped in Egypt and elsewhere), and
  • many other intriguing re-uses of the classical material.

Papers in this session will explore these themes and thereby work to contextualize these reinterpretations historically, politically, and theologically, as well as via other vectors of analysis. They also seek to catalogue and to increase the visibility of these phenomena.

Organizer: Phillip A. Bernhardt-House (Skagit Valley College – Whidbey Island)

Presider: Daniel Attrell (University of Waterloo)


Galina Krasskova (Fordham University)
“Ravens in the Meadhall:  Pre-Christian Influences in the Hêliand

Abstract of Paper

H. Jeremiah Lewis (Independent Scholar)
“Dionysos in the Northlands: The Cult of Dionysos in Early Medieval Europe”

Abstract of Paper


Phillip A. Bernhardt-House
“P.-O.M.o.N.A.: Where Have We Been, Where Are We Going? (A Response)”

Abstract of Paper

Poster for 'Classical Deities' Session co-cponsored with Pomona at the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo 2019.

Pomona Session Kzoo 2019


Open Business Meeting

Thursday, 9 May 2019, 12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m.

Refreshments were provided, through a donation.

See its Agenda, downloadable here.

2019 Business Meeting Invitation set in RGME Bembino digitl font.

2019 Business Meeting Invitation


Anniversary Reception, with Hosted Bar

Logo of the Societas Magica, reproduced by permissionCo-sponsored with the Societas Magica

Friday, 10 May 2019, 8:30 p.m.

All are welcome.  Refreshments are provided, through our co-sponsored generosity.

This year, the Research Group celebrates 20 years as a nonprofit educational corporation based in Princeton, New Jersey, and 30 years as an international scholarly society founded at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in the United Kingdom.  We celebrate our hosts, donors, sponsors, contributors, volunteers, and friends.  Much to celebrate!

2019 Anniversary Reception Invitation. set in RGME digital font Bembino.

2019 Anniversary Reception Invitation.

2019 Anniversary Reception. View of the Room, filled with groups of people. Photograph Mildred Budny.

2019 Anniversary Reception. Photograph Mildred Budny.


Please Contact Us with your questions and suggestions. For our nonprofit educational mission, with tax-exempt status, donations in funds and in kind (expertise, materials, time) are welcome.


You might keep track of our updates also via our News & Views.

Already, we plan for next year’s activities at the International Congress on Medieval Studies.  Following our Call for Papers, we will announce the Programs for the Sessions.

Watch this space. See also our 2019 International Congress on Medieval Studies Behind-the-Scenes Report.