Mainz Contributions to Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology

Published by the Gesellschaft für Volkskunde in Rheinland-Pfalz

Volumes 1 to 24 of this series were published under the name ‘Mainzer Beiträge zur Kulturanthropologie/Volkskunde’.
The series ‘Mainzer Beiträge zur Kulturanthropologie/Europäischen Ethnologie’ (Mainz Contributions to Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology) reflects the research focus of the Subject Area. It mainly publishes qualification theses and the results of conferences in the form of anthologies. The Mainz Contributions combine ethnologically oriented, comparative and historically argued contemporary science with the cultural analysis of the regional. The focus is on the perspectives of actors and their efforts and strategies to shape everyday life and to meet its challenges and problems. The series ‘Mainzer Beiträge zur Kulturanthropologie/Europäischen Ethnologie’ (Ethnology) is published by the Gesellschaft für Volkskunde in Rheinland-Pfalz e. V.


The Hanselfingerhut Game in Forst. Ethnographic Portrait and Cultural-Historical Reconstruction of a Custom (with film) (2023)

Thomas Schneider and Mirko Uhlig

Forst an der Weinstraße – the town in the Palatinate is known primarily for its white wines. In addition, apart from the interruption due to Corona, the Hanselfingerhut game is performed in Forst every year before Easter. The custom gained nationwide fame when it was included in UNESCO’s ‘Federal Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage’ in 2016.
As part of a research project, the local customary practice was accompanied by film cameras, and the genesis of the custom as well as its cultural-political negotiation were analysed from a cultural studies perspective. While the ethnographic film ‘Schwarze Küsse, Weißweinschorle’ (‘Black Kisses, White Wine Spritzer’; 48 minutes; download link in the book) portrays the people who prepare and practise the custom, the focus of the written discussion is on a cultural-historical reconstruction of the origin narrative as it is cultivated in Forst, reproduced by the media and, in the context of the cultural heritage predicate, also ennobled by the German UNESCO Commission.
The micro-analysis points to larger temporal, spatial and social contexts and makes them understandable in the case of Forst. The reconstruction shows which actors were involved in the development of the custom since the end of the nineteenth century and which influencing factors promoted the development of the custom complex.

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Ethnographic Explorations in the Football Stadium. Culinary Fan Delights between Pleasure, Community, Conscience and Health (2022)

Jaya Bowry

Among the snack offerings in German football stadiums, bratwurst and beer dominate. For many, this connection seems to be so self-evident that there is even talk of football sausage or stadium sausage. While there is now a number of alternatives to buy at football events – even vegetarian and vegan meals – these tend to be niche products. Why is that? How did it come about? And what explains the fact that visitors to football stadiums prefer to consume fatty meat and alcohol while watching 22 well-trained people play sport?

This study seeks answers to these questions. In doing so, the different levels of meaning of food and beverage are shown using the example of stadium catering and thus in the context of a commercialised major event. The explanations are based on ethnographic explorations on site, in which attention was paid to the symbolisms and narratives of food and drink, and the aim was to investigate how culinary fan pleasures can be interpreted between the experience of pleasure, a sense of community, the need for conscience and ideas of health.

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Wilhelm Mannhardt and the Beginnings of Folklore. New Ways of Knowledge Production in the Nineteenth Century (2022)

Theresa Perabo

At the centre of this study in the history of science is Wilhelm Mannhardt, a nineteenth-century researcher whose early empirical work is relevant to the disciplinary self-understanding of folklore and its successor sciences but is hardly known any more. The renewed examination is oriented towards the approaches of modern scientific research, namely Bruno Latour and his research-practical imperative ‘science in action’, in order to make everyday scientific life visible from an emic perspective as a past reality of execution and to present it in a dense description. The basis of the study is formed by newly discovered or hitherto hardly considered archival material from all over Europe as well as Mannhardt’s scientific estate, which is kept in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. The diverse material is historically contextualised, analysed, interpreted and reflected on its current significance for modern research.
In addition, two hitherto unknown writings from Mannhardt’s estate – ‘Über das Studium der Volksüberlieferung’ and ‘Moderne Sagenbildungen’ – have been edited for the first time in the appendix of this book.

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Festival, Event, Spectacle? On the Staging of the Venetian Carnival in the Context of Social Transformation Processes (2021)

Julia Gehres

Venice and its Carnival were a great attraction for travellers from all over Europe in the pre-modern era. After the fall of the Republic in 1797, however, the festival lost its importance. It was not until the end of the 1970s that the event was revived in a lasting and high-profile way.

This study reconstructs the history of the Venetian Carnival and sheds light on the most recent development trends in particular. Based on a process of observation over several years, the relevance of the festival for the city’s inhabitants is thematised, its tourist marketing is described and its staging as a (post)modern event is analysed.

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‘Exercise is the Best Medicine’: Everyday Cultural Studies Research on the German Sports Federation’s Trimm Campaign (2021)

Andrea Sell

In 1970, the German Sports Federation launched a large-scale advertising campaign for recreational sports. Under the motto ‘Trimm Dich durch Sport’ (Trim Yourself through Sport), German citizens were to be encouraged to exercise more. The background for this initiative was formed by contemporary discourses on meaningful leisure-time activities and the general state of health in the population. What measures were taken at that time to encourage busy people with their affluent bellies to take part in sport? What values were associated with such sport for everyone from then on? In the interplay of different groups of sources, this study attempts to reconstruct this action, which was once accompanied by great media attention, and to record its significance for the development of recreational sport in the second half of the twentieth century.

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Audio-Visions of Everyday Life. Source Value and Further Media Use (2020)

Michael Simon (ed.)

Moving images and media-mediated sounds shape our modern everyday cultures in an almost unimaginable way. While it used to be the business of a few experts to produce and distribute such offerings, since the digital revolution practically anyone can create and circulate them themselves. For the successor sciences of folklore/Volkskunde, these ‘audio visions of everyday life’ open up an attractive wealth of sources that invites historical and contemporary research.

This volume brings together the contributions to a conference of the dgv Commission for Film and Audiovisual Anthropology, at which questions about the value of sources and the further use of corresponding testimonies in the media were discussed in depth. The texts are by Christoph Bareither, David Johannes Berchem, Andrea Graf, Sonja Grulke, Dagmar Hänel, Johanne Lefeldt, Lisa Maubach, Torsten Näser, Thomas Schneider, Gerhard Schönhofer, Michael Simon and Raphael Thörmer.

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Rightly Religious? Cultural Studies Perspectives on the Relationship between Religion and Legal Standardisation in Everyday Life (2020)

Mirko Uhlig, Dominique Conte (eds.)

The essays included in this volume focus on the interdisciplinary reflection of the relationship between religious/spiritual practices and different legal systems as well as popular conceptions of law and jurisprudence in everyday negotiation contexts. Concrete examples from the past and present are used to explore this complex network of relationships.

The anthology documents the fourth conference of the Commission for Religiosity and Spirituality in the German Society for Folklore/Deutsche Gesellschaft für Volkskunde (dgv) and combines contributions from ethnology, German studies, Islamic studies, law, religious studies, sociology and cultural anthropology/ethnology. The texts are by Sarah Armbruster, Wolfgang Brückner, Hatem Elliesie, Juliane Kanitz, Petra Klug, Ingrid Lemberg, Andrea Nicolas, Stefan Schröder, Barbara Sieferle, Robert Suckro and Mirko Uhlig.

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The introduction by Mirko Uhlig is available here as a download

Everyday Life in Diversity. An Ethnographic Study in Brooklyn

Johanne Lefeldt

This study focuses on Kensington, at first glance an inconspicuous borough in Brooklyn, New York. Kensington became the subject and study space of several months of field research because it is characterised by an extraordinary level of diversity. The aim of the ethnographic explorations was to understand how difference is experienced locally and how it shapes interpersonal interaction.

Taking into account local and city-related specifics as well as global developments, the study provides a deeper insight into the concrete form of coexistence of people of different origins and cultures and makes the multiple, situationally conditioned constellations of relationships of everyday life in diversity visible.

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At the Grassroots of Politics. Ethnographic Explorations in a Local Party District

Jonathan Roth

Politics is facing a crisis of legitimacy. In the age of ‘post-democracy’, there is no shortage of critical descriptions of the state of affairs that focus on the increasing alienation of the so-called popular parties from the reality of citizens’ lives. Declining membership numbers, recruitment bottlenecks and falling voter turnout contrast with the public self-dramatisation of parties in election campaigns. However, both say little about the actual state of the parties. How does party life work today? What motivates hundreds of thousands of grassroots members to volunteer in local associations? What is everyday political life like in a local party district?

These are the questions addressed in Jonathan Roth’s study. With the help of a qualitative-ethnographic field approach, he uses the example of an SPD sub-district to examine current forms and meanings of local party work in the age of professionalised media democracy. In this way, an account of local political engagement is sketched, which, in contrast to conventional treatises, is not oriented towards organisational structures but towards the actual everyday actions of party members at the grassroots level of politics.

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Migration and Generation. Folkloristic-Ethnological Perspectives on Eastern Europe

Sarah Scholl-Schneider, Moritz Kropp (eds.)

The historical turning points of 1945 and 1989/1990 have led to massive upheavals, especially in Eastern Europe – not only in terms of the emergence of specific generations, but above all in relation to migration processes. However, thinking of the two aspects together quickly leads to blanket labelling of the affected social groups, for example as the ‘experience generation’, ‘generation 1.5’ or ‘second generation’. This, however, obscures the view of the actors themselves.

The focus of this volume is therefore the attempt to trace, understand and interpret perspectives on migration and generation close to the people. In addition to biographical experiences and narratives, the focus is also on the respective framework conditions and contexts of potential collective-biographically formative processes of dynamics and change in Eastern Europe and beyond. In the eleven contributions, not only the contingency of dealing with migration experiences by individual generations becomes clear but also the extent to which family, spatial, political and, not least, academic contexts influence them.

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Korean War Memories. Intercultural Perspectives on Dealing with the Past in South Korea


Sandra Keßler

Korea is a divided country whose internal border became fixed with the outcome of the Korean War (1950–1953). Since then, contact and exchange between the people of North and South Korea have been almost impossible. How do Koreans today remember their war deployment in their own country? What do aging war veterans talk about, even in the face of the continuing division of the country, which after all the war sought to overcome? And what effects does intercultural conversation between Korean men, who are about eighty years old, and a significantly younger German researcher have on the linguisticisation of their memory narratives? The volume ‘Korean War Memories’ transfers methods and theories of cultural anthropological narrative and biographical research to the East Asian context. It deals with Korean memory culture as well as with how people deal with war and post-war, and refers to diversity experiences in field research in South Korea.

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The Legacy of the Morloks. Investigations into the Work of a Healer Dynasty in the Northern Black Forest

IllustrationAnne-Christin Lux

This investigation was inspired by the discovery of an extraordinary corpus of manuscripts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was found on an old farm in the northern Black Forest. There, this trove – consisting of recipes, blessings, incantations, amulets as well as magical-sympathetic instructions – had once been carefully hidden. It is known that it originated from the Morlok family, some of whose representatives worked as healers or lay practitioners until the mid-twentieth century. Their work, which was not forgotten locally, was quickly taken up by the media after the discovery of the scripts and soon attracted national attention. The study on ‘The Legacy of the Morloks’ is therefore not only dedicated to the historical papers and their former owners, but also to the current reception of the healers’ past and its staging in the media. The discovered writings are carefully interpreted and contextualised, and their contemporary impact is analysed.

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Shamanic Sensory Concepts? Empirical Approaches to an Alternative Cultural Technique in the Eifel of the Present Day

IllustrationMirko Uhlig

More and more people in precarious life situations are turning to concepts beyond classical therapy offers. In what way and with what goals are these alternative sensory concepts used? To what extent do they help to restructure everyday life?

Contemporary shamanism, understood as a cultural technique in this sense, is often treated under generic terms such as ‘New Age’ or ‘esotericism’ – though rarely without pejorative intent. The biographies of the people interviewed, accompanied and portrayed in this book show that the ‘on-the-ground reality’ proves to be more ambivalent, more critical of society and sometimes more self-ironic than is generally assumed. In 21 case descriptions, very individual world views and habits are formulated and hopes, but also doubts, are expressed. The latter are not only directed against social imbalances or one’s own path in life but sometimes also against the project of an empirical approach itself. Thus, this volume also wants to contribute to the discussion about the possibilities of ethnographic practice.

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Press release, 16 March 2017

Experience – Name – Understand. Taking a Closer Look at Everyday Life. Studies in Honour of Michael Simon on His 60th Birthday

IllustrationChristina Niem, Thomas Schneider, Mirko Uhlig (eds.)

In his academic work, Michael Simon has, among other things, always been intensively concerned with the history of the subject of cultural anthropology/ethnology and has consistently pursued a self-reflexive ethnological approach. For all his critical distance, he has always been keen to arrive at constructive results that are capable of discourse. On the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, we are now taking the opportunity to present a bouquet of topics from the research fields on which he has offered discussion in the most diverse ways in the course of his academic career: interculturality, namology, history of disciplines and methods, medical culture research, visual anthropology, migration, war and everyday life, regional research, biographical research – to name the most important. Many of the authors of this celebratory volume take up the suggestions for academic exchange in their contributions while others point to thematic intersections between the fields of work of the person being honoured and their own academic interests – showing common ground and transcending disciplinary boundaries.

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Brettlehupfer. The Early Phase of Skiing in the Upper Black Forest (1890–1930)

IllustrationConstanze N. Pomp

‘About 2000 people came together, countless sledges. [...] The jumps of the Norwegians were great. The feast was very animated.’

These were the words used by Freiburg professor August Gruber to describe the tenth snowshoe races of the Black Forest Ski Club on the Feldberg on 4 February 1906. As his detailed notes prove, he and many of his contemporaries were fascinated by a new sport that had just found its way from Norway to the Upper Black Forest: skiing. On the basis of a broad collection of sources with many hitherto unknown testimonies, the present study attempts to trace the emergence of skiing for a clearly defined area of investigation and to show its development into a veritable mass phenomenon. The focus of interest is on ethnographic and everyday science, cultural and sports history, as well as economic and social science.

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Eugen Diederichs and Folklore. A Publisher and His Importance for the Development of Science

IllustrationChristina Niem

Several book series make the Eugen Diederichs Verlag interesting for folkloristic narrative research: ‘Die Märchen der Weltliteratur’, the ‘Deutsche Sagenschatz’, ‘Die deutschen Volksbücher’, ‘Atlantis. Volksmärchen und Volksdichtungen Afrikas’ and other thematic fields of the publishing programme lead to the question of the significance of publisher and publishing house for the history of folklore. The period between the founding of the publishing house in 1896 and Eugen Diederichs’ death in 1930 coincides with the institutionalisation of the discipline of folklore, in which the cultural publisher explicitly expressed interest and which he sought to promote. In addition to publishing books and series, which offered numerous folklorists forums for publication, Diederichs took other promotional measures, such as financially supporting a folkloristic lectureship at the University of Jena, which was held by Hans Naumann. This volume contributes to the history of folklore studies by pointing out contacts and cooperations between publishers and folklorists and by elaborating the intentions of the actors, especially in the field of folklore studies, as a contribution to ‘cultural development’.

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Concepts of Meaning in Precarious Life Situations. Interdisciplinary Views on Heterodox Phenomena of Healing and Their Functions in Everyday Life

IllustrationMirko Uhlig, Michael Simon, Johanne Lefeldt (eds.)

For many people, precarious life situations such as mental suffering, physical illness or confrontation with death promote a critical examination of socially prescribed interpretations and lead them to search for alternative concepts of meaning. Especially in the field of modern medicine, such confrontations between academic knowledge, traditional orders and individual approaches to solutions can be perceived with great clarity. They were the focus of interest at an interdisciplinary conference at the University of Mainz in September 2013, which centred around the human search for healing and cure. The aim of these selected contributions was to understand how, from the perspective of those affected and actors in crisis situations of human existence, meaningful plans of action emerge, are negotiated in a socially conditioned way and are implemented. This volume documents the results of the research efforts with essays from cultural anthropology, ethnology, medical history as well as psychotherapy, history, cultural studies and literature.

With contributions by Mita Banerjee, Dagmar Hänel, Christoph Leder, Johanne Lefeldt, Anne-Christin Lux, Florian G. Mildenberger, Martina R. Mühlbauer, Oliver Müller, Johannes Müske, Bernd Rieken, Uwe Schellinger, Michael Simon and Mirko Uhlig.

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Episteme of Romanticism. Folkloristic Explorations

IllustrationMichael Simon, Wolfgang Seidenspinner, Christina Niem (eds.)

On the occasion of its twenty-fifth anniversary, the Society for Folklore in Rhineland-Palatinate/Gesellschaft für Volkskunde in Rheinland-Pfalz organised a conference on the history of science in the Museum of the City of Alzey, the results of which are summarised in this volume. The contributions focus on a renewed examination of the Romantic era, which was of great importance for the development of folklore and whose after-effects can be traced to the present day at the level of society as a whole. The location of the event promoted the idea of looking for regional starting points for further research in addition to general papers – for example, on the society of the time, individual scholars and the reception of Romantic ideas. It made sense to focus in particular on the often glorified world of legends around the Rhine and its former inhabitants, the Romans, the Germanic tribes and especially the Nibelungen.

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The Bensheim Passion Play. Studies on an Italian–German Cultural Transfer

IllustrationDiane Dingeldein

In the southern Hessian town of Bensheim an der Bergstraße, a Passion play has taken place on Good Friday since 1983, in which costumed amateur actors re-enact the Passion of Jesus in the form of a procession. The idea came from immigrant Italians who, inspired by memories of the Good Friday events in their southern Italian home towns, persuaded people from their circle of friends and acquaintances – Italians and Germans – to take part. Over the years, the Good Friday play has become a tradition and attraction in the town of Bensheim. The aim of this study is to analyse the development, meaning and functions of this ‘young’ custom, especially with regard to the Italian-German cultural transfer that took place. Of particular interest is the extent to which the event, which is seen from the outside as being motivated by Christianity, functions as an integration factor for the immigrant Italian population. The results of comparative field research on Good Friday in the area of origin of the Italian bearers of the Passion play complete the analysis.

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Sport, Art or Spirituality? An Ethnographic Case Study on the Reception of Japanese Budō Disciplines in Germany

IllustrationDavid Bender

Numerous forms of recreation can be found in contemporary society in Germany, including the fighting methods of Japanese origin known under the term budō. Disciplines such as jūdō (wrestling), kendō (fencing) and kyūdō (shooting) can look back on a long history in Germany, during which various adaptations have developed. This study provides insights into the everyday life of practitioners. In addition to the theory and practice of budō, the function and sociocultural significance for the actors are empirically illuminated: What motivates individuals to engage with budō? What role does the training ritual play? How is the body treated? To what extent do exotic models influence the recipients’ lifeworld? With the help of ethnographic-qualitative methods, the author provides answers to these and other questions.

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2000 Years of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest – Anniversary of a Myth? A Cultural Anthropological Case Study on the Culture of Remembrance

IllustrationJonathan Roth

2009 was the year of an unusual anniversary: the 2000th anniversary of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest was commemorated nationwide with prominent participation. This event, whose historical traces have largely been lost, nevertheless acquired ‘mythical’ significance in the process of Germany becoming a nation, which was also the focus of public debate in the anniversary year. Based on the concept of commemorative culture, the author examines numerous activities that took place in 2009 around the theme of the Battle. Cultural events, museum exhibitions as well as products of a multimedia history market are analysed with regard to their mnemo-cultural symbolism and thus questions about dealing with history in everyday life are addressed.

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Interculturality and Everyday Life

Illustration Judith Schmidt, Sandra Keßler, Michael Simon (eds.)

This volume summarises the results of a lecture series held in the 2010 summer semester at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Representatives from various disciplines of cultural studies, linguistics and literary studies spoke about the state of research on interculturality in their field with the help of illustrative examples and pointed out the references of the concept to modern everyday culture research. A special feature of this lecture series was its conception and organisation by students of cultural anthropology/ethnology, who were interested in using the offer to shed more light on a current topic area of interdisciplinary research. The selection of texts is thus of a fundamental, introductory character for the examination of this complex of questions.

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Images. Books. Bytes. On the Mediality of Everyday Life


Michael Simon, Thomas Hengartner, Timo Heimerdinger, Anne-Christin Lux (eds.)

Media are an integral part of our culture. They represent everyday life, make knowledge available, offer meaning and provide options for action – and not just since the digital age. The interactions between everyday practices and their medial mediation in historical and contemporary perspectives were the topic of the Thirty-Sixth Congress of the German Society for Folklore/Deutsche Gesellschaft für Volkskunde, which took place in Mainz from 23 to 26 September 2007 at the invitation of the German Institute of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Department of Cultural Anthropology/Volkskunde, and the Society for Folklore in Rhineland-Palatinate. This volume provides a comprehensive documentation of the contributions discussed at the congress and takes into account not only the specialist approaches but also interdisciplinary and international approaches. The DVD published with the book also offers an insight into the online presentation accompanying the congress as well as excerpts from supplementary visual and spoken contributions that were produced for the congress.

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The Monster of Morbach. A Modern Saga of the Internet Age

IllustrationMatthias Burgard

Have you ever heard about the Monster of Morbach? This question marks the beginning of an adventurous tale that has been circulating for several years, especially on the Internet. The subject is the alleged last sighting of a werewolf in Germany, which is said to have happened in 1988 in the Hunsrück community of Morbach. The author of this study set out to track down this ominous monster. In doing so, he makes use of the instruments of folkloristic narrative research, investigates the phenomenon of legendary reports in the present and specifically examines the history of werewolves from antiquity to the present day. In the end, The Morbach Monster appears as a modern legend in old garb, whose function and spread are closely related to the presence of American troops in Rhineland-Palatinate.

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Investigations into the Mythology of the Child

IllustrationRichard Beitl

With contributions by Klaus Beitl, Thomas K. Schippers, introduction by Bernd Rieken and Michael Simon, editors

The Germanist and folklorist Richard Beitl habilitated at the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin in the summer of 1933 with ‘Studies on the Mythology of the Child’. Contrary to what one might think, his work did not fall under the influence of the Nazi ideology that was spreading at the time. Rather, he attempted to give an empirically based overview of the so-called child fright figures in Central Europe and to show what cultural scientists, psychologists, educators and parents can learn from each other in dealing with children’s fear. His explanations of the figures of lower mythology such as the Bumann, the bogeyman or the rye-mouse address not only linguistic-historical findings but also socio-cultural change from the middle of the nineteenth century to the end of the Weimar Republic and are still a remarkable historical document from the early academic phase of folklore studies. In addition to the historical aspect, the book also provides information on the question of the ethnopsychological significance of fear and magic in the child’s world view and is therefore also of general interest. After more than 70 years, it appears here in print for the first time.

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