The Bible in British Folklore


  • Brian Malley University of Michigan



British folklore, exorcisms, supernatural


This article surveys magical and mantic uses of the Bible as attested in British folklore reports, with an eye to developing a model of the Biblicist tradition as that tradition was received by the British laity. The evidence shows that (1) in contrast to the church’s emphasis on the Bible’s meaning, the laity exploited the Bible’s textual and artifactual properties as supernatural means to practical ends; (2) charmers made use of particular biblical (or taken-for-biblical) texts, whereas the Bible generally was used in exorcisms, which seem to have remained the purview of clergy; (3) lay traditions about the Bible seem to have been focused on specific issues, though a general uncertainty about what powers Bibles might have is also indicated.

Author Biography

Brian Malley, University of Michigan

Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan.


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How to Cite

Malley, B. (2008). The Bible in British Folklore. Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, 2(2-3), 241–272.