The making of a charm collector: Alexander Carmichael in Uist, 1864 to 1882

Donald Stewart

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)


A detailed exploratory overview of Alexander Carmichael’s charm-collecting activities in the Outer Hebrides between 1868 and 1882. Carmichael is best-known today for the blessings, prayers, charms, and incantations he printed in the first two volumes of his magnum opus Carmina Gadelica (1900). The paper offers, for the first time, a comprehensive chronology of Carmichael’s recording practices regarding these items and an in depth survey of the individuals who gave them. From entries in field notebooks, later reminiscences, and associated manuscripts, we can often examine in surprising detail Carmichael’s relationships with island ‘cunning folk’, and how he succeeded in writing down from his informants what were often secret, private, and personal ‘words of power’. The paper is articulated through outlining a series of stages in Carmichael’s charm-collecting career. It concludes with a brief statistical appendix, and suggestions as to what Carmichael’s collecting practices might tell us about the charm genre in its broader context.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Power of Words
Subtitle of host publicationStudies on Charms and Charmings in Europe
EditorsJames A. Kapaló, Éva Pocs, William Francis Ryan
Place of PublicationPécs
PublisherCentral European University Press
ISBN (Print) 978-615-5225-10-9
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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