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BESCHREIEN (compare English "beshrew"):

A Judæo-German word for lauding a person or thing to such an extent as to cause him or it to be harmed by malevolent spirits. This superstitious belief is of old German or Teutonic origin. Grimm ("Deutsche Mythologie," ii. 864) enumerates various terms, such as "berufen," "beschwatzen," "beschwören," besides beschreien, comparing them with "incantare" (whence "enchanter"), "carminare" (whence the English "charm"), all of which denote the exertion of evil power by means of certain words. Wuttke ("Der Deutsche Volksglaube," p. 155) casts more light on the subject; stating that what the evil eye is for the beautiful object exposed, evil speech is to persons or things lauded for some good quality. The superstition, he says, is rooted in the universal pagan fear of a deity begrudging man's perfect happiness, rather than in that feeling of humbleness which restrains man from boasting of his health, wealth, or the like. Little children especially are exposed to the evil influence of loud praise; wherefore it is customary, when children are lauded for their beauty, strength, or intelligence, to add the word "unbeschrieen" or "unberufen"—which means, "Let that not cause them to be bewitched." There are special formulas in use against such beschreien (see Wuttke, l.c. pp. 163, 264). Some use as a prophylactic measure the formula: "God protect him!" "Behüt's Gott!" The Jews adopted both the expression and the superstition from the Germans in the Middle Ages (see Güdemann, "Gesch. d. Erziehungswesens und der Cultur der Juden in Deutschland," p. 205). It has been claimed, however, that the ancient Hebrew greeting, "The Lord bless thee!" offered by the passer-by to the laborers in the cornfield at harvest time (Ps. cxxix. 8; Ruth ii. 4; Judges vi. 12) originated in a similar view, the blessing being intended to avert the evil influence of a begrudging glance or speech.

A. K.
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