Digital Humanities Research Seminar, 4.11.2021

Aleksi Moine, “The study of Northern Karelian charms through social network analysis”


Incantations were still part of everyday life in north Karelia in the 19th century; they had mostly a therapeutic function. The charmer negotiated with non-human agents and forces to heal a patient or protect cattle. These non-human agents formed a social network that entangled also the human agents, i.e. the charmer and the patient.

Early folklore collectors and researchers were particularly interested in the mythical knowledge of charmers and singers and collected, thus, a large corpus of incantations along other genres of oral poetry. These so-called Kalevala-metric poems were later published in the Suomen Kansan Vanhat Runot (SKVR) collection, which is now also digitised and available online ( This allows a quantitative analysis of the incantation texts, which is nevertheless based on a close reading of the texts.

In this presentation, I expose the methodological background of my PhD dissertation, in which I aim to apply social network analysis to the study of Kalevala-metric incantations. I examine the epistemological frame of my dissertation and especially the status of my research data, a corpus of 513 incantations collected in Ilomantsi between 1816 and 1939. I present also the concrete steps used to build a visual representation of the network of agents. I argue that this methodology has an important heuristic value and can bring new perspectives for a comparative analysis of Kalevala-metric poems.