Sip pictures

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A sheet of sip pictures with different motifs
Dinner slip with a versicle from the book of hours for the feast of the Immaculate Conception: Sancta Maria. In conceptione tua [o Virgo] immaculata fuisti ("In your conception, [O virgin], you remained without blemish")
Arch with twelve sip pictures of various images of grace of the Virgin Mary, around 1780
Sip picture sheet with cliché print of the miraculous image of Altötting, around 1910
A sheet of Schluckbildchen with the Mariazell image of grace, copper engraving from the 18th century
A strip of sip pictures for the cattle with a representation of the cattle patron St. Erhard . Engraving, 19th century

Sip pictures are small pieces of paper on which a cult image is depicted and which were used as religious folk medicine from the 18th to the 20th century . The believer measured the sip pictures as part of the “spiritual medicine cabinet ”, which he wanted to absorb by eating the little notes. Papers with text for the same purpose are called eating slips .


Meal slip

Meal slips were provided with sayings, names of saints , prayers or Bible verses that were abbreviated or modified into sigils . Occasionally, red paper was used. In Holstein , a person with fever was given a slip of paper with the inscription "Fever stay out / NN is not at home". In Protestant regions such as Württemberg , East Frisia , Oldenburg or Hamburg , the patient was symbolically allowed to eat his illness by writing his name, date of birth or a discussion formula on a piece of paper, putting it in bread or fruit and giving the sick person to eat.

Animals were also treated with handwritten or printed eating notes (feeding notes). So they were given little letters to eat against “raserey and deafness”; in the case of rabies , the effectiveness of the Sator formula was believed . In the Isarwinkel , the cattle were mainly given food labels against anthrax , which is why they were also called “brand labels”.

Printed food slips of this kind, which the churches have always called superstition , have hardly survived. Among other things, triangular shapes are mentioned in the literature, which were not only used for eating. In this variant, a word or a formula was repeated in rows, with one or two letters omitted at the beginning or end of each line. This arrangement expressed a desire for the disease to gradually decrease.

The surviving printed meal lists are remnants of mass-produced goods, such as those offered at pilgrimage markets. Such food slips were printed in whole sheets and were arranged like postage stamps. The lettering was either identical or alternated in rows. A copper printing plate has been preserved from the latter version, which was also known as the “Luke slip”. Sometimes food slips were printed on both sides, here the text on the front and back sometimes complemented one another. Such food slips are sometimes thought to be the oldest.

Sip pictures

Schluckbildchen were mostly square, rectangular or round in format and had an edge length of 5 to 20 mm. This made them the smallest form of devotional graphics. Small pictures from the end of the 19th century were partly larger, such as the version made in Einsiedeln (32 × 22 mm).

Sip pictures were also produced in sheets on light paper, with some sheets holding over 130 pieces. Both series of the same motif and completely mixed motifs were possible, but they were always kept in the same style.

Sip pictures are only detectable after the Middle Ages . Up to the 19th century, it was mostly copperplate prints , even if there were occasional (for example in Mariazell ) notes printed using the woodcut method. Later lithographs were used , and in the 20th century also photomechanical reproductions of old models.

Sip pictures usually show the Virgin Mary as a miraculous image of a certain place of pilgrimage , more rarely other saints or representations from Christian iconography, such as the noun sacrum or the titulus INRI . Often there is a lettering under the motif that names the place of pilgrimage or the saint depicted. Often an effort was made to take over details of the image of grace. The symmetry of rectangular, triangular, diamond, circular or elliptical frame elements concentrated the effect of the picture on the central motif. Means of expression such as halos and floating on clouds emphasized the transcendent character of the picture.

Manufacturers and sales

Food slips were sold not only by vendors at pilgrimage sites but also by quacks . It is said that in 1898 a “quack” moved around Saxony and gave sick sympathy notes with illegible scrawls for voluntary sums of 0.30 to 1 Mark. In 1913, a Saxon “miracle doctor”, who was known under the name “the Reinsdorfer Bergmann”, also prescribed Essbare.

Sip pictures used to be sold at all pilgrimage sites. Among the manufacturers there are names like:

  • F. Gutwein, Augsburg
  • JM Söckler , Munich
  • F. Pischel, Linz
  • Jos. Nowohradsky, Graz
  • Frères Benziger , Einsiedeln.

The "branding labels" used for animal healing were available from the Franciscans in Tölz . Schluckbildchen were sometimes a flourishing business of some monasteries. In the early 1970s, Schluckbildchen were still being sold in Mariazell, Naples and Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence . Swallowing pictures of Our Lady of Perpetual Aid were sent worldwide from Rome . The ethnologist Dominik Wunderlin, head of department at the Museum der Kulturen Basel , reported in 2005 that an unnamed convent in Bavaria was still delivering snippets of pictures at the gate.


As the terms "Schluckbildchen" and "Essschein" suggest, the main function was that of a spiritual medicine, in the Baroque period one also spoke of "gratia medicinalis". As a “paper pill”, the pieces of paper were soaked in water, dissolved or food was added to be swallowed by the sick. The incorporation of the little picture can be interpreted as a primeval, immediate form of taking possession, in which the image of the savior is permanently preserved. Both the ritual effort that had to be carried out to record the understanding of the image and the memory of the entire pilgrimage experience associated with the image increased the miracle effect. It was not diminished by the illegibility or failure to understand the text, which was sometimes even written in poor Latin. It is unclear whether parallels to the Eucharistic reception of the host were seen when the note was consumed .

Another - albeit less frequent - use could be found as an amulet , for example glued into weather blessings , Breverls or letters of protection. The use of gingerbread and other pastries as a simple picture decoration has also been passed down.

If necessary, small devotional pictures could also serve as a substitute for sip pictures. They were either swallowed whole or torn off small pieces that were soaked in water. You could also use the small pictures of the saints of the day, which were cut out of the so-called Manderl calendars .

Sip pictures were used in high religion as well as in simple folk religion. The Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith proclaimed on August 3, 1903 that "if superstition or the danger of superstition is excluded", nothing stands in the way of the use of dinner slips. According to Eduard Stemplinger, on the other hand, on July 29, 1903, the congregation expressly stated that it was not a superstition to swallow pictures of the Madonna on paper in water or twisted into pills in order to cure diseases.

Related objects

Mongolian meal lists

Food slips were known as "fever slips" since ancient times . The Carolingian Indiculus superstitionum refers to the consumption of an image of a god baked in bread.

In late Roman medicine, the ashes of burnt papyrus notes (“charta combusta”) were used as an ingredient for ointments and for oral or rectal medication. Such notes should, however, unfold their healing properties, both labeled and unlabeled.

Parallels to the food slips are shown by the “fever hosts” given out by the Minorites in Graz at the end of the 18th century . At the turn of the 15th century, wafers were also used as remedies, as the virtue of the Tyrolean Hans Vintler can be seen in the flowers : "Write Vil di waves on oblat / and use it to drive away the fever".

Another example are the clay Shabbadonns , which were widespread into the 20th century , from which material was scraped off and ate. The water with which relics and similar objects were washed off were used for the same purposes. The protection labels known as “ Passau Art ” during the Thirty Years War were sometimes swallowed in compliance with ritual rules.

As a printing block found in eastern Mongolia in the 1920s shows, food slips were also in use in the local culture. The printing block contains various Tibetan magic formulas with their respective uses on small fields of around 34 × 29 mm each. Apparently it came from Tibetan Lamaist folk medicine and possibly belonged to a Lamaist traveling doctor. Depending on the indication, the pieces of paper gave different instructions for use, such as "Eat it if you have the flu" or "Eat it if you have chest pain".

It is known from Uganda that at the end of the 1990s followers of a famous Christian charismatic preacher and miracle healer soaked his photograph in water and then drank it in order to absorb some of his healing power.


Web links

Commons : Schluckbildchen  - album with pictures, videos and audio files


  1. a b Richter, Col. 43
  2. St. Galler Tagblatt: Helpful food slips in the local museum ( memento from March 26, 2018 in the Internet Archive ), article from February 28, 2009
  3. ^ Adolph Franz: The church benedictions in the Middle Ages. Vol. 2, p. 454, note 2. Freiburg / Br. 1909. Quoted in Christoph Kurzeder: When things were holy. Lived piety in the Baroque era. S. 130. Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg 2005, ISBN 3-7954-1769-4
  4. Schneegass, p. 29
  5. Margarete Ruff: Magic Practices as a Life Help: Magic in Everyday Life from the Middle Ages to Today, p. 154. Campus, Frankfurt / Main 2003, ISBN 3-593-37380-7
  6. Richter, Col. 44
  7. Dominik Wunderlin: Popular piety in the past. Exemplarily shown on objects from the Dr. Edmund Muller
  8. Wolfgang Brückner: Eßschein. In Lexicon for Theology and Church. Vol. 3, Sp. 894. Herder, Freiburg 1993, ISBN 3-451-22003-2 .
  9. Lenz Kriss-Rettenbeck: Images and signs of religious folk belief. P. 45. Callwey, Munich 1963
  10. Philipp Schmidt: Piety on astray (= More-Kleinschriften, No. 32), p. 7. Morus-Verlag, Berlin 1955. Quoted in Richter, Col. 47.
  11. a b Eduard Stemplinger: Ancient and modern folk medicine (= The legacy of the old 2; 10), p. 65.Dieterich, Leipzig 1925.
  12. Walther Heissig : Healing by swallowing paper. In Walther Heissig, Claudius C. Müller (ed.): The Mongols. Vol. 2. Pinguin-Verlag, Innsbruck 1989, ISBN 3-7016-2297-3
  13. ^ Heike Behrend: Photo Magic: Photographs in Practices of Healing and Harming in East Africa. Journal of Religion in Africa 33, 22 (August 2003): 129-145, ISSN  0022-4200
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on April 12, 2007 .