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Lecture 2

Lecture 2 Sept 16.docx

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Jane Abray

HIS389H1F- Lecture 2- September 16, 2010 th 18 century decided no actual crime of witchcraft – can only be charged with pretending to be a witch - This stuff never goes away- how did people believe it in the past and today believe it as well? The Supernatural in Late Medieval and Early Modern Life 1. Definitions: - Supernatural: things that are beyond ordinary workings, that which is above nature, transcends nature, the marvellous and extraordinary. A second matter of demonology and theology. - Natural: the ordinary and physical part of God’s creation (according to late Medieval or Early Modern person). The way things work with no supernatural force, human nature, human daily lives way, nature and natural forces in the period are the subject matter of medicine and natural philosophy and thus regarded as a separate sphere of knowledge like supernatural. - Preternatural: a younger word, does not come into English language until 17 century, not a long life, do not hear it much anymore. It is a word you can use to label phenomena that you think are natural but nobody has yet got a natural explanation for them. It is something not supernatural yet we do not know how it works. th th - “Thinking with Demons” by Stuart Clark – argues that as intellectuals (16 and 17 century) tried to figure out how demons could achieve the effects they were supposedly achieving (how could a demon make someone fly through the air example) – moving a supernatural phenomenon out of supernatural category into things that have natural explanations. Explanations creep toward natural. By thinking about demons intellectuals shrink supernatural world and expand natural world creating a grey area of where we are not sure how they do it. Clark says that of all things, demonology appeared to be most supernatural, is one of the actual roots of modern science to explain how natural world works. Demonology put at centre by Clark. This book is good for the time period and how demons were thought about. - Religion / Magic- can they be separated, both tools for dealing with supernatural. Religion and magic do overlap in the period we are studying. Levack emphasizes on page 4 that we can tell religion and magic apart. He draws on sociology of religion and the founders of the sociology of religion(Sir James Frazer, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, Marcel Mauss). Religion involves believing supernatural beings that Christians can appeal to in order to ward off evil and receive positive gifts. The practice of a religion involves things you could propitiate to get into Gods good graces for example. Example with Christians and Garden of Evil. Propitiatory rituals are usually conducted in public, under direction of clergy (those trained), and if you are approaching the supernatural in a religious mode you are asking the supernatural being to help you. It is thus up to the being you are appealing to in order to decide how you will be answered. – The power with religion is the supernatural being (Christians- God) the person praying only makes requests, no control - Magic works differently! – If you approach supernatural as magical practitioner, you imagine yourself to be in control, to have control over supernatural beings and thus compel them to do your will. Magic tends to be practiced in private or with a few people; it involves secret rather than open knowledge and techniques. The one exception to being private or small group is something within the phenomena of early modern witchcraft and that is the witch-gathering called a “sabbat” which may have hundreds of people. But usually magic is secret. (Page 4 and 5) Levack points out on page 5 that magic and religion do overlap due to time period because of practices around supernatural with some activities clearly magical and some clearly religious, up to you to decide. - Everything in witchcraft is a parody of Christianity- or the reversal of Christianity. Strong anti- Semitism in witchcraft - Low and high magic- Low magic is stuff that you do not need a lot of training to practice, things you can pick up in own neighbourhood, known to the illiterate or village people, spells and charms aiming at practical ends. More connected with witchcraft and more common. High magic: requires intense study, practiced by literate, used magical books, use of elaborate rituals, foreign languages, numerical calculations and it has fancier aims. It aims at things like conjuring up spirits, making an angel or demon appear, asking them questions and making them do what you want, or the branch which is alchemy (changed substances). High magic might not be regarded as witchcraft but it has similarities and increasingly in the 16 century people practicing high magic became secretive because of risk of being accused of witchcraft. - Low magic- gender split while high magic is mostly male - Black and white magic Maleficium (plural, maleficia) - Black magic is the magic that aims to cause harm, whether high or low- means you are performing or want to perform maleficium: bad deeds – maleficia - White magic: magic that helps; ex. Remedy for disease- Is it ever alright? Magical cure?- Curing is a form of white magic, attempting to see in the future, using a magical technique to find a lost object etc. Practicing white magic is not necessarily okay because what makes you be able to do it. The suspicion lies in dealing with the devil. The conviction decreasing from 15 century onward is that any magic means consorting with the devil. 2. Seeking Supernatural Help through Christian and Magical Practices -Why? – if you were living in Europe between 1420’s and many centuries later, natural help may not be available for whatever you problem is. Many reasons for turning to the supernatural:  Realities of Early Modern Europe life- most people are poor, everybody is vulnerable to crop failure, loss of livestock, shortage of food, life expectancy at birth is low (1 in 4 will die before first birthday), no antibiotics to deal with infections, major pain killer is alcohol, chronic pain for toothache etc., pregnancy was dangerous, crippling, wild beasts, danger everywhere including supernatural dangers. * The official culture requires you to seek supernatural help. The bulk of the population are supposed to be Christian and turn to Christian remedies. Church monopolizes legitimate remedies but when they fail there are plenty others. Stephen Wilson, The Magical Universe: Everyday Ritual and Magic in Premodern Europe (London and New York: Hambledon, 2000) – study or compendium of Christian practices- magical practices, common between the fall of the Roman Empire in northern and southern Europe both. His term pre- modern is slippery, you cannot assume that the magic practices that early anthropologists said are similar th to 14 century. Therefore some is sceptical while some is dated. A lot of his material is late medieval or early modern- good source therefore on magical practices. Examples: protecting home in supernatural ways – parish priest would go around blessing houses at particular times of the year, bring home the palms on palm Sunday- protective talisman, priest to sprinkle holy water, protect the fireplace, use religious images, Celtic fringe: leave food out for house fairies. The workplace- gardens for women and fields for men- legitimate Christian supernatural ways to protect crops like getting the clergy to come bless the crops at time of sowing or before harvest, south central France would put empty eggshells with seeds in order to protect seeds from witchcraft. Fertility- crops, animals, humans Perigord, eggshells in the seed The weevils of St. Jean de Maurienne, 1545- vineyards attacked by weevils – people seek help from Bishops- prayers, repentance and taxes do not help, thus Bishops agree to hold a trial, they put the weevils on trial – hold a formal court case where weevils are condemned – formal written up court case- this is taken out to vineyard and read out to weevils (prayers etc.) but unfortunately Wilson does not tell us result. - Animals: ox, cattle, = forms of wealth, subject to conc
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