Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Possession in the Middle Ages / Edition 1 by Nancy Mandeville Caciola | 9780801473340 | Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Possession in the Middle Ages / Edition 1

Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Possession in the Middle Ages / Edition 1

by Nancy Mandeville Caciola
     
 

ISBN-10: 0801473349

ISBN-13: 9780801473340

Pub. Date: 07/01/2006

Publisher: Cornell University Press

Trance states, prophesying, convulsions, fasting, and other physical manifestations were often regarded as signs that a person was seized by spirits. In a book that sets out the prehistory of the early modern European witch craze, Nancy Caciola shows how medieval people decided whom to venerate as a saint infused with the spirit of God and whom to avoid as a

Overview

Trance states, prophesying, convulsions, fasting, and other physical manifestations were often regarded as signs that a person was seized by spirits. In a book that sets out the prehistory of the early modern European witch craze, Nancy Caciola shows how medieval people decided whom to venerate as a saint infused with the spirit of God and whom to avoid as a demoniac possessed of an unclean spirit. This process of discrimination, known as the discernment of spirits, was central to the religious culture of Western Europe between 1200 and 1500.

Since the outward manifestations of benign and malign possession were indistinguishable, a highly ambiguous set of bodily features and behaviors were carefully scrutinized by observers. Attempts to make decisions about individuals who exhibited supernatural powers were complicated by the fact that the most intense exemplars of lay spirituality were women, and the "fragile sex" was deemed especially vulnerable to the snares of the devil. Assessments of women's spirit possessions often oscillated between divine and demonic interpretations. Ultimately, although a few late medieval women visionaries achieved the prestige of canonization, many more were accused of possession by demons.

Caciola analyzes a broad array of sources from saints' lives to medical treatises, exorcists' manuals to miracle accounts, to find that observers came to rely on the discernment of bodies rather than seeking to distinguish between divine and demonic possession in purely spiritual terms.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801473340
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
07/01/2006
Series:
Conjunctions of Religion and Power in the Medieval Past Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
1,241,312
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.20(d)

Table of Contents

Introduction

PART I. "A PROTRACTED DISPUTATION"

1. Possessed Behaviors
2. Ciphers

PART II: SPIRITUAL PHYSIOLOGIES

3. Fallen Women and Fallen Angels
4. Breath, Heart, Bowels

PART III. DISCERNMENT AND DISCIPLINE

5. Exorcizing Demonic Disorder
6. Testing Spirits in the Effeminate Age

Index

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