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 Caciola
     
 

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… See more details below

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. 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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801440847
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
10/15/2003
Series:
4/24/2007
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Nancy Caciola is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
List of Abbreviations
Introduction1
Pt. I"A Protracted Disputation"
1Possessed Behaviors31
2Ciphers79
Pt. IISpiritual Physiologies
3Fallen Women and Fallen Angels129
4Breath, Heart, Bowels176
Pt. IIIDiscernment and Discipline
5Exorcizing Demonic Disorder225
6Testing Spirits in the Effeminate Age274
Index321

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