Enchanted Europe: Superstition, Reason, and Religion 1250-1750

Overview

Since the dawn of history people have used charms and spells to try to control their environment, and forms of divination to try to foresee the otherwise unpredictable chances of life. Many of these techniques were called "superstitious" by educated elites.

For centuries religious believers used "superstition" as a term of abuse to denounce another religion that they thought inferior, or to criticize their fellow-believers for practising their faith "wrongly." From the Middle ...

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Enchanted Europe: Superstition, Reason, and Religion 1250-1750

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Overview

Since the dawn of history people have used charms and spells to try to control their environment, and forms of divination to try to foresee the otherwise unpredictable chances of life. Many of these techniques were called "superstitious" by educated elites.

For centuries religious believers used "superstition" as a term of abuse to denounce another religion that they thought inferior, or to criticize their fellow-believers for practising their faith "wrongly." From the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, scholars argued over what 'superstition' was, how to identify it, and how to persuade people to avoid it. Learned believers in demons and witchcraft, in their treatises and sermons, tried to make 'rational' sense of popular superstitions by blaming them on the deceptive tricks of seductive demons.

Every major movement in Christian thought, from rival schools of medieval theology through to the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, added new twists to the debates over superstition. Protestants saw Catholics as superstitious, and vice versa. Enlightened philosophers mocked traditional cults as superstitions. Eventually, the learned lost their worry about popular belief, and turned instead to chronicling and preserving 'superstitious' customs as folklore and ethnic heritage.

Enchanted Europe offers the first comprehensive, integrated account of western Europe's long, complex dialogue with its own folklore and popular beliefs. Drawing on many little-known and rarely used texts, Euan Cameron constructs a compelling narrative of the rise, diversification, and decline of popular 'superstition' in the European mind.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Cameron's rigorous examination of the evasive subject of superstition makes Enchanted Europe essential reading for historians of medieval and early modern Europe...moreover serves as a timely reminder of the value of analyzing religion on its own terms."—IPreternature

"Enchanted Europe exposes a range of mental attitudes toward popular superstition, primarily from the points of view of churchmen attempting to sway one another in their arguments. ... Cameron's research proves extensive and profound." —Journal of American Folklore

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199605118
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/6/2011
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 488
  • Sales rank: 813,983
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Euan Cameron received his B.A. and D.Phil. degrees from Oxford University. He was a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford from 1979 to 1986, and a member of the Department of History of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne from 1985 to 2002. Since 2002 he has been Henry Luce III Professor of Reformation Church History at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he has also served as Vice-President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty. He is a member of the departments of Religion and History at Columbia University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Pt. I Discerning and Controlling Invisible Forces: The Image of 'Superstition' in the Literature 29

1 The Problems of Pre-modern Life 31

2 A Densely Populated Universe 41

3 Helpful Performances: The Uses of Ritual 50

4 Insight and Foresight: Techniques of Divination 63

Pt. II The Learned Response to Superstitions in the Middle Ages: Angels and Demons 77

5 The Patristic and Early Medieval Heritage 79

6 Scholastic Demonology in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries 89

7 The Demonological Reading of Superstitions in the Late Middle Ages: Areas of Consensus 103

8 The Demonological Reading of Superstitions in the Late Middle Ages: Areas of Difference and Disagreement 119

9 The Pastoral Use of the Scholastic Critique of Superstitions 135

Pt. III Superstitions in Controversy: Renaissance and Reformations 141

10 Some Renaissance Christian Humanists and 'Superstition' 146

11 Magic, the Fallen World, and Fallen Humanity: Martin Luther on the Devil and Superstitions 156

12 Prodigies, Providences, and Possession: The Sixteenth-Century Protestant Context 174

13 The Protestant Critique of Consecrations: Catholicism as Superstition 196

14 The Reformed Doctrine of Providence and the Transformation of the Devil 211

15 Reformed Catholicism: Purifying Sources, Defending Traditions 221

Pt. IV The Cosmos Changes Shape: Superstition is Redefined 241

16 Demonology Becomes an Open Subject in the Seventeenth Century 247

17 Defending the 'Invisible World': The Campaign against 'Saducism' 270

18 Towards the Enlightenment 286

Notes 317

Bibliography 423

Index 457

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