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

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

by Euan Cameron


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199257829
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 05/02/2010
Pages: 448
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About 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.

Table of Contents

Part 1: Discerning and Controlling Invisible Forces: The Image of 'Superstition' in the Literature
1. The Problems of Pre-Modern Life
2. A Densely Populated Universe
3. Helpful Performances: The Uses of Ritual
4. Insight and Foresight: Techniques of Divination
Part 2: The Learned Response to Superstitions in the Middle Ages: Angels and Demons
5. The Patristic and Early Medieval Heritage
6. Scholastic Demonology in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries
7. The Demonological Reading of Superstitions in the Late Middle Ages: Areas of Consensus
8. The Demonological Reading of Superstitions in the Late Middle Ages: Areas of Difference and Disagreement
9. The pastoral use of the scholastic critique of superstitions
Part 3: Superstitions in Controversy: Renaissance and Reformations
10. Some Renaissance Christian Humanists and 'Superstition'
11. Magic, the Fallen World, and Fallen Humanity: Martin Luther on the devil and superstitions
12. Prodigies, Providences and Possession: the 16th-century Protestant Context
13. The Protestant Critique of Consecrations: Catholicism as Superstition
14. The Protestant Doctrine of Providence and the Transformation of the Devil
15. Reformed Catholicism: Purifying Sources, Defending Traditions
Part 4: The Cosmos changes shape: Superstition is re-defined
16. Demonology becomes an open subject in the 17th century
17. Defending the 'invisible world': the campaign against 'Saducism'
18. Towards the Enlightenment

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