Religion and the Decline of Magic Studies in popular beliefs in sixteenth and seventeenth century England review Ô 107

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Rms of magic were challenged by the Protestant Reformation but only with the increased search for scientific explanation of the universe did the English people begin to abandon their recourse to the supernatural Science and technology have made us less vulnerable to some of the hazards which confronted the people of the past Yet Religion and the Decline of Magic concludes that if magic is defined as the employment of ineffective techniues to allay anxiety when effective ones are not available then we must recognize that no society will ever be free from i. I finished the 800 page witch bible and it only took me a week

Summary Religion and the Decline of Magic Studies in popular beliefs in sixteenth and seventeenth century England

Religion and the Decline of Magic Studies in popular beliefs in sixteenth and seventeenth century EnglandAstrology witchcraft magical healing divination ancient prophecies the Decline PDF #206 ghosts and fairies were taken Religion and eBook #240 very seriously by people at all social and economic levels in sixteenth and and the Decline eBook #10003 seventeenth century England Helplessness in the face of disease and human disaster helped and the Decline of Magic PDF to perpetuate this belief in magic and the supernatural As Keith Thomas shows England during these years resembled in many ways today's underdeveloped areas The English population was exceedingly. This is a collection of topical papers than a continuous book Some essays are stronger interesting convincing than others A couple even contradict one another leading me to suppose that the author wrote them some years apart But it is well written and certainly worth picking up if you are interested in this period or subject The central uestion as stated by the author is Why did intelligent people believe in magic In the category of magic Thomas includes astrology witchcraft magical healing divination ancient prophecies ghosts and fairies and other systems of belief now all rightly disdained by intelligent persons To answer this uestion Thomas employs anthropological methods basing his premises on the conclusions of anthropologists on African religious and magical practices His own sources are solely English but he posits that his observations and conclusions are not particular to England and could be applied to the rest of the British Isles and the Continent with similar accuracy Thomas argues in response to his own uestion that the practices he examines seemed to be discharging a role very close to that of the established Church and its rivals He posits that contemporary religion and magical systems of belief can be juxtaposed in order to illuminate one another He also attempts to explain the mental climate in terms of its relationship to the material climate Accordingly he begins his book with a section entitled Environment in which he lays out the characteristics of a pre Industrial society gives a demographic overview of Tudor and Stuart England and briefly describes its class distinctions educational standards and professional breakdown He describes this England as a dynamic and infinitely various society where social and intellectual change had long been at work and where currents were moving in many different directionsOne of the central features of the beliefs with which Thomas is concerned was a preoccupation with the explanation and relief of human misfortune This stemmed naturally enough from the insecurity of life under the hazardous conditions of the medieval and early modern world Life expectancy was low food scarce sickness freuent and often inexplicable Thomas identifies this helplessness in the face of disease as an essential element in the background of the beliefs Given the primitive state of orthodox medicine it is not surprising that many people preferred to rely on folk remedies or magical cures which likely had a similar success rate as well as being less painful and easier to comprehend Other threats such as crop failure fire and other natural disasters were also warded off by magical means Thomas points out that magical thinking was not a universal response to these problems; many people turned to alcohol as an alternative or additional source of comfortThe second section of the book The Magic of the Medieval Church opens with the assertion that Nearly every primitive religion is regarded by its adherents as a medium for obtaining supernatural power This does not prevent it from functioning as a system of explanation a source of moral injunctions a symbol of social order or a route to immortality; but it does mean that it offers the prospect of a supernatural means of control over man's earthly environment The history of Christianity offers no exception to this rule Thomas goes on to describe many of the superstitious practices relating to the cults of saints such as touching cattle with relics to ward off the murrain He offers this as an example of the manner in which the Church was perceived as a dispenser or repository of supernatural power in the form of grace prayer rituals and especially the sacrament This type of magical thinking Thomas writes in The Impact of the Reformation was attacked from the first by the Protestants especially Puritans who sometimes went so far as to denounce formal prayers and other rituals as witchcraft Many common people converted to this viewpoint rejecting the idea that religious rituals could effect physical changes and emphasizing the important of faith rather than miracles However it proved impossible to stamp out superstitious religious practices completely even among protestants Thomas suggests that many adapted the idea of Providence so that it in many ways replaced magic endowing natural phenomena and uotidian occurrences with prophetic or judgmental ualities and linking moral virtue or status of personal salvation to the earthly fortunes of the individualIn his analysis of witchcraft Thomas does not speak generally of the magical or superstitious practices previously described in his book such as astrology and other forms of divination Rather this term refers here to a specific type of magic which contemporary Englishpersons regarded as harmful or in modern parlance anti social Thomas defines this as attribution of misfortune to occult human agency Contemporaries imagined such agency to function in various ways and to cause various misfortunes but witchcraft's key characteristic way malice The evil intention and result distinguished witchcraft from other potentially beneficial forms of magic Beginning in the late Middle Ages this power was attributed to explicit demonic pacts thus compounding the crime by the addition of apostasy and devil worship In the minds of most Latin illiterate English people malicious activity remained the key conception of witchcraft; whereas on the Continent emphasis was placed on the role of the Devil English witchcraft trials focused on allegations of damage to property or persons rarely raising the issue of devil worship Of the persons accused of witchcraft a high percentage were found guilty of property damage but very few of invoking spirits or worshiping devils Judges were mostly likely to condemn when deaths had occurred and in these cases the conviction was often for murder rather than witchcraft; as matter of fact it was not until after 1600 that England even passed a law against compacting with the Devil In brief persecution of witches stemmed primarily from fear on the part of their neighbors not from religious outrage After 1736 witchcraft was prosecuted as fraud rather than magic; in the years preceding this legislation skepticism had so increased that trials for witchcraft had ceased although spontaneous lynching continued sporadically in rural areas This is in accord with the general history of witchcraft in England the demand for which generally proceeded from a popular level not from pressure by religious or political leadersThomas goes into considerable detail laying out the influences of Church teachings on demonology religious despair possession and the like and the effect of these on ideas about and belief in witchcraft He builds a convincing case for the relationship of these two bodies of beliefs but unfortunately does not explain why this topic remains important in light of his earlier assertion that the role of the demonic in witchcraft was a later and less influential addition to concern with maleficium Even after this religious exposition he adds again Witchcraft prosecution on England did not need the stimulus of religious zeal but a paragraph later conversely concludes that religious beliefs were a necessary pre condition of the prosecutionsThis type of contradiction is typical of the book as a whole Thomas weaves a rich tapestry and constructs many convincing and reasonable arguments The weakness of the book is his failure to reconcile these into a totality This difficulty may be explained by his inability to distinguish precisely in what way he sees magic and religion as distinct After all the term religion as described by Thomas does not inherently exclude magical belief systems Thomas never really defines his usage of the term but appears at times to use it simply as a synonym for the Church and at others even loosely as a belief system in which case it seems hard to exclude magic from the categoryThomas emphasizes at the outset the essential unity of the period between the Reformation and the dawn of the Enlightenment In light of his argument for the self confirming character of belief systems it seems reasonable that these systems would perpetuate themselves in the manner he suggests and yet portions of Thomas' arguments are based on the theories of the growth or decline of ideas and beliefs Despite his confident and authoritative tone he often seems unable to make up his mind

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Religion and the Decline of Magic Studies in popular beliefs in sixteenth and seventeenth century England review Ô 107 Ã ➿ [Download] ➽ Religion and the Decline of Magic Studies in popular beliefs in sixteenth and seventeenth century England By KeithLiable to pain sickness and premature death many were illiterate epidemics such as the bubonic plague plowed through English towns at times cutting the number of London's inhabitants by a sixth fire was a constant threat the food supply was precarious and for most diseases there was no effective medical remedy In this fascinating and detailed book Keith Thomas shows how magic like the medieval Church offered an explanation for misfortune and a means of redress in times of adversity The supernatural thus had its own practical utility in daily life Some fo. Remembering Nancy Reagan consulting Indian astrologers Cheri Blair's friend's enthusiasm for crystal therapy or the British Royal Families continued support for Homoeopathy it's hard to feel convinced that the seventeenth century saw a decisive shift in attitudes away from a belief in magic and towards a scientific world viewThat minor point aside the book remains an amazing account of something of the intellectual life of seventeenth century England The description of the role of astrology in the battle for moral and public support during the civil war period was in particular very interesting