From the bestselling author of The European Reformation
Charts the rise and fall of superstition in European history - from magical healing, spells, and divination, to the widespread belief in fairies and demons
Comprehensive and wide-ranging - explores the debate over folklore from medieval times, through to the Renaissance, Reformation, and the Enlightenment
Sets shifting nature of 'superstition' in historical context - from threat to 'true religion' to 'harmless' ethnic heritage
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 ist 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.