Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-pgkvd Total loading time: 0.425 Render date: 2022-08-16T08:44:46.590Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

12 - A magic universe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Valerie I. J. Flint
Affiliation:
University of Hull
Rosemary Horrox
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
W. Mark Ormrod
Affiliation:
University of York
Get access

Summary

The late medieval universe as viewed from England could be described as a magic one in many senses. If we may define magic as ‘the exercise of a preternatural control over nature by human beings, with the assistance of forces more powerful than they’, it was indeed magic, for much of the surviving evidence expresses a sincere belief in the activity of supernatural powers superior to man, yet sometimes answerable to him. Such belief was central to Christian orthodoxy, to the establishment of the Christian priesthood, to its liturgy and its sacramental system, and to much of its judicial system. It was also helpful to the survival of much ‘popular’ magic. To the people of late medieval England, clergy and laity alike, supernatural influences underpinned all the most important aspects of human life. They were the food of love, the salve for anxieties, the source of healing and the means both to worldly success and to the ruination of enemies. Religious leadership worthy of the name must therefore prove that it had a beneficent relationship with these influences. The universe was magic also in accordance with a more restricted understanding of the word: through the fact, that is, that magicians were to be found operating within it, many of them loudly condemned by the orthodox Christian Church.

The existence of this state of affairs may call into question the application of the term ‘magic’ to both, for the latter appears to be the enemy of the former.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)
1
Cited by

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×