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Religion between the tenth and thirteenth centuries is a rich fabric of Buddhist and Daoist institutional warp threads interwoven with the weft of manifold local deities and religious practices. This period witnessed dramatic sectarian developments in institutionalized Buddhism and Daoism as well as an explosion of popular beliefs and practices.Official scrutiny of such religious activities at times led to suppression of what the state labeled “profane cults.” But there were few, if any, impermeable barriers between so-called “elite” and “popular” religions: clerical religions intersected with localized beliefs, and both personal and professional relationships between clergy and the scholar-official elite were commonplace. The economic and social transformations of the Song created new needs and relationships between spirits and supplicants, leading to what one scholar has called the “vernacularization” of religious practice. Buddhism intersected with empire, especially among the Khitan Liao and Tangut Xi Xia, the rulers of which promoted and patronized Buddhism. As new sectarian developments in Buddhism drew masses to congregational, faith-based practices, Chan monastic institutions also flourished. Daoism acquired influence at the Song court through patronage by more than one emperor, and experienced a renaissance through ritual reform and the transmission and canonization of religious texts.
Christianity was a growing religion in Britain from the 330s onwards, and Chapter 3 tackles the difficult question of the relationship between Christianity, Christianisation and godlings. The chapter examines the phenomenon of Christian demonisation of pagan cults, arguing that it was a more complex process than mere condemnation and suppression, which inadvertently produced the potential for the survival (and even reinvention) of some of the beings it targeted. Through comparisons with the better evidenced Christianisation of other cultures in Europe and further afield, the chapter develops an interpretative framework for the likely changes undergone by popular religion in Britain’s lengthy conversion period. The framework includes the likely ‘undemonisation’ of formerly demonised entities and the creative ‘re-personification’ of supernatural forces to account for the survival and reinvention of godlings in a Christianised society – where godlings should not be seen so much as ‘pagan survivals’ but rather as non-Christian artefacts of Christianisation.
Three basic forces dominated sixteenth-century religious life. Two polarized groups, Protestant and Catholic reformers, were shaped by theological debates, over the nature of the church, salvation, prayer, and other issues. These debates articulated critical, group-defining oppositions. Bystanders to the Catholic-Protestant competition were a third force. Their reactions to reformers were violent, opportunistic, hesitant, ambiguous, or serendipitous, much the way social historians have described common people in the Reformation for the last fifty years. But in an ecology of three forces, hesitations and compromises were natural, not just among ordinary people, but also, if more subtly, among reformers and theologians. In this volume, Christopher Ocker offers a constructive and nuanced alternative to the received understanding of the Reformation. Combining the methods of intellectual, cultural, and social history, his book demonstrates how the Reformation became a hybrid movement produced by a binary of Catholic and Protestant self-definitions, by bystanders to religious debate, and by the hesitations and compromises made by all three groups during the religious controversy.
This chapter explores popular and learned manifestations of an increasingly difficult neutral position at the height of the Reformation in Germany, in order to underscore and reassess the prevalence of third forces in sixteenth-century religion. The first two sections examine experiences of ambivalent change, at the scale of territorial Reformations and at the scale of personal and local histories. The remaining sections review sixteenth-century attempts to theorize a middle-ground position. Those attempts challenge the historian to integrate marginal, unconventional viewpoints into an otherwise “confessional” intellectual milieu.
Celsus penned the earliest known detailed attack upon Christianity. While his identity is disputed and his anti-Christian treatise, entitled the True Word, has been exclusively transmitted through the hands of the great Christian scholar Origen, he remains an intriguing figure. In this interdisciplinary volume, which brings together ancient philosophers, specialists in Greek literature, and historians of early Christianity and of ancient Judaism, Celsus is situated within the cultural, philosophical, religious and political world from which he emerged. While his work is ostensibly an attack upon Christianity, it is also the defence of a world in which Celsus passionately believed. It is the unique contribution of this volume to give voice to the many dimensions of that world in a way that will engage a variety of scholars interested in late antiquity and the histories of Christianity, Judaism and Greek thought.
This chapter deals with the processes of exclusion and inclusion that defined community. It deals with popular hostility to religious change, especially the ‘disciplinary revolution’ that Puritans attempted to impose. It discusses witches as the reverse of neighbourly ideals, and hostility to perceived antisocial practices such as informing. The place of the established poor is scrutinized, as are measures against the mobile poor. Dearth, famine and disease are assessed as acid tests of communal solidarities, and it is shown that in many communities the poor were excluded from ideas of neighbourhood during times of food scarcity or the circulation of infectious disease. The role of wealthier villagers and townsmen in the government of small communities receives attention. The focus of the chapter is on the hard edge of neighbourhood.
This chapter reframes the traditional dichotomy between popular and official religion and argues that ritual practices in both official and domestic settings were informed by intuitive conceptualizations of supernatural agency. As an alternative to popular and official religion, the categories cognitively optimal and cognitively costly religion are proposed as a fruitful framework for understanding the diversity of religious expression in ancient Israel. It is argued that from the standpoint of human cognition, ritual offerings performed in both popular and official contexts share deep structural features in common − whether in households, villages, local shrines, or state-sponsored temples. The final section of the chapter evaluates the recent shift to the study of family or household religion in ancient Israel. An analysis of material artifacts and religious ritual practices in domestic and official contexts reveals interesting points of continuity across these domains. Overall, a cognitive perspective suggests that the difference between home and temple, ancestors and the national deity, may not have been as great as it is sometimes imagined.
Chaucer’s God considers how characters invoke God, both in terms of the everyday language of late medieval England and in the ways that the idea of God is reflected in Chaucer’s fiction. Conventional, non-theological utterances of the names for God by Chaucer’s characters as part of their, by turns, outwardly pious and unthinkingly impious phraseologies are discussed in the opening section, God Woot – ‘God knows’. Under the heading God Forwoot – ‘God foreknows’, some of the more challenging invocations of God are considered, such as the implications of divine foreknowledge and predestination on human free will in the Knight’s Tale, the Nun’s Priest’s Tale and Troilus and Criseyde. The concluding section, God in a Cruel World, asks whether in the Clerk’s Tale and the Franklin’s Tale, if Chaucer allowed his tales to reflect, and characters to reflect upon, the heretical notion of a God lacking in compassion for humanity.
Although much about holiness in Chaucer’s works remains disputed, elliptical, or even contradictory, many of his images of religious devotion and popular piety are themselves situated in a broader cultural context than is usually recognised. For Chaucer, as for most late medieval Christians of his day, holiness was instantiated in matter, present and manifest in shrines, relics, holy objects and in the natural world, and he shows himself attentive to such materiality in his images of popular religion. Many of the Tales celebrate orthodox Christian materiality in ways that align his devotional interests with those found in a broad range of English religious writings by authors with whom he is not typically connected, including Julian of Norwich and the Carthusian Nicholas Love. Other Tales offer an incisive critique of holiness in the context of contemporary practices within the Church. Chaucer’s many-sided works hold these glimmering tensions in balance.
In late eighteenth-century Mexico City, Spanish colonials, particularly members of the urban middle and popular classes, performed a number of weddings and baptisms on puppies (which were wearing clothes or bejewelled collars) in the context of fandangos or dance parties. These ceremonies were not radical challenges to orthodoxy or conservative reactions in the face of significant economic, political, religious and cultural Bourbon reforms emanating from Spain. Employing Inquisitorial investigations of these ceremonies, this article explores the rise of pet keeping, the meanings of early modern laughter and the implications of the cultural and religious components of the Enlightenment-inspired Bourbon reforms in late colonial Mexico.
This article addresses the broad question of the sense of community in traditional Chinese villages, through consideration of popular cults found throughout the most highly developed region in Late Imperial China: the Jiangnan Delta. A key clue is a large-scale tenant-farmer revolt in Zhaowen County in 1846. When the uprising was suppressed, not only were twenty human ringleaders executed, but images of four local gods from village temples, who were believed to have sanctioned the rebellion, were also seized by the authorities and exposed for one year at the gates of the Zhaowen County City God temple. All four had three characteristics in common: (1) they were anthropomorphic, with human names; (2) they had living descendants of the same surname; (3) all were associated with stories involving miraculous protection of tax grain transport to the North. The descendants of these gods, all possession-type spirit mediums, or shamans, based in the villages, created the gods in response to the needs of their clients, large-scale landlords who bore responsibility for sea transport of tax grain to the North. In the mid-sixteenth century, fundamental socio-economic changes took place in the Jiangnan Delta. The landlords disappeared from the villages, leaving only the farmers, who were turning to cottage industries for cash to supplement inadequate food crop yields. The spirit mediums responded to the changes and modified their gods for a new set of clients, resulting in the survival of these cults down to the present day.
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