Enchanted Europe : Superstition, Reason, and Religion, 1250-1750
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 blamingthem 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.
- 01 Dec 2010
- Oxford University Press
- Oxford, United Kingdom
- New ed.
"Cameron's rigorous examination of the evasive subject of superstition makes Enchanted Europe essential reading for historians of medieval and early modern Europe...moreover serves as a timely reminder of the value of analyzing religion on its own terms."--Preternature
About Euan Cameron
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.