Magic in Medieval England: A Service Industry Used by Rich and Poor Alike

In medieval England using magic was a bit like drug use today: against the law and seen as immoral, but still widespread across society. Introduction Chances are that when you hear the words “medieval magic”, the image of a witch will spring to mind: wizened old crones huddled over a cauldron containing unspeakable ingredients such[…]

Charms, Magical and Religious Remedies in the Medieval World

Medieval people firmly believed in God and occult powers. By Véronique SoreauPhD Student in English and Anglo-Saxon Languages and LiteratureCentre d’Etudes Supérieures de Civilisation MédiévaleUniversité de Poitiers Introduction Charms are incantations or magic spells, chanted, recited, or written. Used to cure diseases, they can also be a type of medical recipe.[1]  Such recipes were often[…]

Magical Seals in a Medieval English Book of Hours

A prayer book including ‘seals’ that offered supernatural protection. In addition to containing the daily cycle of prayer, Books of Hours sometimes include magical spells or incantations, reflecting their lay owners’ concerns over physical and spiritual dangers. Stowe MS 16, a Book of Hours produced in London shortly before 1410, is an interesting example. This[…]

The Medieval Materiality of Magic: The Ritual Lives of People and Things

Examining objects and material culture in ritual performances intended to heal, protect and transform the living and the dead. Introduction This explores the relationship between medieval magic and religion, with particular emphasis on the use of objects and material culture in rites of healing, protection and transformation. It extends the practice-based approach to consider ritual[…]

Spells, Charms, Erotic Dolls: Love Magic in the Ancient Mediterranean

Erotic spells were a popular form of magic in ancient Greece and Rome. Ancient spells were often violent, brutal and without any sense of caution or remorse. It was a well-kept secret among historians during the late 19th and early 20th centuries that the practice of magic was widespread in the ancient Mediterranean. Historians wanted[…]

Magic and Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe

Although magic and witchcraft had existed since antiquity, early modern Europe underwent a growth in anxiety about witches and their practices. Introduction Historians have named the era in Europe that lasted from about 1500 to 1650 the age of the “Witch Hunts.” During this period approximately 100,000 people went on trial for the crime of[…]

The Dissolution of the Monasteries and the Democratization of Magic in Post-Reformation England

How monks, friars and monastic sites became associated with magic in popular tradition, resulting in a lasting stereotype of medieval monks and friars as the masters of occult knowledge. Abstract The dissolution of the monasteries in England (1536–1540) forced hundreds of former inmates of religious houses to seek livelihoods outside the cloister to supplement meagre[…]