Pastoral literature and preaching

Authored by: Kathleen Kamerick

The Routledge History of Medieval Magic

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9781472447302
eBook ISBN: 9781315613192
Adobe ISBN:


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What did the medieval Christian Church teach the laity about magic? This simple question has no straightforward answer. The problem of laypeople’s belief in and practice of magic was bound to the more fundamental issue of what the laity needed to know in order to be saved. Did magic threaten one’s salvation? Medieval pastoral texts such as sermons, manuals for confessors and works aiming to teach laypeople how to live as good Christians often took up the problem of magic, but it was rarely a major concern. These pastoralia – including both texts used by priests in their work of the care of souls as well as the diverse works of religious instruction read by laypeople – multiplied in Europe from the thirteenth to early sixteenth centuries in both Latin and the vernacular languages. Their profusion and diversity offer a potentially rich source for examining complex and even conflicting views of magic, as well as clerical–lay interactions over a contested subject. This essay focuses primarily on the research on pastoralia known in thirteenth- to fifteenth-century England, which has formed the core of much of the research to date, with some attention to the early Middle Ages and to other geographic areas. 1

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