marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

Magic in the Middle Ages

Magic in the Middle Ages by Richard Kieckhefer

An intensive treatment of the subject drawing on a lot of primary sources.  Starting with a discussion of definitions.  And natural magic vs. sorcery  -- using the virtues of a herb rather than dealing with demons.  Then, Thomas Aquinas, discussing the occult properties of things, cites the ability of magnets to attract iron, and the ability of rhubarb to act as a purgative -- a sample of what makes it so fun.

Discusses the classical sources -- Roman, Greek, Jewish -- down to the fictional portrayal of witches in Roman literature and more briefly the German/Norse magics, with their heavy use of runes.  The sagas often ended with the sorcerer outlawed, partly because magic was a sneaky and underhanded technique.

The heavily Christian formulas for spells, such as treating illness.  Amulets and talismans.

Astrology -- which was most heavily used for picking propitious times.  Unsurprisingly, weddings were the most governed by it, since they are a lot easier to schedule than battles.  Astral magic, which attempted to draw down the influence of the stars.  Theologians got prickly about invocations and images, but that didn't keep people from using them.

Necromancy, which was overwhelmingly clerical.  Then, that could mean "literate."

Lots of interesting stuff.
Tags: history reviews: classical, history reviews: medieval, world-building: magic (technique)

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