Helpful Performances: The Uses of Ritual
This chapter shows that literature on superstitions manifested constant concern with ritual performances intended to achieve beneficial effects. Good magic, like good spirits, was a much more fearsome adversary for the theological writers than evil magic or evil spirits, because it was so much more obviously seductive to ordinary, well-intentioned people. If we are to take even some of the claims of the superstition-writers at face value, it appears that many people in medieval Europe routinely expected to make use of various ritual means to cure their illnesses, protect themselves from misfortune, and indeed to remedy the perceived consequences of hostile sorcery. Moreover, a vast area of shifting tidal sands stretched between approved ecclesiastical rituals and forbidden ceremonial magic.
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