Haunted Faith: Ghostly worlds of English Protestantism
For many, the association of magic with the Reformation may appear anachronistic or counterintuitive. After all, magic is a supposed relic of the Middle Ages, a time of superstition and witchcraft whereas the Reformation signals the dawn of modern “rational” thinking about both the world and faith itself.
However, there is in fact a deep connection between the world of the magical, the realm of ghost and spirit, and the new faith that spread out from Luther’s words to take hold of Protestant Europe. However, this is to apply a false definition of the role of magic in the Early Modern Period.
Magic was a more straightforward and more practical explanation for healing and causing sickness than science. Indeed, by the 17th and early 18th centuries there was an association of magical practices with the rise of what we would now call early “science,” as magic sought to manipulate nature and respond to human interaction with the physical world. So too, the world of embodied spirits, otherwise known as ghosts, also had a lasting influence on early English Protestants.
For many, to deny the reality of a ghost was a slippery slope to a denial of the soul itself. Spirits that persisted after death for eternal judgement could also persist to haunt people and places. This work explores how Protestants, particularly English Protestants, dealt with the idea and meanings of the magical and ghostly in light of Reformation change.
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