Magic and Superstition in the Middle Ages Essay

Magic and Superstition in the Middle Ages Essay

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Superstitions have influenced the lives of human beings perhaps since the beginning of mankind. For millennia, people have clung to beliefs and practices surrounding preternatural activities. Even after science has produced evidence to explain what was once considered supernatural, the superstitious traditions have continued. During the Middle Ages, many new superstitious rituals were developed and some can still be seen in use today. However, the trivial superstitious rituals of today, such as hanging a horse shoe on a door or knocking on wood to bring good fortune, did not begin so simply.

Superstition, as defined by the Oxford dictionary is, “excessively credulous belief in and reverence for the supernatural.” In no other time was the supernatural ever so excessively believed than in the Middle Ages, where witches flew on broomsticks, Jewish sorcerers conjured spells, and sneezes could kill you. In ancient times, mysterious circumstances were explained by the imaginations of our ancestors. Without science, occurrences which seem obvious now were once described as supernatural. For example, a person’s shadow cast on a sunny day was defined as a reflection of that person’s soul. Natural phenonemons were more or less personified. To get to the roots of supernatural beliefs, it is necessary to look at the roots of philosophy. Bernard McGinn, author of The Growth of Mysticism, said that in the ancient Mediterranean world philosophy was defined as, “the love of wisdom, to express the highest mode of human life, one dedicated to more than the ordinary tasks of survival and self-aggrandizement” (32). The Middle Ages began around the fifth century, when the Roman Empire disintegrated and Christendom began to take shape. The people th...


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Trachtenberg, Joshua. "Jewish Magic and Superstition: 1. The Legend of Jewish Sorcery." Jewish Magic and Superstition: 1. The Legend of Jewish Sorcery. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.
Trachtenberg, Joshua. "Jewish Magic and Superstition: 2. The Truth Behind The Legend." Jewish Magic and Superstition: 2. The Truth Behind The Legend. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.
Trueman, Chris. "The Black Death of 1348 to 1350." The Black Death of 1348 to 1350. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2013.
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Wolchover, Natalie. "The Surprising Origins of 9 Common Superstitions." LiveScience.com. TechMedia Network, 19 Sept. 2011. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.

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