Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Possession in the Middle Ages
Trance states, prophesying, convulsions, fasting, and other physical manifestations were often regarded as signs that a person was seized by spirits. In a book that sets out the prehistory of the early modern European witch craze, Nancy Caciola shows how medieval people decided whom to venerate as a saint infused with the spirit of God and whom to avoid as a demoniac possessed of an unclean spirit. This process of discrimination, known as the discernment of spirits, was central to the religious culture of Western Europe between 1200 and 1500.Since the outward manifestations of benign and malign possession were indistinguishable, a highly ambiguous set of bodily features and behaviors were carefully scrutinized by observers. Attempts to make decisions about individuals who exhibited supernatural powers were complicated by the fact that the most intense exemplars of lay spirituality were women, and the "fragile sex" was deemed especially vulnerable to the snares of the devil. Assessments of women's spirit possessions often oscillated between divine and demonic interpretations. Ultimately, although a few late medieval women visionaries achieved the prestige of canonization, many more were accused of possession by demons. Caciola analyzes a broad array of sources from saints' lives to medical treatises, exorcists' manuals to miracle accounts, to find that observers came to rely on the discernment of bodies rather than seeking to distinguish between divine and demonic possession in purely spiritual terms.
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Discerning spirits: divine and demonic possession in the Middle AgesUser Review - Book Verdict
Caciola (history, Univ. of California, San Diego) brings to light lesser-known but textually documented visionaries of the Middle Ages, along with the big names, in her study of the fine line between "delusional" and "devotional" behaviors. In discussing these medieval women's behavior and writings, she highlights the fact that gender was often the factor that determined whether one was considered demonically or divinely possessed. Medieval mystic and abbess Hildegard of Bingen herself defined her age as the "effeminate age," in which foolish clerics fell prey to what she viewed, somewhat hypocritically, as self-dramatizing, deluded female visionaries. Using medieval hagiographies as well as hostile depictions, Caciola challenges scholarly notions of saints and demonics, finding this divide neither self-evident nor "natural," since saints can also be heretics, pseudo-prophets, and the possessed as well. She focuses on visionaries such as Catherine of Siena, Brigit of Sweden, and Hildegard of Bingen, though one might wonder at the silence on Joan of Arc, a visionary who clearly transgresses gender expectations for her age (which ultimately solidifies her martyrdom) in political as well as religious ways. Still, Caciola provides a perceptive piece of historical scholarship on a topic of great interest to religious studies and women's studies collections. Recommended for academic libraries.-Sandra Collins, Duquesne Univ. Lib., Pittsburgh ...
Review: Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Possession in the Middle AgesUser Review - Goodreads
A fascinating feminist examination of the middle ages and demonic possession. Well balanced primary sources and fairly handled social critique that, at times, reads like a tabloid. Fascinating and informative!
A PROTRACTED DISPUTATION
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Exorcizing Demonic Disorder
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Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Possession in the Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003). "Mystics, Demoniacs, and the Physiology of ...
historyweb.ucsd.edu/ pages/ people/ faculty%20pages/ NCaciola.html
| Book Review | The American Historical Review, 109.3 | The ...
Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Possession in the Middle Ages. (Conjunctions of Religion & Power in the Medieval Past. ...
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The Demonic Side of Witchcraft.(Discerning Spirits: Divine
Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Possession in the Middle Ages. By Nancy Caciola. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003. xvi + 327 pages. Dem.
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Nancy Caciola : Discerning Spirits: Divine And Demonic Possession ...
Discerning Spirits: Divine And Demonic Possession In The Middle Ages (Conjunctions Of Religion And Power In The Medieval Past) ...
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Traditions and Trajectories in the Historiography of European ...
Traditions and Trajectories in the. Historiography of European Witch Hunting. Thomas A. Fudge. Hewitt Research Foundation. Abstract ...
www.blackwell-synergy.com/ doi/ pdf/ 10.1111/ j.1478-0542.2006.00310.x