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its own system of values and obligations (including confraternities and other pious corporations, and the lay sections of religious orders); and thirdly, rural religion, strongly characterized by a syncretism between pagan relics and Christian additions. Later in his career, Mandrou applied this scheme to the witch hunt, in his influential study ofthe attitude of French magistrates towards persons accused of witchcraft.3

The problem with these first two approaches is their rather static nature. Many of the so-called 'ancient traditions' may well be inventions of later periods, meant to adapt this legacy to new circumstances, or even to create the illusion of historical continuity in order to legitimate current practices. The second approach, in particular, presupposes a kind of 'immobile' society -as eighteenth-century rural France has sometimes been called - and relies heavily on the structural analysis so popular among Annales historians of early modern society in the 1960s and 1970s.4 Yet from the late Middle Ages to the early nineteenth century, rural society, and urban society still more, went through a profound cultural, social, and economic evolution.

The third approach stipulated by Michel Vovelle develops a more dynamic conception of popular religion. It assumes an essentially synchronic opposition between official religion and alternative religion. In this vision, popular religion is not in a position of dependency but of competition, a militant alternative to the established churches. It exists as a dynamic counter-culture to the church of the ecclesiastical elites, and consequently evolves as elite strategies evolve. Some scholars have gone so far as to assert that there is no popular culture without opposition to elite culture. Two books have been particularly influential for this approach: Mikhail Bakhtin's study of the notion of popular culture in Francois Rabelais's works, and, inspired by him, Carlo Ginzburg's presentation of the religious cosmogony and the utopian world-view of Menocchio, the sixteenth-century Friuli miller summoned before the Holy Inquisition and ultimately executed by it. In Ginzburg's view (presented in this book and in others of his works), Carnival, charivari, iconoclasm, the festive side of rebellion, derisive fraternities, mock liturgies, devil's cults - all must be seen as popular registers of religious belief and practice, historical indicators of an alternative social order rooted in ancient traditions but continually being adapted and reshaped, and persecuted as such by the established authorities.5

The fourth and final approach to popular religion looks for religious dynamism not in forms of opposition but in a historical process of acculturation between the prescribed, official religious system and the experienced, lived practice of everyday religious life. This is essentially the approach taken by the

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