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to the English case - Thomas's study was criticized from the outset by cultural anthropologists, both for its use of a rather crude form of functionalism and for its lack of theoretical rigour with regard to magic. Thomas treated magic largely as a negative version of religion, without much coherence in and of itself.32 Moreover, like the works of Delumeau, Thomas's book reveals both a carelessness about theory and a 'Whiggish' view of the progress of humankind that, a generation later, appears a bit naive.

One of the historical elements that is under-represented in both Delumeau's and Thomas's picture is the perception of magic by the religious elites themselves. Beginning in the seventeenth century, and increasingly in the eighteenth century, the cultured elites became aware of the existence of a more or less synthetic body of popular culture. The first efforts to describe popular religion were made in the second half of the seventeenth century, for the purpose of denouncing or resisting its practices. To be sure, certain theologians or other adversaries of popular religious beliefs or practices had previously prepared catalogues of'popular' errors, but such works were mostly centred on specific burning issues of the day or were directed against the papacy, and they therefore lacked the necessary objectivity to be useful for historians. This was the case, for example, with the popular catalogue of papist misdeeds drawn up by Philip Marnix van Sint-Aldegonde under the title The Bee Hive of the Roman Church (Den Byencorf der H. Roomsche Kercke, 1574), translated and reprinted many times.

A century later, more fully developed descriptions of popular religious practices were undertaken almost simultaneously in several different countries. Dutch ministers prepared systematic catalogues of'errors' or 'sins', directed less against the papists than at accusing their own flock of Roman Catholic superstitions. Examples are the Swart register van duysent sonden (Black register of a thousand sins, 1679) by the Dutch minister Jacobus Hondius and the Almanachs heyligen (The saints of the almanac, 1680) by his colleague Abraham Magyrus. In Germany, Johann Georg Schmidt published between 1706 and 1729 a dictionary depicting no less than a thousand reprehensible superstitious practices.33 The interesting point here was not the accusatory tone of the work, but its attempt to provide a full, systematic description of such practices. We find a similar attempt in the writings of the brothers Adrian and Johannes Koerbagh, who were convicted of atheism in 1668 because of their critical assessment of many religious beliefs. On the Catholic side, this project is reflected in the work of the priest Jean-Baptiste Thiers, whose Traite des superstitions (Paris, 1679) was the first systematic catalogue of popular religious practices in France. Father Thiers's thoughtful reflections on the definition

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