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of popular religious practice. Several sanctuaries remained available to those who wanted to maintain their customary behaviour - even as the eighteenth-century clergy became ever more critical of disorderly forms of popular practice, and as the measure ofdisorder became increasingly severe. There were of course always forms of clandestine behaviour, which were more or less common depending on the strength of public persecution or law enforcement. But the forbidden practices now took place in a more or less tolerated private space, protected from the rules of public society. Eventually, during the eighteenth century, the intellectual elites discovered the persistence of these forms of popular religion outside the public domain. Indeed, the movement of western European societies towards a more general, less confessional form of Christian consciousness brought with it the realization that all churches had to cope with the same problem.


Was this acculturation successful? Jean Delumeau, Keith Thomas, and William Monter are among those historians who in their studies of the period have tried to draw up a balance-sheet of two centuries of Christianizing efforts.30 All three concluded that there was a decline in popular superstition and witchcraft beliefs by the end of the eighteenth century. In general terms, this process began in the late Middle Ages when rather common forms of paganism and shamanism - or syncretism between magic and religion - were said to have existed among the laity. There then followed a period of the repression of such 'abuses', the purification of the ecclesiastical institutions themselves, the reformation of ritual, and an education of the various elites - whether civil, ecclesiastical, judicial, intellectual, or cultural. Finally there developed an internalization of the true Christian faith, intended to create a community of converted, pure, and 'real' Christians. The churches clearly played a role in this process, but the spread of new ideas via the scientific revolution was also critical. For many people, by the end of the eighteenth century the universe was easier to comprehend than it had been two centuries earlier.

According to Thomas, whose Religion and the decline of magic (1971) has been very influential in this field, magic and religion were initially disconnected from each other. Then religion took over the functions of magic and was, in its turn, by the end of the seventeenth century, dissociated from reason, science, and technology. Thomas speaks here of a 'process of disillusion', aterm that mirrors Balthasar Bekker's rejection of the 'enchantment of the world'.31 In spite of its massive erudition and broad empirical approach-though restricted, to be sure,

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