and pictures were destroyed; holy festivals were abolished or reduced to simple commemorations founded on human memory rather than on the supernatural. Protestant theology and liturgy sought to eliminate the sacred order of ritual and the supernatural and replace it by the Holy Word of God, considered to contain its own efficacious force. Orthodox Calvinists and some other Protestant communities even wanted to abolish the whole Christian calendar as superstitious and return to the Old Testament order of time, where the ancient Sabbath was the only break in the weekly rhythm of labour permitted to true Christians, who were held to observe it through stern, rigorous rituals.
Insensibly, the Protestant shift in the perception of the natural world gave birth to a new sacral order. The belief in a more or less autonomous order combining both nature and the supernatural was replaced by an intimate conviction of God's providence and omnipotence. God could and always would interfere actively in the natural world, either directly through his Holy Word or the Holy Spirit, or indirectly through the intervention of angels or demons. The reality of the immediate intervention of the devil in this world was also widely assumed. In a more learned, biblically based and socially ordered way, demonology took over the role of ancient magical beliefs and brought a huge revival of belief in witchcraft. But at the same time this new sacral order prepared the way for a more rational view of the universe during the eighteenth century-arational view that soon came to exclude otherworldly interventions altogether. In the new, early modern mentality, such interventions by God were essentially tied to the moral order and answered to a logic of divine reward for human virtues and retaliation for human vices. This logic, in turn, could be immediately deciphered by man through the guidance of God's Word as contained in the Holy Bible. Welfare, adversity, calamities, and disasters, prodigies, portents and prophecies, were seen as so many signs of God's blessing or wrath. Sickness and misfortune were further interpreted as opportunities to purify one's spirit and bring one's attitude into agreement with the will of God.10
This moralizing of the natural world had important consequences for the Protestant definition of popular religion, and the attitude of the Protestant clerical elites towards superstition. 'Superstition' was conceived as a capital sin against the order of God, against his honour and uniqueness, as prescribed in the Decalogue. Superstition was defined as an infringement on God's omnipotence through recourse to other supernatural powers; or, as the Catholic
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