Not the Simplest Christians: Vernacular Charming and The Limits of Orthodox Practice in Late Medieval England
The relationship between charmers and the keepers of religious orthodoxy has been over simplified in prior analysis. Both Keith Thomas and Eamon Duffy represent the Church’s message on religion and magic as relatively homogeneous. They find the impulse to employ charms as rooted in the parishioners’ faith in the ceremonies of the Church, part of either ‘the magic of the medieval church’ or as another element of the ‘multifaceted resonant symbolic house’ of medieval religion. Charms were an expression of the core mysteries of medieval religion. Even if they might technically be unorthodox, it could be excused as matter of religious ignorance. In this construction the individual collector and user of charms is treated as a passive receptor of ideas rather than an independent actor who engaged with the Church and its teachings, as well as the literature on magic, and made his own decisions. This thesis will employ charms and religious writings in the common place book of Robert Reynes to reconstruct the theological world of a medieval charmer. It will argue that charmers were not only more unorthodox than previously described, but also that they were active agents in the construction of their own religious experience as it pertained to protection, healing, and occasionally salvation.
Magic, Early Modern, Charms, England, Religion
Master of Arts (M.A.)