The Devil And The Religious Controversies Of — страница 4

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devoured women and children. William Monter has stated that “the belief that sorcerers can transform themselves into animals is probably nearly as universal in ‘primitive’ societies as is the belief in magical healing. . .But popular belief and demonology differed somewhat about werewolves.”24 Again we see evidence of an attempt to steer the overly credulous away from unorthodox belief.A SIMILAR attempt to combat what many among the elite classes regarded as peasant superstition is evident in a French translation of a book written by Jean Wier, physician to the Duke of Cleves. The French work, published in 1569, was entitled Cinq Livres de l’Imposture et Tromperie des Diables: Des Enchantements et Sorcelleries. Speaking of certain diabolical arts practiced by magicians

and prognosticators, the author, Jacques Grevin, who practiced medicine in Paris, protested thatthis plague . . . has remained too long among the Christians: principally in the places where the name of the Gospel is still not clearly understood, and where the truth of the divine service is spoiled by . . . pagan ceremonies, and superstitions which without any doubt, were invented by the finesse of the Devil, to deceive men.25He went on to say that certain priests and monks, who are ignorant and of an “incomparable impudence,” respond with deception to those who seek them out in times of sickness and need.26 Grevin also explained that the people most susceptible to the ruses of the devil “are those who mistrust the Lord, the malicious, those who are curious about illicit

things, those who are poorly instructed in the Christian religion, the envious, the malfaiteurs, the elderly who have almost lost their mental faculties, and all manner of women.”27 Equally susceptible, he continued, are those who are “infested by the smoky vapors of malancholy . . . from which proceed all sorts of fantastic monsters.”28 Finally, the author insisted that the primary cause of the wild imaginations of the people was fear. “Apparitions oftentimes appear to little children, to women, to the fearful, to the delicate, and to the sick who are incessantly tormented and persecuted by fear.”29 Most of these conditions of susceptibility mentioned by Prieur constitute what Robert Muchembled has described as the ‘milieu magique’ of the sixteenth century. He

stresses the ignorance of the rural masses, as well as that of much of the rural clergy, with respect to Catholic dogma, the sacraments and the ritual of the Mass. Along with this relative ignorance went a pervasive fear of hell, damnation, and death. Plagues and other scourges were attributed to the action of evil forces in the world and to God’s punishment of impenitent sinners.30 According to Muchembled, the sermons of this period were saturated with “vocabulaire diabolique.” But superstitious practices were not always associated with such gloom and doom. Pierre Crespet, a Parisian prior writing in 1590, remarked that the devil and his ministers “make use of the days dedicated to the veneration of the mysteries of our faith, and of our redemption, and consecrated to

the memory of the Saints, for their ceremonies and diabolical superstitions.”31 He also deprecated “the follies and ridiculous mummeries . . . [and] the odious ceremony that is practiced in certain places of France, where every year people solemnly wear on the first day of Lent a masque with teeth extremely sharp and long and a face large and hideous . . . which has been borrowed from the Idolaters and Pagans.”32 These were the sorts of beliefs and practices which many enlightened contemporaries regarded as a threat to the unity and even the subsistence of the Christian faith. As a result, Muchembled concluded,popular culture. . .began to disintegrate under the action of corrosive forces…. [cultural repression] developed to reduce diversities that seemed too great, to

destroy superstitions, and to implant everywhere identical ideals founded on obedience, orthodox religion, an austere morality, and work . . . [the result was] a great effort to acculturate the popular masses, the peasants in particular. Thus a society clearly defined its orthodoxy and marked its limits by creating a mythical counter society, an imaginary counterculture.33Thus, Muchembled would regard these authors whose works we have examined here as part of a broader effort on the part of the elite to suppress the culture of the masses. This idea of elite versus popular culture, however, is but one way to look at these works on the supernatural.Michel Marescot, the author of an account of another demon possession, stated unequivocally at the outset of a work he wrote in 1599