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date: 22 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Although historians once portrayed medieval ‘popular’ religion as a set of magical, superstitious practices vastly different from elite devotions, much subsequent scholarship has laid that notion to rest. Still, it does not seem entirely right to postulate instead, as some recent scholars have, a single religious culture shared by all levels of society. Rather, the evidence points to many religious cultures, with religious symbols and rituals conveying a variety of meanings to different observers. The good Christian was defined primarily in terms of actions, and through participation in the sacraments, gifts and alms-giving, invocation of saints, and emotional identification with sacred narratives, individuals shaped their own religious worlds. True, many practices might seem to constitute a grey area overlapping with magic and superstition, but these behaviours were often endorsed by theologians, as well as by parish priests ministering to the practical needs of real people.

Keywords: Popular religion, laity, baptism, the mass, penance, alms-giving, magic, miracles, amulets

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