Magic in the Middle Ages by Richard Kieckhefer

This is a summary of information from Magic in the Middle Ages by Richard Kieckhefer. It’s a great survey of a fascinating area.

The book distinguishes two types of magic:

  • Natural/occult – closer to natural science – i.e. a perversion of science
  • Demonic magic or necromancy, that was closer to religion – in fact a perversion of religion, the summoning of spirits for evil means.

The book aims to explore:

  • Definition and perception of magic
  • Who practiced magic
  • Links between magic in Christendom and other cultures
  • How study of magic in other cultures can help frame questions about magic in medieval Christendom.

Early on in the book two cases show the examples of natural and demonic magic.

Book contents:

Classical background
Celtic/Germanic tradition
Common tradition of magic in middle ages – concepts were similar and widespread
Magic in Courtly culture
Influence of Arabic culture
Rise of necromancy in a clerical underworld
Reaction of the Church and state

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