Of all the epithets popularly attached to the Middle Ages, 'superstitious' is perhaps the most common and most misleading. The eighteenth-century view that the era was represented by the Catholic Church and therefore backward and 'dark', in contrast to their own times which were forward-looking, rational and 'scientific', has created a myth which successive centuries have perpetuated.
This fascinating study challenges the assumption that the medieval period was an age of superstition, offering students a varied collection of documents surveying what people throughout Europe actually thought and believed about the occult sciences at the time. Using translated extracts - many of which appear in English for the first time - from religious, legal, medical and scientific documents, P. G. Maxwell-Stuart presents and explores the various branches of magic, divination, astrology and alchemy which helped people to make sense of their world.
'A huge, and wonderfully rich and varied, collection of source material for the still largely unexplored history of medieval magic. Selecting and translating almost 150 passages, it covers the field in its broadest sense, from popular belief and divination to the arcane practices of alchemy and conjuration. As such, it represents a significant aid to the understanding of medieval religion in general, and a marvellous gift to teachers and students of the period, with some delights for the expert.' - Ronald Hutton, University of Bristol