John Gatta

in Making Nature Sacred

Published in print October 2004 | ISBN: 9780195165050
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835140 | DOI:

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During the colonial era, British settlers only gradually allowed North America’s actual physical environment to shape their idea of the New World they inhabited. Although New England Puritans were generally fearful of unsettled land, they were also disposed to regard the wild continent as uncorrupted space—and even, on occasion, as a sacred site of regeneration by contrast with the rejected Catholic emphasis on locally consecrated church edifices. That distrust toward the American environment shown, for example, in writing by Governor William Bradford must be understood in its proper historical and religious context. Bradford’s Puritan theology thus proves to be no less ecologically benign than the neopagan, naturalistic religion that informs the writing of Thomas Morton, whose famous maypole at Ma-re Mount disturbed the peace of nearby Plymouth. By the third-generation era of Cotton Mather, Puritan New Englanders had become all the more willing to envision the continent itself as a sanctified geophysical place that could be compared through biblical typology with the land of Israel.

Keywords: colonial; Puritan; New England; sacred; Plymouth; William Bradford; Cotton Mather; Thomas Morton; maypole; Ma-re Mount

Chapter.  8812 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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