The Dark Side of the Supernatural

John McManners

in Church and Society in Eighteenth-Century France Volume 2: The Religion of the People and the Politics of Religion

Published in print July 1999 | ISBN: 9780198270041
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600692 | DOI:

Series: Oxford History of the Christian Church

 The Dark Side of the Supernatural

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After the ‘crisis of Satanism’ in seventeenth‐century France, eighteenth‐century churchmen, without denying the reality of witchcraft and demonic possession, took a sceptical attitude towards the existence of a ‘witch cult’ and the fears that had led to the witch craze. Despite the elaborate theories of a minority of die‐hard believers in organized Satanism, the bishops followed a policy of ‘quiet containment’, treating each case on its merits. The use of spells to gain material rewards, for example, in treasure hunting, persisted, especially but not exclusively, in the rural areas, but when such cases came before the courts, the secular judges were more severe than their ecclesiastical counterparts.

Keywords: church courts; demonic possession; Enlightenment; Satanism; superstition; witchcraft

Chapter.  8204 words. 

Subjects: History of Christianity

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