Stealing the Sacred

Michael Ostling

in Between the Devil and the Host

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199587902
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731228 | DOI:

Series: The Past & Present Book Series

Stealing the Sacred

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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Although the church thought of witchcraft as the opposite of Christianity, most people used church materials such as holy water, blessed herbs, or even the Eucharistic host for healing. The Lord’s Prayer, which asks that God ‘Give us this day our daily bread’, exemplifies the difficulty, for both clergy and laypeople, in distinguishing sacramental magic from licit Christian practice. Miraculous hosts were claimed to heal: why shouldn’t people use them? The Incarnation blessed this material world: why shouldn’t people use it to bless their cattle, or to help in love-magic? An examination of witch-trials involving the host is used to explore lay assumptions about the proper temporal uses of Christian sacred objects.

Keywords: sacramental magic; Lord’s Prayer; Incarnation; miraculous hosts; love-magic; holy water; blessed herbs

Chapter.  11318 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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