Broken Bodies

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

Broken Bodies

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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The Eucharistic host was believed to be Christ’s body, sacrificed for the sins of humankind. Pious sorrow could transform into rage when Christians believed this sacrifice had been desecrated by Jews or witches. Host-desecration trials, blood libels, and some witch-trials are best understood as the flip-side to adoration of the host. Desecrated hosts were imagined to be used in malefice against children, emblems of the innocent Christ-Child. The chapter closely examines one trial in which a young accused witch confessed to host desecration and killing a ‘beautiful baby’ as a way to reflect on her own innocence, lost in a rape or seduction. This and other trials suggest that those accused of the worst anti-Christian crimes might themselves have been the most pious of Christians.

Keywords: sacrifice; Christ-Child; host desecration; inversion; malefice against children; blood libel; piety

Chapter.  9459 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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