Prophets and visionaries, possessed and exorcists – all religious impostors?

Tobias B. Hug

in Impostures in Early Modern England

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780719079849
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702413 | DOI:
Prophets and visionaries, possessed and exorcists – all religious impostors?

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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This chapter highlights the prevalence of religious imposture in early modern England, including prophets, visionaries and exorcists. It suggests that the occurrence of religious individuals who claimed spiritual power and thought themselves prophets, exorcists or healers is not a peculiarity of the early modern period, but rather a transhistorical and transcultural phenomenon. The chapter explains that religious impostors during this period can be divided into a category of people who deliberately perpetrated a fraud, a larger category who believed in their own religious powers and role but were rejected by some contemporaries, and a category of people who functioned as puppets. It argues that the language of religious imposture had reflected the struggle between denominations since the Reformation, and was again a significant rhetoric tool in the debates over probability and certainty, and over the meaning of credulity and incredulity, in the late seventeenth century.

Keywords: religious imposture; England; religious individuals; spiritual power; prophets; visionaries; exorcists; religious powers; Reformation

Chapter.  10935 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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