Magic and Impotence in the Middle Ages by S. Ravi Rajan

By S. Ravi Rajan

Magic and Impotence within the center Ages investigates the typical medieval trust that magic can cause impotence, focusing rather at the interval 1150-1450. the topic hasn't ever been studied intimately earlier than, yet there's a strangely great amount of knowledge approximately it in 4 varieties of resource: confessors' manuals; scientific compendia that mentioned many health problems; commentaries on canon legislation; and theological commentaries at the Sentences of Peter Lombard. even if so much historians of medieval tradition specialize in just one or of those sorts of resource, a broader comparability finds that medieval writers held unusually different critiques approximately what magic used to be, the way it labored, and even if it was once ever valid to take advantage of it. Medieval discussions of magically brought on impotence additionally contain loads of information regarding magical practices, such a lot of that have no longer been studied earlier than. particularly, those resources say very much approximately renowned magic, a subject matter which has been relatively ignored by means of historians as the proof is scanty and tough to interpret. Magic and Impotence makes new information regarding well known magic on hand for the 1st time. Magic and Impotence additionally examines why the authors of felony, scientific, and theological texts have been so drawn to renowned magical practices on the subject of impotence. It for that reason makes use of magically brought on impotence as a case-study to discover the connection among elite and pop culture. particularly, this research emphasizes the significance of the thirteenth-century pastoral reform circulate, which sought to implement extra orthodox non secular practices. Historians have usually famous that this circulate introduced churchmen into touch with renowned ideals, yet this is often the 1st research to illustrate the profound impact it had on theological and felony principles approximately magic.

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Extra resources for Magic and Impotence in the Middle Ages

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Carmine laesa Ceres sterilem vanescit in herbam . . 7, lines 27–31, 35, trans. Grant Showerman, 2nd edn. (London: Heinemann, 1977), 477. ’⁷ Both Tibullus and Ovid made it clear that magic was not the only possible explanation for this sudden impotence. ⁹ However, both poets were aware that magic was one explanation for mysterious impotence, and mentioned some ways in which it might be done: by a potion, or powerful words, or sticking needles in a wax figure. Petronius envisaged a similar situation in his Satyricon, written in ad 63–5.

Satyricon, trans. Walsh, p. xxxv; M. L. Stapleton, Harmful Eloquence: Ovid’s ‘Amores’ from Antiquity to Shakespeare (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996), 56. Impotence Magic in the Ancient World 27 found no references to Ovid in medieval discussions of magically-caused impotence. More significant are the insights that this very different set of sources can offer into the way in which impotence magic was discussed in the Middle Ages. Firstly, they suggest that it was widely believed that certain practices could cause impotence, but that there was as yet no clearly articulated concept of ‘impotence caused by maleficium’.

Their attitude to them often seems ambivalent. For example, two writers who discussed the medical properties of natural substances in the first century ad, Pliny the Elder and Dioscorides, mentioned substances that could cause or cure impotence just by being close to a person. However, Dioscorides, who compiled an encyclopaedia of medicinal substances in the first century ad, often distanced himself from these recipes by introducing them with the words ‘They say,’³¹ and Pliny attributed his recipes to the ‘Magi’, whom he criticized elsewhere in his work for offering disgusting and ‘magical’ cures.

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