The historian Philip Almond describes 1550-1700 as ‘the golden age of the demoniac’. There are a lot of reasons, one of the biggest being the Reformation. Demoniacs had been important in the days of the early church, when church fathers were trying to build a new religion in an environment of borderline (and sometimes outright) hostility. On the other hand, as D P Walker tells us in his book Unclean Spirits, by the middle ages there were no more pervasive threats to subvert. Christianity was the ruling religion of Europe, and those heretics who did exist could be hunted directly by fire and the sword.
This led to a somewhat differing attitude to demonic possession during the middle ages. Theological orthodoxy held that since demoniacs could be constrained to speak the truth, they should be allowed to do so. After all, Continue reading “Spectacle, Tourism and Demonic Possession in Early Modern Europe”