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Varken Gud eller natur: Synen på magi i 1600- och 1700-talets Sverige
Uppsala University, Humanistisk-samhällsvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Faculty of Arts, Department of History.
1999 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

How did people in 17th- and 18th-century Sweden understand and evaluate magic? To what extent did the attitudes of different social groups vary and how did they change during this period of substantial mental and social upheaval? The aim of this thesis is to examine these questions through a study of legislation, court records and writings of the educated élite. Attitudes towards magic are investigated from five different aspects: terminology and definitions (Which terms were used to signify magical phenomena and how were these terms defined?), contrasts (Which kinds of phenomena were seen as the opposites of magic?), values (How were different kinds of magic valued - as good or bad, permitted or forbidden?), beliefs (To what degree did people consider magic real or doubt its existence?), and measures (How was it thought appropriate to deal with magical rites and conceptions?).

Concerning malevolent magic and pacts with the Devil there was an agreement between people in general, mainly peasants, artisans and soldiers, and the authorities. These types of magic were seen as evil and dangerous crimes, being physical threats against other people. Pacts with the Devil were also seen as ghastly deeds against God. When it came to benevolent magic, popular attitudes differed from official views. The official attitude was clearly negative. Magic of all sorts had its source in Satan, and was therefore a threat against God and the Christian faith. Among the lower classes benevolent magic was tolerated and even appreciated. Some of the accused defended their actions and emphatically argued that their opinion was correct. The strongest arguments were that God had given them the ability co heal and work miracles, and that they used it for the benefit of their fellow Christians out of Christian love and charity. Such statements actually challenged the official definition of Christian religion. This is why the authorities were particularly aggressive about benevolent magic.

On one point the change in attitudes towards magic was particularly clear, namely regarding beliefs about its reality. Many signs point towards a secularisation of attitudes, as witnessed by the tendency to replace supernatural explanations with natural ones and adopt a more sceptical view of magic. The development can, in the long term, be seen as a transition from a view founded in a general distinction between cosmic. good and cosmic evil co a view emphasising a general difference between what is real and unreal. In other words the question about what was actually true became more important than the issue of good and evil.

Magic was also used as a component when creating an image of the Other. Members of the educated male élite used superstition as part of the counter-image of how they conceived themselves and wanted to be. Swedish 18th-century men who regarded themselves as enlightened criticised what they called superstition. Superstition was connected with several negative phenomena like fear, emotionality, women and above all ignorance regarding God and nature.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Eslöv: B. Östlings bokförl. Symposion , 1999. , 382 p.
, Kulturhistoriskt bibliotek
Keyword [en]
History, Magic, Superstition, Witchcraft, Secularisation, Counter-image, Popular piety, Reform of popular culture, Social history, Begriffsgeschichte, Sweden, 1600-1800
Keyword [sv]
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-719ISBN: 91-7139-416-8OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-719DiVA: diva2:169011
Public defence
1999-02-05, universitetets lärosal X, Uppsala, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Available from: 1999-01-15 Created: 1999-01-15 Last updated: 2009-03-19Bibliographically approved

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