Middle Age Magic

Those who follow my blog know that I have an ongoing project to make an expansive fictional world setting. Some of you may not know that as I build my system of performing magic, I look to other works to draw inspiration from.

In this case, I’ve come to share my general findings on how magic was viewed in the Christian territories of the Medieval times.

Medieval Christian views of magic were varied. Generally speaking, they divded things into works of the devil, or miracles of god. Witchcraft, sorcery, and quasi-magical seeming thing attributed to pagan priests, that was all lumped into “evil Satanic powers, burn those people at the stake.” Stuff done by good Christians or saints, if it seemed appropriately holy, was divine and therefore okay.

The grimoires and books of magic that have survived from medieval times are generally books that belonged to Goetic magicians. These were men, taking their ques from the story of Solomon, who thought that if they purified themselves enough, and were holy enough, they could command demons into doing their bidding. In theory, it was all about turning evil forces to good ends, but many of the spells described in these books had pretty selfish or superfluous goals. Goetic magicians were often clergy, as they were the main group in society who had lots of access to books and education, and who were able to read and write.

This doesn’t mean there wasn’t some grey areas.

Alchemists were tolerated, for the most part. Their work was either thought to just be a matter of manipulating natural principles or, according to some alchemists, was itself a form of spiritual purification, refining both objects (and themselves) into better forms. Astrologers were tolerated, because the idea that the stars and planets sent out invisible forces that could affect the world was often accepted as a natural phenomena. They would often make the comparison to sunlight heating you up; the invisible heat emanated from the sun affected the world, they reasoned, and so might other heavenly bodies have different affect.s

It should be noted that alchemy and astrology were also both widely practiced in the Muslim territories; indeed, alchemy was originally an Arabic word.


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