Magic and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages

Subject code


Course Number


Course Long Title

Magic and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages

Cross Listed Courses


For many, "medieval" is simply another word for "superstition" and the Middle Ages were consumed by delusion punctuated with witch trials. This course instead focuses on religious and folk practices beyond orthodox Christianity in the Middle Ages, to understand the realities of "magical" practice and supernatural beliefs during the period and move away from misconceptions based on Enlightenment polemic and modern fantasy. Students discover the variety of beliefs associated with the concepts of magic and supernatural and come to understand that these concepts were not always seen as evil, or even wrong, by contemporaries. Students consider the differences between how learned and unlearned magic were perceived and the gender dynamics at the heart of this dichotomy. They explore the syncretic relationship between medieval Christianity and paganism and other traditional beliefs, as well as the overlap between "magic" and primitive science. Recommended background: prior coursework on the pre-modern world.

Modes of Inquiry

Analysis and Critique [AC], Historical and Social Inquiry [HS]

Departmental Course Attributes - Major/Minor Requirements

(History: Premodern), (History: European)

GEC This Course Belongs To