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Beliefs and Superstitions of 16th century England

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Sanjana Ram

on 22 May 2013

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Transcript of Beliefs and Superstitions of 16th century England

Beliefs and Superstitions of 16th century England By Sanjana Ramchandran Beliefs In the early 16th century, Catholicism was the official religion. However, the Reformation of England sparked new beliefs, and this led to the splitting of Christians into Catholics and Protestants. During this Elizabethan Age, England's government was a constitutional monarchy. This means that the king/ queen is Head of State, but doesn't make all the rules. To oppose this system was considered treason. Queen Elizabeth I Social classes were a large part of life. There were five classes: 1. Monarchy
2. Nobility
3. Gentry
4. Merchants
5. Laborers The upper classes believed themselves to be superior to the lower classes. People thought that God had formed, blessed, and approved the class system. One important positive belief of this era was that family was a vital part of the community. Families were well respected. Parents also believed that the Bible provided instructions for taking care of their children. Another widely held opinion was that if you were unmarried, you were living in sin. This is why girls were married off at a very young age. Superstitions Ignorance, fear of the unknown, and belief in magic created many superstitions. More superstitions were formed because of the fear of witches. They were blamed for causing unexplainable events such as crop failures, the Bubonic Plague, and the death of animals. In 1562, the Witchcraft Act was passed. It persecuted any "witch" that used magic for evil purposes. This is proof of how seriously people believed in witches. Here are some common superstitions from the 16th century: 1. Saying "God bless you" after someone sneezed. People believed that the Devil could enter your body when you sneezed, and those words warded it off. 2. It was unlucky for a black cat to cross your path because these animals were associated with witches. 3. It was bad luck to have a peacock feather in your home. The "eye" on it was thought to be the "evil eye". 4. It was unlucky to walk under ladders because they reminded people of the gallows/execution. 5. Spilling salt or pepper was bad luck because these spices were VERY expensive at the time. 6. A lunar eclipse was bad luck. 7. If you had red hair, you were considered to have a short temper. Types of Magic present in the Renaissance period: 1. White magic: used to do good in the world. This magic was generally associated with Christianity. A person who was gifted in white magic was called a magus and highly revered. 2. Black magic: affecting events in the world using evil spirits. While white magic was used to help the world, black magic was used solely for the benefit of one person. Popular/folk magic: practiced by lower class people. These practitioners (usually illiterate) were called "cunning folk" and helped heal the sick, tell fortunes, identify thieves, etc. High or learned magic: more sophisticated than folk magic. This kind of magic involved organized rituals and detailed instructions, which were passed down from scholar to scholar. One type of learned magic was natural magic. It relied on the elements. The occult movement, which believed in direct contact with God, resulted in another form of magic: alchemy. Alchemists studied the essence of materials, chemicals, rocks, and plants. Many alchemists were also physicians, so they used potions and elixirs to heal people. Some of these superstitions still exist today, but others have (thankfully!) faded away over the years. Thanks for watching! Sources:

http://history-world.org/reformation.htm
http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/nael9/section/volB/overview.aspx
http://www.noblesandcourtiers.org/elizabethan-superstitions.htm
http://www.elizabethanenglandlife.com/elizabethan-england-superstitions.html
http://www2.cedarcrest.edu/academic/eng/lfletcher/tempest/papers/DSpina.htm
http://www.renaissanceastrology.com/astrologicalmagic.html
http://renaissancemagic.weebly.com/overview.html I think that the reason most people believed in witchcraft was because at that time, the science behind many things had not been discovered yet. Failing to understand why certain events happened, they used witches as convenient scapegoats.
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