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Between the Devil and the HostImagining Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland$
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Michael Ostling

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199587902

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587902.001.0001

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Stealing the Sacred

Stealing the Sacred

(p.140) 6 Stealing the Sacred
Between the Devil and the Host

Michael Ostling

Oxford University Press

Although the church thought of witchcraft as the opposite of Christianity, most people used church materials such as holy water, blessed herbs, or even the Eucharistic host for healing. The Lord’s Prayer, which asks that God ‘Give us this day our daily bread’, exemplifies the difficulty, for both clergy and laypeople, in distinguishing sacramental magic from licit Christian practice. Miraculous hosts were claimed to heal: why shouldn’t people use them? The Incarnation blessed this material world: why shouldn’t people use it to bless their cattle, or to help in love-magic? An examination of witch-trials involving the host is used to explore lay assumptions about the proper temporal uses of Christian sacred objects.

Keywords:   sacramental magic, Lord’s Prayer, Incarnation, miraculous hosts, love-magic, holy water, blessed herbs

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