My magical spring starts on Tuesday with the Workshop on Text, Ritual and Magic at the University of Helsinki. The starting point of the two-day workshop is to question and deconstruct the dichotomy between magic and religion.
The workshop is organised by the two research centres of excellence funded by Academy of Finland, the Centre of Excellence in Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions and the Centre of Excellence in Reason and Religious Recognition.
I will present a paper on ”Magical survivals? Late antique bishops and local religious practices”.
Abstract: In Late Antiquity, ecclesiastical leaders often defined as ‘pagan’, superstitious and even magical those rituals and beliefs that they disliked. Augustine of Hippo, for instance, depicted a number of practices as ‘pagan’ elements that recent converts could not abandon and therefore carried with them into the church after Constantine’s conversion. Augustine and other church leaders have been influential in setting out the course of interpreting the local popular forms of religiosity as magic (‘magical survivals’) or leftovers of ‘paganism’ (‘pagan survivals’).
I will discuss local and/or popular forms of late antique religiosity with a few examples taken from the writings of Augustine and Jerome. I suggest that, instead of interpreting local popular forms of religiosity simply as ‘magical survivals’ or ‘pagan survivals’ and even making ‘pagan’ – ‘Christian’ distinctions, it will be more fruitful to analyse them as parts of local religious worlds, in their varying social contexts.

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