Ghosts in the Middle Ages:The Living and the Dead in Medieval Society
Stuart Clark reviews a work by Jean-Claude Schmitt
Do the dead have a history and, if so, what kind of history is it? They only exist in the imaginations of the living but since these vary according to cultural context it is obviously possible to describe how they change over the course of time. One reason for the variety lies in organised religion; different religions arrange the world of the hereafter in different ways and this makes the history of the dead a history of changing ideas and beliefs. But religions are themselves social phenomena and therefore also reflect the complexities of the social relationships that exist between the living and the dead. Some of these relationships are very special with supernatural beings like angels and demons, and even Christ, the Virgin, or the saints. Others are more mundane with the ordinary dead and the recently departed. These latter are the ghosts of Christianity, and their history is a history of the functioning of the societies and cultures in which they have appeared.
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