Friday, 3 April 2015

Juan Antonio Jiménez: A brief catalogue of superstitions in chapter 16 of Martin of Braga's De correctione rusticorum

In the third quarter of the 6th century, the bishop Martin of Braga wrote a brief treatise (De correctione rusticorum) intended for fighting the pagan practices which still persisted among the peasants of the Kingdom of the Suevi. His aim was to prove to the peasants that the devil was behind every pagan practice, so those who continued practising them departed from the worship of the true God because they betrayed the promise made in baptism. The chapter 16 of this work is particularly interesting because Martin offered in it a brief catalogue of several superstitions which were theoretically still widespread among the peasantry of his time. Even though he linked all these practices to traditional Roman religion, many of them had their origin in the indigenous cults. On the other hand, it is not sure that all these practices existed in Martin's time, as his catalogue is only a stereotyped list very similar to other texts written in Late Antiquity. Finally, we should remember that, despite the words of Martin, people did not see in these acts a reminiscence of paganism, but only a group of traditions secularly transmitted and completely deprived of all sorts of idolatrous content.

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