Trafficking with Demons
Magic, Ritual, and Gender from Late Antiquity to 1000
Aims and Scope
Trafficking with Demons explores how magic was perceived, practiced, and prohibited in western Europe during the first millennium CE. Through the overlapping frameworks of religion, ritual, and gender, Martha Rampton connects early Christian reckonings with pagan magic to later doctrines and dogmas. Challenging established views on the role of women in ritual magic during this period, Rampton provides a new narrative of the ways in which magic was embedded within the foundational assumptions of western European society, informing how people understood the cosmos, divinity, and their own Christian faith.
As Rampton shows, throughout the first Christian millennium, magic was thought to play a natural role within the functioning of the universe and existed within a rational cosmos hierarchically arranged according to a "great chain of being." Trafficking with the "demons of the lower air" was the essense of magic. Interactions with those demons occurred both in highly formalistic, ritual settings and on a routine and casual basis. Rampton tracks the competition between pagan magic and Christian belief from the first century CE, when it was fiercest, through the early Middle Ages, as atavistic forms of magic mutated and found sanctuary in the daily habits of the converted peoples and new paganisms entered Europe with their own forms of magic. By the year 1000, she concludes, many forms of magic had been tamed and were, by the reckoning of the elite, essentially ineffective, as were the women who practiced it and the rituals that attended it.
- 414 pages
- CORNELL UNIVERSITY PRESS
"Trafficking with Demons offers a comprehensive overview of how early medieval magic was perceived. By offering an alternative interpretation of the period, Rampton has filled a gap in recent scholarship on the gendering of early medieval magic practices."
Michael Bailey, Professor and Director of Graduate Education , Iowa State University, and associate editor of Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft:
"Martha Rampton argues that the greatest change to magic in a thousand years occurred when Carolingian elites discounted the effectiveness of many magical rites, especially those practiced by women. This sweeping book is an important contribution to the history of magic and of women in the first millennium."