How does Magical Thought in the Middle Ages differ from today?

Some work I’m doing for the MOOC course ‘Magic in the Middle Ages’.

One thing that magic in the  the Middle Ages and magic today has in common is that it is always a form of transformation. The sick are healed; the weather is changed; a shapeshifter moves silently through the night; a lover changes his/her mind. The main difference that I can see is that there was so little understood about the world in the Middle Ages, almost everything could be seen as a magical act.

A woman who used Willow bark to ease the pain of a loved one would have been branded a witch, but today we call it Aspirin and sell it in pharmacies worldwide. Western practitioners of Magic in the 21st century accept scientific rationality and work alongside this (for the most part) to continue and even enhance their magical practices. Without realising it, the sorcerers of the Middle Ages were doing this too, but unknowingly, with herbs, chanting and music (which can alter our brain waves), hallucinogens and of course fear; fear of the fairies, demons and even god.

I think it’s a generalisation to say we have ‘prejudices’ against this period, as most folks with an interest in the period will do some research to see how things really were, and those that have no interest will probably not even be aware of the magical practices taking place during this time. Popular culture has always painted the picture of the warty old witch or evil sorcerer, regardless of the time period, because of superstition created by the church; that magic is evil and powered by demons.

It’s easy to understand why people would be enamoured of the idea of the Renaissance bringing the ‘light’ of reason into a filthy, superstitious world. The downside to this, in my opinion, is the loss of ancient traditions and customs that are part of the growth of a culture. it’s great to understand why we do things, and the science behind them, and of course if practices are found to be dangerous, they should stop. But one day, we may not have access to electricity, medicine or even books, and the knowledge and practices of our ‘magical’ forebears could be the most useful hand me down available.

Magic is performing transformation for people. Science is understanding how you did that and how to do it again, exactly the same way. Religion, particularly Christianity in this context, often condemns both science and magic for being ‘against God’. Telling, no?

Cerne Abbas: A Very Naughty Boy

 Facebook blocked me from promoting my piece which had an a image of the Cerne Abbas Giant on. So I sent this to Facebook:

“I’m dismayed my advert has not been approved. It has been marked as having ‘adult’ content; please can you explain this? This is an educational piece about Celtic heritage.”

This was their response:
“Hi Mabh,

Thanks for writing in. I’m here to help. 

Your ad was rejected because the image doesn’t follow our ad guidelines. Ads may not use overly sexual images, suggest nudity, show a lot of skin or cleavage, or focus unnecessarily on specific body parts. This is also applicable to the images present on your Pages.

Please make the necessary edits and recreate your posts. If it’s an ad created from the create flow, you can edit it in your ads manager:

Review our policies on ad images here: 

Let me know if you need more help from my end. Have a great day.



Facebook Ads team


Is it just me or has she completely ignored my original query? Anyway, this was my follow up email: 

“Hi Jane,

The picture is of, and I can’t stress this enough, a national monument. It is a piece of history and certainly not pornographic or ‘overly sexual’. Please reconsider your decision based on the facts. The Cerne Abbas Giant is thousands of years old and can be seen by anyone. What are you achieving by blocking its image on Facebook, other than irritating a paying customer and her audience?


Mabh Savage”

What do you think guys? Am I onto a loser with this? I’m just riled that they consider the Cerne Abbas giant, a piece of much loved history, too sexual for Facebook.

The Power of Old Tights!

An ‘up cycling’ achievement: half of one leg of a dead pair of (clean!) tights with two handfuls of oatmeal in the foot, suspended in the running hot water of Nathan’s bath to help ease his chicken pox. Plenty of cold water added at the end to make the bath reasonably tepid, so as not to sting. Very soothing.