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Supernatural beliefs have been vital to Scottish cultural development. In the early modern period, the Kirk played an all-important role in parish life, schooling the Scots on how to interpret the invisible world. Theologians and philosophers mused about the nature of God’s providence and the wiles of the Devil. Folk tradition peopled the landscape with fairies and nature spirits. The witch trials displayed the very real consequences of belief systems that would later be reframed as fantastical.

This book analyses the Scottish supernatural between about 1500 and 1800. Drawing together an international range of scholars with expertise in history, ethnology and literary studies, it explores the diverse ways in which Scots understood and experienced magical beings and extraordinary events. There are chapters on trance experiences, spirit-guides, angels, preaching on the supernatural, political prophecies, providence, astrology, Second Sight and the Enlightenment’s encounter with the paganism of classical antiquity. The book’s historical material is framed by two literary chapters: one on the ‘elrich’ supernatural in the poetry of the early sixteenth century, and one on the political supernatural in the poetry of the eighteenth century.

Overall, the book examines the cultural function of supernatural beliefs, and assesses how these beliefs evolved amid the upheaval of the Reformation, political and religious revolution, the emergence of the Enlightenment and the beginnings of romanticism.

Julian Goodare and Martha McGill

environment in colourful detail. There was no expectation that its fairies should be taken seriously. But the poem may have echoed genuine folkloric stories, and this may have been one reason for its success. There was nothing innately incredible in a world of magical possibilities. For early modern Scots, supernatural forces were real and present. People disagreed about how these forces might manifest themselves, but throughout the period from 1500 to 1800 there were men and women who might perceive the supernatural in a whirlwind, or a dream, or the shimmer of a

in The supernatural in early modern Scotland
Felicity Loughlin

this widespread Scottish interest in antiquity, one that has been almost entirely forgotten: the fascination with pagan religious beliefs in supernatural beings and phenomena. It takes as its focus the writings of the many educated Scots who delved into the ancient past, seeking to explain the pagans’ conceptions of divinatory oracles, divine power and the invisible world of the afterlife. Their investigations concentrated primarily on Greek and Roman beliefs. The verses of Pindar and Horace, the epics of Homer and Virgil, the philosophy of the Presocratics and

in The supernatural in early modern Scotland
Hamish Mathison

The sun had clos’d the winter-day , The Curlers quat their roaring play, And hunger’d Maukin taen her way      To kail-yards green, While faithless snaws ilk step betray      Whare she has been. 1 The loss of light begins and ends this chapter. It proposes that the use and embodiment of the supernatural in eighteenth-century Scottish verse holds to the key term and opaque conjunction ‘as if’. It proposes that the idea of the supernatural allowed people in eighteenth-century Scotland to wrestle with the idea of a new and elusive descriptor

in The supernatural in early modern Scotland
Henry Rack
Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Jane Ridder- Patrick

During the early modern period in Scotland, as in Europe and beyond, the concepts and symbolism of astrology were tightly woven into the prevailing world view. Astrology can be defined as any theory, practice or belief that draws inferences from, or parallels between, events and patterns in the sky and events and circumstances on earth. Its use of the sky – the ‘heavens’ in contemporary parlance – meant that it linked the supernatural and natural worlds. There was scarcely an aspect of contemporary life that astrology did not inform. Its imagery was found in

in The supernatural in early modern Scotland
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Religious transcendence and the invention of the unconscious
Author: Rhodri Hayward

How can historians make sense of visions, hauntings and demonic possession? Do miraculous events have any place in a world governed by cause and effect? This book examines the cumulative attempts of theologians, historians and psychologists to create a consistent and rational narrative capable of containing the inexplicable. It argues that the psychological theories we routinely use to make sense of supernatural experience were born out of struggles between popular mystics and conservative authorities. Its analysis of the Victorian disciplines of Christology, psychology and psychical research reveals how our modern concept of the subconscious was developed as a tool for policing religious inspiration. The book provides a fresh perspective for anyone interested in questioning the concepts that underlie historical writing and psychological thought today.

Sermons and the supernatural in post-Reformation Scotland
Michelle D. Brock

light of the Gospell grew clear: and its ominous-like, that Devill is yet coming in some houses speaking, disputing; and if it be thus, it appears he has taken the musell off his mouth again; And o but this is a sad matter; for ye may read when the Lord departed from Saul, The Devill entered into him. 1 This sermon, though remarkable in some respects, typifies the ways in which we find Scottish ministers incorporating the supernatural into their sermons. Throughout, the true source of power, supernatural or otherwise, is God, who is both bearer of judgement

in The supernatural in early modern Scotland
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The supernatural and the textual
Janet Hadley Williams

Literature in Older Scots includes a group of poems, mostly anonymous, that employs supernatural phenomena for burlesque or satiric purposes. Aptly called ‘elrich fantasyis’, 1 they include Roule’s ‘Devyne poware of michtis maist’, The Gyre Carling , ‘My gudame wes a gay wyf’, ‘God and Sanct Petir’, ‘The Crying of ane Playe’, Lichtoun’s ‘Quha doutis dremis is bot phantasye?’ and Lord Fergus Gaist . 2 In their ‘comic supernaturalism’ 3 and inventive mixed reference to popular traditions, romances, classical literature, magic, witchcraft and church ritual

in The supernatural in early modern Scotland
Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart

This chapter examines and reassesses some accounts from early modern Scotland referring to a constellation of diverse supernatural abilities, primarily relating to premonition and clairvoyance, often described in English as Second Sight, and in Scottish Gaelic as an dà shealladh or taibhsearachd . It is indebted to the scholarship of numerous historians of early modern thought, religion and popular belief, in particular the work of Michael Hunter, whose annotated sourcebook The Occult Laboratory offers an essential and accessible introduction to the

in The supernatural in early modern Scotland