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Demonic Possession as Physical and Mental Disturbance in the Later Medieval Canonization Processes

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Chapter Summary

In late medieval culture demonic possession was considered to be one of the reasons behind mental disturbances and deviant behaviour. This chapter analyses how different explanations and deviations of various categories, spiritual, physiological and social, intermingled in cases of demonic possession and delivery miracles in the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century canonization processes. What kinds of explanations were given as reasons for possession by both clergy and laity; what kind of features indicated delivery? First, hazardous food and drink and perilous places and activities as explanations for affliction are analysed; then concrete signs of the exit of a malevolent spirit are scrutinized. The geographical focus of the chapter is on northern and central Italy, since many detailed cases can be found there. However, for comparative purposes cases from other parts of Europe are also analysed in the chapter.

Keywords: clergy; Europe; Italy; laity; later medieval canonization processes; medieval culture demonic possession



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