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Disturbances of the Mind and Body: Effects of the Living Dead in Medieval Iceland

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Chapter Summary

This chapter concentrates on two of the effects provoked by the restless dead, which would considered either mental or physical nowadays: fear and disease. It discusses that how these conditions caused by the revenants were interpreted in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Iceland and examines the relationship between mind and body, and mental and physical disorders and illnesses, in order to discover what the Icelandic conception of "mental" disorder was like. The chapter argues that whether medieval Icelanders were influenced by indigenous ideas or Latin learning, mental disorder would not have been merely an abstract state of insanity, but an all-encompassing bodily disequilibrium that often originated in inner organs that were defective in size or displaced, or was caused by excessive emotions. It discusses the nature of fear elicited by the restless dead and its mental and physical aspects. The chapter examines the mental origins of the physical illnesses caused by ghosts.

Keywords: anger; humoral theory; medieval Icelanders; physical disorders



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