Chapter 10 Madness, Demonic Possession, and Methods of Categorization

In: A Companion to Medieval Miracle Collections

Purchase instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):


In the medieval world, the diving line between an illness and spiritual state, demonic possession, was not always evident and many of the symptoms were similar. Both of them could be seen as outer forces attacking a victim. In some canonization processes an undisputable proof was required to categorize the disorder as supernatural, while in other hearings such a categorization seem to have been accepted quite willingly by the inquisitorial committee. A third group was constituted by those processes, where the diving line was not clear and apparently not important. Deliveries from malign spirits were never the most numerous manifestations of saintly powers. The societal changes during the late Middle Ages, like medicalization, reformation and clerical attempts to control the miraculous had their effect on the categorizations, but demonic possession was not one uncomplicated category -- to discern lived realities and personal experiences, to fully understand the phenomenon, one has to be sensitive to the nuances of various cases and contexts.