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  • In Search of Local People and Rituals in Late Antiquity

    Maijastina Kahlos

    Chapter from the book: Ritari, K et al. 2023. Being Pagan, Being Christian in Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages.


    In Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, ecclesiastical leaders often defined as pagan, superstitious and even magical those rituals and beliefs that they disliked. Augustine of Hippo, for instance, depicted a number of practices as pagan elements that recent converts could not abandon and therefore carried with them into the Church after Constantine’s conversion. Augustine and other church leaders were influential in setting out the course of interpreting local popular forms of religiosity as magic (‘magical survivals’) or leftovers of paganism (‘pagan survivals’). In this chapter, I illustrate local and popular forms of late antique religiosity with a few examples taken from the writings of Zeno of Verona, Maximus of Turin and Augustine of Hippo as well as later Latin writers such as Caesarius of Arles and Martin of Braga. I wish to break away from traditional dichotomies such as pagan/Christian, religion/magic and religion/superstition and to observe religious practices in the late antique and early medieval world on their own terms. We may call that religious world the third paganism, popular Christianity or whatever, but choosing the term is not relevant here. Instead of taking local forms of religiosity simply as ‘magical survivals’, ‘pagan survivals’ or ‘Christian superstition’, we should analyse local religious worlds in their different socio-political contexts.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Kahlos, M. 2023. In Search of Local People and Rituals in Late Antiquity. In: Ritari, K et al (eds.), Being Pagan, Being Christian in Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.33134/AHEAD-4-9

    This chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives 4.0 license. Copyright is retained by the author(s)

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    Published on Dec. 28, 2023


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