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Demons and Domesticity in the Medieval Home


A public lecture with History PhD Candidate Katrina Rosie at Bader College, UK. 

The four-hundred-year period from the mid 5th to the mid 9th centuries was one of significant turmoil and change for the Byzantine world. The empire had lost most of its territory to Germanic migrants in the West and to Arabs and Islam in the East and South. It was also roiled by social and economic upheaval produced by epidemic disease and environmental catastrophe. Not only were there threats from the physical world, but malicious spirits and demonic forces also seemed to be lurking around every corner and were blended together with physical dangers in the Byzantine imaginary. 

Much has been written about the efforts of Bishops, Monks and Holy Men to repel these forces and reclaim spiritual territory. However, this talk contends that the vanguard in this spiritual war was more diverse and asks that we direct our focus to the protective rites and religious practices that took place outside the church walls. I propose that women saw themselves as playing an integral role in the fight between good and evil through their everyday domestic tasks. Armed with ritual logic drawn from the official ecclesiastical sphere and the world of magic, women crafted innovative methods of repelling harmful forces away from their homes and families. Taking women seriously as ritual agents and the home seriously as ritual space, we will focus on the everyday actions infused with ritual significance that were crucial to protect the home from demonic forces.

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Department of History, Queen's University

49 Bader Lane, Watson Hall 212
Kingston ON K7L 3N6


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Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.