Methodism, the Clergy, and the Popular Belief in Witchcraft and Magic

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During the second half of the eighteenth century and the early nineteenth century, there was growing concern that the popular belief in witchcraft and magic was still widespread. It had generally been supposed that the spread of rational thought and scientific progress had somehow filtered down to the labouring classes. Since this was not happening, it was assumed that some other force was at work frustrating the enlightenment of the masses. During the same period, the growing popularity of Methodism was also worrying the Anglican establishment. With the likes of John Wesley openly expressing their belief in witchcraft, possession, and divine intervention and retribution, it was not surprising, perhaps, that Anglicans sought to blame Methodism for the continued, pernicious ‘superstitious’ state of the masses. While Anglican clergymen accused Methodists of propagating ‘superstition’ in their parishes, it was, in fact, the rites and the fabric of the churches and churchyards of the Anglican faith which continued to act as a powerful focus of popular magic
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)252-265
Issue number266
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1997


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