Spreading the Faith: Daniel Syndrome

Another in a series of posts about the many and various ways in which religions spread – often by people who originally had no intention whatever of becoming missionaries, or indeed of leaving their homes. Sometimes, people really do set out to spread their religion to new parts of the world, and they enjoy great [Read More…]

The Saint as Marriage Counselor

One of the greatest Celtic saints was Colmcille, or Columba, who lived from c.521-597. About a century after his death, the scholar Adomnán of Iona composed a Life of the great saint, which is a treasury of information about the society and religious life of the time. Here, I want to explore one particular story, [Read More…]

1741: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Climate

I recently posted about understanding the social dimension to religious crises and conflicts.  Briefly, I suggested that pre-Modern societies were prone to severe dangers from crop failures, sometimes linked to climatic changes, and that these echoed through the whole society in terms of dearth and famine, disease and epidemic. At such times, people were prone [Read More…]

1680: The Limits of Christendom

I recently described the tumultuous years 1675-1685, and how they shaped the future of Europe and North America. Here, I want to explore the implications for the politics of religion in this era, and for some of the stereotypes we might have. Everyone knows that religion played a vital role in the Early Modern era: [Read More…]

The Ghosts of Stonehenge

‘Tis the year’s midnight, and ’tis the day’s, and a good time to think of lost worlds and ghosts – in this case, the phantoms of bygone faiths. I offer a strange story, which raises some intriguing questions about the possible limits of popular memory in a non-literate society. And although this concerns ancient Britain, [Read More…]

Of Monks, Mounds and Massacres

In my undergraduate years, I studied early and medieval Celtic history, with a heavy concentration on matters Irish. A couple of lessons from those days help understand contemporary academic debates, not to mention our appreciation of Christian history. The first issue arises from an excellent recent issue of American Archaeology, about the important Native American [Read More…]

REDISCOVERING PATRICK

This weekend, many millions of people around the world will commemorate St. Patrick as a symbol of Irish national pride. I intend no slight whatever to that national consciousness, nor do I criticize the general partying that claims it as an excuse. What is sad, though, is that portraying Patrick as a generic medieval saint [Read More…]