Superstitions and Abuses

  • H. Maynard Smith


In the Middle Ages most men had a vivid belief in the supernatural, but all men were not good. It follows that with much real piety there was also much gross superstition, and occasional outbursts of wild and rebellious wickedness. God was blasphemed, the saints were cursed, the dead insulted. Bacchanalian dances took place at midnight in churchyards and even in churches.1 Ribald parodies of Church services were enacted. Students at Christmas-time bawled bawdy songs about the streets,2 and preachers who threatened men with the flames of purgatory were sometimes met with jeers and derision. Such deplorable profanity was spasmodic and occasional. It was the noisy protest of the young against the restraints which had been imposed upon them—the reckless proclamation of their freedom from control. They were like the naughty child of to-day who, beside himself with rage, breaks his favourite toys, strikes the mother whom he loves, and sobs “ I don’t care ” from his place of penitence in the corner.


Henry VIII Canterbury Tale Popular Religion Love Poem Fairy Story 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1963

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Maynard Smith

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