Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wednesday Selfie ~ Magic in the Middle Ages

Last week I told you about the magic of a kiss. I’m continuing the theme. No too long ago, I took an online class offered by the University of Barcelona, Magic in the Middle Ages. The class was very interesting. Over 11,000 people worldwide took the class. The level of expertise ranged from novices who have an interest in the topic to people with PhDs in a variety of fields.  It had been some time since I’d been in school taking quizzes and completing homework assignments. I was up to the challenge. 
Does the image of the Middle Ages in films lead us to misconceptions about medieval society?
I think the films produced for the mass market are created for entertainment value and to follow a proven story line that will sell films. Films portray the Middle Ages as dull, dumb, colorless, and without compassion (that’s left to the hero and heroine).
Films for the mass market, like Braveheart, made $93 million. I enjoyed the film for its action and ‘feel,’ no more correctly, the romance of the period and the love William Wallace had for his wife and his people. While it isn’t accurate I do remember William Wallace and what he fought for.
But I’m digressing. I don’t think we can rely on films to give us an accurate account when their main focus is on entertainment. Films do not portray the period accurately and, unfortunately, most viewers believe what they see to be the truth.
How would you value the magical thought today in comparison to magic in the Middle Ages?
I don’t think people today believe that their minds can make things happen. We demand concrete evidence. We may not know the how and why but we keep pushing for the answers.
However, superstition is still rampant. Baseball players wear a special sock, rock stars where glitter gloves, my granddaughter will only use her special pencil on her math test. Do these things work? No, but they do give the user a sense of ease which may be all they need to hit the ball, sing the song and get 100% on her test.
One of my class mates here mentioned the CERN Particle Accelerator and the ‘god’ particle and how our physicists are searching to explain the magic of the solar systems creation. To me the vastness of space and the concept that there are no boundaries there is not conceivable. My societal upbringing has created boundaries and my mind has a hard time thinking past them. Am I an ancient who cannot see beyond the unknown? Am I willing to accept magic as the answer rather than the big bang theory? I hope not.
Do you think we have prejudices regarding the Middle Ages?
There are prejudices regarding this period as a result of not knowing what’s true. We judge things based on our own era and we don’t see things from a different time period’s perspective, what they knew and how they lived.
Are we still under the legacy of the Renaissance artists, who introduced themselves as the ‘light’ after some ‘Dark Ages’ for ‘marketing purposes’?
The art of the Dark Ages reflected the time. With the fall of Rome and lack of leadership the church stepped in and took control. They tithed the populace and with the fortune they amassed, built great cathedrals and commissioned paintings, frescos, and books. It wasn’t until the Crusades and the establishment of extended trade routes and the enlightenment of the Islamic literature and art and the resurgence of classical art and literature that Europeans began to realize that there was a beautiful world.

I do think the Renaissance named the Dark Ages to heighten their own self esteem. The Dark Ages weren’t totally without their heroes Marco Polo, Joan of Arc, Gutenberg, and Leonardo Da Vinci.
If you're curious, the class has a Facebook group. You can find it here:
For those of you who subscribe to my newsletter, this month I talk about spells.

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