My review of Marytrdom, Murder, and Magic came out today. I used this book for my readings course on medieval saints’ legends course last semester (directed by Constance Furey). Sections of the book also connect directly to my work with William of Norwich for my MA thesis.
Although much of its content was interesting, I found some of the assumptions the author made fundamentally flawed. You can read my review of the volume here, or below.
In Martyrdom, Murder, and Magic, Patricia Healy Wasyliw surveys medieval cults of child martyr saints. Although not a folklorist, Wasyliw situates these saints and their cults under the purview of folkloristic research. Saints and saints’ cults were sometimes recognized and maintained by the official church in Rome, but they were just as often sites of diverse folk religious practices. The institution of sainthood in the later Middle Ages, Wasyliw argues, consisted of an “uneasy coexistence of local, regional, and papal influences” (2). Even in the very beginnings of Christianity there existed the notion that models of sanctity and saintly power could also be applied to children in the same manner as adult saints; in several instances, Wasyliw emphasizes that the creation of child saints allowed medieval peoples to grieve for dead children, despite the doctrinal issues surrounding childhood sanctity. Children could not acquire sainthood through the traditionally adult routes of asceticism and excessive piety. Martyrdom, however, offered an avenue for medieval peoples to locate sanctity within the domain of childhood. Continue reading