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AfterlivesThe Return of the Dead in the Middle Ages$
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Nancy Mandeville Caciola

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781501702617

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501702617.001.0001

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Psychopomps, Oracles, and Spirit Mediums

Psychopomps, Oracles, and Spirit Mediums

(p.259) Chapter 6 Psychopomps, Oracles, and Spirit Mediums

Nancy Mandeville Caciola

Cornell University Press

This chapter analyzes several spiritist cults in Southern France that formed around individuals who claimed to be in regular contact with the dead. These spirit mediums, though at first taken aback when the dead began to appear to them, ultimately learned to control their interactions with the latter. They became voluntary oracles who opened up the world of the afterlife to crowds of other people, and they acted as psychopomps for the dead, helping them to find rest in the afterlife. Clerics also evaluated local popular beliefs according to their own religious values, sometimes condemning mediums as heretics, at other times arrogating oracular roles to themselves. Such accusations from the medieval Christian church often inverted the true character of ongoing cultural shifts: the “crime” of many dissenters was in fact to fail to keep pace with novelties that were pioneered by church institutions, rather than the reverse.

Keywords:   spiritist cults, Southern France, dead, spirit mediums, afterlife, psychopomps, heresy, medieval Christian church, cultural shift

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