Ghosts, witches, sorcerers and demons: our fascination with the supernatural stretches back centuries.
European Christians felt threatened by demons thinking that such creatures were given free reign by God to punish sinners.
Now a new exhibition‘Magic, Witches & Devils in the Early Modern World’ invites you to explore how supernatural forces shaped the lives of everyone from kings and queens to clergymen and maidservants.
This fascinating exhibition, housed within the gothic splendour of The John Rylands Library, reveals how magic, diabolical witchcraft and ghostly encounters inspired fear and curiosity on an unprecedented scale between the 15th and 18th centuries.
This is a Bibliographic journey, from Early Dutch representations of the Three headed Ganesha in Sri Lanka as being the devil and images of groups of demons trying to ensnare a dying mans soul by tempting him with his earthly possessions in 15th century Strasbourg and the vivid depiction of a female witch riding in a monstrous skeleton seizing a young child to make a potion.
While other texts tell of supernatural encounters, Charles Wesley’s early 18th century notes of eye witness accounts of Old Jeffrey who haunted Lincolnshire’s Epworth Rectory.
And handwritten manuscripts which reveal how people tried to control supernatural agents
There are recipes and potions-John Dee’s notes on how water distilled from cinnamon eggs and donkey milk could give one youthful skin and the Irish faith healer Valentine Greatrakes who cured disease through the power of touch.
Curated by Jennifer Spinks and Sasha Handley from History at The University of Manchester, the exhibition presents rare books, prints, manuscripts and objects that illuminate the roots of our obsession with supernatural powers and reveal a world where the Devil was understood as a very real and present danger in daily life.
“One of the most exciting aspects of the exhibition,” according to Jennifer Spinks. “Is how it looks at magical beliefs in European daily life while showing how similar fears and fascinations existed in other cultures, from Japan to the Islamic world. With stunning local, European and non-Western examples from Manchester collections, this exhibition offers an exceptionally wide-ranging window onto the supernatural world.”
Magic, Witches & Devils in the Early Modern World runs from 21 January – 21 August 2016 at The John Rylands Library. This exhibition has been generously supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.