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Visioner av världen: hädelse och djävulspakt i justitierevisionen 1680-1789
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Historical Studies.
2007 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Visions of the world : Blasphemy and devil´s pact in the “Judiciary Inspection”, Sw. Justitierevisionen 1680-1789 (English)
Abstract [en]

In early modern Sweden, intentional blasphemy was regarded as one of the most serious crimes one could commit. Blasphemy was termed “Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae” – “a crime against Our Heavenly Majesty” and was subject to the death penalty. From the 1680´s it was possible to be pardoned from death sentences already delivered by the courts of appeal by applying to the “Judiciary Inspection”, (Sw. Justitierevisionen) In early modern times the definition of blasphemy was influenced by the medieval scholastic view according to which God was perfect. The sourcematerial for the present thesis are 110 petitions for mercy in cases of blasphemy that came up before the council during the period 1680-1789. The cases studied can be divided into the following categories: Blasphemy against God, blasphemy against the sacraments, deliberate assignations wiht the Devil and “other blasphemies”. There was no Church law in Sweden before 1686 and a common law for the whole country did not exist before 1734. The Bible´s ten Commandments where added as an appendix to the already existing medieval laws, reiterated in 1608. An individual found guilty of blasphemy underwent both secular and church punishment. At least nine individuals (we lack information about some cases due to material that has been lost) where not pardoned by the council. The secular punishments included death by beheading or burning at stake, when the sentence was reduced some kind of corporal punishment – running the sauntlet, flogging, imprisonment on a diet of bread and water or a life time of labor. Church punishment was public shaming and meant that the accused had to sit on a special chair in church during the services and publicly ask God and the members of the congregation for forgiveness. This kind of punishment was meted out in Sweden until the late 18th century.Blasphemy is a complicated act that should be defined according to the norms of the society in which it occurs. There are two processes that have to be taken into considerations when studing the crime of blasphemy in early modern Sweden – the centralization of the government and the unification of the church according to the Lutheran creed.In the early modern society people lived in what has been called a “religious culture”, where religion was self-evident, collective concern. Within this context atheism, in the modern meaning of the word, was supposedly unimaginable.The theoretical framework of the study is inspired by Peter Burke’s theories of the reformation of popular culture. Measurements taken by the elite have usually been regarded as active and aggressive, while popular culture has been regarded a homogeneous passive mass that adjustes itself to demands from above. One of the primary aims of this thesis is to study how verbal statements, actions and attitudes reflected popular conceptions that could either be close to or far distant from the learned ideas of the elite. By dividing popular attitudes discerned in the cases studied into four groups corresponding to a kind of mental strata, a more varied image of popular culture is achieved. Blasphemy in early modern Sweden was a crime committed mainly by men, especially when it comes to expressing ideas about the Devil or attempting to contact him. Very few women were accused of blasphemy; of 117 individuals accused, only nine were women.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Institutionen för historiska studier, Umeå universitet , 2007. , 194 p.
Skrifter från institutionen för historiska studier, ISSN 1651-0046 ; 17
Keyword [en]
blasphemy, early modern times, popular culture, popular beliefs, worldviews, the Devil, strategies, kollective mentalities, mentalities, history from within
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-1349ISBN: 978-91-7264-399-4OAI: diva2:140725
Public defence
2007-10-05, Hörsal G, Humanisthuset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15
Available from: 2007-09-14 Created: 2007-09-14 Last updated: 2014-06-03Bibliographically approved

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