by Eva Patyi, Alumni Scholarship Recipient and MA student in the Department of History
Magical activities, miracles, supernatural phenomena, witchcraft, exorcism and vampirism. These were the main topics of the special seminar titled “Strange Pathologies. Medicine and Demonic Afflictions in Europe, 1650-1750,” Professor Mezes taught for the eight of us, where the spooky became spookier.
After laying down the theoretical background and distinctions between the natural, preternatural and supernatural, we constantly circled around the relations between science, medicine, religion and magic in early modern Europe. For one who was always curious about the unexplained activity of the past – for instance, how did the witchcraft belief emerge and why did people at all think that witches exist and are able to harm others via occult means – l particularly enjoyed the contemporary explanations given to such strange phenomena versus the explanation historians concluded later and the opinions they have on these topics today.
Professor Mezes created a very relaxed environment, where we were constantly encouraged to develop our own hypotheses on strange events and discuss it with the group. After reading several primary sources on bewitchment, demonic possession and the activities of vampires, things became even stranger than they were before. Chasing the question of why things happen and exploring possible scenarios on the unanswerable made this course especially interesting from many angles.
I believe that it is safe to say in the name of my classmates as well, that this course was very enjoyable, very entertaining and above all unique and unforgettable.