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One major hurdle in attempting to understand medieval magic is the problem of the idea of what magic is Much of the information comes from laws penitential and sermons of Christian leaders condemning magic and its practitioners Within medieval Christendom magic was the opposite of religion and therefore defined by those who were in a position to define Christianity church leaders and religious authors In that sense medieval magic is whatever practices church leaders condemned as not of God These authorities usually associated magic with the devil paganism heresy and witchcraft or sorcery The most notable figure in any discussion of magic is that of the witch There are many reasons for the witch being the most recognized figure in magic Many explanations stretch back to ancient pagan beliefs or teachings Both men and women practiced the acts of magic The earliest stories concerning magic however attribute it most prominently to women and to the idea of witchcraft Jacob Grimm explains the reasoning for this in the following way To woman not to man was assigned the culling and concocting of powerful remedies as well as the cooking of food Her lithe soft hands could best prepare the salve weave the lint and dress the wound the art of writing and reading is in the Middle Ages ascribed chiefly to women The restless lives of men were filled up with war hunting agriculture and handicrafts to women experience and convenient leisure lent every qualification for secret sorcery The art of magic is to have chiefly been perfected by older women since they were no longer able to love and bear offspring Therefore these women bide their time practicing the supernatural In his account on the origin of magic the Icelandic writer Snorri says that men taught women to me sorcerers since it was seen as dishonorable for men to partake in such a practice It is due to these descriptions and the
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