on March 19, 2012
Great introduction to the narrative, myth, vernacular literature and their application of the host desecration accusation against rural and urban Jews in Europe in the late medieval era. The host desecration revolved around a series of tropes that created a centralized myth with localized variations and power structures. Central to the myth was the belief in the Eucharist as the physical embodiment of Jesus as a child and in the care of his Virgin mother. The Jewish community was accused of secret acts of desecration against the host while in a parallel accusation they were seen as spiritually redeemable if they physically represented the feminine gender and their associated willingness to convert. Jewish men were deemed unworthy of mercy in the host desecration narrative. They were portrayed as instigators, devious merchants and in search of a host on which to perform experiments and eventually discard after finding it produces Christ child entities, visible signs of natural miracles and often brings attention to a virginal Christian or Jewish boy or woman. The myth is built on certain foundations that find sanctuary in their vernacular retelling over the course of the late medieval period. Localized versions ignite lower class passions in a bottom up drive towards persecution. In addition, tales of desecration involve real people seeking to describe religious experiences in state sponsored courts. Urban and rural levels of persecution varied depending on the centralized control of an elite seeking to maintain profitable ties with Jewish merchants. In the author's view the drive to persecute came from the rural lower classes indoctrinated in a mystical host narrative and a cultural system of persecution of the other.