Among the classic ones was the belief that one or more of the saints canonized by Rome can make the crops grow, cure disease, and get the son into an apprentice program. The saints were essentially the middlemen between Jesus Christ and the baptized Catholics. They carried the messages and then did the heavy lifting in the miracles.
Obviously, such mysticism was dangerous to the King's agenda in the Reformation. So, he abolished most saints' feast days. The party line on that was that so many feast days caused the workforce to take too much time off, crops to rot in the fields, and a preoccupation with celebration, not nose to the grindstone.
As you can see, this was the beginning of the Protestant Ethic or salvation via hard work, with very few days off. In the colonies, the Puritans took a surprise break with inventing Thanksgiving Day. Incidentally, they were driven out of England because their focus on the redeeming power of work was perceived as extreme.
This morning at St. Philips in the Hills, Tucson, Arizona, University of AZ graduate student Cory Davis presented this shift from the mindset of miracles to one of supposedly more objective values. The lecture was in conjunction with the University's Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies.
It has been the second in the 2014 Summer Lecture Series "Keeping Time in Early Modern Europe." Before the Reformation society experienced time through events such as feast days and harvest season, not the ticking of the clock. Here is a backgrounder on this particular talk.
What some of us took away from this lecture was that it seemed that parts of our society have returned to those pre-Reformation days. Hey, where did all our hard work get us? Barely through The Great Recession and probably in debt.
At the very least, huge parts of the national mindset have evolved into a belief in positive thinking: Believe it can happen and it just might. That indeed may be the unofficial religion of America. We chastise the negative as heretics.
An interesting book on creating happy thinking is "Kidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self Deception" by Joseph T. Hallinan. Research backs up that wonderful outcomes can happen from what Henry VIII blew off as superstition. Here you can order "Kidding Ourselves" from Amazon.com.
In more intense forms we are embracing the mental models and rituals of spiritual groups such as those at the Tamara Center in Tucson and the Wiccas in Salem, Massachusetts. I have frequented both. The ethos of other-worldly forces is comforting. Also, aspects of my life, from health to the success of my business, did improve.
It could be that the current acceptance of mysticism represents a push-back against science and technology. We are yearning for something beyond swiping the touch screen. That could be akin to those in medieval times craving an existence outside the drudgery of just surviving. The saints spiced things up.