Spiritual roles in early modern Scotland
Jones, Ciaran James McAuley
This thesis compares how Reformed conversion-centred spirituality was articulated in sermons, conversion narratives and witchcraft confessions, with a particular focus on looking at the broad similarities across these three contexts. Drawing on religious historians’ understanding of early modern Protestant conversion and sociologists’ and social psychologists’ scholarship on role theory, it argues that Reformed conversion can be interpreted as a process of following and sometimes internalising culturally coded spiritual roles that forced people to transform their thoughts, words and actions with the aim of reconciling with God. The thesis identifies three spiritual roles common to sermons, conversion narratives and witchcraft confessions: the unregenerate, the penitent sinner and the Christian soldier. It first considers how these roles were constructed and preached to the laity in ministers’ sermons, and then moves on to examine how pious lay Scots articulated these roles in their conversion narratives. After establishing a pattern in how these roles were articulated in sermons and conversion narratives, the remainder of the thesis explores how these roles were articulated in witchcraft confessions. Supporting recent scholarship, mainly on German witchcraft, it shows how conversion-centred spirituality extended to the environment of the witch trial and how historians can use evidence from the witch trials to explore the relationship between orthodox religious culture and witchcraft, and to consider how ordinary Scots from across the central lowlands expressed Reformed spiritual ideas.