The Culture of Protestantism in Early Modern Scotland

2002
Yale University Press

The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century brought a radical shift from a profoundly sensual and ceremonial experience of religion to the dominance of the word through book and sermon. In Scotland, the revolution assumed proportions unequalled by any other national Calvinist Reformation, with Christmas and Easter formally abolished, Sabbaths turned to fasting days, and mandatory attendance of weekday as well as Sunday sermons strictly enforced as part of an invasive disciplinary regimen. How was such a drastic shift accomplished and what effect did it have on the masses of people in the pew, or in the alehouse? In addressing this question Margo Todd uses the abundance of source material from the operations of "kirk sessions", the most local of the Calvinist church courts, which detail varied aspects of daily life: baptism, marriage and burial, poor relief and education, fasts and feasts, sexual offences and doctrinal error. She shows how the kirk sessions balanced the exercise of discipline with social service to produce a distinctively Scottish Reformed culture in which traditional ritual and drama, propitiatory devices and even imagery were not discarded, but reconstructed in a protestant guise. Holy space and holy time, however protestantised, continued to provide the anxious with comfort, and the ordinary lay person with an affective experience of the sacred. In this study Todd uses this documentation to produce a work of historical anthropology, and elucidate the spirituality of a people long hidden from history.