Vilem Slavata’s Miraculous Rescue in 1618: Normal or Abnormal
Czar Peter I the Great was the king of Russia who ruled the Russian Empire in the 17th century. He was a very well educated man who implemented and executed modernization policies in Russia. During one of his trips to the northern part of his empire, King Peter I heard rumors that caught his attention. Inhabitants of a small city on the outskirts of St. Petersburg talked about a church in their locality. They claimed that a sacred image of the holy mother in that church cries drops of blood. Superstitious people interpreted this “miracle” as an omen that Holy Mother was not satisfied with the country. They believed that her eye drops foretold an imminent catastrophe. The catastrophe was thought to befall the new city or probably the whole empire in the near future. The emperor decided to visit St. Petersburg the next day and found the rumored sacred image in that church. However, there were no eye drops on the iconic image. In lieu of that, he noticed something suspicious in the picture and decided to take the sacred image to his palace.
I think that it was normal for people in Europe at the end of 17th century to believe in the supernatural forces. On the converse, I strongly believe that there were also people who knew the truth behind all these miracles. There is a high likelihood that some people even imitated them by feigning their occurrence. This was majorly for manipulative reasons bent on gratifying their desires. This begs the question: was it also normal or abnormal for them to believe in supernatural?
In his palace, the emperor explored the image carefully in front of priests from the famous church. He managed to unravel the mystery of the crying image He noticed very small holes near the eyes of Holy Mother and on the back side of the image. The holes were the source of “blood” drops. The holes were stuffed with thick wooden oil, which easily melted under the warmth of candles that were lit in front of the image. In history, there are many similar miracles that were artificially orchestrated. I think people who did that for their purposes were successful most of the time because it was “normal” to the populace to experience miracles. The intention was maybe not exactly to make people to believe but at least admit that miracles are possible in the real world at that time. Humanity has changed a lot since that time and now people prefer to believe more in science than in religion. Nowadays, the generations have a more realistic and rational approach to issues. This new approach makes me wish to get a futuristic perspective and perception of the supernatural realm.
In the wake of his discovery, Peter the Great told the priests, “Now you see the reason of imaginary eyes, this will serve a proof of emptiness and a refutation of silly and maybe a spiteful interpretation of this false miracle. I will keep the Image in my Kunst-Kamera.” That is not a unique case of eye drops in Russia. There is an article which talks about a period in history when people saw many miracles in churches. Governments issued a regulatory mechanism; a law that stipulated the punishment of priests from churches professing miracles. It is interesting that no more miracles were witnessed from that time.
Witchcraft is another example of religion`s interpretation of miracles. On the contrary, witchcraft oriented miracles are used for malevolent purposes. Many researchers have attempted to decipher why “witch-hunts” were carried out. From an objective point of view, the victims of such sacrilegious acts are usually innocent an innocuous people. There is lack of concrete evidence to justify their executions. It is in this light that the government of Scotland granted pardons to the families of people whose ancestors were tried for witchcraft.
From my point of view these miracles were a manipulative and powerful religious tool. It was instrumental in influencing church followers and protecting the image of the church. As for ordinary people of that time, the church probably was the place where people received new information, advice, and a place where they could speak about their feelings and emotional experiences. Therefore, if you could control the dissemination of information, then you will be in a position to control their minds and decisions.
In synopsis, although it was normal to believe in supernatural forces that perform miracles, some people capitalized on this phenomenon or the loophole in the society. They did this for their own purposes and it was abnormal for them to believe in miracles.