U.S. History/Word views
I have been fascinated by tellings of the world people lived in historically. By that I mean the world they believed they lived in, full of witches, mythical beasts and spirits haunting the unfortunate or "ungodly". People might come down with a terrible disease or disappear into the woods never to return, so it is perhaps no wonder that such fansiful explanations were proposed. History is replete with unsolved murders and kidnappings, for example (e.g. the awful Hinterkaifeck massacre, or the Bloody Benders etc). Only in modern times do we consider it a given that some might be solved. Another example of every-day horrors is wolf attacks. My question is about resources you could recommend for getting a detailed window into these world views of old. Ca. 1500-1800. They could focus on either early colonists of the USA, or on Europe. I wish to know how it was like to actually fear that which goes bump in the night - with good reason. How did they cope with the beliefs and fears? How did they cope with the knowledge that life was "cheap"? What was such a life like?
Meanwhile I get squeamish for going to the dentist. I'm glad I was born in the 20th century...
Erlend Berne (from Norway)
I'll be glad to help with your very interesting question! Here are two resources that I hope you'll find illuminating:
First is a book which I personally own and strongly recommend: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2706772-the-magical-universe
As you'll see, this book focuses on Europe and covers exactly the era that you specified.
Regarding the US, I recommend this website about American folklore: http://www.americanfolklore.net/
This website has every folk legend I've ever heard of, in addition to many, many more.
Although you specified a time period of 1500-1800, may I also suggest two excellent resources about the Middle Ages which regard your particular interest. Respected medieval historian Robert Bartlett's book addresses medieval supernatural beliefs in : http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/history/european-history-1000-1450
The fundamentals of that book are also presented in the first episode of his excellent 4-part BBC documentary "Inside the Medieval Mind." That episode can be watched free at:
I hope that this has been helpful, and I wish you well on exploring your interest!