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Seven Deadly Sins

  The Seven Deadly Sins much occupied the minds of medieval Christian thinkers. They were held to be sins that guaranteed the death not of the body but of the soul, unless it could be rescued in time by penitence and holy works. Distantly derived from the Ten Commandments, the seven sins were Avarice, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Pride, Sloth and Wrath. The ‘magic’ number seven was also applied to counterbalancing qualities. The Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost were Counsel, Fear of the Lord, Fortitude, Knowledge, Righteousness, Understanding and Wisdom, and the Seven Virtues were Charity, Faith, Fortitude, Hope, Justice, Prudence and Temperance.

Even in medieval times, such lists as these were regarded (except by those who compiled them or sermonized about them) as fanciful wordplay, with as little relevance to life as speculation about angels dancing on the points of pins. The idea was, however, of interest to artists and writers. Chaucer\'s Canterbury Tales gleefully go through the catalogue of sins, and Malory\'s Morte d\'Arthur weaves the idea of sins and virtues into the whole ethical and moral framework of the society it depicts. Satirists and comedians, not unexpectedly, have fallen on the sins, keeping them vigorously alive right to the present day. KMcL



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