Dates: 23rd October – 2nd November 2019  Times: 6:30pm & 8:30pm  Price: £17.50
Location: Knightshayes, Tiverton, Devon EX16 7RG

“FOUR OF SWORDS, in collaboration with THE WELLCOME TRUST, EXETER UNIVERSITY and the NATIONAL TRUST, is honoured and proud to announce a brand new show for Autumn and Winter 2019!

DOCTOR DRACULA is another immersive theatre production, drawing on a variety of sources and examining how the symbolic role of blood connects with a cutting edge, medical understanding of blood in the 21st century.

This is a little different from our previous shows. It is not a straight adaptation of the Dracula story. Instead, story vignettes from classic vampire stories will draw the audience back-and-forth through time. Medieval blood-letting and grave-robbing will be contrasted with experiments in parabiosis, blood transfusion, and autovampirism. Misunderstood blood conditions such as haemochromatosis and haemophilia will be highlighted. The show will be playful and irreverent, but also scary, unsettling and deadly serious!”


CFP: Mind, Body, Magic: Sensory And Emotional Approaches To Magic In The Roman World

Open University, Milton Keynes (UK)

Friday 27th March 2020

The four centuries of the Roman imperial period saw massive shifts in all aspects of life for people across the Mediterranean and northern Europe, including in the ways in which they communicated with the supernatural, as it fostered unprecedented movements of people, objects and ideas. Much work has been done on how these changes affected the beliefs and practices conventionally called religion, but there is plenty of scope for exploring those that both modern scholars and the ancients themselves recognised as magical.

Materials and materiality mattered, but sensory experiences and emotional responses were also important components of Roman magical practice and were integral to the successful and efficacious completion of ritual action. Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling were key elements of the ‘doing’ and, in reality, there can be little separation between these concepts if we are to have a holistic understanding and engagement with this part of life in the ancient world.

It is the objective of this conference to develop these ideas and to take them further, into the theoretical fields of sensory and emotional archaeologies in order to help modern scholars to understand the relationships between people, objects, and magical rituals. The physical, emotional, and intellectual sensorium of the ancient world is difficult to access, but recent research has begun to provide toolkits and approaches which may be applied to the study of Roman magic.

The burgeoning field of sensory studies in antiquity has provided fertile ground for discussion and has greatly advanced our understanding of life in the Roman world, and emotional archaeologies may help to advance our understanding of emotional effects of ritual practices. Approaching magical practices in these contexts and/or theoretically focused ways can reveal more of the lived experience of the individuals who performed them in their daily lives but can also illuminate broader questions on the nature of a particular society as it changed over space and time.

The study of ‘magic’ in the ancient has long suffered from scholarly disagreements regarding semantics and, subsequently, definitions of this term. Following on from the framework set out in McKie and Parker (2018) we opt not to provide a single, rigid definition of magic for our contributors and participants to use; we wish to encourage a multi-disciplinary conversation informed, perhaps, by multi-disciplinary understandings of magic. We will, however, expect contributors to be broadly aware of these issues and have reflected on this debate.

We would like this conference to reflect as diverse a range of backgrounds and experiences as possible: in professional terms, we welcome contributions from archaeologists, academics and ECRs, post-graduates, museum professionals, classicists and historians.

We would welcome papers on the following topics:

  • Sensory components of magical rituals (not necessarily limited to the classic five senses).
  • The emotional effects of practicing magic.
  • The interactions between human bodies and physical objects in magical rituals.
  • Issues of ephemerality, temporality, and/or seasonality in sensory or emotional approaches.
  • Experimental and reconstructive approaches to ancient magic.

Organisers: Stuart McKie (Durham University) and Adam Parker (Open University).

Please submit abstracts (300 words max) to Stuart McKie () and Adam Parker () by 30th November 2019.

A Sorcerer’s Handbook: Medieval Arabic Magic in Context

Postdoctoral Research Fellow Needed to Participate in “Sorcerer’s Handbook” Project

The Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter wishes to recruit a Postdoctoral Research Fellow to participate in “A Sorcerer’s Handbook: Medieval Arabic Magic in Context,” awarded to Dr Emily Selove. This Leverhulme Trust funded post is available 01/11/2019. The successful applicant will transcribe and create draft translations of manuscripts of Sirāj al-Dīn al-Sakkākī’s Arabic grimoire, write scholarly articles about this subject, and aid the PI in editing a co-authored volume of essays about Sakkākī’s work.

Kitāb al-Shāmil (The Book of the Complete) is a technical manual containing a mixed collection of magical recipes and rituals. It includes instructions for creating talismans, for controlling jinn and devils, for causing sickness, for curing such magically-caused afflictions, and for calling upon the power of each of the planets. The power of God and phrases from the Qur’an are frequently invoked, but the texts in this collection claim to originate from famous Greek thinkers like Ptolemy and Hippocrates. Such Arabic texts concerned with astrological matters as well as the hidden properties of objects in the natural world were influential on European literary and scientific traditions. The translation of the title as The Book of the Complete is informed by a reading of the compiler’s introduction, which refers to the “perfect” scholars of the ancient world on which it purports to base its information, hence, “The book of the Perfect/Complete person”; it is possible that the title is a play on the similarly-titled 11th century book of magic al-Shāmil fī al-baḥr al-kāmil (Complete book of the Perfect Sea) by al-Ṭabasī.

Previous research on Sakkākī tends to centre on his influential book on language, Miftāḥ al-‘ulūm (The Key to the Sciences), often ignoring his reputation as a magician. Nevertheless, early biographical literature indeed credited him with the power to, for example, strike cranes down in mid flight with a magical inscription. Both Sakkākī’s linguistic and magical interests show his fascination with the power of language, and these interests will inform the literary style of translation of Sakkākī’s mysterious grimoire.

Medieval Magic: Future Directions

June 26, 2019

by UCL Institute of Advanced Studies

The recently published Routledge History of Medieval Magic (January 2019) brought together the work of scholars from across Europe and North America to provide extensive insights into recent developments in the study of medieval magic between c.1100 and c.1500. The book covers a wide range of topics, including the magical texts which circulated in medieval Europe, the attitudes of intellectuals and churchmen to magic, the ways in which magic intersected with other aspects of medieval culture, and the early witch trials of the fifteenth century. In doing so, it offers the reader a detailed look at the impact that magic had within medieval society, such as its relationship to gender roles, natural philosophy, and courtly culture. This is furthered by the book’s interdisciplinary approach, containing chapters dedicated to archaeology, literature, music, and visual culture, as well as texts and manuscripts. This workshop brings together nine contributors to The Routledge History of Medieval Magic to discuss how research on this subject could develop in the future, highlighting under-explored subjects, unpublished sources, and new approaches to the topic. We begin with a keynote paper by Marilyn Corrie, and end with three responses to the book from Jennifer Farrell, John Sabapathy and Bill Maclehose followed by a wine reception.

Amuletic Art in North Africa, 1880-1920

The Painters of the City: North Africa 1880-1920

An exhibition by Professor William Gallois

An Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies exhibition
Date 9 May – 2 August 2019
Time 18:00
Place Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies

This exhibition explores a mystery which also constitutes a unique moment in the history of art. In the last years of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century, new forms of painting emerged on and around buildings in cities and towns across north Africa. They were identifiably related to existing cultural forms – especially tattoos , textiles and jewellery – but their sudden appearance in the form of murals and frescoes was unprecedented….

They took existing aesthetic and spiritual amuletic forms which were designed to safeguard individual bodies and homes, extending their scope into the collective, public sphere so as to save communities of believers across cities and the world. While such work was produced anonymously we can be sure that it was made by women, who had long held special aesthetic-religious responsibilities in north Africa. Protective art made by women was imbued with unique force in both Muslim and Jewish communities, and amongst Berbers, Tuaregs and Arabs. While their paintings may have long since faded (or been erased), what we might now learn from the artists of the city and their forgotten works?

Light in Darkness: The Mystical Philosophy of Jacob Böhme


On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the twin city relationship between Coventry and Dresden, the Dresden State Art Collections and the City of Dresden invite you warmly to the opening of an exhibition in the Coventry Cathedral

Invitation Coventry Cathedral


March 20th: Magic and the Occult in Islam

Please join us for a workshop on Magic and the Occult in Islam hosted by the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies’ Centre for the Study of Islam.

In honour of Professor Charles Burnett, a leading researcher in the field. 

March 20th
Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter: Lecture Theatres One and Two

12:30-1:30: Lunch in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies Common Room

1:30-2:30: Professor Dionisius Agius: Magic in Malta and Opening Remarks

2:30-3:00: Dr. Michael Noble: ‘Attitudes to the weird and the wonderful: some reflections on Avicennan and Post-Avicennan thought’

3:00-3:30: Coffee and Tea

3:30-4:00: Dr. Liana Saif: ‘The Pseudo-Aristotelian Hermetica: Preliminary observations’

4:00-4:30: Dr. Ceri Houlbrook: ‘Locking Love and Wishes: Padlock rituals in the Middle East’

4:30-5:00: Concluding Remarks and Discussion

Symposium: Persecution and Possibility

A day of artistic and academic discussion – Wed 24 Apr 2019 -Wed 24 Apr 2019

10am – 4.45pm, Reed Hall, University of Exeter, EX4 4QR. £30/35

This event is £30 with earlybird booking until 28 Feb, or £35 after (£25 OAPs and students)


10am – 4.45pm (registration & coffee from 9.30am)
Reed Hall, University of Exeter, Devon, EX4 4QR, UK
£35 (£25 OAP’s and students)
£30 early bird booking until Thursday 28 February 2019
Book: 01626 832223 or in person at Devon Guild of Craftsmen

Organised by Devon Guild of Craftsmen, with support from the University of Exeter Arts and Culture team, this day-long event will bring academics and artists together to shed further light on the history of witchcraft in Exeter, Devon and beyond, and on the symbolism, imagery and practices that can still resonate strongly with us today.