Occulture Conference: A Master’s Degree in Magic




The University of Exeter will launch a new Master’s Degree program on Magic and the Occult in 2024: a flexible degree which gives students the freedom to explore their specific interests within the long and diverse history of esotericism, witchcraft, ritual magic, and related topics. This lecture will explain the rationale behind the MA’s structure, exploring, for example, the reason why it is based in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, but includes colleagues from at least six different departments. It will also explain the two dissertation module options: one employing historical, social science, or literary methodologies, and one based in the drama department and employing performance and practice-based methodologies. In explaining the genesis of this degree, we will illuminate the growing importance of the study of magic and the occult in the academy today, and its potential to break new ground in academic research techniques. Not only does research into magic and the occult allow us to explore alternative epistemologies and embodied knowledge, it furthermore provides the opportunity to address some of the most urgent challenges of our society. This is because the study of these topics necessarily entails reimagining the relationship of human cultures to one another and to the natural world. By housing this program in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, we place the Arabo-Islamic cultural heritage back where it belongs in the centre of these studies and in the history of the “West.” Decolonisation, feminism, and anti-racism are at the core of this programme.

Apocalyptic Times: Spirituality in Global Revolt

deadline for the call for papers to Monday 31st July – please contact Iona (ir299@exeter.ac.uk) for more information

7-8th September 2023, University of Exeter and Online


“In recent years, ideas and practices of spirituality have become increasingly visible within activist and protest movements across the political spectrum, from ecological and decolonizing movements to populist revivals of religious nationalism and ‘traditional values’. The last few decades have seen not only a global rise of transnational, inter-religious right-wing politics, but also pushback in the form of alternative and counter-spiritualities, both within religious establishments and in spiritual traditions historically marginalised or overlooked. Across these movements, white, Euro-American accounts of secularization have been provincialized and challenged. The apocalyptic has also been revived as an enduring, powerful – and sometimes problematic – mode of critique, from eco-apocalyptic literature to the political ideology of russkiy mir.

In this workshop, we seek to think with and against apocalyptic framings of the present day to try to make sense of spirituality as a contemporary form of political and cultural critique. Does spirituality offer a helpful lens through which to make sense of recent movements for political and social change? Can thinking with, rather than about, spirituality help de-centre white, Euro-American narratives – or might it reinforce those very narratives? And how do we make sense of these ‘critical spiritualities’ in relation to histories of the secular and critiques of secularization theory?

This two-day workshop aims to bring together scholars from across disciplines and geographical regions to examine the role of spirituality within contemporary political and cultural critique, and to explore their relationship to histories of the secular. The workshop aims to bring into dialogue theoretical work on religion and the secular, with empirical case studies of spirituality’s role in recent political and social activism. In doing so, the workshop aims to explore a global history of contemporary critical spirituality by asking:

  • How is spirituality and religion (broadly conceived) entangled in political and cultural protest movements or activism around the world? What connections, if any, can we make between local, national and transnational movements?
  • How can attention to spirituality – and thinking with, rather than about, spirituality – help make sense of contemporary political and cultural critiques and their historical roots?
  • How might these examples of ‘critical spirituality’ alter our histories of modern religion, secularization, and ‘de-secularization’?

Possible topics for discussion include, but are by no means limited to:

  • The relationship between religion, secularity, spirituality, and the (post)colonial: colonialism and the making of secular religion; the (non-)recognisability of spirituality; indigenous spiritualities and cosmologies; spirituality in law
  • Eco-apocalyptic literature; provincializing environmentalism; ‘more-than-human’ perspectives
  • Religion’s relation to populism, liberalism and democracy: Judeo-Christianity, secularism and whiteness; civilizational politics; religious nationalism; anti-fascist, anti-communist and socialist spiritualities; religiosity and civic engagement
  • Health and healing; non-dualistic and spiritual anthropologies; ‘alternative’ healthcare
  • Queer theologies; spirituality and sexuality; gender equality and secularism; religion in ‘anti-gender’ movements
  • Magic and secular reason; ritual and re-enchantment; witchcraft; paganism
  • Entanglement of race and religion; racial epistemologies; spirituality and struggles for and against racial justice
  • Political martyrdom, death and witness; mysticism as politics; sacrifice and religious persecution
  • Histories of the secular, multiple secularities, the ‘return of religion’, post-secularism, de-secularization, and religious freedom


For more information, please contact us by email () or on twitter (@CritSpirit)

This workshop is funded by the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership.”

Praise For Wonders and Rarities

The Marvelous Book That Traveled the World and Mapped the Cosmos
by Travis Zadeh


Emily Selove’s informal review:

This is a remarkable book, in that it is extremely academically rigorous, while being simultaneously accessible to a wide audience and a genuine pleasure to read.  The introduction draws you in, the writing style is gripping and lucid, and Zadeh’s profound erudition does not prevent him from speaking in a way that would be clear to any educated reader. He puts this book in the context of its own time, and also illuminates its reception in the West, in a way that convincingly demonstrates its pressing significance not only for an accurate understanding of history but for what it means to be human in a global world today.

Given the urgency of decolonising the study of the Middle East, this book makes an especially important contribution by showing that some of the rhetoric that modern scholars use when crediting Medieval Muslims and Arabs with the development of modern science and technology, in fact applies the same standards of what is valuable (i.e. what is purely rational and excludes wonder and spirituality) that lies behind so much destructive colonial thinking– that is to say, it suggests that only the values of the modern West matter as a yardstick when measuring the merits of any given cultural production. To remedy this, Zadeh inhabits the cosmos of Qazwini’s own work by illuminating the thought world within which it existed, describing, for example, the scope and impact of Ibn Sina’s philosophy in an unusually lucid manner. Thereby he shows the links between the reality Qazwini inhabited and the literary/philosophical world he was working in. Through this frame, basic concepts such as the four main schools of Sunni law are explained more clearly than I have ever previously seen done. The same is true of thorny philosophical questions such as the problem of evil, fate vs. free will, and the pursuit of knowledge and/or pleasure in Creation as a goal of human existence.  Zadeh has long been my number one source of information in researching the works and historical environment of Siraj al-Din al-Sakkaki (d. 1229) and he has added further to that story here, so this book is of great use to me as a specialist in this region, in addition to being accessible and entertaining to a general educated audience. Together with its illustrations and its copious notes (which he compares to the marginalia that adorn later editions of the Book of Wonders) Zadeh’s book becomes itself a catalogue of wonders, which, like its object of study, is microcosmic.

MA in Magic and Occult Sciences

We are delighted to announce a new MA in Magic and Occult Sciences
launching in September, 2024. 

This is a flexible degree, which provides you the freedom to design you own course of studyLed by a team of faculty members across departments (see our “members” tab), an essential aspect of this programme is its interdisciplinarity.  Thus, the University of Exeter’s MA in Magic and Occult Science allows you to explore your specific interest within the long and diverse history of esotericism, witchcraft, ritual magic, occult sciences, divination, and related topics. The compulsory, team-taught core module, ARAM251 Esotericism and the Magical Tradition, lets you meet a range of scholars from different fields, and to form a community with other students on your program. You will also attend the monthly meetings and local field trips of the Centre for Magic and Esotericism. Thus, you will benefit from conversation with a wide range of learners with diverse interests, no matter which modules you have chosen. By housing this program in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, we place the Arabo-Islamic cultural heritage back where it belongs in the centre of these studies and in the history of the “West.” Decolonisation, the exploration of alternative epistemologies, feminism, and anti-racism are at the core of this programme. 

Students who wish to employ primarily text-based, historical, or social-science methodologies will enrol on the ARAM027 dissertation module, based in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies. Students who wish to employ primarily performative and practice-based methodologies will enrol on the DRAM080 dissertation module, based in the Drama Department.

 A sample list of optional module topics includes:

Oral History, Material Culture, The Western Dragon in Literature Lore and Art, Researching Theatre and Performance, The Legend of King Arthur, Palaeography, The Philosophy of Psychedelics, Science Technology and Society, Theorizing the Middle East, The Sovereign the Good and Society in Islamic Thought, Themes in Archaeological Theory and Practice, Writing Women in the Middle Ages, The Book in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, and Gender Society and Culture in Early Modern Europe 

Please contact e.selove@exeter.ac.uk for more information and to register your interest!


Magic and Witchcraft: Evolving beliefs, practices and attitudes

Thu, 22 Jun 2023 09:30 – Fri, 23 Jun 2023 17:30 BST

Organised by Tabitha Stanmore and Debora Moretti

Attendees are welcome to join in-person in York or online. (King’s Manor – University of York, Exhibition Square York YO1 7EP)

Keynote speaker: Professor James Sharpe (University of York)

“This two-day event aims to investigate the transformations in beliefs, practices, attitudes, and geographical contexts associated with magic and witchcraft across different historical periods and locations. By examining diverse primary sources ranging from late medieval and early modern European religious and secular archives to contemporary filmography, the event endeavours to shed light on the evolving narratives surrounding magic and witchcraft and their persistent influence on present-day culture.”

To register and to see the full program:


The European Witch Hunt in World Context, with Prof Ronald Hutton


The European Witch Hunt in World Context: Some Further Thoughts

Professor Ronald Hutton

3:30pm, Wednesday 1st March, Lecture Theatre D, Streatham Court (University of Exeter). Followed by a drinks reception from around 5:00pm.

This event will also be streamed online via Zoom. Please register for ‘Online Only’ to receive the link.

“Witch-hunting is not a thing of the past, but an increasingly serious problem in large areas of the developing world, and it has recently been made the subject of a United Nations resolution. This lecture is intended to explain how the European witch-hunting of the early modern period fitted into the general world pattern, how it differed from it, and whether any lessons can be drawn from the European experience which can be of use to the rest of the planet.

Ronald Hutton is the senior Professor of History in the University of Bristol, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Society of Antiquaries, the Learned Society of Wales, and the British Academy. He is also the Gresham Professor of Divinity at London and sits on the Conservation Committee of Historic England. He has published eighteen books and eighty-three essays on a wide range of subjects including British history between 1400 and 1700, ancient and modern paganism in Britain, the British ritual year, and the history of witchcraft and magic.

Professor Hutton is the author of The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present (2007).

The Centre for Early Modern Studies organises the Joyce Youings Memorial Lecture in early modern History. The lecture commemorates Professor Joyce Youings, formerly head of History at Exeter, the first female professor at the institution, and a distinguished historian of early modern Britain, who died in 2011. The lecture is an annual event, and is generously funded by Professor Youing’s nephew, Mr Peter Youings.”

Earth Spells: Witches of the Anthropocene

11 February 2023 – 7 May 2023

Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter


“Artists: Caroline Achaintre, Emma Hart, Kris Lemsalu, Mercedes Mühleisen, Grace Ndiritu, Florence Peake, Kiki Smith, and Lucy Stein

Through the work of eight contemporary artists, this specially curated new exhibition for RAMM explores otherworldly connections to nature. Earth Spells: Witches of the Anthropocene responds to RAMM’s collections, specifically the Dartmoor Cauldron, once owned by the self-identified ‘Witch of Dartmoor’ Elizabeth Webb. The ‘Anthropocene’ is a proposed definition of geological time that describes the period from 1945 to now, where human activity has had significant impact on the planet’s ecosystems.

The artworks express an intuitive response to the climate and ecological crises. They suggest new spiritual relationships with the land, especially in Devon and Cornwall. Dartmoor is widely known as a place for self-healing and shamanistic practices with its Neolithic stone circles and burial mounds.

Earth Spells invites the viewer to consider if the artists and the artworks could be perceived as suspicious and challenging, radiating ‘witchiness’.

Artists Emma Hart, Grace Ndiritu, Florence Peake and Lucy Stein have been commissioned to create new work in response to RAMM’s collections.

Lucy Stein says, ‘To a certain extent as an artist/witch, I have to stay in tune with an uncultivated state inside myself. For this commission at RAMM, I am trying to tap into the vibe of my childhood, death, the mystical feminine and the spirit of place in the South West.’

Florence Peake presents films, ceramic sculptures and text-based fabric installations inspired by the cauldron’s aura and her visit to a Shaman on Dartmoor. Emma Hart is interested in the power of individuals whose words incite change, for example Greta Thunberg’s activism. Grace Ndiritu’s work draws on indigenous ideas that urge us to live and work for the benefit of all future generations and ecosystems. Her protest carpet is ‘activated’ through an intimate, spiritual ceremony in the museum.

Other works on display include a Jacquard tapestry and drawings by Kiki Smith; a hand-tufted rug by Caroline Achaintre; Mercedes Mühleisen’s video installation Lament of Fruitless HEN; and the sculpture Baubo Dance by Kris Lemsalu.

Earth Spells is co-curated by Lara Goodband, Contemporary Art Curator and Programmer at RAMM, and independent curator Gemma Lloyd.”

University of Exeter Library Resource Guide


“This resource guide is based on a reading list for a seminar (ARAM251) created by Dr James Downs, and provides an overview of resources held by the University of Exeter’s Special Collections and the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum that relate to esotericism and the magical tradition.”

Explore titles related to “Ancient and Arabic Sources,” “Rites and Rituals,” “Meanings of Belief,” “Westcountry Witchcraft and Folklore,” and “From the Enlightenment to the Victorian Occult Revival.”

The Sorcerer’s Handbook: Dirt from the crossroads in the 13th-century

November 28th 6-8 PM Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter


Register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-sorcerers-handbook-dirt-from-the-crossroads-in-the-13th-century-tickets-462520740987

A sheep heart full of pins, a graveyard at midnight, a contract with Satan signed in a magic circle: these are the stereotypical images of magic found in folk-horror depictions of European witchcraft and sorcery. This presentation will find them in a collection of magical texts attributed to an influential scholar of the Arabic language, Sirāj al-Dīn al-Sakkākī (d. 1229 CE). Written in western Iran in the early days of the Mongol conquest, Sakkākī’s Book of the Complete (Kitāb al-Shāmil) stands at a magical crossroads, and creates a meeting point of cultures: a place from which to learn about the globally entangled Middle Ages, and the West’s profound debt to Arab and Islamic culture. The presentation will also link the contents of this Arabic grimoire to the RAMM’s own collection of magical artifacts.

Free entry, drinks and food

After-hours access to museum exhibits and special items from the archives

The Marks We Leave: Devotion, Damage and Debauchery in Sacred Spaces

Being Human Café in Bristol to discuss the use of spiritual spaces – both natural and constructed – throughout history.

Date and time

Sat, 12 November 2022, 15:00 – 17:00 GMT


The Old Fish Market, Bristol 59-63 Baldwin Street Bristol BS1 1QZ

Register for free here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-marks-we-leave-devotion-damage-and-debauchery-in-sacred-spaces-tickets-421234272047?fbclid=IwAR1mVliWUltL1E55EtB7YBVRufjacZwrUr8ouXvuBh4oHG5Np1xno2UoGgI

“This café will start with a discussion of how spiritual interactions with physical spaces clash with our expectations of those spaces, followed by a group Q&A involving the audience.

This discussion will cover graffiti in churches, rubbish at Stonehenge, whether vampires can really enter churches, and more! During the café, we’ll think about how we use spiritual spaces, and what the boundary is between the sacred and the mundane in the past and in the present.

This promises to be a fascinating event for those who are interested in church history, environmental issues, and heritage!”