Exeter Cygnet Theatre

October 9, 7:30 pm

Artemis Storytelling presents Jo Blake and Dr Martin Shaw.

Unearth the unwritten Blodeuwedd, the Frankenstein of flowers. Captured in the pages of a medieval book, the ancient myth of Blodeuwedd describes a woman made out of flowers who was turned into an owl as punishment for adultery. But who was this woman before being confined to the page?

Jo Blake, international contemporary storyteller, irradiates this figure of Welsh myth through word, movement and ritual. The myth is unravelled in this radical reclamation of the untold; intertwined with personal experience and striking observations of the role of myth in our unmythic modern lives. (Blodeuwedd: blod-ae-wuth).

The 1 hour performance will be followed by a chance to hear Jo Blake in conversation with mythologist Dr Martin Shaw exploring trickster, myth and the feminine, and an opportunity for audience Q&A.

Call for papers – project fringe at IMC 2022

Fringe Expertise? Cross-Cultural Readings of Occult Practices in Premodern Eurasia

International Medieval Congress, Leeds, 4-7 July 2022

Sponsored by The Sorcerer’s Handbook: Medieval Arabic Magic in Context Project

Organisers: Dr Sarah Ortega, Dr Geoff Humble (University of Leeds)

This session seeks to bring together a cross-cultural comparative reading of occult practices and practitioners. The term ‘Occult’ encompasses a wide range of intellectual, religious, and scientific practices. In addition to the manuals that explain how to undertake these, their purpose and status are navigated through a diverse array of perspectives that includes narrative historiographies, folk tales, miracle stories, and artworks. Such sources may extol the benefits of useful technologies and syncretic or folk wisdom, or they may formulate allegations of deceitful charlatanry and dangerous meddling. Likewise, practitioners were subject to an extremely wide range of patronage, control, and proscription. By tracing the shifting borders of orthodoxy and acceptability across medieval Eurasia and beyond, it is possible to investigate a broad spectrum of experiences running from the quotidian to the extraordinary across diverse social strata. We would like to invite papers that explore how legacies of occult practices were shaped by such influences as gendered ideas, political conflict, social upheaval, and debates in philosophy and religion.

Occult practices most broadly defined, including (but not limited to):

·       Divination

·       Exorcism

·       Astrology

·       Production of talismans

·       Magic

·       Miracle cures and medical magic

·       Shamanic activity

·       Dowsing

·       Alchemy

·       Charlatans

If you are interested, please email Geoff Humble  or Sarah Ortega  with an abstract of no more than 100 words by Monday 23rd August 2021.

The IMC call for sessions and papers can be found at

For the IMC’s Proposal Guidelines see:

Exclamation! Dreams, Visions and Mindscapes

A free digital conference with presentations by Magic and Esotericism research group members Sarah Scaife and Dorka Tamas:

In Panel 2: Fantasy & Imagination, introduced here:

Dorka Támas – Supernatural Vision in Sylvia Plath’s Bee Poems

Sarah Scaife – Dream as vision, dream as well

The whole conference is posted here:


Sylvia Plath’s reimagination of the Grimms’ fairy tales in postwar American culture

A new publication by Magic and Esotericism Research Group member Dorka Tamás

This article discusses Sylvia Plath’s overlooked juvenilia poems and contextualizes them in postwar American culture. The fairy tales were significant cultural products during the 1950s, that also continue to define the culture today through Disney’s adaptations. Plath loved Grimms’ tales; several of her poems show direct engagement with tales. The first half of my article looks at Plath’s juvenilia poems and their reimagination of fairy-tale narratives. For Plath, the fairy tales functioned as a way to retell her life events. Whilst, the second part of my research uses a psychoanalytical approach to link “momism” in postwar America with the evil witch figure. By close-reading “The Disquieting Muses” poem, I demonstrate Plath’s engagement with the ambiguous mother whose food, similar to the witch in “Hansel and Gretel”, function to deceive the children.

Songdreaming for Albion (Songlines) 2021

July 13th-17th

About this event

As long as there have been people on this land there has been song, and as long as we dwell upon this land a timeless, uniquely human melody will sound from the confluence of culture and contour. But what is that sound? From where did those lines of song and story emerge? In what language, to what tune, under what belief and through what gesture? What if there was an ancient indigenous Albion ‘dreamtime’ and what hope have we now in reclaiming any fragments of those tune-trails? Why should we even bother?…

​The Witch Studies Reader ​Call for Proposals

Co-edited by Soma Chaudhuri and Jane Ward

Deadline to submit a 500 to 750-word abstract: August 1st, 2021

“…we are calling for chapter proposals that illuminate how feminists can make sense of the witch—her power and her persecution—in ways that take account of the vastly different national, political-economic, and cultural contexts in which she is currently being claimed and repudiated.  The Witch Studies Reader, being prepared for Duke University Press, will dive deep into this question, revealing the current era to be a time of feminist celebration of witchcraft in many parts of the global North, and a time of continued violence and death for women accused of witchcraft in many parts of the global South. This book will be the first of its kind to hold both realities in view by tracing the evolving relationship between the figure of the witch and the global political-economic and cultural context in which she is located.”


Bringing the Complete Book off the Page

This is a love talisman from a book of lunar mansions, widely circulated in the medieval world. It is meant to be carved out of ebony, which is way beyond my skill, so I stained it ebony instead. I also did not inscribe it with the correct names, address it with the prescribed incantation, perfume it with the appropriate incense, or observe the position of the moon during its creation. So it is only a model for research purposes, and not a talisman… though if it ends up earning me the love of mankind anyway, I won’t complain!

The pictured manuscript is a Persian translation of this Arabic work of talismanic hermetica, which was also translated into Latin. Here is my translation of the spell:

A Nīranj for love in the hearts of men: Take a piece of ebony wood without any whiteness in it when the moon is in the eighth degree of this mansion and make an idol out of it with the face of a bird, with its right hand on his chest, and his left hand hanging on his hips. Then on his back, inscribe these shapes: [symbols], on his chest, inscribe these letters [a string of letters], then inscribe on his right and left thigh the names of the six angels of this mansion. Inscribe only when the moon is in the mansion and conjoined felicitously. When you have finished the inscription, suffumigate it with the incense and recite the names of the angels, and say (but do not inscribe) the following: Spirits of love, affection, togetherness, and harmony among all of creation, you have intermingled in it, spirits of love, in the hearts of the sons of Adam and the daugthers of Eve, slave and free, and all the rest of creation!

Read these words a hundred times and pick it up and carry it with you in a cloth of yellow silk brocade. This is one of the special secrets, so understand it well, O children of wisdom.


Music by Pulp (“This House is Condemned”)

Manuscript image from Royal Asiatic Society Persian MS 11

Translation based on an Arabic text of Siraj al-Din al-Sakkaki’s Kitab al-Shamil (British Library, Delhi Arabic 1915b).

The Sorcerer’s Handbook research project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust

The Devil’s in the Details

Sakkaki’s Magic Book of Everything (April 30th 2021)

Dr. Emily Selove, Senior Lecturer of Medieval Arabic Language and Literature, at the University of Exeter, discusses her Leverhulme-funded research project, “A Sorcerer’s Handbook,” which will create an edition, translation, and literary study of Siraj al-Din al-Sakkaki’s (d. 1229) Arabic encyclopedia of practical magic.

In conversation with Professor Travis Zadeh of the Department of Religious Studies, Yale University.

  • WhenFriday, April 30, 2021 12:00 PM to Friday, April 30, 2021 1:30 PM
  • WhereOnline/Virtual Event

Watch the recording here:

Magic, Healing, and Religion Workshop

McMaster University (Online)

May 26th

This workshop proposes an interdisciplinary and inter-religious approach to healing in religious traditions. Religious healing can be syncretic between traditions, relegated to the margins of official religion, or use non-mechanical logics to address imbalances of body, spirit, and social identity. By comparing religions, and by fostering dialogue between different fields, we hope to understand the relationship between religion, science, magic, and healing.

10:00 AM-11:00 AM
Keynote talk:
Dr. Matt Melvin-Koushki, “Healing is Believing: Medical Magic Between Science and Religion.”

Workshop paper titles and schedule:

11:00 AM-11:40 AM
Dr. Hanna Tervanotko and Katharine Fitzgerald, “Food That Revives: Healing Rituals in Ancient Jewish Texts”

1:00 PM-1:40 PM
Dr. James Benn, “Dangers to the Body and Mind Caused by Meditation in the Chinese Buddhist Tradition”

1:40 PM-2:20 PM
Dr. Ellen Amster, “Kabbalists, Sufis, and Solomon’s Magic Ring: Magic Healing Amulets as a History of Judeo-Islamic Exchange in Morocco and Islamic Spain”

2:20 PM-3:00 PM
Dr. Mark Rowe, “The Alchemy of Ritual and Words: Healing Grief in Contemporary Japan”

3:00 PM-3:40 PM
Dr. Ellen Badone, “Laer Amann, Guérisseurs, Priests and Prayers”

Medicines of Uncertainty (slow radio for wellbeing)

By Sarah Scaife

Uncertainty can be an unsettling aspect of ill health. Come on a gentle journey into more hopeful ways of being with not knowing. Can uncertainty become a friend during times of dis-ease?

A series of six pieces broadcast on Soundart Radio 102.5FM and online: Tuesdays at 1:30pm, 09 Feb to 27 April 2021, with a fortnightly repeat. You can listen again on SoundCloud > here