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Magic to discuss how research on this subject could develop in the future, highlighting under-explored subjects, unpublished sources, and new approaches to the topic.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.

January Deadlines and Events of Interest

Trickery, Poetry, Intoxication: The Magic of Medieval Arabic Literature

Emily Selove (IAIS, Exeter)

A Centre for Medieval Studies seminar
Date 30 January 2019
Time 16:00 to 18:00
Place Digital Humanities LaboratoryQueen’s Digital Humanities Seminar 2 (B.02)

Emily Selove from the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies offers us insights into the occult world of medieval Arabic literature.

MagiCog: Cognitive Approaches to Ancient Magic

January 17-18 (Thursday-Friday), 2019
Room G22/26, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU.
We cordially invite you to a workshop on cognitive approaches to ancient magic, organised by Esther Eidinow (Bristol), Irene Salvo and Tanja Scheer (Goettingen).
Speakers include Anton Alvar, Esther Eidinow, Laura Feldt, Chris Gosden, Gustav Kuhn, Jennifer Larson, Lambros Malafouris, Franziska Naether, Eleni Pachoumi, Adam Parker, Irene Salvo, Celia Sánchez Natalías, Jesper Sørensen, and Yulia Ustinova. The full programme can be found here.
If you are interested in attending the whole of the workshop or part of it, please register here, so that we have numbers for catering. (Do get in touch with us directly if you have dietary restrictions.)

The workshop is generously supported by the Leverhulme Trust, the DFG Collaborative Research Centre 1136 Education and Religion at the University of Goettingen, and the Institute of Classical Studies.

“Magical Cities” CFP deadline January 31

The University of Portsmouth’s Supernatural Cities research group presents their fourth conference: Magical Cities. This one-day conference seeks to explore the magical potential of urban environments. To what extent are fictional cities ‘real’ or grounded in reality? In what ways are ‘real’ cities fictional or fantastical creations of their observers and inhabitants? How have people historically imagined the urban environment and through what social, cultural, literary or political lenses? How might the geography of the city space suggest surreal, unreal, supernatural or magical characteristics or personalities? How do such spaces affect our identities?


November 29th at Cambridge University

Literature as Magic, Magic as Literature: Sirāj al-Dīn al-Sakkākī’s Complete Book and a Fragment of Spells

Rooms 8 & 9, Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
Event date:
Thursday, 29 November, 2018 – 17:15 to 18:45

Dr. Emily Selove

Handbooks like that ascribed to the famous 13th-century scholar of language and magic, Sirāj al-Dīn al-Sakkākī’s Kitāb al-Shāmil wa-baḥr al-kāmil, do not themselves invite literary readings. This grimoire often displays all the literary charms of an ungrammatical cookbook; it is a technical manual—a mixed collection of magical recipes and rituals. It includes instructions for creating talismans, for contacting both jinn and devils, for causing hatred and sickness, for curing such magically caused afflictions, and for calling upon the power of each of the planets. As for previous research on Sakkaki, such studies tend to center on his influential book on language and rhetoric, Miftāḥ al-‘ulūm (The Key to the Sciences), often ignoring his reputation as a magician. Nevertheless, early biographical literature credited him with the power to, for example, strike cranes down in mid flight with a magical inscription. I will argue that both Sakkaki’s linguistic and magical interests show his fascination with the power of language. The power of language to alter the mind or create effects in the physical world is described as a kind of bewitchment in occult literature as well as in studies of language, not to mention in love poetry, and my own strategy in approaching magical texts is to read them with the techniques applied to poetry. I will also discuss some evidence of the practise of magic today, focusing on a mysterious 6-folio fragment of spells in Yale’s Beinecke library.