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  • 2014-05-21 20:26 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    Book project, ed. by Dr Antje Bosselmann-Ruickbie and Dr Leo Ruickbie

    Magic is a wide field of research comprising what we might call the occult, paranormal events, anomalous experience, spirituality and other phenomena throughout human history. However, research has often been focused more narrowly on the historical analysis of written sources, or the anthropology and occasionally sociology of practitioners and their communities, for example. What is often overlooked are the physical artefacts of magic themselves.

    In all areas of research, ‘material culture’ is becoming increasingly important – the ‘material turn’ as it has been labelled. This is particularly the case for disciplines that traditionally have not focused on object studies but on theory such as historical or social sciences. However, it is self-evident that the objects emerging from a culture provide valuable information on societies and their history. This is also and particularly the case for magic and related phenomena. Magic, especially, became divorced from its concrete expressions as academic study focused on problems of rationality and functionalist explanation.

    When studying magic it is crucial to look at the objects that have been produced and what purpose they had, who made them and in what period, whether they represent only a certain historical period or are a long-lasting phenomenon, etc. This volume hence aims to ‘re-materialise’ magic, to re-anchor it in the physical things that constitute ‘magic’ and recover the social lives, even biographies, of these things.

    The envisaged academic book aims to cover a wide range of subjects, periods, geographical areas, as well as methods: firstly, because an interdisciplinary approach is essential to adequately encompass the subject; secondly, to investigate whether similar objects were used in different cultures in parallel or over a long period; and thirdly, to serve as a starting point for future research. This will be the first book on the material culture of magic and consequently has the potential to become a foundational text.

    Therefore, we invite contributors from different disciplines such as anthropology, archaeology, art history, ethnology, folklore, parapsychology, religious studies, sociology and others. Subjects could be, for example, case studies focusing on particular objects, museum collections, or mass market items labelled as magical; analysis of classes of embodied magical functions, such as charms, amulets, talismans, magical jewellery, icons, relics, poppets (Voodoo dolls), etc.; consideration of classes of materials, such as bone, wood, metal, precious and semi-precious stones, etc. In addition, it is important to understand people-object relations, spatial-temporal aspects of magical objects, the dialectics of transference (projection and introjection), the role of narratives and social performance, cultural trajectories, and the processes of commodification and fetishisation (reification). These can be addressed in a variety of contexts from traditional religion to popular culture, and historically situated anywhere from prehistory to the present day.

    Any physical representation of magical ideation or anything imbued with supernatural meanings by its creator, such as found objects, animal/human parts, and man-made artefacts, can be considered in this context. What matters is a central focus on the physicality of the magical object; its material existence.

    The volume will present an overview of current research in this field. It will comprise approximately 20 of the best and most relevant contributions on this subject. Contributors will be asked to submit a finished chapter of around 6,000 words (inc. references) with publication planned for 2015.

    In the first instance, an abstract of no more than 300 words should be sent, together with a brief biography, to the editors before 1 August 2014 at . We are also happy to answer any questions.

    In order to get the best possible response, we would appreciate your help in re-distributing this call for chapters. Email it to colleagues, other relevant mailing lists, or print it out and stick it up on the department noticeboard!


    Dr Antje Bosselmann-Ruickbie is a lecturer in the Department for Christian Archaeology and Byzantine Art History, Institute for Art History and Musicology, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany.

    Dr Leo Ruickbie is the published author of several books, as well as the editor of the Paranormal Review, the magazine of the Society for Psychical Research, and a Committee Member of the Gesellschaft für Anomalistik (Society for Anomalistics).

  • 2014-03-25 20:31 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    A free one-day workshop on the theme of 'Alterations of Consciousness', for graduate and postgraduate students, organised by ESSWE in conjunction with the Chair for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, University of Amsterdam, on Saturday 10 May 2014. Click HERE for news

  • 2014-03-13 20:33 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    The new issue of Aries (14.1) is now available. It is a special issue on Rosicrucianism, guest edited by Hereward Tilton.

    Here's the table of contents:

    From Spiritual Regeneration to Collective Reformation in the Writings of Christoph Besold and Johann Valentin Andreae
    Stefania Salvadori

    Translating the Fama Fraternitatis: Pitfalls, Problems and Challenges
    Christopher McIntosh

    De furore Britannico: The Rosicrucian Manifestos in Britain
    Thomas Willard

    Sendivogius in Sweden: Elias Artista and the Fratres roris cocti
    Susanna Åkerman

    Is AMORC Rosicrucian?
    Cecile Wilson

    Click HERE to visit Brill's Aries webpage for the Online edition.

  • 2013-12-16 18:54 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)
    Registration is now open for the EASR 2014 Conference entitled "Religion and Pluralities of Knowledge", to be held 11-15 May 2014 at the University of Groningen (The Netherlands)!

    The conference program includes key notes by Bruno Latour, Carlo Ginzburg, Birgit Meyer and Jörg Rüpke.
    • Early bird pricing (available until 1 February 2014) will be: 180 EUR.
    • Late registration (after 1 February 2014): 250 EUR.
    • Registration fees for students (incl. PhD students), only possible until 1 February 2014: 100 EUR.
    • Registration for one day: 80 EUR.
    • Meet & Eat on Tuesday evening (incl. dinner and drinks): 50 EUR.
    • Registration includes access to all sessions, coffee/tea breaks, and three lunches.

    For more information, please click HERE to visit the website.

  • 2013-08-01 19:17 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)
    Now Accepting Submissions for Issue 1.2
    Deadline: August 1, 2013

    Correspondences is a biannual online journal devoted to the academic study of Western esotericism. We are looking forward to the release of our first issue on June 1, 2013. In addition, we are now accepting book reviews (max. 1500 words) and articles (5000-10000 words) for our second issue, which will be published December 1, 2013 following a peer-review process. Manuscripts should be submitted as per our submission guidelines, available at Please send your manuscript and any inquiries to .

    Correspondences intends to promote a wide forum of interdisciplinary debate. Therefore, students and non-affiliated academics are encouraged to join established researchers in submitting insightful, well-researched articles that offer new ideas, approaches, or information to the field.

    Jimmy Elwing and Aren Roukema, Editors.

  • 2013-07-13 19:11 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)
    Special Issue of Preternature
    Edited by James A.T. Lancaster and Richard Raiswell

    The advent of novel approaches in early modernity to understanding and mastering nature - from natural magic, to natural history, to natural philosophy - motivated discourse about how best to distill true knowledge (vera scientia) from an increasing body of claims about the natural world. The need to develop a language with which to frame this discourse naturally led magicians, alchemists, historians, and philosophers to turn to that facet of society which already possessed the terminology necessary to deal with epistemological deviation; namely, the Christian religion. The adoption of traditionally religious terms such as "idol," "vanity," and "superstition" by investigators of nature afforded the opportunity to differentiate claims to true knowledge, at the same time as it facilitated virulent attacks between rival cultures of knowledge. Beyond the merely rhetorical, though, this process of adoption began to shift the established semantic landscape of early modernity. The very act of employing such religious terms within the context of the inquiry into nature infused them with new meanings; meanings which contributed, in turn, to the myriad new ways in which Europeans began to view both themselves and the world around them. Of particular importance was the notion of "superstition" (superstitio). More than many other terms, the meaning of superstition began an extensive transformation from its traditional sense of incorrect beliefs within the sphere of religion to incorrect beliefs within the sphere of nature. Discourses of superstition entered into numerous debates about the study of nature: they contributed to the development of definable relationships between the natural and the preternatural, for instance; helped to map new models of the mind and legitimize the practitioners of new, naturalistic vocations; and underwrote emergent ideas of "progress," "advancement," and "enlightenment" in tandem with beliefs about the nature of the (preter)natural.

    This special issue of Preternature seeks papers which address shifting conceptualizations of "superstition" as it relates to both the natural and preternatural in the early modern period. Papers should examine the ways in which various discourses of superstition contributed to the emergence of new cultures of natural and preternatural knowledge, thereby helping to shape the early modern world.

    Topics might include, but are not limited to:

    - The various ways in which the study of nature came to be conceived as a remedy for the apparent spread of superstition in the post-Reformation period.
    - How the concept of superstition was altered by emerging definitions of "true" and "false" knowledge with regards to the natural world.
    - How the idea of superstition contributed to the creation of a definable relationship between the natural world and the preternatural.
    - Whether new ways of thinking about nature ultimately led to the trivialization of superstition and superstitions.
    - The use of discourses of superstition in defense of natural magic, demonology, witchcraft, and the occult, etc.
    - The relationship between ideas of "progress," "advancement," "enlightenment" and superstition in early modern cultures of knowledge.

    Final papers will be due 15 January 2014. Submissions should be made through the journal's online submission module at:

    Contributions should usually be 8,000 - 12,000 words, including all documentation and critical apparatus. However, exceptions can be made in certain circumstances. If accepted for publication, manuscripts will be required to adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition (style 1, employing footnotes).

    For more information, please contact James A.T. Lancaster
    ( ).

  • 2013-07-07 19:14 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)
    It gives us great pleasure to announce the 2013 ESSWE PhD Thesis Prize Winner:
    Dr Egil Asprem (University of Amsterdam), for his thesis on “The Problem of Disenchantment: Scientific Naturalism and Esoteric Discourse, 1900-1939.”

    Here's what Egil says on his page:

    The dissertation presents a novel thesis on Max Weber’s notion of the “disenchantment of the world”. According to Weber, the disenchantment process was driven primarily by the modern natural sciences, leading to the disappearance of “magic” and the absolute separation of the spheres of science and religion. Combining history of science with the history of religion and esotericism, this work demonstrates that the modern natural sciences, pace Weber and his interpreters, cannot easily be described as having led to a disenchantment of the world. Instead, we find a number of significant overlaps between science, theology, and broadly “esoteric” outlooks, particularly in the form of “new natural theologies” and in philosophical positions defined as “open-ended naturalism”. These overlaps, moreover, signify areas where individual scientists and scientific institutions (journals, lecture platforms, scholarly societies) have suggested implications of their own work that go against the technical understanding of “disenchantment” – viz., countering strict mechanism, materialism, and/or reductionism, in favour of “re-enchanted” scientific worldviews, advocating the continuity between scientific research and the value spheres of religion, metaphysics, and ethics. While such reenchantment projects are well-known from “alternative” and “New Age” circles in the post-war era, a significant find of this work is that they were predated and prefigured in the intellectual production of influential pre-war scientists, scholars, and philosophers.

    While this challenges the notion that modern science has been a straight-forwardly disenchanting agent, that is not to say that we are forced to accept the opposite view, often argued by post-war spiritual activists and some postmodern scholars, that the radical scientific changes of the early 20th century “naturally” suggests a form of “reenchanted science”. Avoiding such simplifications, this book instead proposes a new model of disenchantment that is able to account for the ultimately ambiguous role of science in the production of worldviews and identities. This model implies a change in focus, which can be summed up as a shift from process to problem: disenchantment should not be seen as a trans-historical “process”, but as a historically situated intellectual problem, to which individual actors – within and outside of academia – have found different responses.

    Adopting and developing this model permits the writing of a historical narrative of the cultural entanglements of the pre-war sciences that brings surprising complexities to the fore. The book thus analyses responses to “the problem of disenchantment” in the established and emerging sciences of the early 20th century (physics, chemistry, biology, and psychology), the prospective science of parapsychology, and in prominent Western esoteric discourses (to wit, Theosophy, Anthroposophy and Crowleyan ritual magic). The work is concluded by a discussion of the broader implications of adopting a methodological stance of Problemgeschichte for the writing of intellectual history.

    For more information, and a preview of some of the thesis, click HERE.

  • 2013-04-26 15:19 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)
    A New Exhibition on Alchemy at London's Science Museum,

    27 April 2012 - 27 April 2013

    The quest for the philosophers’ stone was a major preoccupation of the early modern world. This precious substance was said to transform base metals into silver and gold, heal sickness, and unlock the mysteries of God and nature. Its recipe was a closely guarded secret and a bewildering array of signs and symbols were used, both figuratively and allegorically, to convey key processes and ideas in the search for the fabled stone. This exhibition follows the theme of a recipe using the same sources devised and decoded by the alchemists themselves.

    The exhibition displays 22 of the most striking images from the rich collection of the Science Museum’s Library & Archives. Dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries, these works reveal the power and intricacy of alchemical art, whilst allowing us to attempt an interpretation of the hidden meanings behind the symbols.

    At the heart of the exhibition is a newly discovered manuscript: a Ripley scroll. These rare scrolls include some of the most complex and fascinating alchemical imagery in existence. For the first time, this object can be viewed alongside selected texts and images from the Museum’s collections.

    Click HERE to visit the Science Museum webpage.

  • 2013-03-20 19:20 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)
    Call for Articles - Beyond Borderlands: A Critical Journal of the Weird, Paranormal, and Occult
    Deadline: July 1st, 2013

    Beyond Borderlands is a double-blind peer reviewed open access online journal and a forum for the interdisciplinary, artistic, and critical exploration of topics relating to esotericism, paranormality, and the culturally weird. Within our pages we hope to foster conversation between more traditional scholarly approaches and contemporary practitioners, artists, and writers exploring these themes. The journal provides a shared space for these divergent approaches without compromising the methodological integrity or free creativity appropriate to each.

    Our website will be launched on May 4th, and our first issue will be published in October 2013. Potential contributors are invited to submit academic articles of approximately 4000 to 8000 words, with an abstract of 250 words. We also seek to introduce readers to scholarship pertaining to weird and occult topics while providing a guide for their interpretation through critical analysis and contextualization. Knowledgeable commentators are encouraged to submit reviews of between 1000 and 2500 words. All submissions should be formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, with citations as footnotes.

    The submission deadline for consideration in our first issue is July 1st, 2013. Please send all submissions to .
    For further information, please contact the editor at .


    York University
    218 Bethune College
    York University
    4700 Keele Street
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    M3J 1P3

    Beyond Borderlands: A Critical Journal of the Weird, Paranormal, and Occult
    Click HERE to visit the Facebook page

  • 2013-03-15 19:24 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)
    ESSWE announces three travel bursaries of €300 each to assist students and/or members from economically disadvantaged countries to participate in the forthcoming ESSWE4 conference in Gothenburg.
    One further bursary of €100 is available for other purposes. Guidelines and application form are available on the ESSWE website (under "ESSWE Bursaries"). The deadline to apply for funding to travel to ESSWE4 is 1 May 2013.

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