Cambridge Centre for the study of Western Esotericism

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Posts Tagged ‘Religion



Rome, 30 th November – 1st December 2012



P.le A. Moro, 5  – 00185 Roma

Rationale of the workshop

Medicine, religion, witchcraft are three apparently different domains of ideas, knowledge, practices and beliefs, as well as three different domains of anthropological investigation characterized by rather independent objectives, methods and theoretical frameworks.

Medicine and religion have often been tackled together or at least approached with similar goals, and interconnected in the observation and analysis. Traditional medicine and witchcraft have been often superimposed or confused by colonial powers and practices, and even today the popular discourse confuses them. Religion and witchcraft show some links both in practices and beliefs that have been explored only partially. The anthropological interest in these three fields of investigation is almost always intermingled with questions and arguments of political, economic, psychological nature that dealt more with each field separately than with the complex web of interrelations among them.

We wish to propose an integrated method of study which may give the opportunity of working in the perspective of analyzing that complex web, and producing a new and deeper anthropological awareness and capability in the interpretation of events, processes and representations implying the three categories and fields, as well as their socio-psychological, economic-political and symbolic backgrounds. The workshop aims at contributing to the construction of such a new perspective through the proposal of developing analyses and discussions that put witchcraft at the centre in order to reflect on its reciprocal interrelations with medicine, on one  side, and religion, on the other, keeping the system of relations between medicine and religion as an empirical and theoretical horizon.

Witchcraft turned again as a topical subject since the late Eighties of last Century mainly for its links with wealth and power, and in relation to its supposed  universality within the globalization process, giving rise consequently to a strong interest in the postmodern wave, highly influenced by the foucaultian theses. The hidden risk in this intellectual trend lies in the allurement of proposing again, even though in terms radically new, the issue of the function of witchcraft as a factor of social cohesion in the context of the practices and representations in a globalized world. Therefore, the understanding of the deep nature of witchcraft, and its mysterious and enigmatic principles of reality, and its links with the material and spiritual aspects of reality – culturally and scientifically represented by medicine and religion – runs the risk of escape completely.


1. Aria Dr.Matteo (PostDoc, Sapienza University of Rome)

2. Bellagamba Prof. Alice (Professor of Anthropology, University of Milan Bicocca)

3. Casciano Davide (MA student, Sapienza University of Rome)

4. Ceriana Mayneri Dr. Andrea (PostDoc, Université Catholique de Louvain)

5. Costantini Osvaldo (PhD student, Sapienza University of Rome)

6. Ekem Rev. Prof. John David K. (Academic Dean, Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon,

Accra, Ghana)

7. Lupo Prof. Alessandro (Professor of Anthropology, Sapienza University of Rome)

8. Meyer Prof. Birgit (Professor of Religious Studies, University of Utrecht)

9. Pavanello Prof. Mariano (Professor of Anthropology, Sapienza University of Rome)

10. Schirripa Prof. Pino (Professor of Anthropology, Sapienza University of Rome)

11. Vasconi Dr. Elisa (PhD, University of Siena)

Department of Religious Studies and Theology, Trans 14, 3512 JK Utrecht, Netherlands;

tel. +31302533838.

Webpage:; co-editor of Material Religion


Friday 30

th November 2012, morning – 1st Session (Witchcraft:

epistemological issues)


Mariano Pavanello, Birgit Meyer, Opening of the workshop


Matteo Aria, Witchcraft, biopower and extraordinary anthropology


Mariano Pavanello, A hypothesis on the nature of African witchcraft

12.30 debate

13.00 lunch

Friday 30

th November 2012, afternoon – 2nd Session (Medicine, Religion,

Witchcraft in ethnographic perspective)


Andrea Ceriana Mayneri, Sorcellerie, enfance et abandon en Afrique



Alessandro Lupo, Patients, mystical journeys and health care:

negotiating therapeutic paths in Mexican contexts of medical pluralism


Pino Schirripa, Where Christianity is ancient. Pentecostalism, evil in the

world and break with the past in Ethiopia


Osvaldo Costantini, B Yesus Sïm (in the name of Jesus). Some notes

about Eritrean and Ethiopian Pentecostal churches in Rome (Italy)

17.00 debate

18.00 closing

20.00 dinner at gazebo restaurant of

Casa dell’Aviatore” (v.le Università, 20)

Saturday 1

st December 2012, morning – 3rd Session (Medicine, Religion,

Witchcraft in politics and history )


Rev. John David K. Ekem Medicine, Religion and Healing. An African



Alice Bellagamba, Politics and African witchcraft: a long term discussion


Elisa Vasconi, Witchcraft, Traditional Medicine and Colonial Rule in



Davide Casciano, Pentecostalism, HIV and Witchcraft in Nigeria

11.30 debate


Birgit Meyer, Conclusions

13.00 closing

Looking for Mary Magdalene: Alternative Pilgrimage and Ritual Creativity at Catholic Shrines in France

Looking for Mary Magdalene.

Alternative Pilgrimage and Ritual Creativity at Catholic Shrines in France

Oxford Ritual Studies Series,

Oxford and New York:   Oxford University Press

Anna Fedele offers a sensitive ethnography of alternative pilgrimages to French Catholic shrines dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene. Drawing on more than three years of fieldwork, she describes how pilgrims from Italy, Spain, Britain, and the United States interpret Catholic figures, symbols, and sites according to theories derived from the international Neopagan movement.


Fedele pays particular attention to the pilgrims’ life stories, rituals and reading. She examines how they devise their rituals, how anthropological literature has influenced them, and why this kind of spirituality is increasingly prevalent in the West. These pilgrims cultivate spirituality in interaction with each other and with textual sources: Jungian psychology, Goddess mythology, and “indigenous” traditions merge into a corpus of practices centered upon the worship of the Goddess and Mother Earth, and the sacralization of the reproductive cycle. Their rituals present a critique of Roman Catholicism and the medical establishment, and question contemporary discourse on gender.


In this theoretically nuanced and ethnographically rich study, Anna Fedele carefully lays out the complex and imaginative worlds of Mary Magdalene’s contemporary spiritual pilgrims and their sacred landscapes of European forests, waters, caves, and rocks imbued with symbol and meaning. Immersing herself in their created ceremonies, she reports back to us with sensitivity and insight about their reinterpretations of gender, sexuality, community, and religion.”

Sarah M. Pike, author of Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community


This is a rich, thoughtful, and quite startling account of the new spirituality around Mary Magdalene, and around menstruation, darkness and the creativity of loss.

Tanya Luhrmann, Watkins University Professor, Department of Anthropology, Stanford University


Oxford Ritual Studies Series, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press

336 pages

SBN13: 978-0-19-989842-8: 

I SBN10: 0-19-989842-


UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO: Science and the Occult in the Near and Middle East


The Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations

Graduate Students’Association presents

The 17th Annual Graduate Symposium


March 14-15, 2013 


Open Call for Papers


Deadline for Submissions: January 13, 2013 


The Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations Graduate Students Association of the University of Toronto invites proposals for the 17th Annual Graduate Symposium to be held on March 14-15, 2013. Since 1997, the NMCGSA Symposium has provided the opportunity for promising graduate students to share their original research with the broader scholarly community in a conference-like forum, and to publish their presentations as proceedings. By annually bringing together specialists in archaeology, history, anthropology, comparative literature, religion, art, philosophy, and political science, the symposium provides a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary discourse focused on the study of the Near and Middle East. The 2013 symposium aims to highlight this diversity in order to foster communication and exchange across disciplinary boundaries. While we encourage submissions that are related to the topics of science and the occult, we are nevertheless open to any variety of topics that pertain to the realm of Near and Middle Eastern Studies. kkk Submitting a Paper: Presenters are asked to submit an abstract of 250 words by e-mail attachment no later than January 13, 2013. Submissions should also include the following information in the body of the email: presenters name, program (M.A, Ph.D.), year of study, research focus, university and department, complete address, telephone number, email address, title of paper, and audio-visual requirements. We highly encourage the submission of panel proposals as it will increase the chances of acceptance. kkk Presentations must not exceed 20 minutes. The abstracts will be reviewed by committee and presenters will be informed of their acceptance no later than January 27, 2013. For purposes of anonymous adjudication, please do NOT include your name or other identification on the abstract attachment. kkk If your paper is being submitted as part of a proposed panel or considered under a specific theme, please include the panel title or the proposed theme under the title of the paper on the abstract. kkk Please send us your submissions via the following e-mail address: kkk Arshavez Mozafari Ph.D. Candidate (IV) Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations University of    

Nicholas Campion: Astrology and Cosmology in the World’s Religions

Astrology and Cosmology in the World’s Religions When you think of astrology, you may think of the horoscope section in your local paper, or of Nancy Reagan’s consultations with an astrologer in the White House in the 1980s. Yet almost every religion uses some form of astrology: some way of thinking about the sun, moon, stars, and planets and how they hold significance for human lives on earth.Astrology and Cosmology in the World’s Religions offers an accessible overview of the astrologies of the world’s religions, placing them into context within theories of how the wider universe came into being and operates. Campion traces beliefs about the heavens among peoples ranging from ancient Egypt and China, to Australia and Polynesia, and India and the Islamic world.Addressing each religion in a separate chapter, Campion outlines how, by observing the celestial bodies, people have engaged with the divine, managed the future, and attempted to understand events here on earth. This fascinating text offers a unique way to delve into comparative religions and will also appeal to those intrigued by New Age topics.=============================================

Nicholas Campion is senior lecturer in the School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology, director of the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture, and course director of the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. His books include the two-volume A History of Western Astrology.


This innovative study presents astrologies and cosmologies – broadly conceived – as counterparts and mirrors of human societies. Unlike most students of astrology, Campion transcends the limitations of the Western tradition to examine the nature and roles of astrological and cosmological concepts in cultures from all continents. His examples provide original insights into how cosmologies shape these cultures’ artistic, intellectual, and religious activities.”

Stephen McCluskey, West Virginia University



The Programme, based in the Department of Anthropology, and supported by the LSE Annual Fund, aims to bring together staff and research students from across LSE, and within the wider academic and policy communities, working on issues to do with religion, secularism, and “non-religious” practices, beliefs, and traditions.

The Forum on Religion is becoming part of the new Programme for the Study of Religion and Non-Religion and will continue to host public lectures and an interdisciplinary seminar series.

For more information on the Programme, visit

or contact Dr Matthew Engelke at

We will continue to advertise Forum on Religion events through this mailing list.




9 May 2012, 16.30-18.00

Religion and Non-Religion: A Roundtable Discussion

With Dr Amanda van Eck (INFORM), Dr Matthew Engelke (LSE Anthropology), Dr Simon Glendinning (LSE, European Institute), Dr John Madeley (LSE Government), Rev James Walters (LSE Chaplaincy)

Seligman Library, Department of Anthropology, Old Building, LSE


Public lectures

6 June 2012, 18.30-20.00

At the Origins of Modern Atheism

Speaker: Rev Dr Giles Fraser 

Discussant: Prof John Gray (London School of Economics)

Chair: Dr Matthew Engelke (London School of Economics)

Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, LSE

This event will be followed by a reception and marks the public launch of the Programme for the Study of Religion and Non-Religion


27 June 2012, 18.00-19.30

Ethics as Piety

Speaker: Prof Webb Keane (University of Michigan)

Discussant: Dr Faisal Devji (Oxford University)

New Academic Building LG.09, LSE





 image from

Friday, February 15, 2013

at San José State University

(semi-concurrent with PantheaCon, February 15-18, 2013, DoubleTree Hotel, San Jose, CA)

Sponsored by San José State University, Humanities Dept., Comparative Religious Studies Program

Organizers: Lee Gilmore (SJSU) & Amy Hale (St. Petersburg College)

Contemporary Paganism, in all its varieties, stands at a unique cultural and religious intersection that can provide insights for a wide range of global, social, and political subjects, beyond its own inward facing concerns. For this symposium, we are calling for scholarly submissions that focus on Paganism’s contributions to and engagements with broader cultural and religious dialogues in an increasingly pluralist world. These could include, but are not limited to, explorations of Paganisms’ endeavors in community, economic, media, health, legal, social justice, and institutional development work, as well as activist, applied, interdisciplinary, and interfaith work.

More generally, all submissions that critically examine Paganism(s) in relationship to categories such as religion, culture, gender, identity, authenticity, power, and ritual–among other possible frameworks–are welcome. In addition, all papers presented at the symposium will be considered for publication in a special issue of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies.

All proposals & queries should be sent to:

Deadline: September 15, 2012

More info (including submission requirements & a pdf of this call):

Hortulus: The Online Graduate Journal of Medieval Studies: Call For Papers

A medieval deer park was an enclosed area containing deer.

Hortulus: The Online Graduate Journal of Medieval Studies Special Call For Papers for Issue on Medieval Space and Place


Hortulus: The Online Graduate Journal of Medieval Studies is a refereed journal devoted to the literature, history, and culture of the medieval world. Published electronically twice a year, its mission is to present a forum in which graduate students from around the globe may share their ideas. Article submissions on the selected theme are welcome in any discipline and period of Medieval Studies. We are also interested in book reviews on recent works of interest to a broad audience of Medieval Studies scholars. Recently, place and space theories have manifested themselves in Medieval Studies in a number of ways, from analysis of specific spaces and places, such as gardens, forests, cities, and the court, to spatially theorized topics such as travel narratives, nationalism, and the open- or closedness of specific medieval cultural areas. Over an array of subjects, the spatial turn challenges scholars to re-think how humans create the world around them, through both physical and mental processes. Articles should explore the meaning of space/place in the past by situating it in its precise historical context.

 Possible article topics include, but are not limited to:

Medieval representations of spatial order

The sense of place in the construction of social identities

Mapping and spatial imagination

Topographies of meaningful places

Beyond the binary of center/periphery

Spatial policies of separation: ethnicity, religion, or gender

Travel and the sense of place

Creating landscape

The idea of place in medieval religious culture



Intimate space, public place

Liminality and proximity as social categories

The 2011 issue of Hortulus: The Online Graduate Journal of Medieval Studies will be published in May of 2012.

All graduate students are welcome to submit their articles and book reviews, or to send their queries, via email to: by March 1, 2012.

For further information please visit our website at

Hortulus: The Online Graduate Journal of Medieval Studies,

Wouter J. Hanegraaff: Esotericism and the Academy – Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture

Esotericism and the Academy

Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture

Wouter J. Hanegraaff, University of Amsterdam



Cambridge University Press

Publication date:January 2012


4 tables

Dimensions: 228 x 152 mm

Weight: 0.88kg

Academics tend to look on ‘esoteric’, ‘occult’ or ‘magical’ beliefs with contempt, but are usually ignorant about the religious and philosophical traditions to which these terms refer, or their relevance to intellectual history. Wouter Hanegraaff tells the neglected story of how intellectuals since the Renaissance have tried to come to terms with a cluster of ‘pagan’ ideas from late antiquity that challenged the foundations of biblical religion and Greek rationality. Expelled from the academy on the basis of Protestant and Enlightenment polemics, these traditions have come to be perceived as the Other by which academics define their identity to the present day. Hanegraaff grounds his discussion in a meticulous study of primary and secondary sources, taking the reader on an exciting intellectual voyage from the fifteenth century to the present day and asking what implications the forgotten history of exclusion has for established textbook narratives of religion, philosophy and science.

Table of Contents

Introduction: hic sunt dracones

1. The history of truth: recovering ancient wisdom

2. The history of error: exorcizing Paganism

3. The error of history: imagining the Occult

4. The truth of history: entering the Academy

Conclusions: restoring memory.


The argument is presented as a historical narrative, taking the reader on an intellectual voyage from the early Renaissance to the present day

Discusses currents of thought which have played an important role in intellectual history, but have never before been sufficiently identified

Demonstrates patterns of intellectual prejudice that have distorted views of the history of religion, philosophy and science


Wouter Jacobus Hanegraaff (born 1961) is full professor of History of Hermetic Philosophy and related currents at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He is also President of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE).  

(Above info thanks to Wikipedia Hanegraaff page)



by Jeffrey J. Kripal

Published 2011

In many ways, twentieth-century America was the land of superheroes and science fiction. From Superman and Batman to the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, these pop-culture juggernauts, with their “powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men,” thrilled readers and audiences–and simultaneously embodied a host of our dreams and fears about modern life and the onrushing future.

But that’s just scratching the surface, says Jeffrey Kripal. In Mutants and Mystics, Kripal offers a brilliantly insightful account of how comic book heroes have helped their creators and fans alike explore and express a wealth of paranormal experiences ignored by mainstream science. Delving deeply into the work of major figures in the field–from Jack Kirby’s cosmic superhero sagas and Philip K. Dick’s futuristic head-trips to Alan Moore’s sex magic and Whitley Strieber’s communion with visitors–Kripal shows how creators turned to science fiction to convey the reality of the inexplicable and the paranormal they experienced in their lives. Expanded consciousness found its language in the metaphors of sci-fi–incredible powers, unprecedented mutations, time-loops and vast intergalactic intelligences–and the deeper influences of mythology and religion that these in turn drew from; the wildly creative work that followed caught the imaginations of millions. Moving deftly from Cold War science and Fredric Wertham’s anticomics crusade to gnostic revelation and alien abduction, Kripal spins out a hidden history of American culture, rich with mythical themes and shot through with an awareness that there are other realities far beyond our everyday understanding.

A bravura performance, beautifully illustrated in full color throughout and brimming over with incredible personal stories, Mutants and Mystics is that rarest of things: a book that is guaranteed to broaden–and maybe even blow–your mind.

* * * ** * * * * * * * *


by Jeffrey J. Kripal

Published 2006

“Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field.” With those words in Genesis, God condemns the serpent for tempting Adam and Eve, and the serpent has shouldered the blame ever since. But how would the study of religion change if we looked at the Fall from the snake’s point of view? Would he appear as a bringer of wisdom, more generous than the God who wishes to keep his creation ignorant? Inspired by the early Gnostics who took that startling view, Jeffrey J. Kripal uses the serpent as a starting point for a groundbreaking reconsideration of religious studies and its methods. In a series of related essays, he moves beyond both rational and faith-based approaches to religion, exploring the erotics of the gospels and the sexualities of Jesus, John, and Mary Magdalene. He considers Feuerbach’s Gnosticism, the untapped mystical potential of comparative religion, and even the modern mythology of the X-Men. Ultimately, The Serpent’s Gift is a provocative call for a complete reorientation of religious studies, aimed at a larger understanding of the world, the self, and the divine.

Jeffrey J. Kripal: 

is the J. Newton Rayzor Professor in and chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University. He is the author of Kali’s Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna and Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom: Eroticism and Reflexivity in the Study of Mysticism, both published by the University of Chicago Press.




Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse 3, France 

10 June 2011


Deadline for proposals: 31 January 2011

The history of science provides numerous examples of the way in which imagination, religion and mythology have sometimes helped, sometimes hindered scientific progress. While established ideas and beliefs clearly held back the discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin, the implicit knowledge to be found in mythology, art and religion has often proved useful in indicating new ways in which to explore or represent new knowledge of the world. Stories, fables and images have often proved very useful in drawing a fuller picture of the past, understanding the present or imagining the future.

The aim of this conference is to question the rigidity of disciplinary boundaries and to show the dialogue between science and the humanities through specific examples or more general thematic analyses. Papers might consider the role of imagination in science in a given discipline, or address a particular notion at a specific period.

We invite scholars of any discipline and period to send their proposal for a 30-minute paper, with a short bio, to:

– Laurence Roussillon-Constanty (CICADA, EA 1922) <>

– Philippe Murillo (CREW, EA 4399) <>

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