Cambridge Centre for the study of Western Esotericism

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Demons and Illness: Theory and Practice from Antiquity to the Early  Modern Period

Call for Papers

Centre for  Medical History: University of Exeter

22 – 24th   April 2013

In many near eastern traditions, demons appear as a cause of illness: most famously in the stories of possessed people cured by Christ. These traditions influenced perceptions of illness in Judaism, Christianity and Islam in later centuries but the ways in which these cultures viewed demons and illness have  received comparatively little attention. For example, who were these demons? How did they cause illness?  Why did they want to?  How did demons fit into other explanations for illness?   How could demonic illnesses be cured and how did this relate to other kinds of cure?  How far did medical or philosophical theory affect how people  responded to demonic illnesses in practice?

This conference will take a comparative approach, taking a wide geographical and  chronological sweep but confining itself to this relatively specific set of questions.  Because Jewish, Christian and Islamic ideas about demons and illness drew  on a similar heritage of ancient religious texts from New Testament times to the early modern period there is real scope to draw meaningful comparisons between the different periods and cultures.  What were the common assumptions  made by different societies? When and why did they  differ?  What was the relationship between theory and  practice?  We would welcome papers which address these issues for any period between antiquity and the early modern period, and which discuss Christian, Jewish or  Islamic traditions.

The conference is hosted by the Centre for Medical History at the University of Exeter, on April 22nd-24th,  2013. 

Please send abstracts by  15th September 2012 to the conference  organizers,

Catherine Rider and Siam Bhayro, Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter:

email  or 

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