A beginner’s guide to witchcraft

Next year, Exeter University will offer an MA in Magic and Occult Science: the first of its kind in a British university. The new course has led to newspaper headlines about a ‘real-life Hogwarts’ and questions as to whether magic is as worth studying as say, economics. The course director, Professor Emily Selove, refused my request for an interview – with polite apologies, although one could hardly expect the convenor of Exeter’s Centre for Magic and Esotericism to be anything but esoteric. A similar tension, it turns out, is at the heart of the debate about the degree. For all the media snideness, the most serious objections come from Britain’s

Learned necromancers and lascivious witches: magic and misogyny through the ages

Curses, conjurations, magic circles, incantations, abracadabra, gobbledygook… Why would any serious historian want to write a history of magic books?  Owen Davies issues a robust defence: magic is as old as human history, while a study of grimoires is a study of the book itself and its changing format over time. Through the lens of the grimoire (a book of magic spells and invocations), the parallel histories of religion and science are shown in an eerie new light. Perennial human desires, anxieties and aspirations for love, money and protection from harm bring people of the far past close to anyone today who reads a newspaper horoscope or consults the Tarot.

Can men be witches?

‘No, darling, I certainly wouldn’t call you a witch,’ said my husband. ‘You’re not thin enough.’ The Oxford English Dictionary has just published a new entry for witch. It is less dismissive of old women. The former version spoke of a ‘repulsive-looking old woman’. Now it is ‘a term of abuse or contempt for a woman, especially one regarded as old, malevolent, or unattractive’. In that sense it is still definitely a woman. But what has lexicographers in a ferment of excitement is the decision to undo the division of the main entry for witch into male and female. Before the Conquest it had only been formally distinguishable in the

Like trying to understand some obscure but fashionable meme: WandaVision reviewed

‘What the world needs now is a black and white pastiche of classic 1950s and 1960s sitcoms reviving two Marvel superhero characters who were last seen getting killed in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame,’ said… well, I was about to say: ‘said no one ever’. But clearly someone did, because this is what we’ve now got on Disney+: a bizarro series called WandaVision. I feel terribly out of the loop for not quite getting it. But possibly I’m not the target audience. For a start, I haven’t seen either of those Avengers movies; nor am I sufficiently familiar with the nuances of the Marvel comics universe to get all