Magic in the ancient world
Time: 16:00 - 17:50
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: RC278
Duration: 4 sessions (over 4 weeks)
What is the course about?
This course will examine the problems raised by traditional definitions of magic and divination and will attempt to re-evaluate the ways in which the Western world, especially since the nineteenth century, has viewed ‘magic’ as part of a series of dichotomies: religion versus magic, science versus magic. The recent input of multi-disciplinary approaches, e.g. sociology and anthropology, while being important and helpful, in particular by highlighting the importance of context, also requires careful handling: the reader must be weary of the ideology of the observer, which often reflects a Western tendency to ‘classify’ rather than the views of the observed. Magic and divination need to be evaluated differently in the same space at different times and so it is important for any meaningful discussion to take place to focus on one specific culture and its worldview. Examples from the Ancient Near Eastern world, i.e. Egypt, Mesopotamia, Ancient Israel and the Greco-Roman world will be used in order to search for a new conceptual framework in which to view magic and divination.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
We will look at the category of ‘magic’ and its various meanings in the ancient world and the Bible, before turning to ancient Egypt, ancient Mesopotamia and Israel, and the Greco-Roman world. The course will give an opportunity to look at primary sources through the reading of ‘magical texts’, curse tablets and incantations bowls, and a variety of objects directly related to magical practices.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- Define, discuss and evaluate the range of definitions of the category of ‘magic;
- Be aware of the religio-socio-political background of a range of ‘magical’ texts from ancient Egypt, ancient Mesopotamia, ancient Israel and the Greco-Roman world;
- Identify magical practitioners, and their function in society;
- Analyse ‘magical’ texts as well as evaluate their function.
- Be familiar with a range of responses to ‘magic’ in the ancient world.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This is a course aimed at people with little or no knowledge of magical texts of the ancient world. Openness of mind is required.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The course will be taught through PowerPoint presentations, reading of primary sources, and discussions.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
The magical texts and images will be provided by the Tutor.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
You might be interested in Mystery Religions in the Greco-Roman World, or in Constructing Women as Witches or Ancient Israelite Religion, or Myths in the Bible or Myths in the Ancient Near East.
Dr Ann Jeffers taught Biblical Studies (Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism) at Trinity College Dublin and Heythrop College, University of London for 30 years. She is now Research Fellow at Roehampton University. Her research interests, and publications are in the field of magic and divination in the Bible and the ancient world, feminism and reception history of the Bible mostly in literature and the visual arts. She also belongs to an interdisciplinary research group, ‘Media and Religion’.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.