A fresh take on “magic” on the Societas Magica blog


Bodies, brains, magic, culture.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s new uses.

Some time ago I mentioned that Societas Magica were going to launch a blog. Well, that happened soon after, and I did not pay attention. So, quite overdue, here is the link to this new and valuable addition to the esoteric-et-cetera blog community.

So far there is only one post, but it is also a very good one that sets a high standard: “Ritual Magic and Conjured Bodies: A Philosophy and Methodology” by Damon Lycourinos. I was impressed with Damon’s paper at ESSWE4, on the use of Merleau-Ponty and embodiment theory in the analysis of contemporary ritual magical practice. In his first blog post at Societas Magica, Damon continues this exploration and offers, I think, some very valuable and stimulating reflections on how to theorise magical practice.

In particular, I couldn’t agree more with his complaint that talk about the body and embodiment in “postmodern” theorising has in fact not taken the body seriously at all – and that this could be remedied by returning to the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty:



The biggest esotericism conference yet – ESSWE4 and the schizophrenic life of academics

A few days ago I returned from Gothenburg, Sweden, after the fourth international conference of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (or #ESSWE4 for those following the tagboard). It was slightly larger than the three previous conferences (in Tübingen, Strasbourg, and Szeged); more than 90 papers were presented, there were discussion panels, keynotes, and night-time events. The conference was spread out over four days, and it needed every minute of the daily 9-hour schedule.


Blogging in the Societas Magica newsletter

Societas Magica headerThe Societas Magica (a scholarly society you should know about if you’re into the academic study of magic, esotericism, and related stuff) has been running a great and informative newsletter for many years. In fact, since the society was founded by Richard Kieckhefer and others back in 1995 (check out the back-issues here). In addition to informing about conferences and publications, it usually comes with a slightly longer essay. The 2013 Spring issue that has just been released runs a nice article by Laura Mitchell on academic blogging in the field of esotericism and magic. I was of course  pleased to see the nice discussion of Heterodoxology there, but more importantly it is excellent that a scholarly society brings the question of blogs to the full attention of its membership. Mitchell discusses some of the advantages and possibilities of research blogging, and classifies different types based on how they are run and what sort of material they include (individual, group-blogs; research, personal experiences, academic life etc.). The blogs mentioned in the essay should all be familiar to readers of Heterodoxology: Invocatio, the Religious Studies Project, Whewell’s Ghost, the Hermetic Library, and the Ritman Library Blog are all old friends and virtual neighbours.

Somehow it is also a bit amusing that the virtues and potentials of these blogs are being discussed in the old medium of a newsletter – one that is digitized and distributed by hyperlink in addition to paper. One gets the feeling of standing somewhat hesitantly in between different forms of media. Thus another great piece of news in this issue is Claire Fanger’s announcement that  the Societas Magica is about to launch a new blog of its own. Damon Lycourinos at the University of Edinburgh is going to take the first shift at running it. It’s something to look forward to (I previously commented on an esoterica blogpost of his here). It promises to be a valuable addition to the slowly growing number of academic blogs in this area.

Thanks to Sarah for bringing this to my attention.

More esotericism at the Religious Studies Project: reflections on discursive (and other) methodologies

“Esotericism” – strange shapes and sights.

Just a couple of days after the Religious Studies Project posted a podcast interview with Wouter Hanegraaff on the academic study of esotericism, there is a follow-up in the form of a short-length essay, debating the possibilities and challenges of esotericism research. Its author, Damon Lycourinos, a current PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh,  brings up a number of concerns – related to questions of European cultural identities (e.g. “reason” vs. “faith”), “the West”, definitional problems related to emic self-designations and typological constructs, etc.