Saturday, 17 December 2011

Christmas or Yule? Pagan secrets of the festive season

It's that time of year again. Behind display windows sprayed with fake snow, stores play all our Christmas favorites, endlessly, and bearded men in red suits loiter in grottoes. But as you order your tree and hang up mistletoe, have you ever wondered what any of this has got to do with Christmas?

Read my full story on the real meaning of Christmas in The Sierra Sun, published Thursday, December 15, 2011.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Monsters Need Your Help

Call for Papers for Preternature 2.2:

Monstrophy: The Academic Study of Monsters

''Monstrophy'' is a term referring to the academic study of monsters as representational and conceptual categories, which has gained recent currency in several related fields of study (literary and cultural history, sociological theories of identity and difference, et al.), as well as in a number of recent books and articles about monsters as subjects of theoretical interpretation. Etymologically derived from Latin ''mōnstrum'' (meaning prodigy, ominous sign, monstrous creature or person, abomination) and Greek ''sophia'' (σοφία, wisdom), hybrid compounding of monstrophy is not uncommon in disciplinary names, e.g. [[sociology]], another Greek and Latin compound.) Monstrophy literally means "wisdom about monsters," and in academic usage refers to the broader study of monsters in society and history.

Monsters have been widely catalogued in their historical and ethnographic contexts, and have been commonly included in cultural products such as epic, folktale, fiction, and film, but have only begun to be studied seriously as semiological markers indicating the seams of internal cultural tension. Interpreters commonly note the "monstrous" as occupying space at the borders of a society's conceptual categories, such as those relating to sexual and behavioral transgression, or to inherent prejudice and internal conflict (for instance, in race, gender, politics, and religion). Monsters are rarely fully distinct from the "human," but are often comprised of hybrid features of the human and non-human. This issue of Preternature invites contributions that explore how the category of "monster" is used to define and articulate what a certain group of people articulates to itself to be properly human.

Contributions are welcome from any discipline, time period, or geographic provenance, so long as the discussion highlights the cultural, literary, religious, or historical significance of the topic.

Contributions should be roughly 8,000 - 12,000 words (with the possibility of longer submissions in exceptional cases), including all documentation and critical apparatus. If accepted for publication, manuscripts will be required to adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition (style 1, employing footnotes).

Preternature also welcomes original editions or translations of texts related to the topic that have not otherwise been made available in recent editions or in English. Submissions are made online at:

Final Papers are due February 15, 2012

Queries about submissions, queries concerning books to be reviewed, or requests to review individual titles may be made to the Editor: Kirsten C. Uszkalo

Friday, 11 November 2011

11-11-11 Fears Close Great Pyramid

"Egypt has closed the Great Pyramid outside Cairo after rumours that groups would try to hold special rituals on 11 November at 11:11", claimed the BBC earlier today. The Great Pyramid was indeed closed, but Egyptian authorities said it was for routine maintenance only. The Associated Press noted an increased police and armed military presence in the area. Discovery News reported that Atef Abu Zahab, the head of the Department of Pharaonic Archaeology, has said that the decision came "after much pressure" from concerned Internet users.

The Egyptian news website Ahram reported 'Meditation ceremony to save Planet Earth at Pyramids cancelled'.

Something called the "Cheops Project" was apparently intending to place a small crystal pyramid inside the sarcophagus of King Khufu (aka Cheops), whilst people ringed the pyramid outside, holding hands and chanting. Andrzej Wojcikiewicz, president of the Polish foundation Dar Swiatowida, which sponsored the event, said that this was intended to create a protective shield around the Earth. “I do believe the Great Pyramid was built to save the earth by a much more advanced civilization and not by the ancients,” Wojcikiewicz said in an interview on YouTube.

Other rumours spread on the internet concerning a group of Jews plotting to erect a Star of David on the apex of the pyramid and claim it for the Jewish slaves they claim originally built the structure.

After the clock ticked past the critical time, director of the pyramids complex, Ali al-Asfar, told members of the press, 'Everything is normal'.

At least, that is, until 12-12-12.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Vampire Conference Great Success

'Vampires: Myths of the Past and the Future' at London University's Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies took us from the eastern European vampire epidemic of the 18th century right through to the monster's modern incarnations in Twilight, True Blood, and all the rest. Co-ordinator Simon Bacon brought together a diverse group of scholars from all of the world - even Romania - to discuss vampires past and present, and their multiple meanings and representations. Highlights were undoubtedly the first test screening of Revenant Noir and Sir Christopher Frayling's Coffin Trust (I kid ye not) lecture, but amongst the many other great talks, Michael Bell on 'American Vampires' and Jim Doan on blood rites are worth singling out. In all, 65 papers over three days. For all those who coulnd't make it, there are rumours of a possible publication.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Vampire Conference in The Herald

From The Herald newspaper:

Why we’ve fallen in love with 21st-century vampires
IT’S a topic most people would assume has too little bite for the attention of high-minded academics.

But several of Edinburgh University’s brightest social scientists will speak in London this week at a conference set up to discuss how vampires are portrayed in contemporary pop culture.

Hey, we're not all talking about pop culture! Come along and I'll tell you about the 18th century vampire epidemic...

See also Why We Love Vampires for more coverage.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Friday, 2 September 2011

Vampire Conference Programme

Vampires: Myths of the Past and the Future

An International Conference at the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, University of London

Wednesday, 2 November - Friday, 4 November 2011

Co-Ordinator: Simon Bacon (London)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

9.15 Registration

10.00 Simon Bacon (London): Welcome and Introduction

10.15 Plenary Session:
Ken Gelder (Melbourne): 'Our Vampires, Our Neighbours'

11.05 Coffee

11.30 Parallel Session 1a: Memories of Vampires Past (Chair: Sharon Payka)
Leo Ruickbie (UK): 'Vampire Autopsy: Evidence for the Undead'
Ingrida Slepavicute (Kaunas): 'Vampires in Lithuanian Mythology: from Traditional Legends until Netlore of Children'
Michael E. Bell (McKinney, TX): 'American Vampires and the Ongoing Ambiguity of Death'

11.30 Parallel Session 1b: Vampires of the Future (Chair: Alannah A. Hernandez)
Aline Ferreira (Aviero): 'Future Vampires: the Genetically Modified in Octavia Butlers Fledgling'
Stephania Kovbasiuk (Kiev): 'Dracula of the 21st Century: an Intellectual and a Thinker'
Cheyenne Mathews (USA): 'Lightening "The White Man's Burden": Evolution of the Vampire from the Victorian Racialism of Dracula to the New World Order of I am a Legend'

13.00 Lunch (own arrangements)

14.15 Parallel Session 2a: Images of the Vampire I (Chair: Hannah Priest)
Marco Grosoli (Italy): 'The Fearless Vampire Palgiarism: Park Chan-Wook's Thirst'
Victoria Williams (UK): 'Reflecting Dracula: the Undead in Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt'
Angela Tumini (Chapman, CA): 'Vampresse: Embodiment of Sensuality and Erotic Horror in Carl Dreyer's Vampyr and Mario Bava's The Mask of Satan'

14.15 Parallel Session 2b: Vampire Transgression (Chair: Ken Hollings)
Stephanie Badziong (Cologne): 'Religious Vampirism: the Elimination of the Church in Perfect Creature'
Judith Schossbock (Vienna): 'Dreading the Normative: the Vampire in the Queer Horror Genre'
Hadas Elber (Tel Aviv): 'Dracula meets Darwin': Contemporary Science Fiction's Demystification of the Vampire'

15.45 Tea

16.15 Parallel Session 3a: Memories of the New World (Chair: Rikke Schubart)
Enrique Ajura Ibarra (Lancaster): 'Vampire Science: the Myths of Dracula and Frankenstein in Medxican Horror Cinema'
Alannah A. Hernandez (Chicago, IL): 'Vampire Migrations: the Long and Winding Road Leading from the Old World to the New'
Ines Ordiz Alonso-Collada (Léon): 'Vampires in Globalized Culture: the Narrative of Adrianna Diaz Encisco'

16.15 Parallel Session 3b: All that Glitters I (Chair: Angela Tumini)
Reni Eddo-Lodge (Preston): 'The Anti-Feminist Character of Bella Swan: Why the Twilight Saga is Regressive'
Karin Hirmer (Regensburg): Female Empowerment: Buffy and her Heiresses in Control'
Thuc Doan Nguyen (Fullerton, CA): 'Of "Cougars" and "Kittens": Vampire Visual Rhetoric in the Last Three Decades'

17.45 Plenary Session: Remembrance of a Symphony of Terror: Film and Performance (Chair: Clemens Ruthner)
Clemens Ruthner (Dublin): 'Introduction to Anglo-German Vampires'
Mark Ferelli (UK): 'Performance: Magic Lantern Performance, "For the Love of Alfred Reginald Natzinck"'
Hannes König (Lind): 'Performance: Revenant Noir: 30-minute Black and White Film with Music (World Premiere/Test Screening)'

19.15 Sessions end

Thursday, 3 November 2011

9.30 Plenary Session:
Milly Williamson (London): title to be announced

10.20 Coffee

10.45 Parallel Session 4a: 'Fangdom' and Popular Memory (Chair: Sorcha Ni Fhlainn)
Maria Mellins (London): 'Fangtasia London: The True Blood Franchise and Vampire Lifestyle'
Malin Isaksson (Umea): 'Traces of Carmilla in Femslash Fan Fiction: Contemporary Female Vampires and their Possible Futures'
Rosemary Candelario (Los Angeles, CA): '"I want to be the one": Vampires and Virgins in Popular Culture'

10.45 Parallel Session 4b: All that Glitters II (Chair: Nadine Farghaly)
Nancy Schumann (UK): 'Women with Bite: Tracing Vampire Women from Lilith to Twilight'
Christine Feichtinger (Graz): 'The Vampiric Body of Plenitude: Reflections on the Role of the Body in Stephanie Mayer's Twilight Series'
Batia Stolar (Ontario): The Gender Politics of Reproduction in the Twilight Series'

12.15 Lunch (own arrangements)

13.30 Parallel Session 5a: 'Our Vampires, Ourselves' (Chair: Maurizio Cinquegrani)
Catherine Strong (Wagga Wagga, NSW): 'Vampire as Celebrity, Celebrity as Vampire': the Uncertain Boundary between Reality and Myth in the Twilight Franchise'
Nadine Farghaly (Salzburg): 'Vamp No More: When Bloodsucking Friends Just Aren't Enough'
Ivan Phillips (Hatfield): 'The Vampire with a Tousand Faces': Towards a Physiognomy of the Undead'

13.30 Parallel Session 5b: All that Glitters III (Chair: Malin Isaksson)
Celia Jameson (London): 'Edward Cullen is a controlling and abusive boyfriend': Twilight and the Discourse of Control and Coercion in Heterosexual Relationships'
Katharina Rein (Germany): 'Father, Brother, Child: the Posy-Familial Vampire Society in True Blood'
Maria Lindgren Leavenworth (Umea): '" I wanna do bad things with you": Fear and Desire in The Southern Vampire Mysteries and True Blood'

15.00 Parallel Session 6a: Mis-Un-Dead (Chair: Ivan Phillips)
Catherine Wynne (Hull): 'Notions of the Home in I am Legend and its Adaptations'
Maurizio Cinquegrani (London): '"Spectral Wanderers of Unholy Night": the Vampire and the Cinematic City'
Raul Rodriguez-Hernandez and Claudia Schäfer (Rochester, NY): 'Sublime Horror: Transparency, Melodrama and the "Mise-en-scène" of Three Mexican Vampire Films'

15.00 Parallel Session 6b: Vampires of the Future II (Chair: Bernhard Unterholzner)
Kristin Burnett and Judith Leggatt (Ontario): 'Bloodsucking Colonizers and the Undead Anishinaabe in Drew Hayden's The Night Wanderer'
Karma Waltonen (Davis, CA): 'Octavia Butler's Fledgling: Postmodern Revisioning of the Vampire'
Georgina Colby (London): Political Bloodsuckers: Neoliberal/Neoimperial Vampires in Bret Easton Ellis's The Informers and Imperial Bedrooms'

16.30 Tea

16.50 Parallel Session 7a: Memories of Vampires Past II (Chair: Grainne O'Brien)
Hannah Priest (Manchester): 'Vampirs in those Days: Interrogating Master Narratives'
James Doan (Fort Lauderdale, FL): "For the blood is the life": Myths and Rituals of Vampirism in Southwest and Plains Indian Cultures'
Achamma Alex (Chengannur): 'Vampire Myths: Offering Resistance to the Dominant Culture'

16.50 Parallel Session 7b: Images of the Vampire II (Chair: Katharina Rein)
Denis Liboni (Iasi): 'Dracula between Myths and Reality, Universe and Homeland'
Yakut Oktay (Istanbul): 'Vampire as the Victorian Aesthete: Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula'
Sharon Payka and Jane Nickerson (Washington, DC): 'Developing a Course with Bite'

Coffin Trust Lecture

18.20 Reception
18.50 Sir Christopher Frayling (Cambridge): 'The Nighmare of Bram Stoker'

Sponsored by the John Coffin Trust of the University of London

Friday, 4 November 2011

9.30 Plenary Session:
Stacey Abbott (London): 'How to Survive a Vampire Apocalypse, or What to Do when the Vampires are Us'

10.20 Coffee

10.45 Parallel Session 8a: Memories of a Forever Youth (Chair: Simon Bacon)
Kelly Doyle (Okanagan, BC): 'Childish Monsters, Monstrous Children: Boundary, Transgression, Posthumanism, and the Child as Monster in Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In'
Allison Moore (Birmingham): '"I'm twelve, but I've been twelve for a long time": Representations of Childhood in Let the Right One In'
Rikke Schaubart (Denmark): '"Be me for a little while": Border-Crossing and Vampire Pedagogy in Let the Right One In (2008)'

10.45 Parallel Session 8b: Theory of the Undead I (Chair: Judith Schossbock)
Christine Knight (Edinburgh): 'Synthetic Blood and Vegetarian Vampires: the Ethics of Consumption in 21st-Century Vampire Texts'
Odelia Barkin (Jerusalem): 'Current American TV Vampires and Trauma'
Hannes König (Lind): 'Vampire in the Mirror: the Psychoanalysis of Immortal Narcissism'

12.15 Lunch (own arrangements)

13.15 Plenary Session:
Catherine Spooner (Lancaster): '"Dressed in a silken robe of white": Fashioning the Vampire from Page to Screen'

14.15 Parallel Session 9a: Vampire Evolution (Chair: Aline Ferreira)
Karin Preuss (Germany): 'Subversive Aesthetics of Transgression: Vampires in Literature and Film'
Naomi Segal (London): André Gide, Nosferatu and the Hydraulics of Youth and Age'
Karen Leeder (Oxford): '"The empty looking glass": Metamorphosis of the Vampire in Heiner Müller'

14.15 Parallel Session 9b: Vampires in Popular Memory (Chair: Allison Moore)
Erika Grendelova (Prague): 'Vampires in Comics: Transformation of the Myth as Represented in 30 Days of Night'
Burcu Genc (Istanbul): 'The Vampire from an Evolutionary Perspective in the Japanese Animation Blood +'
Grainne O'Brien (Limerick): 'Where's the Blood? Marginalised or Trivialised? Vampires in the Harry Potter Series'

15.45 Tea

16.10 Parallel Session 10a: Theory of the Undead II (Chair: Hadas Elber)
Marius Crisan (Timisoara): 'Vampires and Stereotypes: Post-Stoker Imagined Transylvania'
Sarah Horgan (Canterbury): 'The Anglo-Irish Vampire: Constructions of a Conflicted National Identity in the 19th-Century Gothic Text'
Bernhard Unterholzner (Gießen): 'Tracing Translation: Vampires, Media, Enlightenment'

16.10 Parallel Session 10b: Mis-Un-Dead II (Chair: Cheyenne Matthews)
Ken Hollings (London): 'Gothic Machines'
Sorcha Ni Fhlainn (Dublin): '"Old things, fine things": of Vampires, Antique Dealers, and Timelessness'
Isabella van Elfren (Utrecht): 'Music that Sucks and Bloody Liturgy: Catholicism in Vampire Movies'

17.40 Closing Discussion

17.55 Conference ends

Further details and registration
To obtain further information and register for the conference, contact Christopher Barenberg (tel: 020 7862 8738). Please note the closing date for receipt of registrations is Friday, 21 October 2011.


Contemporary Esotericism Conference

Call for Papers:

International Conference: Contemporary Esotericism

Department of History of Religions, Stockholm University, Sweden.
August 27-29, 2012

Keynote speakers:

- Wouter J. Hanegraaff (Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, University of Amsterdam)
- Christopher Partridge (Religious Studies, Lancaster University)
- Kocku von Stuckrad (Study of Religion, Groningen University)

Conference organizers:

- Egil Asprem (Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, University of Amsterdam)
- Kennet Granholm (History of Religions, Stockholm University)

Deadline for abstracts: March 30, 2012
Submit abstracts to:
Conference website:

The academic study of Western esotericism has blossomed in recent years; University departments and MA programs have been established, book series and journals launched, academic societies founded, and several international conferences and panels are organized every year. There is, however, still a major gap in scholarship on esotericism: very little research exists on contemporary phenomena. While some
present-day phenomena related to esotericism, such as ‘New Age spiritualities’ and (neo)paganism, have been the focus of scholars in other fields, scholars working in the field of esotericism have largely neglected such developments. With a focus on early modern phenomena, scholarship in the field of Western esotericism has been
predominantly historiographical in its approach, with a common reluctance to incorporate social scientific approaches. In recent years, however, serious attempts have been made to develop sociological approaches to the study of the esoteric/occult which are both compatible with historical approaches and forgo the biased presumptions of yesteryear. A fundamental challenge for the study of contemporary esoteric phenomena is that it is not sufficient to simply transpose theories, definitions and methodologies developed for the study of e.g. Renaissance magic to later manifestations of the esoteric. Studying contemporary phenomena poses intriguing possibilities, such as the opportunity to study esotericism in lived
contexts, which unavoidably also introduce new problems. In general, several theoretical and methodological concerns need to be addressed if a proper study of contemporary esotericism is to succeed.

*Suggested Topics*

The primary aim of this conference is to place contemporary phenomena on the agenda of the study of esotericism. Thus we welcome papers dealing with contemporary and recent developments in “classic” esoteric currents – e.g. within Theosophy, Anthroposophy, Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, and ritual magical currents – as well as esoteric developments of particular relevance today – e.g. Chaos Magick, Satanism, and (neo)paganism. We also strongly encourage papers dealing with theoretical and methodological issues that are particularly pertinent to the study of contemporary esotericism, as well as papers dealing with the societal, cultural, political, religious etc. contexts of esotericism today. This can include discussions on the
role played by the esoteric in modern politics (e.g. the new right), grassroots activism (e.g. deep ecology and the animal rights movement), science (e.g. parapsychology, neurotheology, “New Age physics”), healthcare (e.g. alternative medicine), popular culture (both entertainment media and in broader contexts such as kitsch, consumer, and fan culture), and modern interactive communications media (e.g. mediatization and the effects of changing modes of mediation), as well as the simultaneous influence of these and other fields on esoteric notions, beliefs, and practices. General theoretical discussion on the potential usefulness of sociological
terms and concepts such as globalization, secularization, and the post-secular in the study of contemporary esotericism is also encouraged. The conference should function as an interdisciplinary meeting place where scholars from a multitude of disciplines and with different approaches and perspectives can come together to learn from each other.

*Additional information*

The conference will function as the launching party for Contemporary Esotericism (Equinox Publishing,, the first volume specifically dedicated to the study of esotericism in the present day. In addition, the conference is arranged in conjunction with the 2012 EASR conference, also arranged in Stockholm, Sweden (at Södertörn University, August 23-26). Panels on esotericism, both historical and contemporary, are planned for the EASR as well, thus
providing the opportunity to engage in extended discussion on these subjects, and of course lessening travel expenses. A more detailed call for papers, including information on registration, conference fees, transportation, accommodation etc., will be sent out later. However, interested parties may send in their abstracts (approx. 200 words) along with a brief academic CV (max. 1 page) already at this
early stage. Please send the documents to

Edges of Freemasonry Conference

Call for Papers:


7--8 September, 2012, University of Tampere, Finland --

The School of Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Tampere is organizing an international conference on Freemasonry, Western Esotericism and the development of the Enlightenment ideas. The conference is organized in association with the Research Lodge Minerva No. 27 of The Grand Lodge of F. & A. M. of Finland. The themes focus on historical developments, although other aspects will also be presented.

The conference is a two-day event open to scholars, postgraduate students and students, likewise to the members of masonic lodges and the public. The conference language is English.

The keynote speakers of the symposium are Professor Ronald Hutton (University of Bristol, U.K.), Dr. Róbert Péter (University of Szeged, Hungary), Dr. Henrik Bogdan (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) and Mr. Antti Talvitie, Architect MSc. (Seinäjoki, Finland).

Freemasonry is among the most widespread spiritual communities and has had a significant role in diverse ideological currents often named western esotericism. Freemasonry, which is at least 300 years old, is firmly rooted in the tradition of the Enlightenment.

Western esotericism and freemasonry have increasingly attracted attention from academic research. As a unique yet also controversial phenomenon freemasonry provides a dynamic standpoint for the study of western cultural and intellectual life which from this point of view has been much neglected.

The key themes are:

1 The historical constitution of freemasonry

2 The connections between western esotericism and the development of modern science

3 Symbols as cultural artefacts and transmission objects between the personal and the transcendence

4 Extending the rational: rites, intuition and religious experience in western subjectivity

The conference board welcomes all scholarly presentations, also from postgraduates, related to the themes or concepts of the Enlightenment, freemasonry, esotericism or the occult.

The organizers hope that proposals for the general sessions will be sent not later than November 31, 2011. Speakers are asked to supply their contact information, the title of the presentation and a short abstract (400---600 words). Proposals for other sessions can also be sent later. The abstract should preferably be sent via email to the conference secretary Mr. Antti Harmainen ( and to conference secretary Ms. Katariina Lehto (

For registration and details of the conference, please see For further information please do not hesitate to contact the secretaries or Professor Risto Harisalo ( ) and Dr. Marko Nenonen ( ), +358 40 577 9737.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Harry Potter and Witchcraft

Satanist to some, saint to others, why have the religious reactions to Harry Potter been so contradictory?

Plus, just how do you make a Horcrux?

New pages on the website exploring my recent work on Harry Potter from fundamentalism to the concept of the external soul. Read it all here

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Magic, Witches and Parapsychology

Books received for review:

Butler, Alison, Victorian Occultism and the Making of Modern Magic: Invoking Tradition (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)

In the midst of increasing secularization and the birth of scientific naturalism, a curious group emerged in Victorian Britain. From 1888-1900, hundreds of men and women were initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at temples across Britain and in Paris. Amongst them were famous personalities such as William Butler Yeats, Florence Farr, Annie Horniman, Maud Gonne and the infamous Aleister Crowley. These men and women met in secret temples for even more secretive rituals, in order to learn the techniques of ritual magic. Members put this magic to use in various ways including attempting murder, preserving peace, and travelling to other planets.
This examination of the rituals and personalities associated with the Golden Dawn demonstrates how Victorian magic provided an alternative to the tightening camps of science and religion in an intellectual environment that heightened the allure of magic. Victorian Occultism and the Making of Modern Magic explores how nineteenth-century occultism encompassed many of the aspirations and ideals of the middle-class, while completely revolutionizing Western magic.

Pickering, Andrew, and David Pickering, Witch-Hunting in England (Amberley, 2010)

This book will address the origins of witch-hunting in England in the sixteenth century, the methods by which it was conducted, its distribution, its causes and consequences, and its decline. While addressing a general readership it will be a scholarly work that is informed by the historiography of the subject - e.g. feminist perspectives, functional explanations, post-modern interpretations. The text will be rich in primary source material including trial records and contemporary literature, including demonological texts and the papers of the Royal Society. Most of the illustrations will also be engravings from the period but some maps and location photographs will be included.

About the Author
David Pickering is an experienced reference books compiler. He has contributed to (and often been sole author and editor of) some 150 reference books, mostly in the areas of the arts, language, local history and popular interest. These include a Dictionary of Theatre (1988), an Encyclopedia of Pantomime (1993), Brewer's Twentieth-Century Music (1994; 1997), a Dictionary of Superstitions (1995) and a Dictionary of Witchcraft (1996). Andrew Pickering is Senior Lecturer in History and Archaeology at Strode College, Somerset, and is Programme Manager of the History, Heritage and Archaeology Foundation Degree with the University of Plymouth.

Smith, Matthew D., Anomalous Experiences: Essays from Parapsychological and Psychological Perspectives (McFarland, 2010)

From the back cover:
Thirteen essays on the psychology and parapsychology of anomalous experience explore extrasensory perception, haunting experiences, apparitions, alien contacts, séance room phenomena, and out-of-body experiences. The contributors are Daryl Bem, Etzel Cardena, Jezz Fox, Chris French, Craig Murray, Ciaran O'Keeffe, Chris Roe, Simon Sherwood, Christine Simmonds-Moore, Paul Stevens, Caroline Watt, Richard Wiseman and Robin Woofitt

Feeling the future: studies of precognitive emotional arousal / Daryl J. Bem — Experimenter effects in parapsychology: three studies — With a remote helping task / Caroline Watt — The role of altered states of consciousness in extrasensory — Experiences / Chris A. Roe — Are our assumptions more anomalous than the phenomena? / Paul Stevens — Will we ever know whether extrasensory perception exists? / Jezz Fox — Towards a sociological parapsychology / Robin Wooffitt — Psychological perspectives — Anomalous experiences during deep hypnosis / Etzel Cardea — Haunting experiences: an integrative approach / Ciarn O'Keeffe and Steve Parsons — Apparitions of black dogs / Simon J. Sherwood — Psychological aspects of the alien contact experience / Christopher C. French, Julia Santomauro, Victoria Hamilton — Rachel fox and michael thalbourne — Observing the impossible: eyewitness testimony for — Darkroom seances / Richard Wiseman — Developing a dissociational account of out-of-body — Experiences / Craig D. Murray — Anomalous experiences and boundary thinness in — The mind and brain / Christine Simmonds-Moore.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Spiritualism and the Golden Dawn

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the most important magical society of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was established on the basis of spirit communication with supernatural entities. Known as the ‘Secret Chiefs’, these entities provided the source of authority for the leaders of the Order as well as later becoming the subject of dissension, functioning in a similar way to the contemporary Theosophical ‘Mahatmas’. However, the Golden Dawn is generally not considered in relation to the Spiritualist Movement. This chapter will re-examine that perspective by investigating the historical importance of alternative forms of mediumship within this magical society and its off-shoots.

Prof. Christopher Moreman, California State University, is editing a major three volume series on Spiritualism and has just accepted my proposed chapter on Spiritualism and the Golden Dawn.

About the book (from the original call for papers):

Modern Spiritualism as a religious movement finds its roots in mid-nineteenth century upstate New York during a time of great spiritual fervor in New England. Since then, Spiritualism has flourished and spread world-wide. Studies of Spiritualism have largely focused on the movement’s relationship to emergent feminism and gender issues or on its relationship to the paranormal and psychical research. The present series­ a 3 volume edited collection titled, The Spiritualist Movement: Speaking with the Dead in America and Around the World to be published by Praeger seeks to broaden the scope of the study of Spiritualism, and to bring together diverse perspectives on this American-made global religion.

The book will cover a broad range of subjects:

• American origins of the Spiritualist movement and its cultural and political ramifications
• Feminist perspectives on the Spiritualist movement and its leadership
• In-depth overviews of important figures in the history of Spiritualism (i.e. the Fox sisters, Patience Worth, Arthur Conan Doyle, William James, Frederic Myers, Harry Houdini, or William Lyon Mckenzie King)
• The spread of Spiritualism and the Spiritualist movement in
non-American contexts (i.e. Iceland, England, Brazil, Europe, East Asia)
• Ethnographic studies of Spiritualism
• Evidence-based claims made by Spiritualism and Spiritualists
• Debates over the findings of psychical research and parapsychological studies of mediums
• Mediumship as a phenomenon of human experience throughout history and across the globe.
• Spiritualism in relation to other new religious movements like the Theosophical Society, the Thelemic Orders, or Wicca
• Spiritualism and mediums as portrayed in popular media and the popularity of the movement generally
• Death, grief, and the role of Spiritualism in bereavement
• Christian and other dominant religions’ responses to Spiritualism

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Call to End Ghana 'Witch Camps'

George Asekere of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation has issued an emotional plea to abolish the so-called 'witch camps' and bring the persecution of alleged witches to an end.
Many Ghanaians believe witchcraft is real and can be destructive. This non-empirical and intuitive mentality with no justification in today’s scientific world, is unfortunately the bane behind the inhumane treatment meted out to people perceived to be witches. It is embarrassing, that in the midst of Christian and Islamic teachings and the claim that rule of law is supreme in Ghana, as many as over 966 women and six hundred and seven (607) children are detained in three out of the six witch camps in the Northern Region. These are Ngani witches camp in Yendi, the Kukuo witches camp at Bimbila and the famous Gambaga witches camp at Gambaga.

You can read the full story at

Also in the news is Accra's Old Fadama slum, home to many of those fleeing witchcraft accusations. Read the report here

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Paranormal is now Supernatural

My forthcoming book The Paranormal has now been renamed The Supernatural following negotiations for a US deal. Part of Constable & Robinson's Brief Histories/Guides series, the book is scheduled for publication on 19 April 2012, although that change. Already there's been a lot of interest and I'll be posting some advance reviews in the coming months.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

'Magic is Might 2012': Call for Papers

Harry Potter conference in Ireland. Call for papers just announced:
'Magic is Might 2012': Call for Papers: "The Harry Potter series has become a publishing phenomenon that has captured the imagination of children and adults all over the world. The ..."

This two-day event will feature twenty 15-20 minute presentations on papers relating to popular culture and the Harry Potter series. We will encourage intensive and lively discussion and debate around the papers over the two days in this intimate setting. Wizards, muggles, established academics and postgraduate students are invited to submit papers.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Vampire Conference Paper Accepted

'Vampires: Myths of the Past and the Future' - An interdisciplinary conference organised by Simon Bacon, The London Consortium in collaboration with the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory, Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, University of London

From the conference description:

Myths of vampires and the undead are as old as civilisation itself, wherever humans gather these ‘dark reflections’ are sure to follow. Whether as hungry spirits, avenging furies or as the disgruntled dearly departed, they have been used to signify the monstrous other and the consequences of social transgression. Embodying the result of a life lived beyond patriarchal protective proscription that quickly changes from dream to nightmare and from fairy tale to ghost story.

Sir Christopher Frayling, Dr Stacey Abbott, Dr Catherine Spooner and Dr Milly Williamson will be giving papers, and there'll also be the world premiere of a short film on vampires.

I'll be presenting a paper on the 18th century vampire epidemic and its consequences.

See the website for more details on the full programme
And put 2-4 November 2011 in your calendars.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Reinventing the Renaissance Occult

Review of 'Reinventing the Renaissance Occult in Modern and Postmodern Culture' now available at
Five hundred years ago the occult – what we think of as ‘the occult’ – was taught in university and practised by many of the foremost personalities of the age. Still it was persecuted. Dangerous. Between the Church and the deep blue sea: Scylla and Charybdis. It was the high point of ‘the occult’ and also its low point. To some it promised to reveal the secrets of the universe, to others it automatically meant a pact with the Devil and damnation. Such contrasts have thrown long shadows that still play across the present.

Published in the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition, No. 20, Vol. 2. Vernal Equinox 2011.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Reinventing the Renaissance Occult

Review of the 'Reinventing the Renaissance Occult in Modern and Postmodern Culture' conference accepted by the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition (JWMT) for the forthcoming edition, vol. 2, no. 20. Will post link when the journal is published.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

"How to cure a witch..."

A guide on how to convert witches to Christianity has been published by the Roman Catholic Church in Britain.

The move comes in response to fears that growing numbers of teenagers are being lured into Wicca, occult practices and paganism by the heroic depiction of witches in entertainment including the Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice films, and TV.

The booklet, called Wicca and Witchcraft: Understanding the Dangers, offers parents advice on what to do if one of their children takes an interest in witchcraft.

Where's the Wiccan guide on how to convert Christians? Oh yeah, there isn't one, because Wiccans respect the spiritual choices of other people.

Read the full story at

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Paranormal is Finished!

Of course I mean my book about the paranormal, not the paranormal itself! Yesterday afternoon I pressed the send button and sent the manuscript flying through the ether to my publishers. The editor's immediate reaction was 'wow'. After working ten hours a day, all the weekends, most of xmas, to produce 100,000 thoroughly researched, double-checked, fully referenced words in a record six months, it's finally over. Over, that is, until the proofs come back. Look out for the finished article in early 2012.