What next from academic diversity?
Researchers at the University of Exeter in the U.K. are studying the casting of spells from collections of literature from the 15th to 17th centuries to summon demons and “fairies” to uncover their secrets.
This period, starting in the late medieval times, saw the writing of many books giving instructions on how to perform sorcery and necromancy, and fairies played an important role.
Ph.D. candidate Samuel Gillis Hogan, 26, will begin trawling through ancient manuscripts in many of England’s libraries to find evidence and records of how people thought they could harness the power of “fairies” over the 300-year period, and what influence this had on people’s lives and culture.
“Fairies were thought of as wondrous and beautiful, but mostly dangerous,” he said. “But people wanted to summon them and harness that power for their own gain. For example, fairies were often asked to teach how to heal people.”
Hogan is relocating from Canada to join a team of historians at the University of Exeter who are already investigating the history of magic, sorcery and witchcraft.
“It shows much about beliefs at the time,” Hogan added. “By fully understanding these practices, we can often reconstruct how it was perfectly rational given contemporary beliefs. It’s easy to look down our noses at past or present cultures and dismiss them as ‘backwards’ or ‘primitive’, but intimately understanding these very different worldviews emphasizes that our own is simply one among many.”
Among the common theories about “fairies,” says Hogan, are that they were demoted angels, spirits of the dead, prehistoric human precursors and minor deities in pagan beliefs. He emphasizes that they were not always considered as virtuous, particularly as Puritanism grew after the Reformation in the 16th century. The spell books that will be studied to conjure fairies, demons and other spirits were used, he says, for both for noble and nefarious purposes.
Hogan’s work will be supervised by two historians, professors Catherine Rider and Jonathan Barry. His Ph.D. work will be funded by a Rothermere fellowship which supports students who have previously studied at the Memorial University of Newfoundland to study in the U.K.
“I specialize in the history of magic,” Hogan says. “It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I decided that I wanted to become someday a professor of the history of magic in grade 11.”
Hogan thought initially he would be one of the first scholars to do this, but he learned the study of magic is exploding on college campuses. There is already is an international society of scholars dedicated to the subject, the Societas Magica, established in 1994 in the US. Hogan studied under Frank Klaassen, once the president of SM.
Pastor Karl Payne, an expert on demonology and the author of the highly acclaimed book, “Spiritual Warfare: Christians, Demonization, and Deliverance,” suggests these secular academics are treading in explosively dangerous territory in their research.
“I am not excited about anyone for any reason attempting to legitimize delving into the world of demonism, spell casting, talking with the dead or walking with the dead through mainstream academia, even if that journey is promoted as a graduate college level historical examination of the subject,” the former chaplain of the Seattle Seahawks told WND. “My guess is that Aleister Crowley would be just as proud of Samuel Gillis Hogan, as Margaret Sanger must be of Kermit Gosnell, Karl Marx of Joseph Stalin, Charles Darwin of Adolf Hitler, John Dewey of Richard Dawkins, or William H. Masters of Ted Bundy. Is it a surprise to find out that the death and carnage from many of the ideas promoted by these men, women and organizations were originally sold to the public as academic progress in a modern world?”
He added: “When college classes are used as promotional pulpits for experimenting with demons, many students, and more than a few teachers, are going to end up in over their heads, dying to get out, and with no one to ultimately blame but themselves. I suspect that those of us who deal with the realities of demonization are going to get busier as students and teachers find out too late that they did not get out of experimenting and playing with demons what they thought they were going to get going into their curiosities. Casual sex has promoted and produced death mills. In the same manner, casual experimentation with spiritism is going to ultimately promote and produce destruction and death, regardless of how it is sold. You can put a beautiful bow around the neck of a skunk, call it a cat and name it ‘Princess.’ But it is still a skunk! If there is any doubt about this, just wait until ‘Princess’ becomes agitated.”
Hogan’s previous writing include “Cheating Death: An Exploration of the Relationship Between Medieval Concepts of Death and the Alchemical Aspiration for Immortality.” It focused on the use of alchemy in the attempt to achieve immortality and how this conflicted with the Christian approach to the afterlife. The paper won Hogan the university’s Pro Vice-Chancellor’s Prize. He said it was at that moment that he realized he could make a career in the history of magic and have it recognized in academic circles.
Hogan wrote his master’s thesis on the 27 surviving manuscripts written between 1160 and 1500 relating to the performance of chiromancy, a form of divination.
The University of Exeter is well known among the esoteric and pagan community in the U.K. and has a long track record of research into the history of magic.