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Supernatural: The Anthropology of Ritual, Magic and the Occult

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Description

Ritual and magic have played a vital role in the development and structure of societies all over the world, and throughout human history.


Shamans, sangomas, voodoo queens and high priestesses all hold important keys to our understanding of ritual practices and the use of magic in society.


Course description

In this unique five-week online course we will embark on an anthropological journey through the supernatural world. Adopting a cross-cultural perspective, you will be guided week by week through the discovery and critical evaluation of rich anthropological, historical and archaeological evidence.

Why has the supernatural been so important to us, and how has its relevance been embedded in, and expressed by, different cultures across time and space? To what extent are we still influenced by the spiritual realm in all of its various manifestations?

We will seek answers to these questions by examining aspects of mythology, folklore and ritual practice that fascinate and challenge, glimpsing a realm of humanity that is at times both enlightening and terrifying.


Syllabus overview

The course runs for five weeks and will explore the following topics:


Module 1: Anthropological approaches to the supernatural

Module 2: Shaman: link to the spirit world

Module 3: African healing, sorcery and witchcraft

Module 4: Voodoo: from shackled roots

Module 5: Western Witchcraft and Pagan Magic


Various rituals being performed


Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, participants should be able to:

  • Examine human experience, behaviour, and social and cultural institutions from an anthropological perspective;
  • Compare some of the belief systems and ritual practices of different cultures, drawing from anthropological, archaeological and historical evidence;
  • Evaluate the role that religious belief systems perform in different cultural contexts;
  • Critically apply anthropological approaches, methodologies and the interpretation of cultural evidence.


Prerequisites

This learning opportunity is open to anyone, and no prior knowledge or experience of anthropology is required. The only prerequisite is a curiosity about diverse cultural beliefs and practices, and a willingness to engage and contribute to course discussions.

The course is delivered completely online in a virtual learning environment (VLE), so you will need access to an internet-connected computer or mobile device, and basic computing skills. Our team will be on hand to give you both academic and technical support as needed.

Please note: to preserve the educational advantages of small-group teaching there are only ten places available on this course. We therefore recommend that you register early to avoid disappointment.


Your tutor

Dr. Mark Anderson will be your tutor and guide on this learning journey. Mark's interests embrace all aspects of cultural heritage, with specialisms in African archaeology, the anthropology of education, ritual and religion, and the formation of complex societies. He teaches archaeology and anthropology at the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education, and he is a Teaching Fellow at Imperial College London.

Mark is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, a Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He is the author of Marothodi: The Historical Archaeology of an African Capital.


Dr Mark Anderson

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