Welcome to SPACE, our adult continuing education program which offers interactive monthly courses for personal enrichment! Learn more here.

Ancient Middle East Portal

Ancient Egyptian Mages

An examination of who used magic in Egypt, with an emphasis on characters within literary genres and known professions. This includes the story of Khufu, the Nubian sorcerers, the use of Shabtis, and later stories, including Lucian and the inspiration for Fantasia. This also includes priests, healers, and professional magic users. What do we know about fictional and nonfictional magic users? How and why did they practice? What areas did they work in?
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Demons and Exorcism in History

This module explores the practice of exorcism, from ancient Egypt and the Near East through antiquity and into Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We will look at spells, rituals, and practitioners as well as the causes of possession, demons, and curses.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Egyptian Demons

Introduction to the non-god, non-human, entities in ancient Egypt. Demons were guardians, messengers, and performed other duties, usually as intermediaries between the gods and men. We will consider the category of “demon”, their roles, descriptions, and how they changed over time in the Egyptian worldview. How were demons viewed and why were they necessary? How did they relate to other cultures? What became of Egyptian Demons in later periods?
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Egyptian Execration Texts

These are a special set of Egyptian texts, as well as objects and rituals that accompany them, used to act as either preventative or punitive magic against the enemies of Egypt. They provide a familiar framework from which to start learning about the specifics of Egyptian magic, in that they resemble our notion of “voodoo dolls”. How did they work? Why were they used? How did the object reflect the worldview of the Egyptians?
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Egyptian Hieroglyphs 2 Continuing Series

The Hieroglyphics series will present students with a basic understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs, grammar, and knowledge about how to proceed with further study. In this sequence of courses we will discuss how to translate steles that you are likely to encounter in museums, as well as their cultural significance. As student progress, the class will tackle more complex translation. Each one-month module builds on the previous one, so students ready to learn Hieroglyphics will communicate with our Director and Professor Gaffney to make the right placement for everyone.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Egyptian Hieroglyphs 3 Continuing Series

The Hieroglyphics series will present students with a basic understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs, grammar, and knowledge about how to proceed with further study. In this sequence of courses we will discuss how to translate steles that you are likely to encounter in museums, as well as their cultural significance. As student progress, the class will tackle more complex translation. Each one-month module builds on the previous one, so students ready to learn Hieroglyphics will communicate with our Director and Professor Gaffney to make the right placement for everyone.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Egyptian Hieroglyphs 4 Continuing Series

The Hieroglyphics series will present students with a basic understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs, grammar, and knowledge about how to proceed with further study. In this sequence of courses we will discuss how to translate steles that you are likely to encounter in museums, as well as their cultural significance. As student progress, the class will tackle more complex translation. Each one-month module builds on the previous one, so students ready to learn Hieroglyphics will communicate with our Director and Professor Gaffney to make the right placement for everyone.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Egyptian Hieroglyphs Series Series

The Hieroglyphics series will present students with a basic understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs, grammar, and knowledge about how to proceed with further study. In this series of 4 modules, we will discuss how to translate steles that you are likely to encounter in museums, as well as their cultural significance. As student progress, the class will tackle more complex translation. Each one-month module builds on the previous one, so students ready to learn Hieroglyphics will communicate with our Director and Professor Gaffney to make the right placement for everyone.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Egyptian Magical Texts

Another variation of this class looks at the history of magic writing, starting with the Pyramid texts and their evolution into the Books of the Dead, Coffin Texts, and the Greek Magical Texts. We will look closely at the origin and evolution of Egyptian spells and texts, as well as the culture that gave rise to them. How did magic work? How are writing and magic bound to one another? How are writing, magic, and image related? What were the various spells for?
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Intermediate Egyptian Magic

A continuation of the themes from Introduction to Egyptian Magic. We will add to our repertoire of spell and magical categories, including a variety of specific spells from texts and objects, including magic-medical spells, wands, execration materials, and amulets. This class will also review some of the magic associated with religious rituals and the afterlife. What constituted a magic object and how were they used? What magic was useful for the afterlife?
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Introduction to Ancient Magic 1 First in the Series

An introduction to magic in the ancient world provides a short survey of the earliest known magical texts and objects, including the Pyramid texts, Sumerian exorcism spells, and objects used in different apotropaic rituals. Divination and other forms of magic will be included as well. What was the earliest magic? What did it do and how did it work? Who practiced magic? How was magic related to religion?
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Introduction to Ancient Magic 2 Continuing Series

This class continues into module two where we look specifically the Greco-Roman world, magic in myth and literature, and specific spells and objects in use throughout the classical world, including their relations to Mesopotamia and Egypt. This includes the Greek magical texts. What types of magic did they use? Who practiced them and why?
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Introduction to Ancient Magic 3 Continuing Series

Last in the sequence of Ancient Magic is the use of magic in the early Christian world, its relationship with contemporary magic, and related texts. We will explore the origins of this magic, how it was used, and how it evolved over time. We will look at both religious and non-religious magic through a number of examples, both verbal spells and magical items, such as Aramaic incantation bowls.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Introduction to Ancient Magic Series Series

This is the Landing Page for Prof. Shawn Gaffney's series exploring Ancient Magic.

This page will be updated to reflect which module in the series is being explored in a given month.
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Introduction to Ancient Magic Series:
• Module 1: Introduction to Ancient Magic 1 > Link
• Module 2: Introduction to Ancient Magic 2 > Link
• Module 3: Introduction to Ancient Magic 3 > Link
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NOTE: Students can jump in at any month/part of the Series. There are no prerequisites.

Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Introduction to Egyptian Magic

Introduction to the basic magic of Egypt, including medical, religious, and daily magic used by both specialists and ordinary Egyptians. Where was magic used and by whom? How did one practice magic? Examples will be drawn specifically from Egyptian sources. We will also discuss magic as it is explained in theoretical literature, how we can view magic through these theoretical frameworks, and how they might be applied elsewhere.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Magic: Grimoires 1

In this module we will use Owen Davie’s Grimoires: a History of Magic Books as a guide to look at a number of different texts, focusing on Late Antiquity to Early Modern books. We will discuss where the books were used, by whom, and how some were related to one another. We will also look at how the books were spread and received, as well as, when possible, some details about individual books. Because of the breadth of the subject we will not have time to delve too deeply into the texts themselves.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Magic: Grimoires 2

In this module we will look more deeply into one or more texts on magic. Using modern translations and publications, we will focus on one or two texts, read and discuss them. This may include the Testament of Solomon, Picatrix, or the Liber Razielis Archangeli, or another text depending on the interest of the participants.

Note: While this is the natural follow-up class to the first Grimoires Module, it can be taken without taking the first Grimoires class.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Magic: Islamic Magic and Occultism

We will explore the early period of Islamic magic and secret knowledge. We will look at various categories of magic, from astrology to talisman magic. Our sources will draw on recent scholarly publications as well as translations of medieval texts.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Mesopotamian Demons

Demons have played a significant role in ancient cultures beyond just Egypt. Mesopotamia has its own set of liminal entities that reside somewhere between gods and man, with their own responsibilities and roles. This class will explore the features of these beings, including where they are first seen in literature, what roles they play, and what we know about them. Think Pazuzu from the Exorcist.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

The Other in the Ancient Egyptian World

The Egyptians had a complex view of non-Egyptians. They were both threatening enemies but also potential Egyptians. This course will look at how the Egyptians viewed and depicted the other, the role of the other, and the change in many cases, of other to countryman. This will include a survey of art, literature, and magic as it relates to depicting, describing, and affecting the other and how this reinforced the Egyptian identity. Who were the “others” in the Egyptian worldview? How were they to be interacted with? Who where the Egyptians in their own view?
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Wisdom Literature: The Book of Job

Let's do a close, detailed, literary reading of the Book of Job in the Bible, taking our time to contemplate each verse, sentence, phrase, and word. What literary techniques does the author use? How is the book structured? What genre conventions does it use or subvert? We will ponder these questions and others as we move slowly and respectfully through this beautiful ancient text.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.