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Undergraduate Module Descriptor

ARA2016: Magic and the Abrahamic Religions

This module descriptor refers to the 2023/4 academic year.


NQF Level 5
Credits 15 ECTS Value 7.5
Term(s) and duration

This module will run during term 2 (11 weeks)

Academic staff

Professor Siam Bhayro (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


This module will enable you to explore the practice of magic – including ritual healing, love-charms, exorcism and beliefs about evil spirits, divination, wonder-working, etc. – in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Alongside this, you will consider theoretical questions about the nature of magic, principally what it is (e.g. the problem of essentialist definitions, emic and etic perspectives, ‘magic’ as a pejorative or othering category) and how it works (e.g. speech-act theory, magic as a technology). You will consider the relevant primary sources from each religious tradition, including written amulets, magic recipe-books, and narrative or didactic descriptions of magic activity. You shall also consider the history of the treatment of magic in modern scholarship, tracing the story of how a subject once widely dismissed as unworthy of serious study is now receiving the scholarly attention it deserves. The content will largely focus on the Eastern Mediterranean region from antiquity to the mediaeval period, as this will facilitate fruitful comparisons between magic in each religion, and also make the most of current scholarship.

Module created

January 2023

Last revised