Grimoires & Magical Books – Owen Davies

No books have been more feared than grimoires, and no books have been more valued and revered. In his book Grimoires: A History of Magic Books, Owen Davies illuminates the many fascinating forms these recondite books have taken and exactly what these books held. At their most benign, these repositories of forbidden knowledge revealed how to make powerful talismans and protective amulets, and provided charms and conjurations for healing illness, finding love, and warding off evil. But other books promised the power to control innocent victims, even to call up the devil. Davies traces the history of this remarkably resilient and adaptable genre, from the ancient Middle East to modern America, offering a new perspective on the fundamental developments of western civilization over the past two thousand years. Grimoires shows the influence magic and magical writing has had on the cultures of the world, richly demonstrating the role they have played in the spread of Christianity, the growth of literacy, and the influence of western traditions from colonial times to the present.

Owen Davies is reader in Social History at the University of Hertfordshire. His main field of research is on the history of modern and contemporary witchcraft and magic.[1]

Mabinogi – the Hanging of a Mouse – Welsh Stories – Hugh Lupton

The Hanging of a Mouse

The Four Branches of the Mabinogi were set down on the page in the early thirteenth century. They are stories that had been told and sung by Welsh bards for centuries before they were written down.

One of the central concerns of the Mabinogi is the uneasy relationship between this world and Annwn, the Otherworld.

In this performance, drawing from the first and third branches, Hugh Lupton unravels a tale of violence, love, enchantment and revenge beginning with a badger in a bag and ending with a gallows for a mouse.

Hugh Lupton has been a professional storyteller since1981. He tells stories from all over the world, but his particular passion is for the hidden layers of the British landscape and the stories and ballads that give voice to them. He is also a lyricist and a novelist and has published many collections of traditional tales. His novel ‘The Assembly of the Severed Head’ explores the moment the Mabinogion moved from being part of a fluid oral culture to becoming a written text.

Open Sesame: Dorothea Tanning’s Bibliographic Surrealism

Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012) was an American artist and writer, chiefly known for diminutive surrealist paintings and a clutch of soft sculptures. However, the reach of this centenarian was far more expansive than many viewers and readers may be aware for she also worked on one novella, Abyss or Chasm, for her entire career, as well as poetry and printmaking. Tanning’s prophetic visual and literary imagery, such as the recurrent child-woman, Destina, were often drawn from her childhood reading lists, pre-empting and reflecting surrealism’s literary heritage.


Dr Catriona McAra is Assistant Director, Heritage Collections and Curation at the University of St Andrews. She is a specialist in modern and contemporary art history with particular interests in feminist-surrealist legacies. She is the author of A Surrealist Stratigraphy of Dorothea Tanning’s Chasm (Routledge 2017), and her forthcoming books include Ilana Halperin: Felt Events (MIT and Strange Attractor, 2022) and The Medium of Leonora Carrington (Manchester University Press, 2022).

The Flying House of Loreto – Dame Marina Warner

When the house in Nazareth where the Annunciation took place and Jesus grew up with Mary and Joseph was threatened by unbelievers, angels picked it up and carried it to safety, finally setting it down on a hillside overlooking the Adriatic, in Loreto. The relic of the Flying House of Loreto, inspired one of the most popular pilgrimages in the world until Napoleon sacked its treasury to pay his army. The holy House itself also appeared In Walsingham, Norfolk, and like its Italian counterpart, also became a huge draw and a very very rich cult site, which was laid waste in the Reformation. Marina Warner will tell the story of this holy house and its ‘wondrous flittings’ in relation to ideas about losing home and remaking it, exile and settlement.

Witch Hunting Old & New: A Lecture by Ron Hutton

Join Professor Ronald Hutton on Zoom to find out why the notorious medieval and early modern European witch-hunts took place – in collaboration with Morbid Anatomy New York.

Join Professor Ronald Hutton to find out why the notorious medieval and early modern European witch-hunts took place. Discover what made them different from witch-hunts elsewhere in the world, why they stopped and the impact have they had on witchcraft beliefs and human rights in the present world.

The story of witch-hunting takes us on a journey through the civilisations of the ancient world and early Christianity to a change in mood in late medieval European Christian times. This is when people stopped perceiving witchcraft as a minor problem affecting individuals and started seeing it as a satanic conspiracy directed against the whole of society.

Europe is unique in making this transition and viewing witchcraft as a demonic form of religion. It is also unique in moving from a profound fear of witchcraft to a disbelief in it, officially at least.

How this change came about and how far that fear still presents a problem to the modern world, will be the central issues of this lecture.

Speaker: Professor Ronald Hutton is a Professor of History at the University of Bristol. He is a leading authority on history of the British Isles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, on ancient and medieval paganism and magic, and on the global context of witchcraft beliefs.

The Celestial Bed of Dr. James Graham, Sex Therapist with Author Lydia Syson

Dr.Graham guaranteed both ecstasy and fertility to the users of his infamous 18th Century Celestial Bed, Zoom lecture with Lydia Syson.

Dr Graham set out to bring the sublime into the sex life of every married couple. Widely considered the world’s first sex therapist, he guaranteed both ecstasy and fertility to the users of his infamous Celestial Bed, a contraption which harnessed all the most exciting developments of the Enlightenment. Electricity, magnetism, mind-altering gases and music all played a part in this astonishing invention, luxuriously designed to produce pleasure and perfect babies.

Graham’s medical career took him from his native Edinburgh to America and back again, and he crossed paths with many of the most famous individuals of his day. The doctor’s well-publicised efforts to overturn medical orthodoxy provoked both admiration and ridicule. He was crowned “the King of Quacks”.

Lydia Syson will give a portrait of this remarkable eighteenth-century celebrity, revealing a character of great complexity: startlingly progressive, extraordinarily arrogant and touchingly humane. He was the epitome of his era, yet utterly one of a kind.

Lydia Syson, author of MR PEACOCK’S POSSESSIONS, (aTimes and Sunday Times Book of the Year 2018, the YA historical/political novels LIBERTY’S FIRE, THAT BURNING SUMMER, A WORLD BETWEEN US, & the biography DOCTOR OF LOVE: DR JAMES GRAHAM AND HIS CELESTIAL BED.

The History of Perverse Sex by Historian Julie Peakman

In Collaboration with New York’s Morbid Anatomy join Julie Peakman to find out all about The History of Perverse Sex.

Homosexuals, transvestites, transsexuals, sado-masochists, necrophiliacs – all of these have been, or still are, considered ‘deviants’. Concomitantly there has been almost universal acceptance that unembellished vaginal penetration, performed by one man and one woman, is ‘normal’ sex. This is now contested. But what is perverse sex and what isn’t? Julie Peakman explores the gamut of sexual activity that has been seen as strange, abnormal or deviant over the last 2,000 years, examining an abundance of original sources – letters, diaries, memoirs, court records, erotic books, medical texts and advice manuals – and shows how, for ordinary people, different kinds of sex have always offered myriad different pleasures. There never was a ‘normal’. Almost all sexual behaviours have travelled to and fro along a continuum of proscription and acceptance. Attitudes have changed towards masturbation, leatherwear, ‘golden showers’ and sado-masochism.From the specialized cultures of pain, necrophilia and bestiality to the social world of plushies and furries, and lovers of life-sized sex dolls, some previously acceptable behaviour now provokes social outrage, while activities as diverse as sodomy and wife-swapping have moved on the spectrum of acceptance from sin to harmless fun. Each ‘perversion’ is explored from the time it was first visible in history, to how it is viewed today, and along the way she asks why we can be so intolerant of other people’s sexual preferences.

Julie Peakman is a historian in eighteenth-century culture, sexuality (all eras) and pornography. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and Honorary Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is a frequent contributor to newspapers and popular magazines, as well as academic journals. She has worked on television documentaries for the BBC, Channel 4 and the Biography Channel.
Her books include Mighty Lewd Books: The Development of Pornography in Eighteenth-Century England (Palgrave, 2003), Lascivious Bodies: A Sexual History of the Eighteenth Century (Atlantic Books, 2004) and The Pleasure’s All Mine. A History of Perverse Sex (Reaktion, 2013)
Her biographies include two eighteenth-century women, Emma Hamilton (Haus, 2005) and Peg Plunkett, Memoirs of a Whore (Quercus, 2015). She has also edited a 6 volume set A Culture of the History of Sexuality (Bloomsbury, 2011) and an 8 volume set Whores’ Biographies 1700-1825 (Pickering & Chatto, 2006-7).

Chaos Magic Workshop with Julian Vayne

23rd Feb & 2nd March 7-830pm tickets include both sessions.

This approach to magic blends influences from punk DIY culture, Discordian crazy wisdom, contemporary science and the western esoteric tradition. Come us on a journey into the theory and practice of chaos magic where we’ll learn about its history and try some of its methods. Participants will learn centering the banishing practices, techniques of raising and directing magical energy, how to work with spirits and much more! These two workshops of 1.5 hours each will also include an opportunity to take part in an online ritual.

Try to wear comfortable clothes for the sessions as we are likely to do a little bit of gentle stretching to help us prepare for the practices. Please have a pen and paper to hand, and a glass of water too. If you can ensure a low-ish light level in your space and a comfortable place where you can lie down while listening to a guided meditation that would be great. Looking forward to seeing you in the magic circle!

Julian Vayne is a British independent scholar, occultist and author with over three decades of experience within esoteric culture: from Druidry to Chaos Magic, from indigenous Shamanism through to Freemasonry and Witchcraft. He is the author of numerous works including the celebrated Getting Higher: The Manual of Psychedelic Ceremony. Since 2011 he has been sharing his work through The Blog of Baphomet. Julian is a senior member of the Magical Pact of the Illuminates of Thanateros and widely recognized as one of Britain’s leading occultists.

Welsh Witches – A Lecture by Richard Suggett on Zoom

On the heels of Halloween/Nos Calan Gaeaf, thoughts will turn, perhaps a little apprehensively, to witches, ghosts and other beings. In Wales, perhaps more so than in other parts of the British Isles, the landscape is full of reminders of the spirit world: many places are associated with witches (gwrach), sprites (bwbach), ghosts (yspryd) and other ghastly beings. To explore place-names associated with the supernatural, simply type in gwrach (or another word) into the Royal Commission’s Historic Place-names in Wales website and view the results.

Witchcraft in Wales

What is the historical background to these place-names? A new book by Richard Suggett, RCAHMW’s Senior Architectural Investigator, explores the documentary evidence relating to witchcraft in Wales.* For the first time, the documentary evidence relating to Welsh witchcraft is published in full. The written evidence surviving from some twenty cases has been fully transcribed in this new book. These texts reveal some remarkable events and personalities that have remained hidden for three hundred years. In these cases we encounter suspected witches, cursers and healers, users of love magic and charms, believers in fairies, and several confidence tricksters who offered wealth and cures through supernatural means.

Welsh Witches

There were some forty prosecutions for witchcraft in Wales and five suspects were tragically hanged for witchcraft. Places and buildings associated with these trials can still be visited. The remarkable Court-house (NPRN 23134) at Beaumaris, where Margaret ferch Richard was convicted of witchcraft in 1655 and afterwards executed, uniquely preserves its instructive and atmospheric interior. The beautiful west window and sixteenth-century roof at Dyserth Church (NPRN 300471), Flintshire, would have been familiar to the witnesses who gave evidence against Gwen ferch Elis, convicted and hanged for witchcraft in 1584. Ffynnon Elian (NPRN 32271), a ‘holy’ well near Abergele, that developed a grim reputation as a cursing well, remains a feature of the historic landscape.

Richard Suggett is a historian, currently senior investigator at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, and Honorary Fellow of the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies.

The Magical Mind of Ithell Colquhoun, Surrealist & Occultist – Dr. Amy Hale – Zoom Talk

The Magical Mind of Ithell Colquhoun

Having languished as a footnote in art history for decades, Ithell Colquhoun (1906-1988) is finally gaining recognition as one of the most interesting, dynamic, and theoretically sophisticated women Surrealists. Colquhoun was a visual artist, writer, poet and essayist whose dedication to enlightenment through the pursuit of occult knowledge was the foundation of all of her work.

This richly illustrated lecture will sample the astonishing range of Colquhoun’s occult experiments and theories, ranging from her extra dimensional aspirations and ideas about sex magic, to her magical implementations of the esoteric paradigms of W.B. Yeats.

Dr. Amy Hale is an anthropologist and folklorist writing about esoteric history, art, and culture. Her biography of Ithell Colquhoun, Genius of the Fern Loved Gully, is available from Strange Attractor Press, and she is also the editor of the forthcoming Essays on Women in Western Esotericism: Beyond Seeresses and Sea Priestesses (Palgrave Macmillan).