British telephone boxes

Discover the true history of magic, witchcraft and occultism from ancient times to the present day.

Information at a Glance

  • Evening Class
  • Mondays 18:00 - 20:00
  • 20 weeks: October to March
  • 2 hours taught time per week
  • Tutor: Tom Waters
  • Fees from £210 to £395
  • Location: Imperial College, South Kensington Campus
Booking Link

The celebrated necromancer, and court magician to Queen Elizabeth I, John Dee was said to have owned a ‘black mirror’ that enabled him to see into the future, as well as a magic crystal, inhabited by a daemon, that could cure kidney disease. Of course, that was in the sixteenth century, and in our society we no longer believe in such things. Except that even today, many people have a superstitious terror of breaking mirrors, and shops selling supposedly healing crystals can be found in many of Britain towns and cities.

In this course, we will explore the history and practise of magic, spell-craft and the occult from ancient times to the present day. We will learn about witches, fairies, shamans and fortune-tellers, as well as beliefs in curses and ghosts, protective talisman and superstitious fears associated with the occult. Each week we will examine a key theme in the history of magic, assess its place in different cultures around the world, and consider how the theme has changed over time. We will also look at the place of magic and the occult in art, literature and popular culture, from the fairy tales of the Grimm Brothers, to the wizardry of Harry Potter.

Using the methods of historical study, folklore, anthropology and psychology, we will discover why magic has haunted the human imagination so persistently, and how it continues to resonate even today.

As part of the course, you will be encouraged to draw on your own experiences in relating to the material taught in the course, through discussions and open questions, such as areas where we might be superstitious, have talismanic objects we turn to, or even have more definite beliefs or disbeliefs in supposed praeternatural forces.

No previous knowledge of the subject is necessary, and the course is organised to encourage discussion and debate in an informal setting. 

Course Information

Course Programme

Autumn term

1. Religion’s weird sister: defining magic
2. Voodoo dolls and cursing slates: effigy magic since ancient times
3. Stone circles and healing wells: magic and the landscape
4. Celtic folklore: fairies and curses
5. A ‘witch craze’? Witchcraft in Europe, c. 1400-1750
6. Obeah and Voodoo in the Caribbean
7. The cunning-craft
8. Shamans and shape-shifters
9. Grimoires: the history of magic books

*** Christmas break ***

Spring term

10. Mesmerism, spiritualism, and the Victorian occult revival
11. Devils and demons: jinn, exorcism and deliverance
12. Alas poor ghost: restless spirits and second lives
13. Cursed Britain: evil magic after the witch trials
14. Making a fortune: fortune-telling and tarot cards
15. Military magic: the supernatural during war and conflict
16. Curse of a continent? Witchcraft in modern Africa
17. From Brothers Grimm to Harry Potter: the power of the magical imagination
18. Traditional Chinese folk magic
19. New witchcrafts for a New Age?  Baphomet and Satanism, wicca and hedge witchcraft
20. A global magical revival? Occultism today

Programme listed is indicative only, and may be subject to modification.

Additional Reading

There is no compulsory reading required for this course, and there is no set course text, but if you would like to read more on the subject we suggest:

  • Ronald Hutton, The Witch: A History of Fear from Ancient Times to the Present (Yale University Press, 2017)
  • Owen Davies, Magic: a Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2012)
  • Thomas Waters, Cursed Britain: A History of Witchcraft and Black Magic in Modern Times (Yale University Press, 2019)

Your Tutor

Waters TSpellbound is taught by Dr Thomas Waters. Tom is an expert on the history of magic who has taught at the universities of Oxford, Leeds, Derby and Hertfordshire, as well as here at Imperial College.

Tom has published numerous articles on the modern history of witchcraft, and his new book, Cursed Britain: A History of Witchcraft and Black Magic in Modern Times, will be published by Yale University Press in August 2019.

Visit Dr Waters' webpage.

 

Course Fees and Rate Categories

HoursWeeksStandard RateInternal RateAssociate Rate
 40  20  £395    (Early Bird Rate: £360*) £230    (Early Bird Rate: £210*)
£305    (Early Bird Rate: £280*) 
* The Early Bird rate is available for enrolments made before the end of 30 September for courses starting in October   |   All fee rates quoted are for the whole course.
Term dates 1

Rate Categories and Discounts

Standard Rate

  • Applicable to all except those who fall under the Internal Rate or Associate Rate category, respectively.

Internal Rate

  • Applies to current Imperial College students and staff (incl. Imperial NHS Trust, Imperial Innovations, ancillary & service staff employed on long-term contracts at Imperial College by third-party contractors).
  • Current Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication (CLCC) staff, current CLCC PhD students, Science Communication (Sci Comm) postgraduate students, and students enrolled on an Imperial College 'Language for Science' degree programme should email evening eveningclass@imperial.ac.uk before completing the online enrolment form.

Associate Rate

  • Students (non-Imperial College)
  • Alumni of Imperial College and predecessor colleges and institutes
  • City & Guilds College Association members
  • Members of the Friends of Imperial College
  • Francis Crick Institute staff, researchers and students
  • Friends of the South London Botanical Institute
  • Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council staff
  • Harrods staff
  • Historic Royal Palaces staff
  • Natural History Museum staff
  • Science Museum staff
  • Victoria and Albert Museum staff
  • Royal Geographical Society staff
  • Royal College of Art and Royal College of Music tutors and other staff
  • Santander Bank staff (Imperial College Walkway branch only)
  • Austrian Cultural Forum staff
  • Staff of Exhibition Road Cultural Group (Discover South Kensington) organisations
  • Lycee Charles de Gaulle staff
  • Tutors and other staff of other universities and higher education institutions
  • Tutors and other staff of institution members of the Association of Colleges
  • Residents of postcodes SW3, SW5, SW7, SW10 and W8
  • Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • Members of the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI)

Late enrolment

It is possible to enrol on many CLCC Evening Class and Lunchtime Learning programmes after the course has started, subject entirely to agreement by the tutor delivering the course. If you want to join a course late do bear in mind there might be work you will need to catch up on, particularly in language courses.

Applicable terms & conditions

Please read the Evening Classes & Lunchtime Learning terms and conditions [pdf] before enrolling on any course.

Term Dates

HoursWeeksAutumn termSpring termSummer term
 40  20 14 Oct - 12 Dec 2019 (9 weeks)* 6 Jan - 19 Mar 2020 (11 weeks) n/a
* Followed by the Christmas break

Enrolment Process

Web enrolment starts 1 August

Enrolment & payment are through the Imperial College eStore. Please use above booking link noting below instructions:

  • Our rate categories are explained on this page and your applicable category must be selected on the eStore
  • First-time eStore users please create an account by entering an email address and password. These credentials should also be used for future bookings. Imperial College users please note the eStore is not a single-signon College system
  • The booking process involves entering payment details before your course choice and applicant details are queried on an in-built questionnnaire which completes the process
  • The following email notifications will be sent
What is sentWhen is it sentWhat does it contain
1. Payment confirmation Instantaneously following submission of your online application
  • Confirms your payment, date of payment and order number
  • Should not be treated as a course-enrolment receipt and therefore does not show your course however these details are sent to us via the system
2. Enrolment confirmation Sent in due course but likely not before the end of September. Please treat your payment confirmation as confirmation that your applicant details and payment have been received
  • Confirms your course choice
  • Shows the programme your course is part of as well as the term dates
  • Confirms your course' day of the week & time
3. Programme information Usually sent Friday late afternoon the week before term starts
  • Contains further course details incl. classroom location and teacher contact information
  • Provides further general programme details
If you need further help with the above information please ring 020 7594 8756

Certificate of Attendance

Our adult education evening and daytime classes do not offer academic credits, but we do offer an attendance certificate to those learners who attend at least 80% (16) of the taught classroom sessions. Eligible learners receive their certificate by email after the end of the course.

Any Questions?

Questions regarding the content and teaching of this course should be sent to the course tutor, Thomas Waters, t.waters@imperial.ac.uk

If you have enjoyed this course, why not look at other arts and humanities evening class courses at Imperial College. This includes courses on the history of western art from ancient Greece to the nineteenth century, Understanding Modern and Design, the history of film and cinema and Greek and Roman mythology in art. We also run practical courses in art and photography and creative writing classes, and a growing programme of science based evening classes.