Religion: Magic, Witchcraft and Religion

Ref: C3739727

Societies throughout the ages have felt the need for beliefs beyond their immediate material circumstances, demonstrated in the proliferation of religions, mythology, ritual, magic, witchcraft and shamanism. We shall study the many facets of belief across cultures, with wide ranging perspectives drawn from anthropology and archaeology.

Additional information about this course

*Reading courses bookable from 1st July 2016* Half term: 30/5/2017.

Course aim

Explore the world of magic and witchcraft and its relation to religion, using cross-cultural perspectives. Examples from contemporary as well as ancient societies will be given.

Who is the course for?

What topics will this course cover

This course focuses upon phenomena that may be categorized broadly as “religion” and the closely related concept of belief in the “supernatural”. Students will become familiar with a variety of religious topics in cross-cultural perspective, including mythology, ritual, magic, witchcraft and shamanism. The course will approach these topics from the perspectives of anthropology and archaeology. Particular focus will be given to cultures in contact and the role of religion as a force for both continuity and change.

What will it be like?

WEA classes are friendly and supportive. You will be encouraged to work together with your fellow students and tutor. You will be asked to share your ideas and views in the class and work with the group to give and accept feedback in a supportive environment. The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you to be actively involved in your learning. You may be asked to undertake work to support your course outside of your class.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

1. Describe beliefs and practices from a variety of past and present cultures. 2. Define magic and witchcraft and their role and function in society. 3. Assess and analyse the relationship between religious beliefs and practices and their social, economic and political contexts.

How will I know I'm making progress?

You will receive regular feedback from your tutor throughout the course, as and when appropriate. At the end of the course you and your tutor are asked to assess the progress you have made.

What else do I need to know, do or bring?

Writing materials.

Reading and information sources

Recommended reading - The Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft, 3rd edition. Rebecca L. Stein and Philip L. Stein Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion: A Reader in the Anthropology of Religion, eighth edition. Pamela A. Moro and James E. Myers. (McGraw Hill, 2010)

What could the course lead to?

A course on cultural anthropology or religion.

Download full course outline

Religion: Magic, Witchcraft and Religion Course Outline


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2016
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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