Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
Magic in the Middle Ages: From Antiquity to the Eve of the Witch Craze
Academic Year
Semester 1
Exclusive (Any Acad Year)
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay  2000 Words  50%
Semester Assessment Open Examination  2000 Words  50%
Supplementary Assessment Essay  2000 Words  50%
Supplementary Assessment Open Examination  2000 Words  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Demonstrate a critical understanding of how magic and the functions of magic and the supernatural in society developed, and the way this impacted cultural development.

Demonstrate a systematic and detailed understanding of current approaches to and on-going historiographical debates on magic and the supernatural in the Middle Ages.

Identify and critically analyse a wide range of primary sources, including but not limited to: literary and narrative sources, visual materials, archaeological, and other forms of historical evidence.

Demonstrate skills in expressing argument and opinion in both written work, and orally in broader seminar discussion.

Brief description

The history of magic is one that is often studied through the lens of witchcraft, and more specifically the Witch Craze of the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries, which also spread across the Atlantic. What is less known however, is how and why magic came to be seen as heretical by the Church in the fifteenth century, after many centuries of largely accepted practice. This module focuses on the ancient origins of magic, and how magical practices and belief in the supernatural shaped society in the Middle Ages. By taking a primarily cultural approach, this module will investigate magical and supernatural practices that emerged from Antiquity and the Muslim world, whilst also introducing the different forms of magic that played an integral part in daily life such as: medicine, environmental magic, astrological practices, and divination.


By the end of the module students will develop understanding of debates over role and function of magic in society, and knowledge more broadly on the cultural developments of the Middle Ages. Students will also gain familiarity with secondary literature and the place of magic and the supernatural in historiography. Additionally, the use and application of primary sources in this module will be explored in depth through seminars.


This module will consist of 18 lectures:

1. An introduction to Magic and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages
2. The Occult in Antiquity
3. The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe
4. Magic and the Church
5. Science, Magic, and Shared Ideas
6. Magic and Medicine
7. Natural Philosophy and the Environment
8. Astrology and Astronomy
9. Alchemy: From Thomas Aquinas to Roger Bacon
10. Divination Magic
11. Necromancy and Sorcery
12. Magical Folklore of the British Isles: Gwydion, Lailoken and Merlin
13. Magical Folklore in Europe: Fairies, Elves and Draugr
14. Demonic Magic and Heresy
15. Condemnation of the Occult
16. The Hammer of Witches
17. The Image of the Witch
18. The Early Modern Witch Craze: Pendle, Salem, Torsåker

This module will consist of 4 seminars of 90 minutes:

1. The Origins of the Occult: Antiquity and Early Medieval Europe
2. Science, Religion and Magic
3. The Role of Magic in Folklore
4. The Image of the Witch & The Origins of the Witch Craze

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Communication Oral and written communication skills will be developed through seminars and feedback on written work.
Improving own Learning and Performance Written work will be returned in tutorials where advice will be given regarding the improvement of research and techniques and essay writing skills.
Information Technology Through the retrieval of primary and secondary works from online resources and AberLearn Blackboard and through the writing, formatting and printing of essays.
Personal Development and Career planning This module will develop oral and written skills. It will also prepare students for careers which involve the research, critical analysis and presentation of material relevant to a particular problem or set of problems
Problem solving Students are expected to note and respond to historical problems which arise as part of the study of this subject area, and to undertake suitable research for seminars and essays.
Research skills Students will develop their research skills by investigating narrative sources from the period under study.
Subject Specific Skills This module will develop students’ abilities to interpret and analyse primary source material. It will provide them with a range of approaches which they can utilise when conducting independent research.
Team work Through seminar activities, including seminar leading with another student.


This module is at CQFW Level 6