Magic and Ecology: Symposium and Art Exhibition

8 January 2021

ONLINE

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Please see the 'Programme' tab to find the full list of all events and podcast in this series.

 
Convenors

Hjördis Becker-Lindenthal (University of Cambridge, UK)
Simone Kotva (University of Oslo, Norway)
Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe (University of Cambridge, UK)

 

Speakers 
Podcast Insurrection Interviews 

David Abram (Creative Director of the Alliance for Wild Ethics, USA)
Adam Bobbette (University of New South Wales, Australia)
Erik Davis (Independent scholar, USA)
Siddharth Pandey (Independent scholar, India)
Charlotte Rodgers (Independent artist and author, UK)
Isabelle Stengers (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium)
Alice Tarbuck (Independent scholar and author, UK)

 

Podcast Online Seminar and Live Q&A

David Abram (Creative Director of the Alliance for Wild Ethics, USA) 
Alexander Cummins (Independent scholar, USA)
Esther Eidinow (University of Bristol, UK)
Peter Grey (Scarlet Imprint, UK)
Geraldine Hudson (Independent scholar, Sweden)
Richard Irvine (St Andrews University, UK)
Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe (University of Cambridge, UK)
Lupa (Independent artist and author, USA)
Zakiya McKenzie (Independent artist and author, UK)
Josephine McCarthy (Quareia Publishing, UK)
Sabrina Scott (York University, Toronto, Canada)
Merlin Sheldrake (Independent scholar, UK)
Victoria Whitworth (Independent scholar and author, UK)

 

Summary

'Magic and Ecology': symposium and art exhibition brings together historians, philosophers, and anthropologists of magic with environmental scientists, ecological thinkers, and practitioners of contemporary magical techniques. In recent decades ecological thinkers and cultural theorists Isabelle Stengers, Jane Bennett, and Timothy Morton have given critical attention to magic and to the way in which it operates as a technique for paying attention to things and to clarifying, rather than confusing, human dependence on the other-than-human that is also more-than-us. Such magic is seen as a counter-force to the powers of capitalist 'sorcery' and an alternative to the mindless enchantments of modernity; it is interested in the practical (ethical, political) consequences of not only 'including' the nonhuman in one’s circle but working with them, 'invoking' and recognising dependence on them. An entirely new politics of the nonhuman opens up at this point, one that is distinctly non-secular even as it persists on the fringes of 'theological' respectability. It is a question of approaching nonhumans as formidable agents and figuring out, from there, how best to make oneself attractive as potential working-partner in their eyes. What changes - modifications to human lifestyles, habits of consumption - must be attended to first before setting up the working space and invoking the other?

Magic and ecology have a long and entangled history. Western magic historically has been concerned with discerning connections between the human (microcosm) and the world (macrocosm), and modern magic (in similarity with many types of folk magic) especially digs deeper into these efforts of discernment by encouraging practitioners to work with all sorts of objects: not only specially designed props or celestial talismans but ordinary everyday things. Thinking with that tangled history and bringing it to light is the purpose of this event. We look at magic and ecology from the perspective of ancient practices as well as contemporary expressions, where the turn towards the magical in recent ecological thinking responds to a well-established tradition of environmental activism, art, and writing by magical practitioners, among them Starhawk, David Abram, Rae Beth, Josephine McCarthy, Sabrina Scott, and Charlotte Rodgers. Magic here becomes, as Isabelle Stengers has argued, a practice of 'attention', or, as Timothy Morton has put it, of 'attunement', a way of looking receptively ('openly') rather than selectively, 'attuning' to what there is and noticing it, as just as it is. These thinkers propose that living ecologically cannot be about saving some things to the exclusion of others (that would be tyranny, not ecology) but about attending to the connections between this thing and that, and between oneself and everything one touches and thinks about, in such a way that things can be felt and responded to, regardless of their supposed value. 

The suggestion, coming now from cultural theory, that really useful and effective ecological thinking is more like magic than the policies usually referred to as environmental is at the heart of this event. Challenging the secular normativity of ecological thinking, 'Magic and Ecology' also aims to confront the religious normativity of ecological spirituality. It considers the resources of magic, animist ontologies, occulture, earth-based religions and minor spiritualities often overlooked by mainstream eco-theology and environmentalism alike and thinks the critical potential of 'spirituality' from the perspective of its own insurgents. 'Magic and Ecology' aims to give a clear sense for the decolonising effect of magic not only as it confronts Western society from without, but also as it disrupts Western society from within. 'Magic and Ecology' proposes that disdain for magic has produced a distorted rather than enlightened sense of the nonhuman world. In a step towards redressing this state of affairs, this symposium and art exhibit examines the ecological thinking in magic, in order to test the hypothesis that magic is not only a misunderstood phenomenon in industrialised society but an experimental technique inviting a politics of invocation and working-with that is much needed today.
 

Art Exhibition

Animist Art Action: Sculptures by Charlotte Rodgers

UK-based artist Charlotte Rodgers is an animist, artist and author who works with remnants of the dead and the discarded to create talismanic and totemic art. Her work has been exhibited internationally, at galleries in the UK and US, and two of her sculptures recently won the competition to be exhibited at The Second Triennial of Self-Taught Visionary Art, Art Pavilion, Cvijeta Zuzoric in Belgrade, 2020. Rodgers writes: “Everything holds life-force, energy and potential. I work with the memory held in remnants of the dead, the forgotten, the discarded and the rejected. I honour these memories through acknowledgement, then use the past as a foundation for new directions and realities.” Rodgers also gives talks and has collaborated in numerous workshops, and is the author of The Sky is a Gateway, Not a Ceiling: Blood, Sex, Death, Magick and Transformation (2014), and The Bloody Sacrifice: A Personal Experience of Contemporary Blood Rites (2011), which chronicles her use of roadkill and blood in art, ritualised scarification, tattoo work and magic.

 

Supported by:

20th Anniversary Logo       Divinity
 

Round Twitter Logo @EcologyMagic

           


If you have any specific accessibility needs for this event please get in touch. We will do our best to accommodate any requests.

Conference assistance: conferences@crassh.cam.ac.uk

The Insurrection Interviews Podcasts

David Abram (Creative Director of the Alliance for Wild Ethics, USA)
Siddharth Pandey (Independent scholar, India)
Erik Davis (Independent scholar, USA)
Charlotte Rodgers (Independent artist and author, UK)
Isabelle Stengers (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium)
Adam Bobbette (University of New South Wales, Australia)
Alice Tarbuck (Independent scholar and author, UK)

January - April 2021: Magic and Ecology Podcast and Live Q&A seminars are biweekly. Talks are released as podcasts 1 week prior to the online gathering, which takes the form of a live Q&A with the speakers.

8 January 2021

ANTHROPOCENE MAGIC

Recordings: Richard Irvine & Lupa

15 January 2021, 18.00 - 19.30

Live Q&A for ANTHROPOCENE MAGIC: Richard Irvine & Lupa

Chair: Simone Kotva

Register for this Event

22 January

WITCHBODIES

Podcast: Sabrina Scott 

29 January 2021, 18.00 - 19.30

Live Q&A for WITCHBODIES: Sabrina Scott

Chair: Alice Tarbuck

Register for this Event

5 February 2021

(W)RITES OF PASSAGE

Podcast: Zakiya McKenzie and Victoria Whitworth 

12 February 2021, 18.00 - 19.30

Live Q&A for (W)RITES OF PASSAGE: Zakiya McKenzie and Victoria Whitworth 

Chair: Hjördis Becker-Lindenthal

Register for this Event

19 February 2021

APOCALYPTIC CRAFT

Podcast: Peter Grey & Geraldine Hudson

26 February 2021, 18.00 - 19.30

Live Q&A for APOCALYPTIC CRAFT: Peter Grey & Geraldine Hudson

Chair: Beth Dubow

Register for this Event

5 March 2021

ENVIRONMENTAL MAGIC AND GEOMANCY

Podcast: Josephine McCarthy & Alexander Cummins

12 March 2021, 18.00 - 19.30

Live Q&A for ENVIRONMENTAL MAGIC AND GEOMANCY: Josephine McCarthy & Alexander Cummins

Chair: Simone Kotva

Register for this Event

19 March 2021

ANCIENT MAGIC AND THE NONHUMAN WORLD

Podcast: Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe & Esther Eidinow

26 March 2021, 18.00 - 19.30

Live Q&A for ANCIENT MAGIC AND THE NONHUMAN WORLD: Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe & Esther Eidinow

Chair: Thomas Harrison

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2 April 2021

ENTANGLED LIFE 

Podcast: Merlin Sheldrake & David Abram

9 April 2021, 18.00 - 19.30

Live Q&A for ENTANGLED LIFE: Merlin Sheldrake & David Abram

Chair: Alice Tarbuck

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16 - 18 April 2021

Art Exhibition

ANIMIST ART ACTION I Charlotte Rodgers 

April 2021

Magic and Ecology Workshop at Cambridge Primary School

Charlotte Rodgers leads a workshop with students from the Cambridge University Primary school, on the theme of Magic and Ecology. 

Podcast Interviewees

David Abram (Creative Director of the Alliance for Wild Ethics, USA)
David Abram is a cultural ecologist, philosopher and sleight-of-hand magician whose influential work, The Spell of the Sensuous: Language and Perception in a More-than-human World (1997), demonstrated the parallels between animism and eco-phenomenology and brought non-Western ontologies into dialogue with Western metaphysics. Abram is especially interested in language and has done important work on the ethics of speech and how it relates to the environment of things named. Abram holds a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and is Founder and Creative Director of the Alliance for Wild Ethics: https://wildethics.org

Adam Bobbette (University of New South Wales, Australia)
Adam Bobbette completed his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge and is currently a research fellow at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, where he is writing a book on the political geology of Indonesia since 1945. His doctoral field work included a case study of Mt. Merapi, Indonesia, an active, populous volcano, where Bobbette undertook an ethnography and comparative cultural history of shamanism and volcano scientists: Bobbette compared their technologies and practices of forecasting, institutions, and networks, and the ways that telling stories of the volcano and its future are ways of defining what it means to be human. Bobbette’s writing has appeared in Cabinet , N+1 , the Times Literary Supplement , as well as scholarly journals and edited books.

Erik Davis (Independent Scholar, USA)
Erik Davis is America’s leading scholar of high strangeness and the author of several books on occulture: High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experiences in the Seventies (MIT, 2019); Nomad Codes: Adventures in modern Esoterica (Yeto, 2010); The Visionary State: A Journey through California’s Spiritual Landscapes (Chronicle, 2006). His first and best-known book is TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information (Crown, 1998), a cult classic of visionary media studies that has been translated into five languages. Davis received his Ph.D. from Rice University. 

Siddharth Pandey (Independent Scholar, India)
Siddharth Pandey is a literary critic and historian who works on enchantment, emplacement and the ethics of making; he is also a landscape photographer and curator, and has worked with numerous galleries and museums in India and the UK, including the Victoria and Albert in London and the Oriental Museum in Durham. Siddharth received his MPhil from the University of Delhi and in 2019 he was awarded his doctorate from the University of Cambridge with a dissertation on Crafting, Conjuring, and the Aesthetic of Making: Towards a Materialistic Understanding of Fantasy.

Charlotte Rodgers (Independent Artist and Author, UK)
Charlotte Rodgers is a UK-based artist and author who works with remnants of the dead and the discarded to create talismanic and totemic art. Her work has been exhibited internationally, at galleries in the UK and US. Charlotte also gives talks and has collaborated in numerous workshops, and is the author of The Sky is a Gateway, Not a Ceiling: Blood, Sex, Death, Magick and Transformation (2014), and The Bloody Sacrifice: A Personal Experience of Contemporary Blood Rites (2011), which chronicles her use of road kill and blood in art, ritualized scarification, tattoo work and magic. Charlotte’s art is exhibited virtually as part of the Magic and Ecology project, and is also featured on the Magic and Ecology website

Isabelle Stengers (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium)
Isabelle Stengers is Professor of Philosophy at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium. An internationally acclaimed philosopher and cultural theorist, Stengers is the coauthor, with Philippe Pignarre, of Capitalist Sorcery: Breaking the Spell (Eng. trans. 2011), which engages the earth-based spirituality of Starhawk’s witchcraft to show how the concept and person of the witch, as one who herself is capable of enchantment, wields a similar power to the capitalism that feeds ecological crisis and is thus uniquely placed to resist it. Magic as critique is a theme Stengers explores in subsequent publications, for instance “Reclaiming Animism,” E-flux 26 (2012): 1-10, which also engages with David Abram’s work, and Another Science Is Possible: Manifesto for a Slow Science (Eng. trans. 2018).

Alice Tarbuck (Academic and Author, Queen Margaret University)
Alice Tarbuck is an academic, writer and literature professional based in Edinburgh. Alice was the 2019 Scottish Book Trust New Writers Awardee for poetry, and her debut, A Spell in the Wild: a year (and six centuries) of Magic is published by Two Roads (Hachette). Her first poetry pamphlet, Grid, was published by Sad Press in 2018. Alice has appeared at StAnza, Belfast Literary Festival, Literary Dundee, and the Scottish PEN International Women’s Day Symposium, amongst others. Her work has been published by 404 Ink, 3ofCups Press, PN Review, Antiphon, Zarf and many others.


Speakers

David Abram

David Abram is a cultural ecologist, philosopher and sleight-of-hand magician whose influential work, The Spell of the Sensuous: Language and Perception in a More-than-human World (1997), demonstrated the parallels between animism and eco-phenomenology and brought non-Western ontologies into dialogue with Western metaphysics. Abram is especially interested in language and has done important work on the ethics of speech and how it relates to the environment of things named. Abram holds a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and is Founder and Creative Director of the Alliance for Wild Ethics: https://wildethics.org

​Alexander Cummins
Alexander Cummins is an historian, poet, and consultant whose practice centres around religion, philosophy, medicine and magic. He is the author of The Starry Rubric: Seventeenth-century English Astrology and Magic (2012), which explores the history of magical approaches to the emotions: from mapping personality with astrology, to managing emotionality with herbs and amulets, to the manipulations of aphrodisiacs, the evil eye, and the conjuration of spirits. He also has a special interest in geomancy and the history and practice of seeking conversation with non-human spirit-entities through the aid of interpreting the non-human environment. Cummins writes for both academic and esoteric publishers and facilitates a range of workshops and lectures series: http://www.alexandercummins.com

Lilith Dorsey 
Lilith Dorsey is an author, speaker and magical practitioner. Her first initiation came from Mambo Bonnie Devlin, and her academic work has focussed on ritual dance and possession on film. Lilith edits Oshun-African Magickal Quarterly, and is the creator of the critically acclaimed experimental documentary Bodies of Water: Voodoo Identity and Tranceformation. Lilith is the author of numerous books, including Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism (2005), Water Magic (2020) and Orishas, Goddesses, and Voodoo Queens: The Divine Feminine in the African Religious Traditions (2020). Her work has been featured in the New York Times and the Village Voice. Lilith was also choreographer for jazz legend Dr. John’s “Night Tripper” Voodoo Show. In July 2013, she led her first ever Voodoo Zombie Silent Rave, complete with very confused Thriller flash mob. Lilith posts about her work on https://lilithdorsey.com.

Esther Eidinow
Esther Eidinow is Professor in Ancient History at the University of Bristol. Her expertise is ancient Greek society and culture, with specific focus on ancient Greek religion and magic. She has published monographs on oracles, curse tablets and binding spells, concepts of fate, luck and fortune, and the social emotions surrounding ‘witchcraft’ trials in classical Athens. Eidinow takes an interdisciplinary approach to research, employing cognitive and anthropological theories to investigate ancient evidence, with particular interest in questions about social emotions, the concept of the individual and ideas of the self, network theory, and the socio-cultural power of narrative. She is currently working on projects exploring narratives and environmental risk; myth and landscape; the idea of 'belief'; and concepts of change in the ancient world.

Peter Grey
Peter Grey is a writer and co-founder, with Alkistis Dimech, of the publishing house Scarlet Imprint. He is the author of the controversial Apocalyptic Witchcraft (2013), a unique interpretation of modern witchcraft which places it in the context of the Sabbat and in a landscape suffering climate and ecological collapse. His latest work is Lucifer: Princeps (2015), a study of the origins of the figure of Lucifer. His work has also appeared in numerous small journals and collections, such as The Fenris Wolf, as well as online: https://scarletimprint.com.  

Geraldine Hudson
Geraldine Hudson is an interdisciplinary artist and curator, currently based in Stockholm. She participates at the intersections of site, myth, psychological topography, otherness and the liminal experience of the magickal body. Drawing from initial psychogeographic work after her MA in 2006, where she was working with archetypes of the wild, sexuality and transgression in relation to carnival/ritual , place and event, her practice has gradually evolved to acknowledge her own relationship to the esoteric, as experiential research rather than anthropological study. As a curator she has recently been an active member and secretary of Fylkingen (Stockholm) alongside co-curating the biennial symposium Conjuring Creativity – Art & the Esoteric. She has also played an active role in various artist collectives – most recently the ecofeminist magickal activist group NKK, who have performed a number of rites both publicly and privately in various institutions in Stockholm. Geraldine’s website is: https://geraldinehudson.org

Richard Irvine
Richard Irvine is Lecturer in Social Anthropology at St Andrews University. An anthropologist with a special interest in ecology and magic, he works across three ethnographic fieldsites: Orkney and East Anglia in the UK, and Tuv aimag in Mongolia, and his interests span environmental change and religious life. He has published widely on the Anthropocene, spiritual practice and deep time, and is the author of numerous articles, including: “Anthropocene East Anglia,” Sociological Review 65 (2017): 154-170; “Seeing Environmental Violence in Deep Time: Perspectives from Contemporary Mongolian Literature and Music,” Environmental Humanities 10 (2018): 257-272; with T. Kyriakides, “Just out of Reach: An Ethnographic Theory of Magic and Rationalisation,” Implicit Religion 21 (2019): 202-222.

Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe
Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe is Lecturer in Patristics at the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Divinity. Her research centres on the life and thought of the church in a “long” late antiquity (from the second to sixth centuries CE) in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean and further afield, especially in the Syriac-speaking world. Her PhD was on the political theology of Ambrosiaster, an anonymous Christian writer of the later fourth century. Her current major project is on late ancient ideas of the devil and demons, concentrating on notions of diabolical agency. She also has long-standing interests in patristic biblical exegesis, political thought, the history of liturgy, inter-religious relations in late antiquity, and magical texts and objects.

Lupa 
Lupa is a writer, artist and magical practitioner based in Portland, Oregon (USA). They use three-dimensional sculptures as statements on the problems we face, pairing aesthetic attraction with harsh realities. But they also invite others to seek solutions, offering relationships with sacred artefacts and the transformational rites they may incite in one’s life. Lupa draws on the tradition of the Wunderkammer, the cabinet of natural curiosities that serves as a personal museum, to encourage people to bring reminders of the nonhuman world even into their very homes. Lupa is the author and editor of several books on the ecology of magic, including Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic (2006), Talking about the Elephant: An Anthology of Neopagan Perspectives on Cultural Appropriation (2008), and Nature Spirituality from the Ground Up: Connect with Totems in your Ecosystem (2016). Lupa posts regularly about their work on www.thegreenwolf.com.  

Josephine McCarthy
Josephine McCarthy is an esoteric practitioner, teacher and author of 26 books on the theory and practice of western magic, and four fiction works on similar themes. Her work has particular emphasis on the magician’s relationship with the land and environment, and the magical analysis of New Kingdom Egyptian Funerary texts in exploration of the living use of such texts, with the concept of the deities as forces of nature. She is also the author of Quareia – an extensive in-depth open source training course in the theory, practice and history of western magic that moves magical practice into deeper cooperative relationships with nature:  https://www.quareia.com/. Josephine also blogs at: https://josephinemccarthy.com

Zakiya McKenzie
Zakiya Mckenzie is a Bristol-based writer and researcher. She was the 2019 writer-in-residence for Forestry England and 2017 Bristol Black and Green Ambassador. In 2017, she completed a Master of Research degree in Sustainable Futures at the University of Bristol focusing on the environmental and economic implications of "black gold" - petroleum - off Guyana’s shore. She is currently writing for a PhD at the University of Exeter researching Black British journalism in the post-war period. Zakiya is also a volunteer at Ujima 98FM community radio station in Bristol and she regularly leads naturebased art and writing workshops, including one on Caribbean storytelling for children. Zakiya has appeared on Radio 4's Woman's Hour, Farming Today, Inside Out West and has written for Smallwoods and BBC Wildlife Magazines. Follow Zakiya’s work at https://zakiyamckenzie.com/

Merlin Sheldrake
Merlin Sheldrake is a biologist and author of Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures. He received a Ph.D. in tropical ecology from Cambridge University for his work on underground fungal networks in tropical forests in Panama, where he was a predoctoral research fellow of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Merlin’s is a keen brewer and fermenter, and is fascinated by the relationships that arise between humans and more-than-human organisms. Find out more at merlinsheldrake.com

Sabrina Scott
Sabrina Scott is a doctoral student in Science and Technology Studies at York University, Toronto. Their MA dissertation, WITCHBODY: a rambling and poetic autoethnography of western occult magic as a pathway for environmental learning and advocacy (2018, 2nd ed.), won the 2016 LGBT Youthline Outstanding Achievements in Post-Secondary Academic Environment Award. Scott views magic as a way of building relationship with non-human beings: you, me, plants, trees, coffee cups and garbage bins. Their forthcoming Curse & Cure (2022) is a guide to working with magic and witchcraft in the real world. Scott maintains a professional design and illustration practice using comics, illustrations, zines, and book arts to work through critical theory, philosophy, ethics, spirituality, sensation and social justice: www.witchbody.com

Victoria Whitworth
Victoria is a novelist and academic who explores the culture and society of Britain in the Early Middle Ages, focusing on death, burial and memory. From 2012 to 2016 she was lecturer at the Centre for Nordic Studies on the Orkney campus of the University of the Highlands and Islands. She is the author of Dying and Death in Later Anglo-Saxon England (as Victoria Thompson); the novels The Bone Thief and The Traitors’ Pit (as VM Whitworth) and Daughter of the Wolf, all set in England’s Dark Ages. Her latest book, Swimming with Seals, is both an acclaimed memoir of life, death and swimming, and a treasure trove of the history, myth and archaeology of Orkney. Victoria lives with her daughter in Edinburgh. 

 

Chairs

Hjördis Becker-Lindenthal
Hjördis Becker-Lindenthal is Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge. 

Beth Dubow
Beth Dubow is a doctoral student in the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge. 

Thomas Harrison
Thomas Harrison is Professor of Ancient History at the University of St Andrews.

Simone Kotva
Simone Kotva is post-doctoral research fellow in the Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo, where she works on the “Ambivalences of Nordic Nature: Gift, Guilt, Grace” project. 

Alice Tarbuck
Alice Tarbuck is a poet and academic based in Edinburgh. Alice is the author of A Spell in the Wild: A Year and Six Centuries of Magic (2020)