In an extended interview, Paul Pasquesi discusses the Makarian Homilies – an influential set of texts which is one of the key ingredients in the cultural synthesis later known as ‘Christian mysticism’ – the work of Isaac of Ninevah, and many other texts and ideas from the late-antique Syriac ascetical movement.
The main SHWEP podcast is a roughly-chronological historical narrative: it starts way-back-when and moves forward from there. However, Episodes 0-4 are introductory materials. If you are a newcomer to the podcast, Episode Zero introduces the concept behind it. If you are a newcomer to the history of western esotericism, check out Episodes One, Two and Three, which provide a lot of useful background. If you want to skip the intro and start exploring the nitty-gritty of the history of western esotericism, start with Episode Four and go from there.
If you want to explore further, be sure to check out the SHWEP Oddcast, which features interviews with specialists that have not yet been integrated into the main SHWEP chronology.
We explore the fascinating world of early Christian asceticism in the Syriac-speaking world of late antiquity. Paul Pasquesi is our guide to everything from the basic historical context to the extreme forms of practice engaged in by these eastern Christians in search of divine revelations.
Members only: Into Coptic Magic with Korshi Dosoo
We go through a number of case-studies of early Christian magic with Korshi Dosoo. Come for the queer Christian love-spell and unlooked-for cameo appearance by the Gnostic Barbelo, stay for the Satan-Unicorn.
Episode 153: Korshi Dosoo on Early Christian Magic
With papyrologist Korshi Dosoo as our guide, we explore the world of first-millennium Christian magic as it is found in the papyrus-records, both published and unpublished. Along the way we learn more about Christianity than we expected.
Episode 152: Prolegomena to Christian Magic
We set the stage for an examination of early Christian magical traditions, starting from the authoritative writings of the church fathers, who deny that there is such a thing as Christian magic, and insist that polytheist religion is the real sorcery. Then it turns out that there is lots and lots of Christian magic from late antiquity.
We explore the astral-demonic lore, the angelic medicine, and the many legendary stories recorded in the Testament of Solomon, and some of the manifold traditions which flow out from this legendary corpus. Come for the Testament, stay for the Pentagram!
We want to discuss the Testament of Solomon, an extraordinary demonological, angelogical, astrological, magical work from late antiquity. But we realise that, to get there, we need to spend some time exploring the earlier reaches of the ‘Solomonic tradition’. So we do. Come for the building of the First Temple, stay for the cloud upon the sanctuary.
Episode 149: Exploring the Sefer ha-Razim
We explore the earliest-known Jewish ‘magic book’, the Sefer ha-Razim or Book of Mysteries. Angel-magic meets addressative practices aimed at old friends like Helios and Hermes, while Hellenistic astral cosmology collides with fiery heavenly palace-firmaments of the apocalyptic and Hekhalotic stamp.
Members only: Beyond Curse-Tablets with Sarah Veale
In this special episode we continue the conversations we started earlier, digging into the relations between magic, religion, and philosophy in the Græco-Roman world.
Episode 148: Curses! Sarah Veale on Roman ‘Curse-Tablets’
We turn from the far-eastern, Jewish magic of the incantation-bowls to the far-western, polytheist magic of the Roman ‘curse-tablets’. Expect intriguing similarities across cultural divides, along with important differences. Featuring the Great Mother goddess, Isis, and a number of supporting players.
Members only: Daniel Waller Bowls On
We explore a few minority cases among the incantation bowls: the aggressive use of a bowl to curse an enemy, and the iconography (mostly demonic) which we find in some bowls. Come for the demons, stay for the demonic chickens.
Episode 147: Daniel James Waller on the Jewish Incantation-Bowls
We dive more deeply into the enigmatic corpus of late-antique Jewish ‘incantation bowls’ from Mesopotamia with the help of researcher Daniel Waller. We discuss the bowls as material objects, functional technology, and their place in late-antique Jewish culture.
Episode 146: Gideon Bohak on Late-Antique Jewish Magic
Gideon Bohak provides us with a superb introduction to the evidence for late-antique Jewish magic and to what that evidence tells us. Introducing the essential book of Jewish magic, the Sefer ha-Razim.
We wander through a bunch of important (but mushy) ideas helpful for understanding late antiquity and late-antique religion: monotheism, henotheism, polytheism, and dualism. Featuring the triumphant return of Rupert and Steve, and they brought some friends.
Episode 144: Politics and Religion in Late Antiquity, Part II: The Rise of Christianity and the Invention and Eclipse of ‘Paganism’
We dive into the history of late-antique Rome from the perspective of Jews, Christians, ‘pagans’, ‘heretics’, and others vis à vis the Roman state, and give some partial explanations for how the ‘impossible’ happened, and the Empire became the Christian Empire.
Episode 143: Politics and Religion in Late Antiquity, Part I: Geopolitics, Empire, and Rabbinic Judaism
At the end of the the third century, the podcast dives back into the realm where politics meets religion. In Part I, we discuss the geopolitical balance of the Roman and Sassanian states, the position of the Jews in late antiquity, and the basics of the future of Jewry, a new form of Jewish life and religion known as Rabbinic Judaism.
Episode 142: Run the Numbers: The Theology of Arithmetic
We explore the Theolegoumena arithmeticæ, the ‘Theology of Arithmetic’, our most complete extant arithmological treatise from antiquity. It tells us a lot about Neopythagorean theory of number in the Greek ‘alphanumeric age’, it may be by Iamblichus, and it informs us that the Dyad is ‘Daring’.
Members only: Brian Alt on Iamblichus, Late-Antique Egypt, and Ritual
We keep the tape rolling and explore the fascinating byways leading off from Iamblichus' engagement with Egyptian culture, finding that the fiction égyptienne is not as fictive as Hellenophile scholarship has led us to believe. Featuring a cameo appearance from Basilides of Alexandria.
Episode 141: Brian Alt on Sacred Materials, Divine Names, and Subtle Physiology in Iamblichean Theurgy
We explore the nitty-gritty of the ritual acts lying behind the theoretical discussions in the De mysteriis. Brian Alt is our guide on a journey through Iamblichean theurgy, its many parallels in Hermetica and ‘magical’ papyri from Egypt, and its echoes in earlier and later Platonism.
In a very special episode, we dive into the parameters of Weird Platonism with Danielle Layne. Come for the Iamblichean divine signatures, stay for the erotology of the Indefinite Dyad.