We explore the tragic dénouement of Julian's reign and the rôle played therein by Maximus of Ephesus. Along the way we see a transfer of power to the Valentinianic dynasty, a ferocious political purge of suspected magicians and diviners, and learn of Maximus' final fate. We also get two descriptions of ancient, private divination-practices in action, but only one of them is something to try at home!
Podcast Episodes Themed "Addressative Ritual"
As we near the end of our Julian and his Amazing Friends series, we dive back into the text of Eunapius of Sardis to excavate Maximus of Ephesus, the wonder-worker who became Julian's closest friend and advisor. What happens when the Roman empire is guided by the insights of a theurgist, his gods, and the stars? We find out in this episode.
We discuss Sosipatra of Pergamum, an otherwise-unknown late polytheist holy woman and philosopher, depicted by her biographer Eunapius as a living goddess as well as a philosophic teacher in the lineage of Iamblichus. Come for the Late Platonist resistance to Christianity in the fourth century, stay for the mysterious Chaldæan strangers.
In this, our last Zosimus Storytime episode, we discuss the ‘Final Accounting’ or ‘Final Quittance’, a work in which Zosimus lays out for Theosebia the most recondite and hardcore spiritual practice to be found in his oeuvre. Part Hermetic, part demonic, all alchemical.
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we explore the world of first-millennium Christian magic as it is found in the papyrus-records, both published and unpublished.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 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.
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.
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 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.
We discuss the phenomenology and meaning of theurgy with Professor Gregory Shaw, whose many publications on the Sage of Chalcis have helped to free his religious ideas from the opprobrium of a century of scholarship and reposition them where they belong: as spiritual practices of late-antique philosophy.
Episode 138: The Great Theurgy Debate: Porphyry’s Letter to Anebo, Iamblichus’ Response, and the Question(s) of Ritual
In a digression-filled survey, we attempt to give some idea of Porphyry's Letter to Anebo, of Iamblichus' responses to that Letter, and the general theological/practical approach found in the De mysteriis, antiquity's greatest philosophic manifesto for addressative ritual practice.
We continue our conversation with Dr Burns, concentrating on envisioning the audience for these Sethian texts and their ilk and the kinds of ritual practices we find adumbrated in the texts. Who were these Gnostics, and what were they doing?
We let the tape roll and get deeper into the world of ancient magic in Egypt. How secret was this stuff? And what really went on when you invoked a god to visible appearance? κρύβε!
Episode 74: I’m Not Sorry: The Apology of Apuleius
In this episode we discuss the defense-speech of Apuleius against charges of having used magic to make a wealthy widow fall in love with him. Roman law, sorcery, and philosophy collide in a rhetorical tour-de-force, and we discuss whether fish are magical or not.
We explore the evidence in the New Testament for accusations that Jesus was a magus or a sorcerer. Turns out there's quite a lot of them. What we are to make of these accusations, that's the question. We discuss ancient critics, Gospel apologists, and modern scholars.
We give an overview of the complex and fascinating Hekhalot and Merkavah texts, works not only describing the journey to God’s throne, but giving instructions on how to get there, and not merely enumerating the angelic hierarchies, but giving the tools to summon and command them.
Episode 39: The Esoteric Aristotle, Part 2
In this episode we survey the philosophical and occult Pseudo-Aristotles of late antiquity and the middle ages, dipping into a couple of wonderful manuscripts along the way.