The Materiality of Magic: An artifactual investigation into ritual practices and popular beliefs [Paperback]

Ceri Houlbrook (Editor); Natalie Armitage (Editor)

ISBN: 9781785700101 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2015 | Language: English 152p, H242 x W170 (mm) black/white illustrations

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The Materiality of Magic


The subject of ‘magic’ has long been considered peripheral and sensationalist, the word itself having become something of an academic taboo. However, beliefs in magic and the rituals that surround them are extensive – as are their material manifestations – and to avoid them is to ignore a prevalent aspect of cultures worldwide, from prehistory to the present day. The Materiality of Magic addresses the value of the material record as a resource in investigations into magic, ritual practices, and popular beliefs. The chronological and geographic focuses of the papers presented here vary from prehistory to the present-day, including numinous interpretations of fossils and ritual deposits in Bronze Age Europe; apotropaic devices in Roman and Medieval Britain; the evolution of superstitions and ritual customs – from the ‘voodoo doll’ of Europe and Africa to a Scottish ‘wishing-tree’; and an exploration of spatiality in West African healing practices.
The objectives of this collection of nine papers are two-fold. First, to provide a platform from which to showcase innovative research and theoretical approaches in a subject which has largely been neglected within archaeology and related disciplines, and, secondly, to redress this neglect. The papers were presented at the 2012 Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) conference in Liverpool.

Table of Contents

List of contributors
Introduction: The Materiality of the Materiality of Magic, by Ceri Houlbrook & Natalie Armitage
1. ‘Also found… (not illustrated)…’: The curious case of the missing magical fossils, by Peter Leeming
2. Arranged artefacts and materials in Irish Bronze Age ritual deposits:
A consideration of prehistoric practice and intention, by Katherine Leonard
3. Doorways, ditches and dead dogs – excavating and recording material manifestations of practical magic amongst later prehistoric and Romano-British communities, by Adrian M. Chadwick
4. Domestic Magic and the Walking Dead in Medieval England: A Diachronic Approach, Stephen Gordon
5. European & African Figural Ritual Magic: The beginnings of the voodoo doll myth, by Natalie Armitage
6. Binding Spells and Curse Tablets Through Time, by Debora Moretti
7. The Wishing-Tree of Isle Maree:
The Evolution of a Scottish Folkloric Practice, by Ceri Houlbrook
8. Ciki and jiki: The Inner and Outer layers of healers’ workspaces in Madina, Accra, Bryn Trevelyan James
9. ‘The Little Mannie with his Daddy's Horns’, by A. J. N. W. Prag

Reviews & Quotes

"The essays have a pleasing variety and maintain interest throughout. Hopefully more books like this will be produced."
John Billingsley
Northern Earth

"Armed with this book, specialists in many regions and periods should be able to recognise the traces and implications of magical or ritual practice…"
Ethan Doyle White
Time & Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture (09/01/2017)

"‘This slim volume is packed with the punch of a diverse set of papers dealing with the material manifestations of magic and popular belief, across the globe and through time.’"
Neil Christie
Medieval Archaeology

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