No, That is Not a Witch Hunt

The votes are in, and I am delighted to inform you: no, that is not a witch hunt! Great news! This is the correct response to all discussion of ‘modern witch hunts’. To every example from your life and from public debate that you want to point to. Well, every example except the actual witch […]

Read more "No, That is Not a Witch Hunt"

Punching back

Academic history writing is not emotion-less. Academics often consciously express – or evoke – anger, sadness, regret, or hope in their writing. But when it comes to tone, how many academics write humourously? My thoughts have been drawn back to this after I found the following image and reposted it on Twitter. Why do I […]

Read more "Punching back"

Fragments of a sentence

A sentence fragment is a phrase wearing the clothing of a sentence. It comes with the correct capital letter at the start, and a full stop at the end. But it is not a sentence. Why? Because it does not have a subject (a noun or pronoun) and an active verb. Like this. That fragment […]

Read more "Fragments of a sentence"

Murder on the cards

In June 1883 Madame Pasaz was called as a witness in the assize court of the Basses-Pyrénées in southwestern France. In her testimony, she lifted the veil on a type of encounter that I have been struggling to study in detail: divination using cards. Here is what she told the court, as reported in several […]

Read more "Murder on the cards"

Inconclusion

Is there anything worse than writing conclusions? Even beginnings are easier, I find, than summing up, because I can trick myself into starting by telling myself ‘I’m just taking some notes‘. ‘I’ll put that quotation I like as an epigram.’ And don’t get me wrong. I love reading conclusions. What academic doesn’t? I could never […]

Read more "Inconclusion"

Radical Revision

‘Do we we spend enough time reading historians for how they write? Not their methods, or their arguments, but simply how they put a sentence together.’ This is the question I asked in a short post on ‘Radical Grammar‘, which appeared yesterday in Rachel Moss’s new mini-series on ‘radical historical writing’ on History Workshop Online. […]

Read more "Radical Revision"

Belief as Action, Belief as Event

I recently tried out some new thoughts on what it means to ‘believe’ in witchcraft at the first of two online workshops on ‘The Decline of Magic?’ I argued that – when it comes to witchcraft – ‘statements about belief are not necessarily good evidence of belief. There are grounds to be sceptical even of what individuals […]

Read more "Belief as Action, Belief as Event"

The Many Faces of Tarot

One of the reasons I hate reading in the media about the ‘resurgence’ of interest in occultism and modern witchcrafts is the way that coverage revisits the same old tired stereotypes. People who consult fortune-tellers are deluded! They buy in to complex pseudo-scientific theories of mystical causation! Their practices can be explained through the social […]

Read more "The Many Faces of Tarot"