Course on Ritual and Magic

Registration is now open for a course on “Ritual and Magic in Early Judaism and Early Christianity” 16.3.-4.5.2009 (for Helsinki University students)
Teachers: István Czachesz and Risto Uro

Why are people willing to engage in painful, expensive, or very boring religious activities repeatedly that have no verifiable positive effects on their wellbeing or the state of the world around them? Why are superstitious acts and beliefs in such acts persistent, even in modern Western societies? What is the connection between miracle stories in early Christian and Jewish literature, on the one hand, and attested practices in the communities, such as healing and exorcism, on the other hand? What are the similarities and differences between Jewish and Christian rituals and magical activities? The aim of this course is to introduce students to rituals and magic in the context of early Christianity and early Judaism, with particular emphasis on theories of ritual and magic in the cognitive science of religion. Ritual and magic are closely related aspects of religion, and studying them within a common theoretical framework is the best way to understand them. By the end of the course, students will be able to analyze examples of early Jewish and early Christian ritual and magic, and understand them in the framework of the introduced ritual theories.