Saturday, October 24, 2020


Mediterranean Archaeology Australasian Research Community (MAARC)





Session Organizers: Larissa Tittl, University of Melbourne and Caroline Tully, University of Melbourne

Session abstract:

The scent of citrus and of brittle pine

suffused the island. Inside [Calypso] was singing

and weaving with a shuttle made of gold.

Her voice was beautiful. Around the cave

a luscious forest flourished: alder, poplar,

 and scented cypress. It was full of wings.

Birds nested there but hunted out at sea:

the owls, the hawks, the gulls with gaping beaks.

A ripe and luscious vine, hung thick with grapes,

was stretched to coil around her cave. Four springs

spurted with sparkling water as they laced

with crisscross currents intertwined together.

The meadow softly bloomed with celery

and violets. He gazed around in wonder

and joy, at sights to please even a god.

Description of Calypso’s cave in Homer’s Odyssey, Book 5, l.60-74, tr. Emily Wilson


The Mediterranean landscape, in both a geographical and imaginative sense, is interconnected with religion, as idea and practise, in many significant ways. The topography and terrain of both land- and seascape are the focus of ritual activity; iconographic and textual responses concerning deities, sacred places, and other-than-human beings; the building of religious architecture; the worship of or ritual engagement with natural features and phenomena: a landscape saturated with sacred elements. And all of this sits alongside and is aligned with wider social, mortuary, and memorialisation practices.

Once considered merely an inert backdrop for human activity or as a series of material affordances or constraints, landscape has increasingly come to be understood as a ‘stage constructed in the mind’ (Ashmore and Knapp 1999: 8) comprising taskscapes of nested activities, palimpsests of memory, association and affect, sites of situated in-dwelling, accumulation, and inscribed attachments over time. Phenomenologically, space and time converge in place, a dialectical position which recursively shapes and is shaped by human agents and thus anchors human ontologies in time and place. Symbolic cultural landscapes include the terrestrial planes of human activity as well as natural phenomena including diurnal and seasonal cycles, and celestial elements such as the sun or the night sky. With nature thus reconfigured as a cultural construction, ideology—political, religious—can be used to normalize or contest the social status quo, to resolve or exploit social tensions around identity and inequality.

What is the role of religion in these systems of power and hierarchy, domination and resistance, identify formation and negotiation; how does landscape fit into this nexus? How did humans in the ancient Mediterranean respond to their environment through or with a sense of the sacred? Was the landscape sentient, numinous or was it just a meeting place for humans and divinities?

This session calls for contributors who research religion and ritual in the context of landscape across the Mediterranean in both space and time: Neolithic to Late Antiquity; the coastlines, hinterlands and connected places that comprise the Mediterranean in the widest geographical and theoretical sense. We invite both theoretically informed papers—including those with new, radical or experimental approaches—and papers based in rich interpretations of fieldwork and survey data, or museum collections. Also welcome are papers that incorporate textual and epigraphical evidence alongside archaeological material. 

Session format:  20-minute papers followed by 5 minutes for questions and discussion.


Proposals for papers should be sent to and must include the following information:

• Title of the Paper

• Name, affiliation and email of the proposer(s)

• Title of the themed session for your paper

• A short abstract of your proposed paper (of not more than 200 words)


The deadline for the submission of all paper and poster proposals is the 30th of November 2020.


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

CFP for a special issue of The Pomegranate on Pagans and Museums

Museums and contemporary Paganism are inextricably linked. Gerald Gardner, founder of modern pagan witchcraft, first publicised Wicca in 1951 at Cecil Williamson’s Folklore Centre of Superstition and Witchcraft at Castletown (later The Museum of Magic and Witchcraft) on the Isle of Man. Some of his correspondence suggests that the first formal Wiccan coven might have been created partially to provide provenance for the museum’s exhibits. Sold to Gardner in 1954, the museum housed his collections and was the base from which he promoted modern witchcraft and published Witchcraft Today. Inherited by his high priestess Monique Wilson after his death in 1964, the museum continued for almost a decade be­fore Wilson sold the 10,000-piece collection to Ripley’s Believe it or Not Ltd in 1973. Tamarra and Richard James of the Wiccan Church of Canada purchased much of Gardner’s collection from Ripley’s in 1987. Cecil Wil­liamson, meanwhile, had attempted to establish a new witchcraft museum on the UK mainland at various locations, eventually settling at Boscastle in Cornwall in 1960. Williamson’s Museum of Witchcraft was sold to Graham King in 1996; and has been under the direction of Simon Costin as The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic since 2013.

A number of small museums today focus on contemporary and historical witchcraft and magic: The Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick in Cleveland, Ohio was founded by Raymond Buckland, one of the first Gardnerian Wiccans in America. Others include the Witch History Mu­seum in Salem, Massachusetts; The Hexenmuseum Schweiz in Gränichen, Switzerland; Strand­agaldur, The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft; the Museo de las Brujas in Zu­garramurdi, Spain; and HEX! Museum of Witch Hunt in Ribe, Denmark. Temporary exhibitions of objects belonging to the “mother of modern witch­craft,” Doreen Valiente, were held in Brighton, UK, in 2016; the Academy of Arcana in Santa Cruz, California, ran for two years between 2015–2017; and objects loaned from The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic to The Last Tuesday Society & The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities in London were displayed in 2018. There are also museums dedicated to stage magic such as the American Museum of Magic in Michigan; the International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts in Las Vegas; The Magic Circle Museum in London; and the Musée de la Magie in Paris.

Exhibitions of objects pertaining to Paganism, witchcraft and magic also feature in large “univer­sal” museums, galleries and libraries. Occult walking tours of London include the British Mu­seum; the “Witches and Wicked Bodies” exhibition was held by the National Galleries of Scot­land in association with the British Museum between 2013–2015; the British Library presented the exhibition “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” in 2017; which was followed by “Spellbound: Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft” at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in 2018. In 2019 “Second Sight: Witchcraft, Ritual, Power” was held at the University of Queensland Art Museum in Aus­tralia; and “Waking the Witch” at the Bonington Gallery at the University of Nottingham. Most recently (2019–2020), the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery held “Do You Believe in Magic?”

Beyond Wicca, museums have played important parts in other magical and Pagan revivals. The late nineteenth and early twentieth-century members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn sought to commune with the collections of large public museums such as the British Museum and the Louvre. Today, ancient Pagan objects are often the focus of quiet reverence by contemporary Pagans in museums, although in early 2020 the Witches of New York conducted a vocal “pop up” ritual to the goddess Hekate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. British Druids have been active participants in the controversy over the storage and repatriation of human remains held in museums; Pagans hold rituals at prehistoric archaeological sites which can be considered outdoor museums; and go on Goddess tours to experience sites and museums in locations such as Ireland, Crete, Malta and Turkey. “Witch City,” Salem, is a tourist/pilgrimage destination where public witchiness is encouraged; the Witch House is used as a backdrop for evocative Instagram photos and offerings are left at the Witch Trials Memorial. In contrast, Salem’s Essex Peabody Museum is often ignored, although perhaps not for much longer with an exhibition on the Salem Witch Trials scheduled for September 26, 2020 to April 4, 2021.

The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies invites submissions of articles (5000–8000 words) for a special issue on Pagans and Museums, edited by Caroline Tully (caro­ How and why do contemporary Pagans engage with museums to­day?

Possible topics include:

1. The role of elite museums in the creation of contemporary Paganisms 

2. The role of small museums: e.g., the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic; the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft; Salem witch museums

3. Pagan perceptions regarding the agency and enchantment of museum objects

4. Material and sensory aspects of Pagan experience within museums

5. Pagan use of museums and preserved historic or archaeological sites for religious purposes: e.g., the replica Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee

6. Pagans and Witch Trials Memorials: e.g., Bålberget Memorial, Sweden; Steilneset Memorial, Norway; Paisley Witches Memorial, Scotland; the Salem Witch Trials Memorial

7. Pagan attempts to change the narrative in museums, including efforts at removing ancient human remains from display, for example, the efforts of the Honouring the Ancient Dead movement in the UK

8. Memorializing contemporary Pagan history: e.g., the Doreen Valiente Foundation

Abstracts by Dec. 31 2020. Finished papers by March 31 2021.

For information on the submission process see:

Please note that The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies uses the Univer­sity of Chicago Press notes-and-bibliography citation style: http://www.chicagomanualof­


*Image from the exhibition, Préhistoire, une énigme modern, at the Centre Pompidou, 2019.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Pomegranate: International Journal of Pagan Studies special Issue on Paganism, art, and fashion


Here is the Table of Contents for the special issue of The Pomegranate on Paganism, art, and fashion that I guest edited. The articles are currently open access which is great because it means that people who usually cannot access academic journals are able to read them.

Introduction to the Special Issue of The Pomegranate on Paganism, Art, and Fashion – by Caroline Jane Tully      

Feminist Interpretations of Witches and the Witch Craze in Contemporary Art by Women – by Katy Deepwell

High Glamour: Magical Clothing and Talismanic Fashion – by Charlotte Rodgers    

Hashtag Heathens: Contemporary Germanic Pagan Feminine Visuals on Instagram – by Ross Downing    

Wolves Amongst the Sheep: Looking Beyond the Aesthetics of Polish National Socialism – by Mariusz Filip  

The Morrigan as a “Dark Goddess”: A Goddess Re-Imagined Through Therapeutic Self-Narration of Women on Social Media – by Áine Warren

Getting It Wrong: The Problems with Reinventing the Past – by Diane Purkiss      

Book Reviews

S. Kelley Harrell, Runic Book of Days: A Guide to Living the Annual Cycle of Rune Magick and Nigel Pennick, Runic Lore & Legend: Wyrdstaves of Old Northumbria – by Jefferson F. Calico       

Duncan Macrae, Legible Religion: Books, Gods, and Rituals in Roman Culture – by Norman Simms

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Julian Vayne interview with me on My Magical Thing

Ever since we were forced into lockdown by this pesky virus I’d been enjoying watching Julian Vayne’s YouTube mini-interviews, called “My Magical Thing”, in which various magicky people talk about an object that is magical or otherwise special or significant to them. I thought it was a really good idea, magical practitioners talking about an object that was not necessarily (but could be) what we might specifically classify as overtly “magic”, as in a ritual tool or components of a spell. The people interviewed were always really interesting and it was a fun surprise to see what their magical thing was and hear them talk about it. 
As I watched the interviews I’d wonder what magical thing I’d talk about if I was ever interviewed like that. Then, lo and behold, Julian Vayne contacted me and asked me if I wanted to participate! Well, being such a fan of the series, of course I did. But then I had the dilemma of deciding what magical thing to talk about. Should I talk about, say, a specific ritual object like a cauldron, wand, cup, or broom? A statue? Magical jewellery? I considered talking about my Church of All Worlds “Thou Art God/dess” mirror (used in CAW rituals)… But then I decided to talk about a tree. And this is the basis of, but not exactly, what I said:
My magical thing is a tree, well, a model of a tree that I got several years ago in Israel. So, let me fill you in on the back story…
I was in Israel working on a dig – an archaeological excavation – at a place called Caesarea, a huge Roman port, on the beach. And we were working on material from Herod’s palace at Caesarea - one of his palaces.
So this is King Herod I (73 – 4 BCE), or Herod the Great, Herod of the Massacre of the Innocents, client king of Roman Judea. He is the Great Uncle of Herodias (who became a goddess of witches during the medieval period and comes down to us as Aradia), and the Great Great Uncle of Herodias’ daughter Salome of the dance of the seven veils and the killing of John the Baptist. That dance was performed in front of Herod I’s son Herod Antipas, who Herodias was married to (her cousin once removed).
So the palace we’re working on dates to before Herodias and Salome. The reason I am there is because I am interested in Garden Archaeology – the excavation of gardens – and I was working with one of the world experts on Garden Archaeology. And Herod’s palace at Caesarea had these rock cut planting pits around a pool so I was interested to look at those.
There was also a well in the palace which was full of what may have been curse tablets. Curse tablets are usually made of lead and have writing on, these were stone and any writing would have had to have been painted on. They were all sorts of different shapes, square, circular, triangle, and I was sorting them into typologies and photographing them. 
Anyway, how did I get the tree? We are staying on a moshav, which is a cooperative agricultural community, and there was an artists’ studio where they made these brightly coloured naïve art objects and that’s where I got the tree.
But why is this a magical object to me? A talismanic object. Long before the Herodian kingdom of Roman Judea, and before the codification of Judaism, the ancient Israelites were polytheistic and worshipped a goddess called Asherah who was in the form of a tree. 
Asherah is a Canaanite goddess who is married to the god El. They have 70 sons, one of whom is Yahweh, the monotheistic god of Judaism and later Christianity. In the biblical text Asherah is sometimes paired with Yahweh, or with Baal, but these are actually her sons. 
Ancient Israelite religion was described in the Bible as occurring “on every high hill and under every green tree”. We know that Israelite religion occurred at a cult place called a Bamah, or High Place, which featured a sacred tree called an Asherah, a sacred stone called a Massebah, an altar or Misbe’ah, and a built structure called a Bayit, house or shine. 
I love how if you go back in time through the Middle Eastern Judeo-Christian spiritual tradition that so many of us have inherited, that you will come upon a Nature Religion centred around a Tree of Life.  
Pagans tend to dismiss biblical religion, but within it is a Nature Religion. Within Ceremonial Magic which has more of a connection to Biblical religion we use the Tree as a conceptual diagram with the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, and of course the Tree is relevant to Thelema as well because Nut – or Nuit – is often in the form of a life giving tree
I’m really interested in communicating with trees, often in a divinatory capacity, like at Dodona in Greece where you listen to the sounds of the tree – "a word of tree and a whisper of stone" – as the Ugaritic text says. Now with scientific instruments we can also hear sounds that plants make that were formerly beyond the capacity of human hearing. 
The most important thing about a tree is that we share the planet with them and are dependent on them, and we need to forge relationships with them and NOT chop them down.
You can watch the interview with me about My Magical Thing on Julian Vayne and Nikki Wyrd’s Deep Magic YouTube page.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

New Antiquities

This is the book cover of New Antiquities: Transformations of Ancient Religion in the New Age and Beyond, edited by Dylan M. Burns and Almut-Barbara Renger, in which I have an article - "The artifice of Daidalos: Modern Minoica as religious focus in contemporary Paganism." There are many interesting chapters in this book. Here's the abstract to mine: 
That human society was peaceful, matriarchal and goddesses-worshipping from the Upper Palaeolithic period (45,000–10,000 years ago) until around 3000 BCE with the rise of patriarchy is a common belief within both the modern feminist Goddess Movement and contemporary Paganism. This paper examines the representation of Minoan Crete within the literature of the feminist Goddess Movement from the 1970s up to the present day. In addition, it investigates the utilisation of outdated and erroneous interpretations of Minoan religion within the separatist feminist practice of Dianic witchcraft, the predominantly female pursuit of goddess tourism and pilgrimage, and the theology of the male-only Neo-Pagan group, the Minoan Brotherhood. Analysis and critique of the matriarchalist interpretation of Minoan material culture as applied to figurines, frescoes, glyptic art, and architecture by these groups demonstrates that these archaeological objects are interpreted in a highly ideological manner in order to support both contemporary religious belief and magical practice. That such interpretations have little to do with actual Minoan religion is emphasised by focusing upon a group of the most important and evocative feminist icons of the Minoan past: the faience and ivory “snake goddesses.” Recent scholarship, pace earlier researchers such as the Cambridge Ritualists, has demonstrated that these objects range from being heavily reconstructed to outright forgeries and consequently are not reliable representatives of ancient Minoan religion. The use of Minoan artefacts of questionable authenticity along with an interpretative reliance upon outdated scholarship by modern Goddess worshippers means that their rituals, festivals and tours function as heterochronies, conceptually transporting participants to an idealised, imaginary past that provides aesthetic compensation for the imperfect world of today.

Friday, May 29, 2020

The First Review of My Book

I was very excited this morning when I opened my email and saw the first review of my book, The Cultic Life of Trees in the Bronze Age Aegean, Levant, Egypt and Cyprus. Andrew Fox from the University of Nottingham, a scholar of Roman trees, has reviewed my book for Bryn Mawr Classical Review. You can read the review here. Thanks Andrew.