MOOC: Magic in the Middle Ages / Universitat de Barcelona

MOOC: Magic in the Middle Ages / Universitat de Barcelona

Official page for the course Magic in The Middle Ages, organised by University of Barcelona, ARDIT, IRCVM, and the MA in Medieval Cultures

Scientists uncover medieval remains of the first English 'vampires' 03/04/2017

Scientists uncover medieval remains of the first English 'vampires' New scientific research suggests that our medieval ancestors were terrified of the living dead – reanimated corpses which would in popular culture today be dubbed revenants or vampires. Scientists from Historic England and the University of Southampton have completed a study of human bones from a me...

Timeline photos 03/04/2017

If you happen to flight with S7 Airlines during this month you will find us in their magazine (you will need to refresh your Russian though!)

Timeline photos 19/02/2017

Cicero's "De Officiis" written on the skin of a sorceress? A strange way to channel magic!

The Massa Marittima Mural - 16/02/2017

Is the earliest surviving representation of witchcraft in Christian Europe a porno-erotic wall painting? Is it a medieval political "poster", or is it something else?
In this URL you can read an interview with George Ferzoco, one of the first scholars to publish a book about it:

And here you have an interesting paper by Matthew Ryan Smith, who advocates a different interpretation:

The Massa Marittima Mural -

Magic Viking Staffs in Literature and Archaeology – Medieval Histories 22/01/2017

While we wait for the next season of Vikings, maybe we can learn a bit more about their magic practices and tools. Let's start with magic viking staffs:

Magic Viking Staffs in Literature and Archaeology – Medieval Histories The staff or wand was an important accessory used by the Völva when carrying out her magic. New book explores the staffs in both literature and archaeology


In the early 11th century, Burchard of Worms, a German bishop and theologian, compiled a penitential handbook to aid priests in administering confession. Known as The Corrector, it listed dozens of potential sins and what the penance would be if someone committed them – usually the punishment be fasting for a few days on bread and water. Many of these sins involved people observing or practicing old pagan folk rituals, or what Burchard considered to be evil magic.


If you are interested in a free ebook about the history of witchcraft and the supernatural check out this link

Witchcraft and the Supernatural FreeBook We are delighted to introduce a new collection which brings together a number of fascinating chapters from some of our leading books on witchcraft and the supernatural. This will be a valuable resource for anyone interested in the Early Modern period, witch-hunting, supernatural phenomena, folklore,...


Hi everyone! We hope you enjoyed/are enjoying/are planning to enjoy "Magic in the Middle Ages". We are working to improve your experience of the course.

We have just updated the "Credits" page of the course with the links to the videos from the 1st edition of the MOOC that are no longer available on Coursera.

Those of you who wrote asking for these materials will receive an email with this list.


Just added three new videos from the 1st edition of the course to Units 2, 3 and 4. They deal with some of the questions that appeared back then in the forum, and we think you might find them useful. They are dubbed "weekly video # (2015)".


Assignment deadlines 02/08/2016

Please, remember that the deadlines for the quizzes are suggested deadlines; they are not enforced. If you want to take the course at your own pace and cannot complete the course by the session end date, you can always enroll in the next session.

You can find more information here:

Assignment deadlines Most courses have suggested deadlines. If you miss a deadline, your grade won't be affected. To see suggested deadlines for a course you're enrolled in: Open the course you want to see deadline...


We have just added a new video from the 1st edition of the course to Unit 1. It deals with some of the questions that appeared back then in the forum, and we think you might find it useful. It is called "weekly video 1 (2015)"



There is a new resource available. You can now download the bibliography of each unit in pdf format.

Timeline photos 05/07/2016

Hi, some of you have written asking for the course syllabus. We have updated the landing page of the course, so you should be able to read it right there.

And because sometimes redundancy is useful, here you have it as well!

Magic in the Middle Ages - Universitat de Barcelona | Coursera 04/07/2016

Yes, after much work (and the odd hiccup along the way) the course is already open for enrolment!

Thank you all for your support and your patience!

The course will be a session-based course, that is, it will have specific start and end dates (you will have a schedule), and if you miss the first session (starting July 18th) you will have the opportunity to enrol in future sessions (for instance, the second one will start on August 29th).

We really hope you enjoy the course!

Here is the link:

Magic in the Middle Ages - Universitat de Barcelona | Coursera Magic in the Middle Ages from Universitat de Barcelona. Magical thought has always attracted human imagination. In this course we will introduce you to the Middle Ages through a wide conception of magic. Students will have an approach to medieval culture, beliefs and practices from the perspective o...

Timeline photos 08/06/2016

Why should anyone be buried with a sickle around their neck or their hips? Or, for that matter, why should anyone be buried face-down, or with their head cut off or in a prone position?

Some archaeologists interpret this burial customs as an evidence of a magical belief in roaming dead bodies that come back to hurt their neighbours. Others understand these customs the other way around, claiming that, for instance, the sickles were not there to prevent them from rising but to ward off demons.

These burial sites are sometimes called “vampire” or “anti-vampire” burials, and the aforementioned customs “anti-vampire practices”. But if the practice itself cannot tell us whether it was intended to protect the living or the dead, let’s ask the bodies for answers.

As we saw in a previous post (Burial of a witch girl; March 11th) paleness or sickness were sometimes interpreted as a sign of evil powers. A group of archaeologists excavating a Medieval cemetery site in Kaldus (Poland) discovered 14 anti-vampire burials among more than 1,000 graves, and analyzed the bones of these so-called vampires.

Doctors Matczak and Kozłowski, in charge of the excavation of this cemetery, claim that “most of the skeletons from anti-vampire burials have changes associated with scurvy, osteoperiostitis, degenerative lesions, and fractures.” This would support the theory that vampire graves were meant for people with strange behaviours (strange to their neighbours) or that were perceived as a threat due to their physical aspect. But their analysis also shows "that people with tuberculosis, anemia, and scurvy were not [necessarily] given anti-vampire burials." Thus, disabilities and diseases were probably rather normal within this community and "would not have raised anxiety, fear, or negative perception of diseased people as vampires."

Therefore, more work is needed to understand these burial customs.

[Source: Kristina Killgrove. ]

Timeline photos 03/06/2016

Nuestra instructora Delfi participa en las jornadas sobre Astronomía y Astrología en la Edad Media que tendrán lugar en el Monasterio de Sant Cugat los días 15 y 16 de Junio. Tenéis toda la información en la imagen. Las Jornadas son gratuitas y tendréis la oportunidad de visitar el monasterio. No os lo perdáis!!

Timeline photos 26/05/2016

Last Tuesday we were talking about the roots of learned magic, but where are the roots of folk magic? Once again, a very difficult question to answer. Learned magic was practiced by learned people, and therefore it is more likely that we find information about them and their traditions. But how can we trace the origin of folk traditions?

One way to do this is through language, like the research project carried out by Jamie Tehrani of Durham University and Sara Graça da Silva of the New University of Lisbon. They conducted a statistical analysis of the relationship between 275 magic-based stories (from a database of more than 2,000 types of folktales) and language, and found that four tales had a high probability of being associated with the structure of the Proto-Indo-European language. But just one of them, that of 'The Smith and the Devil', can be definitely considered as a Proto-Indo-European tale.

They also found that early versions of “Rumpelstiltskin” and “Beauty and the Beast” might have originated between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago.

You can find more information here:

[British Library – Harley 6563 f.68v]

Timeline photos 24/05/2016

Where are the roots of Magic? It is difficult to pinpoint the different traditions behind the various rituals and conceptions of the universe that we usually associate with magic. But, should we be surprised by the fact that Western learned magic has the same roots as Western science?
Where? Iran, Greece and Rome.
Who? Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics.
Learned magic and Science share places of origin and ideas. Nowadays, some people might be embarrassed that Newton sought the philosopher's stone, but why can't we embrace this fact and try to understand how his scientific and magical beliefs correlate?
Professor Brian Copenhaver tries to answer these and many other questions in his book "Magic in Western Culture: from Antiquity to the Enlightenment".
Magic is still alive and kicking!

Timeline photos 18/05/2016

We are happy to announce that the second edition of the MOOC Magic in the Middle Ages will start on July 5, 2016. The course will be available on demand at Coursera. Do not forget to mark this day on your calendar!

Want your school to be the top-listed School/college?

Videos (show all)

Introduction - Magic in the Middle Ages 2016
This video, at the end, fit wells the last topic of course! Relics! (BTW, it is also interesting to talk about this topi...