CFP: Esotericism and Occultism

Southwest Popular / American Culture Association (SWPACA)
41st Annual Conference
Hyatt Regency Hotel & Conference Center, Albuquerque
February 19 - 22, 2020
Stichtag: 31.10.2019

Proposals for papers and panels are now being accepted for the 41st annual SWPACA conference. One of the nation’s largest interdisciplinary academic conferences, SWPACA offers nearly 70 subject areas, each typically featuring multiple panels. For a full list of subject areas, area descriptions, and Area Chairs, please visit

Esotericism & Occultism invites proposals relating to magical worldviews and practices, consciousness transformation, and hidden meanings. Beliefs and practices involving unseen forces, spiritual intermediaries, synchronous patterns, and arcane symbolism are characteristic of this field. Examples of concepts and systems are Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Hermeticism, Gnosticism, Sufism, Satanism, Tantra, practical and traditional witchcraft, demonology, astrology, alchemy, shamanism, magical power and technique, mysticism, psychic ability, and paranormal phenomena.  Esoteric, occult, and magical ideas, beliefs, and practices appear in every culture and civilization; contemporary media and popular culture have embraced them enthusiastically, yet at times have reacted against them.  The impact of esotericism, occultism, and magic on genre formation/content and popular cultural perceptions has been profound.

Individual papers, organized panels, and roundtable discussions welcomed.  Please contact the area chair ( ) with questions/suggestions for any category of presentation, as all proposals will be appreciated.  So far, for 2020, participants have proposed panels and/or roundtables dedicated to: esotericism in adaptations of Philip K. Dick; esotericism and occultism in music, media, and the arts; magic in political protest and resistance; power and authority in esoteric religions and organizations; women in esotericism, magical practice, and occultism; racism and racialism in esotericism, occultism, and magical practice; African-American expressions of esotericism, magic, and occultism, and/or African-American practitioners; Native American traditions and motifs; runic, ritual, magical, and esoteric aesthetics in Ari Aster’s Midsommar; imagination and the imaginary; the role of magical practice in the modern and contemporary worlds; conceptions of magic in fantasy fiction (particularly Game of Thrones); esotericism, occultism, and magic in the superhero/superpowers genre.

Sample Ideas for topics categorized by media:

Literature:  Fiction by practitioners, such as Philip K. Dick, William S. Burroughs, C. S. Friedman.  Books by practitioners (for example, Gurdjieff, Evola, Crowley, Gerald Gardner, Anton LaVey, Peter Carroll).  Esoteric/occult/magical influences and themes in magical realism, speculative fiction, gothic fiction, weird fiction, and historical fiction.  Fiction influential on practitioners, such as Zanoni, Goethe’s FaustThe Illuminatus! Trilogy.

Visual Art:  Examples, Wassily Kandinsky, Austin Spare, Rosaleen Norton, Michael Bertiaux.

Film:  Content as in Midsommar, Hereditary, The Witch, The Serpent and the RainbowThe Ninth GateThe Conjuring series; allegories such as The MatrixDark CityThe Truman Show; and esoteric/occult films such those by Kenneth Anger and Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Television:  Theme and content, examples Game of Thrones, The Man in the High CastleThe Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Twin PeaksDaVinci’s DemonsAmerican Horror Story, True Detective (season one), Lucifer, Westworld.   Strange Angel fictionalizes the biography of occultist/magician Jack Parsons.

Comics / Graphic Novels:  Many contain esoteric, occult, and magical motifs and tropes.  Some are themselves esoteric; Grant Morrison claims his The Invisibles and Promethea as personal magical workings.

Music:  Specific artists (e.g., David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, Ghost, Watain, Dissection), genres (black metal, apocalyptic folk, witch house).

Video Games:  Theme and content, examples The WitcherXenogearsDevil May CrySilent HillDeus Ex; pseudo-history example, Assassin’s Creed.

Tabletop Roleplaying Games:  Frequently influenced by esotericism, occultism, and magic, especially White Wolf’s Mage, Atlas Games’s Unknown Armies, and Monte Cook’s Invisible Sun.

Other possible topics:

Influence of esoteric/occult/magical beliefs, practices, and symbols on popular culture and aesthetics (e.g., memes, clothing, tattoos, jewelry).

Influence of popular culture on esoteric/occult/magical beliefs, practices, and practitioners (e.g., Lovecraft mythos as actual magical practice, fictional gods of chaos in Chaos Magic, and real vampire communities using concepts from Vampire:The Masquerade).

Popular beliefs about esotericism and occultism, such as fads, trends, moral panics, witch-hunts, witch-crazes, and conspiracy theories (e.g., Illuminati paranoia, bloodline of the Holy Grail beliefs, and Satanic Ritual Abuse scandals).

Reactions against esoteric/occult/magical beliefs and practices.

All proposals must be submitted through the conference’s database at

For details on using the submission database and on the application process in general, please see the Proposal Submission FAQs and Tips page at

Individual proposals for 15-minute papers must include an abstract of approximately 200-500 words. Including a brief bio in the body of the proposal form is encouraged, but not required.

For information on how to submit a proposal for a roundtable or a multi-paper panel, please view the above FAQs and Tips page.

The deadline for submissions is October 31, 2019.

SWPACA offers monetary awards for the best graduate student papers in a variety of categories. Submissions of accepted, full papers are due January 1, 2020. For more information, visit

Registration and travel information for the conference is available at

Contact: George Sieg, PhD, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute,

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