Evil, Exorcism, and Magic


This research unit considers the different interpretations of malevolent figures such as demons and monsters as seen in ancient Near Eastern, Jewish, and Biblical material. It aims to understand how such liminal beings were represented in these different, though connected, contexts, and how they were characterized in both textual and artistic depictions. Demons and other supernatural beings were often constructed in the negative: created and defined through measures that could be taken to protect against them or exorcize them from an afflicted individual. The ways in which such figures could be fought or expelled, as well as the qualities that defined a number of benevolent supernatural figures that worked to oppose their malevolence, speaks to their important, but often fluid and shifting, roles in each context and culture. This research unit will consider the wide nature and variety of malevolent figures that may be found among these connected contexts in the ancient and biblical world, and in doing so, examine how their identification and classification informs the societies creating them. It particularly invites research that addresses the demonic beings as cultural constructions, and examines them through anthropological and sociological means.


Ancient Near East, Biblical and Related Texts, Demons, Ritual, Exorcism, Magic

Current Term:



Tupá Guerra
University of Brasília

Member Area

Sofia 2024 Call for Papers

This year, the Evil, Exorcism, and Magic session will focus on ‘The “Problem of Evil”: Malevolent Magic in Different Cultural Contexts.’ We aim to explore the complex interplay of malevolent magic within various cultural frameworks, providing a platform to understand how different societies have grappled with the ‘Problem of Evil.’ Our objective is to create a forum for specialists interested in the problem of evil from diverse perspectives, including those of the ancient Near East, Jewish traditions, and the Biblical context.

Our research unit welcomes papers that shed light on the definitions of evil and malevolent magic, their different forms, manifestations, interpretations, and the methods employed to combat or understand them within various cultural and historical settings. Whether you are exploring historical accounts, anthropological perspectives, or theoretical frameworks related to malevolent magic and evil, your contributions will enrich our understanding of this enduring and cross-cultural phenomenon.

Key topics of interest:

·       Malevolent magic across different cultural and historical contexts.

·       Defining evil.

·       Theoretical approaches to understanding the ‘Problem of Evil.’

·       Cultural interpretations and societal responses to malevolent magic.

·       Comparative analyses of malevolent magical practices.

·       The impact of evil and magic in the daily life of ancient societies.

We also welcome papers that deal more broadly with the themes of evil, exorcism, and magic.