To any confused students:

With my Professor Morgan's recent retirement, there may be some slightly confusing references to her in the lesson. I solely serve as the temporary steward for this course as I am well versed in many of its topics. In the meantime, you may see some of the references disappear in order to diminish the amount of work the new professor will need to do. 


If interested and qualified, see the application for the position here:


Lesson 1) Introduction to Ancient European Magic

Professor Morgan smiles as she sees all of the eager faces of the Year Four students arriving in her classroom. She flicks her wand in the air for attention, and the class quickly settles into their seats.

Welcome to Fourth Year, my dears! I am so glad you have chosen to continue in this class. Some of you may be here because you are hoping to become a curse-breaker or an auror when you graduate, some of you may be pursuing other related careers, and some of you may simply enjoy the course material. Whatever the reason, I am glad you are here.

Because there is simply too much history of the world to cover in your short years at Hogwarts, we will not be spending any time reviewing what you learned last year. I hope you took good notes in Year Three as we may be referring back to other cultures that we have learned about in the continuation of our studies.

We will begin today with a brief overview of the year, grading expectations, and general rules to follow, and conclude with a discussion on magic use in prehistoric Europe. Onwards and upwards!


Lesson Outline: Ancient Studies, Year 4

Ancient European Magic


Lesson One

Overview of Year Four
Introduction to Ancient European Magic
Magic vs. Superstition

Lesson Two

Introduction to Greco-Roman Magic

Lesson Three

Greco-Roman Witches and Wizards

Lesson Four

Curse Tablets, Duelling Arenas and Magic in Greco-Roman Battles
Greek and Roman Gods and Magic

Lesson Five

Introduction to the Celts
Midterm (Lessons One through Four)

Lesson Six

Celtic Magic and the Power of Books

Lesson Seven

The Norse Sea Kings

Lesson Eight

Norse Magic

Lesson Nine

A Few Odds and Endings
Finals (Lessons one through nine, heavier focus on lessons five to nine)

Assignments and Grading

The grading rules and rubrics have not changed from Year Three. Here is a reminder on how this class works in terms of assignments:

There will be a mix of essays, quizzes, and extra-credit assignments for this class, but do expect to write at least one short essay every week or two. There will be mandatory essays for both the midterm and final. I will clearly state the grading rubric in the prompt for each assignment.

Appeals: Appeals will only be considered for grades below 85. Please note that, as with other courses, an appeal may result in a higher, equivalent, or lower grade, and the decision made by myself on any appeal will be final.

Extra Credit: EC will not be given out for every assignment. If an assignment is eligible for extra credit, I will make a note of it in the assignment prompt.

Plagiarism: By this point in your studies at Hogwarts, you should have realized that plagiarism of any sort will not be tolerated. Any plagiarism will receive an automatic 1% and no amount of pleading will allow you to retake the assignment.

Assignment Questions: If you are having difficulty understanding an assignment, please owl a PA or myself for clarification before submitting your assignment.

Non-English Language Speakers and Students with a Learning Disability: Any students facing challenges such as these should Owl me directly. Additionally, you will need to put NES or LD at the beginning of all of your essays so that they can be graded accordingly. Students in this category will receive a greater allowance for word count and will not be graded on their spelling or grammar.

Standard Grading Rubric

This rubric will be used to mark all of the essays submitted for this class, unless otherwise noted in the assignment prompt.

5% - Identifying Marks
(Please do NOT include your name, house, or other identifying features on any assignment)
10% - Spelling and Grammar
15% - Word Requirement
(You have a 10% leeway in terms of word count both for going below the minimum and for going above the maximum. NEL and LD students receive a 15% leeway)
70% - Content (Marks are assignment specific and will be outlined in each assignment prompt)

One thing to note, dear students, is that I am more than happy to speak with you regarding an assignment if you are finding that you don’t understand the question, or need clarification on something. Please feel free to send me an owl if you have a question. I am here to help you learn!

And now that we have all of that boring material out of the way, let’s jump right into today’s lesson on prehistoric Europe. Shall we?

Introduction to Ancient European Magic

You will have noticed from our outline for this year that we are focusing mainly on three groups of people (four, if you separate the ancient Greeks from the ancient Romans, but we will discuss that issue next week!). Please do not think that these three groups, the Greco-Romans, Celts, and Norse, were the only major civilizations throughout ancient Europe - that is simply not the case.

There are, indeed, a vast number of other cultures and societies that have existed throughout what is now modern-day Europe, including: Germanics, Basque, Iberians, Etruscans, Illyrians, Minoans, Scythians, Slavs, Proto-Baltic Slavs, Finnic, Proto-Uralic, and the Magyars. While some of these civilizations have great similarities to each other, some have their own unique sets of practices and beliefs. Remember that research project you will be required to do in Year Seven? Keep some of these civilizations in mind as we go - one of them may be appealing enough for you to consider as the subject for your year seven paper.

Before many of these civilizations took root, the men and women who lived in prehistoric Europe also practiced magic, as you may remember from taking History of Magic. In Europe specifically, we can see that magic, in some form, was practiced as much as 13 500 to 14 000 years ago. That, I’m sure you would agree, is a substantially long time ago in terms of the human race!

You may be asking yourselves how on Earth we know what kinds of magic a civilization from so long ago could possibly have used, and you are quite right to do so! There certainly wasn’t an advanced form of writing that could have allowed these civilizations to communicate with us down these many years. What we do have is cave paintings that appear in caves throughout modern day France, Spain, and in some parts of England, Romania, Bulgaria, and others.


Cave Painting: Les Trois-Frères Cave, Southwestern France

In a nutshell, Muggle and magical archaeologists, anthropologists, and other scientists have been studying these cave paintings for decades. With our combined knowledge and history, we have discovered many things about these people simply through what they have drawn on the walls of caves. You may have heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. It is through these thousands of words from ancient cave paintings that researchers have pieced together parts of these civilizations’ lives, beliefs, and magical practices.

What we have learned about these ancient civilizations is that they practiced a sort of totemism (see definition at the end of the lesson). We can extrapolate from that practice that they were very interconnected with the natural world around them, and considered themselves a part of the natural process.

Upon further investigation of the cave paintings and their possible meanings, magical researchers have decoded the types of very basic magic that these civilizations used. The magic itself can be broken down into two distinct types: sympathetic magic, and shamanism.

Sympathetic Magic

Sympathetic magic is based on the relationship, or perceived relationship, between an image and its subject. When acting upon the image, the act is carried out upon the person or animal represented. Simply put, a cave painting of a bison being killed with a spear was part of a magical rite designed to make a hunt easier and more successful. Other types of sympathetic magic that were performed included increasing fertility in animals, and causing destruction (upon another tribe, for example).

In theory this magic works because “the representation of any living being is, to some extent, an emanation of the same being, and that the possession of the image of this being grants the bearer a certain power over him” (Clottes, 1998, pg 66). In actuality, we are not entirely certain how successful these magical rites were - we simply have no proof of success or failure. What we can see are distinct similarities in the types of magic we believe were performed during prehistoric times and the magic we know was performed in similar regions of the world during the reign of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Celts, and Norse peoples. Those similarities cannot be solely coincidental.


Shamanism, contrary to popular definitions, was not only practiced in northern Asia. In fact, it is a practice that occurred (and in some places still occurs) across the globe. Sometimes it simply has a different name, but the inherent beliefs behind shamanism remain the same. Put simply, shamanism is the belief and practice where powerful spirits can be influenced by the magic of the practitioner - the shaman.

In practice, shamans often induced hallucinations in order to journey to the underworld and communicate with the dead and the spirits. It is here that cave paintings become quite interesting, as we discover that cave paintings, especially of this type of magic, were not meant to be seen by outsiders - they were for the shamans alone. These paintings were part of their magic, performed in a location as close to the underworld as they could get. In fact, researchers suspect that shamans believed that caves were the physical entrances to the underworld. Quite often, the paintings in this case represented a shaman, or a spirit, or perhaps both merged together.


Henri Breuil, sketch of The Sorcerer of the Horned God in “The Sanctuary” at Les Trois-Frères Cave, France.

Given how ancient and far removed these pre-historic civilizations were, we can really only speculate on their relationship with magic. The themes that are portrayed in our assumptions however do have a relationship with what we know to be true in much younger (yet still “ancient” by our standards) civilizations. I strongly encourage you to watch for these connections as we progress through the year.

Magic Versus Superstition

You may recall that we had a discussion around the difference between magic and religion at the beginning of Year Three. When discussing magic in ancient Europe, it is quite important that we add to that a brief comparison between magic and superstition, as many of these ancient civilizations walked a fine line between the two. Let’s take a quick look at what separates these two concepts:

Adkins (1997) explains that superstition is the “fear of the unknown allied to a false idea of the causes of events”, whereas magic is the “attempt to control such events by direct actions and rituals” (pg 360). Put more simply, a superstitious practice is one where the practitioner asks the gods for something. A magical practice is one where the practitioner directly attempts to make that thing happen.

Both of these concepts are based on the belief in magical forces that control or affect people’s lives - whether those magical forces are gods or magic itself. In ancient magical practices, there was often both a superstitious and a magical aspect to a ritual. For example, a farmer may ask for the gods to bring him a good harvest as he is pouring a growth potion over his crop. The magical aspect would be the potion, and the superstitious part would be the prayer to the gods. Both aspects of this ritual were critical to the farmer in this situation, and so both magic and superstition became part of the practice.

Now some of you may be wondering what the difference is then between superstition and religion. Put simply, superstitious beliefs are those that are based on fear, whereas religion - in general - is based on hope. The farmer in our example above would have said the prayer to the gods not in the hopes that they would grant his request for a good growing season, but in the hopes that by asking kindly,  they would be less inclined to send a pestilence during that season. It is a fine line - and a tricky one to navigate!

And that concludes our first lesson of Year Four. You will have a short quiz to complete today.

Our next lesson will begin our discussion on Greco-Roman history and magic. Make sure you bring your togas!




Ritual: the prescribed or established form of a religious or other ceremony. Collins English Dictionary. c. 2012.

Totemism: The belief that people are descended from animals, plants, and other natural objects.Symbols of these natural ancestors, known astotems, are often associated with clans (groups of families tracing common descent). By representing desirable individual qualities (such as the swiftness of a deer) and helping to explain the mythical origin of the clan, totems reinforce clan identity and solidarity. The American Heritage Dictionary, c. 2005.



Adkins, Lesley, Roy Adkins. 1997. Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece. Facts On File, Inc. New York.

Clottes, Jean and David Lewis-Williams. 1998. The Shamans of Prehistory: Trance and Magic in the Painted Caves. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York.

Our studies of magic use in ancient civilizations continues this year with our examination of several European groups, including the ancient Romans, Greeks, Celts, Norse, and more! It will be a year filled with curious enigmas and amusing occurrences.
Course Prerequisites:
  • ANST-401

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