Supernatural: Anthropology of Ritual, Magic and the Occult


Ritual and magic have played a vital role in the development and structure of societies all over the world, and throughout human history.

Shamans, sangomas, voodoo queens and high priestesses all hold important keys to our understanding of ritual practices and the use of magic in society.

In this unique five-week online course we will embark on an anthropological journey through the supernatural world. Adopting a cross-cultural perspective, you will be guided week by week through the discovery and critical evaluation of rich anthropological, historical and archaeological evidence.

Why has the supernatural been so important to us, and how has its relevance been embedded in, and expressed by, different cultures across time and space? To what extent are we still influenced by the spiritual realm in all of its various manifestations?

We will seek answers to these questions by examining aspects of mythology, folklore and ritual practice that fascinate and challenge, glimpsing a realm of humanity that is at times both enlightening and terrifying.


Course Details

Next start date:

Open registration – enrol at any time.

Course duration:

Five weeks of guided tuition.

Level of study:

Level 3 Certificate.

Student time commitment:

Recommended 2 to 5 hours per week (flexible).

Learner support:

Learners are fully supported by the tutor throughout the course.



Learning outcomes

Upon completion of the course, participants should be able to:

  • Examine human experience, behaviour, and social and cultural institutions from an anthropological perspective;
  • Compare some of the belief systems and ritual practices of different cultures, drawing from anthropological, archaeological and historical evidence;
  • Evaluate the role that religious belief systems perform in different cultural contexts;
  • Critically apply anthropological approaches, methodologies and the interpretation of cultural evidence.

Syllabus overview

In this course we explore the following topics:

Module 1: Prehistoric origins of religious thought

Module 2: Shaman: link to the spirit world

Module 3: African healing, sorcery and witchcraft

Module 4: Voodoo: from shackled roots

Module 5: Western witchcraft and pagan magic

Tutor profile

Dr. Mark Anderson is Head of the Akkadium School of Anthropology and Archaeology. He is a Teaching Fellow at Imperial College London, and a tutor in archaeology and anthropology at the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education.

Mark is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, a Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He is the author of Marothodi: The Historical Archaeology of an African Capital.

Mark Anderson

Additional information

Academic prerequisites

This learning opportunity is open to anyone, and no prior knowledge or experience of anthropology is required. The only prerequisite is a curiosity about diverse cultural beliefs and practices, and a willingness to engage and contribute to course discussions.


Upon successful completion of this course, participants will receive an Akkadium College Level 3 Certificate in The Anthropology of Ritual, Magic and the Occult, and an academic transcript with details of completed modules and learner achievements.

Technical requirements

The course materials and discussions are shared completely online in a virtual learning environment (VLE), so you will need access to an internet-connected computer or mobile device, and some basic computing skills. Our team will be on hand to give you both academic and technical support as needed.

Other information

Please note that places on Certificate courses are limited to harness the educational value of small-group learning. However, most courses run multiple times throughout the year. If your prefered course is fully booked, please ask us about the next available opening.