The Varieties of Magical Experience
Indigenous, Medieval, and Modern Magic
by Lynne Hume and Nevill Drury
January 2013, 295pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-0418-2
$65, £50, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-0419-9
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

What is “magic,” outside of the use of the term to describe the performing art that relies on sleight of hand to create carefully staged illusions? Magic can be defined as a form of consciousness that shifts perceptions of reality—something that can occur in a range of contexts: visionary indigenous worlds, trance and mediumistic states, ritual spaces, in nature, and even across the Internet. A magical experience can happen to anyone, in any culture, at any time.

A rare combination of personal and academic, this book showcases the myriad avenues for transcending the boundaries of reality through direct sensory experience.

The Varieties of Magical Experience: Indigenous, Medieval, and Modern Magic provides a comprehensive volume that examines magic in all its aspects. Through detailed case studies, verbatim accounts of personal experiences, and first-hand experience from the authors’ own active participation in many alternative religious rituals and ceremonies, this unique book reveals how magic can be a universal phenomenon that crosses cultural, historical, and spatial boundaries.

The work is organized in five sections that embrace several broad themes: indigenous magical and shamanic practices; medieval witchcraft; sorcery and hermetic magic; and contemporary Western magical practices, including the role of sexuality, trance, and meditation. The introductory section explores the idea of magic, other realities, and the employment of all the senses, while the final section discusses contemporary issues of ecology and cybermagic. The authors give voice to the powerful emotions and feelings that result from a magical encounter, providing engaging and accessible information to general readers, while those well versed in the opaque world of magic and occultism, consciousness studies, and imaginal and disembodied realms will appreciate the book’s content at a deeper level.


  • Highlights techniques, rituals, and training of magical practitioners
  • Counterpoints the rational with the emotional and compares the past with the present
  • Takes a cross-cultural, historical, and anthropological approach that is accessible to all readers
  • Includes experiences of academics, shamans, occultists, healers, sorcerers, pagans, medieval magicians, cybermagicians, and indigenous peoples across the world
Lynne Hume, PhD, is associate professor in the School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. Her published works include Portals: Opening Doorways to Other Realities through the Senses; Ancestral Power: The Dreaming, Consciousness and Aboriginal Australians; and Witchcraft and Paganism in Australia. Hume holds a doctorate in anthropology from The University of Queensland. Her blog is

Nevill Drury, PhD, is an independent historical researcher. His most recent publications include Stealing Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Modern Western Magic; Homage to Pan: The Life, Art and Sex-Magic of Rosaleen Norton; and The Watkins Dictionary of Magic: Over 3,000 Entries on the World of Magical Formulas, Secret Symbols and the Occult. Drury holds a doctorate from the School of Humanities, University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. His website is


"Hume and Drury explore magical experience and offer an intriguing, ambitious work that is well-researched, well-written, and entertaining."—Choice, August 1, 2013

"As William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience is to religion (as a value rather than a doctrinal or rational formulation), Lynne Hume and Nevill Drury’s Varieties of Mystical Experience is to magic (as a direct spiritual experience incorporated into paganism, witchcraft, and shamanism and involving a variety of techniques for altering one’s consciousness and fathoming the unfathomable). By combing worldwide traditions past and present, the authors determine the pragmatic and even necessary roles of the emotional, intuitive, and imaginative in the development of energy patterns between material and nonmaterial realities. Following in the line of Susan Greenwood, Hume and Drury explore an often neglected and mostly ridiculed mental process concerning the non-ordinary as a possibly additional source of vital and useful knowledge. As with its Jamesian predecessor, this solidly researched and fascinatingly provocative book is and will remain a classic."—Michael York, Bath Spa University, Academy of Cultural and Educational Studies, Cherry Hill Seminary

"This book is an excellent review of magical and mystical practices from those of indigenous peoples to those present in cyberspace today. A fascinating and detailed history that covers several thousand years from ancient Egypt through to contemporary Paganism, this book belongs on the shelf of every serious scholar of the occult who wants to understand how practitioners understand their experiences and the similarities in these practices that transcend time and place."—Wendy Griffin, PhD, Academic Dean, Cherry Hill Seminary; Emerita Professor, California State University, Long Beach

"Lynne Hume and Nevill Drury take the reader on a fascinating tour of all sorts of exotic cultures and esoteric texts in their quest to document and comprehend the varieties of magical experience from within. By privileging the experiential over the rational, and imagination over explanation, their senses-wide-open approach uncovers patterns and potentials that are bound to spark wonder. This is an enchanting book."—David Howes, Professor of Anthropology, Concordia University, Montreal

"The primeval human need to believe in things intangible is brought to life in an engaging and respectful series of surveys of the varieties of magic or, more specifically, magical experiences chronicled by Drury and Hume. From the multifarious notions and experiences of other worlds, to the sub-field of sensory anthropology through to cybermagic, this book offers a useful introduction to the concepts and realities of magic traversing cultures and historical eras."—Dr. Marguerite Johnson, Senior Lecturer, The University of Newcastle, Australia

"The authors of The Varieties of Magical Experience provide a fascinating look at the development and range of magical practices around the world—from indigenous varieties of shamanism and magic to the intricate history of the Western Hermetic tradition to modern magical and religious practices such as Wicca and Thelema. This tremendous range of practices and perspectives is grounded in solid anthropology, examining the ways in which humans have historically and still do interact with Other-than-Human Persons in alternate—and even virtual—realities that include both the familiar worlds of mainstream religions and the less familiar worlds of more remote or exotic communities. Beginning with a discerning analysis of transcultural somatic techniques and core experiences including dance, breathing, posture, sound, and rhythm, the authors explore the various ways these experiences are interpreted and given value and meaning. Their discussion of the role of participant observation and the vital need for honesty and reflexivity in collecting fieldwork within religious communities will surely become a standard for future studies. The Varieties of Magical Experienceis both rigorous and accessible, sure to become a classic for scholars and students of magical and religious communities."—Nikki Bado, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Iowa State University
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