DEADLINE EXTENDED Esotericism, Occultism, and Magic online at SWPACA conference June 8-9, 2023

deadline for submissions: 
April 22, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Southwest Popular/American Culture Association
contact email: 


Call for Papers


Southwest Popular / American Culture Association (SWPACA)

 SWPACA Summer Salon  

June 8 & 9, 2023

Virtual Conference

Submissions open on March 18, 2023

Proposal submission deadline: EXTENDED to April 22, 2023

Proposals for papers are now being accepted for the SWPACA Summer Salon. SWPACA offers nearly 70 subject areas in a variety of categories encompassing the following: Film, Television, Music, & Visual Media; Historic & Contemporary Cultures; Identities & Cultures; Language & Literature; Science Fiction & Fantasy; and Pedagogy & Popular Culture. For a full list of subject areas, area descriptions, and Area Chairs, please visit

Esotericism, Occultism, and Magic invites proposals relating to magical worldviews, practices, and representations, as well as consciousness transformation, hidden meanings, the power of transmutation, and related phenomena. Characteristic beliefs and practices include: arcane symbolism, imagery, and aesthetics; unseen forces and spiritual intermediaries; synchronous patterns, non-ordinary causation, and anomalous processes. Examples of ideas and systems include Theosophy, Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Hermeticism, Gnosticism, Sufism, Satanism, Tantra, witchcraft, sorcery, demonology, astrology, alchemy, shamanism, yoga, parapsychology, and psychic and paranormal phenomena, along with beliefs and practices relating to altered states of consciousness, overlapping with the study of mysticism as well as New Age spirituality, channeling, positive thinking, manifest intention, guardian angels, and Ascended Masters. Esoteric, occult, and magical concepts, 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.

Special themes for the Summer Salon may include the following, but all proposals suitable to the Area will be considered: the construction and representation of EOM traditions and traditionalisms; the role of narratives and counter-narratives in the formation of EOM worldviews; metafiction and metatextuality; symbolic representations of conspiracy; misidentification, confusion, and conflation of identity among and between EOM systems and traditions, both emically and etically; EOM and transgression; EOM as a vector of conflicts concerning identity, ethnicity, race, class, gender, sexuality, and sociocultural tensions; EOM and the counterculture; EOM and New Age thought; cryptohistory; intersections of EOM systems and traditions with demonization and/or diabolization; historical interactions and mutual influences between EOM worldviews and/or practitioners and the realms of cryptography and espionage; EOM and the monstrous, inhuman, unhuman, abhuman, transhuman, and post-human; EOM and augmented reality, virtual reality, metacognition, metanarrative, artifice, and the uncanny (valley); conception, creation, conjuration, and animation of artificial life, unlife, the undead, spirits, servitors, familiars, elementals, homunculi, and constructs; EOM and the paranormal; EOM representations in alternative media; the mainstreaming of EOM; the intersection of EOM with popular spirituality, including popular numerology and astrology, angel beliefs, self-help, popular witchcraft and spellcasting; EOM across, within, between, and as genre; archives, archaicism, and nostalgia; canonicity in representations and transmissions; fantasy and escapism in worldview, practice, and representation; scrying, divination, surveillance, the “seer” and conceptions/representations of the “watchers”; eroticism, love, romance, and romanticism; EOM and aesthetics; EOM as transdisciplinary

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, Evola, Gurdjieff, Crowley, Anton LaVey, Gerald Gardner, Peter Carroll, Edgar Cayce). Influences and themes in magical realism, speculative fiction, gothic fiction, weird fiction, historical fiction, urban fantasy, paranormal romance and adventure. Fiction influential on practitioners, such as Zanoni, Goethe’s Faust, The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Historical representations of magicians, witches, and wizards, including stylized and mythic figures (Merlin, Morgan La Fey, Circe, Medea, Kostchie the Deathless, etc.), in genre fiction (contemporary Arthurian adaptations) or modernizations (Neil Gaiman, Tim Powers, Jim Butcher), indigenous futurism and fantasy (Octavia Butler, Rebecca Roanhorse).  New Age and/or popular manifestation guides, such as The Secret. Conspiracist and/or extra-terrestrial cosmologies related to esoteric concepts (David Icke, the Seth transmissions to Jane Roberts, the Michael channelings, etc.).

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

Film: Content as in Hellraiser, The Color Out of Space, The Witch, HereditaryMidsommarApostle, The Endless, A Dark Song, Kill List, Drag Me To Hell, The Skeleton KeyThe Serpent and the RainbowThe Ninth GateThe Conjuring series, The Wicker Man; Gnostic allegories such as The MatrixDark CityThe Truman Show; explorations of consciousness such as eXistenZAltered States2001 Space Odyssey, Dune; representations of occult aesthetic, such as Eyes Wide Shut, occult conspiracy, such as Starry Eyes, or traumatic initiation, such as the Saw series; stylized depictions of magicians, wizards, and witches (Dr. Strange, Shazam, Maleficent, Oz, Warlock, Thulsa Doom of Conan, Jafar of Aladdin) ; esoteric/occult films such those by Kenneth Anger and Alejandro Jodorowsky; pseudo- and crypto-history in fiction (Tomb Raider, National Treasure); New Age documentaries, such as The Secret; conspiracist receptions of esoteric and occult history, such as Zeitgeist.

Television: Theme and/or content examples Mayfair Witches, Westworld, Stranger Things, Brand New Cherry Flavor, Yellowjackets, Sandman, Wandavision, Game of Thrones/House of the Dragon, The Witcher, The Magicians, A Discovery of Witches, Midnight Mass, The Devil In Ohio, The Order, Dark, Shadowhunters, The Man in the High Castle, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Twin Peaks, Penny Dreadful, DaVinci’s Demons, American Horror Story, American Gods, Lucifer, True Detective (season one), Strange Angel (fictionalized biography of occultist/magician Jack Parsons.) Significant protagonists and anti-heroes; fourth-wall-breaking or uncanny figures, presented with esoteric, occult, or quasi-ritualistic aesthetics (Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Frank Underwood of House of Cards). 

Comics / Graphic Novels: Contain esoteric, occult, and magical motifs and tropes. Some are actively esoteric; Grant Morrison claims The Invisibles and Promethea as personal magical workings; the graphic novels of Neil Gaiman embrace esoteric, occult, magical themes and characters.

Music: Specific artists (e.g. Genesis P-Orridge, David Bowie, Coil, Marilyn Manson, Ghost, Watain, Dissection, Behemoth, Wardruna, Tori Amos, Loreena McKennitt, Gustav Holst), genres (dark ambient, dungeon synth, black metal, viking/Nordic ambient, apocalyptic folk, military industrial, witch house).

Video Games: Theme and content, e.g., Astrologaster, The Council, Goetia, Hell Is Others, Cyberpunk 2077, Saturnalia, Solium Infernum, A Plague Tale, Cult of the Lamb, Hunt: Showdown, Medium, Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator, Dead Synchronicity, The Witcher, Silent Hill, Darkest Dungeon, Cultist  Simulator, The Shadow Government Simulator, Secret Government, Secret World, Xenogears, Devil May Cry, Murdered: Soul Suspect, Arcana, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, Shadow Hearts, Arx Fatalis, Eternal Darkness; pseudo-history Assassin’s Creed, Tomb Raider, Broken Sword; historical worldviews, Civilization VI (secret societies), Crusader Kings (cults, witchcraft, demonolatry), Curious Expedition (historical occultists as playable characters, occult revival + pulp aesthetic); Deus Ex, SOMA, State of Mind (transhumanism); methodology (Nevermind, when utilizing biofeedback)

Tabletop Roleplaying Games: The Esoterrorists and Yellow King (Pelgrane Press), Esoterica (Fire Ruby Designs), Kult: Divinity Lost (rebooted by Modiphius Games), Liminal (Modiphius), Sigil & Shadow (Osprey Games), Esoteric Enterprises (Dying Stylishly Games), White Wolf’s Mage (classic World of Darkness) and Demon: The Descent (Chronicles of Darkness), World of Darkness generally, Atlas Games Unknown Armies, Monte Cook’s Invisible Sun, Kevin Crawford's Silent Legions. RPGs have influenced the conception of magic in popular culture across media, and present extensive representation of magical figures.  Esoteric and gnostic themes intersect with transhumanism in examples such as Eclipse Phase.

Other possible topics:

Influence of esoteric/occult/magical/New Age beliefs, practices, 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/occultism/magic: fads, trends, moral panics, witch-hunts, witch-crazes, conspiracy theories (e.g., anti-occult-conspiracism in QAnon; Illuminati paranoia, bloodline of the Holy Grail beliefs, Satanic Ritual Abuse scandals).

Reactions and polemics 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 Registration information for the conference will be available 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.  

If you have any questions about the Esotericism, Occultism, and Magic area, please contact its Area Chair, Dr. George J. Sieg, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, If you have general questions about the conference, please contact us at, and a member of the executive team will get back to you.

We look forward to receiving your submissions!