Friday, 30 October 2020

necromantic tripos

Buried in a 1925 newsletter from Trinity College, Cambridge we are treated to a fanciful syllabus from analytic realist Charles Dunbar Broad, whom like his contemporary colleagues Bertrand Russell (previously here and here) and G. E. Moore, would have rejected as quickly and wholly as the Platonic forms, that was surely contributed to amuse his students and reads very much like a modern wizarding 101 with courses in magic, alchemy and astrology—with practica dedicated to scrying, rhabdomancy and the interpretation of entrails—to name a few.

A special disclaimer section follows of prohibitions that enrolees are to adhere to, for instance on the Evocation of Elementals: Owing to the terms of the fire-insurance on the College buildings it is necessary to prohibit absolutely the evocation of Salamanders in rooms in College. It is an immemorial rule of the College that the baths are “places for ablution and not for the evocation of Undines.” “No member of the college may make, have in his possession, melt, or transfix a mommet [poppet, a voodoo doll] of the Master or of any of the Fellows, Chaplains, Librarian, or Organist. Bedmakers have instructions to report immediately to the Dean of College the presence of any mommet that they find.” And on Levitation and Bilocation, they are “strictly forbidden in Hall, Chapel, the Library, and during lectures.” All in all, this seems like a pretty fun, charming curriculum and Broad’s pupils must have gotten a kick out of it.