Serious documentaries on magick?
June 3, 2018 9:16 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for good, objective, journalistically respectable documentaries about modern and historical esotericism, occultism, magical societies, hermeticism, ritual and ceremonial magic, folk magic and "witchcraft" (e.g., Stregheria), etc. (Organizations which lack the magic, but share the preoccupation with ritual and mystical aesthetics – e.g., Freemasonry – are fair game too.)

Google gives me a ton of credulous, sensationalist, Ancient-Aliens-style crap. That's not what I'm after. I don't believe in this stuff.

On the other hand, I'm not really looking for a skeptical debunking either. I don't want to hear "this is real" or "this is bullshit" – I'm just interested in the subject as a cultural phenomenon, and I find the aesthetics and imagery fascinating.

So: just as there are measured, non-partisan documentaries about various religious traditions, I'd like to watch a measured, non-partisan documentary (or three) about the practice and culture of magic, particularly in the Western estoteric tradition. Practitioners explaining it in their own words; the history; tours of the temples and lodges; the beliefs and tools and trappings; etc.

Any recommendations? Thanks!
posted by escape from the potato planet to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have documentaries, but on the "practitioners explaining it in their own words" front I can recommend Andrew Watt. Compared to the norm for this sort of thing he's unusually straightforward, methodical, and knowledgable on the history of the things he talks about. His site links to many other people and resources with varying degrees of sensationalism and woo, so might serve as a decent jumping-off point for further exploration.

Disclaimer: I know him personally, though not well, through a yearly event we both attend; I can't vouch for the accuracy of what he says in either the magical or historical sense -- this isn't an area I'm very knowledgable about -- but can vouch for him as not-a-huckster and a generally Good Egg.
posted by ook at 9:58 AM on June 3, 2018

Ronald Hutton's documentary A Very British Witchcraft (2013) is a lively and fair-minded account of Gardnerian Wicca. (Review here, interview with Hutton here.)
posted by verstegan at 2:19 PM on June 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Are you interested in book recommendations? Not in Kansas Any More is fairly respectful of its subject matter and I found it to be an entertaining read.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:51 AM on June 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

No specific recommendations, but you might try googling limited to the site feuilleton. He seems to be a connoisseur of that kind of thing.
posted by Bron at 7:47 AM on June 4, 2018

I can't promise there won't be a little bit of sensationalism, but there are definitely a couple of Vice mini-documentaries that might fit this bill.
posted by helloimjennsco at 6:39 AM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

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