• Length:
    8 Weeks
  • Effort:
    2–3 hours per week
  • Price:

    FREE
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  • Institution
  • Subject:
  • Level:
    Introductory
  • Language:
    English
  • Video Transcript:
    English

Prerequisites

No prerequisite in particular, but a strong curiosity and interest in foreign cultures is definitely a must.

About this course

This course takes a journey through the world of beliefs as they have developed in a great variety of cultures, ranging from Ancient Egypt, the Near East to Central Asia, India, China, and the Far East. We will discuss where these beliefs, theories and practices originated from, how they were passed on over the ages and why some are still so central to large communities of believers across the world today, whether it be amongst Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists or Shintoists.

We'll be dealing with everything from gods and spirits, to angels and demons, to afterlife and the netherworld, as well as the great cycles of the universe and the tremendous power of lunar and solar eclipses. The interpretation of dreams and all sorts of magic and miraculous deeds will also be covered during this course.

Students will have the opportunity to travel extensively in time and space. The comparative, critical and contextualized approach of this course will allow for a valuable and thought-provoking experience.

We are a course team of about twenty-five specialists working at, or in close interaction with, the Department of Greek, Latin and Oriental Studies (GLOR) at the University of Louvain. We are all historians or philologists, all passionate about our respective fields of expertise, and all fully determined to help you as much as we can as we progress through this course. Most of all, we're looking forward to "meeting" you and to having lively discussions with you on the forums.

If you're curious about the cultures of this world, past and present, this course is definitely for you. Put your wings on and get ready to ride on our “GLOR-ious” dragon and to enjoy the whole adventure with us!

What you'll learn

At the end of this course, you will:  

  • Have a panoramic scope of the cultures, societies, languages and belief systems of a wide variety of people
  • Develop a personal and critical approach to understanding the beliefs of cultures

Week 1: Overall presentation

  • Modalities of course
  • Team
  • Geographical introduction 
  • Historical introduction

Week 2: Gods and Spirits

  • Nature in Japanese Daily Life
  • The Power of Chinese Hybrids
  • The Gods in Buddhism
  • Egyptian Gods, Cult Centres and the Cosmogony of Heliopolis

Week 3: Angels and Demons

  • Angels in the Hebrew Bible
  • Angels in Islam
  • Demons in Ancient Mesopotamia
  • Fighting the Demons in Egypt: from Texts to Religious Practices

Week 4: Netherworld and Afterlife

  • Concepts of Afterlife in Ancient Egypt
  • The Netherworld in Ancient Mesopotamia
  • The Netherworld in Ancient Anatolia and Iran
  • Underworld and Afterlife in Ancient Greek Epics 1: Tartarus/Erebus
  • Underworld and Afterlife in Ancient Greek Epics 2: Hades
  • Buddha, the Man Who Refuses to Talk About the Afterlife • Ancestor Worship in China

Week 5: Astrology and Heavenly Cycles

  • Eclipses: Beliefs and Theories in the Ancient World 1 - Superstitions
  • Eclipses: Beliefs and Theories in the Ancient World 2 - Theories
  • On World Cycles 1: The Great Year Doctrine in Antiquity
  • On World Cycles 2: The Great Year Doctrine in the Middle Ages
  • Arab Astrology in the Medieval Latin West
  • Astrology and Love in Romance Literatures

Week 6: Magic, Dreams and Miracles

  • The Miraculous Portrait of Jesus
  • The Science of the Letters
  • Alchemy throughout the Ages
  • The Varieties of Magic in Islam
  • Dreams and Meditation in Tibet
  • Forbidden Directions in Japan

Week 7: A Case Study

  • The Miracle of the Moving Muqattam Image

Week 8: Summing up

Meet your instructors

Godefroid de Callataÿ
Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Oriental Institute
Université catholique de Louvain
Johannes den Heijer
Professor of Arabic Studies, Oriental Institute
Université catholique de Louvain
Kanako Goto
Visiting Associate Professor
Université catholique de Louvain
Marianne Michel
Postdoctoral Researcher
Université catholique de Louvain
Sébastien Moureau
Research Associate of the F.R.S.-FNRS attached to the University of Louvain
Université catholique de Louvain
Andrea Schmidt
Professor of Near Eastern Christian Studies, Oriental Institute
Université catholique de Louvain
Jan Tavernier
Professor
Université catholique de Louvain

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Learner testimonials

"I found this MOOC to be stimulating, thought provoking, and very well presented by all parties. It is one that I would highly recommend, and would like to see a follow-up to the course. Again my thanks for all of the very dedicated staff from the university." -Patrick25

"Your great work has deepened my and other students' knowledge about our ancestors daily thoughts, happiness, fears and the meaning of life at this very moment. Thank you all again very much." -Alearning"