New degree minor coming to King’s

Esoteric and occult traditions to debut next fall

Kyle Fraser’s course on alchemy is one of the classes students will be able to take as part of the school’s new degree minor program next fall. Photo: Jake Saltzman

Some Canadian university degree programs — English, chemistry and criminal justice, to name a few — are classic choices for undergraduate university students. Few are offered at only one university in Canada. For students interested in minoring in “Esoteric and Occult Traditions,” the University of King’s College is Canada’s only school for you. 

Pioneered by Dr. Kyle Fraser (who will serve as adviser for the program), students hoping to add the minor will need to complete six half-year courses in addition to satisfying their regular degree requirements. Because it’s a minor, other departments— like Religious Studies, Early Modern Studies and History of Science and Technology — will make those courses available. King’s will debut the minor for King’s and Dalhousie students as a degree complement next fall. 

“(I began) doing my own teaching on alchemy and witchcraft and the themes within those studies (at King’s) about 10 years ago,” says Fraser, who also teaches in the King’s Foundation Year Program. “There wasn’t too much of that type of teaching going on at King’s.”

So Fraser pushed his additions to the school’s curriculum. Co-ordinators in both the Foundation Year and History of Science and Technology programs welcomed his expertise on alchemy, magic and witchcraft. So did students. As part of the History of Science and Technology (HOST) programs, Fraser now teaches classes on the history of magic and alchemy, as well as courses on esotericism, hermeticism and the occult.

Sara Yeomans, one of seven students writing her thesis in the HOST program, says students and faculty have been hoping to expand it. Yeomans learned the rumour of an additional degree option had become reality before leaving for the holiday break. 

“This is something that (we hope) will attract some people to the program,” says Yeomans, who also runs King’s HOST Society. “We had been hearing rumblings on expanding the program for a few semesters. Hopefully this can catch someone’s interest.” 

While some students already have the necessary credits for a minor in Esoteric and Occult Traditions, King’s and Dalhousie won’t officially institute the minor until the next fall semester. Though the study of esotericism and occult traditions isn’t offered as a degree or degree complement anywhere else in Canada, Fraser says the area of study has its place in university classrooms.

“Some people have the knee-jerk reaction, ‘these subjects don’t belong in academia,’” Fraser says.

“I never encountered that kind of opposition at King’s. As long as you can demonstrate the relevance of these topics, I expect [the minor] to work.”

Fraser says several students have expressed interest in minoring, both before and after King’s announced the program.

“I don’t expect it to be a huge draw. But I suspect it will be sufficient enough to attract a small number of those who are keen on the subject.”