David Porreca

Co-Director, Medieval Studies


Ph.D.,  Warburg Institute, University of London
Dissertation: “The Influence of Hermetic Texts on Western Europe Philosophers and Theologians (1160-1300)”
MA, University of Toronto


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David Porreca


Academic Biography

I was born in Montréal and attended the Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf through the end of CÉGEP in pure & applied sciences. Discovering in the process that my talents lay in languages and philosophy instead of physics and mathematics, I gave up on the idea of planetary astronomy and instead came to the University of Waterloo for an Honours BA in Medieval Studies.  I did my MA at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto before moving on to the Warburg Institute (University of London) for a PhD under the supervision of Prof. Charles Burnett, completed in 2001.  After holding a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Religion & Culture Department at Wilfrid Laurier University, I came to be the medievalist in the Classical Studies Department at the University of Waterloo.  I am currently Co-Director of the Undergraduate program in Medieval Studies, as well as the president of the Societas Magica, an organization dedicated to furthering communication and exchange among scholars interested in the study of magic.
Broadly speaking, my research interests involve Medieval intellectual history, especially the reception of the pagan Classical tradition in the Christian Middle Ages.  The main focus of my research has been the enigmatic figure of Hermes Trismegistus.  In the process of hunting for any and all references to Hermes during the Middle Ages, I have conducted research at over thirty manuscript libraries scattered throughout Europe. Along the way, I have become interested in ancient and Medieval magic, astrology, alchemy, palaeography, manuscript transmission and glosses. This path has led me, along with my co-author and collaborator Dan Attrell, to produce a new English translation of the Latin astral magic text known as Picatrix. This volume is forthcoming through the Societas Magica-sponsored book series called Magic in History from Pennsylvania State University Press.
In parallel to my interest in intellectual history, I have begun examining the dynamics of the rise, flourishing and downfall of complex societies, especially with regard to the impact of resource depletion on these processes.
My teaching interests include Latin (Classical & Medieval), magic & esoterica, ancient religious traditions in general and the Hermetic tradition in particular, Medieval Studies broadly construed (Medieval society, defining the Middle Ages) and the decline and fall of ancient Roman civilization.

Selected Publications


(co-authored with Dan Attrell) The Picatrix: A Medieval Treatise of Astral Magic, Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, PA (forthcoming 2019)
Book Chapter:
“Magic and Body Parts: A Study on the Use of Cadavers in the PGM, the Picatrix, and the Munich Handbook." In The Material Culture of Magic, ed. A. Bosselmann-Ruickbie and L. Ruickbie, Leiden: Brill.

Book Chapter:
"Hermes Trismegistus and Nicolaus Cusanus: A Study of Inspiration." In Totum unum et ex uno omnia - Denkformen des Hermetismus in der frühen Neuzeit, ed. A. Eusterschulte and E. Law, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht

Current Research Projects:

'John Peckham, Hermes Trismegistus and the Trinity'. This article will include the critical edition of several sections of Peckham's Commentary on Book I of Peter Lombard's Sentences.

Book: 'The Influence of Hermetic Texts on Medieval Philosophers, from Augustine to Ficino'
Critical Edition/Commentary:  'The Curious Commentators of MS Copenhagen, Fabricius 91 40'.  This project will involve the critical edition of the copious annotations to this early 13th-century manuscript whose annotated contents include Sidonius Apollinaris' Letters, Apuleius' De deo Socratis and the Asclepius attributed to Hermes Trismegistus.

+ studies relating specifically to the background and reception of the Picatrix.

Recent Publications:

"Hermes Mercurio Trismegisto en el 1300." In Hermes Platonicus: La recepción del hermetismo y su vinculación con el neoplatonismo en la filosofia de la Edad Media y de la Modernidad temprana, ed. C. D'Amico and V. Buffon. Santa Fe, Argentina: Ediciones UNL, 2016. 11- 54.

"Apollonius of Tyana through a Medieval Latin Lens." Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft 9 (2014): 157- 177.

"How Hidden Was God? Revelation and Pedagogy in Ancient and Medieval Hermetic Writings." In Histories of the Hidden God. Concealment and Revelation in Western Gnostic, Esoteric and Mystical Traditions, ed. A DeConick and G. Adamson. Durham: Acumen Publishing, 2013. 137-148.

University of Waterloo

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