A new podcast by Professor of Digital Media Heather Freeman, published by public media organization PRX, launches on Tuesday, October 24. Over three seasons, Magic in the United States will unveil the secrets of magical and spiritual America by exploring enchanted beliefs, practices, and cultural conflicts past and present.
The podcast is available free on-demand across all major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Overcast, and Pocket Casts. The show is made in partnership with PRX Productions––one of the world’s top podcast publishers, specializing in high quality audio production and storytelling––and is supported by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional support from UNC Charlotte.
Magic in the United States will embark on a mesmerizing journey through America’s hidden realms of magic, religion, and spirituality across a vast array of cultural communities. Conversations with practitioners and scholars, personal stories, and historical investigations will illuminate often misunderstood and contentious topics, revealing how magical beliefs and practices are woven into the rich tapestry of American history and culture.
“Even though I was raised Atheist, I’ve always been fascinated by religion and spirituality, and especially by magic,” said Freeman. “In the last decade, I started to appreciate the complex richness of American magico-spiritual practices and where these overlap or conflict with diverse religions, folk practices, and contemporary culture. As an artist, I deeply value the richness and plurality of human creative endeavors - from dance to poetry to textiles to gardening - and I see magical and spiritual practices as part of that richly creative complex. I want to celebrate this richness, while also exploring complicated, sometimes troubling histories from surprising new angles.”
Each of the three seasons of Magic in the United States will include six episodes. Episodes in the podcast’s first season delve into topics such as religious remixing in the current lives of a Rootworker and a Wiccan; the brutal 1928 murder of a Pennsylvania Dutch folk healer; digitally savvy Neopagans in the 1980s; the evolution of Hoodoo, Conjure, and Rootwork in the Great Migration; Harry Houdini’s complicated relationship with Spiritualism and mediums; and the efforts of young Asian American practitioners to both reclaim ancestral practices and devise modern ones. In developing the podcast content, Freeman has worked with a team of humanities advisors, including UNC Charlotte faculty Danielle Boaz, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, and Professor of Religious Studies Sean McCloud.
Heather Freeman is a Professor of Digital Media in the Department of Art & Art History, where her creative research combines traditional and digital technologies while weaving together forms of magic, science, mythology, and popular culture. Freeman's previous podcast, Familiar Shapes, explored parallels between the printing press during the early modern witch trials and bots on social media during the 2010s. Learn more at her website.
“Magic in the United States and Heather Freeman's work encapsulates what's possible through audio storytelling driven by curiosity,” said Jason Saldanha, Chief of Business Development and Content at PRX. “We're proud to partner with Heather, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to help make and to bring this equally educational and entertaining series to listeners everywhere.”
Episodes will be released weekly. Visit magicintheunitedstates.com for more.
Read more about Freeman and the Magic podcast in this feature story in Queen City Nerve. Hear a full discussion of the topic on the October 31st broadcast of Charlotte Talks on WFAE 90.7 FM.
Celebrating its 20th year as a nonprofit public media company, PRX works in partnership with leading independent creators, organizations, and stations to bring meaningful audio storytelling into millions of listeners' lives. PRX is one of the world’s top podcast publishers, public radio distributors, and audio producers, serving as an engine of innovation for public media and podcasting to help shape a vibrant future for creative and journalistic audio. Shows across PRX’s portfolio of broadcast productions, podcast partners, and its Radiotopia podcast network have received recognition from the Peabody Awards, the Tribeca Festival, the International Documentary Association, and more, including in 2022 when Futuro Media and PRX won a Pulitzer Prize. Visit PRX.org for more.