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Aaron Michael Ullrey, Ph.D.

Aaron Michael Ullrey

Religious Studies


I am a historian of religion specializing in South Asian rituals, specifically magic rituals, but I am increasingly interested in paranormal catalysts that drive religious experiences.  My research archives span Sanskrit, Hindi, and Tibetan language tantra sources affiliated with Hinduisms, Jainisms, Buddhisms, and Islams.

I translate ritual actions, ingredients, and results to reveal social history, material cultures, and varied transactions with deities.  While magic rituals exist in all cultures, I focus on Hinduisms and Jainisms; analog rituals from the Hellenistic world, medieval Europe, and contemporary occultisms shape my interpretations.

I teach a range of asynchronous courses at University of Houston:

  • Introduction to Religious Studies (RELS 1301)
  • Introduction to Hinduism (RELS 2340)
  • Yoga and Philosophy (RELS 3355)
  • History of Magic, Witchcraft, and Occultism (RELS 3366)
My courses emphasize counter-narratives, social cultural histories, minority religions and minority aspects of religions, lived and folk religions.  Religious beliefs, contrary to theological prescriptions, only constitute a part of religion; religious studies courses are descriptive, attending more to what people do rather than what they think or feel.  My skills-based pedagogy utilizes writing in multiple genres to generate understanding, imagination, and professionalization. We write to learn!

Selected Publications:

  • Borkataky-Varma Sravana and A. Michael Ullrey.Living Folk Religions. Routledge 2023.  This co-edited volume explores folk rituals, traditions, and lore around the world. 
  • “Diseased Rites: Magic Tantras and Deployed Illness” Religious Responses to the Pandemic. Routledge, 2023. Ill-intentioned sorcerers’ magic operations are a cause of illness, but rites to address this danger confer supernatural health.
  • “Magic Rituals”, Jacobsen Knut A et al.Brill's Encyclopedia of Hinduism Brill, 2023.  An overview of often hostile and sometimes fanstastic ritual operations in Hindu tantras.
  • “Asceticism”, “Bahubali Affair”, “Anup Mandal”, “Digambara and Shvetambara”, “Tirthankara”, “Mahavira”. Religious Violence Today: Faith and Conflict in the Modern World. ABC-CLIO,  Entries introduce key elements of Jainism with a focus on violence.
  • Grim Grimoires:  Pragmatic Ritual in the Magic Tantras. 2016. UC Santa Barbara, PhD dissertation.