Nova Scotia

Meet the man who just earned a fellowship to study magic in the U.K.

A man from Wolfville, N.S., has received a fellowship to study magic in the U.K.

'We all do magic in our own unique ways, we just all approach it differently,' says Samuel Gillis Hogan

Samuel Gillis Hogan reads the first book in the Harry Potter series. His copy of the book is in Latin. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Samuel Gillis Hogan has been fascinated with magic ever since he was a toddler.

Some of his earliest memories include pretending he was a wizard and having a magic-themed birthday cake when he was just two years old.

He is now 26, and living out his childhood dreams as he prepares to leave for England in September to begin his PhD studying the history of magic.

He's this year's recipient of Rothermere Fellowship, valued at approximately £17,000 — around $29,000 Canadian — each year for three years, plus university fees and expenses such as return air travel.

Gillis Hogan was in a quiet study area at Acadia University when he got the news.

"Everything sort of froze. And then I felt so unbelievably excited. And I was trying to be quiet," said Gillis Hogan. "I actually hurt my side from trying to restrain the excitement."

Gillis Hogan decided to make a career out of magic when he was a teenager. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

He will be studying at the University of Exeter, the same school where Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling studied.

Gillis Hogan loves the Harry Potter series and self-identifies as a Ravenclaw — one of the four Hogwarts houses with members characterized by their wit, learning and wisdom.

He said one of the best parts about the Harry Potter phenomenon was that people his age finally wanted to pretend to be wizards and talk about magic, too.

But it wasn't until Gillis Hogan was in Grade 11 that he decided he could make a career out of it.

"What do I love more than anything else in the entire world? And the word 'magic' came to my mind, as it naturally would," he said.

A few of the books that have inspired Gillis Hogan's magic studies over the years. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Gillis Hogan completed his undergraduate degree at Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador, where he majored in history and medieval studies, and went on to do his master's at the University of Saskatchewan.

His career options didn't involve the black top hat and bunny tricks that might come to mind when you think of stage magic.

Though there are many definitions of magic, he wanted to focus on the history of magic as it was historically practised and believed in.

"Magic is generally a set of practices or ritual instructions that are either written down or we have accounts of people performing, that can really give us insight into how they understood the world."

Though he studies the history of magic, it is still practised in many different forms in different areas of the world.

Gillis Hogan will be studying at the University of Exeter, the same school where Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling studied. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Through his university studies, he has studied everything from summoning spells to the medieval precursor to modern palm reading. 

Gillis Hogan is now even a member of the Societas Magica, the international society of scholars who study the history of magic.

His PhD project will be a study of late medieval and early modern texts which contain rituals intended to conjure fairy spirits.

Gillis Hogan dressed up as a wizard as a child. His mother says her son was interested in magic from a very early age. (Submitted by Samuel Gillis Hogan)

Gillis Hogan said magic is all around us, and people practise it all the time even if they aren't aware.

"We all do magic in our own unique ways, we just all approach it differently and have different means of doing so."

About the Author

Danielle d'Entremont

Reporter/Editor CBC North

Danielle d'Entremont is a reporter and editor for the CBC in Yellowknife.  Most recently she worked as a national news reader for CBC Toronto, but has also worked for CBC Nova Scotia in her hometown of Halifax. When she isn't chasing stories she is on the search for the best hiking trails around town.