For about 15 years Bruce Miller taught Witchcraft and the Occult at the University of Alberta as a credited course.

It was so popular that the university had to split the class in two and hire another teacher.

Now, because of the course’s popularity, the U of A is offering a pared-down version called Gnosticism and the Occult as a non-credit, continuing education course.

“It was so popular when I started teaching it years ago,” Miller said. “New age spirituality has been popular for quite some time. It’s a real learning experience for people, I really enjoy it.”

Using Tarot cards as an illustration of the occult in contemporary society, Gnosticism and the Occult explores the history of Gnosticism, including the Cathars, Knights Templar and the Grail legend. Through the prism of the Tarot deck, the course explores the history of the occult arts, focusing on the Hermetic tradition, including Kabbalah, Astrology, Magic and Alchemy.

“I use Tarot cards as a way to provide unity for the whole course,” Miller said. “Tarot cards can be called the Western Book of the Dead because they really have especially Trump cards, references and connections to Gnosticism and all aspects of the occult.”

Gnosticism and the Occult is a six-week course that starts Feb. 3 and runs at 6 p.m. The cost is $165 plus GST.

“There are no exams or papers to write,” Miller said. “People are just there because of their interest, so it’s not that hard to get a discussion going.”

Miller received his PhD in 1984 from the University of Chicago in Religious Studies. He taught full-time at St. Mary’s University in Halifax and for 20 years as a sessional lecturer at the U of A in the Religious Studies program.

“People really love our religion courses, they’re something just a little bit different,” said Megan Woodsmith, a U of A spokesperson. “Bruce is a wonderful instructor; he really brings in a crowd.”

“Twenty-five years ago, gnosticism wasn’t a word that anybody knew anything about,” Miller said. “Now it’s a word that people are more familiar with.”

To register for the Gnosticism and the Occult class, call the U of A Faculty of Extension at 780-492-3093.