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 Some background information on Medieval Magick

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Stacey/Cirrius
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PostSubject: Some background information on Medieval Magick   Sun Sep 27, 2009 4:51 pm

Recent scholarship on this Arabic text indicates that it may in fact be a major sourcebook for many of the later grimoires (listed below). According to Joseph Peterson, the Latin translation most familiar to scholars of the West dates to 1256 CE, from the court of king Alphonso the Wise of Castille. Unfortunately, we have yet to see an English translation of the book- though copies do exist in Arabic, German, French, and Latin.

According to Martin Plessner, the text is extremely erratic while covering a surprisingly wide range of occult topics. The philosophical doctrines that form the basis of the talismanic art, the theory of magick, astronomy, astrology and love, extensive instructions on practical magick, and anecdotes concerning the employment of the magick are jumbled together throughout the book without apparent rhyme or reason.

The work is divided into four books. The first contains a preface with “autobiographical” information about the author, his reasons for writing the book (i.e.- to make available the secrets of magick as guarded by the “ancient philosophers”), and a summery of the material found in the four books. The chapters of book one contain large portions of occult philosophy according to its author (largely Neo-Platonic and “pseudo-Aristotelian” according to Plessner), a definition of magick (into theoretical and practical), as well as preliminary information on astrology and the mansions of the moon. The latter is given as vital information for the formation of talismans.

Book two continues the discussions of philosophy above, the correspondences between earthly creatures and celestial archetypes, and gets further into the mysteries of astrology- the triplicities, degrees, conjunctions, the fixed stars, etc- along with (in chapter three) some long and in-depth information about the occult virtues of the moon. Yet another definition of magick follows in chapter five- dividing it this time between the talismanic art, worship of the planets, and incantations. These three, it is suggested, were divided among the human race so that different cultures became the masters of different arts. In the same chapter, material concerning the art of prophecy and divination is related. Chapters six and seven (as well as several following chapters) then go into depth upon the philosophy of talismans, explaining even that “Man makes talismans unawares as soon as he begins to manipulate nature in such processes as dyeing cloth, breeding animals or compounding drugs, as well as in the manufacture of objects of everyday use from the products of nature, as in cooking, spinning and the like.” Beyond this, such subjects as the natures of the four Elements (which Agrippa seems to have adopted- see below) and further astrological information are related.

Book three continues its lessons in astrology- this time treating the planets and signs “more individually, with their specific qualities. The planets are personified to such a degree that they are virtually conjured and worshipped.” The chapters include information on images, inks, perfumes, colors, robes, metals, etc, etc- all used in the worship/invocation of the planets. The dominions (i.e.- jurisdiction) of the planets and signs are all outlined, along with magickal hours and the like. From here, about chapter four (which discusses Islam and astrology), the book returns to philosophy, the nature of man, the spiritual essence of the wise man, etc. From there, beginning at chapter seven, the text shifts to more practical concerns. Initiation into the worship of the seven planets is given, along with prayers and adorations, and the gifts to be gained from each. Full ceremonies for each planet are outlined in chapter nine. From chapter ten onward, practical talismans and other information are given for various effects common to the grimoires (love, honor, protection, etc). The final chapter (twelve) returns to philosophical concerns (the absolute need for practical magickal operation, the love of God, etc) that run almost directly into the first chapter of book four.

Finally, book four continues the philosophical discussion, outlining various substances of nature and the theory (history) of creation. It continues outlining the threefold nature of the world which began in an earlier book- dividing creation into Substance, Intellect, and Soul (once again, this seems to have been a probable source for Agrippa- see below). From here, prayers, ceremonies, and information are given for the twelve signs of the Zodiac- along with stories to illustrate the possible effects of these rites. Plessner states that each ceremony is preceded by a seven day fast, and magical characters are used in the ceremonies (pp 319-322). Some aspects of this may be found in various Hermetic manuscripts. I find this suggestive of the Ars Notaria (see below). Chapter four returns to the subject of astrology and talismans (etc), and chapter five outlines the ten disciplines considered necessary before one can become a master in the magickal arts. Oddly, the subjects of the evil eye, heredity, and even bi-sexuality are discussed here. Chapter six returns to the subject of planetary incense, providing rites for each blend. The rather lengthy chapter seven concerns the magickal virtues and uses of plants, and consists mainly of “avowed and verbatim extracts from the Nabataean Agriculture” The final chapters, nine and ten, concern the occult virtues of physical substances, and the description of talismans which rely on those virtues
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Some background information on Medieval Magick
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