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 The Notary Arts (Ars Notaria):

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Stacey/Cirrius
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PostSubject: The Notary Arts (Ars Notaria):   Sun Sep 27, 2009 5:00 pm

A wonderful discussion of this tradition can be found in an essay by Frank Klaassen, entitled English Manuscripts of Magic, 1300-1500. Another essay by Michael Camille, entitled Visual Art in Two Manuscripts of the Ars Notoria, contains more historical analysis along with photographs of the pages of the book itself. Finally, from the same source, we have an equally informative essay entitled Plundering the Egyptian Treasure: John the Monk’s “Book of Visions” and its Relation to the Ars Notoria or Solomon, which compares the Notary Arts to a later version of the text (The Book of Visions) that focuses upon the Virgin Mary rather than Solomon.

There are approximately fifty different manuscripts of the Notary Arts known at this time, dating from between 1300 to 1600 CE. The Solomonic mythos from which it draws its foundation is found in the canonical Bible:

“Now, O Lord God, let thy promise unto David my father be established: for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may show myself before this people: for who can judge this They people, who are so great?” And God said to Solomon, “Because this was in thine heart, and thou has not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life, but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king. Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like.” [II Chronicles 1:9-12]
This is the very scene that gave rise to the legend of the Wisdom of Solomon. By refusing to ask for anything beyond self-improvement, he was able to enjoy all the things to which others cling with greed. Only without greed can true happiness be obtained, and physical things enjoyed. Many of us are familiar with the phrase, “ask for wisdom and all else will come.” Solomon learned to stop allowing his physical surroundings to control his actions, and was thus granted the power of controlling them instead. This entire concept has been foundational to similar practices all over the world; from eastern systems such as Bhuddism, to the grimoires themselves, and even many systems of today.

The Ars Notoria is a collection of purification procedures, obscure prayers, and magickal images which promise to result in the understanding of “…Magical Operations, The liberal Sciences, Divine Revelation, and The Art of Memory.” The purifications are composed of fasts, observance of times, confessions, etc. In appearance it very much resembles prayer books or Psalters of the day- and the calligraphy and illustrations were very often commissioned to professional artists (the same men who did in fact fashion Psalters and prayer books). The text itself is arranged into three distinct Parts. Part I contains the prayers to achieve the “general” virtues necessary to attain the higher virtues found later. These are four in number: Memory, Eloquence, Understanding, and Perseverance. Without these, any attempt to produce results with the more advanced prayers will simply come to nothing.

Part II of the operation contains the prayers and magickal images that promise to bestow the “special” virtues. These are specifically the seven Liberal Arts that composed the common educational curriculum for the Medieval scholar: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric, followed by Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy. It then culminates in Philosophy and Theology. Following this is Part III, or the Ars Nova. This section is composed of ten prayers said to have been delivered to Solomon at a later time, and by different Angels, for the purpose of rectifying any mistakes the aspirant may have made in the previous books. Apparently, they are mainly reprisals of some of the prayers of Part II. Finally, the text ends with the necessary instructions (needed for all three Parts) concerning preparation of the sacred space, consecration of the images, fasting, confession, charity, instructions on using the prayers, etc.

The prayers themselves are arranged within the elaborate magickal images, so that the reading of the prayer also results in the abstract viewing of the image. The effect of these two together is intended to induce trance. (In many cases, it is even necessary to rotate the book as you read- the prayers being arranged in concentric circles or spirals. State of the art hypnosis technology for the 1300s!) Here is an example of the prayers and how they are applied practically:

This following is for the Memory: O Holy Father, merciful Son, and Holy Ghost, inestimable King; I adore, invocate, and beseech thy Holy Name, that of thy overflowing goodness, thou wilt forget all my sins: be merciful to me a sinner, presuming to go about this office of knowledge, and occult learning; and grant, Oh Lord, it may be efficacious in me; open Oh Lord my ears , that I may hear; and take away the scales from my Eyes, that I may see: strengthen my hands, that I may work; open my face, that I may understand thy will; to the glory of thy Name, which is blessed for ever, Amen.
Overall, the Notary Arts stand apart from the usual structure of grimoiric texts, which demand more elaborate efforts for highly specific effects. One who made use of the Memory prayer above was not attempting to remember one specific item, or to pass a single test. Instead, he was acting on the question of what might be gained if only he had a better memory in general. Rather than achieving one single goal, after which the rite would have to be performed again, the idea was to master the entire subject in one fell swoop.

This philosophy of magick is very productive, and highly recommended. It is extremely important to the grimoiric traditions overall, and echoes of it can be found in the introductions to even the most materialistic texts. Those books which have gained reputations of deep mystery- and even danger- are very often just this kind of text. See the Book of Abramelin and the Sworn Book of Honorius below (as well as others in this list) which are such legendary examples.
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