On the Shelf – On Images (De Imaginibus)

We’ll have a quick interlude for everyone who was wondering what happened to all the occult content.

Ever wonder what sort of magical works were like around the supposed publication date of the Necronomicon? One of the most popular of that time was De Imaginibus by Thabit ibn Qurra, a noted ninth-century philosopher and magician from the city of Harran. Harran was one of the few pagan centers to survive the rise of Christianity and Islam, due to its inhabitants’ usage of the works of Hermes Trismegistus to define themselves as “people of the book” and thereby evade persecution. In the end, it was the Mongols who put it to an end a few years before the time of my Averoigne game. Now, De Imaginibus appears for the first time in English.

In terms of presentation, the book’s POD status makes it too expensive for most casual buyers ($36 with shipping for 64 pages). As with many POD books, it could probably use another proofreading; at one point, a page repeats most of the same text that appears on the page before. Would it have been possible to provide more pages for the price – a Latin text, perhaps?

The magical content heavily emphasizes astrology and the use of images, aimed at wealthy individuals who might want to gain favor with the ruler or to find an opportunity to rule themselves.  It gives rituals to destroy a city, bring together or drive apart people, or ward off scorpions also appear within. For a typical spell, the magician creates the statue when appropriate houses of the heavens are favorably positioned for the ritual. Unlike talismanic rites in Western magic, these statues may be constructed out of any substance. After construction, these statues are then buried in an appropriate location (e.g. the center of a city, or beneath the house of the beneficiary).

After each section appears an examination of parallel material in Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy and a translator’s commentary. The latter is useful at some times, not so much at others. I hate to break it like this, but if someone’s intent on destroying a city, they likely won’t be deterred if they’re told otherwise.

In brief, this is an interesting book, but the price is just too high for most people. If you’re a collector or interested in the history of magic, you can pick up your own copy here.

Published in: on January 22, 2008 at 10:29 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] in the Middle East to this day, and not so much the earlier model provided in the Picatrix or Thabit ibn Qurra, you might pick up a copy of this book. Published […]

  2. […] with only a small press paperback translation (English only) appearing from Christopher Warnock (review here). Now SISMEL has released Thabit ibn Qurra «On Talismans» and Ps.-Ptolemy «On Images […]

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