The Books of Cyprian: A Challenge

Not knowing what he was getting himself into, Felix Castro asked:

Alan, or Dan Hams, could you tell me what other magical texts you have find atributed to Cyprian?.

I have found only texts in spanish and portuguese languages, and some black books in North Europe, called “Cyprianus”, but nothing for example in english language or french.

Felix misspelled my name, but we’ll answer his question anyway.  Sort of.

Who is this Cyprian guy, anyway?

Cyprian was a supposed individual in the first centuries after Christ.  He is the focus of one of those classic tales: Boy meets girl, girl spurns boy, boy hires magician to get girl, magician falls for girl, girl fights off magic with faith, magician becomes Christian, magician and girl become celibate church officials, magician and girl are horribly martyred, magician and girl become saints, magician and girl get kicked off the calendar during Vatican II reforms.

I prefer the Scandinavian version, in which Cyprianus is a really hot nun.

In some areas of the world, Cyprian performs much the same role as Solomon as the author of many books of magic. The first incantation attributed to him appears in a Coptic text that likely circulated among Egyptian monks shortly after that land’s Christianization. It’s an erotic spell, making this perhaps the only spell I’ve seen that explicitly derives from a tradition of not working.

The books seem to have largely circulated throughout the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world, as well as through the svarteboka of Scandinavia. I have to admit I haven’t explored either too far, and I’m quite intrigued by them. Thus, I’m going to make Mr. Castro a challenge.

Mr. Castro, if you write two 500-word pieces in English on the Cyprian books of your area of the world – one on the tradition’s history, one on the typical contents of such a book – I will post them on this blog. In return, I’ll post my leads on every Cyprianus book outside those two regions that I have (save for one I promised to someone else), including possible sources in four different languages, plus the Coptic. As writing in a second language can be difficult, I’m happy to make this a long-term offer.

What say you?

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Published in: on February 18, 2008 at 9:54 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Dear Mr. Harms: I am sorry because I didn’t write your surname correctly.
    I was not knowing what I was getting myself into ten years ago, when I began searching information about “Libros de San Cipriano”, and comparing them, but now it is too late to go outside from it and I must continue my cipryanist journey the best I can.

    I began my journey because I find two different versions of it, it was a very popular book here in Galicia – Spain, because some versions included the list of 174 treasures of the Galician Kingdom, and many people (mainly in the XIXieth century) spent time, health, and money trying to find those marvellous treasures and desincantate them.
    And I decided to find more editions and compare them in order to know which could be more authentic (as made Dean Corso in the Roman Polanski ‘sFilm “The Ninth Gate”) , I was too innocent or gullible then!

    I like challenges, and you’ll have my small contribution to the subject.
    I’d like to do it because the spanish and portuguese Books of St. Cyprian aren’t well known (I think) in the english language world (I think because of the same reason that other “modern” magic books, not in english or french, aren’t well known, the same occurs with the svarteboka).

    Félix Castro
    P.D. my surname is easier to write as it is well known in all the world!

  2. Dear Mr. Harms: I am nearly finishing the text about the iberian Books of St. Cyprian, but it is very long, much more than 2.000 characters.
    Could you contact with me in order to discuss some questions about my text? about sending it with the full text and then summarizing it.
    Thankyou very much in advance

    • Check your email. If you didn’t receive anything, please let me know here.

  3. […] few years ago, I asked a Galician scholar, Félix Francisco Castro, if he could write us a piece on the Hispanic world’s magical […]

  4. […] few years ago, I asked a Galician scholar, Félix Francisco Castro, if he could write us a piece on the Hispanic world’s magical […]

  5. I don’t disagree with this post!


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