The initial transcription of the Folger manuscript is complete. That doesn’t mean there’s not a huge amount of work we need to do, but it’s a nice milestone nonetheless.
I’ve been doing some examination of a spirit operation that occurs in the manuscript, as well as in other volumes, such as The Book of Treasure Spirits, and the Caduceus and Weiser versions of the Hockely Clavis. Unlike the longer pieces with multiple spirits familiar from such sources as the Goetia, It’s a short piece focusing upon a single spirit known as Birto, who was summoned in the presence of King Edward IV (or so the author says). The most notable aspects of the spell are the use of two similarly-sized circles, one for the magician and the other for the spirit, with an illustration of a wyvern between the two.
It’s not really clear in the later manuscripts as to what the wyvern is doing there. Is it a picture of the spirit? Is it supposed to be a guardian against Birto’s machinations? Is it just a decoration?
If we look at the older rite in the Folger manuscript, a picture of the wyvern appears near the beginning of the rite. As subsequent rites also have pictures of the spirits at their beginning, we can say that Birto is supposed to appear as a dragon. The rite does stipulate that he appear in human form, so this wyver is likely something the aspiring conjuror is supposed to avoid.
Nonetheless, there are some major differences between this rite and those in later works. For example, the Folger manuscript is silent about any dragon to be drawn on the ground. It also stipulates that the circles be drawn on the ground using a white-handled knife – unusual, considering that many other works (and traditions based upon them, such as some branches of Wicca) stipulate that such a knife not be used in important ritual contexts. I’m constantly amazed just how little we know about the topic of magical literature, and how much of that knowledge derives from only a small fraction of the actual literature out there.
We also made one other interesting discovery about Birto that I’ll share later.