An Elizabethan Devil-Worshippers’ Prayer-Book

I’d heard a little about a work called “An Elizabethan Devil Worshipper’s Prayer Book” sold at auction in the Twenties, via Montague Summers.  I hadn’t seen the original Maggs Brothers catalog entry until yesterday.  It begins as such:

This most extraordinary manuscript contains the words and directions for invoking and exorcising certain demons namely, Vercan, Maymon, Suth, Samax, Sarabotres, Mediac or Modiac, and Arcan.  Crude coloured representations of the demons are given.  Vercan, who was apparently the most powerful of the demons, is invoked or exorcized in thirteen prayers… Mostly he is shown as a kind of human-monster, with a grotesque human face, horns on his head, hairy body, and bird’s feet; twice he appears with three heads, once riding on a bear.  The “invocator” is shown together with Vercan in several drawings; always he is surrounded by a magic circle.

It goes into more detail about the spirits, which are shared with other sources.  For example, Sarabotes appears in other sources as a spirit of Venus, but I have yet to see another source describing him as “a green-bodied demon with sceptre, riding a roe.”  Much of the rest, such as the part about John Dee, seems to be the catalog writer grasping at straws.

Nonetheless, I think this is interesting, as it illustrates similar operations to that in the Hockley Clavis and the Folger manuscript – individual rites to particular spirits – but it features an entirely different cast of characters.  It’s a reminder, once again, of how much of the substance of Western magic has really come down through printed works.


Published in: on September 5, 2011 at 2:06 pm  Comments (3)  

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  1. I’ve been following the Folger and this ms for sometime. The now Folger ms was also listed in the same Maggs Bros. catalog (#540, 1929). Meyerstein may have acquired the “Folger” from this catalog. If you have the catalog you’ll see reproductions of pages from each of the mss. From what I have seen of the so-called “Devil Worshipers” book (in the catalog) it appears derived from ps-Agrippa’s “Fourth Book..” and the “Magical Elements”. The current where abouts ot the so-called “Devil Worshiper’s” book is as yet unknown. Maggs Brothers dating of the ms to circa 1600 may not withstand scrutny, it maybe much later. Also Fred Gettings, Dictionary of Demons. North Pomfret (VT): Trafalgar Square Publishing, 1988 re-edited and reproduced the pages from the Folger ms.

  2. By the catalogue do you mean that page in Google Books? If you want I can send you a pdf with photographs of 2 pages.

  3. […] the meantime, I’d like to than Josiah Bacon, Alan Thorogood, and Alvin for their comments for the Book of Oberon.  This project and The Long-Lost Friend have involved juggling a great deal […]

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