As we bustle about, regretting purchases, traveling vast distances, or caught up in interminable holiday parties and gatherings, I’d like to encourage you to stop to think about what’s important.
Of course, that’s not to conjure spirits for treasure hunting in a room with inadequate ventilation.
Today marks the 300th anniversary of the Jena Christmas Eve Tragedy. You don’t see too much about it in the literature of ceremonial magic, save that Butler mentions it in Ritual Magic, and Dillinger gives it some space in Magical Treasure Hunting. You can also read a German pamphlet, Wahrhafftige Relation dessen, was in der Heil. Christ-Nacht zwischen den 24. und 25. Dec. 1715, if you like.
The tale is as follows: a local tailor, Georg Heichler, believed that the apparition of a white lady in his vineyard signified the presence of treasure. He ended up in the company of two treasure hunters, Hans Gessner and Johann Weber, who both purported to have the spiritual authority to frighten off this spirit so the money could be obtained. They sought for a suitable site for the ritual, eventually settling upon a tiny hut in the vineyard, scarcely five square meters. Heichler set up the room, including a small charcoal burner, and went back to his business. Weber and Gessner brought along one Hans Zenner, to arrive at the requisite odd number of summoners, and they settled in for a night of conjuration of the spirit Nathael, who rested under the authority of Arbatel spirit Och.
In the morning, Heichler found both Gessner and Zenner dead, with Weber about to follow. Remarks were made about curious scratches and weals found on the bodies. To make this even more troubling, three guards were assigned to remain in the hut that night, and one of them died, apparently of the same cause, with the other two becoming very ill.
Today this is generally seen as a case of carbon monoxide poisoning arising from the coals, although it has some unusual aspects noted in the last paragraph. The spirit Nathael has not been noted in a grimoire before or since.
The story includes some other lessons, including “Don’t use adulterous affairs to acquire mandrakes.” Admittedly these are rather specific, but knowing my readers, it’s best to pass them on.
Happy holidays, and don’t burn charcoal in small enclosed spaces!