Review: Touch Me Not!

In an age of stunning works of occult art, it bears remembering that much of the literature of ritual magic is largely bereft of these qualities. The goal of most such works was to record a magical procedure for later use, instead of creating a work that was aesthetically pleasing. Even the circles and characters on which they depended were drawn with varying degrees of care and accuracy.

We do have some exceptions, however, such as Wellcome 1766, the Compendium Rarissimum totius Artis Magicae, known better as Noli Me Tangere, or Touch Me Not.  It’s the source for many images of demonology and magic that have turned up increasingly online, such as the one below:

Dagol deals with rude customers with aplomb

Courtesy Wellcome Institute

Now, Fulgur Limited has brought us a stunning new edition of this manuscript, Touch Me Not!

The book itself is the size of a large art book, its black cover emblazoned with the title in red.  My copy arrived with some wear, but this was atypical and Fulgur quickly replaced it. (I gave my worn copy to a friend, telling him he’d be fine so long as he followed the instructions on the cover as I handed it to him.) Within we have a full facsimile of the manuscript, plus some of the more impressive plates repeated as part of the introduction. If you want a NSFW coffee table book of occult art that you can leave out to horrify guests, this would be most excellent for the purpose.

The contents are very good, as well.  After an introduction to the entire work, we get parallel texts, one the Latin and German original, the other an English translation. Throughout the text, Tilton and Cox note the sources from which the text was taken, including a German version of The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin, the Heptameron, the Magical Calendar, and the works of del Rio, Agrippa, and Trithemius. One interesting source is von Eckhartshausen’s Aufschlüsse zur Magie, published from 1788-92.  Thus, we can assign the text to the late eighteenth century at the earliest. This likely places it among a number of eighteenth-century magical works from Germany that were assembled from various sources for the collector’s market.

For those who are curious, this does not present a comprehensive work of magic, but a collection of various portions of rites, procedures involving various narcotics and incenses, instructions to locate treasure and to make a magical mirror, and admonitions to practitioners. Some of the material is of interest, especially that not presented before in English, but most of it seems to be dressing for the impressive illustrations.

Tilton’s introduction to Touch Me Not! provides insight into a number of different issues, including the origins of the text, the use of narcotics in magic, and the magical treasure-hunting of the time.  The work incorporates a bibliography, but not an index – although the inclusion of one would be debatable, given the length of the text.

It’s fair to say that the book will be of great interest to students and aficionados of occult art, as well as to collectors of handsome occult works. If you’re assembling a collection of works on ritual magic based upon textual content or influence, this might be a purchase for later – although waiting to purchase magical works from small presses often leads to disappointment…

 

 

 

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Published in: on January 7, 2018 at 11:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

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