Four Wizards Jump to the Fore, Upcoming Magical Events

Today’s image, poor as it is, represents two pages from the Éditions du Monolithe Liber Thozgraeci, another lineage of the Key of Solomon, displaying the seals of of the seventy-two names of God.

Projects have called me away from writing here. I’ve had to prioritize jumping back into the research on eighteenth and nineteenth-century astrology and alchemy, as well as the complex and contentious saga of Olivia Serres. Next, witch bottles, and then back into the text written by the Four Wizards themselves for final / lengthy tightening up.

Stephen Skinner and Daniel Clark are preparing to release Volume 2 of their Ars Notoria. Note that the product description on Amazon seems to be that of Volume 1; I believe the new work will be on more of the operative end of matters.

During my hiatus, I’ve missed a great deal of events that I wished to tell you about. There’s an event with PSU Press this Friday with four authors of recent books in their History of Magic series, which should be worth seeking out. The Warburg Institute has also had some interesting magical talks, such as this one.

Friend of the blog Al Cummins had a talk on necromancy given in recognition of the latest Magic: The Gathering Release. Watch it here.

The Arkham Gazette 3, including my article on Goody Fowler, is now available in print on demand here.

I’ll try to keep up.

Published in: on April 27, 2021 at 9:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

General Update

I haven’t had much to say lately, having a pile of work to do and a pile of gaming to amuse myself afterward. I’m in the vaccination cycle right now, so I’m hoping to be out and about more soon, especially if enough people can also get the same benefit. I might not be heading overseas this year, so I’ll be missing some of you a little longer.

My next review will be Precious Apothecary, although it might take me a while to get to it. I’m doing some deep diving on magical incantations involving the saints, especially directed at St. George and St. Helen, along with pulling together two books at once.

Among books received is Aaman Lamba’s new work Great French Occult Romances (see above), which he was kind enough to send. It includes the Red Dragon novel that I mentioned in my review of his previous work, plus other fictional texts from the same period.

I’m taking a break from the main text in order to continue to work on the illustrations, and to work on some of the background of Olivia Serres and Robert Cross Smith, a.k.a. Raphael. I’m also trying to wrestle with some ideas about when the “occult,” in the way we conceptualize it as a category including magic, alchemy, and astrology, came about. I’m open to reading suggestions on all of this, of course.

Has anyone considered writing a history of the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game? It would be great if someone were accumulating all the institutional wisdom of the people involved in its creation, evolution, and distribution.

Take care, everyone.

Published in: on April 13, 2021 at 12:01 pm  Comments (1)  

Review – Black Letter Press Petit Albert

Today I’ll be reviewing the Petit Albert as issued by Black Letter Press and translated by Paul Summers Young. For a caveat on Young, see this post. The two other editions above are the Ouroboros Press edition (purchase link, review), and the Spellbook of Marie Laveau from Hadean (now OOP, review here).

I’m not going to spend too much time on the significance of the Petit Albert – you can check out my writeup at the last link. Also, what follows is not a systematic read of each recipe in each book. Rather, I covered the magical sections of the Black Letter Press edition – I assume you didn’t want the soap recipes – and also dipped into the material from the Hadean and Ouroboros editions, the French edition dated 1752, and some entries from the Trésor de la langue française informatisé from time to time as I went. Much of what I have to say would be superseded by a fluent bilingual reviewer.

The book itself- visible at the upper left above – is quite an attractive book, with its bright blue binding, gold foil pentacle, and cloth bookmark. I’m not sure if I’m fond of the black on dark blue color scheme myself, especially with regard to the spine. Perhaps making more use of brighter cloth colors or gold or silver lettering might be considered for future releases?

Young’s translation covers essentially the same material as in the other two translations. I did notice more problems with the omission of certain passages, and I wanted to quickly address what I think is going on here. It doesn’t happen often, so I don’t see it as a deliberate effort to cut material for space. Rather, it seems that Mr. Young’s translation technique occasionally overlooks a passage and doesn’t catch it later on. I think it would be an easy fix.

I left my last review of the Ouroboros / Hadean editions without any strong feelings one way or another – and I’m in the same place right now. I think the Hadean’s footnotes on the word choices put it slightly ahead, and the Black Letter edition’s occasional omissions slightly behind, but neither are major factors. There’s still an opportunity here for an English translation that takes quality up another notch, and I look forward to it appearing someday.

Published in: on March 30, 2021 at 7:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Prepping Le Petit Albert Review, Trolls Galore, Magical Exorcism, The Book of Four Wizards

As you can see above, I’m working on that review of the Black Letter edition of Le Petit Albert, with some examination of other translations. It might not be a full-text review – reading them same text three times is exhausting – but I think it will give people a good idea as to whether they want this book.

Ármann Jakobsson has posted an e-text of his book The Troll Inside You: Paranormal Activity in the Medieval North to his Academia account. If you like what you see, please think about purchasing a print copy.

Agostino Taumaturgo has recently posted on his blog about the curious magical/exorcistic (I use this term with some caution, as the line is not always clear) rite from Bayerische Staatsbibliothek CLM 10085. If you’d like a printed edition with French commentary from the publisher SISMEL, you can find one here.

(I actually did visit the SISMEL offices while I was in Florence – if stopping by on a weekend when they were closed can be considered “visiting.”)

The post’s author has also released a book on Medieval Rituals of Catholic Exorcism, which I have received but not yet read as of yet.

I’m going back to work on the introduction to The Book of Four Wizards. Part of it is turning into an assertion of the importance of manuscript research, which I’m not entirely certain is necessary in the present clime. I’ll give some thought about whether to cut it.

Take care, everyone.

Published in: on March 22, 2021 at 7:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Review – The Magic of Rogues

Penn State University Press has recently supplemented its excellent Magic in History series with a Magic in History Sourcebooks series, dedicated to publishing primary texts on magic in relatively cheap editions. (This is somewhat confusing, as texts published in the long-standing main series might also fall under that format.) The first work in the series that provides ritual magic texts is Frank Klaassen and Sharon Hubbs Wright’s The Magic of Rogues. It won’t be released in print until April 15, but the electronic version has been out for at least a month. I wish I’d known about it when finishing up my last article.

This relatively short work provides two early sixteenth-century case studies of magicians who ran afoul of legal troubles. The first deals with the Worcestershire nobleman William Neville, who consulted numerous cunning folk in order to gain influence over powerful people and determine whether he would gain his father’s lands. The second concerns a conspiracy of local clergy and secular individuals to treasure hunt near Mixindale. As can be expected, neither of these went well – although those new to the material might be surprised at how light the penalties were and how little interest the authorities had in pursuing their investigations beyond the immediate situation.

For both such cases, Klaassen and Wright provide both legal and magical documentation. The legal documents include the indictments and the testimony of multiple individuals for each of the cases. Following these are segments from magical texts that cover operations with similar purposes. It would be better to magical texts used by the participants, but it’s rare to find anything like this in Britain, in my experience. Both include translations from the Latin (although the Latin itself is not provided), with modernized spelling and some changes to wording for modern sensibilities. The latter can be questionable sometimes, but in this case, each instance is footnoted, and I completely agree with each one of these editorial insertions.

I’m not the best person to comment on the magical texts, as much of the material for the second part comes from Bodleian e Mus. 173, which I published as Of Angels, Demons, and Spirits. What appears here are not so much entire manuscripts as illustrative examples of particular aspects of magical practice. Your tastes may vary, but what I found of interest are instructions for the creation of talismans of Jupiter, with a list of several usages for different purposes, and a fifteenth-century procedure for calling up the four demonic kings. Another reader might find some answers here. The presentation is excellent and thorough – I can see the solution to at least one unresolved question from my own text – and the editors have even made sure to include the illustrations, which other editors might pass over.

I do have a few small quibbles with the text. For starters, Folger V.b.26 is repeatedly referred to as V.b.28. Also, at one point Oberion is referred to as a “demon.” This is not always the case; I have instances in which Oberion is referred to as a spirit, a fairy, or an angel, but not as a demon, save in the legal articles of accusations against Sir James Richardson presented here. (In fact, the term “demon” is little used in the material I’m examining at all, with the more neutral term “spirit” being preferred.) This is largely a question of interpretation rather than fact, however.

This text admirably succeeds in its task of providing a window for non-specialists into primary texts detailing the lives of early sixteenth-century necromancers and their practice. As for those who want magical texts, this does not include a large number, but the texts chosen are of interest and probably worth it for the price.

Published in: on March 13, 2021 at 11:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Elucidarium Elucidated, Magic of Rogues Escapes, A Modern Liber Spirituum, Even More Books, Your Bank Account Suffers, Book of Four Wizards, Gaming

I wasn’t sure quite what to blog about this week, but I was provided with a variety of riches from friends, email, and social media. First, Joseph Peterson came to the rescue with a new book, Elucidation of Necromancy, to be issued in December:

Since it first appeared over 500 years ago, the Elucidation of Necromancy (Lucidarium artis Nigromantice) and the closely related Heptameron have become essential guides for individuals seeking to call on angels and other supernatural beings for help. Countless amulets and pendants have been made with its designs, and elements have repeatedly been adapted and incorporated into other manuals of ritual magic. In spite of this, neither a critical edition nor a translation has been previously published. In particular three manuscripts of Lucidarium have come to light recently, which provide a clearer and fuller ritual than the printed Heptameron. For example, they add critical instructions for making the seven angel sigils, which have become so widely known. Together they bring to life this important current of esoteric tradition, showing how it has been repeatedly adapted and used by different individuals for centuries.

Bobby D. also pointed out to me that Klaassen and Wright’s Magic of Rogues is available on Kindle ahead of the print publication, so this has jumped to the front of my reading queue for the time being. One of the first footnotes portends another release from the same authors: Everyday Magicians in Tudor England: Legal Records and Magical Manuscripts.

We also have a twentieth-century work with some deep grimoire roots – Paul Huson’s Liber Spirituum, due out in May:

Drawing on this wellspring of knowledge and such venerable works as the Key of Solomon, The Magus, Heptameron, Three Books of Occult Philosophy as well as others set down a unique and informed set of rituals, in addition to employing his own artistry in the creation of distinctive imagery.

Using the highest quality photographic reproduction and printing methods, Paul’s personal grimoire has here been faithfully and accurately reproduced for the first time. In addition to preserving the ink quality and use of gold and silver paint, this facsimile reproduction has maintained all of Huson’s corrections, including torn, pasted, missing pages and his hand drawn and renumbered folios. Preserved as well are the unique characteristics of the original grimoire paper as it has aged through the decades. In this way, the publisher has stayed true to Paul Huson’s Book of Spirits as it was originally drawn and painted.

Editiones du Monolithe is releasing another work this month: a facsimile edition of a Key of Solomon from the Tozgraec text group held at the Russian State Library.

Finally, we have the second volume in Troy Books’ reproductions of J. H. W. Eldermans’ work(s) on gnomes, the Gnome Grimoire, edited by Wilbur Taal. My sense is that these are much more works of a creative mind than compilations of folklore, but it might be of interest to readers nonetheless.

As for the Book of Four Wizards, I’ve been poking into what I thought at first was some sort of magical amulet made in the shape of three crosses. As it turned out, it’s actually a devotional work by the seventeenth-century Tavistock poet William Browne – you can see an example of it here. I’m not quite sure what the original author’s intent was – as a work of poetry? Did they view it as an amulet?

The Pendragon game has gone into Anarchy, so everything is upended and crazy and wonderful. Both my Dungeon Crawl Classics games, of which I speak very little here, are steaming along.

Talk to you in a week, when maybe I’ll have read something.

Published in: on March 6, 2021 at 11:48 am  Comments (2)  

Incoming Agrippa, More Incoming Agrippa, Black Pullet Revisited, E(xcellent)-Book, The Next Review, Book of Four Wizards

Great British Folklore and Superstition Map

What appears above is the Marvellous Map Company’s Craftily Conjured Great British Folklore and Superstition Map, which is quite a bit of fun. I’ve shown only part of it and blurred it up to respect their work, but it is wonderfully detailed.

Eric Purdue’s new translation of Agrippa’s De Occulta Philosophia is scheduled for a November release. Most of the English editions we have today, including Tyson’s, derive from the translation of one “J. F.” from the seventeenth century, so a new one is definitely welcome. I will warn anyone who clicks on that link to prepare for sticker shock – this is a slipcased three-volume hardcover set.

Black Letter Press is taking pre-orders for its edition of the Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, newly translated by Paul Summers Young:

The first is the 1565 Liber Quartus de Occulta Philosophia, which is a Pseudo-Agrippan gloss on some of Agrippa’s themes, which was published with a version of Pietro D’Abano’s Heptameron, which served as a gloss upon the gloss. This apocryphal work went on to lead an interesting and influential afterlife, accompanying the Three Books like an ugly rumor.

The second is an expanded selection from De Incertitudine et Vanitate Scientiarum of c.1530. The 1533 first edition of the Three Books concludes with extracts from The Uncertainty and Vanity of the Sciences touching upon the books’ themes; we have expanded upon that to encompass a more complete sample of Agrippa’s commentary on magic in that book. Rather than being at odds with the Three Books, The Uncertainty and Vanity of the Sciences is the context within which Agrippa published his famous magical textbook.

Here’s a passage I ran across in Morgan’s translation of the Sepher Raziel, which might be of interest to Black Pullet aficionados:

If you wish to give your enemy trouble in sleeping, take the head of a black dog that never saw light during its days and take a lamella from a strip of (lead) pipe from an aqueduct, and write upon (the names of) these angels and say thus… (p. 49)

Coincidence? There’s a good chance – but maybe one of my readers will eventually find an answer that ties the dog to the pullet.

Cummins and Legard’s Excellent Booke of the Arte of Magicke, the magical diary of two sixteenth-century magicians and explorers, is now available as an e-book in a quite-affordable edition. It’s also available in paperback, with the e-book included free.

We had a Twitter poll to determine my next review. It ended in a tie, which would have allowed me the difficult position of reading whatever book I wanted. We did get one Facebook vote, meaning I will be reading the Black Letter edition of the Petit Albert next.

I’m coming up on the end of my close examination of the Book of Four Wizards. Near the end, there’s a number of passages assembled by our eighteenth-century (?) author, mainly taking sections from a “Key of Rabbi Solomon” outside the Sibly-Denley-Hockley tradition and the Goetia to assemble something new. There are some passages I cannot place at this time, but maybe I’ll stumble across the answer before I submit it.

It is frustrating that I may be able to return to the UK to poke around in libraries before the book is submitted, but many people have worse problems.

Take care of yourselves, everyone.

Published in: on February 28, 2021 at 12:07 am  Comments (2)  

Review – A Modern User’s Guide to the Black Pullet

Newcomb Black Pullet

You all probably thought I’d never get around to this, did you? Indeed, Papers is a blog of its word, even if that word is spoken many months away from the deed.

I’ve dealt with the Poule Noire, or the Black Pullet in previous posts, including recently posting a review of the Black Letter Press edition. (If you aren’t familiar with the original, I’d suggest reading the background there first.) Now we have A Modern User’s Guide to The Black Pullet from Jason Augustus Newcomb, who has written several books dealing with magic which I cannot say I have read. The book was originally funded through an Indiegogo page, where it did not fund completely but seems to have been delivered nonetheless. The work is not available on his website, although one can find many of the talismans and a circle intended for use with it.

This paperback volume – apparently the Indiegogo featured a limited-edition color hardcover – includes a lengthy section on the Black Pullet‘s history and methods for magicians to work with it, followed by a new translation of the work from the French. The whole is rounded out with five appendices providing various ancillary materials. It does not include an original French text, a bibliography, an index, or (oddly) pages that are numbered on both sides, but it does include a good number of footnotes.

The first section of the book is over seventy pages, which might have been better served broken up into short chapters. Most of this part is dedicated to considerations regarding performing ceremonial or ritual magic in general and the Black Pullet’s operations in particular. It’s likely most of this will be familiar to the book’s intended audience, but I’m not always the best judge of such things. To his credit, Newcomb does observe that it’s difficult for a modern magician to enter into the mental mindset of a person from centuries ago, which is an important point when approaching such books.

Within Newcomb’s system, ritual magic consists of ten fundamental steps, starting with preliminary procedures and ending with the license to depart. Newcomb is aware that the Black Pullet does not include all of these, and indeed many magical texts do not, which he says is “either because they wish to veil the information from the reader or more often, because they assume the reader is already well versed in the correct procedures” (p. 16) He passed over the other possibility: that some of these are not included because they were not followed. For example, Step 8, “Testing the Spirit,” is present in Dee and Gilbert’s diaries, but it’s largely lacking from most grimoires – and it would be the sort of process that would impel magicians to write down various tactics and tricks if it was a common concern. I’m not going to tell practitioners not to take such steps if they think they’re vital to the practice, of course.

Newcomb also deals with the history of the various versions of the Black Pullet that have appeared, including the Poule Noire, Trésor du Vieillard des Pyramides, Le Génie et le Vieillard des Pyramides, and another short text entitled Poule Noire that usually accompanies the Veritable Dragon Rouge. His case, that the Poule Noire is the original text from which the others are derived, is a plausible one. I would be more cautious than Newcomb in insisting on the importance of original publication dates, in a genre for which manuscripts and ephemeral publications have been so important. Newcomb observes that many of the talismans from the Trésor are taken freely from a published 1750 Clavis, and I’d have liked to see an analysis of the possible origins of the Poule Noire talismans as well. Nonetheless, it’s a starting point for future explorations.

After this lengthy section comes the translation itself. It seems fine and unremarkable to me – save for a curious decision about translation regarding the spirits our magician commands, translating them as “jinni.” Why?

I translate the French word génie almost exclusively as “jinni” in these pages simply because I believe it is the word least likely to cause confusion, and it fits with the Middle-Eastern tone of this work… (p. 17)

…throughout this work I am generally going to use the word “jinni” instead of “genius” or “genie.” I am doing so despite of the popularity of the word “jinni” in “haunted ring” circles or its mixed associations within the Islamic world. If we are to take any part of the “young soldier’s” story seriously, then “jinni” is the most likely term that the “old man” of the Pyramids was using, and we will leave it at that. (p. 28)

I will definitely not leave it at that. The narrative surrounding the Black Pullet is, as Newcomb admits, a fabrication likely deriving from popular interest in Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in order to lend an air of exoticism to a French magical text. One cannot use the questionable Orientalism from a two-century old document to justify a contemporary choice to use questionable Orientalist terminology that, by the translator’s own admission, doesn’t reflect how the word is used as part of living cultures or how the reader or practitioner’s associations might shift due to this particular translation.

I’m not going to perform a detailed look at the various editions, but I did page through this book, the Weiser edition, Young’s Black Letter Press edition, and this French edition of the Poule Noire to get some idea. Having looked at one or two talismans and the procedure for creating the black pullet, I feel that the Weiser and Newcomb editions were comparable. Young omits some of the framing material, and there are a couple of puzzling decisions made in his text, none of which really affect the procedure much. If someone fluent in both French and English would perform a detailed read of all of these, however, that would be a much better judge of quality.

As for the five appendices, two are various rituals and methods for a practitioner to approach the material in the book. The third is a translation of the shorter Poule Noire text accompanying the Dragon Rouge, as mentioned above, followed with a short section on the occult significance of haggling and chicken eggs. The final one includes some sections from the occult novel Comte de Gabalis, which Newcomb points out as being similar to passages from the Poule Noire. The case would be more compelling if he included the original French texts; otherwise, it’s unclear how much of the similarity derives from the translator’s decisions.

Overall, I think practitioners and those interested in the book’s history will prefer this edition., The Black Letter Press edition is far ahead in presentation (I haven’t seen the Indiegogo color hardcover, so I won’t pass judgment on how that fits in). Finally, the Weiser edition is best for those who want a cheap available copy.

What do you want to see next? Go to my Twitter poll and let me know!

Published in: on February 20, 2021 at 7:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Precious Apothecary Release, Shipping, Brexit, Golden Hoard, and Witch Bottles

Gardback’s Trolldom, Great Pendragon Campaign, Sibly Clavis, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Cecil Williamson’s Book of Witchcraft

The temperature outside is freezing in upstate, so I hope you’re warmer where you are.

Avalonia, with whom I’ve published in the past, has released the latest book by Cyprianic specialist José Leitão, Precious Apothecary. A quick note:

Precious Apothecary is a translation of Botica Preciosa, a Catholic Grimoire compiled by Ângelo de Sequeira Ribeiro do Prado (1707-1776) who was perhaps the most important Brazilian missionary in history. The Botica Preciosa (1754) was his first book and is a collection of prayers, devotions and exercises to the Lady of the Rock and 120 other Saints. Suffused with the author’s missionary purpose the book also contains the consecrations and blessings for oils, flowers, statues and food, as well as exorcisms and prayers for many ailments intended for situations where no priests were available.

A few notes for collectors and book lovers: The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has led to some difficulties that you should be aware of. International shipping rates have gone up substantially in many cases, making it problematic to make small-scale orders – such as used books – without paying major markups. Most specifically for grimoire collectors, Stephen Skinner announced that Golden Hoard books – including the upcoming Volume 2 of the Ars Notoria – cannot be shipped from them directly and will need to be ordered from Llewellyn and Amazon instead. I hope this situation is only temporary for them.

And then, there’s Brexit. (Yay, more politics!) As part of the New Year’s Brexit decision-making, the UK government decided to require overseas businesses shipping to UK customers to collect Value Added Tax up front, requiring a business to create an account with their government to do so. (Full disclosure: apparently the EU is going to do the same thing in a year and a half, but they’re planning to exempt orders under a certain amount.) Thus, unless a small press or bookseller does a great deal of UK business, they will likely choose simply not to ship to customers there instead of navigating the logistical headaches of it.

(Note: Friend of the blog Steve points out that most printed materials are exempted from VAT, so we shouldn’t have a problem here for most book sales. I would still question how this might affect other products that might be offered alongside these. My message below still stands.)

My overall message: this is a time when both customers and booksellers should keep an eye on shipping rates and regulations, and – gasp! – advocate to their government for what works best for them. Unlike other goods, it is often hard to simply replace one book with another, so such restrictions can have long-term negative impacts on scholarship and the exchange of ideas.

I’m setting aside the Book of Four Wizards for a week or so to revise the witch bottle book released in Caduceus’ Bellhouse set. I’ve had people ask me about it, so I think it might be time to see if I can’t prep it for a wider audience. We’ll see how it goes.

Published in: on January 31, 2021 at 3:52 pm  Comments (3)  

A Comment on Witchcraft in Russia and Ukraine, 1000-1900: A Sourcebook

I won’t have time to read the whole book, but I did want to flag some material from Kivelson and Worobec’s Witchcraft in Russia and Ukraine 1000-1900: A Sourcebook for my readers.

(EDIT: I just realized I was remiss in flagging reader Steve for purchasing this for me. Thank you and apologies, Steve!)

Most of my research is on early modern British magic, but I do like to dip into collections of magic from other cultures, to see how their culture, cosmology, and magical philosophy impacts their practices. Given my own limited linguistic skills, most of these are confined to English or Latin-language texts, with others requiring much more effort to master. This, of course, assume that these texts are available at all through a good US interlibrary loan system, which seems to be an issue for a great number of Eastern European works. Thus, aside from some descriptions in Ryan’s The Bathhouse at Midnight, I haven’t seen much of anything in terms of Russian incantations.

That’s why this sourcebook, translating many documents regarding Russian witchcraft trials, has been so welcome. I don’t want to overemphasize the magical material in it – I think it’s often the case that magic, as a technological/cultural practice, and witchcraft as a social phenomena do not entirely overlap. Yet in this case, there’s enough material to make this work worth seeking out, especially given how little of it English speakers have seen.

Most of the items of interest to Papers readers can be located under the index’s “spells” heading. Here’s an example I picked out from a love spell that became cited in an eighteenth-century trial:

Lord God, heavenly Christ!

Hearken, Satan and Devil, I shall conjure on salt and shall cast charms. Not blessing myself, not crossing myself, I shall leave the hut not by the door, I shall leave the courtyard not by the gates, but I shall go into the open fields to the ocean-sea. On the ocean-sea stands an iron hut and in that hut stands a copper stove, in that stove burn ash branches, flame on flame, bright on bright. So let the white body and the fervent heart and the clear eyes of the slave Avdotia burn and seethe for the slave Stepan, by day and by midday, by night and by midnight, at the morning sunrise and at the evening sunset, and by the old moon and by the new moon… (p. 413)

If you’ve read a good deal of magical material, the latter compelling language should be largely familiar in purpose and nature, although the temporal and celestial imagery is striking.

The earlier part of the narrative is more interesting. Many of the spells follow a similar format, in which moving from a domestic setting to a supernatural place – this hut, the rock at the center of the world, or another mythical location – is a key aspect of the narrative. My impression is that Western European charm narratives that include motion usually describe a supernatural figure – Jesus, saints, the Virgin Mary, angels – undertaking the journey, instead of describing the magician doing so. Further, it’s not clear whether this might not be considered part of the process itself, with the magician traveling out from the homestead, if not to a mythical location, at least to a secluded place where the magic can be performed unimpeded.

Oh – and that’s just the first part of this spell. It’s got later calls to Satan and the Devil – yes, two separate entities – sitting on the stove, to Baba Yaga (in one of her first appearances), and some other demon to help out the magician. It’s pretty wild in the imagery, and it keeps circling back around between statements of narrative and purpose in quite an unusual way.

So that’s a taste of the book. I’m interested to hear what other people think of the book – or if they think I’m overlooking some Western European material which is a better parallel. Check it out!

(Also, Cyprian fans – there’s a reference to a Russian magical text attributed to him on page 437, so that should extend the range of his reputation even farther.)

Published in: on January 23, 2021 at 10:37 pm  Leave a Comment