Ritual Invocation and Early Modern Science: the Skrying Experiments of Humphrey Gilbert


Magic and Science: Humphrey Gilbert’s Academy



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Magic and Science: Humphrey Gilbert’s Academy

In a 1994 book review, Brian Vickers criticized the tendency to regard Ficino and Pico as the epitome of renaissance magic when the vast majority of contemporary learned magic did not look at all like their ‘intellectualist’ works.46 While there may be other problems with Vickers’ theoretical frame, he was quite right to emphasize that practitioners of learned magic in the sixteenth century rarely looked like what readers of Frances Yates’ works might be led to believe. The overwhelming majority of sixteenth-century manuscripts of high magic contain medieval works of ritual magic or reformulations of them. At the same time, the major medieval tradition of natural magic often assumed to have been central to renaissance magic (that is, astrological image magic), appears to have been in decline.47 Humphrey Gilbert’s practices exemplify this situation and allow us to use his example to take up Vickers’ challenge, although perhaps in a way he would not have anticipated.

As a magical practitioner, Gilbert has no place in the traditional accounts of the relationship between magic and science in the renaissance. Almost without exception, from the foundational work of Lynn Thorndike, through the chimeral edifice of Frances Yates, to more recent work by Charles Webster, Deborah Harkness, John Henry, Stephen McKnight, Brian Copenhaver and others, a focus upon natural philosophy and natural magic has precluded direct consideration of ritual magic. Most scholars continue to assume that the magical traditions that Thorndike referred to as ‘superstitious’ and which Yates derided as the ‘old dirty’ magic of the middle ages declined and were superseded in the sixteenth century by a purified renaissance magic, a form of magic emphasizing mathematics, focusing on the natural world and occult causation, or exhibiting ‘science-friendly’ mythic structures.48 As a result, they have tended to focus almost entirely upon natural philosophy, natural magic, so-called hermetic traditions, astrological image magic, and cabalism, particularly where they emphasize number or geometry. If Humphrey cared about any of these things, they do not appear in his magical practices which are very much in the tradition of the ‘old dirty magic.’ In fact, his magical genealogy (which does not even include Hermes) makes clear that he and his companions understood renaissance magic, at least as represented by Cornelius Agrippa and themselves, to belong to a tradition extending back through medieval ritual magic to the Old Testament patriarchs. Like his magic, Gilbert’s proposal for a new academy was by no means revolutionary, but as an expression of common attitudes and approaches crucial to the development of modern science, it suggests a number of ways in which we may reorient our approach. The striking commonalities between his scientific and magical projects suggest that he conceived of them and approached them in very similar terms.

Elizabeth’s new academy was to be dedicated to the education of young noblemen under the wardship of the crown, but was also be open to others. In many ways Gilbert’s proposal simply reiterates standard humanist ideas (arguably elements in the development of modern science themselves); he emphasizes worldly skills, advocates training the whole person, and rejects scholasticism and scholastic pedagogy. In other ways it moves beyond them. The academy would fund investigation of the natural world for practical purposes and it would do so by combining theoretical and practical skills. One of its ‘mathematicians’ was to be essentially a cosmographer with a heavy emphasis on navigation and the other a military engineer with a large gunpowder budget for monthly practical demonstrations of ballistics.49 Similarly the physician would be required to supplement his traditional theoretical training by acquiring and practicing the skills of the apothecary and surgeon. This destruction of the traditional boundaries of professional practice also would include experimental and collaborative work.

This phisition shall continuall practize togeather with the naturall philosophor, by the fire and otherwise, to search and try owt the secreats of nature, as many waies as they possiblie may. And shalbe sworne once euery yeare to deliuer into the Treasorer his office, faire, and plaine written in parchment, without Equiuocations or Enigmaticall phrases, vnder their handles, all those their proofes and trialles made within the forepassed yeare, Togeather with the true event of thinges, and all other necessary accidentes the way of their working, and the event thereof, the better to follow the good, and avoyd the evill, which in time must of force bring great thinges to light, yf in Awcomistrie there be any such thinges hidden.50

Far from the esoteric tendencies commonly attributed to enthusiasts of the occult, Gilbert does not appear sympathetic to the so called ‘renaissance episteme’ but rather proposes to strip natural magic and alchemy of their poetic and philosophical language and drop them in the cold light of practical experiment, close observation, and disinterested description.51 Gilbert’s proposal rejects traditional scholastic pedagogy, scholastic method, the old division of disciplines, and esoteric language; it promotes a critical dialogue with ancient sources; it sets experientially derived knowledge over authority as the standard for judging the received traditions; it sees the search for knowledge less as an engagement with a body of knowledge than the assembling of collection of known truths; it seeks to attain critical distance through careful observation and description of experimental processes; and it gives primacy to practical results. In all of these respects, he belongs firmly in the tradition of British thinkers leading up to Francis Bacon and reflects the shifts in thought which were crucial to the scientific revolution. Since he probably put it before Elizabeth in 1570, if Gilbert was not at work on his proposal when he was engaged in his magical operations, he certainly undertook it very soon afterwards.

The practices and intellectual traditions of medieval ritual magic and Gilbert’s reformulations of them are very much in line with what we see in the proposal and with what makes it ‘scientific.’ Peter Dear has suggested that one of the crucial differences between scholastic natural philosophy and modern science was that the former considered itself a ‘body of knowledge’ to be learned while the latter considered itself to be more like a ‘research enterprise.’52 Clearly for Gilbert the “research enterprise” aspect of ritual magic links it to the attitude we find in his more “scientific” endeavors. Ritual magic was as constituted of an experientially focused methodology as much as a written tradition, was suspicious of received texts, and required knowledge to be established in a critical dialogue between received knowledge and experience, a dialogue in which the element of experience was primary. If the circumspect attitude towards received traditions by ritual magic operators was still accompanied by belief that men of the past, such as Adam and Solomon, had had privileged access to knowledge of the world, this was little different from Francis Bacon, who expressed similar ideas. Beyond this, ritual magic (again unlike many forms of natural magic) was not found in scholastic books, understood as a part of scholastic discourse, or promoted by writers using warmed over scholastic arguments, so it may well have been attractive to those with anti-scholastic sentiments. In short, medieval ritual magic texts had much to offer to the practical, experientially oriented, anti-scholastic, and independent-minded Humphrey Gilbert.

It almost goes without saying that in many other crucial respects Gilbert’s magic was not like modern science and I don’t wish to elide the differences between his demon conjuring and Boyle’s air pump.53 At the same time, the mechanistic models and systematic approaches of Bacon, Descartes, Boyle and others had not yet been formulated so it would be anachronistic to hold Gilbert’s magical exercises to their standards. Insofar as Gilbert’s proposal for a new academy may be taken as representative of important new intellectual and social currents which contributed to the rise of science, the medieval ritual magic he practiced may also be understood not only as amenable to them but even ‘scientific’ in its own right. At the very least Humphrey Gilbert’s story illustrates that the almost universally held assumption that the ‘old magic’ was in decline, uniformly represented ‘regressive’ tendencies, or was incompatible with the new trends in science cannot be sustained. In fact, in many respects the forms of magic commonly granted a kind of associate status in accounts of the scientific revolution would have been wrested from their theoretical settings and dismembered in Gilbert’s academy, while ritual magic as a practice and method survived more or less intact in his hands, arguably becoming more scientific through his increased emphasis on description. In this sense, the learned magic of Gilbert, and later of Dee, need not, and in fact, cannot, be squeezed into the narrow confines of natural magic or of a putatively purified ‘renaissance magic’ and it cannot be understood without reference to medieval traditions. In fact, in numerous ways ritual magic can be considered more ‘scientific’ than natural magic traditions such as astrological image magic, whose associations with the increasingly antiquated approaches of scholastic thought remained strong. When the day was over and the conjurations had drawn to a close, Gilbert may well have decided his magical operations were a blind alley. Had he lived to see them, he might well have preferred the approaches of Boyle and his associates. But we will know a good deal more about sixteenth-century magic and science if we can understand why Humphrey Gilbert was inclined to walk among the spirits with his crystals, conjurations, and pen.


Appendix: The Manuscript and the Question of Attribution

The manuscript falls into two parts, the first containing instructions for operations and the second the record of visions attained (ff. 47r-57v and 58r-62v respectively). In the second section, the master of the operation is identified as H.G. and the skryer as John Davis. Without question Davis was not one of the scribes and, despite a cataloguer’s identification, neither was Simon Forman.54 Gabriel Harvey’s suggestion that the second might be the work of Thomas Smith seems very unlikely.55 The manuscript does, however, provide as solid a link with the Gilbert household as paleography can afford. Adrian Gilbert is a credible candidate for the scribe of the first section.56 The hand of the second section cannot be positively identified as Humphrey Gilbert’s but the possibility cannot be rejected either. That Gilbert’s only surviving autograph is in an informal hand and the magical manuscript is in a semi-formal cursive makes identification difficult.57 It seems more likely, however, that the manuscript was written by a secretary, something that would have been in keeping with Humphrey’s habits. The vast majority of his surviving correspondence and works were not written in his own hand. Such a scenario is borne out by the corrections to the second portion, which were likely made by the scribe of the first section. In addition, many of the errors suggest the second section was copied, perhaps from more informal notes, in preparation for a final formal copy. Many of the errors are difficult to account for except as misreadings in copying. We find, for example, “shyll” expunged and “hill” written in (59v) and ‘a loud streake of golde’ corrected to ‘a longe streake of gold’ (60v). More tellingly, accidental duplication of words also recurs, such as the duplication of ‘apereth’ (60v) and ‘help’ (60r). In short, the paleographic evidence tends to favor attribution to the Gilbert household and certainly cannot be used to reject this thesis.

Circumstantial evidence for this attribution, however, is powerful. Humphrey Gilbert was in England at the time these operations are said to have taken place. His known brutality in arms matches the character of H.G. who takes great relish in cursing and abusing demons in the operations and whose engagements with them are presented entirely in military terms, something which is not typical in necromantic literature. He rides into armies of demons, cutting them down with his sword. As noted in the first paragraph, the operations took place at a time when Humphrey was undertaking important new directions in his life; the concern for the future reflected in the manuscript appears to bear this out.58 The descriptions of the skryer also correspond well with the John Davis who would become the navigator. Davis, the son of a local family and protégé of the Gilbert household, would certainly have been familiar to the household and was of an age when he could have been expected to be living there for long periods of time. At seventeen John Davis would have been older than the boys traditionally used in medieval skrying, but the old requirement of virginity and sexual purity appears to have become less crucial in sixteenth century operations, perhaps under the influence of Protestantism, but also potentially due to a de-clericalization of ritual magic. The descriptions of the skryer in the visions suggest a youth rather than a pre-pubescent boy.59 As we discuss below, both Davis and Adrian Gilbert were heavily involved in magical operations and Adrian with alchemy.60 So each of the known figures corresponds well with what appears in the manuscript.

Perhaps most convincing of all, Humphrey, Adrian, and John, were evidently part of a circle of practitioners associated with John Dee, whose magical operations and note taking greatly resemble theirs. Their interaction with Dee certainly involved questions of navigation, exploration, cartography, metallurgy, mining, and the associated business interests and nothing in the records of Humphrey’s visits suggests the topics of discussion involved magic.61 John and Adrian’s dealings with Dee, however, had as much, if not more to do with magic. In his diary Dee notes that in 1583 he reconciled some difference he had with them occasioned by William Emery. He also notes Davis’ dislike for the skryer. Adrian was also evidently familiar enough with Dee’s household to have mediated a conflict between Dee’s wife and his skryer, Edward Kelly, and was involved in some of Dee’s early operations with Kelly.62 Their evident familiarity with Dee’s circle of magical practitioners appears to have been even more long standing than the diary suggests. A note by John Dee dated 1568 indicates that he had determined through magic and with the assistance of William Emery the date of John Davis’ birth.63 It would have been very unlikely that he came to know the Devon teenager unless through the Gilbert household, and the fact that he could not just ask for the information makes clear that Davis was not in the environs of Mortlake. That Dee inquired about Davis shortly after the operations recorded in Additional 36674 suggests that Dee was aware of them and of Davis’ role. In fact, one wonders if the conflict between Davis and Emery was a matter of professional competition between two skryers.



In summary, although no individual piece of evidence incontrovertibly connects Additional 36674 with the Gilbert household, the overwhelming weight of circumstantial evidence leads me to attribute it to John Davis, Adrian Gilbert, and Humphrey Gilbert. That Humphrey does not appear to have been involved in Dee’s magical operations at the time of his first recorded visits to Mortlake may suggest that his interests in it had waned by that time. It is, nonetheless, interesting to note that Gilbert’s posthumous portrait which now hangs in his ancestral home at Compton includes a stylized combination of the astrological sigils for Mercury and Mars (remarkably suited to the martial and mercurial Humphrey) which looks a great deal like the hieroglyphic monad of John Dee. Even to the end of his life, he was evidently fashioning himself as a man with esoteric interests.


1 This shift in orientation is very widespread so I can cite only small fraction of the literature salient to the present discussion. The social organization of science has been the subject of numerous studies. See James E. McClellan III, Science Reorganized: Scientific Societies in the Eighteenth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985). Michael Hunter, Establishing the New Science: The Experience of the Early Royal Society (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1989). The social uses and construction of science or scientific truth have been examined in a variety of ways Steven Shapin has argued that since it was rarely possible to verify experimental results their presentation had to draw upon social constructs of honour and dependability. Steven Shapin, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994). Eric Ash discusses the development of the role of the ‘Expert Mediator’ in the sixteenth century and how it laid the groundwork for Bacon’s conception of himself and of the role of the experimental scientist. Eric H. Ash, Power, Knowledge, and Expertise in Elizabethan England (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004). Anthony Grafton and others have discussed the context and influence of humanism. Anthony Grafton and Nancy G. Siraisi, Natural Particulars: Nature and the Disciplines in Renaissance Europe, Dibner Institute Studies in the History of Science and Technology (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999). Numerous studies have concerned themselves with the ways in which experience was valorized, understood, and warranted. See for example, Peter Robert Dear, Discipline & Experience: The Mathematical Way in the Scientific Revolution, Science and Its Conceptual Foundations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995). Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 (New York: Zone Books, 1998). Brian Ogilvie’s study of natural history emphasizes sixteenth-century concern with ‘description.’ Brian W. Ogilvie, The Science of Describing : Natural History in Renaissance Europe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006).

2 Ash., 163-65.

3 Adrian Gilbert was certainly an active alchemist, but this was arguably not magic at all and, in any event, there is no evidence that Humphrey or Davis shared this interest. The common interest in alchemy and ritual magic evident in a considerable number of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century scribes and manuscript collectors, as well as well known figures like Adrian Gilbert, John Dee, and Simon Foreman, was not common before 1500. I plan to explore the significance of this change in a future article.

4 Charles Webster epitomizes this view, arguing that “popular operative magic” or “magic as the performance of rituals aimed at controlling forces held responsible for the succession of events, slowly fell into abeyance among the intellectual elite but that the idea that “the magus might unlock the potential of occult qualities through exploiting natural magic” or in this way “gain spiritual ascendancy by transcending the limitations of the human frame.” His subsequent discussion focuses almost entirely on the relationship between natural magic and medicine. Charles Webster, From Paracelsus to Newton: Magic and the Making of Modern Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982)., 11. A similar perspective is expressed by John Henry. “Magic is not a monolithic subject and it is important to stress that major aspects of the history of magic seem to play no role in the rise of modern science, for example, demonic magic, chiromancy, and cabala. The crucial aspects of the magical tradition for the historian of science were those encompassed by the term Natural Magic which embraced all those arts which relied upon natural lore; for example, astrology and alchemy....” John Henry, "Magic and Science in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century," in Companion to the History of Modern Science, ed. Robert C. Olby (London: Routledge, 1990), 583-96. This perspective is reflected in most general considerations of the subject. See the general bibliographic essay of Steven Shapin in Steven Shapin, The Scientific Revolution (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 195-200.

5 The two sections themselves occur at ff. 47r-57v and 58r-62v.

6 For more detail about the manuscript see the Appendix to this article.

7 For example, a prayer revealed by Solomon on Easter 1567 appears on f. 47r. This is discussed in greater detail below, ***.

8 First it is good arte allwayes for the master that must beginn this arte, to leave swearinge, and all drounkenn company, yf he do know themm. He must allway goe very cleane appariled that must worke in this art. He must allway keepe his promyses, yf he make any, and not breake them. He must be good to the poore where he seeth neede. He must allway keepe his Skrier in cleane apparrel. This is the beginninge to bringe them to arte. The master must also haue 1 or 2 good bookes to call by, as after you shall here fyende. f. 47v.

9 For the Practica nigromanciae see London, London Society of Antiquaries, MS 39, f. 15v-.17v. For the rules governing the Liber juratus, see Liber juratus I.20-29 (p. 61). The rules also seem to echo those listed in another work in the same codex. “Yf you be wyllynge to work, yt ys requyred that you abstayne from all thinges vnlawfull, as from swearynge, from glotonye, and all other naughty deades; which is requyred for the space of nyne daies before thy workynge...” London, British Library, Additional 36674, f. 14v.

10 Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson D. 252, f. 49v, for example, gives a prayer for confession.

11 Frank Klaassen, "Learning and Masculinity in Manuscripts of Ritual Magic of the Later Middle Ages and Renaissance," Sixteenth Century Journal 38, no. 1 (2007).

12 The most common form of deriving learning or wisdom was the Ars notoria discussed at length in this volume. The conjuring manual edited and analysed by Richard Kieckhefer also contains a necromantic analogue to the Ars notoria in which demons are invoked rather than angels. See Kieckhefer, Forbidden Rites, 193-96; CLM 849, ff. 3r-5v. A sixteenth century necromantic collection also contains prayers from the Solomonic Ars notoria. See London, British Library, Sloane 3853, ff. 159v-74v.

13 For example, although the vast majority of the instructions are given over to conjurations, threats, and commands for demons like Azazel, the spirits of the dead consent to help. They also appear to consent to being ‘bound’ in some way, although the specifics of this arrangement are not clear. Additional 36674, f. 59v. For a typical combination of demonic and angelic operations see Oxford, Bodleian, Rawlinson D. 252.

14 It was commonly assumed that one could not conjure under cloudy conditions and, although conjuring at night was possible, it appears that working during the day was generally considered preferable. A roughly contemporary conjuring manual puts it like this. “Habe aerem clarum et non nubilosum quia sol magna habet influentia in spiritibus et appetetunt in radiis solaribus apparere et operari....” London, British Library, Sloane 3318, 2v. See also London, British Library, Sloan 3853, f. 10v. The appearance of clouds demanded that the operations be abandoned. See Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson D. 252, ff. 30v-31r. Certainly clear atmospheric conditions were necessary for crystalomantic operations. “Tunc in loco secreto et honesto aere sereno....”, Ibid., f. 114v.

15 The notion that one could trap or somehow contain a spirit in a crystal occurs in numerous texts. See for example Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson D. 252, 42v-44v and Vaticano (Città del), Biblioteca Apostolica, Pal. Lat. 1375 f. 269v-270r. The fourteenth-century catalogue of the books of John Erghome of the Austin Friars at York includes a tract on enclosing a spirit in a mirror. See K. W. Humphreys, ed., The Friars' Libraries, Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues (London: British Library, 1990), 87-8.

16 Medieval necromantic operations using various skrying surfaces commonly required ‘virgin boys and sometimes girls. On virginity as a requirement in such texts, see On catoptromantic texts, see Claire Fanger, "Virgin Territory: Purity and Divine Knowledge in Late Medieval Catoptromantic Texts," Aries 5, no. 2 (2005): 200-25. Anecdotal evidence of this practice may be found in the writings of John of Salisbury who recounts being employed for this purpose as a boy. John of Salisbury, Frivolities of Courtiers and Footprints of Philosophers, trans. Joseph B. Pike (London: Oxford University Press, 1938), 146-7. An experiment for seeing spirits with a boy skryer appears in the fifteenth-century commonplace book of Robert Reynes. Cameron Louis, ed., The Commonplace Book of Robert Reynes of Acle; An Edition of Tanner MS 407 (London: Garland, 1980), 169. Quoted in Richard Kieckhefer, Forbidden Rites, 97. Extensive and numerous operations using various skrying devices and young boys or girls occur in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson D. 252. See for example, 1r-29v. The notion that certain spiritual capacities were afforded by chastity appears to have motivated this, so it is not surprising that older skryers became common after the Reformation. John Dee’s skryers were uniformly adult males with the exception of a brief period when he attempted to employ his son Arthur. Deborah E. Harkness, John Dee's Conversations with Angels : Cabala, Alchemy, and the End of Nature (Cambridge, U.K. ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 16-26.

17 Although the name appears to have Babylonian roots, the Story of Azazel derives from Leviticus 16:7-28. Agrippa tells us that Cabalist sources identify Azazel as king of the south, one of the four kings of the cardinal directions. Agrippa, De occulta philosophia, III: 24. Azazel is one of the fallen angels in Jewish traditions. Although ‘fastened to the mountain of darkness’ and willing to teach witchcraft to those who seek his help, Azael does not appear to have any particular association with spirits of the dead. See Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, 7 vols. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1909), I.126, I.148-52, V.123, V.152, V.171, V.311, and V.416. Pico, drawing on cabalist sources describes Azazel as one who devours those practicing bad magic, but otherwise the demon appears to have no singular connection with spirits of the dead in general. On Pico’s discussion, see Brian P. Copenhaver, "Number, Shape, and Meaning in Pico's Christian Cabala: The Upright Tsade, the Closed Mem, and the Gaping Jaws of Azazel," in Natural Particulars: Nature and Disciplines in Renaissance Europe, ed. Anthony Grafton and Nancy Siraisi (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999), 46-7 and 72. Although not connected explicitly with the dead, Azazel appears in more extensive narratives in the Book of Enoch, 9-11, 13, and 54-5, and 69-70.

Whatever the earlier sources for this tradition may have been, the Gilberts’ immediate sources for this operation were undoubtedly late-medieval British necromantic manuals. Rituals for the speaking with the dead occur in a variety of necromantic sources and appear as early as the fifteenth century. See Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ballard 66, ff. 33-39 (s. xvii), London, British Library, Sloane 3884, ff. 47-56 (s. xvi), and Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson D. 252 (s. xv.), 66v-68r. Rawlinson D. 252 conjures “Asacel.” Interestingly, it is followed by another operation for “Azoel” which may be the same as “Aosal” the other spirit mentioned in the Gilbert manual (f. 50v). Ginzberg identifies Azzazel and Azzael as one and the same. Ginzberg, Legends, V. 152.



18 For the record of Humphrey Gilbert performing this operations, see f. 62r. For the relevant instructions, see ff. 51r-53v. The names correspond to those listed by Agrippa as princes of the four points of the compass. Henry Cornelius Agrippa, De occulta philosophia, II:7. The four kings are mentioned in the Speculum astronomiae, XI, 23 and 79. For other medieval examples of conjurations of the four kings see Oxford, Bodleian, Rawlinson D. 252, ff. 15r- 24r and 103r-107r and London, London Society of Antiquaries MS 39, f. 17v. Irenaeus mentions the ideas that there are four intelligences presiding over the four parts of the world and gives the names Mahaziel, Azael, Saviel, and Azazel. P.G., vii, 619. Cited in A. A. Barb, "Three Elusive Amulets," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 27 (1964): 19. Agrippa also lists these four names in as princes of the devils, De occulta philosophia, II:7 and III: 24.

19 A medieval work of necromantic magic would always include mention of Mary at one point or another. Her complete absence from this manuscript is thus notable. On the other hand, the text reflects the slow and initially superficial nature of the changes in this period. The intervention of John the Baptist and St Luke certainly suggest continuities with Catholic invocation of the Saints and belief in intercession. On the notion that Protestantism brought about a decline of magic, see Keith Vivian Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Scribner, 1971). Eamon Duffy is largely silent about Thomas’ arguments although he explicitly criticizes Thomas for his assumption that the sacraments “were credited with an inexorable and compelling power” only at a popular level. Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, c. 1400-c. 1580 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992), 277. Duffy argues instead that much of what Thomas calls superstition or magic was a legitimate form of religious devotion practiced by all levels of English society. For Duffy’s discussion of these forms of devotion in Protestant England, see Duffy, 379-593. Robert Scribner’s recent work includes useful critiques of Thomas. See Robert W. Scribner, "The Reformation, Popular Magic, and the 'Disenchantment of the World,'" Journal of Interdisciplinary History 23, no. 3 (1993): 475-94; and ‘Magic and the Formation of Protestant Popular Culture in Germany’ in Religion and Culture in Germany (1400-1800), ed. Lyndal Roper (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 323-46. On the effects of the Reformation on magical texts see Frank Klaassen, "The Return of Stolen Goods: Reginald Scot, Religious Controversy, and a Late Sixteenth-Century Manuscript of Magic," Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft 1, no. 2 (2006): 135-77.

20 ff. 60r-61r.

21 For more details on the note-taking and correcting process see the Appendix.

22 f. 47r.

23 For example, a prayer extracted from the Solomonic Ars notoria in London, British Library, Sloane 3853 adopts a similar rhetorical strategy by emphasizing that the magician understood his work to be part of Gods greater purposes. “Et tu, qui es deus meus, qui in principio creasti celum et terram et omnia ex nichilo, qui in spiritu tuo omnia reformas, comple, instaura, sana animam meam, ut glorificem te per omnia opera cogitationum mearum et verborum meorum. Deus, pater, orationem meam confirma, et intellectum meum auge, et memoriam meam ad suscipiendam beatam visionem tuam meo vivente corpusculo et ad cognoscendam super excelsam et super eternam tuam essenciam, qui viuis et regnas per infinita secula seculorum.” f. 162 v.

24“Ad artem notoriam inspiratam.” Add. 36674, f. 47r.

25The angles saide unto H.G. that he should feare nothing. [Marginal Note: ss. Solomon seruaunt to H. G.] and that he had a good servante of Solomon, whose counsell he should followe; for he would advise hym for the best. And that he should rede, when Solomon appointed hym; for he would doe nothing to his hindrannce. And that they would appeare to him in the element when he would; And that they would teach him all arts, and howe to make Bookes. f. 61r. On reading as part of the Ars notoria see, article by Véronèse in this volume CROSS REFERENCE ***.

26 Tertio die postquam fecit istam orationem ...venit ad eum Rachiel angelus qui stabat supra riuum in exitu paradisi et disco operint se ei ea hora qua calefaciebat se ad solem qui tenebat in manu sua librum istum quem dedit Ade. München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, CLM 51, f. 5r. Et aperuit Rachiel librum et legit in auribus Ade. Audiuit autem adam verba libri sancte ex ore angeli et eiecit se super faciem suam ad teram cum magno timore. Cui dixit Rachiel Surge adam et confortare et non habeas timorem.... Recipe librum istum de manu mea et respice in eo quia per ipsum scies et intelliges.... München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, CLM 51, f. 6r.

27 The last entry, which I take to be a vision rather than a record of a real physical event, notes “On the .6. day of Aprill, Anno domini 1567 my boy went to Solomon’s house in the morning, and came home to me againe about 9. of the clock in the forenone, and Brought me from thence a book written by St Luke the Evangelist.” Add. 36674, f. 62v.

28 Add. 36674, f. 59r-v.

29 On John of Morigny see "Prologue to Liber Visionum," edited, translated, and introduced by Claire Fanger and Nicholas Watson, Esoterica 3 (2001): 108-217. The prologue to the Liber sacer recounts that Honorius wrote the book with the assistance of an angel. Liber iuratus Honorii, I (pp. 60-1).

30 “And when [Oriens] hath by your compulsion appeared say that you see a thinge shadowe in the stone, which is in the wall, and therefore appeare to mee annd speeke or wrighte, for I wyll not beleue, that here is any thinge to my syghte, except thou speake or wryte, and appeare to my syghte, and speakew to my hearinge. Or else I wyll accurse the and condemne the by gods power, and not by my owne power. Therefore I charge the do yt. And when he hath doon yt, thenn commaunde him to giue you the beste booke, that euer was.” Add. 36674, 48r.

31 f. 62r.

32 f. 47r.

33 f. 56r.

34 The standard discussion of this debate is Nicolas Weill-Parot, Les Images Astrologiques Au Moyen Age Et a la Renaissance, Speculations Intellectuelles Et Pratiques Magiques (Xiie-Xve Siecle) (Paris: Honore Champion, 2002). For a discussion of the Speculum Astronomiae see, 27-90. For an earlier discussion focused upon how Marsilio Ficino engaged the debate see Brian P. Copenhaver, "Scholastic Philosophy and Renaissance Magic in the De Vita of Marislio Ficino," Renaissance Quarterly 37, no. 4 (1984): 523-54.

35The approval of two texts by the author of the Speculum astronomiae had a dramatic effect on the transmission of astrological image magic. See Frank Klaassen, "Medieval Ritual Magic in the Renaissance," Aries 3, no. 2 (2003). 166-99. On the association of dream divination with scholastic thought see Frank Klaassen, "Magical Dream Provocation in the Later Middle Ages," Esoterica VIII (2006): 120-47.

36 So they tend to support themselves on religious and biblical authority, rather than the authority of natural philosophy., for example, the bible recounts how Christians could cast out demons in Christ’s name and non-Christians could not. Similarly, being an orthodox Christian was an essential element in performing successful ritual magic. The Liber sacer tells of how the Jews cannot perform magic. Liber iuratus Honorii, III.20 (p. 66). A late-medieval necromancer’s manual provides the Apostle’s and Athanasian Creeds to help the operator remain orthodox. Oxford, Bodleian, Rawlinson D. 252, ff. 81r-82v. The dependence of ritual magic on Christian rites is self-evident. This is quite different from the use of intention as an element in image magic which is commonly divorced from the moral and religious condition of the practitioner. For the term “addressative” see notes to the opening pages of the Weill-Parot article in this volume.

37 That a magical figure might be secretly demonic or that a magical text presented itself as astrologically based when it was really necromantic certainly concerned scholastic readers of astrological image magic, but was not an explicit concern of the authors. The Liber sacer recounts that its author had produced it by extracting the flowers of wisdom from seven volumes of magic for the good magicians. It also recounts that ‘others’ were given empty husks. “Qui consulente angelo Hocrohel nomine 7 volumina artis magice deffloravit nobis florem accipiens et aliis cortices dimittendo.” (Liber iuratus Honorii, I.16.) It is not clear whether this means Honorius intentionally wrote false magical works to deceive the ignorant, found false and empty portions of the original volumes which he somehow left behind, or simply that by removing crucial sections he left behind works denuded of their wisdom. But there is no doubt that the author understood the magical library to be polluted with these ‘husks.’ John of Morigny, the victim of such a false text, discovered that when he used prayers in the Ars notoria he was unknowingly invoking demons rather than angels. (Liber visionum, 19 (p.181).) Curiously, the ‘false’ nature of this text was not a barrier to the discovery of truth through it.



38The Liber Rasielis gives a long list of the Old Testament patriarchs who employed it. Each of them is said to have derived something different from the volume. München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, CLM 51, f. 111v. For an interesting parallel to this process, see the discussion of astrological prognostication in Madagasgar by M. Bloch. Bloch argues that the presence of stable astrological texts did not serve to stabilize interpretive systems, but actually increased their diversity. M Bloch, "Astrology and Writing in Madagascar" in J.R.Goody, ed., Literacy in Traditional Societies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), 278-299.

39 Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson D. 252, f. 65r.

40 Forthcoming paper by Anthony Grafton. ***

41 The Liber iuratus Honorii describes a small group of scholars and disciples knitted together by a master. They swear mutual loyalty and protection. At the time of his death, the master must decide if one of his followers is worthy of taking up the role of master. If not, the work must be buried with him. That they live under a sort of rule, observe strictures of moral behaviour, and have been tried for a year, may also make the process similar to oblature. Liber iuratus Honorii, I.15-6

42 “...et in predicto libro continebatur qualiter ad propositum meum attingere per doctrinam subitaneam potuissem, idcirco, omnibus alijs studijs dimissis, cepi in ipsa frequencius studere, et in tantum studui quod qualiter operari deberem sciui.” John of Morigny, Liber visionum, Prologue 15 (p. 137).

43 “Ego, frater Johannes, postquam dimisi artem notoriam declinaui ad artes nigromancie, et in ipsa preualaui tantum quod nouam nigromanciam componerem et quod Annulos Salomonis fabricarem.” John of Morigny, Liber visionum, Prologue 24 (p. 145).

44 Omnibus visionibus leuiter non credas uel acquiescas, set consilio saluatoris proba spiritus si ex Deo sint et discretionem ipsorum precibus impetres a Spiritu Sancto. John of Morigny, Liber visionum, 49.

45 John of Morigny, Liber visionum, Prologue 15.44-49 (pp. 158-162).

46 Review of Zambelli, L’ambigua natura della magia in Isis 85 (1994): 318-320.

47Astrological image magic declined sharply after 1500 as an independent genre and in manuscript copies made by specialists. This cannot be attributed simply to the availability of printed texts since the copying of ritual magic texts increased despite the presence of printed works. See Klaassen, "Medieval Ritual Magic."

48 On the ‘old dirty’ magic see Frances Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), 80-1. The many studies of Brian Copenhaver are exemplary. On the subject of magic and science see, Brian P. Copenhaver, "Natural Magic, Hermeticism, and Occultism in Early Modern Science," in Reappraisals of the Scientific Revolution, ed. David C. Lindberg and Robert S. Westman (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), Brian P. Copenhaver, "Scholastic Philosophy and Renaissance Magic in the De Vita of Marsilio Ficino," Renaissance Quarterly 37, no. 4 (1984), Brian P. Copenhaver, "A Tale of Two Fishes: Magical Objects in Natural History from Antiquity through the Scientific Revolution," Journal of the History of Ideas 52, no. 3 (1991). Harkness’ first rate study of Dee focuses connects Dee’s angel magic with his natural philosophy but seeks to distinguish it from the ritual magic tradition in general. Surprisingly, she cites Additional 36674, but does not make any mention of the close affinities with the practices of John Dee. Deborah E. Harkness, John Dee's Conversations with Angels: Cabala, Alchemy, and the End of Nature (Cambridge, U.K.; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999). Stephen McKnight seeks to demonstrate the influence of mythologies of ‘pseudo-science’ on science but concentrates entirely upon hermetic and neoplatonic mythologies. He seems to regard Solomonic myths as belonging to that tradition. "Science, the Prisci Theologia, and Modern Epochal Consciousness." In Science, Pseudo-Science, and Utopianism in Early Modern Thought, edited by Stephen A. McKnight, 88-117. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1992. Charles Webster seems to repeat the assumption that ritual magic was in decline where he notes “Magic as the performance of rituals aimed at controlling forces held responsible for the succession of events, slowly fell into abeyance among the intellectual elite....” In any event he does not consider it alongside natural magic. Charles Webster, From Paracelsus to Newton: Magic and the Making of Modern Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 11. John Henry argues that


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