1 “Although Persia was seen as the source of magic, the people of the ancient civilization of Chaldea, part of Babylonia, were also renowned for their astrological and magical abilities. Zoroaster was sometimes referred to as a Chaldean. In archaeological terms too, the Sumerian-inspired cuneiform writing of the Akkadians, one of the peoples of the Mesopotamian region, represent the first major repository of written magic spells and conjurations, though their secrets were only deciphered in the nineteenth century. In Uruk, one of the world’s earliest cities, and now part of Iraq, excavations of houses dating from the fifth and fourth centuries BCE turned up cuneiform clay tablets containing a series of magic rituals and incantations… Most of the early physical evidence for ancient Egyptian magic derives from burial goods, amulets, stone monuments, and inscriptions on metal and clay tablets and bowls.” (Davies 8) *add to bibliography*
2 “It is obviously a matter of religious belief whether Hermes, Ham, Zoroaster, Solomon, or Moses existed or performed miracles let alone received and wrote books. What is certain is that by the fourth century BCE books of spells and charms written on papyrus were being produced.3 It was papyrus, made from the pith of the wetland plant of the Nile Delta, that enabled the production of books, if we define a book as a portable series of written leaves or sheets joined together – which certainly does not apply to clay, wooden, or stone tablets. Papyrus books consisted of glued sheets, sometimes up to tens of feet in length, which were rolled around a rod.4 Writing on papyrus required the use of inks, and this led to new magical notions based on their constituents. Ink containing Myrrh, a resinous plant sap, was specified for some charms, for instance, and blood was sometimes intermingled, as in a dream spell that required the blood of a baboon, the sacred animal of Thoth-Hermes.5 The one significant disadvantage of papyrus was that it was flammable.” (Davies 18)
3 Dickie, Magic and Magicians, 72.
4 See David Diringer, The Book before Printing: Ancient, Medieval and Oriental (New York, 1982), ch. 4.
5 Samson Eitrem, ‘Dreams and Divination in Magical Ritual’, in Christopher A. Faraone and DIrk Obbink (eds), Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion (Oxford, 1991), 177, 186 n. 52.
6 Considering the clergy had a near monopoly on access to grimoires, at least until the fifteenth century, it is understandable that clerics who wrote about magic, or who were associated with the major scholarly centres of the occult sciences, would accrue unjustified reputations as being the authors of grimoires. The Scottish clergyman scientist and astrologer Michael Scot (1175 – c. 1232) was a critic of magic, but as he was canon of Toledo Cathedral during the height of the translation boom in the city, was proficient in Hebrew and Arabic, and translated some of the works of Aristotle, rumour later had it that he had also picked up the secrets of necromancy during his stay… The German abbot Trithemius possessed a book of demonical incovations attributed to Scot which instructed how to conjure up familiar spirits.7 (Davies 37)
7 Culianu, Eros and Magic, 167-8.
* While searching to check that I had the order right, I ended up on this website, it’s quite something.
** I pause here to go to Tescos, help with a radio broadcast and attend a Beowulf reading group in the Parlour bar.