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Lynn Thorndike, 1923-58



[p. 279]

Solomon as a magician - Magic books ascribed to Solomon - Manuscripts of them - Notory art of Solomon and Apollonius - Other works ascribed to Solomon and Apollonius - Liber sacratus; preface - Incipit and Explicit - A work of theurgy or the notory art - Character of its contents - The third "work" - The fourth and fifth "works" - How to operate with spirits - The seal of the living God - Spirits of Saturn.

It was only natural that Solomon, regarded as the wisest man in the history of the world, should be represented in oriental tradition as the worker of many marvels and that in the course of time books of magic should be at tributed to him, just as treatises on the interpretation of dreams were ascribed to Joseph and Daniel. Roger Bacon speaks of the magic books in a grand-sounding style which were falsely ascribed to Solomon and which "ought all to be prohibited by law." [1] Solomon's reputation as a magician, even in the western Latin-speaking world, was much older than the thirteenth century, however. In 1918 Roman archaeologists excavated at Ostia a bronze disc, on one side of which was depicted Solomon as a magician, stirring with a long ladle some mess in a large cauldron. On the other side of the disc was a figure of the triple Hecate, who, like Solomon, was surrounded by mystic signs and magic characters. [2] NOTES:

1. Brewer (1859), pp.526, 531.

2. The Nation, New York, May 10, 1919, p. 744. In January, 1922, it was announced that a paper by Professor C. C. McCown, "Solomon as a Magician in Christian Legend," would appear in the Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society.

But to return to the medieval period. In the first half of the thirteenth century William of Auvergne, bishop of Paris, in his treatise on laws declares that there is no divinity [p. 280] in the angles of Solomon's pentagon, that the rings of Solomon and the seals of Solomon and the nine candles (candariae) are a form of idolatry, and involve execrable consecrations and detestable invocations and images. "As for that horrible image called the Idea Salomonis et entocta, let it never be mentioned among Christians." In the same class are the book called Sacratus and the figure Mandel or Amandel. [3] Some years later Albertus Magnus, listing evil books of necromantic images in his Speculum astronomiae, [4] includes five treatises current under the name of Solomon, and seems to have in mind about the same works as William. One is De figura Almandel, another De novem candariis, and a third on the four rings (De quatuor annulis) opens with the words "De arte eutonica et ideica," which remind one of William's "Idea Salomonis et entocta," and is perhaps also identical with a Liber de umbris idearum cited under the name of Solomon by Cecco d'Ascoli in his necromantic commentary upon the Sphere of Sacrobosco, [5] written in the early fourteenth century. 3. De legibus, cap. 27.

4. Cap. 11.

5. Ed. of 1518, p. 22F2.

Moreover, these same works are apparently still extant in manuscripts in European libraries. The figure Almandal or Almandel and the rings of Solomon are found in fifteenth century manuscripts at Florence and Paris, [6] while in the Sloane collection of the British Museum we find Solomon's pentagon, the divine seal, the four rings, and the nine candles, all in seventeenth century manuscripts. [7] In these seventeenth century manuscripts also appear, and more than once, the Clavicula or Key of Solomon, in French, Italian, [p. 281] and English, [8] the book by Solomon called Cephar or Saphar Raziel, [9] and the Liber sacer or sacratus. [10] The last-named work, mentioned at least twice in the thirteenth century by William of Auvergue, who calls it "a cursed and execrable book," [11] is also found in manuscripts of the fourteenth or Fifteenth century, [12] and we shall presently consider it in particular as a specimen of the Pseudo-Solomon literature and of medieval books of magic, theurgy, and necromancy. 6. Florence II-iii-24. 15th century, 74-77, "Liber in figura Almandel et eius opere / et eius iuditio"; 77, "Alius liber de Almandal qui dicitur tabula vel ara Salomonis."
BN 7349, 15th century, no. 8, ascribed to Solomon. Annuli Salomonis.

7. Sloane 3851, fols. 31v-53, "Signum Pentaculum Salomonis"; Sloane 3853, fol. 127v, Divine seal of Solomon; 3847, fols. 66v-81, "Opus mirabile et etiam verissimum de quatuor annulis sapientissimi Salomonis"; 3850, fols. 68-75, Salomonis opus de novem candariis celestibus. In a, 16th century MS in French there is a book of conjurations of spirits ascribed to Solomon. The conjurations themselves are mainly In Latin. CU Trinity 1404 (VI).

8. Harleian 3536, in French; Sloane 1307, in Italian, the translation being ascribed to "Gio. Peccatrix"; Sloane 3825 and 3847 are not identical versions.

9. Sloane 3826, fols. 1-57; 3846, fols. 127-55; 3847, fols. 161-88; 3853, fols. 41-53. Perhaps the same as the "Sefer ha-Yashar" mentioned by Haya Gaon in the early eleventh century: Gaster, The Sword of Moses, 1896, p. 16.

10. Sloane 3883, fols. 1-25, De modo ministrandi librum sacrum (revealed to Solomon by an angel).
Sloane 3885, fols. 1-25, "Liber sacer Salomonis," repeated at fols. 96v-125; fols. 58-96. Tractatus de re magica ab Honorio filio Euclidis magistro Thebarum ex septem voluminibus artis magicae compilatus, et intitulatus Liber sacer, sive juratus.

11. De legibus, caps. 24 and 27.

12. Sloane 313, late 14th or 15th centuty (according to a Letter from Dr. Montague Rhodes James to me, dated 21 May, 1921). mutilus, quondam Ben Jonsonii, 26 fols., Salomonis opus sacrum ab Honorio ordinatum, tractatus de arte magica.
Sloane 3854, 14th century, fols. 112-39. Honorii Magistri Thebarum liber cui titulus "Juratus."

Let us first, however, note some other works ascribed to Solomon and which have to do with the Ars Notoria, or Notory Art, which seeks to gain knowledge from or communion with God by invocation of angels, mystic figures, and magical prayers. We are told that the Creator revealed this art through an angel to Solomon one night while lie was praying, and that by it one can in a short time acquire all the liberal and mechanical arts. [13] There seems to be little difference between the notory art of Solomon, that of [p. 282] Solomon, Machineus, and Euclid, [14] and the Golden Flowers of Apollonius, [15] in which Solomon is mentioned almost every other sentence. Cecco d'Ascoli may have had it in mind when he cited the Book of Magic Art of Apollonius and the Angelic Faction of the same author. [16] In one manuscript at the close of the Golden Flowers of Apollonius are prayers which one "brother John Monk" confesses he himself has composed in the years 1304-1307. [17] In a later manuscript we find his prayers described as given to him by the blessed God and as "perfect science," and they are followed by "The Pauline art," discovered by the Apostle Paul after he had been snatched up to the third heaven, and delivered by him at Corinth. [18] Other works of notory art are listed in the manuscript catalogues without name of author. [19] But all alike are apt to impress the present reader as unmeaning jumbles of diagrams and magic words. [20] We shall sufficiently [p. 283] illustrate them all when we come to speak of the Liber sacratus which is itself in large measure concerned with the Notory Art.

13. BN 7153, 15th century, Solomon, Sacratissima ars notoria.

Harleian 181, fol. 18-, Ars notoria (Salomoni ab angelo tradita) preceded at fol. 1- by Ars memorativa, and followed at fol. 81 by "de arte crucifixa."

CU Trinity 1419, 1600 A.D., Liber de Arte memorativa sive notoria ... Prologus per Sallomonem ... Inc. sanctissima Ars notoria quam Creator altissimus per Angelum suum super altare templi quodam modo Salomoni dum oraret ministrans.

Math. 50 (Amplonius' catalogue of 1412), "Item liber continens septem libros parciales qui dicitur angelus magnus vel secreta secretorum et est de arte notoria Salomonis et non debet rudibus exponi.

CLM 19413. 10-11th century, fols. 67-108, Salomonis III formulae, might turn out to be a work on Notory Art.

14. Sloane 1712, 13th century, fols. 1-22, "Ars notoria Salomonis, Machinei, et Euclidis," followed at fols. 22-37 by an anonymous "ars notoria quae nova ars appellatur."

BN 7152, 14th century, Expositiones quas Magister Apollonius flores aureos ad eruditionem et cognitionem omnium scientiarum et naturalium artium generaliter et merito et competenter appellavit; hoc opus Salomonis Machinei et Euclidii actoritate maxima compositum et probatum est: accedunt figurae.

15. CLM 268, 14th century, 16 fols.; CLM 276, 14th century, fols. 1-26, Apollonii fiores aurei, quorum pars extat in cod. 268.

Amplon. Quarto 380, 13th century, fols. 49-64, ars notoria Appolonii philosophi et magi; while the 1412 catalogue gives Math. 54, "Liber Appollonii magi vel philosophi qui dicitur Elizinus"; Amplon. Octavo 81, 14th century, fols. 95-106 (Apollonii) de arte notoria Salomonis.

Ashmole 1515, 16th century, fol. 4r, "Incipit primus tractatus istius sanctissime artis notorie et expositiones eius et temporum exceptiones, quas Salomon et Apollonius flores aureos appellaverunt, et hoc opere probatum est et confirmatum authoritate Salomonis, Manichei et Euduchii."

16. Sphere (1518), fol. 3.

17. CLM 276, fol. 49.

18. BN 7170A, 16th century, no. 1, de arte notoria data a Deo beato Joanni Monacho sive de scientia perfecta: praemittuntur orationes decem; no. 2, Ars Paulina, a Paulo Apostolo inventa post raptum eius et Corinthus denotata.

19. BN 9336, 14th century, "Sacratissima ars notoria"

Amplon, Quarto 28, anno 1415, fols. 38-41, ars notoria et orationibus et figuris exercenda; Amplon. Octavo 79, 14th century, fols. 63-64, ars notoria brevis et bona.

Sloane 3008, 15th century, fol. 66-, de arte notoria, brief and Illegible.

20. Essentially similar is "The Sword of Moses, An ancient book of magic from an unique manuscript, with introduction, translation, an index of mystical names and a facsimile. Published for the first time," London, 1896, by M. Gaster from a Hebrew MS. of 13-14th century. Gaster (p. 18) describes the treatise as a complete encyclopaedia of mystical names, of eschatological teachings, and of magical recipes." The Sword proper is a series of names.

Certain works may be mentioned which are ascribed to Solomon or to Apollonius in the medieval manuscripts, and which do not seem to be concerned with the notory art. Experiments ascribed to Solomon will be mentioned in another place in connection with experimental literature. Treatises of alchemy and astrology also were attributed to him. [21] Under the name of Apollonius we find a work on the properties or occult virtue of things, and another, or possibly the same, on the principal causes of things. [22] One wonders if it may have any connection with the book on six principles of things ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus and which has been discussed in our chapter on Hermetic Books in the Middle Ages. A treatise on palmistry is ascribed to Solomon in a fourteenth century manuscript at Cambridge. [23] A "Philosophy of Solomon" in a manuscript of the late twelfth century in the British Museum consists of "notes perhaps from more than one source on the analogy between the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the three divisions of philosophy (moralis, naturalis, inspectiva), and the three books of Solomon." [24] 21. Sloane 3849, 15-16th century fols. 30-38, A noble experiment of King Solomon with astrological tables.

Ashmole 1416, 15th century, fol. 113v, Libellus de sulphuris virtutibus; 114-, Fragmentum de planetarum influentia; 123-, On perilous days; 123-4, Ars artium, or prayers to invoke spirits, is perhaps a portion of the Ars Notoria.

22. Vienna 3124, 15th century, "Verba de proprietatibus rerum quomodo virtus unius frangitur per alium. Adamas nec ferro nec igne domatur / cito medetur."

BN 13951, 12th century, Liber Apollonii de principalibus rerum causis.

23. Trinity 1109, fols. 388-90, Expl. tract. de Palmistria Salomonis. The tract consists of two full page diagrams and an explanation in French.

24. Royal 7-D-II, late 12th century, fols. 3-10, opening,1 "Hanc ergo triplicem divine philosophie formam...." I quote the description in the new catalogue of the Royal MSS.

The Liber sacratus, as William of Auvergne twice entitles it, or the Liber sacer or Liber juratus, as it is also [p. 284] called in the manuscripts, [25] is associated with the name Hononus as well as Solomon, and is often spoken of as The Sworn Book of Honorius. The preface, as given in the Latin manuscripts of the fourteenth century -- one of which once belonged to Ben Jonson -- states that under the influence of evil spirits the pope and cardinals had passed a decree aiming at the complete extirpation of the magic art and condemning magicians to death. The grounds for this action were that magicians and necromancers were injuring everyone, transgressing the statutes of holy mother church, making invocations and sacrifices to demons, and dragging ignorant people down to damnation by their marvelous illusions. These charges the magicians hotly deny as inspired by the envy and cupidity of the devil who wished to keep a monopoly of such marvels. The magicians declare that it is impossible for a wicked or impure man to work truly by the magic art, in which they assert that the spirits are compelled against their will by pure men. The magicians further profess to have been forewarned by their art of this legislation against them. They hesitate, however, to summon the demons to their aid lest those spirits avail themselves of the opportunity to destroy the populace utterly. Instead an assembly of 89 masters from Naples, Athens, and Toledo has chosen Honorius, son of Euclid, [26] a master of Thebes, to reduce their magic books to one volume containing 93 chapters, which they may more readily conceal and preserve. And inasmuch as it has pleased the prelates and princes to order the burning of their books and the destruction of schools of magic, the followers of that art have taken an oath not to give this volume to anyone until its owner is on his death-bed, never to have more than three copies of it made at a time, and never to give it to a woman or to a man who is not of mature years and proved fidelity. Each new recipient of the sacred volume is also to take this oath. [p. 285] Hence the name, Juratus or Sworn-Book. Its other titles, Sacer or Sacratus, refer either to the sacred names of God which constitute much of its text or to its consecration by the angels. 25. See above, page 281 of this chapter, notes 3 and 5.

26. Possibly he is the same Euclid as one of the three co-authors of the work on the Notory Art mentioned above.

After this proemium, which, like the magic art itself, is probably more impressive than true, the work proper opens with the statement, "In the name of almighty God and Jesus Christ, one and true God, I, Honorius, have thus ordered the works of Solomon in my book." Later Honorius reiterates that he is following the precepts and in the footprints of Solomon, whom he also often cites or quotes in course. The Explicit of the Sworn-Book is unusually long and sets forth in grandiloquent style the purpose of the volume.
"So ends the book of the life of the rational soul, [27] which is entitled Liber sacer or The Book of the Angels or Liber juratus, which Honorius, Master of Thebes, made. This is the book by which one can see God in this life. This is the book by which anyone can be saved and led beyond a doubt to life eternal. This is the book by which one can see hell and purgatory without death. This is the book by which every creature can be subjected except the nine orders of angels. This is the book by which all science can be learned. This is the book by which the weakest substance can overcome and subjugate the strongest substances. This is the book which no religion possesses except the Christian, or if it does, does so to no avail. This is the book which is a greater joy than any other joy given by God exclusive of the sacraments. This is the book by which corporeal and visible nature can converse and reason with the incorporeal and invisible and be instructed. This is the book by which countless treasures can be had. And by means of it many other things can be done which it would take too long to narrate; therefore it is deservedly called The Holy Book." 27. One wonders if this can be the evil book of magic referred to by Roger Bacon and other writers as De morte animae.
From this description it will be seen that the work has a good deal to do with the so-called Notory Art. Moreover, [p. 286] in the manuscript copy said to have belonged to Ben Jonson the word Theurgis is written on the fly-leaves before the beginning and after the close of the text. This calls to mind the passage in The City of God [28] where Augustine speaks of "incantations and formulae composed by an art of depraved curiosity which they either call magic or by the more detestable name goetia or by the honorable title theurgia. For they try to distinguish between these arts and condemn some men, whom the populace calls malefici, as devoted to illicit arts, for these, they say, are concerned with goetia; but others they want to make out praiseworthy as being engaged in theurgy. But they are both entangled in the deceptive rites of demons who masquerade under the names of angels." 28. De civitate Dei, X, 9.

The text is full of the names of spirits, prayers in strange words, supposedly derived from Hebrew or Chaldaic, and other gibberish. Series of letters and figures often occur and names inscribed in stars, hexagons, and circles. An English translation in a fifteenth century manuscript [29] adorned with pictures of rows of spirits dressed like monks in robes and caps but with angelic wings. The text does not seem to be complete in any of the manuscripts that I have examined, [30] but Sloane 3854 of the fourteenth century contains an apparently complete table of contents. The, chapter headings, anyway, are more intelligible than the jargon of the text. The first chapter deals with the composition of the great name of God which contains 72 letters. The second is about the divine vision and by the time it is finished we are nearly two-thirds through the space allotted to the Liber juratus in one manuscript. The third chapter is on knowledge of the divine power, the fourth on absolution from sin, the fifth deals with mortal sin, the sixth with the redemption of souls from purgatory. With this the "first work" of the collection of Honorius ends. The [p. 287] opening chapters of the second work discuss the heavens, the angels found in each heaven and at the four points of the compass, their names and powers, seals and virtues, and invocation. Chapters 14 and 15 tell how to get your wish from any angel or to acquire the sciences. Chapter 16 tells how to learn the hour of one's death, and chapter 17 how to know all things, past, present, or future. It was perhaps these chapters that William of Auvergue had in mind when, in censuring works on divination by inspection of mirrors, sword-blades, and human nails to discover stolen articles and other hidden things, he added that "from this pest of curiosity proceeded that accursed and execrable work called Liber sacratus." [31] That work next returns for three chapters to the stars and planets and their virtues and influence. Chapter 21 then instructs how to turn day into night or night into day. Next spirits are further considered, those of air and those of fire, their names and their superior spirits, their powers, virtues, and seals. Attention is then given to the four elements and bodies composed thereof, to herbs and plants, and to human nature, after which aquatic and terrestrial spirits are discussed. The future life is then considered and the 33rd chapter, which is the last one of the "second work," deals with "the consecration of this book." 29. Royal 17-A-XLII.

30. Sloane 313 seems to reach only as far as the early chapters of the "second work."

31. De legibus, cap. 24, p.68 in ed. of 1591.

The "third work," which extends from chapter 34 to 87 inclusive, treats of the control of spirits by words, by seals, by tables, and by shutting them up. It tells how to provoke thunder and lightning, storms, snow, ice, rain, or dew; how to produce flowers and fruit; how to become invisible; how to wage war and to make an indestructible castle, how to destroy a town by means of mirrors; how to sow discord or concord, how to, open closed doors, to catch thieves, fish, and animals, and to produce varied apparitions.

The fourth work deals with similar marvels but it is stated that two of its chapters, namely, 91 on the apparition of dead bodies which speak and seem to be resuscitated, and 92 on the apparent creation of animals from earth, will be [p. 288] omitted as contrary to the will of God. The fifth work or book, which seems to coincide with the 93rd and last chapter of Honorius, is in reality divided into five chapters, which return to themes similar to those of the first work.

To illustrate further the character of the work a few particular passages may be noticed. We are told that there are three ways of operating by means of spirits: the pagan, Jewish, and Christian. The pagans sacrificed to spirits of earth and air but did not really constrain them. The spirits only pretended to be coerced in order to encourage such idolatrous practices. "Whoever wishes to operate by such experiments" (mark the word!), "deserts the Lord God." As for the Jews, they get along only so-so, and "do in no wise work to obtain the vision of the deity." Only a Christian, therefore, can operate successfully in such visions. "And although three kinds of men work at this art of magic, one should not think that there is any evil included in this name of magus for a magus per se is called a philosopher in Greek, a scribe in Hebrew, and a sage in Latin." [32] 32. Sloane 3854, fol. 114r.
Very elaborate directions are given for the composition of the seal of the living God. Circles are drawn of certain proportions emblematic of divine mysteries, a cross is made within, numerous letters are written down equidistant from one another. A pentagon and two hexagons have to be placed just so in relation to one another; characters are inscribed in their angles; and various sacred names of God, Raphael, Michael, and other angels are written along their sides. Different parts must be executed in different colors; a particular kind of parchment must be employed; and the blood of a mole or hoopoe or bat must be used as ink for some of the writing. Finally, there are sacrifices, purifications, suffumigations, invocations, and prayers to be performed and offered. This seal, we are told "will conquer the celestial powers, subjugate the aerial and terrestrial together with the infernal; invoke, transmit, conjure, constrain, excite, gather, disperse, bind, and restore unharmed; [p. 289] will placate men and gain petitions from them graciously, pacify enemies," [33] etc., etc. 33. Sloane 3854, fols. 114r-115v.
The spirits associated with the planet Saturn are Bohel, Casziel, Unchathon, and Dacdel. Their nature is to cause sadness and wrath and hate, to produce ice and snow. Their bodies are long and large, pale or golden. Their region is in the north and they have five or nine demons under them. [34] As a rule spirits of the north and south are ferocious, those of the east and the west gentle. [35]

34. Ibid., fol. 129v; Royal 17-A-XLII, fol. 67v.

35. Sloane 3854, fol. 132r.

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