This book is another offering from author and medieval professor Claude Lecouteux (see reviews of “A Lapidary of Stones,” and “The Tradition of Household Spirits”) translated from French to English by editor Jon Graham. 

This book is a motherlode for wizards and practicing magicians. It discusses prominent medieval magicians and the books they wrote, along with a survey of the contents of numerous medieval grimoires that form the foundation of Western magical lore. A great deal of content from the old grimoires is included in this book. There are translations of these grimoires in printed and digital form floating around the book world, but frankly this book makes it a lot easier to find what a reader is looking for because it’s well-organized by topical sections.

Part I “On the Magic of the Middle Ages” includes these chapters:
1. Names and Signatures
2. The Magical characters of the Planets
3. Demons and Illnesses
4. Magical Healing
5. Remedies Taken from the Human Body (this is kind of icky)
6. Love Magic
7. The Protection of Humans, Livestock and Property
8. Magic Rings
9. Magic Operations
10. The Magic of Images
11. Orisons
12. Magic Alphabets

Part II “From Scholarly Magic to Folk Magic”
13. The Romanus Büchlein
14. The Doctor of the Poor
15. Extracts from Various Grimoires

There are notes, a bibliography and an index at the end of the book.

There are numerous spells and quotes from grimoires, descriptions of operations, and loads of images of drawings from the old books. It includes the entire Hygromancy of Solomon – a list of 168 angels and 168 demons; one of each for the 24 hours of the day from Sunday through Saturday (pp 42 – 45), along with the Signatures of the Spirits, the geomantic images of the sigils used to summon various entities. Chapter 2 provides images of the different sigils used for the planets on parchment, on rings, and on seals.

The collected spells and charms include a bizarre mix of veiled paganism and traditional methods, Kabbalism, and Christianity. For instance, on page 85 there’s a spell for transferring a sick person’s fever to an egg. Although the method presented here evokes the Christian trinity and some garbled Latin words, this same fever-to-egg spell is in contemporary use by a traditional local Arabic wise woman (she undoubtedly uses different words, but the method is identical).

For magicians and wizards who want to acquire a convenient and highly legible compilation of medieval grimoires, this book is a fantastic addition to a magical library. It’s also enormously valuable as a scholarly survey of historical magical texts that were circulated during the medieval period.

Highly recommended.

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Author: Claude Lecouteux
Inner Traditions, 2013
pp. 264, $19.95

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