Interview with the author about "Magitians"
I'm pleased to offer this interview conducted by Seattle area gnostic and grimoire magician Michael Strojan with John Madziarczyk about "The Magitians Discovered":
So, tell me a little bit about yourself and your background?
Let’s see. I’ve been involved with magic and the occult off and on since I was a teenager. I’ve done stuff with Thelema, Chaos Magic, and throughout this off and on I’ve been involved with Wicca and other sorts of related Pagan practices as well as Ceremonial Magic. I also have a big interest in history, in particular intellectual history which contributed to my interest in the subject matter that I dealt with in the research and material Magitians Discovered.
When were you first exposed to Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft?
At first exposed to it just through doing general research about folk magic and ceremonial magic in the pre-Golden Dawn era, so probably five or six years ago. I had heard about Scot’s Discoverie but I never looked into it in its entirety and was a part of a lot of the other things I was looking into at the time as source material.
What inspired you to do the research in Magitians Discovered?
That really came about through work I did on this previous book published by Topaz House Publications called The Station of Man in the Universe by Ebenezer Sibly and the author’s work with A New and Complete Illustration of the Celestial Science of Astrology in which Sibly includes a thumbnail sketch of his understanding of things like the afterlife, the nature of ghosts, elemental spirits, and demons in order to round out the rest of his work. I learned out that he drew a lot of his material in particular the 1665 edition of the Discoverie of Witchcraft, in particular parts that had not been reproduced in the Dover Press edition that I was familiar with. I was interested in Sibly’s work because of my focus at the time on pre-Golden Dawn ceremonial magic and it looked like his writings contained a good summary of the beliefs about that were common in the late 18th Century.
So Sibly drew on the Discoverie, who else was influenced by his work?
Scot’s work was influential both in the literary world and in the spiritual world. His original Discoverie was drawn on by Shakespeare for material in Macbeth relating to the witches. As for esotericists, it appears that there were both cunning people in Great Britain as well as some of the more high magic oriented people of this time who were familiar with and used this work. The influence, particularly in the 1665 edition that contains things not present in the original, continued to influence people to the present day with people such as Paul Huson and his work Mastering Witchcraft.
When did you start collecting the information for what would become Magitians Discovered and what all went into that?
I started collecting preliminary research information for what would become Magitians Discovered in the Fall of 2013. I located the 1665 text and I found out that there were a number of selections that had been inserted in it not by Scot but by magicians of the time that I found extremely interesting, especially for the implications it would hold for the overall text. I tried to find out, if possible, who wrote it and what their likely worldview was and that really started a long, nine month, immersive research into magic, medicine and history in the 17th Century.
Whose hands do you think contributed this extra material in your opinion?
I think that the extra material was probably collected by two people: one of the authors I was able to identify was one Christopher Irvine who was both a Paracelsian physician who practiced in Scotland and for a time in London in the 17th Century; the other person, I suspect, was a Scandinavian who was connected to various strands of antiquarian thought present in Scandinavia in the 17th Century.
I think this is likely the case because it appears there are two main geographical foci in the Discoverie, one of which is Scotland – in particular northern Scotland – and the other which is Scandinavia itself. Many of the examples the authors use about spirits and examples of elemental spirits and ghosts come from these two areas and the rituals themselves that are included in it make reference to the northern mountains of Norway and the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland which had extensive Scottish and Nordic influence.
Irvine fits the bill as a contributor for a number of reasons, part of it is the Paracelsian material in the treatise concerning the nature of ghosts, and elemental spirits as well as the inclusion of sympathetic magic and nine chapters having to do either with rituals themselves or preparations that the magician would have to make in order to perform the rituals. Irvine was also an historian and expanded edition of a book that had previously been published on Scottish place names to three times its original length where he basically inserted his own historical research into the origins of the Scots as well as some accounts of Scottish folklore and I should say that the treatise material in its Scottish content includes an account of the Scottish fairy tradition which is very similar to that which Robert Kirk included about thirty years after in his Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns & Fairies.
As for the material itself as a whole, I think what was added was a combination of the research done by Irvine and his presumed co-author as well as documents that I believe were copied from actual practitioners of popular magic of the time. So you say that there may have been information supplied by popular magic practitioners of the time.
What did that look like in this era especially with Jamesean prohibitions against magic?
Apart from the lengthy processes of doing devotion to God or Divinity, instructions on making circles and consecrating implements that seem to be fairly common in texts of this time, the material in the text has a number of unique rituals invoking different types of so-called aerial spirits. One such example in the texts concerns a ritual to call up thunder elementals thought to exist in the mountains of Norway and conjuring the fire spirits in a volcano in Iceland. There are other rites unique to this text that correlate to things found in other texts such as the Book of Oberon concerning the Wild Hunt who, in this text, are referred to as being “Great Hunters of the North” and come from Scandinavia.
I also believe that certain parts of the instruction for constructing circles and implements appear to be much more influenced by Christian folk magic than, say, the Greater Key of Solomon. As for prohibitions on magic implemented by James I of England, the unique things about all these writings – Scot’s, Irvine’s, and possibly Kirk’s – is that they would have been illegal had anyone found them in their own private possession had they been convicted of witchcraft, but I think that following the English Civil War and the breakdown of state censorship of materials like this were able to be published more openly, as long as they were not saying it was okay to practice magic. . This time period also saw the first English translations of the Three Books of Occult Philosophy and the spurious Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy. I think also it’s hard to quantify its possible influence. One thing that might have contributed to these books being allowed to be published was the fact that the newly restored monarch Charles II had an interest in alchemy himself.
So right now there’s a growing interest in historical ceremonial magic practices. How would your work with Magitians Discovered relate to what’s being done by people with these types of practices?
I think it’s quite a bit to do with what people are doing in this kind of work at present! First of all, the text(s) itself come from the same era that these people who are reconstructing these practices are doing. What I go over in the first book, solely my own analysis of the work, is basically a reconstruction of a particular tradition that I believe existed in the Seventeenth Century that dealt with the evocation of aerial spirits where in this particular era the aerial spirits weren’t simply looked at as air elementals but as being intermediary spirits that were messengers between planetary spirits and the earth.
In this particular tradition where the material comes from, while it might have been difficult or impossible to call down the planetary angels themselves directly, I think it was assumed to be easier to call down the corresponding aerial spirits. The way that that worked these particular spirits were linked to the angels of the planets and were thought to carry their will and influence onto the earth in that the will of God or Divinity was thought to be transmitted first to the celestial spirits then to the aerial spirits that would then carry the will or actions to the various places of the earth.
So the magician, by accessing them, could influence events on the earth and work magic for particular ends that were in harmony with the various planetary spirits. For example a martial spirit it would be possible to call up an aerial spirit with the signature of mars and command it to work for you in terms that were martial – for instance destructive – or it could be possible to call up the aerial spirits related to Venus and use that for love magic, Jupiterian ones for wealth and so on and so forth.
These spirits were looked at much more approachable than the celestial angels and as being ambiguous morally as well. Their status wasn’t really agreed on by a lot of the authors of the time. Some believed they were evil spirits that had been perhaps forgiven by God or Divinity and because of this, functioned as intermediaries between the planetery realms of the earth. Some believed they were neutral spirits that fulfilled the same function. I believe, actually, that in some of the grimoires produced at the time, particularly the Heptameron and some of the lesser known variants of the Greater Key, that it was these spirits that the magician was supposed to call upon to do his or her work.
I believe that the way that a lot of these magicians worked with these spirits was to do rituals where, after supplications to God or Divinity, they would call on the planetary angels and ask the angels to kind of direct the aerial spirits to come to them and after that the magician would talk with them and work out an agreement between them about what they wanted to do and what compensation they might want or require for that.
How would you summarize the content of your three volumes?
With the three volumes, the first volume is wholly my analysis of the material that was added to the 1665 edition of the Discoverie of Witchcraft. The second volume consists of the anonymous editions themselves and an essay by Reginald Scot that was unfortunately not included in the Dover edition, as well as the books from Reginald Scot’s original Discoverie that deals with magic and talismans, then added to that writings by works that were translated by Christopher Irvine that I feel shed some light on the anonymous material. These include a document called One-Hundred Aphorisms on Natural Magic, which deals with sympathetic magic and was included as the first book in a medical treatise but in practice deals with a variety of topics on how sympathetic magic works as well as the nature of magical energy as well as alchemy and how that relates to the human body.
There are also twelve conclusions based on the aphorisms that are more medical oriented but that also talk about the nature of the human body and the human soul in relation to sympathetic magic. Finally in volume two there are excerpts from the antiquarian work that Irvine prepared dealing with Scotland. With that I reproduced the entries that I believe either have esoteric content or have content that support the arguments I made in volume one. This also includes the preface and postscript from that work where Irvine makes reference to a grave series of slanders that have been made against him that he has reissued this work in response to where I believe that the slanders he’s referring to relate to his involvement in the anonymous material from the 1665 edition of the Discoverie of Witchcraft.
Volume three consists of primary source documents outside of the Discoverie that the text either references such as the Heptameron, selections from Agrippa’s Fourth Book and selections from Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy and material I feel backs up the analysis I put forth in volume one. This includes selections from John Dee and Edward Kelly’s MS as published in a True and Faithful Revelation by Meric Casaubon. One of the very fascinating parts of the anonymous Sibley material is that the names of many of the spirits that are listed actually appear to have been drawn from a True and Faithful Relation.
In volume three, I sketch out where those materials appear. People who read the anon material and come across the material can go to volume three and see the original place they appeared. IT also contains selections from Olaus Magnus’ Description of the Northern Peoples including the entire book dealing with Scandinavian and Baltic Paganism which is also where the name that one of the authors signs the material with comes from. At the end of the ritual material that was added to the 1665 ed the author says that it draws from the manuscript Vaganosthus the Magician and that is actually drawn from Olaus Magnus’ text where Vaganosthus is described as being a giant that convinced people to worship him. He’s also described as being the father of a prominent witch who had various abilities like becoming very large and very small.
The treatise’s text also mentions Magnus in the chapter dealing with elemental spirits it was that Olaus Magnus’s work is a source to find more examples of what’s being talked about. Beyond that, I’ve included other examples of writings form the 17th Century that intersect with the Discoverie material such as a chapter from Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy which is a curious work that although on its face is about melancholy or depression, actually examine a lot of the medical lore about the subject in the 17th Century. As part of that, Burton has an entire chapter about elemental spirits as well as angels and demons which I also believe the authors used for at least one example of an elemental spirit they present in the anonymous treatise. Then there are also selections from Robert Kirk’s Secret Commonwealth where I reproduced the sections of the work that have similar material in the anonymous treatise dealing with Scottish fairy lore.
In fact, the anonymous material from the 1665 edition includes an account of a man’s encounter with Thomas Rhymer who was a figure who encountered the queen of faery, was taken to the realm of faery, and lived there before coming back to the surface world and was thought to have returned to that realm after his death. The treatise material accounts a story of an anonymous stranger who revealed himself to be Thomas Rhymer who took him to a mysterious realm where he sold his horses to a figure who appears to have been the queen of faery before returning to the surface. Volume Three also includes the balance of the text that the hundred aphorisms and twelve conclusions draw from. This is more straightforward medical text that actually uses preparations made from human blood to affect cures.
So, now that these are completed, do you plan on giving presentations?
I’m planning on doing a presentation of the work at Edge of the Circle but the date is yet to be determined.
And where can you find these texts? Edge of the Circle stocks the paperback and hardcover and you can buy them from http://www.topazbooks.pub
Created: 2016-05-31 03:34:44