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al-Majriti, Maslamati ibn Ahmad
The Ghâyat al-Hakîm fi'l-sihr, or Picatrix, as it is known in the West, is an important Arabic magical text. It is perhaps the largest and most comprehensive of the grimoires, or handbooks of magic. The attribution to the Andalusian mathematician al-Majriti (or al-Madjriti) (d. ca. 1004-7) is considered pseudo-epigraphic. The Latin translation dates to 1256 and the court of Alphonso the Wise, king of Castille, and exerted a considerable influence on Western magic thereafter. It is said that much of Ficino's astrological magic derives from the Picatrix (see I.P.Couliano, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, University of Chicao Press, 1987, p. 118). The Picatrix is mentioned by Johannes Trithemius in Book 2 of his notorious Steganographia (1500) and in his Antipalus Maleficiorum (c. 1500). One copy (British Library, Sloane manuscript 3679) passed down from Simon Forman (d. 1611) to Richard Napier (d. 1634) to Elias Ashmole (d. 1692) to William Lilly (d. 1681).
E.M. Butler wrongly associates it with Gio. Peccatrix, (no doubt a pseudonym) who edited an Italian version of the Key of Solomon (British Library, Sloane manuscript 1307). Misled by some comments by Mathers and others, Dr. Butler incorrectly concluded that the Picatrix was "an Italian edition of the Clavicle, strongly impregnated with black elements" (Ritual Magic, 1949, p. 135.)
Recent editions include:
I hope that by giving this account of its contents, other editions and studies of this important text may be encouraged.
(From Martin Plessner's introduction, pp. lix-lxxv.)
The following pages are intended as a guide to and an epitome of this often disorderly book. A glance at the table of contents is enough to show that the sequence of chapters is erratic and closer inspection reveals that the scope of individual chapters is far wider than appears at first sight. Philosophic doctrines (which, according to the author, are the basis of the talismanic art), theory of magic, astronomical, astrological and physical lore, extensive directions for the practice of the art, and accounts of the peoples by whom it is employed are jumbled together throughout the book, with no discernible guiding principle. If a systematic arrangement is anywhere perceptible, it is in the astrological and astronomical material, though even this is far from self-contained or methodically ordered. Subjects which belong together are separated (e.g., the geographical sections on pp.171 ff. and 394 ff.), long, discursive definitions, appearing in unexpected places, further break the sequence (e.g., pp.78 and 343)-. and there is a great deal more to make the reader's task more difficult.
This manner of writing may well be intentional, whether to make the magical sections appear less suspect by interlarding them with theoretical passages, or to make certain doctrines seem less strange by administering them in small doses, or to demonstrate the equal validity of the magical and philosophical material, or for a combination of all three reasons. At all events, a similar method of presentation is apparent in one of the principal sources of The Aim of the Sage, the encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity (Ihwân al-Safâ).
What follows is a survey of the whole, with a sketch of the sources,
as far as they can at present be identified. No attempt has been
made to impose a logical order on the illogicality of the book.
In the preface, after some autobiographical material, the author gives his reason for writing the work, which is to shed light on the nature of magic, a secret closely guarded by the ancient philosophers. He adds a summary of the contents of his four books (pp.1-3). This is replaced, in some manuscripts, by a detailed list of contents, arranged by chapter, of which a translation will be found on pp. lxxvi-lxxviii of the present volume.
Chapter 1 (pp.4-7) demonstrates the importance of philosophy, on the one hand for the understanding of matters divine, natural and moral, and on the other as the premise for magic, which is its conclusio. In the first section there are verbal echoes of al-Fârâbî's Classification of the Sciences (Ihsâ al-'Ulûm) and the Neo-Platonic doctrines of the pseudo-Empedocles. The chapter ends with an excursus on the definition of some logical concepts, suggested by the word conclusio.
Chapter 2 gives a definition of magic according to the Ihwân al-Safâ', and of talismans according to Jabir ibn Hajjân. The talisman is compared to the elixir of the alchemists (pp.7-9). Magic is to be divided into two parts, theoretical and practical, the first being confined to the knowledge of the heavens (with the parenthesis that speech is a kind of magic) and the second consisting in making use of the natural kingdoms, animal, vegetable and mineral (pp.9-10). This principle of discrimination holds good, by and large, for the arrangement of the whole work. The chapter concludes with certain astronomical and astrological matters.
Chapter 3 deals with the reasons for the heavens' being spherical in form, with the degrees and the images ascending in them, and compares the power of the degrees with that of the planets (pp.12-14). Some passages are related to the Kitâb al-Baht of Jâbir, which is laid under such heavy contribution later in The Aim of the Sage.
Chapter 4. Since the successful use of talismans depends upon their being used in conjunction with the correct constellations, this chapter is devoted to the latter. The author gives a descriptive list of the twenty-eight mansions of the moon, according to the "Indian" system, and assigns to each its correct talisman. Analysis of the passage shows that it is a compound of "Indian" doctrines, the tenets of Dorotheus of Sidon (both attested by Ibn abi 'l-Rijâl) and elements from a list ascribed to Hermes (attested by the Ihwân al-Safâ') (pp.14-21). At the beginning of the chapter, the author advised the magician of the necessity to prepare himself inwardly for his task: this is now, in an excursus, brought into harmony with the disposition inherent in various natural substances to absorb magical influences, and this again is followed by suggestions as to the positions of the moon favorable for certain enterprises (pp.22-24). The author opens the final section with his usual formula to the effect that he is returning to the true subject of his book.
Chapter 5 enlarges the discussion of the lunar mansions, by giving thirty-one examples of constellations of a different kind, favorable to the manufacture of talismans. Some of the talismans are described, but no indication is given of how to make them effective, a subject which later occupies a large part of the book (pp.24-34). Inserted in the middle of the discussion is an account of the different effects of the various aspects (p.29). There follow remarks on the dependence of the talismans on the heavenly bodies and the importance of the magician's concentration of his energy towards his purpose, again with verbal echoes from the Ihwân al-Safâ'. Along with these go aphorisms from "Plato" and Tâbit ibn Qurra, as well as two extracts from a treatise ascribed to Aristotle, which is later quoted entire in Book IV, chapter 4. (pp.34-36). Examples are given of the "incantation" of talismans to make them effective. These formulae are also to be found in the Ihwân al-Safâ', where they are attributed to Hermes. This completes the practical instruction given in Book I. Then comes a postscript and the chapter concludes with an evaluation of magic and alchemy (pp.38-39).
The two final chapters of Book I are entirely devoted to philosophy. Chapter 6 deals with the nature of man. Starting from the premise that man is a microcosm, the author opens with an enumeration of the characteristics which make man superior to all other creatures (pp 40-41). He then gives the familiar correspondences between the parts of the human body and those of the macrocosm. Though at first there are only reminiscences of the lhwân al-Safâ', we soon find whole pages together which are identical with that work, and, in part, with the work edited by Goldziher as The Book of the Essence of the Soul (Kitâb ma`ânî al-nafs) (pp.42-46). The human being as he is actually found on earth is shown to depend from his idea, the universal man, and this dependence is illustrated by a succession of hypostases (pp.47-50). Numerous single echoes of Neo-Platonic and pseudo-Empedoclean propositions may be identified here, but the passage as a whole has not so far been satisfactorily clarified. The author expressly states that this sixth chapter is not a digression, but deals rather with the essence of magic, by which he clearly means that the chain of hypostases proves a connection between the upper and the lower world, the prime tenet in the art of magic. A mention of the obscurity with which the ancients clothed this scheme is made the occasion for a consideration of both the superficial and the essential nature of knowledge and of the mode of study (pp. 50-51).
Chapter 7 takes up again for its theme the great chain of being,
the author's ideas on which cannot yet be given their correct
place in the history of Neo-Platonic thought. He then reverts
in greater detail to the concept of Hyle, and its place in the
chain, the discussion of such theoretical topics being justified
by the fact that they "correct the understanding and sharpen
the apprehension" (pp. 51-54).
Chapter 1. The correspondences between earthly creatures and their celestial archetypes, which were mentioned at the end of Book I, form the opening topic of this chapter. This is the subject of the ninth aphorism ot the pseudo-Ptolemaic Centiloquium. Next comes the story of a magical cure, taken from the Commentary of Ibn al-Dâja on this aphorism, which recounts how, in his youth, the author came to occupy himself with magic while testing Ibn al-Dâja's prescription for the cure (pp.55-57). Then follows an excursus on sensory perception, including a quotation from the Ihwân al-Safâ', and other modes of cognition (pp.57-58). The chapter ends with an account of the contributions made by individual branches of knowledge to the, understanding of the correspondences between the two worlds (pp.58-59).
Chapter 2 treats the subject of the celestial images and their significance, i.e., the forty-eight constellations known to the Greeks and the paranatellonta of the thirty-six decans. The three decans of Aries in the "Indian" system are selected from Abû Ma`shar by way of example and a full explanation of their paranatellonta given (pp. 59-62). Ibn Wahshîja follows the same method of interpretation: he uses the triplicities, while the "Indian sage" Tumtum and others use the degrees (p.62). Examples of the images ascending in the degrees are given and their significance explained, with reference to a book by Jâbir which has not survived (pp.62-68). Finally, the author computes the possible number of planetary conjunctions in a single degree, on the basis of a work by "Herrnes", extending, as he does so, a section of Jâbir's Kitâb al-Baht (pp. 63-65).
Chapter 3 is very long and is mainly concerned with the effects of the moon, beginning with the significance of its phases. The ultimate dependence of the moon's operation on that of the sun is emphasized (pp. 65-67). This is followed by a demonstration of the analogy between the phases of the moon, the ages of man and the seasons of the year etc. Then there is a short interpolation maintaining that composite bodies are subject to perpetual change from the motions of the stars, without changing their specific shapes. After this comes the nature of eclipses (pp. 67-69). Almost all the foregoing is derived from the Nabataean Agriculture of Ibn Wahshîja. The author now reverts to the moon and follows, for many pages, the theory of the Ihwân al-Safâ', which differs from that of Ibn Wahshîja in that it links the periods of the moon's greatest influence to its conjunction with other planets and the houses in which they stand (pp.69-74). The rest of the chapter is devoted to the theory of the elections, in which the moon plays an important part, and is introduced by a discussion of the impedimenta lunae, the unfavorable positions of the moon, which go back to Dorotheus of Sidon. A section is devoted to the art of converting the ascendant into a fortunate one. The whole passage is almost completely pervaded by correspondences and parallels with Ibn Abi 'l-Rijâl, and in certain parts with Sahl b. Bishr (pp.74-81). An interpolated note gives a mathematical definition of the aspects (p.78). The chapter concludes by contrasting Aristotle's exhortation to Alexander to practice astrology and the Islamic prohibition of the art.
Chapter 4, a short one, discusses the doctrine of the trepidation of the sphere of the fixed stars, which must be taken into account in the drawing-up of astronomical tables. This is taken verbatim from Theo Alexandrinus, with the addition of a postscript, which is apparently the work of the compiler (pp. 81-83).
Chapter 5 is a particularly good example of the characteristically curious arrangement of the subject matter in The Aim of the Sage. It begins with the statement that a "master of ancient times" divided the whole art of magic under three heads: talismans, the worship of the planets and incantations. Each of these became the special province of certain peoples: the "Indians", for example, excelled in incantations. From this we pass to an enumeration of the various arts and doctrines of these "Indians", with emphasis on, among other topics, the combination of stars to compose certain magical figures (pp. 83-86). Mention of the "Indian" theory of the nature of dreams is the occasion for an account of the author's own ideas on the subject, which are based on those of al-Fârâbî, and certain quotations from the latter's Ideal State. There follows the theory of divination and prophecy, the second of which has also close affinities with the work of al-Fârâbî, though his name is not mentioned until the conclusion of the section, where there is an irrelevant quotation from his treatise on alchemy (pp.87-90). The author now reverts to his "Indians" and adopts their doctrine of the superiority of talisman over election, since the talisman, as well as being rendered effective by the power of the constellation which dominates it, receives extra power from the specific qualities (virtutes) of the substances of which it is composed (pp. 90-91).
Chapter 6 begins with the importance of the virtutes in reinforcing the effects of the stars even in those natural processes which are independent of human agency. Man makes talismans unawares as soon as he begins to manipulate nature in such processes as dyeing cloth, breeding animals or compounding drugs, as well as in the manufacture of objects of everyday use from the products of nature, as in cooking, spinning and the like. Now in the manufacture of a talisman, as in medicine, the maker is consciously seeking to use a simple or compound substance, which is itself predisposed towards the desired effect (pp. 91-94). Just as the product may be influenced in different ways by the treatment it receives, so also the influence of a star depends upon its position. This analogy is soon abandoned and the author turns to the theory of the stars' effects in a way which is unrelated to what has gone before. The first part of this chapter is taken over entire from Jâbir's Kitâb al-Baht, while the second part apparently consists of quotations from that half of the work which has not come down to us. Some of the theories presented are extremely difficult to understand and interpret, as the author himself admits. The main source of the difficulty lies in the fact that the discussion concerns the aether and the sphere of the fixed stars and their bearing on motions and effects (pp. 94-99). There follows a passage on the relative effects of different planets in conjunction with one another, which, though based on the same theories, is less obscure (pp. 99-100). The chapter concludes with a further summary of the theory, again in conformity with the surviving portion of Jâbir's book (pp.100-101).
Chapter 7. The importance of similarity and dissimilarity for the explanation of certain sidereal effects was repeatedly mentioned in Chapter 6. In Chapter 7, the author takes the opportunity of defining similarity as an aspect of the logical category of relation applied to the talismanic art. He then enters on a detailed discussion of the category of quantity, considering lines, surfaces, time, place, speech and number as far as they are significant for talismans, with a shorter account, at the end, of position and quality (pp. 101-107). The whole is summarized from Jâbir's Kitâb al-Baht.
Chapter 8 is also taken from Jâbir. It contains a table showing the simple qualities heat, cold, moisture and dryness and what results from the various steps in forming combinations of them. The table is preceded by a discussion of details, of antique origin (Antiochus of Athens). After this comes the rationale of the sequence of the combinations of the qualities, likewise from Jâbir (pp. 107-110). The author closes this very difficult section, whose importance for the whole is not easily discernible, with these words:
"I set forth such miraculous and confusing matters from all the sciences for this reason only, that you may be purified for the earnest study of these marvelous arts and may achieve what the ancient sages achieved and attain the heights that they attained".
Chapter 9 takes up again the notion of the combination of the stars in magical figures (see Chapter 5) and gives instructions for making six talismans engraved with such figures (pp. 111-113).
Chapter 10 deals with talismans made by engraving certain figures on the stones and metals which belong to the planets. It falls into three parts, of which the first is an enumeration of the minerals belonging to the various planets. The Arabic manuscripts of The Aim of the Sage, unlike those of the translations, show striking deviations from the usual classification. It is therefore possible that the correspondences of the translations with the norm may be due to a reworking of the text. At all events, it is remarkable that some of the deviations (e.g. iron instead of lead for Saturn, copper instead of iron for Mars) are also found in Book III, chapter 7, the chapter on Sabian prayers to the planets. The first part ends with illustrations of the figures, some of which still survive as signets of the planets (pp. 113-114). The second part describes the images of the planetary gods. The author gives three sources, though there are in fact more, as will be seen from the commentary to the present translation. The three sources specified are a lapidary by `Utârid, a book without a title by Apollonius and a work by a certain Kriton on pneumatic talismans translated by Bu(i)qrâtîs (Picatrix) (pp.114-119). In the third part are instructions for engraving these and other images, some of them with magical signs, on different stones, with information on their various effects. The number of the sources is then increased by the mention of a book dedicated to Alexander by Aristotle (obviously Secretum secretorum) and a work by Hermes (al-Hâdîtûs). There is, however, no indication of the relevant source for most of the instructions, so that it cannot be determined whether the sources of all are the same as those just mentioned. The differing degree of explicitness of the instructions makes it probable that the author collected his material from wherever he could find it (pp.119-130). The chapter concludes with a short list of talismans which are to be manufactured when the planets are in certain decans. The effects are given, but no other details (p.141). This list is clearly connected with the last two chapters of Book II, which discuss the decans in detail.
Chapter 11 opens with an admonition to keep the doctrine concealed from the unlettered, who, from their lack of wisdom, will only disparage the dignity of the astrologer. It continues with the definition of understanding and sagacity, using formulations which are to be found in a collection of aphorisms ascribed to al-Fârâbî, though also attributable, in part, to Miskawaih and even to Aristotle (pp.131-133). Then follows the detailed enumeration of the thirty-six decans (here called wujûh, facies), the images ascending in them, and the names of the planets with which they are connected, beginning from Aries, with Mars, the Sun and Venus and ending in Pisces with Saturn, Jupiter and Mars. There are a few words of introduction to the list, stating that the effects of the decans are founded in their concord with the physeis of their "lords". A postscript discusses the relative power of the various planets and astrological positions and of the physeis (pp.133-140). An identical description is to be found in Ibn Abi 'l-Rijâl, except that the latter omits all the images and, from Virgo on, the planets, which he has no call to give at all. In a short closing passage the author tells us that, to make their operation effective, the images must be engraved on substances which correspond to the respective planets.
Chapter 12 gives a second list of decans, based on the system
of the "Indians", in which the decans are called darîjân,
the Indian name for them. They are now allotted to the planets
in such a way that each first decan contains the lord of the zodiacal
sign (Mars, e.g., is in the first decan of Aries), while to the
other two decans are allotted the lords of the signs situated
trigonally (120°) distant from them, as, in Aries, the Sun
(Leo) and Jupiter (Sagittarius). The effects only are given, not
the images (pp. 141-43). We continue with information on Brahmin
ascetic practices, which are performed at astrologically significant
times and, by enabling the practitioners to reach a state of dematerialization,
allow them to dominate the celestial powers. They are guided by
a "Book of the Buddha", from which extracts are quoted
(pp.144-46). Then comes the description, frequently found in other
texts, of the severance of a head from a living body so that it
may be questioned for prophetic purposes. Our author gives no
indication that he is here deserting the "Indians" for
the Sabians (pp.146-47). There follows a detailed list of the
colors belonging to the decans of the planets (again called wujûh,
facies), without any indication of what the significance of
this is. If we are to believe this list, each planet has three
decans, as though it were a sign of the zodiac, and one color
and two talismans are attributed to every decan (pp. 147-151).
The conclusion of the chapter and of Book II consists of an extract
from a work on talismans by the physician alRazi, describing the
constellations favorable to the manufacture of talismans for specific
purposes (pp.151-52). The author gives the names of several books,
among them the much-quoted Kitâb al-Baht, by Jâbir,
whose pupil he professes to be. Finally, he gives the contents
of both the magical books of the Laws, ascribed to Plato, and
compares their method with that of Jâbir (pp.152-57).
Having expounded, in Book II, the doctrine of the planets and the signs of the zodiac for the most part as elements of constellations for the purpose of making talismans, the author, in Book III, treats them more individually, with their specific qualities. The planets are personified to such a degree that they are virtually conjured and worshipped.
Chapter 1. After a short, not easily intelligible introduction, the object of which is to establish the astrological hour which makes a talisman efficacious, (pp. 156-57), there is a detailed description of the dominions of the seven planets, which embraces all divisions of nature and certain aspects of civilization, such as languages, religions and the sciences. In conclusion, there is a brief note on the effects of both nodes of the lunar orbit (pp.157-64).
Chapter 2. There is a similar, but much shorter detailed list of the dominions of the twelve signs of the zodiac (pp.164-66).
Chapter 3 is an omnium gatherum, beginning with a list of the substances from which the inks of the planets may be made. No source is yet known for anything from the beginning of Book III to this point. We now find a quotation from an otherwise unknown pseudo-Aristotelian work entitled The Book of Lamps and Banners. The author first gives a list, as it appears in this work, of the images of the personified planets, which is in effect a supplement to that in Book II, chapter 10. Then, again from the Book of Lamps and Banners, he gives the colors and stuffs of the robes to be worn when worshipping the planets, as well as the fumigations proper to them (pp. 167-68). He adds to these, from another, unnamed, source, the formulae for the inks of the thirty-six decans and explains, in a postscript, the importance of dealing consistently with only those things which belong to the planets. As a text for this he uses an aphorism by 'Utârid, which is repeated, along with other aphorisms by the same author, in Book IV, chapter 4 (pp.168-71). The effects of the planets on the geographic regions of the earth are now illustrated, certain products and other features peculiar to foreign countries being specified, in a mixture of the true and the fantastic. In the middle of this section is a list of the products of Spain, the author's homeland, and the whole concludes, in spite of the author's leaning towards astrology, with a quotation from the Hippocratic work De Aeribus aquis locis. The chapter ends with a list of the general effects of the sun and moon and of the other five planets on mankind (pp. 171-76).
Chapter 4 is completely isolated, since it is the only one in the entire book which mentions Islam in connection with astrology. It goes so far as to use the Koran as a basis for a method of reckoning the duration of the Arab kingdom by using the numerical values of some single letters and groups of letters at the beginning of a number of the suras. All the verses of the Koran are first allotted, in order, to the seven planets. Then those letters, or groups of letters, are selected which stand at the beginning of those suras of which the first or last verse was allotted to Venus, the planetary patroness of the Arabs.
The author begins with a short description of his source, a book by the so far unknown Ja'far of Basra (pp.176-77). The expression symbol used here prompts him to make a digression on overt and covert meaning and the relation of this distinction to the psychology of cognition. The various ways of knowing God are given as an example. Parts of the argument are to be found in a minor work by al-Gazzâlî. The comparison, frequent in Islamic literature, between the incomprehensibility of God and the intolerable brilliance of light, is used by way of illustration (pp.177-79). This is followed by speculation as to the reason why, of the twenty-eight letters of the Arabic alphabet which together form a whole, compounded of spirit and matter, that half only which represents the spirit appears at the beginning of the suras, why more than five of these letters never occur together, and, finally, why the first letter of this kind to appear in the Koran is alif and the last nûn.
Certain admonitions, from the Gospel and from Hadît, enjoining that secrets should be imparted only to those worthy to receive them, but to such persons freely, are then quoted (pp. 179-181). Then follows the enumeration of all the suras, including the number of their verses and the statement of the planet to which each first and last verse belongs (pp. 181-84). The author is seeking to prove that the term of the Arab kingdom is six hundred and ninety-three years, the same number at which al-Kindî had arrived by two other methods in a work which the author cites explicitly and which has survived (pp. 184-85). The conclusion is concerned with an explanation of the nature of the spirit, since the spirit is represented, as mentioned above, by the letters at the beginning of some of the suras. The explanation begins with the Stoic definition of the vital spirit, a definition often used in Arabic literature. Other definitions follow, of which only some can be ascribed to definite sources (pp.185-87).
It is worth mentioning that this "Islamic" chapter comes directly before that part of the book in which the author turns to black magic. The introduction to this part is even more remarkable.
Chapter 5 opens with the statement that the author is "returning to the subject". It refers to the division of the creatures of the three natural kingdoms among the planets, which was dealt with at the beginning of Book III. The author soon breaks off and reverts to the superiority of man over living creatures, which he has already noted in Book I, chapter 6. He details the characteristics of a number of different animals and establishes man's superiority by the fact that all the elements have a share in him. The reiteration of this in the digression is intentional, since it gives the author the chance to discuss jinns, devils and angels (pp.187-89).
He then announces once more that he is about to take up his main subject again and gives an account of the peoples who have been famous for the arts of magic and of how they attained the position of being able to control the pneumata (pp.189-90). As an example, he narrates a story from a book known only from the present work. It tells, with detailed descriptions of the magical processes, how a rich and handsome young man was spirited to the place where his lover was and then, later, freed from the enchantment (pp. 190-92). After carefully pointing out the importance of the subject and the extent of the pains he himself has taken, the author speaks for the third time of returning to his theme and gives exhaustive directions for the attraction of the planetary spirit by using a knowledge of the lordships of the planets. The fumes of the incense burnt in the incantation of the planet are to be passed through the middle of a hollow cross, explicit reasons being given for this. The chapter concludes with some general quotations from an unidentified source on the relations between planets and terrestrial souls (pp.192-97).
Chapter 6 is devoted to the manifestation of the spiritual essence of the wise man, which is called his "perfect nature". The incantation for this "perfect nature" is described according to two pseudo-Aristotelian hermetic treatises, al-Istamâtîs and al-Istamâhîs (pp. 198-210), the latter of which survives complete, the former in fragments only. Following this are prophecies, quoted from al-Istamâhîs, of Alexander's victory over the Persians, and Alexander is advised to invoke the pneumata of his "perfect nature". The author, citing a text which he claims to be Persian, tells how the King of the Persians learned from his description that Alexander was invincible (pp. 201-203). Then come "historical" notes on the most ancient philosophers, who were aware of this pneuma, and information concerning the spiritual forces at work in talisman and soul alike. Both these sections are taken from al-Istamâhîs (pp.203-205), and the chapter ends with sayings by Socrates and Hermes on the essence of the perfect nature, from the same source (pp. 205-206).
Chapter 7. The reader is apparently now considered sufficiently prepared in the theory of magic to be initiated into its practice. Our author quotes from a book by al-Tabarî, an astronomer not yet identified, copious instructions, for the adoration of the planets according to the usage of the Sabians. These are not given in the form of a connected narrative, but as directives, and they go so far as to enjoin prostration.
At the beginning of the chapter is a list of the planets, with particulars of which planet is to be invoked for which groups of people and which desired gifts (pp.206-209). Following this there is a second list, giving the characteristics of each planet and explaining their significance, in a way frequently reminiscent of the list in chapter 1 of this book (pp.209-213). Then come the ceremonies and the texts of the prayers for each planet, with details of their correct hours and astrological conditions. For each planet a number, varying from one to four, of prayers and incenses, is given. The prayers to Mars are followed, curiously enough, by a prayer to Ursa Major. For many parts of the prayers parallels can be found in the fragmentary manuscripts of al-Istamâtîs. The metals from which the incense vessels must be made do not in all cases correspond with the traditional planetary metals, as stated above in Book II, chapter 10 (pp.213-37). Next there is an account of other Sabian rites, child sacrifice, the worship of Mars by ritual slaughter, the initiation of young men, offerings to Saturn and a variant of the story, given in Book II, chapter 12, of the severance of a living head from its body (pp. 237-41).
Chapter 8 contains prayers of the Nabataeans to Saturn
and the Sun, taken from the Nabataean Agricu1ture. In a
postscript the author explains that all this is, according to
Islamic notions, idolatry, and that he introduces it simply on
grounds of scholarship and as a proof of the pre-eminenence of
Chapter 9 contains, again according to al-Istamâtîs,
the names of the pneumata of the seven planets and
their six "directions", i.e. the two channels of movement
of each of the three dimensions of space, hence the six directions
in which the pneuma can move. There follows a detailed
description of the ceremonies for each planet, this time concerned
with the proper regulation of sacrificial repasts (pp.245-253).
|The Pneuma of Saturn is called Barîmâs, that of Jupiter is Damâhûs, Mars Dagdijûs, the Sun Bandalûs, Venus Dîdâs Mercury Barhûjâs, the Moon Garnûs.|
Chapter 10 continues with excerpts from our two pseudo-Aristotelian works. First, from al-Istamâhîs, there are four amulets, composed by Aristotle for Alexander (pp.253-58). Then comes a talisman for protection against the poisons in magic philtres and a medicine for the evil effects of the pneuma on the magician (pp.258-59). After this follow nirenjs [nirangs], charms for various objects, such as success in love, royal favor etc., invented by Kînâs, the "pneumatician", of whom we know from other sources. Each purpose is allotted various media, such as talismans, foods, fumigations and aromatic substances or perfumes. Many of these media have magical names and magic words are also prescribed for their incantation (pp.259-272). The source of all these prescriptions is so far unidentified, though at some points al-Istamâtîs and related texts are expressly cited.
Chapter 11 is given over to similar formulae, which, it is explicitly stated at the outset, do not come from Kînâs. Modes of procedure are only sometimes specified and frequently the ingredients alone of the charms, in prescription forrn, are given. Not all the prescriptions are of a purely magical nature: they sometimes extend to exact directions for preparing poisons. Some parallels from al-Istamâtîs manuscripts may be recognized. The section of prescriptions ends with a prophylactic against the poisons employed, the invention of Kanka, the "Indian", who is known from other sources (pp.272-85). Immediately on this passage follow examples of the magic arts of the ancient Egyptians, which come from the widely-diffused legendary pre-history of Egypt, to be found in al-Maqrîzî and other authors. These examples are interrupted by a discussion of the "friendly" numbers 220 and 284. The whole is attributed to "him", so that it appears that Kanka has all along been under contribution, whereas the fact is that the section is a miscellany from different sources.
None of the legendary kings of Egypt is named until a further instalment of Egyptian history is presented. What we are told of Egypt concerns talismans, devices to give warning of the approach of enemies and for the storage of drinking water, as well as talismanic sculptures against disease and for the unmasking of libertines (pp.285-88). The discussion of "Indian" practices now continues, including examples of the artificial generation of living beings (pp.288-90).
We now return to philosophy, which occupies the last chapter of Book III and the first of Book IV. The definite division of the two chapters is not easily accounted for. One has the impression that the author may have wished, at obvious points like the end of one book and the beginning of another, to display something less offensive than the wild heterodoxy of, in particular, the second part of Book III.
Chapter 12 begins with an emphatic statement of the importance
of practical application in attaining mastery of the arts. It
is illuminating that it adduces an example in which a magical
performance is discovered to be a fraud, viz., the story, well
known from elsewhere, of Anoshawan and Mazdak. There follow exhortations
to the love of God, which is so markedly different from all other
kinds of love. Then comes a passage from the Metaphysics of Aristotle,
which makes a rather forced transition to a discussion of the
various meanings of the word "nature". For this there
are many parallels, one of the definitions being derived from
Isaac Israeli. Book III ends rather abruptly with an account,
attributed to Empedocles, of the first causes of the substances
Chapter 1. It is a little difficult, since the opening of the chapter is a continuation of the statement of Empedoclean doctrine begun in Book III, Chapter 12, to realize that a new book has commenced. We begin with the theory of the five substances, treated as a history of creation and of nature (pp.297-299). This is followed by a detailed analysis of the concepts of Substance (pp.299-300), Intellect (pp.300-304), and Soul (pp.304-308). No source is given for the section on Intellect, though many parallels could be pointed out. In the passage on Soul, on the other hand, there are quotations, some of them genuine, from a number of ancient philosophers. Reasons for having expounded the doctrine of Soul and Intellect conclude the chapter and the statement that a shadow forms a material partition between the intellect of the reader and that of the universe is the starting-point for an interesting excursus on the nature of shadows.
Chapter 2. The author, having once again given philosophy its due, "returns to the subject of the book", and chapter 2 deals with prayers to the moon in each of the twelve signs of the zodiac. These are the work of "a school of learned men of the Kurds and Abyssinians" and often tell what may be accomplished under each sign. Narratives illustrating the possible effects are sometimes given (pp. 309-319). The most remarkable of these is the story of two men who meet while walking on the waters of the Red Sea. Following the prayers to the moon are "Indian" ceremonies for the seven planets. Each ceremony is to be preceded by a seven days' fast and magic signs, called characters, are used in the ceremonies (pp 319-322). Certain parts of this may be found in Hermetic manuscripts.
Chapter 3 takes up again, on a much larger scale, the legendary prehistory of Egypt, which had already been begun in Book III, chapter 11. The story of the Eagle Town, built by the rebellious governor 'Aun in an attempt to escape the vengeance of King al-Walîd on the latter's return from an expedition to the so-called Mountain of the Moon and the source of the Nile, is then told in detail (pp.322-329). (Parallels to the whole, from pseudo-Mas'ûdî's Ahbâr al-zamân, al-Maqrîzî and al-Nuwairî are cited in the footnotes to the translation.) There is now an abrupt transition to directions for making oneself invisible, and the story of a sorcerer's Kurdish apprentice, whose lack of understanding led to his dismissal (pp.329-31). The chapter concludes with some aphorisms, one of them from pseudo-Ptolemy's Centiloquium, which are not entirely comprehensible (pp. 331-32).
Chapter 4 is again a miscellany. It opens with forty-five aphorisms of an astrological and magical nature from a book extant in manuscript, by the Babylonian 'Utârid (Hermes). 'Utarid may perhaps be the person mentioned in Book II, chapter 10 as one of the sources for the engraving of planetary figures on stones (pp.332-36). There follow ten aphorisms from the Centiloquium (pp. 336-38) and sayings attributed to Plato, Hippocrates and Aristotle, also of an astrological nature (pp.338-39), as well as the complete text of the "Aristotelian" treatise on talismans, extracts from which were quoted in Book I, chapter 5. Added to this there is a discussion of the notion of degree, which is to be found in the pseudo-Aristotelian treatise (pp.339-43). Then there are further observations of a general kind on talismans, which the author says he has from Jâbir. It has not been possible to identify precisely what work is meant (pp. 343-46). The conclusion of the chapter is taken up with two quotations from "Plato", of which one is an exhortation to prefer bodily death to spiritual extinction and the other concerns the basis for the effects of music on the soul. The latter quotation, which is largely incomprehensible and clearly very corrupt, includes excerpts from the fragments of Empedocles, which are extant in Greek. The chapter ends with the admonition to discipline the soul, sleeping and waking (pp.346-48).
Chapter. 5 begins by enumerating the ten sciences preliminary to the mastery of alchemy and magic. The list is, in many respects, influenced by the familiar encyclopedic pattern, but takes, in others, quite a singular turn. The pertinent Aristotelian texts are specified for some of the sciences (pp.349-51). We are now told that through philosophy man strives after the divine likeness. Then the author reverts to the theory of love, with which he had begun to deal in Book III, chapter 12 (pp.351-53). He considers that the power of the evil eye ought by rights to be discussed here. The fact that the evil eye may be hereditary gives him the occasion for a detailed account of the doctrines of heredity and procreation, taken verbatim from al-Fârâbî, who is, however, not named (pp.353-57). The chapter concludes with speculations, from an unknown source, on the meaning of bi-sexuality (pp.357-58).
Chapter 6 opens with formulae and ceremonies for incense, allegedly by Buddha, in honor of the seven planets -- a subject that had, to all appearances, been exhausted. It closes with the verses from Exodus, telling of the perfumes prescribed by God to Moses, (pp. 358-362), and an exhaustive description of "Indian" enchantments (pp. 362-66).
Chapter 7 is very long and consists for the most part of avowed and verbatim extracts from the Nabataean Agriculture, e.g., how the bay tree spoke to the gardener in a dream, the debate over precedence between the marshmallow and the mandrake, the self-commendation of the olive tree and how a sleeping king was apprised by a tree that his servant, disregarding the royal command in anticipation of the royal remorse, had spared the life of the queen. The other extracts are, in the main, explanations of the magic properties of certain plants and of the customs of the peoples mentioned in the Nabataean Agriculture (pp. 362-401). Not all can be traced to the manuscripts of the Agriculture and some of the matter seems to be taken from other works by Ibn Wahshîja. A different version of the discussion of poison for arrows used by the Armenians (pp. 383 f.) is to be found in the Book of Poisons. Other subjects seem to have been added by our author, for example, a quotation from a work attributed to al-Hallâj (pp. 389 f.). The section on the specific products of certain countries (pp. 391-96), a subject resumed from Book III, chapter 3, goes far beyond what Ibn Wahshîja can have had to say. Summing up, the author speaks of the three natural kingdoms -- animal, vegetable and mineral -- and of mankind as well as the links by which they may be led back to the Creator (pp.401-402).
The two last chapters, the compiler says, are taken from a temple book, which was found in the time of Cleopatra.
Chapter 8 gives, in a confused order, a large number of the virtutes of natural objects (pp.403-412). Parallels to most of these, very often in the works of Jâbir, are identifiable, and many are attributable to classical authors, such as Pliny.
Chapter 9 deals, in its entirety, with descriptions of talismans, which expressly depend on the virtutes. Astrological material is not mentioned. The objects of the talismans are of different kinds: for drugs, for attracting or repelling animals, producing color effects etc. (pp.412-20).
As a conclusion, the author gives a testament of Socrates and seven admonitions by Pythagoras, both identifiable in other sources, some of them classical (pp.421-423).
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