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How to Become Invisible

By Danièle Cybulskie

It’s difficult to imagine an era in which human beings haven’t wished to be invisible from time to time. Even in the magic-suspicious later Middle Ages, people covertly passed around books that claimed to hold the secret we all crave. Here are two completely different medieval methods you can use to render yourself invisible, so you can choose whichever one works best for you. Both can be found in European Magic and Witchcraft: A Reader by Martha Rampton.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man – a 1951 film

The first method comes from The Key of Solomon, which purports to hold the mysteries of the Biblical king, so the methods in it were presumably meant to be less soul-endangering than other spells, as Rampton suggests. According to this method, you can have the ability to be invisible whenever you like, but you have to be organized enough to start on time or you’ll have to wait a year, so it’s best to get your stuff set up in advance:

Make a small image of yellow wax in the form of a man in the month of January and in the day and hour of Saturn, and at that time write with a needle above the crown of its head and upon its skull… You shall then write upon a small strip of the skin of a frog or a toad which you have killed, [magic] words and characters. You shall then go and suspend the said figure by one of your hairs from the vault of a cavern at the hour of midnight.

Then, you waft the figure with incense and call some spirits to you, asking “by the living god” that they make you invisible. Waft a bit more incense onto the figure and bury it in a wooden box until you need to become invisible. When you do, simply dig up the box and say, “Come unto me and never quit me wherever I shall go” until you’re finished spying or hiding, or whatever it is you need to be invisible for. Just return the box to the same spot when you’re done, et voilà (or, rather, vois pas).

The second method is also time-sensitive, and it comes from The Munich Handbook, or “A Necromancer’s Handbook”, which gives you a bit of an idea of the type of information that might be in it. Fortunately, no corpses are required to render yourself invisible, but you will need to summon demons.

The first step is preparation, which means looking great:

First, under a waxing moon on a Wednesday, in the first hour of the day, having remained chaste for three days beforehand, and with cut hair and beard, and dressed in white, in a secret place outside of town, under a clear sky, on level ground, trace a circle … with a magnificent sword, writing these [demons’] names.

Then, you begin the ritual:

Place the sword toward the west, on (the name) Firiel. And while you have placed it there, have a vessel in which there is a fire with frankincense, myrrh and other incense, and with the smoke from these go about the circle, suffumigating it, beginning and ending with (the name) Firiel.

After you’ve sprinkled some holy water and called four demons this way, they will arrive eager to serve you.  Then, you just ask for an invisibility cloak. Simple! But beware:

When you have said this, one will withdraw, and within an hour will bring forth a cloak … On the third day, return there with the cloak, and you will find your [white] garment, which you will take. Be sure to remember; if on the third day you do not return, or you do not take the garment left there, on the fourth day you will find nothing, but in seven days you will die.

It’s always best to be punctual, especially when demons are involved.

For more handy spells, as well as a whole bunch more information on the place of magic in the medieval world, check out European Magic and Witchcraft: A Reader.

You can follow Danièle Cybulskie on her website or on Twitter @5MinMedievalist

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