Could you learn magic and become a powerful and evil wizard? In the Middle Ages you could, if you had a copy of Picatrix.
Picatrix is the title of one of the medieval world’s most fascinating treatises – a book that offers a wide variety of magical spells and creations, including summoning spirits, building talismans, and offering concoctions to cure (or cause) many ailments. It was originally an Arabic text, known as Ghayat al-Hakim, that dates from the eleventh-century, but by the thirteenth-century it was translated into Spanish and then Latin, gaining the name Picatrix. By the late Middle Ages the work became very popular throughout Europe, with many manuscript copies kept in libraries including Oxford, Paris, Florence and Krakow.
While some thought Picatrix was just silly superstitions, others believed it was a dangerous text. Even in more modern times one can find people wary of it and wanting it to keep it away from the general public. It certainly is a strange work for today’s readers, and creepy, as it offers magical spells ranging from mind control to environmental destruction.
If you do want to become an evil wizard, Picatrix has a lot to offer, although it requires a lot of odd paraphernalia, including human and animal body parts and fluids. Here are some of the very evil things that you can do with Picatrix!
Create a wasteland
If fantasy novels are correct, evil wizards like to live in barren land, far from other people. Picatrix offers a spell to get that kind of living arrangement by driving your neighbours away. The curse involves using the fluid from a pig’s brain to draw figures onto a thin lead sheet. Do this:
On the day and hour of Saturn with the second face of Capricorn ascending with Saturn standing in it. Place the thin sheet in the place that you desire to be depopulated. The harmful power of Saturn will flow into it, and it will never be populated for as long as the thin sheet shall stand there.
One ring to rule them all?
Picatrix devotes a lot of its pages to astrological magic, and the power of the planets in particular (in the medieval world the planets were Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury and the Moon). You could make use of these planets through the various metals and minerals and create rings with magical abilities. For example, the book advises one to create a ring for Saturn using turquoise and lead, and to inscribe into it an image of a man riding a dragon, wielding a sickle or a scythe. If you wear the ring, then:
The spirits that dwell in the dark and obscure places will be well-disposed to the wearer; bulls will assist the wearer. Even profound secrets, humans, scorpions, serpents, mice, all the reptiles upon the earth, and all the operations of Saturn will be revealed to the wearer.
Picatrix does warn you that ring of Saturn wearer must not enter dark places or eat dilled meats.
The text credits this spell to the people of India, adding that they have long kept it a secret. The first part involves mixing a man’s semen with that of an animal, placing it into a container. Then place the container into excrement for three days.
When this finished, remove and you will find the likeness of the animal in the container. Take it out and, and put it into sesame oil, which you will will leave aside for three days. The animal will absorb this oil for three days. While it is still alive, grind it up into that oil. If you light a lamp and anoint someone’s face with it, they will appear in the shape of the animal whose semen you used.
Evil wizards probably need a lot of poisons, and Picatrix has many, many recipes for this, all of which seem to have strange ingredients. There are those that require pig sweat, donkeys’ brains, monkey grease and even black cats’ urine. Perhaps the most sinister of all of these concoctions is created with a toad. The text explains that you need to:
Stretch it out on its stomach over a post. Affix each foot with a nail. Then hit it with a long stick. Little by little, it will swell up while getting angry, and it will spew forth a triple venom with a triple color. Place a dish under it and catch it. Finally, get rid of the toad. Letters, food, and other such things are deadly when anointed with this. When you set the venom to ferment in a lead vase, it will become stronger. If you distill the fermented venom, it will penetrate more. If you extract the essence from it, it will be suited to your work. If someone puts a drop in hot water, it will work wondrously.
The higher power
Calling upon the powers of various spirits is another common practice for evil wizards. Picatrix has something similar to this in offering prayers to the planets to get their support in one’s ventures. The book notes that each of the planets is more effective in dealing with certain groups of people – you would call up on Saturn’s help against farmers and fathers, the Sun against physicians and philosophers, and the Moon with kings and toll keepers. Mars is described as a particularly bad planet that creates pain, suffering “and the author of evil things.” Picatrix offers a long prayer to it, which begins:
O Mars, you who are of the nature of blazing fire; an author of wars and toils; a crusher of noblemen and deposer of their offices and ranks; an igniter of fury, ire and wicked will in the hearts of evil men….Now I seek from you that you protect and defend me, who is joined with you in all this. You are strong, hot and potent in your works and do not withdraw from whoever seeks and entreats you. I beg you by all your names, manners, works, motions, and the paths present in your sphere, by your light and by the power of your domination and rule that you pay attention to me and heed my petition.
One of the most powerful artefacts that can be created with Picatrix is a magic mirror. It needs to be made with gold or gilded silver, and fashioning it seems a very complex affair – among the items you need to make it work are women’s hair from both her comb and her clothes, silk, bramble branches, incense, blood and your own semen. It also needs the names of seven stars, seven angels, and seven winds inscribed into it as well. If all this is done correctly, the power of this mirror is immense:
If you gaze into that mirror and guard it well, know that through it you will bring together men, winds, spirits, demons, the living, and the dead. All shall be obedient to you and heed your command… You will thereby have power over winds, humans, and demons, and you will do what you wish. When you are washed and clean, call them; they will come to you obediently. Do this above a basin or any clean vessel full of water. There you will behold the fulfillment of what you sought.
It should be noted that the writings of Picatrix have yet to actually help any wizards, good or evil – at least to our knowledge. But this is a fascinating medieval text that offers insights into the beliefs people had at that time, over what was thought to be magical and what you could use magic for.
You can now read the English translation of this text, by Dan Attrell and David Porreca in Picatrix: A Medieval Treatise on Astral Magic, published by Penn State University Press. Click here to learn more about it or buy this book from Amazon.com
Top Image – by Xtream_i / Flickr