Books Features

New Medieval Books: Hocus pocus

We add a little magic to this week’s list of new books about the Middle Ages.

Hazards of the Dark Arts: Advice for Medieval Princes on Witchcraft and Magic

Translated by Richard Kieckhefer

Penn State University Press

This volume comprises English translations of two fundamentally important texts on magic and witchcraft in the fifteenth century: Johannes Hartlieb’s Book of All Forbidden Arts and Ulrich Molitoris’s On Witches and Pythonesses.

Excerpt from Johannes Hartlieb’s Book of All Forbidden ArtsChapter 31: Flight through the air

In this evil, wretched art of nigramancy there is a form of foolishness that people carry out with their tricks of sorcery. Horses come into an old house, and if one wishes he can mount them and ride miles in a short time. When he wants to dismount, he holds onto the bride, and to mount again he shakes the bridle, and the horse returns. The horse is in fact really a devil. For such sorcery one needs the blood of a bat; using it, a person must devote himself to the Devil with secret words, such as “debra ebra.” This practice is widely known among princes. Your princely grace should shun it, for it would truly be a pity if your elevated mind should be caught up in and led astray by any such operation.

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Medievalism, Politics and Mass Media: Appropriating the Middle Ages in the Twenty-First Century

By Andrew B.R. Elliott

ISBN: 9781843844631

Excerpt: My chief concern in writing this book has not been to dismiss or berate inaccuracies in our understanding of those medieval concepts, not to complain about their reuse in a context not designed to contain their multiple, varying and complex meanings. Instead, the main focus is to examine how and why ideas, events, facts and concepts that emerged or were prevalent during the the Middle Ages have been reused in modern mass and social media, why they are still useful for us and to what purpose they are used. Thus, I argue, the ways in which the Middle Ages are used in modern political rhetoric might well be of interest to academic historians, where they often underpin the ways in which we understand our world and out interaction with others in it.

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The Templars and their Sources

Edited by Karl Borchardt, Karoline Döring, Philippe Josserand and Helen J Nicholson

ISBN: 9781138201903

Twenty papers are included in this book: Benjamin Z. Kedar, ‘Vestiges of Templar Presence in the Aqsa Mosque’; Jochen Burgtorf, ‘The Templars and the Kings of Jerusalem’; Anthony Luttrell, ‘The Templars’ Archives in Syria and Cyprus’; Karl Borchardt, ‘Templar Charters and Charters for the Templars: Self-Promotion versus the Image of the Order’; Michael J. Peixoto, ‘Copies and Cartularies: Modernizing Templar Documents in Mid-Thirteenth Century Champagne’; Damien Carraz, ‘Private Charters and other Family Documents in the Templar Archives: Commanderies in Southern France’; Philippe Josserand, ‘Editing Templar Charters in the Iberian Peninsula at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century’; Kristjan Toomaspoeg, ‘The Marquis of Albon, Carl Erdmann and the Templar Sources in Portugal’; Alan Forey, ‘The Office of Master deça mer in Military Orders’; Christian Vogel, ‘Die Prokuratoren der Templer: Diplomatische und rechtliche Aspekte ihrer Einsetzung und ihrer Aufgaben’; John France, ‘Templar Tactics: The Order on the Battlefield’; Alain Demurger, ‘Les ordres religieux-militaires et l’argent: sources et pratiques’; Simonetta Cerrini, ‘Les Templiers et le progressif évanouissement de leur règle’; Jochen Schenk, ‘The Documentary Evidence for Templar Religion’; Arno Mentzel-Reuters, ‘Gab es eine Spiritualität der Templer?’; Helen J. Nicholson and Philip Slavin, ‘ “The Real Da Vinci Code”: The Accounts of Templars’ Estates in England and Wales during the Suppression of the Order’; Francesco Tommasi, ‘Fratres quondam Templi: Per i Templari in Italia dopo il concilio di Vienne e il destino di Pietro da Bologna’; Elena Bellomo, ‘Notaries in Inquisitorial Trials: The Evidence from the Templars’ Inquiry in North Italy’; Karlheinz Dietz, ‘Die Templer und das Turiner Grabtuch’; and John Walker, ‘Sources for the Templar Myth’

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(Magic) Staffs in the Viking Age

By Leszek Gardela

Verlag Fassbaender
ISBN: 978-3-902575-77-7

Staffs are some of the oldest ritual tools in human history, serving as important attributes of gods and supernatural beings. Created from specific materials, endowed with supernatural qualities through the words and gestures that their bearers employed, these were powerful objects with a multitude of applications.

This book investigates the idea of (magic) staffs in the worldviews of the Viking Age Scandinavians and discusses their meanings using both literature and archaeology. Based on a comprehensive study of Old Norse texts and previously unknown archaeological evidence, it provides a history of these objects and uncovers their various forms, purposes and symbolism.

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The Complete Old English Poems

Translated by Craig Williamson

University of Pennsylvania Press
ISBN 9780812248470

From the riddling song of a bawdy onion that moves between kitchen and bedroom to the thrilling account of Beowulf’s battle with a treasure-hoarding dragon, from the heart-rending lament of a lone castaway to the embodied speech of the cross upon which Christ was crucified, from the anxiety of Eve, who carries “a sumptuous secret in her hands / And a tempting truth hidden in her heart,” to the trust of Noah who builds “a sea-floater, a wave-walking / Ocean-home with rooms for all creatures,” the world of the Anglo-Saxon poets is a place of harshness, beauty, and wonder. Now for the first time, the entire Old English poetic corpus — including poems and fragments discovered only within the past fifty years — is rendered into modern strong-stress, alliterative verse in a masterful translation by Craig Williamson in this 1248 page book.

Excerpt: from The Rune Poem

C is for Cen, a torch of flame,
A blaze of brightness, a branch of fire.
This creature lights up the hall of heroes
Where princes rest in its welcome warmth.

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