Course Tutor: Dr Sophie Page

Course Code: MDVL006V



Magic in the Middle Ages




Magic existed in diverse forms in the middle ages: from simple charms to complex and subversive demonic magic. Its negative characteristics were defined by theologians who sought to isolate undesirable rituals and beliefs, but there were also many who believed that the condemned texts and practices were valuable and compatible with orthodox piety. This course will explore the place of magic in the medieval world and the contradictory responses it evoked, with a particular emphasis on manuscript sources. We will use translations of medieval magical works and microfilm print outs of manuscript images and texts. The aim of the course is not only to deepen students’ historical understanding and further their analytical skills but also to give students interested in planning their own research projects experience in the techniques of reading medieval manuscripts. Students studying Latin, ‘Manuscripts and Documents’, and Palaeography will be given more advanced exercises on the analysis of magic texts in medieval manuscripts. Knowledge or study of these subjects is a useful but not obligatory requirement of the course.


Classes: Thursdays 11-1,  room 306, History Dept, UCL.

Assessment: three essays totalling c.12,000 words.


Class Topics: Term 1

1. Introduction and historiography

2. What is magic?

3. Magic sources: texts, images and objects

4. Classical and early Medieval origins

5. Manuscript session at the Wellcome library

6. Arabic image magic and its reception

7. Ritual Magic 1: angels and demons

8. Ritual Magic 2: necromancy and the clerical underworld

9. The common tradition of magic

10. Classification and condemnation

Term 2

11. Sorcery and Witchcraft

12. Natural Magic 1: magic, medicine and marvels

13. Natural Magic 2: magic and science

14. Astrology

15. Manuscript session at the British Library

16  Sex and Gender

17  Politics and Trickery

18. Magic in the Romances

19. Magic in the Sagas

20. General Discussion



Useful Web Pages


ORB Magic Bibliography:

Magic in Ancient Greece:

Jewish Magic Bibliography:

Hermes Latinus:

History of Astrology:

Medieval Alchemy:

Medieval Geomancy:


Magic and Sources

Twilight Grotto Ritual magic texts and translations: the Ars notoria, Liber iuratus, Iamblichus, De mysteriis and a summary of the Picatrix

Esoterica. Electronic Journal:

Societas Magica: Note especially Manuscripts, Newsletter, Publications

Bibliotheca Astrologica numerica Scans of printed astrological texts with useful notes by David Juste and Charles Burnett

The Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Maps and useful primary sources, note ‘Intellectual Life’, ‘The Medieval Church’, ‘Sex and Gender’.

Internet History of Science Sourcebook: ‘Latin Christendom’ mostly links to to the Medieval Sourcebook with a few useful additions on attitudes to science, medicine, physics and technology:



The Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies:

Note ‘Magic and Witchcraft’, ‘Science and Technology’.

The Labyrinth Guide to Medieval Studies on the Web: Note ‘Sciences’

The Catholic Encyclopaedia:

The Medieval Bestiary:

 Medieval Paleography: good practice exercises!

Online journal for medieval graduate students:

Geoffrey Chaucer Blog:


Web Exhibitions

Traditions of Magic in Late Antiquity. Exhibition at the University of Michigan Library:

A Kind of Magic. Talismans, charms and amulets in the British Museum collections:

Other online sites where you can do a keyword search for ‘magic’ or investigate medieval material culture in general:



Manuscript Research


The best way to really immerse yourself in the subject of medieval magic is to call up manuscripts in the Wellcome library and British library and explore them for yourself. We will look at microfilm copies of magic texts from the start of the course but it will take a while for you to get a sense of how to approach them. In each term you will have one guided session on manuscripts. In the first (at the Wellcome library) I will discuss a selection of manuscripts with you, in the second (in the BL), you will be assigned particular manuscripts to work on according to your research interests. In your own time, but as early as possible, you should start calling up manuscripts independently. You will find most of them very difficult to read at first, but it will get easier!

Locating Manuscripts

The British library and the Wellcome library have rich collections of manuscripts containing occult texts and keyword search systems in their catalogues which you can use to find interesting manuscripts.  My books, Magic in Medieval Manuscripts and Astrology in Medieval Manuscripts, examine a large number of manuscripts in the British library (with clearly indicated shelfmarks) which have illuminations and diagrams relating to occult topics.

A very valuable resource for magical manuscript research is the Societas Magica Catalogue of Manuscripts and Early Printed Books at

This catalogue includes many shelfmarks of medieval manuscripts in the British library and elsewhere in London containing works of ritual magic: eg the Ars notoria, the Liber visionum, the Sworn Book of Honorius, necromantic texts, and image magic. Please note that many of the listed manuscripts have a post 1500 date, and you should be focussing on the pre-1500 ones for the purpose of this course. If there is an edition of the particular magic text you are interested in (check the bibliography below) it is a good idea to order it to read at the table where you are looking at the manuscript/s.

For non-ritual magic texts and items (eg charms and natural magic) ask me for suggestions to locate manuscript shelfmarks but you could begin by looking up keywords in the mss catalogues and going through the indexes of L. Thorndike’s History of Magic and Experimental Science. The article by Frank Klaassen in Claire Fanger, ed., Conjuring Spirits (Pennsylvania, 1998) is also a good introduction to the range of learned magic texts in surviving medieval manuscripts.


Class Bibliographies



*Thorndike, L., History of Magic and Experimental Science, 8 vols (New York, 1923-1958)

*Kieckhefer, R., Magic in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989)

*Page, S., Magic in Medieval Manuscripts (London: British Library, 2004)

Boudet, J.-P., Entre science et nigromance : Astrologie, divination et magie dans l'Occident médiéval (XIIe-Xve siècle) (Sorbonne, 2007)

Burnett, C. Magic and Divination in the Middle Ages (Aldershot: Variorum, 1996)

Maxwell-Stuart, P.G., ed and trans, The Occult in Medieval Europe (2005). A useful if slightly random collection of primary sources

Burnett, C and W. F. Ryans, eds., Magic and the Classical Tradition (London: the Warburg Institute, 2006)

Moreau J., Turpin J.-Cl [Éd.], La Magie. Actes du Colloque International de Montpellier 25-27 mars 1999 (Montpellier, 2000) 4 vols.

Bremmer, J.N. and J.R. Veenstra, eds, The Metamorphosis of Magic from late Antiquity to the Early Modern Period (Leuven: Peeters, 2002)

Les anges et la magie au Moyen Âge. Actes de la table ronde de Nanterre (8-9 décembre 2000) , dir. Henri Bresc, Jean-Patrice Boudet et Benoît Grévin, 2002, p. 813-849 (Mélanges de l'Ecole Française de Rome, 114)

Hanegraaff, W. J., A. Faivre, R. Broek, Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 2 vols

Jolly, K., C. Raudvere and E. Peters, eds, The Althone History of Witchcraft and Magic in Europe. Volume 3: The Middle Ages (2002)

Fournier, P.F., Magie et Sorcellerie. Essai historique accompagné de documents concernant la Magie et la Sorcellerie en Auverne (Ipomée, 1979)

Cardini, F., Magia, Stregoneria, Supersitzioni nell’Occidente Medievale (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1979)

2. What is Magic?



How can we define magic? What is the relationship between religion, magic and science? What are the most important questions for historians of medieval magic?

Reading: Kieckhefer, ‘The Specific Rationality’. The introductions to Fanger, Conjuring Spirits and Kieckhefer, Magic in the Middle Ages and Forbidden Rites are also useful.



*Cunningham, G. Religion and Magic: Approaches and Theories (1999)

*Tambiah, S. J., Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990)

Kieckhefer, R., ‘The Specific Rationality of Medieval Magic’, American Historical Review 99 (June 1994), pp. 813-36 JSTOR

Levi-Strauss, C. ‘The Sorcerer and His Magic’, in J. Middleton, ed., Magic, Witchraft, and Curing (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967), pp. 23-41

Malinowski, B., Magic Science and Religion. New York: Doubleday, 1954.

Mauss, M., General Theory of Magic, trans. R. Bain., (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972)

A.F. Segal, ‘Hellenistic Magic: some Questions of Definition’ in Studies in Gnosticism and Hellenistic Religions (Leiden, 1981), pp.350-1.

Manuel García Teijeiro, M. G.,  ‘Religion and Magic’ Kernos 6 (1993), pp.123-138.

Pettersson, O., ‘Magic-Religion’, Ethnos 22 (1957), pp.109-19.

Van Baal, J.,  ‘Magic as a Religious Phenomenon’, Higher Education and Research in the Netherlands, Vol. 7, no. 3/4, 1963, pp.11.

O’Keefe, D. L., Stolen Lightning: the Social Theory of Magic (Oxford, 1982), p. 211.

Klaniczay, G., The Uses of Supernatural Power (Cambridge, 1990).

Neusner, J., ‘Science and Magic, Miracle and Magic in Formative Judaism: the System and the Difference’ in Religion, Science and Magic, ed. Neusner, Frerichs, Flesher, (Oxford, 1989

Evans-Pritchard, Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (Oxford, 1937), p.444.

Larner, C., ‘Is all Witchcraft really Witchcraft’, New Society, vol. 30, 1974, pp. 81-3

Malinowski, B., ‘Magic, Science and Religion’ in Science, Religion and Reality ed. Joseph Needham (1926)

Jarvie, I.C. and J. Agassi, ‘The problem of the rationality of magic’ in B. Wilson, ed., Rationality (Oxford, 1970)

De Martino, E., Il Mondo Magico (Torino, repr. 1986)



3. Magic Sources: Texts, Images  and Objects



What kinds of sources survive for medieval magic (texts, diagrams, images, objects)? What are their advantages and limitations? How can we reconstruct what dosent survive?

Class: Choose an object/objects which has been classified ‘magical’ (from any period or culture) at the British Museum. Bring a description of the object to the class and suggest reasons for/against this classification. The British Museum online website can give you some initial guidance:

Reading: Savage-Smith and Gilcrest. Merrifield or Jones


Bibliography (an additional bibliography for diagrams will be given out in the class)

*Merrifield, R., The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic (London, 1987), esp chs. 5 and 6

*Societas Magica Newsletter Issue 11:  E. Savage-Smith, ‘Islamic Magical Texts vs Magical Artefacts’

*Gilcrest, R., ‘Magic for the dead? The archaeology of ‘magic’ in later medieval burials’, Medieval Archaeology (forthcoming)

*Jones, P., and L. T. Olsan, ‘Middleham Jewel’, Viator 31(2000), 249-29

Meaney, A. L., Anglo-Saxon Amulets and Curing Stones (British Achaeol Rep 96, 1981)

Page, S., Magic in Medieval Manuscripts (London: British Library, 2004): for the images

Kieckhefer, R., Forbidden Rites (Pennsylvania, 1998) necromantic diagrams and objects.

Skemer, D., Binding Words: Textual amulets  (University Park, PA: Penn State Press, 2006)

Evans, J., Magical Jewels (Oxford, 1922)

Maguire, H., ‘Magic and Money in the Early Middle Ages’, Speculum (1997) JSTOR

Hansmann, L. and L. Kriss-Rettenbeck, Amulett und Talisman (Munich: G.D.W. Callwey, 1966)

Hanegraaff, W. J.; Faivre, A.; Broek, R., Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 2 volumes. See the entry under magical instruments

 4. The Origins of Late Medieval Magic




Think about the relationship between Christianity, paganism, superstition, folklore and  magic in the early middle ages. How were magic and belief/unbelief linked in early medieval pastoral literature? What is Valerie Flint’s argument for ‘the rise of magic’?

Reading: Filotas (section on magic) or McNeil & Garner, Flint and Vickers



Asclepius, trans. B. Copenhaver The Corpus Hermeticum (Cambridge: University Press, 1992)

Iamblichus, Theurgia, see trans. at

Pliny, Naturalis Historia, ed. and trans. H. Rackham, W. H. S. Jones and D. E. Eichholz (Cambridge, Mass./London, 1980), 10 vols

Scarborough, J., ‘Hermetic and Related Texts in Classical Antiquity’, in I. Merkel and A. G. Debus, eds., Hermeticism and the Renaissance (Washington/London, 1988

Shaw, G., Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus (Philadelphia: Penn State Press, 1995), 45-57.

Early Medieval

Brown, P., ‘Sorcery, Demons and the Rise of Christianity’ in Religion and Society in the Age of Saint Augustine (London: Faber and Faber), 119-46.

*Murray, A., ‘Missionaries and Magic in Dark-Age Europe’, Past and Present 136 (1992), 186-205. JSTOR

*Flint, V.I.J., The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991). See Brian Vickers’ review: History of European Ideas, 18, 2 (1994), 275-287

Filotas, B., Pagan survivals, superstitions and popular cultures in early medieval pastoral literature (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2005)

McNeil, J. T. and H. M. Gamer, Medieval Handbooks of Penance (1990)

Meaney, A. L., Anglo-Saxon Amulets and Curing Stones (British Achaeol Rep 96, 1981)

Griffiths, B., Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Magic (1996)

Nie, G. de, “Caesarius of Arles and Gregory of Tours: Two Sixth-Century Gallic Bishops and ‘Christian Magic’” Cultural Identity and Cultural Integration: Ireland and Europe in the Early Middle Ages, ed. D. Edel (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1995), 170-96.

D’Alverny, M-T., ‘Survivance de la magie Antique’ in Antike und Orient im Mittelalter: Miscellanea Mediaevalia (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1962) pp. 157-59

6. Arabic Image Magic and its Reception




What is Arabic image magic? Is it better described as a genre of astrology or ritual magic? Why were translators interested in it and what kind of reception did it receive in the West? What is hermetic magic and hermetism?

Reading: Pingree, ‘Learned Magic’, Speculum astronomiae, ch. 11, Book of Angels or Liber lune


Primary Sources

*The Book of Angels, Rings, Characters and Images of the Planets, ed. J. Lidaka in C. Fanger, ed., Conjuring Spirits (Pennsylvania, 1998), pp. 46-63

Liber lune (a transcription of an english early modern copy of the text)

Picatrix Latinus, ed. D. Pingree (London: The Warburg Institute, 1986)

Thabit, De imaginibus (Latin trans. John of Seville) ed. F. Carmody, The Astronomical Works of Thabit b. Qurra (Berkeley/Los Angeles, 1960), pp. 167-197

Al-Kindi, De Radiis, eds. M.-T. d’Alverny and F. Hudry, Archives d’histoire doctrinale et litteraire du moyen age 41 (1974), pp. 139-260

Liber Antimaquis and Liber runarum, ed. C. Burnett in P. Lucentini, ed., Hermetis Trismegisti. Astrologica et Divinatoria (Turnhout: Brepols, 2001)

Perrone Compagni, V., ‘Una fonte ermetica: il Liber orationum planetarum’ in Bruniana & Campanelliana, 7 (2001), pp. 189-197

Arabic Image Magic

Porter, V., ‘Islamic Seals: Magical or Practical?’, in A. Jones, ed., University Lectures in Islamic Studies (London: World of Islam Trust, 1998), vol. 2, pp. 135-149

Savage-Smith, E., ‘Magic and Islam’, in F. Maddison and E. Savage-Smith, Science, Tools and Magic (London/Oxford, 1997), vol. 1

Pingree, D., ‘Some of the Sources of the Ghayat al- Hakim’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 43 (1980), pp. 1-15

Thorndike, L., ‘Traditional Medieval Tracts Concerning Engraved Astrological Images’ in Mélanges Auguste Pelzer (Louvain, 1947), pp. 217-74

Weill-Parot, N. ‘Astral magic and intellectual changes’ in J.N. Bremmer and J.R. Veenstra, eds, The Metamorphosis of Magic (Leuven: Peeters, 2002)

Delmas, B., ‘Medailles astrologiques et talismaniques dans le midi de la France (XIIIe-XVIe siecle)’ Archeologie Occitane: Actes du 96e Congres National des Société des Savantes (Paris, 1976), pp. 437-454

Reception in the West

*D’Alverny, M.-T., ‘Translations and Translators’ in R. Benson and G. Constable, eds, Renaissance and Renewal in the Twelfth Century (Toronto, 1991)

Pingree, D., ‘Learned magic in the time of Frederick II’, Micrologus: natura, scienze e società medievali, 2 (1994), 39-56.

__, ‘The Diffusion of Arabic Magical Texts in Western Europe’ in B. Scarcia Amoretti, ed., La diffusione delle scienze islamiche nel Medio Evo europeo. Atti del Convegno Internazionale (Roma, 2-4 ottobre 1984), Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Roma 1987, pp. 57-102

Burnett, C., Magic and Divination in the Middle Ages (Aldershot: Variorum, 1996)

__, ‘Late Antique and Medieval Latin Translations of Greek Texts on Astrology and Magic’ in The Occult Sciences in Byzantium (Geneva, 2007)

Zambelli, P., ed., trans. et al, The Speculum Astronomiae (London, 1982). ch. 11, pp. 240-247

Perrone Compagni, V., ‘Studiosus incantationibus: Adelardo di Bath, Ermete e Thabit’ in Giornale critico della filosofia italiana, 80/1 (2001), pp. 36-61

P. Lucentini and V. Perrone Compagni, I testi e i codici di Ermete nel Medioevo (Florence: Polistampa, 2001)

__, and V. Perrone Compagni, I testi e i codici di Ermete nel Medioevo (Florence: Polistampa, 2001)

__, P., I. Parri and V. Perrone Compagni, eds, Hermetism from late antiquity to humanism (Turnhout: Brepols, 2003), esp. articles by Perrone Compagni, Page, Lang, Weill-Parot

Burnett, C., ‘The Establishment of Medieval Hermeticism’ in P. Linehan and J. Nelson, eds, The Mediaeval World (London, 2001), pp. 11-130

Weill-Parot, N. Les “images astrologiques” au Moyen Âge et à la Renaissance (Paris: Honoré Champion)

Copenhaver, B. P., ‘Scholastic Philosophy and Renaissance Magic in the De vita of Marsilio Ficino’ Renaissance Quarterly 37 (1984), pp. 523-554


7 Ritual Magic 1: Angels and Demons




What is ritual magic? How and why do they incorporate orthodox Christian ritual forms and sensibilities How did Jewish magic influence Christian texts? What is the role of spirits in these texts? On what grounds do you think they were condemned?

Reading: choose one of the primary sources below and a relevant chapter/article – e.g. in Fanger, ed., on the Ars notoria, Liber iuratus or Liber visionum orVeenstra on the Almandal, or Page (ask for handout) on the Liber Razielis etc


Primary Sources translations of the Ars notoria, Liber Iuratus or Sworn Book of Honorius, the Ars Almadel John of Morigny, Prologue to Liber Visionum [c. 1304 -1318], trans., C.Fanger and N. Watson, Esoterica 3 (2001) Transcription of a sixteenth-century version of the Sepher Raziel, British Library Sloane MS 3826: 2r-27r (Esoterica V (2003)

Ars Notoria, in Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, Opera Omnia, II, pp. 603-660 (Lyons, c.1620); trans. R. Turner (London, 1657; repr. Seattle, 1987)

Liber Iuratus, ed. Gösta Hedegård (Stockholm : Almovist & Wiksell International, 2002)

Secondary Sources

Kieckhefer, R., Magic in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1989)

Fanger, C., ed., Conjuring Spirits (Pennsylvania, 1998)

Boudet, J.-P., and J. Véronèse, ‘Le secret dans la magie rituelle médiévale’, in Il Segreto/The Secret, Micrologus 14 (2006). On works of magic attributed to Solomon.

Lang, B., ‘Angels around the Crystal: The Prayer Book of King Wladislas and the Treasure Hunts of Henry the Bohemian’ in Aries, vol. 5, 1 (2005)

Moreau J., Turpin J.-Cl [Éd.], La Magie (Montpellier, 2000), esp. Boudet, Weill-Parot and Veronese and see also the Anges et Magie volume cited above.

Duphebe, J., ‘L’ars notoria et la polemique sur la divination et la magie’, Divination et controverse religieuse en France au XVIe siecle (Paris, 1987), pp.123-134

__, ‘L’écriture chez l’ermite Pelagius. Un cas de théurgie chrétienne au Xve siècle’ in R. Leufer ed., Le Texte et Son Inscription (Paris, 1989)

Barnay, S., ‘La Mariophanie au regard de Jean de Morigny: magie ou miracle de la vision mariale?’ in Miracles, prodiges et merveilles au moyen âge (Paris, 1995), pp. 173-190

Bell, D. N., ‘A Cistercian at Oxford: Richard Dove of Buckfast and London’, Studia Monastica 31 (1989), pp. 67-87. On a collector of the Ars notoria

Veenstra, J. R., ‘The Holy Almandal. Angels and the Intellectual Aims of Magic’ in Bremmer and Veenstra, eds., The Metamorphosis of Magic, pp. 189-229

__, ‘Venerating and Conjuring Angels: Eiximenis’s Book of the Holy Angels and the Holy Almandal. Two Case Studies’ in Magic and the Classical Tradition (2006)

Weill-Parot, N., ‘Antonio da Montolmo et la magie hermétique’, in P. Lucentini, I. Parri, V. Perrone Compagni, eds, Hermetism from Late Antiquity to Humanism (Turnhout : Brepols, 2003) pp. 545-568

Jewish Magic

Schäfer, P., ‘Jewish Magic Literature in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages’, Journal of Jewish Studies 41, pp. 75-91

Lesses, R., ‘Speaking with angels: Jewish and Greco-Egyptian revelatory adjurations’, Harvard Theological Review, 89 (1996), 41-60

Tractenberg, J., Jewish Magic and Superstition (New York, 1939; 1970)

Swartz, M. D., ‘Scribal Magic and its Rhetoric: formal Patterns in Medieval Hebrew and Aramaic Incantation Texts from the Cairo Genizah’ Harvard Theological Review 83:2 (1990), 163-80

__, Scholastic Magic: Ritual and Revelation in Early Jewish Mysticism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996)

Garcia Aviles, A., ‘Alfonso X y el Liber Razielis’, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 74 (1997) 21-39

¾,‘Two Astromagical Manuscripts of Alfonso X’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 59 (1996)

¾, ‘Alfonso X y la tradición de la magia astral’, in J.Montoya Martinez and A. Dominguez Rodriguez, eds, El Scriptorium Alfonsi: De Los Libros De Astrologia a Las "Cantigas De Santa Maria (Madrid: Editorial Complutense, 1999), pp. 83-104.

¾, ‘Los judíos y la ciencia de las estrellas’ in Memoria de Sefarad (Toledo, Centro Cultural San Marcos, Oct. 2002-Jan. 2003)

Byzantine Magic

Greenfield, R.P.H., Traditions of Belief in Late Byzantine Demonology (Amsterdam, 1988), esp. chapter 6 on magic

Maguire, H., ed.,  Byzantine magic (Washington, 1995). One of the chapters from this book, ‘Magic in Slavia Orthodoxa. The Orthodox Tradition’ by R. Mathieson, can be found on the web at:

Magdalino, P. and M. Mavroudi, eds., The Occult Sciences in Byzantium (Geneva, 2007)


8 Ritual Magic 2: Necromancy and the Clerical Underworld




What is necromancy? Who belonged to the ‘Clerical underworld’? How could necromancers conceive of their activities as holy? On what grounds was necromancy condemned? Does the literary stereotype of the necromancer bear any relation to the evidence of magic texts?

Reading: Lydgate’s personification of Necromancy. Kieckhefer, Magic in the Middle Ages, ch. 7, Forbidden Rites, Holy and Unholy and handout of sources


Primary Sources

Caesarius of Heisterbach, The Dialogue on Miracles, 2 vols., trans. H. von E. Scott and C. C. Swinton Bland (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1929), esp. section on demons

Secondary Sources

Butler, E. M., Ritual Magic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1949)

Cohn, N., Europe's inner demons (1993, rev.ed.)

Fanger, C., ed., Conjuring Spirits (Pennsylvania, 1998): Klaassen

*Kieckhefer, R., Magic in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1989), ch. 7

¾, ‘The Holy and the Unholy: Sainthood, Witchcraft, and Magic in late Medieval Europe’, Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 24 (1994), pp. 355-85 and Christendom and its Discontents, ed. S. L. Waugh and P. Diehl (1996), pp. 310-337

*¾, Forbidden Rites (Pennsylvania, 1998)

Fanger, C., ‘Things Done Wisely by a Wise Enchanter: Negotiating the Power of Words in the Thirteenth Century’, Esoterica 1 (1999):

Klaassen, F.,  ‘Medieval Ritual Magic in the Renaissance’, Aries 3, 2 (2003): 166-199

Boudet, J.-P., ‘Deviner dans la lumière. Note sur les conjurations pyromantiques dans un manuscrit anglais du xve siècle’ in D. Pichot, S. Cassagnes-Brouquet, L. Rousselot, Religion et mentalités au Moyen Age (Rennes, 2003), pp. 523-530

Ferreiro Alemparte, J., ‘La escuela de nigromancia de Toledo’, Anuario de estudios medievales 13 (1983), pp. 205-68

Grévin, B., and J. Véronèse, ‘Les « caractères » magiques au Moyen Âge (XIIe-XIVe siècle)’ Bibliothèque de l'École des chartes 162 (2004), pp. 305-379

Voights, L. E., ‘The Character of the Carecter: Ambiguous Sigils in Scientific and Medical Texts’, in A. J. Minnis, ed., Latin and Vernacular (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 91-109.


9. The Common Tradition of Magic



In what sense (if any) are popular prayers, charms, amulets etc magic? Who used them and how? How can we classify late medieval rituals which do not seem to have Christian roots? What is the relationship between magic, superstition and popular religion? (please come to the class with a definition of ‘superstition’). What is the relationship between magic and popular piety?

Reading: Choose a selection of the primary sources to read and either Van Engen, Kieckhefer and Thomas, ch. 2, Duffy, chs 6, 8


Primary Sources

*Anglo-Saxon charms:

*Christian Charms (eleventh-fifteenth centuries) ) in J. Shinners, ed., Medieval Popular Religion, 1000-1500: a Reader (Peterborough, 1997), 282-290

Hunt, T., Popular Medicine in Thirteenth-Century England (Cambridge, 1990). Charms: 78-99

Cockayne, O., Leechdoms, Wortcunning and Starcraft of early England (Rolls Series, London, 1864-6), vols 2 and 3

The Commonplace Book of Robert Reynes of Acle: An Edition of Tanner MS 407, ed. Cameron Lewis (NewYork: Garland, 1980), trans in Shinners, ed., Medieval Popular Religion, 335-76


*Olsan, L. T., ‘Charms and Prayers in Medieval Medical Theory and Practice’, Social History of Medicine, 16, 3 (2003)

__, ‘Latin Charms of Medieval England: Verbal Healing in a Christian Oral Tradition’, Oral Tradition, 7 (1992), 116-42

* Bozóky, Edina, "From matter of devotion to amulets," Medieval Folklore, 3 (1994), 91-107

__, Charmes et prières apotropaïques (Turnhout, Brepols, 2003)

* Jones, P., and L. T. Olsan, ‘Middleham Jewel: Ritual, Power, and Devotion’, Viator 31(2000), 249-290

* Skemer, D.C., ‘Written Amulets and the Medieval Book’, Scrittura e civiltà 23 (1999), pp. 253-305

__, ‘Amulet Rolls and Female Devotion in the Late Middle Ages’, Scriptorium 55 (2001)

*__, Binding Words: Textual Amulets in the Middle Ages (University Park, PA: Penn State Press, 2006)

Barkley, H., ‘Liturgical Influences on the Anglo-Saxon Charms against Cattle Theft’ Notes & Queries 44 (1997), 450-52.

Bühler, Curt F., ‘Prayers and charms in certain Middle English scrolls’, Speculum 39 (1964), 270-78 JSTOR

Elsakkers, M., ‘The Beekeeper's Magic: Taking a Closer Look at the Old Germanic Bee Charms’, Mankind Quarterly 27 (1987), 447-61.

Gaster, T.H., ‘Amulets and Talismans’ in L.E. Sullivan (ed), Hidden Truths: Magic, Alchemy, and the Occult (New York: Macmillan, 1987)

D'Alverny, M-T., ‘Récréations monastiques: les couteaux à manche d'ivoire’, in Receuil des traveaux offert à M. Clovis Brunel (Paris: Société de l'école des Chartres, 1955), pp. 10-31.Reprinted in C. Burnett, ed., Pensée médiéval en occident: theologie, magic et autres textes de XIIe-XIIIe siècles (Aldershot: Variorum, 1995)

__, ‘Une Baguette Magie’ in Mélanges Alexandre Koyre, (Paris: Hermann, 1964), pp. 1-11. Reprinted in C. Burnett, ed., Pensée médiéval en occident: theologie, magic et autres textes de XIIe-XIIIe siècles (Aldershot: Variorum, 1995)

Poulin, J. C. ‘Entre magie et religion. Recherches sur les utilisations marginales de l'écrit dans la culture populaire du haut moyen âge’, in P. Boglioni, ed., Le culture populaire au moyen âge (Montreal: Editions Universitaires, 1979), pp. 123-143

Hole, C., ‘Some Instances of Image-Magic in Great Britain’, in V. Newall, ed., The Witch Figure (London: Routledge, 1973)

Magic, Supersition, Popular Religion

*Van Engen, J., ‘The Christian Middle Ages as an Historiographical Problem’, American Historical Review, 91 (1986), pp. 519-52. A useful orientation to historiographical debate on medieval relgion.

*Kieckhefer, R., Magic in the Middle Ages, ch. 4

Thomas, K., Religion and the Decline of Magic (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1971)

Duffy, E., The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England c.1400-c.1580 (New Haven/London, 1992)

Klaniczay, G., trans. S. Singerman, ed. K. Margolis, The Uses of Supernatural Power: the Transformation of Popular Religion in Medieval and Early-Modern Europe (Cambridge, 1990)

Scribner, R., ‘Cosmic Order and Daily Life: Sacred and Secular in Pre-Industrial German Society’ in Scribner, Popular Culture and Popular Movements in Reformation Germany (London/Ronceverte, 1987)

Vogel, C., ‘Pratiques Superstitieuses au début du XIe siècle d’après le ‘Corrector sive Medicus’ de Burchard, évêque de Worms (965-1025)’, Mélanges E-R. Labande (Poitiers, 1974), repr. in En rémission des péchés (Aldershot, 1994)

Harmening, D., Superstitio. Überheferungs- und theoriegeschichtliche Untersuchungen zur kirchlich-theologischen Aberglaubensliteratur des Mittelalters (Berlin, 1979)

10. Classification and Condemnation of Magic and Superstition




Who categorised and condemned medieval magic? How did condemnations of magic change over time (s.xii-s.xv)? What were the specific contexts of condemnation? What was the relationship between magic and heresy? How does the B. Latini image classify nigromancy?

Reading:  The 1277 and 1398 condemnations, Peters, The Magician, Witch and Law (chs 4 and 6) or Witchcraft and Magic in Europe (chs 3-4)


Condemnation of  Learned  Magic (see also Arabic image magic)

Augustine, De Civitate Dei, 8, 19 and 10, 11, trans. H. Bettenson (London,1984), pp. 325-6, 386-90 (see also manuscript illuminations at: under ‘religion and magic’: MS The Hague, MMW, 10 A 1)

Thomas Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles, II, 104-106

*Hugh of St. Victor, Didascalicon, trans. J. Taylor (New York/London, 1961), pp. 154-5

*John of Salisbury, Policraticus, trans. J. B. Pike, see bk 1, ch 9-11, pp. 39-44

Fanger, C., ‘Things Done Wisely by a Wise Enchanter: Negotiating the Power of Words in the Thirteenth Century’, Esoterica 1 (1999):

Boureau, A., Satan the Heretic (Chicago, 2006), trans. T. L. Fagan, esp. ch. 2

Zambelli, P., ed., trans. et al, The Speculum Astronomiae (London, 1982). ch. 11, pp. 240-247

Burnett, C., ‘Talismans: Magic as Science?’ in Magic and Divination, (Aldershot, 1996), article I

1277 condemnations (a section of the prologue is on magic) Hissette, R., Enquête sur les 219 articles condamnés à Paris le 7 mars 1277 (Louvain, 1977).

1398 condemnations, trans. L. Thorndike in University Records and Life in the Middle Ages (New York: Norton, 1975).

Boudet, J.-P. ‘Les condamnations de la magie à Paris en 1398’, Revue Mabillon 12 (2001)

Authority and Deviance

*Peters, E., The Magician, the Witch and the Law (Univ. of Pensylvannia Press, 1978), ch. 3

Hamilton, B., The Medieval Inquisition (New York, 1981)

Stoyanov, Y., The Other God (2000): ‘Heresy and Magic – East and West’

Moore, R.I. ‘New Sects and Secret Meetings’, in Voluntary Religion, (Oxford, 1986), pp. 47-68

Reynolds, S., ‘Social Mentalities and the case of Medieval Scepticism’ in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th series, vol. 1 (1991), pp. 21-42

Barber, M., The Trial of the Templars (Cambridge, 1978)

Cohn, N., Europe's inner demons (1993, rev.ed.)

11. Sorcery and Witchcraft




What was sorcery? Who were its practitioners? How did it differ from learned magic and witchcraft? What was the role of gender in its condemnation? What were the medieval roots of witchcraft?

Reading: Lydgate’s personification of Sorcery. Kieckhefer, ‘The Holy and Unholy’, Bailey, ‘From Sorcery to Witchcraft’, Boudet, J-P., ‘La genèse médiévale de la chasse aux sorcières’, Peters in Witchcraft and Magic chs 6-7.


Primary Sources

*Malleus maleficarum, trans. M. Summers (Dover/New York, 1971)

*Kors, A. C., and E. Peters, eds, Witchcraft in Europe, 1100-1700 (Philadelphia, 1939)

Bernard of Gui on Sorcery (c.1323) and Bernadino of Siena on Witchcraft and Superstition (1427) in J. Shinners, ed., Medieval Popular Religion (Peterborough, 1997), 242-5 and 457-9

A contemporary narrative of the proceedings against Dame Alice Kyteler (1843), ed., T. Wright. Translated exerpts in Shinners, ed., Medieval Popular Religion (Peterborough, 1997), 238-41

Mammoli, D., ed., ‘The Record of the Trial and Condemnation of a Witch, Matteuccia di Francesco, at Todi, 20 March 1428’, Res Tudertinae 14, (Rome, 1972)


Page, S., Magic in Medieval Manuscripts (London, 2004), pp. 14-17 on female practitioners

Owst, G.R., ‘Sortilegium in English Homiletic Literature of the Fourteenth Century’ in Studies Presented to Sir Hilary Jenkinson, ed. J. C. Davies (1957), pp. 107-39.

Russell, J.B., Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (London, 1972), esp. ch. 3

Kieckhefer, R., European Witch Trials (London: Routledge, 1976)

*__, ‘The Holy and the Unholy’, Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 24 (1994), 355-85 and Christendom and its Discontents, ed. S. L. Waugh and P. Diehl (1996), pp. 310-337.

Bailey, M. D., Heresy, witchcraft, and reform (Pennsylvania: Penn State Press, 2003)

*__, ‘From Sorcery to Witchcraft: Clerical Conceptions of Magic in the Later Middle Ages’, Speculum 76, 4 (2001). JSTOR

__, ‘The Feminization of Magic and the Emerging Idea of the Female Witch’, Essays in Medieval Studies 19 (2002): 120–134

*Boudet, J-P., ‘La genèse médiévale de la chasse aux sorcières : jalons en vue d'une relecture’, in N. Nabert, ed., Le mal et le diable (Paris, Beauchesne, 1996), pp. 35-52

Fournier, P.F., Magie et Sorcellerie (Ipomée, 1979). A case study based on Auvergne

Broedel, H. P., The Malleus Maleficarum and the Construction of Witchcraft (2003)

Cohn, N., Europe's Inner Demons (1993.)

Murray, A., ‘Medieval Origins of the Witch Hunt’, The Cambridge Quarterly 7 (1976), 63-74

Kittredge, G. L., Witchcraft in Old and New England (repr. New York, 1956)

12. Natural Magic 1: Magic, Medicine and Marvels




What are ‘occult’ properties and what was their place in medieval magic and the understanding of natural objects and processes? What is natural magic and how does it relate to ideas about the natural world (and what is unnatural), marvels, and the powers of spirits?. What is the relationship between magic and medicine?

Reading: S. Page, ‘Good Creation and Demonic Illusions: the Medieval Universe of Creatures’ in A Cultural History of Animals (Berg, 2007), vol. 2, ch. 1

Class: Research one of the following for the class using starred works (think about its properties, its influence on ideas of nature, its use in medince and magic etc): Basilisk, Mandrake, Hoopoe (See also Kieckhefer, Forbidden Rites), Crystal, Torpedo Fish, Vulture, Eagle. See also The Medieval Bestiary:


Primary Sources (see also MacKinney and Riddle below)

*Albertus Magnus, Book of Minerals, trans. D. Wyckoff (Oxford, 1967), esp. book 2, tractate 3, chs. 1-5 on sigils

Thabit, De imaginibus (Latin trans. John of Seville) ed. F. Carmody, The Astronomical Works of Thabit b. Qurra (Berkeley/Los Angeles, 1960), pp. 167-197

Riddle, J. M., Marbode of Rennes (1035-1128): De Lapidibus (Weisbaden, 1977) crystal

Pseudo-Albertus Magnus, The Book of Secrets and The Marvels of the World: a sixteenth-century English translation is edited by M. R. Best, and F. H. Brightman (Oxford, 1973). Note especially the prologue to the Marvels of the World.

Kyranides and Flaccus Africanus, Compendium aureum in L. Delatte, ed., Textes latins et vieux français relatifs aux Cyranides (Paris, Droz: 1942). There is also a Renaissance Astrology Facsimile edition of the Kyranides.

*Albertus Magnus, De animalibus ed. H. Stadler, 2 vols (Münster, 1920); J. J. Scanlan, trans., Man and the Beasts (Books 22-26) (Binghamton, N.Y., 1987); K. F. Kitchell and I. M. Resnick, trans., Albertus Magnus. On Animals, 2 vols (Baltimore/London, 1999)

John Trevisa's Translation of Bartholomaus Anglicus ‘De proprietatibus rerum’, ed. M. C. Seymour et al (New York: Clarendon Press, 1988), vol. 2

Qusta ibn Luqa, De phisicis ligaturis, eds. J. Wilcox and J. M. Riddle, Medieval Encounters, 1, 1 (1994), pp. 1-25

Secondary Sources

*Page, S., Magic in Medieval Manuscripts (London: British Library, 2004), ch. 2 (natural magic)

*Copenhaver, B. P., ‘A Tale of Two Fishes: Magical Objects in Natural History from Antiquity through the Scientific Revolution’, Journal of the History of Ideas 52 (1991), pp. 373-398 JSTOR  torpedo fish

Ventura, I., ‘The Curae ex animalibus in the Medical Literature of the Middle Ages’ in Bestiaires médiévaux. (Louvain: Brepols, 2003), pp. 213-248

Mcvaugh, M. R., ‘Incantationes in Late Medieval Surgery’ in G. Marchetti, O. Rignani, V. Sorge, eds, Ratio et Superstitio (Louvain, 2003), pp. 319-345

*Evans, J., Magical Jewels (Oxford, 1922) crystal

__, and M. S. Serjeantson, English Medieval Lapidaries (Oxford University Press, 1933).

Thee, F. C. R., Julius Africanus and the Early Christian View of Magic (Tübingen, 1984)

*MacKinney, L. C., ‘An Unpublished Treatise on Medicine and Magic from the Age of Charlemagne’, Speculum 18 (1943), pp. 494-6. JSTOR vulture

Sheldon, S. E., ‘The eagle: bird of magic and medicine in a Middle English translation of the Kyranides’ in Tulane Studies in English, 22 (1977), pp. 1-20 eagle

*Barb, A. A., ‘Birds and Medical Magic’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 13 (1950), 316-22

Stannard, J., ‘Magiferous Plants and Magic in Medieval Medical Botany’, Maryland Historian, 8 (1977), no. 2, pp. 33-46

Remly, L. L., ‘Magic, Myth and Medicine: the Veterinary Art in the Middle Ages’ in G. R. Mermier and E. E. DuBrock, eds, Fifteenth-Century Studies, 2 (1979), pp. 203-9

*Collins, M., Medieval Herbals: The Illustrative Tradition (London, 2000)

*Pingree, D., ‘Plato’s Book of the Cow’ in Il Neoplatonismo nel Rinascimento (Rome, 1993)

*__, ‘Artificial Demons and Miracles’ in Démons et merveilles d’orient (Res Orientales XIII, 2001), pp. 109-122

__, ‘From Hermes to Jabir and the Book of the Cow’ in C. Burnett and W. Ryan, eds, Magic and the Classical Tradition (London: The Warburg Institute, 2006), pp. 19-28.

13. Natural Magic 2: Magic and  Science




What was the relationship between magic and science? (esp thinking about areas of distinction and overlap), between magic, marvels and miracles? What scientific explanations were proposed in the Middle Ages to explain how magic worked? Are the terms ‘experiment’  (experimenta) and ‘experience’ (experientia) relevant to magic? What is the relationship between secret, recipe and experiment?

Reading: Pingree on the Liber vacce, and (relevant parts of) one of the primary sources


Primary Sources

Thomas Aquinas, De occultis operibus naturae, trans. J. B. McAllister (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1939)

*Hansen, B., Oresme and the Marvels of Nature: A Study of his De causis mirabilium with Critical Edition, Translation, and Commentary (Toronto, 1985), pp. 1-10 and 49-74

*Roger Bacon, (1214?-1294?), Opus maius, part 6, trans. R. B. Burke (Philadelphia/London, 1928), vol. 2, pp. 583- (esp. 583-8)

Nicole Oresme, Tractatus de configurationibus qualitatum et motuum, Part II, ed. and trans. M. Clagett, Nicole Oresme and the medieval geometry of qualities and motions. (Madison/Milwaukee/London, 1968), chapters on magic

Augustine, De Civitate Dei, 18, 16-18, trans. H. Bettenson (London,1984), pp. 968-983.

*Gerald of Wales, The History and Topography of Ireland, part II and commentary by Robert Bartlett, Gerald of Wales, 1146-1223 (Oxford, 1982), pp. 157-169

Al-Kindi, De Radiis, eds. M.-T. d’Alverny and F. Hudry, Archives d’histoire doctrinale et litteraire du moyen age 41 (1974), pp. 139-260

Qusta ibn Luqa, De phisicis ligaturis, eds. J. Wilcox and J. M. Riddle, ‘Qusta ibn Luqa’s ‘physical ligatures’ and the recognition of the placebo effect: with an edition and translation’, Medieval Encounters, 1, 1 (1994), pp. 1-25.


Burnett, C., ‘Talismans: Magic as Science? Necromancy among the Seven Liberal Arts’ in C. Burnett, Magic and Divination, (Aldershot, 1996), article I

Copenhaver, B. P., ‘A Tale of Two Fishes: Magical Objects in Natural History from Antiquity through the Scientific Revolution’, Journal of the History of Ideas 52 (1991), pp. 373-398 JSTOR

__, ‘Scholastic Philosophy and Renaissance Magic in the De vita of Marsilio Ficino’ Renaissance Quarterly 37 (1984), pp. 523-554

Goulding, R., ‘Real, apparent and illusory necromancy: Lamp experiments and Historical perceptions of Experimental knowledge’,

Daston, L., and K. Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature 1150-1750 (New York, 1998), chapters 1-3

*Eamon, W., Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture (Princeton, N.J., 1994), pp. 1-89

Walker Bynum, C., Metamorphosis and Identity (New York: Zone Books, 2001)

Ryan, W. F. and C. B. Schmitt, eds., The Secret of Secrets: Sources and Influences (London: Warburg Institute, 1982)

Thorndike, L., ‘Imagination and magic’ in Mélanges Eugène Tisserant, 7 (Vatican City: Biblioteca Vaticana, 1964), 353-8

Grant, E., The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1996), esp. pp. 133-148, 158-161.

*Hansen, B., ‘Science and Magic’ pp. 483-507 in D. Lindberg, ed., Science in the Middle Ages (Chicago, 1978)

14. Astrology




What did the medieval practice of astrology involve? How does astrology fit into medieval ideas about celestial influence? How acceptable was it to the Church? Who were its practitioners, what were their goals, who were their clients? Think about the differences between astrology at court and university and as practiced by physicians (e.g. Richard Trewythian). What is the relationship between astrology and magic?

Class reading: intro to Carey or Smoller, Page to get a sense of the basics of astrology, as we will be analysing horoscopes in the class

Primary Sources

*Astrological predictions for 1186 from Roger of Hoveden’s Chronica Majora (photocopy supplied)

John of Salisbury, Frivolities of Courtiers and Footprints of Philosophers, trans. of selections, J. B. Pike, bk1, chs. 9-11, pp. 39-44. A critique of astrology

Abu Ma ‘shar, The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology, ed. and trans. C. Burnett, K. Yamamoto and M. Yano (Leiden, 1994), pp. 139-143.

Secondary Sources

*Page, S., Astrology in Medieval Manuscripts (London, 2002)

—,  ‘Richard Trewythian and the Uses of Astrology in Late Medieval England’, Journal of the Warburg and Courthauld Institutues 64 (2001), pp. 193-228 JSTOR

Carey, H., Courting Disaster (London, 1992)

Smoller, L.A., History, Prophecy and the Stars (Princeton, 1994)

*Tester, S.J., A History of Western Astrology (Woodbridge, 1987) – a good introduction

Burnett, C., ‘Astrology’ in Mantello, Rigg, eds, Medieval Latin (Washington, 1996), pp. 369-382

Pingree, D., ‘Astrology’ in Dictionary of the History of Ideas (1968, repr. 1973), pp. 118-26.

Rawcliffe, C., Medicine and Society in Later Medieval England (Stroud, 1999), pp. 82-93

North, J., Horoscopes and History (1986) – very technical but some useful historical examples

—, Chaucer’s Universe (1988)

Curry, P., ed., Astrology, Science and Society (Woodbridge, 1987)

Jenks, S., ‘Astrometeorology in the Middle Ages’, Isis (1983), pp. 185-210

Means, L. Braswell, Medieval Lunar Astrology, (New York 1993) or L. Braswell, ‘Popular Lunar Astrology in the Late Middle Ages’, University of Ottawa Quarterly 48 (1978)

Zambelli, P., The Speculum Astronomiae and Its Enigma (London, 1992)

Bűhler, C.F. ‘Astrological prognostications’Modern Language Notes (1941), pp. 351-355

Blume, D., ‘Children of the Planets: The Popularization of Astrology in the 15th Century ‘, in Il sole e la luna. The Sun and the Moon (= Micrologus, XII) (Florence, 2004), pp. 549-563

Bober, H., ‘The Zodiacal Miniatures of the Très Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry’ Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 11 (1948) pp. 1-34

 16 Sex and Gender




What are the links between sex, magic and gender? Did this area of magic attract specialist medieval practitioners? What examples of magical operations from the texts we have examined relate to these areas? What are the attributes of the female practitioner of love magic in the image above? How do they compare to descriptions of Celestina (Fernando de Rojas)?

Class: Discussion of Frank Klaassen’s article, excerpts from Celestina and Manuscript Reports.


Magic and Sex

Primary Sources: See Sorcery and Witchcraft, individual magic texts and romances, esp. Cligés and Tristan

Klaassen, F.,  ‘Learning and Masculinity in Manuscripts of Ritual Magic of the Later Middle Ages and Renaissance’, Sixteenth-Century Journal 38/1 (2007), pp. 49-76

Kieckhefer, R., ‘Erotic Magic in Medieval Europe’ in J. Salisbury, Sex in the Middle Ages (New York/London, 1991), pp. 30-55 and see experiments on this theme in Forbidden Rites

Rider, C., Magic and Impotence (2006)

Carnell, E., ‘Magic and the Maiden: Magical Efficacy and Magical Victims in Picatrix’, Journal of Comparative Religion, 1, 1 (2000):

Dronke, P., ‘Leiden Love Spell’, Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 16 (1998)

Flint, V., ‘Magic and Marriage in Ninth-Century Francia’ in M. A. Mayer, ed., The Culture of Christendom (1993)

Kelly, H. A., ‘The Case Against Edward IV’s Marriage and Offspring’ Inquisitions and other trial procedures in the Medieval West (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001)

Goodich, M., ‘Sexuality, Family and the Supernatural in the Fourteenth Century’, Journal of the History of Sex 4 (1994)

LeMay, H., ‘The Stars and Human Sexuality’, Isis 71 (1980) JSTOR

Women, Demons and Possession

Kieckhefer, R., ‘The Holy and the Unholy: Sainthood, Witchcraft and Magic in late medieval Europe’, Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 24 (1994), 355-85 and Christendom and its Discontents, ed. S. L. Waugh and P. Diehl (1996), pp. 310-337

Bailey, M. D., ‘The Feminization of Magic’, Essays in Medieval Studies 19 (2002): 120–134

Newman, B., ‘Possessed by the Spirit: devout women, demoniacs, and the apostolic life in the thirteenth century’, Speculum, 73:3 (July 1998) JSTOR

Caciola, N., Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Possession in the Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003),


16 Politics and Trickery




What kinds of magic and magical practitioners were linked to Court intrigues? What was the court demi-monde and why were magic practitioners found in it? How should illusion and trickery be situated within the category of magic? What is the relationship between stage illusions, parlour tricks and necromantic illusions? Is ludificationes a useful category?


Primary Sources

Goulding, R., ‘Deceiving the Senses in the Thirteenth Century: Trickery and Illusion in the Secretum philosophorum’ in Magic and the Classical Tradition (2006)

Keyser, Conrad, Bellifortis, ed and trans (into modern German) G. Quarg (Düsseldorf, 1967). A manual of magical warfare with interesting illustrations.

Politics and Sorcery

Jolly, K., et al, eds, The Althone History of Witchcraft and Magic (2002), vol. 3, part 3

Peters, E., The Magician, the Witch and the Law (Philadelphia: University of Pensylvannia Press, 1978), ch 5; Witchcraft and Magic in Europe, ch. 5

Jones, W. R., ‘Political Uses of Sorcery in Medieval Europe’, The Historian, 34 (1972), 670-87

Kelly, H. A., ‘English Kings and the Fear of Sorcery’, Medieval Studies 39 (1977), repr. in Kelly, Inquisitions and other trial procedures in the Medieval West (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001)

__, ‘The Case Against Edward IV’s Marriage and Offspring’ (Aldershot vol. as above)

Harvey, M., ‘Papal Witchcraft: the Charges against Benedict XIII’ in D. Baker, ed, Sanctity and Seculariy: The Church and the World, Studies in Church History 10, (Oxford, 1973), 109-16

Friedlander, A., The Trial of Fr. Bernard Délicieux (1996), 39-45, latin text and translation.

Veenstra, J.,  Magic and Divination at the Courts of Burgundy and France (Leiden, 1997)

Illusions and Trickery See also class 13 bibliography

Kieckhefer, R., Forbidden Rites (Pennsylvania, 1998): chapter on necromantic illusions

Goulding, R., ‘Real, apparent and illusory necromancy: Lamp experiments and Historical perceptions of Experimental knowledge’, Newsletter 16:

Daston, L., and K. Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature (1998), pp. 88-108: artificial marvels

Loomis, L. H., ‘Secular Dramatics at the Royal Palace’, Speculum, 33 (1958), 242-55 JSTOR

Lindsay, J., The Troubadours and Their World (London: Muller, 1986)

Ogilvy, J. D. A., ‘Mimi, scurrae, histriones’, Speculum, 38 (1963), 603-9 JSTOR

Eamon, W., ‘Technology as magic in the Late Middle Ages’, Janus 70 (1983), pp. 171-212

Fanger, C., ed., Conjuring Spirits (Pennsylvania, 1998), ch. by J. Friedman (on Secreta phil.)

Roy, B., ‘The Household Encyclopedia as Magic Kit: Medieval Popular Interest in Pranks and Illusions’, Journal of Popular Culture, 14 (1980), 60-69

Volkmann, K., The Oldest Deception: Cups and Balls (Minneapolis: Jones, 1956)

18. Magic in the Sagas




What is the terminology for magic in the sagas? What are the dynamics between the human and spiritual worlds? How do Christian authors approach magic in a pagan setting, and what is the difference between representations of magic in the more ‘realistic’ sagas and the more fantastical viking romances? Who are the practitioners and how does society view them? What are the instruments and goals of magical practice? What is the role of the natural world, especially animals? How does magic fit into the world view of the sagas?

Reading: Selections given and choose one of the magical episodes in icelandic sagas.


Primary Sources

Snorri Sturluson, Edda, trans. A. Faulkes (Everyman, 1987)

Njal’s Saga, trans. R. Cook (Penguin, 2001), esp. p. 69, ch. 23 on guardian spirits; ch. 125: witchride.

Egil’s Saga, trans. H. Palsson and P. Edwards (Penguin, 1976), ch. 72: magic runes

Hrólf’s Saga Kraka, in The Saga of King Hrolf kraki, trans. J. Byock (Penguin, 1998), esp. ch. 33: raising the dead for battle

Secondary Sources

* Jolly, K., C. Raudvere and E. Peters, eds, The Althone History of Witchcraft and Magic in Europe (2002), vol. 3, part 2

Aðalsteinsson, Jón Hnefill, ‘Sæmundr Fróði: a medieval master of magic’, Arv: Nordic Yearbook of Folklore, 50 (1994), 117-32.

__, ‘Six Icelandic magicians after the time of Sæmundr Fróði’, Arv: Nordic Yearbook of Folklore 52 (1996), 49-61

__, Under the Cloak. (Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis 4, 1978. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell)

Bayerschmidt, Carl F., ‘The Element of the Supernatural in the Sagas of Icelanders’, Scandinavian Studies: essays presented to Dr. Henry Goddard Leach, ed. Carl F. Bayerschmidt and Erik J. Friis (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1965), pp. 39-53

Mitchell, S., ‘Learning Magic in the Sagas’

Ellis, H., The Road to Hel: A Study in the Conception of the Dead in Old Norse Literature (Greenwood, 1998)

Ellis Davidson, H. R. ‘Hostile Magic in the Icelandic Sagas’ in The Witch in History. ed. V. Newall (New York, 1996)


Some good magical episodes in Icelandic sagas (with thanks to Ralph for suggestions

Sagas set in Iceland

1) Eiríks saga rauða (trans. Gwyn Jones in Eirik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas, Oxford World’s Classics, 1980), chapter 3 (classic description of spirit-raising)

2) Eyrbyggja saga (trans. Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards, Penguin Classics, 1989), chapters 15-16 and 20 (witchcraft and magical disguises), 50-55 (hauntings banished by legal procedure)

3) Bárðar saga Snjófellsáss (trans. Ralph O’Connor in Icelandic Histories and Romances, Tempus, Stroud, 2002), chapters 7 (troll causes magical storm & summons Thor), 13-16 (comparisons between Christian and pagan magic against a symbol of heathen evil set in a distant Arctic realm)

4) Laxdœla saga (trans. Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Pálsson, Penguin Classics, 1969), chapters 35-38 (sorcerers erect a ritual-platform to create storms)

5) Vatnsdœla saga (trans. Andrew Wawn in The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection, ed. Örnólfur Thórsson, Penguin, 2000), chapters 10-12 (Lappish prophetess and shamanistic sorcerers), 26 (witchcraft), 28 (supposedly enchanted cats belonging to supposed wizard)

Sagas set in legendary times and/or distant places

1) Bósa saga ok Herrauðs (trans. Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards in Seven Viking Romances, Penguin Classics, 1985) – the whole thing is underpinned by magic, but see esp. chapters 5, 12 and 14)

2) Hjálmþés saga ok Ölvés (trans. Ralph O’Connor in Icelandic Histories and Romances, Tempus, Stroud, 2002), chapters 6 (heroes turned into chickens), 8 (spell and counter-spell), 11 (shamanistic battle-scene at sea)

3) Egils saga ok Asmundar (trans. Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards in Seven Viking Romances, Penguin Classics, 1985) – whole thing, but esp. chapters 12-15

4) Stjörnu-Odda draumr (trans. Ralph O’Connor in Icelandic Histories and Romances, Tempus, Stroud, 2002), chapter 9 (tomboy princess turns into troll with wolf’s head)


19. Magic in the Romances




In what situations is magic most likely to occur in the Medieval romances? How does it work? Look for examples of magical objects, words, symbols and potions, people with magical powers, enchantments, ritual, magical places, the forest and illusory castles. How does magic in literature relate to the practical magic texts and non-romance representations of male and female magicians we have examined? What is the relationship between Christian, magical and pagan (non-Christian) elements? Is the grail a magical object? Do fairies replace demons as less controversial otherworldly figures linked to magic in these texts? Compare with magic and magicians in the Icelandic Sagas.

Reading: Selections given and choose one romance from the list below


Primary Sources

1. Chrétien de Troyes (Everyman, Arthurian Romances, trans D.D.R. Owen): Cligés: Thessala and the magic potion (Everyman, pp.132-7), shirt (p.108); Yvain: the magic ring (Everyman, p.316) and the magic spring (pp. 286-7); Perceval: the clerical expert and the magic bed (Everyman, pp. 472-77)

2. Gottfried von Straßburg, Tristan: the love-potion (Penguin Classic, pp. 192-3)

3. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: the green knight and the magical skills of his wife, the pentangle, the girdle.

4. Malory, Complete Works, trans. E. Vinavaver, esp: The Tale of King Arthur, The Book of Sir Tristram, The Book of Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere, The Tale of Sankgreal.

5. The Lais of Marie de France (Penguin Classic): Guigemar, Bisclavret, Lanval, Les deux amanz, Yonec.

6. S. Shepherd, Middle English Romances (Norton, 1995), Orfeo, Lanfal, Gawain, Yvain, The Awntyrs off Arthure at the Teme Wathelyne, The Weddyng of Syr Gawen and Dame Ragnell.

7. Chaucer, The Squire’s Tale and The Franklin’s Tale

Medieval Romances (see also bibliography on courts, esp Peters)

*Owings, M. A., The Arts in the Middle English Romances (New York: Bookman Associates, 1952), ch. 4, pp. 138-64: ‘The Supernatural’.

McAlindon, T., ‘Magic, Fate, and Providence in Medieval Narrative and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, The Review of English Studies, n.s. 62 (1965), pp. 121-139. JSTOR

Cooper, H., ‘Magic that does not work’, Medievalia et Humanistica, n.s., 7 (1976), 131-46

Easter, D. B., A Study of the Magic Elements of the Romans d’Aventure and the Romans Bretons (Baltimore: Furst, 1906)

Noble, P. ‘Magic in late Arthurian French verse romance’, Bibliographical Bulletin of the International Arthurian Society, 44 (1992), 245-54

Sweeney, M., Magic in Medieval Romance (2000)

Saunders, C., The Forest of Medieval Romance (Cambridge, 1993)

Truitt, E. R. ‘“Trei poete, sages dotors, qui mout sorent di nigromance”: Knowledge and Automata in Twelfth-Century French Literature’, Configurations, 12 (2004), pp. 167-193

Maksymiuk, S., ‘Knowledge, Politics, and Magic: The Magician Gansguoter in Heinrich von dem Türlin's Crône’, The German Quarterly (1994), pp. 470-483  

Wood, J., ‘Virgil and Taliesin: The Concept of the Magician in Medieval Folklore’, Folklore 94 (1983), pp. 91-104

Spargo, J., Virgil the Necromancer: Studies in Virgilian Legends (Cambridge, 1934)