• Arthur Bruso

Updated: Dec 15, 2020


The 1849 edition of Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis as published by Johann Scheible, opened to the fold out page of the demon Barbiel.

Grimoires from Mesopotamia to Faust


Since the beginning of humankind, people have had desires that reach beyond their physical capacity to fulfill them, be they power over an enemy, the desire for love with a reticent object of affection, the acquisition of wealth, or powers and abilities beyond human limitations. The physical laws of science do not quell the longing to fulfill these desires no matter how impossible. Attempting to find ways to make what is wanted real, humans often turned to the supernatural forces that they were sure existed and could grant them their wishes.


How to communicate with these forces has been a preoccupation of humankind since we were evicted from Eden and lost our direct connection with the Universe. As each culture devised their own pantheons, there arose methods to contact these gods. Animal sacrifice, oral prayer, sacred rituals, even plants that seemed to open a door to the higher powers were used. The methods that seemed to bring results were codified and ritualized, then entrusted to special people who would practice and remember the codes and rituals. Shamans, priests, or holy men protected and preserved this special knowledge. As civilizations grew, the divisions between people, priests and the sacred became more complicated while the sacred knowledge became more arcane.


For the first several millennia of human existence, until the Mesopotamians developed writing, most magic lore (indeed most information) was handed down through word of mouth to those initiates who showed a propensity to supernatural communication. There may be one deviation of this oral tradition and that is Paleolithic cave painting. It has been conjectured that cave paintings were an early example of sympathetic magic where the image of the animal was created to invoke a successful hunt.* If this were the true purpose of the images painted in the dark recesses of caves during the Paleolithic, then they could be considered the first pictorial grimoire. For what is a grimoire, but a collection of magic spells recorded and used to call upon the supernatural to intercede in the lives of humans?


A cave painting of a bison from Altamira, a Paleolithic cave located in Santillana del Mar (Cantabria region), in the north of Spain. Dating from the Middle Magdalenian to Gravettian (22.000 years ago).

As a compilation of magical spells that attempt a dialog through ritual and invocation to communicate with the supernatural, grimoires can be a collection of clay tablets, a grouping of wall carvings, papyrus scrolls, distillations of incantations from other holy books; anything that can be seen as an accumulation of magical texts assembled for the intention of conjuring spiritual forces. All of these methods of recording have had an influence on the grimoire as it is commonly understood. For western magic, the inception of the grimoire begins with the civilizations that developed between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers: Sumer, Assyria and Babylon, collectively known as Mesopotamia.


Marking it Down

Obverse of the best preserved manuscript of the so-called Exorcist’s Manual. 7th century BCE. Image: Geller, Fs. Lambert, 243.

As inveterate record keepers, the Mesopotamians inscribed thousands of clay tablets with their cuneiform script. Many survive which archive their agricultural productivity, military campaigns, codes of laws, domestic disputes and astronomy. Among all of these many records are included incantations, spells, signs, portents and predictions. Prophecy and predictions were very important to the Mesopotamian culture. Rulers were invested in knowing the unknowable, such as: the propitious times of war, the glorious future of a prince, the outcome of a harvest or the end of a plague. Predicting the future and then offering methods on how to counter the outcome of negative readings was one of the crucial tasks of the mages who were consulted. There were also techniques and records on how to exorcise evil spirits, and various modes of divination. Although these tablets were not collected into one master document, it was these magical tablets that constituted the first grimoires. They form not only a document of what initiated the spell, the outcome of the magic beliefs and practices of a culture, they were also manuals and guides on how to perform the magic. Diluted through the Hebraic magic tradition and millennia of rewriting, these ancient spells still resonate through all grimoires.


Written in Stone

Wedjat Eye Amulet, Third Intermediate Period, ca. 1070–664 B.C., Egypt, Faience, H. 2 in; W. 2 1/2 in; Th. 3/8 in.

For all of the Mesopotamian’s dedication to reading and manipulating the supernatural, it was Egypt that was regarded as the center of magic in the ancient world. To the ancient Egyptians magic infused every aspect of daily life. For them, magic was the ability to harness the power of natural laws to achieve a goal. Natural laws were conceived as supernatural entities which created the world, sustained the world on a daily basis, healed when a person was sick, gave when a person had nothing and assured eternal life after death. For the ancient Egyptians, a world without magic was inconceivable. Magic spells and incantations were inscribed on amulets, monuments, tombs and everyday articles, each provided access to, or enhanced its power to attract the Gods. While most magic in ancient Egypt was practiced by the illiterate and therefore needed to be performed verbally, ritually or through pictorial symbols, the written word was still conceived to have power. This power in words is seen everywhere, on most objects, even making up the imagery of the object such as an amulet like the Eye of Horus, which is also a symbol of the god. The first written ancient Egyptian documents found that can be considered a grimoire that can be found in ancient Egypt are the Pyramid Texts carved onto the walls of the pyramids at Saqqara (c.2400 – 2300 BC). These texts with no accompanying images, detail how to enable the transformation of the deceased into the afterlife to be with the gods. They included many different spells that called on protection of the preserved body and the protection of the tomb from desecration, assistance from the gods to obtain food for the journey to the afterlife, to call on the gods to find direction to the afterlife and methods on how to reach it. At the time of the Pyramid Texts, these spells were reserved for only the pharaohs and royal family. As time went on, they became less elite and were allowed for use in the tombs of high officials. Later they were further popularized so most of the wealthy and priests were lain in caskets which had the spells painted on the interior. This carved wall text, was assumed to have magical properties in the carved words themselves. Just their presence animated the magic. Their importance to Egyptian burial practices can be understood because of their desire to be used by other upper classes who also believed that they should have access to the afterlife. Eventually, the spells became the basis of the sacred Egyptian Book of the Dead which was included with the grave goods of all burials that had the means to afford a tomb. Like Mesopotamian written magic, Egyptian recorded spells have also had a strong influence on the ritual aspects of the grimoire.


Pyramid of Unas at Sakkara, Egypt. By Olaf Tausch

Left: Pyramid Text inscribed on the wall of a subterranean room in Teti's pyramid, at Saqqara. c. 2400–2300 BC. Right: Pyramid Texts, from the antechamber of the pyramid of King Unas.

Stuck in the Middle


In the land between Mesopotamia and Egypt called the Levant, the Hebrew culture developed with its own magical tradition. Due to their geographical proximity between both Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Hebrews of the Levant were nearly in constant conflict with these neighboring kingdoms. The Hebrews were held captive by the Assyrians in 740 BC, and then by the Babylonians in c. 598 BC. Concurrently, they had been a presence in Egypt since at least 650 BC and probably since the 1200 BC. Because of these conquests by the various kingdoms of Mesopotamia, and their presence in Egypt, there were cross influences in their cultures including mythologies and a shared interest in magical practices. The Biblical story of Noah and the Great Flood is mirrored in the Assyrian Epic of Gilgamesh which is dated from the 7th century BC. It became part of the Hebrew canon at about the same time that the Assyrians captured the Hebrews. Still, what set the Hebrews apart from Egypt and Mesopotamia was their tenacious adherence to their own particular culture based on monotheism. The international importance of the Hebrew’s monotheism cannot be overstated, because it provided not only the source of Judaism, but of Christianity as well. There are three canonical documents historically attributed to the Hebrew religious traditions that became major influences in European grimoires and ritual magic. All of them share the common line of influence from the written spells and rituals of Mesopotamia and Egypt.


A Hebrew Tradition


The Book of Enoch is an apocalyptic religious text ascribed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of the biblical Noah. It describes the origins of angels, demons, and fallen angels. It reasons the the morality of the Genesis Flood and prophesizes on the appearance and reign of the Messiah. The Book of Enoch marks the genesis of the Judeo-Christian idea of the existence of devils, demons and angels. These supernatural beings were considered intermediaries between God and humans. While angels were purported to be advocates of God’s Word, and devils and demons were proponents of evil to lead humans away from God’s true message, each were supernatural beings believed to be approachable and able to provide otherwise unknowable information. Discovering and practicing the means with which to summon these entities would become a major preoccupation of European ritual magic recorded in grimoires.


The Old Testament book of Exodus and the biblical figure of Moses provided the inspiration for a majorly influential grimoire, which has gone by many titles but is best known as The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses. Moses the prophet, miracle worker and emancipator of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt was considered certainly to be initiated into the tradition of Egyptian magic because of his upbringing in the royal household of the pharaoh. His identity as a magician was further accredited through his ability to cause by supernatural means the Ten Plagues. Finally, during his revelation on Mt. Sinai, where he was given the Torah by God, it is assumed by scholars of magic, that he was also given other secret knowledge. Even the New Testament Book of Acts (Acts 7:22) has this to say about his abilities: “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was mighty in words and in deeds.” This supposed magical knowledge was eventually compiled and revealed through the grimoire titled The Six and Seventh Books of Moses. (The first five Mosaic books are the Torah and Old Testament books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and are not part of the grimoire.) The Six and Seventh Books of Moses has its roots in Practical Kabbalah, especially the text of Sefer Raziel HaMalakh (The Book of Raziel the Angel) parts of which were used in popular magical pamphlets that began appearing in Germany in the 18th century. The tracts claim that it was indeed written by Moses and passed down as hidden books of the Hebrew Bible to give the text the prestige and approval of having had its provenance in religious doctrine. It offers incantations, seals and spells that will enable the user to recreate the miracles of the Bible. In the mid 19th century, Johann Scheible (of more later) collected and published these pamphlets under the title of The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses as part of his series of books on German folklore and magic Das Kloster. From there this compilation of presumed Mosaic magic became one of the most copied and widely distributed grimoires in the annals of western magical practice. It is found in various editions and abridgements all over the world where Europeans have founded colonies.


Sefer Raziel HaMalach, Amsterdam 1701, First Edition.The title page (left) reads: "a perfect 'segula' to have wise children , for success and blessing, to extinguish wild fire in the home, to prevent all demons and harms not to enter. For those who have this book among his treasures - when he is ill and at times of trouble this book shall bring him a speedy recovery. Right: Popular medieval amulet to protect mother and child. Attacked by Lilit during Childbirth.

The Secrets of Solomon and other Solomonic magical texts derived from it, are the ultimate source of all other grimoires in Western ritual magic. They have their inception from The Testament of Solomon, a document ascribed to the Biblical King Solomon. The original text has its precedents in Greek 1st century AD manuscripts, which makes it too recent to be by Solomon’s hand. It was further revised and given its present form in the medieval era. The Testament of Solomon is not considered canonical scripture by either Jews or Christians. Its contents describe the first person exploits of King Solomon of the Old Testament and how he came by the power to command and control all demons through the presentation of a magic ring provided to him by Michael the Archangel. It continues as a catalog of the demons that Solomon encounters, along with their names, attributes, abilities and how to counter them. It is this list of demonic names and the attendant information on each that has fascinated religious scholars and magic practioners alike for centuries. Attempts to invoke these demons has been a major preoccupation for those interested in occult ritual and provide the bulk of most grimoire texts.


These three traditions of Enoch, Moses and Solomon became the basis of Western ritual magical practice and spawned hundreds of copies, distillations, imitations and variations of magical books and grimoires. The information in these books was coveted by some and suppressed and destroyed by others. It cannot be emphasized enough that these texts of Enoch, Moses and Solomon, however modified, revised or annotated, are the basis of all western grimoires. However, this supernatural information while available in Asia Minor did not reach Europe until Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 331 BC, and the wisdom of the ancient world was collected in the Library of Alexandria.


All the Knowledge in the World


When Alexander conquered Egypt, he envisioned a great and necessary port city to glorify his name. However, he left the actual building of the city to Cleomenes an ambitious Greek living in Egypt whom Alexander appointed governor of the new territory. Cleomenes began the transformation of the insignificant ship building town of Rhokotis with its prime location, into the grand port that Alexander needed for his empire. However, Alexandria would not become the grand capitol and important trade port of Egypt until the reign of the first Greek ruler of Egypt, Ptolemy I. It was Ptolemy I that conceived and executed the great Library of Alexandria and began the collection of books and manuscripts that became renowned in the ancient world. At its height, the Library of Alexandria is estimated to have held around 500,000 books, from all across the known world. This huge store of knowledge attracted scholars, scientists and artists to study there. It was through the famed library and the scholars it attracted, that the wisdom of the ancient Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and the Hebrews and their magic practices, began to trickle into the Greek Hellenistic world, and later into the Roman Empire.


A New Landlord


Rome began its gradual takeover of Alexandria in 48 BC. The third Punic War (149 – 146 BC) gave them their final, lasting defeat of Carthage and helped catapult Rome into a major power in the Mediterranean. After a series of political maneuvers and intrigues involving Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Cleopatra, by 30 BC, Alexandria and its desirable port, had become a province of Rome. Although, since 331 BC the city and its great library had been razed and rebuilt several times after various conflicts in the intervening centuries, it was still attractive as a seat of learning and a distribution hub of wisdom and information.


With the conquest of Alexandria by Rome, the confluence of cultures and beliefs converging in the city also brought about much intermingling of magical ideas. There are Greek magical documents from this time such as the Mithras Liturgy, a text that invokes Providentia (the Roman goddess of providence) and Tyche

The Greek Magical Papyri is the name given by scholars to a body of papyri from Graeco-Roman Egypt, which each contain a number of magical spells, formulae, hymns and rituals. The materials in the papyri date from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD.

(the Greek goddess of luck) to “assist the seeker in having a revelation that will help them gain understanding about the Universe and immortality through the guidance of a high messenger” (or more simply, a ritual to become enlightened in the ways of the gods). There were magical Hebrew texts derived from the divine canonical scripture of the Books of Moses and Solomon that were used as the basis of protective amulets or curses inscribed on shards of pottery or parchment. The ancient and sacred traditional magical tracts of the Egyptians were translated into other languages and became available to other cultures and further popularized. Each culture and magical tradition influenced the other until following the threads to the origins of traditions becomes nearly impossibly tangled. Each magical document has also left its imprint on the grimoires of later ages. Their veracity is purported to be of greater validity the closer the text can be claimed to be of antique origin.


A New Conflict of Belief


By 3 AD, a change was underway. The handful of followers of the apoplectic preacher known as Jesus had grown in population and in influence in the two centuries after his death. By 313 AD the Roman emperor Constantine in an effort to bring peace to the Roman Empire, had decreed religious tolerance through the Edict of Milan. The edict simply allowed the Christians to practice their religion without persecution. It did not give Christians special protections, but it did allow the Christians tolerance to not worship the Roman Emperor as a god since their beliefs forbade it. However, this relaxation of Roman law soon emboldened the Christians into demanding more protections, since the pagans still attacked them despite the Edict of Milan.


Emperor Constantine died in 337 AD, becoming a Christian on his deathbed. This final sovereign act officially made Christianity a state sanctioned religion. By 379 AD Theodosius I ascended to the throne of the Eastern Roman Empire. In the second year of his reign, Theodosius I decreed Christianity to be the official religion of the Roman Empire and by 392 AD he had outlawed paganism. This rise in the acceptance of Christianity unleashed a backlash against paganism by the Christians. They showed an intolerance to the pagans as the pagans had shown intolerance to them. Pagan temples were plundered and destroyed for being offensive to the one true God. Many texts and documents that were deemed to be unchristian and were burned. This caused the loss of many magical texts of Greek, Roman and Egyptian origin. The copying and distribution of books and written material not sanctioned by the Christian Church was stopped, especially books which included references to pagan gods and practices. This began the dichotomy in the Christian Church between what was God’s Word to be beatified and what was of Satan and to be despised and destroyed.


Until the advent of Christianity, there was little division in magical thinking between white magic and black magic. Magic was part of religion and it could be used positively or negatively as the Gods saw fit. In the western world, it was the Christians who polarized religion into clear divisions of good and evil. This is where the idea of the grimoire as a book of evil associated with the Devil comes from. A good part of the ritual and magic that is recorded in grimoires, is derived from pagan sources and it was the Christian war against paganism that considered such practices diabolic.


But rising religious unrest was only the beginning of a greater decline in the Roman Empire. Attacks by the Huns from the northeast were driving refugees south into the Empire. This unchecked migration became too great a burden on the Roman state to support. Ineffectual leaders and a weakening army hastened the political collapse of Western Rome. Since 286 AD the Roman Empire had been divided into two regions, each entrusted with its own ruler. Eastern Rome, with its capitol at Constantinople, survived the collapse of the Western Empire.


Western Rome met its end in 476 AD, while Eastern Rome under is new name of Byzantium and its capitol at Constantinople, held on for another thousand years. But continued wars with the Empire of Iran gradually depleted its resources. By the 7th century, the rise of Islam provided a new enemy. At this time Syria, the Middle East and Egypt were taken by Islamic forces and most of the scholarly resources that had been born from Mesopotamia, the Hebrews and Egypt were cut off from Europe by the infidels until the First Crusade in 1096.


Into the Dark


Much of Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire was fractionalized and in political chaos. The trade, agricultural and distribution systems that were developed by the Romans were now disrupted and broken. There was widespread famine and disease. There was little cultural activity outside of the Catholic Church. The Church developed the monastery tradition and kept alive the Latin language as its holy language. It also kept alive writing and visual arts through the production of illuminated manuscripts for bibles and prayerbooks. Since the Bible was considered the Word of God, it was the Holy Word of the faith and not considered evil or part of the books that became known as grimoires. During this time the Christians still had a deep-set interest in driving out every hint of paganism or any tradition that was not considered the Word of God. It’s preoccupation with pagan beliefs had to do not only with proliferating its own doctrine, but also it increasingly began to equate pagan gods with demons and the pagan practices and rituals with magic and sorcery. The Church teachings took as its sources the Biblical condemnation of spell casters or those who communicate with the dead. (See Deuteronomy 18: 11-12) And it was also concerned that those who conjure up devils expose their souls to being condemned to Satan. However, the division between bad magic that transgresses on God’s covenant and good magic that implores the grace of God for help became a matter of ecclesiastical opinion. This division allowed some magical books to slip by the censors of the clergy, especially if they did not specifically mention demons or pagan practices.


Magic Finds a Way

Bald’s Leechbook 270 x 205 mm parchment and ink mid-10th century,

There were manuscripts compiled at this time called leech books (from the Old English “laece” meaning doctor), which offered medical advice for alleviating

or curing many maladies. Many of the prescriptions were Christianized versions that had survived of Classical Roman spells and incantations for protection and healing. There were examples of sympathetic magic where a dagger would be consecrated by an inscribed incantation in order to make the knife receptive to driving out the negative aspect that was causing the medical problem. Some of this medical practice was derived from the very pagan books of magic that the Church was preoccupied with seizing and burning as Black Magic. Leech books, as a compilation of folk medicine and magic spells were on the border of grimoires. They kept the door ajar for later true grimoires to enter and preserved some ancient magical thinking from the purifying fires of the Church.


The Catholic Church was never able to definitively demark and maintain the line between what was acceptable religious practice and what was sinful magic. In many instances, the practices were so ingrained in particular communities, the Church had to simply put a Christian name to it and accept the practice (such as the Roman festival of Lupercal becoming St. Valentine’s Day). This amorphousness allowed the use of magical books that were based on Biblical characters (Moses, and Solomon) some latitude depending on how far into the study of demonology the text veered. All grimoires that relied too much on demonic magic were not acceptable and were often seized and destroyed. Those books that were concerned with natural magic, or the power of nature that was created by God (like the leech books) were tolerated but looked upon with suspicion.


From the 5th century until the invention of moveable type in the mid 1400s, all books were being transcribed by hand. Until the 14th century, the vast majority of those who could read and write were either royalty or the clergy, with only the clergy involved in the production of illuminated manuscripts and other sacred books. The non-sacred books that were officially transcribed were in some way sanctioned by the church. Non-sacred books usually were bestiaries, leech books, and books on Christian theology written by leaders in the Church. These books were considered acceptable, because they could be associated with God’s creation and the spreading of his grace. This would mean that until the secularization of scriptoria in the 14th, century, grimoires were copied by clergy in opposition to their holy vows. This does not mean that all priests were clandestinely copying down satanic spells when they were alone in their cells, but there were the few curious and defiant who were open to further knowledge. Books on magic were very rare at this time and any that came to light were quickly destroyed rather than preserved. It took the opening of the Holy land and the European reconnection with the Islamic nations to rediscover the ancient authors and pagan knowledge that was being kept alive in the Middle East.


A Window to the Light


After the First Crusade in 1096, the barriers that isolated the West from the East began to erode. Aside from a wealth of covetable goods and exotic food the West’s crusading armies encountered in Moslem lands, they also found ancient and modern scholarship. Much of the diversity of learning that had been encouraged during the Roman Empire and had flourished in Alexandria had been continued by the Moslems. The art of astrology was one system of knowledge that had been preserved, continually studied and perfected by Arabic scholars and magicians. Astrology in the West after the end of Roman rule became fragmented and unsophisticated due to the loss of scientific practice and the condemnation of the Catholic Church and any practice that included divination was still forbidden by Biblical law.


By the mid-1200s, the Arabic text of the Ghāyat al-Ḥakīm (The Aim of the Sage) had been translated into Latin as Picatrix (a Latin transliteration of the name Burqratis who is mentioned several times in the text but who’s identity is obscure) and clandestinely made its way into Europe despite the suspicions of the Church. Now considered a seminal grimoire, Picatrix is a composite work (over two hundred sources according to its anonymous author) of astral magic and astrology. In addition to rekindling an interest in astrology, it also emphasized and encouraged a belief in the concept of planetary correspondences, a belief that each hour of the day and each day of the week were dominated by one of the classical luminaries (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn). This system of dividing the day into times of astrological influence, determined what magic would be most auspicious at that day and time. The idea of planetary hours became an important factor in subsequent grimoires, as it was said to determine the potency, or the success or failure of the magic and rituals.


Two-page fragment (recto and verso) of the work known in medieval Europe as the Picatrix. This was a book of astronomy, astrology, mystical and occult knowledge, alchemy, and magic composed in Arabic in Moorish Spain some time before the middle of the 11th century. This fragment is dated to 1300-1399 AD.

The Grimoire Appears


The study of magic in the Renaissance became a pursuit of the intellectual who referred to ancient texts to conjure up mischief. These ancient texts of magic and pagan ritual would be compiled into books we now call grimoires. Magic became the study of unreason, as science is the study of reason. Magic and sorcery could answer the questions that science could not.

In his book English Literature in the Sixteen Century, Excluding Drama, C. S. Lewis writes about the Middle Ages and magic, “In medieval stories there is, in one sense, plenty of “magic”. Merlin does this or that “by his subtilty,” Bercilak resumes his severed head. But all these passages have unmistakably the note of “faerie” about them.” During the Late Middle Ages magic was believed in and even practiced, but it was done by people who had either an inherent aptitude or it was practiced as a folk art by the populace and it was often done in opposition to Church teachings. The opening of the Moslem world to Europe brought on a new interest in commerce and exploration. The rediscoveries of classical literature and philosophy found preserved in the Middle East brought about the Renaissance and the promotion of art, literature, science and humanism. The new interest in the humanities had the elite and the wealthy collecting antiquities which not only included art but ancient manuscripts as well. There was also wave of refugees and migrants of Byzantine Greek scholars escaping from the conflicts of the Crusades, who were able to assist the European collectors with obtaining and translating these antique texts that may have been written in languages other than Latin such as Arabic. Soon there were translations, copies and interpretations of the historical documents. New books based on the antique were commissioned and collected. The idea of magic as having “the note of the faerie about them” transformed into “He to his studie goes; books are opened, terrible words pronounced, souls imperiled.” (C.S. Lewis, English Literature in the Sixteen Century, Excluding Drama)


The growing Renaissance interest in ancient texts gave rise to a new demand for secular books. All books were still written out by hand. In magical thought, the act of handwriting is a method of conjuring your desires. Writing is spell making in and of itself when done in the proper mindset. The ancient Egyptians, by inscribing everything they created, understood that a written consecrated text in itself has the ability to manifest its content simply by its presence. As the Hebrews practiced, certain Bible passages when written out, can be used as protective amulets. The Bible itself, is used as a holy object that can bind an oath, bless a space or serve as a symbol of the presence of God. Given this idea that the act of writing has divine power, the tradition of grimoires claims that to enhance the power of magical books, they should be written in the hand of the practitioner. To further empower the magic, control of the materials is also encouraged. A grimoire should be written on virgin parchment. Virgin parchment is defined as parchment made from a newborn animal (preferably a lamb). Parchment created from a newborn animal has the distinction of being uncorrupted by the influence of corporality. The preference for lamb is for its perceived innocence, conformity and vulnerability – it is a tabula rasa that will attune itself to whatever it is call upon to do and will purify what is written on it.


The ink was another aspect of the creation of grimoires that would be under the control of the adept. Ingredients could be added to the ink to intensify its power. Blood was a possibility because of its life sustaining and binding properties under its association with the concept of an indestructible union. The ink could also be consecrated and blessed before using to further the idea that the writing has been sanctified and purified by God’s grace.


All of these materials: virgin parchment, special ink and the adept’s own hand, are attempts to protect the seeker from the malevolent forces that they intend on contacting. As illustrated in the following quote from the introduction of the grimoire Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis, the seeker of occult knowledge must be pure in his mind and body as a defense from the negative forces they may encounter.


“If you desire the arts, sciences or something else, then you must call the spirit that rules over them. But note however, that no spirit should notice that you:

1) you are not well experienced in the divine scriptures;

2) It is necessary that you explore your own nature: whether the spirits are devoted to you;

3) Whether you have committed sacrilegious or reckless sins.

4) Whether you have gone religiously to church and received the Eucharist in Christmas ‘eve and on such days.

5) Whether you have stayed celibate and without any wantonness towards women.

6) Whether you stay honorable and in pure clothes and with sweet odor, as well as in silence, and whether you are in a secret place.

7) Whether you have been taught the way to carry out on an exorcism. Also, whether you have good knowledge of writing and reading.”


Attributed to Doctor Joannes Faust, Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis (translated by Nicolás Álvarez


Publishing Magic


Writing the texts out by hand was also the only way books could be reproduced before moveable type. This made books expensive and their distribution slow. Another way of meeting the increasing demand for books was needed. By 1440, Guttenberg had perfected moveable type. Moveable type and the printing press made books cheaper and more accessible for a larger segment of the population. Grimoires were no exception. Grimoires were first printed in the Protestant countries of Germany and Switzerland. Here the censorious eyes of the Catholic church had no influence. There was also a tradition of German mages that had already determined a greater regional interest in magical books. Faust, Agrippa, Paracelsus among others, were the noted necromancers who had gained negative notoriety in Germany. Print played an important role in democratizing literary magic. The printed versions of grimoires could not hold the magical power or integrity of the handwritten magical text. What the printed versions could do was to get the information out for greater access and influence (not always positive influence). The mechanically produced version of the grimoire was not an integral part of the ritual performance, but a record of it. The latent magic could be activated through transcription of the spell. Contrarily, printed versions of magical texts did not lessen their aura. Instead, their infamy was enhanced by their accessibility and the romance of their forbidden content.


A Famous Pact


Johann Faust holds a major share of influence when it comes to grimoires and the conjuring of the supernatural. His story whether fictionalized or true, has been the inspiration for many exceptional works of art in literature, opera and symphonic music. His life and adventures have been so distorted and mythologized, that who the historical figure was is difficult to determine. The very year and place of his birth are in question. His birth date is given as either 1466 or 1480, while the town is given as either as Kittlingen or Heidelberg, Germany. There may in fact be two different Faust's who contributed to the legend: Johann (active 1530s) or Georg (active 1505-1515). What comes through the confusion is that Faust was a university graduate with advanced degrees, who became an itinerant magician, alchemist and astrologer. His infamy was known throughout southern Germany as he was often accused of fraud. He often boasted about his powers and claimed that he could easily recreate the miracles of Christ. This blasphemy got him denounced by the Church and accused of being in league with the devil. After receiving a teaching position in Sickingen, he was accused of abusing his position by engaging in sodomy with his male students and needed to affect a hasty escape. This scandal added to his negative characterization. Faust’s death is recorded as 1540/41 at the Hotel zum Löwen (the Lion Hotel) in Staufen in Breisgau. It was caused by an explosion from an alchemical experiment. His body was discovered so badly mutilated, that his clerical and scholarly enemies proclaimed that the devil had come to collect him in person. These declarations of infernal retribution in his demise became the genesis of the Faust legends.


The rumors and stories of Faust’s association with the Devil circulated for decades after his death. They were so common and passed around that by 1587, the first Faust book had been printed by Johann Spies. It contained much religious commentary since the Spies publishing house had built its reputation on theological publications. It was translated to English in 1588 and by 1611 it had appeared in French and Dutch. Each edition contained additional tales about Faust that further obfuscated and mythologized the historical Faust. The English version of The Faust Book was the basis for Christopher Marlowe’s play “The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus” (1589). Marlowe’s interpretation of Faust as an arrogant scholar doomed by his own hubris, set the general story and subject matter of Faust as a literary character.



Faust’s seeking of magical knowledge was not forgotten in all of the tales surrounding him. Capitalizing on his association with nigromancy, the supernatural and especially his reputation of conjuring the Devil, many grimoires have been ascribed to him. At least thirteen different magical texts have Faust’s name attached to them. Some are postdated to the early 1500s to give the impression that they are truly from the hand of the diabolical sorcerer. Most of them are dated between 1580 – 1692, contemporary with the appearance of Faust Books and are intended to capitalize on the scandalous reputation of the Faust legend. All of them rely on the expertise of Faust’s interactions with the infernal powers and so provide lists of demons, the rituals to conjure them and the means to control them.


A Romantic Ideal of the Devil


By the late 1700s, a new movement in European culture was on the rise that was characterized by an emphasis on emotion, individualism, the glorification of the medieval past and of nature. In part, a reaction against the fast changes in society brought about by the Industrial Revolution, Romanticism sought to slow down the changes happening by the new mechanization of labor and its effect on society and look to the past and to within for what is true and natural in life. In Germany, Romanticism was initiated by the publishing in 1774, of The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Goethe. Werther is the story of a young man and his unrequited love for a woman who marries another. Werther’s suffering in this situation is so great that he ultimately takes his own life. This novel caused hundreds of young men to exemplify the young protagonist of the novel and explore their passionate and sensitive temperaments. For literate Germans, it provoked an interest in nature, Germanic myths, and folklore including the Faust legends.


The author of The Sorrows of Young Werther, Goethe himself had read one of the many reprints of the old Faust Book that had by then been in circulation for nearly two hundred years. The story of Faust’s interactions with the power of darkness and his eventual downfall began a sixty-year preoccupation for the author. The culmination of Goethe’s nearly lifetime rumination on Faust and his damnation, was his epic play/poem Faust (published: Part 1, 1808; Part 2, 1832 posthumously). However, of the several changes Goethe made to the legend, perhaps the most important was the ending. Goethe does not have Faust make good on his pact and become a victim of Satan. Instead, in true Romantic tenor, he allows Faust to be redeemed and his soul accepted into God’s grace. Goethe reasoned that a just God would not allow one of his souls to remain in the grasp of sin. Goethe’s Faust is considered the greatest work of German literature, from one of Germany’s greatest cultural figures. Goethe’s reputation as a towering figure in German literature contributed enormously to the legitimizing and revival of interest in the Faust stories and texts.


Johann Schieble

Hoping to profit from the German Romantic Era’s interests in Germanic folklore, and with Goethe’s Faust fueling a further resurgence of the original legends and origins of Faust, a German antiquarian and bookseller, Johann Scheible, began to publish a complete collection of German folklore. Styled by Scheible as “popular, miraculous, curious and comic literature,” he published 12 volumes of Germanic folklore between 1845 and 1849 under the umbrella title Das Kloster

, (The Cloister). Volume 2 at 1074 pages, includes all of the legends and grimoires attributed to Faust. Among the texts that Scheible resurrected was the grimoire Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis. (Magic Natural and Unnatural).


Reprinted Magic


In his Forward to Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis, Johann Scheible asserts that the manuscript that he reprinted for the book apparently dated from 1505 which would put the writing of the manuscript within Faust’s lifetime. This assertion is erroneous. Research shows Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis dates from 1612. This is far too late for Faust to have authored it since he died in 1540/41 which puts the writing of the book at least 71 years after his death. The spurious authorship of this grimoire places it as part of the corpus of Faustian literature that appeared after the success of Spies’ Faust Book. Its content has been influenced by several older grimoires, among them: Steganographia by Johannes Trithemius (1499), Three Books of Occult Philosophy by Cornelius Agrippa (1531-33); Arbetel: On the Magic of the Ancients, author unknown (1575); and Heptameron attributed to Pietro d’Albano (1496). The common denominator of all of these magical books, is that they all name various demons and angels, provide what that entity rules over and offer a method for conjuring them. This is the major content of Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis, along with information on magic circles, how to interpret sigils (symbolic representations of a supernatural entity), the correct sigil for each demon and the tools needed for conjuring. This content of magic circles, sigils and conjuring tools also connects Magia with the long tradition of the Solomon grimoires. One of the most striking aspects of Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis, is its copious amount of color illustrations, the bulk of which are purported portraits of the forms each entity will take when they appear.


Barbiel from Schiebel's 1849 edition of Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis. Illustration by Karl Kohl.

I had the rare opportunity to view an original 1849 Scheible edition of the Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis grimoire.** It was displayed with the book open to an accordion folded, double sized page of an illustration of the demon Barbiel. Barbiel is portrayed in the center of the page, dressed in bright red coat and trousers. He wears a crescent moon shaped headdress. His large, pointed ears, equal to the height of his head betray his animal nature. His face is frowning as he gestures to the right with a taloned hand. Winged demonic creatures fly around him. Barbiel’s appearance in this grimoire takes on the chimeric aspects of demons and devils since ancient times. The infernal is always depicted as an aggregate of the wicked features of dangerous or profane animals. Thus, Barbiel sports pointed ears, talons and slanted eyes as a means to accentuate his soul as having not lifted above the bestial. Additionally, these attributes convey his danger and wickedness. On the far right and left of the image, are sigils, which may be protective against him, but whose meanings are unclear. These sigils surrounding the image of Barbiel do not match the sigils on the next page that claims to be Barbiel’s own and should be used to conjure him.


The text tells us that Barbiel is the first Grand Prince of Hell. His Moon shaped headdress is probably meant to be his crown and it indicates his preference for appearing at night. His planet is Saturn, according to the planetary correspondences this means that he can only be called upon on Saturday at 1, 3, and 8 AM, 9 PM and Midnight. Saturn is also the ruler of transformation and death and speaks to Barbiel’s dangerousness. The description claims he appears as depicted in the illustration provided, surrounded by spirits which he calls his subordinates. He can be invoked to assist in finding that which is stolen and reveal who the thief is. He can also assist with achieving the ability to see in a scrying mirror and aid with the interpretation and understanding of what is seen there.


The illustrations seem to be a hybrid of engraving (the black areas) and chromolithography

Left: Flying demon by Karl Khol, page 53 of Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis. Right: The Temptation of St. Anthony, Jacques Callot (French, Nancy 1592–1635 Nancy), 1635, Etching; third state of five (Lieure), Sheet: 14 3/16 x 18 1/2 in.

(the color areas). It is evident that the illustrator, Karl Kohl used existing images for inspiration, such as Jacques Callot’s Temptation of St. Anthony printed in 1635. This image of a large flying demon obviously influenced Kohl’s illustration of a winged demon. Other images seem to be contemporary and possibly original to the publication. The diagrams of magic circles and sigils have some of the characteristics of similar diagrams in Arbetel: On the Magic of the Ancients as well as The Secrets of Solomon. The human figures depicted in the book are wearing clothing consistent with late 1700s to early 1800s European peasant classes. While this is not consistent with clothing from the period either of the original 17th century manuscript or of its the mid-19th century reprint, the fashion of the clothing was probably used as a standard overall style and not to depict trends of the day. The demons wear a range of clothing styles from nude, to animal skins to Gothic influenced which is assumed to enhance their otherness and antiquity.


Left: 1800 German clothing form the Black Forest. Right: Figure, page 211 by Karl Kohl from Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis

Kohl shows a naïveté with the human figure. His figurative proportions are less than classical, even leaning toward the endomorphic. In the Barbiel illustration, it is difficult to tell where the demon’s legs meet his torso under his coat. His feet are tiny compared to the bulk of his body and his left had is much smaller that his right. I realize that a supernatural being is depicted and the Greek standard of beauty is not to be expected, but these visual traits and anatomical eccentricities appear across all the images in the book. Still, the images have the charm of their age even if they do not approach agelessness. The book as a whole is more an obscure curiosity than a work of art. It is not a major grimoire like the other Schiebel publication in this series, The Sixth and Seven the Book of Moses, which caught the imagination of the German populace and was appropriated by other publishers, reprinted in cheap versions and disseminated worldwide. Instead, Magica represents a curious piece of Faustian folklore and it provides a window of what was important to occult thought in the 1600s. The major interest lies in the illustrations which are unique for their interpretation of the entities that the practitioner may encounter. Schiebel includes this grimoire in his Das Kloster project in the interest of completeness, and for the abiding interests that captured the imagination of the German Romantics.


No One Said It Would Be Easy


As I researched the development of the grimoire, I kept asking myself why would someone want to deal with all the complications that were considered necessary to contact the spirit world? Much of the ritual magic that is explained in grimoires needs very specific things, whether that be special equipment that must be created, ingredients that must be procured, particular locations that must be found and definitive times of day that must be adhered to. There are so many considerations, magical procedures, important words and necessary props that it is easy for something to go wrong. In fact, there have been detractors that insist that something will be wrong and that is the point. The failure of the magic can be blamed on the high probability that the magician made some error in the procedure. The failure of contacting the Otherside lies with the process, not with the possibility that there is no Otherside.


My question lies not with the existence or not of demons, but in the simple notion of what is the motivation? Surely the grimoires themselves lay it out: acquiring wealth, power over enemies, and attracting an object of desire. These seem to be historically why the grimoires were written and why they have continued to be an item of interest, although I would add that in modern times, some ritual magic practitioners are seeking validation that their belief in the spirit world is not in vain. Still, if as Christians believe, that God will answer all prayers and the true ritual is to attend Mass and pray, then that seems on the surface a far easier method, than trying to adhere to all of the regulations of conjuring up a demon who may be belligerent and disposed to do you great harm rather than grant your request. There is the theater of the ritual that can be attractive. There is the romance of following the arcane methods that may put one in a particular emotional state that can be alluring. Or there is the draw of the taboo which has its own adherents. The problem seems to be that God doesn’t work the way we often want. For Christians, God has already claimed to love poverty, humility, kindness and giving. These are the traits that His Son Jesus personally exhibited and taught were the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.


These are also the traits that the aspiring magician are expected to express and live if they are to be protected and successful in their magical endeavors. The irony that is not expressed in the grimoires is that the desire to obtain wealth, have power over others and force love on another are not Christian qualities. To cavort with demons in itself is considered to welcome sin. There is a moral disconnect between living and expressing the life of sanctity that is a precursor to attempting occult ritual and then going ahead and practicing the ritual. A truly holy person wouldn’t engage in such a profane ritual.


“Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1: 14-15) The Epistle of James is telling us that desire is not sin, but desire can lead to sin. The grimoire is a document that feeds off of our desires. It offers an alternative that the strictures of spirituality would deny. We know what is necessary to obtain our highest nature, but the temptation to work around our fate and find shortcuts to our wants is strong. The grimoire is an instruction book that may offer the seeker another path to obtain what they most desire. The entities that may be encountered to assist in this alternative path we are warned can be fickle but may be bridled with the right precautions. Do we stare at the page in hopeless want or do we seize an opportunity? •


Arthur Bruso © 2020



*Zoologist R. Dale Guthrie in The Nature of Paleolithic Art believes differently: ”… to recognize that so many of the preserved Paleolithic images were done casually, by both sexes and all age-groups, more often than not by youngsters, who even left their tracks under renditions of wounded bulls and swollen vulvas, in no way makes Paleolithic sites less hallowed. The possibility that adolescent giggles and snickers may have echoed in dark cave passages as often as the rhythm of a shaman’s chant demeans neither artists nor art.”


**July 18 – October 18, 2015, Opus Hypnagogia: Sacred Spaces of the Visionary and Vernacular, exhibition curated by Stephen Romano at the now defunct Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, NY.


#arthurbruso #arthurbrusoessay #arthurbrusoartswriting #secretsofthetome #grimoire #mesopotamia #cavepainting #paleolithic #cuneiform #ancientegypt #eyeofhorus #saqqara #pyramidtexts #levant #bookofenoch #moses #thesixandseventhbokksofmoses #seferrazielhamalakh #secretsofsolomon #kingsolomon #michaelthearchangel #alexanderthegreat #cleomenes #ptolemy1 #libraryodalexandria ##ancientrome #mithraslitergy #providentia #tyche #jesus #edictofmilan #emperorconstantine #theodosius1 #byzantium #duteronomy #leechbook #catholicchurch #firstcrusade #picatrix #planetarycorrespondences #renaissance #writingmagis #faust #pactwiththedevil #faustbook #romanticism #johannscheible #magianaturalisetinnaturalis #barbiel #saturn #sigils #magiccircle #karlkohl #morbidanatomymuseum #stephenromanogallery

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  • Arthur Bruso



Review of Satanism and Witchcraft by Jules Michelet


Citadel Press, NY, copyright 1939 (hardcover), copyright 1963 (paperback)


When the Catholic Church instituted the Inquisition, it was not to punish witches. Their main concern was to quash heretics. Specifically, the independent Cathars. The Cathars were a religious sect from southern Europe in what is now Northern Italy and Toulouse, Southern France. They were active between the 12th and 14th centuries. Their name, “Cathar,” comes from the Greek and means “the pure ones.” They were part of the Gnostic movement happening at the time (religious groups that emphasized personal spiritual experience over orthodox teaching, traditions, and the authority of the church), their main tenet was the duality of God; the good God of the New Testament, who created the spiritual realm and the bad God of the Old Testament, the creator of the physical world (who eventually became associated with Satan). Not only did this not conform with the Catholic teaching of the one God through the Holy Trinity, but their beliefs also did not accept the power or control of the Catholic Church or the Pope.


Peaceful, Pacifist and Nonconforming

The Cathars had been under papal scrutiny since 1147 during the reign of Pope Eugene III when they became noticed by Rome as being heretical to official doctrine. Pope Eugene III sent a papal legate to negotiate with the Cathars and try to bring them within the fold of the Catholic Church. This attempt at resolution was not successful. Neither were two other direct attempts at arbitration in 1178 and 1180. Two decrees in 1163 and 1179 by Church councils which demanded the Cathars conform to official Church doctrine also had no effect on them. When Pope Innocent III came into power in 1198, his greater mission was to expand the power of the Catholic Church throughout Europe. To that end, one of his objectives was to resolve the heresy of the Cathars once and for all and bring them under the authority of Rome.


A Pope Annoyed

At first Pope Innocent III, as the popes before him, tried peaceful conversion of the Cathars with legates. But, after over 50 years of papal interference with the peaceful and pacifist Cathars, the nobles of Toulouse In Southern France, the regional communities of the area, and even the local bishops of Toulouse were resentful of Rome trying to confer authority in their jurisdiction. In retaliation to these local protests in Toulouse and to emphasize the power of Rome, Innocent III suspended the bishops who were hampering his mission and appointed a new one who upheld the pope’s zeal against heresy. He sent the future St. Dominic, who had a demonstrated talent for proselytizing and conversion, to preach to the Cathars. Dominic’s preaching did not convert the Cathars to Rome’s desires. As a final show of force, he sent a new legate to the Count of Toulouse to convince the nobleman of the area to force the Cathars to align with Catholic doctrine. None of this worked. The Cathars remained staunch in their beliefs and refused to bow to Rome. The legate and the Count viciously argued. The derided legate was murdered while returning to Rome. This incensed Pope Innocent III to such a degree, that he appealed to Phillip II the King of France to call an all-out war on the southern French nobles. Phillip II declined such an outrage. But lured by promises of acquiring new land, some northern French Barons did take up the crusade and attacked the southern French nobles who were protecting the Cathars. In the end the Cathars were massacred.


What is Heresy?

The Cathar resistance and subsequent crusade to silence them gave rise to the Catholic Inquisition under the authority of Pope Innocent III as a means to combat all heresy. At this time, heresy did not include witchcraft. Throughout most of the medieval era, witchcraft was considered pagan superstition and not subject to the Church’s definition or punishment of heretical beliefs. As such, it was tolerated as a minor offense by the Church. It took Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century to turn the Church’s thinking of witchcraft from simply pagan superstition, to a person who had given over his soul to the wishes of the devil for the power of false miracles. When this change in theological thinking took hold, the concept of a heretic expanded to include a person who looked to Satan for power rather than accepting God’s will. This meant those who practiced witchcraft, or any other means of changing God’s will that involved calling on other supernatural powers, were subject to accusations and charges of heresy and stronger punishments.


While Thomas Aquinas was changing the theological thinking regarding witchcraft, it was the publication of Heinrich Kramer’s Malleus Malleficarum in 1487 that brought about the wholesale persecution of witchcraft as heresy. The Malleus Malleficarum not only was a book that defined the practices of witchcraft, but it also explained how to identify a witch, how to best to extract a confession, and how to protect oneself from their wiles. For nearly 200 years the Malleus Malleficarum became the most influential book to justify the persecution of witches.


It should not be thought that the Catholic Church alone persecuted their people for witchcraft. The Protestant denominations after the Reformation participated in witch burnings with equal zeal. Protestant Christianity justified witch persecutions because they believed they were associated with Satanic ritual parties, orgies and cannibalistic infanticide. In addition, they pointed to scripture, such as going against the first of the 10 Commandments (You shall have no other Gods before me), the word of God in Exodus 22:18 (thou shalt not suffer a witch to live), as well as ridiculing God’s majesty.


The Book Satanism and Witchcraft

19th century French historian Jules Michelet wrote his book Satanism and Witchcraft in 1862. His major life’s work and greatest achievement was his History of France. Satanism and Witchcraft came out of his research for History of France. When he began to discover the atrocities acted against women during the Inquisition, he was moved to write about them separately in an effort to expose some of the hypocritical practices of Christian religion. He already had a natural aversion to religion and a great dislike of the society of the medieval era, so his scathing exposition of the Church’s Inquisition in Satanism and Witchcraft provided just the pulpit to preach his animosities. The book is considered by scholars to be a minor work by the author. It is also one of his most striking because of his fervent voice, and his unusually sympathetic and progressive (for the time) treatment of its subject. Long out of print and debunked by scholars, the reputation of Satanism and Witchcraft has grown over time. So much so, that it has been translated and reprinted for an American audience. In the magical community, it has become one of the classic texts on the witch persecutions in Europe, and a seminal study into the historical intersection of Medieval women, the Church and witchcraft.



Back cover sell copy of 1963 edition.

Michelet begins Satanism and Witchcraft with an introduction where he forcefully makes his point that the Church (he uses both Catholic and Protestant references) has specifically condemned women as witches and heretics because women were the cause of Original Sin and brought all mankind down to be expelled from Paradise to work for a living, suffer pain and sorrow and know mortality. For this primary act of Eve, the Christian Church held that women deserve whatever justice God saw fit to mete out. He quotes from Bartolommeo Spina (1475 – 1546), Master of the Sacred Palace in the Vatican; “Why does God permit the death of the innocent? He does so justly. For if they do not die by reason of the sins they have committed, yet they are guilty of death by reason of Original Sin.” Michelet finds this reasoning abominable. Through bombastic language, a heavy use of exclamation points and a delivery much like an impassioned and dramatic lawyer making his case, Michelet shouts and fumes through the rest of the book as he rails against the flimsy and misogynist justifications that he records as given for the European witch hunts which lasted from 1300 – 1600.


A Fairy Tale Beginning

Michelet’s book is divided into two parts: Part I is a fiction on how women are drawn into sorcery, Part II is an examination of several true cases of historical witchcraft. After setting out his reasons for the injustice of the witch persecutions by the Church in his Introduction, he begins Part I of Satanism and Witchcraft with a romantic and cloying description of Woman (an Everywoman). This woman is the domestic keeper of the house (a humble hut) and tender of the hearth, who in her few idle hours, or from the tedium of repetitive chores, sees fairies and elves in the shadowy corners of her home. She comes to view these visions as supernatural beings appearing as helpers and diversions from her relentless work. The fictional and nameless heroine also spends time in nature communing with God’s creatures and deciphering which plants will ease the fever or spice the pot. Through these innocent actions, she is branded a pagan and marked as sinful by the priest and is threatened with ostracization and punishment unless she submits to penance and repents.


This portrayal of this symbolic woman as having insight to the other side of the veil or as having an active imagination that conjures up all of these invisible beings is a fantasy devised by the author. Michelet seems to be projecting his own ideas about the feminine mind and romanticizing them. It is true that the Ancient Greeks and other societies saw the world as filled with gods, goddesses and nymphs. They personified nearly everything, and every place had a resident spirit. But this was a culture wide belief system for the Greeks, it was co-opted by their Roman conquerors and reformulated into the Ancient Roman belief system. The Christians emulated the polytheism of the Romans and Greeks, with their martyrs and saints filling in much the same roles as the old gods and nymphs in their attempt to subsume paganism. This fairy tale that Michelet provides as the basis of the persecutions of witchcraft, was created out of his own misunderstandings and fantasies about women.


The Holy Family of the Church

Michelet interrupts his feminine fantasy with a digression into the Catholic Church’s ideas on the nuclear family. The author accuses the Church of destroying the basic role functions within the family, by annulling the role of father to an impotent Joseph, while deifying the immaculate purity of the Mary. Through this elevation of Mary and her purity, at the expense of the masculine role of the patriarch, Catholicism, according to the author, embraced the lonely road of celibacy. This cult of celibacy caused an enormous void in nature’s plan, which the Devil was only too happy to fill.


Since Michelet was anti-ecclesiastic, he does not have a true insight into the Catholic Church’s concept of the Holy Family and the theological roles each member played. Joseph’s role in Catholic dogma was to project faith, patience and obedience. His faith is centered on trusting God’s plan in the safety and protection of the unborn Son of God. His obedience was to accept his role as husband to Mary and corporal father to Jesus in order to provide social acceptance and family stability. His patience was for the forbearance to be subservient to God’s command to act as protector and servant to a pregnant wife and a subsequent child that he did not father. In his part as provider and parent, he forms the second pillar of the family trinity and anchors the supernatural workings of the Holy Spirit to the earthly plane and grounds the earthy incarnation of the family to mundane daily life.


Mary’s role was initially conceived by the Gospels to be the corporal vessel that would deliver the Son of God into the physical world. After the nativity in the New Testament, she becomes a shadow figure. However, the Mediterranean countries could not understand a patriarchal based spiritual trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They needed a feminine entity of procreative energy in order for the religion to make sense. In searching for a Mother goddess, they elevated the role of Mary to a height equal to (some say greater than) that of Jesus. Since the Church could not quell the need for the cult of Mary, it had to make her pure, and her pregnancy virgin in order to have a pristine vessel that was acceptable for the sanctity of Jesus who the Church understands to be the incarnation of God on Earth. Mary’s impregnation was not only an Immaculate Conception, conceived without sin, but she herself was also conceived without original sin as preparation for her part as the Mother of God.


Michelet superficially understands and is reacting to how Catholic acts of purity, roles of sacrifice, and duty to God’s will, create and continue the idea that celibacy is the favored state for receiving God’s grace. In Christianity, it created an entire sect of virginity for both men and women. Michelet’s statement on celibacy infers that the sanctifying of virginity is against man’s natural instinct. To artificially deny and make sinful the true nature of man’s natural desire and drive for sex and procreation, is to create a host of other ills and problems that will be expressed in other destructive behaviors. He interprets this unnatural way of existence as one major way to invite sin through temptation. With Satan as the tempter and leader into sin, he becomes the enticer to witchcraft. For Michelet, it was the Church’s emphasis on purity, celibacy and their impossible objectives that caused witchcraft’s profound spread among most of the Medieval European population.


A New Fantasy of Oppression

After this digression into celibacy as the germ of witchcraft, beginning with Chapter 4 and ending with Chapter 12, Michelet begins to craft a new fantasy that follows the fate of an imaginary female serf. We follow her from her wedding day, through to her nadir of her complete acceptance of Satan. In this tragic romance, Michelet causes his heroine to suffer all manner of insults and calamities that he believes would be common for a woman serf of the Medieval era. Each abuse is guided with Michelet’s narration, so that the reader absolutely understands that the poor girl’s fall into witchcraft is a consequence of her desperation to find self-respect and empowerment against the unfair social forces of the day. She is a victim of her circumstances and of political and social forces beyond her control.


Starting on the woman’s wedding night, the first of her many indignities is suffered when, the nobleman of the domain exerts his droit du seigneur with the new bride. Droit du seigneur is the right of the nobleman to claim from within his domain, a girl’s virginity before any other man. This has a long history in fable, but the historical truth of it is inconclusive. The groom’s objections to the nobleman’s right are ridiculed and dismissed. He is threatened that his interference with the proceedings will result in expulsion from the kingdom to become an outcast and beggar. After the bride’s humiliation and sexual subjugation, the girl is driven to despondency by the circumstances, and in her misery, she is visited by the “Demon of Hidden Treasure.” This demonic entity offers to assist her in improving her and her husband’s lot. The demon’s proposition grudgingly appeals to the woman, who believes there is no other way. This begins her decent into witchcraft.


We follow our heroine as she rises in status under the influence of Satan, from lowly serf, to successful wife, as her husband is promoted by the Baron to tithe collector. From this seeming good fortune, jealousy ensues, until the wife of the Baron decides that our heroine is acting and dressing above her station and needs to be reprimanded and reminded of her place. The peasant woman is beaten and again humiliated. After her punishment, she flees to her husband for sanctuary. The husband ignores her pleas and abandons her to her fate to protect his own position. She finds solace in the forest and strengthens her bond with the demon. She eventually finds her revenge by learning from Satan which plants are deadly and uses this knowledge to poison the Baroness. Ultimately, she flees her pursuers by riding off on a magical horse. Michelet has the reader assume that she disappears with the demon to his netherworld.


What comes through in reading this crude romance is the realization that Michelet not only believes in Satan and in witchcraft, but he is also sympathetic to the powerlessness of peasant woman in Medieval society and to the social horrors they faced daily. He conveys and assumes that if a woman turns to witchcraft and finds strength and solace with the Devil, it is because she is trying to gain some power for herself in a system that enforces her impotence. Unlike the Church that preaches obsequiousness to God’s will, the Devil offers real solutions and assistance in the corporal world. However, Michelet does not dwell or expand on the consequences of courting a relationship with evil. His attitude is not to construct a moral judgement on the woman, but to develop a narrative that offers a social reason for the phenomena of witchcraft and to condemn Medieval society and the Church for its actions against the impossible situations they create.


Michelet’s acceptance of the validity of Satan and witchcraft is interesting. Other writers on this period and subject of history, dwell on the injustice perpetrated on the victims. The possibility of witchcraft and the Devil being in any way a reality seems ludicrous to them and believing Satan to be unreal, the false confessions extracted from the victims are obviously sham reasons for the Church to hang its grotesque punishments of heresy on. These authors assume that the witchcraft trials and tortures were a horrific way for the Church to enforce its power over the people and gain submission to its doctrine. Since the dawn of Christianity, there has been the problem of how religion explains how a benevolent God would allow wickedness between people, random natural disasters that claim innocent lives, the misery of the innocent, child abuse, child murder, and bad things happening to the pious. If God is compassionate, there must be an equivalent evil entity. The concept of a duality of behavior, of good and evil, is part of most cultures. Christianity inherited their duality of good and evil from three sources: Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Abrahamic cultures. It was refined through the teachings of Jesus and interpreted and refined through time by various Church theologians. By the time of the Medieval witchcraft persecutions, the duality of the Demon as evil and God as good was strong. The Devil was an entity that explained much of the perplexing randomness of evil. This explains why the Church and the populace were willing to find a scapegoat to evil in the creation of Satan. What is confusing about Michelet, is that while he is anti-clerical in his ideology, he clings to the Christian concept of Satan and the fantastic imaginations of the witches Sabbath.


The Book that Started it All

Part II of Satanism and Witchcraft is first a discussion of the Malleus Malleficarum. It can be argued that the publication and popularization of this book caused the most widespread destruction of human life during the Medieval period outside of the Black Plague. It became the justification for thousands of tortures and executions of the innocent. This insidious book was written by Heinrich Kramer, a priest appointed by Pope Innocent VIII around 1474 as an inquisitor to the provinces of Tyrol, Salzburg, Bohemia and Moravia in Germany. His zeal in pursuing the dictates of his appointment ran him afoul of the local Bishop, who failing to get him to curb his accusations of witchcraft, eventually asked him to leave the district. While Kramer acquiesced to the bishops demands to leave, his alacrity for routing out and persecuting witches continued. He eventually wrote, the Malleus Malleficarum as a manual for the detection, capture and torture of heretics accused as witches.


Michelet somehow ignores Heinrich Kramer’s authorship and attributes the Malleus Malleficarum to another clergyman, Jacob Sprenger. Jacob Sprenger is a name that has been associated as co-author of the Malleus Malleficarum in all editions since 1519. He had nothing at all to do with the writing of the book, or even the idea of it. During his lifetime, he held acrimonious feelings toward Kramer. The two clergymen often came into contact and friction with one another, as both were serving the same areas of Germany. Sprenger had a differing, more tolerant ideology on witchcraft than Kramer. He often expressed his dislike of Kramer and Kramer’s devotion to routing out witchcraft and made Kramer’s life and work as difficult as possible. Sprenger held a high position and had great respect in the Catholic Church. This provided him with far more influence and power than Kramer. Yet, their acrimonious rivalry and intertwined and overlapping careers managed to connect the two after their deaths. So much so, that by 1519 it became the assumption by learned men that Sprenger had partnered with Kramer on the writing of the Malleus Malleficarum. Much to the ruin of Jacob Sprenger’s good reputation, both names now appear as authors and both have acquired the negative reputation of being the primary persecutors of witches.


Michelet erases Kramer entirely as an author, discussing only Sprenger and soundly berating him and condemning him for his part in the injustices toward witches. He tells a story that has no basis in reality regarding Sprenger’s inception of the Malleus Malleficarum. It includes a young priest that came to Rome to visit the shrines of the saints and martyrs in an effort to break a spell that has been cast upon him by two witches. This information is totally fabricated. Then Michelet berates the Church for accepting the book as the manual for the inquisition. The historical truth is that the Church condemned Kramer’s book on its first publication for advocating unethical procedures against the innocent and contradicting Catholic theology. Still, the Malleus Malleficarum managed to catch the interest of the general public. At the time of its publication in the 15th century, the population was unshakably convinced of the reality of witches and the power of the Devil. The consuming fear that was aroused by these beliefs had the people searching and open to any ammunition to battle against this believed rampant evil. The book became popular outside of the Church and despite its official condemnation by the Catholic Church, by the late 1500’s, the Malleus Malleficarum had become the defacto manual of persecutors for both Protestant, Catholic and secular authorities. Either Michelet doesn’t know this information, had bad information or needed to present his story in as sensational a fashion as possible. Whatever the reason, he presents false information here that has been perpetuated in other writing.


The Case Histories on Witchcraft

After contorting the history of the Malleus Malleficarum into something unrecognizable, Michelet turns his imaginative attentions to a few classic cases of historical witchcraft trials: the Basque Witches, Father Louis Gauffridi, the Loudun possessions, the possession of Madeline Bavant, and the case of Catherine Cadiere. I will consider only the first two of these cases.


The first historical case of witchcraft the author examines is the case of the Basque Witches. “The Basque women were always sorceresses,” declares Michelet right at the beginning. He contends that, “They were born into witchcraft.” This is largely true. The Basque country straddles the Spanish-French border at the Pyrenees on the Atlantic. The people have a long tradition of belief in the supernatural; that may have begun in the Paleolithic Age as the area is famous for its stone circles and dolmans. These ancient beliefs were enriched by Greek and Roman mythology under Roman rule, and later Christianized by the Church in an effort to subsume them. The beliefs were so ingrained and open that in 1609, the local lord complained to French King Henry IV that he was being accused of witchcraft and asked that those who were accusing him be silenced. This started an investigation into the Basque witchcraft beliefs that eventually ballooned to encompass and effect thousands of people. Michelet mainly considers the French Basque trials, but the Inquisition also investigated the Spanish Basque towns as well.


In the end, around 600 people (French Basque) were examined and questioned for signs of witchcraft. 70 were burned at the stake. The judge was convinced that at least 3,000 further witches were still at large, but the King’s parliament, deciding that the horrid business had gone on long enough, dismissed the judge and ended the trials.


Michelet spends most of the chapter on the Basque witches describing the vile goings on at the witches Sabbaths and Black Mass (he mentions several times, the cooking and eating of children), and dwells on a 17-year-old Basque girl who was appointed the task of finding Satan’s Mark on the accused. Satan’s Mark was believed to be a teat on the body that was used by witches to suckle demons. It could take the form of any kind of eruption or blemish; its main feature being that the spot was insensitive to pain. This was tested by driving a needle into the mark in question. Michelet is obviously going for sensationalism here. He is indignant that a 17-year-old girl was given the authority to inflict pain on the accused, and of deciding who is innocent and who goes to trial. Michelet’s indignation reads as ingenuine. While 17 is young, it is not childhood. In many European cultures before the 20th Century, this was marriageable age. The girl apparently does have knowledge of the local beliefs and who is practicing them. This is an indication of why she was chosen. She may have also been protecting herself from being accused as a witch by putting herself forward for the task. The person administering the test would most likely not be looked upon as guilty. She may have been overzealous in her accusations since so many were passed on to stand trial. There does not seem to be any evidence that she derived pleasure from sticking pins into her neighbors as the author suggests.


The second case Michelet considers is Father Louis Gauffridi, who was a charismatic and well-respected priest in the Catholic faith in the early 17th century. In 1610 he became confessor to a twelve-year old girl of noble birth. After acting as the girl’s confessor for a number of years, the girl grew infatuated and eventually obsessed with the good Father. As she grew into a young woman, she became convinced that Gauffridi had bewitched her and began to believe that he was “The Prince of Magicians” in league with Satan. She was convinced of this bewitchment because of the uncontrollable passionate thoughts and feelings she had about him. She placed herself in an Ursuline convent to remove herself from the power she believed he had over her. However, she soon invited the priest the convent to assume his role as her confessor. All of the other nuns in the community were also taken by Gauffridi’s personality and power. One nun especially became the original woman’s rival for the priest’s attentions. Escalated by jealousy, their rivalry rose to a public scandal. Since their desires were not returned by Father Gauffridi, the duel between the two women became bitter and contemptuous. They made public accusations to the authorities that they had been bewitched by the hapless priest and that he had brought them to heresy with the Devil. As a result of their insistent accusations and the publicity of the scandal, the priest was placed on trial for sorcery and heresy. Gauffridi bewildered and confused and believing he had somehow led the women astray, allowed the trial to proceed without objection. He was found guilty and burned at the stake as a heretic.


Michelet, predictably takes the side of the women. He goes so far as to state without evidence that Gauffridi had “ruined” the girl of noble birth at the tender age of twelve. He also insinuates that Gauffridi was indeed in league with the devil, by posing this question: “Did he take her with him to the Witches’ Sabbath, or did he merely make her think she had been there, clouding her mind with magic potions and magnetic spells?” I cannot say if the good priest had truly taken advantage of the tender girl and her youthful infatuations, or if the girl had allowed her childish longing to run wild and seeing no encouragement from her confessor fell into a fit of depression and unrequited passion. What is clear, is that the girl when she had grown to womanhood, realized that her desires for Gauffridi were misplaced and sought to remove herself from the source. Once in the safety of the convent, the girl decided that perhaps it was safe again to see the priest as her confessor. The priest’s fatal mistake was to agree to this arrangement. Michelet does not give any reason for the priest’s decision to return to his former penitent. Without this information, the reader cannot know what Gauffridi’s motives were. Perhaps it was a sense of spiritual duty, or a request by the Director of the convent. It could have been any number of ordinary reasons. Michelet prefers to believe that it was for the Father to continue his empowerment over the young woman and complete his stealing of her soul for Satan. Either way, it was a fatal mistake for the priest and consummated in his death.


Michelet believes the women without reservation. His disdain for the Church, the clergy, those in power and men’s baseness in general is evident. I have no problem with defending women against the patriarchal powers that threaten to subsume them. The fact that Michelet is doing this in the mid-19th century is all the more remarkable considering the historical position of women at this time. The Catholic Church also has had a very disreputable reputation through the centuries when it comes to following its own tenets. Once the Church realized that it could use its doctrine to exert power over not only the populace, but also over kings, it became nearly unstoppable as a political power. As all power, the Church’s power became corrupted and self-perpetuating. A woman’s position through world history has not often been in a place of command. As a youth she is exploited, as an elder she is often ignored or expendable. If Michelet tries to allow some positive empowerment to women, by heightening their intuitive capabilities it is all to the good. Unfortunately, while reading this book, I was constantly troubled by the sense that I was reading a fiction. The assumptions and inferences seem outlandish. Much of the history he provides is erroneous which undermines his authority as a historian. The author’s stereotyping of women as dreamy, fanciful, prone to hysteria and easily persuaded seems dated and offensive, but perhaps in keeping with the mid-19th century when he wrote it. The Witch Trials were a blight on human history and deserved to be examined in a light that is positive to the female victims. To imply that they were in fact in league with Satan or any other diabolic, supernatural entity is unfair to their capabilities, their respectability as humans, and patently untrue. By reading the historical accounts of the witchcraft trials, it becomes clear that, all of the women persecuted during the Witch Trials were innocent of the charges they were accused of. All of their testimony was obtained under torture in answer to leading questions. They provided answers to their accusers believing that they were providing information that the accusers wanted, in the hope and belief they would then be freed. Their confusion and despair about the monstrous situation they found themselves in was acute. As victims, they deserve to be accessed in the light of the innocence of their actions, not in the virtue of their minds.


Arthur Bruso © 2021


#holyterror #bookreview #arthurbruso #arthurbrusobookreview #satenismandwitchcraft #julesmichelet #occultliterature #magicliterature #occultclassic #catholicchurch #inquisition #cathers #gnosticmovement #pope #historyoffrance #heresy #henrichkramer #malleusmalleficarum #demonofthehiddentreasure #droitduseigneur #witchtrials #witchcraft #witchessabbath #satan #demon #jacobsprenger #basquewitches #fatherlouisgauffridi #witchburning #witchpersecutions

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  • Raymond E. Mingst


THE 2020-21 CURIOUS MATTER HOLIDAY INSTALLATION

“I was a Catholic boy, I went to church every Sunday. A church has a certain magic and mystery for a child. It still shows in how I arrange things. It’s always little altars.”— Robert Mapplethorpe

Home Altar with Pieta, c.1890, 13.5" w x 23" h, mixed media

Our homes have been transformed into a safety zone, a barricade, a sanctuary against a new, invisible demon that threatens our very lives. The global pandemic of COVID-19 has limited travel, as well as many of the everyday meeting places that bring us in contact with neighbors, colleagues, friends and family. While our in-person exchanges have become restricted, the separation between our public and private lives have curiously merged. For some of us, office and school moved into our homes. Business and study continue via online platforms. Various associates are welcomed into our living rooms, kitchens, wherever we’ve set up our computers or laptops. Negotiating and sharing space, virtually and physically, is a new challenge. Some of us have thrived, enjoying connections that are more far-reaching, while others of us are experiencing an invasion into our privacy where personal boundaries become blurred.


Our spiritual refuges, our churches, temples, mosques, synagogues are among those places that have been altered or closed due to the pandemic. Fellowship is a masked affair and prayer partitioned. Our spiritual and emotional needs, let alone financial, are not often included in scientific calculations that call for prolonged self-isolation. To curtail the spread of virus we’ve limited gatherings and distance ourselves from each other. This year, our homes have served many more functions than ever before, or at least expanded the scope of those functions. With that, our awareness of home as a haven and a place of comfort and tranquility has been heightened.



Home Altar opened

The annual Curious Matter Holiday Installation looks to our personal collection of household devotions to reveal a theme that transcends our cultural connection to faith. Mining our spiritual roots and iconography, we look for clues to universal concerns. In past exhibitions, we’ve meditated upon personal saviors, family dynamics, and the sanctity of objects and places of worship. 2020 has led us to consider the many functions and meaning of home. Home is a comfort, a refuge, the place where we can express who we are, deeply and fully. That is the hope. Simply by closing the front door we might be able to keep the troubles and pestilence of the world at bay. But the window into our jobs and other responsibilities hovers closer than ever in the glowing screens that are all within easy reach. How can we create a place to meditate, to cordon off distractions, to quiet our minds and spirit?


The emotional significance and power in the symbols of religion have been harnessed and promoted by priests and practitioners for centuries—used to profound effect in the church or temple, the official place of worship. But the faithful also hope to bring a whisper of the sacred into their homes. Many spiritual traditions and cultures encourage the personal possession and use of various images, icons and totems that foster faith outside of the congregation. These items often take the form of the most popular or sentimental concepts of the religion. One glance at them and the faithful are instantly put in mind of their specific spiritual connections and aspirations. For those who believe, household devotions bring the spirit of the church and its covenant of protection and grace to their personal space.



Home altar set up for use.

In our Catholic tradition, the devout often set aside a special place of worship, or an altar, within the home. This may simply be an image of a saint tucked into the edge of a mirror frame. Or they might create an elaborate, room-sized shrine that rivals a cathedral chapel. The size and complexity are irrelevant to the purpose. It is the quality of the faith that matters. Still, an image, a cross, or an icon and a candle seem to be the prerequisites, something to gaze upon, to direct one’s prayers. Other devotional objects could include a bible, prayer beads, or a multitude of other personal objects that move the meditative mind into the realm of the sacred.


Unlike the official church altar, the purpose of which is to prepare the sacred meal in imitation of Christ’s Last Supper, the home altar does not usually contain the implements to handle and prepare the holy bread and wine. The home altar is generally set up for prayer and veneration and to that end, can be dressed more simply. The Curious Matter collection of household devotions could all be incorporated into home altars. But for this installation we’ve concentrated on particular items designed to serve the specific function of a home altar. These examples are popularly available to the faithful. A wall hung crucifix that slides open to reveal two candles and a bottle of holy water is a common and compact home altar. Others were designed to administer to the housebound and contain the paten, ciborium, corporal and purificator for the visiting priest to offer the sacrament of communion. These more elaborate altars housed in shrines also display sculptures of saints or Christ behind glass and were intended to be installed as a permanent fixture in the home. The altar items are stored behind a drop-down door that also functions as the altar proper. Another design housed in a small box, makes the altar portable to give the priest the ability to perform the sacrament of Holy Communion anywhere. It contains the necessities to hold the bread and water for the rite in the manner dictated by the Church.



Priests traveling Sick Call altar. Early 20th century, 12.25" w, 7.5" h x 3.25" d

The home altar isn’t unique to the Catholic tradition, or even other faiths. A place of meditation and contemplation within the home can serve those who through knowledge or belief question or reject a God, deities or other manifestations of the divine. The shape and content of the altar may be religious or secular. An array of seashells could be the focus of one’s meditation and reestablish a connection to the rhythms of nature and quiet day-to-day concerns. A wall of family photos enshrines and roots one in the security of tradition and an enduring connection to personal history. Anything you personally hold sacred can be elevated in a special place and venerated as an altar, be it recognized as a part of a traditional religion, a pagan idol or symbol, a collection from nature, or images of family. Your personal altar may be none of these. It can simply be a special spot where you can go to internally withdraw and contemplate.


Each year with the aid of the iconography of the religion we were taught as children, we identify the most thoughtful and generous aspects of our shared humanity. For us, those lessons came via the stories of the life of Christ, his love and his suffering. Some visitors who have seen our collection of Catholic devotions, or have visited our annual holiday exhibition, find it impossible to separate transgressions of the church from these various objects and images, each a reminder of an abuse or injustice. Those human and institutional failures are not lost on us. Our own relationship to the institutional church is one of flux and reservation at the least. However, the actions of people and their personal failure to honor their vows do not reduce the messages of humanity and love that come from the Word. We at Curious Matter look at these objects through a lens of individual acts of faith and devotion. They are vessels through which to find inspiration to articulate the most pure and exquisite acts of selflessness and kindness that transcend our religious tradition. What we wish for everyone is a calm mind, secure home, kind fellowship and good health. The circumstances of this extraordinary year have kept us distant, but not in our hearts. Our holiday installations often speak of the light we wish to nurture through this dark time of year. It seems we’ve confronted a darkness that has lasted more than just a season. We long for and hope 2021 brings you profound joy and that we will be together again soon.


As ever,

Raymond e. Mingst, Arthur Bruso

Co-Founders Curious Matter, Curators


© 2020 Curious Matter used with permission


#homealtars #curiousmatter #curiousmatterholidayinstallation #raymondemingst #arthurbruso #artexhibition #arthurbrusocurator #rayomndemingstcurator #catholic #robertmapplethorpe #covid19 #pandemic #spiritualrefuge #religioussymbols #altar #spiritualconnections #catholictradition #householddevotions #sacred #paten #ciborium #holycommunion #christ #theword #sacred #lastsupper #divine

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