abstract for a talk on textual sources of magic, epistemological problems
Giving a talk tomorrow for an interdisciplinary seminar series on pre-modern era research (before 1800) in Tartu, Estonia.
TEXTUAL SOURCES FOR THE STUDY OF MEDIEVAL AND EARLY MODERN MAGIC Jason Cronbach Van Boom
This talk discusses the use of textual sources in the study of medieval
and early modern magic (1100-1650). Like other historical disciplines,
the history of magic relies heavily on texts. When studying medieval and
early modern magic, however, the historian uses two kinds of texts:
texts about magic, and texts that were intended as tools for magical
practices. The former category is extremely diverse with respect to
content and ideological perspective. This category includes academic,
legal, polemical, and popular texts. Academic and polemical texts
themselves fall into different categories, mostly juridical,
theological, and philosophical. Their authors come form a spectrum of
learned opinion about magic, ranging from complete opposition to ardent
defense. Grimoires and other magical texts comprise a distinct category.
They address a limited audience (practitioners of magic) and are
intended to be experimental handbooks rather than speculative treatises.
Consequently, they pose some special epistemological problems. The talk
will discuss four texts as primary examples: the De Mineralibus of
Albertus Magnus, the Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer and James
Sprenger, the De Occulta Philosophia of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, and a
15th century German necromantic manual (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, MS
Clm 849) published by Prof. Richard Kieckhefer.