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This is the most perfect and dangerous magical book that has brought eternal damnation on many readers

For centuries, the Church has brutally fought against heretical books whose texts ran counter to religion. And sometimes this struggle took the form of terrible repression.

One of the works, the owner of which could easily be executed for the mere possession of a book, was the mysterious “Picatrix”.

God and man

Historians do not undertake to count how many priceless works were destroyed in the fire by order of the clergy. After all, even “Index librorum Prohibitorum” – a list of books banned by the Roman Catholic Church, included 45 editions of the Bible, for reading which the least punishment was excommunication. What can we say about other works.

Pages from a 14th century Arabic "Picatrix"
Pages from a 14th century Arabic “Picatrix”.

But why was the Picatrix, a manuscript of about 400 pages, more feared by the church than other books? The thing is that its central figure was not God, but man. Using the magical formulas and rituals described on the pages of the manuscript, he, according to the author’s idea, was able to attract and direct the energy of the cosmos in order to change his fate.

In a sense, “Picatrix” was one of the first books on the topic of motivation and self-development. Of course, such amateur performances could not please the clergy, which is why they forbade people to read it on pain of death.

Purpose of the sage

Interestingly, “Picatrix” is the name given to the book in the 15th century by the Church itself, but its origin goes far back: the first known manuscript was created in Arabic and was called “Gayat al-Hakim”, which can be translated into Russian as “The purpose of the sage”.

Drawings on the pages of "Picatrix", stored in the Jagiellonian Library.  16th century
Drawings on the pages of “Picatrix”, stored in the Jagiellonian Library. 16th century.

The most likely author was Maslama al-Majriti, a native of Córdoba who died in 1007 AD, but there are those who think that the manuscript was written earlier, perhaps by a Greek or even an Egyptian author.

One way or another, it was Picatrix that became the most common magical text in ancient and medieval esotericism. Its first translations appeared around 1050, and they were all handwritten. It is understandable – it was extremely dangerous to print such a work.

Cursed book

It is curious that the “Picatrix” was most widespread in the period from the 14th to the 16th centuries – when the repressions of the church were the strongest. The forbidden fruit is known to be sweet, and the European aristocracy simply could not resist such a mysterious book.

Illustration from Pikartix 2015.  Authors: John Michael Greer and Christopher Warnock
Illustration from Picatrix 2015. Authors: John Michael Greer and Christopher Warnock.

“This is the most perfect and dangerous magical book that has brought eternal damnation on many readers,” Johannes Hartlieb wrote to the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I in 1456 about the Picatrix.

All copies of the manuscript were considered impious and forbidden works, therefore they were subject to burning. The Inquisition generally considered him to be a satanic leadership, calling the author “the rector of the devilish faculty.”

What is it talking about?

“Picatrix” is a mixture of the occult, astrology, alchemy and magic. The main concept of the manuscript is that through magical texts the reader can learn to attract and direct the energy of the cosmos so that events develop according to his will.

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Picatrix is ​​divided into 4 books:

  1. The first concerns the heavens, the signs on them and the secrets hidden in them.
  2. The second talks about the movement of the Earth and its influence on living beings.
  3. The third explains the properties of planets and stars. And also talks about how you can communicate with their spirits and other magical entities.
  4. The fourth describes how to interact with supernatural forces acting on a person and much more.
Illustration from "Picatrix" 18th century
Illustration from “Picatrix” 18th century.

Interestingly, inside the book you can find many spells that were supposed to be used in conjunction with “catalysts” (these are nothing more than forbidden substances).

The idea was that by inducing a “change of state of consciousness” in this way, a person could go on “astral travel” to make contact with energies, spirits, and beings from other dimensions.

Magic Encyclopedia

But you should not assume that this book is devoted exclusively to such dubious ways to achieve unity with the cosmos, magic and your soul, because it is not in vain that it is considered the first “Magic Encyclopedia” in history. As the author of Picatrix himself writes in the preface, in it he collected works from 224 ancient books.

"Picatrix", 18th century version
“Picatrix”, 18th century version.

In support of this, the manuscript describes the creation of not only small talismans, but also entire cities built according to the principles of astrological magic. Some researchers even noticed a similarity between the “heavenly cities” and the Egyptian pyramids, which may indicate the incredible antiquity of the book.

Unfortunately, modern versions of the “Picatrix” are very different from the original manuscript, which has not survived to this day. After over 1,000 years of manual copying, it has undergone countless corrections, mistranslations, and modifications. And this means that the author could lay in it something more than we see today.


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