Friday, December 23, 2011

If you masturbate, Satan will teach you Magic. Part Deux.

The twelfth century account of diabolical magic given by Guibert de Nogent is fascinating for several reasons, but what I want to emphasize is the non-harmful and even beneficial qualities of the magic taught by Satan, according to Guibert's account. But before giving my own analysis on this point, first let's look at the second primary example of Satanic magic given by Guibert, which comes just after the very interesting story that concerned us in the previous post on this subject:
I will give another instance which had a similar beginning, but a happier end. A certain clerk in the town of Beauvais lived by the art of copying, one whom I knew myself, since he did work at Fly and was engaged for this very book. Afterwards, when talking with another sorcerer at the castle of Breteuil, he was told something of this kind; "If it were made worth my while, I could teach you something by which you might get gifts of money every day without any help from man." He asks what he must do for it. The sorcerer says he must propitiate the citizen of the lower world, that is the Devil. "With what victim?" says he. "With a cock," says the other; "but the egg from which it was hatched must have been laid by the hen on Jupiter's day in the month of March. After roasting this, take it, just cooked, and with the spit still in it, and go to the nearest, fishpond But whatever you hear, see, or feel there, do not dare to call upon the Blessed Mary or any of the saints." "I will do so," says he. Then a wondrous thing! They come to the place at night bringing the victim suitable for such a god. As one called on the devil and his wicked pupil held the cock, the devil in a whirlwind suddenly stood by them and seized it. Then he who had been taken there, in his fright called upon the Lady Mary. When the Devil heard the name of that powerful Lady, he fled with his cock, being unable, however, to carry it off, and it was found by some fishermen next day on an island of the fishpond. O royal, sweet name, so dreaded in the wicked regions! Now the sorcerer was angry with the clerk for calling on so great a one in such a matter. But the other was driven by repentance to Lisiard, Archdeacon of Beauvais, my uncle, a man learned in every branch, wise, courtly and well­known. And having confessed what he had done, he humbled himself, as Lisiard ordered him, to penitence and prayer. Let these instances of what I heard in the monastery, suffice. Next after speaking of the manner of my election, in the beginning of another book I will tell of the place itself to which I was translated, in what manner it was founded and of what antiquity.

Two points must be emphasized about the first story:
1. The monk in the first story gains his introduction to diabolical (but not malefic) magic from "a Jew skilled in medicine", implying that Satan is associated not only with Judaism but also with healing.
2. The relatively benign (if deceptive) art of glamoury is the only magical ability provided by Guibert as an example of the "wicked arts" taught to the monk by Satan. The monk's illicit liaison with a nun, the covering-up of which serves as the backdrop for the story in which the monk makes his nun-lover appear to others as a large dog, however, could be interpreted as implying that Satan had also instructed the bad monk in love magic, another form of relatively benign (or even beneficial) magic. Despite their non-malefic nature, both glamoury and love-magic are historically very closely associated with Witchcraft, as is healing.

And two further points must be stressed about the second story:
3. In the second story, the magical ability promised (not directly by Satan, but by a sorcerer already in league with the Great Deceiver) in return for making an appropriate sacrifice to Satan is nothing more sinister than this: "I could teach you something by which you might get gifts of money every day without any help from man."
4. And what was the unthinkable sacrifice demanded by Satan in return for learning the secrets of "money magic"? A roasted chicken. Well, Satan was a little more specific: it had to be a rooster, and it had to come from an egg that had been laid on a Thursday during the month of March. But in addition to the offering of the chicken, the would-be sorcerer also had to swear not to pray to the Virgin Mary or any of the Saints.

So both stories follow a very similar pattern:
a. Some sacrifice to Satan is required in order to learn magic.
b. In both cases, the sacrifice required does no harm to any human being.
c. In addition to the sacrifice some renunciation of Christianity is also required.
d. The "wicked arts" learned through these arrangements turn out to be completely innocuous when compared to the conventional assumptions (both in later medieval and early modern thinking, and also today) about the activities of diabolical sorcerers and Witches in league with the Devil.