Tractatus de Nigromantia

a medieval magical formulary

This curious manuscript, written mainly in English, is a grimoire, or magical textbook, containing prayers, invocations, exorcisms and conjurations together with mystical diagrams inscribed in circles. There are bizarre references to the ‘Queen of the Phairies’ and the ‘Sisters of the Phairies’ as well as directions intended to lead the reader to hidden treasure.

The first half of this 150-page manuscript is based on De Nigromancia, a Latin text (falsely) attributed to the 13th-century Franciscan Roger Bacon, which contains detailed instructions for conjuring the dead. The manuscript includes several lists of names and magical alphabets as well as coloured diagrams. As any reader of Harry Potter might know, these handbooks were vital tools for learned scientists/magicians who hoped to call up spirits and daemons in a quest for scientific and theological truth. Although relatively few copies of these manuscript grimoires survive, perhaps because they could be considered dangerous and heretical to own, many Renaissance men of learning would have their own handwritten grimoire, since part of each spell’s efficacy was said to be conveyed through the act of writing it down.

You can download a digitised version of the Tractatus in pdf format here.