Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Those Above, Below and Between I: Angels

Hello and welcome to The Obscuritan. This month we shall discuss the study of Angels and Demons, beginning with various names, provinces and hierarchies of Angels, then those of Demons, before looking at the ways in which Diabolists, Diviners and other Nigromancers have attempted to utilize this information.

A note before we begin: Given that this concerns the work of hundreds of scholars, theologians and questers over several centuries, we have striven to provide representative, if not exhaustively complete, information. Believe us when we say there is almost as much information that we have not included as there is that we have, and most definitely far more that we have not uncovered. As always with our articles, we suggest you take this as your starting point for further research. Enjoy!

Origins of Angelology

The classification of Angelic beings can be traced back to pre-Christian tradition. The Zoroastrian liturgical texts (the Yasnas), from around the same time as the Zoroaster himself, discuss the Amesha Spenta, or “Bounteous Immortals”. Like many of the Vedic deities of early India, these creatures are as much divine concepts as distinct personalities, and were considered emanations of (and in a sense servants of) the supreme god Ahura Mazda. In later texts, they were also allocated a certain Province, or area over which they had dominion.

Vohu Manah – the state of mind conductive to fulfilment of one’s duties – Humanity

Asha Vahishta – A complex term roughly meaning the Highest Truth – Cattle/Animals

Kshathra Vairya – Dominion (in a desirable sense) – Metals

Spenta Armaiti – Devotion to the Holy – Earth

Haurvatat – Perfect Wholeness – Water

Amretat – Immortality or Deathlessness – Plants

The development of such a science of the servants of God is believed to have influenced strands of early Mystic Judaism (see Jewish Hierarchies). The Hebrew word which is translated as Angel – Malakah – in fact refers to a “messenger” of God, and includes, but is not limited to, Angelic beings. In Genesis 18, Abraham is visited by three men who are referred to as Malakah, and who prophecy that Abraham and Sarah shall have a miraculous child. The same is also true in Mark I: II - “As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee”. Similar in meaning is the Persian/Urdu name for angels, Farishta, meaning “one who is sent”.

Christian Hierarchies

Most Christian angelologies draw upon that of an anonymous theologian known as “Pseudo-Diyonisus the Areopagite”, after the scholar whom the works were erroneously attributed to. His discussions can be found here (Chapter 6 onwards specifically). We have compiled a list which includes the names most commonly occurring in such hierarchies and their relative positions.

Elders – God’s Attendants. Only mentioned in certain Apocrypha (See below)

Metatron – The Mouthpiece of God. See Named Angels

Archangels** – Leaders of God’s armies and hosts. See Named Angels

Seraphim – Angels of radiant love, who contemplate divine order and providence

Cherubim – Angels of absolute wisdom who contemplate the divine’s essence and form

Thrones – Mediators between the orders of Contemplation and those of Action

Dominations – Architects of the divine, who plan the order of the Universe

Virtues – Angels who move stars and planets, and serve as the instruments of miracles

Powers – Maintain the universe in harmony with divine will

Principalities – Supervisors of nations and rulers

Archangels* – Overseers of religion and holy things

Angels – Overseers of minor affairs who often act as guardians to mortals**

* While the title “Archangel” is applied to the highest named angels, as a rank itself it is usually second to last, just above mere Angels. Presumably those Angelic ranks above (Thrones, Dominations etc) are also Archangels, and those referred to only as Archangels are those who do not hold one of these highest ranks, but are above those with no status at all. The highest named angels, referred to as Archangels, are presumably among the Seraphim or of a class of their own above.

** St Paul at one point speaks of angels “ministering for them who shall be heirs of salvation”


The Elders are first encountered in the Revelation of St John. In John’s audience with God, the 24 angels are seated around the throne of God and act as interpreters of sorts between the two. Each takes the form of a stately elder clothed in white, with a harp and a bowl of incense formed from the prayers of Saints. Dante’s Purgatorio expands this description with “Crowns of Fleur-de-lis”. In the second book of Enoch and in the Vision of Paul, they are depicted as being among the highest angels (in the latter) in the first heaven (in the former). Not being listed as Archangels or Seraphim specifically, and with no mention of Metatron (see below), one can reasonably assume that these angels are the ones charged specifically with attending upon God.

Christian occultism has expanded in great detail names, powers and associations of angels, from the angels of the hours of the day, months of the year, seasons, planets and signs of the zodiac. Particular Grimoires often refer to angels which occur nowhere else, for example in the grimoire “The Sword of Moses”, four angels were charged with transmitting the titular body of knowledge – a body of spells, and the true name of God – to Moses. According to Dr Gaster’s translation, the names of these four are SKD HUZI, MRGIOIAL, VHDRZIOLO, TOTRISI, displaying more archaic translations a la YHWH.

Jewish Hierarchies

To summarise a complex topic briefly (one which we shall undoubtedly come back to someday), the focal point of Kabbalic practice is the Etz ha-Chayim, or Tree of Life, a path through which the mundane-level Human reaches the highest level of God. This tree is formed of 10 Sepiroth - attributes or avenues through which God manifests his power.

Later Kabbalic astrology associated the Sepirah with planets, and with a rank or Choir of angels, and an Archangel patron.

Sepirah – Planet – Choir – Archangel

  • Kether – Pluto - Chaioth ha-Qodesh – Metatron
  • Chokhmah – Neptune – Auphanim – Raziel
  • Binah – Saturn – Aralim – Tzaphqiel
  • Chesed – Jupiter – Chashmalim – Tzadqiel
  • Gebruah – Mars – Seraphim – Khamael
  • Tiphereth – The Sun – Malekim – Mikhael (Michael, but not the Archangel)
  • Netzach – Venus – Tarshishim – Haniel
  • Hod – Mercury – Beni Elohim – Raphael
  • Yesod – Moon – Kerubim – Gabriel
  • Malkuth – Earth – Ishim – Metatron


Chaioth ha-Qodesh - "Holy living creatures" – act as the Throne-bearers of God.

Auphanim – “Wheels" - angels of wisdom who manifest as wheels within wheels

Aralim – "mighty ones" – Angels of understanding

Chashmalim – "shining ones" – Angels of mercy and magnificence

Seraphim – "burning ones" – Angels of severity and justice

Malekim – “Kings” – Angels of beauty and harmony

Tarshishim – "sparkling ones" – Angels of victory

Beni Elohim – “Children of the divine” – Angels of glory

Kerubim – “strong ones” – Angels of the foundation of the universe

Ishim – “human beings” – Angels of the material world

The Kabalic world is also layered into four layers, each containing emanations of the Sepirah: Atziluth, containing the top four Sepirah, is the realm of pure Divinity; Beri’ah, containinf the next three, is the realm of the four Archangels; Yetzirah, containing the next three, contained the ten orders of Angels; lastly Assiah is the material realm, containing the last Sepiroth, Malkuth.

Angels in Islam

Islamic tradition does not have the same complex Angelologies of Judaeo-Christian tradition, and is much more vague about the forms and purposes of angels, a reflection of the indescribable, inscrutable nature of the supreme being, Allah. Nevertheless, some oblique descriptions of angels can be found in the scriptures. One example depicts angelic beings “with wings - two, or three, or four [pairs] and adds to Creation as He pleases: for God has power over all things" (Fatir 35:1). However, in an episode from the Hadith (traditions outside of the main Qur’an, but accepted by most Muslims), an angelic being is described as having “70,000 heads, each having 70,000 faces, each face 70,000 mouths, each mouth 70,000 tongues, each tongue speaking 70,000 languages, and all employed in singing God’s praises” (Davidson, A Dictionary of Angels pp36).

In this episode there is another curious “holy creature”. In this story, Mohammed is visited by Jibril, Israfil and Mika’il (see Named Angels), who bring him a mysterious steed called the Buraq, or “Lightning Mount”.

“Then he brought the Buraq (lightning-mount), handsome-faced and bridled, a tall, white beast, bigger than the donkey but smaller than the mule. He could place his hooves at the farthest boundary of his gaze. He had long ears. Whenever he faced a mountain his hind legs would extend, and whenever he went downhill his front legs would extend. He had two wings on his thighs which lent strength to his legs.” Mohammed used this steed to, in the company of the angels, ascend and explore the heavens.

Islamic scripture does, however, contain more named angels than the Bible or the Torah. These include:

The Archangels Izrail, Israfil, Jibriel and Mika’il

Moukir and Nakir, the angels who interrogate a person in the grave about his good and bad deeds.

Maalik is the chief of the angels who guard Hell.

Ridwan is the angel who is responsible for Heaven (Paradise).

Kiraamun and Kaatibeen are the angels who record the good and bad deeds of a person.

Appearance of Angels

While angels are depicted in popular culture as being humanoid figures with wings and, usually, visible gender, those angels which are described in the Bible and other scripture are often of outlandish appearance. A vision of one such angelic being appears at the beginning of the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel sees a whirlwind coming from the north, within which were four colossal brass creatures. They were of human shape, with hoofed feet, four wings and four faces; the forward face was human, the rear an eagle, the left an ox and the right a lion. One set of wings were wrapped around their bodies, the other two stretched up and touching each other at the tips to form a circle. Inbetween these creatures were four whirling spheres of rings encrusted in eyes, and above their wings was a throne upon which sat God. This could well be a composite of two different types of angel – the Thronebearers (Chaioth ha-Qodesh) and the multilayered wheels (Auphanim).

Named Angels – Archangels and Others

Christian traditions usually recognize Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael, though certain schools interchange one or more.

The Eastern Orthodox tradition recognizes seven Archangels – Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Remiel and Zerachiel.

Islam recognizes four Archangels – Mika’il, Jibril, Izrael and Israfil


The only named archangel in Hebrew, Christian and Islamic canon, Michael (“Who Is As God”) is widely considered to be the highest of all Angels, and is known by titles such as “Mighty Prince” and referred to as “The Great Prince who protects you people” (Daniel 12:1) referring to the Jewish peoples, and is sometimes given titles such as “Prince of Light” (in the Dead Sea Scroll War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness) which Satan formerly occupied. Considered the General of the armies of heaven, he is also credited with being the angel who stayed Abraham’s hand before he slew Isaac, and as one of the Malakah who visited Abraham. In Islam, Mika’il / Mikaaiyl has two areas of province – the bringer of storms and as the giver of rewards during life.


Gabriel (“God is my Strength”) is perhaps the most well-known angel in mainstream lore, being the one who destroys the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the one who announces to Mary that she will bear the Son of God. Gabriel is also credited with some of the activities of Michael, Uriel and others (most likely due to said popularity.

In Islam, Jibril is the one who reveals the Qur’an to Mohammed, and who communicates with the Prophets.


The “Fire of God”, variously described as Seraphim or Cherubim, amongst many other titles. Uriel has been credited with many of the tasks conducted by unnamed angels in the Bible – as the “Dark Angel” who wrestled with Jacob at Peniel, the one who warned Noah of the Flood, who guarded the gates of Eden after mankind’s expulsion (also credited to Michael and Raphael), and the one who destroyed the army of Sennacherib. Uriel is also frequently mentioned in occult works, and in Barrett’s The Magus is credited with having brought the science of Alchemy to mankind.


Meaning “God Has Healed”. Frequently occurs in post-Biblical Christian works, acting as a guide in the Book of Tobit and on three occasions in Enoch I. Described as “One of the Watchers (possibly one of the Grigori). Also described as an angel of Healing (Zohar I), credited with healing Jacob’s wounds after he wrestled Uriel, and in some texts as one of the three Malakah who visited Abraham (along with Gabriel and Michael).


The Angel of Death who visited Egypt and who writes in and strikes out names of the born and the dying in the book of life. In Islam, Izrael acts as the angel of death (Malak al-Maut) and is described as having 70,000 eyes and 4,000 wings, and with as many eyes and tongues as there are men in the world.


The “Lion of God” depicted with the head of a Lion, Ariel occurs frequently in occult texts with a variety of symbolic roles, mostly revolving around his association with the winds (Uriel of course being associated with Fire, etc), which may be why he is sometimes (erroneously) attributed the status of Archangel.


Israfel in Islam is the one who blows the horn that signals Judgement day, and whose feet are under the earth but whose hands touch the sky. He is said to look into hell once a day and weep floods of tears, and was sent, along with the other 3 Islamic Archangels, to the four corners of the earth to fetch 7 handfuls of dust to create Adam.

Raguel, Zerachiel and Remiel

Three Archangels venerated mainly in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Raguel “friend of God” is the one who brings other angels to account, Zerachiel is one of the seven angels “who keep watch”, and Remiel is “one of those whom god has set over those who rise”.


In Jewish lore Metatron is identified as the highest of all angels (a title held in Christian angelology by Michael) to the point of being given the appellation “The Lesser YHWH (Jehovah)” or Tetragrammaton. These match one of the two accounts of Metatron’s creation, which claims he was the first creation of God alongside the universe. The other account claims that he is the mortal man Enoch, great-great-great-great Grandson of Adam and father of Methuselah who, instead of dying, rose into the heavens and became God’s scribe. In texts such as Traditions of the Jews II and others, Metatron acts seemingly as God’s scribe and mouthpiece, receiving and relating God’s wishes to the lower orders of Angels. Metatron is also frequently mentioned and invoked in occult works. The Hebrew tract Sefer ha-Heshek (translated by I.M Epstein) ascribes 76 names to Metatron.

Occultist Angelologies

Emmanuel Swedenborg

In his book “Heaven and Hell”, Swedenborg goes into great detail as to the purpose and nature of Angelic beings. From the Preface:

“To prevent this negative attitude—especially prevalent among people who have acquired a great deal of worldly wisdom—from infecting and corrupting people of simple heart and simple faith, it has been granted me to be with angels and to talk with them person to person. I have also been enabled to see what is in heaven and in hell, a process that has been going on for thirteen years. Now I am being allowed therefore to describe what I have heard and seen, in the hopes of shedding light where there is ignorance, and of dispelling skepticism.” According to Swedenborg, all angels once lived as humans, grew to another plane, where they act as complete instruments of God, knowing that their own actions are merely the will of God and refusing any praise for the good they do.

Rudolph Steiner

An Anthrosophist, Steiner’s lectures on a variety of subjects included the concept of reaching higher planes of existence through Clairvoyance. Steiner’s own visions showed that the human mind could only reach so far upward, but that the first level above that of humans was the realm of angelic beings, whose ranks he gave as Angels, Archangels, Archai (“Original Forces”), Exusiai (equivalent to Powers), Dynameis (“Mights”), Kyriotetes (equivalent to Dominations), Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim – ranks which evoke the original-language names of the rankings from “Pseudo-Dionysus”.


The corpus of the Theosophical Tradition, an eclectic mix of Kabala, Hindu and Western tradition, along with a good deal of “independent research”, contains its own metaphysics of the Astral plane, which they also termed the Devic Kingdom. “Deva” comes from Hindu religion, meaning a being of Radiant Light, or “Shining Ones”, AKA a male deity (the female term is Devi). The works of C.W. Leadbeater in particular expand upon this, such as this passage from The Devachanic Plane (pp82-3):

“The highest system of evolution connected with this earth, so far as we know, is that of the beings whom Hindus call the Devas, and who have elsewhere been spoken of as angels, sons of God, etc. They may in fact be regarded as a kingdom lying next above humanity in the same way as humanity in turn lies next above the animal kingdom, but with this important difference, that while for an animal there is no possibility of evolution through any kingdom but the human, man, when he attains the level of the Asekha, or full Adept, finds various paths of advancement opening before him, of which this great Deva evolution is only one. […] Though connected with this earth, the Devas are by no means confined to it, for the whole of our present chain of seven worlds is as one world to them, their evolution being through a grand system of seven chains. Their hosts have hitherto been recruited chiefly from other humanities in the solar system, some lower and some higher than ours, since but a very small portion of our own has as yet reached the level at which for us it is possible to join them: but it seems certain that some of their very numerous classes have not passed in their upward progress through any humanity at all comparable with ours.”

Leadbeater’s comments reflect the Theospohical belief that an adept can, through intensive spiritual practice, ascend from a mundane level (0) through that of symbolic death (4), resurrection (5) and eventual harmony with the planetary logos (10). This is paralleled in the Devic Kingdom, where levels of spirits ascend from that of elemental spirits to Devas to Archangels. Geoffrey Godson’s account of his own experiences with “angelic” beings portrays them from a more western perspective:

“These are the Spiritual Selves of men and Super-men and the vast company of the Angelic Hosts, of which the being who "addressed" me was a member. He was supernaturally beautiful, majestic, god-like, and impassive and impersonal to the last degree. As teacher to pupil, he began to tell of - and to enable me, with gradually increasing clarity, to perceive - the Angelic Hosts, their Orders and degrees. He told of their communion with men, as in ancient Greece, Egypt and Eastern lands, their place in Nature as Ministers of the Most High and of that great dawn of creation when, metaphorically, as the Morning Stars they sang together and as the Sons of God they shouted for joy. He spoke of the creative process as the composition and performance of a celestial symphony, of the Logos as Divine Musician and of His universe as a manifestation of celestial harmony. He told of the great Gods who assimilate the mighty creative chords in their ranks from the highest spiritual worlds to the realm of everlasting Archetypes, the great sound-forms upon and by which the physical universe is modelled. Therefrom, he said, the music of the Creative "Word" passes on to the lower worlds, where lesser Hosts formatively echo and re-echo it, thereby building all Nature's varied forms. Since the Great Artist of the Universe perpetually creates, the Creative Symphony is ever being composed and ever performed. Angels and men live amidst celestial harmonies, the everlasting music of the spheres.” (Introduction to The Kingdom of the Gods). Hodson goes on to detail the provinces of Angels as being those of Power (the release of energy), healing, Guarding of the homestead, Building and inspiration of architecture, nature, music, and beauty and art.

And finally, to lead us on to the next article…

Angels of Hell and the Fallen


Satan, the Devil and Lucifer are in fact entirely separate beings, but have become conflated together into the general identity of “The Adversary”. Lucifer’s association with damnation stems from a misreading of Isiah 14:3-14:20 –

When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: How the oppressor has ceased! How his insolence has ceased! … How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon; I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High." But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit. Those who see you will stare at you, and ponder over you: "Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who would not let his prisoners go home?" The “You” in the text, as one can see from the preceding text, is in fact a King of Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar), but since the word Lucifer means “Morning Star” or “Day Star”, the association, furthered by writers such as the Pseudo-Diyonisus finally entered the popular conception via Milton’s character in Paradise Lost and stuck.


The term Satan is, like other words we have encountered in Hebrew, one which has been used both as name and noun. Satan, meaning “Adversary” is used as part of common parlance by several figures in the bible, including Jesus himself to Peter (Luke 4:8).

The Office of ha-Satan occurs in the Bible and other sources, most notably in the Book of Job, as a form of “Chief Prosecutor” who provides the necessary critique of figures such as Job and Balaam (Numbers 22:22) so that they may be judged worthy or unworthy. Certainly angels have been assigned to watch over Hell and the forces of Destruction specifically by God, without being considered damned (Uriel, Maalik and Dumah, for example). The specific angel Satan was one of the Archangels, usually considered a Seraph (as the highest and most radiant, and thus seemingly more open to pride), but in Thomas Aquinas’ opinion could have been a Cherub, since their realm (knowledge) was more compatible with sin than that of the Seraphs (Charity). However, would occupying an office considered the antithesis of pride and sin not make the fall from it all the more terrible?

Girgori and Nephilim

Genesis 6 and Enoch Section II:6 feature the “Sons of God”, angels who act as Watchers (Grigori) of the race of men. However they observed in particular the beauty of mortal women, and 200 descended to Earth to sire mortal children – the Nephilim, creatures of great power. Not all the Grigori fell, however, and the remainders are credited with teaching mankind the skills of writing, harvesting, enchantment etc in other texts.

This probably stretches back to the Peri, beings in Persian mythology (in their texts, the Avesta) who were the descendents of a previous race of angelic beings some 2,000 years ago, and dwell upon earth doing penance in order to return to the heavens.

Theodore of Mopsuetia had an alternate theory of what the Fallen were – "fallen" angels were men who submitted to the will of Lucifer and became instruments of his will.

Read more!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Horrors of Europe III: Witches and Sorcerers

Hello and welcome to The Obscuritan. We apologise for the slight lateness of this month’s last article (it being the 2nd of August), and in order to get a fresh start and add a little spice to the proceedings, we are serving up a hot batch of original sources on Witchcraft and Sorcery. As previously stated, we shall most likely devote a month to each of this month's topics so as to cover them more thoroughly.


The Norse

“The belief in sorcery (fjölkyngi, gorningar) was universal among the heathen northmen, and it had its origin in the doctrine itself, which represents the magic arts as an invention of the Asa-Gods. They made a distinction between two kinds of magic, viz., galldr and seiðr. The name galldr may be derived from gala, to sing, and thus denoted a kind of sorcery that was performed by magic songs (gala or kveða galldra). Its origin and dissemination was attributed to the Æsir, and especially to Odin, who therefore was also called galldrs föður—the father of magic incantations. The men who cultivated this art were called galldra-smiðir or galldra-menn. The Runes occupied in this kind of sorcery an important place as magic characters, and it appears that the magician, while singing his incantations, mostly marked or scored certain runic characters corresponding to the effects which were desired from his sorcery. Often the magic songs or incantations themselves were called runes (rúnar). It was believed that by such incantations they could protect themselves against arms, undo chains, heal wounds and cure diseases, extinguish fire and settle storms, gain woman's love and wake up the dead in order to learn of them the future.” (Keyser, the religion of the northmen, p263-4)

Runic charms

The Hávamál, a section from the Poetic Edda written from the perspective of the god Odin, details the many rúnar he knows:

145. Those songs I know, which nor sons of men, nor queen in a king's court knows; the first is Help which will bring thee help in all woes and in sorrow and strife.

146. A second I know, which the son of men must sing, who would heal the sick.

147. A third I know: if sore need should come of a spell to stay my foes; when I sing that song, which shall blunt their swords, nor their weapons nor staves can wound.

148. A fourth I know: if men make fast in chains the joints of my limbs, when I sing that song which shall set me free, spring the fetters from hands and feet.

149. A fifth I know: when I see, by foes shot, speeding a shaft through the host, flies it never so strongly I still can stay it, if I get but a glimpse of its flight.

150. A sixth I know: when some thane would harm me in runes on a moist tree's root, on his head alone shall light the ills of the curse that he called upon mine.

151. A seventh I know: if I see a hall high o'er the bench-mates blazing, flame it ne'er so fiercely I still can save it, -- I know how to sing that song.

152. An eighth I know: which all can sing for their weal if they learn it well; where hate shall wax 'mid the warrior sons, I can calm it soon with that song.

153. A ninth I know: when need befalls me to save my vessel afloat, I hush the wind on the stormy wave, and soothe all the sea to rest.

154. A tenth I know: when at night the witches ride and sport in the air, such spells I weave that they wander home out of skins and wits bewildered.

155. An eleventh I know: if haply I lead my old comrades out to war, I sing 'neath the shields, and they fare forth mightily safe into battle, safe out of battle, and safe return from the strife.

156. A twelfth I know: if I see in a tree a corpse from a halter hanging, such spells I write, and paint in runes, that the being descends and speaks.

157. A thirteenth I know: if the new-born son of a warrior I sprinkle with water, that youth will not fail when he fares to war, never slain shall he bow before sword.

158. A fourteenth I know: if I needs must number the Powers to the people of men, I know all the nature of gods and of elves which none can know untaught.

159. A fifteenth I know, which Folk-stirrer sang, the dwarf, at the gates of Dawn; he sang strength to the gods, and skill to the elves, and wisdom to Odin who utters.

160. A sixteenth I know: when all sweetness and love I would win from some artful wench, her heart I turn, and the whole mind change of that fair-armed lady I love.

161. A seventeenth I know: so that e'en the shy maiden is slow to shun my love.

162. These songs, Stray-Singer, which man's son knows not, long shalt thou lack in life, though thy weal if thou win'st them, thy boon if thou obey'st them thy good if haply thou gain'st them.

163. An eighteenth I know: which I ne'er shall tell to maiden or wife of man save alone to my sister, or haply to her who folds me fast in her arms; most safe are secrets known to but one- the songs are sung to an end.

The Nidstang Curse Pole

And when all was ready for sailing, Egil went up into the island. He took in his hand a hazel-pole, and went to a rocky eminence that looked inward to the mainland. Then he took a horse's head and fixed it on the pole. After that, in solemn form of curse, he thus spake: 'Here set I up a curse-pole, and this curse I turn on king Eric and queen Gunnhilda. (Here he turned the horse's head landwards.) This curse I turn also on the guardian-spirits who dwell in this land, that they may all wander astray, nor reach or find their home till they have driven out of the land king Eric and Gunnhilda.' This spoken, he planted the pole down in a rift of the rock, and let it stand there. The horse's head he turned inwards to the mainland; but on the pole he cut runes, expressing the whole form of curse. (Egil’s Saga Ch. LX).

As to why Egil had grudge against the Queen:

“Queen Gunhilda wished to do harm to Egil at a banquet, and for this purpose caused poisoned ale to be offered to him. But Egil, who was suspicious of the drink, scored runes upon the horn, then pricked the inside of his hand with his knife and marked the runes with blood, whereupon the horn burst and the drink fell on the floor” (Keyser p265).

Other forms of Norse magic, again from Keyser, are as follows:

Magic-skilled women used sometimes to pass their hands over the bodies of persons going to battle, in order to discover by this means what place upon them was most liable to be wounded. It was believed that they could feel a protuberance in every such place, and then a special protective remedy was applied to the spot. If no such protuberance was perceived, it was thouglit, accordingly, that no danger was to be apprehended.

By means of these enchantments called seið, it was believed that the sorcerer could call up storms and all manner of injuries, transform himself into the likeness of animals, and enable himself to foretell coming events. This art appears to have been mostly employed for doing injury, and was considered a far more ignoble art than the incantations (galldr). Its origin was ascribed to the Goddess Freyja, and it appears to have been mostly practiced by women, who were called witches (seiðkona, plur. seiðkonur). The great abhorrence which many, even in heathen times, had for this kind of sorcery, is seen in King Harald Hárfagri's proceedings against his own son Ragnvald Rettilbein, whom he put to death because he meddled with this kind of witchcraft.

A peculiar kind of sorcery was the so-called sitting-out (útiseta, at sitja uti), in which the magician sat out at night under the open sky, and by certain magic performances now no longer known, perhaps most frequently by incantations (galldur), was believed to call up evil spirits (vekja upp troll) or awaken the dead in order to consult them. It was especially to inquire into the future that this kind of sorcery was resorted to.

Jugglery (sjonhverfingar, from sjon, sights and hverfa, to turn) was performed by blinding the eyes of the people with magic arts, so that certain objects appeared to them totally different from what they really were. This kind of sorcery is often spoken of in the ancient Sagas as being employed by magicians when they wished to conceal any person from hostile pursuit, or to frighten his enemies.

Intimately connected with the above, was the power, often mentioned in the Sagas, of becoming invisible, through which the magician by his arts could make himself or any one else that he chose become totally invisible. He was then said to "make a hiding-helmet" (gera huliðs-hjálm) for himself or others. This kind of invisibility is sometimes described as being produced by a sort of dust, of the appearance of ashes, which the magician scattered over and about those whom he wished to conceal.

Also common in the sagas was the summoning of the dead who, if you remember the Draugr, seldom slept easy in their barrows in any case. The lay of Svipdagr, another text contained in the Poetic Edda begins with Svipdag summoning the ghost of his mother to question her:

Svipdag spake:
1. "Wake thee, Groa! | wake, mother good!
At the doors of the dead I call thee;
Thy son, bethink thee, | thou badst to seek
Thy help at the hill of death."

Groa spake:
2. "What evil vexes | mine only son,
What baleful fate hast thou found,
That thou callest thy mother, | who lies in the mould,
And the world of the living has left?"


“Albania swarms with devils and spirits (Ore), magicians and witches (Shtriga). Women in Albania are all born wicked. In some districts probably quite half the women have dealings with the devil. But it is very hard to detect them; Shtrigas can work many wonders, bewitch a man so that he withers and dies, or suffers aches and pains. A Shtriga can make herself quite small like a bee, and get into a house through the keyhole or under the door at night and suck a person's blood so that he fades and dies in time. The best safeguard is hard to get. A Shtriga always vomits the blood she has sucked. You must secretly track a woman you suspect to be a Shtriga when she goes out to vomit the blood. You must scrape some of it up on a silver coin and wear it, and then no Shtriga can harm you. Nothing is too marvellous for a tribesman to believe. Here is a good example, which the teller, a man from Djakova, believes most firmly. A young married woman who was pregnant craved for wine, but the family was too poor to buy any. Her mother-in-law, who was a Shtriga, stripped the young wife quite naked and anointed her all over with a salve which she made, at the same time saying certain magic words. The young wife at once shrank to the size of a bee. “Go, my daughter" said the Shtriga, "to the cellar of old so-and-so, crawl in at the keyhole and drink all you want. But take care not to say the name of God". Off went the young wife to the cellar, entered and drank her fill. She then felt so much better that she cried "Thank God!" At once she became her natural size. "Oh what a dreadful position for a virtuous married woman," cried my informant with deep feeling, "to be in a strange cellar with nothing on at all!" There she had to stay till the owner of the cellar opened it next day. He was much surprised to find her, but as he was a very kind man, he lent her a coat to go home in and never doubted her explanation. And the Djakovan who told the tale knew the woman, knew the owner of the cellar, and had seen the keyhole. What more proof can you require? Moreover, as he remarked, how else can you explain the occurrence?” (Durham, High Albania and its Customs in 1908, 463-4)

The Enchanted Shoemaker of Constantinople

During our research into the Vampires of eastern Europe, we came across this account of Necromancy which bears quoting at length, about a young shoemaker during the reign of Pope Sylvester II. From Summers’ The Vampire in Europe pp94-7:

“This young shoemaker excelled both in art and in industry even the masters of his craft, and not only was he able to do more in one day than all the others could perform in two, but the results of his haste were infinitely to be preferred to the results of their study and care. […] gold in abundance poured to his coffers, and as he was both a stalwart fellow and handsome, for there was nobody who could excel him in all the exercises of the arena, in wrestling and every kind of sport, he was everywhere applauded as a champion. Now it so happened that one day there came to his window a very lovely maiden accompanied by a large retinue, and she, showing him her naked foot, desired him to fit her with a pair of shoes. [Entranced with her beauty], he abandoned his house, he sold his goods and chattels, yea, even his patrimony, and he became a soldier so that by the following of arms he might arise from his lowly condition to the rank of noble, and when he sought the lady’s hand, if repulsed, he would be at any rate refused in more courteous phrase. Before he could dare to unfold his love to his mistress he was determined to make a name for himself in the field, and indeed through his strength and valour he soon won that eminence among the chivalry of knights that he had erstwhile held among the cobblers of the city. Accordingly he sought the alliance for which he yearned, and though in truth he deemed himself full worthy he did not win from her father the lady of his longing. He now blazed fort into the greatest fury, and he desired nothing so much as to carry off by force the bride who was refused to him on account of his lowly birth and poor estate. He joined the ranks of a mighty squadron of pirates, and so he prepared to revenge by sea the repulse he had received on land. Before long he rose to be their general, and he was verily feared both by land and sea, for success always attended him. Whilst he was engaged on one of those bloody forays and laying low every obstacle in his path, news reached him that his lady was dead. With bitter tears he at once concluded a truce and hastened to be present at the solemnity of her obsequies. Having assisted at the funeral, he carefully noted the place where she was buried, and upon the next night, resorting thither all alone, he exhumed the dead woman and lay with her, knowing her just as if she were alive in his embraces. When this dreadful fornication was over and he rose from the corpse he heard a voice bidding him return at the time when she could bring forth, and bear away with him what he had begotten. After the fitting interval he came back, dug up the grave and received from the dead woman a human head with the warning that he must not allow anybody to see it except those of his enemies whom he wished to destroy. When he had carefully wrapped this up he placed it deep in a box, and having complete confidence in his power he gave up fighting at sea, and determined to do battle on the land. To whatsoever cities or towns he laid siege he displayed this terrible sight of the gorgon, whereupon the miserable victim turned to stone since they beheld a horror as loathly as that of medusa herself. He was feared by all, and recognized by all as their lord and master, for men trembled lest he should cause them to perish suddenly. Nobody, indeed, understood the cause of this foul plague and instant death. In one and the same moment they saw and they expired without a word, without a groan; on the battlements armed men passed away without receiving any wound. Fortified places, cities, whole provinces yielded to him, nobody dared resist, but yet everyone was sorely grieved at falling so easily a victim to so cheap a triumph. Many men thought him to be a sorcerer, some declared that he was a god, but whatsoever he sought, he never met with refusal.”

Eventually, the shoemaker meets his end when, having subjugated the king of Constantinople and thus winning his daughter as a wife, he eventually reveals to her the secret of the head. That night she unwraps the head and holds it over the shoemaker’s face so that, upon waking, he sees it and is slain.

“then the princess gave orders that this medusa horror should be carried out of the country and thrown into the midst of the Grecian sea, together with the father of this abominable foetus who should share in its utter destruction. Those who were charged with this business hastened forth in a galley, and when they had reached the midst of the ocean they cast the two loathsome creatures into the depths. As the monsters disappeared beneath the waves the sea thrice boiled and bubbled, casting up its sandy floor, as if the ocean had been wrenched and rent to its very depths and the waters suddenly leaped back, shrinking from the wrath of the most high, and just as if the sea, sick with loathing, was trying to reject what the sick land, recovering from this abominable birth, vomited into the deep.” Eventually the receding waters crashed back into a whirlpool.

According to one source (cached here with the relevant passage highlighted) the “shoemaker” was in fact none other than Huugh de Paganis, one of the co-founders of the Knights Templar (who, one might care to note, were eventually burned en masse as heretics for crimes including the worship of a “mysterious head”), but since the source’s main goal is to prove that “the Kennedy Assassination had to do with Masonic Sorcery”, a fact “which is well known to certain news agencies who have chosen to suppress it”, we here at The Obscuritan would not place too great a credence upon it.

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