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Faustus - The Life and Times of a Renaissance Magician

Secrets of a Real Magician

Do you have to sell your soul to the Devil to master the magic arts? Find out in this true-life account of the secrets of a real Renaissance magician. Set in a time of witchcraft trials and magical adventure, "a work of meticulous scholarship" and "a gripping page-turner".

Is it Time to Sell Your Soul?

by Dr Leo Ruickbie

It is an age of spiritual hunger, economic collapse, war and prophecies of doom. Europe is locked in a battle against militant Islam. The market is in freefall, collapsing under the weight of financiers’ promises, who like alchemists attempted to distil fortunes out of dross. Strange new cults are springing up like mushrooms out of the dung heap of fear. Star-gazers and diviners warn of the end of the world. The old securities tumble before mysterious forces beyond our control. In such times ordinary people turn to desperate measures.
Sound like 2009? Perhaps it does, but the year I have in mind is 1509, or thereabouts. Many of the conditions were the same, all of the human concerns were identical. It was out of this climate that there emerged one of the greatest magical figures of all time and one of the most enduring legends.
Give a Dog a Bad Name
It all began when an abbot with a dubious reputation wrote to his friend, the astrologer to the powerful Prince-Elector of Heidelberg, warning him about a certain ‘Magister Georgius Sabellicus, Faustus Junior, fount of necromancy, astrologer, second magus, cheiromancer, agromancer, pyromancer, second in the art of water’.
The abbot was no friend to Faustus and used every jibe and insult available to him, thus at the very moment Faustus appeared in recorded history he was given the worst sort of reputation and, as with the dog with the bad name, hung ever after.
The legend is well known. The disillusioned scholar seeking after forbidden knowledge is lured into entering a tempting contract: everything you ever dreamt of in return for an insubstantial spiritual hypothesis. He signs away his soul, enjoys the fruits of the deal, and ends miserably in the fiery clutches of Satan.
The Faustus Myth
The legend is so well known that it has spawned a whole genre, an industry even. The great names of every form of creative endeavour have turned their keen minds to it. From unsurpassed dramatists such as Shakespeare’s contemporary, Christopher Marlowe, and the giant of German literature Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, to incomparable artists such as Rembrandt and Eugène Delacroix, to musical geniuses such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Richard Wagner – all have been inspired by the story of Faustus to produce masterpieces. Even Cradle of Filth enjoyed their ‘Absinthe with Faust’. It was no exaggeration when Professor Theodore Ziolkowski, former Dean of Princeton Graduate School, argued that the Faustus myth has been central to the formation of Western consciousness.
The story of Faustus has, like a Renaissance magician’s homunculus, assumed a life of its own. But is it the real story? After following the trail of Faustus through the historical references to him and the places he supposedly visited I have come to believe that the legend we call ‘Faust’ today is not the same as the Faustus who lived some five hundred years ago.
Five hundred years ago rising prices, taxation and social injustice were sparking widespread unrest. Answers were sought. Foremost amongst the divinatory arts was astrology, which had evolved into a near religious system to predict and explain the woes of humankind. Syphilis, the AIDS of the Renaissance, was attributed to the planetary conjunction of 1494. The conjunction in Pisces forecast for 1524 was deemed the harbinger of a catastrophic flood, paralleled by today’s mounting fears over the significance of 2012. Against this backdrop emerged such pioneering occultists as Agrippa von Nettesheim, Paracelsus and, of course, Faustus.

Edited version of the article first appearing in Pagan Dawn: The Journal of the Pagan Federation, Beltane 2009, pp. 22-23.
For the full article please see Pagan Dawn.

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Faustus: The Life and Times of a Renaissance Magician


Faustus, Faust, magic, black magic, alchemy, astrology, necromancy, witchcraft, grimoires, Germany, Renaissance, sixteenth century, Goethe, Marlowe, biography, history, folklore, legend, Devil, Mephistopheles, pact, damnation, soul


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