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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".

Faustus: The Life and Times of a Renaissance Magician

by Dr Leo Ruickbie

It did not begin in the magician’s circle, ringed round with the cabbalistic names of God to capture and cajole the demonic spirits. It did not begin in the scholar’s study with a cloven-hoofed tempter watching as the pen is dipped in an open vein, blood already spotting the contract with hell. Instead, it began in a public house.
Five hundred years ago a now forgotten abbot sat in a hostelry in the Imperial Free City of Gelnhausen, an important town straddling the trade routes of the Holy Roman Empire. He had just escaped his monastery in fear of his life, leaving behind one of the largest and most valuable libraries in the world at that time. He had also been suffering from painful kidney stones. We can only imagine that he was in no good mood. It was then that the legend of Faustus was born.
The surprising thing is that the abbot and the magician did not meet. They both seemed unwilling to make any sort of compromise in this direction. Instead the abbot sought out the opinion of others, rumours and secret reports, and looked at the calling card which the magician had sent him. The abbot wrote to one of his acquaintances about it sometime later. This ‘Faustus,’ he said, ‘who dares to call himself the prince of necromancers, is a wandering vagrant, a driveller and a cheat, who deserves to be punished with a whip that he may not lightly dare to publicly profess that which is abominable and against the Holy Church.’
It was not a good début in the history books. Ever since, the judgement of history has been swayed by the abbot’s condemnation and duly punished his memory with a whip. The abbot’s unfavourable report, through time, became the stuff of legend and through other retellings and accounts inspired the likes of Christopher Marlowe and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to produce their masterpieces. But that is only half the story.

Edited version of the article first appearing in Watkins Review, 2009.
For the full article please see Watkins Review.

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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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