I’ve often joked with myself about titling blog posts as listicles and click-bait. This one seemed like a fun option for it.
12. The Long Lost Friend
A lot of people really like this one. I’m not a huge fan. I have not spent a ton of time with it though. It is a general collection of Pennsylvania Dutch folklore. If you’re interested in exploring folklore generally, you will enjoy this. If you’re mostly looking for spells, there are spells, and there are things that straddle a line between spells and less overtly magical folklore. I prefer Romanus Buchlein, which I believe is a related text. Romanus Buchlein is primarily spells. We'll revisit the translator for Long Lost Friend later.
11. Nummits and Crummits
Nummits and Crummits is also a folklore collection, but from the perspective of a folklorist instead of a practitioner collecting it like Long Lost Friend. As such, it is better organized. This collects folklore from a region in England. There are chapters on magic and counter magic. Most of it is not immediately useful but can be adapted to being useful, or can be used for inspiration.
10. The True Black Magic
9. The Discouerie of Witchcraft
Reginald Scot wrote this text to point out how ridiculous belief in witchcraft was. He wasn’t saying witches are stupid for believing in witchcraft, but that everyone was stupid for believing in witches, and it was all superstition. A lot of his invective regarding superstitious beliefs focused on blaming Catholics for bizarre rituals and inventing bugbears to scare children. If you ignore most of the explanations and commentary, the book is filled with popish papery (Catholicism) which it turns out is just a detailed description of and instructions for performing conjurations, spells, and rituals. The book became so popular with people interested in learning magic, that later editions had essays on magical philosophy appended to it. The Goetia of Solomon is largely based on this book.
8. The Cambridge Book of Magic
7. The Works of Daniel Harms et al
6. Saint Cyprian
St. Cyprian, the Sorcerer Saint, was a legendary magician who converted to Christianity to gain its power. Despite his reason for converting, Cyprian was devout and became a bishop and a martyr. Despite his hagiography describing him abandoning and rejecting magic, the folk-memory of him describes a Christian bishop who retained and integrated his magical knowledge into his Christian life. As a result he remained one of the consummate icons of magic. There was a mythical book containing the ultimate magical secrets attributed to him. The book was believed to be so magical that people began names magic books “cypriani.” Throughout Northern Europe, black books, or collections of magical practice, were associated with his name even though they did not necessarily contain references to him. In Iberia, he was more of an icon, and there was an array of pamphlets and booklets of folk magic which were associated with him. This continued in Spanish colonies in the Americas, and he is a significant figure in some ADR magical traditions. Humberto Maggi released a Book of Saint Cyprian collecting some Cyprianic material, Jose Leitao has released multiple books of Cyprianic material. I like the layout of Leitao’s collections better, in particular the latter collection which is huge. Leitao organizes the material based on the source so you get more of a sense of the way the material is collected and presented in pamphlets and booklets which would have been used in folk practice. Leitao's two main texts are The Book of Saint Cyprian: The Sorcerer's Treasure and Opuscula Cypriani: Variations on the Book of Saint Cyprian
5. The Sporting Life
4. The Secret of the Psalms
This book provides magical applications of the psalms. Some instances provide particular spell or ritual components to do with the psalms, but generally, the psalm’s power is explained, sometimes with multiple effects it can have. You can recite the psalm to try and apply its power, or you can incorporate the psalm with other spellwork. The text is essentially copied from another book of psalm magic which was included in the German collection of magical texts Das Kloster. The German text also contains The 6th and 7th Books of Moses, which like The Secret of the Psalms, became a popular and influential text in Hoodoo.
3. Greek Magical Papyri
This is the work of a folklorist who unfortunate died before its publication. The text is huge. It collects together several “black books” or magical notebooks often passed along through families, in Sweden. It is a great collection of folk magic practices. For people interested in this flavor of spellbook but want something smaller, The Black Books of Elverum are an option.
1. The Works of Judika Illes
Hopefully, you have enjoyed this list and it will provide you with some options if you’re looking for books from which to draw examples for building your own magic, or from which to draw completed spells to use. If you want books for exploring magic here is my Getting Started in Sorcery list. At some point I hope to have some more getting started guides for specific approaches to magic. In the meantime, hopefully these are helpful.
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