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The Excellent Booke: A Manual of Sixteenth-century English Necromancy – Dr Al Cummins
British Library Additional Manuscript 36674 contains several short treatises, two of which should be of particular interest to necromancers. The Excellent Booke of the Arte of Magicke is a particularly instructive grimoire of the sixteenth century teaching one how to summon spirits – from the ruler of the dead, to the kings of the spirits, to the ghosts of famous magicians – complete with prayers, conjurations, and various ‘nota’ of injunctions and advice for the aspiring conjuror. The purpose of these conjurations is to make powerful knowledge available to the magical practitioner, whether delivered by subordinate spirit, received text, or express empowerment.
An appended document, referred to simply as Visions, is a magical journal accounting the experiments and scrying sessions performed alongside the reception of the Excellent Booke between 24th February and 6th April 1567. These scrying records detail the unbidden appearances and teachings of saints, angels, and dead magicians, as well as evidencing the techniques and procedures involved in putting together the Excellent Booke itself. Read together, these interrelated documents are quite simply a unique record of early modern English necromancy, offering vital ‘behind-the-scenes’ perspectives on sorcery, magical texts, and spirits.
This lecture by historian of magic and contemporary cunning man Dr Alexander Cummins analyses some of the techniques contained within this manuscript source: from ways of working with spirits, to the expressly necromantic components of the work, to wider implications for approaches to spirit tuition, texts, and taboos in early modern European conjuration.
Dr Alexander Cummins is a contemporary cunning man and historian. His magical specialities are the dead (folk necromancy), divination (geomancy) and the grimoires. He received his doctorate on early modern magical approaches to the passions. Dr Cummins is the co-editor of the Folk Necromancy in Transmission series for Revelore Press and co-host of Radio Free Golgotha.
His published works include An Excellent Booke of the Arte of Magicke with Phil Legard (Scarlet Imprint, 2020), A Book of the Magi: Lore, Prayers, and Spellcraft of the Three Holy Kings (Revelore Press, 2018) and The Starry Rubric (Hadean Press, 2012) as well as contributions to collections by both academic and occult publishers on topics including talismanic objects, geomancy, planetary sorcery, cunning-craft, and nigromancy.
Dr Cummins gives classes and workshops online and in person. The Good Doctor’s work and services can be found at www.alexandercummins.com
Curated and hosted by Dr. Amy Hale
Dr. Amy Hale is an Atlanta-based anthropologist and folklorist writing about esoteric history, art, culture, women and Cornwall in various combinations. Her biography of Ithell Colquhoun, Genius of the Fern Loved Gully, is available from Strange Attractor Press, and she is also the editor of the forthcoming collection Essays on Women in Western Esotericism: Beyond Seeresses and Sea Priestesses from Palgrave Macmillan. Other writings can be found at her Medium site https://medium.com/@amyhale93 and her website www.amyhale.me.
Series from Dr Al Cummins on Necromancy and Cunning Craft