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Three Books of Occult Philosophy by Heinrich…

Three Books of Occult Philosophy (1531)

by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Three Books of Occult Philosophy (1-3)

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A reminder of how strange things used to be, from the weird stuff reading list. Henry Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim was a sort of Renaissance Man. He claimed to possess degrees in canon law, common law, and medicine; university records of the time (1486-1535) were less than comprehensive, so maybe he did. At various times he was a reasonably accomplished soldier in the armies of Emperor Maximillian, the Marquis of Montferrat and Maximillian Sforza of Milan; he was an ambassador from the Holy Roman Emperor to the court of Henry VIII of England; he served as personal physician to the Duke of Savoy and to Louise of Savoy, Queen Mother of France, and as a private physician in Switzerland and the Netherlands; and he lectured at various European universities. And, like many other intellectuals of the time, he became interested in the occult. (I note that what’s called “occult” now was well within the purview of a doctor in the 16th century).

Wading through this stuff is interesting. Cornelius Agrippa (the name he usually used) had to tread carefully to avoid the attentions of the Inquisition (at one point he was excommunicated). The Church was pretty dubious about magic, always ready to believe it involved dealing with demons; Agrippa worked around this by presenting demon facilitated magic as something to be avoided; by maintaining that some magical operations were assisted by angels or by “spirits” who were not evil; and by describing “natural” magic that worked with inherent properties of stones, herbs, astrology, numerology and so on, rather than by invoking a supernatural entity. He also does a great deal of circumlocution, citing various ancient authorities for magic operations rather than suggesting that he has tried them himself.

The amount of woowoo here is mind numbing. You can cure a fever by strapping live pigeons to your feet. The heart of a screech owl placed on the left breast of a sleeping woman will make her tell all her secrets. The gall of lizards attracts weasels. A needle coated in dung and packed with graveyard earth will protect a woman from unwanted sexual advances (you know, I bet that would actually work). Peony roots covered with beaver oil and menstrual blood will cure epilepsy. If a woman has enchanted you to fall in love with her, urinate in her right sleeve (but only out of doors) and the enchantment will be lifted (I bet that would work, too.). If you boil and eat the heart of the first bird you see on the Calends of November, you will understand the language of birds. And so on for a thousand pages or so.

It’s instructive to remember that everybody believed this stuff. The efficacy of magic was endorsed by the Church, and you could not only be burned alive for practicing it, you could also be burned for denying it. I suppose I shouldn’t be so smug; my Facebook feed is full of people informing me of the magical properties of turmeric or cucumbers or coconut oil or Bernie Sanders economics.

Agrippa was interested in magic squares. If you’ve ever looked at demonological works, they often present “sigils” of demons (and sometimes angels) that are complicated symbols made up of seemingly random connected lines and curves. Some of these are apparently completely invented; some are elaborations of Greek or Hebrew letters, but Agrippa generates some by tracing numerologically significant paths through magic squares. You use Hebrew numerals for your square, which are also Hebrew letters, and trace the name of the angel/demon/spirit in question to get his/her/its sigil. Agrippa generates the sigils of the Intelligences and Spirits of all the planets this way; for example, you can get the sigil of the Spirit of Mercury, Taphthartharath, by setting up an 8x8 magic square with Hebrew letters/numbers and tracing out Th (400) Ph (80) Th (400) R (200) Th (400) R (200) Th (400) without lifting your pencil. (This also reveals that Taphthartharath’s number is 2080; I imagine with a little more effort you could get the URL for his website).

Well, it was an interesting read. Agrippa seems to have been a decent fellow; he got in considerable trouble in France once defending an accused witch (he got her off, too. Or at least she wasn’t burned; she was in pretty bad shape after questioning and we don’t learn her subsequent history). As mentioned, it’s interesting to note that there is plenty of woowoo still with us. ( )
1 vote setnahkt | Dec 31, 2017 |
This is one volume containing a set of three works of one of Europe's foundations of the European occult renaissance of their hermetic lexicon ( )
  muhruba | Jan 26, 2015 |
This is one of my absolute favourites. I love this comprehensive volume. If it occurs in magic, Agrippa has something to say about it. ( )
  MarionII | Apr 24, 2010 |
The first of Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy focuses on natural magick. It is an interesting read, unfortunately I found the first book of little value other than as a historical classic. It is a product of its age (almost five hundred years old) when it comes to the focus on the natural world, it contains much of what was scientifically accepted at the time; rotting meat becomes maggots, a decaying horse becomes flies, etc, and that bleed into the magick. It was interesting to see the magickal applications and understanding of those concepts, but in applicable today. A lot of it bothered me, due to the fact it was testable, and false, for example several mention of crushing basil between two rocks creates a scorpion. While dangerous, such a thing would not be hard to test. Though the book was not without merit, the writing on the elements, while brief I found very insightful, and closer to some of my beliefs than much of the modern portrayal, the book also contained what might be magickal literature's first mention (well of a lot of things) of altered states of consciousness, their importance, and how to achieve them. The book was somewhat difficult to read, being translated into English in 1651, and not being updated to modern English, as well as the amount of endnotes per chapter. A chapter is often one to two pages long, and would average about 20 endnotes per chapter, sometimes more pages, in a smaller font, was dedicated to the endnotes than the chapter content. The endnotes were informative, explaining different uses of language, giving background on information that at the time was so understood it didn't need mention (like who certain nobles were), and other times it was Donald Tyson citing text and source for Agrippa, when Agrippa didn't, amusing, but somewhat aggravating. While not practical, and of little current value outside of perhaps 20 chapters, I did find it an interesting read, and would not suggest skipping it for anyone undertaking the three books.

This book has proved more relevant to me, than the first book, containing more on astrology, astronomy and sacred numbers. It was fascinating to read the section on numerology, because I've heard all the answers before, about what number means what, but Agrippa actually manages to explain reasonably why numbers mean what they mean. I also found it interesting just to see how differently they viewed numbers back then. The book contained essential information on the magickal images associated with the planets, and the decans, which will prove useful in summoning and talimanic work, I'm sure. Though now that it is done, I will move happily into my reason for reading Agrippa's work, Book III.

Book III of Agrippa's Opus refers more to the intellectual magick and considering how complicated the prior books were, that is a daunting idea. While the first book dealt with more nature based magick, and the second more with astrological and angelic magick, book three contains more on what a magician needs. Explanations on what real magick is, how a magickian must prepare themselves, and introduced the QBLH. Like the other books, this is more of a text book of theory, than a how-to or practical guide to magick, but explains much on the interaction of spiritual entities with us, and our world. The book ends with an unfortunate, and very fake and forced retraction of the three books. Agrippa fearing persecution wrote several small chapters on why his book was filled with lies, why magick is a bad thing, and people should just be happy being Christian. Oddly enough it worked, but it is so forced sounding (to me) that I'm surprised it was trusted. A difficult read, but a great source-text to work through, and keep on hand. ( )
2 vote BlueFlameMagick | Jul 19, 2009 |
A veritable gold mine of information which no serious occultist can possibly do without having on the shelf. You will find yourself constantly going back to this book to research a great many number of topics. Donald Tyson should be congratulated for doing a fine job for his annotations which certainly flesh out the topics and help to make clear many of Agrippa's statements. ( )
  Loptsson | Jun 19, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Agrippa von Nettesheim, Heinrich Corneliusprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Freake, JamesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tyson, DonaldEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0875428320, Paperback)

Now you can learn from the original, most important source for magic in the Western world that has ever been published, when you get Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy.

This massive volume was originally published in 1531, and occultists have been drawing on it ever since. Now, Llewellyn is proud to produce the first complete reprint of the original English translation in the last 500 years. Donald Tyson edited this work and removed the hundreds of errors that appeared in the original translation. He also fully annotated the work, to make it understandable—and usable—by people today.

·Discover what the Renaissance scholar knew about astrology, medicine, history, herbs, geography, animals, angels, devils, Witches, charms, the weather, and a host of other subjects
·Gain immediate reference to a vast amount of arcane, but completely annotated, magical material
·Find corrected drawings of seals, sigils, and magic squares, and correctly represented geomantic figures
·Explore the practical Kabbalah, geomancy, the magic squares, the elements, the humors, and the Soul of the World
·Consult the new Biographical dictionary for background on each of the hundreds of writers and historical figures referred to by Agrippa
·Consult the new Geographical Dictionary for data on referenced rivers, mountains, nations, cities—many of which now carry different names.

The Three Books of Occult Philosophy is the most complete repository of pagan and Neoplatonic magic ever compiled. This book is packed with material you will not find elsewhere, including copious extracts on magic from obscure or lost works by Pythagoras, Ptolemy, Plato, Aristotle, and many others. Tyson's detailed annotations clarify difficult references and provide origins of quotations, even expanding upon them in many cases, in order to make Agrippa's work more accessible to the modern reader.

The Three Books of Occult Philosophy is the ultimate "how-to" for magical workings. It describes how to work all manner of divinations and natural and ceremonial magic in such clear and useful detail that it is still the guide for modern techniques. The extensive new supplementary material makes this wisdom practical for use today.

The Three Books of Occult Philosophy is an essential reference tool for all students of the occult. Get your copy today.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:41 -0400)

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