15th Century Manuscript of "Book of all forbidden arts" available for download

Web has quite a few hidden little treasures. I was pleasantly surprised when I found that the university of Heidelberg offers a free PDF download of the 15th century manuscript CPG 478 – “The book of all forbidden arts” by Johannes Hartlieb. It is more than just interesting – it is quite an eye candy as well.



“Das puch aller verpoten kunst, ungelaubens und der zaubrey” – A short introduction

Johannes Hartlieb was a medical doctor in Late Medieval Bavaria (today Germany). He was a court physician to several nobelties of the time, and also took part in some diplomatic missions. In one such mission he met Margrave Johann von Brandenburg-Kulmbach who was very interested in Alchemy and Occult. At his request he wrote the manuscript discussed in this article -“das puch aller verpoten kunst, ungelaubens und der zaubrey” (The book of all forbidden arts, heresy and sorcery).
” Margrave ” is a hereditary title of a nobleman equal to french ” Marquis “. The ranks of nobility are (in ascending order) Knight, Baron, Viscount, Count (yes, as in “Count Dracula”), Margrave, Duke, Grand Duke, Arch Duke, and – on top of them all – King. This explains how high was the rank of Johann von Brandenburg for whom this book was written and why the book adresses the reader as ” dein furstlich genad” (your lordship’s grace). This book was never intended for anyone else to read. Only the Margrave himself. However – through the magic of the 21st century technology, we can all enjoy it today.
At this point we should clarify that the German word “unglauben” (literally “disbelief”) in the title of the book is sometimes also translated as “superstition”. However, in this context many scholars, including Dr. Frank Fürberth who examined this manuscript in detail, translate this as “heresy” because in those medieval days the word “unglauben” did not have that light, innocent subtext to it as the word “superstition” has today. Back then the word “unglauben” was heavier. It was used much as the Arabic word “shirk” is used today in muslim world. To denote apostasy or deviation – departing from the faith.
The most famous detail of this book is the fact that it contains the oldest recorded recipe for witches flying potion. It was never before translated into English, so here is that detail from chapter 32 of the book.

Zu sölichem farn nützen auch man und weib, nemlich die unhulden, ain salb die hayst unguentum pharelis. Die machen sy uß siben krewtern und prechen yeglichs krautte an ainem tag, der dann dem selben krautt zugehört. Als am suntag prechen und graben sy Solsequium, am mentag Lunariam, am eretag Verbenam, am mittwochen Mercurialem, am pfintztag Dachhauswurz Barbam jovis, am freytag Capillos Veneris. Daruß machen sy, dann salben mit mischung ettlichs pluotz von vogel, auch schmaltz von tieren; das ich als nit schreib, das yemant darvon sol geergert werden. Wann sy dann wöllen, so bestreichen sy penck oder stül, rechen oder ofengabeln und faren dahin. Das alles ist recht Nigramancia, und vast groß verboten ist. For such travels both men and women, namely the witches use an ointment called “unguentum pharelis”.
They make it from seven plants and pick each plant on the day belonging to that plant. So on Sunday they pick Solsequium, on Monday Lunaria, on Tuesday Verbena, on Wednesday Mercurialis, on Thursday Barbam Iovis, on Friday Capillos Veneris. From that they make ointment by adding to it blood of birds and fat from animals whose names I will not write so that no one is angered by it. Then, when they want, they spread it on benches or chairs, rakes or ofengabeln (big oven forks) and fly on them. This is a real Nigramancia and is strictly forbidden.

Interestingly, he refers to the flying ointment as “unguentum pharelis”. The word “unguentum” is pretty straight-forward. It means salve or ointment. However, the second word, “pharelis”, is not clear and no source discussing this text has any explanation for it. Some educated guesses suggest that the root of the word may stem from the latin “pharetra” – quiver, thus making it an ointment hald in some sort of a quiver. Another (longer shot) suggests that it may be linked to the word “pharmaceutria” ( witch or sorceress ) as used in Virgil’s “Eclogues” chapter 8. This would make it literally “witches’ ointment”. This suggestion is not impossible since the same chapter describes casting of a spell and also contains the words “Rise, Lucifer, and, heralding the light”… so the medieval mind might have linked the two. However, it is a bit of a stretch. The root of the word doesn’t really match. The honest answer to this quandary is simply – no one knows what the author meant with the word “pharelis”.

“The book of three holy kings”

The manuscript also mentions famous books like Picatrix and Clavicula Salomonis but what I find most interesting is a mention of a book that is not famous at all. Hartlieb calls it “The book of three holy kings”. In fact I have never heard of it and I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere else except in this manuscript. From the sound of it – it could be very interesting. Here is what he wrote about it:

Das sechs un dreyssigst capitel. Von dem puch der hailigen drey kung
Es ist noch ain puch dass schreibt man zu den heiligen drey kungn und hebt sich am “In Egypto tres magi fuerunt”. Das puch hatt auch die recht zauberey und ungelauben gar mit spahen listen und spruchen versatzt und allweg zugen darein die kunst des gestirns. Und wer sich nit wol verstat in den sachen der maint das es on alle sund war als maisterlichen es gesammelt ist. In dem puch hab ich gesehen manigerlay das mich selb wundert wie das so war und gerecht sein mocht das macht alles der tusentlistig teuffel der die menschen raitzt zunerlaiten. Vor dem puch sol sich dein furstlich genad huten wann sein anfang ist suss aber sein end ist der sel ain pittere ewige verdampnis ymer on end.
Thirty sixth chapter. About the book of the Holy Three Kings
There is another book. It is attributed to Holy Three Kings and begins so: “In Egypto tres magi fuerunt”. The book has real sorcery and heresy with tempting questions and words and frequently deals with the art of astrology. And who doesn’t understand these things well, he thinks that it is without any sin, so masterly is the book put together. In the book I have seen things that I myself wondered isn’t that truthful and just. This is all done by the devil with thousand tricks who tempts people into error. Your lordship’s grace should beware of this book for its beginning is sweet but its end is for the soul a bitter eternal damnation always without end.

In retrospect, the title of this book shouldn’t surprise any aficionado of ocult literature. Every religious personality that could in any way be associated with magick has some book attributed to him. Just think of Sixth and Seventh book of Moses, over a dozen books attributed to Solomon, the book of Saint Cyprian, grimoire of Pope Honorius, Liber Planetis attributed to Pope Sylvester II, “True book of the Jesuits” etc. No one should be surprised then that one book is attributed to the people after whom the magick was named – the magi. Particularly the three most famous ones. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t seem to be available any more. No collection or web site refers to it. Only this single hand-made book that was written only for the eyes of a Margrave who lived five hundred years ago.
Overall, the manuscript contains much more interesting details. I am aware that not everyone speaks and reads Medieval German, but Dr. Frank Fürberth made a translation of it into modern German so anyone interested can get this much more readable version of it. But regardless of readability – “Das Buch aller verbotenen Künste” as it is abbreviatedly spelled in modern German, is certainly a great addition to every occult library – even if one uses it only as an eye candy to admire every now and then.
Download link (from the server of University of Heidelberg):
Text by Nemo, author of Hexagradior – The Bible of Magic.
Images by Occultcenter.com


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