Renaissance humanism (15th and 16th century) saw a resurgence in
Neo-Platonic varieties of ceremonial magic.
1 Artes magicae
2 Renaissance occultism
3 Baroque period
4 List of authors
6 See also
The seven artes magicae or artes prohibitae, arts prohibited by canon
law, as expounded by
Johannes Hartlieb in 1456, their sevenfold
partition reflecting that of the artes liberales and artes mechanicae,
nigromancy ("black magic", demonology, by popular etymology, from
The division between the four "elemental" disciplines (viz., geomancy,
hydromancy, aeromancy, pyromancy) is somewhat contrived.
the divination from a subject's palms as practiced by the Romani (at
the time recently arrived in Europe), and scapulimancy is the
divination from animal bones, in particular shoulder blades, as
practiced in peasant superstition.
Nigromancy contrasts with this as
scholarly "high magic" derived from High Medieval grimoires such as
Picatrix or the Liber Rasielis.
Practitioners of demonic magic in the late Middle Ages usually
belonged to the educated elites due to the contents being written in
Latin onto books.Demonic magic was usually performed in groups
surrounding a spiritual leader in possession of necromantic books. One
such case in 1444, Inquisitor Gaspare Sighicelli took action against a
group active in Bologna. Marco Mattei of Gesso and friar Jacopo of
Viterbo confessed to taking part in magical practices.
The art of geomancy was one of the more popular forms of magic that
people practiced during the renaissance period.
Geomancy was a form of
divination where a person would cast sand, stone, or dirt on the
ground and read the shapes. The
Geomantic figures would then tell them
"anything" based on geomancy charts that were used to read from the
Hydromancy, a form of divination using water is typically used with
scrying. Water is used as a medium for scrying to allow the
practitioner see illusionary pictures within it.
from Babylonia and was popular during Byzantine times whereas in
medieval Europe, it was associated with witchcraft.
Both bourgeoisie and nobility in the 15th and 16th century showed
great fascination with these arts, which exerted an exotic charm by
their ascription to Arabic, Jewish, Romani, and Egyptian sources.
There was great uncertainty in distinguishing practices of vain
superstition, blasphemous occultism, and perfectly sound scholarly
knowledge or pious ritual. Intellectual and spiritual tensions erupted
in the Early Modern witch craze, further reinforced by the turmoils of
the Protestant Reformation, especially in Germany, England, and
Scotland. The people during this time found that the existence of
magic was something that could answer the questions that they could
not explain through science. To them it was suggesting that while
science may explain reason, magic could explain "unreason".
C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis in his 1954 English Literature in the Sixteenth Century,
Excluding Drama differentiates what he takes to be the change of
character in magic as practiced in the Middle Ages as opposed to the
Only an obstinate prejudice about this period could blind us to a
certain change which comes over the merely literary texts as we pass
from the Middle Ages to the sixteenth century. In medieval stories
there is, in one sense, plenty of “magic”. Merlin does this or
that “by his subtilty”, Bercilak resumes his severed head. But all
these passages have unmistakably the note of “faerie” about them.
But in Spenser, Marlowe, Chapman, and Shakespeare the subject is
treated quite differently. “He to his studie goes”; books are
opened, terrible words pronounced, souls imperiled. The medieval
author seems to write for a public to whom magic, like
knight-errantry, is part of the furniture of romance: the Elizabethan,
for a public who feel that it might be going on in the next street.
[...] Neglect of this point has produced strange readings of The
Tempest, which is in reality [...] Shakespeare’s play on magia as
Macbeth is his play on goeteia (p. 8)
The Hermetic/Cabalist magic which was created by Giovanni Pico della
Marsilio Ficino was made popular in northern Europe,
most notably England, by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa's De occulta
philosophia libra tres. Agrippa had revolutionary ideas about magical
theory and procedure that were widely circulated in the Renaissance
among those who sought out knowledge of occult philosophy. "Agrippa
himself was famous as a scholar, physician jurist, and astrologer, but
throughout his life he was continually persecuted as a heretic. His
problems stemmed not only from his reputation as a conjurer, but also
from his vehement criticism of the vices of the ruling classes and of
the most respected intellectual and religious authorities." While some
scholars and students viewed Agrippa as a source of intellectual
inspiration, to many others, his practices were dubious and his
beliefs serious. The transitive side of magic is explored in Agrippa's
De occulta philosophia, and at times it is vulgarized. Yet in Pico and
Ficino we never lose sight of magic's solemn religious purposes: the
magician explores the secrets of nature so as to arouse wonder at the
works of God and to inspire a more ardent worship and love of the
Creator. "Considerable space is devoted to examples of evil sorcery in
De occulta philosophia, and one might easily come away from the
treatise with the impression that Agrippa found witchcraft as
intriguing as benevolent magic"
The study of the occult arts remained widespread in the universities
across Europe up until the Disenchantment period of the 17th
Century. At the peak of the witch trials, there was a
certain danger to be associated with witchcraft or sorcery, and most
learned authors take pains to clearly renounce the practice of
forbidden arts. Thus, Agrippa while admitting that natural magic is
the highest form of natural philosophy unambiguously rejects all forms
of ceremonial magic (goetia or necromancy). Indeed, the keen interest
taken by intellectual circles in occult topics provided one driving
force that enabled the witchhunts to endure beyond the Renaissance and
into the 18th century. As the intellectual mainstream
in the early 18th century ceased to believe in witchcraft, the witch
trials soon subsided.
List of authors
Renaissance authors writing on occult or magical topics include:
Late Middle Ages to early Renaissance
Johannes Hartlieb (1410-1468)
Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499)
Thomas Norton (1433–1513)
Johann Georg Faust
Johann Georg Faust (1480-1541)
Renaissance and Reformation
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)
Pico della Mirandola
Pico della Mirandola (1463–1494)
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486–1535)
Georg Pictorius (1500-1569)
Johann Weyer (1516–1588)
Thomas Charnock (1524–1581)
Judah Loew ben Bezalel
Judah Loew ben Bezalel (1525–1609)
John Dee (1527–1608)
Giordano Bruno (1548–1600)
Edward Kelley (1555–1597)
Basil Valentine (15th century- published since 1604)
Nicolas Flamel (1330-1418- published since 1612)
Heinrich Khunrath (1560–1605)
Michael Sendivogius (1566–1636)
Tommaso Campanella (1568–1639)
Jan Baptist van Helmont
Jan Baptist van Helmont (1577–1644)
Franz Kessler (1580–1650)
Adrian von Mynsicht (1603–1638)
Sir Kenelm Digby
Sir Kenelm Digby (1603–1665)
Johann Friedrich Schweitzer
Johann Friedrich Schweitzer (1625–1709)
Isaac Newton (1642–1727), see Isaac Newton's occult studies
^ Herzig, Tamar (Winter 2011). "The Demons and the Friars: Illicit
Magic and Mendicant Rivalry in Renaissance Bologna". Renaissance
Quarterly. 64: 1028 – via JSTOR.
^ Thorndike, Lynn (1923). A history of magic and experimental science.
New York: Macmillan. p. 110. ISBN 9780231088008.
^ Luck, Georg. Arcana Mundi : Magic and the Occult in the Greek
and Roman Worlds: A Collection of Ancient Texts (2nd ed.). The John
Hopkins University Press. p. 312.
^ Dawes, Gregory. "The Rationality of Renaissance Magic". Paregon.
^ John S. Mebane, Renaissance Magic & the Return of the Golden
Age, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1989.
John Crowley's Aegypt Sequence
History of magic (other)
History of science in the Renaissance
Key of Solomon
The Book of Abramelin
Kurt Benesch, Magie der Renaissance, Wiesbaden, Fourier,(1985).
Norman Cohn, Europe's Inner Demons: The Demonization of Christians in
Medieval Christendom, University Of Chicago Press (2001).
Heiser, James D., Prisci Theologi and the Hermetic Reformation in the
Fifteenth Century, Repristination Press (2011).
Nauert, Charles G. Agrippa and the Crisis of Renaissance Thought.
Urbana: University of Illinois Press (1965).
Ruickbie, Leo, Faustus: The Life and Times of a Renaissance Magician.
The History Press (2009). ISBN 978-0-7509-5090-9
Szonyi, Gyorgy E., John Dee's Occultism: Magical Exaltation Through
Powerful Signs, S U N Y Series in Western Esoteric Traditions, State
University of New York Press (2005). ISBN