(15th and 16th century) saw a resurgence in hermeticism
varieties of ceremonial magic
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
, derived, by popular etymology
, from ''necromancy
The division between the four "elemental" disciplines (viz., geomancy, hydromancy, aeromancy, pyromancy) is somewhat contrived. Chiromancy is 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 grimoire
s such as the ''Picatrix
'' or the ''Liber Rasielis
Practitioners of necromancy
or demonic magic in the late Middle Ages usually belonged to the educated elite, as the contents of most grimoires were written in Latin. 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 shape.
, 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. Hydromancy originated from Babylonia and was popular during Byzantine times whereas in medieval Europe, it was associated with witchcraft.
divination consisted in tossing sand, dirt, or seeds into the air and studying and interpreting the patterns of the dust cloud or the settling of the seeds.
This also includes divination coming from thunder, comets, falling stars, and the shape of clouds.
is the art of divination which consisted of signs and patterns from flames. There are many variations of pyromancy depending on the material thrown into a fire and it is thought to be used for sacrifices to the gods and that the deity is present within the flames with priests interpreting the omens conveyed.
is a form of divination based on reading palms and based on intuitions and symbolism with some symbols tying into astrology. A line from a person's hand that resembles a square is considered a bad omen whereas a triangle would be a good omen. This idea comes from the trine and square aspect in the astrological aspects.
was a form of divination using an animal's scapula. The scapula would be broken and based on how it was broken, it could be used to read the future. It was generally broken by heating it with hot coals until it broke.
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
, 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
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 Renaissance:
The Hermetic/Cabalist magic which was created by Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
and 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.
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
, 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
). 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
(1355/1360 – 1452/1454)
*Johann Georg Faust
;Renaissance and Reformation
*Leonardo da Vinci
*Pico della Mirandola
*Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa
*Judah Loew ben Bezalel
(pseudonym for one or more 16th-century authors)
(1330-1418- published since 1612)
*Jan Baptist van Helmont
*Adrian von Mynsicht
*Sir Kenelm Digby
*Johann Friedrich Schweitzer
(1642–1727), see Isaac Newton's occult studies
*History of magic (disambiguation)
*History of science in the Renaissance
*''Key of Solomon
*Medieval European magic
*''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).
*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). .
External linksRenaissance Magic
BBC Radio 4 discussion with Peter Forshaw, Valery Rees & Jonathan Sawday (''In Our Time, Jun. 17, 2004)