Màiri Mulcahy’s Book

Grimoire du Pape Honorius

The type was small and hard to read. He did not bother beyond the heading if he did not think it useful. There were a great many forms of wandering spirits and it seemed odd that such a thin book should have so much to say about them.

Acts of the Servant, volume one

Dr Claude Crabtree writing in 1937 suggested that this apparently casual remark alludes to a common belief that books of magick, as opposed to books about magick, were panaceas, literally ‘all things to all men’ and could, in effect, answer any query given to them regardless of its obscurity. From the description of the book Bheathain reads it seems unlikely it is anything other than a simple guide to common magickal practice and phenomena – genuine books of magick being both rare and expensive – therefore, accepting the remark is without obvious narrative context ,I agree with Dr Crabtree that it refers to a text outside the narrative.Scottish Herbal, ca. 1700MacGregor wrote considerably more on the nature of books of magick in his last major work; The History of Scottish Magick (published posthumously in France in 1899 as L’Histoire de Écossais Magie) and this brief extract may be of interest:

Ordinary books suffer from a requirement to contain in one volume everything that reasonably falls within the remit of their title. Thus even books with seemingly modest scope weigh heavily in the hand and by their length obfuscate and conceal the grain within an immensity of chaff; notwithstanding that the uninteresting chaff will contain one or many grains suiting the enquiry or enquirer of a different time or place. Books of magick necessarily contain magick and therefore need not suffer from this but may reveal to the reader exactly what he sought (whether he knew it or not) without the pain of always carrying and periodically winnowing the chaff. That books on magick go to such pains to please the reader may be the reason they become so curmudgeonly when treated in a careless or unappreciative manner.

Acts of the Servant, volume one

Time-lapse photograph of a book of magick, courtesy King James University, Dept. of Thaumaturgical Research, EdenboroughHow such books might materially function is another matter entirely and the best explanation I have read is that they are essentially palimpsests with multiple layers of writing any one of which may be superimposed to suit the needs of the moment. Hendryk van Zelden, a man with whom, as you know, I disagree a great deal but who I allow is an excellent communicator, has said in interview that books of magick are akin to the Hyperweb in that they contain a vast amount of immediately accessible knowledge whose exact whereabouts, usefulness and provenance are almost unknowable but which is invariably fascinating even if not pertinent to the question asked.

Bard of Tweeddale


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