An English Nigromancy: Saint Cyprian and the Book of the Dannel


 Having crossed the Atlantic to present at the Living in a Magical World: Inner Lives, 1300-1900 conference hosted at St Anne's College, Oxford - at which I spoke on love divination in early modern England - it is from the chalk-lined shores of The Old Country that I wish you all a merry Cyprianmas for the year of 2018. I foreground my current geographical position quite deliberately, as I intend to set a lamp upon our reading-table and shed some light upon a specifically early modern English Cyprianic text on this Feast of St Cyprian and St Justina. It is a text concerning that nigromantic blend of demonology, conjuration and necromancy - those 'geotick' forms of magic, to use a term from our pre-modern forebears - with which readers of my chapter in Cypriana: Old World, '‘In the Manner of Saint Cyprian’: A Cyprianic Black Magic of Early Modern English Grimoires' will be familiar.

In short, as an offering of devotion on this holy day, I intend to turn the pages on a collection of Cyprianic operations for calling to the powerful four kings of the cardinal directions, and summoning unclean devils and the shades of the dead to deliver and consecrate books of spirits and the understanding of the powerful transformative knowledge contained in such spirit-delivered tomes.

The Grimoire
The text to which I draw your attention is a collection, a legion of pamphlet-treatises bound together in the document known as MS Sloane 3853. The British Library's Detailed Record considers them a 'miscallany of tracts on magic', but a more accurate assessment of their collected-chapbook composition seems to come from László Sándor Chardonnens' description of them as 'an assembly of a series of booklets containing a great number of magical treatises' [Chardonnens, “Necromancing Theurgic Magic”, Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft, Winter (2015): 172–199; 178)]. This text is known as The Book of the Dannel. Contained within are a series of operations of openly and categorical demonic and necromantic magics. As Janneke Stam has described it:

 'The Book of the Dannel seems to stand on the edge between medieval and early modern magic. Its content consists of ritualistic texts based in the medieval tradition of necromancy and is derived from medieval sources like Roger Bacon, The Greater Key of Solomon, and the 15th-century manuscript Livre des Esperitz. However, the fact that fragments from all these sources have been brought together in one collection written mostly in the vernacular English marks The Dannel’s form as an early modern creation.' [Stam, 'A Book Called the Dannel: An Edition and Study of Sixteenth century Necromancy', Unpublished MA Thesis, (Radboud University, 2017), 7-8].

 This, dear reader, is already decidedly my jam. So what of Cyprian in this grimoiric text? As Stam elaborates, the shadowy anonymous scribe of the Book of the Dannel 'does not explicitly cite his contemporaries. His most recent explicitly named source is Roger Bacon. He seems to prefer more ancient sources like Saint Cyprian'. [Stam, 5] Don't we all.

Cyprian as Commentator upon "The Seventy-Two"
So we have, in general terms, a comparable situation to De Nigromancia: a text collecting various nigromancies considered based off the works or even under the patronage of our Sorcerer Saint Cyprian. But the Book of the Dannel goes deeper and far more specific in its citatory invocations of our saintly magus. In the operation 'The Conjuration of Asmodaye', Saint Cyprian is explicitly cited three times: as an authority on the precise demonological hierarchy under which this mighty demon is to be approached; as one who expressly summoned and worked with this devil; and in instructions of specifically how to call this particular unclean spirit. The entire passage deserves presentation:

Asmodaye ys a gret kynge and ruler in the Meridiane or southe pert of the world, and Cipriann douutethe whether he be under Maymon kyng of the southe or no, but upon hys owen consellis made to Cipriane when that he callyd hym. And he aperythe with iij hedys the first lyke a bull, the second lyke to a man, the thred lyke a ramme, havynge a tayle lyke a serpent and a gret fyer flamynge out at hys mouthe. Hys fette lyke an asse, and he rydethe upon an infernall dragon, beryng a spere in his hand. And in workynge he excellythe all other spryttes that be in the southe and dothe all his office gladlye. His cheff office is he techethe perfet astronomye, nygromancye, geometrye, musycke, and he gevethe a trew answere of all thynges that he is demandyd of. He causythe a man too goo in visible, and he schewethe all placis treuu where any t[r]aesur ys, and when he dothe apere let the master behold his fette, and see whether he dothe them cover or noo. And yf thaye be coveryd, command hym to oncover them, and then for very shame he wyll knele downe and offer hymselff gentlye because he perceyvethe you see his secretes which ar in his fett.

But when he dothe first apere demaund of hym Whether he be clene and manlye or noo, and then Wyll he cast from hym all maner of lurions and worke very jentlye, as saythe Cipriane. But In no wayse call hym but in a clere ayre. First yf thou wylt call hym Asmodaye thou must be clene in all thynges. And iij days before thou shalt call hym mak this invocation that followethe, ij tymes in the daye iij days before that thou shalt or wylt call hym, that ys in the morning and in the evenynge, begynnynge first at the Southe and then to te west and soo to all .4. quarteres of the world, with a myghtye voyse:

 O thou Spryght I adiure the and charge the by hym that ys Alpha and oo, the fyrst and the last, the father and the sonne and the holye gost. And by hym onto whom, all creatures doth obeye, and by hym onto who all the companye of angeles dothe tremble both in heven in Erthe and also in hell. And by the most ferfull daye of judment when thou shalt apere before the judment seate of the lord and ther be judgged. And by that God the whyche is the well and sprynge of all thynges, and the God of all godes the whyche only for the helthe of allmankynd cam downe from heven and was here in carnatte and conteyned by the holye gost and borne for us of the vergyn Marye, that thou heryge and knowynge thys my invocacyon shalt [apere] prepare and make thy selfe redye to apere at my callynge, through the vertu of hym that hathe creatyd the sonne and the mone and also by the stares and .7. plannetes with all ther pores. And by all thynges having in them there beyinges and ther movynges and by all the cherubim and seraphim the which doth never cesse cryeynge before the trone of God. Sayynge holye, holye, holye, that thou [N] shall have no pore to resist, but shalt be in redynes at what tyme I .N. the sonne of .N. by the vertues pores and names of the most hyest God. Thy creatore and myne shall adiure the and call the in the payne of eternall inclusion and perpetually damnacon. So be it.  

[MS Sloane 3853, f. 227v-228v; trans. Janneke Stam]


Here is an instance of a particularly infamous grimoiric spirit being explicitly described as having been worked by Saint Cyprian. Moreover, these workings are considered to have yielded particular advice about how to literally follow in the conjuror's footnoted steps. Not only are particular operatively important details established - calling and commanding protocol, weather observation and restrictions, and so forth - but an historiographical grimoiric intervention is made concerning the directionality of Asmoday. Asmodeus is of course a well-known high-ranking spirit in demonological circles and sources and, while often associated or even considered serving under Amaymon, Regent of the South, his appearance in other sources - especially his lordly status in the Hygromanteia - places him in or even as as directional ruler of the North. Here the Dannel scribe gives us the opinion of the patron of nigromancers himself, he of the  'enduring reputation as a magician and grimoire author' [Owen Davies, Grimoires: A History of Magic Books (Oxford University Press, 2009), 32], on this matter. Here is Cyprianic patronage writ large in bloody rubric.

Clearly then, as Stam puts it, 'the Dannel Scribe uses the authority associated with the saint to reinforce the legitimacy of his description of Asmodaye.' [Stam, 36] But what is further telling here, and far more magically potent, is that the actual description of the spirit's appearance/office/heraldry seems to clearly come from Weyer (or at least Weyer's own sources), explicitly placing Cyprian as a commentator on the source material for "the Goetia of Solomon", and a tutor in these very arts. As the texts now referred to as 'goetic' were in formulation, cohering from the shadows cast across Europe from the lamp-black of demonologists and, eventually, the spotlights of inquisitors and the pricking of witchfinders, so too did the figure of Cyprian similarly resurface. After his legend spread and rooted throughout the Middle Ages, it arguably fruited in the sixteenth century, 'reinforced in the early modern period by its allegoric use by poets and dramatists.' [Davis, Grimoires, 32] If one is to speak of demons, one should speak of Cyprian - the saint who turned away from such wickedness, but not before knowing a great deal about how to master them.

Cyprianic Cardinal Spirits
Talk of mastery, and indeed of cardinality, brings us to some further Cyprianic manners of conjuration. De Nigromancia lays out expressly that Cyprian's Book - which we should conceive as much (if not more) as a methodology and approach as/than a particular single historical text - is reliant on calling spirits by the kings of the four directions. The Dannel provides just such a (refreshingly clearly titled) call, 'A Conjuration for Asking Kings of the Cardinal Directions to Send a Spirit'.

When the master ys allredi to goo to his worke let hym enter his sercle and devouthlye knelyng toward the est saye this prayer following: O holy lord almyghti father and most mercifull God which hast creatyd al thynges of nothing. Thou knowest all thynges, and on to the there ys nothynge hyd nor onpossible. Thou knowest Lord that this art and expediment ys not to prove thy pore 10 not to attempt thi godly name, but to knowe the secretes of sprytes and the treuthe of thynges not knowen. Wherfor o holy God we here thy servantes do dessyer the that thou woldest wytsaff [vouchsafe] to grant onto us thy most mercifull helpe. To brynge to pass this ower purpose and intent, which reygnist Adonaye whole kingdom and pore hathe no end but doth continue in to the world of worlds. Then saye this prayer:

O lord my God be onto me a tower of strenkthe before the fate of thy enemyes these malyngnat sprytes.

And then toward the southe saye lykwyse, and so unto all .4. quarteres. With these wordes[:]

behold the synge +12 and the names off the Creator, Salvator, Emanuell, by the which sygne and names we wer creatyd etc. Ouuer salvacon be onto me a helper.

And then tornynge toward the est agayne saye this invocacion with a myghtye voyse:

O thou kynge of the est I coniure the and charge the by the levynge God, by the trewe God, and by the holye God, and by the mother of Jhesu and by all the tranys [trains] of the angeles, and by the appostyles marteres, confessors, and vergynes, with all the companye of heven beholdynge the syght of the Godhed, that thou shalt cause this spryght whose name is .N. to come and apere here onto me with out any taryng And to fulfyll all my request.

Then torne the toward the west saynge:

O Rommbalans which art kynge of the west I coniure the and charge the by the gret pytte of ower lord Jhesu Cryst, and by the grace of the holye gost and By the crowne of thorne, by the spere, and by the .3. nayles and by all the paynes of Jhesu Cryst And by his holye names, Agios, Yskiros, Alpha and oo, that thou shalt send onto me this sprytes callyd . N. that he shall fulfyll all my request with ouut any craft, falsed or gyle.

Then torne the toward the Southe sayng:

Ocerbidatonn kynge of the southe I coniure the and charge the by all the tranes and choris [choirs] of God, and by the dethe and passion of ower lord Jhesu Cryst, and by Habrahm, Isaac and Jacob, by Moyses, and Davyd, and by Enoc, and Ely by Elisen, and Abacuc by Zacharius, and Malachian, that thou shalt send Onto me this spryght .N. to fulfyll all my request.

 Then torne the toward the northe saynge thus:

O Lambracun kynge of the northe I coniure the and charge the by that God the which hathe creatyd all thynges of nothynge, and by the savior of the world Jhesu Cryst and by the crowne of thorne that he was crounyd with all, and by other instrumentes with holy names, Layagalam, Layagium, Ubba, Ganarituum Layagarum, that thou shalt send this spryght onto me whose name is .N. And that he shall fulfyll all my request with out craft falsshed or gyle.

And then sit down and begyn yower coniuracon for Yower spryght that you wyll call.

[MS Sloane 3853, f. 226r-229r; trans. Janneke Stam]

There are many things to note here (sitting down to begin the conjuration to the spirit itself, for instance) but the four elephants in the room are probably: these are not the Four Regents we might expect, Oriens, Paimon, Amaymon, and Egyn. Yet the scribe clearly knew of Amaymon from the considerations of Asmodaye's rulership. Furthermore, as I have shown in a previous post concerning the sixteenth-century poem 'The Complaynt off Sanct Cipriane the Grett Nigromancer Mayd after that He Was Convertid off the Virgyne Justyne' by Anthony Ascham, which specifically namechecks 'Paymon and Maymon with the kynge occidentall', Cyprian had well-established links with our familiar Four Regents. Might this be point highlighting that facing and calling might be more important to the Cyprianic manner than which particular name is used? Are these simply another example of the names shifting, that here be different titles for the same dragons, or are they a completely different set of directional kings? I think not. As keen grimoirists and spirit-collectors will already be aware, these are not entirely unique names within the manuscripts, and certainly not isolated from the aforementioned and better known Regents, and a simple - perhaps even somewhat elegant - answer I believe offers itself.

King Rommbalans in the west seems unequivocally an instantiation of 'Rombalence vel Ramblane', a king listed under the reign of Paymon Rex in 'Officium de Spirittibus' of the Folger Book of Magic [Shakespear Library, Folger V.b.26, f. 74-75]. King Ocerbidatonn in the South seems a version of Ocarbydatonn, who along with Emlon and Madyconn, ' these kinges be messengers of the kinge of the south', Amaymon. 'Lambracun kynge of the north' is undoubtedly 'Lambricon, vel Lambracaron'. The eastern ruling spirit is not named, and it is tempting to point to the fact that the "Oriens" would have doubtlessly have already been understood to be a title, an epithet for The Eastern One. In short, each of the directional kings of The Dannel are a cardinal king, but not The King of their direction.

 Linking the kings of The Book of the Dannel to the messenger-kings of the Folger Book's Office of Spirits also provides specific conjurations to be called when approaching the Four Kings, further securing not only the tracing of a common dramatis personae throughout this early modern European grimoiric spirit tradition but also operatively useful resources for summoning and working with these spirits. This practicality is also foregrounded by the Officium's specifications about the hours at which particular messenger-kings will appear, offering further timing considerations. To state the case plainly: the kings of The Dannel are not an alternative to the Four Regents, rather a more particular manner to work with the messengers - which we should not forget are kingly spirits themselves - that those Four may send.

 Circle design in  The Book of the Dannel  [MS Sloane 3853, f. 184v]

Circle design in The Book of the Dannel [MS Sloane 3853, f. 184v]

A Necromancy of Texts
Finally, the resort to calling shades of the dead is expressly dealt with in at least one operation of The Book of the Dannel. Here, the ghost is primarily charged with bringing forth another spirit, in this case an unclean devil. We see some parallels with the necromantic operation unintentionally popularised by Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft to send a ghost to bring the magician the faerie queen Sibylia in this utility of dead humans as intermediary messengers. The spirit fetched by the dead is not brought forth to bring to bear their authority over underlings, however, but for a rather more practical, thematically apt, and familiar purpose: to deliver a consecrated book of conjuration. Such a text is a further empowering tool for the conjuror. Furthermore, those familiar with the Excellent Book of the Art of Magic (which I just so happen discuss in my downloadable class on early modern English necromancy) will no doubt recognise the endeavour to summon spirits, using the authority of the Four Regents no less, to deliver magical texts to empower the operator to do further magic and gain further knowledge. Here then, we deal less in bootstraps and more in the feedback loop of encircling call-and-response: of tutelary spirit-work, evocatory scrying, and the living characters upon the leaves of the fruiting trees of grimoiric magic, guarded by seals and delivered by shades.

There is plenty to say about this operation, and I intend to more fully address it in time, but for now I present it verbatim, and leave you with a throwaway reflection on the title of the working. That it specifies the operation is done 'with owt any Sacrefice' to me points to the use of such techniques in other experimenta; including perhaps the wax effigies of animals mentioned in relation to various other (pseudo-)Baconian necromancies, which interested parties will also find in my chapter in Cypriana: Old World. And so I present 'To Make a spryt to apere with owt Any Sacrefice and to have a consecratid Boke of hym'. Consider it a Gift of Cyprianmas, in both the germane and German meanings...

To Make a spryt to apere with owt Any Sacrefice and to have a consecratid Boke of hym

Comme to a syk man and get of him his trewthe and his Crystendome that he wyll com a gayne to the. The tyrd nyght whan he comethe a gayne then ask of hym what question thou wylt and he wyll tell thou how he farthe, and what wyll helpe hym. And Then bynd hym and command hym by the vertues of Godes fleshe and bis blood that thou spryte get me an other spryte which is a corier. And thou bynd hym in syche maner that he be [:]

never rebel nor contrary too my mynd, by no maner of waye, nor in no maner of gyle, and that he fulfil all my commandementes with out any deceyt. And that I charge and command thou, and require the, and coniure the, and compel the, by the state and suerte that I have of the. And yf thou can not do it of thy spyritualte com a gayne tell me what maye helpe the and I wyll geve thou all my power of my humanyte. And therefore go forthe with out any taryense. And that thou never have rest tyll the tyme that my wyll be fulfellyd. Now goo thy waye in the name of the father and the sone and the holye Gost. Amen.

 And the second nyght after he wyll com a gayne and brynge the a coryer with hym. And geve state to kepe hym at obedience and then charge them both that thaye go bothe together and make the a boke of all sprytes names both in the ayre and in the earth. And that when thaye have made the boke cause them for to bere it to the .4. kynges of the elamentes so that[:]

all sprytes between heven and hell be obedient onto me when I wyll call so many and no more. And if I wyll yt the sprytes com to me at onys them to com all and apere before me with out any hurtdoyng to my things that God hathe made by the vertue of the boke consecratyd. Tyll the tyme that I have the boke thou never hast rest never have peace untyll all my mynd be fulfellyd. Now goo.

 And the .3. nyght after that thaye wyll com a gayne et afferent librum consecraconis [and they will bring a consecrated book]. And then the spryght of the man wyll saye, geve me my truethe and Crystyndome the which I assueryd unto the. And then thou shalt take a wande of basill and salt and water to gether, and myngyll them to gether and wete the basyll wandes end and take the ende wryt to the spryt. But beware, say these wordes that followe: Here the same treuthe that this spryt the same tyme that he was man alive on erthe here walkynge shephely [shapely] and bodylye. Here the same treuthe he assueryd to me by his lyff tyme. The same treuthe and Crystandome I take to this wande of basil, and geve hym the wet ende and a name. As he handelythe yt let it goo for yt wyll begyn to burne. And as save as he takythe hand there of of saye to hym thes words:

Go forthe in peace, and sease thi crye, and thy matteres shalbe fulfellyd, by the grace of God that I dyd promise to the. In the name of the .F. and the .S. and the holy gost. And then saye to the other spryt: I coniure the, and command the, and compel the that thou be redye when I wyll have the, and when I shall call the, and that thou be obedient to my commandement in everye thynge that I wyll have the to doo. And to that I command the by the vertue of Godes fleshe and his blood, that he take of the vergin Marye, and by the power of those heye kynges that be above the and in the payne of the perpetuall damnacion. And now goo thy waye In the name of the father and the sone and the holye gost. Amen.

[MS Sloane 3853, f. 214r-215r; trans. Janneke Stam]