Amiri Ayanna, Brown University: Women’s Magic,The Wisdom of Ben-Sira, and Heinrich Kramer’s Nuremburg Handbook : The Construction of the Fifteenth Century Civic Sorceress
Cristina Azuela, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México: Renart, Merlin, and Eustace the Monk: Magic and Devilry among Medieval Tricksters
Medieval literary tricksters such as Renart, Merlin and Eustace the monk had magical powers which were clearly associated with the devil. Not only was Merlin the child of an incubus; both Renart and Wistasse learned their magical craft in Toledo, where the devil himself taught Eustace all the devilish trickery he knew, and where Renart acquired his terrifying magical skills.
This paper will deal with the links between their magic practices and the ambiguities and amorality proper to mythical tricksters, and with the role the Christian Church might have played in these magicians’ demonization. It will focus on the 13th century Roman de Wistasse, which provides a whole catalogue of magical practices throughout the first 300 verses of the text. Eustace was a historical peer of the Boulonnais, well known as a pirate, whose activities are documented by different chroniclers from the thirteeenth and fourteenth centuries. But it is interesting to note that not only the literary roman mentions his magical skills, but also the chronicles. I will compare him with literary figures such as Renart, mainly in the episode known as “Renart magician” (branche XXXIII, in the ed. by Martin), as well as with Robert de Boron’s Merlin and some of its “continuations”.
Michael D. Bailey, Iowa State University: Medieval Magic as a Religious Movement
This paper examines forms of medieval magic, including both common and learned varieties, through the framework of “religious movements” established by Herbert Grundmann. Although Grundmann’s work has informed much subsequent scholarship on medieval religion, including such areas as heresy, mysticism, religious orders, and women’s religious history, few scholars of medieval magic have drawn directly on his insights. One historian of late-medieval witchcraft who express a clear debt to Grundmann, Kathrin Utz Tremp, builds mainly on the argument of his path-breaking article “Der Typus des Ketzers” that most of the stereotypes of heresy promulgated by the church had no basis in reality, but shje does not engage with his more expansive work on Religiöse Bewegungen. Nevertheless, most recent scholarship on medieval magic and witchcraft has steadily tried to place these issues into various mainstreams of medieval religious, intellectual, and cultural history, in what I suggest is a Grundmann-esque fashion. In this paper, I will trace and analyze these efforts, showing what links exist to Grundmann’s arguments, both explicit and tacit. I will also contend that the profound interiorization of religiosity that Grundmann saw as central to high medieval religious developments and the dilemmas it created for religious authorities in the later medieval period profoundly shaped perceptions of and reactions to real and suspected magical practices, influencing what might be called a “Typus des Magiers.”
Chiara Benati, Dipartimento di Lingue e Culture Moderne, Università degli Studi di Genova: Painted eyes, magical sieves, and carved runes: Charms for Catching and Punishing Thieves in the Medieval and Early Modern Germanic Tradition
Anne Berthelot, University of Connecticut: Merlin, ou les tours de magie d’un prophète
Comme l’a établi il ya longtemps Paul Zumthor, pour le Moyen Âge “Merlin l’Enchanteur” est avant tout Merlin le prophète, le “prophète des Englois”, dont le libellus prophetiae Merlini a alimenté les spéculations des exégètes pendant plus de trois siècles. Cependant, même dans les textes latins, et a fortiori à partir du Roman de Merlin aux environs de 1210, quelques actes magiques à proprement parler sont attribués à Merlin : ce sont, essentiellement, le transport des pierres de la Chaussée des Géants sur le site de Stonehenge dans la plaine de “Salesbierres”, la fondation de la Table Ronde de façon à faire éprouver à tous ses membres un désir irrépressible de rester près les uns des autres, et surtout, évidemment, la “métamorphose” du roi Uterpendragon en un double du duc de Cornouaille afin de lui permettre de coucher avec Ygerne.
Les textes plus tardifs se sont surtout intéressés à ce dernier cas : Merlin, au fils des volumes, use et abuse de son don de métamorphose, qu’elle porte sur autrui ou sur lui-même. Le rôle qu’il joue dans la création et le renouvellement de la Table Ronde est également repris avec des variations, mais la “merveille” de Stonehenge n’est pas souvent réutilisée : à sa place on trouve quelques tours de magie de type météorologiques plus classiques. Cette intervention étudiera de près les différentes catégories de performance magique de Merlin, et montera comment elles s’inscrivent dans les théories de l’époque sur la magie.
Merlin, or, a Prophet Turning Magician
As Paul Zumthor has remarked long ago, during the Middle Ages “the Enchanter Merlin” is mostly the prophet Merlin, the “prophète des Englois”, whose libellus prophetiae Merlini has attracted comments and interprétations from scholars for more than three centuries. However, even in the Latin texts and a fortiori in the French ones, especially the prose Roman de Merlin (ca. 1210), some magical interventions are attributed to Merlin: mainly, the transportation from the Irish stones of the “Chaucie des Geants” to Stonehenge as a monument to king Pendragon after he died during the first batte of Salesbierres, the “magicking” of the Round Table so that its members suddenly feel they cannot live apart from each other, and, of course, the “metamorphosis” of king Uterpendragon into a perfect double of the duke of Cornwall, so that he gained access to the duchess and begot the future Arthur.
Later texts have been mainly interested in this last talent: from one romance to the next, Merlin uses, and abuses, his gift of metamorphosis, whether he transforms other people, or himself. The part he plays in the creation of the Round Table is also often alluded to, but the “merveille” of Stonhenge tends to be substituted by more banal phenomena of meteorological magic. This paper will closely study the different categories of Merlinian magic to see how they fit into contemporary theories about magic.
Patricia E. Black, University of California, Chico: The Magical Other in the Prise d’Orange
Christopher R. Clason, Oakland University: The Magic of Love: Queen Isolde, the Magician Clinschor, and Seeing in Gottfried’s Tristan and Wolfram’s Parzival
In two of the most significant epic poems of the German Middle Ages, Gottfried von Straßburg’s Tristan and Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, love and magic play central roles. In this context, two characters seem particularly outstanding for their influence on at least part of their respective plots: the Irish Queen Isolde, the mother of the central female protagonist and the source of the infamous, magical love potion, and the magician Clinschor, whose misadventures in love cause him to bewitch 400 maidens and knights and deprive them of participation in the courtly activities of minne.
At first glance it may seem that these two figures bear little in common. Queen Isolde, whose magic seems firmly grounded in the matriarchal wisdom of herbal and floral concoction and who wields her power apparently out of caring for her country and, especially, her daughter, is depicted as perhaps the most astute and prudent individual at the Irish court, whose decisive actions and positive influence steer matters toward the best possible outcomes for those she loves. On the other hand, Clinschor, whose experience with love has left him direly wounded and clearly infuriated with the courtly society that victimized him, wishes to exercise his wrath particularly on the women and men at court who can participate in the pursuit of love, by depriving them of the ability to do so.
However, one can also draw numerous parallels between these two characters. Both dwell in a foreign (Ireland) or frontier (Terre de Labur) realm, away from the central, courtly realm of the main action. While Queen Isolde actually appears in the text, her main contribution, the love potion, works its powers from a distance, across a vast sea and in a future time, for which the Queen will not be present. Clinschor does not make a personal appearance in Parzival, and thus his magic functions, via (one assumes) a verbal spell, in absentia. Isolde intends her magic to solve a problem: the absence of amour/eros in her daughter’s marriage; however, she in fact enables the extramarital affair between her daughter and Tristan. Clinschor participates in an extramarital affair with the wife of his liegelord. The cuckolded king discovers him resting in the arms of his spouse and has him castrated; thus, he learns magic in order to exact revenge on those who could enjoy such love in their lives.
In this paper I would like to show how these two magicians establish a relationship among magic, love, and courtly life that ultimately reveals the great importance of vision in the psychology of love. According to the Occitan poet Guirault de Borneilh, “through the eyes, love attains the heart” (“tam cum los oills el cor ama parvenza”). For better or for worse, the magic practiced by Queen Isolde and Clinschor promotes or denies vision in order to affect love, with diametrically opposite results.
Finally, I would like to suggest that in each work magic creates a space within which the author can discuss specific, significant and problematic aspects of love symbolically. Courtly love is born of artifice, and the practice of loving through art can become stale and merely formal. In Tristan, Queen Isolde originally intends that the magic love potion impose an artificial solution to the problem of Mark and her daughter’s marriage, since betrothal is based to a greater extent on duty than on actual love. Because young Isolde and Tristan’s love is authentic, their consumption of the love potion is symbolically completely appropriate, but threatens to send the social order into chaos. In the Gawan episode of Parzival, Clinschor’s thirst for revenge induces him to cast a spell that deprives potential lovers of their sight of one another; fear and unhappiness results from the interruption in the natural progress of love, where the eyes serve as “scouts for the heart.”
Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona: Magic in Late Medieval German Literature: The Case of the Good Magician Malagis
This paper will review what magical figures appear particularly in late medieval German literature and how they are evaluated by their authors. As we will easily recognize, the late Middle Ages were increasingly occupied by the theme of magic, and this then supported, in a tragic twist of events, also the development of the witch craze. But magic and magicians were not always viewed with suspicion or fear. First of all, numerous prose novels reflect on the permeability of the concrete physical world and the world of the spirits (Melusine, 1456, e.g.), Then, we observe the growing interest in the magical arts, as finally best represented by the Faustbuch (1578). The corpus of quasi scientific and also literary texts where magic and magicians surface and matter significantly in the late Middle Ages proves to be quite extensive. But one text, heretofore hardly ever examined, the anonymous Malagis, portrays the magician as a very different kind of person, highly learned, having received his full academic diploma, and complete approval by the learned doctors of the University of Paris. Unfortunately, however, Malagis has a bad run-in with the Emperor Charlemagne, who from then on tries to destroy his opponent, but Malagis can always counter his evil strategies by means of his magical skills. This ultimately creates a lot of humorous situations in which the support rests fully on the side of the magician, while the bad mockery targets the foolish emperor.
Allison P. Coudert, University of California at Davis: Rethinking Disenchantment
Following Weber, much has been written about the disenchantment of the world and its secularization beginning in the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation and continuing to this day. Egil Asprem has seriously challenged this view by problematizing Weber’s notion of disenchantment and presenting ample evidence that there was plenty of enchantment in the scientific theories devised and discussed in the first half of the 20th century. It is the object of this paper to show that the same can be said of the early modern period. The idea that a materialist and mechanical philosophy achieved canonical status in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is quite simply wrong. As I will argue, enlightenment science and philosophy enchanted the world by revealing the marvelous and magical possibilities of science and emphasizing the sheer pleasures of the imagination. Reason, as I will argue, is therefore not the enemy of magic and enchantment but one of its greatest allies.
Claire Fanger: Rice University:The Magician at Home with His Family: Across Cultural Look at the Use and Rejection of Magic by Two Medieval Religious Men
The priest has a congregation, the magician a clientele. Thus spoke Emile Durkheim, fixing a key polarity in his distinction between magic and religion which is often referenced and still of interest. In practice, of course, things are much messier, and many instantiations of actual magic use (i.e., the use of suspect or prohibited rituals) occur in contexts that Durkheim himself would have recognized as religious (i.e., morally grounded and culturally predictable). In medieval Europe, the secular priest is the most likely and usual purveyor of things like textual amulets, birth girdles, and apotropaic charms to the laity; and in general, clergy are the most likely and normal users of intellectual magic too. If we see them sharing these practices, they may not be doing so for direct payment. In fact, their beneficiaries may be immediate family members or friends.
This paper will compare and contrast two magical biographies from very different cultural contexts in which we can see forms of magic used and shared between close friends and family. In the first case, I draw on the autobiography of the Benedictine monk John of Morigny, writing in early fourteenth-century France; I will be examining specifically the way he shared his knowledge of a prohibited form of magic, the Ars notoria, with his younger sister Bridget and his Cistercian friend John. The second case is a life of the twelfh-century Tibetan saint Milarepa, who was induced by his mother to study under a teacher famous for his mastery of black magic, especially the ability to rouse destructive storms; the purpose here was to further his mother’s quest for justice in regard to an aunt and uncle who had appropriated the family’s wealth.
In both of these stories, the ultimate concern is reform of life, and the magic of the early period in the lives of the protagonists is rejected in the end. However these rejections have complex valences that are worth attending to as we try to understand the way the magician actually operates in his community, and how magical ways of operating may be firmly fixed in a moral system, in a tissue of obligations to parents, friends and siblings, even when apparently escaping it.
Nurit Golan, Tel Aviv University: Science and Magic: The Case of the Portail des Libraires, Rouen
Vir divinus…miraculum…et in magicis expertus (Divine man… miraculous… expert in magic) These were the words that Ulrich of Strasburg (1225–1277) used to describe his teacher, the renowned scientist and theologian Albert the Great (1200–1280). Ulrich was the first of Albert’s pupils who related explicitly in his De summo bono to his master’s scientific and theological work. At first glance, the connection he made between science and magic in the attributes that describe Albert as a magician might be somewhat of a surprise.
In this paper I do not examine those of Albert’s works that reflect a clear connection with the writings of Aristotle, Plato, Pseudo-Dionysius, and Hermes Trismagistus, as this subject has already been studied in depth by Loris Sturlese. Rather, I look at a work of art that dates to the end of the thirteenth century that might be an indication of the same strange (to us) association, and point out that linking science and magic was not one individual’s unique state of mind, but a rather general approach.
The artifact I discuss as a case study is on the sockel of the Portail de Libraires, the north portal of the Cathedral of Ruan in France, which is thought to have been constructed between1280 and 1300. Almost 300 reliefs, many in quatrefoils and some framed by a Gothic arch, appear in this sockel arranged vertically and horizontally. These reliefs become the center piece of the decoration and can be easily seen by anyone entering the church from this portal, which leads to the choir. The first row from right to left on either side of the entrance describes the creation of the cosmos using what can be identified as scientific imagery and the story of the creation of Man and the first era of mankind, whereas the rest of more than 200 hundred reliefs depict hybrid creatures of many different forms.
I demonstrate how these unusual images and the way they were presented in combination with the scientific-cosmological depictions that appear on the top row suggest a connection between beliefs in magic and the occult and scientific concepts. Their appearance in a work of art clearly visible to the clergy entering the portal on their way to the choir raises questions concerning the circulation of these ideas at that time and the connections between what otherwise seem to be entirely separate and distinct fields of knowledge. We might consider that this gap between the two intellectual activities might not always have been as wide apart as is commonly believed and as it became later.
Kathleen Jarchow, University of Connecticut: Plausible Deniability: The Social and Literary Purposes of the French Chanson de Geste Maugis d’Aigremon
In the French tradition of the tale, the anonymous chanson de geste Maugis d’Aigremont is often overshadowed by a chanson in the same cycle featuring the eponymous character’s nephews les Quatre fils d’Aymon. Moreover, Maugis d’Aigremont has been overlooked as simply being a prequel to the nephew’s more extensive chanson de geste Renaut de Montauban. The repudiation of Maugis d’Aigremont as just another tale in the cycle of “les barons revoltés” is shortsighted because it ignores the importance of the story of a chivalrous and mortal character whose portrayal showcases features of l’Autre Monde féerique alongside of learned magic. This paper explores Maugis’ character not only in the context of his role in a “chanson d’aventure” but more importantly his role as a learned courtly magician. Specifically, an examination of Maugis’ upbringing by the fairy Oriande, Maugis’ magical apprenticeship under Oriande’s uncle Baudri, and, finally, Maugis’ time spent as a court magician in Tolède all reveal a previously unexplored link in this chanson between legitimate magic and the fluidity of the réel et suréel in the late chansons de geste. I argue that Maugis as a character is able to successfully span both worlds lending legitimacy to this chanson as a part of the matière de France.
Jiri Koten, Jan Evangelista Purkyně, Ustí nad Labem, Czech Republic: Heterochronic Representations of Magic in Czech Chapbooks
The so called chapbooks form an integral part of Czech medieval and early modern literature; they appeared in Czech literature mostly as translations of German chapbooks (to a lesser extent, there are also translations from Latin and original Czech works). In the 17th century chapbooks gained in popularity (becoming the most popular literary form among Czech readers), and they maintained this popularity until the 19th century. During the 18th and the 19th centuries they laid the foundations of contemporary Czech narrative prose. At this time the original or slightly modified versions of the "old" books were reprinted as well as new writings that reworked the traditional themes in keeping with contemporary taste. Chapbooks were printed in Czech provincial presses until the 1880s.
This paper will examine the ways in which the portrayal of spells, magic items, and monstrous creatures in chapbooks changed over time. It will mainly focus on the shift from the representation of medieval notions of the world and nature toward a more sophisticated depiction of the magic as a motif compliant with the aesthetic standards of later literature. Although the popular folk literature books printed in the 16th century and the Czech chapbooks from the 18th and 19th century dealt with the same themes, the topic of magic is approached differently. The depicted world of the folk literature of the Middle Ages and the Early Modern era can be described as a miraculous chronotope (to use Mikhail M. Bakhtin’s term), which includes beasts with human qualities (Bruncvik), magical tools (Bruncvik, Fortunatus), or fairies (Melusine). By contrast, later chapbooks (e.g., by Prokop Šedivý or Václav Rodomil Kramerius), which frequently adapt older themes (e.g. Faust, Fortunatus), use magical elements as elaborate fairy tale and fantastic motifs.
Jaime Leaños, University of Nevada, Reno: In Pluto’s name: Love and Witchcraft in Fernando de Rojas’s La Celestina
“Toute condition sociale anormale prepare à l’exercice de la magie” Marcel Mauss.
When societal laws regarding courtship do not allow you to embrace your beloved or even, whisper her your love intentions, what is a young lad to do? Either sit in your chamber and weep or hire a go-between with magical powers. Such is the case of Fernando de Rojas’s La Celestina (1499). In his master piece, Rojas employs Roman and Greek magical methods widely used in the Iberian Peninsula of the quattrocento to have Melibea fall madly in love with Calisto. This paper analyses part I of La Celestina where the main protagonist Celestina invoking Pluto places a spell on Melibea using her own girdle. It is documented that by the first quarter of the fourteenth century, John XXII in his papal bull Super illius specula (1324) had already knowledge the presence and practice of black magic. Later on and more important was Innocent VIII papal bull Summis desiderantes affectibus (1484) penned by the request of the Dominicans Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich (Institoris) Kraemer accusing German monks of practicing magic. Sprenger and Kraemer two years later would publish their acclaim work, the Malleus maleficarum. It is under these circumstances that Rojas publishes his work as an exemplum to avoid any involvement in magic and to chastise anyone associated with such prohibited rituals.
Rosmarie Thee Morewedge, Binghamton University, SUNY “Magical gifts in Tristan und Isold and the Rejection of Magic”
Susanna Niiranen, Research Associate, University of Oxford, UK / Senior Researcher, University of Jyväskylä, Finland: Protective plants, animal and mineral substances: ritual and magical in medieval healing
Magic – as we may call it – had often an essential role in medieval medicine and healing. There was not only one dominant view of its usefulness, nor one name for it. Medical magic could have been called magic, sorcery, necromancy, superstition, or it was just considered an integral part of healing various medical professionals, semi-professionals and unofficial practitioners used among other methods. It consisted of different rituals, magical writing or speech, snippets of religious texts or prayers and special substances or a combination of these. Frequently, but not necessarily, magic was added to the use of medicinal products such as herbs, animal and mineral substances, pills, concoctions, compresses, balms, ointments, etc. In this paper, I will focus on medical recipes, which circulated beyond the university medicine. Recipes provided in various recipe collections, household books and apothecaries’ inventories offer an eclectic and less exploited material to view how a larger social strata of people understood magic and healing. Mostly, the material comes from the Mediterranean, but as e.g. Thesaurus Pauperum, some of these writings circulated around Europe until the early modern era. It is known that certain plants, for instance, were considered “magical” because of their appearance (e.g. lungwort and mandragora). Moreover, the colour and value of medicinal substances (e.g. saffron, lapis lazuli) were important, but the paper analyses in more depth, which factors contributed to regard them as “magical”. In the paper, I argue that we should investigate and discuss medieval healing magic not only as a form of naïve superstition, but as a form of performance and participation.
Martha Peacock, Brigham Young University, Utah: Cornelisz van Oostsanen’s Painting of "Saul and the Witch of Endor" of 1526.
One of the more unusual paintings of the early modern era is Cornelisz van Oostsanen’s Saul and the Witch of Endor of 1526. The painting has been interpreted as a condemnation of witchcraft in relation to the contemporary hysteria surrounding the trials and treatises that censured such practices. It has also been linked to the many depictions of evil sorceresses by German artists such as Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) and Hans Baldung Grien (1484-1545). However, there is an ambiguity in both the subject matter and its manner of presentation in this painting that also reflects early modern ambivalence to the occult. The story of Saul visiting a witch in order to summon up Samuel’s ghost had long been a source of theological controversy. Augustine and Aquinas had both contributed to this debate about the reality of the ghost and the accuracy of the witch’s prognostications. Some theologians saw the event as a manifestation of God’s power, while others considered it a mere trick or illusion by the witch. Nevertheless, contemporary fascination in the occult, as manifest in the patronage of Emperor Rudolf II (1552-1612) and in the writings of the German magician Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486-1535) reveal an alternate view of magic and even a defense of witches. I argue that these sympathetic understandings of occult philosophy, which advocated a combination of natural and celestial magic, are reflected in Van Oostsanen’s unique depiction of this biblical narrative.
Daniel F. Pigg: The University of Tennessee at Martin: Representing Magic and Science in The Franklin’s Tale and The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale: Chaucer Explores Connected Topics
It is a fallacy known in literary critical practices to determine what a writer believes about a particular topic, based on theevidence of the works that are credited to that writer. No doubt, many will immediately point to Chaucer’s translation of the Treatise on the Astrolabe to demonstrate his interest in science, with his translation of the work for “Little Lewis.” Others will point to his interest in science in the Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale, and still others will point to The Franklin’s Tale to suggest Chaucer’s interest in the world of magic. The problem with such “easy” assumptions is that we have moved beyond the stage of critical practice which says that a mining of the text themselves will give us those answers.
What seems more prudent is to look at the texts themselves and their sources to determine what Chaucer changed and adapted from the sources he was using. First, we also have to ask the question how about magic and science were connected and not connected in the medieval world. It would seem on the surface as if magic is “not worth a fly,” to use a phrase of the Franklin in his tale regarding the “secret knowledge.” But Aurelius is convinced the magician has been able to uncover a plan to help him. It would seem that the science of changing base metals into silver in the Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale, a practice also locked in “secrecy,” is particularly secret because it is a cloak for mere deception. Is magic a mere “slight of hand” and knowing how to read the flood tables correctly the same? Does that mean that Chaucer links magic with deception alone? Does that make Chaucer is anti-science, since science is being used in connection with magic?
For readers who ask these questions—and they are legitimate questions—the answers can be evasive. The Orleans magician/lawyer actually makes a scene that one might find in a medieval romance appear magically before the eyes of Aurelius and his brother. How did he do that? From this “magic,” they are persuaded that he has the knowledge to solve the problems of the love-deprived Aurelius. In the Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale, where the speaker notes with regard to the science even after several years that he is “never the nearer” to understanding, alchemy is described as a craft bought from a priest who has engaged in “slight of hand.”
Magic and science are linked in the fictive works of Chaucer’s Franklin’s Tale and Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale, and their presentation is very much locked in the secrecy that each domain of knowledge would seek to offer. While it has been typical of scholars to think that Chaucer merely dismissed both, what remains is a lingering suspicion that knowledge may exist within those domains that cannot be explained away by chance, flood tides, or slight of hand. That is the beauty of Chaucerian story telling that remains part of the mystery of the power.
Dalicia Raymond, University of New Mexico:The Case of Morgan le Fay: Motives, Means, and a Malevolent Magical Mantel in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur
Morgan le Fay is one of the most notorious female magical practitioners in medieval literature, and while her use of magic often shapes her as an empowered woman in Arthurian narratives, it also frequently excludes her from Arthurian society and makes her into an Other. Thomas Malory’s construction of Morgan le Fay in Le Morte Darthur vilifies Morgan le Fay for her female acquisition and adaptation of male power sources and structures in order to accomplish tasks traditionally only acceptable for men to perform. This transgressive power demonstrated by Morgan le Fay positions her as a threat to Arthur, Arthur’s court, and the traditional power structures of courtly society, thus resulting in her being negatively portrayed in texts despite and because of her motivations being comparable to those of male chivalric characters while she feminizes the means by which she strives to accomplish her goals. Through a comparison of Morgan le Fay’s motives for her actions against Arthur in the “Of Nenive and Morgan le Fay” section of Le Morte Darthur with the motives of knights who attempt or complete similar actions it is seen that Morgan le Fay has masculine motives, but an examination of her means for acting reveals a mix of traditionally feminine means, traditionally masculine means, and transgressive feminized-masculine means. Underlying Morgan’s methods is a direct or indirect reliance on magic which complicates a simplified gendered classification of means because of the uniqueness of magic to the practitioner as well as magic’s inherent resistance to classification. Morgan le Fay’s refusal to adhere to the feminine means allowed to her by Arthurian society becomes a more powerful and threatening figure as her employment of feminized-masculine means reveals the potential flexibility and weakness in the dichotomous structure established between females and males in Arthurian society.
Warren Tormey, English Dept., Middle Tennessee State University: “Magical (and Maligned) Metalworkers: Understanding Representations of Early Medieval Blacksmiths”
Seeking to align the blacksmith figure with more overtly marginalized practitioners of magical arts, this essay will explore his complicated position as reflected in the literature of the early medieval period. A compelling and essential figure in classical and early medieval literature, the blacksmith’s importance to epic imagery affirms and challenges the class relationships of his world. Subordinate within the class systems of the Olympic pantheon and later, the Germanic warrior ethos, the blacksmith is nonetheless vital to his community's labor and commerce. Inhabiting a workplace that is marginal, noisome, noxious, and reminiscent of underworld domains inhabited by the condemned, he is peripheral to the centers of power but essential to the survival of the community. Thus he is given a foundational, mythic stature by epic poets and commentators who recognize his essential role in fabricating the tools by which a culture survives and the icons that express its power.
Emerging from the Homeric traditions of Haphaestus and his Virgilian adaptation to Vulcan, the blacksmith figure also factors significantly in the Finnish, Nordic, and Germanic folklore traditions in ways that underscore his centrality to the epic genre. While the Finnish Kalevala replicates the pattern emphasizing the smith's importance to the collective consciousness of a developing national identity, the Volundarkvitha is the most prominent of the stories of the Old Norse Poetic Edda that demonstrate the essential nature of the smith’s craft and point to his uneasy and potentially contentious relationship with his social superiors. Derived from this tale, the mythic figure of Wayland the Smith (also Weland, Volund, Velent) in Anglo-Saxon literature merits mention first in the Deor's Lament and more prominently in Beowulf, where Beowulf's breastplate is described in line 406 as "smithes orthancum" ("the skill-work of smiths"), where Beowulf himself refers to his breastplate as "Welandes geweorc" (“the hand-work of Weland”). However, the smith’s stature is also compromised in the poem when Beowulf’s storied sword Hrunting fails him at a key moment in combat.
A celebrated if ambiguous figure within the classical and Germanic traditions, the blacksmith is more overtly disconcerting to the Christian world firstly because his work environment recalls the realm of demons in its fiery clamor. Secondly, in his metalworking knowledge he possesses a sort of magical wisdom, possessing the power both to confirm and destabilize class relationships with the various dimensions of his art—tools, weapons, jewelry, and coinage. In short, within his community he controls the elements of labor, warfare, commerce, and wealth generation, and in serving outside his "fit" duties, the blacksmith assumes a potentially disruptive character. His imagistic resonance survives in the hellish environs depicted in Book XV of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History which provides an account of an unworthy smith whose habits are tolerated because of his superior skills as a metalworker. Bede describes him in unflattering terms and casts his deathbed condemnation as an object lesson, thus underscoring his marginal stature within the monastic power structure. Disquieting to the sensibilities of the epic poet, the figure of the blacksmith was more overtly disconcerting to early Christian commentators. In both worlds he is simultaneously an agent of its development and a potential threat to its order—a sort of worldly magician who, in possessing and employing arcane knowledge to serve a world that he never fully occupies, underscores his own problematic centrality to that world.
Lisa M. C. Weston, Department of English, California State University, Fresno: Grammar, Grimoires, and Curious Clerks
Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales famously draws upon the belief in—if not the widespread reality of—medieval students’ interest in the magic. His Franklin, for example, remarks almost off-handidly that “yonge clerkes … been lykerous/ To redden artes that been curious.” (Franklin’s Tale 1119-1120) Not all of Chaucer’s students, granted, are actually magicians. Moreover, if his Clerk of Oxenford “al be that he was a philosopher” has little gold (alchemically or otherwise produced) in his coffer, (General Prologue 297) his Hende Nicholas cynically (and practically) uses university students’ reputation as necromancers who pry into “Goddes pryvetee” (Miller’s Tale 3454) in order to gull and cuckold his landlord. Yet we may imagine either or both these students passing by “Friar Bacon’s study” on Folly Bridge. The Oxford scholar-magician Roger Bacon (c1214-1294), doctor mirabilis, known for his magically-powered divinatory brazen head as much as for his works on optics, astronomy, and mathematics, stands a historical model for literary masters of illusion and natural magic, for characters like that other clerk (of Orleans) whose book “spak muchel of the operaciouns/ Touchynge the eighte and twenty mansiouns/ That longen to the moone.” (Franklin’s Tale 1129-1131)
Books like that clerk’s —grimoires, to invoke a general, generic term—constitute a specific textual form, compendia of astral or angelic magic (that is, the discernment and invocation of celestial powers, often into images) like the 13th century Picatrix (a translation of the 12th century Arabic Ghâyat al-Hakîm fi’l-sihr) or the Liber Razielis Archangeli (a translation of the Hebrew Sefer Raziel Ha-Malakh). The genre continues well after the time of Chaucer’s curious clerks, of course. Marsilio Ficino’s 1471 translation into Latin of the ancient Corpus hermeticum represents a more recognizably humanist/philological intervention into the grimoire tradition, as do Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s 1533 Three Books of Occult Philosophy, and Giambattista Della Porta’s 1558 Magia Naturalis. John Dee’s 1564 Monas Hieroglyphica drew on his experiments in angelic communication to create a still enigmatic treatise on symbolic language. Following upon the work of figures like Nostradamus (1503-1556) and Nicholas Flamel (1330-1418) whose Livre des figures hiéroglyphiques was published in London in 1624 as Exposition of the Hieroglyphical Figures, Dee attempted through his philological exploration meant to unify linguistics and alchemy, astronomy, music, and optics into one systematic theory of logos.
The connection between magic and image—and between both and an ability to create illusions through manipulations of both the natural world and language—highlights the connection between magic and the medieval trivium as well as the quadrivium. The connection reifies, that is, the etymological link between grimoires—manuals of ritual performances, including verbal invocations for the summoning, commanding and banishing supernatural entities—and grammar—the study of texts. In fourteenth and fifteenth century Scots, indeed, the one loan-word gramarye (from the Old French grammaire) encompassed both grammar (learning in general) and magic (occult learning in particular). Gramarye also gave us the associated word glamour, as both noun and verb, for the magical casting of illusions.
This presentation, then, focuses on the performances, both poetic and magical, associated with characters like Chaucer’s Clerk of Orleans. It will explore the epistemological connection between the image magic of late medieval grimoires and poetic set pieces of ekphrasis in Chaucerian texts like the Franklin’s Tale. The point is not that Chaucer was a magician, of course, or even that he had a demonstrable familiarity with magical texts per se. Rather the intent will be to seek to interrogate the extent to which the poetic practice of describing images and figures—a matter of grammar and rhetoric—is culturally coincident with contemporary interests in vision, illusion and optics—topics prominent in grimoires of image magic as well as treatises of natural philosophy.
Thomas Willard, University of Arizona: How Magical Was Renaissance Magic?
How Magical Was Renaissance Magic?
The term “Renaissance magic” has gained currency over the last generation, thanks partly to the influence of Frances Yates. The nature and limits of this magic have been obscured, however, by the problem of synonymy, for Yates and others have used words like “occultism,” “hermeticism,” and even “Kabbalism” as though they were interchangeable with “magic” or somehow subsumed under it. Meanwhile, they have offered different views of magic vis-à-vis science and technology on the one hand and philosophy and religion on the other. This paper will compare the theories of magic put forward by three early modern writers: Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494), Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535), and Thomas Vaughan (1622-1666), whose work built on one another’s. It will also identify aspects of medieval magic that they did not include in their formulations as well as subjects they added or addressed.