Welcome to the third post in the medieval England series. This post will cover Wizards of the medieval period and talk a little about what they were and how they were viewed, covering well known real and mythological wizards and more. Please keep checking the blog daily for new posts in the series and if you enjoy reading them, then please like, comment and follow me for more!
Wizards of the medieval land. In order to come onto wizards it is probably best to start with sorcery, which has its evolved roots in ancient times, from things like the Egyptians, who used their knowledge of amulets, spells and formulas to bend cosmic powers to their purpose. Anglo-Saxon magic involved spells and simple mechanical remedies.
Around the 5th Century AD, Christian St. Augustine of Hippo stated that all pagan magic and religion were invented by the devil to lure humanity away from the Christian truth. He further claimed that ‘witches’ could not have any real supernatural powers or be capable of invoking any kind of magic. In the 8th and 9th Century the King of the Franks, Charlemagne, declared that burning witches was itself a pagan practice which should itself be punishable by death. The church began to create anti-witchcraft laws, and the word ‘maleficium’ came to mean malevolent magic. The church had effectively declared civil war on the practices, making it a crime.
Medieval lore refers to the Tempestarii, a magi. And by the 13th and 14th century had arrived witchcraft had come to mean beliefs and practices including healing through spells, messing with the supernatural and using divination and clairvoyance. England had a type of curative magic which was the job of the ‘witch doctor’ – white witch or Wiseman. The Wisemen had a place in society and were considered valuable, some people even paid them to curse others.
By the year 1208, Pope Innocent III had declared an attack on the group of heretics known as Cathars. Christian theologian St. Thomas Aquinas debated that the world was full of evil and dangerous demons that try to lead people into temptation, leading to the long, drawn out association between sex and witchcraft. This was about the time that the catholic church initiated the Inquisition, to find and punish these individuals. There were four main eras: Papal Inquisition 1230s, Spanish Inquisition 1478-1834, Portuguese Inquisition 1536-1821 and the Roman Inquisition 1542-1860.
There is a clear history which still has relevance today. We can see that the dark ages must have been quite terrifying. Some of the more famous medieval wizards are: Abraham Abulafia, the founder of the school of Prophetic Kabbalah and born in Spain in 1240. Nicolas Flamel, although an alchemist, is too a wizard. Roger Bacon, born in the UK and known to modern era as a wizard remembered for his mechanical or necromantic brazen head. Theoprastus Paracelsus was an ancient alchemist and medieval physician responsible for huge leaps in medicine in the 16th century. He was born in 1493 in Switzerland, excelling in medicine and the occult. His main work ‘Opus paramirum’ was the definite work on magic and medicinal usage of herbs and drugs.
Don’t forget Merlin, a most powerful wizard with a variety of magical powers, including the ability to shapeshift. His presence in mythology is infamous, the tutor and mentor of King Arthur, who ultimately guided the young man to the throne and to become the King of Camelot. Geoffrey of Monmouth is said to have created Merlin in his 1136 AD works, ‘Historia Regum Britanniae’, The History of Kings of Britain. Merlin was included as a fictional character and was a paradox, supposedly the son of the devil and a follower of God.
Hew Draper, the inn keeper in the town of Dristol, was imprisoned in 1561 at the tower of London in the well known Salt Tower for committing the crime of sorcery. During the stay at the Salt Tower he carved a large zodiac sign (Below) into the stone wall along with other esoteric symbols. There was no record of what happened to him…
It was a rough time in the medieval ages, with the black death, the inquisition, persecution of heretics and a one world view of that of the church, lack of education, torture, poor food… it really casts light on how good we have it in the 21st century. Even with such awful things happening, wizards remained hidden away, mostly for their own protection at some point. Sorcery and witchcraft still exist today and are now somewhat widely accepted practices, there is further divide, with white magic or black magic and terms such as left hand path or right hand path. One thing wizards through time have had in common seems to be the ability to judge their own actions as potentially dangerous and should not be used for malicious intent. John Dee is supposed to have gone too deep with Edward Kelley after discovering the ability to communicate with angels, the Enochian language and black magic.
Thank you for reading this post on Wizards. If you enjoyed reading the third part in the medieval England history series then please check the blog regularly for more posts. The next in the series will be dragons!