Imagine a real book of magical recipes and spells just like we dreamt of as children reading fairy tales?
The Picatrix is that book.
Dating back to the 10th or 11the century, it is an ancient Arabian book of astrology and occult magic. The Picatrix is filled with spells and cryptic astrological descriptions for almost any wish and has been translated and used by many cultures over the centuries.
Originally written in arabic, it was called Ghāyat al-Ḥakīm, which translates to “The Goal or Aim of the Sage“.
It was then translated to Spanish and to latin in 1256 for the Castilian king Alfonso.
That’s when it took on the known title Picatrix. Researcher David Pingree calls it “the most thorough exposition of celestial magic in Arabic” and describes the Picatrix as “Arabic texts on Hermeticism, Sabianism, Ismailism, astrology, alchemy and magic produced in the Near East in the ninth and tenth centuries A.D.”
The four books, which contain different chapters, are as follows:
- Book I – “Of the heavens and the effects they cause through images made under them”
- Book II – “Of the figures of the heavens in general, and of the general motion of the sphere, and of their effects in this world”
- Book III – “Of the properties of the planets and signs, and of their figures and forms made in their colors, and how one may speak with the spirits of the planets, and of many other magical workings”
- Book IV – “Of the properties of spirits, and of those things that are necessary to observe in this most excellent art, and how they may be summoned with images and other things”
The chapters then are divided amongst magic and its properties, the works of the planets, sun, and moon, the order of natural things, stones appropriate for each planet, figures, colors, garments, and incenses of the planets, confections of the spirits of the planets, and of averting harmful workings, and magic of miraculous effect, and the foods, incense, unguents, and perfumes that ought to be used to work by the spirits of the seven planets, how the vigor of the spirit of the Moon is drawn into things here below, and how incenses of the stars ought to be made, and certain compounds needed in this science.
What are in these magical recipes?
Well, they are regarded as obscene. The gross concoctions for various outcomes like “generating enmity” are meant to alter states of consciousness, and can even lead to out-of-body experiences or even death. Here’s what some of the ingredients include: blood, bodily excretions, brain matter mixed with copious amounts of hashish, opium, and psychoactive plants.
But they aren’t all so gruesome.
The Picatrix also heavily focuses on astrology, and viewing the future with the intention of controlling or improving it. There are dozens of spells to bring about desires and outcomes, which involve taking certain steps that consider the positions of cosmology. For instance, the spell to place love between two people is:
“Fashion two images with the 1st face of Cancer rising, and Venus therein, and the Moon in the 1st face of Taurus in the eleventh house. And when you have made these images, join each to the other face to face and bury them in the house of the other . And they will care for each other and have an enduring love between them.” (The Picatrix Book I, Chapter 5)
Other examples of spells include finding lost treasure, increasing crops, health, wealth and friendship.
However, historians note that some may have been lost in translation.
One researcher, Martin Plessner says, “neither the Arabic psychology of study nor the Hebrew definition of the experiment is rendered in the Latin Picatrix. The Latin translator omits many theoretical passages throughout the work.”
Either way, this ancient document is fascinating. It marks and represents many themes that have evolved throughout human history. As mysterious as it all may be, this may give us some clues to astrological phenomena and “black” magic.