black book


black book
   A magical handbook that provides instructions for trafficking with spirits, including DEMONs and ANGELs; divination; and acquisition and use of supernatural powers. In some cases, possession of the black book itself bestows supernatural powers, wealth, or luck upon its owner. However, use of a black book usually backfires with serious consequences. Some black books are said to be written in BLOOD as a PACT with the DEVIL. According to a German tale, a black book of unknown origin was passed down through inheritance and came into the possession of some peasants. Its magical powers were released by reading it forward and backward. If anyone failed to read the book backward, the Devil was able to take control of him or her. Once activated, the book enabled people to acquire great wealth and do terrible things to others without punishment. However, there were consequences to using the black book that caused its owners grief. They tried to get rid of the book but could not do so. They sought help from a minister, who successfully nailed the book into a drawer. Such a tale serves to demonstrate the power of Christianity over both occult powers and pagan folk magic. Black books are more than mysteriously empowered items of folklore, however. In practice, many people and families kept black books as guides for living. They included magical cures and healing recipes, prayers, CHARMs, incantations, blessings, rituals for burial, seasonal and agricultural rites, techniques for divination, and ways to ward off evil and bad luck and attract good luck. The material is a mixture of old folkways and lore and Christian elements. Some black books credit their origins to Cyprianus of Antioch (St. Cyprian), who lived in the fourth century C.E. in Turkey. According to lore, Cyprian was a sorcerer who escaped the domination of DEMONs and the Devil by making the sign of the cross. He converted to Christianity and became a bishop. He ended his life as a martyr.
   See grimoires.
   FURTHER READING:
   - Butler, E. M. Ritual Magic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1949.
   - Rustad, Mary S., ed. and trans. The Black Books of Elverum. Lakeville, Minn.: Galde Press, 1999.

Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology. . 2009.

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