No Wands Necessary

We were recently given a copy of Albertus Magnus: Approved and Verified, Both Sympathetic and Natural Egyptian Secrets for Man and Beast…. 3 vols. Bound together.  Translated from the German.  Harrisburg, Pa. : n.p., 1875.  There are already copies on our shelves, both in German and English, that were published elsewhere (Allentown, Pa., 1869; New York, n.d.; and Toledo [Ohio], n.d.).  But perhaps this can bear a second look.

Some of the cures might well work.  For example,

“To Drive away Lice: Fishberry and lard mixed together, and the head anointed therewith.”  (vol. 2, p. 40)  [Fishberry:  Cocculus indicus, the fruit of Anamirta cocculus, used for stupefying fish (OED)]


“To Destroy Mice: In such food as they may like, mix mercury or burnt lead, or particles of iron produced by forging or black hellebore.” (vol. 1, p. 33)

Some cures I don’t even want to copy out because the ingredients and uses sound even more caustic and dangerous than that.

Other cures involve complicated prayers or writing charms on pieces of paper for the afflicted person or animal to wear.  Most of these involve invoking the name of the Holy Trinity.  These are apparently especially useful when warding off witches.

Then there are the ones that – you never know — just might work, such as

“To facilitate healthy sleep: Procure two rabbit ears, place them under the pillow of a person who cannot sleep, without his knowledge.” (vol.3, page 17)

And the ones you just wish would work (and really cause one to wonder how they ever got included in the first place), such as

“To Make Yourself Invisible: Pierce the right eye of a bat, and carry it with you, and you will be invisible.” (vol. 2, p. 53)

or, if that doesn’t work, try

“To make Oneself invisible: You must obtain the ear of a black cat, boil it in the milk of a black cow, then make a thumb cover of it, and wear it on the thumb and no one will be able to see you.” (vol. 1, p. 32).

Since these are all (according to the title, anyway) “approved and verified” it kind of makes one wonder whether the Harry Potter books really ought to be classed in fiction.  Makes one really want to know what the original readers thought.  When (if) these cures and charms didn’t work, did they blame themselves for not using enough fishberry, or the right kind of bat, or milk from a cow that wasn’t black enough?

Published in: on 14 August 2007 at 7:58 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. Aha…so it is from an Egyptian source orginally. That makes knowing about the fishberry cure more believable since it was a plant from India and the mid-east(if I remember right). I wondered just how the Germans were supposed to have had such a plentiful supply of it handy. This explains it. They wouldn’t necessarily have.
    I know another “out” if the invisibility charm didn’t work here as it were supposed to.. perhaps our cows are just too different from the ones used in Egypt back then.. Yet another hazard of losing that livestock gene bank…

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