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Tractus Contra Demonum Invocatores

Every so often I “chase the dragon” of Solomonic literature and go digging through what online archives are available for this sort of research. It’s a magician’s version of playing buzzword bingo with the manuscript search engines. While it might not completely intersect with whatever project I am working on, I almost always learn a good deal, despite the fact that I usually end up reading through a great deal of medieval Latin (which I am not very good at), French (which I can get through passably), and German (which I cannot manage at all).

I recently found Tractus Contra Demonum Invocatores, a “Treatise Against the Conjurers of Spirits,” a Latin text in the German Bibliothek Wolfenbuttel written under the name Johannes Vivetus and dating to 1487. (I was searching for a French text called Le Triple Vocabulaire Infernale, so you see just how far afield these searches can bring you.) The British Library’s link to the Bibliothek Wolfenbuttel’s digital images can be found here.

I found what seems to be a parallel to a story given in the description of Belial in Wier’s Pseudomonarchia Daemonum (the English translation of which is given in Scot’s The Discoverie of Witchcraft): “Certeine nigromancers doo saie, that Salomon, being on a certeine daie seduced by the craft of a certeine woman, inclined himselfe to praie before the same idol, Beliall by name: which is not credible…. For wise Salomon did accomplish his works by the divine power, which never forsooke him.”

Aside from an early mention of four demon kings – Belial, Sathanas (Satan), Vehemot (Behemoth), and Leviatan (Leviathan) – as well as a reference to Albertus Magnus (as all good German authors were wont to do), there is a reference in Contra Demonum Invocatores to Solomon and “foreign gods” such as Astarte, Chemosh, and Moloch: Salomon cum iam ??? senex depravatum est cor eius p mulieres ut sequerent deos alienos nec erat cor eius p sectum cum uno deo suo sicut cor de primus eius. sed colebat Salomon Astartem deam Sidonios et Chamos deam Moabitos et Moloch ydolum Amonitas. (p. 20) [Latin scholars: feel free to attempt a more critical translation than I could manage.]

Thus we have a similar account of Solomon – as a dirty old man (senex depravatum), no less! – with women (mulieres) and foreign gods (deos alienos). The term colebat might be read either as “toppled” or “fell down before,” so the sense to me is still uncertain, but I feel that the latter is the correct reading. Belial is not mentioned, per se, but the idea is the same.

Support for this is given in Kings, 11-7: “Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that [is] before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.” While much has been made of Solomon’s supposed invocation of spirits, here is a Biblical passage that shows he appears at least to have made shrines unto extra-Judaic gods, repeated here with the exclusion of Astarte. Most of these gods were later demonized within the corpus of Judeo-Christian magical literature: Astaroth, Moloch, etc.

Side-Comment: I was also looking up information on Toz Graecus recently, but had set it down to research other avenues. Lynn Thorndike cites the potential of this being the same entity as both Gemma Babilonensis and Hermes Trismigestus, yet Contra Demonum Invocatores cites them in turn: … magus quam compleverunt Thot Greci et Gemma Babilonicus et Hermes Egyptius in primis. Thus, at least at this point, the three personages had already come together as one. Thoth Graecus and Hermes Aegypticus are basically the same name, but reverse the Greek and Egyptian associations, where Greek Thoth = Egyptian Hermes… and apparently Babylonian Gemma.

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