The notion of sacred or hidden occult books has been popularized across various forms of media, including the writing of H.P Lovecraft where he makes references to Necronomicon, TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s countless occult nods, and films like The Ninth Gate. The Charmed series with its Book of Shadows brought into popular awareness a very real truth that wiccans or witches often keep books in which they record symbols, herbs, spells, astrology, and other such relevant information for easy reference as well as posterity. Such occult books as these are also written by those who practice dark magic. Then there are books so mysterious, so baffling that it’s hard to decipher the underlying intention, as in the case of The Voynich Manuscript.
The Voynich Manuscript
This manuscript is a codex which was written between 1404 and 1438 and bought in 1912 from a secondhand bookstore in Northern Italy by Wilfrid Voynich, hence the name. The absolutely bizarre thing about this book is that it is written in a code that has confused scholars everywhere. As of yet, no one has managed to break the code. However, the strongest clues to the books purpose are in the illustrations that decorate each page. Although there are pages missing from the book there are still 240 left through which to pore. The Voynich Manuscript seems to be divided into 6 sections:
- Herbal – this section contains one or two drawings of herbs per page accompanied by a paragraph of writing.
- Astronomical/Astrological – this section contains circular drawings as well as drawings of the sun, moons, stars, and planets and an area where the astrological symbols are drawn with writing. Each symbol features illustrations of 30 women connected to these stars, either through holding them or being tethered to them with cords. Some of these pages fold out.
- Biological – text showing naked women fills this section. Some of the women are crowned while others are in pools that are connected by a network of pipes.
- Cosmological – this section has more circular drawings as well as fold out pages with diagrams, including one of a map with nine islands connected by causeways with castles and a possible volcano.
- Pharmaceutical – this area has pictures pointing to areas on plants, like roots or leaves, as well as jars of many shapes accompanying text.
- Recipes – an area where full pages contain short paragraphs beside a star in the left margin.
What does it all mean? Until someone deciphers the code it’s impossible to know. Of all the occult books, it certainly seems to contain some of the most perplexing information.
The Picatrix or The Aim of the Sage
This is a 400-page book of magic and astrology, written in Arabic sometime in the 10th or 11th century. It’s considered one of the largest and most comprehensive magical texts ever written. It was translated into Spanish, then Latin in the 13th century and got the name The Picatrix. This book contains information derived and synthesized from Hermeticism, Sabianism, and Ismailism as well as older astrology, alchemy, and magical works. It’s been described by researchers as a “handbook of talismanic magic” and “the most thorough exposition of celestial magic in Arabic”.
The Red Dragon or The Grand Grimoire
The origins of this book are a little confusing. Some editions seem to date back to 1421, 1521, or 1522. Most scholars agree that the text was written or edited by Antonia Venitiana del Rabina and that the information gathered within it is said to have been collected from the original writings of King Solomon. The book is divided into two sections.
The first section focuses on summoning demons and creating tools to get the demons to do your bidding. The second section focuses on spells and rituals that can be performed once the first half of the book is mastered with a focus on how to make a pact with a demon. This book is still used today and is particularly favored among occult books in Haiti.
As you can see, these occult books differ a little in intention but all contain great mysteries in both origin and content. It sparks the imagination to wonder what other possibilities of reality exist out there.