The Northern Way

Grimm's Teutonic Mythology

Superst. H


Page 1

H. From Doctor Hartlieb's (physician in ordinary to duke Albrecht of Bavaria) Book of all forbidden arts, unbelief and sorcery; written in 1455 for Johans, markgraf of Brandenburg. (Cod. Pal. 478. Another MS. at Wolfenbüttel is mentioned in Uffenbach's Reisen 1, 310). (1)

Chap. 31-2. Of journeying through the air. In the vile art of Nigramancia is another folly that men commit with their magic steeds, which come into an old house, and if a man will, he sits thereon, and rides in a short time a great many mile. When he gets off, he keeps the bridle only, and when he would mount again, he jingles the bridle, and the horse comes back. The steed is in truth the very Devil. Such sorcery requires bat's blood, wherein the man shall sign himself away to the Devil with unknown words, as 'debra ebra.' This kind is common with certain princes: Your Grace shall guard you thereagainst.

To such journeys men and women, the unhulden by name, use also an ointment that they call vngentum pharelis. This they make out of seven herbs, plucking every herb on a day proper to the same, as on Suntag they pluch and dig solsequium, on Mentag lunaria, on Erctag verbena, on Mittwoche mercurialis, on Phinztag barba Jovis, on Freitag capilli Veneris; thereof make they ointment, mixing some blood of birds and fat of beasts, which I write not all, that none be offended thereat. Then, when they will, they besmear bench or post, rake or fire-fork, and speed away.

Ch. 34. To make hail and sudden shower is one of these arts, for he that will meddle therewith must not only give himself to the devil, but deny God, holy baptism and all christian grace. This art none practise now save old wives that be forsaken of God. Hear and mark, august Prince, a great matter that befell me myself in the year of Christ's birth 1446. There were some women burnt at Haidelberg for sorcery, but their true instructress had escaped. The next year came I as envoy from München to His S.H. the Palatine duke Ludwig, whom God save, for if any prince shall be upheld by his faithfulness, then is he evermore with God. In the same days came tidings, that the instructress was now taken. I prayed the Prince to let me have speech of her, and he was willing. He had the woman and the chief inquisitor brought to a little town named Götscham, into the house of his high steward, Petter von Talhaym. I obtained of the Prince the favour, if the woman taught me to make shower and hail, that he would let her live, but she should forever forswear his land. I went alone into a chamber to the woman and the inquisitor, and craved to know of her lore. She said she could not learn me this thing but --- if I would do all that she learned me. I asked what that was, and so it did not anger God nor go against christian faith, I would do it. She lay with one leg ironed, and spake these words: 'My son, thou must deny God, baptism and all the sacraments wherewith thou art anointed and sealed. After that thou must deny all the saints of God, and first Mary his mother, then must thou give thee up body and soul to the three devils that I name to thee, and they will grant thee a time to live, and promise to perform thy will until the time be ended.' I said to the woman: 'What shall I do more?' She said: 'Nothing more; when thou desirest the thing, go to a private chamber, call to the spirits, and offer them that. They will come, and in an hour make hail for thee where thou wilt.' I told her, I would do none of these things, for that I had said before, if she could impart to me this art, so that I neither offended God nor harmed religion, I would set her free. She answered that she knew no other way. And she was delivered up again to Hans von Tailhaim, who had her burnt, for he had taken her.

Ch. 50. There is another 'unbelief' (un-gelaube = heresy?), if one have lost anything , there be those that beswear a loaf, and stick therein three knives to make three crosses and a spindle and an enspin (2) thereon, and two persons hold it on the unnamed finger, and he beswears by the holy zwölf-boten (12 messengers, apostles? see F, 1. 39).

Ch. 51. Others bless a cheese, and think he that is guilty of the theft cannot eat of the cheese. Although some soap be given for cheese, yet it is a sin.

Ch. 55-6-7. When a master of this art (Ydromancia) will search out a theft, dig up treasure, or know of any secret thing, he goes on a Sunday before sunrise to three flowing springs, and draws a little out of each in a clean polished glass, brings it home into a fair chamber, and there burns tapers before it, doing honour to the water as unto God himself. Then he taketh a pure child, sets the same in a fair seat before the water; and standing behind him, speaketh certain strange words in his ear. After that he readeth strange words, and bids the pure child to repeat them after him. What the words mean, can no master expound more than that a person thereby puts away God and gives himself to the foul fiend. So the master having the lad before him, bids him say what he sees, asking after the theft or treasure or what else he will. The child's simplicity makes him say he sees this or that, wherein the foul fiend takes part, making the false appear in the place of the true.

Ch. 58. There be divers ways of drawing water; for some fetch it from running waters, putting the same in a glass; others from standing pools, and boil it in honour of the spirits whom they suppose to have power over the waters, the lord and prince of them all being Salathiel, as the masters declare.

Ch. 60. Some women sprinkle their herbs and plants with hallowed water, supposing that the worms shall not come thereat; that is all an 'unbelief.' There be some courtiers, when they get new spurs, do plunge them with the rowels in a holy-well, saying that what they strike therewith shall in no wise swell; that is all an 'unbelief.' Some sorceresses go to a mill wheel, and catch the water that flies off the wheel in the air; with this water they ply all manner of sorceries for loving and for enmity. And who so may not be good man (husband), they help him therewith that he can be good man; that is all an 'unbelief.'

Ch. 61. There be bad christians that carry on sorcery with divers waters, as that of the blest and hallowed font, wherein lies every christian's health and wealth, therewith they juggle and do much that is not meet to be written; yea, an old wife that hath gotten font-water, she thinks to have borne off the prize,

Ch. 63. Another trick with water. Two persons take two things, as little sticks or straws, rings or small coins, and name one after one person and the other after the other, and if the two things run together on the water in a basin, then shall those two come together; but if one flee from the other, they come not together, and whose thing fleeth first, his shall the blame be. And the masters of this 'unbelief' also prove thereby, whether of two wedded folk shall soonest die for they think that whichever sinketh soonest shall die first.

Ch. 67-8. Now will I write of the fourth art that is forbidden: it is called Aremancia, and has to do with air and whatsoever flies or lives therein. The art is very strong among the heathen, whose 'unbelief' therein is so great, that they honour the first thing that appeareth to them in a day, and worship it that day for their god. And evil christians do much 'unbelief' therewith, for they say, if a hare do meet them, it is a misfortune, and if a wolf meet them, it is great luck. Of 'unbeliefs' there be many in divers beasts. Some say that if birds fly to one's right hand, it signifies great gain and luck, and if they fly to the left (glinggen) side, it signifies unluck and loss. All that is an 'unbelief.' There be those that have great faith in an eagle (aren), and think whensoever he fly pocket-side, it promiseth great luck or gain. And so great is the faith of some, that they shift their pocket to the other side; if then the eagle also turn him round, as may often hap, then they have the fullest faith, and think it cannot fail ........ Without doubt the Devil is the right inventor and inspirer of the art; he it is that changeth himself into the said birds that he may deceive men.

Ch. 69. There be also princes, poor and rich, that hold their hunting on certain days, and when this or that wind doth blow; that is all 'unbelief.' ........ Some men do wear high feathers in their hats, that they may know whence cometh the wind, supposing that in sundry matters they have luck against the wind, and in others with the wind: that is all an 'unbelief' and sorcery.

Ch. 73. There is one more 'unbelief' in this art, that is, when a man sneezeth, whereby the brain doth naturally clear itself, they hold it to be a great sign or luck or unluck, and draw forecasts therefrom, such as, if the sneezes be three, there are four thieves around the house. If they be two, the man shall rise, and lie down another way to sleep; but if thirteen, then is it exceeding good, and what appeareth to him that night shall in very deed come to pass. Also in the morning, when a man goeth from his bed, the sneezes shall mean other things again; the things are many, and it is all a downright 'unbelief.'

Ch. 74. Again, some natural philosophers do say that this sneezing cometh very night the stroke (apoplexy). For should the crude humours remain obstructed in the brain, and not come out, the stroke would strike the man right soon; therefore do some masters call it the minor applexia, i.e. the lesser stroke. For, when a man sneezeth, he is of many of his limbs in nowise master, but of God's grace it lasteth not long, the better for him.

Ch. 77. There are also people, and verily great princes, that do utterly believe and suppose, when great uproars come, that then great treasons are afoot: that is a great delusion.

Ch. 79. We find some sorceresses that make an image or atzman of wax and other things. This they make at certain hours, and utter certain known and unknown names, and hang it up in the air, and as the wind stirs it, they think the man in whose name it is made shall have no rest. All this is a great 'unbelief' and sorcery. Some do the same with an aspen-leaf, writing their sorcery thereon, and think thereby to breed love between people. Of such atzmannen I have read much in the Art Magica, where the constellations are brought in, and also some strange words, and very many foreign things besides. All this is downright sorcery and a wicked 'unbelief.' And I have heard say much, how that women make such atzmans, and roast them by a fire, thereby to chastise (kestigen) their husbands.

Ch. 80. There be women and men, which dare to make fires, and in the fire to see things past and to come. The masters and mistresses of this devilish art have particular days, whereon they have wood prepared for them, and when about to practise their art, they go to a private place, bringing with them the poor silly folk unto whom they shall prophesy. They command them to kneel down, and after worshipping the angel of the fire, to offer sacrifice unto him. With the sacrifice they kindle the wood, and the master looks narrowly into the fire, marking well what shall appear to him therein.

Ch. 83. The art of Pyromancia (3) is practised in many divers ways and forms. Some masters of the art take a pure child and set him in their lap, then lift his hand up and let him look into his nail, and beswear the child and the nail with a great adjuration, and then speak in the child's ear three unknown words, whereof one is Oriel, the others I withhold for fear of offending. After that they ask the child whatsoever they will, thinking he shall see it in the nail. All this is a right 'unbelief,' and thou christen-man shalt beware thereof.

Ch. 84. Another deceitful trick in the art is, that the masters take oil and soot from a pan, and anoint also a pure child, be it girl or boy, namely his hand, doing much the same, and raise the hand against the sun if the sun be shining, else they have tapers which they reaise against the hand, and letting the child look therein, ask him of what they will; their belief is, that what the child tells them must be true; they know not, alas, how the devil mixeth himself therein, making far more of wrong to appear than that of right.


  1. Additions in Mone's Anz. 7, 315. ---EHM [Back]

  2. Schmeller 3, 570. --- EHM [Back]

  3. Fiur-sehen, Altd. bl. 1, 365. ---EHM [Back]

Index  |  Previous page  |  Next page