A History of Magic - notes, part 5

The Hermetica are Greek texts written in Egypt within the first few centuries CE. Some of them might have been written in the first couple centuries BCE. We're not totally sure. The texts are attributed to a legendary figure named Hermes Trismegistus, who was later associated with the Egyptian god Thoth (pictured above) and the Greek god Hermes, but we don't really know if he existed. Things can be pretty murky when you go that far back.

Another ancient text is the Greek Magical Papyri, which contains magic spells and incantations of all sorts, many of the spells involving Greek, Egyptian, Babylonian, and Persian gods. There are also some mentions of the Abrahamic God, Jesus, the virgin Mary, and angels. You can read a translation here.

Lesser spirits, in the book referred to as "daemons," were more easily controlled with magic than gods and angels were. These spirits were things like water nymphs, tree spirits, etc.

In the early centuries CE, it was commonly thought that the universe was a set of nine spheres tucked inside each other like a nesting doll. The biggest, outermost sphere was God. The smallest sphere, located in the center, was the Earth. Between these were spheres of planets and stars. A metaphorical "ladder" was envisioned which would allow a human to climb through the spheres and attain the powers of the planets, the stars, and even God Himself.

Next week we'll talk a bit about the Romans.

Stay safe!

- me

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