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Handbook of Lunar Mansions and Talismans - circa 1870-1889 (Ms. Coll. 952)

Handbook of Lunar Mansions and Talismans (Ms. Coll. 952)

Author/Creator: Priest, T. 
Publication: circa 1870-1889. 
Format/Description: Manuscript 1 volume. 
Subjects: Talismans -- England. Magic -- England. Astrology. 
Form/Genre: Manuscripts, English -- 19th century. Drawings (visual works) 

Summary: English manuscript notebook comprising forty-four pages of entries for talismans of mansions of the moon and for other talismans. Ownership inscription on inside front cover: "Mr. T. Priest, 57 Titford Road, Langley, Oldbury." The notebook includes drawings in black ink of talismans with written instructions on their use.

The talismans incorporate elements of astrology, witchcraft, and Jewish mystical symbolism. Hebrew letters are used throughout, suggesting the possibility of origin in a Jewish milieu. The work falls into two parts. The first twenty-eight figures (mansions of the moon) feature figurative drawings within circular frames.

The second series contrasts in style and most are drawn using abstract, geometrical elements almost devoid of naturalistic pictorial content. The second series comprises unadorned Hebrew inscriptions, astrological signs, and Jewish and Christian symbols. Both series contain instructions for making the talismans, such as specifying material (white paper, virgin parchment, silver, and pure gold; various perfumes) and noting when to make the talisman, usually expressed in condensed astrological notation, down to the day of the week and hour of the day. 

- Local notes: Acquired for the Penn Libraries with assistance from the Rosengarten Family Fund  
- Provenance: Sold by Ian Brabner (Wilmington, Delaware), 2013. 
- Contributor: Rosengarten Family Fund. OCLC: 864824021

Practical magic is a persistent past-time of humankind, including T. Priest, who is living in Oldbury, England in the 1870s and/or 1880s. Priest's ordinary notebook, comprising faintly-lined pages and covered with marbled paper, contains forty-four pages of drawings of talismans and "explanations" for their use. The remainder of the notebook is blank: neither source nor reason for its existence is preserved. On the one hand, the ownership note allows one to assume the country of origin, while the clothing in the drawings suggests that the item dates from the second half of the nineteenth century. On the other hand, the lack of a full first name makes the owner's gender speculative, nor is it clear that the owner is the writer.

The notebook begins with talismans coordinated with the mansions of the moon. The first mansion offers counsel on destroying one's enemy, and the associated drawing depicts a standing black man with an arrow in his raised right hand. The image closely resembles the information in the Picatrix. Originally written in Arabic and believed to be compiled in either the tenth or eleventh century, the Picatrix is a compendium of texts related to magic and astrology, a "handbook of talismanic magic." One Internet summary of the section of the Picatrix related to the mansions of the moon states:

'There are 28 mansions of the Moon, according to the second Pliny. The first of these is for destruction and depopulation [of places], and is called Alnath. When the Moon has passed into this Mansion, fashion an image of a black man with his hair wrapped and bound in black cloth, standing upright on his feet and holding in his right hand a lance in the fashion of a fighter. You should make this image in a ring of iron, and cense it with liquid storax. And [make] with this a seal in black wax, and say: "Thou, O Geriz, put to death NN, son of NN, swiftly and soon; and destroy him." And if you observe this [method], then it shall be as you wish. And know also that Geriz is the name of the lord of this Mansion'.

Was the owner a scholar taking notes about magic and talismans? Was the owner not the compiler but merely the keeper of a handbook of secret practices? What is the history of the Hebrew characters? How has this heritage been transmitted? These are but a few of the questions to be answered by the diligent researcher.

For a closer look at the manuscript, request Ms. Coll. 952 in the reading room of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

The First and Second Mansions of the Moon

The First and Second Mansions of the Moon

Drawings of talismans to "Gain Favour" and "For Love between two persons"

Talismans, with instructions, "To Procure Love" and "To obtain victory over every Enemy"

Talismans, with instructions, "To Procure Love" and "To obtain victory over every Enemy"


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