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Can you read this spellbook for 17th-century witches? This library has a job for you

The Newberry Library
Hail to the guardians of the watchtowers of the East
  • Zoë Schlanger
By Zoë Schlanger

Environment reporter

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Hath you a Crampe? Toothache? Skabbie Hands? Or are You in need of a quick Talk with a Spirit?

Good news: there’s a 17th-century charm for all that.

Two unknown people in England—presumably witches—hand-wrote a book of charms in the 1600s. Somehow, the volume survived an era of persecution of witchcraft in Europe and the British colonies, and came to reside at the Newberry Library in Chicago. Now the independent research library has placed The Book of Magical Charms and two other rare witch-related manuscripts online, in high resolution, along with an open invitation to anyone who would like to help transcribe the olde-English handwriting into type.

Volunteers can access The Book of Magical Charms, The Commonplace Book and Cases of Conscience Concerning Witchcraft in the Newberry Library’s “Transcribing Faith” portal; some have already gotten to work. The pages and translations are fantastically interesting to peruse for a sense of how witchy wisdom was passed on, and for their insight into contemporary social behavior. Cases of Conscience, for example, tells the story of a Puritan leader involved in the Salem Witch Trials, who contemplated the ethics behind the decision of whether to hang, or not hang, a suspected witch.

But back to the spells. Below are reproductions of the original texts, along with volunteers’ transcriptions:

How to handle nose bleeds and period cramps

The Newberry Library

For excessive bleeding at the nose.

Take a few drops of the parties bloud

in herds or in a linen cloth, burne

alltogether: Et fecit.


Pro eodem

Drye a little of the Pacients bloud

on a fireshovel over the fire, blow it

with a Quil into his nostrills.

This seldom or never fayleth.


To stop the bleeding of a wound.

the dried bloud of the partie applied

therunto doth it when all other faile.


To help the Crampe.

Take a piece of Parchemint as much

as will goe about your legg in the

gartering place; write theron theis

folowing words Gut + Gut +

Egul + Getaul + and weare it

next your bare leg. It will help.

Toothaches are easily handled with the help of a dead man’s tooth

The Newberry Library

Fryer Bacons Charme

against the Toothache.

Fl. ha, hab, hur. hurs; geball. etc.


Pro eodem mordo.


Fl. A. Ab.  hur, hus, gebal gamarita

The name of the partie diseased is to be

written right against the Charme upon

the other Side.  Prik all the vowells.  Et

fiet per Gratiam Dei.


For the Toothache

Take a tooth out of a deadmans skull

and hange the same about the partie’s neck,

till the payne cease.


for the Toothache.

Write theis words upon a Paper.  Aligat [cross]

Galis [cross] Aualis [cross].  Hang it about the

parties neck:  et Sanus erit.

For “skabbie hands” or “sore fingers ends”

The Newberry Library

For Sore Fingers Ends

Take hony and wheatflower, make therof

a plaister lay it on the fingers ends

It will doe good, and make the nailes

to grow agayne faire


for Skabbie hands

Take the juice of Celendine and red

nettles with May Butter and Wax,

Mingle it Wel, and anoynt the hands whole


To slay a sheplouse in ones eare

Take the juice of hemlok into the eare


For a scaldhed.

Bray white mallowes and rootes

of red docks with May butter and

anoynt the Hed therwith.


To know the dropsey

If one be first Swoln in his feet

and after if draw upwards It is

the hot dropsey. Yf it begin in the

face and so downward, the cold dropsey


For one that is speechles

Dip 5 Sage leaves in mustard, lay them

under his tong, closing his mouth agayn.

This will cause him to speake; except

death be upon him.


How to make the most metal key ever (it ensures “that no Creature may resist against me”)

The Newberry Library

To make a Key

Take the Iron that is found unlooked for

make therof a key in the day and hour

of Venus the moon increasing; and when

the Key is made, put it at night wth

the Sacrifice of a white Cock in a

quadrangle way : Saying O Yee Spiritts

Naylon Achalaz, Receive this Sacrifice

that no Creature may resist against me

or this key, and that where this key is

put, or before what locks soever it be

turned about, I may prevaile and fulfil

my will. This sayd, write upon the Key

this figure [Image: ~ with two lines attached to the bottom as if it were a “F” where the prongs are facing downward] wth the bloud of the

same cock: Let it be there 3 dayes and

3 nights. Then in the third day before

the Cock crowe Take it out, and when

thou goest by any City Town or howse

Gates or dore Turn  him from the left

parte and from the West to the East,

as yf you would open a lock,

[_____] Speculo magno exemplorum • [??] [Z?] Tih. Incamlaho. Exemplum [?] guomodo g[???] Juvanis yer prefermi IS quani[??]m Insemoho soferaras claus[??]as ex perfora apern[??] [snas?] postea aperr[?]e m[?] pofuis .

If you wish to speak with spirits

The Newberry Library

To Speak with Spirits

Call their names Orimoth, Belmoth Lymocke

and Say thus. I conjure you by the names

of the Angels + Sator and Azamor that

yee intend to me in this Aore, and send

unto me a Spirit called Sagrigit that

does fulfill my comanding and desire

and that can also understand my words

for one or 2 yeares [?]; or as long as I will.

How to activate the Seal of Solomon

The Newberry Library

Asazel, Raphan, Oberian.

By the vortue of theis holie names, Ioth +

Theos + Agla + Ozam + Deus + Eloy + which

the Sea heard and retorned back and gave w[??]

the Aire was fixed and set, the earth tremb[led,]

the fier was quenched and all powers both

celestiall and terrestriall did quake and

were troubled. And by theis holy names

of God On + Alpha et Omega + El + Elohim +

Soter + Emmanuel + Sabaoth + Adonay +

Egge + yaya + yeye + things are consecrated


Salomon allwaies used a consecrated sword

in the calling of Spiritts.


In the Ark of God the golden Ring was borne.


By the holy name of God Celeo + and vertue of

Noe and all that were with him were preserued.

The instructions are accompanied by a diagram of the seal:

The Newberry Library

The translator of these pages included a note on the seal:

These are instructions for how to activate this seal. This was copied from a Latin text of the Clavicula Salomonis. (copies are available commercially, this is easily traced and identified.)

(Image: This symbol is a Seal known as “The Mystical Seal of Solomon” it is described in the Clavicula Salomonis and is said to aide in combating the demons or djinn, which Solomon confined to his brazen urn.)

To conjure a spirit “in a Glass to tell all”

The Newberry Library

To have a Spirite in a Glass to tell all

things they use first with a prayer to consecrate ^[illegible]

being layd upon a cleane Towell,

Then they put five drops of hallowed oyle on

five places of the Glass like a Cross: desiring

of God by a short prayer that som spirit

may enter into the Glass to resolve and answer

them in all doubtfull occasions.

Afer they draw the five drops together

like a cross and say Per istam unctionem

sit hoc speclum consecratum + Et benedictum +

et sanctificatum + quod habeat perfectam potestatem

ad demonstrandum nobis Angelos quos volumus

in nom + &c.  Then they make a sufflation

and say per istam [crossed out: ?????? ??? ????????? consecratum]

sufflationem descendat in hoc speculum

virtus spir scti, concitetur speculum scientia

repræsentandis ut spiritus exorciz impleat et ut

dubia ora et occulta reddantur perfecta et certa

ut se imperasse gaudeat per ipsum Dominum qui vivis

et imperas in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.


Then must the glass be washed and rubbed

with crums [sic] of bread: which must be burnt in the fire

and so the sufflation is made: Then gladly

he will appeare and answer to thy Asking.

Then they say before the Glass  Ne Truda, Truda,

Normay instillator. Coniuro te Essleracon per

nomen Belfalum per fantalinatis Lauta, per Cruelon

istam magnam, per sufflentiam maximam, per

  1. Mariam Matrem Domini nostri Iesu Christi suma

virgine nati, per beatam Mariam Magdalernam per beatam

Margaretam per caput S. Io. Baptist, per Petrum et

Paulam per virtutem Domini nostri Iesu Christi: ut in isto specule

continuo ad omnia rogata respondeas.

by that thou shall have one saying mouth to mouth

[an]d showing all that you will desire.

Take cleane mirore or mirrhor and virgin parchment

[&] wrap the glass therin, and write theis words on the

Parchment Osmeny: Lis, Crebey.

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