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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
By Zoë Schlanger
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
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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