Harms (2021 Congress)

Daniel M. Harms
(Associate Librarian, SUNY Cortland)

“Scrying with the Saints:
Holy Personalities and Their Marginality in Early Modern Magic”

Abstract of Paper
To be presented at the 56th International Congress on Medieval Studies
(Kalamazoo, 2021)

Session I of II on
“Revealing the Unknown”
Part I:  “Scryers and Scrying in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period”

Sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence and the Societas Magica
Organized by Sanne de Laat and László Sándor Chardonnens

(Session Rescheduled from the cancelled 2020 Congress, and partly Rearranged for the 2021 Congress)
2021 Congress Program Planning



A ritual magician might conjure a large selection of intermediate beings — including angels, demons, fairies, and the dead — in order to accomplish their purposes. Among these, the saints appear in two different contexts. First, they appeared in the narratives of conjurations, either collectively or individually by name, as constraining agents for spirits of other categories. Second, they might themselves be summoned into reflective surfaces. One such ritual, dedicated to conjuring Saint George into a thumbnail, appears in both Folger Shakespeare Library V.b.26 and Biblioteca Laurenziana Medicea, Plut. 89 sup. 38. Another, calling Saint Helen into a crystal, was transmitted to England through a chain of anti-magical literature, eventually being adopted as an angel conjuration into the seventeenth-century miscellany Bodleian Library, Douce 116, which attempts to re-define her as an angel. Despite their popular role as intercessors with the divine, magicians were unlikely to invoke them directly.