Harms (2023 Congress)

Daniel M. Harms
(SUNY Cortland)

” ‘To give myself to be carried immediatly into Hell’:
Weather, Witchcraft , and Two Late Seventeenth-Century Contracts
between a Magician and a Student”

Abstract of Paper
presented at the 58th International Congress on Medieval Studies
(Kalamazoo, 2023)

Session on “Moving Parts and Pedagogy, Parts I–II”
Part I: Teaching Magic and Other Occult Arts

Organized by David Porreca

Co-Sponsored by the RGME and the Societas Magica

2023 Congress Program



In seventeenth-century England, some were desperate to learn magic – and at least one man was desperate to teach it. On June 20, 1696, the magician John Ellis and the St. Albans physician, mystic, and meteorologist Gustavus Parker signed a contract promising that Ellis would teach Parker about ritual magic. Failure to do, Ellis agreed, would lead to his departure for hell for all eternity. The following year, when neither Ellis’ lesson or damnation occurred, the two men signed another contract with stricter yet similar terms. These two documents, now preserved in British Library, Lansdowne MS 846, provide a unique instance of such a teacher-student agreement in the magical literature. We will examine the life of Gustavus Parker, the terms of the contracts, and the identities of the spirits mentioned within, in the context of the mystical and magical landscape of a country moving toward secularism.


We thank Daniel for his continuing contributions to our Sessions at the ICMS.  See: