Porreca (2020 Congress)

David Porreca
(Department of Classics, Waterloo University)

“Medieval Magic:
Solitary versus Collective Rituals in the Picatrix and the Munich Handbook

Abstract of Paper
Intended To be presented at the 55th International Congress on Medieval Studies [CANCELLED]
(Kalamazoo, 2020)

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

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

2020 Congress Program
2021 Congress Program Planning

[Published on 22 March 2020, with an Update on 19 November reporting the Replanning for our Sessions for the 2021 Congress.
Note that David will present a Paper for a different Session of ours at the 2021 Congress: Porreca (2021 Congress).]



The imagery commonly associated with the practice of learned magic (as opposed to “folk magic” or “witchcraft”) in the pre-modern period invokes the lonely social outcast in tattered robes, standing atop a misty hill or tower, standing within a traced magic circle, facing the full Moon, chanting divine names, suffumigating himself and his surroundings with rare and odoriferous substances, and muttering in obscure dialects. By contrast, significant portions of the surviving written material relating to ritual magic – especially efforts at divination – involve not individual but collective effort on the part of multiple participants. Using the Latin Picatrix as an exemplar of the praxis of astral magic in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance, this paper aims to examine the commonalities and contrasts between rituals calling for multiple participants in that text with those contained in the late 15th-century text edited by Richard Kieckhefer known as the Munich Handbook. Rituals relating to divination of various sorts will be the focus of particular attention, since these appear in the latter text by virtue of the use of mediums. The paper seeks to address the following questions: What do rituals calling for multiple participants have in common with each other internally within the two texts under consideration, as well as between the two texts? What are the additional participants commonly expected to do? Finally, do rituals aimed at divination in particular have greater odds of involving multiple participants in either of the texts?


We thank David for his contributions to Research Group activities over the years.  See, for example, the Abstract for his Paper at the 2018 Congress .

David Porreca as Presider for One of Our Sessions at the 2017 International Congress on Medieval Studies. Photograph by Mildred Budny.

David Porreca as Presider for one of our Sessions at the 2017 Congress. Photograph by Mildred Budny.