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A Manual On Occult Witchcraft Found In The Public Domain


This is what a black magic book form the 18th century looks like.

In the public domain library there are multiple impenetrable pieces that require further commentary. Many speak of symbols and names that were used in their time and could only be understood by a handful of scholars and remained a mystery for the rest. These texts were never meant to be part of an open library, and thus deciphering them is nearly imposible but fascinating at the same time. Such is the case of Clavis Inferni sive magia alba et nigra approbata Metatrona, which roughly translates as The Key of Hell with White Magic and Black Magic Proved [or Approved] by Metatron.

Clavis Inferni dates back to the 18th century and is signed by “Pseudo-Cyprianus”, of whom we know little. According to the historian Benjamin Breen, who discovered this text in Wellcome Images, “Cyprianus” was a completely sombre character.

In the Scandinavian tradition for example, there are tales of a Danish Cyprianus who was so evil, Satan himself had to throw him out of hell. In turn, there was another tradition that stated that Cyprianus was “a ravishingly beautiful, irresistibly seductive, prodigiously knowledgeable, pious Mexican nun.

What we know to be a fact, however, Breen says, is that “Cyprianus” became a common pseudonym used by people living at the margins of society, who tried to create genuine black magic. Clavis Infernis thus is a black magic spell book, even if its particularities remain ambiguous. The images are inscribed in Latin and Hebrew, an example of this is the crowned dragon devouring a lizard, which reads: “Qui facis mirabilia magna solus finis coronat opus” (“You who act alone with great miracles [or miraculous things]: the end shall crown the work.”)

picture of Clavis Inferni

Beyond this basic iconographic assessment, those who seek more concise answers as to the origins or meanings behind these images will probably be disappointed. Nonetheless, some scholars who study black magic in the modern era have come up with some translations. One of these noted that the ciphered alphabet used in the text is Cornelius Agrippa’s Transitus Fluvii, adapted into Hebrew by the famous occultist in the year 1510.

image from Clavis Inferni

This book became public domain in the 21st century and lacks a key to read it —exactly as its authors intended. Breen says:

Only the elect, or those with direct knowledge passed down from a magical practitioner, were thought to be worthy of understanding books like this. Contemporary practitioners of “magick” might try to unlock them, and historians might successfully contextualize them, but in a very real way, these books will always be ciphers to us.

Books like these never show; they suggest. They point out things that we all understand vaguely because they lie in our very occult nature. And we are also part of all invocation books (even if our participation is passive).

image from Clavis Inferni


image from Clavis Inferni


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