Magic squares and Kabbalism in seventeenth century Northern England

Incredibly, it seems clear that at some point during the century relatively ordinary people in parts of the West Pennines became strongly influenced by von Nettesheim. Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa vo…

Source: Magic squares and Kabbalism in seventeenth century Northern England

The Magus Von Nettesheim’s influence in the Pennines: 6+11+16+21+21+31 = 111 and 36+29+22+15+8+1 = 111.

The Magus Von Nettesheim’s influence in the Pennines: 6+11+16+21+21+31 = 111 and 36+29+22+15+8+1 = 111.

Incredibly, it seems clear that at some point during the century relatively ordinary people in parts of the West Pennines became strongly influenced by von Nettesheim. Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim was a German magician and theologian who died in 1535. In 1510 in ‘De occulta philosophia’he claimed that there was a primal celestial script revealed directly to Man by angels. It can be used to codify text. The magic numbers box which appears on the Daubers’ charm matches von Nettesheim numerically precisely – although it had been further coded in the process.

In ‘De occulta philosophia’ (1510), von Nettesheim used a magic square of the sun with diagonal totals of 111 and an overall total of 636. Hebrew Kabbalistic names were produced via the match between numbers and letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Numerically, it turns out to be a perfect match to the Foulridge one:

 

6+11+16+21+21+31 = 111 and 36+29+22+15+8+1 = 111.

 

Note here that are both are sequential in their ordering. They should spell out the names of the magical names for the Spirit but they need to be put through the Hebrew alphabetical box for that. The cipher does not produce anything in itself even though each symbol not only has an associated number but also an associated letter.

The Fourth Book of the ‘Occult Philosophy’ ,reputed to have been written by Agrippa von Nettesheim,  in its second publication (undated but very probably around 1600) the supplementary material included the other three books of the Occult Philosophy. The Heptameron gives all sorts of charms for recitation based upon Jewish Kabbalism but none fit the ‘gibberish’ recounted below except for the repetition of ‘Tetragrammaton’. To the modern reader the whole experiment might smack of ‘paganism’ but Robert Turner’s translation published in 1665 (British Library Rare Books 719/f16) was careful to distance the work from pagan uses of magic to the ‘unprejudiced reader’ saying that witchcraft and sorcery “are works done merely by the devill”. However, there is a‘third kind of magic’ which “bringeth to light the inmost vertues and extracteth them out of Natures hidden bosome to humane use”. It also (correctly) draws upon the Persian origins of the ‘magus’ and the links to Zoroaster. It was evidently transmitted to Lancashire via a complex chain including German occultism and Spanish Jewish Kabbalah.

Apanton hora camab

Naadgrass Pquavetariad

Araptenas ro dignasque

Pagns sutgosikl

Tetragrammaton

Inverna amo Th.

Dominus deus hora q

Fiat fiat fiat.

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John Webster’s will

 

John Webster, also known as ‘Johannes Hyphastes’ through his own choice (1610/11 – 1682) studied chemical matters (possibly as part of some medical training) under the Hungarian alchemical goldsmith, Johannes Huniades (1576 – 1646), himself a.k.a. Bánfi-Hunyadi János. Huniades had been born in Nagybańya (modern Baia Mare, now some forty miles into Romania but historically Transylvania). It seems that around 1608 he became resident in England. M. Feingold – ‘The mathematician’s apprenticeship: science, universities and society in England, 1560 – 1640’ (Cambridge, 1984) indicates that Huniades had obviously encountered the German, Joachim Morsius in London by 1619.

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In 1633 it would appear that he was taken on by the English Court diplomat and philosopher, Kenelm Digby (1603 – 1665) to teach at Gresham College which was rapidly establishing itself as England’s nexus of alchemical, astrological and Hermetic studies. Digby himself moved in and out of Catholicism. Ironically, Cromwell was not entirely antagonistic towards him, perhaps partly on account of favouring freedom in religion but more probably rather seeing him as a ‘representative’ of English Catholicism, even sending him on an unsuccessful negotiation mission to Rome.

The sequencing here provides some difficulties. It is clear that Webster had undergone Huniades’ training in London by the time of taking up his post in Kildwick but calculating that date on the basis of comments in his own ‘Metallographia’, the training would appear to have been around 1635. Furthermore, there is the issue of whether Huniades was already teaching in London prior to being taken on by Digby. Digby seems to have left Gresham in 1635 but Huniades was certainly there until 1642. It is also possible that Webster was taught by him outside the formal structure of Gresham’s. Just as problematic is the fact that in 1633 Huniades evidently received an invitation to organise an academic group in Koloszvár (now Cluj-Napoca in Romania). It is not clear whether he took up the offer. Huniades also seems to have worked for John Dee’s son, Arthur (1579 – 1651), who had travelled around Europe with Dee as a child. This was in spite of Arthur Dee’s somewhat dubious reputation – the censors of the College of Physicians appear to have summoned him but the outcome of this case in unknown. Dee junior went from London to Manchester to Moscow before becoming physician to Charles I in 1637.

Webster took his post at Kildwick in 1634 but was not converted to some sort of ‘mystical religion’ until the following year. Clearly, this final element of the transformation (which was subsequently to mutate again in later years) awaited his contact with Craven. He was known to preach at Grindleton (gratis) as well as Kildwick and the settlement gets almost equal prominence in his will decades later.

By the end of his life Webster seems to have understood Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Italian and French. It would not surprise me if he had also had some knowledge of Hungarian.

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