The Book of Ceremonial Magic
§ 6. The Heptameron
The Fourth Book of Cornelius Agrippa was much too informal, and left too much to the discretion of the operator, to be satisfactory for a science so exact as that of Ceremonial Magic. A form of procedure which bequeathed nothing to the imagination and asked no other skill than the patient exactitude of the rule of thumb was necessary to the weakness
of the ordinary sorcerer. The Heptameron, or Magical Elements ascribed to Peter de Abano is an attempt to supply the want and to offer to the neophyte a complete wizard's cabinet. Cornelius Agrippa, says the introduction, which might, ex hypothesi, be that of a later hand, seems to have written for the learned, for the well-experienced in this art; he does not treat specially of the ceremonies, but mentions them in a general way. Those who have not "tasted magical superstitions" may here find them ready to their hand. "In brief, in this book are kept the principles of magical conveyances." It may be conceded at once that the undertaking is scrupulously fulfilled; what the operator must do and how he should perform it, so as to "draw spirits into discourse," are matters set forth so plainly that the wayfaring man need not err therein. Assuming the sacerdotal office of the operator, or a priest for an accomplice, it is all so simple that failure could not well be ascribed to a blunder on his part.
It would be invidious to suppose that the Heptameron is more authentic as regards its attribution than the work to which it is professedly a sequel; its real authorship is involved in much the same kind of obscurity as that of pseudo-Agrippa. There are several grave reasons why the pupil of Trithemius should not have written the spurious Fourth Book, but Peter of Abano is not an unlikely personage to connect with the Magical
Elements, if it were not for a trifling chronological disparity of about three hundred years.
It is true that Agrippa professedly wrote upon Magic, and the other upon Astrology and Geomancy, unless his imputed works in these departments of occult science are also forgeries; but the Heptameron was never heard of for the space which I have mentioned after the death of its reputed author, which occurred in 1316, and it is too obviously later
in its tone, too obviously a sequel 1 to a much more recent work, for it to have been possibly a memorial of the fourteenth century.
Peter of Abano, a town in the vicinity of Padua, was born in 1250 and was a learned physician of his period, who attempted to conciliate the different medical systems and is supposed to have been the first European who quoted Averroes. He established himself at Paris, but at the instigation of jealous professional brethren he was accused of heresy and fled to his native place. At Padua a chair of medicine was created for him, but the accusation followed its victim; by some he was charged with denying the existence of demons, by others with obtaining his knowledge from seven imps whom he kept in a bottle. However this may be, the Inquisition instituted a process, but the designed sufferer was delivered by death--as some say, on the eve of his execution. The intervention infuriated the Tribunal, though the testament left behind him by Peter of Abano affirmed his belief in the orthodox faith. The magistrates of the city were ordered, on pain of excommunication, to exhume his body, but it was removed by a faithful servant and
buried secretly in another church. The Inquisition clamoured for the punishment of the offender but
was content in the end to burn the dead physician in effigy. As a counterpoise, a century later his bust was placed in the town-hall of Padua. His undoubted works, which are frankly unreadable, betray no acquaintance with the occult sciences beyond a belief in astrology, which in those days was catholic as Rome and powerful as the Holy Tribunal.
He remains, therefore, one of the moral martyrs of Magic, faussement accusé, as Gabriel Naudé has it. His accusation and the mode of its prosecution remain also among the lesser glories of the Holy Office.
Accepting the Heptameron as a work belonging to the period of its first publication, it is here placed among the Rituals of a composite character, not because it professedly deals with devils, but because the nature of its angels and spirits is indicated by the manner of their conjuration; in a word, they are described as angels and threatened as demons.
The procedure is divided into two parts--a general method for the evocation of the Spirits of the Air, who are undoubtedly demons, and a set of angelical conjurations proper to each day of the week. The second section presumably belongs to the department of White Magic--if I may adopt this glorious distinction in the ribaldry of a passing moment--as the intelligences concerned are said to be good and great, though their offices are mixed and
confusing, including the discovery of treasures, the detection of secrets, fomenting war, opening locks and bolts, procuring the love of women, inclining men to luxury and sowing hatred and evil thought. Obviously, White Magic of this kind is much blacker than it is painted. Though the entire Heptameron appears under one attribution, the first
part only is ascribed in the text to Peter de Abano. Therein the personal preparation of the operator corresponds to that given in the Second Part of the present work, and the ceremonial itself,
which, if cited at all, would have to be printed in extenso, as it contains no detachable portions, is much too elaborate to be inserted in this place, more especially as that of the Lemegeton will provide later on a fairly complete notion of the scope and purpose of the Composite Rituals, taken in their broad aspect, and will illustrate the fact that all conventional distinctions dissolve therein.
90:1 A sequel, moreover, which contains several direct references, as, for example: "But after what manner they appear has been described already in the former book of magical ceremonies"--The Conjuration of the Lord's Day. This recurs with slight variations throughout the Heptameron. It may be advisable to add that Agrippa was of the sixteenth century.