Chicago Library Needs Help Deciphering Magical Symbols

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The Newberry Library in Chicago needs help deciphering documents pertaining to witchcraft, magic and charms. The library contains about 80,000 manuscripts related to religion in the early modern period. As of the original posting, the group needs help transcribing and translating three books: The book of Magical Charms, The Commonplace Book and Cases of Conscience Concerning Witchcraft.

An example of one of these spells can be seen below:

Example page from the Book of Magical Charms. Image Creedit: Newberry Library

The transcription of the above page is currently desiphered as:

Call their names Orimoth, Belmoth Limoc and Say thus. I conjure you by the neims of the Angels + Sator and Azamor that yee intend to me in this Aore, and Send unto me a Spirite called Sagrigid that doe fullfill my comandng and desire and that can also undarstand my words for one or 2 yuares; or as long as I will.

The Book of Magical Charms

The Book of Magical Charms was written in England during the 1600s and contains numerous charms, prayers and litanies. It has spells for everything from cheating at dice, getting others to fall in love with you, speaking to spirits and curing a toothache. The Commonplace Book is similar but may have been written 100 years earlier. Cases of Conscience Concerning Witchcrafts was written by Increase Mather who was a president of Harvard and presided over the infamous Salem Witch Trials.

According to an article in the Smithsonian:

By soliciting the public’s help in transcribing its magical texts, the Newberry hopes to make the documents more accessible to both casual users and experts. “Manuscripts are these unique witnesses to a particular historical experience, but if they’re just there in a manuscript it’s really hard for people to use them,” Fletcher says. “[Transcribing the documents] allows other users to come in and do word searches, maybe copy and paste into Google, try to find [other sources] talking about this sort of thing.”

Smithsonian Magazine

The books even contain Love Charms.

“Pro Amore – Take Valerian an herbe, and put in a glass of Bier or wine and give the same to whom thou wish love thee extremely. ” Image Credit: Newberry Library

The books contain text in English, Latin and many mysterious esoteric symbols. You can see more of the images of the text below:

To help, visit the Newberry Library website for Transcription/Translation here.

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