New Picatrix translation announced by Penn State University Press

While there have been two English translations of the Picatrix in recent years—the two-volume set from Ouroboros Press (2002-2008) and various Lulu permutations by Christopher Warnock and John Michael Greer (2011-2018)—this edition from PSU’s excellent “Magic in History” series is the first from an academic publisher. As Professor Charles Burnett of the Warburg Institute points out, this translation by Dan Attrell and David Porreca is of the Latin version used by Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, and Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa. Whatever may have been lost between the original Arabic and its Latin edition, the latter text was an important influence in the evolution of Western magic and the grimoire tradition. At $39.95 for an academic hardcover, the price is a bargain!

According to the publisher’s website:

A guide for constructing talismans, mixing magical compounds, summoning planetary spirits, and determining astrological conditions, Picatrix is a cornerstone of Western esotericism. It offers important insights not only into occult practices and beliefs, but also into the transmission of magical ideas from antiquity to the present. Dan Attrell and David Porreca’s indispensable English translation opens the world of this vital medieval treatise to modern-day scholars and lay readers.

The original text, Ghāyat al-ḥakīm, compiled in Arabic from over two hundred sources in the latter half of the tenth century, was translated into Castilian Spanish in the mid-thirteenth century, and shortly thereafter into Latin. Based on David Pingree’s edition of the Latin text, this translation captures the spirit of Picatrix’s role in the European tradition. In the world of Picatrix, we see a seamless integration of practical magic, earnest piety, and traditional philosophy. The detailed introduction considers the text’s reception through multiple iterations and includes an enlightening statistical breakdown of the spells and ingredients described in the book.

Framed by extensive research on the ancient and medieval context that gave rise to the Latin version, this translation of Picatrix will be an indispensable volume for students and scholars of the history of science, magic, and religion and will fascinate anyone interested in the occult.

Weighing in at 384 pages with 31 black and white illustrations, this hardcover book is listed with a February 8, 2019, release date on Amazon.

Richard Kaczynski

Richard Kaczynski is the author of the biography Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley (2002; rev exp ed 2010), the history Forgotten Templars: The Untold Origins of Ordo Templi Orientis (2012), and the novel The Billionth Monkey (2015), along with a bunch of other books, articles, and chapters that you can read about at his website, www.richard-kaczynski.com.

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