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Summa Sacre Magice, Part III

Updated: Jul 23, 2023

The Summa Sacrae Magicae (the SSM, transcribed as Summa Sacre Magice) is a fourteenth-century magical compendium compiled and composed by Berengario Ganell in 1346. The title can be translated as the Best of the Sacred Magic. The SSM contains a corpus of magical writings, including the Liber Iuratus Honorii, the fourteenth century magical handbook attributed to Honorius of Thebes, and the Ars Notoria, the thirteenth century treatise of angelic magic and the art of memory. Liber Iuratus Honorii (The Sworn Book of Honorius) has been translated by Joseph H Peterson (Ibis Press, 2016). The Ars Notoria (The Notory Art) has been newly translated from Julien Véronèse’s Latin critical edition by me (Inner Traditions, 2023). What is particularly interesting about the SSM in relation to these two magical treatises is the fact that the SSM claims to transmit the artis veteribus (“the old arts”), and indeed, upon closer inspection, it does seem that there is some truth to it. The SSM says, “There is a list of six ‘works of God’ that can be performed after the consecration [of the sigillum Dei, i.e., the sigil of God]; the first of these is the opus visionis divine [“the work of divine vision”].”[1] The contemporary scholars Veenstra and Peterson have recognized that the SSM encapsulates a particular version of the Liber Iuratus Honorii which contains a Liber Trium Animarum (The Book of Three Souls), a work of fifty-one prayers containing sacred names of God and angels (see Peterson, Liber Trium Animarum: The Book of Three Souls, self-published, 2022). The well-studied London manuscripts of the Liber Iuratus Honorii was apparently missing the Liber Trium Animarum and so the scribe substituted the prayer numbers with the Ars Notoria (Version B) prayers. The SSM has also kept secret a special version of the Ars Notoria after nearly six centuries until now. What other secrets does the SSM contain?

The SSM has been gradually gaining traction in recent years as many would like to see a full English translation be made available. Jan R. Veenstra published an article about it entitled “Honorius and the Sigil of God: The Liber iuratus in Berengario Ganell’s Summa sacre magice” in Claire Fanger’s Invoking Angels: Theurgic Ideas and Practices, Thirteenth to Sixteenth Centuries (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012). In my two previous posts, I have transcribed and translated the special Ars Notoria version from the SSM. Here I will comment upon the SSM as it relates to the greater ars notoria tradition, some of which is briefly mentioned in my Ars Notoria: The Notory Art of Solomon.

I hypothesize that the SSM does carry an older tradition of the Ars Notoria, perhaps even a Greek or Latin version of the Flores Aurei (Golden Flowers) falsely attributed to the first-century Neopythagorean philosopher, Apollonius of Tyana. It is also apparent to me that the SSM draws from the fourteenth-century Ars Notoria (Version B). The basic structure of the special Ars Notoria version is that there are 20 voces magicae (“magical calls”) prayers and 10 termini (“ends” which are certain strange prayers). There are no pictorial figures. In the Ars Notoria (Version A), only a select few of the 20 prayers are found. Indeed, I wonder if the Version A scribe had in mind to arrange these General prayers into seven sequences. Rather than 10 termini, the Version A scribe presents only 9 termini, called the novem termini. Of course, this is just speculation on my part, as more scholarly investigation of the SSM is necessary before such speculations can be confirmed or denied.

There are three main points of interest about the SSM as it relates to the Ars Notoria. First, Ganell’s transcription of the special Ars Notoria section shows diacritic markings such as the Greek aspiration which may indicate that he was transcribing from a Greek text. These markings are found periodically throughout the voces magicae (“magical calls”). Further investigation of this observation by other experts in the field is required before this can be confirmed or denied. Second, the SSM draws attention to the secondary and tertiary parts of its 20 prayers, and some of these parts are represented in the Ars Notoria, especially Version B. Sometimes it seems as though the SSM had a better understanding of the various parts of the prayers than either Version A or Version B did. Thirdly, and perhaps the most striking observation of all, is the signs or brief descriptions of the 20 prayers, indicating their ritual functions. What is also worth noting is the SSM's structual division between the presentation of the 20 prayers and then a later section containing the signs or brief descriptions of those prayers. This structural division may represent an underlying substrate to the textual structure of the Ars Notoria (Version A). Curiously, the SSM does not comment upon the desire to acquire knowledge of the seven liberal arts nor presents any of the magical figures, which makes a person ponder if such material was originally kept as a separate source.

[I will write more about the SSM at a later date. More editing needed.]

[1] See Veenstra in Invoking Angels, 155.

This digital edition by Matthias Castle, Copyright 2023. All rights reserved.

Please do not copy this text to your website, or for any purpose other than private use.

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