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Visual Guide to the Notory Art Figures of Angelic Magic, Part II

Updated: Dec 22, 2023

The Ars Notoria (Notory Art) reveals evidence of scribal tampering and rewriting, and the reason for this is probably a simple one.  The foundational and magical textbook of the Ars Notoria, the Flores Aurei (Golden Flowers) of Apollonius of Tyana, survives only in a fragmented state.  There are reasons to suspect that the original composition of the Flores Aurei was of a Byzantine Greek and Hermetic provenance.  In my book, I have given my reasons to believe why it was drastically refitted to suit a Christian agenda formed in northern Italy.  In any case, we know that certain notory art figures, the keys to the gateways of earthly and heavenly knowledge, were misidentified, duplicated, or perhaps even lost.  Worse still, many of the original prayers vanished.  Naturally, to compensate for this loss, supplementary materials were added to the Flores Aurei, thereby reconstructing and rewriting the notory art of Solomon.  What happened to those notory art figures that got shuffled about as they were passed down from scribe to scribe?  What scribal mischief led to the misidentification and duplication of these notory art figures?  This article sets out to investigate just what happened to a few of these notory art figures, and the findings might surprise you.  Such an investigation will help to inform scholars of the history and evolution of the textual tradition and for modern-day practitioners to decide how to interpret these findings to guide their own magical practice of the notory art of Solomon.

 

Before diving into the notory art figures themselves, it is imperative that the reader understands a little something about the textual history of the Ars Notoria.  There are three main phases of the Ars Notoria’s textual tradition which are classified as Version A, Version A2, and Version B.  For more on these three phases, see my other blog post entitled, "Where are the Original Latin Texts of the Ars Notoria Tradition?"  For those interested in a deeper exploration and analysis of what is written within these figures, see my new English translation Ars Notoria: The Notory Art of Solomon: A Medieval Treatise on Angelic Magic & the Art of Memory published by Inner Traditions (2023).  Now we can move onto the secret scribal manipulation of the notory art figures.

 

In Version A, the notory art figures whose prayers are lost include the following: (1) the figure of medicine, (2) the figure of music, (3) the five or six figures of astronomy, (4) the four figures of the general sciences (excerpt perhaps one), (5) the five figures of theology, (6) the figure of chastity, (7) the figure of justice, peace, and fear, (8) the figure of reprehension and tactiturnity, and (9) the figure of the exceptives.  This amounts to about twenty or so figures missing prayers.  In Version B, all these notory art figures are newly assigned prayers.  The topic of prayers will be reserved for another future blog entry. Here I will focus on the scribal manipulation of the figures of music, chastity, the general sciences, and astronomy as they pass through the three main phases of the textual tradition of the Ars Notoria

 

Below is the figure of music according to Version A.  Notice its triangular shape with a square and circle in its center. 

 

Caption: The figure of music.  New Haven, Yale University, Mellon 1, f.16v-r.

 

In Version B, this triangular figure becomes the figure of chastity.  The Ars Notoria says, “the nota of chastity ought to be offered only for the great fear of lechery,” (section 136).  The Latin word nota denotes the knowledge contained within the notarikon-constructed prayer and the notory art figure. (For an explanation on the notarikon-constructed prayers, see my blog entry entitled, “Ars Notoria: Why is It Called the Notory Art?”.)  Unfortunately, the reference to the notarikon-constructed prayer of chastity is missing in Version A but newly added in Version B.  Somehow in the midst of the scribal rearrangment of the text and figures, the triangular figure became misindentified as the figure of chastity.  Below is the figure of chastity according to Version B.

 

Caption: The figure of chastity.  Oxford, Bodley 951, f. 19.

 

If the triangular figure becomes the figure of chastity in Version B, then what figure will replace the disicpline of music?  The answer: a mysterious figure of concentric rings. 

 

But how did this happen?  During the rewriting and supplementing of the Ars Notoria, there were omissions and duplications of the notory art figures.  For example, the third figure of rhetoric is missing from Version A but appears in Version A2 (Paris, BnF, Latin 7152, f. 16v). The second figure of arithmetic is a duplication of the first figure of arithmetic; likewise, perhaps the second figure of astronomy is a duplication or revision of the first figure of astronomy. Such redactions lead to reassignment of figures to disciplines of knowledge. There are two avenues in which the mysterious figure of concentric rings becomes reassigned by the Ars Notoria scribes.  In both cases, the “extra” or “mysterious” figure is misidentified as the “fifth figure of the general sciences.”  During the course of transmitting the text and figures of the Ars Notoria through the three main phases, this mystery figure becomes either the third figure of astronomy or the figure of music.  First, I explore the path in which this figure of concentric rings becomes the third figure of astronomy.   

 

In Version A, there is a figure of concentric rings misidentified as “the fifth [figure] of the general sciences (quinta generalium)” which finishes the presentation of the general science figures (hic finiunt figurae generales).  According to the text of the Ars Notoria, there is no fifth figure, there are only four.  Thus, the so-called “fifth figure” is now a mystery figure.  However, this mystery figure is identifiable.  Such a figure of concentric rings is found in Clm 276 where it is labeled “this is the figure concerning the heaven's stars (ista est nota de caelo siderum)”.  The same figure resembles the third figure of astronomy in Version B.  The Version B scribe has filled in the figure with the names of the seven classical planets and their traditional associations. Here is a side-by-side comparsion among these three figures: (1) the so-called “fifth figure of the general sciences”, (2) the “figure concerning the heaven's stars”, and (3) the third figure of astronomy.

 

Caption: On the left, the so-called fifth figure of the general sciences from New Haven, Yale University, Mellon 1, f. 16v-q.  In the center is figure concerning the heaven's stars from Munich, BSB, Clm 276, f. 17v-b.  On the right, the third figure of astronomy from Paris, BnF, Latin 7153, f. 148.

 

Next, I explore the second pathway in which the mysterious figure of concentric rings becomes the figure of music.  My hypothesis as to the mysterious figure’s identity is found in the Parisian manuscript Latin 7152.  (The French scholar Julien Veronese classifies it as a Version A manuscript, but I disagree, classifying it as a Version A2, as I consider its inclusion of Opus Operum (The Work of Works), a new and different arrangment of the figures, and other elements.)  Following the presentation of the third figure of rhetoric and the fifth and sixth figures of philosophy, there is a figure identified as a “5[th] figure of the general sciences and the sense of those (Ista est 5 figura generalium et sensus earum).”  The figure contains the Scio enim prayer (Version B, Variation 8), which gets assigned to the third figure of rhetoric in Version B.  Since we know there is no “fifth figure of the general sciences”, then this figure is unknown to the scribe of Latin 7152.  However, the mystery can be solved by looking to another Version A2 manuscript labeled Vatican Latin 6842.  The same order of figures appear in Vatican Latin 6842, that is, the fifth and sixth figures of philosophy, and behold, these are followed by the figures of the general sciences.  Now instead of the mystery figure beingn labeled as a “fifth figure of the general sciences”, it is identified as the figure of music (figura est musica)!  Now recall from Latin 7152 that the “fifth figure of the general sciences” contained the Scio enim prayer.  In Version B, the figure of music, a figure of concentric rings matching the appearance of the mystery figure, is assigned to the Per haec sacramenta sanctissima Dei prayer, which just happens to be nearly verbatim to the Scio enim prayer!  See Version B, Variation 8 (page 478) and Notae Supplement of BnF Latin 9336 where the Scio enim prayer is marked as NS 56 and see also NS 72-73 in my book (pages 530 and 545).     

 

Caption: On the left, the so-called fifth figure of the general sciences containing the Scio enim prayer from Paris, BnF, Latin 7152, f. 17.  In the center, the figure of music as found in Vatican, Latin 6842, f. 22-f.  On the right, the figure of music as found in Paris, BnF, Latin 7153, f. 142.         

 

The mystery figure of concentric rings finding its way to being assigned to either the discipline of astronomy or music suggests that there remains a complexity and mystery behind Version A2.  When we look at the ordering of the notory figures as found in Version A2 manuscripts, we see where they agree and where they disagree.  As mentioned in my previous blog post about Version A2, there are yet other understudied elements involved that suggest that not only is there more in-depth study required of these Version A2 manuscripts, but even questioning the definition of A2 itself, which might be split asunder when new ground is broken by future researchers.    

 

This completes the visual guide to the notory art figures.


For those interested in examining the ordering of the figures in each manuscript, you can find the links to these manuscripts in my blog entry entitled, "Where are the Original Latin Texts of the Ars Notoria Tradition? (matthiascastle.com)".


[This article is an expansion upon a passage from my Ars Notoria: The Notory Art of Solomon (Inner Traditions, 2023).]


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.


Ars Notoria: The Notory Art of Solomon translated by Matthias Castle, published by Inner Traditions International and Bear & Company, © 2023. All rights reserved. http://www.Innertraditions.com Reprinted with permission of publisher.

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