Sunday, October 16, 2005

Cryptic Monk Magick

I won't pretend that I've understood the complexities that attach to the life and works of the German Abbot Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516). On one reading this formidable intellect, who was advisor to the Crown and an enthusiastic library builder at the Abbey in Sponheim, was a fully fledged occultist who published works on Cabalistic Angelic Magick.

Whereas his legacy was broader than the esoteric writings he produced on steganography and cryptography and he is otherwise regarded as a devoted Christian humanist who "sought to bring all of human learning to bear on the study of sacred theology".

His most memorable work is Steganographia at once both a grimoire (book to conjure spirits) and a treatise on code writing. It was published about 1510 and it was at some time banned and Trithemius was accused of black magic, although this didn't particularly interfere with the favour he held at the royal court. All three images here are from Steganographia.

Interestingly, it has only been in the last 10 years or so that volume III, the more magick-orientated section of Steganographia, has had its code broken and it would seem that the occultist was closer to cryptographer than conjurer after all.

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