"Till a lock of hair is
devoted to Proserpine, she refuses to release the soul
from the dying body.
When Dido mounted the funeral pile, she lingered in
suffering till Juno sent
Iris to cut off a lock of her hair. In all sacrifices
a forelock was first cut
off from the head of the victim as an offering to the
By alluding to Proserpine, Frederick is saying
that a sacrifice of some kind
must be made.
"Norman Cohen, in his book "Europe's Inner Demons", discusses the rise in the
practice of "High Magic" among the literate elite in the 1200s. Many were
fascinated by the possibility of forcing a demon to serve a Christian by
invoking the name of the Holy Trinity. This demon taming was said to be a task
only to be undertaken by pious literate men who had full confidence in the
power of God. In 1267 Roger Bacon complained of the numbers of Grimoires being
written on the techniques of demon raising and high magic. Some of these books
purported to derive from the teachings of the biblical Solomon. These books
taught that one had to prepare for demon raising by periods of chastity,
fasting and prayer. There were special magical tools that had to be prepared,
fumigated and consecrated while psalms were recited. According to Cohen these
often included a sword, staff, white handled and black handled knives. Early in
the 13th Century
, tutor to the young emperor Frederic II wrote for him a personal grimoire
known as the "Liber Introductorius." This gave the names by which demons could
be summoned and stated that, if a demon was to be tamed by being imprisoned in
a ring or bottle, a sacrifice should first be made to it - even by offering it
some human flesh taken from a corpse!"
"Eliade (Forge & Crucible) argues that alchemy had its origin in the ancient Craft of the Smith, which combined religion, magic and metallurgy.
According to alchemy, metals are incubated by Fire in the Womb of the Earth; alchemists only accelerate their development. ...the Fire that comes from the center of the Earth is the key to the alchemical transformation."
The most renowned and feared
sorcerer and alchemist of the 13th century was Michael Scot.
"Michael Scot c. 1175-1232. Scottish magician. Attached to court of Emperor
Author of many books
on necromancy, incantations, alchemy,
divination, oneiroscopy. Acquired
legendary reputation for
skill in wizardry
and his occult experiences. Mentioned by Dante."
"Michael Scott, the utopian thinker and Court
Philosopher to Emperor Frederick
II of Sicily ...had a public reputation for
performing miracles that would put
any self respecting
wonder working Rabbi to shame, and is also reported to
have been adept at
visions by a combination of manipulation of light
and suggestion; a phenomenon
strongly associated with Sufi adepts.
It is possible that his familiarity with, and translation of, the texts
and philosophy inspired much speculation upon his alleged
cracked brass bells will ring;
To summon back the fire witch
court of the Crimson King
the Magician, practised divination at the court of Frederick
reader will recall the midnight scene of the monk of St. Mary's and
Deloraine in Scott's Law of the Last Minstrel, Canto II.:--
"In these far
climes it was my lot
To meet the wondrous Michael Scott;
A wizard of
such dreaded fame
That when, in Salamanca's cave,
He lifted his magic
wand to wave,
The bells would ring in Notre Dame!"
And "the return of the fire witch" (Michael Scot) to the court of Frederick II
after a ten year absence was an event of historical note.
Scot Again At Court
"The return of Michal Scot from Spain to the Imperial Court was doubtless a
striking moment, not only in the life of the philosopher himself, but in the
history of letters. He then appeared fresh from a great enterprise, and
bringing with him the proofs of its success in the form of the Latin Averroes
(i.e. Scot's translations of Averroes into Latin). We cannot doubt that his
reception was worthy of the ocassion and of one who had served his master so
faithfully. In welcoming Michael Scot and doing him honor Frederick was but
crowning the success of an enterprise in which his own name and interest were
Traces of this highly significant incident have been preserved in the arts of
poetry and painting as well as in that of prose romance. Dante who wrote his
Divine Comedy less than a century later than the time of Scot, has given the
philosopher a place in his poem, describing him as:
"That other there, his flanks extremely spare,
was Michael Scot, a man who certainly
knew how the game of magic fraud was played."
The commentator, with great reason, refers to the manner of Scot's dress. It
would seem that the Spaniards of those days differed from the other European
nations in their habit. They wore a close girdle about the waist, like the
of the east. Scot must have adopted such a dress while at Toledo, and thus,
when he returned to Palermo, the singularity of his appearance struck the eyes
of the court at once.
What he wore was probably no mere fragment of Eastern fashion but the complete
costume of an Arabian sage : the flowing robes, the close-girt waist, the
- Enquiry into the Life and Legend of Michael Scot
by Rev. J. Wood Brown (p.137-9)
The siege, the
attempt to gain the alliance with the Dominicans, the threat to
use fire; all
represent Frederick in the heat of battle. In summary, verse two
is about the
sun at its zenith, Frederick at the height of his power, vowing
destruction of his enemies.
"An atmosphere of magic played round this Hohenstaufen, some wholly-Germanic
emanation which Napoleon for instance conspicuously lacked, an immeasurably
dangerous emanation, as of a Mephisto free of horn and cloven hoof, who moves
among men disguised as a golden-haired Apulian boy, winning his bloodless
victories with weapons stolen from the Gods. Already without effort of his own
the Puer Apuliae had played Nemesis to a giant like Innocent III, till the most
mighty opponent of a Hohenstaufen dynasty became so mysteriously entangled in
the coils of fate that he had no option but to elevate to the throne of the
Roman Empire the Sicilian king whom he had failed to crush."