Medieval Magic Tricks


A few books from the Middle Ages can tell us more about these magic tricks, such as the Secretum philosophorum, which was written by anonymous author at the beginning of the fourteenth-century.

At the beginning it explains “there are contained in it certain secrets which, by vulgar opinion, are impossible, but which philosophers consider to be necessary and secrets. Now, contained in this book are the secrets of all the arts.”

While the Secretum philosophorum might sound to be very mysterious, a modern reader might find it to be more a medieval version of The Dangerous Book for Boys – it contains all sorts of fun stuff, like how to make different colors of ink, riddles, and creating scientific experiments like how to make a soap bubble.

Some of the tricks:

  • To Give Water the Colour and Taste of Wine
  • To make a burning mirror
  • To free hands tied behind the back
  • So that cooked meat will appear to be full of worms
  • So that someone may appear to burn, but nothing is in fact generated except terror
  • To make invisible ink

Via for details on the tricks as described in period as well as more information on the primary sources.

This entry was posted in Culture, History by Heretic. Bookmark the permalink.

About Heretic

I design video games for a living, write fiction, political theory and poetry for personal amusement, and train regularly in Western European 16th century swordwork. On frequent occasion I have been known to hunt for and explore abandoned graveyards, train tunnels and other interesting places wherever I may find them, but there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I am preparing to set off a zombie apocalypse. Nothing that will stand up in court, at least. I use paranthesis with distressing frequency, have a deep passion for history, anthropology and sociological theory, and really, really, really hate mayonnaise. But I wash my hands after the writing. Promise.

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