Nitric acid was known in alchemical days as aqua fortis….

[Nitric acid was known in alchemical days as aqua fortis. It could dissolve almost anything but gold, which in the last quote is referred to as “Sun” or (elsewhere) “Sol,” reflecting its astrological counterpart. First are some Wikipedia entries on aqua fortis:]

“In alchemy, aqua fortis (Latin for “strong water”) is nitric acid (HNO3). Being highly corrosive, the solution was used in alchemy for dissolving silver and most other metals with the notable exception of gold, which can be dissolved using aqua regia or “regal water”. Aqua fortis was prepared by mixing either sand, alum, or vitriol, or the last two together, with saltpeter, then distilling it by a hot fire. The gas collected from this condenses into aqua fortis. It was first described by alchemist Pseudo-Geber.

Aqua fortis was useful to refiners for parting or separating silver from gold and copper; to the workers in mosaic for staining and coloring their woods; to other artists for coloring of bone and ivory, which is done by tinging the items with copper or verdigris, then soaking in aqua fortis. Some also turn it into aqua regia, by dissolving in a quarter of its weight of sal ammoniac, and then use this to stain ivory and bone, of a fine purple color. Bookbinders also put it on leather, making fine marble covers for books. Diamond cutters used it to separate diamonds from metalline powders. It was also used in etching copper or brass plates. It was mixed with oil of vitriol and used to stain canes to appear like a tortoise shell by applying several coats while the cane is over hot coals. The canes were then given a gloss with a little soft wax and a dry cloth.”
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“The first mention of nitric acid is in Pseudo-Geber’s De Inventione Veritatis, wherein it is obtained by calcining a mixture of niter, alum and blue vitriol. It was again described by Albert the Great in the 13th century and by Ramon Lull, who prepared it by heating niter and clay and called it “eau forte” (aqua fortis).

Glauber devised a process to obtain it by distillate potassium nitrate with sulfuric acid. In 1776 Lavoisier showed that it contained oxygen, and in 1785 Henry Cavendish determined its precise composition and showed that it could be synthesized by passing a stream of electric sparks through moist air.”
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[Instructions for working with Nitric acid (aqua fortis):]

Treatise on Metallic Medicine by Joseph Du Chesne

Paris, 1641

“Reduce the Sun in Mercury and calcine it with common aqua fortis, extracting the water and pouring it back three times on the feces. To finish this work properly, put the feces in a crucible on live coal till they turn all red and do not smoke any longer. Then your gold is perfectly calcined or precipitated, and all you have to do is wash it several times with dew water. When this gold lime has been thus prepared, put it in a vessel and pour over it 4 times as much good brandy. Cohobate 7 times in B. M., the last time with a small ash-fire, after which your Sun, at the bottom, will be turned into as fine a liquid as the others, and even more subtle.”
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Does Faust speak of divine magic?

[On the types of magic, and their purpose in the esoteric (vaguely superstition”, “magic”, and “the occult”) Christian search for truth.]

“In the later Middle Ages, forms of Western esotericism such as alchemy and astrology were constructed on Christian foundations, combining Christian theology and doctrines with esoteric concepts.

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s Apologia (“Apologia J. Pici Mirandolani, Concordiae comitis” published in 1489) states that there are two types of magic, which are theurgy (divine magic), and goetia (demonic magic). These disciplines were explained as the “Operation of the Stars”, just as alchemy was the “Operation of the Sun”, and astrology the “Operation of the Moon.” Kabbalah was also an active discipline. These spiritual traditions allegedly aided the esoteric to arise to higher forms of consciousness, and arise to a better understanding of God, The Self, and the Universe.

Esoteric Christians practice these forms or traditions, which they believe are all a part of the same spiritual truth, which help to convey “mystery knowledge”, which can only be learned directly from spiritual experience via Theurgy, Kabbalah, or Mysticism.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, this was followed up by the development of Theosophy and Rosicrucianism. Behmenism also developed around this time, as did Freemasonry.”

From Wikipedia Esoteric_Christianity:

Witchcraft accusations-Johann Fust

[Witchcraft accusations. Johann Fust (c. 1400 – October 30, 1466) was a business partner of Gutenberg, who invented movable type printing, which enabled mass production of books instead of hand-written manuscripts. Fust is sometimes confused with Faust, and has even been nominated as possibly the original Faust by some. Fust took some of Gutenberg’s newly printed bibles and tried to sell them in Paris:]

17th-century German portrait of Johann Fust (c. 1400 – October 30, 1466)  a business partner of Gutenberg.
17th-century German portrait of Johann Fust (c. 1400 – October 30, 1466) a business partner of Gutenberg. displaying a “sacred book,” their printed Bible.

“It was once believed that Johann Fust was working for the devil. After several of Gutenberg’s bibles were sold to King Louis XI of France, it was decided that Fust was performing witchcraft. This idea came about for a few reasons, including the fact that some of the type was printed in red ink, mistaken for blood. It was also discovered that all of the letters in these bibles, presented to the King and his courtiers as hand-copied manuscripts, were oddly identical. Fust had sold 50 bibles in Paris and the people there could not fathom the making and selling of so many bibles so quickly, because printing had not come to the forefront yet in France. Parisians figured that the devil had something to do with the making of these copies, and Fust was thrown into jail on charges of black magic. He was eventually released, since it was proved he was running a business in which printing enabled the rapid production of multiple copies of the same text.”

From <>


Title page in Latin from Cyprianus, 18th century manual of black magic. The title reads: ... key of hell or white and black magic, approved by Metratron.
Title page in Latin from Cyprianus, 18th century manual of black magic. The title reads: … key of hell or white and black magic, approved by Metratron. Credit:Wellcome Library, London.
Cyprianus is also known as the Black Book, and is the textbook of the Black School at Wittenburg, the book from which a witch or sorcerer gets his spells.

The Black School at Wittenburg was purportedly a place in Germany where one went to learn the black arts.

Cyprianus, M. L. , Clavis Inferni sive magia alba et nigra approbata Metratona.
Page 4. Library reference no.: Archives and Manuscripts MS.2000

From Wikipedia:

“The actual stories told of Cyprianus in Scandinavia often made no reference to St. Cyprian. Some made Cyprianus into a typical Faust figure; some said that Cyprianus was a wicked Norwegian or Dane who learned magic through his dealings with the Devil; one version makes Cyprianus so evil that the Devil threw him out of Hell; Cyprianus wrote the text to have his revenge. A different and strongly contradictory version explains that Cyprianus was a student who discovered he was attending a diabolical “black school,” and wrote the text to explain how to undo all the witchcraft he learned there.”
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John Lambe

Evidence that a reputation for black magic (and rape) could get you killed. John Lambe was an alleged English sorcerer who was murdered by a mob.

From Wikipedia:

“John Lambe (or Lamb) (c. 1545 – 13 June 1628) was an English astrologer who served George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, during the early 17th century. Accused of black magic and rape, he was stoned to death by an unruly mob in London.”

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(Although John Dee was a person of significance in Elizabethan England, he also had a tentative reputation as a sorcerer, and was at times in his life fearful of the consequences and actively fought against libels which could have cost him his life.)

Germany: Magic became associated with the Devil….

Germany: Magic became associated with the Devil. Catholics had “magical” rites. Sensibly, magic being diabolical (according to the Church, it shouldn’t be part of the church, but prayer, blessings, sainthood, and other trappings of the (Catholic) Church were very much magical. Protestants protested (literally) that that wasn’t right.]

The Magician in Medieval German Literature
By Jon B. Sherman

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“…Ideas of the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries have also shaped our modern perception of the Devil, as well as the connection between the Devil, demons and magic. This is also the period in which necromancy was officially condemned as heresy. During this foundational time in the understanding of the Devil, demons and sorcery, a number of medieval German narratives strove to anchor the connection between magic and demons—and between magic and heretical and unchristian beliefs—in the figure of the magician. In their treatment of their magicians, Rudolf von Ems’s Barlaam und Josaphat. Wirnt von Grafenberg’s Wigalois and Johann von Wurzburg’s Wilhelm von Osterreich prefigure the developments mentioned above and clearly link magic to the Devil, demons and heresy”

Oops. Oh well. Given the corruption at the highest levels of the Church it was inevitable that people would link the Church and Satan eventually. Yes, Protestants have their magical moments too.

Faustus originally intends for his magic to do good

From a student paper on Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus:

“Faustus originally intends for his magic to do good: to increase his intellect and his power so he may help others and possibly ease his finding a mate so he may start a family. Thus, he aspires to be a “white” magician or magus, a rare wise man who could connect with God in order to manipulate objects or events.

Yet when he performs his conjuring in Act 1 Scene 3, he does not pray willingly to God but to devils, for they will move willingly and quickly to bring him the same end–power. Does he then truly become a demonic or “black” magician in this act? Hardly, for Mephistopheles arrives of his own free will, and their relationship continues in the same dynamic, with Mephistopheles as the magician and Faustus as the pawn who has given up what small power he previously has for the pretense of that of another.

The Renaissance audience, according to Traister, would have recognized this relationship and known that Faustus was not either a white or black magician, or either a true or ceremonial (a distinction made by Eugenio Garin in which ceremonial magic leads to chaos and sin). The type of magician Faustus is allowed to imitate is limited by Mephistopheles as well as what kind of magic he is permitted to perform. Mephistopheles refuses to conjure a wife for Faustus; rather he insists on a lusty paramour, Helen.

The only magic Faustus does perform are childish tricks against the Pope, unquestionably demonic or “black”, for he acts consciously against God, and only because Mephistopheles allows him to be a magician for one fleeting moment. Faustus, of course, pays for this type of magic with his own demise and damnation to Hell.”

From a student paper <>

Renaissance Attitudes Towards Faustus as a Magician
A Look at Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus

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Jesse Baker, Adria Bredemann, Brittain Brussart, Adrian McLeer, Tiffany Tuck, & Tia Wolowicz
for ENG 434, Dr. Desmet, University of Georgia, May 1997.

The distinction between white magic and black magic

From a student paper on Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus:

“The distinction between white magic and black magic was very unstable during the Renaissance. Christian doctrine accepted both versions of magic but scholars argued as to the differences between the two. White magic was seen as a natural science when used for legitimate ends. Also called “natural magic,” white magic flourished during the Renaissance and was used as a means of acquiring access to the divine through nature. In the New Testament there is a favorable view of the Magi, or magician. These people used white magic to worship Christ.

Black magic also used nature but included the invocation of demons. This was the magic that Dr. Faustus used in Marlowe’s great work. Black magic, or witchcraft, implied the use of supernatural powers for a wicked purpose. In early Christian history, black magic was seen as idolatry. Paganism was seen as a sin in the Old Testament but this form of black magic was still acknowledged. This exercise of evil was seen as demonic to Christians but, nevertheless, both forms of magic flourished during this time period.”

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Renaissance Attitudes Towards Faustus as a Magician

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Jesse Baker, Adria Bredemann, Brittain Brussart, Adrian McLeer, Tiffany Tuck, & Tia Wolowicz
for ENG 434, Dr. Desmet, University of Georgia, May 1997.

The most dangerous form of black magic is the scientific

While only in his late twenties, Manly Palmer Hall published his The Secret Teachings of All Ages – An Encyclopedia Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic and Rosicrucian Symbolic Philosophy in 1928. It was a remarkable effort for such a young man, and The Secret Teachings of All Ages remains a remarkable book.

“The most dangerous form of black magic is the scientific perversion of occult power for the gratification of personal desire. Its less complex and more universal form is human selfishness, for selfishness is the fundamental cause of all worldly evil. A man will barter his eternal soul for temporal power, and down through the ages a mysterious process has been evolved which actually enables him to make this exchange. In its various branches the black art includes nearly all forms of ceremonial magic, necromancy, witchcraft, sorcery, and vampirism. Under the same general heading are also included mesmerism and hypnotism, except when used solely for medical purposes, and even then there is an element of risk for all concerned.”

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by Manly P. Hall

At <>

Secret Teachings of All Ages, by Manly P….

Secret Teachings of All Ages, by Manly P. Hall on pacts with the Devil:

“In the case of black magic, it is the magician and not the demon who must sign the pact. When the black magician binds an elemental to his service, a battle of wits ensues, which the demon eventually wins. With his own blood the magician signs the pact between himself and the demon, for in the arcanum of magic it is declared that ‘he controls the soul who controls the blood of another.’ As long as the magician does not fail, the elemental will fulfil to the letter his obligation under the pact, but the demon will try in every possible way to prevent the magician from carrying out his part of the contract.”

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by Manly P. Hall

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