Saturday, October 31, 2009

Book IV - from the Brasillian fragments

Book IV

To simplify, I made a pact with the Devil. Anway, that’s what they say about me. I was born in a small village, Roda, in what is now Germany, at the end of the 15th Century. In other words, if you had any imagination, you were bored out of your mind. I learned to read early, but books were scarce then; mostly you had the Bible, which was written in Latin. The European printing press had only recently been invented - by the
Devil, many believed - and a real revolution started when Gutenberg developed movable type (400 years after the Chinese). For you readers of today and tomorrow, movable type was along the lines of the steam engine and the personal computer in regards to important shifts in civilisation.
So, I had this Uncle, a wealthy merchant from Wittenberg, with no children of his own, who gave me a copy of the Bible, which I read voraciously (I grasped Latin quickly). After all, it had high adventure, drama, lots of sex and violence; what more could a young boy want from stories?
As my drive to read interfered with my learning to farm, and having gotten the eldest daughter of a itinerant ragpicker pregnant, I was sent to live with my Uncle, who
liked having a "son”, and he sent me to the University at Wittenberg, where I studied Theology and Philosophy.

But soon I was bored. I had a huge appetite for knowledge, and my stuffy professors were a
bunch of bean counters. I tried expanding my studies to Medicine and Law. Even more boring!
So, what does an imaginative young man do with himself when he’s bored. That’s right, drink.
Unfortunately, Uncle was not keen on supporting my growing drinking habit. So I had to get others to buy me drinks. Since these others wanted something in return for buying me drinks, I started telling them stories. I found that I had an amazing facility for making shit up.
Early on I discovered that people were more drawn into the story if I told it as if it had happened to me, rather than relating someone else’s adventure. So I told wild tales I had “experienced” out in my wanderings - they all rightly knew that I liked to go for long walks in the woods, sometimes spending the night under the stars. On these walks I started magining the stories I would later tell my drinking patrons.
My most popular tales, this being a superstitious time (as moderns put it - since they, of course, have no such foolishness - ha!), involved run-ins with the supernatural.
One night as I headed to my favorite inn outside the town walls, one of my professors, Georg Helmstetter, who was only about 10 years older (but seemed an old man already), approached me, and pulled me into the shadows.
After looking about to make sure no one was there to listen, he said “I have heard about some of your adventures with spirits.”
Feigning some modesty, I replied, “Oh, it’s nothing really, it’s just...”
He cut me off. "The spirit world is nothing to trifle with, my boy. It can be dangerous. How do you protect yourseif?”
“Protect myself?” I asked. I knew, as anyone did, that there were all sorts of protective talismans, some legal and christian, some not. But it had not even occured to me to procur one; at that moment I realized my oversight. It would add so much spice to my stories.
“Yes, my boy, protect yourself. With the proper protection one can gain a lot of knowledge from the spirit world.”
I was intrigued. “Tell me more.”
He checked the street again, and once satisfied, whispered, “Come with me. I have things to show you."
He lead me through various backstreets of the town, in a zig-zagging way, always careful to keep unobserved. We finally came to an old wooden door in an expansive wall, on a sidestreet I did not recognize.
After again making sure no one was watching, he rapped on the door three times, took a beat, then knocked two more times.
A moment passed, then the heavy door opened a crack. It was dark inside, so I could not make out who was looking out but I could feel them. Then the door opened wide enough for Helmstetter to lead me inside, and the door was shut behind us. A lantern was uncovered, illuminating the alcove we stood in.
The man who let us in was a big burly fellow that I did not recognize.
“Good evening, professor,” the big fella intoned.
“Good evening, Hans,” said the professor, as he lead me through a doorway, and up some slippery stairs.
At the top of the stairs, we came into a small turret room. There was a fire in the grate, and a couple of candles burning on a large desk, which was the center of the room. Also on the desk were many scrolls, manuscripts, papers, and books. Helmstetter bid me to sit, and he produced a cup for me, which he filled with wine from a flask, which had also been on the desk. He filled another cup for himself.
I looked around the room. Besides the desk and several chairs, there were bookshelves with more books and manuscripts, several parchments with symbols on them tacked to the walls, and a cot in the corner.
We spent many evenings going over various magical studies. Helmstetter was quite
...[a precusor of the secret socletles?]...where he was known under the magical name of “Doctor Faustus”...

[something about Trithemius, who sought out D.F. in Gelnhausen, in 1506, after having demo’d some magic, but D.F. avoided him...]

My Uncle, growing impatient with my, as he saw it, debauched lifestyle, procurred for me the position of schoolmaster in Bad Kreuznach, through his friend the humanist knight, Franz von Sickingen, a rather energetic fellow, who later joined with Ulrich von Hutten to use military might to bring on the Reformation.
Life in this village was rather boring. I didn’t even spend much time drinking, as the locals were far too dull to spend that much time with. On occasion I was invited to dine
at von Sickingen’s castle, which was usually an enjoyable affair, with good food, good wine, and good conversation. Von Sickengen had studied under the great philosopher-teacher Johannes Reuchlin, so while being typical of knighthood in many ways, he wasn’t a complete dolt, and though many of his guests were of the “righteous” variety, there was plenty of learned topics.
Mostly I studied. One of my students, Kristoff Wagner, a clever lad, at my behest pilfered some manuscripts from the local monastary [?], where he...
I became Wagner’s mentor, in the old Greek tradition. This lead to trouble.
The local priest, jealous of my popularity with the boys, accused
me of sodomizing them. The irony of this was that he constanly lusted after them himself, as many of them had told me of their close encounters with him when serving as altar boys. The only boy I had touched was Wagner.
It was a Greek thing. In ancient Greece a promising youth was mentored by an older, more experienced man. And this included sex.
Anyway, when a priest makes an accusation in a small town, the local authorities doggedly jump to, and so I had to flee, Wagner in tow (I couldn’t very well leave him behind to languish, and his family never bothered to come looking for him).

We ended up in Heidelberg, where I managed to worm my way into the University, though there were problems, as one professor of mathematics and astrology, Johannes Virdung of Hasfurt, had written to Johannes Trithemlus, who spewed vituperations about me. I had quite a time talking my way around the learned man’s denouncement.
Once ensconced, I befriended one Johannes Faust, as we were very like-minded. Though he was top of our class in Theology, he had a truly wicked streak. At night we would study various magical texts which he somehow managed to acquire in great numbers. He considered most people rather cloddish, and felt no need to be honest with them, saying they really didn’t want the truth, anyway. He encouraged my use of the magic lantern (it was called something different at the time, but can’t remember what), which I’d learned from some notes made by Leonardo da Vinci, even setting up demonstrations for wealthy patrons.
He also had a sister, Greta, to whom I taught various subjects, as she was not satisfied with the usual fair delegated to women. I, being more patient than Johannes, took
up the tutoring for a while. She had been married, but the husband had gotten a divorce on grounds of infidelity. We ended up having a passionate affair, which resulted in my falling in love with her, and her deciding to marry one of the University professors.
I was broken-hearted.
in 1509 Johannes and I gained our Doctor Theoiogiae. One of the new students was one Philipp Schwarzerd, then only 13, a dwarfish, misshapen, temperate character, later known under the Greek version of his surname, Melanchthon, who went on to become partnered with the hereticai ex-Dominican monk Martin Luther, counterbalancing the latter’s fiercely passionate energies. The Pope excommunicated Luther after his famous “95 Theses” against the Church hierarchy’s abuses (e.g., the selling of indulgences) - though only after four years of trying to get him to recant at least part of it - which he nailed to the door of the church in Wittenberg. This was the beginning of the Reformation. I was later to get to know
Melanchthon better, when we both taught at the University of Wittenberg (Luther was also there, but I avoided the blowhard like the plague). He was always trying to convert me
I decided to go to Krakow. I had heard that alchemy was taught openly there. Virdung, for instance, had taught astrology there earlier In his career. I wanted to find out for myself. Wagner tagged along.
I learned many new things.

Krakow. Krakow was a new experience. It was exciting, It was one of the most important cities In Europe at that time. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Poland, which had formed
a commonwealth with Lithuania, headed by the Jagilion dynasty, a very capitalist society where most of the power was in the hands of the “landed aristocracy”, who supplied most of Europe with grain, and a flourishing center of the sciences and the arts. The University, founded in 1364, was the second largest (after Prague) at that time.
As an already old city it was well established. And well placed, being on the Vistula River, at the foot of Wawel Hill.
And I met up with Helmstetter, who was teaching Greek at the Sodalitas Litterarum Vistulana, a learned society based on the Roman Academies, founded by Poet Laureate and humanist Conrad Celtes in 1488. He invited me to stay with him in a little house he kept on the edge of the city, away from prying eyes.

Then I met a dragon. He said his name was Beelzebub. I had no reason to doubt him. And I wasn’t about to question anything he said. (I was like a small country in the late 20th,
early 21st Century facing the Pax Americana. You just don’t want to make it flex).
He offered me a ride. How could I refuse? (No, really, how could I)?
I hopped on his back, and off we went.

On one of my solo wanderings through the woods one evening I stumbled upon a woman gathering herbs. I was curious, so I stopped and asked her what she was doing. She fixed me with a penetrating stare, and sniffed at me.
“You have the sight,” she said matter-of-factly.
I ventured, “Do you make protective talismans?”
She smiled, and cocked her head. “Perhaps,” was all she replied. She turned and headed off into the forest, looking back at one point to see if I was following. So follow I did.
She lead me to a small hut stuck in the trunk of a huge tree, the front covered over with foliage. Had you not known it was there, you probably wouldn’t even notice it.
Inside was larger than one would suspect, and littered with a plethora of items. And there were innumerable cats. One, who seemed to be king of the roost, fixed me with a steely gaze.
She went to a work bench against one wall and rummaged about the mishmash of odds and ends - cloth, bones, plants, crystals, rocks, tools - until she turned around holding up a large, round, very clear crystal, which she handed me.
“Use this,” she said. Before I could say anything, she had turned me around and marched me out the door, closing It firmly behind me.
I stood for a minute weighing the crystal in my hand. It had been cool to the touch when she handed it to me, but now it seemed to be gradually getting warmer.
I decided to head back to the house, and see what Helmstetter made of it.

[will start scrying, a la Dee & Kelley]
[later visit the witch again w/Helmstetter; during a conjuration
the witch becomes possessed by Astraroth or Leviathan,
who then kills Helmstetter - later I use necromancy to bring H. back
{via crystal or magic mirror or reanimating the corpse, which cont’s
to rot) - this is when he renames himself “Me Fausto philes’, which
becomes Mephostophiles, and I drop the “junior”]
(also use Leviathan or Satan as personal devil, & the doppelganger
in Part II, the subconclous “evil twin” in Part III]
(more in-depth historical notes on important figures, like Luther &

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