Doctor Faustus and Demonic Pacts

Doctor Faustus


JON KANEKO-JAMES looks back on the days when Demonology and the Occult was accepted as scientific fact taught at universities


Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe

Believe it or not, the intelligentsia have always had a ‘thing’ that they felt set them apart from everyone else. When I was a teenager, it was Postmodernism, later it was the Sceptics movement. In the early modern period, it was Demonology.

Obviously, they didn’t call it Demonolgy. Well, the practitioners didn’t. They called them ‘experiments’. It was just that a lot of those ‘experiments’ involved standing in the middle of a magical circle calling out to various angels and devils to send a Lord of Hell your way.

Part of the reason that Demonology, or Nigromancy (i.e. black magic) was so pervasive was there were echoes of it accepted in the science of the time. Astrology and the physical influence of the Astrological planets was accepted to be fact. The only debate was about whether it was okay for man to take hand in his own destiny by manipulating the power of the planets through magical intervention.

” … University students would often be made clerics as a part of their education … the most common ‘token’ clerical roles given to students would be Lector or Exorcist”

Faustus BookAnother factor was the university system of the time: university students would often be made clerics as a part of their education. This gave them the entitlement to shave their head in a tonsure and claim access to the special clerical courts. Not only that but the most common ‘token’ clerical roles given to students would be Lector or Exorcist. The role of Exorcist especially would come with  rudamentary training in the nature of ritual: how to open a circle, cleanse a space and perform the main rites of the Church, including exorcism.

Author: Jon Kaneko-James

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