Picatrix or Ghâyat al-Hakîm fi’l-sihr
“The Aim of the Sage” / “The Goal of The Wise” / road of the wise man
is a grimoire originally written in Arabic titled غاية الحكيم Ġāyat al-Ḥakīm, which most scholars assume was written in the middle of the 11th century though a supported argument for composition in the first half of the 10th century has been made.
The original Arabic work was translated into Spanish and then into Latin during the 13th century.
Picatrix is a composite work that synthesizes older works on magic and astrology. One of the most influential interpretations suggests it is to be regarded as a “handbook of talismanic magic”. Another researcher summarizes it as “the most thorough exposition of celestial magic in Arabic”, indicating the sources for the work as “Arabic texts onHermeticism, Sabianism, Ismailism, astrology, alchemy and magic produced in the Near East in the ninth and tenth centuries A.D.” According to Eugenio Garin “In reality the Latin version of the Picatrix is as indispensable as the Corpus Hermeticum or the writings of Albumasar for understanding a conspicuous part of the production of the Renaissance, including the figurative arts.” It has significantly influenced West European esotericism from Marsilio Ficino in the 15th century, to Thomas Campanella in the 17th century. The manuscript in the British Library passed through several hands: Simon Forman, Richard Napier, Elias Ashmole and William Lilly.
According to the prologue of the Latin translation, Picatrix was translated into Spanish from the Arabic by order of Alphonso X of Castile at some time between 1256 and 1258.The Latin version was produced sometime later, based on translation of the Spanish manuscripts. It has been attributed to Maslama ibn Ahmad al-Majriti (an Andalusianmathematician), but many have called this attribution into question. Consequently, the author is sometimes indicated as “Pseudo-Majriti”.
The work is divided into four books, which exhibit a marked absence of systematic exposition. Jean Seznec observed “Picatrix prescribes propitious times and places and the attitude and gestures of the suppliant; he also indicates what terms must be used in petitioning the stars.” As an example, Seznec then reproduces a prayer to Saturn from the work, noting that Fritz Saxl has pointed out that this invocation exhibits “the accent and even the very terms of a Greek astrological prayer to Kronos. This is one indication that the sources of Picatrix are in large part Hellenistic.”
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