Tag Archives: 13th Century


Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Antichrist: A novel of the Emperor Frederick II by Cecelia Holland.

Cecelia Holland Antichrist

Historical novelist Cecelia Holland is the author of Antichrist: a novel of the Emperor Frederick II (1970). The British issue of the same book had a more timid publisher, it seems. The title there was Wonder of the World, in reference to Frederick’s renown as stupor mundi. The US Primate of the Gnostic Catholic Church identifies Frederick II as the “Frederick of Hohenstaufen” enumerated among the saints of Liber XV, and he points to Frederick’s notable antagonism with Rome, but he fails to note the item that gave Holland her title: a tradition of identifying Frederick as the Antichrist.

Antichrist is an inherently prophetic figure, and the prophecies of Frederick’s Antichrist status were initially derived from Joachim of Fiore’s writings. Holland observes this fact with a brief notice in her prefatory “Note” (ix). The Super Hieremiam was a pseudo-Joachimist work that identified Frederick as a head of the apocalyptic dragon and as the emperor whose death would inaugurate the age of the Holy Spirit. The prophecy regarding Frederick is one of the elements that made Joachim’s work topical for the Franciscans who became interested in it during the 1240s.

Holland’s story is set in the 1220s, with Frederick’s prosecution of the Sixth Crusade. She depicts the Franciscans in Outremer as opponents of the Emperor, and she has them accuse him of being Antichrist. Whether they would have done so at that time, before taking up the ideas from Joachim, or whether the accusation in the novel was anachronistic, I don’t know.

Besides the Franciscan Order, Antichrist includes a rough and caricaturing treatment of the military Orders of the Temple and the Hospital. Of the former, Holland writes that they “were beyond doubt Satanist,” choosing to take the French court proceedings as gospel on this count (xiii). She depicts both Orders—who were, after all, opposed to her protagonist Frederick—as corrupt and malevolent. In fact, her depiction of them is much in keeping with the villainous roles that they play in the novels of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832).

An important aspect of the novel (and the events it attempts to describe) is the relationship between Christians and Muslims, both in southern Europe and in Palestine. The idea that Frederick was Antichrist had much to do with his perceived and actual intimacy with Saracens and Islam. Holland creatively adds a member of the Order of Assassins to Frederick’s bodyguard in Palestine. This touch on her part leads to a historical error, in which she has the “Assassins” in question refer to themselves as Hashishiyyun (164). The Muslims associated with Alamut whom the Crusaders called “Assassins” were sometimes called hashishis as a term of derision by their Muslim antagonists, but they were in fact, and knew themselves as, Syrian Ismailis of the Nizari sect.

Holland’s book was great fun to read: it has a lot of witty dialogue and vivid description. If handled respectfully, it would probably make a terrific movie. Although she makes some outright errors, the author provides the unusual courtesy among historical novelists of pointing out which principal features of the story are her conscious interpolations (xii-xiii). As far as the broad outlines of her narrative go, there is nothing to contradict any of the history I have read. [via]

The Petit Albert

The Spellbook of Marie Laveau: The Petit Albert is a pseudonymous work of Albertus Parvus Lucius translated by Talia Felix, available from Hadean Press, presumably from some version of the 18th Century French «Secrets merveilleux de la magie naturelle et cabalistique du Petit Albert», itself an apparent translation of a 13th Century Latin original. Although the cover states that this is the spellbook of Marie Laveau, the connection is apparently only circumstantial and speculative, according to the translator’s introduction. It is, however, a work of period significance, so may be of interest in itself.

Talia Felix's translationg of Petite Albert from Hadean Press

“The Petit Albert is a collection of recipes, talismans, and occult secrets attributed to several authors, chief among them Paracelsus, and compiled by a pseudonymous narrator who stresses that the secrets contained therein ‘do not in any way surpass the occult powers of nature; that is to say, of any of the known beings that are scattered throughout this vast universe, which are in the skies, in the winds, on the land and in the waters.’ This cautious reminder did not change the opinion of the Catholic Church in regards to the Petit Albert–it was a book of black magic and therefore to be avoided at all costs, an attitude which assured the book’s popularity among nobles, farmers, and priests alike.

From its first printing, the Book of the Fantastical Secrets of the Petit Albert made its way into the most rural of French hamlets and eventually to the colonies beyond, where it became a great success in the Caribbean and North America – especially in Québec in the north and in New Orleans in the south. It is there that the Petit Albert was almost certainly used by the hoodoo and voodoo practitioners of the nineteenth century, including the Voodoo Queen herself, Marie Laveau.

In The Spellbook of Marie Laveau: The Petit Albert, translator Talia Felix presents the full text of the Petit Albert in the English language, and offers a compelling argument that the Petit Albert was most likely one of the spellbooks in Laveau’s arsenal, if indeed she was literate at all. At the very least, as Ms. Felix states in her introduction to the book, ‘it presents a period-correct view of the sort of magical knowledge that was likely to have influenced the real and genuine life and works of the famous Marie Laveau, and of New Orleans Voodoo as a whole.'” [via]


L’Amor e la Guerra


“‘L’Amor e la Guerra’ is a concert by LiliumLyra where the poetry and the music of the medieval troubadours are presented through the telling of their 2 hundred years long story.”


“Hail, star of the sea,
nurturing mother of God
and ever Virgin
happy gate of Heaven”

Seigneurs, sachiez qui or ne s’en ira


“Seigneurs, sachiez qui or ne s’en ira” by Thibaut de Champagne, interpreted by Ren&eacute Zosso (via David B Metcalfe)

“Seigneurs, sachez : qui point de s’en ira
En cette terre où Dieu fut mort et vif,
Et qui la croix d’outre-mer ne prendra,
A dure peine ira en paradis;
Qui n’a en soi pitié ni souvenance,
Au haut Seigneur doit chercher sa vengeance,
Et délivrer sa terre et son pays.

Tous les mauvais resteront à l’arrière
Qui, n’aimant Dieu, ne l’honorent, ni ne le prient.
Et chacun dit : “Ma femme que fera ?
La laisserai à nul, fut-il ami”,
Serait tomber en bien trop folle errance;
Il n’est d’amis hors celui, sans doutance,
Qui pour nous fut en la vraie croix mis.

Or, s’en iront ces vaillants écuyers
Qui aiment Dieu et l’honneur de ce mont,
Qui sagement veulent à Dieu aller;
Et les morveux, les cendreux resteront.
Aveugle soit — de ce, ne doute mie —
Qui n’aide Dieu une fois en sa vie,
Et pour si peu perd la gloire du monde.

Douce dame, reine couronnée,
Priez pour nous, Vierge bienheureuse !
Et après nul mal ne nous peut échoir.”


“Lords, know: that point will go
In this land where God was dead and alive,
And the cross overseas will take,
A harsh penalty will go to paradise;
Who has pity or self-remembrance,
At high Lord must seek revenge,
And deliver his land and his country.

All the bad will stay back
Who, loving God, the honor, nor pray to him.
And everyone said, ‘My wife will do?
The leave to anyone, be it friend,’
Would fall too mad wandering;
It is one out of friends, without doubt,
Which for us was to put the true cross.

However, these valiant riders will go
Who love God and honor of this mountain,
Who wisely want to go to God;
And brats, the ash remain.
Is blind — what, no doubt economy —
God does not help that one time in his life,
So little to lose and the glory of the world.

Sweet lady, queen crowned
Pray for us, Blessed Virgin!
And after we can do no harm due.”