The Book of Saint Cyprian (also known as The Sorcerers’ Guide) is an instruction book on magic – similar in tone and content to the Western grimoires (magic books) of the Middle Ages. Chapter Thirteen of The Book of Saint Cyprian is dedicated to making a bargain with the Devil in exchange for riches and power.
It instructs the magician to go to a mountain top (or crossroads near a river or ruin) with various talismans and to draw a magic circle on the ground, from which Lucifer is invoked three times. The first invocation makes no bones about the materialistic nature of the deal:
“Emperor Lucifer, owner and lord of all the rebellious spirits, I beg you to favor my request… Appear to me tonight in human form, without any awful smell, and grant me, by means of the pact which I am going to present to you, all the riches and gifts that I need.”
At this point, according to the book, a demon appears demanding to know why his rest has been disturbed. Then Lucifer enters the fray, refusing the magician’s request for riches, by saying:
“I can’t accede to your demand, except on the condition that you give yourself to me for twenty years, to do with your body and soul what I want.”
Following long negotiations, a pact is signed in blood, and Lucifer leads the magician to the nearest treasure.
The Book of Saint Cyprian, it isn’t exactly sophisticated. Most readers in the West would see it as very tacky – magic ritual presented in almost caricature form – and very hard to take seriously.
Yet a report from a teacher in Portugal, Ray Vogensen, shows that, even in the West, the book has a sinister reputation. People take it seriously enough to be scared by it.
“I first heard of it when students of mine told of a girl who had committed suicide in Vila Real by throwing herself off the iron bridge that crosses the Corgo River. According to stories, but believed by my students, the Book of Saint Cyprian was found near her body. Students had a genuine fear of the book and advised not to open it.”
As far as Vogensen’s students were concerned it was an accursed grimoire.
Various versions of the book exist, each claiming to offer the “true” knowledge of Saint Cyprian. The editors of the various versions of The Book of Saint Cyprian include Joaquim Sabugosa, N.A. Molina and Pierre Dumont. All claim their edition provides the “true” wisdom of Saint Cyprian.
The book is very popular in Portugal and Spain, as well as in South America. In Brazil, it is even available from the well-known department store, Lojas Americans – which is on a par with London’s Harrod’s department store stocking it.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part tells the life story of Saint Cyprian; gives prayers for midday, the afternoon, and midnight; offers ways to predict the future; lists the 148 places where enchantments can be found and ends with ways to deal cards. The second part reveals the “true treasure” of black and white magic, offers the secrets of witchcraft for good and evil and provides magical recipes to gain a marriage partner or lover. While the third part lists all the treasures that can be found, mainly in the region of Galicia, in north west Spain.
But who was Saint Cyprian?
According to The Catholic Encyclopedia (Volume IV), he was one of the Christians of Antioch, ancient Syria, who were executed (the day of Saint Cyprian’s martyrdom, September 26, became his feast day.) on 26 September, AD 304:
“Christians of Antioch who suffered martyrdom during the persecution of Diocletian at Nicomedia, 26 September, 304, the date in September being afterwards made the day of their feast. Cyprian was a heathen magician of Antioch who had dealings with demons. By their aid he sought to bring St. Justina, a Christian virgin, to ruin; but she foiled the threefold attacks of the devils by the sign of the cross. Brought to despair Cyprian made the sign of the cross himself and in this way was freed from the toils of Satan. He was received into the Church, was made pre-eminent by miraculous gifts, and became in succession deacon, priest, and finally bishop…
During the Diocletian persecution [he was] seized and taken to Damascus where [he was] shockingly tortured. As [his] faith never wavered [he was] brought before Roman emperor Diocletian at Nicomedia, where at his command [he was] beheaded on the bank of the river Gallus. After [the body of the saint] had lain unburied for six days [he was] taken by Christian sailors to Rome where [he was] interred on the estate of a noble lady named Rufina and later [was] entombed in Constantine’s basilica…
The story… must have arisen as early as the fourth century, for it is mentioned both by St. Gregory Nazianzen and Prudentius; both, nevertheless, have confounded our Cyprian with St. Cyprian of Carthage, a mistake often repeated. It is certain that no Bishop of Antioch bore the name of Cyprian. The attempt has been made to find in Cyprian a mystical prototype of the Faust legend: [Spanish dramatist Pedro] Calderon took the story as the basis of a drama: ‘El magico prodigioso’.” *
*(El Mágico Prodigioso, The Wonder-Working Magician, was written by acclaimed Spanish dramatist, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, in 1637).
Most books relating the lives of the saints have two entries for Saint Cyprian: Saint Cyprian of Antioch and Saint Cyprian of Carthage. Both lived in the 3rd century, both were bishops and both were beheaded. To make it even more difficult to distinguish who was who, their festival days are both celebrated in September. But the consensus seems to be that Cyprian of Antioch is the reputed author of the famous grimoire. Of course, there is no record that he himself wrote it; and when the book was first written is still a mystery.
But as teacher, Ray Vogensen, who looked extensively into the subject, says:
“The facts are meaningless because those who use the book or who believe in Saint Cyprian do not worry about such discrepancies.”