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The Picatrix: A Grimoire of Astrological Magic

The Picatrix: A Grimoire of Astrological Magic

Episode 239 of the podcast features an interview with Christopher Warnock about a book known as the Picatrix, which is a 10th century text on astrological magic.

This is a sweeping two and a half hour discussion where we talk about the history and origins of the text, as well as its contents.

We also get into a lot of specific details surrounding the practice of astrological magic.

Christopher was involved in publishing one of the first modern translations of the text in 2009 with John Michael Greer:

The Complete Picatrix

I thought it would be fitting to have him on the show to talk about the Picatrix, especially given the recent surge in the popularity of astrological magic in recent years, which was discussed a recent episode with Austin Coppock on the relationship between astrology and magic.

You can find out more information about Christopher Warnock’s work on his website:


This episode is available in both audio and video versions below.

Picatrix Show Notes

Here are some of the show notes compiled by Brennan before the interview:

  • Text known as the Picatrix
  • Origina Arabicl title: Ghayat al-hakim: The Goal of the Wise / The Aim of the Sage
  • 10th century text on magic and astrology
  • Became very influential in the later Medieval and Renaissance magical traditions
  • Focuses a lot on electional astrology and rules for making talismans.
  • History behind the text.
    • Probably written in the 10th century
    • Latest authors cited or used in it lived in 9th century. E.g. Abu Ma’shar
  • Author is currently thought to be Maslama al-Qurtubi (d. 964 CE)
    • “It has become widely accepted that it was penned by Maslama al-Qurtubi as identified by Maribel Fierro and confirmed by Godefroid de Callatay.” Liana Saif, The Arabic Influences on Early Modern Occult Philosophy, p. 250.
    • “a man of charms and talismans”
    • Al-Andalus. Iberian Peninsula
  • The text is a compilation of a bunch of earlier lore that he found in different texts.
    • Author claims to have consulted 224 books
    • Wrote it over 6 years.
  • Text was originally written in Arabic
    • Translated into Spanish at the court of Alphonso X of Castile 1256-1258
    • Spanish version then translated into Latin
      • Latin translation omits some stuff, inserts other passages.
      • The famous talking head thing is missing from the Arabic version.
    • Latin Version influenced later European tradition
      • Interestingly was never put into a printed edition. Just manuscripts.
      • Influenced later authors like Agrippa, Ficino, and Lilly.
  • History of modern editions and translations.
    • A few scholars around the Warburg Institute worked on it in the first half of the 20th century.
      • Produced a critical edition of the Arabic
    • Later Pingree published a critical edition of the Latin in the 80s.
    • The first English translation was the Ouroboros Press version
      • Translated from the Arabic, but criticized for accuracy.
    • Warnock and Greer translation from the Latin in 2009
    • New academic translation of the Latin published recently by Dan Attrell and David Porreca: Picatrix: A Medieval Treatise on Astral Magic.
    • Upcoming Arabic translation by Liana Saif
  • Contents of the Text
    • Some astrological magic
    • Some magic potions and spells
    • Different philosophical passages: Hermetic, Neoplatonic, and Aristotelianism
  • Electional astrology for magical purposes
  • Different electional principles focused on or used in the Picatrix
  • Concept of talismans, amulets, and images
    • Using images to capture or represent something in magical workings.
  • Interesting conceptual stuff surrounding some of the electional rules.
  • The origins of much of the electional material among the Sabians of Harran
  • Thabit ibn Qurra (836-901 CE) as a source for the Picatrix:
  • Attempting to define magic.
  • Actualizing the will through hidden or occult forces as a major theme.
    • “Whatever you desire shall come about.” 1, 5: 1 (Attrell and Porreca translation)
    • “Whatever he seeks from the lords with whom he interacts, he will obtain.” 1, 5: 7.
    • “what you seek will happen.” 1, 5: 29.
    • “They requested their desires and fulfilled them.” 1, 5: 48.
  • Text demonstrates both positive and negative, constructive and destructive uses.
    • The early ones it introduces are relatively benign, like making two people fall in love with each other, but relatively early in book 1, 5: 14 it gives an image for destroying an enemy.
  • Christopher has an interesting admonition at one point in Thabit
    • Discourages people from using magic for bad things.
    • At the same time thinks it is important not to censor the tradition.
    • Important to understand the principles of constructive and destructive elections
  • Using images to capture or represent something in magical workings.
  • Desire to root the electional chart in a natal or horary chart.
  • There is this whole theme that it keeps coming back to about the agent needing to believe or have faith in the operation, because only then will their will be brought to fruition.
  • At the beginning of book 2 he outlines a philosophy where astrology is the root of all magic. “Thus, they believed that the root of magic is the motion of the planets.” 2, 1: 1.
  • Repeatedly swears the reader to secrecy.
  • Not the best introduction to elections.
    • Kind of need to know astrology and electional already.
    • Occasional digressions to introduce concepts.
  • Using knowledge of someone’s natal chart in a ritual.

Watch the Video Version of This Episode

Here is the video version of our discussion about the Picatrix:


A full transcript of this episode is available: Episode 239 transcript

Listen to the Audio Version of This Episode

You can either play the audio version of this episode of the podcast directly from the website or download it as an MP3 to your device by using the buttons below:

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  • Chris Brennan: I am in your debt for the depth and diversity of astrological perspectives you have made available in these many podcasts.

    Chris Warnock: After listening to you, I immediately got the Kindle edition of SECRETS OF PLANETARY RITUAL. Your devotional-advaitic approach resonates for me. It is analogous to my own path of astrological understanding in which I relate the planetary archetypes to a set of Hindu deities who are live in my imagination. For example, Saturn and the steadfast though long-suffering Sita.

  • Absolutely love your work. I’m always quoting you in my classes. Have your book and share your podcast. Thank you Chris your dedication to Hellenistic Astrologery, teacher and keeping us informed. Xx

  • This is simply a wonderful conversation. I’ve listened to it twice so far. I love mr Warnocks attitudes and his level of fluid , honest, intelligent, spontaneous expressiveness is a great ad for astrological magic, spiritual practice and a well used Saturn. Thank you so much.

  • Another great podcast. I was wondering if Chris could reveal the one good Mercury election for 2020 that he mentioned in the podcast.

  • Great to hear Chris Warnock on such great form. Fascinating discussion, love it. Thanks both for bringing so much on for us all. Wonders.