Small Tai Grimoire (Magical Manuscript) with wide variety of magic spells including numerous formulas for conjuring spirits and ‘possible’ negative power (Black magic) spells, early 20th C
A small leporello manuscript of cream khoi paper written in black ink and pencil, 5 lines to a page. Some text written over twice which was common practice to ‘recharge its power.’
145×85 mm: 46 pages. Burmese text
Condition: Good condition. All pages still connected. One page loosely connected but still firm. Back cover small corner missing. COMPLETE
History: Like grimoires of the West, Magical Manuscripts, sometimes called Parabaik manuscripts records spells, methods for conjuring and exorcising various spirits, and other magic rituals – a traditional belief system of the La Na and Shan States running parallel with their professed adherence to Theravada Buddhism. They are produced by an expert in the arts of the supernatural, known locally as Sala. The word, maw paeng describes a practitioner who deals in negative power (black magic). They are made on a long strip of paper that folds out, concertina-style. The covers comprise paper thickened and hardened with black lacquer. The paper is made from the inner bark of the local mulberry tree.
The manuscripts are designated to a male Sala of the next generation while the present owner is still alive. If no one is willing to take on the role, the manuscript is burned as part of last owners cremation rite or offered to a local temple where it is cleansed before being placed in the library.
Contents: The majority of the manuscripts that appear on the market similar to the present manuscript are actually tattoo portfolios or esoteric picture books created as a curiosity. This manuscript is a practical handbook of spells (or ‘grimoire’) that once belonged to a Sala and particularly rare because of the amount of spirit related magic it contains. It contains illustrations of ogre phi lo spirits for exorcisms, distorted spirits to cause and/or cure illness, ogre faces with cross-eyes for calling disobedient spirits, guardian spirits for protection, and more. The illustrations portray spirits in various ways such as those drawn with elongated and compressed letters as well as those based on sets of magic letters and numbers. The letters and numbers around the image are incantations to the spells. Many of these cannot categorized as good or evil because they can be used for more than one use. This is achieved not by altering the illustration but altering the spell, incantation, or ritual materials or moving the venue where the operation is performed (i.e graveyard). Illustrations that are burnt and residual ash diluted in water, are taken as cures for illness or as protective potions. When the ash is mixed with oil and herbs it is prescribed as protective ointments. In certain rituals ash is used in exorcism rituals and moved to a special site.
You will notice that some entries contain extensive sections of text and others have individual letters, syllables, and phrases. This is a form of shorthand for the spells. Symbols are used to represent methods for breathing and blowing on ritual objects and also signifying magic noises made by spirits calling and the strange utterances of the possessed. The texts are also codified to restrict the usage of the magical knowledge. This was done by systematically removing one word and repositioning in another another. Or, letters are written upside down and in a mirror image or split into syllables and placed inside gridded diagrams in pattern formations. There is no date when magic began to be recorded in Burmese magic manuscripts but the use of mulberry is probably thousands of years old. The cryptographic treatment of magical texts in the West is probably only as old as Trithemius, circa 1499. (Conway 2014, 11, 21, 41, 78, 81, 88-89, )