The Black Book of Wizard Zittle
In a previous post, “Black Dogs and Dynamite,” I mentioned a man known as “Wizard Zittle,” a local “conjure man” or folk healer who owned a mysterious black book called The Friend in Need or Secret Science.
The author of South Mountain Magic, who wrote rather sneeringly about the “superstitions” rampant in the South Mountain area of Maryland, did, at least, record certain folk-beliefs in the area, although with considerable condescension and squeamishness about “blasphemy.” She also says that she got a look at the Wizard’s Black Book and transcribed certain parts of it. Since this may be the only surviving trace of this magic book, let us see what secrets it contains—at least as recorded by Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren.
We shall now…speak of a series of extraordinary delusions. The High Priest of all this evil practice, — for mere mummery it can scarcely be called,—was the old man Michael Zittle, who died in the summer of 1877. He was resorted to by hundreds of people from all the country round about South Mountain, and even from a distance, many of whom went away in the belief that they had been cured; and they may have been so. He is said, when dying, to have transferred “his power” to a member of his family, to whom he also left his book…[the book was said to have disappeared after the death of the legatee.]
We have seen the original “Conjuring-Book” of Old Zittle. It is in German, and we have made a rude translation of portions of its sibylline leaves, quite enough of it, we trust, to satisfy the curiosity of our learned readers, and more than enough of it to satisfy ourselves as to its true nature. It is intended as a treatise of so-called “black art,” and portions of it are too blasphemous to give a rendering…. The way in which we happened to see the original book was quite accidental. We called to see an old woman who was considered “a doctress.” She was ill, and we found her much troubled because some one had robbed her. But she said that she was trying the various conjurations of the “black book” with the expectation of discovering the thief, and thus being able to regain her stolen property. She mentioned to us that the “wizard” had lent her the book for that purpose. We had often heard this book alluded to as the “conjuring book,” and were curious to see it, in connection with the results claimed for it, and we obtained a very reluctant consent from this old woman to take it home for a few days only….
We would not, indeed, call the attention of the reader to the book, except in connection with the number of cures said to have been performed through its agency, and believed in as true; and also other results that have followed its use and are narrated as real. When we view it in this sense, it becomes a factor of some interest, as the instrument of a wide-spread superstition. We are told that so long as the old curemonger refused to take money his cures were certain; but that later in life, being old and very poor, he was persuaded to ask a fee, and that when he did so, he had “bad luck.”
Among all those of this family and others on this mountain who now “try for” (that is the term used) diseases, none have been so fortunate. He called the “go-backs” “abnehmen” [German: wane, diminish, take off, remove, which in children is “failure to thrive” and in adults, a wasting disease.] and had great success in curing this malady.
As this man worked his cures in great part according to the directions given in his book, we wish to explain a little. Wherever the cross (┼) is printed, it means to call upon the most Holy Trinity. Indeed, it seems to us that an impious use of holy names and sacrilegious allusions to the sufferings of the Saviour form the substance, or warp and woof of the system.
This fact makes us believe that, if direct results of this agency were really obtained as claimed, the power that gave them efficacy was in its nature satanic. It is not our purpose to assert any doctrine in this connection, whatever personal belief we may and do hold, for this is a narrative only, of South-Mountain magic.
The book we have spoken of bears the title of “The Friend in Need; or, Secret Science.” The title page simply asserts that it is a translation from THE BLACK BOOK. (the Spanish into German) and states, “Printed for the Purchaser, 1826.” It has no publisher’s name nor place of printing given: in fact, no clew by which any one in Germany could have been held amenable for violation of law in its publication.
The preface mentions that the book is written “according to the secret tricks found in an ancient Spanish manuscript herein brought out, which was discovered by an old hermit over a hundred years ago, hidden among the mysteries of the Holy Land; many wonders having thereby been performed in this same country. It also treats of ‘The Dragon with Four Young,’ etc., etc. and it contains rare prescriptions from “legends found in Freyburg in 1752,” etc., etc.
The first five of its conjurations are for the recovery of stolen property. We shall give one or two headings only and a summary, Number 1 being, “A True Way to discover the Hiding-Place of a Thief or Thieves.” These words are in substance a form calling upon the thief or thieves thrice, in the most Holy Names, to come forth. Number 2 we give entire. It reads thus: “How One may compel a Thief or Thieves to restore Stolen Property.” “O thief or thieves, lay down what thou hast stolen and go away, in Satan’s name, in whose name thou hast taken my property.” It will be conceded that this form at least is an invocation or diabolism pure and simple.
Number 3: “How to proceed when a Thief or Thieves have stolen a Horse.” Take the pitch-fork and stick where the horse stood. Call the horse by name, and say: ‘I trample thee, I stick thee, I bite thee. Thou shalt come back and thou shalt turn the thief s hand quickly, even as the wind or the fish that swim in the water or the birds that fly in the woods, or else thou shalt lie low under the sod. Come quick and be swift.”
Number 4 tells ” How to proceed when one has been robbed:” “Take three nails, in the name of God. Throw away the first nail, and while doing so call upon the thief to restore that which he has stolen, or else he will meet with the fate of Judas.”
Here imprecations are added. When the second nail is cast down similar threats are made, and when the third nail is thrown, call upon the most Holy Trinity, and add imprecations still more dreadful. This is a very long form, and we have only given its general scope.
One conjuration is headed, “How to make one’s self invisible.” This form is too impious for repetition.
Then we have, “A Sure Cure for Fever.” After this a number of cures for what these people call “blood stopping.” This cure is believed to cause an immediate cessation of the flow of blood from a wound, and one of our neighbors is said to have had his life saved in the following manner: The man, when intoxicated, accidentally gave himself a fearful gash with an axe. They ran for the “granny” to say the words, which words were no sooner pronounced than the gushing of blood ceased.
When blood flows the method is peculiar, for no matter how imminent the danger, they first pause and carefully wrap up and lay away the instrument that caused the wound. This is evidently a wise precaution, and, although taken rather late, cannot be objected to, but these people attach a secret significance to the act.
There is a form, “How to close a wound from fire-arms,” but it is too blasphemous for utterance, as it claims its power by an invocation of the sacred blood of Christ, of the five precious wounds, and of the most Holy Trinity. A French gentleman, who is now no more, but who was of the highest culture, observing this superstitious practice, while making us a visit at South Mountain, mentioned that near Marseilles, in France, some very degraded peasants make use of a similar impiety with a view to the stopping a flow of blood from a wound, and with acknowledged favorable results.
The little book of which we write has eight forms for the healing of wounds, each applicable to a hurt of a different nature, as when caused by violence in a quarrel from fire-arms or from cuts.
But the forms are one and all sacrilegious, and in substance repeat each other.
There is but one spell that makes use of numbers, and these numbers have an occult meaning wholly unintelligible to us. We shall give the entire form. It is possible that these letters and numbers may be connected with some method of finding a numerical magic square, or with astrological divinations.
This spell is headed, “How to stop the flowing of blood for one’s self.” Say, “In God’s heart stop,” 3, 2, 8g. 28 these are his. t59 28d, these others also are his. 5, 865g 28d, the third is his wish. Stop, blood, stop. So must thou surely stop. So God be praised. Bb 5t 7622 5th h itg 261 B 28. ┼┼┼.
Some of the prescriptions in the book remind one of the Zingari lore. The following is one, which is evidently intended to be mesmeric in its nature, and seems to be a sort of gypsy trick. It is, “How to make a dog willing to stay with you.” Take a small piece of bread, lay it under the shoulder until it is warm, and give the dog to eat; or, take a laurel leaf, give the dog half of it, and keep the other half yourself.
The next reminds one of some pagan rite. It is, “How to dispel fear of the darkness of night.” Take water which is distilled, and mix with man’s blood, spread it over the face, and thou wilt fear nothing. Thou mayest go wherever thou wilt.”
If one wishes always to win at cards use the following spell: “Bind the heart of a bat round the arm that deals the cards with a red silk thread…”
There is one [spell] of real witchcraft, but our rather limited command of the German language prevented our understanding the conjuration, and we were only permitted to retain the book a few days, during which we had to decipher its contents as best we could, unassisted by books of reference….
The conjuration we last alluded to has for title, “How to divine the time of one’s death.” Take a very little olive oil, mix it with good brandy, add a little yellow white ingredient (we could not understand this substance), and set fire to the mixture. The vision that will appear from the flames will be so terrible that each one present will tremble for his neighbor! This is certainly a rather novel mode of frightening people, and some doubtless would not strongly object to a “vicarious terror.”
We close with “A sure trick against fire,” which we have been assured is infallible. There are, however, ten more forms for “cures” or “spells” set down, but we have already doubtless overtaxed the patience of our reader and must finish. This art against fire is, however, very peculiar. The book tells us that it can also be used as a protection against lightning. It is likewise a cure for the bite of a mad dog. Make the dog eat the words, and he can do no harm. This advice is suggestive of the joke so often put upon children, namely, to catch a bird by putting salt upon its tail, which is doubtless less difficult than to make any rabid dog eat these twenty-five letters. Any one who was to try to enforce the remedy would, we opine, be in danger of the contagious virus. As a remedy for fever the treatment is easy, for the patient will be cured if the words are laid under his back for twenty-four hours. It says: Persist in these twenty-five spells as used in the following table, which observe well. These twenty-five letters form the hymn which the three men Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did sing when the king Nebuchadnezzar threw them in the fiery furnace. These twenty-five letters are the spell through which they induced God to send his holy angel to keep them in safety in the midst of their distress. They also preserved Daniel in the lion’s den.
Whosoever shall have this hymn in his possession, or in his house, will be safe: his house shall be secure from fire, thunder, or lightning. The magic letters are as follows, and are of precisely
the same mysterious import as the Abracadabra, so familiar to all magicians.
S A T O R
A R E T O
T E S E T
O T E R A
It will readily be observed that these twenty-five “spells” or “letters” form a magic square, namely, a series of letters disposed in parallel and equal ranks; so that the letters of each row, taken perpendicularly and horizontally, form a repetition, and the reverse obtains. When taken diagonally they have some reference one to the other….Dr. Franklin thought it worth while, as a matter of mathematical investigation, to speculate upon the magic square; and, the result of his studies formed a very elaborate one.
In conclusion, whatever deception, illusion, imposition, or diablerie outright, our recital may include, the narrative of these practices is quite true, as narrated to us, and is a collection of traditions received by our narrators as facts. We, in turn, submit these superstitions to the curious speculations of the learned, and to the judgment of the wise…
South Mountain Magic, Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren, 1882
For contrast, several cures from The Long Lost Friend:
A BENEDICTION TO PREVENT FIRE.
“The bitter sorrows and the death of our dear Lord Jesus Christ shall prevail. Fire and wind and great heat and all that is within the power of these elements, I command thee, through the Lord Jesus Christ, who has spoken to the winds and the waters, and they obeyed him. By these powerful words spoken by Jesus, I command, threaten, and inform thee, fire, flame, and heat, and your powers as elements, to flee forthwith, The holy, rosy blood of our dear Lord Jesus Christ may rule it. Thou, fire, and wind, and great beat, I command thee, as the Lord did, by his holy angels, command the great heat in the fiery oven to leave those three holy men, Shadrach and his companions, Meshach and Abednego, untouched, which was done accordingly. Thus thou shalt abate, thou fire, flame, and great heat, the Almighty God having spoken in creating. the four elements, together with heaven and earth; Fiat! Fiat! Fiat! that is: It shall be in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
TO COMPEL A THIEF TO RETURN STOLEN GOODS.
Early in the morning before sunrise you must go to a pear tree, and take with you three nails out of a coffin, or three horse-shoe nails that were never used, and holding these toward the rising Sun. you must say:
“Oh, thief, I bind you by the first nail, which I drive into thy skull and. thy brain, to return the goods thou hast stolen to their former place; thou shalt feel as sick and as anxious to see men, and to see the place you stole from, as felt the disciple Judas after betraying Jesus. I bind thee by the other nail, which I drive into your lungs and liver, to. return the stolen goods to their former place; thou shall feel as sick and as anxious to see men, and to see the place you have stolen from, as did Pilate in the fires of hell. The third nail I shall drive into thy foot, oh thief, in order that thou shalt return the stolen goods to the very same place from which thou hast stolen them. Oh, thief, I bind thee and compel thee, by the three holy nails which were driven through the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, to return the stolen goods to the very same place from which thou hast stolen them. + + + The three nails, however, must be greased with the grease from an executed criminal or other sinful person.
To stop Bleeding at any time:
As soon as you cut yourself, you must say: “Blessed wound, blessed hour, blessed be the day on which Jesus Christ was born, in the name + + + Amen
Another way to Stop Blood:
Write the name of the four principle waters of the whole world, flowing out of Paradise, on a paper, namely: Pison, Gihon, Hedekiel, and Pheat, and aput it on the wound. In the the first book of Moses, the second chapter, verses 11, 12, 13, you will find them. You will find this effective.
Another still more certain way to stop Bleeding:
If the bleeding will not stop, or if a vein has been cut, then lay the following on it, and it will stop that hour. Yet if any one does not believe this, let him write the letters upon a knife and stab an irrational animal, and he will not be able to draw blood. And whosoever carries this about him, will be safe against all his enemies: I.m.I.K.I.B.I.P.a.x.v.ss.Ss. vas l.P.O. unay Lit. Dom. Mper vobism. And whenever a woman is going to give birth to a child, or is otherwise afflicted, let her have this letter about her person; it will certainly be of avail.
Pow Wows or The Long Lost Friend, John George Hohman (also known as Johann Georg Hohman)
As I was finishing this post, I ran across this note from an author who has a copy of the black book:
One of the most curious of the smaller powwow books to appear in Pennsylvania is Der Freund in der Noth; oder, Geheime Sympathetische Wissenschaft, welche nie zuvor im Druck erschienen. The title page bears the legend Aus dem Spanischen ubersetzt and bears the false imprint and date Gedruckt in der Calender-Fabrike, zu Offenbach, am Mayn, in Deutschland, auf Ansuchung eines Tyrolers, 1790. It is obviously a Pennsylvania imprint and after 1800. A copy which I have, much chewed by mice in a Pennsylvania attic, but otherwise intact, bears the following mystifying preface on the provenance of the book:
The following secret remedies were taken from an old Spanish manuscript, which was found at an old hermit’s who for over a hundred years had lived in a cave in the dark valleys of the Graubunden land, performing in the same region many wonderous works, among others expelling from said regions the monstrous dragon with four young, which dwelt upon those very fearsome mountains in Unterwalden—as indeed one can read in his legend which was published at Freyburg in Ichtland by Hans von Leixner in the year 1752.
Like Hohman’s book, this little twenty-four-page collection combines medical cures with magical charms. The usual range of the latter is from stopping thieves to charming guns and extinguishing fire. It includes the SATOR-formula with S instead of N in the central square….“Hohman and Romanus: Origins and Diffusion of the Pennsylvania German Powwow Manual,” Don Yoder in American Folk Medicine: A Symposium, edited by Wayland D. Hand, 1976, p. 243
Several other books with the title Der Freund in Der Noth can be found at Worldcat. At least one is a folk-medicine manual; others deal with the subject of purgatory.
And, if you haven’t had enough blood-stopping excitement, you can find a book titled Der Freund in Der Noth: An Annotated Translation of an Early Pennsylvania Folk-Healing Manual, translated by Patrick J. Donmoyer, here with no preview. I have not seen it so I cannot say how it corresponds to The Black Book of Wizard Zittle. The book is attributed to Johann Georg Hohman, the author of The Long Lost Friend. Did Hohman create two versions of the same powwow manual, dressing up Der Freund in Der Noth with an impressive Spanish/German/dragon-legend pedigree? Or was it a compilation by a competitor? If you know, chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com.
You can now purchase a paperback version and a Kindle edition of The Black Book.
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog, The Victorian Book of the Dead.