In recent years, the Church has increasingly talked about the threat of occultism and everything related to it for the spiritual life of the Catholic. In the last letter of the Episcopate, "On the dangers of our faith", the bishops warn against fairies, clairvoyants and other forms of secret practices. However, there is something that the hierarchs do not want to remember and even historians rarely mention it. It is about the Old Polish train for secret knowledge, which was enormously fascinated by the professors of the Krakow Academy, the mighty, and even the kings. From the 16th century, Poland was considered a local secret science center, to which the greatest European mages, alchemists and necromancers flocked without having to fear persecution. Some even recognized Krakow as the "center of magic" where "shadows of the dead" were called.
Boom for Spells
The popularity of astrology flourished during the Renaissance. Forecasting the future on the basis of the position of celestial bodies has become the domain of lecturers of the Krakow Academy, where this art has been taught since the 20s of the XV century. Krakow calendars (so-called judicia) containing horoscopes and tips were enjoyed in neighboring countries.
In addition, other magical arts were grown. The legendary Twardowski Master, after whom the traces were carefully erased from the pages of history, really existed and he spearheaded the school of spells in Krakow. It was even said that the famous magician, Johann Faust (about 1480-1540), who was to enter into a pact with the Devil, learned the sorcerous arts in Poland. Other well-known occultists, including necromancers John Dee (circa 1527-1608) and Edward Kelley (1555-97), or the famous physician-alchemist Paracelsus (1493-1541), also arrived to the Vistula River. Rabbi Maharal was born in Poland (around 1520-1609) - the creator of the legendary "Prague Golem". Finally, it was Poland that released one of the most famous alchemists in history, Michał Sędziwój (1566-1636).
Many people do not know anything about this aspect of our culture, and these are just a few examples. But where did the revival come from - the age of flourishing knowledge and art - so much interest in the occult? In short, it resulted from a combination of Renaissance freethought with the influx of works on magic, kabbalistic and alchemical subjects conquered by the Turks of Constantinople. The secret teachings have given rise to many contemporary fields, such as optics, pharmacy and chemistry. But, as Dr. Roman Bugaj (1922-2009) writes - a historian and expert on this subject, everyone knew well that outside the walls of the school, the scholars devote themselves to forbidden practices ...
Black and White Mages
In revival, magic was divided into "white" - philosophical, combined with spiritual contemplation and "black" - cursed, condemned, but also more frequently practiced. It included necromancy - calling the dead to ask them questions about the future, the gecko - that is, subordinating evil spirits and demons to them, or catoptromancy - divination from the magical mirror. Of course, in addition to this, folk magic, witchcraft and herbal medicine flourished. The "learned mages", however, formed a separate caste and did not have to be afraid of persecution and processes. One of them is still remembered, although already in the counter-reformation period, the Church took care to remove all traces of it. This Master Twardowski.
Officially he appeared as Laurentius Dhur or Durentius (Latin durus - hard, hence "Twardowski"), he was a courtier of Zygmunt August (1520-1572). About his past, apart from the episode of studies in Wittenberg, little is known. At the end of 1551 or 1569, this expert on the art of necromancy undertook to invoke in front of the ruler the spirit of his deceased wife, Barbara Radziwiłłówna: Twardowski asked the king to stay out of the chair he was sitting in, keeping his silence, if he acted otherwise, life and soul would be in danger. At the appearance of the ghost, he could see a sad, pathetic and unheard-of tragedy. Little was missing, and the king could not be stopped and he would run into her womb [...], if Twardowski did not pull him back and stop him in his chair until the ghost disappeared "- reported the story told by Joachim Possel, doctor of Zygmunt III Waza.
Twardowski, however, was lost in unclear circumstances. His book about magic was also lost. Not much is known about the sorcerous school that he was supposed to lead in Krakow. The only memento of him is the mirror he was to use for the magical ceremonies that went to the church in Węgrów. Few people know that the capital of Poland has issued yet another magician, only about European fame. It was Johann Faust - a wandering sorcerer in the Goethe drama, a scandalous writer and author of the book on the ominous title of "Höllenzwang" ("Forcing Hell"), where he gave instructions on how to subdue the forces of evil.
About his education in Poland, he mentions several sixteenth-century authors, including Philip Melanchton (1497-1560) - professor at the University of Wittenberg and the closest collaborator of Luther, who wrote: "I knew a man named Faust from Kundling, a small town near my family sides. During his studies in Kraków he learned magic, where art had been practiced steadily before, and where public lectures were held about it”. "Faustbuch" - published at the end of the sixteenth century, the "biography" of the magician mentions that he often returned to the Vistula. Despite his intellectual virtues, the "doctor" was a very controversial and dissolute man. He died around 1540 in an inn in Staufen, probably triggering an explosion during an alchemical experiment (hence the legend that the Devil kidnapped him).
At the end of the 16th century, Poland became a stop for occultists on the way to Prague, where Emperor Rudolf II (1552-1612) - according to some, a madman, and according to others a satanist - gladly gave shelter to magicians and alchemists. Counting on a career in this region of Europe, two English necromancers came to Krakow - John Dee (a scholar and former royal adviser) and Edward Kelley, who practiced something that can be compared to contemporary "spiritualist seances". The voivode Olbracht Łaski brought them to Poland, who willingly used their services. It is known that in 1585 both mages appeared in Niepołomice on an audience with Stefan Batory (1533-86). During the session, the beings speaking through Kelley stated that the king "is accompanied by an unclean spirit", "his bed impregnated," and "disgusting leprosy". Despite this overt picture, Batory released these comments as if nothing had happened.
Astrologers and "Prophets"
Stanisław Sarnicki - a historian living in the XVI century wrote that Krakow's scholars were famous for evoking the "shadows of the dead". However, then the capital was the best known of astrologers, most of whom were recruited from the staff of the academy there. The renowned Renaissance scholars, including Jan of Głogów (1445-1507), used to read the fate of the stars, who probably prophesied the appearance of Luther when he wrote about "a black monk who will bring great confusion to the Church". The alchemist and astrologer was also Maciej from Miechów (1457-1523) - Rector of the Krakow Academy and father of the myth about the Sarmatian origin of the Polish nobility.
Among the professors of astrology there was even a priest - Andrzej Glaber from Kobylin (1500-55). In turn, Kasper Goski (died 1576) - a physician educated in Italy, then the mayor of Poznań, according to dr. Bugaja, he was a Twardowski's friend. For accurate forecasts, the authorities of the Venetian Republic funded him a statue and set a lifetime annuity. Among the rulers, Zygmunt August mentioned the greatest passion for occultism, in which the court often hosted the sorceresses and witches who he brought from Lithuania or Podlasie. Some astrologers and magicians have obtained royal favors for outstanding merits.
A certain Piotr Proboszczowice (around 1509-60) enjoyed a great influence on the king, whom he persuaded Barbara Radziwiłłówna to treat with alchemical preparations. He was also the author of the famous prophecy that Sigismund Augustus would die in '72 (he died in 1572). Another astrologer and medic, Scot Martin Fox (died 1588) warned the last Jagiellon before leaving for Królewiec in 1552, prophesying his death. The king believed his words when, during a salvo of honor, a lost bullet killed prist Zygmunt Wiśnowiecki, who stood beside him. In the same period, the court of prist Konstanty Ostrogski was active by the astrologer Jan Latosz (1539-1608) known for setting the date of the end of the world for 3036.
The Riddle of the Golden Transmutation
The second most popular field in the 16th and 17th century Poland was alchemy. In practice, it boiled down to experiments whose aim was to "transmute" non-precious metals into gold. At the theoretical level, it was based on principles that derived from occult philosophy. The precursors of this field in Poland were ... monks. Jan Długosz recalled that as a result of the alchemical experiment of the Krakow Dominicans in 1462, a fire occurred that consumed three streets, including the seat of the bishop. Later on, the mystery of transmutation interested the powerful and rulers, who recognized that it could be the key to great wealth. The search for the legendary "philosopher's stone" - a substance that was supposed to initiate a transformation into gold, were interested in Zygmunt III Waza (1566-1632), as well as the adviser and royal secretary, the founder of Zamość, Jan Zamoyski (1542-1605).
The alchemist about European fame was Michał Sędziwój, who came from Limanowa, called Sendivogius, who contributed to the ... transfer of the capital to Warsaw. The reason for this was the fire that broke out in his alchemical laboratory in Wawel of Krakow during the experiments he carried out together with Marshal Mikołaj Wolski (1553-1630). Sędziwój also became famous as an expert medic. It was loud that he cure by the "white powder" the dying son of a Czech nobleman. He was also respected at the court of Rudolph II, who funded a plaque with the inscription: "Let another as much as the Sędziwój Polonus did." It was supposed to commemorate the successful transmutation witnessed by the emperor.
Old-fashioned style for the occult, brought with it criticism from the clergy. Living in the mid-sixteenth century, the exile, Stanisław of the Poklatecki Mountains, the author of the book “Pogrom sorcerous errors” complained that “sorcery teachings, each authority protects”. Indeed, the magicians enjoyed a great deal of freedom at the time, though popular witches and sorceresses were often brought to trial. The flood of false alchemists, the 17th century wars and the extermination of Poland led to a decline in interest in the "learned magic". Born in the mid-eighteenth century, enlightenment recognized her as charlatanism and superstition. Today, however, no one questions the fact that Sędziwój or Paracelsus had a significant contribution to the development of science.
The history of Poland is not only "God, honor, fatherland". Historical politics focusing on propagating martyrdom and nurturing megalomania not only favors the emergence of myths, but also distracts attention from the many colorful aspects of polish history. The church still shows "allergy" to the occult. Occasionally, getting lost, the hierarchs recognize Satan's "swastica", “yoga” or “Harry Potter” as a feces. In the fight against all "unrighteous thinking", however, they often achieved success, the price of which was high. It is through the Church and his zealous servants that most traces of the original beliefs and traditions of Polish Pagan - Slavic tribes have been destroyed cutting our original roots.
Quotes come from from the book by R. Bugaja, "Secret Sciences in Old Poland,