Mar. 2nd, 2019

ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)
Picatrix coverI had the chance a few days back to take a look at Dan Attrell and David Porreca's new translation of the Latin Picatrix, and was pleasantly surprised. Not, mind you, by the fact that it's a capable translation, well introduced and footnoted -- academic standards for such things are pleasantly high these days, and some of the absurd habits that used to pass unchallenged in the history of magic in previous decades have thankfully been put to rest for the time being. 

No, the surprise was that the translators were gracious enough to include the translation of the Picatrix Chris Warnock and I did in their acknowledgments, and also in a footnote, which I can't forbear quoting in full: 

"6. Though there already exists a good translation of Pingree's Latin Picatrix, translated and edited by the respectable duo John Michael Greer and Christopher Warnock, their edition appears to be directed toward practicing 'students of medieval and Renaissance magic' or 'students of the occult' rather than toward an audience of historians. See Greer and Warnock, Picatrix, 19." (Attrell and Porreca, Picatrix, 281)

Of course Attrell and Porreca are quite correct. The translation Chris and I did was specifically intended for people who want to practice the magic of the Picatrix; the introduction, notes, and even in some cases the choice of words in our translation were guided by that intention; and it's quite reasonable that historians, whose concerns are very different from those of magical practitioners, would want a translation of their own. 

For quite a long time, though, it was de rigueur in the end of the academic community that studies magic to pretend that the modern occult scene doesn't exist, or -- when that scene forced its attention on the academy in some way or another -- to look down their noses at those of us who have kept up the habit of practicing these things. I've sometimes thought of this as being akin to the legendary disdain of the physicist for the engineer, or more generally of those who study theory for those who roll their sleeves up and get into the messy realm of practice. That disdain wasn't helpful for either side, and it's good to see it giving way to something a little closer to mutual respect. 

I haven't had the chance to go through Attrell and Porreca's translation in detail yet, but it looks very capable, and I'd encourage anyone whose interest in the Picatrix focuses on history (rather than practice) to pick up a copy. Of course those who are more interested in practice already know where to find a good translation... ;-)

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