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Svartkonstböcker: A Compendium of the Swedish Black Art Book Tradition

by Dr Thomas K Johnson

666 pages / September 2019 / 9781947544222

Svartkonstböcker is a fully revised edition of Dr Johnson’s 2010 PhD Thesis Tidebast och Vändelrot: Magical Representations in the Swedish Black Art Book Tradition, featuring a thorough, path-breaking study of the black art book tradition in Sweden, as well as English translations of 35 Swedish black art books ranging from the 1690s to the 1940s, including over 1900 spells and a robust index.

The late Dr Johnson always wished that his work would see print publication in its entirety. Other publishers have offered to produce this work in two volumes, prioritizing the spells in the black art books over the scholarly apparatus that contextualizes them. Here Revelore presents the work in full, comprising over 650 pages of material. Minor errors from the PhD manuscript have been rectified, and archival images of the characters, sigils, and illustrations have been restored in high fidelity. This is the definitive source work for the Swedish magical corpus of black art books. 

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by Michael Tarplee

 

Doctor Tom Johnson’s journey to give voice to the voices of his ancestors began with a most fortuitous question. Tom was in a PhD program at UC Berkeley and was feeling uncertain as to which way to go with his dissertation. One of the women who was a part of his dissertation committee when he expressed his uncertainty asked him simply, if he could do whatever he wanted to do what would he wish to do most? He immediately answered without a thought that he would gather as many of the Black Art books that were still left in the libraries and farmsteads in Sweden and translate them for the preservation of his ancestral knowledge. He got a necessary grant to go to Sweden and gather the remaining Black Art Books. Which he did for many months in 1992 to 1993.

After coming back from Sweden, the pressures of everyday life, and lack of academic funding necessitated that he got a full-time job. So, he had to put finishing his dissertation off for around twenty years. However, a friend of ours finished her dissertation after an absence of 20 years. She encouraged Tom that it was still possible to finish his PhD. After talking about it and my encouragement he decided to apply to the University of Washington, which has one of the best Swedish departments in the world outside of Sweden.

Working at the University of Washington as a teacher’s assistant, a teacher of Swedish and filling in for other teachers in classes in the Sagas, Old Norse, and the Mythology and Religion of the ancient Scandinavians while writing his dissertation was quite a challenge. He often had to translate archaic Swedish from hand written notes. He rose to the occasion, receiving praise from his academic superiors. I was given permission to sit at the table during the defense of his dissertation. All the leading Scandinavian scholars of this country at the table deferred to Tom as the expert in his field. The worst criticism was only that one examiner said she would have used a different modern word to translate a few archaic Swedish words. His dissertation was completed on February 22, 2010.

Dr. Johnson’s first and until now only published work Graveyard Wanderers: The Wise Ones and the Dead in Sweden (Caduceus Books, 2012) is a compilation of the spells in his dissertation concerning the use of bones for spell casting and the gaining of magical power.

Foreword to this edition, by Michael Tarplee
Preface to the PhD Thesis
Acknowledgements
Dedication

 

Part I: Tidebast och Vändelrot: Magical Representations in the Swedish Black Art Book Tradition

 

Chapter I. Introduction

Posing Questions

Why?
What?
Where?
When?
Who?
How?

Previous Scholarship

Examining Previous Studies
Definitions: Charms, Spells, Rites and Recipes
Theoretical and Morphological Classification
Establishment of Age, Relation and Provenance
Performance
Charm Research in Scandinavia

Collection and Publication of Data

Folklore Questionnaires
Important Sources about Black Books: Questionnaire M100

Black Art Book Research
Recent Trends

Chapter II. Folk Belief about Wise Ones

Folk Vocabulary Describing Wise Ones
Unusual Appearance
Patient Visitation or At-Home Practice: Locations of Consultations
Clergy: Minister or Sorcerer?
Häxan: The Malevolent Witch
Fear of the Wise Ones
Obtaining Magical Power

Obtaining Magical Power through Health Crisis
Obtaining Magical Power through Ingesting Power Substances
Obtaining Magical Power through Ritual

Ritual: Circumambulation and “Year-walking”
Ritual: Timing
Ritual: Personnel

Obtaining Magical Power through Objects and Fetishes

Objects
Fetishes, Ancillary Spirits and Spertusar

Obtaining Magical Power through Inheritance or Apprenticeship

Circumstances of Birth
“Picking things up” from Various Sources
Apprenticeships in General
Apprenticed to an Older Family Member
Apprenticed to a Nature Spirit
Apprenticed to the Devil

Taboo: Keeping Secrets

Self-Perception of the Wise Ones
Conclusion

Chapter III. Folk Belief about Black Art Books

Introduction: General Beliefs
Black Art Books: Descriptions
Black Art Books Written in Blood
Black Art Books: Owners
Black Art Books: Procurement
Black Art Books: Acquired from the Devil
Black Art Books: Requirement in Magical Performance
Black Art Books: Tracing Ownership, Tracing Power
Black Art Books: Removal from Circulation
Conclusion

Chapter IV. The Data and Analysis

Analysis of Formal Characteristic
Analysis of Function (Intent or Motivation)
The Manuscripts

MS1 (Kulturhistoriska muséet i Härnösand) – “Cånster att bruka, nembligen…”

MS2 (Eslövs museum 3329A) – “No 1 Rademin”

MS3 (Eslövs museum 3329B) – “No 4 Stora Katekis”

MS4 (Eslövs museum 3329C) – “För Tandvärk”

MS5 (Kungliga Undersökningen 3335) – “Trollboken”

MS6 (Kungliga Undersökningen 11120) – “Svartkonstbok”

MS7 (LUF A.285) – “Glimåkra socken, Skåne”

MS8 (LUF A.795:26–31) – “Magiska formler och magiska handlingar”

MS9 (LUF ABC: C.W. von Sydow) “Svartkonstbok från Mo”

MS10 (Nordiska muséet 33.823) – “Tjula socken, Södermanland”

MS11 (Nordiska muséet 33.824) – “Åkers socken, Södermanland”

MS12 (Nordiska muséet 40.034) – “Cypranis Konster och läror och des inrät”

MS13 (Nordiska muséet 41.652) – “Svartkonstbok, Norra Skåne”

MS14 (Nordiska muséet 41.674) – “Lönsboda, 1674”

MS15 (Nordiska muséet 63.180) – “Samling af Utomordentliga…”

MS16 (Nordiska muséet 63.711) – “Östra Göinge, Skåne”

MS17 (Nordiska muséet 271.600 15:1949) – “Konstbok”

MS18 (Nordiska muséet 271.601A) – “Sankt Petri Nyckel”

MS19 (Nordiska muséet 271.601B) – “Läkarbok”

MS20 (Nordiska muséet 271.601C) – “Upplysa de okunniga”

MS21 (Nordiska muséet 271.602) – “Negromänliska saker”

MS22 (Nordiska muséet, unnumbered)- “Gryts och Gåringe Skogsbygd”

MS23 (Nordiska muséet, unnumbered) – “Mönsterås, Småland”

MS24 (Nordiska muséet, unnumbered) – “Om fiskeri å des inehål”

MS25 (Nordiska muséet, unnumbered) – “Åkers socken, Södermanland”

MS26 (in private ownership) – “Per Björnsson, Lunnom, Skåne”

MS27 (Folkminnesförening i Lund) – “varuti jag skrifver varjehanda, 1841”

MS28 (Philipstads-Bergslags Laga, 1751) – “Signeri och Vidskepelse”

MS29 (Skara Veterinärbibliotek 1051) – “Helfwetesbref, 1791”

MS30 (ULMA 984) – “Jugas Olof Jonsson, 1873–74 DAL”

MS31 (ULMA 36365) – “Salomoniska magiska konster”

MS32 (in private ownership) – “Supriania, Fru Alstads socken”

MS33 (in private ownership) – “Troll-Marksens Svartkonstbok”

MS34 (Collectio Lengertziana, Scania, LUB) – “Zimpartier wettenskap”

MS35 (LUF, unnumbered) – “C.O.Swahns Svartkonstbok”

General Conclusions 

Chapter V. Conclusion

Organizational Principles of Black Art Books
Collectors’ Generic Expections of the Black Art Book
Scholars’ exaggeration of illiteracy among the lower classes
Distribution and Provenance
Continental Evocation meets an Ethnic Swedish Folk Belief
The Results of Statistical Analysis
Black Art Book Owners and their Claims to Power
New Light on Old Scholarship

 

Part Two: The Manuscripts: Translations

MS1 (Kulturhistoriska muséet i Härnösand) – “Cånster att bruka, nembligen…”

MS2 (Eslövs museum 3329A) – “No 1 Rademin”

MS3 (Eslövs museum 3329B) – “No 4 Stora Katekis”

MS4 (Eslövs museum 3329C) – “För Tandvärk”

MS5 (Kungliga Undersökningen 3335) – “Trollboken”

MS6 (Kungliga Undersökningen 11120) – “Svartkonstbok”

MS7 (LUF A.285) – “Glimåkra socken, Skåne”

MS8 (LUF A.795:26–31) – “Magiska formler och magiska handlingar”

MS9 (LUF ABC: C.W. von Sydow) “Svartkonstbok från Mo”

MS10 (Nordiska muséet 33.823) – “Tjula socken, Södermanland”

MS11 (Nordiska muséet 33.824) – “Åkers socken, Södermanland”

MS12 (Nordiska muséet 40.034) – “Cypranis Konster och läror och des inrät”

MS13 (Nordiska muséet 41.652) – “Svartkonstbok, Norra Skåne”

MS14 (Nordiska muséet 41.674) – “Lönsboda, 1674”

MS15 (Nordiska muséet 63.180) – “Samling af Utomordentliga…”

MS16 (Nordiska muséet 63.711) – “Östra Göinge, Skåne”

MS17 (Nordiska muséet 271.600 15:1949) – “Konstbok”

MS18 (Nordiska muséet 271.601A) – “Sankt Petri Nyckel”

MS19 (Nordiska muséet 271.601B) – “Läkarbok”

MS20 (Nordiska muséet 271.601C) – “Upplysa de okunniga”

MS21 (Nordiska muséet 271.602) – “Negromänliska saker”

MS22 (Nordiska muséet, unnumbered)- “Gryts och Gåringe Skogsbygd”

MS23 (Nordiska muséet, unnumbered) – “Mönsterås, Småland”

MS24 (Nordiska muséet, unnumbered) – “Om fiskeri å des inehål”

MS25 (Nordiska muséet, unnumbered) – “Åkers socken, Södermanland”

MS26 (in private ownership) – “Per Björnsson, Lunnom, Skåne”

MS27 (Folkminnesförening i Lund) – “varuti jag skrifver varjehanda, 1841”

MS28 (Philipstads-Bergslags Laga, 1751) – “Signeri och Vidskepelse”

MS29 (Skara Veterinärbibliotek 1051) – “Helfwetesbref, 1791”

MS30 (ULMA 984) – “Jugas Olof Jonsson, 1873–74 DAL”

MS31 (ULMA 36365) – “Salomoniska magiska konster”

MS32 (in private ownership) – “Supriania, Fru Alstads socken”

MS33 (in private ownership) – “Troll-Marksens Svartkonstbok”

MS34 (Collectio Lengertziana, Scania, LUB) – “Zimpartier wettenskap”

MS35 (LUF, unnumbered) – “C.O.Swahns Svartkonstbok”

 

Appendix. Toward a Swedish Botanical Pharmacopoeia

Commonly Occurring Folk Names for Substances in Black Art Books

Bibliography
Index
About Folk Necromancy in Transmission


About the Author

Dr. Thomas Johnson was born to and brought up by Swedish parents. His mother came from just outside of Göteborg. His father was from southern Västergötland. He travelled to Sweden where he learned Swedish as well as at home and church.

He majored in music and Swedish at North Park University in Chicago. He also attended Södra Vätterbygdens Folkhögskola in Jönköping in Småland. He completed his Master’s Degree in Germanic Linguistics and Swedish Literature at the University of Washington. He studied at Uppsala University in 1985.

In 1986, he began his doctoral degree at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1992 he was a visiting fellow at the Nordic Museum in Stockholm, where he performed research to eventually complete his dissertation in the Spring of 2010 at the University of Washington. He taught Swedish, as well as Swedish folklore, sagas, Old Norse religion and mythology at the University of Washington. He also taught Swedish at the Scandinavian Language Institute at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle.

He is survived by his spouse Willow Moon (Michael Tarplee).

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