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Cosmology and magic – The angel of Mars in the Libro de astromagia*

Authored by: Alejandro García Avilés

The Routledge History of Medieval Magic

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9781472447302
eBook ISBN: 9781315613192
Adobe ISBN:


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The image on the front cover of this book comes from an acephalous manuscript known as Libro de astromagia (ca. 1280–84) ascribed to the court of Alfonso X the Wise of Castile (1252–84). 1 The angel of Mars stands in the centre of a sphere containing several images of Mars to be engraved for the fabrication of talismans, following different sources – especially the Picatrix, as declared in the text itself 2 – but without any mention of the function of the planetary angel. 3 This angel holds the sphere’s rim with both hands as though to set it spinning. In other cosmological images of the time, 4 as well as some cosmological and eschatological images of the early Middle Ages, 5 angels appear around the celestial spheres or holding them. However, the angel of Mars in the Libro de astromagia actually seems to give movement to his planetary sphere. This image of an angel moving a planetary sphere is exceptional in the context of medieval iconography, but it has deep roots in contemporary ideas.

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