Calling All Witches: Museum Needs Ancient Spells Translated

Do you love libraries? Have a penchant for casting spells? Particularly well versed in 17th century archaic Latin and English? Well the Chicago Newberry Library might have the perfect job for you!

Crowdsourcing for spells is probably one of the coolest techno-magic surprises that 2017 has bestowed upon us, and Christopher Fletcher, the project lead, says you don’t even have to be an expert to get involved. “[The initiative] is a great way to allow the general public to engage with these materials in a way that they probably wouldn’t have otherwise,” Fletcher told three magical manuscripts are called The Book of Magical Charms, The Commonplace Book, and Cases of Conscience Concerning Witchcraft. You can explore them at the research library’s online   “Transcribing Faith” portal.

Thought to be composed by two anonymous witches in England in the 1600s, The Book of Magical Charms  has spells for every occasion, whether it’s to cheat your friends out of some quick cash at a dice game, fix your painful period cramps or speak to your local spirit bud, this book has it all.

The Conscience Concerning Witchcraft focuses on the darker side of history, namely the extensive witch hunts that were carried out in the name of the church, resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands of women world wide. Written by Increase Mather, the Puritan minister who presided over the Salem Witch Trials, the book appears to defend the horrors committed and specifies particular aspects of the process that Mather found tiresome.

A collection of religious and moral questions by numerous authors, The Commonplace Book rounds out the triptych of texts that the library needs you to translate. “Ultimately, the crowdsourced contributions are making these manuscripts more accessible to researchers and they’re setting the stage for fresh insights about the coexistence of Christianity and magic as well as the role that religion played in private and public life in the 16th and 17th centuries,” Alex Teller explained to the Chicagoist.

The texts will also be part of an exhibition at the Newberry called  “Religious Change: 1450-1700” opening this month.

This is an unparalleled opportunity to explore texts that most of us would never get to see. Will you be exploring these ancient writings to see what you can make of them? Fancy brushing up your dice hustling skills? Let us know in the comments!

Images: ABC; Newberry Library 

Which Witch is Which?

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