Musca Magica

(The Magic Fly)

Marcus Claudius Marcellus [42-23 BCE] was the only son of Gaius Claudius Marcellus and Octavia, the sister of Augustus; he married Julia [25 BCE], the only daughter of Augustus. A man of the highest character, he was adopted by Augustus and expected to succeed him, but he died in his twentieth year. And so Vergilius laments him in the Sixth Book of the Aeneid [ll. 860-86].

Now, once the Mantuan Seer [Vates Mantuanus, i.e. Vergilius] asked Marcellus, for he was the Magician's student, whether he would prefer a bird that killed other birds or a fly that caught other flies. Marcellus requested leave to ask his uncle, the Emperor, who replied, wisely, that the fly was better, because flies had long been a plague in Neapolis [Naples] at that time; they covered the walls until they were black, and they ruined the meat. When Vergilius heard the decision, he applauded its wisdom and began apply his art.

First Vergilius ordered that a Golden Fly as large as a frog be made according to astrological principles. (To hold no secrets: he made it while the Second Aspect of Aquarius was in the Ascendant; Cecco d'Ascolo, who revealed this, was burned at the stake in Florence in A.D. 1327.) And after preparing the Fly magically, he prayed over it to Muiagros (Fly Catcher), whom the Greeks call Apomuios (Averter of Flies), the God of Flies (Deus Muscarum). Who is this god? Zeus was called on by this name to drive the flies away, and the people of Elis call on him to expel the flies from Olympia. But we also hear Hercules called Apomuios, for he had himself called on Zeus Apomuios to keep away the flies when he was offering sacrifice at Olympia, and so to this day no flies enter the Temple of Hercules in the Cattle Market at Rome. Yet others say that Muiagros is a Syrian god (even Baal ze Bul, the Lord of Flies, Beelzebub). The Magic Fly was then placed atop a column at the city gate, and after that flies did not trouble the citizens of Neapolis.

The spell for creating this Fly was passed down to the wizard Apollonius Tyaneus [of Tyana], of the first century of our era, who also made a brazen Fly (Muia) and Gnat (Kônôps); for it is said the Vergilius also made a Gnat (fecit et Culicem). Many years later Apollonius' Fly, his Gnat and other amulets were taken to Konstantinoupoleos [Constantinople], were they could still be seen at the beginning of this millenium [i.e. c.1000 CE; they are mentioned in the anonymous Patria Kônstantinoupoleôs]. However, by then they had been broken by the Christian priests and were no longer efficacious. In later years Albertus Magnus also made a Magic Fly according to the formula of Vergilius.

(Writing in A.D. 1211, Gervasius Tileburiensis [of Tilbury] tells us that two churches were protected from flies by this art, and that he knows this by his own investigation. One of these churches was near Arles, were Gervasius spent his last years. )

It may also be that Vergilius' poem De culice (i.e. Culex, The Gnat) describes something that happened to him, not some shepherd, for it relates how a Gnat saved the Master's life, by bothering him until he awoke and saw a snake about to strike. In this way, Vergilius may have learned the Knowledge of the Flies.

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Last updated: Sun Oct 27 17:05:29 EST 1996