Praefatio ad Lectorem

(Preface for the Reader)

An old Chronicle from the Austin Friars at York [now in the collection of the Earl of Arundel, 6 fol. 135v] informs us that Alexander Neckam was born in September A.D. 1157 at Sanctus Albanus [St. Alban's] on the same day as Richard [Coeur-de-Lion] was born at Windeshore [Windsor], and that Alexander's mother Hodierna ["She of Today"] suckled Alexander at her left breast and Richard at her right. Alexander was educated in the abbey school at S. Albanus and later at the University of Paris, where he had become a professor by 1180. He returned to England in 1186 and later became a professor at Oxford, where he lectured on the Song of Songs to anyone who had a mature mind and sublime intelligence [maturi pectoris & sublimis intelligentie].

Writing under the name Albricus (or Albericus, suggesting whiteness ) Londoniensis [of London], he described all the gods in the book called Liber Ymaginum Deorum [Book of the Images of the Gods - codex Vat. 3413]. This book was based on the Pythagorean Doctrines of Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius [c. 400 CE], a Hellene [i.e., Pagan] who wrote about Vergilius and the Saturnalia, and of Martianus Capella [fl. 410-30 CE]. In his account of the gods he also relied on manuscripts from Servius [c. 400 CE] and Donatus [mid 4th cent.], who both knew many things about Vergilius. [Servius'commentary on the first six books of the Aeneid survives, as does Donatus' Life of Vergilius. Also extant are Macrobius' Commentary on the Dream of Scipio and Martianus' Marriage of Mercury and Philology.] Based on these ancient books he attempted to set down the true meanings of the Images he described. In this way Albricus brought the Olympians back to Europe, and made possible the Renaissance. When the star exploded and burned for six months [the supernova of 1181], the Sardae Sagae [Wise Women of Sardinia] took Albricus to their subterranean temple and initiated him into the fuller meaning of the Secret Images [Imagines Arcanae]. [The Sagae are, presumably, the Gianae and the temple in question is their Ta Rat'.]

(The images were also used to hide the teachings of the followers of Peter Waldo (the Waldenses), the "Poor Men of Lyons," for the barbe, their preachers, began to preach after A.D. 1176, when Albricus was in Paris. Already in A.D. 1179 Pope Alexander III had forbidden the preaching of the Waldenses, and in A.D. 1184 the corrupt Pope Lucius III declared the Poor Men to be heretics because they advocated the simple life of the country dwellers [pagani]. This was an evil time, for 80 Poor Men were burned at the stake in Stassburg in A.D. 1211, beginning the centuries of witch hunting; the following year, in the Children's Crusade, 30 thousand children from France and Germany were killed or sold into slavery.)

Because he practiced Nigromantia [Necromancy], Alexander was called Nequam [Bad], although we now write his name Neckam. Late in life he renounced Nigromantia and planned to join the Benedictine order at S. Albanus, until Abbot Garinus replied in a letter that he if Alexander was Nequam [Bad], then he didn't want him, therefore Alexander went instead to join the Augustinian monks at Cirencester, where he became Abbot in A.D. 1213. He also picked Cirencester because of his old friendship with the Bishop of Worcester, who had accompanied him to Italy. The mark of the Augustinian order is moderation in all things; "Nothing in excess" [Ne quid nimis; in Greek: mêden agan] as Apollo said at Delphi. (Nevertheless they say Alexander was an ardent worshipper of the Rites of Bacchus.) In his later years he wrote vigorous diatribes against the dualism of the Cathars (e.g., the Speculum Speculationum) and had very little to say about the Nigromantia of Vergilius in his De Naturis Rerum [On the Nature of Things], Bk. II, ch. 174. Magister [Master] Alexander Nequam died March 31, A.D. 1217 at Kempsey (a manor of the Bishop of Worcester, near Worcester); he was buried in Worcester Cathedral.

In the same year in which Alexander died, Kessanus M'Lenane went to Michael Scottus [Michael Scot, 1175?-1234?], who was in Paris translating astrology manuscripts from Arabic, and recruited him for the Schola Obscura [Hidden School] in Salamanca, where he learned Nigromantia. When Michael had learned this Craft, Kessanus gave him the Images of Albricus, but he chose to modify them, on the basis of the Picatrix (i.e., the Gyâha), a magic book which he had translated from Arabic, although it was written by Hippocrates. The Necromancer said these images were more authentic, for they came directly from depictions of the gods of Babylonia, which were preserved among the Haranite Sabeans. He did this book for Emperor Frederick II, for whom he was court astrologer. In the years that followed, Michael and Kessanus often worked together in the service of Frederick, and Kessanus assisted Michael in his secret return to England A.D. 1231.

Francesco Petrarca [Petrarch, 1304-74], who wrote the Trionfi, knew the Images of Albricus, and even saw the Sardinian cave, which he described [Africa, Canto III, 140-262] as the Hall of King Syphax (but he hid its location by placing it in Numidia). These descriptions were collected into a little book about the Images of the gods [i.e. the Libellus de Imaginibus Deorum, c. 1400], which was also put under the name Albricus.

Then Parrasio Michele of Farrara [d. 1456] put together these Images, and they were later used by Pope Pius II and Cardinals Bessarion and Nicholas of Cusa at the council in Mantua (Vergilius' birthplace) that lasted from June A.D. 1459 to January A.D. 1460, but the cards were not well received by them, for they were considered Heretical or even Pagan. In later times this series of images were called the Tarocchi del Mantegna [Tarot of Mantegna], after the Paduan painter Andrea della Mantegna [1431-1506], or the Carte di Baldini [Cards of Baldini], after Baccio Baldini [fl. 1460-85], for these artists also illustrated the Trumps [Triumphi]. Ludovico Lazzarelli made them into a book, De Gentilium Deorum Imaginibus [On the Images of the Gods of the Gentiles, c. 1471 CE, codex Vat. Urb. 716].

Returning to the work at hand, Magister Alexander wrote his Anecdota de Vergilio during his youth while he was teaching at Paris, at the same time he wrote his Fabulae [Fables] and his Commentary on Martianus Capella; he wrote under a Celestial Sign, an exploding star [1181]. He apparently worked from manuscripts, available to him there, the Histories of Pollio, and from other secret books [e libris arcanis]. I first learned of this manuscript from my father-in-law Daniel Stibar, who is remembered as the Würtzburg city councilman who assisted Magister Georgius Sabellicus, known as the younger Faustus, the great Necromancer from the Sabine Hills, a place famous for its sorcerers, when he was fleeing officials who feared his power. Since I will not have this history printed, I offer you a manuscript copy.

The time is right; there have been many signs. I began this manuscript when the Celestial Fire appeared in the heart of the Sea Monster [the supernova in Cetus started in 1592] and completed it during the year it burned. Soon we will come to the end of a Great Year, for in A.D. 1599 the Dog will rise again on the Longest Day [the end of a Sothic Cycle], which it has not done since Antonius Pius was Emperor (A.D. 139). Shortly thereafter a Starry Sign will show the Path of the Sepent-bearer, which will open [presumably the supernova in Ophiuchus, 1604]. Then shall be the time to reveal the first secrets of the Dew and Cross [Ros et Crux]. But by that time I shall have departed this world.

Bene vale. August. anno a Christo nato quingentesimo nonagesimo sexto supra millesimum.
[Farewell. August, in the one thousand, five hundred and ninety-sixth year from the birth of Christ.]

- Joannes Opsopoeus Brettanus

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Last updated: Wed Nov 20 14:32:45 EST 1996