Klingshirn, William E., ed., "Isidore of Seville's Taxonomy of Magicians and Diviners" (Traditio 58: 59-90)
Text name(s): De Magis; On Magicians
Number of pages of primary source text: 7
Dates: 615 - 636
- Translated into English.
- Philosophic Work
- Education / Universities
- Magic / Witchcraft
- Philosophy / Theology
Comments: Isidore, bishop of Seville, was an important writer in Visigothic Spain, producing many works on grammar, history, and theology, the most important of which is his Etymologies. The Etymologies, compiled from a wide variety of classical and early Christian sources, relates the origins of various words grouped thematically in 20 books. Appended to this brief article is a thoroughly footnoted edition of Etymologies 8.9 De Magis (On Magicians). In it, Isidore, explains and categorizes different types of diviners (ex. necromancers who bring the dead to life to answer questions, or hydromancers, who call up demons by looking at water to see their reflection). Isidore’s definitions informed many medieval conceptions of the occult and of witchcraft. A full Latin edition of the Etymologies (including the De Magis) is available online at the following address:
The editor’s brief (23 pp) introduction notes that the De Magis has been little studied apart from specialized studies of the history of magic, and offers his annotated translation to rectify this gap. The editor provides a textual history of the work, noting that the De Magis is not found in all of the many manuscripts in which Isidore’s Etymologies survive. He briefly outlines the structure of the work, and summarizes its contents.