3852: The ‘Spiritual’ or ‘Religious Shield’ (Geistlicher Schild); A book of prayers, blessings, salves and devotions, together with religious and magical formulae.

Physical description:
Bound in four parts, with the second part containing many in-text woodcuts depicting portraits of various saints for each hour of the day in the later half. The tiny size of the volume classifies it as a near- miniature (4.25" x 2.25")
Museum classification:
Grimoires / Cunning Folk / Library

This book combines four texts; the ‘Spiritual Shield’ (Geistlicher Schild gegen geist- und leibliche Gefährlichkeiten allzeit bei sich zu tragen : darinn sehr kräftige Segen und Gebete, so theils von Gott offenbaret, von der Kirchen und H.H. Vätern gemacht und von Urbano VIII. röm. Papst approbiret worden Gedruckt zu Mainz, c.1647), attributed to Pope Urban VIII; a ‘Beautiful and well-approved salve and blessing for water and land’ (Ein schoner und wohl approbirter H.Segen zu Wasser und Land, c. 1647); a variant of the ‘The Spirit Shield’ to be used at ‘any hour’ (Geistliche Schild-Wacht : darinnen der Mensch fur ihm eine jegliche Stund..., Gedruckt un Jahr Christi c. 1705), and a devotional work on the Stations of the Cross (Andächtige Weis dem Amt der h. Mess nutzlich beyzuwohnen: in Betrachtung des bittern Leidens und Sterbens unsers Herrn und Seeligmachers Jesu Christi, c. 1647).

These texts were widely circulated during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and were reprinted in various forms: the ‘Romanus Booklets’, the ‘Colomanus Booklets’, the books of Moses or the ‘Religious Shield’ (Geistlicher Schild). Their influence can be seen today in the folk magic of modern Austria: research in the Bregenz Forest conducted in 2009 revealed that many of the prayers and blessings found in these texts are still in circulation and manifest as charms and spells. 

The first book, Geistlicher Schild, was attributed to Pope Leo VIII (d. 965) who was thought to have been a collector of Kabbalistic manuscripts. Towards the end of the third text can be read the following formulae: + Z + DIA + BIZ + SAB + Z + HGF + BFRS. The capital letters represent various Psalms which all refer to disease; when these were combined and inscribed onto a pendant or piece of paper kept upon the person they were considered to be protection against various maladies and the plague. For the most part the book is written in German, however one extended section is in Latin and contains the rubric for a prayer containing the names of God: Agios . Athanatos . Sother . Tetragrammaton . Jehova . Apha & Omega . Principium & finis., etc. It is highly likely that books like these attest to the use of Christian prayers and formulae within European folk magic.

Paper, board, ink
Copyright ownership: