The Invisible Bean Spell February 12, 2017Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback
Location: the spell is described by the English writer John Aubrey in the 1680s. He alleges though that it was from ‘[t]he Jewes’.
Aim: to grow a number of magic beans that will render the eater briefly invisible.
Ingredients: some black beans, a decapitated human head, a young child.
Aubrey’s Spell (Aubrey 1881, 102-3)
(i) Bury human head with one bean placed in the eye; also plant other beans in the earth around.
(ii) Wait for the eye-bean to grow and produce ripe beans: use the beans planted thereabouts to test ripeness.
(iii) Bring young child and, holding on to the child, have them shell the beans that have grown out of the buried head.
(iv) One bean is invisible, and you will know which when the child becomes invisible on shelling: take the bean.
Ball (2015) gives a variant version of this spell, allegedly from Aubrey: there are seven black beans, the head must be of a suicide, the child must be a girl and the beans, once planted, must be watered with brandy for seven days. It is not clear if this Ball has borrowed from another version of Aubrey (Aubrey’s texts often have important variants) or whether this is a later and garbled version.
Aubrey tells of a group of Jewish merchants who, unable to acquire a dead man’s head used a cat’s. Things did not end well: ‘but about a day or two after, a Cock came and scratcht [the beans] all up’ (Aubrey 1881, 103). Do try, then, and use the correct ingredients.
This is the only spell of this sort, known to me, from Europe: if it really is Jewish in origin it would be worth following the spell back into the magical spells of the diaspora.
Help: Can anyone sort out the conundrum of where Ball gets his variants from; and what about the supposed Jewish origins of the spell: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com
For references and explanation of the project and tag index: Beach’s Book of Shadows.
Bruce T. 23 Feb 2017: That version can’t go back much further than the 16th cen. as black beans are native to the New World. I wonder what kind of legume turned the trick before 1492? They switched to a good old reliable black cat head when human heads were short? Those Jew’s know their stuff! No wonder they produce so many brilliant scientists despite their small numbers? You can’t go wrong with black cats if you want to be invisible. It’s why stealth aircraft are painted black. The pigments they use are derived from black cat genes.
23 Feb 2017: Stephen D There are greater authorities than the admirable Aubrey, though perhaps none more efficacious.
See this. In the Remains of Gentilism (I think, have to check) Aubrey records “an old filthy rhyme used by base people”: When I was a young maid, and washed my mother’s dishes/ I put a finger in my cunt and plucked out little fishes. Odd people in Wiltshire: nearly as odd as in Derbyshire and Somerset where there are still farmhouses with cupboards in the walls, each containing a human skull which is the luck of the house. Aubrey, a far more learned man than I, connects this to the eleventh-century Decretals of Bishop Burchard of Worms, “where there is an interrogation, if she did ever put a little fish into her pudenda, and let it die there, and then fry it, and give it to her lover to eat”. A long-lived thing, tradition.