The Life and Times of a Renaissance Magician

Faustus by Dr Leo Ruickbie

Five hundred years ago a legend was born. The seeker after forbidden knowledge is lured into signing a pact with the Devil. He enjoys the fruits of his deal in wild adventures, riotous high-living and in the arms of beautiful women, but cannot escape his end in the fiery clutches of Satan. That is the story that has inspired genius, high art and popular culture around the world, from Beethoven to Cradle of Filth. Hundreds of performances of Goethe’s Faust are staged nightly. Souls are even put up for auction on eBay. The legend of Faustus has assumed a life of its own. But is it the real story?

In the first major biography in five hundred years, Dr Ruickbie reveals the truth behind the infamous legend and uncovers the true identity of the man who scandalised sixteenth century Europe. Against all our wildest imaginings Faustus was not a charlatan, nor was he in league with the Devil. We should not think of him as the pact scribbling diabolist, but as a renaissance magician, albeit controversial and condemned by his peers. In an age of spiritual hunger, economic collapse, war and prophecies of doom – an age not unlike the Renaissance – it is a story for our times.

What others are saying about Faustus:

Dr Ruickbie has re-evaluated and contextualised the sources of the Faust tradition from a position of authority. The result is a work of meticulous scholarship that can be read as a gripping page-turner. – Osman Durrani, Professor of German, University of Kent

Investigating the lures and dangers of astrology, magic, and devil pacts, Leo Ruickbie succeeds in reconstructing the events that reflect the birth and progress of the Faustian myth, and the man behind it. – Frank Baron, Professor of German, University of Kansas

In looking at Faustus from the magical perspective Dr Ruickbie himself takes on the sorcerer’s mantle as he summons up a nebulous shade from the distant past, giving it new life and making compelling reading. – Alan Richardson, occult author

Ruickbie is a good writer. It’s hard to write history because history is about people and personalities; to write history, you have to introduce the reader to piles of strangers; if you don’t make them come alive, your reader won’t be able to keep track of them, and the history dissolves into a mash of meaningless and forgettable faces. But Ruickbie pulls it off. Highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys history. – Kirsten Mortensen, novelist