Dealing with the Devil

This paper given at Reinventing the Renaissance Occult, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, 14 November 2009, explored the development of the Faustian Pact, looking at how the Renaissance magician Faustus came to be condemned as having made a pact with the Devil, and how this condemnation itself came to be a pattern for magical practice.

Pacts with the Devil have been a mainstay of Christian legend, used to reveal the saintliness of some and revile the Satanism of others – a two-edged weapon in the war of words fought between sanctioned ‘truth’ and outlawed knowledge. And it is a sword that has landed firmly on the neck of one sixteenth century magician in particular.