Faust, Dr Johannes - Witchcraft Hall of Fame

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

Faust, Dr Johannes
Witchcraft Hall of Fame

Dr Faust was the most famous mage of the medieval era and the inspiration for countless artistic masterpieces; he has been immortalized in works by Marlowe, Goethe, Berlioz, Gounod, Thomas Mann, and Klaus Mann. (For information on his legend, see CREATIVE ARTS: Literature: Faust.)

Was there really a Faust or was the legend inspired by a fictionalized version of Cornelius Agrippa (see page 706)? Was Faust based on a real person? Possible candidates include:

Image Johann Fust (1400—1466), a printer

Image Georgius Sabellicu Faustus, a sixteenth-century German itinerant alchemist and fortune-teller

Image Johann Faust, an early sixteenth-century German theologian

It is also possible Dr Faust is a pseudonym for someone else, other than Agrippa. It was once a tradition for magicians to use each other’s names partly as tribute and partly, as witchcraft was illegal, because no one wished to reveal their own true name. In any case, someone named Faust (Latinized as Faustus) seems to have lived somewhere in what is now southwestern Germany in the early sixteenth century.

The earliest known evidence for Faust’s existence comes in a reference from the scholar Abbot Trithemius, who wrote a letter in 1507 saying that Faust, whom he described as a “blasphemer” and “charlatan,” had stayed with him the previous year. Trithemius wrote that Faust had held a teaching position in Kreuznach, which he was forced to resign because of allegations of lewd behavior with young male students. Evidence also comes from Protestant pastor Johann Gast, who preached a sermon about Faust’s powers after dining with him at Basel in 1548.

Johann Weyer, Agrippa’s disciple, also knew Faust and described him as a drunk who invented the story about his pact with Satan to add to his reputation.

Was there a Satanic pact? Faust himself allegedly said that, through ignorance, he failed to protect himself with correct magical ritual and symbols and was thus at the mercy of the spirit Asteroth, who manifested in the guise of a “gray monk.”

According to the Archives of the University of Heidelberg a student named Johannes Faust received a Baccalaureate on January 15, 1509 with a degree in Theology. He was placed first among his class of sixteen. He allegedly went on to lecture on Homer and mythology at the University of Erfurt, complete with a show-and-tell program realistic enough to terrify his students.

Faust became a prominent astrologer. On February 12, 1520 he allegedly was paid ten florins to cast a horoscope for prince bishop Georg III Schenk von Limburg. In 1525, Civic authorities in Wittenberg ordered Faust’s arrest. He fled to Ingolstadt, from which he was banished on June 17, 1528.

In 1530, Faust was allegedly in Prague where competitive astrologers at Emperor Rudolf’s court prevented him from gaining a permanent position. In 1532, he tried to settle in Nuremburg but, according to the city records, he was refused permission by the authorities on the grounds of being a necromancer and sodomite.

There are many legends regarding Faust:

Image He invited the Prince of Anhalt to dine with him at his castle, which had magically and suddenly materialized. As soon as the meal was over, the castle disappeared.

Image Faust allegedly conjured up Alexander the Great for Emperor Charles V who wished to speak with him.

Image Faust allegedly transported himself, while invisible, to the Vatican where he (still invisible) slapped the Pope across the face with a dead fish and stole his dinner.

Claiming to be Faust’s hometown is Knittlingen, approximately 30 miles northwest of Stuttgart, Germany on the edge of the Black Forest. A bronze statue of Faust has been erected near the City Hall. This Faust, ostensibly the illegitimate son of a wealthy farmer, allegedly studied astrology, chemistry, magic, and medicine at the University of Krakow, a school with a reputation for educating sorcerers, followed by further studies at German universities. He lived on a bequest from a wealthy uncle rather than gifts of Satan. (See WITCHCRAZE!: Germany.)