The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
Ficino, Marsilio (October 19, 1433—October 1, 1499)
Witchcraft Hall of Fame
Marsilio Ficino was a Renaissance magician, physician, and priest who developed a system of “natural magic” intended to draw down and utilize the natural powers of the cosmos, especially of the planets. The leading philosopher of the Italian Renaissance, Ficino, a physician’s son, was an authority on classical Greek and Latin. Cosimo de Medici sponsored Ficino to translate Greek manuscripts for him.
Ficino received a copy of an ancient collection of writings called the Hermetica and became convinced that the Hermetica was the source of Plato’s knowledge. Ficino believed it to be the work of Hermes Trismegistus, a contemporary of Moses, and implied that Moses might actually be Hermes Trismegistus. Ficino believed that Moses received the Kabalah on Mount Sinai alongside the Ten Commandments and that he was the custodian of secret wisdom as well as the giver of the law.
(Many modern scholars disagree, dating the Hermetic Collection to c.200 CE, after Plato’s time. Those occultists who ascribe the Hermetic to the legendary Hermes Trismegistus of course agree with Ficino.)
From the Hermetica, Ficino learned that all life, including human life, is connected with the seven visible planets. Images may be used to attract the influence of these planets. This became the basis for his system of magic. In his writings, Ficino emphasized that magic was fully compatible with orthodox Christianity. He claimed his system intended to utilize planetary forces (natural, impersonal powers), not summon demons.
Some historians (even in his own time) suspected that Ficino really believed that spiritual beings conveyed these planetary influences but that this was too dangerous for him to publicly admit. Because of written disclaimers and political connections, Ficino was never persecuted.
Ficino composed his masterwork, Three Books About Life, between 1482 and 1489, a comprehensive guide to the health of body and soul—a work of holistic medicine, essentially. He established a magical academy in Florence and served as private tutor for Cosimo de Medici’s grandson and heir, Lorenzo the Magnificent. Among those influenced by Ficino are Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus.
The artist Botticelli, also suspected of having Pagan sympathies, was among Ficino’s devotees. Some believe Botticelli’s famous painting Primavera was originally intended as a magical image designed to attract the spiritual influence of Venus.