Virgil (70—19 BCE) - Witchcraft Hall of Fame

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

Virgil (70—19 BCE)
Witchcraft Hall of Fame

Publius Vergilius Maro is now most famous as the Roman poet Virgil, however he was also a legendary magician. Born near Mantua, he is buried in Naples, which legend says he founded and still protects via his magical arts.

Virgil was the son of a Roman senator and allegedly a graduate (with honors!) of a Moorish magical college of Toledo. In addition to being a magician, he was an escape artist and esteemed worker in metals for magical purposes (copper, gold, and iron). The implication is that he was an alchemist.

Virgil allegedly founded a school for sorcerers in Naples and taught there himself.

According to one legend Virgil was once jailed; he sketched a ship on the prison wall, climbed aboard and escaped by sailing away through the air.

He allegedly constructed magical, healing thermal baths. Jealous physicians in Salerno, who had an investment in people’s illnesses, destroyed them as the baths were destroying their business.

Virgil used magic to protect Naples:

Image He created a frog-sized fly and set it atop a city gate to ward off other frogs

Image He created a golden leech to free the city from a plague of leeches

Image A horse made from copper chased thieves who ignored the city curfew, trampling them underfoot

Image A huge iron horse cured horse diseases. (It was eventually melted down by jealous farriers, whose responsibilities then included veterinary work, and used to craft church bells.)

Image In days before outdoor lighting, he prepared a glass lamp that was never extinguished

While digging in a vineyard, according to one story, Virgil unearthed a corked bottle containing not one genie but twelve demons. They demanded to be released. He negotiated: the demons would teach him magic in exchange for popping the cork.

On his deathbed, he decided to carry out a magical rejuvenation ritual, requesting help from a faithful servant. He told the servant to kill him and chop him into little pieces. His head was to be quartered and salted. The various pieces were to be placed in a barrel in the cellar in a very specific order under a magic oil lamp that Virgil had prepared, arranged so as to leak into the barrel and onto his body parts. The lamp was to be kept burning for nine days and nights after which time Virgil said he’d be revivified. The servant initially protested and refused to do it but Virgil was very persistent and the man finally agreed, killed him and followed directions.

The Emperor missed Virgil and came looking for him. He forced his way into the house, which was searched. Virgil’s dismembered body was found. The Emperor refused to believe the story about the magical resurrection and killed the servant before the operation was completed. After the servant’s death, the Emperor saw an apparition of a naked child run three times around the barrel and say to the Emperor, “Cursed be the time you came here!” The child disappeared, never to be seen again, nor was Virgil resurrected.

He was buried in Naples.