The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
The World’s Greatest Magician Black Herman’s Secrets of Magic, Mystery, and Legerdemain
Books of Magic and Witchcraft
The author, who called himself “Black” Herman Rucker, was an African-American stage magician, herbalist, and hoodoo doctor. He remains highly unusual because he is among the very few to have successfully integrated simultaneous careers in legerdemain and true magic. Since the European witch-hunts, both these traditions have eyed each other with suspicion and hostility. Although each derives from shamanic arts, many practitioners of either art perceive their craft as diametrically opposed to the other.
Rucker published a monthly magazine from his Harlem headquarters and was famed for providing winning lottery numbers. Like many magicians, Rucker cultivated a glamorous image and origins. He claimed to have been born in Africa and to have learned mystic traditions in his travels around the world, including stops in Paris, London, China, India, and Egypt.
This is not a handbook of instructions for commanding and compelling; however it was written by someone who was familiar with the genre, particularly with those grimoires that combine folk healing with practical charms and spells.
Just because Black Herman’s grimoire is modern doesn’t mean it isn’t steeped in mystery and confusion. The book consists of two parts: a preface and a body of main text. The preface is dated 1925, however no book in the form in which it presently exists has ever been found with a publication date earlier than 1938.
To further add to the confusion, there is also a nineteenth-century grimoire known as Herman’s Book on Black Art. It has no relationship to Black Herman’s Secrets of Magic other than a confusing similarity in titles. The identity of the older Herman remains unknown; that book hews to more traditional grimoire material and has been classified as a necromancer’s manual. The World’s Greatest Magician Black Herman’s Secrets of Magic combines parlor tricks and legerdemain with spells, charms, horoscopes, lucky numbers, and Christian ritual.
See DICTIONARY: Conjure; HALL OF FAME: Black Herman Rucker.