The ability to become unseen or to render another person, animal, or object unseen is one of the most important Spells in Magic. In myths and folk tales, invisibility is sometimes conferred by Talismans, such as magical rings, hats, and wands.
Rituals for making oneself invisible are provided in Grimoires, Magical Handbooks. The Grimorium Verum specifies that the ritual must be begun on a Wednesday before sunrise. Take seven beans and the head of a dead man, and put one bean in the mouth, two in the eyes, and two in the ears. The other two beans probably are intended for the nostrils, though the grimoire does not say. Trace a pattern of your own design on the head with your fingers; then bury the head facing up. Water it with brandy every morning before dawn. On the eighth day, a spirit should appear and demand to know what you are doing. The correct reply is, “I am watering my plant.” The spirit will want to water the head himself, but you must refuse, no matter how persistent he is. Finally the spirit will show you the pattern you traced on the head; this is proof that he is the true spirit of the head itself. Then let the spirit water the head. On the ninth day, the beans will sprout. Put the beans in your mouth. You will be invisible as long as they are in your mouth. Do not ingest them. Take them out when you want to become visible again.
Grimoires give instructions for attaining invisibility by means of a magical ring. According to the Little Albert, take a tuft of hair from the upper head of a hyena and plait it into a ring. Place the ring in a pewit’s nest for nine days. “The perfumes of Mercury must be used in a like manner,” the Little Albert states. Whoever wears this ring will be invisible and will reappear by removing the ring from the finger.
Another method from the Little Albert calls for a ritual to be performed on a Wednesday in spring under the auspices of Mercury when it is conjoined to other favourable planets, such as the moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and the sun. Fashion a ring from the metal mercury for the middle finger. Place on it a small stone from a pewit’s nest while intoning, “Jesus passing through the midst of them disappeared.” Place the ring on a palette of fixed mercury. Compose the perfume of mercury and expose the ring to it. Wrap the ring in taffeta the color of the planet. Place the ring in the pewit’s nest where the stone was obtained and leave it for nine days. Remove it and fumigate it as before. Store the ring in a box made of fixed mercury. To use it in ritual, place the ring on the middle finger with the stone outwards. It will fascinate people so that you seem invisible. To become visible, turn the ring so that the stone faces inward on the hand, and place the other hand over it. (See Fascination.)
In Celtic lore, the invisibility spell is called the fith-fath or fath-fith. The fith-fath (pronounced fee-fa) also transforms people into an animal. The fith-fath was especially important in Irish lore. It was said to have been given to the Tuatha De Danaan by the god Manannan, governor of the sea who had power over shifting fogs and illusions. Hunters and smugglers were said to favour using the fithfath, which enabled hunters to leave forests with their kills invisible to enemy eyes and smugglers to travel with their invisible stolen goods undetected.
The fith-fath was written in various charms, such as the following example:
A magic cloud I put on thee,
From dog, from cat,
From cow, from horse,
From man, from woman,
From young man, from maiden,
And from little child.
Till I again return.
Celtic lore also holds that invisibility can be conferred by fern seed, an invisible plant that becomes visible only on Saint John’s Eve at the very moment that Saint John the Baptist was born. This is the only time that fern seed can be harvested. However, anyone who attempts to pick it will be attacked by fairies.
- Cavendish, Richard. The Black Arts. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1967.
- Spence, Lewis. The Magic Arts in Celtic Britain. Van Nuys, Calif.: Newscastle Publishing, 1996.
- Waite, Arthur Edward. The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts. 1899. Reprint, York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1972.