Scot, Michael (1175–c. 1235) Reputed Scottish magician, alchemist, mathematician, physician, astrologer, and scholar. Michael Scot was outspoken in his condemnation of Magic and NECROMANCY; yet he seemed to know so much about these subjects that most of his peers considered him both a sorcerer and a necromancer. Legends described him as a magician with great supernatural powers. Little is known about Scot’s early life, including his exact birthplace. It is believed that he may have come from Balwearie, near Kirkcaddy in Fife. His family evidently was affluent, for he studied at Oxford. After Oxford, Scot traveled to various centers of learning in Europe: the Sorbonne in Paris; Bolgna; Palermo; Toledo; and Sicily. According to ROGER BACON, he learned Arabic. He served Don Philip, an official in the court of King Frederick II. Scot took holy orders and was named the archbishop of Cashel, Ireland, by Pope Honorious III in 1224. This upset the Irish clergy, and Scot declined the office on the grounds that he did not know the Irish language, and he took an office in Italy instead. In 1227 he returned to Frederick’s court in Sicily and became the court astrologer. Scot fit in well with the other court Adepts in magic, Alchemy, and the occult arts. While in Sicily, Scot translated various works and wrote his own. His principal works include a four-part introduction to Astrology and a two-part work on alchemy, Magistery of the Art of Alchemy and Lesser Magistery. His alchemical works show that he conducted numerous experiments with Jewish and Muslim alchemists. He recorded elaborate and strange recipes, including one for making GOLD that is attributed to Scot and that calls for “the blood of a ruddy man and the blood of a red owl,” mixed with saffron, alum, urine, and cucumber juice. In 1230 Scot went to England where he is erroneously credited with introducing the works of Aristotle, though he did translate Aristotle’s works into English. He wrote extensively, mixing science and the occult. His book on physiognomy, the study of the human face, held that the stars and the planets marked life events upon the face. His book on astronomy includes astrological PRAYERS and CONJURATIONS. As was typical of the time, Scot believed in alchemy, Divination, and the magical properties of precious stones and herbs as sciences. Scot is said to have predicted that Frederick would die in Florence, causing the emperor to avoid that city. However, Frederick did die in Firenzuola, or “Little Florence.” Scot also wrote extensively on magic and necromancy, fully describing practices and rituals. It was said that Scot performed them himself, disguising his magic rituals as scientific experiments. According to legend, Scot commanded a retinue of FAMILIARS that he dispatched to raid the kitchens of the pope and French and Spanish royalty and to transport their food back to him by air. He also was said to ride through the sky on a demonic horse. He sailed the seas in a demonic ship or rode on the back of some fantastical seabeast. He could make the bells of Notre Dame ring with a wave of his magic wand. The devil was said to help Scot in philanthrophic undertakings, such as the building of a road in Scotland within a single night. Dante called Scot a fraud and placed him in eternal torment in the eighth circle of the Inferno. Scot is said to have predicted that his own death would be caused by a small stone falling on his head. He started to wear a steel helmet, but one day he took it off in church, and a two-ounce stone fell from the roof onto his head and killed him. He is said to be buried in Melrose Abbey in Scotland along with his books of magic. According to legend, a “wondrous light” burns within his tomb to chase away evil spirits and will continue to burn until the day of doom.
- Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. 2d ed. New York: Facts On File Inc., 1999.
- Holmyard, E. J. Alchemy. New York: Penguin Books, 1999.