Scot, Michael (ca. 1175–1234) reputed Scottish magician whose life is surrounded by as much legend as fact. Scot was respected as a mathematician, physician, astrologer and scholar. He 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 grew up around him, transforming him into 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 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; Bologna; Palermo; Toledo and Sicily. In Sicily, he was an astrologer to king Ferdinand II, whose court included many adepts in magic, alchemy and the occult arts.
Scot entered the clerical order at some point in his life and enjoyed great esteem in the eyes of the Pope. In 1223 the Archbishopric of Cashel in Ireland became vacant, and the Pope nominated Scot to fill it. He declined because he did not know the Irish language.
In 1230 Scot went to England, where he is erroneously credited with having introduced the works of Aristotle, which he translated.
He wrote extensively, mixing science and the occult. His book on physiognomy, the study of man’s face, held that the stars and planets marked life’s events upon the face. His book on astronomy included 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.
In particular, Scot wrote on magic and necromancy, fully describing practices and rituals. The publication of such magic acts customarily was prohibited out of fear that people would be encouraged to perform them. It was said that Scot performed them himself, disguising his magic rituals as scientific experiments.
According to legend, Scot commanded a retinue of familiars, which he dispatched to raid the kitchens of the Pope and French and Spanish royalty, and transport their food back to him by air. He also was said to ride through the sky on a Demonic horse; to sail the seas in a Demonic ship; and to ride on the back of some fantastical sea beast. He supposedly could make the bells of Notre Dame ring with a wave of his magic wand.
The Devil was said to help Scot in his philanthropic undertakings, such as the building of a road in Scotland within a single night.
A recipe for making gold that is attributed to Scot calls for “the blood of a ruddy man and the blood of a red owl,” mixed with saffron, alum, urIne and cucumber juice. Dante called Scot a fraud and placed him in eternal torment in the eighth circle of the Inferno. He is said to be buried in melrose Abbey in Scotland. 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.
- Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. London: reader’s Digest Assoc. Ltd., 1977.
- Sharpe, C. k. A History of Witchcraft in Scotland. Glasgow: Thomas D. morison, 1884.