This work addresses the question of the intended audience of the Ghāyat al-Ḥakīm, the famous Andalusi treatise on magic, better known by its Latin moniker, Picatrix. I propose that a substantial portion of the Ghāya's readers were scribes, or kuttāb, in the tenth-century caliphate of Cordova. Many of these scribes were considered udabāʾ; that is, those who possessed adab, an elusive yet ubiquitous term in Islamic culture. The concept of adab, scribal culture, and magic traveled to al-Andalus in similar ways and at similar times, and they reached their apex in two figures: Ibn Rabbih and al-Qurṭubī. I argue that, in the Ghāya's spells and rituals, these kuttāb and udabāʾ could find not only a shortcut to acquire abilities vital to their work but also more dubious ways to promote themselves in a difficult political environment. Further, I show that sections of the Ghāya potentially allowed these officials to establish contact with the “supreme scribe,” the personified planet Mercury, who is closely related to the mythical sage Hermes Trismegistus.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cultural Studies