Can You Read This Witch Spell? A Chicago Library Needs You

The Newberry is asking for public's help in translating 17th-century charms manuscript
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2017 10:27 AM CDT
Can You Read This Witch Spell? A Chicago Library Needs You
Can you understand this? If so, the Newberry Library needs your help!   (Newberry Library)

In the market for some 17th-century spells written by (possible) real-life witches? The Book of Magical Charms, a handwritten manuscript penned by two unknown Brits in the 1600s, is shelved at Chicago's Newberry Library, along with two similar books, Quartz reports. The charms manual includes everyday tips and remedies, including how to alleviate menstrual cramps, soothe a toothache (use a dead man's tooth, obviously), and craft a super-strong key. It also enters "um … OK" territory, including details on how to chat with spirits and the ominous-sounding "activate the Seal of Solomon." Of the 522 pages contained in the three books, about 350 have been at least partially transcribed, a library rep told Chicagoist last week—and the library wants the public to get in on the act and help transcribe and translate the remainder.

Those eager to further elucidate the texts can access The Book of Magical Charms online, as well as the other two tomes. "You don't need a PhD to transcribe," project coordinator Christopher Fletcher tells, with Atlas Obscura noting the process is "much like updating a Wikipedia page." Fletcher notes the book's survival is remarkable, as both the Protestant and Catholic churches at the time did everything they could to destroy magic-heavy manuscripts like this. Not everyone thinks the library's call for armchair transcribers is a smart move: "NO / BAD IDEA / NO / HAVE THESE PEOPLE NEVER SEEN A SINGLE HORROR MOVIE," one commenter tweets. (In an ancient Scottish chapel, evidence of a witch prison.)

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