Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 22, Vol. 3. Vernal Equinox 2012
The Life of David Murgatroyd:
by J. D. Lavoie
I have recently come across an intriguing grimoire composed (and edited) by one David Murgatroyd - an English magician from the West Yorkshire area who was active from the 1960s to the 1980s. Murgatroyd possessed a creative and imaginative personality which came out in his writings through which he would assimilate elements of local history, mythology, and his own unique take on magic and ritual. Two individual soft-cover works were published posthumously by the executors of his estate which were based on typed and handwritten pages which he had left behind in the physical world.
One of these paperbacks was titled The Knight of the Raven,which was primarily a biography of the infamous “Dracula” character John Hunyadi, which drew upon both the historical and mythological information available. The second of these books was called The Shadow of the Golden Fire which functioned as both a spell book and a history for a grimoire which was never published and was eventually sold at auction to the author of this article. This paperback book was meant to circulate independently from the grimoire though both share the same title.
Though the paperback book Shadow of the Golden Fire contains some extracts from the grimoire by the same name (which again was never published) all of the spells are abbreviated and instead the history of how these spells came to be in the possession of “Daniel Murgatroyd” (the person who Murgatroyd claimed had compiled this book) is explained in great detail; thus, this 138-page book is mainly a description of the unpublished grimoire’s provenance and an attempt to apologetically defend how the section attributed to Michael Scot may actually be by Michael Scot and how the Book of Gold might actually be the work of baron Clifford, plus some analysis and a general discussion of magical books is included within. Both the Shadow of the Golden Fire and The Knight of the Raven were believed to have been published around the year 1989.
The 384-page unpublished, leather bound grimoire, also titled The Shadow of the Golden Fire, contains many different spells, and while the paperback which shares the same title contains a mythological history of this book, this grimoire contains multiple spells that have never been published, including several curious variations of existing spells, one of which is reprinted later in this article.
Murgatroyd’s grimoire is composed of three works: Marcus Grecus’ Book of FIRES, the Shepherd Lord’s Book of GOLD, and a Book of SHADOWS which includes miscellaneous spells and incantations. These three titles combined provide the name for the grimoire and history paper back book of the same name: SHADOW of the GOLDEN FIRE. The grimoire itself is composed of photocopied handwritten text which is written within a border featuring dragons, a green man, a demonic, and several mythical beast vignettes which are often hand coloured, including a hand drawn image in the corner of each page related to the text. For about a dozen pages, the border has been reproduced, but the actual text is handwritten – not copied. Thus, this grimoire appeared to have been Murgatroyd’s personal spell book.
The Mysterious “Daniel” Murgatroyd
The Shadow of The Golden Fire grimoire was recorded as being derived from materials directly handed down from one Daniel Murgatroyd who appears to have been a descendant of David. According to Murgatroyd, “Daniel” held some loose affiliations with David Lund and his “Society of Dew” as well as being associated with the esoteric group calling itself the Fathers of the Rosy Cross, who published the magazine Lamp of Thoth. According to David Murgatroyd, the spells in this grimoire were compiled directly by this elusive figure known as Daniel Murgatroyd, whose descendant built East Riddlesden Hall in West Yorkshire. It remains unclear as to whether this connection is fabricated or real, but Murgatroyd explains his own attempts to connect with the historical Daniel, the alleged composer of this grimoire:
As to date it has not been possible to trace the Daniel Murgatroyd to whom presumably the book and papers belonged. Finally in desperation a visit was made to the address in the book, 14 Parkwood Street, Keighley, only to find it had been demolished several years ago. Irritations prompted further investigation which resulted in the discovery that 14 Parkwood Street had been the administration offices in the late 1880’s of a group calling itself the Fathers of the Rosy Cross or Rosicrucians who published a magazine, The Lamp of Thoth. They seemed to have aroused the enmity of Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical movement and McGregor; Mathers, leader of the Golden Dawn. Certainly the Bradford area however unlikely seemed to be a centre, for some reason, of a later Victorian revival in modern occult activity with lodges of The Rosicrucians, the Theosophists and the Golden Dawn, all battling for power. ...
Few, if any, historical facts related to David Murgatroyd’s life can be pieced together through his writings, and most of what has been researched about his biographical information comes from the various figures he mentioned in the course of his writing, and the executors of his estate who appeared to be only acquaintances with this unusual figure. Murgatroyd’s life remains an enigma and while he appears to have been a solitary practitioner he was known by some of the founding members of Chaos Magic, especially Ray Sherwin who respected his abilities and talents, and desired that this grimoire be published. Nonetheless, what is actually known of Murgatroyd’s life amounts to very little. Based on several colleagues, it seems that he passed away in his early fifties in either September or October in 1988.
The Order of Transmission
The spell that is reprinted below was believed to have been taken from Michael Scot, the famed astrologer associated with Emperor Frederick II during the 13th century. According to a Latin version of this spell, reprinted in1897 by James Wood Brown in his An Enquiry into the Life and Legend of Michael Scot, this formula was associated with a certain rabbi whom Murgatroyd believed was the infamous Rabbi Moses ben Maiman or Maimonides in 1204.v Though the unique version of this spell found in Murgatroyd’s grimoire is printed below, it is important to understand Murgatroyd’s version of how it was transmitted and preserved from the 13th century into his times.
Murgatroyd believed that most of “Daniel’s” manuscripts were preserved by the 16th century figure John Wilkinson and his Priory of Drax, which he explains was tragically destroyed leaving no trace of its existence. Murgatroyd believed that Wilkinson had been sent by his superiors to the Yorkshire area because of its “prehistory of magical aura.” After the destruction of his order, and his personal arrest, the fate of Wilkinson and his books remain obscured and unknown. Murgatroyd connected this to Daniel by observing that many of Wilkinson’s writing have remained dormant in the area of Wilkinson’s activities until found by the Keighley Fathers, who copied, extended and annotated the contents and illustrations in the 1880’s for publication in their Lamp of Thoth....Presumably the printer’s manuscript or a copy could have remained with one of the family of the Fathers in the Baildon area. A chance discovery by an antique dealer when clearing the house of a deceased client led to the conception of the present publication.
According to a personal acquaintance of David Mugatroyd, a published poet named Jo Pacsoo, Murgatroyd was very knowledgeable about antiques and she believed that at one time Muragtroyd had indeed worked as an antique dealer. The “antique dealer” in this story was probably meant to refer to Murgatroyd himself. Whether Murgatroyd had concocted this story to give validity to this work or actually did stumble upon this manuscript during an estate sale remains unknown. However, his assimilation of Michael Scot is intriguing, and illustrates that Murgatroyd took a magical formula and assimilated into his own practical form of magic.
A Manuscript on Summoning Spirits
According to Murgatroyd, “Daniel” relied on two different manuscripts in composing this particular spell - the “Laurentian manuscript” reprinted in a Latin appendix in James Wood Brown’s An Enquiry into the Life and Legend of Michael Scot (1897(?)), and another manuscript called the “Longsburgh manuscript,” which appears to have been reprinted in a 1834(?) work published by Dr. Robert Naumann titled Serapeum: Zeitschrift fur Bibliothewisseuschaft, Handschriftenkunde und altere Litteratur. Murgatroyd expounds upon the “Laurentian” manuscript as follows:
The original of Daniel’s first manuscript is in the Laurentian Library in Florence, being a fifteenth century (1450 – 1500) compilation of six magical ceremonies, viz.: 1. Ad Amorem; 2. Ad invisibilitatem; 3. Ad Ancarem; 4. Ad demention cuis vis; 5. Ad somnium; 6. The Experimentium Michaelis Scotti: that is the recipes for love, invisibility, madness, Scot Plut 89 sup cod 38. Fol. 244v Fol/p256v, which also claims on p. 244 that it has been in turn copied from a very ancient book.
The “Longsburgh” manuscript also consulted by Daniel is also described by Murgatroyd:
We arrive at Daniel’s second or Prague manuscript which, as with the first, appears to be chronological third copy of the original; however, the original itself pertains to be from three different authors, (1) an Arabic script or cipher, possibly Magreb, or West African, containing coloured diagrams by an unknown author; (b) a Latin document by an unknown Jewish Rabbi which claims to be a translation of the Arab document; (c) an explanatory introduction apparently by Michael Scott. One copy is written in a sixteen or seventeenth century hand on parchment and from the three Arms seals on the cover appears to have belonged to the Dunkelsphuhl family. It is probably a copy of the much older manuscript. The handwriting for all three sections is continuous and the same, as would be expected in a copy but unfortunately precludes an examination of the original handwritings which presumably would be three or at least two distinct kinds.
It seems that Murgatroyd depended greatly upon Brown’s work for much of his historical and introductory material explained in his paperback book:
The Rev. Wood Brown, who, as the first English owner of this manuscript and presumably from whom Daniel gained his copies as with the Laurentian manuscript, propounds the suppositions that this copy was made by Dr. John Dee, Court Astrologer to Queen Elizabeth, during his stay in Prague as a secret agent at the Court of the Emperor Rudolph II under the guise of a magician and alchemist. However, as the Rev. Wood Brown fails to state the reasons for his theory the matter must remain in abeyance. Indeed if it were not for the “Arab” part of the manuscript it would be easy to dismiss the supposed Latin translation of this part as a 16th century fake in view of the similarity between the details of this and other magical ceremonies of the later Middle Ages [the Crowleyan “Abramelin Spell” being one of these]...indeed, both manuscripts are inter-dependent as one contains the details of the ceremony whilst the other has the signs and sigils- on which the ceremony is based; without each other neither is operable. What would have been easier than for Scott the Rabbi, Dr. Dee or whoever the author, to have copied the diagrams, of which there are only ten, on to the Latin translation as Daniel has, thus making the task easier for any would-be copyist and operator whilst reducing the bulk of the manuscript and his own work. Thus, the Arabic section would have become superfluous and its disappearance or non-existence, would have removed any danger of charges of mis- (or faked) translation; and yet for the sake of copying ten diagrams, after all the labour of translation the original document is kept. Are all these the actions of a forger or a genuine scholar wishing to retain the proof of the validity of his texts.
A Manuscript Written in an Indecipherable Language
The actual incantations copied in this spell are written in an indecipherable language that Murgatroyd suggests is an unusual form of Arabic. Murgatroyd sees this as proof that this spell is ancient, as noted in the following quotation:
In turning to the incantations one is struck by the absence of any Hebrew or Christian names, signs, words, etc. And hence if not pure gibberish the incantations are of an Arab nature which carries the operation across the seas to the Middle East and much further back in time than the period of Scott’s life.
Brown deciphered the named of the spirit “Almuchabola” as referring to algebra; thus, lending credibility to the belief that Scot was great mathematician.
Now, although the so-called Arabic of the manuscript quite defies the best efforts of scholarship to decipher it, this word almuchabola is perfectly authentic, familiar even, being the common term in that language for what we call algebra.
Murgatroyd disagreed with this interpretation, postulating a conspiracy-theory type of disagreement as expressed in the following excerpt:
...Brown argues that the Arab original is in fact a text book of Algebra on to which a fake Latin text has been tacked. He bases his premises for this on the curious designs of exotic figures and parallelograms enclosed in bounding red lines and assumes, despite the introduction, that Scott wrote this book of Algebra himself in an unknown Arab script- despite his constant need for Arab translators! As to his second proof, Brown is rather illogical in pointing out that the first word of the Latin translation Almiachabola can mean Algebra, whilst maintaining that this very translation is nothing but a fake! If it is a fake the first word is incorrect as a translation of the Arab script then likewise the rest of the magical instructions are correct, which again has nothing to do with Algebra!...
In comparing both of these manuscripts, Murgatroyd noted that there was a great disagreement between them in regards to the actual incantations themselves and he noted that the Laurentian MS only contained twenty percent of the ritual which was printed in the Longbsurgh MS. He observed:
On first examination there appear to be vast differences between the Longsburgh and Brown’s text. However, a detailed comparison reveals that 20% of the Longsburgh incantations are missing from Brown’s whilst in Brown’s copy the order and position of some of these incantations are changed about from those in the Longsburgh manuscript, a few of the words are different and Brown’s copyist is imperfect and vandalised whilst the Longsburgh one is complete, being no doubt why Daniel used this edition as the basis or check for his own compilation, the two being virtually the same.
Murgatroyd attempted to understand exactly why these differences existed between Brown’s Laurentian manuscript and the Longsburgh manuscript, and ultimately decided upon a conspiracy theory type of explanation: he postulated that Brown had an ulterior motivation for his book.
According to Murgatroyd, Brown was attempting to write for academics and a mainstream audience, and would therefore not wish to present Scot as a magician and instead focused upon his role as a mathematician. Then, in order to support his thesis that Scot was merely a mathematician and pseudo-scientist, Brown reproduced his copy of Scot’s manuscripts, including this particular spirit invocation spell. However, he took some precautions so that his readers could not perform these spells on their own by deleting large portions of the spell. According to Murgatroyd: “Brown resolved this question by publishing only the Latin section and not the Arabic text or diagrams, thus removing the danger of someone attempting the ceremony without the missing parts whilst also removing the possibility of checking the co-called “geometric” designs of his mathematical theses.”Also, Brown was aware that it would be very dangerous to recite this spell outside of a magic circle, and as a result removed twenty percent of the incantations so that no one could perform the sell properly and invoke these malicious spirits.
Thus, it seemed that Murgatroyd took several of the appendixes from Brown’s work on Michael Scot and combined them with the spell printed in Naumann’s Serapeum and added his own ideas and slight alterations claiming that they were made by “Daniel.” Whether the 19th century figure “Daniel Murgatroyd” was ever connected with this grimoire remains a subject of speculation. However, regardless of who actually assimilated this material and created these diagrams one thing is sure: an assimilation of this ancient spell was updated for its use in the modern world.
Murgatroyd’s version of this spell is reprinted below, as are both manuscripts mentioned above: the Laurentian Manuscript employed by James Wood Brown and the Longsburgh manuscript reprinted in an eclectic work edited by Robert Naumann.
1. David Murgatroyd, The Shadow of The Golden Fire-Paperback (West Yorkshire: Pillings Printing, Co., n. d.), 1.
2. Marie Campbell, Curious Tales of Old West Yorkshire (Ammanford: Sigma Press, 1999), 24.
3. Murgatroyd, The Shadow of The Golden Fire (Paperback), 1-2.
4. Murgatroyd relied heavily upon in recounting the history of this spell in the paperback book.
5. Murgatroyd, The Shadow of The Golden Fire (Paperback), 31-33.
6. Murgatroyd, The Shadow of The Golden Fire (Paperback), 3-4.
7. Murgatroyd, The Shadow of The Golden Fire (Paperback), 4.
8. Whether or not this was the actual “Longsburgh” manuscript as used by “Daniel” remains unknown; however, in comparing this version to Murgatroyd’s description it appears to be nearly identical to the version he describes- both of these versions are reprinted along with the spell from the grimoire in order for the reader to observe how Murgatroyd assimilated these two manuscripts.
9. Murgatroyd, The Shadow of The Golden Fire (Paperback), 22.
10. Murgatroyd, The Shadow of The Golden Fire (Paperback), 22-23.
11. Murgatroyd, The Shadow of The Golden Fire (Paperback), 23-24.
12. Murgatroyd, The Shadow of The Golden Fire (Paperback), 27.
13. James Wood Brown, An Enquiry into the Life and Legend of Michael Scot (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1897), 191.
14. Murgatroyd, The Shadow of The Golden Fire (Paperback), 25-26.
15. Murgatroyd, The Shadow of The Golden Fire (Paperback), 28.
16. Murgatroyd, The Shadow of The Golden Fire (Paperback), 28.