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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Faustus, Dr. Johannes (also, Faust) A possibly mythical German sorcerer of medieval times, pictured by Rembrandt in a famous etching. Faustus had the reputation of being a powerful magus and the author of many books on magic. One book was Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis, subtitled The Three-Fold Harrowing of Hell.
      Faust is mentioned by name in a letter written in 1507, and from that and other references he appears to have been a wandering charlatan who made his living by professing magical powers and performing various such services for paying customers. The character may also be a composite of several such actual persons.

Seen here on the title page of Christopher Marlowe's 1636 play, The Tragicall History of Dr. Faustus, the sorcerer is shown in regalia within his protective magic circle.

      The persistent legend of Faust and his interesting pact with Mephistopheles/Satan, in which he exchanged his soul for a guaranteed life of riches, pleasure, and debauchery, along with magical devices such as a cloak that would fly him anywhere he chose to be, has been perpetuated by such writers as Christopher Marlowe in his play The Tragicall History of Dr. Faustus and by Goethe, who introduced the idea of Faust's eventual salvation, or escape from the frightful contract, mostly due to the inferior quality of the demon Mephistopheles and the legally shaky contract itself.
      Musicians Berlioz, Gounod, and Schumann added to the Faust myth with full-length operas on the subject.

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