Australia is full of weird, supernatural legends and reports of paranormal experiences, from tales of the Yowie—the “Australian Bigfoot”—to haunted highways and strange aboriginal folklore. For a long time, however, it was thought that Australia was without a tradition of the European folk magic like that practiced in the colonial days of the United States. Recent discoveries and research have disproved that theory. Among the most recent finds is a 200-year-old almanac of magic spells and folk medicine that illuminates the secret magical traditions of colonial Australia.
According to the ABC, the magic almanac had just been sitting in the State Library of Tasmania since 1970. Librarian Ian Morrison says they “hadn’t thought much about it” until an inquiry about the book came from Dr Ian Evans, a historian specializing in the practice of magic among early settlers. The almanac was the property of one William Allison, the manager of a farm called The Lawn, and allegedly a type of folk healer and magician known as a “cunning man.” In the back of the almanac are a number of pages of handwritten notes describing folk medicines, magic charms, and useful techniques such as how to find a lost cow.
The book in question isn’t a new discovery, in fact, it’s one of the most well known “magical almanacs” of all time. The Vox Stellarum or, a Loyal Almanack for the Year of Human Redemption 1811 was that year’s edition of “Old Moore’s Almanack,” as it came to be known, and the name under which it is still published today. First published in 1697 by English physician and astrologer Francis Moore, the yearly almanac was a best-seller for a few centuries. Sales seem to have died down a bit, but its continued publication in the 21st century speaks to its status as a rather healthy brand.
Presumably Dr Evans, an expert in folk magic, knows this even if the ABC doesn’t. It would explain his interest in the book. More interesting than a well known magic almanac being found is that it is an anomaly in Australia, and the pages of handwritten notes in the back show that occult practices were alive and well in 19th century Australia. Dr Evans explains:
“Australia was thought to be a desert as far as the practice of magic was concerned, because generations of researchers had worked their way through archives and libraries, not a word about magic. But these people who were looking in the archives were looking in the wrong place.
The story of magic in Australia is written on the walls of our old houses and buildings.”
Five years ago, Ian Evans found the first hints of a hidden magical tradition in Australia. It was a “hexafoil,” a charm to ward against curses, carved in the walls of a nearly 200 year old estate in Tasmania. Since then, Evans has found a variety of charms and wards carved in old houses and barns across the whole of Australia. According to Evans, the carvings share similarities with those found at the Tower of London. Since Dr Evans’ work began, researchers in England have found the same sorts of charms carved into homes and stables, and they suspect there are a lot more to be found.
Once again, it seems that belief in the paranormal is, and always has been, more common than we think.