Swordmasters & Magic! Despite the title, an article based only on historical sources

…the Longobard law states that those who are taken to the field to fight do not bring herbs, used to do magic, nor anything else to enchant.”

Source: Il Duello, by Girolamo Muzio

Fencing and Magic. An unusual testimony of this bizarre union (but we recommend a more historic approach), is contained in the work “The Duello” by Girolamo Muzio, best known as the Giustinopolitano, printed in 1571, just five years before the treatise on Johanni Della Viverna..

The author teaches about everything related to the duel between contenders. Girolamo Muzio specifies how the weapons should be chosen, what the legislative aspects are, which behaviors are to be sanctioned and other aspects still. The chapter titled “De Malefici Et Incanti” (“About Spells and Enchantment“) stands out in the midst of these generally comprehensible and common sense norms. The author dwells criticizing a series of behaviors that he does not judge suitable for those who enter into combat for the defense of their own honor.

Spells hidden in garments
These Knights, not very confident in their sword art, seemed to write protection spells under their clothes.

“Et à cio perche non senza ragione si abbia havuto riguardo. Et non senza ragione i moderni padrini fanno spogliare i cavalieri, che hanno da entrare in battaglia, & iscuotere, & diligentemente esaminare i loro panni” … “Et à di nostri tempi non pochi sono coloro, che à cotali infideltà (cioè l’uso della magia, ritenuta demoniaca) hanno rivolto gli animi: et nella materia, la quale trattiamo di Duello si usa di far diversi Malifici. Et percioche per rimediare à quelli altri (cioè i Padrini) fa quella diligente inquisitione, la quale io ho detta de panni;”

Source: “Il Duello” by Girolamo Muzio

“Not without reason, modern godfathers strip the knights who must enter the battle, shaking and diligently examining their clothes ” … “in our times there are not few knights who use such subterfuges (the use of magic, considered demonic) and in the subject that we are discussing, the duel, different types of spells are very used. So, to remedy the problem the Godfathers carefully control the clothes of the contenders”

Source: “Il Duello” by Girolamo Muzio

Spells on the Skin
Our author has no particular confidence, as we will read now, about these controls because he had experience of knights who wrote magic words that then disappeared from view (the invisible ink was not to be unknown) while others write these spells directly on the skin. Certainly such a remedy had to have some encouraging effect on the rider who believed he could count on supernatural help.

“& altri far dar giuramento al cavaliere, io non ho per molto profittevole rimedio quello scuotere de’vestimenti: che et in quelli si possono scrivere delle parole senza che si possano poi vedere: & in sulla carne ignuda so io che si scrivono parole di incantagione la notte precedente al di della battaglia;”

Source: “Il Duello” by Girolamo Muzio

… I do not consider this remedy to shake the garments very profitable: since the knights can write words without being able to see them; I know very well that some knights write words of enchantment on their naked flesh the night before the battle;

Source: “Il Duello” by Girolamo Muzio

The power of Suggestion
There is no lack of course, and the testimony is obviously of the defeated, those who use who knows what secret induction on their opponents like so many fantasy characters. These skilled cheaters deliberately see themselves whispering incomprehensible words, as if they were really enchanting their opponents. The victim firmly believes that those words have the power to weaken, and the suggestion is so strong that they suffer the same effects.

“So che ci sono delle altre parole, che i cavalieri entrati negli steccati in sul moversi, che fanno l’uno contra l’altro, mormorandole dicono mirando nel viso i loro nimici. Le quali tutte sono cose malefiche, & di diaboliche investigazioni. Et io ho conosciuto di quelli, che sotto la fidanza de gli incanti sono andati à gli abbattimenti: et ho parlato con degli huomini altramente valorosi, i quali con sicuro animo sono entrati in campo dicono, che al primo aspetto dell’avversario sono rimasti abbagliati, & istorditi.”

“I know of the existence of words, which the knights entered in the fences begin to pronounce before moving, addressing them to the opponent. It is said that they murmur them aiming to the face of their enemies. These words are evil and arise from the study of diabolical magic. I met some men who, under the trust of the charms, went to the slaughter. I talked to very brave men, they tell of having entered the field full of confidence in themselves but as soon as they saw the opponent they were dazzled, and stunned.”

Source: “Il Duello” by Girolamo Muzio

A classic from fantasy literature: the Enchanted Weapon
This is one of the most amusing tricks: enchanting (but is not explained “How”) two swords that will be used in combat. The spell makes both swords incapable of hurting the opponent. When the sword is assigned to the caster (it is assumed that the Master of the Field assigns them randomly to prevent someone from damaging the opponent’s weapon), immediately he proceeds to “disenchant the sword” so that weapon can cause injuries, leaving the enchantment on the opponent’s blade, which will therefore be useless..

“Et ho visto tale, che si proferiva di incantar due spade, che non potessero ferire, & come fossero state fra i combattenti compartite, di disincantare (per così dire) quale à lui piaceva. Et altre cose si fanno di arte marcia infinite

“I saw some people who wanted to enchant two swords so that they could not hurt. when his swords were assigned to combatants, the caster would remove the magic from his weapon. And countless other things are done through the filthy magical art.”

Source: “Il Duello” by Girolamo Muzio

A Prestigious Confirmation
Muzio’s words regarding magic might seem to us an anomaly in the world of fencing, except that Maestro Achille Marozzo had already spoken of these strange enchantments in his “Opera Nova” of 1536. When he teaches the techniques of polearm called Spiedo, the Master explains to enter the fence (the place delineated for the duel of honor), make a reverence and a praise to the Lord and to the Virgin Mary, then a second greeting to the lord of the field (figure appointed to check the regularity of the clash) . Afterwards the fighter goes to grab the weapon laughing (the psychological effect is always fundamental) then the knight warns with the weapon but without ever turning his gaze towards the opponent (the duel will not start anyway until that will not be given a signal), but looking backwards so “you will not be enchanted by the words“..

Fighter with Spiedo

“Hora guarda che io te componero uno abatimento de spiede breve, e galante, e sera utile, si che adonque tu farai in l’entrata nel stechato una legiadra reverentia con la tua gamba dritta a laude, e nome dello eterno Idio, e della sua madre vergine Maria, e con altre parole come a te parera, voltandote in fare de detta reverentia verso al signore del campo a uno tempo, sevandate suso honestamente con animo ridendo piglierai il Spiedo in mano assettandote contra el nimico generosamente con la gamba tua manca inance, el petto contra el detto voltando a lui, ma con la faccia tu guardarai indrieto tenendo la ponta del tuo spiedo a terra, e le tue mane a luoco consueto, e così starai per fino a tanto che la Trombetta sona, sapendo tu che la facia voltata al contrario d’lo nimico, io el face per questo affetto, che tu non fusse con parole incantato.”

Fonte: “Opera Nova” di Achille Marozzo

“Now look at how I will compose for you a teaching on the use of the Spiedo, short and gallant, and it will be very useful. You will enter the fence doing a graceful reverence with your straight leg and a praise to the eternal god, and of his virgin mother Mary, and with other words chosen by you, turned during this reverence towards the lord of the field, then get up and laughing take in hand the Spit, warning you against your enemy, placing your left leg forward and your chest against the enemy, but with your face turned behind you, holding the tip of your spit on the ground, and your hands in the usual place, and so you will stay for so long that the Trumpet (the signal to start the duel) sounds. I told you not to turn your face towards the enemy, so that he could not enchant you with words.”

Source: “Opera Nova” by Achille Marozzo