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The Black Book is said to hold within its pages all the magical practices which are in opposition to the divine. The idea regarding the existence of such a book is very old and it appears briefly in various mythologies.
‘They That Know the Black Book’
Sometimes, sorcerers are known as the “wernoknie’niki” meaning “they that know the Black Book”. Speaking about them, Russian villagers used to believe the fact that such sorcerers learn the art of witchcraft from devils and that they are in connection to them their entire lives.
First, it is believed that a sorcerer must make a deal with a certain devil which gives the respective devil rights to the sorcerer’s life and soul. In exchange, the devil provides the sorcerer with the Black Book, a text which contains spells and enchantments. At the time of his death, the sorcerer must give away this book to someone else so that he may rest in peace. Should a sorcerer fail to do this, he would then become a revenant. In many villages, people believe that dead sorcerers can come at midnight, dressed in white funeral veils, to visit the homes of their living relatives. This only happens to those who fail to give away their Black Book.
It is said that these revenants who come at midnight sit at the table and eat all that is given to them. Others are more violent. They knock at the doors and windows and they kill domestic animals . However, they have no power during the day, so they disappear once the rooster sings. In order to get rid of these revenants, the living relatives dig up their dead sorcerers. Then, they place them face down in the grave and they cut their heels. While this is done, someone recites certain magic words. The relatives also stake the dead sorcerer in the heart with a steak made out of poplar wood. Once this ritual is finished, the deceased sorcerer is covered with soil once again and buried.
Reading from the Black Book
The elderly of each village have many stories which are passed on from one generation to another by word of mouth. One such legend speaks of how a brave young man wanted to read from a Black Book which was left by a sorcerer who had passed away.
It is said that, as soon as the young man started to read, the devils appeared asking for work. At first, the young man gave them a series of easy tasks. Then, he gave them more difficult ones. However, the devils kept returning asking for more new tasks. Soon, the young man became tired of looking for tasks to give to the devils, so he left them without work. Relentless, the devils killed the young man. It is said that, from this point onward, nobody ever dared to touch the Black Book as only wizards know what tasks to give to devils. Sorcerers send away the devils to make ropes out of sand and water, to move the clouds from one village to another, to bring down mountains or to bother the elephants which are said to hold the Earth.
Finding the Black Book
Russian mythology also speaks of a Black Book which is not easily accessible. It was said that even sorcerers had a hard time finding it. According to legend, the people of old used to speak about the existence of a Black Book kept on the bottom of the sea , beneath the hot stone named “Alatâr”. An evil sorcerer was ordered by an old witch to find this Black Book, but he was imprisoned inside a copper mountain. After a long time, the copper mountain was destroyed.
This is how the sorcerer escaped and he immediately left, looking for the Black Book. It is said that he managed to retrieve it and it is believed that, ever since, the respective Black Book travels the world