Barrett, Francis (fl. nineteenth century)

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Barrett, Francis (fl. nineteenth century)

British magician Francis Barrett, the author of The Magus; or Celestial Intelligencer (1801), stands at the fountainhead of the modern practice of ceremonial magic. Little is known of the early life of Barrett, who is pictured as a young man in the portrait included in his book. However, in a footnote in The Magus, he offered himself as a magical teacher and invited readers to contact him if they wished to become his student (limited to 12). He was at the time living in Marlebourne. Students would be initiated into the occult arts and the practice of magic and be taught the philosophy, rites, and mysteries of the ancients.

Barrett seems to have acquired his knowledge from the library of Ebenezer Sibley (1751-1799), the author a decade earlier of a four-volume work surveying occultism. His library was sold through two London dealers and included English editions of the works of Henry Cornelis Agrippa von Nettesheim, Peter of Albano, Jean Baptiste von Helmont, and Giambattista Porta. These were the major items used in the preparation of The Magus; very little new material was contributed by Barrett himself. The major new material was a set of portraits of various demonic personalities, possibly seen by Barrett while scrying. At a time at which occult material was relatively scarce, Barrett's book offered readers a comprehensive introductory survey of magic and the occult arts as then known. It included sections on astrology, arithmancy, Kabbalistic magic, and the technique for scrying.

Barrett claimed to be a Rosicrucian. Since no Rosicrucian organization existed in England at the time, it is possible that he received initiation from Sigismund Bacstrom, a teacher of alchemy also residing in Marlebourne who had received a Rosicrucian initiation in Mauritius in 1794.

Little is known of Barrett's subsequent career. The Magus did not go through subsequent editions (though it has been reprinted in recent years). Only one of Barrett's students rose out of obscurity, John Parkins of Grantham in Lincolnshire. In 1802, Barrett prepared an essay on the invocation of spirits for Parkins, the manuscript of which has survived. Parkins later became a teacher in his own right.


Barrett, Francis. The Magus; or Celestial Intelligencer. London, 1801. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1967.

Godwin, Joscelyn. The Theosophical Enlightenment. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

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Barrett, Francis (fl. nineteenth century)

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