Forman, Simon (1552-1611)

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Forman, Simon (1552-1611)

Simon Forman, a late sixteenth-century magical practitioner, was born on December 30, 1552, at Quidhampton, Wilt-shire, England. He received a grammar school education and at some point mastered Latin. At the age of 37 he moved to London and took up the practice of astrology, magic, and medicine. In the context of the times, though without any credentials, he was a success as a doctor and accumulated some degree of wealth.

Forman followed many of the common medical practices of his day, such as bleeding, but avoided some of the more egregious. He used his astrological skills to diagnose conditions and prescribe treatment. But possibly the most important attribute demonstrated by Forman was his willingness to stay in London and care for patients during times of plague outbreaks.

Forman, a contemporary of John Dee, the more famous of the Elizabethan magicians, had a passion for magic, and his papers included magical texts, most notably an introductory text for the summoning of spirits. It also appears that he practiced some of the lesser forms of traditional magic, namely the practice of supplying clients with vials of poison, the knowledge of which was quite consistent with his medical training.

The most famous incident in Forman's life actually consisted of a series of events that concluded only some years after his death. The young and beautiful daughter of the Earl of Suffolk was in despair over being forced to marry the Earl of Essex. She turned to Forman, who supplied her with a potion that rendered the earl impotent and thus unable to consummate the marriage. After her marriage was annulled, she turned her attention to the Earl of Somerset, and to assist in getting his attention she had Forman make her some waxed figures that became the focus of some image magic. In the midst of this working, Forman died (1611). His magic was successful, however, and in 1613, the young lady became the wife of the Earl of Somerset.

During her courtship, she became aware that Sir Thomas Overbury was trying to reach her future husband and warn him of her machinations. Before he could reach Somerset, however, he was arrested on an unrelated matter. The future wife decided to eliminate her problem and turned to Forman's student, Anne Turner, also skilled in the art of poison. When she was successful, accusations led to her arrest and that of the earl and his wife. Tried in 1616, they were found guilty. Turner was executed. King James pardoned the earl and his wife. While the pair were able to return to their home, Forman's nefarious activities became public and have since set his image for the pages of history.

Sources:

Rowse, A. L. The Case Books of Simon Forman. London: Pica-dor, 1976.

Turner, Robert. Elizabethan Magic. Longmead, Dorset, UK: Element Books, 1989.

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