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The Ring   Centuries before Tolkien would imagine a “ring of power” as the centre of his Lord of the Rings saga, the belief in the magic properties of these jewels extended through half of Europe. In the XIV century, for example, it was believed that Pope Boniface VIII’s ring was home to a demon. A recent novel, The Ring, the Last Templar’s Legacy, takes up these beliefs.  The author details them in this article.

Article published by Jorge Molist in Más Allá de la Ciencia

The Ring

   et me suggest a game for you.  Search for rings on the characters depicted in Middle Age Christian sculptures or paintings. Or better not.  To save you time, I’ll tell you right now the results of such a search: you would not find them, except on the hands of bishops or popes, and even then always on top of white gloves.  After reviewing hundreds of Middle Age Christian sculptures and paintings, the only exception I found was in a late XV century alabaster sculpture where the Virgin Mary is wearing a small ring on her small finger.  She was dressed as a queen, and it was a queen’s signet ring.

   Not until well into the Renaissance could rings be seen on the hands of lay people in Italian and Flemish paintings. After this time the use of rings became popular.  Why then this absence of rings in the Christian Middle Ages, when they had been commonly used before, in Roman times? The answer is in the power they symbolized. Only the top of the religious hierarchy or people of noble birth could use them. There are writings in which people were severely warned against their use. Near the end of the XIV century, town ordinances against the use of rings or similar jewels by the population were widespread. “Let no woman of whatever social class or condition, whether born in Cervera or no, dare to wear precious stones, rings or jewels” read the Cervera city ordinances in 1344,  and you can find very similar terms in Barcelona’s city orders in 1376. Not until the XV century would this odd situation change. What, then, was the origin of this age-old fear of rings?.



The Ring   It is obvious that such precautionary measures would not derive only from the austerity demanded of the good Christian, but from the magic power that these objects were supposed to have. Rings were used at the same time and place by both the Jewish and Moorish populations, and we can differentiate several types: the seal rings, which were not just for display but had a commercial and legal use; the amulet rings with Arab or Jewish blessings engraved on them; and the ones that had precious stones mounted in them. The use of the cabala and hermetic knowledge that Christians attributed to Jewish and Moorish communities in Europe made them suspect the existence of occult powers and even of witchcraft.

   It is this tradition that the Lord of the Rings saga calls upon, when it centres around a jewel with inscriptions similar to runic engravings.  But these rings were not the ones considered to be the most powerful.  For the Jews and Arabs, the rings set with precious stones were the ones which could confer on their owners alchemic and necromantic powers; because in alchemy and necromancy, stones and metals possessed very concrete powers and symbolisms which could be transferred to people wearing them. Gaspar de Morales, in his book of 1598 titled “De las propiedades maravillosas de las piedras preciosas”  (Concerning the Amazing Properties of Precious Stones), which collected previous traditional hidden knowledge, indicates for example than pearls reflect the nature of Venus and Mercury, and are placed in the night sky in the Umbilicus Andromedae star, 20 degrees from Aries. They protect against plague and malicious fever.  According to this author the diamond contains the nature of Jupiter, and its star is Caput Algol, 18 degrees from Taurus. It is a good defence against bad dreams and ghosts, and can also be used to check a wife’s chastity if “it is placed with caution under the woman’s head when she is sleeping. If she is chaste and loyal to her husband, she will turn to hold him in her arms; if not, she will turn away from him.”

The Ring
Ring holding an emerald, Moorish ring and Jewish ring, all of them found in archaeological sites from the middle ages in the Montjuich hill in Barcelona.

   The ruby was considered the king of all minerals and precious stones, and both Saint Isidoro and Pliny claim for it qualities such as the ability to contain the power of stars, and even of having gender. They attributed enormous spiritual forces to the ruby, so that the afore-mentioned Gaspar de Morales didn’t hesitate to refer to Saint Epifanio when claiming that the Jewish High Priest Aaron wore one on his chest,  or that a particularly unusual one had been shining for some time from one of the Pope’s tiaras.

The pope and the devil

Bonifacio VIII   This wasn’t the only magic ruby in papal hands. Thanks to Philippe IV of France, called the “Fair”, we know that Pope Bonifacio VIII’s ring held a fabulous ruby. The King said that “a demon lives hidden inside the papal ring”, and he used this story to accuse the pope not only of holding long conversations with that malicious spirit but also of having sex with it.  Although Philippe – the same King who brought about the extinction of the Knights Templar in the XIV century - was an out-and-out liar, we know that he was a master of the best possible kind of lie: the one that has a basis in truth. And this quotation, along with the memory of what a friend of mine told me about a experience she had had, became the centre of the story of my novel The Ring.

   My friend, now an executive of one of the top advertising agencies in the US, told me that, as a child, like many other people, she had several premonitory experiences. She was able sometimes to sense the future, but these experiences filled her with fear, and she did everything possible to stifle such an unwelcome gift. Once something very peculiar happened to her: after inheriting a ring from an aunt, her dreams increased to a frightening extent. Among her dreams one was recurrent: a fall from a horse. Looking into her family’s history, she learned that her aunt had once suffered a fall from a horse, in the same circumstances as in her dreams, and that this fall had left her in permanent pain. My friend, of course, stopped wearing the ring after this.

   Intrigued by the coincidence of the stories I looked into the lessons of yogi occultism from Ramacharaka and there I found an explanation, for those who are willing to believe it. According to this Hindu spiritualist, in teachings transmitted to his pupil Baba Bharata and translated and made public in the West by William W Atkinson at the beginning of the XX century,  “ we can perceive the astral reflections from the akasic registering of the scene of a particular event through the touch of an object associated with this occurrence or incident. It seems that there is an affinity between the atoms of an object and the particular piece of the akasic files that contains the history of that object. The atoms of metal, stone, fabric or hair can open the physic vision of the events associated with that object in the past. Psychometry is a form of clairvoyance that establishes a link between people and objects. It is not a different physical phenomenon, but only a combination of different types of clairvoyance.

The temple’s ring

   The Knights Templar didn’t use rings either, or any other type of jewellery, since their vows of poverty prohibited this.  But their Grand Master was different since, with the Pope as his only superior, he held a status very close to his, and also used the symbols of spiritual power. It is said that the Grand Master William of Beaujeu had a ring similar to the Pope’s, and that this ring was lost after his heroic death in the defence of the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land, Saint John of Acre. The continuation of this story is in my novel. Strangely enough, King Philippe also accused the Templars of necromancy, sodomy etc. just as he had previously accused Pope Boniface VIII, and burnt alive on a pyre the last of the Great Templar Masters, Jacques de Molay.

The magic ring of Emperor Rudolf II
The Ring   The Hapsburg Emperor Rudolf II, grandchild of the Emperor Charles V, was considered in his time to be the “emperor of the alchemists”. Among the magic objects that he owned was this cabalistic ring, one of the three he would wear in his life. It was found in 1975 and is made of gold and has four precious stones mounted in an equidistant manner: a diamond, a sapphire, an emerald and a ruby. And between the stones are engraved four zodiacal signs, Capricorn, Libra, Cancer and Aquarius. A powerful amulet indeed, to “link” the earthy world and the celestial one.

The Pythagorean ring
The Ring
   The number five was associated by Pythagoras with healing; this is why the pentagram shown in this renaissance drawing of a Pythagorean ring is associated with health. On the top a talismanic gem would be mounted with a pentagon engraved on it. It was widely used among esoteric groups in eastern Europe as an efficient method of protection against evil spirits.


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