“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil” – C. S. Lewis
Given that the cost of a college education has increased faster than inflation and student loans in the U.S. recently hit the one trillion dollar mark, choice of both school and major have become an exercise in calculating your return on investment. Sociology, Fine Arts, Education, Religious Studies, Hospitality, Nutrition, Psychology, and Communications are noble pursuits (also rated as the eight majors that have the lowest career bang for the tuition buck), but if you plan to be able to have the option to choose which yacht to water-ski behind or ascend to the pinnacle of totalitarian power over your fellow man, the odds are none of these disciplines will provide a solid, practical foundation for your super-villainy. Might I suggest “the Dark Arts”? Sorcery has always proved lucrative, at least in the short term. Opting for a career based on being diabolical may seem a bit chancy, but given that the latest generation has been raised on Harry Potter, one must sometimes recognize that “fortune favors the bold”, that the admissions of “white magic” institutions such as Hogwarts are extremely competitive, and consequently consider applying to some alternates. For those undergraduates concerned with worldly power, I recommend investigating the programs offered by a number of traditional institutions (we’re not talking about diploma mills or online programs here) that have endured the test of time, and proudly include popes, famous vampires, theological powerhouses, renowned Scottish alchemists, and a host of other famous personages among their alumni. The only catch is that you are probably borrowing on your eternal soul for a few decades of prosperity, but ultimately, isn’t that pretty much the definition of a student loan? While their curriculum is rigorous and occasionally fatal (not to mention a mortal sin), you will no doubt see benefits for several decades after graduation. If you have not already applied, consider three ancient and respected institutions of higher learning: (1) Scholomance of Transylvania, Romania, (2) Spain’s Caves of Salamanca, or (3) the Astrological College of Egypt.
The Romanian city of Sibiu (called Hermannstadt in German) is a thriving city nestled in the mountains of the Transylvania region, and was ranked in 2007 by Forbes magazine as “Europe’s 8th most idyllic place to live”, just behind Budapest, Hungary and Burford, England. Subiu is a college town, with almost a fourth of its population of 147,000 people made up of undergraduates attending respected universities such as the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu. Situated beside a mountain lake south of the city is the fabled campus of Scholomance, a prestigious and selective school of black magic with the Devil as its sole faculty member. Emily de Laszkowski Gerard, the wife of a late 19th century Prussian cavalry officer stationed in Transylvania recorded both the admissions and graduation process of Scholomance.
I may as well here mention the Scholomance, or school, supposed to exist somewhere in the heart of the mountains, and where the secrets of nature, the language of animals, and all magic spells are taught by the devil in person. Only ten scholars are admitted at a time, and when the course of learning has expired, and nine of them are released to return to their homes, the tenth scholar is detained by the devil as payment, and, mounted upon an ismeju, or dragon, becomes henceforward the devil’s aide-de-camp, and assists him in “making the weather “—that is, preparing the thunderbolts. A small lake, immeasurably deep, and lying high up in the mountains to the south of Hermanstadt, is supposed to be the caldron where is brewed the thunder, under whose water the dragon lies sleeping in fair weather. Roumanian peasants anxiously warn the traveller to beware of throwing a stone into this lake, lest it should wake the dragon and provoke a thunderstorm. It is, however, no mere superstition that in summer there occur almost daily thunderstorms at this spot, and numerous stone cairns on the shores attest the fact that many people have here found their death by lightning. On this account the place is shunned, and no true Roumanian will venture to rest here at the hour of noon (Gerard, 1888, p5-6).
The characterization of the 10th scholar as a sacrificial victim in payment for the education of the other nine scholars is clearly a libelous untruth spread by intercollegiate rivals. One of the ten students per graduating class, presumably the most promising in terms of evil inclinations and sorcerous talent is offered a research fellowship in Scholomance’s unique Storm and Dragon management graduate program. Scholomance alumni go on to prosperous, if bloodthirsty futures, and no less than Dracula himself was said to have graduated from this fine, yet infernal institution.
Van Helsing (Dracula’s fictional “exorcist”) reveals that the vampire was once “an alchemist, which was later the highest development of the science-knowledge of his time” (Stoker, 1975, 267). Further still, he was a student in the Devil’s Scholomance school, where the Devil taught ten specially selected students the secrets of nature and of his magical powers. The “tuition fee” was that one of the ten would become the Devil’s “dragon-riding storm-fixing” helper (214). Thus Dracula, that tenth student, literally sold his soul to the Devil in return for forbidden knowledge (Kamir, 2001, p102-103).
The programs offered at Sholomance are modeled after a smaller, but even older center for higher educations in northwestern Spain called the Caves of Salamanca. Salamanca’s Old City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and is one of the most important university cities in Spain (the University of Salamanca was founded in 1134, and is the 4th oldest western university). High on the nearby peak of the Carvajal Slope, one can find the Caves of Salamanca (popularly known as “the Devil’s Cave”) with an even lower student to faculty ratio (seven students per class vs. the ten at Romania’s Scholomance). And while post-graduation fellowships are not available through Salamanca, the eminent folklorist Jacob Grimm pointed out that employment for one’s shadow sometimes become available.
According to Grimm and Thorpe, Schlemihl’s legendary prototype may be found in the hero of an old Spanish tradition, which tells of a cave in Salamanca where the devil maintained a class of seven pupils in the various branches of his art, on condition that when he should feel satisfied of their competency they should be dismissed, and the last one to leave the cave should pay the reckoning. The day of their graduation having arrived, the scholars were allowed to take their final leave; but when the last one was about to withdraw, the devil ordered him to remain, in accordance with the agreement. But the crafty scholar, pointing to his shadow which fell behind him, said, “That is the last,” and the devil was obliged to content himself thus, while the scholar went through life shadowless (Lippincott’s, 1888, p895).
Among the distinguished graduates of the Caves of Salamanca is Pope Sylvester II (born Gerbert d’Aurillac in 946 A.D.), who in addition to being the first French pope, introduced the decimal system (a clear demonstration of evil aptitude) and reintroduced the abacus to Europe (which some regard as the earliest forerunner of the computer, setting the stage for our ultimate domination by Skynet). Gerbert d’Aurillac initially studied astrology and magic in Córdoba, Seville, and the University of Al Karaouine in Morocco, but found their coursework unchallenging, and given the likelihood of his ascendancy to the throne of St. Peter, opted to transfer to the Devil’s more intensive program in Salamanca. For the better part of a thousand years the Caves of Salamanca have been famed for providing a rigorous training in witchcraft and sorcery, and have been immortalized in countless plays and poems by authors from Cervantes to Washington Irving, as in the passage below from English romantic poet Robert Southey’s (1774-1843) Letters From England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella in praise of English beer.
When I had done so, I fairly confessed to him that if I had left England without tasting it, I should not have known what beer was. The good woman was so well pleased with this praise from a foreigner, that she invited me to walk into the cellar, and, in a room on the same floor with the kitchen into which we were introduced, (there being no other apartment for us,) she showed me fifty barrels of beer, that quantify being always kept full. I wrote down the name of the village, which is West Kennet, in my tablets, that I might mention it with due honour; and also; that if ever I should graduate in art magic in the caves of Salamanca, I might give the imp in attendance a right direction where to go fill my glass every day at dinner (Southey, 1808, p313-314).
The very oldest of our alternative colleges of magic is without a doubt The Astrological College of Egypt, where esteemed faculty have been providing a robust education in miracles and divination for several thousand years, predating Christianity. This is “old school” magic taught by notable professors such as the fallen angels Asa and Asael, the infamous prince of Hell, Asmodeus, and the deliciously wicked Balaam (who came up with the brilliant plan to trick the Israelites into transgression by enticing them with prostitutes and unclean foods when he was privately consulting for the King of Moab).
The astrological College of Egypt gave to the Jews their strange idea of the high school maintained among the devils, already referred to in connection with Asmodeus, who was one of its leading professors. The rabbinical legend was, that two eminent angels, Asa and Asael, remonstrated with the Creator on having formed man only to give trouble. The Creator said they would have done the same as man under similar circumstances; whereupon Asa and Asael proposed that the experiment should be tried. They went to earth, and the Creator’s prediction was fulfilled: they were the first ‘sons of God’ who fell in love with the daughters of men (Gen. vi. 2). They were then embodied. In heaven they had been angels of especial knowledge in divine arts, and they now used their spells to re-ascend. But their sin rendered the spells powerless for that, so they repaired to the Dark Mountains, and there established a great College of Sorcery. Among the distinguished graduates of this College were Job, Jethro, and Balaam. It was believed that these three instructed the soothsayers who attempted to rival the miracles of Moses before Pharaoh. Job and Jethro were subsequently converted, but Balaam continued his hostility to Israel, and remains a teacher in the College. Through knowledge of the supreme spell — the Shem-hammephorash, or real name of God — Solomon was able to chain Professor Asmodeus, and wrest from him the secret of the worm Schamir, by whose aid the Temple was built (Webster, 1882, p9. & Conway, 1879, p303).
Don’t be tempted to reject higher education in the Dark Arts as an unproductive way to pursue one’s diabolical goals, and as a generalized rejection of civilized society on a philosophical basis, for as Theodore Roosevelt wisely observed, “A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” Or, in the parlance of our modern youth, “Go big, or go home.”
Conway, Moncure Daniel, 1832-1907. Demonology And Devil-lore. New York: H. Holt and Company, 1879.
Gerard, Emily de Laszkowski, Mme., 1849-. The Land Beyond the Forest: Facts, Figures, And Fancies From Transylvania. Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood and sons, 1888.
Kamir, Orit, 1961-. Every Breath You Take: Stalking Narratives And the Law. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001.
Leland, Charles Godfrey, 1824-1903. Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling: Illustrated by Numerous Incantations, Specimens of Medical Magic, Anecdotes And Tales. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1891.
Mclagan, R.C. “Ghost Lights of the West Highlands”. Folklore Society (Great Britain). Publications. London. P203-256, 1897.
Southey, Robert, 1774-1843. Letters From England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella v3. 2d ed. London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme, 1808.
Webster, N. B. 1821-1900. Miscellaneous Literary, Scientific, and Historical Notes, Queries, And Answers, for Teachers, Pupils, Practical And Professional Men v.3. Manchester, N.H.: S. C. & L. M. Gould, 1882.
“Who was Peter Schlemihl, and Did He Have Any Prototype in Real Life or Legend”, Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine v.42 (July-Dec. 1888). Philadelphia, Pa.: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1888.