The Hidden Origins of Il Separatio: Manuscripts Deemed Dangerous and Banned
Throughout history a large number of books have been banned only because they contained various uncomfortable truths or tales. Such books have been systematically hunted down and destroyed by representatives of the church or the state. Some copies have even been poisoned, thus giving the books a reputation of being cursed, as those who read them ended up dying due to the fatal poisons. Such was the case of books mentioning or telling tales about the entity known as Il Separatio.
The Bible mentions the following passage: “God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness”. According to legend, this separation between light and darkness took the form of an entity known as Il Separatio meaning “The Separation”.
This entity was regarded as being neither good, nor evil. Instead, it represented perfect and absolute neutrality. As this legend placed the third entity midway between God and the Devil, the medieval church did not want people to begin to wonder which entity is the strongest—God or Il Separatio.
Il Separatio provided a third option, one not recognized by the church. According to the teachings of the church, good people went to Heaven and bad people were destined for Hell. In the catholic case, should the situation have been unclear, the person ended up in Purgatory. If the individual did good deeds in Purgatory, then he or she progressed to Heaven. If the person was bad, then he or she went to Hell. All was very simple until Il Separatio entered the equation.
This entity could claim the people who had done just as much good as they had sinned. So, when a person has done exactly as many good deeds as bad deeds, then that person was said to belong to Il Separatio.
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Things got even more complicated as medieval texts discussed the powers of this entity. According to legend, the power of Il Separatio was “absolutum” meaning “absolute”. With such a description, it is not surprising that the medieval church banned all books mentioning Il Separatio and the Inquisition hunted down everyone who dared utter his name. Therefore, Il Separatio came to be known as Anonymus, “The Anonymous One”, “The Nameless One”, “The One Who Should Not Be Named”. Calling this entity Anonymus offered people a means of protection against the Inquisition. Still, there was little protection for the books which included the entity.
Statue of Il Separatio, Prague ( beatbull / flickr )
Out of the few books mentioning Il Separatio that have survived up to the present day, one can point to two main examples: “Compendium Augumentum” and “Codex Lugubrum”. (The Codex Lugubrum may also have been printed in Latin with the title: D. Hilarii Pictauorum episcopi Lucubrationes quotquot extant : olim per Des. Erasmum Roterod. haud mediocribus sudoribus emendate. )
The first tells the story of Il Separatio and the warrior Ashor, while the second tells the same story in a different and more detailed form. “Codex Lugubrum” which has survived in two known copies, both found in private collections across Europe, changes the name of the fierce warrior who meets Il Separatio into Amantes.
Amantes had done both good and evil during his time. In fact, he had done just as much good as he had done evil. Therefore, when a demon and an angel both began to fight over his soul, Il Separatio appeared and sent them away, wielding his neutrality. The demon had claimed that Amantes had done a lot of evil and, as a result, he was his and belonged with him in Hell. The angel had claimed that the warrior had done a lot of good, therefore he was his to take with him in Heaven. When Il Separatio appeared, he simply said that the man had done just as much good as he had done evil and, as a result, none of the other two could have him.
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When Il Separatio waved his hand signaling the demon and the angel to leave, they both disappeared instantly, one to Hell and the other to Heaven. In a subtle form, this symbolized the absolute power of Il Separatio. As for neutrality, it is said that this entity is so neutral that it even lacks a form. In order to be visible, to be seen by others, Il Separatio always appears as a figure in a long black hooded cloak, but no arms, legs or face ever stick out. This is the neutral appearance and elusive identity of Anonymus.
The most forbidden aspect of Il Separatio is the option that he brought. Once the angel and the demon had left, the wounds of Amantes all healed and he was restored to his appearance as it was at the ideal age of 30. Also, it was said he became immortal and had great power. He could no longer die, he could no longer fall ill. He was young and strong and he could do whatever he wanted and travel wherever he wanted just by using the power of his mind. Legend has it he could transport himself to other worlds—on the sun, inside the sun and even into stone and minerals.
Illustration from the Cabala Speculum, 1654. ( Public Domain )
Another old forbidden text, the “Cabala Speculum”, contained an engraving portraying humans, man and woman, tied with chains to the entire creation thus suggesting that should these chains be broken, then humans could become gods themselves. Similarly, the chains keeping Amantes tied had all vanished. He had become completely and absolutely free. This was both freedom as well as an exit from the ‘system’ and this is the true meaning of Il Separatio.
Real or mere legend, the tale of Il Separatio remains a fascinating one, and one not soon to be forgotten.
By Valda Roric
Roric, Valda . “Loki – the Trickster Unleashed.” CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 21, 2015) [Online]
Hilary, Saint Bishop of Poitiers; Desiderius Erasmus; Martin Lipsius. “D. Hilarii Pictauorum episcopi Lucubrationes quotquot extant : olim per Des. Erasmum Roterod. haud mediocribus sudoribus emendate” . Per Eusebium Episcopium, et Nicolai fratris haeredes, anno 1570. [Online] Available here.