In The Magic Grandfather, by Jay Williams (published 1979), there are several spells that do certain things. For instance, Aldoragamba luro vopo vir voarchadumia is a transportation spell. Tripsarecopsem helps with the crystal ball.

Near the beginning of the notebook of spells he found a description of how to pronounce the hard words, which was a great help. He fixed each step for himself so that he was clear about how to open the portal and keep it open. Above all, he set himself to learning the transportation spell by heart. It had only five words, but they were a mouthful: Aldoragamba luro vopo vir voarchadumia.
-Horrible Wendel


This, said the notebook, was a ball made out of rock crystal, whatever that was. Looking into it and saying the word Tripsarecopsem, you could see any person or thing at a distance and this helped you concentrate on them so that you could bring them to you.

Where did Jay Williams get these spells from? Did he make them up? Do they mean anything?

2 Answers 2


"Voarchadumia" , at least, is a thing: a famous alchemy book of the 1500's. See Voarchadumia contra alchimiam by Johannes A. Pantheus (on Google Books) for the book itself and the article Interpretation and the Hieroglyphic Monad: John Dee's Reading of Pantheus's Voarchadumia by Hilde Norrgrén (2013) for modern scholarly interest in it.

And "luro vopo vir" is also a thing: a fragment from a ciphered text (alleged to be) by Roger Bacon (1219-1292, ish) giving a recipe for gunpowder. Google the phrase to read more. The Wikipedia article on gunpowder pooh-poohs the authenticity of the cipher text. (The article does not contain the words "luro vopo vir" directly, but footnote chasing and cross-referencing with the results of googling the phrase will make it clear that that's what its about.)

Ben Jonson apparently went to great pains to get his alchemy patter right in The Alchemist, and a learned discussion of his sources appears in my students' edition of the play (the 1974 Yale Press edition). Williams possibly did not solve the patter problem as rigorously as Jonson, and instead relied on little bits and pieces available in the e-Umwelt.

Added, Sept 2019: Tripsarecopsem appears in James Campbell Brown's early 20th century History of Chemistry:

But, as if these obstacles were not sufficiently great, the alchemists resorted to anagrams and enigmas. As examples of the first M. Poisson gives " seganissegade " for " genie des sages," and " tripsarecopsem " for "esprit, corps, arae." Without a clue to their interpretation, such anagrams were absolutely without meaning.

Here he quotes Albert Poisson Theories et Symboles des Alchimistes (Paris, 1891). This is evidence that the word was well known in scholarly circles in the last century; the word itself seems to be associated with the fictional Bernard of Treviso, not to be confused with Bernardo Trevisano (d.1720).


These same words appear in The Worm Ouroboros (1922) by E. R. Eddison.

  • 1
    Full online text of this story, for the benefit of readers. It does contain "TRIPSARECOPSEM" and "LURO VOPO VIR VOARCHADUMIA". Nice find!
    – Rand al'Thor
    Sep 5, 2019 at 19:07
  • 1
    However, the earlier answer from kimchi lover already shows that both phrases are a lot older than this ...
    – Rand al'Thor
    Sep 5, 2019 at 19:14

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