The well known Dialogus Mercurii, Alchymistae et Naturae by Sendivogius has a fragment where the foolish alchemist tries to apply magical incanations in order to cojure Mercury. In Waite's transalation:
he took up the vessel with the mercury, and repeated the formula of conjuration "ux, ux, ostas," etc., substituting the word mercury for the name of the serpent: "And thou mercury, most nefarious beast."
It certainly looks like a reference to some grimoire formula (he was substituting the original word with "mercury") or perhaps a way to enchant serpents. I cannot find any reference to those words, however. They are, moreover, a bit different in various versions/editions:
1) first edition of 1607, Cologne 1614, English tr. 1650 and Waite -- as above
2) Benedictus Figulus edition and German tr. of 1608: "Ux, Ux, Osy, Osyas, etc."
3) French tr. of 1691 (and probably other editions): "Ux. Ux. Us. Tas"
Any help pointing me to the origin of that incantation would be much appreciated.
Judging by the context I would say it's more likely to be a snake-charming mantra than a magical conjuration - which raises the question of how much snake-charming was going on in 16th century Poland or, indeed, in Europe generally.
Were the Polish Gypsies of the time active in this field?
I believe the Venetians of that period had some contact with snake-charming through their diplomatic outposts in Egypt.
'Ux, ux' sounds suitably coaxing to get the snake up, and 'ostas' suitably soothing to calm it down again, but the language is unknown to me.
Thanks for your comments. Yes, it does look more like snake charming spell but my attempts at finding anything on snake charming in Europe at the time did not yield any results. Moreover, the context seems to suggest it was a well known formula, as otherwise he would not just quote the beginning followed by "etc." And the intended readership were obviously all Latin-reading alchemists in Europe (the Dialogue was first published in Cologne). A curious mystery...
Well if we're talking snake magic, then I would recommend you start with the Ophites:
"[The Ophites] made a very special cult of these reptiles: they kept and fed them in baskets; they held their meetings close to the holes in which they lived. They arranged loaves of bread upon a table, and then, by means of incantations, they allured the snake until it came coiling its way among these offerings; and only then did they partake of the bread, each one kissing the muzzle of the reptile they had charmed. This, they claimed, was the perfect sacrifice, the true Eucharist."