The Comics History of Doctor Strange’s Book of the Vishanti

In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madnessthe Book of the Vishanti was the ultimate ancient tome of light-sided magic, and could undo any dark spell. There was only one in existence, hidden away in a pocket dimension. And for much of the film, it was the ultimate magical MacGuffin, sought by Doctor Strange as a way of defeating the Scarlet Witch.

The first appearance of the Book of the Vishanti, from Strange Tales # 116 in 1963.
Marvel Comics

But in the pages of Marvel Comics, the Book of the Vishanti was not as inaccessible as it was in the MCU. At least not to Stephen Strange. The book has been a part of his dusty old library since Strange Tales # 116, way back in 1963. But just who are the titular Vishanti anyway, who wrote such an extensive collection of white magic knowledge? This is where things get a little complex.

Agamotto and the Elder Gods
The Vishanti, Oshtur, Agamotto, and Hoggoth.
Marvel Comics

Billions of years ago, before life truly took hold on Earth, there were the Elder Gods. Created by the Demiurge, the Elder Gods were immensely powerful, and also power-hungry. Most of them consumed each other, in an effort to absorb the other’s power. Only a few wise ones knew to depart the Earthly plane at this time. One was Oshtur, who encountered an Elder God from another world named Hoggoth.

Eventually returning to Earth, Oshtur and Hoggoth found only two other Elder Gods left – Set, and Chthon. These dark beings were already influencing homo sapiens, and not in a good way. So they came in contact with a powerful sorcerer named Agamotto (yes, he of the “Eye of Agamotto” fame). Agamotto’s origins are a bit murky. He was mortal, but not human. Some say he was Oshtur’s creation. And as Earth’s first sorcerer, he was part of the “Stone Age Avengers” in 1,000,000 BC. (Yes, that was a thing). This trio of Agamotto, Oshtur, and Hoggoth became the standard-bearers for white magic on Earth, the Vishanti.

A Tale of Two Books
Doctor Strange holds the Book of the Vishanti in his hands.
Marvel Comics

Agamotto began looking for human defenders to imbue with power, and they soon became the line of sorcerers that would eventually culminate in Doctor Strange. But he also began writing down all the accumulated knowledge on white magic he could, especially that learned from the cosmic travels of Oshtur and Hoggoth. And thus, he created the Book of the Vishanti.

Whenever someone has a good idea like the Book of the Vishanti, someone else has a bad idea to counter it. So, just as The Book of the Vishanti contained all the white magic in the known universe, Chthon had the idea to contain all the dark magic in the Darkhold. He also hoped it would serve as a way for humans to free him from any kind of cosmic exile. Which, of course, eventually happened. Among those who used the Darkhold were Morgan and Fey, Dracula, and Wanda Maximoff.

A Book With No Ending
The Vishanti appear to Doctor Strange when using their book, on occassion.
Marvel Comics

The Book of the Vishanti was special in many ways, but chiefly because it had no ending. Every owner contributed new spells and incantations to it, and there was always something new to glean from its pages. And although it was a book on white magic, it had an endless repository of knowledge on the other kind. It contained the Montessi Formula, which was the key to eradicating vampirism. Ironically, the original owner of the Book of the Vishanti was the sorcerer Varnae. And he later became the first Vampire thanks to the Darkhold. It also had all the knowledge on how to defend from every known demon, and other beings like Fear Lords (such as Nightmare).

Doctor Strange reads the Book of the Vishanti in art by Frank Miller.
Marvel Comics

The Book of the Vishanti has passed through many hands before it reached Doctor Strange’s library. The Hell Lord Marduk (whom you may know as Satan) held it in his possession for many years, before the Ancient One liberated it from his grasp. And it was the Ancient One who passed it on to Strange. Others have stolen the book or merely held it for a while, like Brother Voodoo, and even Loki. But it almost always comes back to Stephen Strange, and it remains as his go-to guide for defeating just about every magical menace he encounters.

Is the MCU Book of the Vishanti Really Gone?
The MCU version of the Book of Vashanti
Marvel Studios

In the MCU, Doctor Strange believed the Book of the Vishanti to be a myth, until Wong informed him otherwise. They secretly held it at a waypoint between universes, a kind of cosmic “in case of emergency, break glass” solution. And just as Strange had finally accessed it, the Scarlet Witch seemingly destroyed the Book. But a book that powerful probably isn’t so easily destroyed, and we doubt that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the last we ever see of it. Some books are just too good to put down.

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