The Magic of the Grimoires


A grimoire is a grammar book for magicians, or a book of instructions in the words and methods of magic. A grimoire is typically a miscellany, or a book collected from various sources, which provides the techniques of magic with little theory or explanation. During the renaissance we find a great increase in the circulation of grimoires in Europe along with the beginning of books on the theories and philosophies associated with magic, and with the intention of explaining the grimoires and their methods. Some of the most famous ones include the Greater Key of Solomon, the Lesser Key of Solomon, the Book of Honorius, the Grand Grimoire, and the Black Pullet.


While a grimoire may refer simply to a book of magic there are certain books of magic to which the word is usually applied. Again, a book explaining magic is not typically called a grimoire, so something such as Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy, or modern explanations like Crowley's Magick in Theory and Practice, while books of magic would not typically be called grimoires. Grimoires are typically books which present rather than explain magic. Such books provide rituals, catalogues of spirits and seals, instructions for the timing of practice and how to prepare, and descriptions of tools needed for the work. The information contained therein is usually of a practical nature and it rarely gets into an explanation of why one uses a particular tool or explaining other practices outlined, outside perhaps of some cursory mythos associated with the story of the text.


The grimoires in their own cultural context were viewed as magical in and of themselves. We find stories of witch hunters and Inquisitors collecting the magic books of magicians, or even simply of the curious, or the unwitting dabbler, and burning them and as they burned hordes of evil spirits poured forth from them. From the perspective of magicians themselves, the book was a magical tool, and frequently when we read the grimoires the book is given as one of the tools to be present at the ritual. Today there is a prejudice amongst modern magicians, particularly those operating in groups, against reading ones magical rituals, but we have evidence amongst the literature of magic that shows that grimoiric magic was intended to be read from a book which itself was consecrated as a talisman of the work. Some magicians have suggested that their published books containing rituals and seals can serve as the book described as a magical tool in the grimoires. They can not. The book itself is magical, and part of the magic is the recording of the names and seals. We frequently see grimoires and magic texts talk about the magician recording the names and seals of the spirits provided despite the fact that he already possesses the names and seals by which he called them. Part of the reason for this is that he may receive special names or seals for his own use, or the names and seals of familiars, but additionally the act of inscribing the names and seals in the book consecrates those spirits to the work outlined in the magician's particular grammaire. We further see evidence of the efficacy of the book as a tool in descriptions of grimoires losing their potency. For various reasons a magic book may stop working, and so there were rituals of consecration meant to reempower the book and therefore the rituals and seals it contained so that magic could again be worked by them.


Grimoires were not the only books believed to be magic in the renaissance and middle ages. Belief in the power held by books containing sacred information was pretty common at the time. Just as grimoires were not the only books of magic, nor were they the only books imbued by magical power, the magic described by the grimoires was not the only magic of the time. We could easily use the word grimoire to apply to books of magic in general, but again, just as the word typically refers to a particular way of presenting magical information, it also often refers to a particular sort of magic. We find books which we might call grimoires describing natural magic, or magic based on the spiritual powers of things we find in nature, and even at times nature spirits and faery folk. Most commonly we use grimoire to refer to books describing magic involving the conjuring of spirits such as demons and angels. Along with these methods, during the middle ages and parts of the renaissance we also find books related to the practices of image magic, or magic based on creating talismans during particular celestial conditions. This magic was at the time thought to be more acceptable and of a more natural and perhaps more scholarly nature than the magic involving rituals to conjure spirits and bind them by seals and words of power. Normally when we talk about grimoiric magic we're not talking about this form of astrological magic. That said some texts incorporate both types of magic.


Many grimoires are associated with the Bibliotheque Bleue period of publishing which ranged from about 1600 to about 1830. This period saw the beginning of cheap mass market printing and so there was a greater dissemination of a wide array of texts including those dealing with magic. Many of the French books of Black Magic were printed during this period. The Black Pullet, the Grand Grimoire, The Grimoire of Pope Honorius (not Liber Juratus), The Enchiridion of Pope Leo, and many other famous books of magic were printed during this time. While we see a surge in grimoiric publication and works derived from the major grimoires springing up during this period, many of the important grimoiric works of the Solomonic Cycle appear during the 16th century. The earliest surviving European grimoires connected to the system of magic we typically associate with the term are likely Liber Juratus, a Solomonic work from the 13th century, Sefer Raziel HaMalakh, a 13th century Askenazic work based in material stemming from earlier Merkavah traditions, and the Heptameron from the late 13th or early 14th century. The Picatrix likely also entered European awareness around the 13th century, although the Arabic version may have been written as early as the 10th century. Prior to these early grimoires there was the Testament of Solomon which was a Liber Spirituum, or Book of Spirits, rather than an actual grimoire, the text seems to date somewhere in the first five centuries of the common era. Similarly the Sword of Moses presents a system much more similar to the grimoires and also dates potentially to the first five centuries of the common era.


MP3s of classes related to the grimoires and grimoiric magic.


Wings of Glory

A class presented at William Blake Lodge on angels – with a few detours on demons; and the art of conjuration.



Material and resources of use in the study and practice of the magic of the grimoires.


The Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals

A PDF presentation of The Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals as presented by Frances Barrett in The Magus.

Working by Table and Crystal

A method of conjuration based on The Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals.

Prayers for the Seven Days


Heptameron

Method for calling the angels of the seven days of the week using instructions from the Heptameron.

The Mass of the Holy Ghost

The Heptameron calls for certain implements to be consecrated utilizing the Mass of the Holy Ghost. It is somewhat difficult to find a clear explanation of this in most magical resources available. One magician presented simply the prayers from the Proper as if they were the Mass itself. The Mass of the Holy Ghost is a Votive Mass. A Votive Mass is one in which the Offices of the Day are not used but instead Offices based upon the purpose of the Mass are used. The Mass of the Holy Ghost is a Votive until the Holy Spirit, hence its appropriateness in consecrating implements to be used in the grimoires. Here you will find the whole Mass presented in English with the appropriate Offices for the Votive Mass in place.

Vestments

An essay exploring the vestment of the magician and how to obtain it.

Evocation by the Method of Solomon

My approach to using the Greater Key of Solomon

First Solomonic Experience

A cleaned up version of a blog post recounting my first conjuration using the GKoS. This has some ideas and perspectives which might be useful to people considering giving conjuration a try.

Conjuration by Lamp

An essay on the symbolism of the magical lamp and its use in conjuration.

What are Spirits?




Books on the grimoires and grimoiric magic.


Seven Spheres by Rufus Opus

This is a book by a good friend of mine. The book is excellent. I almost did not include it in the grimoiric section because it is largely initiatic, but it is inspired in part by Trithemius's Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals.

Angel Magic by Geoffrey James

I read this book as a teenager, it was one of my introductions to a lot of elements of angel magic. It combines history, theory, reflection, and the author's personal curiosity in the subject. It is a good light over view to jump off from as you begin exploring more thorough books.

Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer's Manual of the Fifteenth Century – Richard Kieckhefer

An excellent book. Has a lot of great info on how to study medieval and renaissance magic texts as well as analysis of the culture and worldview surrounding magic in the middle ages and renaissance. Contains a 15th century manual of “necromancy” which in this case means black magic, or magic based in conjuring demons. It will be helpful if you read Latin as parts are not translated.

Ritual Magic by Elizabeth Butler

A history of conjuration and grimoiric magic.

Conjuring Spirits ed Claire Fanger

Another text from the Magic in History series, this one collects essays on conjuration from several scholars in the field of magic.

Geosophia: The Argo of Magic vol 1 by Jake Stratton-Kent

JSK's work has been one of the pioneering forces in attempting to reconstruct the magical system of the Goes, or sorcerer, utilizing the grimoires within the light of the influence PGM and the sorcery of pre-Olympian Greek religion and magic had on their development

Geosophia: The Argo of Magic vol 2 by Jake Stratton-Kent

JSK's work has been one of the pioneering forces in attempting to reconstruct the magical system of the Goes, or sorcerer, utilizing the grimoires within the light of the influence PGM and the sorcery of pre-Olympian Greek religion and magic had on their development

Techniques of Solomonic Magic by Stephen Skinner

Stephen Skinner has studied numerous grimoires within the Solomonic system and has published several through Golden Hoard Press. This book presents one of the most complete available explorations of Solomonic magic.

The Magical Calendar

Not a grimoire itself but a useful collection of correspondences and symbols broken into tables. Sort of a renaissance grimoiric equivalent to the more modern Liber 777.

Keys to the Gateway of Magic: Summoning the Solomonic Archangels and the Demonic Princes

A collection of material by Dr. Rudd. Contains a wide array of information, correspondences, and methods for renaissance magic.

A Treatise on Angel Magic

Similar collection of Dr. Rudd material. This one is edited by Adam MacLean

Three Books of Occult Philosophy by Agrippa

Indispensable text. An incredibly thorough collection of the magical thought and theory of the renaissance. Contains many chapters on techniques of grimoiric magic.



The grimoires themselves.


The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy ed Stephen Skinner

Not actually a fourth part to Agrippa's De Occulta, but rather a collection of texts which utilize several of the ideas described in Agrippa. Contains two texts by Agrippa, as well as The Arbatel, The Heptameron, and a handful of other useful texts for those working with the grimoires and related magic.

Sepher Raziel HaMalakh trans Steve Savedow

A Jewish text of magic from the Askenazic tradition. Contains material drawing on the earlier Sefer HaRazim stemming from the Merkavah tradition. Important for influence on the Heptameron and on the Liber Salomonis.



















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