Grimoires

PaganGreen Paganism and Witchcraft

Handbooks of magic, some reputedly dating
back to ancient sources, popular from the 17th to early
19th centuries. Grimoires still are consulted by students
of ceremonial magic in modern times, though newer
books have replaced them. In modern Witchcraft, some
rituals may draw on ceremonial magic texts, but the
Witch’s personal handbook of Craft rituals and laws is
called the book of shadows.

The original purpose of the grimoires was to conjure
and control demons and spirits, in order to acquire great
wealth and power or harm or kill enemies. Grimoires give
precise and sometimes laborious instructions for various
rituals, instructing the magician on what to wear, what
tools to use and what prayers and incantations to recite
at precise astrological times and various hours of the day
and night. They give recipes for incenses to burn, descriptions
for the creation of magic circles, amulets, talismans,
seals and sigils, instructions for the slaughtering
and sacrifice of animals and ways to deal with unruly
demons. They admonish the magician to prepare with periods
of fasting, sexual abstinence, cleanliness and prayer
and to use only virgin materials in rituals. They describe
the hierarchies of demons and spirits that may be summoned
with the help of the grimoire’s instructions.
Grimoires, or “black books,” as they were often called,
came into usage around the 13th century. They were possessed
not only by magicians and sorcerers but also by
physicians and noblemen—or anyone who thought he
had something to gain with help from a demon. Ideally,
the grimoire was copied by hand.

The material in grimoires is drawn largely from Hermetic
texts dating to 100–400 c.e. and from Hebrew and
Latin sources. Some grimoires are devoted to theurgy,
or magic effected with divine intervention, while others
concern goety, or sorcery. Some include both.
The writers and users of grimoires did not consider
themselves Devil-worshipers or evil. The conjuring of
demons was merely one of many means to an end. Doing
business with demons often meant making pacts with
them. The magician’s objective was to outwit the demon
so that he did not have to fulfill his end of the bargain.
The grimoires helped him do this (see Devil’s pact).
The greatest grimoire is The Key of Solomon, which has
provided material for many other grimoires. The book is
attributed to the legendary King Solomon, who asked God
for wisdom and commanded an army of demons to do his
bidding and build great works. A book of incantations
for summoning demons, attributed to the authorship of
Solomon, was in existence in the first century and is mentioned
in literature throughout the centuries. So many
versions of this grimoire were written that it is virtually
impossible to ascertain what constituted the original text;
a Greek version that dates to ca. 1100–1200 is part of the
collection in the British Museum. Around 1350 Pope Innocent
VI ordered a grimoire called The Book of Solomon
to be burned; in 1559 Solomon’s grimoire was again condemned
by the Church as dangerous. The Key of Solomon
was widely distributed in the 17th century.
Another grimoire attributed to Solomon is the Lemegeton,
or Lesser Key of Solomon, which includes both white
and black magic information

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