The Grimoire Tradition – David Rankine   Leave a comment

Just found this article by David Rankine, and thought it would be great to get my blog back onto the subject of magick and grimoires.  🙂

This article, by David Rankine, which provides a basic introduction to the
Grimoire Tradition will provide a good overview for those individuals who want
to explore it in more detail. It might seem like a daunting subject, but it is
one which can yield a great deal of excitement for those interested in history
and is a treasure trove of practices for practitioners of magic(k).

The Grimoire Tradition

The word grimoire comes from the root grammar, and is used to literally
represent a grammar of magick, or workbook of information and techniques. The
books or manuscripts known as grimoires were generally written in the period
from the thirteenth to eighteenth century. The style of conjurations and
practices found in the grimoires can be traced back to earlier works like the
Greek Magickal Papyri (2nd century BCE – 5th century CE) and the Coptic Magickal
Papyri (1st – 12th century CE). The elements commonly found in grimoires are
the creation of the magick circle, magick tools, spirit lists (being the angels,
demons or other creatures summoned), conjurations of the said spirits, and other
correspondences or pertinent information.

The first of the major grimoires is Liber Juratus, or The Sworn Book of
Honorius, which can be dated to the thirteenth century under its other name of
Liber Sacer or Liber Sacratus. Liber Juratus contains the original Sigillum Dei
Aemeth (‘Seal of God’s Truth’) used by Dr John Dee and others, the magickal oath
at the beginning, as well as long lists of appropriate angels for planetary and
zodiacal work, and a whole host of material results to perform rituals for.

Next is the Heptameron (‘Seven Days’) of Peter de Abano, a manual of planetary
magick with the planetary archangels. This book was first published
posthumously in 1496, and then also published with Agrippa’s Fourth Book of
Occult Philosophy as an appendix in 1554, and in Latin in 1600, being
subsequently translated into English by Robert Turner in his 1655 edition of the
Fourth Book. The conjurations in this book are extremely important, having
influenced the Key of Solomon and the Lemegeton. Included in its contents are
the creation of the magick circle, the consecrations of salt, water and incense,
and planetary hours. This is all material which would be repeated and adapted
throughout the subsequent grimoires, and into modern magickal traditions.

As well as the books, we must also consider the key individuals associated with
the grimoires. As we noted in our work Wicca Magickal Beginnings, “The works of
the German Abbot Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516) have also played a significant
part in influencing both the subsequent magick of the grimoires and also the
Wiccan tradition. Trithemius wrote the Steganographia, which contributed
directly to the Lemegeton as the sub-books of the Theurgia-Goetia and the Ars
Paulina. Dee also used a copy of the Steganographia as part of the inspiration
for the Enochian system. Trithemius was thus not only a significant magickal
scholar, whose influence can be seen not only in the work he produced, but also
in his students whose work would find its way into later magickal traditions,
namely Henry Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1533) and Paracelsus (1493-1541). Henry
Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535) was a student of Trithemius whose work was a
foundation stone of modern magick. His three volume Three Books of Occult
Philosophy were distributed privately as manuscripts around 1510, and then
printed in 1531. This work is a huge collection of material from natural magick
to Qabalah and sigilisation, much of which would find its way into later
grimoires. The other classic work of Agrippa’s is his Fourth Book of Occult
Philosophy. This book, of six parts, was only partially written by Agrippa, who
wrote the first two sections, Of Geomancy, and Of Occult Philosophy, or Magickal
Ceremonies. The remainder of the book includes the Heptameron of Peter de
Abano, and the Arbatel of Magick (covering Olympic Spirits).”

The next significant grimoire is the Lemegeton, which comprises five parts known
respectively as the Goetia, Theurgia-Goetia, Ars Pauline, Ars Almadel, and Ars
Notoria (see the article on The Lemegeton). The earliest known manuscript of
the Lemegeton is in English and dates to around 1640, and the latest to 1712.
Nevertheless the sources for the Lemegeton date back earlier, to the early
fourteenth century with de Abano, and to the fifteenth century through sources
such as the French Livre des Esperitz and the Steganographia of Trithemius. A
version of the first part (Goetia) was produced by Aleister Crowley in 1904 from
a transcription stolen from MacGregor Mathers.

The Key of Solomon or Clavicula Salomonis has been a major influence on the
Western Mystery Tradition. Of the dozens we have examined, they cover the
period from 1572 to 1825 and are in a variety of languages. The predominant
language is French, followed at some distance by English, Italian and Latin.
(See the article The Key of Solomon). The Grimorium Verum, which is one of the
more popular derivative grimoires, draws its material from one of the Key of
Solomon manuscripts.

The other grimoire we need to consider is the Grimoire of Pope Honorius, which
should not be confused with the Sworn Book of Honorius. Copies of this black
magick grimoire, usually in French, can be found dating from 1670 to 1800. The
magick circle, calling of spiritual creatures at the cardinal points, and
double-edged black-handled knife are all components it has in common with later
traditions. There are many other works called grimoires, often in French and
later derivative works of black magick, which do not have the same scope or
detail as their illustrious predecessors. Such works include Le Dragon Rouge,
Le Petit Albert and The Black Pullet.

The period of five hundred years or so which comprises the main corpus of the
grimoire tradition from the thirteenth to eighteenth century also coincides with
the witch trials and changes in attitude to magick from occasional tolerance to
hostility to ridicule. The grimoire tradition did not receive the same
attention as witchcraft, possibly due to the high social status of the literate
practitioners of grimoire magick, who were often drawn from the educated social
elite, such as royalty and aristocracy, clerics, doctors and lawyers. The
exception to this is the Key of Solomon, which was very popular in Italy and was
banned and persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church. However this was probably
due to its use to try and magickally assassinate Pope Urban VIII in 1633, and
also its use by hundreds of monks and members of the clergy to gratify their own

Further Reading

-Wicca Magickal Beginnings – Rankine & d’Este, 2008
-The Veritable Key of Solomon – Skinner & Rankine, 2008
-The Book of Treasure Spirits – Rankine, 2009
-The Book of Gold – Rankine & Barron, 2010
-The Secret Lore of Magic, Shah, 1957
-Conjuring Spirits: Texts and Traditions of Medieval Ritual Magic, Fanger, 1998


And of course “Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires” – Aaron Leitch, 2005 lol



Posted December 22, 2010 by kheph777 in solomonic

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