Greetings faithful believers!
When I took my first steps down the path of the Solomonic tradition, I was mostly on my own. I was not able to speak about my studies or practices with other Pagans (most of whom were Wiccan or Neopagan of one type or another), because they considered the books to be black, dangerous, outdated, silly and (worst of all!) they were based upon Judeo-Christian Biblical tradition. (GASP!)
Now the tides have changed (see my upcoming essay ‘The Return of Psalm Magick’ in Hoodoo and Conjure Quarterly or Diamond Fire Magazine) and the grimoires have become “mainstream” within the modern occult communities. Even Wiccans have realized their tradition owes much to books like the Key of Solomon. Thus, discussion about grimoires and how to work with them is now acceptable. Such discussion brings some positive things: for example we can now talk about sacrifice and offerings, spirit summoning and even about magick that is not all fluffy and sweetness. And, of course, the discussion brings some negatives – one of which I will cover below.
For the purpose of this blog, I will not discuss practitioners who draw from the Solomonic texts but insert the material into their own systems. This group includes people such as Golden Dawners and Thelemites who utilize their lodge-style magickal systems with the grimoires. On the other end of the spectrum, it also includes the Newage types who use the grimoires for source material, but basically make up the practice as they go along. A defining characteristic of these groups is that they view the grimoires as incomplete and in need of “fleshing out” or “updating” from a modern perspetive.
However, this blog is about those who feel the medieval Solomonic tradition was complete as it existed, and thus attempt to use the grimoires in their original context. (That is, from the perspective of medieval and renasissance occult philosophy, without drawing from the Golden Dawn, Thelema, Theosophy or those who came after.) In this group, too, there are several types:
1) There are those who look at any given grimoire as a complete thing unto itself, and feel that its instructions must be followed exactly to the letter, or else the magick will not work. This type usually has little clue what the instructions mean or why he must follow X, Y, or Z – but he sticks to the book anyway. He is also against adding anything new or taking the material beyond what is recorded. It’s all about following the recipe to get your result, and that’s it.
2) Then there are those who feel that a given grimoire is not complete, and therefore draw material from other grimoires to fill the gaps or allow their practice to grow beyond the original text. This person tends to view the Solomonic texts as individual examples of a larger collective tradtion, and thus does not find an issue with (for example) using consecration instructions from the Key of Solomon to prepare the tools needed for the Goetia.
3) Then you have a more generalized Solomonic practitioner, who does not focus on any particular grimoire. This type also looks at the Solomonic tradition as a whole, and he tends to create his own unique spells based on what he has learned from ALL of the grimoires. As often as not, this type will also draw material from other related traditions (such as the PGM) when it seems in sync with his work. And, of course, he will include or change things as his spirits instruct.
All three of these types are Solomonic practitioners. However, only one of them is often called a “grimoire purist” – and that is the guy from example number one. I see this in the forums time and again – with people complaining about “grimoire purists” and their insistance on following every letter of the books. Take this statement for an example:
“Some practitioners swear that you have to make a talisman during certain planetary hours & configurations otherwise it won’t work. I know that’s a dumb thing to say because all I have to do is just make the darned thing, summon an appropriate Spirit & tell them to make it work and they do. Yes that pisses off the purists because they can’t do that.”
Now this blog is not to complain about the person who wrote the above. I quoted it merely because it is a perfect illustration of how “grimoire purists” are viewed in the larger occult community. And I take very personal exception to that view.
A true grimoire purist should be one who uses the grimoires exactly as they were used by their original authors. And, when we look at the grimoires themselves, we find that their authors obviously fall into categories two and three above. They drew techniques and wisdom from every magickal text they could find. Conjurations and tools from one grimoire (such as the Arbatel or Heptameron) can be found in several other grimoires. Magickal wisdom and techniques from Jewish, Greek, Chaldean and Egyptian/Hermetic sources (to name just a few) were freely adopted into the Solomonic texts. A lot of material recieved directly from spirits or Angels is also included in many texts. Sometimes even different editions of the same grimoire show changes, omissions and additions – proving the original grimoire masters were not above personalizing the magick once they understood it.
I consider myself a grimoire purist in the above light. I – like the authors of the grimoires – fall somewhere between categories two and three. Yet, day after day I read forum posts and blogs agasint grimoire purism (or Enochian purism, et al) viewed in light of type number one – blindly following a book’s instructions without understanding what any of it means.
Yet that can NOT be grimoire purism, because it isn’t how the authors of the grimoires did things. They actually understood the material and the occult philosophy behind it. They knew *why* an ingredient or instruction was included, and- if necessary- knew how it could be appropriately changed or substituted. They neither made it up as they went along, nor where they constrained by the books.
Therefore, I suggest that “grimoire purist” is the wrong term for practioner type number one. Instead, I shall begin calling them “grimoire fundamentalists.” A fundamentalist is usually one who follows a holy book to the absolute letter, but without knowing a damned thing about the book, its history, the context of the writing, etc. Try as hard as he might to follow the book perfectly, he’s missing the entire point and is *not* a true representative of the spirit of that tradition.
I am a grimoire purist. I am NOT a grimoire fundamentalist. 🙂