Aug 20, 2012

Are the grimoires dead wrong? Part I of III

As I was browsing through the many leaves of the magical tome called the Internet, I came upon a very concise and strongly-motivated article that detailed the authors main motives for considering the traditional grimoires ”dead wrong”. As I hold this occult practitioner in high regard due to what he has acomplished so far and respect his freedom of expression, but also value the traditional systems that have undoubtably been very effective in my practice, I decided to write an article countering the author’s reason of dismissing the said grimoires and also exploring a few missunderstandings related to them.  I am by no means writing a rebuttal aimed at this person or his school, as that has proved in many cases throughout history more counterproductive and unwise for all parties, but merely explaining my own motives for employing the traditional grimoires. 

1.   The Chriastian biased perspective.
The author claims that most of the grimoires we now possess are published or translated during or after the 15th century, in full power regime of the Catholic Church, thus the old conjurations to the gods and demons have been painted over with prayers to the Christian God, Jesus and the Virgin Mary.  

 Why is this assertion wrong, in my view? For two reasons: the first is historical and the other is confessional. The historical argument is that in every age, in every culture, the forces employed by magicians, especially demonic forces, were called upon, exorcised and put to work by the magician not in his own name and authority, but in the authority of a greater god, of a suit of powerful supernatural beings of similar but lesser godhood or of a long litany of ancestors with great merits, be they heroes, saints, magicians or otherwise. It is a natural process of magic to be moulded after the religious view of the practicioner. 

In the Egyptian world, the priests would call upon the higher gods and their secret names to force the lesser gods or the demons of the diseases to dispell or retreat. In Mesopotamia, the same thing occurred. In fact, the story of how Silik-mulu-ki, the god of healing,  came to the aid of men in defeating the seven evil spirit princes (Maskim) with the help of the most terrible and secret  name of his heavenly father, Ea, is not so different from how 17th century German conjurors employed the aid of the healing Christ by means of the names of the Father, to conjure and subject the seven Electors of Hell to the sorcerer. We cannot say that the Faustian conjurations, created in a Catholic environment, are simply Christian rip-offs of the Akkadian incantations, because there is a great gap between the two and no connection whatsoever, but we could guess that they are similar constructs meant to obtain similar results for two completely different people, separated by time, space and dogma. 

Even before the rise of the Catholic Church, the gnostics countered the evil actions of the malevolent Archons with the authority of Jesus, or some, with the authority of the veterotestamentary God of Abraham himself, IAO. Still before the rise of Christianity as a religious and political power, in the fourth century A.D., the Testament of Solomon tells of how the wise king Solomon, a key element in all subsequent magical books and sagas, compels the demons with the help of the Judeo-Christian God. 

The religion of Islam is no different: Arabic magicians hold grimoires  that have never seen the scrutinous eye of the Inquisition or of the Vatican, yet constrain demons and djinn by the use of mystical names of God and by the powers of their frustrating angels, such as Mikhail, Jibril, Ruqail and Israfil, the same ones that European treatises conjure. While the Catholic magician empowers his rituals and conjurations by the 100 names of God   and 72 names of Christ, the Arab empowers his with recitations of the 99 names of Allah and the 28 names of power of the Barhatyah Oath. Is it quite so unbelievable that the Catholic will use quotations from the Bible, namely Psalms and Gospels, while the magicians and sorcerers of Yemen use their surahs from the Quran? 

Every religion has it’  s magicians, and every magician appeals to the utmost source of power known to him, namely, the God of his tradition. It is with  good reason that the sage Abramelin advises Abraham of Worms (another author of a 15th to 16th century devotional grimoire that had nothing to do with the Church) to not change his religion.  He states that every man or woman can attain the secrets of magic, be they Pagan, Muslim, Mosaic or Christian, with the condition of not renouncing his religion for the sake of another. This means the Sumerian, the Greek, the Egyptian, The Syrian and the English magician can set in motion the same forces with the same results, if they stick to the tradition that is most suited to them and has been empowered by other magicians of his own kind by trial, error and oath. 

That is why most grimoires of the traditional kind do not work for a large number of their employants. It is not the grimoires that are dead wrong, but the approach of the practitioner.  They are being attempted by people desiring to change their content, replace their names with others, employ other spirits with the same methodology, affix GoldenDawnish rituals and pseudokabbalism to where there once wasn’t any and disregard their requirements. One of the first reasons why the traditional grimoires do not work is that they are not being attempted by people of a similar paradigm to the one of the author: German and Italian grimoires are attempted by non-Catholics, Jewish grimoires are attempted by gentiles, Arabic grimoires are attempted by non-Muslims and worst, Babilonian curses and rituals are being performed by living people... The same goes with secret orders: a non-initiate may do Golden Dawn rituals all his life daily, if he is not accustmed with the Order’s philosophy, beliefs, rituals and initiatory currents, he will obtain little but mental illusions. 

The most flagrant transgression is when a grimoire writen in the spirit of a religion is atempted by an opponent of that religion or by a skeptic. A Christian grimoire will never have any effrect with an atheist or with a satanist. A grimoire employing the names of the Judeo-Christian God can not be reversed engineered to resemble a pagan conjuration and achieve results accordingly, no matter how well attested our analogies are and no matter how clever our religios philosophy may be. A satanist wanting to put into practice the Goetia or the Grimoire of Honorius would have to do something quite agaist his beliefs, like renouncing  Satan formally in a Christian ceremony, much the same way the Christians of the Middle Ages would want to give themselves freely over to the powers of darkness renouncing their Christian God  formally, in ritual desecration of the Cross, the Holy Host or of certain icons. The two are quite similar and it is quite useful to study the history of such ritual conversions to uncover their mechanisms and utility, beyond that of theatrical amusement of the wealthy and bored.  

 This brings us to the second argument, that is the confesional one. The Catholics wrote the grimoires! Yes, some of them were. The Jews wrote them! Yes, some of them were. Pagans, Arians, Nestorians, Orthodox, Catholics, Jews, Muslims wrote grimoires.  We use mostly Christian grimoires, with overwhelming influences. Most of the God names of our Christian grimoires come from Jewish sources. Most of the spirits’ names, as well. Some spirits of the air, like those found in the „Heptameron” and the „Liber de Annuli”, such as Varcan, Sarabotres, Zaaba and Maymon, are simply Western interpretations of the seven kings of the djinn, such as Burqan, Shamhurash, Zawba and Maymun. The Martian spirit Samax of the „Heptameron” is called „Rubeus Rex, Filius Diabuli” (the Red King, son of the Devil), an exact translation of the Arab name of the Martial King of the Spirits, Malika Al-Ahmar, bin-Iblis. Does this mean that the original spirits were painted over with Islamic dogma? Not in the least.

 The grimoires in use in the West today were indeed written by Catholics. But they were not disguised as prayers or composed in such a way to appease the Catholic Church, they were written like that because of the belief of the practicioner in the power of the said prayer. There is no falsity in these grimoires, they were all written to serve the purpose they advertise of serving. There were not only a lot of Catholic practicioners, but almost all magicians of the Middle ages were exclusively monks and priests, as Richard Kieckhefer quite eloquently proves in a specially dedicated chapter of his work, „Magic in the Middle ages” called the Clerical Underground. 

The Church as a whole did not look upon magic and grimoires with good eyes, quite the contrary. When discovered, such books were confiscated and burned and their employers accused of witchcraft. Should the said grimoires bare the names of God, of the Virgin Mary, the Saints or Christ, or portions of the Roman Liturgy mixed with the conjurations, the sentence was not milder and the author was not forgiven, but even worse, he would have been charged both with witchcraft and heresy, along with other chages as using the Holy Sacrament in magic and taking the Lord’s name in vain. By putting Cristian elements in the rituals he employed, the Catholic magician did not seek the clemency of the Catholic Church nor an excuse for his magic, but quite on the contrary, he was risking a lot more than mere witchcraft charges.


  1. I look forward to parts 2 and 3. Particularly I'd like to know if you address further the problem of non-Christians using Grimoires and where they might look for a solution.
    This topic has been hotly debated, and your analysis is a strong one. I can't wait to read more.

  2. I dont think this debate is going anywhere. It's a question of faith.
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