|As performed by
|By the powers of
|—Lesser Key of Solomon
A grimoire (IPA [grɪˈmwɑr]) is a book of magical knowledge written between the late-medieval period and the 18th century. Such books contain astrological correspondences, lists of angels and demons, directions on casting charms and spells, on mixing medicines, summoning unearthly entities, and making talismans. No home should be without one.
The word grimoire is from the Old French gramaire, and is from the same root as the words grammar and glamour. This is partly because, in the mid-late Middle Ages, Latin "grammars" (books on Latin syntax and diction) were foundational to school and university education, as controlled by the Church — while to the illiterate majority, non-ecclesiastical books were suspect as magic. But "grammar" also denoted, to literate and illiterate alike, a book of basic instruction.
Notable historical grimoires include:
- The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage
- The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses
- Liber Juratis, or, the Sworn Book of Honorius
- The Black Pullet
- The Greater Key of Solomon
- The Lemegeton, or, the Lesser Key of Solomon
- Le Grand Grimoire, The Grand Grimoire
Most of these texts assume Roman Catholicism, and a highly peculiar theology of mechanical sacramentalism. The idea generally is that the wizard-to-be must fortify himself with elaborate regimens of fasting, chastity, prayers, and religious observance. By these austerities, our magus becomes so awesomely holy that when he commands devils to appear in the name of Almighty God, invoked by a garble of Greek and Hebrew holy names, these demons will have no choice than to come at the summons of the holy man and carry out his will, which usually has to do with surprisingly worldly goals such as "seducing" women or getting money. For instance:
“”The Fifty-sixth Spirit is Gremory, or Gamori. He is a Duke Strong and Powerful, and appeareth in the Form of a Beautiful Woman, with a Duchess’s Crown tied about her waist, and riding on a Great Camel. His Office is to tell of all Things Past, Present, and to Come; and of Treasures Hid, and what they lie in; and to procure the Love of Women both Young and Old. He governeth 26 Legions of Spirits, and his Seal is this, etc.
“”I exorcise and command thee, O Spirit N., by Him Who spake and it was done, by the Most Holy and glorious Names ADONAI, EL, ELOHIM, ELOHE, ZEBAOTH, ELION, ESCHERCE, JAH, TETRAGRAMMATON, SADAI:[note 1] do thou forthwith appear and shew thyself unto me, here before this circle, in a fair and human shape, without any deformity or horror; do thou come forthwith, from whateverpart of the world, and make rational answers to my questions; come presently, come visibly, come affably, manifest that which I desire, being conjured by the Name of the Eternal, Living and True God, HELIOREM;[note 2] I conjure thee also by the particular and true Name of thy God to whom thou owest thine obedience; by the name of the King who rules over thee, do thou come without tarrying; come, fulfil my desires; persist unto the end, according, to mine intentions.
|—The Lesser Key of Solomon
The ritual magic of these grimoires is the religious equivalent of impersonating a police officer. Within the safety of his magic circle, traced on the ground with his consecrated sword, armed by pomp and circumstance, the wizard can order around the demons summoned outside. He consorts with demons, but his soul remains safe for the moment.
Most grimoires contain elaborate lists of members of the demonic and angelic hierarchy; demons can be dukes, presidents, viscounts, janitors, marquesses, and all things between, and some are better at certain jobs than others. If you mean to boss them around, you need to know this stuff. There are often specific incantations and magical symbols used to make sure you get the right guy on the line.
In the late 19th century, several of these texts (including the Abra-Melin text and the Keys of Solomon) were reclaimed by pseudo-Masonic magical organizations such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Ordo Templi Orientis. Aleister Crowley, a prime mover of both groups, then served as a vector for a number of modern movements, including Wicca, Satanism, and Chaos Magic.
A cottage industry has existed since the 19th century in selling false or carelessly-translated grimoires (many original texts are in French or Latin, and are quite rare), although faithful editions are available for most of the above titles.
A modern grimoire is the Necronomicon, named after a fictional book of magic in the stories of author H.P. Lovecraft, and inspired by Sumerian mythology and the Ars Goetia, a section in the Lesser Key of Solomon which concerns the summoning of demons. The Book of Shadows is a name given to a Wiccan grimoire and liturgical book.
Books of spells ('magical papyri') are also known from ancient times and are sometimes called grimoires by modern scholars. Most were rescued from the sands of Egypt and are written in Ancient Greek and Demotic Egyptian.
- Collection of grimoires at the Internet Sacred Text Archive
- Collection of grimoires at hermetics.org
- The Book of Ceremonial Magic (original title: The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts) by Arthur Edward Waite. A synopsis of the major early modern grimoires.
- Adonai is the Hebrew for 'My Lord'; El, Elohim, and Elohe similarly mean 'God' or 'My God', Elyon is 'the most high', Jah is short for Jehovah, Sadai is Shaddai, usually translated as 'almighty'; Zebaoth is Sabaoth, part of the phrase Adonai Sabaoth, 'Lord of Hosts'; Escherce probably represents Greek ἰσχυρὸς, ischyros, 'mighty'; and Tetragrammaton is simply Greek (τετραγράμματον) for "four letter word", in this context usually referring to Hebrew יהוה, the traditional spelling of the name of God.
- The "97th name of God".