Picatrix (Ghâyat al-Hakîm fi’l-sihr):
Recent scholarship on this Arabic text indicates that it may in fact be a major sourcebook for many of the later grimoires (listed below). According to Joseph Peterson, the Latin translation most familiar to scholars of the West dates to 1256 CE, from the court of king Alphonso the Wise of Castille. Unfortunately, we have yet to see an English translation of the book- though copies do exist in Arabic, German, French, and Latin.
According to Martin Plessner, the text is extremely erratic while covering a surprisingly wide range of occult topics. The philosophical doctrines that form the basis of the talismanic art, the theory of magick, astronomy, astrology and love, extensive instructions on practical magick, and anecdotes concerning the employment of the magick are jumbled together throughout the book without apparent rhyme or reason.
The work is divided into four books. The first contains a preface with “autobiographical” information about the author, his reasons for writing the book (i.e.- to make available the secrets of magick as guarded by the “ancient philosophers”), and a summery of the material found in the four books. The chapters of book one contain large portions of occult philosophy according to its author (largely Neo-Platonic and “pseudo-Aristotelian” according to Plessner), a definition of magick (into theoretical and practical), as well as preliminary information on astrology and the mansions of the moon. The latter is given as vital information for the formation of talismans.
Book two continues the discussions of philosophy above, the correspondences between earthly creatures and celestial archetypes, and gets further into the mysteries of astrology- the triplicities, degrees, conjunctions, the fixed stars, etc- along with (in chapter three) some long and in-depth information about the occult virtues of the moon. Yet another definition of magick follows in chapter five- dividing it this time between the talismanic art, worship of the planets, and incantations. These three, it is suggested, were divided among the human race so that different cultures became the masters of different arts. In the same chapter, material concerning the art of prophecy and divination is related. Chapters six and seven (as well as several following chapters) then go into depth upon the philosophy of talismans, explaining even that
“Man makes talismans unawares as soon as he begins to manipulate nature in such processes as dyeing cloth, breeding animals or compounding drugs, as well as in the manufacture of objects of everyday use from the products of nature, as in cooking, spinning and the like.”
Finally, book four continues the philosophical discussion, outlining various substances of nature and the theory (history) of creation. It continues outlining the threefold nature of the world which began in an earlier book- dividing creation into Substance, Intellect, and Soul (once again, this seems to have been a probable source for Agrippa- see below). From here, prayers, ceremonies, and information are given for the twelve signs of the Zodiac- along with stories to illustrate the possible effects of these rites. Plessner states that each ceremony is preceded by a seven day fast, and magical characters are used in the ceremonies (pp 319-322). Some aspects of this may be found in various Hermetic manuscripts. I find this suggestive of the Ars Notaria (see below). Chapter four returns to the subject of astrology and talismans (etc), and chapter five outlines the ten disciplines considered necessary before one can become a master in the magickal arts. Oddly, the subjects of the evil eye, heredity, and even bi-sexuality are discussed here. Chapter six returns to the subject of planetary incense, providing rites for each blend. The rather lengthy chapter seven concerns the magickal virtues and uses of plants, and consists mainly of “avowed and verbatim extracts from the Nabataean Agriculture” The final chapters, nine and ten, concern the occult virtues of physical substances, and the description of talismans which rely on those virtues.
This, of course, merely scratches the surface of the material contained in the chapters of the Picatrix. Being that it is very much a sourcebook for the grimoiric tradition as we know it, I hope that an English translation will soon be made available for general study.
Key of Solomon the King (Clavicula Salomonis):
The antiquity of this French grimoire is not known exactly, though it is often placed somewhere in the fourteenth century. A. E. Waite is willing to allow as much as two centuries before this time for the book to have been created and transmitted (perhaps orally), placing its true origin as far back as the twelfth century. It would seem that scholars generally agree on the idea that the Key (along with the Lemegeton) is the fountainhead of Medieval grimoiric writing; providing the format, style, and even much of the content of those which followed.
The Key is composed of two books. Book one concerns the art of spirit summoning- without offering any set hierarchies of intelligences or the use of a triangle. Instead, the spirits arrive at the edge of the circle, and it is up to the mage to question them about their names and functions. Also given are several planetary talismans to be inscribed upon metal, and shown to the spirits in order to gain their obedience.
Book two concerns itself with all ritual preparations- purifications, the construction of magickal tools, incense, holy water, etc. These are the most well known aspects of the book, even used in many instances by modern Hollywood: wands cut from trees at sunrise with one stroke of the knife, thread spun by a virgin, the conjuration of the magickal sword, etc.
Waite felt that the Key is the only (or perhaps merely the first?) magickal text that regulates the operations of magick by the attribution of the hours of the day and night to the rulership of the seven planets. These are what we call the planetary hours. While the Key certainly introduced the practice of the planetary hours into the larger tradition, it is likely that the Picatrix stands as an older source for this information.
The Key of Solomon the King is also the book from which Gerald Gardner drew much of his material in his formation of Wicca. Such rites as the blessings of salt and water, and the magickal characters for inscription upon the Athame and Pentacle are found here.
Lesser Key of Solomon (Lemegeton):
The meaning of the word “Goetia” has long been a subject of scholarly debate. It is often thought to have derived from the Greek word goaô (to wail, groan, or weep), and is related to the howling of bestial demons. On the other hand, A.E. Waite suggests that the word indicates “witchcraft.” This would derive from the Greek word goes (an enchanter, sorcerer), and from the word goety, indicating the art of the sorcerer- which is witchcraft.
In classical times, “witchcraft” was a direct reference to working with spirit familiars, or the performance of necromancy. Thus, the very name of the text was meant to convey its focus upon infernal spirit working. It is introduced in the Weiser edition: “The First Book, or Part, which is a Book concerning Spirits of Evil, and which is termed The Goetia of Solomon, sheweth forth his manner of binding these Spirits for use in things divers. And hereby did he acquire great renown.”
“The First Book, or Part, which is a Book concerning Spirits of Evil, and which is termed The Goetia of Solomon, sheweth forth his manner of binding these Spirits for use in things divers. And hereby did he acquire great renown.”
The offices of these spirits are all one, for what one can do the others can do also. They can shew and discover all things that is hidden and done in the world: and can fetch and carry or do any thing that is to be done or is contained in any of the four Elements Fire, Air, Earth and Water, &c. Also, they can discover the secrets of kings or any other person or persons let it be in what kind it will.
The introductory material describes the Theurgia as “…one which treateth of Spirits mingled of Good and Evil Natures, the which is entitled The Theurgia-Goetia, or the Magical Wisdom of the Spirits Aerial, whereof some do abide, but certain do wander and bide not.” This leads me to the suspicion that these spirits are in some way connected to the stars or other astronomical concerns.
Pauline Art (Ars Paulina):
This book of the Lemegeton is introduced as follows: “The Third Book, called Ars Paulina, or The Art Pauline, treateth of the Spirits allotted unto every degree of the 360 Degrees of the Zodiac; and also of the signs, and of the planets in the signs, as well as of the hours.” Joseph H. Peterson notes that the Pauline Art was supposed to have been discovered by the Apostle Paul after he had ascended the third heaven, and was then delivered by him at Corinth. He also points out that, although the grimoire is based on earlier magickal literature, it is apparently a later redaction due to repeated mention of the year 1641 as well as references to guns.The book is divided into two principal parts. The first part deals with twenty-four Angels who rule the hours of the day and night. The powers of each Angel changes depending on the day in question, and which planet happens to rule his hour on that day. (See the chapter on magickal timing for charts of these hours.) Each Angel is listed with several serviant Angels (or spirits), and instructions for fashioning astrological talismans for any of the Angels one wishes to work with. At the end of the text, the conjurations (used for any Angel, changing only certain key words) are written out in full.
The second part of the Pauline Arts is extremely interesting- as it concerns the finding of the Angel of the degree of one’s own natal Ascendant. In other words, this is the Angel who was rising above the eastern horizon as you were born. He holds the mysteries of one’s destiny, career, fortune, home, and all such factors that can be outlined by an astrological birth chart. Like the first part, methods of talisman construction are outlined for working with these Angels. The text finishes with a conjuration for the Natal Angel called “The Conjuration of the Holy Guardian Angel,” in which the Angel is invoked into a crystal ball. Apparently, there was either little distinction between the Angel of the Nativity and Holy Guardian Angel at the time this text was composed, or it was simply unknown to the author.
As for current magickal technology that may have originated from this book, I mainly note the “Table of Practice” (or altar) the text instructs one to fashion.
Almadel of Solomon:
Its main feature is a large hexagram, which covers most of the surface of the tablet, and a triangle in the center of this (reminding one of the triangle used in the Goetia). As a final feature, four holes are drilled through the tablet- one in each corner. When this work is done, more wax is used (specifically more of the same wax from which the tablet was made) to fashion four candles; each with a small shelf-like protrusion of wax (called a “foot”), presumably, half-way up the length of the candle. The four candles are placed in candlesticks, and positioned in a square pattern with the “feet” all facing inward. The Almadel itself is then placed between the candles, so that it rests on the “feet” (taking care they do not block the four holes) and is thus elevated well above the surface of the table or altar. The final components are a small golden or silver talisman which rests in the center of the Almadel, and an earthen censor placed on the table directly underneath.
No less than four Almadels must be made- including the four candles and the earthen censor (but not the metal talisman)- so there is one of a different color for each of the four altitudes:
These four colors are alchemical in their symbolism, rather than the common elemental colors of yellow, red, blue, and black or green of modern magickal systems. Once you have chosen which Angels (and thus which Altitude) you wish to work with, you set up the Almadel, light the candles, and burn mastic in the censor. The smoke will rise against the bottom of the wax tablet, and is thus forced to some degree through the four holes. It is within this smoke, and upon the Almadel and its golden talisman, that the Angel(s) in question will manifest.
This text has had a profound, and yet little-known, effect on modern magick. It was never adopted directly into our modern magickal systems by men such as S. L. Mathers or Gerald Gardner. Instead, it had its effect upon Dr. John Dee in the late sixteenth century. The equipment described by the Angels for his Enochian system of magick seem to have been derived largely from the Almadel tradition. However, since I will be explaining the Dee Diaries later in this chapter, I will save the comparisons for then.
Ars Nova (The New Art):
The Ars Nova only appears in one version of the Lemegeton (Sloane MS 2731). It is simply a book of invocations for the construction of the sacred space and some of the tools in the Goetic operation. (Whether or not it is meant for use with the other books of the Lemegeton is unclear, though it should extend by definition to the Theurgia-Goetia.) Prayers are given for the inscription of the Magickal Circle and Triangle of Art, the donning of the Hexagram and Pentagram of Solomon, the lighting of the candles, etc. Then follows an invocation for binding the Goetic demons into the brass vessel. These were perhaps something of an afterthought on the part of the compiler of the Lemegeton, but it does address the glaring omission of such invocations within the Goetia itself. Finally, the short text ends with a “Mighty Oration” that seems to be aimed at the catching of thieves and appears utterly removed from the material of the Lemegeton itself.
When Aleister Crowley published a translation of the Goetia by Samuel Mathers, it came with a copy of part of the Ars Nova. (Not including the Mighty Oration or the invocation against thieves.) However, it is not called such in the Mathers/Crowley text, and stands only as an “Explanation of Certain Names Used in this Book Lemegeton.”
The Notary Arts (Ars Notaria):
A wonderful discussion of this tradition can be found in an essay by Frank Klaassen, entitled English Manuscripts of Magic, 1300-1500. Another essay by Michael Camille, entitled Visual Art in Two Manuscripts of the Ars Notoria, contains more historical analysis along with photographs of the pages of the book itself. Finally, from the same source, we have an equally informative essay entitled Plundering the Egyptian Treasure: John the Monk’s “Book of Visions” and its Relation to the Ars Notoria or Solomon, which compares the Notary Arts to a later version of the text (The Book of Visions) that focuses upon the Virgin Mary rather than Solomon.
There are approximately fifty different manuscripts of the Notary Arts known at this time, dating from between 1300 to 1600 CE. The Solomonic mythos from which it draws its foundation is found in the canonical Bible:
“Now, O Lord God, let thy promise unto David my father be established: for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may show myself before this people: for who can judge this They people, who are so great?” And God said to Solomon, “Because this was in thine heart, and thou has not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life, but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king. Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like.” [II Chronicles 1:9-12]
This is the very scene that gave rise to the legend of the Wisdom of Solomon. By refusing to ask for anything beyond self-improvement, he was able to enjoy all the things to which others cling with greed. Only without greed can true happiness be obtained, and physical things enjoyed. Many of us are familiar with the phrase, “ask for wisdom and all else will come.” Solomon learned to stop allowing his physical surroundings to control his actions, and was thus granted the power of controlling them instead. This entire concept has been foundational to similar practices all over the world; from eastern systems such as Bhuddism, to the grimoires themselves, and even many systems of today.
The Ars Notoria is a collection of purification procedures, obscure prayers, and magickal images which promise to result in the understanding of “…Magical Operations, The liberal Sciences, Divine Revelation, and The Art of Memory.” The purifications are composed of fasts, observance of times, confessions, etc. In appearance it very much resembles prayer books or Psalters of the day- and the calligraphy and illustrations were very often commissioned to professional artists (the same men who did in fact fashion Psalters and prayer books). The text itself is arranged into three distinct Parts. Part I contains the prayers to achieve the “general” virtues necessary to attain the higher virtues found later. These are four in number: Memory, Eloquence, Understanding, and Perseverance. Without these, any attempt to produce results with the more advanced prayers will simply come to nothing.
Part II of the operation contains the prayers and magickal images that promise to bestow the “special” virtues. These are specifically the seven Liberal Arts that composed the common educational curriculum for the Medieval scholar: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric, followed by Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy. It then culminates in Philosophy and Theology. Following this is Part III, or the Ars Nova. This section is composed of ten prayers said to have been delivered to Solomon at a later time, and by different Angels, for the purpose of rectifying any mistakes the aspirant may have made in the previous books. Apparently, they are mainly reprisals of some of the prayers of Part II. Finally, the text ends with the necessary instructions (needed for all three Parts) concerning preparation of the sacred space, consecration of the images, fasting, confession, charity, instructions on using the prayers, etc.
The prayers themselves are arranged within the elaborate magickal images, so that the reading of the prayer also results in the abstract viewing of the image. The effect of these two together is intended to induce trance. (In many cases, it is even necessary to rotate the book as you read- the prayers being arranged in concentric circles or spirals. State of the art hypnosis technology for the 1300s!) Here is an example of the prayers and how they are applied practically (the following is for memory):
O Holy Father, merciful Son, and Holy Ghost, inestimable King; I adore, invocate, and beseech thy Holy Name, that of thy overflowing goodness, thou wilt forget all my sins: be merciful to me a sinner, presuming to go about this office of knowledge, and occult learning; and grant, Oh Lord, it may be efficacious in me; open Oh Lord my ears , that I may hear; and take away the scales from my Eyes, that I may see: strengthen my hands, that I may work; open my face, that I may understand thy will; to the glory of thy Name, which is blessed for ever, Amen.
Overall, the Notary Arts stand apart from the usual structure of grimoiric texts, which demand more elaborate efforts for highly specific effects. One who made use of the Memory prayer above was not attempting to remember one specific item, or to pass a single test. Instead, he was acting on the question of what might be gained if only he had a better memory in general. Rather than achieving one single goal, after which the rite would have to be performed again, the idea was to master the entire subject in one fell swoop.
This philosophy of magick is very productive, and highly recommended. It is extremely important to the grimoiric traditions overall, and echoes of it can be found in the introductions to even the most materialistic texts. Those books which have gained reputations of deep mystery- and even danger- are very often just this kind of text. See the Book of Abramelin and the Sworn Book of Honorius below (as well as others in this list) which are such legendary examples.
Three Books of Occult Philosophy:
First drafted in 1509-10 by Henry Cornelius Agrippa (student of Johannes Trithemius), this is the single most important grimoiric text in existence. It is not, in fact, a practical manual, but is instead a compendium of the theories and philosophies upon which Medieval and Renaissance magick are based.
Agrippa divided his work into three distinct sections (or books): the first focuses upon natural or earth-magick. The second outlines the more intellectual techniques such as Qabalah, Gematria, mathematics, and divination. The third book concerns religious observances and interaction with Angelic beings. There are no ceremonies outlined, and no chapters dedicated to “how to” instructions. Instead, it is a sourcebook or reference without which the other grimoires would be nearly useless today. One could spend a lifetime with this book, and still discover new treasures of ancient thought within its pages.
More than any other, this book (especially Book II) has had a major impact on our modern magickal cultures. It seems to have been a favorite of John Dee, as many of its correspondences and magickal wisdom appear throughout the Enochian system of magick. It was also a major sourcebook for the founders of the Golden Dawn, and most of their lists of Angels and Divine Names can be found in its pages. The seven magickal squares, or planetary kameas (used in many traditions from the Golden Dawn to Wicca), are found in Agrippa’s work.
The Magical Elements (Heptameron):
According to Joseph Peterson, the Magical Elements is a concise handbook of ritual magick, and was translated by Robert Turner in 1655. It appeared in Turner’s collection of esoteric texts along with pseudo-Agrippa’s Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy. The text is attributed to Peter de Abano (1250-1316), though Mr. Peterson feels that this is probably spurious, since de Abano’s work betrays “no acquaintance with the occult sciences.” The Magical Elements is primarily based upon Solomonic literature, and even appears in the Hebrew Key of Solomon (Mafteah Shelomoh, fol 35a ff) under the title The Book of Light.
Agrippa published his Three Books… without including any practical ceremonies. In the last chapter of the third book, he tells us his reason:
“For we have delivered this art in such a manner, that it may not be hid from the prudent and intelligent, and yet may not admit wicked and incredulous men to the mysteries of these secrets, but leave them destitute and astonished, in the shade of ignorance and desperation.”
Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy:
This book needs little explanation, as it is basically another version of the Magical Elements, with large portions of the original Three Books… included. Also, the Lemegeton (at least its style) had an influence on this work, as it does concern the evocation of “evil spirits” and even suggests the use of a triangle.
The author is known only as “pseudo-Agrippa,” because he chose to sign Agrippa’s name to the work. According to A. E. Waite, the text appeared only after the death of the famous wizard, and was rejected as a forgery by a student of Agrippa’s named Wierus.
The Magus (Celestial Intelligencer):
Published In 1801 by Francis Barrett, this work was meant as a textbook for classes in magick that Barrett was offering at No. 99 Norton St., Marylebone- at any time between the hours of eleven and two o’clock. It would appear that he was attempting to found a magickal order, which may or may not have succeeded.
As for the content of the book, I’m afraid we have to class this text with the others that have taken so much from Agrippa’s Three Books… and those which came directly after. It consists mainly of large portions of Agrippa’s work (specifically portions of the first and second books), along with large chunks of the Magickal Elements and Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy thrown in. Many tend to consider Barrett a plagiarist, as he leaves his sources (which he does indeed quote word for word in most cases) unaccredited. Although, I tend to feel that Barrett (operating as late as the 1800s) was simply compiling a workable textbook for his class from the sources he had personally tracked down and studied. In fact, The Magus seems to represent a last revival of grimoiric material before the Victorian work of Eliphas Levi, and the Golden Dawn after him.
The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage:
S. L. Mathers, in his edition of this text, places the Book of Abramelin at the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries. Like the tradition of the Notary Arts, the Abramelin system stands apart from the grimoiric mainstream. Its focus is much more spiritual in nature than one might expect from the Key of Solomon or Goetia. The principal upon which the text is based is that all material happiness can only come from spiritual evolution.
The text is divided into three books. The first is an autobiography of the author – a man who calls himself Abraham the Jew. There may be a symbolic relation to the father of Judaism, though this Abraham writes of living during the reign of Emperor Sigismond of Germany (1368-1437 CE). Abraham describes his years of wandering in search of the True and Sacred Wisdom (more echoes of King Solomon), and his several disappointments along the way. In fact, the tale takes on the traditional tone of a quest. He learns several forms of magick, but finds them all lacking, and their practitioners to be less than they claimed. At the last moments before giving up the quest, Abraham meets an Egyptian adept named Abramelin, who agrees to teach Abraham the Sacred Magic.
Abraham wrote this text for the sake of his son Lamech (another Biblically-inspired name). According to the story, Abraham had granted the secrets of the Qabalah to his oldest son, in the tradition of Judaism. However, he did not wish to leave his younger son with no Key to spiritual attainment, and thus Abraham left behind the Book of Abramelin.
The second two books, then, are composed of the instructions for the Sacred Magick, which Abraham copied by hand from Abramelin’s original. The first part (book two) describes a heavily involved procedure of purification and invocation, resulting in the appearance of one’s own Guardian Angel. Of course, the concept of the personal Guardian (and the invocation thereof) extends well before the dawn of written history. The system outlined in Abramelin itself shows amazing similarities to tribal shamanic procedures. The purifications take the standard grimoiric forms of seclusion, fasting, cleanliness, and a heavy dose of prayer. A separate room- called an Oratory (prayer room) must be maintained in utmost purity during a six month period, as this is where the Angel will appear and bond with the aspirant at the end of this time. Afterward, the Angel takes over as Teacher for the aspirant, and it is from this being (and only this being) that the True and Sacred Wisdom and Magick will be discovered.
Once the cooperation of the Angel is assured, one continues to summon forth such demonic princes as Lucifer, Leviathan, Astarot, Belzebud, and several others (twelve in all). These beings are commanded to deliver an Oath of obedience to the mage, as well as the use of four familiar spirits for day-to-day practical tasks.
The final book is a collection of magick-square talismans, which the demonic princes and spirits must swear upon when giving their Oaths.
Each talisman can then be used to command a spirit to perform a task, in much the same fashion as those in the Key of Solomon the King. The functions of the talismans are those common to grimoiric material- finding treasure, causing visions, bringing books, flight, healing the sick, etc, etc.
There is some speculation that book three was a later edition to the work. I don’t know if this is the case, though it is true that it contains more contradictions and general mistakes than the second. In fact, those who have made use of the Abramelin system have found book three of little concern. Abraham himself hints at the reason for this in Book Two, chapter 14:
“Though the following advice may be scarcely necessary for the most part, since I have already explained unto you all things necessary to be done; and also seeing that your Guardian Angel will have sufficiently instructed you in all that you should do… “
It is very possible that Book Three represents only “Abraham’s” version of the True and Sacred Magic, which will, of course, be different for everyone.
I also feel I should state that the talismans are specifically useless for those who do not first undergo the six month invocation. They have no power in and of themselves, as they work only by showing them to spirit helpers who have touched them and sworn the Oaths. Of course, that can only be done with the aid of one’s Guardian Angel, which can only be achieved by following the entire six-month operation. Some of the most common urban legends I have heard concerning the dangers of grimoires were centered around those who have attempted to make use of book three of Abramelin by itself. Much more than this, however, I believe people simply find it of little use at all.
The Book of Abramelin granted one major concept to our modern practices- that of the Holy Guardian Angel. The Golden Dawn adopted the “HGA” straight from the pages of Abramelin, and the system of Thelema adopted it from the Golden Dawn. Both traditions agree on the vast importance of gaining Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. Abramelin is one of my own areas of focus, and I could not agree with them more. In time, both the Golden Dawn and Thelema have developed their own methods of invoking and working with the Guardian Angel; though I have to admit that I find the Abramelin system to be the most impressive method.
Arbatel of Magic (Arbatel de Magia Veterum):
Joseph Peterson describes this text as appearing first in Latin in Basle, Switzerland 1575. It is also mentioned in John Dee’s Five Books of the Mysteries (circa 1583). This was among the rituals classified by A.E. Waite as “transcendental magic”- that is, magick that does not include what he considers black magickal elements (see the Book of Ceremonial Magic p. 28.) It was later translated into English by Robert Turner In 1655.
The Arbatel was originally intended to contain nine volumes, though we only know of the first book today. Many speculate that the other eight were never written, and this could very well be true. Although, the magick that is supposedly contained in those eight books would not have been uncommon Medieval magickal literature. I feel that the author at least intended to write them, if he did not in fact do so after all.
The first book, called Isagoge (or A Book of the Institutions of Magick), concerns the basics of magickal procedure in general. It contains 49 “aphorisms,” divided into groups of seven called “septenaries,” which must be learned and followed in order to succeed in magickal experiments. A fitting example of the nature of these aphorisms would be number two:
In all things call upon the Name of the Lord: and without prayer unto God through his onely-begotten son, do not thou undertake to do or think any thing. And use the Spirits given and attributed unto thee, as Ministers, without rashness and presumption, as the messengers of God; having a due reverence towards the Lord of Spirits. And the remainder of thy life do thou accomplish, demeaning thy self peaceably, to the honour of God, and the profit of thy self and thy neighbour.
The third septenary of aphorisms begins a description of the natures and methods of working with seven planetary Olympic Spirits, who inhabit the firmament (sky), specifically the stars (or planets) of the firmament. Their office is to declare Destinies and to administer fatal Charms as far as God permits them. Their names are Aratron, Bethor, Phaleg, Och, Hagith, Ophiel, and Phul.
According to this text, the universe is divided into 186 “provinces,” which are ruled by the Olympic Spirits. Each Spirit also rules, in succession, a period of 490 years. According to the text, we have been under the general governance of Ophiel, the Spirit of Mercury, since 1900 CE, and will remain so until the year 2390 CE.
The eight non-existent books said to follow the first are described in the introduction of the Arbatel. The second book concerns Microcosmical Magick, and sounds as if it might be an operation of working with one’s Lesser Guardian Angel or Genius (see the Pauline Arts above). The third contains Olympic Magick, or the methods of working with the spirits who reside upon Mt. Olympus. The fourth book contains what it calls Hesiodiacal or Homerical Magick, and focuses upon working with “cacodaimones” (unclean spirits, or demons). It is very likely that this text was (or would have been) somewhat along the lines of the Goetia. The fifth of the nine books contains “Romane or Sibylline Magick,” which concerns work done with Tutelar Spirits- that is, those spiritual entities who guide and protect human beings. The sixth book is called Pythagorical Magick, which promises the appearance of spirits who will teach one all of the “rhetorical sciences” such as medicine, mathematics, alchemy, etc. The seventh book is called the Magick of Apollonius, and claims to work according to the rules of both the Microcosmical (book two) and Romane (book five) Magicks. However, this work claims to work with hostile spirits instead of benevolent. The eighth book is called Hermetical or Egyptian Magick, and is described only as being similar to “Divine Magick.” If I were to make an assumption as to what this means, I might assume that it was related in some way to work with celestial beings (“theurgy”), or even devotional religious magick as found in Book III of Agrippa’s Three Books. Finally, the ninth book is “that wisdom which dependeth solely upon the Word of God; and this is called Prophetical Magick.”
Sworn Book of Honorius (Liber Sacer Juratus):
The oldest copies of the Latin Sworn Book we have today are Sloane MS 313 and 3854, both of which date to the fourteenth century. Based on evidence in the text itself, Robert Mathiesen suggests that the material was composed “sometime in the first half of the 13th century.” Overall, there are six known copies of the book.
The introduction of the Sworn Book gives the story that the book was fashioned in response to the Medieval inquisitions. As the officials of the Church sought to destroy all works of magick, a large council of adepts gathered with the purpose of somehow preserving the sacred science. One among them- Honorius, son of Euclidus- was chosen for the actual performance of the task. As is common in classical grimoiric literature, the master entered into conversation with an Angel who directed the reception of the magick. In this case, the Angel’s name was Hochmel- obviously a version of the Hebrew word “Chockmah” (Wisdom). The Sworn Book of Honorius was the result of this action. Each adept was allowed to make no more than three copies of the book, and each copy was to be either buried before his death, interred in his grave with him, or given into trusted hands.
The Sworn Book is a specifically Catholic text which seems closely related to the Ars Notoria. Joseph Peterson points out the similarities in the prayers used in both manuscripts, and suggests that the two are directly connected. Both texts indeed utilize pure prayer, divorced for the most part from typical grimoiric techniques, in order to achieve their high magickal goals. However, where the Ars Notoria focuses upon the gaining of rhetorical knowledge, the Sworn Book promises the gaining of the “Beatific Vision.” This is simply the Christian version of the vision of the Merkavah- wherein one achieves a vision of the Face of God through purification, fasting, and prayer.
Robert Mathiesen explains that the operation lasts for twenty-eight days. It is divided into two principal parts: the first part lasts twenty days, and concerns the purification of the operator for the work of the second part. The second part (the actual magickal ritual) is a mere eight days long. This appears similar in style to the Book of Abramelin, which instructs one to enter an extended six-month period of purification, followed by a much shorter seven-day rite to gain the vision of the Holy Guardian Angel and to bind the Demonic Princes.
Interestingly, John Dee owned a copy of this work (Sloane 313). Like the tools of the Almadel of Solomon, Dee also adopted an aspect of this work into his Enochian system. The text describes the inscription on parchment of a “Seal of God,” which Dee used as the basis for his “Sigillium Dei Ameth.” I will go into this somewhat below.
The Dee Diaries:
In the late 1500s, two alchemist-mages joined their magickal efforts and began to contact Angels. One of these men was Dr. John Dee- the most celebrated scholar of his day. He enjoyed the patronage of Queen Elizabeth I, and was wholly dedicated to the furtherance of the English empire. His goal seems to have been to receive a system of magickal world-domination, by which he could influence the fates of neighboring (and hostile) kingdoms. His partner was Edward Kelley, a dedicated alchemist (who seems to have indulged in alchemical fraud a number of times) who sought the true mysteries of turning base metals into gold.
With these goals in mind, the two men summoned and conversed with a large family of Angels. Like the two mages, the Angels seemed to have an agenda of Their own- the transmission of an extremely powerful system of magick that would influence the world forever after. Not surprisingly, of these three goals (military power, gold, and magickal evolution), only that of the Angels came to pass. The Angelic system of magick thus delivered came to be known as “Enochian,” as it was supposed to have been delivered originally to the Biblical prophet Enoch before the Great Flood. It was eventually adopted, in part, by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the late 1800s, and has thus become the very backbone of modern magickal knowledge.
John Dee made only one attempt to produce a Solomonic-style grimoire, which is published today as The Enochian Magick of Dr. John Dee, by G. James. However, this text has not been of nearly as much use to us as the journals he kept during his work with the Angels. There we witness Dee and Kelley interacting with the celestial intelligences on a daily basis, and the new system of magick delivered piece by obscure piece. Dee was in charge of summoning the entities (mainly by nothing more complicated than the recitation of Psalms), and Kelley would gaze into a crystal ball and report on what he saw. (In fact, much of the common stereotypes of “the wizard” that exist in our popular culture today- such as the crystal ball- are traced directly to Dee and Kelley and their magickal journals.) The sessions continued on a regular basis from 1581 to approximately 1607- and the heart of the work seems to have occurred between 1582 and 1585. The journals which are of primary relevance are as follows:
Five Books of the Mysteries (Quinti Libri Mysteriorum):
These five books (preserved as Sloane MS 3188) cover the years from December 22, 1581 to May 23, 1583. Their subject is the transmission of the “Heptarchia,” a form of magick that centers around the mystery of the seven Archangels who stand before the Throne of God (see Revelation Ch. 4). It focuses upon the seven planets, days of the week, and even the seven Biblical days of creation. The magick itself works through the patronage of 49 planetary Angels, all of whom have very typical (though lofty) grimoiric functions- such as the bestowing of wisdom and knowledge, or military protection.
The tools of Angelic magick are very typical of grimoiric technology. In fact, most of them pre-exist John Dee, having been adopted from various Medieval texts. For instance, the influence of the Almadel of Solomon (see above) is quite obvious. Its design- square in shape, a boarder inside its edges containing Divine Names, and a hexagram in its center- is the basis for Dee’s Holy Table (or Table of Practice).
Although the Almadel is made of wax while Dee’s Table is made of “sweetwood”, wax is used to fashion the Sigillum Dei Ameth (Seal of God, or of Truth). This Seal rests upon the Holy Table and, like the Almadel, is intended to facilitate the skrying of the Angels; perhaps in a crystal ball resting upon it as They did for Kelley. Even the design on the face of the Sigillum is traditional. The “Seal of God” makes its original appearance in The Sworn Book of Honorius, though (like the Table) the names and characters inscribed upon it differ from Dee’s final versions.
Also included is a Ring of Solomon, fashioned of pure gold, and featuring the Divine Name “Pele.” This Name is found in Agrippa’s Three Books, as well as Judges 13:18: “Why askest thou thus after my name seeing it is a secret?” The Hebrew word for “name” (PLE) indicates “a miracle of God.” The Archangel Michael delivered the design of this ring to Dee, stating that this was the actual ring worn by Solomon when he worked his miracles. Dee himself was instructed to attempt nothing without it.
Further tools consisted of seven talismans known as the Ensigns of Creation (corresponding to the seven Biblical days of creation) fashioned from purified tin and arrayed around the Sigillum Dei Ameth, a Lamen written in Angelic characters, several covers of silk, a crystal “shewstone”, Lamens for each planetary Angelic King (and perhaps the Princes of each planet as well), and four miniature wax seals for placement underneath the legs of the Table.
A True and Faithful Relation…:
The full title of this text is A True and Faithful Relation of What Passed for Many Yeers Between Dr. John Dee (A Mathematician of Great Fame in Q. Eliz. and King James their Reignes) and Some Spirits. It is a huge tome published in 1659 by Meric Casaubon, containing a full thirteen books, and covering May 28, 1583 to September 7, 1607.
It is here that we find the famous “48 Claves Angelicai” (Angelic Keys), the Great Table of the Earth (the Watchtowers), the 91 (or 92) Parts of the Earth, and the 30 Aethyrs (Heavens). The Angels related instructions for using the Keys- also known as Calls- to access the mysteries of Logaeth. The Celestial hierarchies within the Watchtowers are defined for the most part, along with an extended rite of summoning to establish contact with Them.
There are also some rather obscure instructions for skrying into the Parts of the Earth- which are actually spiritual reflections of geographical locations. Dee hoped to control any country in the world by simply having access to the Angels who resided in that area of the world.
This, of course, does not even begin to scratch the surface of the “Enochian” material of Dr Dee and Sir Edward Kelley. However, space here would not permit such a massive undertaking. A True and Faithful Relation runs for several hundred pages- filled with magick, mysticism, politics, and intrigue. The study of this book, and the Enochian Angelic system of magick, is the dedication of a lifetime.
The Grimoire of Armadel (Liber Armadel Seu Totius Cabalae Perfectissima Brevissima et Infallabilis Scientia Tam Speculativa Quam Practiqua):
This text is very often confused with either the Almadel of Solomon, or the Arbatel of Magic. In fact, it is very possible that the name “Armadel” is a corruption of one of these words- especially of the name Arbatel. The Grimoire of Armadel does happen to borrow its principal conjuration and license to depart from the Arbatel of Magic. However, regardless of its use of material from earlier sources, the Grimoire of Armadel remains a magickal operation distinct from other texts with a similar name.
It is difficult to say exactly when the manuscript first appeared in history. The earliest recorded mention of the book is found in a bibliography of occult works compounded by Gabriel Naude in 1625. We do know that the name “Armadel” enjoyed some popularity among occultists during the seventeenth century, with several unrelated texts attributed to him. Eventually, a manuscript in the French language (MS 88) found its way into the Bibliotheque l’Arsenal; which was then translated into English in the early 1900s by Samuel Mathers. An introduction was then written for the text in 1995 by William Keith.
It is a very simple book, full of colorful Sigils related to recognizable Angels and spirits (such as the seven Archangels: Cassiel, Sachiel, etc), along with borrowed conjurations.
Apparently, one is intended to inscribe the Sigils on consecrated parchment, and use them to contact Angels and spirits who have mysteries to reveal. The book begins with a short section outlining the basic ritual procedure, and the afore-mentioned Arbatel conjurations.
The Sigils are then grouped into three categories. The first is called “The Theosophy of Our Forefathers or Their Sacred and Mystic Theology.” It contains Sigils to contact Angels such as Gabriel- whose chapter is called “Of the Life of Elijah.” Raphael teaches the “Wisdom of Solomon.” Other chapters of potential interest are “The Explorer and Leader Joshua”, “The Rod of Moses”, “The Wisdom of Our Forefather Adam”, “The Vision of Eden”, and even “The Beholding of the Serpent [of Eden].” These are only a few of the best examples.
The next section is entitled “The Sacro-Mystic Theology of Our Forefathers.” Herein we can learn lessons “Concerning the Devils and How They May be Bound and Compelled to Visible Appearance”, as well as “Concerning the Ways of Knowing the Good Angels, and of Consulting Them.” (The latter is taught by no less than Zadkiel and Sachiel together.) We can learn much “Concerning the Evangelic Rebellion and Expulsion”, and “Concerning the Life of the Angels Before the Fall.” Again, this merely scratches the surface of available Sigils.
The final section is called “The Rational Table: or the Qabalistical Light; Penetrating Whatsoever Things be Most Hidden Among the Celestials, the Terrestrials and the Infernals.” This title represents the universally-typical threefold-world of the shaman. (We will learn much more of the importance of this three-fold division in later chapters.) Here are contained further magickal requisites, talismans, orations, and several chapters that appear to be Christian sermons, or perhaps invocations.
Some scholars tend to suggest that the Grimoire of Armadel is a complete fabrication- akin to the Grimoirium Verum and Grand Grimoire we shall see below. Armadel flourished during the occult panic that gripped France between 1610 and 1640. The Christian orientation of the text, several Biblical sermons, the invocation of Saints, and its instructions to recite such official prayers as the Pater Noster, Ave Maria, or the Creedo would probably have caught the attention of a public hungry for rumors of necromancers among the clergy.
However, I feel there is some reasonable doubt surrounding objections to this book’s authenticity. The Armadel is indeed a simple text- more akin to a working notebook than a full magickal manuscript. It certainly would have been easy to put together- assuming one could have easily amassed its source material in the 1600s. However, the Armadel still lacks the shock value that is written into other forgeries like the Grand Grimoire, or even our own modern Necronomicon. In fact, the text is highly shamanic- offering to teach one how to contact the spirits in order to be safe from them, to learn mysteries from them, etc. There are not even any blood sacrifices found in the instructions. The focus of the work seems to be upon visionary quests or spiritual encounters facilitated by the magickal characters, as well as gaining some magickal powers such as healing, alchemy, agriculture, etc.
This kind of straightforwardness would not be expected of the shock-value forgeries. William Keith and several contemporary grimoiric scholars tend to feel the magickal value of this book is “slight, or at best highly dilute.” I feel that the overall simplicity of the book disappoints many occult researchers. However, I am personally fascinated with the implications behind the Sigils and the mystical experiences they promise. It seems just as likely that this grimoire was once a personal notebook used by a working mage. The reader may even agree with me if he encounters the Armadel after reading this book (especially chapters two, three, and ten).
“Grimoirium Verum, or the Most Approved Keys of Solomon the Hebrew Rabbin, wherein the Most Hidden Secrets, both Natural and Supernatural, are immediately exhibited, but it is necessary that the Demons should be contented on their part. Translated from the Hebrew by Plaingiere, a Dominican Jesuit, with a Collection of Curious Secrets. Published by Alibeck the Egyptian. 1517.”
Waite suggests that the date given in the above quote is fraudulent, as the text actually belongs to the mid-eighteenth century. It is written in French, though it very likely has Italian connections, and does in fact seem to have a connection to Rome. It owes a debt, as do so many other grimoires, to the Key of Solomon the King- as some of its material is taken directly therefrom. The Lemegeton, too, had its influence- as the Grimoirium contains instructions for the evocation of the exact same entities.
Little more needs said concerning this text. This, along with other purported “black” rituals, have always struck me as somewhat boring, very unoriginal, and rarely of much use practically. Overall, they tend to appear as little more than re-hashes of the Key of Solomon and Lemegeton, with a few dissertations included to give the text a renegade “Satanic” feel. Most of them, in my opinion, do not even make the grade as Satanic or “black.” While it is true that they call upon demonic entities, and usually include prayers and invocations directed to Lucifer, we shall see in later chapters that this does not properly make an operation “black.”
The Grand Grimoire (Red Dragon):
“The Grand Grimoire, with the Powerful Calvicle of Solomon and of Black Magic; or the Infernal Devices of the Great Agrippa for the Discovery of all Hidden Treasures and the Subjugation of every Denomination of Spirits, together with an Abridgment of all the Magical Arts.”
What perhaps makes this book so famous (or infamous) is the fact that it deals specifically with making pacts with devils. Other texts, such as Goetia and Abramelin, do not work through pacts at all, and the latter example expressly forbids such action. Meanwhile the Grand Grimoire instructs one to make a conditional pact with Lucifuge:
It is my wish to make a pact with thee, so as to obtain wealth at thy hands immediately, failing which I will torment thee by the potent words of the Clavicle.
I promise the grand Lucifuge to reward him in twenty years’ time for all treasures he may give me. In witness whereof I have signed myself. N.N.
Leave me to my rest, and I will confer upon thee the nearest treasure, on condition that thou dost set apart for me one coin on the first Monday of each month, and dost not call me oftener than once a week, to wit, between ten at night and two in the morning. Take up thy pact; I have signed it. Fail in thy promise, and thou shalt be mine at the end of twenty years.
The Grand Grimoire then proceeds to communicate Solomon’s instructions for the making of a pact. E.M. Butler writes that this is the only complete “and perfect” outline of such a pact of which she is aware (though she does make mention of the similar Faustian ritual). The form of the pact in the Grand Grimoire is deliberately evasive- supposing that the mage is “getting one over” on the demonic forces.
For those who are interested in the darker side of the grimoires, I must recommend Ritual Magic and The Fortunes of Faust, both by Elizabeth Butler. She is an expert in what is known as the “Faustian” tradition- a Germanic phenomenon based upon the mythos of Faust and his dealings with Satan. A. E. Waite also gives portions of the texts of the above two (and other) grimoires in his Book of Ceremonial Magic.
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