What is a grimoire ?
- According to dictionary.com , a grimoire is "a manual of magic or witchcraft used by witches and sorcerers."
- Merriam-Webster defines it as "a magician's manual for invoking demons and the spirits of the dead."
- Wikipedia describes it as "a textbook of magic, typically including instructions on how to create magical objects like talismans and amulets, how to perform magical spells, charms and divination, and how to summon or invoke supernatural entities such as angels,spirits, and demons."
A grimoire is a combination of all of these definitions. It is a magical text that describes how to practice various types of magic, how to create charms and talismans, how to evoke and invoke entities, and even theory. Not only are they manuals, but they are also magical items themselves. It is believed that the act of translating magic to texts makes the words and the book itself a powerful talisman, so even those who were illiterate would carry mass printed grimoires as protection.
Most grimoires were written between the 13th and 17th century and relied on information from much older texts and magicians. Grimoires were used by cunningfolk, magicians, witches, Amish, and many others across different backgrounds. Much of the knowledge contained in these books is the foundation for much of the Western mystery traditions and Esotericism. It has even been a strong foundation for a lot of forms of magic that are commonly used today.
It is very common for grimoires to be more centered towards ceremonial style magic, explaining the processes of evoking entities such as angels, demons, and planetary powers. They are also typically heavily Judeo-Christian influenced which makes some people uncomfortable. Where many types of magic these days are versatile and we are encourage to find what resonates with us, grimoire traditions are best not altered or changed too much, especially when dealing with evocation. Think of it this way, what resonates with us, may not resonate with the entities that you are trying to call forth and you may not have success. You may not be Christian, but using the methods described can be more for the entity than you. If someone was trying to persuade you, they would use what you like and connect with, not things you have no interest or investment in.
Keep in mind that evocation and invocation are NOT a good starting point for someone who is completely new to magic. These types of practices are safer and more successful if you have a prebuilt spiritual/magical foundation. Also keep in mind that certain spirits and entities may need to be approached differently than others, but always with a respect for what they are. You may find a specific grimoire that works well for you and fits your style much better than others and it is fine to stick with one or two. You don't need to go out and collect every grimoire and practice from it.
Where would an eager seeker of juicy textual arcana start? There are lots of grimoires out there but don't let your head spin just yet. Included below are some common popular grimoires that are easy to get your hands on.
- Arbatel De magia veterum - This is a Latin grimoire published in Sweden in 1575. This is a fantastic grimoire for people new to grimoires and evocation. This text is very clear and doesn't require any crazy ingredients or demand anything of you. The key spirits in this grimoire are the Olympic spirits which are benevolent planetary entities. Because of the simplicity and benevolence of the entities worked with in this grimoire, it is a great start for a beginner. Here is a link to Joseph H. Peterson's version:http://www.esotericarchives.com/solomon/arbatel.htm
- The Black Pullet(La poule noire) - This is a grimoire from the 18th century focusing on the crafting and creation of talismans for various uses in the form of a story of a French officer in Egypt meeting a man who teaches him magical arts after escaping an attack from enemy forces.
- Le Petit Albert - This is a French grimoire from the 18th century that teaches natural and Cabalistic magic.
The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses - Another 18th century grimoire commonly used among cunningfolk and Pennsylvania Dutch that is said to teach the secrets of Moses and is also a founding text for the Rastafarian religion.
Book of Shadows - A Wiccan grimoire by Gerald Gardner who claimed to have received the knowledge from an ancient witch cult. This one I've included for people wanting a more Paganish book.
The Clavicle of Solomon - AKA The Keys of Solomon , 14th-15th century grimoire on Renaissance magic. Many people only think of the Goetia when they hear this one, but the Goetia is only a small part of it.
The Book of Oberon - Published around 1577, this is a Latin grimoire that includes a huge list of spirits and how to summon them. It also contains spells and other workings while referencing many other grimoires.
One of the best authors who translates and provides a huge wealth of citations and sources in his grimoire editions is Joseph H. Peterson . I highly recommend any grimoire that he has translated and worked on due to all of the work he puts in to include additional information and citations.