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Furthermore, print did not usurp the role of manuscript; the magic latent in the words contained in print grimoires could be reactivated through transcription.
Neither did print cheapen the aura of grimoires. It is true that the power of literary magic was in part invested in the restricted access to literacy, which is one reason why the history of grimoires needs to be sensitive to gender inequalities.
Until the twentieth century the literacy rates of women lagged far behind men. Yet, as we shall see, even in the age of mass-produced grimoires and near universal education there was a widespread perception that the ability to read was not the only requirement for using them.
The qualities of the magician remained important. Whether by birth right, geography, or piety only certain people were thought to have the innate power to possess and perform grimoire magic on the behalf of others.
So even when grimoires were available to everyone not everyone could use them safely and eVectively. To end this brief introduction let me pose some riddles. How did a Swede become the greatest wizard in America? What did Rastafarians and Alpine farmers have in common?
And how did a poor crossing-sweeper from Ohio become a feared mythical spirit in the Caribbean? Grimoires provide all the answers. They not only reXected the globalization of the world but helped shape it. The key to their extraordinary inXuence lies back in the ancient world of the Middle East, which is where our journey now begins.
While European grimoires were largely a product of the medieval period their inspiration lies much further back in the religions of the ancient civilizations of the Near and Middle East. In the eastern Mediterranean the religious traditions of paganism, Judaism, Christianity, and later Islam rubbed oV on each other despite the obvious antagonisms in terms of competing political inXuence. How medieval scholars understood that distant past and reconstructed it, often wrongly, was as important to the history of magic as the magical knowledge actually passed down during the Wrst millennium.
The cross-fertilized intellectual culture of the Middle East was introduced to most of Europe during the Middle Ages, at a time when the Continent has often been portrayed as being in the grip of a bigoted and zealous Church, a period of religious intolerance with the Crusades against Islam, the setting up of Inquisitions, and pogroms against the Jews. This portrayal is far from being completely unjustiWed, yet the medieval era was also an age of extraordinary scholarly collaboration and understanding between diVerent religions and cultures.
The writings of the pagan ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians were translated and pored over, and churchmen travelled across Europe to immerse themselves in the Arabic sciences and Jewish mysticism taught in the schools of Spain and southern France. Magic was seen as an aspect of science as well as religion, and its roots were Ancient and Medieval Grimoires 7 traced back thousands of years through the wider reconstruction of the history of written knowledge. So to understand the origins of the grimoire we must explore the ancient world through the prism of the medieval intellectual mind.
Ancient masters of magic The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that the priests of a Persian tribe, the Magi, were the Wrst practitioners of magic, taught to them by their founder Zoroaster. But it is not established whether there was just one man of this name or whether there was another one afterward too. That would put the age of Zoroaster and the birth of magic to around bce.
But Pliny went on to make a distinction between the invention of magic and when it was Wrst written down.
While some Hebrew and Samaritan texts ascribed writings to the Wrst man Adam, in late antiquity and the medieval period Enoch Idris in Arabic was more generally believed to be the inventor of books. As is evident from fragments of the famed Dead Sea Scrolls, found in caves around Qumran near the Dead Sea in the mid-twentieth century, purported Books of Enoch containing astronomical, astrological, and angelic lore were circulating at the time of Jesus. It was a book that had been concealed in a cave since the time of Adam.
Enoch read it there and learned the art of astronomy, while Noah found in it advice on constructing the Ark. Another tradition relates how the angel Raziel communicated to Noah a secret book containing the art of astrology, which was then written on a sapphire that Noah kept in a golden chest that he brought with him in the Ark. This was subsequently inherited by his son Shem. A surviving astrological tract called the Treatise of Shem dates to sometime in the late Wrst century bce or early ce.
In some accounts Ham wrote down the secrets of his demonic magic on metal plates and stone tablets before the Flood, buried them, and then returned to them once the waters had subsided. Others, such as the Wrst Bishop of Norwich d. According to the twelfth-century scholar Michael Scot, in his history of astrology and astronomy, Zoroaster was the inventor of magic, but he was descended from Shem, and it was Ham who invented the art of divination with the help of demons.
Ham then taught it to his son Canaan who wrote down the secrets of the art in thirty volumes, which were burned after he was killed in battle. Zoroaster was sometimes referred to as a Chaldean. In archaeological terms too, the Sumerian-inspired cuneiform writing of the Akkadians, one of the peoples of the Mesopotamian region, represent the Wrst major repository of written magic spells and conjurations, though their secrets were only deciphered in the nineteenth century.
They were, it seems, the private libraries of well-known scribes and exorcists.
It was believed in later antiquity that even famous Greek philosophers such as Plato and Pythagoras had been instructed in wisdom and occult knowledge by Egyptian priests. Centuries after his death, those who subscribed to the teachings of Pythagoras continued to be suspected of dabbling in magic. They remind us that we should not think of literary magic only in terms of the written Ancient and Medieval Grimoires 9 page. While books were principally used as records, the power of written words was eVected through their transcription on to ritual or protective objects.
One result of this fusion was the founding of the great Library of Alexandria, which attracted scholars from all over the Greek world. Another was the Coptic writing system constructed from the Greek alphabet and Egyptian phonetics. More to the point, thanks to the amazing nineteenth-century archaeological discoveries of what are known as the Graeco-Egyptian papyri, we can see how the magic tradition that would later spread across Europe was largely a product of cultural exchange in Hellenistic Egypt.
These papyri date from the late Wrst century bce to the Wfth century ce, thus mostly from the period of Roman rule, and are written in Greek, Demotic Egyptian, and Coptic rather than the hieroglyphic magic associated with Egyptian temples and burial monuments.
They contain a fascinating mix of Egyptian, Greek, and Jewish religious inXuences, and there is considerable debate about how much and which of the spells and conjurations are truly Egyptian in origin. There are distinct diVerences between the magic they contain and that found in the earliest magical inscriptions and papyri from the time of the pharaohs. While the latter are primarily concerned with health and protection, the Graeco-Egyptian papyri manuscripts are much more focused on the desires and ambitions of the magician, with magic used for Wnancial gain, social success, and sexual conquest.
The summoning of visions of deities to impart occult knowledge or divine the future was also a major component of the ritual magic of the later period. This prophet, miracle worker, and leader of the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt had an eventful life by all accounts, but there are two episodes that bear directly on the grimoire tradition. The second was his reception of the Torah and the two tablets bearing the Ten Commandments during his revelation on Mount Sinai.
The former sealed the tradition of Moses the magician while the latter was the source of myths regarding the divine transmission of more secret knowledge than is mentioned in the Torah and Old Testament. The Greek pagan Celsus, writing in the second century ce, asserted that the Jews were much addicted to the sorcery taught them by Moses. It was certainly the case that by the time of Jesus their reputation as magicians had grown to a similar level to that of the Egyptians.
During Roman rule there is evidence of Jewish magicians being sought out, and they could be found in the entourage of high Roman oYcials. Jewish elements can also be found in numerous charms in the Graeco-Egyptian papyri. In the process clear water was put between the cultures of Judaism and Egypt, both of which were represented in the life of Moses.
Later he would come to be seen as a great African wonderworker in African-American popular religion. But did he receive more wisdom than the Jewish and Christian priests revealed? Over the millennia many people have certainly thought so. We only know about the Eighth Book from the archaeological discovery and translation of the papyri in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Yet, intriguingly, by the late eighteenth century a manuscript claiming to be the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses was circulating in Germany.
Whoever wrote it would have been unaware of the existence of a purported Eighth Book, but was no doubt conscious of rumours and claims of the discovery of other lost Mosaic texts. Hermes Trismegistus was the other central Wgure in historic conceptions of ancient Egyptian magic, and the next great reputed author of occult books in this survey of the dubious lineage of magic. In his most mythical guise he was a conXation of Thoth, the ibis-headed Egyptian god of Wisdom, and the Greek god Hermes equated with the Roman Mercury.
Thoth was thought to be the inventor of writing and mathematics and therefore the patron God of scribes and administrators.
As the founder of the written word it stood to reason he was also a supreme master of magic. In an Islamic tradition dating to at least the ninth century there are three people identiWed as Hermes. The second lived in Egypt or Chaldea after the Flood and taught Pythagoras, and the third was a great physician who lived 12 Ancient and Medieval Grimoires in Egypt and wrote books on alchemy and poisonous animals.
In some accounts he was also a contemporary of Moses. The third-century bce Egyptian historian and priest Manetho reckoned there were an impressive 36, books of Hermes. Several centuries after his death Manetho was given the spurious authorship of one of these, the Book of Sothis, which was essentially a chronicle of Egyptian Kings purportedly inscribed in sacred characters by Trismegistus before the Flood. In some later grimoires, however, he was sometimes referred to as Ptolomaeus Graeccus and described as a disciple of Solomon.
When Toz discovered it he wept with frustration at his inability to understand it, until an angel revealed its secrets to him. In biblical chronology it is calculated that he ruled Israel during the tenth century bce.
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He was the source of 3, proverbs and over a thousand songs, and knew the secrets of plants and animals better than any man. There is no biblical intimation of Solomon as being a great magician, but his reputation for astrology and knowledge of the spirit world seems to have circulated in the Near East and Egypt by the second century bce.
It is the Wrst-century Jewish historian Josephus who presents us with the Wrst clear representation of Solomon the magician, telling how Solomon had written 3, books including ones containing incantations and exorcisms to heal demon-induced sickness.
The Wrst actual magic book attributed to him, the Testament of Solomon, was written in Greek sometime during the Wrst Wve centuries ce and probably originated in Babylonia or Egypt. Ancient and Medieval Grimoires 13 There is no evidence, as some scholars have suggested, that the Greek version borrowed from an earlier Jewish Solomonic book of magic.
It was only centuries later that copies appeared in Hebrew, Arabic, and Latin. Engraved upon it was the Seal of Solomon that had the power to bind demons, and was depicted in later grimoires as variously a pentagram, hexagram, or circular symbol, while in Russia it was associated with the SATOR AREPO word square. In several medieval Near Eastern churches one or more of the words in the square were given to the shepherds who visited the infant Jesus.
Armed with this knowledge, Solomon sealed some of the demons up in vessels like genies in a bottle, while others were put to work building the temple using their superhuman powers to speed up the work.
Solomon lost his divinely bestowed power after becoming besotted by a foreign woman. He was told by the priests of her land that he could not sleep with her until he had made a sacriWce to the god Moloch. This he did and subsequently committed further idolatry by building temples to two other gods, Baal and Rapha. A medieval version in the British Library includes additional annotations by its owner to supplement and facilitate its use for performing exorcisms. During the medieval period other magic texts ascribed to Solomon also began to appear.
The renowned thirteenth-century scientist and friar Albertus Magnus of Cologne noted that Wve necromantic books ascribed to Solomon were circulating at the time.
The title of this straightforward guide to the ritual invocation of angels refers to an Arabic word for a wax tablet altar on which the magician engraves divine names and the seals of Solomon with a silver stylus. To heighten the anticipation of the reader, and to ensure the magician knew they had conjured up the correct celestial visitor, descriptions were provided of how the angels would appear. The angel of the second altitude revealed himself as a three-yearold child in a radiant red garment, face, and hands blood red with the Wre of divine love, wearing a crown of wild roses.
And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast 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.
Surviving early copies, of which over Wfty exist for the period —, contain prayers with words purporting to be Chaldean, along with Greek and Hebrew, and various occult signs and geometric Wgures revealed to Solomon by an angel as he prayed one night. Through employing these in conjunction with puriWcation rituals, the magician, like Solomon, could request the angels, saints, Christ even, Ancient and Medieval Grimoires 15 to bestow divine knowledge regarding the seven liberal arts of medieval education—namely grammar, rhetoric, and logic the verbal arts , and arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy the mathematical arts.
Those who used it were not inspired by greed or the manipulation of others for money, political power, and sex. It was the Wrst Solomonic text to be put into print, with a Latin edition appearing around , though it did not contain the notae or occult signs and Wgures found in the earlier manuscripts. The most enduring, inXuential, and notorious Solomonic book, the Clavicula Salomonis or the Clavicule or Key of Solomon, was a true grimoire. By the time they were translated into Latin and Italian in the following century the term Clavicula was being used.
Although some manuscripts again claimed that they were translations from Hebrew there is no substantive evidence for a Hebrew version before the seventeenth century.
We shall encounter its use again and again in the next chapter. The New Testament, while rich in miracles, exorcisms, and magic, did not provide any notable future grimoire authors. One was Simon Magus and the other Jesus. We are introduced to the former, a Samaritan, in Acts 8 where it is written: But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.
And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. This is an extract from the King James edition of the New Testament, produced in the early seventeenth century, and interpreting the references to magic, witchcraft, and sorcery it contains is fraught with problems due to the distortions of incorrect and imprecise translation.
Furthermore, the choice of words was shaped by the conceptions and perceptions of the translators. Yet the meaning of the original Greek words usually referred to diviners and poisoners rather than people who performed maleWcium or harmful acts of magic to kill, injure, or ruin their neighbours and their goods, which is how witchcraft was usually deWned in the early modern period. Likewise it has been suggested that poor translation generated an inaccurate portrayal of Simon as a base magician.
It was said he used semen and menstrual blood in his incantations. The second-century sect known as the Simonian Gnostics, which was believed to have been founded by Simon Magus, was denounced as being addicted to magic. By the fourth and Wfth centuries he was no longer just a magician and Gnostic but was being denounced as the father of all heresies.
His apprenticeship lasted between six and thirty-three years, and one of the great feats he learned was that of Xying using a magic wheel, which he used to attack the apostles. In one legend it was Mog Ruith, carrying on the diabolic work of his master, who beheaded John the Baptist. Both were seen as miracle workers in their own lifetimes. Some Jewish and pagan critics dismissed Jesus as a magician, a necromancer even, just as Christians later dismissed Simon Magus.
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The pagan author Celsus argued that Jesus had visited Egypt to learn magic. He cast out demons. His initial fame rested on these activities.
In light of the appearance of Christ, the reputation of Solomon as the wisest man ever and forever needed qualifying. There are no stories of how secret books were buried, hidden, or handed down for future generations. This is one reason why grimoire traditions did not accrue around them over the centuries. There are more obvious reasons why Jesus remained untainted of course, blasphemy and heresy being two, but considering the reputation of Simon Magus in the medieval period it is still surprising that he was not widely associated with grimoires.
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I hope it will be useful to anyone interested in magic and witchcraft, and wants to know more about them, beginners and professional wizards and witches. Read articles, download magic books, watch videos, learn the secrets of magic and remember, keep an open mind, just because something has not been revealed to you yet does not mean that your wishes and dreams aren't just moments away.
Your beliefs and perseverance are the key to your life' successes - I'm very optimistic that it can help you achieve all of your goals, and overcome all of your obstacles. Good luck and I hope you enjoy my site! Positive feedback from the community is always appreciated!Once again, the heady intellectual world of medieval Spain was centre stage. Click to enlarge. We know how prominent Jewish magic was in Egypt in late antiquity, and it was a considerable inXuence on the later Arabic tradition, but determining what was available in the medieval period is, for the moment, a matter of guesswork, as much research remains to be done.
Divine Magic users believe in the existence of great powers, personalities, and archetypes which dominate the world. Parchment, which is thinly stretched animal skin, usually from sheep, goats, and calves, was already used for writing in the Near East during the third century bce and began to be increasingly adopted in the Mediterranean world a couple of centuries later.
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