Witchcraft and the Occult: What is a Grimoire?
What is a grimoire?
by Sophia diGregorio
A grimoire is a book of spells, invocations and magical procedures. Although the origins of the term, “grimoire,” are disputed, it is generally believed to have derived from the Old French, grammaire, which means “grammar” and was once used to refer generally to books, especially those written in Latin. The usage of the term evolved over time and by the 18th century it came to be applied to occult text books.1
The first such grimoires appeared in the Middle Ages. They contained information involving astrology, the use of herbs and minerals, instructions for constructing talismans, instructions for spells and rituals, directions for constructing altars and other instruments used in conjurations, instructions for performing divination, summoning angels and demons.
A large collection of grimoires were preserved by the Holy Roman Catholic Church because it confiscated them from those accused of witchcraft. Some Jesuits and other Catholic holy men, also, wrote grimoires of their own.
A Book of Shadows is a type of modern grimoire, although one of a highly personal nature that is not usually published. Some Books of Shadows belong to an entire coven. Others are books that are passed down in the family, similar to the way a cookbook is passed down.
What is a grimoire not?
It is not a personal history of the magician who wrote it, although some modern versions of historical grimoires may give some background information on the original authors, this is not a grimoire’s primary purpose.
A grimoire presents the author’s own occult research and basic procedures for purposes of instructing others, however, procedures used in witchcraft are of a highly personal nature and the most intimate secrets are never shared because to do so is to give away power. Any time you experiment with procedures in grimoires, you should likewise personalize them and make them your own.
It is not a history book. While some grimoires may contain introductory information of an historical nature, either written by the original author or a later editor or translator, the primary purpose of a grimoire is to give spell procedures, prayers, incantations and rituals.
Examples of Historical Grimoires
The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage Translated by S.L. MacGregor Mathers 1900. This grimoire is a primary source for modern ceremonial magic.
The Magus By Francis Barrett 1801. A grimoire of alchemy, astrology, and the Kabbalah.
Le Grimoire du Pape Honorius “Perhaps the most frankly diabolical of the Rituals connected with Black Magic.” – Unknown. This ancient book is is the source of very old traditional witchcraft practices dating back to the Salem witch trials. Its contents were familiar to the black magician Joseph Smith who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was wearing a Jupiter talisman based on a design from this book at the time of his death. Smith came from a long lineage of witches, but wrapped his occultism in a veneer of Christianity, thus the Mormon church may be well described as a black lodge within a white lodge and Smith was one of the most successful, well-known black magicians of all time.2
Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses. Two very mysterious grimoires, which claim to be Kabbalistic in nature, although there is very little if any actual to do with the Kabbalah in them. These books present a ritual system with incantations to summon and dismiss spirits for the purpose of achieving worldly ends.
The Key of Solomon The King. (The Greater Key), translated by S. Liddell MacGregor Mathers, 1888. The key to modern ceremonial magic. It is attributed to King Solomon, although it was probably written in the 13th century. This book was a powerful influence on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
The Lesser Key of Solomon by S.L. MacGregor Mathers and Aleister Crowley, 1904. The companion Grimoire to the Greater Key of Solomon,. It lists demons and their descriptions and various purposes and gives invocations and procedures for summoning them.
Pow-wows; or Long Lost Friend by George Hohman, 1820. A system of German “folk” magic from 18th and 19th century Pennsylvania.
Examples of Modern Grimoires
Enochian Magic series by Donald Tyson This the first book in a series expands on the work of John Dee and Edward Kelley, which is over 400 years old. It fills in the gaps and makes the information given by Dee and Kelley a practical system.
Necromomicon by Simon This is the most popular version of several books by the same name – Necronomicon. It is generally regarded as fiction and certainly the narrative at the beginning of the Simon version has some hole in the plot. Despite this, the book and the entities have been the source of some unusual experiences for many readers.
Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey Also, known as the Bible Black, it was first published in 1969, the year of the official founding of the Church of Satan in San Francisco. It allegedly contains the core teachings of the Church of Satan, although there is certainly far more to this organization than is told in this book, which was an introduction to Satanism targeted primarily to young men. Part of the book contains a grimoire including rituals and conjurations.
Grimoire of Santa Muerte by Sophia diGregorio. The “Grimoire of Santa Muerte” is a manual, prayer book and grimoire for devotees of Most Holy Death, the powerful folk saint of Mexico who has drawn the wrath of both the church and state. To those devoted to her, she is their friend, a spiritual mother and the source of unconditional love and protection from whom all of the necessities of life flow. She is an advocate, a healer and the performer of miracles.
Santa Muerte is the patron saint of those who have confronted death and lived and those who must confront deadly situations every day. She is a spirit of second chances who avenges those who are devoted to her and punishes evil-doers. She is a godmother who guides those under her care and arranges things in much the way a benevolent and powerful living benefactor might.
This book shows you how to communicate with Santa Muerte and includes information about how to construct an altar for her, how to consecrate items, how to pray the Rosary of Santa Muerte and prayers, spells and rituals for a variety of purposes.
1. Davies, Owen, “Grimoires: A History of Magic Books, Oxford University Press, 2010., P. 1
2 “Joseph Smith and the Mormons: Occultism and Witchcraft in Mormonism,” http://oldwitchcraft.hubpages.com/hub/Joseph-Smith-and-the-Mormons-Witchcraft-and-Occultism-in-Mormonism