THE SIX KINDS OF MAGIC
THE GRIMOIRES AND THEIR ANCESTORS
The word “grimoire” is a distortion of grammaria, “grammar” and originally designated a book written in Latin, but it quickly assumed the meaning of book of magic. It appeared as a mixture of various recipes both for healing certain ills as well as for conjuring or invoking demons, obtaining advantages, manufacturing talismans and amulets, casting fates, and so forth.
Magic treatises existed long before the appearance of the word “grimoire,” a term designating a wide variety of works that shared a common feature of being writings that had been anathematized by the Church. To get a glimpse of this, we need only give the floor to a few Medieval authors, who, from the thirteenth to sixteenth century, compiled lists of these manuals. These nomenclatures are interesting because they clearly show that the essential features of Western magic come from the Mediterranean world, which was itself subject to even more remote influences, such as those from India, for example. Thanks to the authors cited we can see that a line directly connects Babylon to Greece, then the Arab world, and finally Western Europe.
The old grimoires appeared in one of two forms. First was a small format with twenty to fifty pages, a true pocket book intended for consultation when the wizard or mage was called by someone requesting his services. The next was the form of a large folio, a monumental book for consultation and study in the home. This latter type was never printed and is only found in manuscript form in library collections and is much richer than all those that can be found at book dealers and antiquarians.
A large number of manuscripts offer extraordinary information, but it is necessary to unearth them as well as be able to read and transcribe them, which is no small matter given the fact that the texts are by nature obscure, encrypted, crammed with symbols and letters, spells and Kabbalistic words whose meaning has yet to be deciphered. An example would be the ANANIZAPTA. This is the acrostic of the spell: Antidotum Nazareni Auferat Necem Intoxicationis Sanctificet Alimenta Poculaque Trinitas Amen. To create the magic word, the initial letter was taken from this phrase that means: “Antidote of the Nazarene who delivers us from death by poison; may the Trinity bless food and drink! Amen.”
One of the most prevalent domains in medieval magic is the one connected with feelings, love especially. There are numerous recipes for these in the grimoires that rely on magical signs, sometimes written with one’s own blood (n° 85) or that of an animal (n° 91), sometimes by burning the cloth on which they were written (n° 87), as the combustion allegedly inflamed the targeted individual with love, sometimes by calling upon astral magic (n° 87), sometimes by relying on talismans that one carries personally or places in the targeted individual’s house.
Because magic compelled the intervention of supernatural forces, which took shape as angels or demons, it was absolutely imperative to know their names if you wanted to order them to do something for you. It so happens that a different angel and demon exist for every hour of the day and night, and they are also different for each day of the week, which gives us a total of one hundred sixty-eight angels and one hundred sixty-eight demons! We also must add to this the angels of the cardinal points--five to the east, six to the west, six to the north, and six to the south--and those of the seasons. All or almost all of them have exotic names that hinder their easy memorization, hence common appearance of the long lists, which acted as a kind of memory aid. This holds equally true for God whose real name is concealed among others, most often a total of seventy-two. Here, mages use numbers to discover it.
Magic requires a long apprenticeship, and this is also why the iconography has frequently fixed the features of the magician as those of an elderly man. And even when this knowledge has been gained, it is still necessary to respect its prescriptions to the letter. They concern time and place because the configuration of the heavenly bodies plays a primordial role. They concern the officiating individual, who should, for example, be chaste, clean, clad in certain garments, and have gone to a specific place with these or those objects. Any changes whatsoever to a transmitted spell of ritual amounts to annulling its power. It was even said that the simple fact of revealing it to a non-initiate would make it inoperable. Henry-Cornelieus Agrippa writes in his treatise of Occult Philosophy (III,1):
Every magic experiment abhors the public, seeks to be concealed, is strengthened by silence but destroyed by declaration, and its complete effect does not follow because all one advantages have been lost by exposing it to babblers and non-believers.