Grimoire

“Doctor Faustus living in all manner of pleasure that his heart could desire, continuing in his amorous drifts, his delicate fare, and costly apparel, called on a time his Mephostophilies to him: which being come, brought with him a booke in his hand of all maner of diuelish and inchanted artes, the which he gaue Faustus, saying: hold my Faustus, worke now thy hearts desire…” (Faust Book)

A grimoire (IPA [grɪˈmwɑr]) is a book of magical knowledge written between the late-medieval period and the 18th century. Such books contain astrological correspondences, lists of angels and demons, directions on casting charms and spells, on mixing medicines, summoning unearthly entities, and making talismans.

The word grimoire is from the Old French gramaire, and is from the same root as the words grammar and glamour. This is partly because, in the mid-late Middle Ages, Latin “grammars” (books on Latin syntax and diction) were foundational to school and university education, as controlled by the Church — while to the illiterate majority, non-ecclesiastical books were suspect as magic. But “grammar” also denoted, to literate and illiterate alike, a book of basic instruction.

Notable historical grimoires include:

  • The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage
  • Liber Juratis, or, the Sworn Book of Honorius
  • The Black Pullet
  • The Greater Key of Solomon
  • The Lemegeton, or, the Lesser Key of Solomon
  • Le Grand Grimoire, The Grand Grimoire

In the late 19th century, several of these texts (including the Abra-Melin text and the Keys of Solomon) were reclaimed by pseudo-Masonic magical organizations such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Ordo Templi Orientis. Aleister Crowley, a prime mover of both groups, then served as a vector for a number of modern movements, including Wicca, Satanism, and Chaos Magic.

A cottage industry has existed since the 19th century in selling false or carelessly-translated grimoires (many original texts are in French or Latin, and are quite rare), although faithful editions are available for most of the above titles.

A modern grimoire is the Necronomicon, named after a fictional book of magic in the stories of author H.P. Lovecraft, and inspired by Sumerian mythology and the Ars Goetia, a section in the Lesser Key of Solomon which concerns the summoning of demons.

The Voynich manuscript may also be a grimoire, although its text has never been deciphered, and it may be a centuries-old hoax.

Books of spells (‘magical papyri’) are also known from ancient times and are sometimes called grimoires by modern scholars. Most were rescued from the sands of Egypt and are written in Ancient Greek and Demotic Egyptian.

In fiction

The term commonly serves as an alternative name for a spellbook or tome of magickal knowledge, particularly in fantasy fiction. In the TV series Charmed the “Grimoire” was the name given to “The Book Of All Evil”, as an opposite to the Charmed Ones’ “Book of Shadows”.

Also, in the novel and Broadway musical “Wicked”, the magic book used by Elphaba is called the “Grimmerie”. This name was derived from “Grimoire”.

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It uses material from the Wikipedia article “Grimoire“.