It appeared in the 17th century, but much was taken from texts of the 16th century, including the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, by Johann Weyer, and late-medieval grimoires. It is likely that books by Jewish kabbalists and Muslim mystics were also inspirations. Some of the material in the first section, concerning the summoning of demons, dates to the 14th century or earlier.
The book claims that it was originally written by King Solomon, although this is certainly incorrect. The titles of nobility assigned to the demons were unknown in his time, as were the prayers to Jesus and the Christian Trinity included in the text.
The Lesser Key of Solomon contains detailed descriptions of spirits and the conjurations needed to invoke and oblige them to do the will of the conjurer (referred to as the “exorcist”). It details the protective signs and rituals to be performed, the actions necessary to prevent the spirits from gaining control, the preparations prior to the invocations, and instructions on how to make the necessary instruments for the execution of these rituals.
The several original copies extant vary considerably in detail and in the spellings of the spirits’ names. Contemporary editions are widely available in print and on the Internet.
The Lesser Key of Solomon is divided into five parts:
The Ars Goetia (“the art of goetia”), often simply called the Goetia, is the first section of the 17th century grimoire Lemegeton Clavicula Salomonis, or The Lesser Key of Solomon. Much of the text appeared earlier, with some material dating to the 14th century or earlier. It contains descriptions of the seventy-two demons that King Solomon is said to have evoked and confined in a bronze vessel sealed by magick symbols, and that he obliged to work for him.
Ars Theurgia Goetia
The Ars Theurgia Goetia (“the art of goetic theurgy”) is the second section of The Lesser Key of Solomon. It explains the names, characteristics and seals of the 31 aerial spirits (called chiefs, emperors, kings and princes) that King Solomon invoked and confined, the protections against them, the names of their servant spirits, called dukes, the conjurations to invoke them, and their nature, that is both good and evil.
Their sole objective is to discover and show hidden things, the secrets of any person, and obtain, carry and do anything asked to them meanwhile they are contained in any of the four elements (Earth, Fire, Air and Water). These spirits are given in a complex order in the book, and some of them have spelling variations according to the different editions.
The Ars Paulina (The Art of Paul) is the third part of The Lesser Key of Solomon. According to the legend, this art was discovered by the Apostle Paul, but in the book is mentioned as the Pauline Art of King Solomon. The Ars Paulina was already known since the Middle Ages. It is divided in two chapters in this book.
The first chapter refers on how to deal with the angels of the several hours of the day (meaning day and night), to their seals, their nature, their servants (called Dukes), the relation of these angels with the seven planets known at that time, the proper astrological aspects to invoke them, their names (in a couple of cases coinciding with two of the seventy-two demons mentioned in the Ars Goetia, the conjuration and the invocation to call them, the Table [sic] of practice.
The second chapter concerns the angels that rule over the zodiacal signs and each degree of every sign, their relation with the four elements, Fire, Earth, Water and Air, their names, and their seals. These are called here the angels of men, because all persons are born under a zodiacal sign, with the Sun at a specific degree of it.
The Ars Almadel (The Art of the Almadel) is the fourth part of The Lesser Key of Solomon. It tells how to make the almadel, which is a wax tablet with protective symbols drawn on it. On it are placed four candles. This chapter has the instructions concerning the colours, materials and rituals necessary for the construction of the almadel and the candles.
The Ars Almadel also tells about the angels that are to be invoked, and explains that only reasonable and just things that are needed must be asked to them, and how the conjuration has to be made. It also mentions twelve princes ruling with them. The dates and astrological aspects that have to be considered most convenient to invoke the angels are detailed but briefly.
The author asserts to have experimented with what is explained in this chapter.
The Ars Notoria (The Notable Art) is the fifth and last part of The Lesser Key of Solomon. It was indeed a grimoire known since the Middle Age. The book asserts that this art was revealed by the Creator by means of an angel to King Solomon.
It contains a collection of prayers (some of them divided in several parts) mixed with kabbalistic and magical words in several languages (i.e. Hebrew, Greek, etc., and some inventions), how the prayers must be said, and the relation that these rituals have to the understanding of all sciences. It mentions the aspects of the Moon in relation with the prayers. It also says that the prayers act as an invocation to God’s angels. According to the book, the correct spelling of the prayers gives the knowledge of the science related to each one and also a good memory, stability of mind, and eloquence. This chapter prevents on the precepts that have to be observed to obtain a good result.
One of the prayers, said to have been called Artem Novam (in Latin) by King Solomon, makes mention to Jesus. Other prayers mention God Father, his son Jesus, and the Holy Ghost, precisely the Christian Trinity. Another mentions the Apostles and martyrs, and another one the Lord’s Prayer.
Finally, it tells how King Solomon received the revelation from the angel.
- Classification of demons
- The Malleus Maleficarum, a 15th century book on witchcraft and demonology.
- LesserKeys.com -(a wiki Devoted to the Lesser Keys)