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A grimoire (pronounced: /ɡrɪmˈwɑr/) is a textbook of magic. Books of this genre, typically giving instructions for invoking angels or demons, performing divination and gaining magical powers, have circulated throughout Europe since the Middle Ages.

Magicians were frequently persecuted by the Church, so their journals were kept hidden to prevent them from being burned.[1] Such books contain astrological correspondences, lists of angels and demons, directions on casting charms and spells, mixing medicines, summoning unearthly entities, and making talismans. Magical books in almost any context, especially books of magical spells, are also called grimoires.

Origin of the term

The word grimoire is from the Old French grammaire, and is from the Greek root "grammatikos", “relating to letters”, from which grammar, a system for language, and glamour, influential appeal, are derived. 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, or believed to be endowed with supernatural influence. The word "grimoire" came over time to apply specifically to those books which did indeed deal with magic and the supernatural.

Similar magical writings have existed from antiquity, and although these are not in the same genre of medieval magic, they are sometimes described as grimoires.

Medieval and Renaissance

The first grimoires appear in the High Middle Ages, growing out of earlier traditions, notably of medieval Jewish mysticism, which continued traditions dating back to Late Antiquity. Thus, the 13th century Sefer Raziel Ha-Malakh is significantly based on the Sefer Ha-Razim (ca. 4th or 5th century), which is in turn influenced by Hellenistic Greek magical papyri.

Notable 13th to 17th century grimoires include:

  • The Picatrix, or, Ghâyat al-Hakîm fi'l-sihr; also known as The Aim of the Sage (13th century)
  • Liber Iuratus, or, the Sworn Book of Honorius (13th century)
  • Sefer Raziel Ha-Malakh Liber Razielis Archangeli (13th century)
  • The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage (1450s)
  • The so-called Munich Handbook (15th century)
  • Libri tres de occulta philosophia by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1531)
  • The Greater Key of Solomon (16th century)
  • Pseudomonarchia Daemonum (16th century)
  • The Lemegeton, or, the Lesser Key of Solomon (17th century)

The Voynich manuscript has never been deciphered, and is difficult to date, but may also qualify as a 15th century grimoire.

18th to 19th century

  • The Black Pullet (18th century)
  • Le Grand Grimoire (19th century, allegedly 1522)
  • Grimoirium Verum (18th century)
  • Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses (1700s - 1849)

In the late 19th century, several of these texts (including the Abra-Melin text and the Key of Solomon) were reclaimed by para-Masonic magical organizations such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Ordo Templi Orientis.

Many false or poorly translated grimoires have been circulated since the 19th century (many original texts are in French or Latin, and are quite rare); however, faithful editions are available for most of the above titles.

20th century to present

The Secret Grimoire of Turiel claims to have been written in the 16th century, but no copy older than 1927 has been produced.

A modern grimoire is the Simon Necronomicon, named after a fictional book of magic in the stories of author H. P. Lovecraft, and inspired by Babylonian mythology and the Ars Goetia, a section in the Lesser Key of Solomon which concerns the summoning of demons. The Azoëtia of Andrew D. Chumbley has been described as a modern grimoire.[2]

The Neopagan religion of Wicca publicly appeared in the 1940s, and Gerald Gardner introduced the Book of Shadows as a Wiccan Grimoire. [3]

Popular culture

The term "grimoire" commonly serves as an alternative name for a spell-book or tome of magical knowledge in such genres as fantasy fiction. The most famous fictional grimoire is the Necronomicon, a creation of the author H. P. Lovecraft. It was first referenced in his story "The Hound" and subsequently made appearances in many of his stories. Other authors such as August Derleth and Clark Ashton Smith have also cited it in their works with Lovecraft's approval. Many readers and others have believed it to be a real work, with booksellers and librarians receiving many requests for the fictional tome. Pranksters have even listed it in rare book catalogues, including one who surreptitiously slipped an entry into the Yale University Library card catalog.[4] Several authors have also published books titled Necronomicon, though none have been endorsed by Lovecraft himself.

Grimoires are a common item in video games or fantasy role-playing games with a magical element.

References

Bibliography

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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Grimoire. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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