Grimoires: Building the collection I wanted as a teenager
As a pre-teen and teenager I was the bookish kid who was always reading, and, like many a kid, love of Mythology lead into a love of fantasy, and the idea of the direct application of "Knowledge is power" that magic offers in those tales was intoxicating. As I got older I branched out into history, which became a passion and my reading has been mostly in that realm.
Then I got Grimoires: A History of Magic Books by Owen Davies as a gift. As various magical or texts on magic, Davies outlines the difference, came up I tried to find them. Naturally, many are public domain, and can be found for free on Project Gutenberg but they can also be found fairly cheap for sale in print. So, I order a couple, and had a blast flipping through them, so I got a few more. Now I have a nice Occult bookshelf, and I smile because teenage me would be so proud.
However, I've also picked up a number of other History books on the history of the belief in magic, and the crossover between the men who advanced science and learning, and those who dabbled and wrote about magic is quite staggering, but I guess not surprising. Both are born from the desire to control and change the environment we live in, and so, in a lot of ways the history of magic is part of the history of science.
Which real life grimoire is closest to resembling a "spell book" that are popular in fiction?
Which grimoires do you find the most interesting?
I'd say the spell book like we think of it is fairly recent. The reason I'd take that stance is that a lot of the old Grimoires seem mostly concerned with 1) divination through consolation with angels, demons, The Devil, or the dead(necromancy) to know the future or find treasure or 2) love magic or 3) Becoming invisible. For all the fears of Black Magic, there isn't a lot of "curse your enemies." The practices in them are strongly influenced by Kabbalist(Jewish mysticism), Catholic, and Islamic beliefs, and so they have a very Abrahamic flavoring to them.
"Pow-Wows/Long Lost Friend" By John George Hoffman, 1820s, is likely at the point in time where we see more a list of spells, and not a treatise on philosophy/list of other worldly beings to call on. They are mostly cures to illnesses, but also includes how to immobilize a thief and a simple recipe for beer.
I find the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses most interesting at the moment, mainly due to its impact. It's part of European occultism, American folk magic, African American spirituality traditions, West Africa Christian spiritualism. That's a fairly far reach for a book that came into being to fill the hole left by the fact there was another grimoire called "The Eight Book of Moses."
Wow! Thank you for that detailed answer!
I checked out "Pow-Wows/Long Lost Friend" and found it interesting how detailed some of these "spells" were. For example:
"A remedy to be used when anyone is falling away, and which has cured many persons. -- Let the person in perfect soberness and without having conversed with anyone, catch rain in a pot, before sunrise; boil on egg in this; bore three small holes in this egg with a needle, and carry it to an ant-hill made by big ants; and that person will feel relieved as soon as the egg is devoured "
I assume "falling away" means falling away from the faith. It's interesting how the spell seems to have so little to do with the "problem". Are you able to provide any insight into rituals like this? I'm guessing the 3 holes in the egg represent the holy trinity or something?
Do you think you could summarize an example of how the divination worked in those early grimoires? Could you point me to one of the older divination grimoires regarding divination through consolation with the dead?
This is really fascinating!
What are the oldest ones you own? Or do you only own new? What is your favorite(s)?
Would you consider posting any pictures?