The history of grimoires is as extended and tumultuous as human curiosity in magic has always been. From ancient Mesopotamia through the witch hunts of Europe for the duration of the Early Modern time extending to the present time, the occult has equally captivated and repelled. Grimoires are fascinating because they echo that curiosity at the same time as document the actual ebb and flow of general trends and belief in the occult.
The term grimoire originates from the Old French word “grimmaire,” meaning a book that was composed in Latin. With time the meaning has evolved into what we consider today: a book pertaining to magic, very much similar to a textbook, that includes details concerning charms, spells, how you can summon magical entities including angels or demons, at the same time as the best way to create magical objects. Many of these guides were believed to possess magical attributes by themselves.
Oddly enough, although the expression is European, the first known grimoire was composed in the city of Uruk in Mesopotamia, sometime in the course of the 5th century B.C.E. The ancient Egyptians of the identical time period additionally possessed a rich system of incantations, known as heka, that concentrated on charms that supplied protection and good health. This gradually evolved as time elapsed, and once the Library of Alexandria opened up, grimoires included charms putting attention on finances and sexual pleasure.
Many other ancient peoples had occult traditions as well. The Jewish people were viewed as knowledgeable in the magical arts; many Biblical figures also had ties to the occult. Moses was purportedly able to subdue demons, while the Book of Enoch had a section devoted to astrology. King Solomon was also seen as a magical figure. However, these beliefs began to be suppressed after the Roman Empire became wholly Christian.
This trend of suppression continued into the Medieval period. By this time, the Church had separated magic into “good” or “natural” magic, and “demonic” magic, which was deemed unacceptable. However, interest continued and grimoires reflecting current influences continued to be written. During this time, Moorish influences increased in the form of astral magic. Famous works include Arabic books such as the Picatrix and Sefer Raziel Ha-Malakh, as well as grimoires based on Biblical figures such as the Sworn Book of Honorius, based on King Solomon.
Early Modern Europe wasn’t a friendly place for magicians. Though the arrival of the printing press meant publications of magic ended up being much more prevalent, and also there was renewed curiosity in Hermeticism and the Jewish mystical teachings of the Kabbalah, there were definitely numerous incidents that might make Europe a hazardous spot to be. The Reformation, Counter-Reformation, along with the Inquisition, and the witch hunts that ensued, were disastrous. Numerous grimoires were placed on the “Indexes of Prohibited Books” and many ended up being destroyed outright. Regardless of this, magicians continued to compose. Paracelsus, a Swiss magician, focused on the dissimilarities between good and evil magic in his work “Of the Supreme Mysteries of Nature,” while other people produced demonological grimoires including “The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy.”
European anti-magic passion died down as the world moved into the age of Enlightenment. Rationalists and scientists nonetheless fervently opposed magic and witchcraft, but grimoires became widely accessible. Many of the works of this time period, like the “Libra de San Cipriano” concentrated on finding treasure; others focused on astrology.
During the last century, there have been only a few books of magic produced. The Book of Shadows, the Wiccan Grimoire, was written by Gerald Gardner in the 1940s; another well known work is the “Simon Necronomicon,” which is based on a fictional grimoire found in H.P. Lovecraft’s books. Enough people are interested in the Lovecraft’s Necronomicon that it is a popular request at libraries – unfortunately, the actual book doesn’t exist. These days, most grimoires exist only as references in video games, fantasy books, or television shows.
Though these particular books of magic might not be published very much nowadays, interest in the occult will never die out. If nothing else, the lengthy history of grimoires should tell us that much.