Honorius versus Honorius: The Sworn Book and the Grimoire, Part 1

A little while ago, James asked for a discussion of the differences between the Sworn Book of Honorius and the Grimoire of Honorius.  Trouble was, I wanted my answer to be more or less accurate, and knowing the considerable differences between the two, it would be quite a task.  Nonetheless, I’m having a quiet evening, so I’m brewing up a big pot of chili while tackling the first of the two books – the Sworn Book of Honorius, or Liber Juratus, which you can find on Joe Peterson’s site.

Dating the Sworn Book is a controversial task, but it seems to be the product of the thirteenth century, when the great universities were attracting a growing crowd of students studying theology and forming the basis of Kieckhefer’s “clerical underground,” a group of men with minimal social ties devoted to making money any way they could – including the practice of magic.  Though William of Paris (one of Father Bruyant’s favorite authorities) mentions a “Liber Sacratus” and a “Liber Sacro” turns up in the records of the Inquisition, most of the copies scholars have discovered have an English provenance.  Nonetheless, the passages of bastardized Hebrew and Greek suggest that the book might have originated further south.  Once again, check Joe’s site for a list of particular manuscripts.

So, who was this Honorius?

The book begins by telling of the wiles of demons, who had infiltrated the church so far as to corrupt the bishops and even the pope, causing them to attack the magicians in the world.  As the magicians were all very nice folk who commanded the spirits, instead of letting the spirits command them, this was quite problematic.  If they tried to defend themselves without using their powers, they would be overcome, and if they did, the spirits would tear their enemies apart and destroy them utterly.  (Then again, one might think that if they were really as in charge of the spirits as the book claimed, the magicians could convince them to leave the pope alone or get him in a full nelson.)

Thus it was that 811 magicians from Greece, Italy, and Spain met together to determine their fate.  Deciding that preserving their knowledge was more important than their own lives, they commissioned one of their own, Honorius of Thebes, to write a book of their wisdom with the help of the angel Hocroel.  The book was placed under great restrictions.  An owner could only show it to a male Christian whose pious character had been confirmed for at least a year and who had been sworn to keep its contents secret and to protect his fellow initiates.   If no such person could be found to pass on the book, the owner must bury it in a hidden place before his death, or ensure that his heirs placed it in the coffin with him.  Such oaths led to the book being known as the “Sworn Book.”

As you’re reading this right now, you can tell that none of this really worked out.  My next post on the topic will be the infamous book’s contents.

Published in: on October 30, 2008 at 9:54 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks very much – I’ve been thinking about writing something with Honorius the antipope in it. Looking forward to the next instalment.

  2. PS is this “clerical underground” similar to Wavell’s wandering scholars and vagabonds? The guys who composed the various poems in the Carmina Burana?
    PPS would it be possible for the font to be a brighter shade? I can barely read this on a black background.

  3. […] Versus Honorius: The Sworn Book and the Grimoire, Part 2 Following up on the last post regarding the history of the Sworn Book of Honorius, we can move forward to the actual contents of […]

  4. My understanding is that the clerical underground did include those individuals, though it also could cover quite a number of other men in the same predicament.

    The background – aside from the size of the font, I think this one reads better than the old version. It’s hard to find a really good two-column WordPress template that gives me a dark background, readable text, and decent graphic design.

  5. […] Versus Honorius: The Sworn Book and the Grimoire, Part 3 In our last two posts in this series, we examined the Sworn Book of Honorius.  But how does this relate to the […]

  6. […] Versus Honorius: The Sworn Book and the Grimoire, Part 4 Three posts in, and it’s time to look at the backstories for the Grimoire of […]

  7. […] Versus Honorius: The Sworn Book and the Grimoire, Part 5 I’ll wrap up my short series on Honorii with a quick look at the contents of the Grimoire itself.  Are these at all […]

  8. Question: can anyone help me with a book, early 1800’s by a Robert Socoturn- he did a translation of the Constitution of Honorius- using Theban, Latin, English with bottom references in French.

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