I went to Amazon today looking for books on Hogmanay, and I nearly fell over when I saw this upcoming release from Oxford University Press in my recommendations. Owen Davies is the author of Popular Magic: Cunning Folk in English History, a work that I recommend highly, as well as many other books on magic and folklore in England.
Nonetheless, let’s get to the Grimoires blurb from Amazon:
No books have been more feared than grimoires, and no books have been more valued and revered. In Grimoire: A History of Magic Books, Owen Davies illuminates the many fascinating forms these recondite books have taken and exactly what these books held.
At their most benign, these repositories of forbidden knowledge revealed how to make powerful talismans and protective amulets, and provided charms and conjurations for healing illness, finding love, and warding off evil. But other books promised the power to control innocent victims, even to call up the devil. Davies traces the history of this remarkably resilient and adaptable genre, from the ancient Middle East to modern America, offering a new perspective on the fundamental developments of western civilization over the past two thousand years. Grimoires shows the influence magic and magical writing has had on the cultures of the world, richly demonstrating the role they have played in the spread of Christianity, the growth of literacy, and the influence of western traditions from colonial times to the present. Through his enlightening and extraordinary account, we see how these secret books link Chicago to ancient Egypt, Germany to Jamaica, and Norway to Bolivia, and grasp how the beliefs of Alpine farmers became part of the Rastafarian movement, how a Swede became the most powerful wizard in early America, and how a poor laborer from Ohio became a notorious villain in his own country and a mythical spirit in the Caribbean.
This is definitely a book that we’ve needed for some time, as nothing comprehensive has been written on the topic of grimoires since E. M. Butler’s Ritual Magic – at least in English. It’s time something took the place of Butler, and even Waite, and Davies is certainly the chap who could pull it off.
I’ll add that the description from the blurb is one that I’ve dreamed of writing myself but knew I’d need several years of training to do properly. Don’t get me wrong – my chief feeling at this moment is a profound sense of relief and freedom. I am simply glad that someone’s writing a book that covers just how widespread and influential the grimoire tradition has been over the centuries and across the globe. This is definitely the first item on my “to read” list – or, rather, it will be next May.