As we discussed previously, Owen Davies recently released his list of the top ten grimoires. Purely as an intellectual exercise, I thought I’d come up with my own to see how much the two coincided.
I should state that, while Davies isn’t clear on what criteria he’s using, I’m working from what I see as the overall influence of the book. Also, different works with the same title are being consolidated under that title for my purposes. That’s not exactly a scholarly strategy, but neither is the creation of top ten lists, is it?.
So, let’s get started. Here’s where Davies and I coincide.
- The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses
- The Clavicule of Solomon
- The Petit Albert
- The Book of Cyprian
- The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy
- The Book of Shadows
I encourage you to read Davies’ descriptions of these books to understand their significance. Now, my four divergences:
7. Discoverie of Witchcraft – I’m not sure why Davies left off this anti-witchcraft-tract-turned-grimoire, as his own work in Popular Magic established its importance in the history of magical practitioners in England for centuries.
8. Ars Notoria – A book of illustrations and prayers intended to bring the reader great knowledge, this was perhaps the most popular magical work in late medieval Europe as it made the rounds of lazy or desperate students in the universities.
9. Heptameron – This work attributed to the 13th century writer Peter of Abano had quite an impact on the later Clavicule of Solomon editions as well as Barrett’s The Magus, which allows me to supersede Davies’ entry for that book.
10. Romanusbuchlein – This late 18th century German collection of charms became a major source for the Pennsylvania German charm books Egyptian Secrets and The Long-Lost Friend, both of which had a great impact across the nation and beyond.
So, what didn’t make the cut? The Liber Juratus was a tough one, as it was quite influential in medieval times, but it dropped off sharply thereafter. The Dragon Rouge and Grimoire of Honorius were dropped – they have notorious reputations, but those likely were strikes against them when it came to actual practice and transmission. More influential than either was the Grimorium Verum, but I can include that as a Clavicule variant and cover myself that way.
Some of you will be surprised that the Necronomicon doesn’t make this list. I see it as a solid up-and-comer, but it can’t compare in influence yet with books that have been around for centuries. Its influence is largely limited to people who, well, practice Necronomicon magic. If you compare it to the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, which practically created a worldwide religion, it’s hard to say that its impact has been that great.
Feel free to argue your case in the comments – any such list is largely arbitrary. Also, if you’re curious about any of those titles, I’ll just throw in a link to Joe Peterson’s site so I don’t have to link every single title.