In our first part, I began my discussion of the new edition of the Grimorium Verum by Jake Stratton-Kent. I concentrated on how this was a practitioner’s book and some of the pitfalls of that genre. I’ll now concentrate on the second: the difficulties with historical readings.
This isn’t to say that I’m not open to different historical readings, or challenges to orthodox opinion. Nonetheless, I do ask that the reasons leading to these be well thought-out. As many practitioners don’t have the training of historians, it’s not surprising when some of their arguments fall flat.
Let’s take an example from the True Grimoire to show what I mean, and to mitigate any claims of harshness, I’ll pick one that includes an insight that I found to be solid.
At one point, Stratton-Kent mentions the French cleric Urbain Grandier, who was burned at the stake in 1634 for making a pact with the devil. Unlike many such cases, this case actually included as a piece of evidence the pact itself, a reproduction of which can be seen here. Stratton-Kent notices the similarities between the sigil at the top and that of the demon Silcharde in the Grimorium Verum. The two sigils do indeed have a striking similarity. He goes on to find that, while similar sigils are found in the Grimoire of Honorius, the closest versions are found in the French edition of the Grimorium.
Here’s where the author gets into trouble, though:
The origin of the [Grimorium Verum] can also be no later than the trial of Grandier and the first publication of Honorius…
That’s simply not the case. It could be that the seal placed in Grandier’s contract came from the GV, as Stratton-Kent asserts. It’s also possible that the seal in the GV was based on the one in the contract. It could even be that both have their origins from the same tradition of magical manuscripts that are only known today through a few survivals, including Honorius, the pact, and GV. There’s nothing about one that requires the other to derive from it, as far as I can see.
Then what’s a practitioner book good for? I’ll answer that next time.