Having touched upon the discussion of the Necronomicon‘s origins in the book Grimoires by Owen Davies, it now falls upon me to describe Davies’ work. Simply put, it is a magisterial analysis of the grimoire phenomenon.
The last major survey of grimoire literature was E. M. Butler’s Ritual Magic, published in 1949, preceded byArthur Edward Waite’s Book of Ceremonial Magic. In the following sixty years, the study of magic has gained more academic respectability, and grimoires, both past and present, are more readily available now than ever before. As such, the time for a new survey of the grimoire tradition has come, and Davies has done an outstanding job of it.
Davies reveals to a broader public what most readers of Papers already know – that the grimoire tradition is one that reaches back to Mesopotamian times and is still living and vibrant across the world today. The sheer amount of research that has been done for this book is simply breathtaking. I kept wondering if the author was going to find this or that obscure article or reference – and behold, there it was. Either Davies has done years upon years’ worth of intensive research on the grimoire tradition, or he’s been living in my campus steam tunnels to sneak into my office at night to read my files. Either way, he’s been doing a wonderful job, and the extensive footnotes are a bonanza for future researchers.
Sadly, some of the chapters aren’t as stunningly wonderful as the rest. The first chapter simply covers too much ground and is likely to leave most readers in the dust. Splitting it into two chapters, one covering up to late antiquity and the other dealing with Byzantium, Western Europe, and the Muslim world might have been helpful for more thorough coverage. Chapter 5, on the British occult revival, doesn’t really seem to be linked strongly to occult books, which Davies as much as admits at one point. Still, these chapters are simply fine, instead of being as comprehensive as the others.
In short, this is quite the book, and a definite addition to any library on occult topics, whether you’re a necromancer, a writer, a historian, or just a gamer who wants to add a touch of verisimiltude to your entertainment. When I said to get it now, I meant it.