neat, Oberion instantly recognizable as Oberon, King of the fairies! Hey, not everything in the grimoires is some kind of infernal “demon.” Excited to hear more!
Oh, we’ll have more, no doubt about it. This illustrates one of the essential ambiguities of the grimoire tradition: the spirits that are called upon to serve a magician.
The Christian background of the grimoires carries with it a serious difficulty for the Western magical tradition. There’s not a plethora of gods and spirits on which one can call, merely God, the angels, and the demons. Now, commanding God to do one’s bidding is not possible in a monotheistic faith, so that leaves the subsidiary forces. Angels are supposed to be doing the bidding of God, so calling upon them is taking on oneself the role of the Creator, which is bad. That leaves the potential magician with the demons, with whom no person is really supposed to be dealing anyway.
The grimoires have three potential solutions to this little conundrum. The first is to place the spirits called upon in an ambiguous standing. For example, if we look at the Lemegeton, we find that the second book is supposed to be devoted to spirits who are partially good and partially evil in nature, and the fourth contains spirits that are supposedly good. Even if we turn into the Goetia, supposedly dealing with strictly infernal spirits, we run into such personalities as Vassago, who is supposed to be of good nature, or Phoenix, who aspires to retain his seat in heaven. Another way to handle this is to refer to the entities being summoned as “spirits,” instead of “angels” or “demons,” to obscure any messy spiritual implications.
Another way to handle this is to incorporate other belief systems. That is to say, one isn’t calling upon demons, one is talking to Oberion or other fairies. There’s actually quite a tradition of fairy magic in the magical literature, with some examples being available in Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft. Similarly, much Middle Eastern magic involves the invocation of the djinn, spiritual beings that might be good, evil, or anywhere in the middle. We might look at the adoption of planetary spirits, decans, Classical beings, etc., as other ways to circumvent the problem.
The third way to go about this is, apparently, to decide that one just doesn’t care about these distinctions. For example, the very manuscript I’m working on has not only an invocation of Oberion, but one of Satan as well. (I haven’t gotten there in my transcription yet, but I’ve seen the art.) Unless you’re a Yazidi, there’s no real way to pretend that isn’t theologically troubling. You can also see the opposite, with angels being explicitly called in other works. Nonetheless, there’s rarely explicit appeal to the demons; rather, the magician usually insists on using holy prayers and names to call up these spirits.
Thus, there’s a number of interesting ways to justify the calling of holy/unholy spirits in the grimoire tradition, ranging from rationalization to blatant apathy toward Christian doctrine.
Disagree? That’s what the comments are for.