The Role of Grimoire Publication

Felix Castro has made some excellent comments lately that I’d like to highlight.  I’d especially like to respond:

I had some idea years ago about put all the books of st. cyprian together with all their charms, but by now I didn’t decided to do it, the problem is the bad use of them, as in Latinamerica people stills believes in the magical power of the book, and they use the book for magic really.

During the last years many persons have contacted with me via e-mail asking for Books of St. Cyprian, Satan pupils wanting to do a pact with me, they put their knowledge and I lend my books…, invitations for finding treasures, including elementals, dwarfs that had the treasure, etc. etc.

I’ve found myself in the same situation, as my pages on the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses will attest.

So, why publish grimoires, or about grimoires?  Well, first I think there’s a significance to the study of such works for the furthering of history, psychology, anthropology, and other areas.  Nonetheless, that’s a purpose for a small audience, with the vast majority of people interested in books of magic seeking them out for their purported power.

A believer in magic needs no convincing as to the value of this information.  An individual should have the power, he or she would likely claim, to change matters for the better, to ward off ill luck, or to fight off attacks by hostile magicians.  Yet if we do not accept this view, is not magic fraud, and should we be passing on information that leads to error?

I would say yes.  Lack of information on a topic is likely to lead to situations in which some people can exploit others.  The Web has transformed the world   If you need a copy of the Key of Solomon, and I claim I can help you with its secrets for $200, then it places me in a position of power over you.  If you can get a copy of the Key from Joe Peterson’s site or the local bookstore, as well as reading views ranging from high praise to condemnation on that work, you can make an informed decision about whether my help is really worth $200.  If one sees magic as fraud, then this might increase the chance that one defrauds oneself, but it is a choice to do so.  Also, it is difficult to find the profit motive when defrauding oneself.

This doesn’t mean that this is universal, however.  In favor of Mr. Castro’s position, for instance, is that Galicia has only about 50% of its population online, in comparison to almost 80% in the United States.  Lack of ready access to information on a broad scale could change the equation here somewhat.


Published in: on January 26, 2012 at 3:01 pm  Comments (6)  

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  1. The restriction and dissemination of information has played a large part in the history of magic in general. Part of the appeal of magical knowledge is that it /was/ censored, restricted, and forbidden – like the Bible before it was translated into the vernacular or in print, and a lot of knowledge in general before literacy became widespread. Scarcity doesn’t mean the information is not disseminated, but it does mean that a lot of ignorance and superstition is passed around instead of historical truth, and fraudulent mystics can pass off their own creations under famous names, even as the genuine works become both obscure and priced out of the range of those who want to consult them.

    Many persons today write and print books of magic of their own creation, and make many claims about their efficacy – and these books are no more or less than entertainment, untouched by scholarship or authentic charms and philosophy of old magical traditions. The Simon Necronomicon, for example, is essentially as “valid” a grimoire as the Sworn Book of Honorious; both purport to fanciful histories and creators, and both have spawned magical traditions based on their contents. Without published scholarship on these works though, there would be no real critical appraisal of the contents on a scientific and historic basis. If the Simon Necronomicon went unchallenged, it would perpetuate ideas about Sumerian magic, culture, mythology and the Cthulhu Mythos that were grossly false. Original research and publishing of the Maqlu Text, for example, illustrates how far the Simon Necronomicon is from the sorcery that the Sumerians actually practiced.

    So yes, while publishing “real” books of magic does cater to an audience that would try to practice with them, I think the dissemination of knowledge as a whole is a worthy reason to continue to publish, if for no other reason than the cessation of publishing “real” books would not stem the tide of new and original books with no historical or anthropological basis. Hell, when I was a kid I kept a spiral-bound notebook full of incantations gleaned from Bullfinch’s mythology, fantasy novels, and comic books. In the absence of real knowledge, people will turn to whatever is available.

  2. “A believer in magic needs no convincing as to the value of this information. An individual should have the power, he or she would likely claim, to change matters for the better, to ward off ill luck, or to fight off attacks by hostile magicians. Yet if we do not accept this view, is not magic fraud, and should we be passing on information that leads to error?”

    A thought provoking topic indeed. As an unbeliever (in magic, at least), I wholeheartedly agree with the “yes” camp. The information should be available for readers to interpret and use as they see fit. After all, should we ban publication of “The Origin of Species” or, conversely, The Bible because there are those who believe each represents an errant (or downright false) worldview? I see publication of Grimoires as no different.

  3. After reading the comments on the 6/7th Book of Moses posting, I know why the 8th-10th Book and Sealed Magical Book of Moses can occasionally be found on Amazon for $999 – suckers and morons abound in occultism. These are cheap paperbook books being moved for hundreds of dollars.

  4. My business is selling items to be used in magic, so I have often considered what is the line between aiding someone’s work and exploiting a naive person. I occasionally have customers such as some of those who commented on your Sixth and Seventh Books post instance, recently a customer asked me to make him a talisman for astral travel; he wanted to use astral travel to find treasure and to locate a thief, among other things. I did make him the talisman but told him that the treasure he was most likely to find was his own magical skill, not a chest stuffed with gold in the ground. He agreed. When people are very naive in their expectations about magic, generally I will not work with them, and I have found that other practitioners or sellers of magical goods feel the same way. For instance, the most frequent request of this nature I get is for a talisman or ritual that will help someone win the lottery. I will never make such a thing, nor will other practitioners I know. Yes, there are ripoffs in occultism. There are ripoffs who fix cars, who run banks, who practice medicine, etc. It is by no means peculiar to the occult world.

    The vast majority of people who do use grimoires don’t in fact read scholarly writing about them, IME. Instead of spending $999, they spent about fifty cents to get the 8th and 9th books. They want to do magic, not be scholars.

    The high-priced books are for collectors, people who might have some intention at some point to use a grimoire but who generally instead just have a consumerist thing going on which is very prevalent in the US and in no way confined to the occult world. Because of the value placed on magical objects both within occultism and in society as a whole, I think the consumerist urge is stronger in occultism, but it’s not out of line with the rest of society.

    I do know people who are interested in both practicing magic and being scholarly about it, but IME, they are not the majority of regular practitioners by any means. Many practitioners of magic actually disdain scholarly writing on the subject and refuse to read it, believing that it is not informative and that researchers have actually been told lies or that they don’t have the background to understand what they are writing about. I think this is more true amongst those who practice witchcraft than those who practice grimoire magic, but it’s not confined to witchcraft. Again, I don’t think this rejection of the scholarly is peculiar to the occult. it seems to be widespread in our society. Most people are not good readers, just for starters, and our society in general teaches us not to value scholarship and characterizes the intellectual world as disconnnected from the “real” world.

    There will always be naive people, and IMO, you cannot “protect” the general population from knowledge because some naive people might use that knowledge stupidly. That goes against everything I learned as a teacher and academic. When you start off “protecting” people, you end up telling lies and sponsoring censorship.

  5. All the answers and the topic by Mr. Dan Harms are really good and interesting, very interesting Mr. Harold Roth answer.
    I read the topic about the 6th and 7th Book of Moses and I felt identified with it.
    I told my thoughts because I have a lot of respect to magic, I don’t have any experience in it, but I am not really a sceptic, as I told , “Non creo nas meigas pero habelas, hainas”.
    Of course it depends of the personal attitude about this, I sometimes think about grimoires as a weapon, it can be badly used, it not depends of the weapon itself, but the person that uses it. Even a fake weapon, can be badly used, even if it can’t kill anybody.
    Of course even selling cars is dangerous, they can be used very badly.
    The Book of St. Cyprian was published by Bernardo Barreiro in 1885 just because he wanted to open the eyes of the peasants about the book and give them a very cheap copy of it, but he published a very censored version and without the list of treasures. And I think that it isn’t correct. Enediel Shaiah also published in the 1905 and 1907 a much more accurate version, close to the portuguese version but he took away a lot of details about the places of the Galician Kingdom treasures, surely for not exciting the peasants imagination.
    Here in Galicia there was a treasure hunting fever in the XVII and the XVIIIs centuries that was horrible, peasants destroied a lot (thousands) of dolmens, stone age tombs, fortifications, searching for treasures.
    There was so much ancient gold in the galician subsoil that the Spanish Crown, the king Felipe III, appointed (in 1609) to the licenciado Pedro Vazquez de Orjas as “Comisario de Tesoros para el Reino de Galicia” and gave him authorization for opening the ancient tombs.
    It originated a treasure hunting fever and the peasants opened more than 3.000 tombs. Today there are in Galicia still 10.000 dolmens, and in the past they could be more than 20.000 dolmens.

    (I don’t know if some of this information appears in the Mr. Dillinger’s book, I read the index and I think that not).

    The echoes of this fever were present here until recently. They are still alive people that hunted treasures, it isn’t a topic of past times.

    (to be continued…)

    • I don’t recall too much from an Iberian perspective in the book, and I certainly didn’t see anything about the famous treasures listed in some of the editions of Cyprian.

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