Review: The Complete Grimoire of Pope Honorius

The Grimoire of Honorius, as with many other books of magic, is “the world’s most infamous book of magic.”  The work was falsely attributed to Pope Honorius III, who granted it so that others might share in his power over demons.  Waite condemned its contents, while Eliphas Levi claimed that its influence brought about the assassination of the archbishop of Paris.  Now it is available from Avalonia Books another work from the team of David Rankine and Paul Harry Barron, who previously brought us The Book of Gold.

What Rankine and Barron have produced for us is a comprehensive edition of the grimoire.  The foundation text is a previously-unpublished manuscript, Wellcome MS 4666, along with material from the editions dated to 1670, 1760, and 1800, and a nineteenth-century German version.  As such, this presents itself as the most comprehensive edition of the book ever published in any language.  It does not include the original language texts or a full text of any book, but it does have a comprehensive chart allowing the reader to reconstruct the content list of each edition.

According to the “constitution” that appears at the beginning of some copies, this book was provided by Pope Honorius III to the officials of the church to grant them power over demons.  The highlight of the system is a procedure for summoning seven spirits, each connected with a particular day of the week.  Following this are a wide variety of charms, some for healing, a large selection for the protection and maintenance of sheep, and others for rapid travel, making women dance naked, and the like.   Notes indicate the presence of questionable translations and items needing clarification, and the authors provide us with a brief index.

The book has a minor omission or two.  The introduction is well done overall, but the manuscript translation of Honorius made by Frances G. Irwin and published by Caduceus isn’t noted.  Likewise, I believe that a few diagrams were omitted from the German translations, although I don’t have a convenient version on hand to check.

I’m quite happy with this book, both due to the fascinating nature of the material and the thoroughness with which the editors have approached the topic.  Those who are interested in the darker side of the grimoire tradition should definitely add this work to their libraries.

Published in: on September 10, 2013 at 10:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

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