The word grimoire is from the Old French grammaire, or grammar. Latin “grammars” (books on Latin syntax and diction) were considered in the Middle Ages as books of basic instruction.

Today, a grimoire is considered as a book of magical knowledge, with instructions for its use to achieve certain ends. Most grimoires were written between the late-medieval period and the 18th century and are associated with ceremonial or ritual magick.

They contain various magical formulas or symbols such as astrological correspondences, incantations and ritual instructions for working with angels and conjuring spirits and demons as well as directions on casting charms and spells, on mixing medicines, and making talismans. A grimoire should not be used as a ‘recipe book’.

To understand the real content, one must delve into the life and times of the magicians who wrote them and decipher the symbols that were used to hide the real secrets.

Many Grimoires are structurally comparable and usually follow a scheme:

  • The preparation of the magician (fasting, praying, smoking, washing, etc.)
  • Production of magic instruments (magic wand, robe, knife etc.)
  • The magic circle
  • The Book of Spirits / Liber Spirituum
  • Ranking of Demons, Their Seals, Summons and Dismissals
  • Spell recipes as attachments: love spells, treasure spells, divination etc.

Physically and psychologically, the magician must be cleansed of everything, and the instruments must be rebuilt and used unused. After preparation through ascetic rituals, the magician can summon different demons, devils or angels. The protective circle protects the magician from the summoned powers. Often a pact is made in which all summoned spirits must sign their seal and image as well as obedience.

The demons are often subject to a fixed hierarchy (emperor, king, prince etc.). In the Grimoires there are different versions of these rankings, which function as counter drafts of the angel structures. The different lists of demons can be explained by the fact that the lists in the respective epochs correspond to the social structure of the time. Also the number of the hell lords in the magic literature is different. A part of the hell constraints contains only the treasure bringer Azazel, the Faustian and Jesuit hell constraints first have a four-order, others often a six-order and further a seven-order, which goes back to Kabbalistic and neuplatonic roots.

Most grimoires are made of a strange blending of Jewish, Roman and Christian formula and filled with biblical references and prayers to angels or God. Although the magicians who wtore them found inspiration in Pagan and Islamic texts, they often relied on Christian magical traditions going back as far as the first century.

Most powerful invocations are inspired from the words of Jesus: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven…” Those grimoires who are associated with black magic and focus on the art to submit demons belong to the Goetia.

These books gave birth to a great number of secondary grimoires that were widely distributed in during the XIXth century thanks to the development of the printing industry.

The most well-know are “Le Dragon Rouge” (The red dragon), “La Poule Noire” (The black chicken), “The Greater Etteila” and “Le Grand Albert” et “Le Petit Albert” (the greater and the lesser Albert). They are full of stupidities such as “how to make girls dance without shirts”.

In the late 19th century, several of the earliest-known Grimoires (including the Abramelin text and the Keys of Solomon) were reclaimed by neo-Masonic magical organizations such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Ordo Templi Orientis.

Aleister Crowley, who was part of both groups, synthetized the occult knowledge and influenced a number of modern movements, including Wicca, Satanism, and Chaos Magic.

A cottage industry has existed since the 19th century in selling false or carelessly-translated grimoires (many original texts are in French or Latin, and are quite rare), although faithful editions are available for

The Necromicon also known as Al Azif or the whispers of demons was supposed to have been written by the black wizard Abdul Al-Hazred who lived in Yemen 700 AC. It became famous after horror novelist HP Lovercraft used it as a prop in not fewer than 18 of his stories

Today most agree that The Necromicon is a compilation of spells, recipes and other texts taken from older grimoires as The Key of Salomon, the Ars Goetia, or the Kitab al Uhud from Araby which were among the famous magic library of Assurbinapal.

Other volumes, less well known, but just as ominous in content, are De Vermis Mysteriis (Mysteries of the Worm), by Ludvig Prinn and Unaussprechlichen Kultin (Nameless Cults) by von Junzt. The authors of the two volumes both met terrible fates, as did Al-Hazred. Ludvig Prinn was burned at the stake, and von Junzt was strangled by a hideous monster when he was alone in a locked room.


Goetic Grimoires list long catalogues of spirits, their specific powers, and how they may be summoned by the use of different seals, incantations, sacrifices and incenses. Before conjuration, the magician must carefully consult these catalogues and select the single spirit best suited for the task.

Goetic magick, like most medieval magick, is extremely ceremonial and often calls for strict observance of many details. Not respecting the rituals would greatly enhance the risk for the practitioner.

The Necronomicon

The original Arabic title of this manuscript , Al Azif, refers to the nocturnal sound of insects believed to be the howling of demons.

Abdul Al-Hazred, a famous magician, lived in Damascus, where the Necronomicon was written. In 738 AD, he was set upon by an invisible monster who devoured him publicily in broad daylight. The Al Azif was later retrieved and translated into Greek by Theodorus Philetas of Constantinople, who gave it the name Necronomicon.

Olaus Wormius then made a Latin translation in 1228. In 1232, shortly after Wormius’ translation, Pope Gregory IX banned both the Greek and Latin versions of the volume. Wormius indicates that the original Arabic text was lost by this time. Dr. John Dee made a translation into English, but only fragments of that version remain.

At present, a 15th century Latin translation exists in the British Museum, and 17th century editions exist at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the Widener Library at Harvard, the University of Buenos Aires, and the Miskatonic University at Arkham. Understandably, all these copies remain under lock and key.

One of the longest and more powerful quotes from the Necronomicon is from “The Dunwich Horror”:

“Nor is it to be thought that man is either the oldest or the last of earth’s masters, or that the common bulk of life and substances walks alone. The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them, They walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen. Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They have trod earth’s fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread. By Their smell can men somtimes know them near, but of Their semblance can no man know, saving only in the features of those They have begotten on mankind; and of those are there many sorts, differing in likeness from man’s truest eidolon to that shape without sight or substance which is Them. They walk unseen and foul in lonely places where the Words have been spoken and the Rites howled through at their Seasons. The wind gibbers with Their voices, and the earth mutters with Their consciousness. They bend the forest and crush the city, yet may not forest or city behold the hand that smites. Kadath in the cold waste hath known Them, and what man knows Kadath? The ice desert of the South and the sunken isles of Ocean hold stones where Their seal is engraven, but who hath seen the deep frozen city or the sealed tower long garlanded with seaweed and barnacles? Great Cthulhu is Their cousin, yet can he spy Them only dimly. Iä! Shub-Niggurath! As a foulness shall ye know Them. Their hand is at your throats, yet ye see Them not; and Their habitation is even one with your guarded threshold. Yog-Sothoth is the key to the gate, whereby the spheres meet. Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, and after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again.”

The Great Key of Salomon

Although the title indicates that the author of this grimoire is the biblical King Solomon, it was probably written in the 13th Century A.D. S.

Liddell MacGregor Mathers translated it in English in 1888. Mathers, a key-influencer of the Golden, is said to have modified the rituals with W.B. Yeats. Mathers also translated the Kabbalah.

Introduction and Book One
Concerning the ceremonies and operations of the magickal art.

The Holy Pentacles
The Pentacles or Medals to be used in the magickal art, and the uses for which they are effective.

Book Two
Concerning the proper behavior of the Mage and his assistants, and the tools and materials of the magickal art.

The Legemeton

Also attributed to King Solomon and probably the most well known Grimoire, the Legemeton is a collection of medieval and post-medieval grimoires that originated in the twelfth century. The name Lemegeton probably stems from the compiler’s ignorance of Latin. Inspiring from the Clavicula Salomonis (Key of Solomon), the “Little Key of Solomon” was dubbed “Lemegeton Clavicula Salomonis.

The Goetia or Lesser Key

The Goetia or lesser Key of Solomon contains a list of 72 demonic spirits associated with the Shemhamphorash, and (in pairs) with the decanates of the zodiac, their powers and how to invoke them. It dates back from the sixteenth century but has been substantially amended by Mathers, Crowley/ and Laurence.
Ars Paulina or The Pauline Art

Mainly deals with the art of invoking the Angels of the Hours of the Day and Night. One can also find his “guardian angel” from his astral theme.

Ars Notaria

Translated by Robert Turner in 1657, it is a dense and difficult document that describes a system for attaining to knowledge and skill in the Liberal and Mechanical Arts through prayers and special invocations in “barbarous tongues”.

Ars Almadel

Evocation of the Angels of the four “Altitudes”, who rule the equinoctial and solstice points, the seasons, and the signs of the zodiac.

A small collection of prayers and orations.

Ars Nova

The Books of Moses

Published in 1849, and translated into English in 1880, the 6th and 7th Books of Moses claim to include material from 1338, 1383 and 1501, including portions reputedly translated from the “Cuthan-Samaritan” language, which has been extinct since the 12th Century A.D.

Although one of the more recent grimoires, it quickly become a best reading by all apprentices of all sort. From Germany it spread to America via the Pennsylvania Dutch, and once in cheap print was subsequently adopted by African Americans. With its pseudo-Hebraic mystical symbols, spirit conjurations and psalms,it became the founding text of Rastafarianism and various religious movements in west Africa.

The most interesting aspects of this book are the unique illustrations of magical seals and the lists of names of demonic entities.

Note: the first five books of Moses are the traditionally the first five books of the Bible.

The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage

The Book of Abramelin tells the story of an Egyptian mage named Abraham, or Abra-Melin, who taught a system of magic to Abraham of Worms, a Jew in Worms, Germany, who in turn teach his own son. The system of magic from this book regained popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries partly due to Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers’ translation, The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage in 1900.
Held in high regard by Aleister Crowley and MacGregor Mathers alike, which explains its importance within the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and later within the mystical system of Thelema (created in 1904 by Aleister Crowley).

The procedure involves many months of purification, followed by the invocation of good and evil spirits to accomplish some very worldly goals, including acquisition of treasure and love, travel through the air and under water, and raising armies out of thin air. It also tells of raising the dead, transforming ones appearance, becoming invisible, and starting storms. The key to this is a set of remarkable magic squares, sigils consisting of mystical words which in most cases can be read in several directions. Of course, these diagrams are said to have no potency unless used in the appropriate ritual context by an initiate. Mathers analyzed these words in an extensive set of notes and gives possible derivations from Hebrew, Greek and other languages.

The rituals in Abramelin are so complex that the book recommends one take a year away from work and family obligations to complete it.

The Grimoire of Honorius

This book was credited to Pope Honorius III of Thebes, who succeeded Pope Innocent III in 1216.

The Grimoire of Honorius was full of Christian benedictions and formulae as well as more sinistrous requirements for animal sacrifice and instructions for obtaining a pact with the Devil.

“It not only instructed priests in the arts of demonology but virtually ordered them to learn how to conjure and control demons, as part of their job.”

The Heptameron or Magical Elements

Attributed to the famous physician Peter de Abano (1250-1316), the Heptameron (“seven days”) details rites for conjuring angels for the Hours of the Day, the Seasons, and the Days of the Week.

It is heavily based on texts of Solomon and was also apparently one of the chief sources for the Lemegeton.

The remainder of the collection of the book consisting of medieval spells and stories are authored by the queen of Navarre, Margaret of Angoulême.

The Arbatel of Magic

Arbatel de Magia Veterum was published in Latin in 1575 in Basel Switzerland. It is unfortunate that only one part of the book has survived or was ever written, being called the Isagoge, or Fundamental Instructions.

The work promised a further eight volumes, concerning themselves with “Microcosmical Magic”, “Olympic Magic”, “Hesiodiacal and Homerical Magic”, “Sibylline Magic”, “Pythagorical Magic”, “The Magic of Appolonius”, “Hermetical Magic” and “Prophetical Magic”.

The Book of Ceremonial Magic

Also known as the Book of Black Magic By Arthur Edward Waite [1913].

This book includes comprehensive descriptions of rituals from classic grimoires, including extensive illustrations of magical seals.

Grimoires covered include the Greater and Lesser Keys of Solomon, the Grimorium Verum, and the Black Pullet.

The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy

In the 1650’s, English scholar Robert Turner put together a collection of magickal papers from various sources under the title The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy.

Only two of the papers therein are purported to be by Agrippa but the remaining part casts some light on practices detailed in Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy.

Attributed to the famous physician Peter de Abano (1250-1316), the Heptameron (“seven days”) details rites for conjuring angels for the Hours of the Day, the Seasons, and the Days of the Week.

It is heavily based on texts of Solomon and was also apparently one of the chief sources for the Lemegeton.

The remainder of the collection of the book consisting of medieval spells and stories are authored by the queen of Navarre, Margaret of Angoulême.