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"Jacques Collin de Plancy (1793-1881) followed the tradition of many previous demonologists of cataloguing demons by name and title of nobility, as it happened with grimoires like Pseudomonarchia Daemonum and The Lesser Key of Solomon. In 1818, his best known work, Dictionnaire Infernal, was published. In 1863, sixty-nine illustrations by Louis Le Breton were added that made it famous: imaginative drawings concerning the appearance of certain demons."--Sholem Stein

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A grimoire is a textbook of magic. Books of this genre, typically giving instructions for invoking angels or demons, performing divination and gaining magical powers, have circulated throughout Europe since the Middle Ages.

Magicians were frequently prosecuted by the Christian church, so their journals were kept hidden to prevent them from being burned.

Such books contain astrological correspondences, lists of angels and demons, directions on casting charms and spells, on mixing medicines, summoning unearthly entities, and making talismans. "Magical" books in almost any context, especially books of magical spells, are also called grimoires.


Origin of the term

The word grimoire is from the Old French grammaire, and is from the Greek root "grammatikos", “relating to letters”, from which grammar, a system for language, and glamour, influential appeal, are derived. In the mid-late Middle Ages, Latin "grammars" (books on Latin syntax and diction) were foundational to school and university education, as controlled by the Church—while to the illiterate majority, non-ecclesiastical books were suspect as magic, or believed to be endowed with supernatural influence. The word "grimoire" came over time to apply specifically to those books which did indeed deal with magic and the supernatural.

Similar magical writings have existed from antiquity, and although these are not in the same genre of medieval magic, they are sometimes described as grimoires.

Medieval and Renaissance

Renaissance magic

The first grimoires appear in the High Middle Ages, growing out of earlier traditions, notably of medieval Jewish mysticism, which continued traditions dating back to Late Antiquity. Thus, the 13th century Sefer Raziel Ha-Malakh is significantly based on the Sefer Ha-Razim (ca. 4th or 5th century), which is in turn influenced by Hellenistic Greek magical papyri.

Notable 13th to 17th century grimoires include:

The Voynich manuscript has never been deciphered, and is difficult to date, but may also qualify as a 15th century grimoire.

18th to 19th century

In the late 19th century, several of these texts (including the Abra-Melin text and the Key of Solomon) were reclaimed by para-Masonic magical organizations such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Ordo Templi Orientis.

Many false or poorly translated grimoires have been circulated since the 19th century (many original texts are in French or Latin, and are quite rare); however, faithful editions are available for most of the above titles.

20th century to present

A modern grimoire is the Simon Necronomicon, named after a fictional book of magic in the stories of author H. P. Lovecraft, and inspired by Babylonian mythology and the Ars Goetia, a section in the Lesser Key of Solomon which concerns the summoning of demons. The Azoëtia of Andrew D. Chumbley has been described as a modern grimoire.

The Neopagan religion of Wicca publicly appeared in the 1940s, and Gerald Gardner introduced the Book of Shadows as a Wiccan Grimoire.

Popular culture

The term "grimoire" commonly serves as an alternative name for a spell-book or tome of magical knowledge in such genres as fantasy fiction. The most famous fictional grimoire is the Necronomicon, a creation of the author H. P. Lovecraft. It was first referenced in his story "The Hound" and subsequently made appearances in many of his stories. Other authors such as August Derleth and Clark Ashton Smith have also cited it in their works with Lovecraft's approval. Many readers and others have believed it to be a real work, with booksellers and librarians receiving many requests for the fictional tome. Pranksters have even listed it in rare book catalogues, including one who surreptitiously slipped an entry into the Yale University Library card catalog. (L. Sprague de Camp, Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers) Several authors have also published books titled Necronomicon, though none have been endorsed by Lovecraft himself.

In the hit musical and bestselling book Wicked by Gregory Maguire, Elphaba (The Wicked Witch Of The West) came to owning a "Grimmerie", which held spells.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Grimoire" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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