Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Further Thoughts on Goetic Magick & St. Cyprian’s Grimoire

This article represents some further thoughts about goetic magick and Jake Stratton’s Book, “The True Grimoire.”  My original article can be found here.

Yesterday I got a mailer from Avalonia Books about a new grimoire that is now available to the general public, part of their “Sourceworks of Ceremonial Magic” series of grimoires edited by Stephen Skinner and David Rankin. This book is entitled, “The Grimoire of St. Cyprian - Clavis Inferni.” I went to the website and looked over the advertisement for the grimoire and I have decided to pass on purchasing it at this time. This has nothing to do with the quality of the book, which is quite exquisite and exceptional, but more to do with the fact that I already have a large collection of grimoires, and this one would not add anything to that collection. My reason for collecting grimoires is their use to me as magickal resources and not as a collector of rare or obscure books.

According to the advertisement, this book has colorful illustrations, sigil characters and invocations of the four infernal kings of the underworld of Hell. It also has associated invocations of the four principal archangels (who are used to control the infernal kings), as well as an invocation of Metatron. It’s a rather short tome and this appears to be the extent of the content of this version of the grimoire. One could see it as a companion to the Grimoirum Verum, Grimoire of Pope Honorius or the Grand Grimoire. St. Cyprian was reputed to be a powerful magician before he converted to Christianity in late antiquity, but it’s obvious that his name is being lent to this work, much like Solomon’s name was lent to an entire tradition of magick.

However, the larger group of grimoires supposedly authored by St. Cyprian (and the most famous) were called “Libro de San Cipriano”, which had their origin in a part of Spain called Galicia, dating from around the late 18th century. These books were reputed to aid treasure finders, so in addition to invoking the demon kings to scare away the minor demons protecting treasures, there were techniques devised to divine their location and safely extract them. One group of grimoires used methodologies to find treasures that didn’t even involve using the demon kings, others incorporated materials from other French grimoires (like the Grand Grimoire). The Galician version of the grimoire was translated into Portugese, and both the Spanish and Portugese versions were widely disseminated in the Carribean and South America, where they found avid use amongst the adherents of Santeria and Macumba.

There were two known branches to the grimoires associated with the St. Cyprian, the Spanish being one branch, and there was a German or Scandinavian branch, called the Cyprianus or Black Book. The German or Scandinavian version had a large number of magical recipes and treasure hunting techniques, but ironically omitted the methods for evoking demons. More information on these grimoires can be found here.

The Clavis Inferni, written in Latin and cipher codes, doesn’t appear to be a direct variation of either above group of grimoires, even though it, too, is dated to the late 18th century. Perhaps it represents a unique branch unto itself. It also appears to be missing the typical treasure finding recipes of this series, although one would have to consult an actual copy of the book to be certain. Another possibility is that the treasure hunting techniques in the other two branches may have been derived from the Grand Grimoire.

One interesting point that the Clavis Inferi makes is that the erstwhile magician invokes the demon kings under the control and empowerment of the archangels, so as to maintain balance between angelic and infernal forces. This is a point that I have made in previous articles, although it’s doubtful that an archangel would effectively shield the magician who happened to invoke one of the demon kings, but that is the intent of the working. Since I am a pagan and a witch, the entire infernal hierarchy is not particularly relevant to me, but this work would be very useful to someone who was working with the Grimoirum Verum, perhaps providing the balance between angelic and demonic forces that seems to be missing in the “True Grimoire.” If one adds to the mix the unstated requirement of having obtained the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel (via the Book of Abramelin), then you might have a combined system that could be balanced and tenable. Although for obvious reasons, I would recommend using the Cherubim to shield the magician rather than archangels. Yet the Cherubim would force the magician to maintain a highly ethical use of demons and would not allow any direct contact with them. This would also be true of the Holy Guardian Angel, ruling out any kind of blood bond or pact with the infernal spirits, which appears to be the core of the Grimoirum Verum’s methodology.

Another point that I would like to make is regarding Jake Stratton-Kent’s opinion that a goetic magician could approach the use of demons similarly to that found in the Macumba, particularly the performance of Umbanda, which is the darker or punitive rites of that religion. Magical religions of the Caribbean and Brazil, which blend African and Christian practices as well as incorporating some European occultism, make a clear distinction between sanctioned and unsanctioned practices. To call upon the gods, saints and spirits of the ancestors, sacramental based spell craft (herbal remedies, use of fetishes, sacrifices), performed along with other Christian Catholic liturgy (offerings and votive prayers) represents sanctioned practices, performed by official priests and priestesses of the cult. These practices and their officiators are readily considered forces of good in their community and function as an adjunct to the traditional Catholic church and its local operation.

Unsanctioned practices would be to seek domination, retribution, vengeance, to cause sickness and death in targeted victims, to gain assistance from the unhallowed dead and their demi-god controllers or assistance from evil spirits. These unsanctioned practices would require the help of a specialist who would perform such rites in private. One could easily categorize the evocation of goetic demons in this class of unsanctioned practices, whether of Umbanda, Palo Mayombe or Voudoun Petro. Unsanctioned practices such as these are often tolerated due to the abject fear of such specialists or their occasional discrete use by clients. Despite the obvious associated cultural ambiguities, these practices would be considered evil and outlawed by the greater public. Some practitioners of these unsanctioned arts, whether real or imagined, have been persecuted and murdered by angry outraged members of their community. Like the folkloric theme of the classic witch known worldwide, such practitioners have always been considered outside the law and prime suspects when things in a community go awry. Is this a useful model for a modern goetic magician to follow? I greatly doubt it.

As I have pointed out in my previous article, in order to deal with the goetic demons as pagan deities, one would have to extract them completely from their place in the Christian spiritual hierarchy and build a new hierarchy based on the ancient Semitic pagan gods. This would include giving them offerings and devotions as part of a reconstitution of the old pagan religion that they once were a part, if that could even be accomplished. Jake Stratton-Kent’s book, “The True Grimoire” may make some interesting comparisons with Brazilian witchcraft and show (in a limited fashion) how some of the demon names may be distorted names of old pagan gods, yet it doesn’t give any indication that either Jake (or anyone else associated with him) is actually practicing a form of magick that would adhere to this complete redefinition. Nor does he appear to be an initiate of some Afro-Brazilian cult.

Instead, the reader is left with a kind of permission to use the newly reformed and edited version that Jake has provided as it currently exists, representing a kind of diabolic goetic magickal practice. Obviously, Jake is obscuring the fact that the infernal spirits would probably have been counter balanced by superior angelic agencies and the manifestation of the Holy Guardian Angel. The Clavis Inferi and the Goetia of Dr. Rudd would seem to indicate that this balancing was very likely part of what the magician did when resorting to the evocation and use of goetic demons. Therefore, Jake’s book and his apparent practice probably does more harm than good to the magician who is contemplating using this system. Therefore, in my opinion, the book “The True Grimoire”, despite being well written and brilliantly researched, is deeply flawed because of the misinformation that it has put into the hands of the public and the espoused tradition that it has spawned. Those who use this book as written will ultimately find themselves in great spiritual jeopardy or candidates for the local asylum.

Frater Barrabbas

1 comment:

  1. i believe i agree with your assesment of the paradigm
    suggested by JSK. its certainly not how i learned my art.
    however there does seem to be an ongoing "call" to make high magick into some kind of sabbatic craft.