Occult Practices Within the Catholic Church

Peter Levenda
A Book that is Stolen from “Tracy Twyman” 2006
"The Cave of Treasures":  Discoveries at "Rennes-le-Chateau"


Papal Magic Occult Practices Within the Catholic Church

Papal Magic: Occult Practices Within the Catholic Church


Occult Practices Within the Catholic Church


HarperCollins e -books


Section I: Catholicism and the Occult 1

Sacerdotal Magic 17

The Black Mass 22

Priestly Authority Over Demons

and Angels 40

The Mason Who Would Be Pope 47

The OTO and Christianity 54

Italian Freemasons and the Vatican

Banking Scandal 61

The Most Diabolic of Grimoires 70



Catholicism and the Occult

The New Testament tells us a surprising thing, right at the beginning of the story of Christ (Matthew 1:18-2:12). It tells us that three wise men— Magi—followed a star to Bethlehem where they found the newborn Jesus. In order to do so, they had to first pay a courtesy visit to Herod, the governor of Palestine, who then ordered the massacre of all firstborn Jewish males in order to ensure he killed the newborn Jesus and thus prevent the young Messiah’s ever taking power.

The Massacre of the Innocents is not a story that is usually told at Christmas. We see the Magi—whom tradition has named Melchior, Balthazar, and Casper—bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and sometimes we are told that they are three “kings.” They could not be kings in the normal sense, as they did not travel with a large retinue but seemed to make the journey (from the “East”) with a few possessions and perhaps a few servants but nothing more. We are not told what kingdoms they represented. We are told very little, actually, and at the end of their visit to the manger they make their departure secretly, avoiding Herod and his intrigues.

These three kings are an anomaly in the story of Jesus. It only appears in the Gospel according to Matthew, and not in any of the other Gospels. There does not seem to be a precedent for this in other Jewish traditional literature, since these kings were obviously not Jewish but foreigners who came from a land to the east of Palestine; Persia, perhaps, or Babylon. That they followed a star is evidence of their ability in astronomy but also their belief in astrology, because for them the appearance of the Star in the East had meaning. Astronomers—like all scientists—do not deal in meaning, but in phenomena. Astrology—like the other occult sciences—is an attempt to assign meaning to phenomena.

While astrology may be considered divination and therefore something proscribed by Jewish tradition and law, there is evidence that the Jews did practice a form of astrology themselves. The Bible is full of references to “signs in the heavens,” which could mean anything from the appearance of comets to the more familiar conjunctions and oppositions of astrological lore. In either case, “signs in the heavens” indicates that the motions of the heavenly bodies were considered meaningful: messages to the denizens of the earth from spiritual forces capable of communicating with humans using the very broad canvas of the heavens themselves.

The Bible has other tales of the occult, sprinkled here and there throughout the Old and New Testaments, but usually with words of opprobrium. There is the famous tale of the Witch of Endor, who caused the ghost of Samuel to appear to King Saul on the eve of battle (Samuel 28:425). There is the injunction against the occult in the commandment: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live (Exodus 22:18). And there is Jesus himself raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1–44), and performing exorcisms and doing other miraculous things which, if they were performed by any person today, would be considered witchcraft, magic, or demonstrations of occult powers.

Thus, the Christian Scriptures attest the Church’s occult foundations. In the Gospel according to Luke we see Jesus saying, “Rejoice not that the spirits are subject unto you,” thus implying the power of His followers over all the spiritual realms (Luke 10:20). Before Jesus begins his ministry, Satan tempts him in the desert, demonstrating his power over the material worlds; and, in another episode, Jesus himself turns to St. Peter and tells him, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). Oddly, Catholic tradition has it that St. Peter was crucified upside down; today, the inverted cross has become a symbol of . . . Satanism.

While Catholic priests are believed to have spiritual power over ghosts and demons—every Catholic priest has been ordained first as an exorcist—the use of occult powers has usually been considered closed to the priesthood and to laypeople alike. The only ones using occultism and magic have been the heretics, the blasphemers, the so-called witches and sorcerers: people who are, by their very nature, believed to be on the side of the Adversary and opponents of the Church.

Indeed, in the eighteenth century, this general indictment of occultism, occult groups, and secret societies was extended to include the Freemasons. For centuries, it was forbidden for Catholics to join the Masons, and for good reason: during the heyday of the Order in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Freemasons were actively involved in efforts to curtail the Church’s secular power in Europe, from the Carbonari in Italy to the revolutionists in France . . . up to and including Masonic intrigues against British imperial power in India. Even as late as the 1970s, a Masonic lodge calling itself Propaganda Due or

P2 was at the heart of the Vatican banking scandal in Italy. P2 was also involved in anti-communist intrigues, including assassinations, in the rest of the world.

But was the Church itself entirely blameless when it came to conjuring demons, working magic, and casting spells? It is rumored that the largest collection of occult works in the world is to be found at the Vatican library. Are they there as curios, rare and valuable tomes to be consulted by Catholic scholars carefully vetted by the Holy See? Or did they once have a more . . . utilitarian . . . purpose?

Included in this book is one of the more infamous grimoires—or magical workbooks— known to three centuries of ceremonial magicians throughout the Western world. Considered by some to be the most demonic of all occult texts, its authorship is attributed to a Pope. While scholars contend that the Pope in question had nothing to do with it, they miss the most important point of the text: that it is a manual to be used by a Catholic priest. And therein lies a tale.

For the first three hundred years of Christianity, the Church met in secret. It is well known that Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire—the image of the followers of Christ being thrown to the lions in the Coliseum is familiar to every schoolchild. Thus, in order to worship in safety, these early Christians met at night in cemeteries and catacombs. Today, if we came across news of a religious cult meeting under those circumstances, we would immediately think of “satanism” or “devil worship” or even “witchcraft.”

In India, cults that met at night in cemeteries were known to be practitioners of Tantra: most particularly a form of Tantra outlawed by conservative Brahmins and that involved violating some of the basic precepts of Hindu religious law, including drinking alcohol, eating proscribed meat and grain . . . and sex with a partner to whom one is not married. To the pious Hindu, what was taking place in the cemeteries was tantamount to a “Black Mass,” as it would be understood by a Catholic: a reversal of values in acts of blasphemous ritual that was intended to act as a kind of “shock treatment,” causing the participants to see reality through different eyes. Sometimes, there was a political element to the Black Mass: a denial of the authority of the Catholic Church in matters both secular and sacred, which may or may not have had its analogue in the rites of Tantra. At other times the Black Mass itself was seen as an instrument of power, the ultimate magical act: an act of congress with dark powers through the manipulation of Catholic symbols and rituals towards other ends: like channeling nuclear energy away from peaceful uses and making a nuclear bomb.

Is there a tradition of occult practice among Catholic clergymen, or do the isolated documented instances of sorcerers and magicians within the Church’s hierarchy merely represent anomalies, random personalities and events that have nothing to do with Catholic belief or an underground cult within the Church? Of course, the Church would have us believe the latter: a few bad apples, like the convicted pedophile priests of the last few decades. But what if the practice of occultism could be traced far up the hierarchical ladder, to bishops, perhaps cardinals, and maybe even a Pope or two? What would that say about the nature of religion, religious institutions, spiritual vocations, and faith itself?

Indeed, what would it say about magic?

That there were many ecclesiastical personalities— some of them quite famous—who were also occultists is a fact known to historians but largely unrecognized outside academia. Bishop and Saint

Albertus Magnus (1193–1280), the mentor to St.

Thomas Aquinas, was an occultist, alchemist, and magician. Abbot Johannes Trithemius (1462– 1516), a famous occultist and head of the Abbey at Sponheim in Germany, can also be considered the father of modern cryptography: the science of code-making that he invented in order to keep his occult writings safe from prying eyes. He was a friend and correspondent of the famous magician Cornelius Agrippa (1486–1533), whose Three Books of Occult Philosophy are a classic in the literature.

And then there was Marshall Gilles de Raiz (1404?–1440). A French nobleman and military man, a once-pious follower of St. Joan of Arc into battle, he descended into black magic and madness, holding Black Masses at his castle in the French countryside and murdering and mutilating village children in his satanic rites in a desperate effort to unlock the secrets of the Philosopher’s Stone, some say, and thereby fend off bankruptcy . . . and assisted in all this by an apostate Catholic priest. He and his priest and another assistant were executed in 1440 after a lengthy trial in which the details of their hideous crimes were documented.

Is it so difficult to believe that Catholic priests and bishops may have been involved in occult practices? As one edition of the Grimoire of Pope Honorius reminds us, Jesus informed his followers that “what you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven,” thus giving his Church enormous authority over the spiritual realm. If a priest has the power to cast out demons during the rite of exorcism, doesn’t that imply an equal ability to summon them? How many priests of the past two thousand years would have been able to resist the temptation? It is said that Father Urbain Grandier, the priest at the center of the famous case of demonic possession known as the Devils of Loudon, had signed a pact with the Devil himself. In fact, a copy of this pact exists, signed in Grandier’s blood, and has been reprinted in many books on satanism and demonolatry.

When Satan confronted Jesus in the desert, he offered him the world. Indeed, Satan is often acknowledged as the “lord of this world”: the world of material things, of the passions, of the nonspiritual. This is why Faust, in the famous legend, sells his soul to Mephistopheles for twenty-five years of youth and wealth: the things of this world in exchange for the one “thing” over which Satan has no dominion, the human soul.

In the famous Mass of St. Secaire—as detailed in Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough— peasants in the Gascon region of France would sometimes prevail upon a priest to kill a man through the offices of the Liturgy. A Mass would be said—backwards—in a ruined church or other desolate place, ending on the very stroke of midnight. A black Host would be used, triangular in shape, and other abominations would ensue. The person for whom this Mass was “celebrated” would slowly die of a withering-away disease.

Frazer also speaks of the Mass of the Holy Spirit, a Mass so powerful that God would grant any wish to those who had this Mass said for them. In the same breath, he speaks of the belief some French peasants have in the ability of priests to prevent storms and to exert other powers over nature.

Thus we have the popular belief that priests have some occult power. This power is transferred through the laying-on of hands in the ordination ceremony, which is itself considered an occult act. The phenomenon of chirothesy was a ritual performed by the Pope to heal the sick by the laying-on of hands. Actually, no fewer than three Popes were believed to have been involved in occult practices, including Silvester II (pontificate 999–1003), John XXI (1276–77), and Benedict XII (1334–42). Silvester II, as an example, had acquired several important astronomical treatises in Arabic and is reputed to have studied occult lore while still a young man in Seville, then under the control of the Caliphates. He was said to be in possession of a miraculous talking head, among other novelties.

The document we will examine here, however, is attributed to Pope Honorius III (1216– 27), a man of unquestioned faith and devotion to the Church and its principles. In fact, Honorius III was a tireless opponent of heresy and was instrumental in the repression of heretical movements such as the Cathars and Albigensians in the south of France, and a supporter of Simon de Montfort, the notorious scourge of heretics and military commander of the anti-Cathar crusade. Most commentators believe that attributing a sorcerer’s workbook to Honorius III is nothing more than a kind of sick joke at the Pope’s expense, perhaps the creation of a writer from the Languedoc who held Honorius III responsible for the excesses of his champion, Simon de Montfort, and the consequent loss of his lands and family at the hands of that vicious crusader; at best, the Grimoire of Pope Honorius III may only represent a confused association with another grimoire, the Sworn Book of Honorius, a book that may have been written at the time Pope Honorius III was alive (suggestions as to the book’s antiquity range from the twelfth to the fourteenth century). While Honorius III was a prolific author of theological texts, there is no evidence that he had anything to do with either grimoire, and yet . . .

The prologue to the Sworn Book states that the Church had gone on something of a crusade against the magicians, and that the magicians held a secret council to determine what to do and elected one Honorius as their leader. Honorius then compiled the Sworn Book from a compilation of other magical texts, but secured with a set of laws that the magicians would be forced to obey before they could use the material. Thus, the “Sworn” Book.

There were actually Church councils convened at various times to prohibit the practice of occultism. Among these were the Council of Agde of the Languedoc in southern France, in 506, which pronounced sorcerers (and vampires!) excommunicated. There were further such councils, such as the Council of Orleans in 541 and the Council of Narbonne in 589, all towards the same general end of fighting the sorcerers. From this short list we can see that the struggle between the Church and the magicians has been going on for quite some time (especially in France!). In addition, we have anecdotal evidence of individual priests being censured—or worse—for involvement in the occult arts, such as Father Pierre Aupetit of the town of Fossas in Limousine, who was burned at the stake for performing the Black Mass; and Father William Stapleton, who was arrested as a magician in England during the reign of Henry VIII.

Indeed, the Knights Templar—no strangers to the crusades or the exotic mysteries of the Middle East—themselves were accused of devil-worship and all kinds of blasphemous and heretical acts. The day of their arrest throughout Europe is still remembered today, for it fell on Friday, October 13, and thus gave us the superstition that Friday the thirteenth is unlucky. Yet the Templars had themselves taken the same vows as any priest or monk: poverty, chastity, and obedience, all in service to the Catholic Church. The name of the devil they were supposed to worship—Baphomet—became the magical name of the twentieth century’s most famous occultist: Aleister Crowley.

Thus, the Church has held many councils and published many orders concerning occultism, magic, and the like. At the same time, highranking clergymen including several Popes were known to have been heavily involved in the study—and sometimes the practice—of the occult arts. Therefore, it is not so unlikely on the


face of it that a Pope would have once authored a grimoire, for as we have seen, the Church has a public face and a private one. It is as much a secular institution as a sacred one, and the pursuit and maintenance of power can be accomplished by spiritual methods as well as mundane conspiracies.

Let us, then, examine the Grimoire of Pope Honorius III to see how a priest may summon— the Devil.


No one knows quite when the discipline known as “ceremonial magic” had its origins. Magic, as it is generally understood by anthropologists and historians of religion, is universal and its practices can be detected in virtually every ancient culture, and among societies living in relative isolation, in the Amazon rain forest as easily as the jungles of Borneo and the Australian outback. Our earliest written records of magic can be found in the cuneiform tablets of ancient Sumer and Babylon, and in the Coffin Texts of ancient Egypt. Magic was practiced in China long before the birth of Confucius, and in India millennia before the birth of the Buddha. Spells, charms, and incantations are known to every


culture on earth: whether to ward off evil and sickness, or to encourage fertility and wealth.

Ceremonial magic, however, is a complicated evolution of the more primitive forms. As such, its goals are not always easy to discern. Where the shaman or medicine man (or woman) might be concerned with harvests and the hunt, or ridding a tribal member of sickness, or even in observing the right times for the performance of sacrifices, the ceremonial magician is concerned with less mundane affairs. The ceremonial magician wishes to evoke spiritual forces to visible appearance, to travel to astral realms, to commune with the ineffable; and this is done according to very precise instructions, written down in what are known—in the West—as grimoires.

A grimoire is a magician’s manual, a handbook containing specific rituals for specific ends. It is like a cookbook: if you don’t already know how to boil water or crack open an egg, it is not very useful and you can make mistakes. A grimoire does not pretend to teach magic, but only to be used as a guide for the accomplished magician.

The training of a magician may take place within the ranks of a secret society dedicated to magic, such as the famous Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn: a British occult society of the

nineteenth century that numbered among its initiates such luminaries as W. B. Yeats, the Nobel prize winning poet, and such tenebraries as Aleister Crowley, the magician some have called the “wickedest man in the world.” In this society, magicians were instructed in the very basic elements of their art and trained through a series of degrees, each one demanding greater intellectual study as well as greater capability in the demonstration of occult powers.

Prior to the existence of such groups as the Golden Dawn, however, training in occultism could be had only at the feet of an acknowledged master. Perhaps some of the Masonic lodges numbered a magus or two among their membership; but by far the individuals credited with the greatest potential for magical accomplishment were Catholic priests.

It is difficult to realize in this day and age the utilitarian nature of the priesthood in ancient times. A priest was supposed to be able to cast out the devil in the rite known as exorcism; thus, the priest was credited with supernatural power from the very start. What better instruction could one receive in the ars magica than in a Catholic seminary? And what use was a parish priest who could only celebrate Mass and tell his parishioners that every evil that befell them was


“God’s will”? In the days before science, before modern medicine—both human and veteri-

nary—there had to be recourse to spiritual forces in order to effect mundane goals. Priests prayed for abundant harvests, for an end to the plague, or that a hostile enemy force would pass them by. The ritual known as the “laying-on of hands,” which was used to ordain priests, was also used to heal the sick.

As science increasingly became the savior of modern humanity, the role of the priest became less that of the village shaman and more that of the village psychiatrist, as the priest began to concern himself more with the salvation of the souls of his flock than with the health of their bodies or the status of their crops. This development, however, did not take place until relatively recently. Until the nineteenth century, Catholic priests were believed to be possessed of supernatural powers that could change the relatively sordid reality of the European peasant and his quotidian existence.

Catholic priests could make magic.

A glance at the more famous grimoires of the last three hundred years or so will demonstrate a common factor: spirits, both evil and good, are summoned and controlled using the names of God, the angels, and the saints. The sign of the Cross is used throughout these texts, as are Biblical quotations, familiar prayers such as the Our Father and the Hail Mary, and liturgical procedures common to the Mass, such as the use of incense, candles, and vestments. The Western European ceremonial magician, if he is not a priest, is at least pretending to be one.

Thus, when the Grimoire of Pope Honorius made its appearance it was, if not a genuine Papal grimoire, at least an honest example of what all the other famous grimoires pretended they were not: a manual of occultism intended for use by clergymen.


While the average person living in the Middle East or Europe could make use of charms, talismen, amulets, and the like, their creation was usually reserved for persons considered spiritually adept: holy men and women who were believed to have some special connection with the gods or God, either through their piety or through demonstrations of their supernatural abilities. This belief—as ancient as the earliest written records of civilization—continues to the present day in the phenomenon of such mystics as Padre Pio in Italy, whose stigmata (bleeding from wounds identical to those believed to have been suffered by Christ on the cross) was an indication that he had supernatural abilities, and that praying to him (or being touched by him) would cause the cure of illness. Today, thousands still travel to Lourdes every month in the expectation of a miraculous cure at this shrine to the Virgin Mary. It is easy to see that these pilgrims are not making the journey to become spiritually enlightened, but to rid themselves of the burden of physical, organic disease.

Indeed, Jesus in the Gospels performed miracles of healing, of raising from the dead, and of casting out demons. “All these and greater you shall do,” he said to his disciples (John 14:12). He also walked on water, calmed the seas, and fed multitudes with a handful of loaves and fishes, and in the end—according to canonical scripture—he raised himself from the dead and ascended bodily into heaven. Thus, the average Christian could be forgiven if he or she expected similar wonders to be performed by parish priests.

In order to understand the degree to which Catholic priests felt pressure to accommodate these desires, we must realize that Christianity was not the native religion of Europe. It was a Middle Eastern import, a competitor to the cult of Mithra, which had been embraced by many Romans during the time of the Empire. As what was originally a Jewish cult, early Christianity inherited a legacy of Jewish occultism and mysticism as well as practices and beliefs that were current among the Gnostics and other Middle Eastern sects and cults. In fact, until about the tenth century A.D., Europe was a battleground of several different versions of Christianity as well as native pagan cults that had dominated the region for millennia.

The Celts, for example, notorious fighters, worshipped a variety of gods and goddesses. What we know of their religion, and particularly of the Druid priesthood, is subject to the mists of memory, with little written record of them that was not due to what we can find in the Gallic Wars of Caesar or, later, the vicious propaganda of the Church. The Nordic peoples had an extensive array of deities from Odin to Thor to Freya. The Slavic peoples had a coherent mythology as well, one that was driven underground and eradicated by the Church and especially under the banner of St. Cyril and St. Methodius, the evangelists—some would say “colonizers”—of Eastern Europe.

Later, European Christianity would be influenced by the Crusades and, most notably, by the Order of the Knights Templar: an Order of militant monks who had taken the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and had many contacts with Islamic clerics and members of other Middle Eastern sects. These contacts (and their legendary ability at banking and moneylending) led to their eventually being suppressed by both Church and State in the fourteenth century when they were accused of worshipping a devilish idol with the name “Baphomet” and of trampling on the cross during their initiation ceremonies. The influence of the Templars did not disappear, however, but continued to grow, and it is said provided the inspiration for the creation of the Masonic orders a few centuries later. As the Templars were considered to be enemies of the Church—even though they had taken oaths to defend it, and did so gallantly in the Holy Land—so too were the Freemasons considered hostile to the Church, leading to several Papal pronouncements against them. It is this nexus of secret societies and the Church that provided the fertile soil for books like Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code; but we are getting ahead of our story.

What we know about the native peoples of

Europe and their gods prior to the arrival of Christianity was that the usefulness of any pagan priesthood was directly related to its ability to protect its tribe, and that meant everything from healing sickness to predicting harvests . . . to summoning the gods to ensure victory in battle. The relationship of humans to their gods was an interdependent one: the gods were just as interested in seeing their worshippers thrive as the worshippers were serious in their sacrifices and incantations. With the coming of the Church, the emphasis shifted from a relationship that was mutually dependent to one in which the people were wholly dependent upon—and in a kind of servitude to—God. This new God made no promises, except the relatively ambiguous one of eternal life in the hereafter. His symbol was the crucifixion: a body torn and bloody and hanging on a cross. To the more cynical of the Europeans, this was probably as good a God as one could hope for in a world gone mad with plague, war, and famine: a God that promised existence would be better after death. It also explained a great deal: the world was a mess because people had ignored the one True God. After all, what had the worship of the pagan gods actually provided, except more of the same? The nagging suspicion, the inherent paranoia, that the Church provided in the form of such concepts as original sin, venial and mortal sin, and the sacrament of confession—in which one revealed one’s most intimate misdeeds to a hopefully anonymous priest—contributed to an increased sense of servitude among the population.

But in the villages and along the country highways, among the farmers and herders and peasants, the old ways died hard. These were the people of the countryside, the paganus: the Latin word from which we get the term “pagan.” While the worship of a relatively effete and intellectual God caught on in the cities and urban areas where worship of warrior deities like Thor would have been awkward and inappropriate—due to the density of the population and its reliance not on the spoils of war, but on trade, commerce, and contracts—the worship of the gods of the hunt, of the crops, of fertility, and of war continued apace in the paganus. In addition, the Catholic Church itself had both political and economic power, granted to it initially by the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century A.D. and expanded and developed ever since. A centralized power, the Church imitated the old Roman Empire even down to its official language, Latin: the tongue of the Legions that had subdued most of Europe during the time of the Caesars.

Thus, in the first millennium A.D. there was some resistance to the new religion, and this resistance increased exponentially the further the people were from the Church’s power base in Rome. To counteract the psychological resistance of the rural pagans, the Church took over pagan shrines and built churches in their place, thereby having the best of both worlds. The pagans continued to worship at the ancient sites, but had to pass through the heavy bronze doors of the Catholic cathedrals to do so. In addition, the pagan calendar was largely coopted for use by the Church. Ancient European holidays such as Samhain and Saturnalia became, respectively, Halloween and Christmas. The fertility festival of Beltane, April 30, became the eve of the feast of the Virgin Mother. The pagans still held onto Beltane as their own, however, and it became famous to readers of Bram Stoker’s Dracula as Walpurgisnacht: the night when witches gathered at the top of Mount Brocken in Germany to hold their blasphemous rites. The Maypole, traditional phallic symbol of fertility, is still in use in Europe on this holiday.

The parish priest was himself coopted into this program of conversion through imitation. For a priest to be successful in the early days of the Catholic conquest of Europe, he had to be either powerful—with an army at his side—or popular. A parish priest in a small town was far from his power base; he had to rely on the good offices of his congregation to survive. What the congregation demanded of him was more than the celebration of daily Mass; what they needed was his intercession with the divine powers. This was especially true in the days before the appearance of printing presses and Scriptures in the vernacular. Before Luther, and before Gutenberg and his famous Bible, there was no way a peasant in a village in France or Germany, for instance, could read the word of God. Peasants were totally at the mercy of their priests for the interpretation of Scripture. They were largely illiterate, and even if they could read their own language, most probably had no working knowledge of Latin, much less Greek and Hebrew. Books were viewed with suspicion or superstition. The Bible, as the physical manifestation of the word of God, was held in awe and reverence, like some kind of icon or talisman. The man or woman who could open the Book and read from it was obviously possessed of powers beyond those of the average woodcutter or shepherd. Thus, the person of the Catholic priest became identified with a whole range of superstitions surrounding literacy, knowledge of foreign languages, allegiance to the mysterious High Priest in Rome, and . . . the exorcism of evil spirits.

Demonic possession is one of those ancient phenomena that persists to the present day. The ability of a priest to cast out a demon from a possessed person was usually taken to be evidence of the priest’s holiness and spiritual power. Just so, the ability of a priest to summon a demon—while antithetical to the entire body of Catholic law and theology—was taken for granted.

The most infamous case was that, of course, of Urbain Grandier and the possessed nuns of the French town of Loudon, made popular in Aldous Huxley’s masterful retelling of the tale in The Devils of Loudon. In the year 1634, Grandier was convicted of the crime of magic and held responsible for the demonic possession of the nuns. An arrogant and licentious man, disliked by his parishioners, Grandier was suspected of having seduced more than one woman, married and single, and this suspicion extended to his relationships with the Ursuline nuns of Loudon, which may or may not have contributed to the subsequent outbreak of demonic possession. The prioress of the Convent herself was possessed by several demons at a time, including some of the more famous: Behemoth, Leviathan, Balam, and Isacaron. One of the items introduced as evidence against Grandier still exists, at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris (a treasure house of occult manuscripts and documents): the pact Grandier signed with the demon, written in his own hand. It was left up to the saintly Jesuit Father Surin— sent to Loudon by Cardinal Richelieu after other exorcists had failed—to continue the rites of exorcism for more than three years until every demon had been ejected from every possessed nun.

A clue to the ability of exorcists to remove demons may be found in this very celebrated case, for according to Father Surin, the demons he exorcised were fallen angels—cherubim and seraphim and thrones—who had accompanied Lucifer in his expulsion from heaven. Thus, they were angelic beings once, and presumably still subject to the laws of heaven. According to the Judaeo-Christian tradition, humans occupy a place in the celestial hierarchy above that of the angels; one of the reasons for Lucifer’s revolt was the creation of Adam and Eve and his newly subordinate position to these mere mortals.

A more recent, and considerably nobler, case is that of St. John Vianney (1786–1859), the Cure of Ars in France. A slow student who had to take his seminary exams several times, he nonetheless became the model for Catholic priests and is known in the Church as the Patron Saint of Priests. During his career, he suffered numerous assaults by demons and evil spirits, and developed a reputation for holiness and for his ability as an exorcist. His status in the Church calendar has been overhauled in recent years, as incidents of demonic possession are clearly on the rise.

Priests with less noble approaches to the subject of demons, however, also proliferate throughout Church history. A few years before the outbreak of possession at Loudon, a similar case took place in the town of Aix-en-Provence in France, at another Ursuline convent. In the year 1610 a young novice—Magdalen de la Palude— entered the convent and befriended another nun, Louise Capeau. In short order, Magdalen became possessed, subject to fits, and this state became contagious to the point that Louise Capeau also became possessed.

Eventually, the two nuns revealed that they had been subject to spells cast by a Catholic priest by the name of Louis Gaufridi, said to be the head of all the magicians of Europe “as far as Turkey.” Magdalen revealed that she had been initiated into a coven of sorcerers and witches by Gaufridi when she was still a child.

This astonishing information was only the beginning, as Magdalen gave many detailed descriptions of the action of the cult. Eventually, Father Gaufridi was himself arrested and eventually admitted that he had come into the possession of occult books left to him by his uncle and was tempted to try them out. When he did, he found himself face-to-face with demons who instructed him in all the mysteries of magic. He used his magic powers to seduce women, and to introduce them to the cult and marry them to demons, such as Beelzebub, the “Lord of the Flies.”

According to Gaufridi, his cult consisted of three levels or degrees: that of novices, witches, and magicians (the highest degree). Eventually, after the inquisitors had all the information they could use from him, they had Gaufridi burned at the stake.

Sixty years later, in Paris, we are confronted by an even greater monstrosity, that of the Abbe Guibourg and his colleague and partner in crime, Catherine Deshayes Monvoisin—known more popularly as La Voisin.

This scandal, involving human sacrifice, Black Masses, poison, and the murder of infants, rocked France during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King. Most of what we know about Guibourg, the priest at the center of the scandal, and his satanic excesses can be gleaned from the interrogation archives still held at the Bibliotheque de l’Arsenal and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. The La Voisin affair involved

Madame de Montespan, a mistress of King Louis XIV, who was afraid she would lose the King’s love and attention. Driven to distraction, she consulted the famous La Voisin, a sorceress and fortune-teller, who told her that a Black Mass had to be performed . . . on de Montespan’s naked body.

Several of these masses were performed, and the priest in charge was one Etienne Guibourg, a man of about sixty-seven years. He had been chosen to replace another priest, Abbe Mariette, who had been performing these rites for La Voisin until he found himself in prison for sacrilege and then went into self-imposed exile abroad. Guibourg eventually would perform Black Masses in the hundreds, according to the trial records, and during these Masses infants were sacrificed. At times, he was assisted by other priests—the Abbe Davot, the Abbe Guignard, and the Abbe Serault, among many others, and including Bishop Gille-Lefranc, for a total of some fifty Catholic clergymen who were finally executed for sacrilege, sorcery, and blasphemy over the affair—and once news of this operation finally reached the authorities, a largescale crackdown took place during which more than one hundred other persons—nobles and commoners—were arrested and over thirty commoners executed (the nobles generally escaping the death sentence).

The actual invocation used by Abbe Guibourg during these Masses is still in existence, preserved in the French archives:

Astaroth, Asmodeus, princes of friendship, I conjure you to accept the sacrifice I offer you of this child for the things I ask of you, which are that the friendship of the King and Mgr le Dauphin may continue towards me, and that I may be honored by the princes and princesses of the court, and that nothing I ask of the King may be denied me, either for my relatives or servants.

Another incantation, this one specifically for Madame de Montespan, reads as follows:

I . . . (the daughter of . . . ), ask for the King’s friendship and that of Mgr le Dauphin, and may I continue to have it, and that the Queen may be barren, that the King may leave her bed and table for me, that I may obtain from him all I ask for myself and my relatives, that my servants and my household may please him, loved and respected by great lords, that I may be summoned to the King’s council and know what transpires there, and that this amity may increase more than it has been in the past, so that the King leaves La Valliere [the King’s current mistress] and pays no more attention to her, and that the Queen may be repudiated so that I can marry him.

According to La Voisin herself, several thousand infants were slaughtered this way, and this admission was supported by Guibourg’s own account, which matched La Voisin’s in many specific details. Why they would have given such an astronomical number is unknown, but the court accepted it at face value, particularly as the furnace in which she burned the bodies was discovered, containing numerous fragments of human bones. They also discovered the chamber that was used for the performance of the Black Mass, replete with altar, black drapery with a white cross emblazoned on it, black candles, and a mattress under the altar covering.

Guibourg performed these Masses over the naked bodies of the women who came to him for these favors; barring that, he would bring in prostitutes to serve as the “altars” in these rites. The infant was slain over the woman, and the blood collected in a chalice.

According to the archives, some of these rites were even more complex and involved the collection of human semen and menstrual blood, out of which cakes were made with the addition of bat’s blood and flour. It is believed that these cakes were somehow introduced into the diet of the King. (An interesting survival of this recipe occurs in the Gnostic Mass of Aleister Crowley, discussed on page 56.)

The reader will forgive me for not giving more complete details of the Black Masses performed by this heretic priest, as they are quite abominable and involve every kind of desecration of the Host, profanation of the mysteries of the Mass, and mutilation of the infant victims. The horrors perpetrated by La Voisin and her eager accomplice, Guibourg, are matched only by such modern cases as that of Jeffrey Dahmer, for instance. They also illustrate how far people will go in order to change their reality, and how there will always be a priest available to use the sacrament of the Mass for blasphemous, heretical, even diabolic and hideous, purposes. Oddly, although La Voisin was executed in 1680, Abbe Guibourg seems to have escaped the attentions of the executioner, as did Madame de Montespan herself—even though the poisonings of several competitors for the King’s attention were laid at her door—and she died in a convent in 1707.

One fact stands out from this account, and that is that La Voisin needed genuine Catholic priests to perform the Black Masses. Although she was obviously involved in the occult as a business—and made a fortune from distraught and desperate women—she was also a believer. She was not a simple Gypsy fortune-teller, but had once lectured at the Sorbonne on the subject of astrology. She was well-known, and well-connected at the court. If she had wanted to, she could have arranged for these horrible rites to have been performed by anyone; but she knew how necessary it was to have genuine priests performing the sacrilege. In order to have the requisite occult power, the defamation of the Host—the circular wafer that is consecrated during the Mass and turned into the Body of Christ—could only be done by a priest. More than anything else, the case of La Voisin and her sacerdotal accomplices, like Abbe Guibourg, illustrates the belief in the supernatural power of priests and their authority over the spiritual—and angelic and demonic—realm.


One of the editions of the Grimoire of Pope Honorius (published in 1670, a few years before the La Voisin scandal broke) begins with a citation from the Gospels which is the whole basis of the Church’s supremacy. In this reference, Jesus is speaking with Peter, who will become the first Pope: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be unbound in heaven.” (Matthew 16:15–19.) This is a more proactive form of “As Above, So Below,” the axiom of the Emerald Table of Hermes, a favorite text of the neo-Platonist philosophers. In short, it gives not only mundane power to the Church, but a level of supernatural power that is unheard of in any other denomination: the ability to cause change to occur in heaven as well as upon earth.

Anyone, any priest or clergyman, taking these words literally, would understand that he possessed a degree of supernatural ability unparalleled in human history. The temptation to test these powers would, for some men, become irresistible. A lowly priest may attempt to investigate this potential at his own risk; but a Pope or an archbishop or bishop would consider themselves virtually immune from any spiritual fallout, owing to their high rank in the Church and the fact that no one lower than a bishop in the hierarchy is able to perform all the sacraments; i.e., only a bishop (and higher) is a “full priest,” for only a bishop may ordain another priest and share in the consecration of other bishops. As for the Pope, there is no higher spiritual authority on earth for a Catholic, and the Popes who have been accused of trafficking in occultism and magic must have believed they were above the law: Jesus himself gave them the power to cause change to occur in heaven itself, thereby giving them the ability to virtually absolve themselves from any sin that might attach to their incantations over the black books.

As we noted earlier, Pope Silvester II was one

of the earliest of these mystically inclined Popes. Due to his studies among the Arab philosophers of Spain, he is considered one of the first to introduce Arabic numerals to Europe. He was rumored to have built a mechanical head that would answer questions put to it by the Pope. (This is an underlying myth among many of the occult philosophers of the Dark and Middle Ages: the ability to create talking heads.)

Benedict IX (pontificate 1032–44, 1045, 1047– 48) was another Pope suspected of magical pursuits, although his Papacy was more notorious for his sexual indulgences than anything else. Elected a Pope at the young age of eleven or twelve (some say around eighteen or twenty; either way, the youngest Pope on record), he was considered to be “a demon from hell in the guise of a priest” by St. Peter Damian in his text Liber Gomorrhianus due to his homosexuality and, it is said, bestiality. Benedict IX is the only Pope to have held the office for three separate terms of office, all due to political machinations and corruption. It is no wonder that he was also accused of sorcery and demonolatry.

Pope Gregory VII (pontificate 1073–85), while considered by many a saintly man who forcibly established priestly celibacy as a rule in the Church, fought against corruption, and strove for unity between the Eastern and Western churches, was nevertheless deposed on the grounds of sorcery and magic. It was, of course, a political maneuver, and the evidence provided against him is suspect.

The Dominican Bishop St. Albertus Magnus was reputed to have a talking head, like Silvester II. This one, however, was smashed by his pupil St. Thomas Aquinas.

Roger Bacon (1214–94), a Franciscan monk famous for his scientific research in the field of optics, among other disciplines, was imprisoned on suspicion of magic and sorcery by his own Order. In actuality, he did study alchemy and the occult, particularly Arab treatises on these subjects, and was supported in his efforts by Pope Clement IV (pontificate 1265–68).

Pope Boniface VIII was accused of sorcery in 1303 A.D. by King Philip IV (“Philippe le Bel”) of France, only a few years before he organized the wholesale arrests of the Knights Templar on charges of blasphemy and devil-worship, which led to the subsequent execution of their Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, in 1314.

During another trial lasting from 1308 to 1313, Bishop Guichard of Troyes was accused of sorcery and magic in the murder of the Queen.

In 1317 the Bishop of Cahors was burned at the stake for his attempt on the life of Pope John XXII through magic and incantations. He was joined by Matteo Visconti and Galeazzo Visconti for the same crime against the Pope.

That same year, another man—a layperson— was convicted of the murder of several persons through the use of wax images that had been baptized by priests.

In 1319, Brother Bernard Delicieux was convicted of possessing occult and magical books in Carcassonne, France.

And on and on throughout the four-

teenth century, an incredible number of Catholic clergymen—including most importantly bishops and the occasional Pope—were accused, tried, and convicted of using occult means to rid themselves of political enemies. This was the same period that saw the suppression of the Order of the Knights Templar, the organization believed to have been the origin of the Masonic Orders that would appear in Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Thus, as we can see, there is a certain pedigree of occultism among the Catholic hierarchy, by reputation if not in fact. This pedigree certainly extended downward in the hierarchy to include all manner of priests, and in these cases the evidence is more clearly available and irrefutable.

One of the earliest such cases involves St. Theophilus of Adana (died c. 538 A.D.). Adana is a city in what is now south-central Turkey, and at the time was an important Eastern Orthodox center. Theophilus was an Orthodox priest who was thwarted in his plans to become a bishop. Angered, he is then said to have summoned the devil and made a pact with him, so he would become bishop. The essence of the pact was that Theophilus would renounce Jesus and Mary, and that the pact be signed in his own blood. According to the most popular form of the legend, Theophilus awoke one morning to find the pact signed—by both the devil and himself—on his chest. Coming to his senses, he appealed to the Virgin Mary to intercede for him. This was done, and the devil was robbed of a choice soul. Theophilus went on to become a saint, and his story used as an example of how the Virgin Mother might intercede with God on the behalf of sinners.

Lest the reader assume that all this sorcery and alchemy among prelates only took place in the distant past, however, let us look at a more recent case, that of Cardinal Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro (1843–1913), a man who could have been Pope.

The story of Cardinal Rampolla has been reported by both conservative and liberal Catholics, and the facts are generally agreed upon by both sides.


We begin with a turbulent era for Europe and the Catholic Church: the time of Bismarck and the consolidation of an alliance between Germany, Austria, and Italy against France over the disputed territory of Alsace-Lorraine. Pressure against France led to her forming her own alliance, this time with Russia: strategically and politically, a setback for Bismarck’s Triple Alliance. The year is 1890. The man who was blamed, at least in part, for this debacle was the Secretary of State under Pope Leo XIII: Cardinal Rampolla.

Rampolla was born in 1843 in Sicily, in Polizzi Generosa (a town that also gave us film director Martin Scorcese), and in the diocese of Cefalu. This latter is interesting, because Cefalu was the town where English magician Aleister Crowley set up his Abbey of Thelema during the time of Mussolini . . . the dictator and fascist leader who eventually had him deported after news of Black Masses and other atrocities allegedly perpetrated by the “wickedest man in the world” were reported in the European press.

Rampolla’s ambitions were great. By the time he was thirty-two, he was already in Madrid, acting as councilor to the Papal nuncio there. At thirty-four he was back in Rome as Secretary of Propaganda Fide, essentially a political position. He was consecrated archbishop in 1885, then proclaimed a cardinal in 1887, becoming the second most powerful clergyman in the Vatican when he was appointed Leo XIII’s Secretary of State. Often seen as a stepping-stone to the Papal tiara, the Secretary of State wields enormous influence over the Vatican’s relationships with the rest of the world. (Cardinal Montini, who would later become Pope Paul VI, was also a Secretary of State, for instance.)

In 1890, however, the deal between France and Russia against Germany’s Triple Alliance was seen as a setback for the Vatican, and this was blamed on Cardinal Rampolla’s efforts towards appeasing the French as well as the Slavic countries of Bohemia and Croatia.

Prior to this, in 1884, Pope Leo XIII had issued a famous encyclical—Humanum Genus— which attacked Freemasonry in no uncertain terms. In this he was following the precedent of previous Popes Clement XII, Gregory XVI, and Pius IX, among others. Clement XII had condemned the Order almost from the date of Freemasonry’s creation, and Pius IX had supported the publication of Carbonari documents seized from the Alta Vendita Lodge, which allegedly proved the desire of the Carbonari (and, by extension, Freemasons) to destroy the Catholic Church. Leo XIII would republish these documents, paying for it out of his own pocket. Thus was the official antagonism between Freemasonry and the Catholic Church demonstrated in public view.

Indeed, the situation was especially touchy in Italy, which had seen the rise of the Carbonari—an occult and revolutionary sect with strong ties to the Masonic lodges (Masons were immediately accepted into the Carbonari at the highest, “master,” degree)—almost destroy the Kingdom of Naples, for instance. It was widely believed that the Freemasons were behind the

French Revolution, and it is no secret that Free masons performed many services for the American Revolution, the lodges acting as safe houses and the Masonic network providing important intelligence during the war with Britain. General George Washington and the indispensable General Lafayette of France were both Freemasons. The Carbonari themselves had been active in Spanish and French political intrigue, as well as Italian affairs of state.

Thus, the Church had reason to fear a Masonic conspiracy that would topple its worldly power as it had toppled kingdoms throughout Europe. Was there now a Masonic influence behind the Franco-Russian pact against Germany’s Triple Alliance? As Austria was considered solidly in the Catholic camp, and neither France nor Russia were seen as pro-Catholic, there were rumors that the Freemasons were behind this new geopolitical shift.

In fact, according to the documents seized from the Alta Vendita Lodge, the Carbonari and the Masons had intended to infiltrate the Church and put their own Pope on St. Peter’s Throne.

This they almost succeeded in doing in 1903.

Pope Leo XIII, Cardinal Rampolla’s champion, died on July 20 of that year. The Conclave of Cardinals was begun, in order to identify the next Pope. At the first ballot, and then the sec ond, Rampolla was the clear front-runner, and the way seemed clear to his nomination as the next Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, Cardinal Puzyna of Cracow rose from his seat to make a stunning declaration, one that has not been heard since. He invoked an ancient privilege, the right of veto by the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, against Cardinal Rampolla.

The effect was electrifying. Firstly, this veto power—known in ecclesiastical circles as the Jus Exclusivae, or “Right of Exclusion”—was designed to protect the Church from an unworthy candidate. It is not clear how a secular authority like a King or an Emperor was considered capable of overriding the votes of the College of Cardinals. In fact, this right had been invoked for centuries. It opens up some intriguing possibilities, however, and one wonders what the People’s Republic of China would make of it since they have been accused—rightly—of interfering in the religious affairs of Tibetan Buddhists and Chinese Catholics, much to the dismay of world opinion. If the Church considered it feasible that a secular authority would have the ability to cast a decisive veto in the election of their own Pope, then it opens the door to other countries using the Jus Exclusivae as a moral or even legal prec edent for their own behavior. This was, in fact, hotly debated among Church historians and lawyers for centuries, and the last time it was put into effect was the exclusion of Cardinal Rampolla.

Austria’s veto caused shock waves to ripple through the assembly, and led to Rampolla’s defeat in his bid to become Pope. The reason for the exclusion was not given, but speculation has since offered several various explanations. In the first place, Rampolla’s intrigues against the Austrians in favor of the French would have caused some concern in the mind of Franz Josef, who thus would have an enemy on the throne of St. Peter. That argument seems rather weak in retrospect, since the Emperor had to be somewhat cajoled into invoking the Right of Exclusion.

Another point of view, supported by some documentation, tells a different story.

In this version—widely reported in the years after the Papal election of 1903—a Vatican watchdog, one Monsignor Jouin, had uncovered evidence that Cardinal Rampolla was, in fact, a Freemason and had been initiated into Freemasonry during his sojourn in Madrid. Jouin was a tireless foe of Freemasonry, had written several books on the subject, and was praised by Pope

and monarch alike for his efforts in uncovering Masonic plots. He was especially sensitive to the presence of Freemasons among the clergy. A kind of Senator Joe McCarthy of the period, he saw Freemasons everywhere.

But was Cardinal Rampolla—the man who would be Pope—really a Freemason?

Published records from the early twentieth century seem to indicate that not only was Rampolla a Mason, but that he also belonged to one of the most notorious occult societies of the century: the Ordo Templi Orientis, or OTO, of Aleister Crowley!


While it may seem strange to link such obviously opposed institutions as the quasi-Masonic OTO and the Catholic Church, there has been some crossover between the two and it points us towards a greater understanding of the role of secret societies within the Church.

OTO was the creation of some German occultists and Freemasons of the early twentieth century who claimed to have discovered the hidden secret of Freemasonry and, indeed, of all occult science: sex. They believed that the texts of the alchemists, the Rosicrucians (another secret society, allegedly formed in the early seventeenth century, based around the legend of Christian

Rosenkreutz, an occultist who traveled to the Middle East and learned valuable mystical information), and similar groups held encoded data of a sexual and biochemical nature. It was believed that the rituals of the secret societies were elaborate discussions of these secrets, comprehensible only to the initiates. Basically, these secrets involved the control and manipulation of the sexual impulse for other ends: trance states, magical attainments, and the like.

In this they may not have been far off. The Tantric cults of India, mentioned briefly before, had sexual allegories and practices at the heart of their belief system. To the Tantricists, sex was a kind of technology that could be explored and developed by the initiates. The witchcraft scare of Salem, Massachusetts, in America in the late 1600s was another example of how hysteria—a mental state with a possible sexual connotation—contributed to fits, trances, and hallucinations. To the initiates and founders of the OTO, this sexual technology could be elaborated upon, developed more deeply, and discussed in papers designed to be read only by other initiates.

One of these was Aleister Crowley (1875– 1947), the English magician and author of many occult texts, who made no mystery of the sexual element in magic. He joined the OTO and eventually claimed its leadership. In the process, he

expanded upon and modified something called the Gnostic Catholic Mass.

The Gnostic Mass was originally the creation of some French occultists, numbering among them the noted author of occult texts Gerard Encausse (also known as “Papus”). Membership in the Gnostic Catholic Church was not restricted to Christians, but included various Freemasons and members of other Orders, including the OTO. The Mass itself was originally a slightly modified version of the Catholic Mass, but soon turned into something a lot more scandalous under Crowley’s wand.

Crowley took the sexual nature of the OTO mythology quite seriously. He revamped the Gnostic Mass to reflect this new attitude, employing both a priest and a priestess in the rite, who perform a kind of stylized sexual pantomime. To emphasize the sexual nature of the Gnostic Mass, he also incorporated the use of a new type of Host; this was composed of menstrual blood and other ingredients in the form of small cakes to be ingested by the congregation after their consecration during the ritual.

Some performances of the Mass are quite tame and relatively circumspect; in other jurisdictions, the Mass becomes a more blatantly lewd affair. In either case, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, it is equally blasphemous and would probably be considered a “Black Mass,” Crowley’s protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

Although many members of the OTO were also members of the Gnostic Catholic Church, numbering even bishops among them, their legitimacy as “priests” was always in question since they did not possess valid apostolic succession (i.e., they could not trace their lineage down an approved channel back to St. Peter, the original Pope). Thus, Crowley would write as late as the 1930s that he could not have performed a Black Mass since he was not an ordained priest. However, it seems the OTO numbered at least one ordained priest—and a cardinal, at that—among its membership.

One of the earliest publications of the OTO— the Oriflamme, published by Theodor Reuss, a founder of the Order—gave a list of organizations and individuals that were considered either members of the OTO or members of associated groups. Numbered among them was none other than Cardinal Rampolla, cited as an initiate of the Catalonian-Balearic Grand Lodge, headquartered in Barcelona: a notoriously political and even anticlerical movement that supported Catalonian nationalism. This group then came under the control of Theodor Reuss and the OTO, by 1913 at the latest (the OTO itself was founded circa 1905). However, this lodge had its origins in the irregular Masonic Order of the Rites of Memphis and Mizraim, or MM, which was founded in the late eighteenth century in France, some years after the formation of the original Freemasons.

Technically speaking, then, Rampolla would have been an initiate of the MM at the time of the death of Pope Leo XIII in 1903, but the lodge to which he belonged would be incorporated as a branch of the OTO ten years later, the year of Rampolla’s death.

Both the Catholic Church and the OTO of the present day deny that Rampolla was ever a member of the OTO, but this claim is disingenuous. While Rampolla may never have been an actual member of the OTO, he was a member of the Masonic fraternity, and specifically a “denomination” of the Order that would eventually come under the OTO aegis. More important, this was an active, political organization involved in separatist politics. Catalonian independence is still a controversial subject in Spain, that territory resting as it does in the border region with France, and with Barcelona as its most famous and most beautiful capital; a land with its own language and culture. For Rampolla to have been involved with this group is highly suggestive of a political agenda that would have been at serious odds with the Church. Had he been only a Freemason with an Italian lodge, the damage would have been bad enough, but the details that have come to light (largely in the French and German media) concerning his membership in a Catalonian lodge tend to a rather more explosive interpretation: that Rampolla, a Catholic cardinal only a few votes shy of becoming Pope, was agitating not only for Catalonian independence but also for a Masonic political agenda in general.

His bias towards France was already wellknown; he was blamed, after all, for the formation of the Franco-Russian alliance against the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria, and Italy. Therefore, his politics were already suspect, and the documentation supports the general mistrust that Emperor Franz Josef of Austria— and Monsignor Jouin—had of him. He also had sympathies with the Eastern European countries, and a branch of the OTO was specifically formed to develop the Slavic regions in 1910–11, while Rampolla was still alive and—allegedly—still a Mason. Had Rampolla followed the usual practice of his lodge brothers and joined a variety of Masonic and quasi-Masonic orders in his lifetime, there is no doubt that he could have been a member of the OTO and any manner of other groups as well.

Still, many readers will react with deep skepticism that a prince of the Church would have anything at all to do with Freemasonry, an organization it believed to be dedicated to its destruction and to the overthrow of European monarchies in general. While we have shown that clergymen were definitely involved in occult and magical practices virtually throughout the Church’s two thousand year existence, in complete and total disregard for Church law and beliefs, we have yet to demonstrate that this heady combination of religion, politics, and magic still exists to this day.

This we propose to do now.



While the first Italian Masonic Grand Lodge was formed about 1750, the real Masonic presence was not felt until 1860 when the Supreme Council Grand Orient of Italy was founded, with its headquarters in the appropriately sinister city of Turin, a town long known to harbor occultists and revolutionaries. Several years later, in 1877, a Roman lodge was organized that called itself Propaganda Masonica, and served Masons from other cities who were based in Rome for business reasons. Thus, Propaganda Masonica became a meeting place for influential tradesmen, bankers, and politicians. What was interesting about this particular lodge was that no written records were kept of the names and identities of its members at the headquarters of the Grand Lodge. This added another element of mystery to a society that was already quite mysterious.

It should be noted that Italian statesman Garibaldi was himself Grand Master of Italian Masonry at this time, so the link between Freemasonry and Italian politics has a long and honorable pedigree.

With the rise of Mussolini, however, Masonic lodges were closed and Freemasonry banned in the country (as it was in Germany under Hitler). The lodges went underground, and at the end of the war, in 1945, were revived and attempted to reorganize. During this period of restructuring, the lodges were numbered for convenience in creating organization charts, and the Propaganda Masonica lodge became Propaganda Lodge Number 2, or Propaganda Due, shortened to P2.

By the late 1960s Tuscan businessman Licio

Gelli was placed in control of P2 by the Grand Master of the Italian Masons. By 1980, Gelli was claiming that he was the power behind the throne of all Italian Freemasonry. By 1981, however, the Italian police were alerted to a range of questionable financial practices involving Gelli—practices that included his role in the Vatican Banking

Scandal and the death of P2 member Roberto Calvi, and the imprisonment of P2 member and international banker Michele Sindona—and his home was raided. One of the pieces of evidence uncovered during that raid was a list of P2 members: some 950 names, including politicians, businessmen, government ministers, army officers, intelligence officers . . . and high-ranking clergymen.

A partial list, published by a former member of P2, includes:

Cardinal Jean Villot, the Vatican’s Secretary of State (the same post held seventy years earlier by Cardinal Rampolla), and a man who was in favor of relaxing the rules against Catholics becoming Freemasons.

Cardinal Ugo Poletti, the Vicar of Rome.

Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio, active in Third World politicking, particularly of the anticommunist variety.

And Bishop Paul Marcinkus of the Vatican Bank.

Soon, these prelates and others would become suspect in one of the more sensational assassinations of the twentieth century, if indeed it was an assassination.

On August 6, 1978, Pope Paul VI died. The former Cardinal Montini, he had been a staunch anticommunist from his earliest days as a papal nuncio in Germany during the First World War, and then as a Secretary of State under Pope Pius XII, a man called by some “Hitler’s Pope.” In his role as Secretary of State, Cardinal Montini was able to create Vatican passports to help some Nazi war criminals escape justice after the war. As Pope Paul VI, he extended his anticommunist reach even as he reaffirmed a hard-line conservative approach to the Church. Bishop Marcinkus became his right-hand man, first serving as the Pope’s bodyguard and interpreter, and later finding himself in charge of the Vatican’s finances. P2 was using these resources—and its wide network of intelligence agents, Mafia crime lords, and assassins-for-hire—to subvert leftist governments in Europe and Latin America. When the Pope died, there was no reason to fear that anything would change.

Except that on August 26, 1978, a mild Italian by the name of Albino Luciani had been elected Pope and chose the name Pope John Paul I as his Papal identity.

Thirty-three days later he would be dead.

There was automatic suspicion that the death of John Paul I was not due to natural causes. The new Pope had expressed a desire to rid the Vatican of Masonic influences. A firm believer that Freemasonry was inimical to everything Roman Catholicism stands for, the Pope was determined to make sure that any cardinal or bishop who had membership in the Masonic societies would give up that membership or be excommunicated.

Even further, the new Pope wanted to clean house at the Vatican Bank. He was appalled at the way it was being run by Bishop Marcinkus and his P2 cronies. He began sending out signals that a new Pope and a new way of running the Church had now arrived in Rome, and the scoundrels and evildoers had best beware.

At the time of Pope John Paul I’s death only weeks after his election, the principal suspects in a conspiracy to have him killed were all conveniently out of the country. That did not save them, however, for the Vatican Banking Scandal—and the P2 scandal—would break, sending bankers, spies, assassins, and occultists scurrying for cover. When it was all over, P2 banker Roberto Calvi was dead in London, and Michele Sindona was arrested in the United States. Bishop Marcinkus found himself under a warrant for his arrest, and had to stay within the sanctuary of Vatican City for years in order to avoid being picked up by the Italian authorities and indicted for his role in the affair (he passed away in February 2006 at age 84).

The Vatican Banking Scandal involved a scheme to use Church funds to finance questionable activities and to prop up an ailing Italian bank for use as a money-laundering machine. This could only have been possible with the assistance of someone “inside” the Vatican Bank, and that inside man was Bishop Paul Marcinkus.

Some of the funds that were diverted through the Vatican banking system were used to support the militant right-wing, anticommunist agenda of P2 and to finance assassinations of prominent leftists both in Europe and abroad. P2 had members and friends not only in Italy or even in Europe, but also in North and South America. In the United States, Gelli’s main contact was Paul Guarino, who was influential in raising funds for the Republican Party among Italian-Americans. In Latin America, P2 had its base in Montevideo, Uruguay, and another in Buenos Aires, where P2’s influential members included one of the more sinister of Argentine statesmen, José Lopez Rega, head of an Argentine death squad and nicknamed el brujo, the magician, due to his involvement in magic and the occult. Gelli himself had been a close friend of Juan Peron, the Argentine dictator who practically bankrupt his own country to finance his excesses, and who was a protector of Nazi war criminals who fled to his country at the end of World War II.

Thus, we see that regardless of the Church’s official stand on Freemasonry, occultism, secret societies, and the like, within the Church hierarchy there has always been a fascination with— and tolerance for—the black arts. These “black arts” do not only involve the summoning of demons and the performance of the Black Mass; in this day and age it also involves revolutions, assassinations, and money-laundering. The wideranging network of the P2 Masonic Lodge— numbering at least 950 persons or, according to estimates by the Italian Secret Service, more than two thousand worldwide—used all the trappings and ceremonial ritual of magic and initiation to bring together businessmen, politicians, generals, and spies in a clandestine occult Order that did not hesitate to use violence and murder as part of its “rituals.” In the years since the breaking of the P2 scandal, the intelligence agencies of various countries have discovered that car bombings, political assassinations, and terrorist attacks throughout Europe and Latin America can be laid at the door of Licio Gelli and P2. It has been said that there was a connection between P2 and the Opus Dei organization (made famous in Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code), as it appears Opus Dei funds were used in some cases to prop up P2 member Roberto Calvi’s Banco Ambrosiano before he mysteriously died in London, hanging from under a bridge that was itself linked to Masonic lore. Calvi claimed he had promised the fabulously wealthy and secretive Opus Dei better access to the Vatican in return for the funds he needed to keep his money-laundering machine running. The fact that the next Pope, John Paul II, would raise Opus Dei’s status as an organization answerable only to him at the time the Italian authorities were handing out indictments in the banking scandal, only affirms the connection.

The Da Vinci Code, then, doesn’t tell the whole story. Opus Dei, from its origins in fascist Spain and its heavy involvement with dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco—having at one time three of its members in Franco’s cabinet—is an important element of the tale, but P2 offers us a far more revealing exposé of what took place (and continues to take place) behind the closed doors of the Church. And once we begin studying P2, we are forced to undertake a study of Freemasonry . . . and once we have done that, we are back among the magicians, the sorcerers, the spell-casters, and all the hideous panoply of the Black Mass and Papal magic.


“The Grimoire of Honorius is perhaps the most frankly diabolical of all the Rituals connected with Black Magic . . .”

A. E. Waite,

The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts

This is the environment in which we confront the Grimoire of Pope Honorius III. Said to have been first published in 1670, at the height of the La Voisin Affair, when infants were being sacrificed almost daily during Black Masses performed for desperate housewives and royal mistresses, the grimoire becomes less and less of an anomaly and more plausible as a workbook to be used by Catholic priests involved in occult practices.

The version we have before us is, indeed, dated 1670, and in Rome no less. However, it is in French, and only in French. I have been unable to locate an original version published in Italian, or Latin, or any other tongue. For that reason, and for other internal evidence that will become clear as we go along, I must assume that the grimoire was initially a French production, casting doubt on whether Honorius III would have written it. However, that is not to say that Honorius III would not have made use of it or, indeed, that other of his cardinals, bishops, or priests would not have made use of it.

Before we continue, however, let us look at the book’s structure.

The first section of the grimoire is a typical sorcerer’s manual, consisting of rituals to be performed on certain days and to certain spiritual forces. There are many requirements involving the celebration of the Mass, the use of sacraments, and the invocation of Jesus and the Holy Trinity. There can be no doubt that this manual’s intended use was as a companion to a priest’s Rituale Romanum: that collection of prayers, rituals, and exorcisms that is a standard volume in every priest’s library.

However, this section is then followed by two more, and these give us a greater insight as to the book’s intended audience, for the first section is concerned with finding treasure and affairs of the heart (or, at least, the loins), while the third section is concerned only with spells to protect crops and livestock. It is this last section that gives us some evidence of the age of the grimoire and its provenance.

As someone who has been translating French grimoires for many years now, I can say that this volume presented some of the greatest challenges. While the first two sections were easy enough to render into English, the last section proved more formidable. This was for two reasons: (a) it is concerned largely with animals, livestock, and crops, which have their own jargon and unique nomenclatures, particularly among the French peasant class; and (b) some of the terms used in this section are no longer current in modern French usage. I needed recourse to dictionaries that were at least two hundred to three hundred years old, and thankfully I was able to find these invaluable resources and solve some minor problems with the text. However, what this demonstrated to me was that the author of this grimoire was living and writing prior to the nineteenth century and most likely no later than the mideighteenth century, making the grimoire’s alleged publication date of 1670 rather more plausible.

Further, the emphasis on spells to protect livestock implies that this grimoire—or those specific parts of it—found use in the French countryside and not in the cities, and indeed could have come from other, more popular books on folk magic and simply been added to the grimoire, since there is virtually nothing in this last section that has anything at all to do with the first, more heavily clerical and ceremonial section.

A look at the Sworn Book of Honorius— another, much older grimoire believed to have been the inspiration for the Grimoire of Pope Honorius III—shows us a striking similarity between the two. Each of these grimoires begins with a meeting of magicians in Rome. In the case of the Sworn Book, this meeting takes place as a reaction to Papal hostility to magic, the magicians gathering to determine what to do to preserve their mysterious art. In the case of the Honorius III grimoire, however, this convocation is summoned by the Pope himself, and the rest of the grimoire proceeds without further explanation or introduction.

Another version of the Grimoire of Pope Honorius III has a more detailed introduction. It also has Honorius the Great summoning the magicians to Rome, but in this case there is what appears to be a Papal Bull attached in which the practice of magic is defended on canonical grounds, by citing Matthew 16:15-19—“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be unbound in heaven”—and by further mentioning the miracles accomplished by Jesus as detailed in the Gospels and his subsequent passing on his power and authority to St. Peter, the first in a long line of Popes.

These Biblical proof texts are taken as canonical precedent for the use, by priests, of occultism and magic. As the priests must be exorcists, and as the rite of Extreme Unction (more commonly known as “Last Rites”) was originally designed to be a ritual to heal the sick, it would seem that the performance of supernatural acts would come under the aegis of the Church and its priesthood. In fact, the Church recognizes the validity of its own sacraments when performed by a validly ordained priest, regardless of whether that priest is saintly or corrupt: in other words, a supernatural power has been passed to him via the ritualof ordination—of the laying-on of hands—and every ritual he performs, including the all-important rite of transubstantiation that takes place during the Mass—when bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood, respectively, of Jesus Christ—is considered valid and efficacious no matter the individual priest’s holiness or lack thereof. This view is what has opened the door to the abuse of the sacraments by validly ordained priests who then defile them in acts such as the Black Mass or in the rituals of the grimoire that follows. Blasphemous they may be, hideous and heretical they are; they are nonetheless powerful when performed by a priest of whose ordination the Church has undertaken and approved.

(In the Eastern Orthodox churches—the churches of Greece, Russia, the Slavic, Middle Eastern, and some African countries—this viewpoint is considered rather senseless. A priest and even a bishop is not considered possessed of the requisite sacramental power and ability unless he is in full conformance with the canons and with his parish or diocese. He must be in full harmony with the ecclesiastical community, else any rituals he performs are automatically invalid. This complete difference in approach to the sacraments is one of the stumbling blocks preventing unification of the Eastern and Western churches.)

Once the canonicity or religious legality of the idea that priests can be magicians has been established, then the grimoires go straight to the rituals themselves. Invariably, these involve the conjuration of particular spirits for specific days of the week. This idea goes back to the time of ancient Babylon, when the seven “planets”—the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn—each held sway over one day of the week. This idea became more finely tuned when specific hours of specific days were assigned to the planets. In the grimoire we have before us, in fact, the reader is directed to the tables of planetary hours as published in Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, thus assuming a level of acquaintance with other occult literature.

Each planet has rulership over particular human events. For instance, Tuesday’s spirit is Nambrot and believed to be able to raise the operator “in honor and dignity.” The planet of Tuesday is Mars, and the symbol for Mars is found in the center of the Seal of Nambrot, with his name written around the circle.

A problem with this particular text is the conjuration for Monday, dedicated to the Moon and to Trinitas (“Trinity”); however, the conjuration makes no mention of Trinitas but is instead directed to Lucifer. The Seal of Trinitas also has the name Lucifer written around the circle. Yet, the phrase written around the Seal—Prohibeo te Lucifer in nomine sanctissime (“I restrain you, Lucifer, in the most holy name”)—indicates that the operator is to summon Lucifer and exert his authority over him. The implication we can take from this is that the spirits of the remaining six days are also demons, and we would be correct for we have Astaroth—widely recognized in all the grimoires as a powerful demon—as the spirit to be evoked on Wednesday. Astaroth is the survival into modern times of an ancient Mesopotamian goddess, Ishtar of the Babylonians and Inanna of the Sumerians. (There is also some discussion among scholars as to whether or not Ishtar/Astaroth is another form of Asherah, a presumed Middle Eastern deity who was believed to be the consort of Yahweh, the God of the Jewish people.)

A perusal of the seven days and their spirits will orient the reader in the particular system used in this grimoire; but before the conjurations can take place, a number of preparatory rituals must be performed. The most important of these is the creation of a magic circle.

The standard feature of virtually every grimoire (with the exception of the Book of Abramelin the Mage and perhaps a very few others) is that the magic circle is the sacred, protective area within which the magician—and any assistants—must stand. Once the ceremony is begun, the magician is not to leave the circle for any reason whatsoever until the spirits who have been conjured have been told to depart. Should the spirit or spirits still remain outside the circle, dire consequences would follow for the magician.

The magic circle represents a place between the worlds—the two worlds of normal, waking reality and the world of the unseen. It is a tangent point between them, between heaven and earth or between this world and the next. At this nexus the magician confronts the realm of spirits, angels, and demons. To some authors, this represents the magician’s confrontation with his or her own unconscious mind; indeed, patients undergoing depth analysis with the famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung were known to paint elaborate magic circles, or mandalas, representing their successful path to spiritual integration. For the ceremonial magician, the magic circle is not the end point but the starting point, since the magician’s approach to psychic material is proactive rather than passive. The magician does not wait for the results of years’ of psychoanalysis, but rather dives into the psyche with all the tools available. The summoning of spirits such as Lucifer and Astaroth may represent attempts to confront important psychic complexes buried deep within the unconscious mind. These confrontations are necessarily dangerous, and the care taken in the creation of the magic circle repays the effort in the end because it is a highly visible reminder of the magician’s security, safety, and identity in the face of unimaginable terror, as well as representing a tangible effort to delineate a “safe place” from which to examine the monstrosities that dwell beneath the surface of our dreams and nightmares.

The grimoire states that “before beginning any conjuration, one must take great care in making the Circle and censing it.” As there is no other clarification of this, let us make it now.

Aside from the care needed in making the Circle—something we have already discussed—the requirement that it be censed is not to be ignored. Incense is not used merely to perfume the area or give it a “churchlike” atmosphere. The role of incense is quite important in occult ritual. Different scents have different properties (considered psychologically), and the various planets have incenses particular to them. Thus, for the Moon one might burn camphor; for Venus it may be sandalwood or even (in the opinion of New Orleans hoodoo workers) patchouli. The sense of smell is the least developed in modern humanity, but it is an ancient one and a crucial sense among the rest of the animal kingdom. Although we are not always conscious of the effect of smell on our psyches, it is only necessary to describe the mechanism of olfaction: when we smell something, like an incense, we actually ingest particles of it through our noses. We are, in a sense, consuming the thing that is smelled. There is a chemical reaction, and the nervous system is thereby affected, which means the brain and the psyche are also affected.

The association of different smells with different planets, for instance, is a kind of mnemonic device. Once the brain has been “trained” to recognize and differentiate the different odors of sanctity, it is an easy thing to summon the appropriate spirits. This effect is magnified if we also take into consideration the different colors appropriate to the individual planets: thus combining two senses, that of smell with that of sight. Add to this the appropriate incantations, and the sense of sound is added to the mechanism that is our ritual. This has the effect of blotting out ideas, memories, and concepts that are not part of the planetary complex we are invoking and making the invocation of the planetary spirit much easier.

This idea is not alien to the Church. For centuries the ecclesiastical calendar has specified that the priest wear vestments of certain colors for certain types of saint, for martyrs, virgins, etc. For the Feast of Good Friday, the church is usually draped in purple, and the crucifix and all other icons covered in purple veils. Easter, of course, is gold and white; etc. The association of colors with spiritual concepts has been used by both the Church and the magicians, and for the same ends: to impress the psyches of all concerned and to remove extraneous thoughts, ideas, etc.

One further aspect of the use of incense during the ceremonies has been little understood or remarked upon, and we remedy that now.

Spiritual forces generally require a “material basis” to manifest themselves visibly in our world. In the popular imagination, this is sometimes provided in the form of a trance medium or “channeler” who allows his or her body and nervous system to become the instrument of the spirit. In other cases, such as that of demonic possession, the spirit—a demon, in this case— possesses the body and nervous system of someone without their permission. In still other cases, such as that of Haitian voudon, the devotees may be temporarily possessed by one of their gods for the duration of the ceremony. We may say that, in all of these cases, human beings have acted as the material basis for spiritual forces to manifest visibly in our world.

However, there are less drastic means available.

The use of clouds of incense smoke, for instance, enables weak spiritual forces to appear visibly since they are able—perhaps through the properties of a kind of magnetism of which we are unaware—to draw the smoke around themselves, as it were, in a kind of cloak. This is similar to the way we rub a pencil over a piece of paper to reveal what has been written over it before.

Spiritual forces use this method a great deal. We are always told, for instance, to ignore the wailing of the wind. “It’s only the wind,” we are told. Nothing to fear. However, the wind can be used as a material basis, and the sounds that so approximate the howling of tormented souls—and can be scientifically measured as effects caused by the wind whistling through tree branches, etc.—may also be used by spiritual forces as a means of communication. The modulation of that sound may be caused by forces, resulting in intelligible words or phrases that even the judicious application of the Fast Fourier Transform would not have been able to predict.

Therefore, when a rite of ceremonial magic is being performed, everything must be recorded and given equal weight. Every sensory experience may represent a form of weak communication with the forces being evoked. Taken together, these experiences may communicate something important indeed.

The instructions given in this grimoire are sparse. We are given the design of a magic circle, and for the individual seals of the planetary demons; we are given the conjurations themselves, one for each of the four quarters (east, south, west and north), and additional conjurations when the first ones don’t work. The assumption is that the reader is experienced in the art of magic and can fill in any missing data from his own prior experience.

There are only one or two brief additional instructions, but they are of the utmost importance. The first is that the magician does not leave the magic circle until the spirits have been told to leave, what is known as the “license to depart.” Failure to observe this admonition would result in the destruction of the magician, according to occult tradition. There is a reason for this, and if we follow the reasoning we have been using to explain the other occult requirements, this one becomes easier to understand.

Summoning a spiritual force has a psycho-

logical analogue. If the magic circle represents the whole, integrated psyche of the magician, then spiritual forces appearing outside of it represent individual aspects of the psyche confronted separately: elements of complexes, neuroses, psychoses, etc., in the Freudian sense, or perhaps archetypes in the Jungian sense. To leave the safety of the circle while these elements are still “separate” and apart would expose the magician to a kind of psychotic break. The license to depart—the words spoken to permit the spiritual forces to leave the area—are the equivalent of permitting these forces to reintegrate, to become absorbed back into the magician’s unconscious. To ignore this injunction is to permit these forces to have a separate existence outside the magician’s unconscious, which is the same as saying that the unconscious material has surfaced and is taking over the magician’s life. As an analogue, imagine getting angry and then staying angry forever. Normally, we find ways to neutralize our emotions, either through therapy or the simple passage of time. Anyone who stays permanently angry—consciously angry—will soon perish.

In the case of demonic evocations, one confronts a sickening manifestation of evil. As any exorcist will tell you, the experience of facing— and struggling with—these forces is tantamount to a waking nightmare, one that seems endless and at times almost hopeless. To deliberately evoke these forces, then, one must be possessed of a powerful character, unshakable, determined, and courageous: precisely the same personality that is expected of the exorcist.

And this leads us to the next injunction to be found in the grimoire: that the operator must take the attitude towards the demons that a master takes towards a servant—the assumption that one is in charge, in power, and that the other is wholly dependent and eager to carry out any orders. This, of course, is the same attitude to be taken by the Catholic priest during an exorcism.

At first this seems like a paradox. First, one arranges the ceremony—the magic circle, the candles, the incense, the incantations—to “trick” the unconscious mind into behaving a certain way. Yet, at the same time, one must take a completely authoritarian attitude towards the spirits thus evoked. One must be the analyst and the patient, simultaneously. That is why the performance of ceremonial magic is not for everyone.

More important, the instructions make it quite clear that this first section is intended for use by a Catholic priest. Mention is made of the need for the consecrated Host, for the celebration of Mass, for an altar stone on which some of the seals are placed, for the use of a stole, etc. Alone of all the grimoires, that of Pope Honorius III is definitely a clergyman’s grimoire.

However, in spite of this fact, the rest of the grimoire reads like a typical magician’s manual. The only difference between Honorius and, say, the Keys of Solomon is the occasional reference to something that must be done by a priest. Otherwise, the rituals are virtually identical in the casting of a magic circle, the conjurations, the numerous demons and spirits with their respective seals, and the license to depart. Thus, the basic technology is the same. An enterprising magician who was not a priest might be able to use Honorius—or the conjurations and seals within Honorius—within his or her own magical framework. As A. E. Waite says in his review of the book, “the profanations of the mysteries of religion prescribed by the Grimoire of Honorius are not intentional profanations, and may be condoned to that extent. Their purpose is not outrage, but increase of efficacy.”

Increase of efficacy. The system is more powerful because of the Catholic ritual employed, and even more so if the rituals are performed by a priest.

Aleister Crowley, while not an ordained Catholic priest, was also sensitive to the efficacy of the Christian ritual. During one of his occult operations in which he assumed the advanced degree of Magus, he crucified a toad in imitation of the Crucifixion of Jesus; before this, however, he baptized the animal according to Christian tradition. This meant that the toad was, at least somehow nominally, a Christian, and that its crucifixion would be seen as genuine. Baptism, Crowley knew, was the one sacrament that could be performed by a layperson. According to Catholic law, a layperson may baptize an infant in extremis: if the baby is in danger of dying and there is no clergyman around. Thus, he took this law as precedent, as the toad was, most certainly, in danger of death! As for the crucifixion itself, that was never a sacrament (of course) but had been committed by laypersons, Roman soldiers in fact, so Crowley was on somewhat safer ground there.

Crucifixion is an essential element of the initiation structure of the Golden Dawn, the English secret society in which Aleister Crowley was first initiated, and represented its highest degree, that of the Adeptus Minor, in which the initiate is literally crucified (using rope instead of nails). In addition, Crowley had been brought up as a devout Christian, a member of the Plymouth Brethren sect. Christianity was easily Crowley’s personal demon, for he eventually assumed the title “the Great Beast 666” in emulation of the satanic figure in the Book of Revelation and in an attempt to set himself up as the antithesis of Christianity, calling the religion representative of the Old Aeon and the Old Order, which he, Crowley, was overthrowing in favor of the New Aeon.

This did not stop members of his occult groups from seeking out priests and bishops, however. They wished to become ordained as valid priests, and consecrated as valid bishops, and sought out a variety of shadowy churches that claimed just such validity. Today, the various versions of the Gnostic Catholic Church are all allied to Crowley’s cult, and yet all claim to have valid Catholic sacraments; thereby proving the belief in magicians of the Western world that there is an inherent power in the Church, a power that extends to the nethermost reaches of hell as well as to the empyrean heights of heaven.

The Grimoire of Pope Honorius III is further proof of this pragmatic—if unholy—perspective. Just as the Parisian sorceress La Voisin needed genuine Catholic priests to perform her hideous Black Masses—replete with human sacrifice— the author of this grimoire knew that its efficacy lay in its being used by an ordained priest; or, saving that, one could be in partnership with a priest who would supply the necessary materials and celebrate the necessary Masses on behalf of the magician.

The second section of the grimoire deals with the relatively petty and mundane goals of the greedy and socially inept magician of any age. It focuses on acquiring wealth (usually in the form of buried treasure) and women (much against their will). There is no requirement that one successfully perform all the rituals in the first section in order to use the second section; indeed, it is a wonder that the two sections are in the same book. Yet, they are curious and deserve a closer look, if only to raise some questions of a purely sociological nature.

If a magician has been successful in the mundane world and established himself or herself financially and socially, the recipes given in section two seem hardly worth the candle. Is the implication, then, that the audience for this little manual is composed of the disenfranchised, the lost, the impoverished? Just so. The attraction of magic is the attraction of any get-rich-quick scheme: say the magic word and win one hundred dollars. By and large, grimoires are sold to young and desperate men and women who feel that if they could see through the thin fabric of reality to a deeper level, all the secrets of the wealthy, healthy, and wise would be revealed to them. There is a sense of paranoia haunting these pages, an idea that reality is not what it seems and that the rich are having a laugh at the expense of the poor. While this may be so, there is no guarantee that a lifetime of perusing medieval grimoires would solve that problem for anyone.

Combine this with a connection to the Church, one of the wealthiest and most powerful of the world’s organizations, and you have an irresistible product, for it confirms what many of the disenfranchised already feel: that the Church is somehow in league with the devil. How else to explain the gold, the silver, the richness of the cathedrals, the splendor of the vestments, the majesty of the pipe organ . . . all in the midst of poverty-stricken villages in the developing countries of the world? It must be some kind of sick joke, they think; otherwise, there is a secret—something cynical, something ultimately pragmatic and dangerous—encoded in the very structure and scripture of the Church, a secret that one may discover, and thereby reach a level of power equal to that of the village priest, the town monsignor, the city bishop, the capital’s cardinal.

Thus the legend of Father Sauniere of the small French hamlet of Rennes-le-Chateau, the man who inadvertently started the whole Da Vinci Code furor. According to the story as told in Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Sauniere discovered something hidden in the village’s church, something so powerful and dangerous that he brought it to Rome and somehow came back to his village a rich—and somewhat deranged—man. The church he had restored was filled with arcane symbols and frightening touches. The opinion of the authors of the book is that Sauniere discovered the truth about Jesus and the Crucifixion, and the survival of Jesus and his bloodline through his purported marriage to Mary Magdalene and their subsequent escape as a family to France. It was a secret that would topple the Church if revealed and shown to be true, and thus Dan Brown takes off in fiction where the nonfiction Holy Blood, Holy Grail left off: with a series of murders perpetrated by a group within the Church to keep Sauniere’s secret hidden for all time.

While Judaism has its own secret tradition— known popularly as the Kabbalah, which claims to be able to “decode” the Bible and to reveal hidden mysteries in the Hebrew letters and their arrangements in the Five Books of Moses—Christianity never claimed to have anything like it. The mysteries of Christianity are there for all to see: the death and resurrection of Jesus being the most potent of them all. However, the Christian Bible is based on the Jewish Scriptures, and if mysteries are encoded in the Jewish Scriptures, then they are also encoded in the Christian Bible.

This led a school of philosophers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (and later) to posit the existence of a Christian Kabbalah: taking the Jewish Kabbalah and applying its technology to the Gospels, using the Kabbalistic systems of the rabbis to further explain and clarify the mysteries of Jesus and his followers. This led directly to the formation of the Masonic rituals and to other occult, secret societies in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, such as the Rosicrucians, the Brotherhood of Light, and the Golden Dawn.

The lure of secret knowledge—which means, after all, secret power—would have been attractive to the priests, bishops, and cardinals who eventually became embroiled not only in the Masonic intrigues of Propaganda Due and the Carbonari, but also in the practice of ceremonial magic. The grimoires are perhaps the best example of practical “Christian Kabbalah” that we have, for they blend Jewish and Gnostic words of power along with typical Christian references to the Holy Trinity and the Virgin Mother. To a conservative Catholic clergyman, this juxtaposition of the sacred and profane would have been blasphemous; but to desperate priests and bishops in search of the perfect tool to defend the Church against its most bitter secular enemies— from the Huns to the Cathars to the Communists—the lure of this secret knowledge would prove to be too great. It would be greater still for those left outside the ecclesiastical mainstream, who would see in the second section of the grimoire shortcuts to wealth, women, and power. As many priests were virtually sold into the seminaries at a young age to satisfy a parental vow or forge a political union, they would have been resentful towards the Church and its rules. They would have seen in the grimoires a means of revolt against the pious philosophy that had been shoved down their throats by evil, vainglorious, and hypocritical men. A priest without noble birth or noble patrons would soon find himself in pathetic circumstances, abandoned in some rural backwater. The grimoires held out the promise of more. Much more.

The third section of the grimoire in front of

us deals exclusively with items of interest only to farmers and herders. In fact, it could stand alone as a kind of folk magic spellbook with very little in common with ceremonial magic or Catholicism, aside from occasional references to the Trinity and the Virgin Mother and the abundance of prayers in a kind of gobbledygook Latin. It references a particularly powerful local healer known as Guidon, who is described as pious and totally focused on repelling evil spells cast against cattle and crops. This section of the grimoire may actually be the oldest, as some of the vocabulary is antique, leading me to speculate that it may have been added to the Honorius grimoire as a kind of afterthought. It is included here for the sake of completeness, and as an intellectual curiosity, nothing more.

We should say, of course, that the stipulation that applies to the first section applies equally to the following two: a Catholic priest would be the most efficacious operator, since the requirements indicate that a knowledge of Latin and a close working relationship with the Church’s rituals would be optimum. The arcane words and phrases have been left intact in all the incantations and conjurations. No attempt has been made to clean them up in any way. People familiar with the grimoires and the traditions of ceremonial magic know that it is dangerous for the noninitiate to try to change as much as a single word in any of the conjurations. Therefore, we have left them as we found them. In some places, we have made suggestions or clarifications, but otherwise the grimoire as you have it is intact.

So, for now let us take a closer look at this “most diabolical” of grimoires.