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.