Author: Jake Stratton-Kent
Publisher: Scarlet Imprint
Print: Paperback – Rogue Edition
Illustrations: Characters, sigils, magic squares and pontos
The True Grimoire is a major contribution to the practice and study of magic, and is the first part of the Encyclopædia Goetica. Here the maligned Grimorium Verum has been restored to its rightful place as a coherent and eminently workable system of goetic magic. Jake Stratton-Kent has reconstructed a working version from the corrupted Italian and French versions of the grimoire. As a practicing necromancer with 40 years of experience his Verum is a clear exposition of how to contact and build a relationship with the spirits.
The True Grimoire springs from the source of goetic magic, enabling us to unlock the secrets of the other grimoires. We are given insights into the Dragon Rouge, Key of Solomon, Lemegeton, Abramelin, Honorius, and the Black Pullet. This is a treasure trove for the student of magic. The True Grimoire lets us experience a grimoire tradition with links back to the Græco-Egyptian magical papyri and the necromancy of the original Goes. It also situates Verum in relation to a living tradtion, one which has taken root in the New World, finding expression in Quimbanda and the legion of Exus, the ‘people of the cemetery’ who have clear Verum equivalents.
This is a constistently illuminating text. The copious notes of a working magician, combined with a scholarly attention to detail, enable us to use this text for its original purpose. The hierarchy of Verumand goetic spirits is restored, and the nature of Astaroth is discusses. The planetary hours are explained, as are all the ritual requirements and preparations.
I · Introduction
The Importance of the True Grimoire
Goetia and Sigils
The Context of the Grimoire
The Art Armadel
II · The True Grimoire
The First Part
The Second Part
The Third Part
The Cabala of the Green Butterfly
III · Notes to the Grimoire
Notes on the First Part
Who are the Spirits?
A Unified Hierarchy of Goetic Spirits
Notes on the Second Part
Comment on the Second Part
On Constructing Verum Spells
Notes on the Third Part
The Ritual Procedure of the Grimoire
Planetary Days and Hours
The Spirits of the Seven Days
On the Cabala of the Green Butterfly
The Cabala of the Black Pullet
Astaroth, Lady of the Crossroads
Goetia & the New World
Verum & the Brazilian Cult of Quimbanda
Goetia and the New World
It is too often forgotten that Voodoo, for all its African heritage, belongs to the modern world and is part of our civilisation … The westernisation of an African religion has brought to light all the features which it shares with the religions of the ancient world, so that anyone acquainted with the classical universe can easily enter the mysterious world of Voodoo … Voodoo is a paganism of the West.
– Alfred Metraux, Voodoo (1959)
Metraux, as a highly educated westerner of his generation, was of course familiar with Classical mythology, as well as acquainted with Haiti as an anthropologist. Fifty years later comparatively few Westerners are as knowledgeable concerning the mythology of the ancient world, and this leads more or less neatly to an important question. To what extent were the grimoires the province of a highly literate elite, and how far do they represent popular traditions of various periods? In considering a literature extending from at least the 12th to the 19th century, with origins, influence and development both sides of that period, this is a complex question which naturally cannot be finally settled here. It is necessary to ask it however, as there are powerful factors in the development of New World magical traditions which cannot be understood without doing so, as well as many issues relating to the whole sphere embraced by this book. It is known that the grimoire tradition had a significant and increasing influence upon the magical practices of the African Diaspora in the Americas, and upon New World magical traditions from at least the 19th century onwards. Adapted versions of the talismans of the Black Pullet arefound in New Orleans Voodoo practice from at least the 1940s. In fact however the influence of such books, and the cultural traditions reflected in them, was felt over a century earlier. Many French grimoires were available in Haiti fairly early on, as well as in New Orleans and elsewhere, and their influence has steadily increased. Not only the books, which were probably not numerous initially, but European people themselves had a direct influence on the magical beliefs of Africans in Haiti and elsewhere both during and after the colonial period. As Metraux says:
A great many beliefs and practices in Haitian magic originate from Normandy, Berry, Picardy or ancient Limousin.
The influence of the Book of Saint Cyprian, as well as the Europeans who brought it with them, was felt in Spanish and Portuguese colonies from at least the 19th century. This is quite besides the known influence of Kabbalistic magic upon Hoodoo, via Books of Moses from German sources, which again increased from the 1940s onwards, but was preceded by books like The Long Lost Friend from the first half of the 19th century.
From some perspectives, those that over emphasise purely literary expressions of culture, The True Grimoire might appear to have been particularly influential. The reality is that, as a populist grimoire with strong folk magic connections, it reflects more extensively than others widespread folk magic traditions of European origin which had a powerful impact on those of the New World. It was not the main vehicle of those traditions, but a singularly rich literary reflection of them. The real vehicle of these traditions was people, including thousands of gypsies in the case of Brazil, whose impression on Quimbanda and indeed the whole culture is still powerfully felt. The populist grimoires were an aspect of the tradition, but while they are amongst the last remains of that tradition in Europe, they are but a small part of its survival in the New World. In other words, much that was lost to European magical traditions prospers still in the New World religions.
The fact remains that there are elements of old European magic which have influenced the New World traditions that are not represented in the grimoires aside from Verum. The primary example is the use of graveyard dust; this and other magical dirts were known in Spanish magic of the 1600s, and are common motifs in Hoodoo and other New World traditions. It is not however encountered in earlier Western grimoires. As Sirdar Shah tells us:
experiments were accomplished by witches in their secret laboratories; and the first discovery of a laboratory of this kind was made in the year 1622, in Madrid. The owner, Josef Carranza, had – in an earthenware pot – resin and turpentine para las caderas de las mujeres; in another, a small quantity of something resembling pitch, together with small models of human legs, arms, and other things … One jar contained a cloth in which was wrapped a substance labelled Cemetery Earth, and Earth of Dead Bodies … Other discoveries at the same place included a human skull, frogs, and earth in a container whose label mentioned that it had been swept from the three prisons of Madrid.
There is also a process involving a Magical Head that, besides some associations in Western astro-magical lore, nevertheless possesses equally strong New World implications. Most importantly, there is the role of the intermediary spirit who must be conjured before the others, a classic feature of New World religion and sorcery, nowhere else explicitly stated in the grimoires. The use of sweet herbs in Holy Water also resembles New World practices. Another feature of Verum, which impressed modern commentators Hyatt and Black, is the sophistication and elaboration of ritual processes compared to texts such as the Key of Solomon. This is reminiscent of the complex liturgies encountered in Voodoo. It is of particular interest that in Brazil’s Umbanda and Quimbanda traditions the hierarchy of Verum has been widely associated with spirits known as Exus, and many of the correspondences between the two are strikingly appropriate.
Verum also refers to the Americas very specifically as part of its occult worldview. Just as Verum and other grimoires have been influential upon the magical and religious traditions of the African diaspora in the Americas so we can learn much from such traditions in our approach to Goetic magic; the centrality of a relationship with the spirits, and the approach to them as living beings with personalities, attributes and individual style and other characteristics is a useful one. This approach contrasts strongly with the supposedly traditional attitude of threatening the spirits with knives and considering them without distinction as agents of evil in terms of a theology that is alien to their origins. Similarly a cold, dispassionate and mechanistic approach is incomplete and unsatisfactory, and certainly gives no inkling of the approach employed by its authors and the magicians of their day. Whether or not we believe in a separate world of spirits is not the issue here. There are parts of our mind that respond to myth and symbol, and these are the parts stimulated by Goetic procedures, resistance to which is simply unhelpful, whatever we believe.