Today, many students are familiar with the so-called Holy Inquisitions (also known among Neopagans as the "Burning Times") conducted by medieval religious authorities. It brings to mind images of Pagan midwives and healers (or "witches") suffering trial, torture, and death for their spiritual beliefs and practices. However, few students are aware that the Inquisitions were not originally established to persecute witches and Pagans. In the earliest Inquisitorial period, their principal focus was upon heresy within the Church itself. So their first victims were monks, priests, and other Christian clergy. Absolutely no one inside the Church was safe—and even Cardinals and Popes faced charges before the Inquisitions had run their course.
Thus, we are left to question what exactly these devout Christians believed and practiced to incur the wrath of their own Mother Church. Fortunately for us, it was during this period that both paper and the printing press were invented, leading to the birth of the Renaissance Era. This new technology revolutionized record keeping, education, and the dissemination of ideas throughout Western culture. It is why the Roman Church burned books by the thousands, and it is also why we have access to those books that survived to this very day—including the magickal grimoires.
Coincidentally, it was predominantly Christian clerics who held the jobs of writing and copying the earliest books. Therefore, it was natural for these same clerics to record their private mystical practices in notebook form. Despite the best efforts of the Church, several of these grimoires have survived, and they show us exactly what so frightened the religious authorities of the day.
The grimoires are steeped in ancient Pagan and Gnostic philosophies, as well as tribal and shamanic magick. Therefore, they represent a preservation of ancient knowledge that the Roman Church could only rail against. At the same time, the grimoires contain the source material used by our contemporary systems of occultism, from the Golden Dawn to Wicca. They explain the construction and use of the most common magickal tools and weapons, vestments, protective circles, and talismans. They also contain instructions for summoning various classes of entities, from infernal spirits to the Angels and Archangels set over every aspect of nature. Essentially, the grimoires promise that each practitioner can build his or her own relationship with the Divine and Nature—an idea entirely opposed by the medieval Church. It is no wonder, then, that the grimoires, and often their owners, were quickly consigned to the fires by Church authorities.
Revealing the Secrets
With no comprehensive study material to draw from, I set out to learn about the magickal grimoires on my own. I gathered every book I could find that discussed the grimoires and their history, and (of course) I collected the grimoires themselves. Over the next several years, I studied and compared them (deciphering their scattered and obscure instructions), researched the history and culture of their authors and experimented with their techniques.
Finally, I produced Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires as the book I had wanted so long ago. It covers the "Solomonic tradition" from a strictly historical perspective, without the addition of Golden Dawn or Neopagan concepts that did not exist in medieval Europe. It covers the political, social, and religious circumstances that motivated the books' authors. It outlines the history of the grimoires themselves as a legitimate genre of medieval literature, including descriptions of most of the well-known grimoires (Key of Solomon, Goetia, Abramelin, Three Books, etc.). Then, the techniques outlined within these texts are gathered and explained, step-by-step.
Yet the book became much more than merely a book about grimoires. In researching the influences upon the grimoires and their authors, I was led back to places such as Egypt and Babylon, and from there into far more ancient tribal cultures. The taming of fire, shamanism, the advent of priesthood, and the origins of magick itself are discussed in Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires. Such obscure subjects as exorcism, Psalmody, confession, ritual sacrifice, magickal timing, and much more are explored in depth. Then, in attempting to move the Solomonic tradition into our modern world, I drew upon the works of such contemporaries as Tim Leary, R.A. Wilson, John Lilly, and other explorers of human psychology and consciousness.
The project of writing Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires took two years to complete. However, the book actually represents my own lifetime of historical research and magickal experimentation. I set out to say in this, my first full-length book, everything I had to say about the origins and development of magick in Western civilization to date. It not only covers the history of Western magick up to the medieval era, but it also illustrates where our modern systems (Golden Dawn, Wicca, etc.) have drawn from the grimoires in turn.
It is my hope that Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires will appeal to both students and adepts in all aspects of Western spirituality—Pagan, Hermetic, Judeo-Christian, or otherwise. There is something in this book for everyone. Most of all, I hope that this new book will finally bring the Solomonic tradition out of the obscurity of history and Hollywood, and into the light of the twenty-first Century where it can become a living tradition once again.
Aaron Leitch has been a scholar and a spiritual seeker for nearly three decades. He is a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Gentlemen of Jupiter, and the academic Societas Magica. His writings cover such ...