Friday, April 08, 2011

The Grimoires and Modern Stuff

First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement so I must do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the pirate's code to apply and you're not. And thirdly, the code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules. - Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean: the Curse of the Black Pearl
I'm not a traditional grimoire magician at all. I am a modern magician.

Traditional grimoire magicians who read the blog and my books are already aware of this fact, but I just wanted to make sure that's clear. To me, the grimoires are a source for really powerful magic, but they are not complete in and of themselves. They don't talk about initiations, they don't teach the hierarchical cosmology that makes it make sense. They don't explain much about the god names and words of power. They don't teach how to accomplish the Great Work.

They're cliff's notes. Reference guides. They're like the notes you make when you're going to give a presentation. Sometimes everything in the notes is covered, sometimes more is covered, sometimes less. I've written up rituals of my own in great detail, but when I do the rite, shit changes on the fly. If I had to stick to a script, I'd get nowhere fast.

I'm not a grimoire fundamentalist, but I do believe the grimoire magic is the most powerful I've used. Yet an argument can be made that I've never really used grimoire magic. So what does it mean when I say the system is more powerful (in my experience) than other systems? Only that the names of the spirits and their seals are really useful? No, because there's more to it. The structure they present is important to understand as well. The system is more than the pieces.

But at the same time, we aren't the magicians who wrote the books. The "unknown unknowns" leave us unable to really do the magic the way they were doing it back then, if it was ever done that way at all. We're products of a different culture, living in a different time. Agrippa would have had an ipad, you know it. And spreadsheets.

Magic is living and breathing, it's not set in stone. Grimoire writers were compilers and syncretists. We are too. Adaptation is necessary to be able to do any of this. It's a given.

So my approach is to look at the grimoires as snapshots, references. I use the names and seals of the systems, and my rituals are something a Renaissance magician would recognize. I use the right god names and the right words of power from the scripts. I use the right incenses and metals, when possible. I do my best to keep it as close to the original as possible, but I do it the way it makes sense to me to do it using the technology I have at my disposal. I keep my adaptations traditional, if that makes sense.

And I experiment. I innovate. I work with the spirits to figure out the best way to work with the spirits. It's a philosophy as much as a set of techniques.

The grimoires, imo, are more what you'd call guidelines than actual rules.


  1. Great post RO. Paradoxically though you claim to be a modern magician you use traditional sources and your adaptations are traditional, while modern magicians a la GD tend to be fundamentalist going by the book (Regardie's book of course :P).

    Blessings in Christ,


  2. You know I love this post, don't you?

    For precisely the following 3 reasons:

    - The intro quote
    - The post itself
    - The last line

  3. "The grimoires, imo, are more what you'd call guidelines than actual rules."

    Appropriatelt much like the texts they were named for. Grammars were rules, but by their nature they were limited rules, as you can't address every situation. So I guess limited rules in this sense work as guidelines. The point of the grammars was to teach you how to use the language, the grammar isn't the use of the language itself.

    The point of grimoires are to teach you how to use the language of magick, but to think that a grimoire itself is language of magick is horribly limited and reductionist I think.

  4. Agreed! IMHO real magicians don't merely memorize, regurgitate, repeat -- they create.


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