Grimoires: A History of Magic Books Hardcover – 26 Mar 2009
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Excellent and nuanced volume. (Michael Ostling, History Today)
Anyone who is interested in...this subject will find this book an invaluable reference, and they will be entertained. (Alec Ryrie, Times Higher Education)
Erudite and entertaining addition to book scholarship. (Jad Adams, The Guardian)
'Grimoires' is a beautifully produced, surprisingly inexpensive book with black end papers and suitably antique illustrations. (Jad Adams, The Guardian)
This book is undoubtedly a necessary reference work for anyone with a serious interest in the history of magic. (Brian Gibbons, BBC History Magazine)
This is a very well researched book. (Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph)
About the Author
Owen Davies is Reader in Social History at the University of Hertfordshire. He has written extensively on the history of popular magic, witchcraft, and ghosts.
Top customer reviews
Davies traces the history of modern magic books from the very first book-producers to the modern printing presses in a country-by-country, era-by-era way. In the process he brushes with many quacks, crazy men, religious zealots and the Inquisition. It is a great book for anyone interested in alternative religion, the dark ages, magic, superstition. The book provides enough background information to be readable to those who aren't history buffs, and enough detail and methodical evidence to be of use to those who *are* history buffs.
Like Professor Hutton, Own Davies sticks strictly to an evidence-first approach to history. At worst, the book the quite dry and dense. The author makes it clear that these magic books are often historical mistakes, but, in order to do so in a balanced way, the book is devoid of judgements, pronouncements and seemingly devoid of heartfelt conclusions. On the plus side, you can be assured that it is accurate and well-researched. There are a few pages about The Satanic Bible (about which I know a great deal), and I found that even in that niche Owen Davies had his facts right.
Davies announces in his Introduction that he considers Grimoires to be the `most dangerous books ever written.' He goes on to qualify that statement by extolling their role within and throughout History. He makes an excellent case for their immeasurable influences upon variant paradigms and events. As pivotal catalysts for change and innovation, these books are held accountable as tomes `feared and revered in equal measure.' Clearly, this book asserts itself, not as a critique of the contents of the considerable number of Black Books known to have graced the shelves of all levels of Occultists, but as a serious study of in exactly how history was molded by the dissemination of that knowledge.
Included within this comprehensive study of historical occult literature is a subtext explaining the chronological demograph of influence from the ancient Middle East through Europe and across into the New World. Davies sources their origins as books from within the French `Grammaire' traditions of rhyming Latin scripts, drawn mainly from religious volumes, including the Bible. Incantations and formulae derived from the countless verses and prayers therein are briefly exampled. Because popular belief assumed the removal of all magickal [and therefore all forms of self-empowerment] elements from these stalwart religious tomes, Davies affirms their usage as `an essential companion to the Bible.' Emphasis is stressed upon the legality of the written word over that spoken.
Political and religious considerations are given vent through topics that include the democratization of magic at the popular level and their subsequent usage by all manner of tradesman, apocatheries and cunning folk. Covering contentious issues of patriarchy, misogyny, holy war and religious prejudice, Davies demonstrates how the written word subversively and substantially manipulated world events. Of significance, he devotes considerable attention to the incendiary flames of intolerance by the medieval demonologists, the subsequent Inquisition, witch trials and the notorious Devil's Compact that lead to the association between the Devil and the Grimoire. As an important cottersil to this, Davies also includes the detrimental effect the printed word had upon the elitist and often impeachable Grimoires, tackling questions of compromised integrity and dissolution of gnosis.
Notable inclusions insinuated as fundamental to the shaping of the modern era through Old and New world events are: the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses; the Book of Raziel; Clavicula Salomonis; the Picatrix; the Sworn Book of Honorius; the Heptameron; The Magus; Almandel; Arbatel; De Occulta philosophia; Ars Notoria; Pseudomonarchia daemonum; Enchiridon; Le Dragon Rouge; Petit Albert; Libro de San Cipriano and the Faust inspired Black Raven. So, some obscure volumes to intrigue the curious among the usual suspects.
Davies includes a brief excursion into the dubious contributions to occultism by various frauds and hoaxsters, revealing the less than respectable veneer upon which much within the occult world floats. The shady world of the carpet bagger and snake-oil salesman is exposed through American mass media that links not too indiscreetly to obscure works such as the Voynich Manuscript and to the extraordinary works of Dee and Lovecraft. The final section of the book concentrates upon syncratic magickal praxes such as Candomble, Vaudou, Santeria, Obeah, Yoruba etc that are able to trace their causal premise to at least one Grimoire. Davies concludes with his conviction that folk traditions fused with those of culture and religion to cross fertilize directly or through a negative feedback patterning to form systems where such Grimoires were core oriented.
The 19th century flowering of western occultism is explored from this perspective; Antiquarians, Spiritualists, Theosophists, Rosicrucians and Mystics are all brought to bear the influence of the Word according to the potency of the Grimoire to suggest, subvert and sensationalize the illusory compact of magick. Nazi's, Freemasons and hex doctors range the scale of influence expounded here by Davies as he slides neatly into 20th century `Pulp' magic, the Weird Tales of comic horror. Supernatural tall stories laced with extracts culled from the long dusty Grimoires. He even finds room for Anton le Vey and The Father of Modern Wicca, Gerald Gardner.
A monumental march though history that delivers every promise. It is inexpensive, yet worth every penny. More illustrations would have been a bonus. If you are looking for a study of the occult subject matter written within the many Grimoirés, then this is not the book for you, but don't let that stop you from buying this excellent treatise on their colourful history.
This book is not for beginners...!!!
Busc in music. BA. MA . PhD
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