There is a class of ceremonial magic generally referred to as Solomonic magic. This is, of course, named for the famous King Solomon, son of David. The idea that Solomon was a magician is fairly old, as the second century Testament of Solomon, a sort of prototype for later Solomonic grimoires, attests. Though Solomonic magic is primarily Christian in origin, it is dependent upon both Jewish lore and Arabic magical practices.
The most famous of the Solomonic grimoires is perhaps the Lemegeton Clavicula Solomonis, the Lesser Key of Solomon. Mostly dating from the 14th century, the first book of the Lesser Key, called the Goetia, was made popular once again in the 19th century through the “translation” of S.L. MacGregor Mathers, one of the founders of the Order of the Golden Dawn. Though the second book of the Lesser Key, the Theurgia Goetia, is concerned with spirits which are both good and evil in nature, we will focus on the more well known Goetia, which deals with demons proper.
It is important to know that there is quite a debatable concerning whether or not the Goetia and Theurgia Goetia are about demons, i.e. fallen angels, or some other kind of spirit. Some of the demonic names found in the Goetia are clearly derived from the names of pagan deities. Astaroth, the 29th spirit, is an excellent example of this. The name “Astaroth,” who described as a mighty and strong duke, is understood to come from the Canannite goddess Ashtoreth, the consort of Ba’al, one of the Jewish God’s chief cultural rivals. However, not only are all 42 of the Goetic spirits considered diabolical, they are, generally, considered fallen angels, some of whom, we are told, hope to regain their place in heaven.
Each demon is given a rank: Marquis, Duke, Prelate, Knight, President and Count or Earl. In some Solomonic-derived systems, such as from the Grimoirium Verum, all of the demons are ruled over by one of three greater demons: Lucifer, Beelzebuth and Astaroth, though this is not part of the Lesser Key. Regardless, each demon listed is itself a greater spirit, ruling over a multitude of legions, a legion consisting of 6666 lesser demons. Further, each greater demon is associated with a certain power or ability. The aforementioned Astaroth, whose seal was featured on the “Malleus Maleficarum” episode of the WB’s Supernatural, can “make men wounderfull knowing in all Liberall siences.” The 40th spirit, the Earl Raum, is said to ‘steale Treasures out of kings houses, and to carry it where he is commanded, & to destroy Citties, and ye dignities of men; & to tell all Things past, & wt is, & wt will be; & to cause Love between friends & foes.”
The Goetia is not, however, simply a book about demons. It is a grimoire about how to summon, or evoke, the demons and bend them to servitude. The magic of the Lesser Key relies upon a number of physical implements, including magical seals, a large circle filled with divine names, a magical triangle, and a lamen, a sort of magical pendant, with the demon’s seal or signature on it. To these some include the vestments, magical sword and blasting rod found in the Greater Key of Solomon, which deals not with demonic evocation, but astrological talismans and other, similar, forms of magic.
The actual process of evocation is somewhat drawn out and makes use of lengthy prayers, conjurations and exhortations. Importantly, this is not a kind of demonolatry or diabolical worship. The magician does not even conjure the spirit through his or her own power, but through the holy power of God, who is called upon through various names, some Jewish, some akin to the voce mysteicae of Neoplatonic theurgy.
When next we meet, I’ll discuss, briefly, the Gnostic archons, before moving onto some examples of how classical demons have been incorporated into some well known, and maybe some not so well known, contemporary fantasy.