Grimoires are books of ceremonies, rituals, and spells that are to be used in ceremonial magic composed in Europe from the fifteenth to the sixteenth centuries. The texts provide rules regarding symbols, chants, and spells, and describe how to utilize them to perform effective magical effects. Black magicians circulated the text throughout Europe in the twelfth century; the Inquisition condemned it as a dangerous text in 1559. As magicians never knew if they would be persecuted for their practice, they tended to keep these books secret. As a result it is hard to determine when they first appeared.
The oldest ones seem to be based on kabalistic grimoires, such as Sefer Raziel HaMalakh, the Book of the Angel Raziel, written in Hebrew and Aramaic in the thirteenth century. These kabalistic texts in turn were influenced by the Greek Magical Papyri, a group of Hellenistic Egyptian texts written from the second century b.c.e. to the fifth century c.e.
The most popular medieval grimoire was The Key of Solomon, which gave instructions for raising spirits, angels, or demons. In the first century C.E. the historian Josephus (c. 37–c. 100) refers to a book of incantations for summoning spirits written by Solomon.Another grimoire, The Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Sage, became popular later and was used extensively by magicians even into the twentieth century. The sorcerers of the Middle Ages who practiced black magick followed to the letter the instructions recorded in the Great Grimoires, books filled with rites, rituals, incantations, conjurations, and evocations of demonic entities. The deity most often invoked by the dark sorcerer of medieval times to the present day is Satanas, a direct descendant of the Egyptian Set and an alias for the Persians’ Ahriman, the Muslims’ Iblis, the Hebrews’ Asmodeus and Beelzebub, and Pan, the goat-footed nature god of the Greeks, who became the image of Satan in the common mind.
Pentacles from a medieval grimoire bear the the names of the angels associated with each of the seven planets.
The grimoires provided the most complete description of magical preparation and practice since the ancient Egyptian texts. Here is a list of the types of instructions often found in a grimoire:
Purpose of the ritual: Ceremonial magic can be used to accomplish many things; cursing or destroying an enemy or rival; attracting wealth or a lover; or the ultimate goal, increasing one’s power in an effort to become like a god. Of course in the highest form of magic the ultimate goal is to become enlightened. To accomplish the goal the magician will enlist spiritual aid by summoning a spirit, an angel, a demon, or a god. A magician may also summon the spirit of a person who has died. This is called necromancy. It is often classed as a type of divination because the dead were said to have knowledge of the future, and this knowledge was what the necromancer sought.
Preparation of the magician: Preparation includes the training of the mind through meditation and prayer, but it also includes purification. Besides praying and focusing the mind on the object of the ritual for weeks before beginning, the magician is often instructed to abstain from sex and food for this period and to maintain strict cleanliness. A magician soiled in his or her mind or body is inviting demonic invasion.
Choosing a place: The best place for a magic ritual is one where spirits reside, such as a graveyard, a church, or a deserted crossroad, but a magician may prefer his or her own dwelling, which has been magically charged through meditative practice.
Choosing a time: The best time is usually at night when spirits are more active. The magician may also use astrology to determine the best day and hour to assure the success of the ritual.
Preparing the place: The most important aspect of preparation is the drawing of a magic circle that the magician will stand in.
The proper tools and dress: The magician most often wore a clean white robe for the ritual, but other colors, such as black may be appropriate for certain purposes. Like all ritual tools, the robe should be new and clean. The magician’s tools include candles, incense, herbs, and oils that are chosen to harmonize with the spirit being summoned or to stimulate the magician’s psychic abilities. Other tools can include a magic wand, a sword, a chalice, and various talismans in the form of magic squares or circular designs often referred to as pentacles or pentagrams.
The proper incantation: Essentially, the incantation is a form of words of power and this is the main part of the ritual. As with the circle, the incantation must be said correctly or bad things can happen. An important part of the incantation is knowledge of the name of the spirit being summoned. Magicians believe that there is a magical connection between any being and its name. When properly pronounced a spirit cannot resist being summoned by name.