What is a Grimoire?

   A grimoire is a book of magic spells, rituals and incantations, usually of elaborate presentation and ostentatious piety. Most grimoires date from the 16th century to the 18th century, although their compilers uniformly claimed that their contents were based on ancient texts, preferably Hebraic or Egyptian.
   As how-to manuals, grimoires have seldom been taken seriously by students of the occult, but as historical artifacts, they are fascinating. Most grimoires circulated in manuscript form, although a rare number were printed. So complicated and exaggerated were the preliminaries to magical transactions as outlined in the grimoires that E. M. Butler remarked that they seemed "calculated to deal the death blow to any notions . . . [among practitioners] that magic is a short cut to their desires."
   Among the best known of the gri­moires are the Key of Salomon, which appears to be based largely and loosely on cabalistic and astrological lore, and which includes detailed directions on how to summon both angels and demons; the Grana Grimoire, which, while it purports to be a direct transcription of Solomonic writings on the occult, also leans on a more recent source, the scholar-magician Agrippa, and includes a Faustian recipe for making a foolproof pact with the devil; the Grimoire of Honorius the Great, libelously named for a pope of the 13th century but thought to have been produced in the 16th century. The Honorius employs many elements of the Catholic Mass in its instructions for contacting the devil and was understandably thought to be an especially scandalous work.