Word of the month: Grimoires

David Zapatka

Reader Tony Sciabica wrote, “I read your article in the April edition of the Crossing. I found the word sempiternal interesting. My use of the word would be the following: Eternal means to me something that has no beginning and no end.  Sempiternal has a beginning but no end. Semper fidelis has a beginning when a person takes an oath at some point in one’s life and swears to keep the oath forever.” Thank you, Tony, for your feedback.

I was recently at a gathering where the presenter spoke about Spanish grimoires in his talk on magic. 

Grimoire—gri·​moire noun: 1. a magician’s manual for invoking demons and the spirits of the dead. 2. a textbook of magic, typically including instructions on how to create magical objects like talismans and amulets, how to perform magical spells, charms, divination and how to summon or invoke supernatural entities such as angels, spirits, deities and demons.

Origin and Etymology—French, from Old French, alteration of gramaire grammar, grammar book, learned work, book of witchcraft

First Known Use—17th century, in the meaning defined above.

Grimoire used in a sentence.

Are you sure the grimoire is in there with him?

The grimoire and the chalice are with trusted friends.

There is a spell in the grand grimoire.

Grimoire in the news and media.

The Sworn Book of Honorius is purportedly one of the oldest existing medieval grimoires, having been mentioned as early as the 13th century in written records.—10 of History’s Most Ambitious Grimoires, Micah Hirsch, Weird Stuff, July 17, 2018.

This grimoire is a primary source for modern ceremonial magic. The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage Translated by S.L. MacGregor Mathers, 1900.

The name “Grimoire” is derived from the word “Grammar.” A grammar is a description of a set of symbols and how to combine them to create well-formed sentences. A Grimoire is, appropriately enough, a description of a set of magical symbols and how to combine them properly. Most of the texts are descriptions of traditional European ritual magic, which is based on Judeo-Christianity. Even though this must not be confused with neo-Paganism, many of the neo-Pagan traditions use similar rituals and techniques, albeit with a different (usually Celtic) vocabulary.

A modern grimoire, the Simon Necronomicon, takes its name from a fictional book of magic in the stories of H. P. Lovecraft, inspired by Babylonian mythology. The neopagan religion of Wicca publicly appeared in the 1940s and Gerald Gardner introduced the Book of Shadows as a Wiccan grimoire.

The term grimoire commonly serves as an alternative name for a spell book or tome of magical knowledge in fantasy fiction and role-playing games. The most famous fictional grimoire is the Necronomicon, a creation of H. P. Lovecraft.

Please write and tell us about the magic and grimoire in your life. Please submit your experiences or any word you may like to share, along with your insights and comments, to [email protected].