The grimoire called Goetia and its 72 demons do have some sort of a “cult status” within communities of Pagans, Witches, Satanists, and Occultists in general. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about the Lemegeton and its Goetia regarding its origins, its magical operations, and the nature of the spirits listed in the grimoire. I want to clarify that I am not invalidating anyone’s practice or different approaches to the 72 demons, this post just offers a different perspective on this particular grimoire.
For the sake of this post, I will mainly be referencing The Goetia of Dr Rudd edited by Stephen Skinner and David Rankine, The Lesser Key of Solomon (Lemegeton) edited by Joseph H. Peterson, and The Lesser Key of Solomon edited by S. L. MacGregor Mathers and Aleister Crowley. I will also be referencing some works for the context of this grimoire’s origins and history.
For quotes, I will mainly use the edition by Skinner and Rankine, simply because I can provide the actual page number for each quote.
I will address some modern practices involving the Goetia and its 72 demons later on in this post.
The Goetia is a text which is part of the Lemegeton and its origins date roughly to the 16th/17th century. The best way to describe what the text of the Lemegeton ultimately is, would be to call it a collection of five books, grimoires, or treatises concerning the conjuration of certain spirits.
The collection includes the following books:
C) Ars Paulina
D) Ars Almadel
E) Ars Notoria [omitted by Skinner and Rankine in their edition]
The history of the Lemegeton is a little bit obscure, as are the infamous 72 demons of its Goetia. It is safe to say that the grimoire in its entirety originates from the European Renaissance, during which ceremonial and planetary magic was refined and popularized among academic and clerical circles.
What is widely known is that Johann Weyer’ De Praestigiis Daemonum lists most of the goetic demons and that his list was probably the main source for the Goetia. This work of Weyer in particular was written to disprove the accusations and confessions of witchcraft. He argues that those who confessed wouldn’t have been able to practice any of the magical practices they confessed to. The conclusion is that those alleged witches suffer from delusions and mental illness, that they are not guilty of witchcraft, and that they actually are in need of medical help instead of an unjustified witch trial. Weyer wrote this work particularly in reaction to Malleus Maleficarum (Engl. Hammer of Witches), which endorsed the torture and manipulation of accused witches.
Skinner and Rankine speculate based on the source Johann Weyer used for his De Praestigiis Daemonum which he sourced as Liber Officiorum Spirituum, seu Liber Dietus Empto[rium] Salomonis, De Principibus & Regibus Daemoniorum (Engl. Book of the Offices of Spirits, or the Book of Sayings received from Solomon concerning the Princes and Kings of the demons) that the origin and sources of three books of the Lemegeton could go back to Trithemius; those books being the Goetia (which is disputed), the Theurgia-Goetia and parts of the Ars Paulina (both appearing in Trithemius’ Steganographia). Skinner and Rankine argue for the likelihood that the source for Weyer’s De Praestigiis Daemonum goes back to a work that was mentioned to be in Trithemius’ library called Liber Malorum Spirituum, which was listed right before a work called Liber Officiorum Spirituum. We also know that the Ars Alamdel and the Ars Notoria were very likely in Trithemius’ possession. The conclusion of Skinner and Rankine is that Trithemius and his students were the ones who compiled all those books into one collection, which later on became known as the Lemegeton.
So based on speculation, Skinner and Rankine concluded that the list of demons, as well as other sources for the Lemegeton, could go back to Trithemius, who taught Agrippa, who in turn taught Johann Weyer, who overall made the list of demons famous by publishing his De Praestigiis Daemonum in 1563. This is however speculative and not based on physical evidence, since we don’t have the manuscripts of Trithemius’ library.
Definition of “Goetia”
“For some endeavour to call and compell evill spirits, adjuring by a certain power, especially of divine names, for seeing every creature fears, and reverenceth the name of him who made it, no marvel, if Goetians, Infidels, Pagans, Jews, Saracens, and men of every prophane sect and society do bind Divels [devils] by invocating the divine name.” Agrippa in his recantation of the Occult Arts and Sciences.
In his retraction of the occult – which is why the full passage of this text has a very negative tone – Agrippa defines goetic magic as the controlling and binding of evil spirits, who obey the magician by the use of divine power – specifically the divine names of God. This is important to keep in mind when referring to something as “goetic magic”, since the word had been defined since the 16th century.
I want to note here that the method of binding spirits against their will and forcing them to do something for the practitioner is not an indicator if a magical text is “Solomonic” or not. The practice of summoning spirits, threatening them, and binding them through the use of some higher power has been used within the context of magical practices since antiquity, even outside of an Abrahamic context. I will elaborate on that point discussing the next topic “What is Solomonic Magic?”.
What is Solomonic Magic?
Regarding the evocational methods of the Goetia, they consist of forcing the spirits to do the practitioner’s will by using the holy names of God and by threatening and cursing said spirits. Most people will know this method as “Abrahamic” or “Solomonic”.
Overall this grimoire falls under the Solomonic tradition of magic – not because of the way it deals with spirits, but because it names Solomon as its authority. This is a big misconception about the practice of binding of spirits against their and what makes a grimoire “Solomonic”. While it could be argued that the specific use of sigils for the operations might be considered “Solomonic” (since a lot of Solomonic manuscripts have this in common), the sole act of threatening and binding a spirit is not.
Using the methods of binding and commanding spirits against their will as a sole indicator for “Solomonic magic” (which a lot of modern practitioners do) makes no sense at all. Why? Because magic practitioners have bound, forced, commanded, and threatened spirits since antiquity, and not only within an Abrahamic context.
In order to illustrate this, here is an example from the Greek Magical Papyri:
“In this way, too, serve me, NN, against her, NN. If you do not, I will say the eight letters of Selene which have been established in the head of Helios. But if I am on the point of saying them and you have not set out on your way, I will go inside the seven gates around Dardaniel, and I will shake the foundation of earth: and the 4 elements of the world will come together so that nothing will be created from them.” PGM LXII. 1-24, The Greek Magical Papyri with Demotic Spells, edited by Hans Dieter Betz, p. 292.
The PGM also lists a spell, which calls forth Demeter. The practitioner blows out the torches, which she uses to find Persephone, and forces the Greek goddess to do the will of the practitioner:
“After you say this, the Maiden will come carrying torches. Say: “PHERTHELI- LOCH PEIY … ,” and her firebrands will be extinguished, and she will stand there in distress and complain. You say, “Do such-and-such and I will light your torches.” If she sends a dream, you are to light them and she will fly away.” PGM XII. 1-13, The Greek Magical Papyri with Demotic Spells, edited by Hans Dieter Betz, p. 153.
The reason why I bring this up is, because people dub the practice of commanding, threatening, and binding of spirits in general as “Abrahamic” or “Solomonic”. While the nature of Solomonic magic uses spiritual methods of constraint within an Abrahamic context, the assessment of this solely being an “Abrahamic” method is disingenuous and most likely rooted in anti-Christian sentiments a lot of modern practitioners hold. I don’t blame nor fault anyone for having any anti-Christian sentiment. The issue is that people confuse their bias and mix it in with what “magic objectively should be” and declare other methods as “Abrahamic” and use this argument to declare said methods as unethical or as not being part of real magic.
The 72 Demons of the Goetia
When it comes to the history of the demons listed in the Goetia, people have named The Testament of Solomon as one of the oldest possible sources. In this text, Solomon binds demons with the help of Archangel Michael. However, the list of demons does not match the one of the Goetia. Only Asmodeus is mentioned in both texts, and a possible connection to The Testament of Solomon could also be seen in regards to the demon Ornias (Orias in the Goetia).
As I have already mentioned, the list of the goetic demons might go back to Trithemius, who was the occult teacher of Agrippa, who in turn taught Johann Weyer, who published a list that matches the one of the Goetia closely. It contains 69 demons as opposed to 72. This speculation of the list’s origins is based on the speculation of Stephen Skinner and David Rankine, who list several more possible links and sources for the goetic demons in their introduction to their edition of The Goetia of Dr Rudd. I highly encourage any who is interested in the history of the Goetia and its 72 demons to read Skinner’s and Rankine’s introduction to their edition.
Now what are these 72 demons and what are they supposed to do within the context of magic? The Lemegeton, the collection of which the Goetia is part of, does list the nature of the spirits each book deals with:
“[The Lesser Key of Solomon] Which contains all the Names, orders, offices of all the Spirits that Solomon had command with, together with the Seals and characters belonging to each Spirit and the Manner of Calling them forth to visible appearance. In four parts.
Part 1. Is a book of evil Spirits Called Goetia, showing how he bound those Spirits up, and used them in Several things, whereby he obtained great fame.
Part 2. Is a book of Spirits, partly good and partly evil, which is named Theurgia Goetia, all airy spirits.
Part 3. Is a book governing the planetary houses and partly evil what Spirit belongs to every degree of the Signs and planets in the Signs, called the Pauline Art.
Part 4. Is a book called the Almadel of Solomon which contains 20 chief Spirits and govern the four Altitudes or the 360 degrees of the Zodiac.
The two last orders of Spirits are good and are to be sought by divine seeking.” The Goetia of Dr Rudd, edited by Skinner / Rankine, p. 102.
“The fifth part is a Booke of orations and prayers that wise Salomon used upon the altar in the Temple which is called Artem Novam” The Lesser Key of Solomon, edited by Joseph H. Peterson [omitted by Skinner / Rankine].
This foreword specifically is found in a lot of manuscripts of The Lesser Key of Solomon or Lemegeton. Mathers and Crowley break down different manuscripts for this introduction and list four of them in their own edition of the Goetia. In order to get an idea for the different manuscripts, I’d recommend reading Skinner/Rankine on this, since they break down the available manuscripts really well.
As for the use of those demons, the text gives the purpose and use for each demon it lists. Here are a two examples:
“The first principal Spirit is a King riding [ruling] in the East called Bael, he makes men go invisible he ruleth over 66 Legions of inferior spirits he appeareth in divers shapes sometimes like a Cat, sometimes like a dog and sometimes like a Man, and sometimes in all these forms.” The Goetia of Dr Rudd, edited by Skinner / Rankine, p. 103.
“He[Agares] makes them run that stand still and bringeth back Runaways, he can teach all Languages or tongues, he hath power also to destroy dignities both supernatural and temporal, and causeth Earthquakes.” The Goetia of Dr Rudd, edited by Skinner / Rankine, p. 104.
“The 5th Spirit is Marbas alias Barbas he is a great President and appeareth in the form of a mighty Lion but at the command of the Magician he putteth on human shape, he answereth fully as to any thing which is hidden or secret; he causeth diseases and cureth them; he promoteth wisdom, and the knowledge of mechanical arts or Handicrafts; he changeth men into other shapes.” The Goetia of Dr Rudd, edited by Skinner / Rankine, p. 107.
It is important to note that these 72 demons were supposed to produce actual physical effects as well as teach hidden knowledge – which is a major difference to modern approaches that focus on shadow work or worship.
Goetic Sigils and the Shem HaMephorash
Before I go into the conjuration of the 72 demons as given by the text of the Goetia itself, I want to discuss the purpose of the sigils beforehand.
While listing the 72 demons, the Goetia also lists a respective sigil for each demon. This sigil is to be inscribed into the corresponding planetary metal and worn by the practitioner during the rite. The purpose of the sigil is to make the spirit obey the practitioner. As an example, here is the description of the usage of Baal’s sigil:
“This is his Character or Seal which must be worn as a Lamin [Lamen] by the Magician who calls him, on his breast else he will not do you homage.” The Goetia of Dr Rudd, edited by Skinner / Rankine, p. 103.
“This is his Character wich is to be worne as a Lamen before him who calleth him forth, or else he will not doe you homage.” The Lesser Key of Solomon, edited by Joseph H. Peterson.
In The Goetia of Dr Rudd we additionally also have the sigil of each angel corresponding to each demon. Those angels are the angels of the Shem HaMephorash – the 72-fold name of the Creator, which stems from Kabbalah – and they serve as a divine opposition to the 72 demons. Those angels serve as a protective measure during goetic rituals. Mathers and Crowley omitted those angels from their edition of The Lesser Key of Solomon.
There are reasons to believe that the practice of using angels as protection against demons during a goetic ritual like this, wasn’t new and that the practice of goetic conjuration included calling on angels even in its early stages. However, the assumption that those angels were always part of the practice is based on Skinner’s and Rankine’s speculation based on what we know about the practice of grimoires in general. The sigils of the angels and their Psalm verses are to be inscribed on the back of the respective demonic sigil and thus also be worn by the practitioner during the rite.
Conjuration of the 72 Demons
The tools for Solomonic and conclusively goetic magic by the book are very much in line with most other grimoires from the European Renaissance. The text mentions the construction of a circle, a triangle, a vessel, spirit seals made out of planetary metals, and various ceremonial tools like a sword. Some of the illustrations and practices involved pose similarities to earlier well-known grimoires such as Heptameron attributed to Peter d’Abano.
Since most of our material regarding the Lemegeton and its Goetia comes from the European Renaissance, it is needless to say that this is a planetary grimoire as the text also hints at this itself. The text itself states that the seals for the 72 demons of the decans have to be made out of planetary metals. Furthermore, the text also presses the importance of the observations of the luminaries, especially the moon, and also lists appropriate times for the evocation of each spirit:
“Thou art to observe first the Moones age for your working. The best dayes are when [moon] is 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 or 14 dayes old, as Salomon sayeth, and no other dayes are profitable.” The Lesser Key of Solomon, edited by Joseph H. Peterson.
This is the part where Rudd added a lot of material from Abano’s Heptameron to his Goetia. He added the angels of the days and their ruling directions as well as the sigils from Abano. However, the added material still applies the original philosophy. It doesn’t really change the purpose of the text, all it really does is complete it to a certain degree and make the operations a lot safer.
The fact that the Lemegeton classifies those 72 spirits as evil, is something to keep in mind when working with the 72 demons, especially because the Lemegeton as a whole recognizes a plethora of spirits. One of its books called Theurgia-Goetia is pretty much dedicated to neutral spirits.
So how is someone supposed to be conjuring evil spirits and then bind them to do obey the practitioner’s will? For a lot of people, it seems contradictory to bind a powerful being to obey the practitioner’s own will and for some, it even seems unethical. Well, binding evil spirits, in general, was a widespread phenomenon and practice from antiquity to roughly the 19th century.
So, how is it done? Well, the Goetia itself actually gives an answer to this. It is done like most other magical operations were done during the European Renaissance. The practitioner prepares for the conjuration in the proper manner by fasting and purification, wears the sigils of the demon they wish to conjure (and according to The Goetia of Dr Rudd also the angel’s sigil) constructs a circle for protection, and recites the invocation (note that I am not including the full invocations because of their length):
“I Invocate and Conjure you Spirit N: and being armed with power from the Supreme Majesty, I strongly command you by Beralanensis, Baldachiensis, Paumachiae et Apologiae, and the most powerful Princes, Genio Liachiae Ministers of the Tartarian seat, Chief Prince of the seat of Apologia in the ninth Region, I exorcise and powerfully Command you Spirit N. in and by him who said the word and it was done, and by all the holy and most glorious names of the most high and true God, and by these his most holy Names Adonai, EI, Elohim, [Elohe] Zebaoth, Elion, Eserchie, Jah, Tetragram-maton, Sadai that ye forthwith appear and shaw your self unto me before this Circle in a fair and human shape without any deformity or ugly shape, and without delay do you come to make rational answers unto all those things which I shall ask of you […]” The Goetia of Dr Rudd, edited by Skinner / Rankine, p. 176.
You force the spirits to come to you by commanding through the power of God, using His holy names – this is specifically what Agrippa defined as “Goetia”. If the spirit won’t appear to you for the first time, you do it again and if that doesn’t work, then the Goetia offers the second formulation of conjuration in a similar fashion.
If the multiple recitations of the first conjuration don’t make the spirit appear, then Goetia also lists a constraint, which is a curse to bind the spirit forever if they don’t appear:
“Adonai, Preraii, Tetragrammaton, Anepheneton, Inessenfatel, Pathatumon & Itemon, That you appear here before this Circle to fulfil my will in all things that shall seem good unto me, and if you be so disobedient and refuseth to come I will in the power and by the power of the name of the supreme Everlasting Lord God who created both you and me and all the world in six days and what is contained in it Eyesaraii, and by the power of this name Primeumaton which Commandeth the whole Host of heaven [I] Curse you and deprive you from all your office Joy and place, and bind you in the depth of the bottomless pit there to remain until the last day of the last Judgement, And I will bind you in the Eternal fire, and into the lake of fire and brimstone unless you come quickly and appear here before this Circle to do my will therefore Come ye in and by these holy names Adonai, Zebaoth, Amiorem Come ye Adonai Commands you.” The Goetia of Dr Rudd, edited by Skinner / Rankine, p. 179.
Now, if that doesn’t work, the text offers a next step:
“If you come so far, and he yet [he] do not appear, you may be sure he is sent to some other place by his King and cannot come, and if it be so Invocate the King as followeth to send him, but if he do not come, then you may be sure he is bound in Chains in Hell and is not in the Custody of his King. So if you have a desire to call him from thence you must Release the Spirit’s Chain.” The Goetia of Dr Rudd, edited by Skinner / Rankine, p. 180.
The text then goes on to instruct the reader on how to bind rebelling goetic spirits, which are dealt with by cursing and chaining them to Hell:
“O thou wicked and Rebellious or disobedient Spirit (N) because thou hast rebelled and not obeyed nor regarded my words which I have rehearsed they being all glorious & incomprehensible Names of the true God Maker and Creator of you and me and all the world, I by the power of those Names which no Creature is able to resist do Curse you into the depths of the bottomless pit and there to remain until the day of doom, in Chains of fire and brimstone unquenchable, unless you forthwith appear here before this Circle in this [triangle] to do my will & Therefore come quickly & peaceably in and by these names Adonai Zebaoth Adonai Amiram, Come, Come the King Adonai Commands you.” The Goetia of Dr Rudd, edited by Skinner / Rankine, p. 189.
The text goes on with a conjuration of fire, writing the disobedient spirit’s name on parchment, putting that in a box and then putting the box into the fire in order to force the spirit to appear. After this, we read how to greet the spirit once it appears and a license to depart once you are finished with your ritual.
The text adds:
“After you have given the Spirit License [to Depart], you are not to go out of the Circle till they be gone, And [until] you have made prayers to God for the great blessings he hath bestowed on you in granting your desires and delivering you from all the malice of your enemy the Devil.” The Goetia of Dr Rudd, edited by Skinner / Rankine, p. 185.
Conclusively all the methods mentioned in the Goetia are methods and tools to bind, control, and command those 72 demons to do your will – this includes the purpose of the sigils as well. Additionally to this, the Goetia also lists a vessel, which is supposed to contain and trap those spirits.
It is safe to say that the text of the Goetia has influenced the modern practices of occultists tremendously. However, unless the practitioner is interested in the Renaissance or The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, odds are that those practices differ so much from their respective grimoire that those practices are pretty much unrecognizable.
Today, people started to make their own versions of Goetia, either removed information or added their own philosophy to it, most of the time both. For example, we see a Luciferian Goetia, which mentalizes the system to a degree, views the traditional methods as “not right” because of their Christian nature, and invents a “new approach”. Michael Ford, the author of The Luciferian Goetia, proposes that this type of magic targets the self – which is a modern approach.
We also see people working with the goetic demons in a worshipful manner, instead of the one instructed by the text of the Goetia – a practice which has correctly been dubbed “Demonolatry” instead of “Solomonic” or “goetic” magic.
Traditional practitioners – I would even consider Golden Dawn practitioners as “traditionalists” to a degree – such as myself have become a staggering rarity among occultists. More often than not, traditional goetic magic is even demonized as outdated and unethical, instead of accepted as a valid practice among occultists, demonologists, and people who practice demonolatry – especially in the context of the goetic demons.
However, the demonization of methods does not take away from the fact that the text itself says what it says, that the text itself is both Abrahamic and Solomonic in nature, and that traditional goetic magic and evocation has been a valid magic practice in history – a big one at that – and that it will remain to stay valid.
Again, this is not an attack on anyone who practices differently than I do. This is just to bring light to traditonal practices of this now infamous grimoire.
I. “The Goetia of Dr Rudd” edited by Stephen Skinner and David Rankine.
II. “The Lesser Key of Solomon (Lemegeton)” edited by Jospeh H. Peterson.
III. “The Lesser Key of Solomon” edited by S. L. MacGregor Mathers and Aleister Crowley.
IV. “The Three Books of Occult Philosophy” by Agrippa, edited by Tyson.
V. “The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation with Demotic Spells” edited by Hans Dieter Betz.
VI. “The Luciferian Goetia” by Michael Ford.