The Goetic Tradition

The Goetic tradition is one of the most iconic parts of the western tradition. Its language of sigils and spirits permeate through the archetypes of magecraft as to be a truly universal touchstone. From the high french ceremonial schools to the folk traditions of the African-diaspora, Goetic magic and its symbolary draws power from a strong current to a practitioner’s spellwork. Whether found inscribed on a lamen or stuffed into a mojo bag, these lines draw wide connection within the diverse practices of western magic.

 

In recent years there has been a revival of interest in the early goetic grimoires through new scholarly examination of the assumed timelines of transmission within the multitude of black books. Under more critical scrutiny the long upheld lines between the high theurgic traditions and the ‘lower’ goetia have broken down. As practitioners who have inhabited both currents have long suspected, the basic techniques remain consistent across many of the classic grimoires, reflecting their authorship’s particular mixture of folk kabbalah and practical spellwork.

 

Recently some magicians have put forward the theory that these practices preserve earlier religious observances and beliefs. Essentially these magicians claim that the goetia conceal a ‘pagan’ or as I prefer ‘traditional religious’ mindset and system of working within the trade dress of abrahamic faith. The majority of this argument consists of drawing a line of transmission back to our earliest known magical texts, the Greek Magical Papyri, often abbreviated PGM for the Latin Papyri Graecae Magicae. These texts are the remnants of an underground syncretic tradition of magic drawing from a wide variety of mythologies. These texts often contain warnings to keep the contents secret for fear of the purging of such magical texts, a typical event in the traditional period from traditional religious practice to a centralised authoritative institution as exampled by Acts 19.

 

Hans Dieter Betz has long argued that the PGM represents a microcosm of the majorly metropolitan religious practices of ancient cultures. In these texts Moses and Solomon are invoked in the same breath as Atman, Ra and Abraxis. It has long been held that this sort of syncretic mode was far more typical of traditional religious practice. Thus, it is not difficult to follow the line of argument that a tradition relying on the logic and structures of the PGM represents a survival of the practices that generated the PGM into modernity. One such work that makes this argument is Jake Stratton-Kent’s Encyclopedia Goetica.

 

The core of Jake Stratton-Kent’s argument comes from the long line of traditional correspondances that are transmitted through the rituals’ components as well as the technique of scrying as outlined by the ‘Armadel’ technique explored in the PGM. He draws a parallel between the spirit work of the PGM and the ritual rites of the Abramelin, which he uses as a touchstone to establish a lineage of technical transmission. Through some novel liniageation Stratton-Kent manages to tie the Grimoire Verum into the line of decent, making an argument for using this book as a basis for an exploration of his thesis.

 

This is an intriguing move and one that cemented this series as my recommendation to the group. The Grimoire Verum is a book that has enjoyed an infamous reputation within occult circles. Traditionally considered a book of the black arts, and one of not particularly high quality, the scholarship surrounding the sourcing of the book as well as the available translations were quite poor until recently. Stratton-Kent’s commentary and analysis of this often maligned tome is nothing short of brilliant. In addition to forming a solid argument for the elevation of this book within the grimoire tradition he writes with the viewpoint of a modern practitioner in mind, bringing us through the historical context as well as magical significance of the goetic and necromantic works within. Approachable substitutions as well as their logic are given so that the practitioner can try out these formulation, making this first volume work an absolutely practical grimoire and a brilliant introduction to working these sort of books.

 

We look forward to discussing the book with the group this Saturday as well as the wider subject of the Goetic tradition! 🙂

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