Ceremonial Magic
Ceremonial magic, also known as ritual magic, is a highly
disciplined form of magic in which ceremony and ritual become
the central tools used in the magical operation. As described
in the older grimoires, the books that detail magical
operations, ceremonial magic centers upon the art of the invocation
(or evocation), and control of spirits. In its more contemporary
versions, ceremonial magic concerns the discipline of
the self and the art of controlling and directing personal and
cosmic power, which may or may not be personified as a demonic
or deific form.
In its pre-twentieth-century form, ceremonial magic’s rites
were religious actions, and the ritual format partook largely of
the nature of religious observances. It was not, as generally supposed,
a reversed Christianity or Judaism, though it departed
radically from orthodox Christianity; nor did it partake of the
profanation of religious ritual. It was in effect an attempt to derive
power from God for the successful control of evil spirits.
Even in the grimoires and keys of black magic, the operator
was constantly reminded that he or she must meditate continually
on the undertaking at hand and center every hope in the
infinite goodness of the Great Adonai. The god invoked in
black magic was not Satan but the Jehovah of the Jews and the
Trinity of the Christians.
The foundation of practical magic was the belief in the
power of divine words to compel the obedience of all spirits to
those who could pronounce them. Such words and names were
supposed to invoke or dismiss the denizens of the spirit world,
and they, with suitable prayers, were used in all magical ceremonies.
Again it was thought that it was easier to control evil
spirits than to enlist the sympathies of angels.
He who would gain such power over demons was exhorted
in the magical texts to observe continence and abstinence, to
disrobe as seldom and sleep as little as possible during the period
of preparation, to meditate continually on the magical work,
and center all hopes on God. The fast should be most austere,
and human society must be avoided as much as possible. The
concluding days of the fast should be additionally strict—
sustenance being reduced to bread (then a substantive food)
and water. Daily ablutions in water, which had been previously
exorcised according to the ritual, were necessary; these cleansings
needed to be observed immediately before the ceremony.
Certain periods of the day and night, as found, for instance,
in the book known as the Key of Solomon the King, were ruled
by certain planets. The grimoires agreed that the hours of Saturn,
Mars, and Venus were good for communion with spirits—
the hour of Saturn for invoking souls in Hell, and the hour of
Mars for invoking those who have been slain in battle. In fact
these hours and seasons were ruled by the laws of astrology. In
the preparation of the instruments employed, the ceremonies
of purifying and consecrating were carefully observed. A brush,
an aspergillum, was used to sprinkle a mixture of mint, marjoram,
and rosemary. For fumigation, a chafing dish would be
filled with freshly kindled coal and perfumed with aloe-wood
or mace, benzoin, or storax. The experiment of holding converse
with spirits, i.e., necromancy, was often made in the day
and hour of Mercury, that is the first or eighth, or the fifteenth
or twenty-second.
The Grand Grimoire notes that when the night of action has
arrived, the operator shall take a rod, a goatskin, a blood-stone,
two crowns of vervain, and two candlesticks with candles; also
a new steel and two new flints, enough wood to make a fire, half
a bottle of brandy, incense and camphor, and four nails from
the coffin of a dead child. Either one or three persons must
take part in the ceremony—one of whom only must address the
The Kabalistic circle is formed with strips of kid’s skin fastened
to the ground by the four nails. With the blood-stone a
triangle is traced within the circle, beginning at the eastern
point. The letters a e a j must be drawn in like manner, as also
the name of the Savior between two crosses. The candles and
vervain crowns are then set in the left and right sides of the triangle
within the circle, and they with the brazier are set
alight—the fire being fed with brandy and camphor. A prayer
is then repeated. The operator must be careful to have no alloyed
metal about him except a gold or silver coin wrapped in
paper, which must be cast to the spirit when he appears outside
the circle. The spirit is then conjured three times. Should the
spirit fail to appear, the two ends of the magic rod must be
plunged into the flames of the brazier. This ritual is known as
the Rite of Lucifuge and is believed to invoke the demon Lucifuge