By Frater S.C.F.V.
I read a quote today by Gordon Winterfield, author of Demons of Magick who claimed that none of the tools of grimoiric magic that many of us have devoted so much time, love, and energy to creating are “required” to work with goetic spirits. If you’ve read any of my articles researching the meticulous traditions surrounding the making of some of these tools and sharing my approaches to crafting them, you could probably imagine my facial expression upon reading this statement… 😉
However, since I attempt to be a charitable listener, I will willingly concede to Gordon that yes, technically, none of the classical equipment is “required” to complete a successful evocation, with ‘successful’ meaning that “the spirit showed up when called.”
Here’s the thing, though; this “success” can come at the price of danger, risk, and chaotic and unpredictable results from evocations done without the proper precautions and tools.
If those results end up giving us the opposite of what we did the magic to achieve in the first place, that can hardly be called “successful” in any practical sense. And if we, our possessions, or people we care about come to harm as a result of the Operation, that could arguably be considered an egregious failure. As a rather striking example, I know of a magician who didn’t use any of the tools and did a ritual with a particular spirit from the Lemegeton’s Goetia in which he asked the spirit to relieve his worries about his home. He got what he asked for; the spirit relieved his worries — by burning his house down!
Moreover, if we attempt to exercise control and technical precision around using specific techniques to produce specific results, omitting the tools the spirits themselves often call for can be extremely counterproductive, inexact, and generate self-defeating results. Just as a good scientist would not omit controls for potentially confounding variables when running an experiment, so, the grimoire authors suggest, should we also be wary to omit the controls provided by the tools of the Art when performing our own Operations.
Here’s the thing that many of us “traditionalists” have been trying to point out to modern magicians with strong biases against using the classical tools of the Art: just because something is not “required” to complete an activity does not mean that it is wise to omit it. For example, technically, a car can be driven without brakes; therefore, brakes are not required to drive a car. However, it is extremely unwise and dangerous to drive a car without brakes. The same argument holds just as strongly for the evocationary technologies that we find in the grimoires such as the Circle, triangle, daggers, sword, incense and censor, candles, etc. Yes, an evocation can be completed without them, but with much greater risk involved.
Furthermore, if we do evocationary work without the proper tools and precautions, then what tends to happen is that either the spirits do not turn up at all or they do arrive, but we find ourselves without any means of means of protecting ourselves or resisting whatever they have in mind for us when they do. To cite just a few examples of adverse results I have either seen firsthand or heard about from friends with years of experience with the Lemegeton’s Goetia, people who have done evocations without the grimoiric precautions have sometimes gotten physically or mentally ill, been physically attacked (e.g. slapped, thrown to the floor, scratched, or bruised), had damage done to their family members or possessions, or been outright possessed or subtly manipulated into particular forms of obsession. These spirits are powerful beings with many other spirits under their authority; they are no joke and should not be taken lightly.
This is all the more the case since some goetic entities are notorious for being deceptive, manipulative, unpredictable, and destructive when given the opportunity, reason, or motivation to act accordingly. As a result, great precautions are far wiser than not having any at all. I see the spirits in much the same way that I see fire. Fire can be very helpful or very destructive; its effects depend on the precautions we take when we work with it. Rightly used, fire can warm our house; used wrongly, it can burn that same house to the ground. Therefore, just as it is wise to take precautions with fire, so it is wise to take precautions when working with certain kinds of spirits.
Cover Image: Key of Solomon Sword by the talented Omega Artworks.