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 Goetia

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Stacey/Cirrius
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PostSubject: Goetia   Sun Sep 27, 2009 4:53 pm

The meaning of the word “Goetia” has long been a subject of scholarly debate. It is often thought to have derived from the Greek word goaô (to wail, groan, or weep), and is related to the howling of bestial demons. On the other hand, A.E. Waite suggests that the word indicates “witchcraft.” This would derive from the Greek word goes (an enchanter, sorcerer), and from the word goety, indicating the art of the sorcerer- which is witchcraft.

In classical times, “witchcraft” was a direct reference to working with spirit familiars, or the performance of necromancy. Thus, the very name of the text was meant to convey its focus upon infernal spirit working. It is introduced in the Weiser edition: “The First Book, or Part, which is a Book concerning Spirits of Evil, and which is termed The Goetia of Solomon, sheweth forth his manner of binding these Spirits for use in things divers. And hereby did he acquire great renown.”

The examples we have today are said to date back only to the seventeenth century. However, Waite suggests that it must be older; due to such earlier texts as Liber Spiritum, which mimic the style of the Goetia. Elizabeth Butler was convinced that Liber Spiritum, and even Liber Officiorum, were earlier names for the Goetia itself. To add to this, I discussed above the relation of the Testament of Solomon to the Goetia, with its large collection of demons, sigils, functions, and bindings. The Testament dates itself within the second through fifth centuries of the Common Era, suggesting that the Lemegeton might have enjoyed a rather long tradition both orally and written.

The story (or mythos) within the Goetia is based upon a Talmudic legend, wherein King Solomon sealed a group of spirits (in this case, 72 planetary spirits) into a brass vessel, and cast it into a Babylonian lake. The Babylonians witnessed the king disposing of the vessel, and retrieved it in hopes of finding treasure. Instead, they only succeeded in freeing the demons once more in a fashion reminiscent of Pandora’s Box. Thus, the 72 spirits that Solomon once commanded are available for summoning, and are herein named and described, along with rites and conjurations meant to call them. The Goetia is the home of such popularized demons as Ashtaroth, Bael, Amon, Asmodai, and the four Cardinal Princes Amaymon, Corson, Zimimay, and Goap. With their brethren, they pretty much make up the standard hierarchy of demons from Medieval grimoiric literature.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the Goetia is its obvious tie to the tradition of the Arabian Thousand and One Nights. In these tales, mages are often depicted imprisoning jinni (genies) into brass bottles. In the example of Aladdin and the Lamp, the prison was a brass oil-burning lamp instead. The powers attributed to the spirits of the Goetia likewise reflect the magick portrayed in the legends: production of treasure, turning men into animals, understanding the speech of animals, etc. Of course, the Arabic tradition focused somewhat on King Solomon, and most of the legends that we remember of him today originated there. I strongly recommend one read Arabic mythology (including the Thousand and One Nights) when studying the Goetia.

The Goetia is the source of the ever-popular Triangle of the Art, into which spirits are generally summoned. This is also the source of the infamous “Greater Curse” where the seal of a disobedient spirit is placed into an iron box with stinking herbs and perfumes, and dangled over an exorcised flame. The Seal of Solomon, which the King impressed upon the brass vessel, is reproduced here; as are the Pentagram, Hexagram, and Disk (or Ring) of Solomon. These magickal tools have been used by various mages, for various purposes, since the publication of the Goetia.
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