Goetia: The Practice and Its Origins

The Goetia was traditionally associated with black magic and medieval grimoires containing incantations and ceremonies specifically designated to invoke demons and/or their powers. The Goetia at one time has been closely associated with sorcery. The derivation of the word «goetia» is uncertain. One possibility takes it back to ancient Greece, Plato defined the term as designating a diviner, magician, seer, or healer. Another derivation possibly came from Latin,Ars Goetia meaning «The Howling Art.» Gradually The Goetia assumed more darker side becoming associated with demonology as it passed through the Greek, Egyptian, Assyrian and Persian heathen sources. Some of the demons named in the current version seem to share Biblical connections.

The Goetia is the initial and longest portion of the Lesser Key of Solomon, a major medieval grimoire. The Goetia discuses seventy-two demons that King Solomon is said to have evoked and confined in a bronze vessel sealed my magical symbols (see Goetia Spirits). He commanded these entities to obey him. First translated from Latin by Samuel Mathers in 1898, and published in 1903 by Aleister Crowley as his own work, with unrelated preliminary invocation ritual of the Bornless One. Other editions have been available. A.G.H.


Origins and Meaning of ‘Goetia’

The term ‘Goetia’ has been historically associated with the darker aspects of magic, specifically black magic and medieval grimoires. The etymology of ‘Goetia’ is somewhat uncertain. One theory traces its origins to ancient Greece, where Plato used the term to describe diviners, magicians, seers, or healers. Another possible derivation is from Latin, with the phrase ‘Ars Goetia’ translating to ‘The Howling Art’. Over time, ‘Goetia’ has evolved to be more closely linked with demonology, drawing from various cultural influences including Greek, Egyptian, Assyrian, and Persian traditions.


Goetia’s Evolution and Biblical Connections

Shift to Demonology Initially, ‘Goetia’ may have had more benign connotations, but it gradually assumed a darker tone, becoming synonymous with the invocation of demons and their powers. This transition is evident in the way ‘Goetia’ borrows elements from various ancient cultures, each contributing to its growing association with the occult and demonology. The demons named in ‘Goetia’ often exhibit connections to Biblical narratives, further solidifying its reputation in the realm of the supernatural.


The Goetia in The Lesser Key of Solomon

Role in The Lesser Key of Solomon The ‘Goetia’ represents the first and most extensive section of the ‘Lesser Key of Solomon’, a significant medieval grimoire. This part of the text focuses on seventy-two demons that, according to legend, were evoked and controlled by King Solomon. These demons were purportedly confined in a bronze vessel, sealed with magical symbols, and made to obey Solomon’s commands.


Translation and Publication History

From Latin to Modern Editions The ‘Goetia’ was first translated from Latin by Samuel Mathers in 1898 and later published in 1903 by Aleister Crowley, who controversially claimed it as his own work and added a preliminary invocation ritual of the ‘Bornless One’. Since then, various editions of ‘Goetia’ have been made available, each offering different interpretations and insights into this mystical and dark aspect of occult lore


Drury, Nevil. The Watkins Dictionary of Magic. London. Watkins Publishing. 2005. p. 117
Greer, John Michael. The New Encyclopedia of the Occult. St. Paul, MN, Llewellyn Publications. 2003. p. 202
Goetia. <http://www.thelemapedia.org/index.php/Goetia>.