The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
The Grimoire of Honorius the Great
Books of Magic and Witchcraft
The Grimoire of Honorius the Great was allegedly written by Pope Honorius III, who passed away in 1227. The grimoire is occasionally attributed to one of the other popes known as Honorius, however the general consensus seems to be that if the grimoire was indeed written by a pope, then Honorius III is the one. Why would a pope author a grimoire? For priests to use—or at least that’s the rationale given in this book.
The book’s origins are unclear. The Grimoire of Honorius has existed in its present form since at least 1629 and was published in Rome in 1670. According to information contained in its text, a convention of sorcerers elected Honorius to write a work capturing the essence of the magical arts. The text was to be closely guarded and secretly passed from one generation to another. The anonymous author of The Grimoire of Honorius, whoever he was, included an introduction in the form of a papal bull from Pope Honorius proclaiming that Roman Catholic priests are now permitted to invoke demons.
The Grimoire of Honorius suggests various methods of summoning, commanding, and dismissing demons. Included in the work are prayers, assorted animal sacrifices, and instructions on how to create a magical book. Whether or not the grimoire was actually authored by a pope, its orientation is clearly Christian and intended for use by sorcerers in Christianity.
Is the concept of a pope authoring a grimoire completely laughable? Again, who knows? Since the Middle Ages, rumors have consistently circulated that before confiscated magical texts were burned, copies were secretly made and sent to the Vatican Library. Many sorcerers came from a clerical background and in many areas, such as France or Russia, priests were frequently reputed to double as sorcerers and were feared as such. Historically, priests were convicted and burned as witches. Based on their texts, some grimoires were intended for use by rogue priests.
Because the Pope had access to these stores of knowledge, many popes have had reputations, whether deserved or not, as sorcerers. One persistent conspiracy theory alleges that the European Witchcraze was at its roots really a secret attempt to eliminate everyone else possessing any kind of magical wisdom so that only a very small elite, safely hidden in the heart of the Church, would have control over this knowledge.