This digital edition by Joseph H. Peterson, Copyright © 1999. All rights reserved. Last updated: July 21, 2021 JHP.
Note: A considerably enlarged printed edition of the Lesser Key of Solomon is available:
Edited by Joseph H. Peterson,
March 27, 1999
Copyright © 1999. Last updated July 22, 2021.
I would like to thank the British Museum for allowing me to study
the manuscripts firsthand, and for their help in copying the manuscripts
The Lemegeton is a popular handbook of ritual magic known from the 17th century1 in more or less the same form as I will present it. Much of it was drawn verbatim or otherwise integrated from material found in earlier manuscripts, some of which dates back as early as the 14th century or earlier2.
Heinrich Agrippa, in his De incertitudine et vanitate scientiarum declamatio invectiva (1536) has a chapter on De goetia & necromantia, followed by a chapter De theurgia; the latter mentions "Eius itaque scholae sunt, ars almadel, ars notoria, ars paulina, ars reuelationum, & eiusmodi superstitionum plura" in JF's 1651 translation: "Of his" (i.e. Porphyry's) "School therefore is the Art Almadel, the Notary art, the Pauline Art, the art of Revelations, and many such like superstitions."
Scot also includes a text closely related to the Goetia4. This was in fact one of its primary sources as we shall see.
1. The date 1641 occurs in the text, so the present form must be later.
2. To this period has been dated an important text of the Solomonic literature, Liber Iuratus, or The Sworn Book of Honorius, which has important connections with our present work.
4. Op. cit. chapter 2 consists of a translation of J. Wier's Pseudomonarchia Daemonum. See below.
The name Lemegeton seems to have been suggested and taken from a passage in Ars Notoria (section 20b):
Therefore it is called, The Notary Art, because in certain brief Notes, it teacheth and comprehendeth the knowledge of all Arts: for so Solomon also saith in his Treatise Lemegeton,* that is, in his Treatise of Spiritual and Secret Experiments.
* JV's edition p. 40: Lemogeton. Véonè notes: "Tracté non identifié, peut-être fictif."
The alternate title, "The Lesser Key of Solomon" does not in fact occur in the manuscripts, which instead read "The little key of Solomon" (see below). A.E. Waite, in his 1898 Book of Black Magic and of Pacts does use the terms "greater Key" and "Lesser Key" to distinguish between the Clavicula Salomonis and Lemegeton, so he may have been the first one to coin it.
The primary manuscripts used for this edition include:
Other related manuscripts include:
Fasciculus Rerum Geomanticarum (Plut 89 Sup 38) (dated 1401-1410) has a large collection of demon sigils, but they
seem to be unrelated.
I have followed Sloane 3825 for this edition except for the Ars Notoria. For the latter the manuscripts are clearly dependent on Robert Turner's translation; I have therefore used his 1657 edition as the primary source. Variants from other manuscripts are noted in square brackets . Also in square brackets are the folio numbers from Sl. 3825. I have resisted the temptation to modernise the language.
The parts of the Lemegeton are as follows:
The first book, Goetia, corresponds closely with the catalog
of demons published by Johahn Weyer (or Johann Wierus) as Pseudomonarchia daemonum
in his 1563 De Praestigiis Daemonum. In Weyer's text there
are no demonic seals, and the demons are invoked by a simple conjuration,
not the elaborate ritual found in the Lemegeton.
Reginald Scot included an English translation of Weyer's text, which does in fact seem to be the ancestor of this part of the Lemegeton.
This can be established because of the unique errors and spellings introduced in that translation.
This text has close parallels with book one of Trithemius' Steganographia.
Although the abundant spirit seals are not found in Trithemius,
those few that can be found match exactly. For example, these
four seals are found in Steg. I. chapter xi, dealing with
Usiel and his subordinates:
Compare these with the following seals found in the Lemegeton
in the section dealing with the eleventh spirit, Usiel, and his
subordinates (Adan, Ansoel, Magni and Abariel):
It should be noted that Trithemius' conjurations are actually
his examples of hidden writing ('steganography'), and do not correspond
with the conjurations found in Theugia Goetia. Steganographia
was written in 1500, but was not published until 1608. It was,
however, widely circulated in manuscript form.
The spirits in Part 1 of this book coincide exactly with those found in Trithemius' Steganographia, Book 2. According to Thorndike5, the "The Pauline art," was purported to have been discovered by the Apostle Paul after he had been snatched up to the third heaven, and delivered by him at Corinth. Robert Turner mentions a sixteenth-century manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale6. Although this text is based on earlier versions, repeated mention of the year 1641 and guns, shows a late redaction. The "table of practice" has similarities with Dee's "holy table". In the former the seven seals have the characters of the seven planets, which also occur in the Magical Calendar (1614.)
5. Magic and Experimental Science, chapter xlix, 1923, pp. 279 ff.
6. BnN 7170A. See Robert Turner, Elizabethan Magic, 1989. pp. 140-1.
The descriptions of the seals for each sign of the Zodiac are evidently abstracted from Paracelsus, The Second Treatise of Celestial Medicines, cf. Archidoxes of Magic translated by Robert Turner, 1656, pp. 136 ff.
In 1508, Trithemius mentioned a long list of books on magic, including the book "Almadel attributed to King Solomon"7 Ars Almadel is also found in the Hebrew manuscript of the Key of Solomon, ed. Gollancz, Sepher Maphteah Shelomoh, 1914, fol 20b. Turner mentions a fifteenth-century manuscript in Florence.8
7. See critical edition of the Latin versions, Véronèse, Julien. L'Almandal et l'Almadel latins au Moyen Âge: introduction et éditions critiques. Firenze: SISMEL edizioni del Galluzzo, 2012. See also I. P. Couliano, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, Chicago, 1987, p. 167.
8. Ibid. Florence II-iii-24.
The Ars Notoria is a Medieval Grimoire of the 'Solomonic Cycle'. Many Latin manuscripts are extant, the oldest are dated thirteenth century, and possibly earlier. Like Liber Juratus (also thirteenth century), the text centers around an even older collection of orations or prayers which are interspersed with magical words. The orations in Ars Notoria and those in Liber Juratus are closely related. The orations in both works are said to have mystical properties which can impart communion with God and instant knowledge of divine and human arts and sciences.
Older manuscripts of the Ars Notoria contain exquisite drawings, the "figures" mentioned in the text.9 Their omission adds greatly to the confusion of the text.
9. See below. For other examples of the illustrations, and an excellent discussion of the Ars Notoria, see the article by Michael Camille in Claire Fanger, Conjuring Spirits, Texts and Traditions of Medieval Ritual Magic, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998, pp. 110 ff.
Not all manuscripts of the Lemegeton include the Ars
Notoria, their contents listing only four books. Those that
do are entirely dependant on Robert Turner's 1657 edition, which
is evidently his own translation from the Latin.
[The sixth Sheet of Dr. Rudd
This Book contains all the names, orders, and offices of all the spirits Salomon ever conversed with. The seals and characters belonging to each spirit, and the manner of calling them forth to visible appearance.
Some of these spirits are in Enoch's Tables which I have explained,
but omitted their seals and characters, how they may be known;
but in this book they are at large set forth.
Magic is the highest most absolute and divine knowledge of natural philosophy advanced in its works and wonderful operations by a right understanding of the inward and occult vertue of things, so that true agents being applied to proper patients, strange and admirable effects will thereby be produced; whence magicians are profound and diligent searchers into nature, they because of their skill know how to anticipate an effect which to the vulgar shall seem a miracle.
Origen saith that the magical art doth not contain anything subsisting, but although it should yet that must not be evil or subject to contempt or scorn; and doth distinguish the natural magic from that which is diabolical.
Tyaneus only exercised the natural magic by which he perforned wonderful things.
Philo Hebreus saith that true magic by which we come to the secret works of nature is so far from being contemptible that the greatest monarchs and kings have studied it. Nay amongst the Persians none might reign unless he was skillfull in this great art.
This noble science often degenerates, and from natural becomes diabolical, from true philosophy turns to nigromancy, which is wholly to be charged uppon its followers who, abusing or not being capable of that high and mystical knowledge do immediately hearken to the temptations of Sathan, and are misled by him into the study of the black art. Hence it is that magic lies under disgrace and they who seek after it are vulgarly esteemed sorcerers. And the fraternity of the Rosicrucians thought it not fit to style themselves magicians, but philosophers. Thay are not ignorant empirics1 but learned and experienced physicians whose remedies are not only lawful but divine.]
The little Key of Salomon the King which containeth all the names, orders and offices of all the spirits that ever he hadd any converse with, with the seales or Characters belongeing to Each spirit, and the manner of calling them forth to [visible] appearance, in 5 Parts, called Books viz - - - - -:
These Bookes were first found in the Chaldean & hebrew tongues at Hierusalem, by a Jewish Rabbi, & by him put into the greeke Language, & from thence into ye Latine, as it is said &c.
|Gollancz, fol. 38a.||Or. 14759|
|The Seal of Solomon, from Harl. 6483.||Seal of Solomon from the Magical Calendar.|
Note the drawing at the bottom showing how the candles are to be constructed with feet to support the Almadel.