Goetia (Latin, "howling") is a word used to describe a class of
magick which emphasizes the summoning or calling forth of lesser
spirits and demons to visible appearance, with the intention of
binding the spirits to perform the magician's will.
Like many magickal traditions, the roots of Goetia are difficult
to pinpoint. Presumably, it existed for some time as a purely oral
tradition, passed from teacher to student, before anything was
committed to writing. What is known is that Goetia saw its peak of
popularity in the late middle ages.
According to tradition, the Goetia was founded by King Solomon.
Having been given the power over lesser spirits by God, Solomon
commanded various demons to assist in the building of his famous
Temple. Despite the fact that this tradition most likely
originated in the imaginations of medieval mages, it attests to
the power of this magickal system that they felt one could
constrain the spirits to such complex physical tasks. While it may
have had its roots in pre-Christian systems, the Goetia as we know
it today is undoubtedly a product of medieval Europe, with its
concepts of angels and demons organized into feudalistic
hierarchies. The most famous examples of medieval Goetia include
the Lemegeton Clavicula Salomonis ("The Lesser Key of Solomon"),
Liber Honorius and Grimorium Verum.
Goetic magick, like most medieval magick, is extremely ceremonial
and often calls for strict observance of many details. Due to the
great power of this system, and the repeated vehement warnings
given by medieval authors, modern practitioners of Goetia tend to
rely upon the old prescriptions rather than modifying or
reinventing the rituals. This may seem limiting, and sometimes
pointless, but the old methods can have surprising power.
The interaction between the magician and the summoned spirits in
Goetic magick is quite unique. Whereas in some traditions, spirits
are prayed to or asked for guidance and wisdom, the spirits and
demons of Goetia are bound and commanded by the magician to act as
his servants. In such an interaction, it is highly important for
the magician to be aware that he is calling upon these spirits to
perform an action, rather than do it himself, because many of
these beings are more powerful than him. Therefore, compelling the
spirits to obey is a major concern. For protection, the magician
employs elaborate circles and
rotes to confine the spirit. Once confined, the spirit must be
forced to act in accordance with the will of the magician. Many
different methods are employed to compel the spirits; lesser
spirits can often be coerced, threatened or fooled into
compliance, whereas more powerful spirits can be more difficult to
Common methods of control include threats, particularly in the
form of the vibration of divine names, which tells the demon or
spirit that the magician speaks with the authority and power of
the god whose name he intoning. Some magicians will try to
persuade the spirit, sometimes resorting to begging and
bootlicking. In many cases, the magician may try to bargain with
the spirit, to which it will most likely happily agree, exchanging
service for sacrifice of some kind.
The various Goetic demons and beings are often very specialized.
Grimoires list long catalogues of spirits, their specific powers,
and how they may be summoned by the use of different seals,
incantations, sacrifices and incenses. Before conjuration, the
magician must carefully consult these catalogues and select the
single spirit best suited for the task.
The Goetic spirits are not well suited to conversation, as are the
Enochian angels. The lesser spirits are often stupid and are not
known for their honesty. Summoning of the demons for the purpose
of gaining information is generally a waste of time, unless
perhaps the being is specifically ordered to spy or seek out
information for the magician.
The magickal system of Goetia is definitely not for dabblers in
the occult arts. If one does not feel comfortable or prepared to
utilize Goetic magick, they should not do so. It is not surprising
that the Goetic magick of Abramelin the Mage is only given to the
student after the operation for the invocation of the Holy
Guardian Angel. The student would do well not to attempt
constraint of the lesser spirits before having attained the
knowledge and conversation of their Holy Guardian Angel. Probably
due to its specific interest in demonology, a great deal of
wariness surrounds the practice of Goetia, though much of this
fear and prudence is undoubtedly based on the first-hand
experiences of reckless magicians. Goetic legends hold that some
magicians have perished after dealing with forces too great for
During recent years, many ceremonial magicians with a background
in psychology have postulated that the demons of the Goetia are
the base and negative traits of the human psyche. While there is
certainly a basis for this idea, it must be understood that this
does not diminish the possible danger of incorrectly conjuring and
commanding these forces. These "archetypes," if you will, are not
simply within the mind of the magician. They are in the psyche of
each individual, as well as in the collective psyche of humanity.
To illustrate psychologically, suppose the magician invokes a
demon representing anger and ferocity, with the intent of
utilizing the demon's aggressive nature to assist him in obtaining
employment. If the magician does not properly control his anger,
it may break free and cause a severe imbalance.
Like any powerful force such as fire or electricity, the Goetia
can be both beneficial and detrimental, white and black, good and
evil. It commands respect, discipline and proper skills if the
magician does not wish to get burned.