Grimoires by a Biblical King? The Magical Treatise of Solomon and the Key of Solomon
The ‘Magical Treatise of Solomon’ and the ‘ Key of Solomon’ are two grimoires (magic handbooks) commonly said to have been written by the biblical King Solomon . The latter grimoire has been described as “ The most enduring, influential, and notorious Solomonic book,” and much has been written on it.
English translations of ‘ Key of Solomon’ can be found easily. By contrast, the ‘ Magical Treatise of Solomon’ is not as well-known and much less has been written about it. Nevertheless, this grimoire is regarded as the precursor to the ‘ Key of Solomon.’
‘Dream of Solomon’ (circa 1694-1695) by Luca Giordano. ( Public Domain )
Little Key of the Whole Art of Hygromancy
The ‘ Magical Treatise of Solomon’ is also known as the ‘ Little Key of the Whole Art of Hygromancy, Found by Several Craftsmen and by the Holy Prophet Solomon ,’ or simply as the ‘ Hygromanteia.’ This text is a compilation of Greek manuscripts and dates to the 15th century AD. This text is the ancestor of the famous ‘ Key of Solomon .’
At present, the only English translation of the ‘ Magical Treatise of Solomon’ is the one edited by Ioannis Marathakis, which was first published in 2011. With regards to this translation, it has been stated that “For the first time (outside of a handful of pages in academic works) the full Greek original of the Key of Solomon appears in English.”
The Magical Treatise of Solomon, or Hygromanteia by Ioannis Marathakis. ( Amazon)
It is said that the ‘ Magical Treatise of Solomon’ was taken to Italy, likely Venice, at some point of time during the decline of the Byzantine Empire. Some say that the ‘ Key of Solomon’ was a translation of the ‘ Magical Treatise of Solomon’ from the to Latin and Italian. The Latin name of this text, by the way, is ‘ Clavicula Salomonis .’
On the other hand, popular opinion suggests that this grimoire was translated from a Hebrew original. For instance, in the ‘Preliminary Discourse’ of Mathers’s English translation, it is written:
This Testament was in ancient time translated from the Hebrew into the Latin language by Rabbi Abognazar, who transported it with him into the town of Arles in Provence.
Photograph of a (a portion of) copied pictogram cipher from the Hebrew Key of Solomon talisman (BL Oriental MS 14759 fol. 35a), held by Wayne Herschel. (Wayne Herschel/ CC BY SA 4.0 )
Another source says that “there is no substantive evidence for a Hebrew version before the seventeenth century”. Additionally, the oldest manuscripts used by Mathers for his translation of the ‘ Key of Solomon’ are probably from the 16th century AD.
Therefore, it is entirely possible that the ‘ Key of Solomon’ is a translation of the ‘ Magical Treatise of Solomon .’ Nevertheless, there are “precedents going back further”, and there are those who do not doubt that Solomon himself was the author of this grimoire.
Legends say that the grimoire was originally written by Solomon for his son Rehoboam, who was told to hide the book in the king’s tomb. The website Got Questions explains that the book was supposedly found by a Babylonian philosopher at a later date, who had a vision of an angel who told the philosopher to hide it from the “unworthy”, which the philosopher saw as encouragement to cast a spell on the book.
‘Rehoboam's Insolence’ (1530) by Hans Holbein. ( Public Domain )
As an interesting side note, the ‘Key of Solomon’ was brought back into popular culture in 2009 when it was referenced in the Dan Brown novel ‘ The Lost Symbol.’
The Key of Solomon – Making Magic
In Mathers’s edition of the ‘ Key of Solomon ’, the grimoire is divided into two parts. Both parts deal with various aspects of the practice of magic . For example, several chapters are dedicated to the preparations needed to be undertaken by a practitioner of magic.
A group of pentacles from the Hebrew manuscript (BL Oriental 14759, fol. 35a). ( Public Domain )
In Book I, such chapters include ‘Chapter I. Concerning the Divine Love Which Ought To Precede the Acquisition of This Knowledge’, and ‘Chapter IV. The Confessions To Be Made By the Exorcist’, while in Book II, one finds such chapters as ‘Chapter IV. Concerning the Fasting, Care, And Things To Be Observed’, and ‘Chapter V. Concerning the Baths, And How They Are To Be Arranged’.
To give you an idea of what the text is like, Mathers’s edition of Book II Chapter V, begins:
The bath is necessary for all magical and necromantic arts; wherefore, if thou wishest to perform any experiment or operation, having arranged all things necessary thereunto according to the proper days and hours, thou shalt go unto a river or running stream, or thou shalt have warm water ready in some large vessel or tub in thy secret cabinet, and while disrobing thyself of thy raiment thou shalt repeat the following Psalms […]
A magical symbol, the Seventh pentacle of the Sun in the ‘Key of Solomon.’ ( Public Domain )
In order to illustrate the range of magical aspects dealt in the ‘ Key of Solomon ’, a few more examples will be used. Chapter X of Book I is entitled ‘Of the Experiment of Invisibility, And How It Should Be Performed’. An excerpt from that text states:
[…] If the matter is to be accomplished by invocation, before thy conjurations, thou shalt say devoutly in thine heart: SABOLES, HABARON, ELOHI, ELIMIGIT, GABELOY SEMITION, METINOLACH, LABALITENA, NEROMOBEL, CALEMERE, DALUTI, TIMAGUEL, VILLAGUEL, TEVEMIS, SERIE, JERETE, BARUCHABA, ATHONAVEL, BARACABA, ERATICUM, through him by whom ye have empire and power over men, ye must accomplish this work so that I may go and remain invisible […]
This is followed by a completely unrelated chapter entitled ‘To Hinder A Sportsman From Killing Any Game’.
Solomon is perhaps best known for the power given to him by God to communicate and control supernatural beings , and there are some chapters relating to this as well.
Buer, the tenth spirit, who teaches "Moral and Natural Philosophy" (from a 1995 Mathers edition). ( Public Domain )
For instance, in Chapter XIII of Book I, one may learn ‘How To Make the Magic Carpet Proper For Interrogating the Intelligences, So As To Obtain An Answer Regarding Whatsoever Matter One May Wish To Learn’, followed by a chapter on ‘How To Render Thyself Master of A Treasure Possessed By the Spirits’.
Whether the texts were really written by Solomon , or even if they were not, there are certainly some very interesting topics covered within!
Top Image: King Solomon and his love, Song of Solomon, graphic collage from engraving of Nazareene School, published in The Holy Bible, St.Vojtech Publishing, Trnava, Slovakia, 1937. King Solomon is allegedly the author of the grimoire ‘Key of Solomon.’ Source: fluenta /Adobe Stock
Davies, O., 2009. Grimoires - A History of Magic Books. [Online]
Available at: http://coreyemmah.weebly.com/uploads/2/2/1/8/22181700/davies_-_grimoires.pdf
Google Books, 2016. The Magical Treatise of Solomon, or, Hygromanteia. [Online]
Available at: https://books.google.com.my/books/about/The_Magical_Treatise_of_Solomon_or_Hygro.html?id=wPyjpwAACAAJ&redir_esc=y
Karr, D., 2010. The Study of Solomonic Magic in English. [Online]
Available at: http://www.digital-brilliance.com/kab/karr/tssmie.pdf
Mathers, S. L. M., 1888. The Key of Solomon the King. [Online]
Available at: http://sacred-texts.com/grim/kos/index.htm
Peterson, J. H., 2005. The Key of Solomon. [Online]
Available at: http://www.esotericarchives.com/solomon/ksol.htm
Rowe, B., 1999. The Greater Key of Solomon. [Online]
Available at: http://hermetic.com/norton/pdf/gkos-1.pdf