The Construction of Christianity through Conjuration: An Exploration of the Christian and Non-Christian Elements and Nature of Liber Iuratus Honorii
Medieval Europe has an unusual class of texts known as grimoires. These books claim to grant the reader power over their material and spiritual world, by instructing how to summon angels, demons, and a variety of other spirits. What makes these texts more compelling is that they are apparently Christian in nature; their symbolism, their language, and their purpose all claim to be Christian and appropriate within the religion. Yet the concept of these books –conjuring demons and commanding them to do the bidding of the reader– seems to be non Christian. Considering the witch trials that took place in this period, religious and secular laws against the practice of magic, and the pre Christian religions of Europe, it would not be unreasonable to consider the grimoires may not have been truly be Christian. Liber Iuratus Honorii, or The Sworn Book of Honorius is one of earliest surviving grimoires, and like the rest claims a Christian heritage. This paper analyzes Liber Iuratus Honorii using links with other texts and traditions, the internal Christian elements, and the internal logic and narrative of the text to show that Liber Iuratus Honorii is a genuinely Christian text likely written by a member of the clergy who disagreed with the establishment of the Church, but not Christianity.
Historical Background of Liber Iuratus Honorii
Liber Iuratus Honorii attributes itself to Honorius of Thebes, son of Euclid. It is unlikely that such a figure ever existed, as grimoires are often pseudopigraphical in authorship and the name seems designed to make the reader associate the text with Euclid of geometric fame. Regardless for ease of reference, I will refer to the author of Liber Iuratus Honorii as Honorius. The earliest surviving copy of the text dates to the fourteenth century, but dates as early as the first half of the thirteenth century have been argued . Dating the text is difficult as it may actually have been composed in parts, some dating to the thirteenth century, and some to the fourteenth. Though six copies of the manuscript survive, in slightly different forms, when compared to each other and by their list of chapters it seems there is not a complete copy surviving. These manuscripts are all written in Latin, and only one critical edition of a manuscript has been produced currently by Gösta Hedegård in 2002. This paper will focus on the only version of the manuscript that has been translated into English, Royal MS 17Axlii, translated around the sixteenth century, though the modern compiler notes textual deficiencies and variant readings from three other manuscripts. The text itself is divided into three or four books (depending on the manuscript), which include: a complex ritual to attain vision of the divine, rituals to attain knowledge in many fields, instructions of specific spirit conjuration, and more conjurations respectively. Other academic works have focused on the textual and religious relationships of Liber Iuratus Honorii, what influenced it and what it influences. Though these works highlight what is and is not Christian in origin in the text, they all assume the Christianity of Liber Iuratus Honorii as certain without challenging that assertion. While I do not disagree with their final position, in this paper I seek to examine and prove the Christian nature of the text, thus further supporting the study and interpretation of Liber Iuratus Honorii as a Christian document.