Uncovering Christianity through the Internal Logic of Liber Iuratus Honorii
Part of the challenge in understanding the Christian nature of Liber Iuratus Honorii is knowing what to take at face value and what may be a blind, something to throw an unwanted reader off track, such as hiding a non-Christian text in Christian imagery. To do this we must consider the text as falling into one of two major possibilities: either it is a highly unorthodox Christian text, or it is a non Christian text that uses Christian elements as a disguise to protect the owner in case someone managed to read the text. Remembering the church’s attitude toward magic, and the supposed judgement of the pope, it makes sense that a non-Christian magical text would pretend to be Christian in an attempt to protect the owner. Consider the name and nature of the text. It is called Iuratus or Sworn, because the book was to be held and received under an oath. According to the introduction, it is included in the oath that the text would only be passed on when the previous owner is dying, to a man who has been tested for a year and found holy. No copies can be made save for those passed on at the deathbed, the owner should die rather than betray the person who gave him the text, and if no worthy man is found, the text is to buried either by the owner while still alive or with him at the time of death. Considering the pope’s condemnation and “judging [practitioners] to death” it seems that between the oaths and the fear of execution anyone who owned a copy of Liber Iuratus Honorii regardless of its religious origin would be unlikely to share the text.
If this is assumed to be the case, then the inclusion of very specific Christian prayers —from priestly prayers like the Blessing of the Salt, to prayers more likely to be known to the laity like the Hail Mary, the Actiones nostras, the Athanasian Creed, and many others— would seem to be a sincere inclusion. If this was a non-Christian text, under the same oaths and restrictions there would still be the same threat of execution and thus need for secrecy, therefore there would be no need to reframe it in Christian contexts. If Liber Iuratus Honorii was really passed on at death, and under the oaths and threats, then it is not unreasonable to assume that the Christian elements are not there as a disguise, but are part of the system. If no one would ever read the text, save whom the owner approved of and passed the text to at death, then there is no need to disguise the text in Christian theology and language for protection. Under such conditions the Christian nature of Liber Iuratus Honorii would be genuine.
Continuing to look at the internal logic of the text, we must look at the framing narrative, which explains the supposed reasoning for the book being written down and oath bound. The text says the pope and his cardinals , having decided this art is of the Devil, must “pluck up and utterly to destroy this deadly root, and all the followers of this art.” The text has to be hidden and protected because the pope and the Church has decided it is evil. While this is not shocking nor inflammatory the author of Liber Iuratus Honorii continues to claim that “wicked spirits were gathered together, intending to send devils into the hearts of men… sowing hypocrise [sic] and envy, and rooting bishops and prelates in pride, even the pope himself and his cardinals” and this is what led them on this quest against books of magic and spirit conjuration. It was not because the texts were unholy, but because the pope and his cardinals have been coerced by demons, or “wicked spirits,” to this end. Returning to the idea that Christian prayers and symbolism were added to protect the owner if the book was ever accidentally discovered, as a palatable disguise, then the first paragraph would not accuse the pope of being under a demon’s influence and remove that palatable disguise. This again shows the sincerity of the Christian elements. If the text is oath bound and no one will read it there is no need to hide it in Christian terms, and if the Christian terms were a disguise they wouldn’t attack the pope, so it suggests that the text really was Christian.
There are other aspects of the text which support this reading of its internal logic. For instance, divine vision is the goal of the first book, yet several other effects happen in the course of the ritual, either as steps along the way or “side-effects” and one of them is the “forgiveness of sins.” One of the prayers used in the working itself says “this prayer aforesaid … doth obtain remission of sins” and later prayers continue to request and attest that “inward sins may be washed away.” At this time the Church was seen as the sole source of forgiveness, that through confession to a priest and their recommendations and blessings a sin could be washed away. Yet here the text is offering the practitioner the chance to do just that without the intervention of a priest. This should not be read as anti-Christian or non-Christian, but anti-Church as an establishment. The text is asserting the power of an individual to be forgiven through other means than the Church, even if it is a complex ritual. So while still Christian it does display some issues with the hierarchy and policies of the Church.