It is the custom of some writers upon the occult, notably the late
Montague Summers, to lump together indifferently both witchcraft and
ceremonial magic, and to label them both as ‘devil worship’. This is
The magic of the grimoires, such as the Key of Solomon, the Lemegeton, the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, etc., is something entirely
different from the old pagan traditions of witchcraft. Ceremonial
magic is the magic of learned men, and even of priests. It has a strongly
religious tinge, of both Christianity and Judaism, and has mostly been
derived from the Hebrew Qabalah and given a Christian veneer.
Its method of working is to control the powers of nature, which are
conceived of as being either angelic or demonic, by the powerful
Divine Names which form the words of conjuration. Such words, for
instance, as Agla, Adonai, Tetragrammaton, Sabaoth, Anaphaxeton,
Primeumaton, Sother, Athanatos ; words which are a mixture of Hebrew
and Greek, and are all names of God.
Its instructions are usually complicated and exacting, and require
the magician to purify himself by fasting, taking baths, and dressing in
clean and consecrated robes before he enters the magic circle. He uses
pentacles and consecrated tools, as does the witch, but all of a more elaborate kind. He prays at length, in the forms of either Judaism or
Christianity, for power to perform this magical operation, by compelling
the spirits of either heaven or hell to do his bidding.
The witch’s method of proceeding is simpler and more direct. In
fact, the people who practised witchcraft could be and often were
illiterate ; while the ceremonial magician had to be more or less a
His arts were officially forbidden by the Church, but not in practice
with such severity as those of the witch ; because the witch was a pagan
heretic, while the ceremonial magician, even when he set out to evoke
demons, considered himself to be within the Church’s pale.
He would indignantly deny that he was a Satanist or a devil worshipper. Indeed, the alleged cult of Satanism is, in the writer’s opinion,
something of fairly modern and mainly literary origin. The Black
Magic novels of Mr Dennis Wheatley, while first-rate entertainment as
imaginative thrillers, bear little relationship to the real traditional
practices of either ceremonial magicians or witches.
The witch’s origins and practices go back to the dawn of time. She
keeps pagan festivals and invokes pagan gods; and while there is much
common ground between witch