a little goetic analysis

About a month ago I wrote a post that brought up the subject of demons in relation to psychological processes and forgiveness, and my friend Brent was wondering if there was any link between demonology and the shadow side of the elements. I had already ordered  a copy of The Goetia, so I had to have a look at this.

Two things I should point out first though: one is that The Goetia is just one book out of the 5 of The Lemegeton, or Lesser Key of Solomon, though it does give descriptions and attributions of the demons. Secondly, this is not my subject and I was not about to embark on serious experiential study of Goetic demons in the practice of evocation, which would be far and away the realer deal, so this is just a paper study or analysis.

Now there is an elemental scheme to the Goetia: 72 demons, 18 per element, 9 for the day and 9 for the night. 9 demons, 3 decans per sign of the zodiac, 9 decans per element, it pans out quite nicely. Each demon also has a planetary correspondence (sometimes two).

I tried looking at the elements and got the following:

Fire: predominantly corresponding with Sun, Venus, Moon and Mercury (equally).

Water: predominantly corresponding with Venus, then Jupiter and Mars.

Air: predominantly corresponding with the Sun, then Moon, Venus and Mercury.

Earth: predominantly corresponding with Venus, then Moon.

There were other planetary influences on the elements, but this keeps it simple by looking at the first two rankings per element. Venus is strong in most, though seems least dominant in Air, most dominant in Earth. Sun is dominant in Fire and Air, but not in Water and Earth.  Moon is strongest in Fire, and comparatively weakest in Water (surprisingly), but comes second in Air and Earth. Mercury features in Fire and Air. Jupiter and Mars come second in Water.

Part of the text mentions Belial, Bileth, Asmoday, and Gäap as being “chief”, all being returned to their confining vessel after having been released in Babylon, except for Belial who entered into an image and got worshiped as a god. You might think from this that we have four chiefs, so maybe four elements? But in fact of these four one is associated with Leo (fire), and three are associated with Aquarius (air). The text also mentions four “Great Kings” ruling the four quarters: Amaymon, Corson, Zimimay (Ziminiar), Göap. The notes give some alternative names, and if I take Paymon to be one of them, and Göap to actually be Gäap, then that gives me a Gemini and an Aquarius association according to the demon list, ie two air signs, and not much of a lead on Corson and Zimimay. It doesn’t really add up.

Going on to the natures and powers of the demons, it does read like a rather sad indictment of human desires and intentions for a good part of it, ameliorated by some reasonable and more lofty or simply pleasurable goals.

Things that were common to all elements were things such as: the teaching of various subjects, divination, transportation of people, causing love, finding treasure or the hidden.

Things shared by two or more elements included things such as: healing, causing diseases, transforming the shape of men, reconciling friends, giving esoteric knowledge, turning metals into gold, causing natural phenomena (eg storms), giving good familiars, making wise or eloquent, giving riches, killing, building towers, reading minds, creating illusions, and other such.

Things specific to elements were:

Fire: causes battle, gives good servants, grants requests, sends warriors, makes coins, sows discord.

Water: causes people to show themselves naked, sets buildings on fire, transports objects, travels without limit, return stolen goods and bring thieves back, punishes the wicked.

Air: causes feuds, reconciles with those in power, gives long life, recovers lost objects, gives ring of virtue, makes invincible, makes insensible and ignorant, causes hate, teaches consecration to Amaymon, can take other magicians’ familiars, afflicts with wounds and sores, can take away senses or understanding, discover things hidden by spirits, discover witches and wizards.

Earth: makes women barren, gives good reputation, drowns, protects from temptation by spirits, rules over spirits of parts of Africa.

You really have to hope this stuff is allegorical, because it is pretty grim, and difficult to translate into anything meaningful. Fire seems to deal a bit more with battle, water maybe seems a little more focused on goods and sex, air on interrelationships of power and intrigue (and cursing), while I’m not sure what to make of earth.

On the other hand, the most common themes across the board were reasonable ones such as teaching of knowledge, divination, causing love and finding treasure. Not entirely altruistic, but as the most common themes, they somewhat salvage the image thrown back by the mirror.

Things shared by a few elements range from the more lofty (healing, seeking esoteric knowledge, making wise, reconciling friends), to the neutral (giving riches, good familiars, reading minds, causing natural phenomena, creating illusions) to the abhorrent (killing, causing disease).

Like I said, one can hope this is meant as allegorical, or maybe these examples act as an illustration of the outward reflection of the inner problems and blockages that the “demons” point to as areas of the psyche. We can remember here what astrology looked like before the modern advent of a more “person centered” and psychological art. But it’s also worth remembering that both magic and life work through a synchronicity that is manifested in the “real world”.

I can’t say that I have found clear signs of the “shadows of the elements” in Goetic demonology (and one thing I haven’t examined here are the traditional images of the demons), but maybe that’s not so surprising. Grimoires aren’t doors one can go through by reading and analyzing them. The structure of the Goetia has clear elemental classifications and divisions, and it would not surprise me if the demons do in fact point to shadow areas of the psyche that may have elemental markers, but it would take someone better qualified and experienced than me to draw that map, and the conclusions that might go with it.

I’ll respectfully leave that to them, though I do take my hat off to the archaic poetry that even I can perceive, in these condemned and failed areas of the psyche, that seem to beg for a realization and a recasting.

Japanese Laughing Demon Mask – See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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3 Comments

  1. earth – rules over spirits of parts of Africa lol. love it.

    Since there isn’t a nice and neat link with the elements, it would be interesting if you could go more into a listing of these by planets and by the shadow sides you mentioend. Curious what you found.

    I found for example this useful bit a few hundred years old that I find very valuable when discussing the virtues and vices that we all have. This combination actually works really well to see people the vices they are likely to fall into (or demon they’re fighting in the psychological sense).

    http://lullianarts.net/virtues1.htm

    • thanks Brent, that’s a great table 🙂 I may give the planetary attributions another look sometime, though I am a bit listed out right now lol, it gets super Virgoan going through lists of demons, signs, planets and common requests fulfilled. One thing I forgot to mention was that the power to understand the language of animals was both an air and an earth trait, which was kinda intriguing.

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