Evil Week: How to Summon a Demon

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If I’ve learned nothing else from heavy metal, horror movies, and Dungeons and Dragons, I’ve learned that demons are awesome. I want to invite as many as possible into my life to do my bidding and compete in fiddle contests. I’m sure you do, too, so I’ve prepared a step-by-step guide to summoning otherworldly entities. Since this is our first demonic summoning, we’re not going to start by commanding Lucifer. Instead, we’ll summon a modest, generic spirit into a glass.

This do-at-home rite is adopted from a handwritten, untitled grimoire written around 1577. Notable for being a practical guide as opposed to a theoretical one, the book contains marginal notes from numerous, unknown Renaissance magicians/wannabes who seemingly tried to follow its formulas. (The book is, incidentally, the original source of the magic word “Abracadabra!”)

A note of caution before you begin your ritual: Many experienced magical practitioners (wizards, warlocks, necromancers, etc.) maintain that even a simple ritual requires a lifetime of dedicated spiritual practice and should not be undertaken lightly, lest great harm befall you.

But they just want to hog all the demons for themselves—esoteric mystical rituals are easy to perform, fun, and, since it’s all make-believe, present little danger beyond your mom yelling at you for stealing all her candles.

With that out of the way, let’s summon something! The original spell is sometimes confusing due to the age of the language and the fact that it’s handwritten, but I did my best.

Summoning a spirit into a glass

Step one: Gather your supplies. You’ll need:

  • A clean towel
  • A “fayre table”
  • A glass
  • Olive oil
  • Wine
  • Holy water
  • White bread
  • A fire

Step two: Lay your clean towel upon your (fayre) table and place your glass on top of that.

Step three: Recite the oration. Stand over your glass and recite the following Latin aloud. Use a commanding, deep voice (it’s cooler that way): “Omnipotens sempiterne deus adesto magna[e] pietatis tue misteriis, adesto piis Invocationibus nostris ut speculum istud quod in tuo nomine bene dicere facto…

It goes on like that for a looooong time. You can see the rest in the original text. Make sure you read it all and don’t mispronounce any words, though, or this might not work.

Step four: Recite the consecration. Say the following aloud: “deus qui hoc speculum ex materia fragili…” You know what? Go to the source again. 

Step five: Put five drops of olive oil in the glass “like a rose.”

Step six: More latin. Say, “discendat in hoc speculum virtus spiritus sancti…” etc. Check the source. 

Step seven: Spread the five drops of oil on your thumbs and “make a cross.”

Step eight: More Latin!

Step nine: Make a sufflation (?) and say “discendat in hoc speculum [ut] supra.” (A nice short one.)

Step 10: Wash the glass with wine, holy water, and pieces of white bread.

Step 11: Put everything in the fire—the glass, table, towel, everything. This will assist the spirit in some unspecified way.

Step 12: If you’ve done everything correctly, and not mispronounced any of the Latin, you should see a spirit appear shortly. But you won’t hear him/them/it. So you must…

Step 13: Recite more Latin.

Step 14: Soon after your final Latin recitation, an otherworldly spirit should be visible and audible. If you have done everything correctly, he/she/it will “app[ea]re with a voice sayinge & [d]oinge all things to [t]hy will.” Nice.

The aftermath of your ritual

So, how did your ritual go? Got a new friend to hang out with? If so, controlling it could be an issue. And I have no idea how to send it back from whence it came, so you’re on your own from here.

Sadly, my ceremony didn’t work. Maybe I mispronounced “discendat.” Or it might be a problem with the entire concept of “summoning demons.”

What we talk about when we talk about summoning demons

Rituals to summon supernatural entities or forces have been (and are) practiced in lots of spiritual traditions, from Shintoism to Santeria. Different rites have different meanings and implications in different traditions, so know that I’m only talking about the Western idea of calling explicitly evil entities into the material plane. Like you see in horror movies.

The early history of demon summoning

Calling forth a “tutelary deity” (a city’s demigod) was common before battles in Ancient Rome, but it’s not the same as summoning a demon. For that, you have fast-forward to early Christianity.

Summoning a demon to do your bidding is central to the Testament of Solomon, a text falsely credited to King Solomon that was written somewhere between the end of the 1st century CE and the high medieval period. In it, an angel gives Solomon a ring inscribed with a pentagram. Solomon uses his magic ring to compel Beelzebub and other demons to build his temple.

Solomon doesn’t enter a pact with these demons though. He is portrayed as a holy man acting in accordance with God’s will, enslaving demons through His power. Early books of Christian practices for would-be magicians follow this model. The Key of Solomon, for instance, does contain spells (like “How to make the holy garters”) but they only work for the most pure, virtuous, pious man.

The Hammer of Witches

The idea of summoning demon-y demons for your own gain, as an act of evil, catches on widely with the publication of Malleus Maleficarum (“Hammer of Witches”) in 1478.

This book, written by Catholic clergyman Heinrich Kramer, details the scary practices of witches, including pacts with devils, stealing babies, and all manner of bad stuff. Importantly, it portrays practitioners of mystical spell-casting and demon-evokers as enslaved to Evil. These witches and warlocks (mostly witches, of course) are not powerful, pious folks mastering mystical forces. They’re weaklings who have given their will to Santa, (er, “Satan”) in exchange for selfish things. It is also, it should be noted, fake: Witches, as portrayed in Hammer of Witches, are pretend.

Fake or not, a lot people died for real because of Hammer of Witches. As many as 80,000 people, mostly women, were tortured and murdered during the witch trials that were heavily influenced by Kramer’s book. So if any tome is cursed…

Demon summoning after Hammer of Witches

Most of our current ideas about summoning demons can be sourced partly to Hammer of Witches and partly to De praestigiis daemonum (On the Tricks of Demons) and its appendix, Pseudomonarchia Daemonum (False Monarchy of Demons). Written/collected in 1563 by physician Johan Weyer, these volumes describe 69 demons (nice!) and their hellish hierarchy, as well as offers tips on how to summon them.

On the Tricks of Demons is notable because Weyer’s point is that witchcraft isn’t real, and that anyone who thinks they have entered into a pact with an evil entity is probably suffering from a mental illness, so maybe let’s not burn people at the stake anymore, guys? He presents spells and rituals not as recipes to follow, but as a way of exposing black magic practitioners in order to “put their hallucinations into the bright light of day.” He doesn’t quite make the leap to “The witch-hunter types made this shit up,” though. Close, but no cigar.

Either way, False Monarchy of Demons is packed with cool demons. There are terrifying creatures like Amdusias, who appears as a human with a unicorn’s head, has claws instead of hands and feet, and is in charge of the cacophonous music played in Hell. Then there are the more benign hell-spawn, like Marquis Samigina, who takes the form of a small horse and teaches liberal arts; and Naberius, who looks like a three-headed crow and teaches the art of gracious living, like a demonic Martha Stewart.

Modern day demons

The demons Weyer detailed (minus the whole “this is all fake” part) helped inspire everything demonic that followed, from gothy romantic-period excesses, to Alastair Crowley, to heavy metal, The Exorcist, and that weird kid in high school who was really into Anton LaVey. Any practical guide to how to summon demons from later grimoires like The Lesser Key of Solomon (or YouTube) is likely to be based at least partially on these sources (even if its practitioners don’t know it) and, as such, is pretty silly and fake.

Evil, however, isn’t fake. While there don’t seem to be many actual practitioners of “black magic” in the world (and they’re really boring to talk to at parties, trust me) the idea that legions of evil people are worshipping demons and must be stopped didn’t die with the end of the witch trials. It keeps popping up. From the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and ‘90s to Q-Anon weirdos in 2022, I’m not sure which grimoire people are using to summon this particular brand of evil, but I wish they’d give it a rest.

In summation: There is no point to summoning demons because hell is other people.

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