The Key of Solomon, Clavis Salomonis, is a medieval book on magicoriginally attributed to King Solomon. It is sometimes used as a grimoire.
It is possible that the Key of Solomon inspired later works such as the Clavicula Salomonis ("The Lesser Key of Solomon") also called Lemegeton, although there are many differences between the books. What may have inspired the Lemegeton are the conjurations and rituals of purification, and in a less important way, the clothing and magic symbols.
Several versions of the Key of Solomon exist, in various translations, and with minor or significant differences. Most manuscripts date to the 16th or 17th century, but a prototype in Greek still survives from the 15th century.
Judging by its style of writing, the book was written in the Middle Ages, and ¨there is no ground for attributing the Key of Solomon, in its present form, a higher antiquity than the fourteenth or fifteenth century.¨Many books attributed to King Solomon were written in this period, which was underscored by the Crusades and the influence that the contact with Jewish kabbalists and Arab alchemists had on European magicians and demonologists.
Unlike other similar books, the Key of Solomon does not mention any of the seventy-two spirits constrained by King Solomon in a bronze vessel as the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum (16th century) and the 17th century Lemegeton seal of the demons do. What the Key of Solomon describes is not the appearance or work of any demon but only the necessary drawings to prepare each experiment.
The book contains several paragraphs and terms inspired by Talmudic texts and the Jewish Kabbalah teaching.
According to the mythical history of the document, as recorded in its introduction, Solomon wrote the book for his son Roboam, and commanded him to hide the book in his sepulchre upon his death. After many years the book was discovered by a group of Babylonian philosophers repairing Solomon's tomb. None could interpret the text, until one of them, Iohé Grevis, suggested that they should entreat the Lord for understanding. The Angel of the Lord appeared to him and extracted a promise that he would keep the text hidden from the unworthy and the wicked, after which he was able to read it plainly. Iohé Grevis then placed a conjuration on the book that the unworthy, the unwise or those who did not fear God would not attain the desired effect from any of the workings contained therein.
The Key of Solomon is divided into two books. Book I contains conjurations, invocations and curses to summon and constrain spirits of the dead and demons, forcing them to do the operator's will. It also describes how to find stolen items, become invisible, gain favour and love, and so on. Book II describes various purifications which the operator (termed "exorcist") should undergo, how they should clothe themselves, how the magical implements used in their operations should be constructed, and what animal sacrifices should be made to the spirits.
As in most medieval grimoires, all magical operations are ostensibly performed through the power of God, to whom all the invocations are addressed. Before any of these operations (termed "experiments") are performed, the operator must confess his sins and purge himself of evil, invoking the protection of God. Many barbarous names are also employed in the invocations, some of which are Arabic in origin, deriving from older magical texts from the Near East, while many others are clearly taken from Hebrew names of God. Elaborate preparations are necessary, and each of the numerous items used in the operator's "experiments" must be constructed of the appropriate materials obtained in the prescribed manner, at the appropriate astrological time, marked with a specific set of magical symbols, and blessed with its own specific words.
All substances needed for the magic drawings and amulets are detailed, as well as the means to purify and prepare them. Many of the symbols incorporate the Transitus Fluvii occult alphabet.
The book contains instructions to practice necromancy, experiments of invisibility, to cause harm to others, etc., and the zodiacal time appropriate for each experiment.