Magic In Antiquity: Pre-1800's
Reading & Resource List
This is a compiled list of resources by yours truly on the subject of magic from pre-Hellenistic times up until the late 1700's. The material presented here is purely in the realm of scholars and is an attempt to pull together as many worthwhile resources on the subjects of Greco-Roman & Egyptian sources as well as historical and geographical information that can help the sincere student delve more accurately into the ancient systems of Goetia and Hermeticism. You'll note there are references for those interested in Dr. John Dee's work in Elizabethan times and some sources for biographies on personages like Iamblichus, Bruno, Ficino, Trimethius and others.
Post-modern and how-to sources have been purposely left out of this list as they are not the domain of this survey which again is strictly for the scholar or those with more of a scholarly interest. Here you/ll find almost no Qabala and virtually no neo-Masonic nor Rosicrucian resources. This is strictly old school magic as practiced in ancient times. The list was formulated among scholars who put forth their best suggestions for worthwhile reading material as well as blogs, webinars, websites, journals and online libraries that cater to the scholar. I do hope you find this information useful and almost all of the books can be obtained on Amazon albeit at prices above what you normally pay for a how-to manual from a mainstream new age publisher.
Many of these titles have been or are currently being used at university level classes as textbooks. They are not inexpensive with many of them starting around $30 USD and going up. Those that are out of print are commanding well over $100 for a used copy. The value of these books do not lie in any how-to but rather where the magic came from, how it got there, who brought it, what geographic locations it centered in, word etymologies, histories and so forth. In essence, consider these resources as filling in the back story to what we know about Goetia, Enochian, Neo-Platonic philosophy and Hermeticism and related practices. All are highly recommended.
Remember too that you can borrow many of these titles from your local public and university libraries through their inter-library loan progams.

1. The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation: Including the Demotic Spells: Texts (Volume 1) by Hans Dieter Betz - This is a collection of magical spells and formulas, hymns, and rituals from Greco-Roman Egypt, dating from the second century B.C. to the fifth century A.D. If you read only one book on magic in history, make it this one. I promise that you will not be disappointed. this is a must read. NOTE: If you are interested, click HERE for several how-to manuals detaililng methods to use the GMP for practical, modern aims.
2. Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World edited by John G. Gager - In the ancient Greco-Roman world, it was common practice to curse or bind an enemy or rival by writing an incantation on a tablet and dedicating it to a god or spirit. These curses or binding spells, commonly called defixiones were intended to bring other people under the power and control of those who commissioned them
3. Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion edited by Christopher A. Faraone & Dirk Obbink - This collection challenges the tendency among scholars of ancient Greece to see magical and religious ritual as mutually exclusive and to ignore "magical" practices in Greek religion. The contributors survey specific bodies of archaeological, epigraphical, and papyrological evidence for magical practices in the Greek world, and, in each case, determine whether the traditional dichotomy between magic and religion helps in any way to conceptualize the objective features of the evidence examined.
4. Arcana Mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Collection of Ancient Texts by Georg Luck - Magic, miracles, daemonology, divination, astrology, and alchemy were the arcana mundi, the "secrets of the universe," of the ancient Greeks and Romans. In this path-breaking collection of Greek and Roman writings on magic and the occult, Georg Luck provides a comprehensive sourcebook and introduction to magic as it was practiced by witches and sorcerers, magi and astrologers, in the Greek and Roman worlds.
5. Greek and Roman Necromancy by Daniel Ogden - In classical antiquity, there was much interest in necromancy--the consultation of the dead for divination. People could seek knowledge from the dead by sleeping on tombs, visiting oracles, and attempting to reanimate corpses and skulls. Ranging over many of the lands in which Greek and Roman civilizations flourished, including Egypt, from the Greek archaic period through the late Roman empire, this book is the first comprehensive survey of the subject ever published in any language.
6. Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer's Manual of the Fifteenth Century by Richard Kieckhefer - Like many medieval texts for the use of magicians, this handbook is a miscellany rather than a systematic treatise. It is exceptional, however, in the scope and variety of its contents—prayers and conjurations, rituals of sympathetic magic, procedures involving astral magic, a catalogue of spirits, lengthy ceremonies for consecrating a book of magic, and other materials.
7. Ritual Magic by Elizabeth M. Butler - In this classic book (first published in 1949), Butler explores ritual magic using a wide range of texts from the pre-Christian rites of the Akkadians and Chaldeans to the Solomonic Clavicles of medieval Europe. Throughout, there is extensive quotation from the documents themselves, providing the reader with an authentic sense of the richness and power of these texts.
8. Conjuring Spirits: Texts and Traditions of Medieval Ritual Magic edited by Claire Fanger - Included are chapters by Richard Kieckhefer and Robert Mathiesen on the Sworn Book of Honorius, Michael Camille on the Ars Notoria, John B. Friedman on the Secretum Philosophorum, Nicholas Watson on the McMaster text, and Elizabeth Wade on Lullian divination. The work also includes Juris Lidaka's edition of the Liber de Angelis, and an overview of late medieval English ritual manuscripts by Frank Klaassen.
9. The Fortunes of Faust by Elizabeth M. Butler - Butler follows the magic tradition of the Magus—the priest-king—and its reformulation in the Christian world. In the process, the Magus was transformed into a wicked sorcerer who comes to a bad end in this world and a worse one hereafter. This conception, which gained ground in the Middle Ages, received its most categorical statement in the Faust legend.
10. The Goetia of Dr. Rudd by David Rankine & Stephen Skinner - The Goetia of Dr. Rudd explains how the 72 angels of the Shemhamphorash are used to evoke and safely bind demons—material that has not been made available in any previous edition. This rare volume contains a transcription of a hitherto unpublished manuscript of the Lemegeton and includes illustrations drawn from rare manuscripts held in the British Library.
11. The Complete Magician’s Tables by Stephen Skinner - The sources of this remarkable compilation range from classic grimoires such as the Sworn Book to modern theories of prime numbers and atomic weights. Data from Peter de Abano, Abbott Trithemium, Albertus Magnus, Cornelius Agrippa, and other prominent scholars is referenced here, in addition to hidden gems found in unpublished medieval grimoires and Kabbalistic works. 
12. The Keys to the Gateway of Magic: Summoning the Solomonic Archangels and Demon Princes by Stephen Skinner & David Rankine - This classic text of the Nine Great Keys details the invocation of the Archangels, the full hierarchy of spiritual beings (including Olympic Spirits and Elementals) and the evocation of the four Demon Princes
13. Three Books of Occult Philosophy by Henry Cornelius Agrippa & edited by Donald Tyson - How magicians collect virtues from the three-fold World, is declared in these three books. 
Seeing there is a three-fold World, Elementary, Celestial, and 
Intellectual, and every inferior is governed by its superior. Indispensable.
14. The Complete Picatrix: The Occult Classic Of Astrological Magic Liber Atratus translated by John Michael Greer & Christopher Warnock - The Picatrix is the most famous grimoire of astrological magic and one of the most important works of medieval and Renaissance magic. With all four books of the Latin Picatrix complete in one volume, the Picatrix is an encyclopedic work with over 300 pages of Hermetic magical philosophy, ritual, talismanic and natural magic.
15. Secrets of the Magical Grimoires Revealed by Aaron Leitch - The magickal methods and esoteric knowledge of medieval Europe (476 to 1453 C.E.) form the ancestral backbone of modern ceremonial magick. To understand medieval magick, it’s necessary to know the primary repositories of this knowledge - the grimoires of spells, incantations, and ritual instructions for working with angels and conjuring spirits. And to understand the grimoires, you must delve into the life and times of the magicians who wrote them.
16. The True Grimoire by Jake Kent-Stratton - The True Grimoire is a major contribution to the practice and study of Goetic magic. The neglected Grimorium Verum has been restored to it's rightful place as a potent and coherent system of Goetic magic. Jake Stratton-Kent has reconstructed a working version from the corrupted Italian and French versions of this important grimoire.
17. Geosophia: The Argo of Magic by Jake Stratton-Kent - Geosophia traces the development of magic from the Greeks to the grimoires, laying bare the chthonic roots of goetic ritual. By exposing the necromantic origins of much of modern magic we are able to reconnect with the source of our ritual tradition. There is a continuity of practice in the West which encompasses the pre-Olympian cults of Dionysus and Cybele, is found in the Greek Magical Papyri and Picatrix and flows into the grimoires. 
18. Ancient Christian Magic: Coptic Texts of Ritual Power by Marvin W. Meyer & Richard Smith - This provocative collection of rites, spells, amulets, curses, and recipes of the early Coptic Christians documents Christianity as a living folk religion resembling other popular belief systems - something quite different from what theological and doctrinal traditions have led us to believe.
19. Invoking Angels: Theurgic Ideas and Practices, Thirteenth to Sixteenth Centuries edited by Claire Fanger - Bring0s together a tightly themed collection of essays on late medieval and early modern texts concerned with the role of angels in the cosmos, focusing on angelic rituals and spiritual cosmologies. Collectively, these essays tie medieval angel magic texts more clearly to medieval religion and to the better-known author-magicians of the early modern period.
20. The Testament of Cyprian the Mage by Jake Stratton-Kent - An ambitious and far-seeing work, addressing two ends of the magical spectrum: the Testament of Solomon and one version of the Iberian Book of Saint Cyprian. In doing so, key aspects of magical practice are revealed. This work draws upon these texts to create a clear understanding of the practice of grimoire magic, not as a discrete or degenerate subset of ceremonial magic, but one which is integrated with folk magic and witchcraft.
21. Veritable Key of Solomon by Stephen Skinner & David Rankine - Based on one of the best-known grimoires of the Western world, The Veritable Key of Solomon presents all aspects of this revered magical system in one impressive source.
22. The Magical Treatise of Solomon or Hygromanteia by  Ioannis Marathakis - The Magical Treatise of Solomon, or Hygromanteia is the ultimate grimoire — the absolute foundation of ceremonial magic. The true source of the Key of Solomon, it is arguably the most significant magical text in the world. For the first time ever, this extraordinary work has been translated from the original Greek into English, allowing magic scholars worldwide to finally access its treasures. The translator, Ioannis Marathakis, is a native born Greek academic with an extensive knowledge of ceremonial magic. Unlike the abridged Latin translation, this groundbreaking work is the complete text, now arranged in its proper order.
23. Magic, Witchcraft and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman World: A Sourcebook by Daniel Ogden - Contains three hundred texts in new translations, along with brief but explicit commentaries. Alongside descriptions of sorcerers, witches, and ghosts in the works of ancient writers, it reproduces curse tablets, spells from ancient magical recipe books, and inscriptions from magical amulets.
24. Ancient Jewish Magic: A History by Gideon Bohak - Gives a pioneering account of the broad history of ancient Jewish magic, from the Second Temple to the rabbinic period. It is based both on ancient magicians' own compositions and products in Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek, and on the descriptions and prescriptions of non-magicians, to reconstruct a historical picture that is as balanced and nuanced as possible.
25. John Dee's Natural Philosophy: Between Science and Religion by Nicholas Clulee - Thoroughly examining Dee’s natural philosophy, this book provides a balanced evaluation of his place, and the role of the occult, in sixteenth-century intellectual history. It brings together insights from a study of Dee’s writings, the available biographical material, and his sources as reflected in his extensive library and, more importantly, numerous surviving annotated volumes from it.
26. Grimoires: A History of Magic Books by Owen Davies - Put simply, grimoires are books of spells that were first recorded in the Ancient Middle East and which have developed and spread across much of the Western Hemisphere and beyond over the ensuing millennia. At their most benign, they contain charms and remedies for natural and supernatural ailments and advice on contacting spirits to help find treasures and protect from evil. But at their most sinister they provide instructions on how to manipulate people for corrupt purposes and, worst of all, to call up and make a pact with the Devil. Both types have proven remarkably resilient and adaptable and retain much of their relevance and fascination to this day.
27. The Language of Demons and Angels: Cornelius Agrippa's Occult Philosophy by Christopher I. Lehrich - The analysis walks the reader through the text of De Occulta Philosophia, Agrippa's 1533 masterpiece, explicating the often hidden structure and argument of the work.
28. Thrice-Greatest Hermes; Studies in Hellenistic Theosophy and Gnosis by G. R. S. Mead - Three Volumes bound into one. Volume contents are: Vol. 1. Prolegomena. -- Vol. 2. Sermons. -- Vol. 3. Excerpts and fragments.
29. The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind by Garth Fowden - Starting from the complex fusions and tensions that molded Graeco-Egyptian culture, and in particular Hermetism, during the centuries after Alexander, the author argues that the technical and philosophical Hermetica, apparently so different, might be seen as aspects of a single "way of Hermes".
30. Restless Dead: Encounters between the Living and the Dead in Ancient Greece by Sarah Illes Johnston - Topics of focus include the origin of the goes (the ritual practitioner who made interaction with the dead his specialty), the threat to the living presented by the ghosts of those who died dishonorably or prematurely, the development of Hecate into a mistress of ghosts and its connection to female rites of transition, and the complex nature of the Erinyes.
31. Hekate Soteira: A Study of Hekate's Roles in the Chaldean Oracles and Related Literature by Sarah Illes Johnston - Hekate is best known to classicists and historians of religion as the horrific patroness of witches. But from the Hellenistic age onwards, some Greek and Roman philosophers and magicians portrayed her quite differently.
32. Magic and Ritual in the Ancient World edited by Paul Mirecki and Marvin Meyer - According to one ceremonial egghead, these two scholars are THE leading scholars on magic in history out there today. Well worth hunting down and reading.
33. Marsilio Ficino: His Theology, His Philosophy, His Legacy edited by V. Rees, Michael J. B. Allen & Valery Rees - This volume consists of 21 essays on Marsilio Ficino (1433-99), the great Florentine scholar, philosopher and priest who was the architect of Renaissance Platonism and whose long-lasting influence on philosophy, love and music theory, medicine and magic extended across Europe.
34. Secrets of Nature: Astrology and Alchemy in Early Modern Europe edited by William R. Newman & Anthony Grafton - Shows the many ways in which astrology and alchemy diverge as well as intersect. Overall, it shows how an appreciation of the role of the occult opens up new ways of understanding the past.
35. Trithemius and Magical Theology: A Chapter in the Controversy over Occult Studies in Early Modern Europe by Noel L. Brann - This is a very useful, exciting and informative text for those interested in the philosophy and theology behind Renaissance Magic. Mentor to Agrippa, pioneer of cryptography, Trithemius is one of the most important (and well-placed in Church history) yet difficult to understand of the great Renaissance writers on magic, and this book provides a detailed but readable introduction to his views on the subject.
36. John Dee's Conversations with Angels by Deborah E. Harkness - John Dee's angel conversations have been an enigmatic facet of Elizabethan England's most famous natural philosopher's life and work. Professor Harkness contextualizes Dee's angel conversations within the natural philosophical, religious and social contexts of his time. She argues that they represent a continuing development of John Dee's earlier concerns and interests. These conversations include discussions of the natural world, the practice of natural philosophy, and the apocalypse.
37. John Dee's Occultism: Magical Exaltation Through Powerful Signs by Gyorgy E. Szonyi - Presents an analysis of Renaissance occultism and its place in the chronology of European cultural history. Culling examples of "magical thinking" from classical, medieval, and Renaissance philosophers, Szonyi revisits the body of Dee's own scientific and spiritual writings as reflective sources of traditional mysticism.
38. The Arch Conjuror of England: John Dee by Glyn Parry - Explores Dee’s vast array of political, magical, and scientific writings and finds that they cast significant new light on policy struggles in the Elizabethan court, conservative attacks on magic, and Europe's religious wars. John Dee was more than just a fringe magus, Parry shows Dee was a major figure of the Reformation and Renaissance.
39. The Eternal Hermes: From Greek God to Alchemical Magus by Antoine Favre - Drawing upon rare books and manuscripts, this highly illustrated work explores the question of where Hermes Trismegistus came from how he came to be a patron of the esoteric traditions and how the figure of Hermes has remained lively and inspiring to our own day.
40. Glamorous Sorcery: Magic and Literacy in the High Middle Ages by David Rollo - Demonstrates how closely interconnected certain types of vernacular and Latin writing were in this period. Uncovered through a series of illuminating, incisive, and often surprising close readings, these connections give us a new, more complex appraisal of the relationship between literacy, social status, and political power in a time and place in which various languages competed for cultural sovereignty-at a critical juncture in the cultural history of the West.
41. Unlocked Books: Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe by Benedek Láng - During the Middle Ages, the Western world translated the incredible Arabic scientific corpus and imported it into Western culture: Arabic philosophy, optics, and physics, as well as alchemy, astrology, and talismanic magic. The line between the scientific and the magical was blurred. According to popular lore, magicians of the Middle Ages were trained in the art of magic in “magician schools” located in various metropolitan areas, such as Naples, Athens, and Toledo.
42. The History of Magic and Experimental Science by Lynn Thorndike - According to one ceremonial egghead, Thorndike was one of the first to delve into magic in antiquity "back when no one else would touch the subject with a ten foot pole". Difficult to find but worth the time and effort.
43. The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice by Robert K. Ritner - This study represents the first critical  examination of "magical techniques," revealing their widespread appearance and pivotal significance for all Egyptian "religious" practices from the earliest periods through the Coptic era, influencing as well the Greco-Egyptian magical papyri.
44. Eternal Egypt: Ancient Rituals for the Modern World by Richard J. Reidy - The first comprehensive collection of important temple rituals performed throughout Egypt during the time of the pharaohs. The author presents seven key rites from official temple records and ancient esoteric texts for personal or group use.
45. Arguing With Angels by Egil Asprem - Examining this magical system from its Renaissance origins to present day occultism, Egil Asprem shows how the reception of Dee’s magic is replete with struggles to construct and negotiate authoritative interpretational frameworks for doing magic. Arguing with Angels offers a novel, nuanced approach to questions about how ritual magic has survived the advent of modernity and demonstrates the ways in which modern culture has recreated magical discourse.
46. Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism by Wouter J. Hanegraaff - This is the first comprehensive reference work to cover the entire domain of “Gnosis and Western Esotericism” from the period of Late Antiquity to the present. Containing around 400 articles by over 180 international specialists, it provides critical overviews discussing the nature and historical development of all its important currents and manifestations, from Gnosticism and Hermetism to Astrology, Alchemy and Magic, from the Hermetic Tradition of the Renaissance to Rosicrucianism and Christian Theosophy, and from Freemasonry and Illuminism to 19th-century Occultism and the contemporary New Age movement.
47. The Alchemy of Light: Geometry and Optics in Late Renaissance Alchemical Illustration by Ursula Szulakowska - This study concerns the late Renaissance metaphysics of light in its adoption to a Paracelsian alchemical context by John Dee, Heinrich Khunrath, Michael Maier and Robert Fludd. he volume includes 50 illustrations from alchemical treatises of the period, the emphasis being placed on Khunrath's "Amphiteatrum Sapientiea Aeternae" (1595-1609). The study investigates these images using analytical tools drawn from semiotics, structuralism and post-structuralism.
48. Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus by Gregory Shaw - A study of Iamblichus of Syria (ca. 240-325), whose teachings set the final form of pagan spirituality prior to the Christianization of the Roman Empire. Shaw focuses on the theory and practice of theurgy, the most controversial and significant aspect of Iamblichus's Platonism.
49. Platonic Theology, Volume 1: Books I-IV by Marsilio Ficino, edited by James Hankins - A visionary work and philosophical masterpiece of Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), the Florentine scholar-philosopher-magus who was largely responsible for the Renaissance revival of Plato. A student of the Neoplatonic schools of Plotinus and Proclus, Ficino was committed to reconciling Platonism with Christianity, in the hope that such a reconciliation would initiate a spiritual revival and return of the golden age. This is one of the keys to understanding the art, thought, culture, and spirituality of the Renaissance.
50. Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science by Hilary Gatti - This argument, associated with the work of Frances Yates, holds that early modern science was impregnated with and shaped by Hermetic and occult traditions, and has led scholars to view Bruno primarily as a magus.
51. De Umbris Idearum: The Collected Works of Giordano Bruno (Book 1) by Giordano Bruno, edited by Scott Gosnell - To memorize anything, distribute vivid, emotionally stirring imagined images around a piece of familiar architecture. This is the method of loci, or memory palace method, first developed in classical antiquity.
52. Hermes: Guide of Souls by Karl Kerenyi, translated by Murray Stein - Presents an authoritative study of the great god Hermes whom the Greeks revered as the Guides of Souls as well as the complex role of Hermes in classical mythology.
53. Ritual Texts for the Afterlife: Orpheus and the Bacchic Gold Tablets by Fritz Graf and Sarah Illes Johnston - Fascinating texts written on small gold tablets that were deposited in graves provide a unique source of information about what some Greeks and Romans believed regarding the fate that awaited them after death, and how they could influence it.  These texts, dating from the late fifth century BCE to the second century CE, have been part of the scholarly debate on ancient afterlife beliefs since the end of the nineteenth century. The tablets belonged to those who had been initiated into the mysteries of Dionysus Bacchius and relied heavily upon myths narrated in poems ascribed to the mythical singer Orpheus.
54. Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World by Matthew W. Dickie - This study is the first to assemble the evidence for the existence of sorcerors in the ancient world; it also addresses the question of their identity and social origins. The resulting investigation takes us to the underside of Greek and Roman society, into a world of wandering holy men and women, conjurors and wonder-workers, and into the lives of prostitutes, procuresses, charioteers and theatrical performers.
Further Resources:
Seeing The Word: John Dee and Renaissance Occultism by Hakan Hakannson
Misc. Articles
Khunrath by Peter Forshaw
Enoch Traditions by Andrei Orlov
Hermes, Proclus, and the Question of A Philosophy of Magic in the Renaissance by Copenhaver
Websites & Blogs:
Brian P. Copenhaver
Claire Fanger
Sarah Illes Johnston
Wouter J. Hanegraaff
The Ritman Library
Scholarly Journals:
Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism


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