Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 21, Vol. 3. Autumnal Equinox 2011
The Grimoire of Saint Cyprian – Clavis Infernis, Stephen Skinner & David Rankine (translated from Latin by Dr. Peter Forshaw), Golden Hoard Press (distributed by Llewellyn Worldwide). 96 pages. $65.00 USD.
In recent years both David Rankine and Stephen Skinner have offered to the esoteric community several previously unknown or long-forgotten versions of grimoires; those books that contain instructions on evocation and summoning of every sort of entity, be it Angel or Demon. Once again they do not disappoint with bringing to light an edition of Clavis Inferni attributed to St. Cyprian being a direct copy of Wellcome Manuscript 2000.
The first thirty-two pages serve as an Introduction to the heart of the document, the grimoire Clavis Infernis itself. The first thing that must be mentioned is that the document is attributed to a St. Cyprian, of which there are two; one from Carthage (Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus) who was Bishop of Carthage, and one from Antioch. It is to this latter St. Cyprian that this grimoire is attributed since he had a reputation as a skilled sorcerer before his conversion to Christianity.
There have been a number of magical “books” attributed to this St. Cyprian, mostly in Spain and Portugal and their colonies. While some of these magical books are supposedly from the mid-1400’s, it is more likely that they are from 19th Century. Still these books were popular in Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries.
The heart of The Grimoire of St. Cyprian: Clavis Infernis is the grimoire itself. Here Skinner and Rankine have included images from the original vellum manuscript which only has twenty-one pages. Skinner and Rankine explain each of the particular images – translating the Latin into English. There then follows the text of the grimoire on one page in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, where appropriate while on the next page the same text appears in English.
The text of this grimoire relates to the summoning and binding of infernal spirits through the names of God and Jesus, making this a rather Christian grimoire, and is rather typical of grimoires in the Solomonic tradition but the language and images within this particular grimoire appear to be unique as there does not appear to be another such book or grimoire available in any other repository or library. According to Skinner and Rankine, they did extensive research to find other works like this by St. Cyprian, but were unable to locate any.
As with all Skinner and Rankine books there are copious footnotes and explanations. There are also four Appendixes; one being a Table of Magical Scripts drawn from Skinner’s Complete Magician’s Tables, a list of the Cyprian Alphabet from Harley Mss 3420 and from Trithemius’ Polygraphia of 1561, a citation of other grimoires that cite material of St. Cyprian, and finally an image of Albrecht Dürer’s St. John’s Vision of the Seven Candlesticks of Revelation which is used to compare with Figure 6 of the original text.
Most of the books in this series, Sourceworks of Ceremonial Magic, have been of high quality. Here with The Grimoire of St. Cyprian – Clavis Infernis, Skinner and Rankine again do not disappoint. The book is a small treasure for those that actually practice grimoiric magic. It is not for the beginning student, but any moderately advanced magician working with the grimoires will get something that they can use and study. It may be a small book as far as pages go, but it has a lot of punch. Well worth having in your library – even better if you use it.