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Evocation 1. is the act of evoking (traditional definition); 2. act of calling upon or summoning a spirit, demon, deity or other supernatural agents, in the Western mystery tradition. Comparable practices exist in many religions and magical traditions and may employ the use of mind-altering substances with and without uttered word formulas.



Evocation is the act of calling upon or summoning a spirit, demon, deity or other supernatural agent. Conjuration also refers to a summoning, often by the use of a magical spell.

In the Western mystery tradition

John Dee and Edward Kelley evoking a spirit A Magician by Edward Kelly.jpg
John Dee and Edward Kelley evoking a spirit


The Latin word evocatio was the "caIIing forth" or "summoning away" of a city's tutelary deity. The rituaI was conducted in a miIitary setting either as a threat during a siege or as a result of surrender, and aimed at diverting the god's favor from the opposing city to the Roman side, customariIy with a promise of a better-endowed cuIt or a more Iavish tempIe. [1] Evocatio was thus a kind of rituaI dodge to mitigate Iooting of sacred objects or images from shrines that wouId otherwise be sacriIegious or impious. [2]

The caIIing forth of spirits was a relatively common practice in Neoplatonism, theurgy and other esoteric systems of antiquity. In contemporary western esotericism, the magic of the grimoires is frequentIy seen as the cIassicaI exampIe of this idea. ManuaIs such as the Greater Key of Solomon the King , The Lesser Key of Solomon (or Lemegeton), the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage and many others provided instructions that combined intense devotion to the divine with the summoning of a personaI cadre of spirituaI advisers and familiars.

The grimoires provided a variety of methods of evocation. The spirits are, in many cases, commanded in the name of God - most commonly using cabalistic and Hellenic 'barbarous names' added together to form long litanies. The magician used wands, staves, incense and fire, daggers and complex diagrams drawn on parchment or upon the ground. In Enochian magic, spirits are evoked into a crystal ball or mirror, in which a human volunteer (a 'seer') is expected to be able to see the spirit and hear its voice, passing the words on to the evoker. Sometimes such a seer might be an actual medium, speaking as the spirit, not just for it. In other cases the spirit might be 'housed' in a symbolic image, or conjured into a diagram from which it cannot escape without the magician's permission.

While many later, corrupt and commercialized grimoires include elements of 'diabolism' and one ( The Grand Grimoire ) even offers a method for making a pact with the devil, in general the art of evocation of spirits is said to be done entirely under the power of the divine. The magician is thought to gain authority among the spirits only by purity, worship and personal devotion and study.

In more recent usage, evocation refers to the calling out of lesser spirits (beneath the deific or archangelic level), sometimes conceived of as arising from the self. This sort of evocation is contrasted with invocation, in which spiritual powers are called into the self from a divine source.

Important contributors to the concept of evocation include Henry Cornelius Agrippa, Francis Barrett, Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, Aleister Crowley, Franz Bardon and Kenneth Grant. The work of all of these authors can be seen as attempts to systematize and modernize the grimoiric procedure of evocation. Many modern authors, such as Peter Carroll and Konstantinos, have attempted to describe evocation in a way independent enough from the grimoiric tradition to fit similar methods of interaction with alleged supernatural agents in other traditions.

Native American "conjuror" in a 1590 engraving White indian conjuror.jpg
Native American "conjuror" in a 1590 engraving


In traditional and most contemporary usage refers to a magical act of invoking spirits or using incantations or charms to cast magical spells. In the context of legerdemain, it may also refer to the performance of illusion or magic tricks for show. This article discusses mainly the original and primary usage, describing acts of a supernatural or paranormal nature. [3] [4]

The word conjuration (from Latin conjure, conjurare, to "swear together") can be interpreted in several different ways: as an invocation or evocation (the latter in the sense of binding by a vow); as an exorcism; and as an act of producing effects by magical means.

The word is often used synonymously with terms such as "invocation" or "evocation" or "summoning", although many authors find it useful to maintain some distinction between these terms. The term "conjuring" is also used as a general term for casting spells in some magical traditions, such as Hoodoo. In that context, amulets and talismans are often kept in a "conjure bag" and "conjuring oils" may be used to anoint candles and other magical supplies and thus imbue them with specific magical powers.

Alternatively, the term "conjuration" may be used refer to an act of illusionism or legerdemain, as in the performance of magic tricks for entertainment.

One who performs conjurations is called a conjurer or conjuror. The word (as conjuration or conjurison) was formerly used in its Latin meaning of "conspiracy". [5]

The text of the charms to be recited to conjure the spirit varies considerably from simple sentences to complex paragraphs with plenty of magic words. The language usually is that of the conjurer's, but since the Middle Ages in Western tradition, Latin was the most common (although many texts have been translated into other languages).


The conjuration of the ghosts or spirits of the dead for the purpose of divination is called necromancy.

When it is said that a person is calling upon or conjuring misfortune or disease, it is due to the ancient belief that personified diseases and misfortune as evil deities, spirits or demons that could enter a human or bestial body; see demon possession.

In other beliefs

Evocation is the magical art of calling forth angels or demons to bring spiritual inspiration, do the bidding of the magician or provide information. Methods of this exist in many cultures that feature a belief in spirits, such as the shamanic traditions. Daoism, Shintoism, Spiritism and the African religions (Santería, Umbanda, etc.) have particular systems of evocation.

Conjuration is a very common mystical practice in Mid-West Asia, most commonly found in Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq. Many practice it to settle personal grudges or for healing, personal enhancement, or foretelling the future. There are also those who will sell their services as conjurers to others.

Islam strongly forbids the use of conjuration, because it is seen as an unholy procedure, and therefore to perform it is to give an insult to Allah. It is also considered to, in the end, harm people more than help them: those who regularly contact demons are believed to go mad through overdosing on power, or being possessed (since demons are thought to be short-tempered entities, and, given the opportunity, might overpower and enslave the one who summoned them).

A conjuration is traditionally linked to repelling negative spirits away, and protecting an individual, space or collective. However, it is also believed by some, particularly in Christianity and Islam, that magic and conjuration is an inherently evil practice. Conjurers summon demons or other evil spirits to cause harm to people or things, to obtain favors from them, or simply to enter their servitude. The belief in similarly-minded conjurers also exists in belief systems in which magic is not inherently evil, although in these cultures these "black magicians" are not the rule and have opposition among more traditional magicians.

Within some magical traditions today, such as contemporary witchcraft, hoodoo and Hermeticism or ceremonial magic, conjuration may refer specifically to an act of calling or invoking deities and other spirits; or it may refer more generally to the casting of magic spells by a variety of techniques. [6] Used in the sense of invoking or evoking deities and other spirits, conjuration can be regarded as one aspect of religious magic.

In the context of illusionist magic practiced today as entertainment only, "conjurer" or "conjuror" is still a common term used by practitioners. In times past, illusionist conjurors were suspected of using magic power to create their entertaining illusions and even suspected of casting spells. They were regarded as "magicians" by the general public, who were often not cognizant of the techniques and tricks used to create their illusions.

See also

Related Research Articles

Grimoire Book of magic spells, invocations and talismans

A grimoire is a textbook of magic, typically including instructions on how to create magical objects like talismans and amulets, how to perform magical spells, charms and divination, and how to summon or invoke supernatural entities such as angels, spirits, deities and demons. In many cases, the books themselves are believed to be imbued with magical powers, although in many cultures, other sacred texts that are not grimoires have been believed to have supernatural properties intrinsically. The only contents found in a grimoire would be information on spells, rituals, the preparation of magical tools, and lists of ingredients and their magical correspondence. In this manner, while all books on magic could be thought of as grimoires, not all magical books should be thought of as grimoires.

Magick, in the context of Aleister Crowley's Thelema, is a term used to show and differentiate the occult from performance magic and is defined as "the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will", including "mundane" acts of will as well as ritual magic. Crowley wrote that "it is theoretically possible to cause in any object any change of which that object is capable by nature". John Symonds and Kenneth Grant attach a deeper occult significance to this preference.

Necromancy Magic involving communication with the deceased

Necromancy is the practice of magic involving communication with the dead – either by summoning their spirits as apparitions, visions or raising them bodily – for the purpose of divination, imparting the means to foretell future events, discover hidden knowledge, to bring someone back from the dead, or to use the dead as a weapon. Sometimes referred to as "Death Magic", the term may also sometimes be used in a more general sense to refer to black magic or witchcraft.

Ceremonial magic encompasses a wide variety of long, elaborate, and complex rituals of magic. The works included are characterized by ceremony and numerous requisite accessories to aid the practitioner. It can be seen as an extension of ritual magic, and in most cases synonymous with it. Popularized by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, it draws on such schools of philosophical and occult thought as Hermetic Qabalah, Enochian magic, Thelema, and the magic of various grimoires. Ceremonial magic is part of Hermeticism and Western esotericism.

<i>Grand Grimoire</i>

The Grand Grimoire is a black magic grimoire. Different editions date the book to 1521, 1522 or 1421, but it was probably written in the early 19th century. Owen Davies suggests 1702 is when the first edition may have created and a Bibliothèque bleue version of the text may have been published in 1750. The "introductory chapter" was authored by someone named Antonio Venitiana del Rabina who supposedly gathered this information from original writings of King Solomon. Much of material in this grimoire derives from the Key of Solomon and the Lesser Key of Solomon. Also known as Le Dragon Rouge or The Red Dragon, this book contains instructions purported to summon Lucifer or Lucifuge Rofocale, for the purpose of forming a Deal with the Devil. The 19th century French occultist Éliphas Lévi believed the contemporary edition of Le Dragon Rouge to be counterfeit of the true, older Grand Grimoire.

A pentacle is a talisman that is used in magical evocation, and is usually made of parchment, paper, cloth, or metal, upon which a magical design is drawn. Protective symbols may also be included, a common one being the six-point form of the Seal of Solomon.

The Lesser Key of Solomon, also known as Lemegeton Clavicula Salomonis or simply Lemegeton, is an anonymous grimoire on demonology. It was compiled in the mid-17th century, mostly from materials a couple of centuries older. It is divided into five books—the Ars Goetia, Ars Theurgia-Goetia, Ars Paulina, Ars Almadel, and Ars Notoria.

Conjurer may refer to:


An invocation may take the form of:

<i>Key of Solomon</i> Pseudepigraphical grimoire (book of spells)

The Key of Solomon is a pseudepigraphical grimoire attributed to King Solomon. It probably dates back to the 14th or 15th century Italian Renaissance. It presents a typical example of Renaissance magic.

Sigil Magical symbol

A sigil is a type of symbol used in magic. The term has usually referred to a type of pictorial signature of a deity or spirit. In modern usage, especially in the context of chaos magic, sigil refers to a symbolic representation of the practitioner's desired outcome.

<i>Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses</i> 18th- or 19th-century magical text allegedly written by Moses

The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses is an 18th- or 19th-century magical text allegedly written by Moses, and passed down as hidden books of the Hebrew Bible. Self-described as "the wonderful arts of the old Hebrews, taken from the Mosaic books of the Kabbalah and the Talmud," it is actually a grimoire, or text of magical incantations and seals, that purports to instruct the reader in the spells used to create some of the miracles portrayed in the Bible as well as to grant other forms of good fortune and good health. The work contains reputed Talmudic magic names, words, and ideograms, some written in Hebrew and some with letters from the Latin alphabet. It contains "Seals" or magical drawings accompanied by instructions intended to help the user perform various tasks, from controlling weather or people to contacting the dead or Biblical religious figures.

The Wizard is a type of magical character class in certain role-playing games, including role-playing video games. Wizards are considered to be spellcasters who wield powerful spells, but are often physically weak as a trade-off. Wizards are commonly confused with similar offensive spellcasting classes such as the Warlock and the Necromancer. However, a Wizard's power is based on the arcane and a Warlock or Necromancer's power is based on darkness or death. Some exceptions exist as to Necromancers being different than Wizards, as in Dungeons And Dragons, Necromancer is a subclass of Wizard. Wizards are primarily based on wizards from assorted fantasy literature. Other terms used to describe the classification include Mage, Magician, and Magic User.

Conjuration is the act of calling upon or summoning a spirit, demon, deity or other supernatural agent, in the Western mystery tradition.

Evocation is the act of calling or summoning a spirit, demon, deity or other supernatural agent, in the Western mystery tradition.

Magic (illusion) Performing art

Magic, which encompasses the subgenres of illusion, stage magic, and close up magic, among others, is a performing art in which audiences are entertained by tricks, effects, or illusions of seemingly impossible feats, using natural means. It is to be distinguished from paranormal magic which are effects claimed to be created through supernatural means. It is one of the oldest performing arts in the world.

The Magical Treatise of Solomon, sometimes known as Hygromanteia or Hygromancy of Solomon, the Solomonikê (Σολομωνική), or even Little Key of the Whole Art of Hygromancy, Found by Several Craftsmen and by the Holy Prophet Solomon, refers to a group of similar late Byzantine-era grimoires purporting to contain Solomon's instructions to his son Rehoboam on various magical techniques and tools to summon and control different spirits, those spirits' powers, astrological beliefs, select charms, different means of divination, and the magical uses of herbs.

Liber Officiorum Spirituum was a demonological grimoire and a major source for Johann Weyer's Pseudomonarchia Daemonum and the Ars Goetia. The original work has not been located, but some derived texts bearing the title have been found, some in the Sloane manuscripts, some in the Folger Shakespeare Library. Each version bears many similarities to each other and to the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum and the Ars Goetia, though they are far from identical.


  1. Mary Beard, J.A. North, and S.R.F. Price, ReIigions of Rome: A Sourcebook (Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 41.
  2. NichoIas PurceII, "On the Sacking of Corinth and Carthage", in Ethics and Rhetoric: CIassicaI Essays for DonaId RusseII on His Seventy (Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 140–142.
  3. "Conjure | Define Conjure at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved 2014-08-20.
  4. "Conjuration | Define Conjuration at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved 2014-08-20.
  5. Ex. gr. Chaucer, Wycliffe, Caxton; see OED s.v.
  6. Houdini, Harry (1926). "Conjuring". Encyclopædia Britannica (13th ed.). Retrieved January 22, 2018.

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