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  • Writer's pictureAbby Brenker

Horror, and the Demons of the Lesser Key of Solomon

Updated: Mar 10

The Lesser Key is a grimoire on demonology compiled in the mid-17th century. The text lists out 72 demons of hell in the Ars Goetia, the beginning of the grimoire, and a system for invoking the 72 demons, and allowing the invoker to control the demons if done properly. It outlines an incredibly specific and intense ritual, including diets and prep time. Recently, on the Lunatics Radio Hour podcast we explored how this grimoire has influenced the depiction of demons in horror films.

The demons of the Lesser Key of Solomon are not the evil type of demons that we encounter in Christianity or other religions. In this case, they have their own bespoke attributes which set them apart from each other. Typically, someone who is summoning one of these entities is doing so because of the specific skill set of that being. Similar to how someone may pray to Saint Anthony to find a lost item. 

A woman sits inside a salt circle
A Dark Song (2016)

Some demons appear as humans, others as monsters. Each demon has its own sigil assigned to it. And as you might imagine, these symbols are used in the invocation rituals and allow the participant to control the demon. 


But these demons, also called the Goetic demons, are believed to be bound by god. The ritual that the Ars Goetia outlines, involves the participant binding himself first to god, in an effort to use god’s authority, and then to the demon, using its sigil. The participant is acting on the authority of God to command the demon. And just by using Hebrew which energetically is connected to a higher angelic language, you will start the process in motion and being forth do one energy.

One element from the Ars Goetia that is incredibly influential to horror, is the protective circle that you must cast while summoning. Films like A Dark Song and The Sacrifice Game are clear ties to the Lesser Key of Solomon. But so many films are influenced by this: The Offering, Practical Magic. The demon Piaman from Hereditary is also from the Goetica (among other grimoires). 


Though, the film, A Dark Song actually references another system, called the sacred magic of Abramelin and The Mage. Which rounds out the system of the Goetia and adds in the element of squares which was later adapted by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.


Generally, the practice of conjuring demons is thought of as a way to put the demons to work. Some demons are thought to have trickster energy, and can easily side step the tasks at hand, or manipulate and cause chaos. In other legends, they can interact with humans as a proxy for the devil.

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