Goetia (Latin, "howling") is a word used to describe a class of magick which emphasizes the summoning or calling forth of lesser spirits and demons to visible appearance, with the intention of binding the spirits to perform the magician's will.
Like many magickal traditions, the roots of Goetia are difficult to pinpoint. Presumably, it existed for some time as a purely oral tradition, passed from teacher to student, before anything was committed to writing. What is known is that Goetia saw its peak of popularity in the late middle ages.
According to tradition, the Goetia was founded by King Solomon. Having been given the power over lesser spirits by God, Solomon commanded various demons to assist in the building of his famous Temple. Despite the fact that this tradition most likely originated in the imaginations of medieval mages, it attests to the power of this magickal system that they felt one could constrain the spirits to such complex physical tasks. While it may have had its roots in pre-Christian systems, the Goetia as we know it today is undoubtedly a product of medieval Europe, with its concepts of angels and demons organized into feudalistic hierarchies. The most famous examples of medieval Goetia include the Lemegeton Clavicula Salomonis ("The Lesser Key of Solomon"), Liber Honorius and Grimorium Verum.
Goetic magick, like most medieval magick, is extremely ceremonial and often calls for strict observance of many details. Due to the great power of this system, and the repeated vehement warnings given by medieval authors, modern practitioners of Goetia tend to rely upon the old prescriptions rather than modifying or reinventing the rituals. This may seem limiting, and sometimes pointless, but the old methods can have surprising power.
The interaction between the magician and the summoned spirits in Goetic magick is quite unique. Whereas in some traditions, spirits are prayed to or asked for guidance and wisdom, the spirits and demons of Goetia are bound and commanded by the magician to act as his servants. In such an interaction, it is highly important for the magician to be aware that he is calling upon these spirits to perform an action, rather than do it himself, because many of these beings are more powerful than him. Therefore, compelling the spirits to obey is a major concern. For protection, the magician employs elaborate circles and rotes to confine the spirit. Once confined, the spirit must be forced to act in accordance with the will of the magician. Many different methods are employed to compel the spirits; lesser spirits can often be coerced, threatened or fooled into compliance, whereas more powerful spirits can be more difficult to control.
Common methods of control include threats, particularly in the form of the vibration of divine names, which tells the demon or spirit that the magician speaks with the authority and power of the god whose name he intoning. Some magicians will try to persuade the spirit, sometimes resorting to begging and bootlicking. In many cases, the magician may try to bargain with the spirit, to which it will most likely happily agree, exchanging service for sacrifice of some kind.
The various Goetic demons and beings are often very specialized. Grimoires list long catalogues of spirits, their specific powers, and how they may be summoned by the use of different seals, incantations, sacrifices and incenses. Before conjuration, the magician must carefully consult these catalogues and select the single spirit best suited for the task.
The Goetic spirits are not well suited to conversation, as are the Enochian angels. The lesser spirits are often stupid and are not known for their honesty. Summoning of the demons for the purpose of gaining information is generally a waste of time, unless perhaps the being is specifically ordered to spy or seek out information for the magician.
The magickal system of Goetia is definitely not for dabblers in the occult arts. If one does not feel comfortable or prepared to utilize Goetic magick, they should not do so. It is not surprising that the Goetic magick of Abramelin the Mage is only given to the student after the operation for the invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel. The student would do well not to attempt constraint of the lesser spirits before having attained the knowledge and conversation of their Holy Guardian Angel. Probably due to its specific interest in demonology, a great deal of wariness surrounds the practice of Goetia, though much of this fear and prudence is undoubtedly based on the first-hand experiences of reckless magicians. Goetic legends hold that some magicians have perished after dealing with forces too great for them.
During recent years, many ceremonial magicians with a background in psychology have postulated that the demons of the Goetia are the base and negative traits of the human psyche. While there is certainly a basis for this idea, it must be understood that this does not diminish the possible danger of incorrectly conjuring and commanding these forces. These "archetypes," if you will, are not simply within the mind of the magician. They are in the psyche of each individual, as well as in the collective psyche of humanity. To illustrate psychologically, suppose the magician invokes a demon representing anger and ferocity, with the intent of utilizing the demon's aggressive nature to assist him in obtaining employment. If the magician does not properly control his anger, it may break free and cause a severe imbalance.
Like any powerful force such as fire or electricity, the Goetia can be both beneficial and detrimental, white and black, good and evil. It commands respect, discipline and proper skills if the magician does not wish to get burned.