What started off as a curiosity with the figure of Thoth (or Toz/Toc) Graecus has become a full blown obsession. The thread I was hoping to pull at is quickly unravelling the garment that is my time – and, in a book purchasing frenzy, my money!
As I mentioned in an earlier post, this individual is closely connected by Lynn Thorndike to Hermes the Egyptian, where Thoth Graecus is the analogous “Greek Thoth” as well as the seemingly parallel figure, Grema of Babylon – an association I readily agree with. Thus, we have three distinct, or rather “not so distinct” figures that surround the Mediterranean’s major classical cultural centers: Egypt, Greece, and Persia/Babylon, all of whom serve as leaders (if not initiators) of Hermetic thought.
Early variants (Weir & Scot) of Goetia mention Thoth Graecus by name in connection with the “book of the sayings of Tocz,” most likely Liber Lunae, or the book of the mansions of the Moon. This led me to Lynn Thorndike’s History of Magic and Experimental Science, Volume II, in which both Thoth Graecus and Liber Lunae are discussed. [HMES pp. 227-229] It specifically notes this work as beginning with the phrase “Said Toc…” What I did not expect (though perhaps I should have) is to find yet another parallel, this time linking both the Greater Key of Solomon and the Lesser Key of Solomon with this name.
Thoth Graecus is mentioned in Goetia in the description of the Brass Vessel, specifically in the story of how this vessel was recovered. As the story goes, Solomon shut up the spirits of Goetia in a brass vessel and threw it into a lake, though the reading (in Latin) from Wier indicates more likely that it was a pit or well. The Babylonians, thinking there was a great treasure, recovered and unsealed the vessel, causing all of the spirits to disperse about the face of the earth.
In the preface to The Key of Solomon the King, a.k.a. The Greater Key of Solomon, Mathers gives the introduction from Additional MS. 10862, which tells a story of one “Iohe Grevis” (though he admits another MS using the name “Iroe Grecis”) being among a group of Babylonian philosophers that determined to restore the sepulchre of King Solomon. Upon digging up the tomb, they found the Greater Key sealed in an ivory casket (as Solomon had instructed his son Roboam to bury with him). However, none of these men could comprehend it until Thoth Graecus (or perhaps more fittingly, Grema of Babylon) implored them to beseech the Lord for guidance. He was granted the presence of an angel, and subsequently his desire to understand the book.
The parallel between the two stories is somewhat remarkable, such that I believe they must originate from a single source. Each involves the Babylonians recovering a great treasure related to King Solomon, specifically digging it up from the depths. Thus, were the stories to be cross-referenced, it would seem that the reading of “pit” from Weir is likely more correct, rather than the common manuscript variant of “lake”. Moreover, the intent appears to be that the pit was not simply a deep hole, but in fact the tomb of King Solomon himself!
Obviously, the tale is pure folklore, but the parallels are reasonably clear, and this is where my obsession has sprung from. It started as a passing reference and has exploded into a full blown research project. I’d be annoyed with it, were it not exactly the sort of thing I love to do.
History of Magic and Experimental Science, Volume II; Lynn Thorndike; Columbia University Press, New York & London; 1923. Fourth Edition, 1947.
The Key of Solomon the King; S.L. MacGregor Mathers, Ed.; Samuel Weiser, York Beach, ME; 1972. Reprint, 1989.
De Praestigiis Daemonum; Johann Weirus; Basel; 1583.
Sloane MS 3825.
The Discoverie of Witchcraft; Reginald Scot; Dover Publications, New York; 1972.