[For a fuller account of the origins click HERE.]
It's not necessary to know anything at all about the origin of the fallen angels on these cards. You can simply go ahead and use them to read your fortune. But they do have a venerable pedigree which may interest some.
All but three of the 72 angels in this pack are taken from Johann Weyer’s 1563 treatise De Praestigiis Daemonum (On the Illusions of Daemons) which was a detailed argument against the infamous Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of the Witches), the professional manual of witch hunters used for centuries across Europe to condemn thousands of supposed witches to the flames.
Weyer was the first known authority to argue that most of the condemned ‘witches’ during this great holocaust were actually the victims of mental illness. He met fierce opposition from the Inquisition and most copies of his book were also consigned to the flames. Luckily some survived and in a letter to Viennese publisher Hugo Heller in 1907 Sigmund Freud called it ‘one of the ten most significant books of all time’ (not on literary grounds but for having helped advance human consciousness and rationality).
Johann Weyer (1515 ~ 1588) was an eminent Netherlands doctor with progressive ideas for his time but, as was common then, he also believed firmly in the reality of magic, angels and daemons. Indeed, if he hadn’t done so he could have attracted even more suspicion from the Inquisition, whom he had angered by speaking in the spirited defence of an accused witch on trial in Arnhem in 1548, speaking in his capacity as the town physician. His contribution to the debate and his general humanitarian stance is commemorated today by the Johannes Wier Foundation, a human rights organization for medical workers in the Netherlands.
The source material for Weyer’s great book on demonology came from another volume he referred to as Liber officiorum spirituum, seu Liber dictus Empto. Salomonis, de principibus & regibus dæmoniorum (Book of the offices of spirits, or the book called Empto. Salomonis concerning the princes and kings of the demons), which itself seems to draw on much older sources.
The most influential part of Weyer’s great work however was an appendix which came to be circulated and published separately under the title Pseudomonarchia Daemonum (The False Kingdom of the Daemons). This was essentially a list of fallen angels and their attributes which went on to become the foundation of several occult classics including the Goetia or Lesser Key of Solomon, the most famous English edition of which was translated by S.L. MacGregor Mathers of the Order of the Golden Dawn, and edited in a rather bad-tempered fashion by the infamous Aleister Crowley in 1904. It is Crowley incidentally who is largely responsible for the still popular notion in black magic circles that these beings really are demons in the conventional sense.
The title of Weyer’s treatise also sounds uncompromising enough at first ~ False Kingdom of the Daemons ~ but reading the text directly and ignoring all prejudice, most of these spirits don’t really seem demonic at all in the commonly accepted sense. Almost the opposite, as for example in his description of Buer (7): “he absolutelie teacheth philosophie morall and naturall, and also logicke, and the vertue of herbes”.
These daemons seem more like inspirational Jungian archetypes or the daimons of ancient Greece; some of them are certainly dangerous, but most seem in themselves neutral or even, from Weyer’s descriptions of them, naturally benevolent. It depends on the context. They embody impulses to certain courses of action and as such are perfectly suited to fortune-telling in the manner of Tarot cards.
In his introduction to Pseudomonarchia Daemonum Weyer mentions that he has deliberately omitted certain passages from his translation of the much older document, in order to discourage would-be sorcerers. This includes three of the traditional 72 demons that Solomon is supposed to have enslaved. Luckily they surface in MacGregor Mathers’ Goetia so we have added them here.