Also known as Ghayat al-Hakim (The Goal of the Wise), from the title of the original Arabic manuscript.
History of the Manuscript
Celebrated book of medieval magic of unknown authorship, possibly a 12th century compilation of Norbar the Arab, frequently attributed eponymously to a philosopher and necromancer named Picatrix: "Haec autem figurae planetarum, quemadomum translatus invenimus in lapidario mercurii et in libro…spiritum et in ymaginibus quas transtulit sapiens picatrix." (Thorndike, p.813)
Latin manuscripts of Picatrix state that it was translated from Arabic into Spanish by order of Alfonso the Wise. When it was translated first into Latin is unknown, but it was evidently well-known in Latin by 1514 (based on references from Rabelais and Johannis Argentin).
Picatrix is divided into four books, but its internal structure is largely disorganized, analogous to a three ring binder stuffed with pages from a host of sources, stitched together with marginalia, expository essays, and lab notes. The writer does a haphazard job of citing sources, but does claim that his work is the distillation of 224 books by "ancient sages". It contains magical and astrological rituals and spells, interpretations of ancient Greek texts, and expositions on magical subjects.
"A treatise of astrological necromancy"
Thorndike classifies Picatrix as "a treatise of astrological necromancy" revolving primarily around astrological imagery and the invocation of demons. Thorndike also notes that the classical references made by the compiler may not be entirely spurious. Aristotle wrote of a magician named Caraphrebim who used astrological concepts in rituals invoking spirits. However, the compiler is clear in his view that magic is a science and superior branch of learning, preoccupied as it is with the distillation and control of natural laws.
To this end, complex tables of correspondences (planets and planetary positions with corresponding metals, gems, spiritual entities, etc.) are provided, and is analogous to an extremely intense Magician's Astro-Necromantic Almanac and General Roadmap for the crafting of magical objects and incantation of magical spells. Specifically, instructions for engraving astrologically derived images on gems to create talismans which may be used at certain times, in certain places, and for specific purposes are given, and recipes for "confections" (compounds) that may be burned, sacrificed, consumed, sacrificed, used as ointments or as olfactory stimuli (similar to aromatherapy) are detailed.
Ingredients employed include various kinds of proprietary oils and admixtures which were presumably available in the magician's bazaar - but are unknown to modernity. However, many ingredients are homely enough: butter, honey, wine, sugar, incense, aloe, pepper, twigs, branches, adamant, lead, sulphur, gold. Others require either a hunting license or a zookeeper friend: the brains of a hare, blood of a wolf, urine of an ass, leopard feces, and other pieces and parts of apes, cats, bears, and pigs. In addition to the organic components, a workshop full of vessels, jars, vases, braziers, crosses, candles, crowns, and other hardware is required.
Example: Genericized Ritual to Invoke X
The magician must enter a perfectly clean room while the moon is in the first degree of Aries, to stand at a table arrayed with various organic substances in particular receptacles, according to a prescribed plan. The magician faces east, and invokes X by, for example, its four names seven times. He then repeats a ritual subroutine intended to enhance strength of intention until a certain culmination is acheived. Then the magician places a crown upon his head. Additional ritual language is voiced, characters are inscribed on a leaf with the ashes of a sacrificed rooster (killed with a bone knife), the leaf is burned, and a well-dressed man appears out of the smoke to answer the magician's petition.
This is a Cliff Notes version guaranteed to flunk the exam, and which does little credit to the meticulously organized and planned program provided by the grimoire. However, it will give the reader some idea why modern neopagans tend to stick with primitive, animistic sympathetic magic, patchouli, drums, and free-verse poetry.
Other rituals are detailed which allow the operant to:
Source: Lynn V. Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science vol. II (The First Thirteen Centuries of our Era), 1923.