Tag Archives: Maxomenos

The Grimoire of Armadel

Maxomenos reviews The Grimoire of Armadel by S L MacGregor Mathers in the Occult Book Reviews archive.

Mathers Keith The Grimoire of Armadel

This is a seriously boring book, and I am at a loss to see why Mathers thought that this was important to translate. It’s not a bad magickal system at all, but it doesn’t add any information. On the other hand this book is excellent for the squeamish or the beginner, precisely because it is a self-contained magickal system with useful workings, none of which could result in serious harm to the user if done improperly.

All the evokations are of beneficent angels and archangels. Each chapter contains the sigil of a particular angel and a description of the services that they perform; there are also lists of prayers appropriate to the evokation of these angels. It is not magickally interesting in this regard, because there are about a hundred or so other magickal works that do the same thing. However, it is interesting from an historical point of view. The chapter names refer to events and characters in Christian mythology, almost none of which have anything to do with the evokation at hand. It makes a very solid effort at looking like and being a thouroughly pious work, which fits the period of this book. Ultimately, I think that “The Book of the Sacred Magick of Abramelin the Mage” is a better book, in addition to being cheaper.

The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage

Maxomenos reviews The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, translated by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, from the Bkwyrm archive.

Mathers The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage

If you only use one book of magick in your entire study, this is the one to use. If you are Wiccan, and you only buy one book on the magick of “old dead white men” in your entire life, this is the book to get. If you are a Thelemite, this book should be required reading, since this is where Crowley got his most important ritual, the Great Work.

Abramelin, like Gaul, is divided into three parts. The first part is the story of how Abraham, the ostensible author, came upon a man named Abramelin and this, his system of magick. Abraham spends plenty of time describing all of his endeavors, including having done magickal favors for a number of Emperors. He admonishes his son Lamech not to use this system for vain purposes. In the third part, he gives a number of talismans, in the form of magic squares, which are used for various purposes, from scrying to changing the weather. The real meat of this book, however, is in the second part. Here, Abraham gives details of a ritual for invoking and communing with one’s Holy Guardian Angel. (This parallels the Shamanic practise of the totem quest. In Wicca, this is practised in lesser version by means of the Sabbats and Esbats.) This is the Great Work which Crowley mentions, and which he used as the basis for his Liber Seketh.

This ritual has many significant restrictions, the least of which is the age requirement: one should be no younger than 25 and no older than 50 years of age. According to my sources, these numbers originate from an astrological mistake: the actual age range should be between the first and second Saturn returns, that is, between 30 and 60. I have my doubts about this since the Operation is supposed to be independent of Astrological influences; more likely it is a matter having a magician who is old enough to have acquired some wisdom and young enough to have the physical stamina to perform the operation. If this is true, then I doubt that 25 enough of a lower bound for most people.

A brief note on the magic squares in the third part: the squares all consist of arrangements of letters in grids, such as the example below:


The form of these tables carries many advantages which most talismans, such as those found in The Key of Solomon, in that they are simple to produce, easy to display as ASCII (note to persons wishing to research magick via computer), and for the most part innocuous. A layman would probably recognize a Goetic talisman immediately but not an Abramelin one. However, I believe that many of the talismans are incomplete. I am not precisely sure how one should complete them.

You can find this book at Amazon, Abebooks, and Powell’s.

The Golden Dawn

Maxomenos reviews The Golden Dawn: The Original Account of the Teachings, Rites & Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order by Israel Regardie in the Bkwyrm archive.

Regardie The Golden Dawn

Every time I read this book I’m amazed by how much stuff is actually in here. Essentially it’s everything you need to know go get started on the path towards Adeptus Minor. (In layman’s terms, being an Adeptus Minor means you know everything you need to know if you want to get onto alt.magick and not get flamed to hell and back by Joshua Geller.) The first part contains several chapters called The Knowledge Lectures. These lectures contain a lot of bare bones basic material that a beginning magician needs to know. In particular, it includes the Lesser Rituals of the Pentagram and the Middle Pillar Ritual. These rituals, in my experience, are incredibly useful for all occasions, including ridding your mind of obsessive thoughts and dealing with unpleasant people. If you’re just getting started, you should practise these rituals daily. In addition, beginner would do well to practise the rituals in Volume III, Book Four, and should master all of the rituals in Volume III before attempting the Solomonic magick. In Volume IV, there is a comprehensive introduction to various Magickal tools, including talismans, scrying procedures and a comprehensive introduction to Enochian magick. The sheer wealth of information in this volume is incomprehensible. This comes as no surprise, considering that the Golden Dawn believed in synthesizing a very large number of magickal traditions into one huge mass. The Golden Dawn was heavily Christianized and this may make some pagan readers uncomfortable; nonetheless, at $30US, this book gives you a lot of bang for your buck.

You can find this book at Amazon, Abebooks, and Powell’s.

Called for Freedom

Maxomenos reviews Called for Freedom: The Changing Context of Liberation Theology by José Comblin, trans Phillip Berryman, in the Bkwyrm archive.

Liberation Theology is a Christian movement that grew out of the harsh realities of Cold War Latin America. It was pretty rough back then; I heard from more than one refugee about how American-backed dictatorships engaged in torture, rape, murder and kidnapping of political dissidents, students, nuns, priests and Indians. (A lot of it was paid for by your tax dollars. Cheerful, innit?)

As a response to the Church’s apparent apathy towards the suffering in Latin America, Comblin and others constructed a theology which is fundamentally different from the old Medieval theology still used by the Roman Catholic Church, or for that matter, the teachings of fundamentalist Christianity. Comblin tries to get away from the Christian God as we are used to it: all knowing, all seeing, all powerful, perfectly good; an unchanging and fixed prime-mover for the Universe, as discussed by Anselm and Aquinas. His criticism is that this idea of God carries with it an inherent implication: the Universe has Order, God has ordained this Order, and you shall stay in your place because God has willed it. Comblin throws this idea out and instead argues for a Christianity based upon the Gospels, where God is Love and where humans are expected and challenged to be free. The knowledgeable magus may see some similarities to Thelema here. Ultimately, however, Comblin’s goals are political and social. For Comblin, true Christianity is political and socially conscious Christianity, and true Christianity is a Christianity which encourages greater social freedoms instead of trying to step on them. This includes, apparently, issues such as abortion, birth control, sexual equality, freedom of speech, and so forth. (As a note, because Comblin is quite Pauline, I am not sure where he stands on homosexuality).

Speaking as a Wiccan, and as a magician, and as a former Catholic, I found this book incredibly insightful. First of all, it helped to clear up a lot of issues that I had with Catholicism before I started to see the holes in the Church’s teachings. It thus helped to put my struggle with my spirituality into perspective, “I’m not the only one who felt this way.” Since a lot of pagans and magicians are converts from Christianity and often have pent-up anti-Christian anger, I can see how the perspective lent by this book can be very healing. As a Wiccan, this book helped me to understand why there is a tendency, in a religion which claims to be nature-oriented and inherently healing, for people not to consider things like world peace or world hunger in their usual prayers and magickal work. To be blunt, Wicca is becoming an incredibly narcissistic religion and I think Comblin has laid out the foundation for a better, more proactive, and probably more permanent, Wicca. As a magus, this helped me to understand a fundamental flaw in my concept of God in relation to the Tree of Life. My concept of God is very logical, like Swinburne’s, and I started out studying Qabala thinking that Aquinas’s God, the Prime Mover, sits at Kether. Comblin pulled the plug on that one. As I see it now, Aquinas’s God sits at the top of the Pillar of Restriction while Comblin’s God sits at the top of the Pillar of Mercy.

What’s at Kether? Why, Anselm’s God, of course.