Maxomenos reviews The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, translated by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, from the Bkwyrm archive.
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:
M I L O N
I R A G O
L A M A L
O G A R I
N O L I M
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.