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The Keys to the Gateway of Magic

J S Kupperman reviews The Keys to the Gateway of Magic: Summoning the Solomonic Archangels and Demon Princes [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Stephen Skinner and David Rankine in the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition archive.

Skinner Rankine The Keys to the Gateway of Magic Summoning the Solomonic Archangels and Demon Princes

Keys to the Gateway of Magic is the second of Skinner and Rankine’s “Sourceworks of Ceremonial Magic” series, following their first book on the angel magic of John Dee. The goal of this series is to provide transcriptions of important manuscripts on Renaissance ceremonial magic. This makes the “Sourceworks” series an important source for primary source material for those studying Renaissance magic.

Keys consists of transcriptions from Harley MS 6482 and Sloane MSS 3628, 3821, 3824 and 3825 from the British Museum and Rawlinson MS D.1363 from the Bodleian Library. In simpler terms it is a collection of three texts on angelic and demonic evocation; Janua Magica Reserta (Keys to the Gateway of Magic), Dr. Thomas Rudd’s Nine Hierarchies of Angels with their Invocations to Visible Appearance and The Demon Princes. Each of these texts appears to have been extremely influential not only during the period when they were written but also in centuries to come; those familiar with the teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn will find many of the correspondences presented in these texts to be quite familiar.

Janua Magica Reserta, the first of the texts transcribed by the editors, consists of several different sections. These sections deal with diverse subjects ranging from magical aphorisms to the nature of the human soul and its relation to the Earth to the nature of angels, demons and other spirits such as fairies and Robin Goodfellows, not necessarily subjects one would expect to find in a manuscript on ceremonial magic.

The second book, Dr. Rudd’s Nine Hierarchies of Angels with their Invocations to Visible Appearance is a practical answer to the theoretical information provided in Janua. Hierarchies begins with “The Directory”, which consists of numerous evocations for the summoning of spirits; good, bad or in between, it is interesting to note that there are no differences between the evocations used to call angels and those used to call demons. The text also instructs the magician in ways to test the spirits that have been evoked to see if they are what they say they are. The final section presents nine celestial keys or calls used to evoke the archangels of the Kabbalistic sefirot, along with their seals or signs. As with the previous section the nine calls, each of which being about four pages long and consisting of a single sentence, are identical, with only the specifics of the angels being changed. There is also a tenth key that appears to be a later addition that differs from the previous keys in tone and does not include a seal. The information on the sefirotic angles will be quite familiar with modern ceremonial magicians and appears to be a source for much of the Golden Dawn’s understanding of those great angels.

The Demon Princes is the final, as well as shortest, part of Keys. Princes arms the magician with information about not only the three primary fallen spirits; Lucifer, Beelzebub and Sathan, two of which can actually be evoked, but also the divers spirits that serve beneath Sathan, the four kings of the air; Oriens, Paymon, Egyn and Amaymon. Following these four kings are the numerous spirits who act as their ministers and messengers. Thus Princes is similar in nature to the Goetia, though there are some notable differences such as a complete lack of seals or magic circles. It does however provide lengthy evocations similar in nature to both those found in the Goetia as well as those found in Hierarchies.

The editors do a fine job in their transcriptions; notes are provided to tell the reader where differences between manuscripts occur and they even go so far as to use red ink in places were the original manuscripts used red ink, usually for heading titles or the names of spirits. While I was disappointed to see only facsimiles of the angelic seals, which were often unreadable in places, and no cleaned up versions for ease of reading, this was not a major concern. The readability of the overall text, combined with the numerous notes, more than make up for this.

However the introduction, as well as a few notes and comments on some of the bibliographical material were of concern. The editors present a great deal of historical information, some correct, some not, that while interesting is not always useful. Richard Keickhefer’s Magic in the Middle Ages does in fact provide a much more comprehensive view of medieval magic. While some of the background information on the personae dramatis of the period is interesting they fail to support a number of the theories they present with actual evidence, many of their conclusions come through inference instead. Finally, in a multi-page dissertation on how demons are true entities and not simply psychological constructs, along with attacks on modern psychology appear to be more of a rant than a scholarly discourse; while these assertions may in fact be true the editors are far from able to prove it and simply attacking those who feel otherwise is less than persuasive. Their views also fail to take into account the records of pre-Christian philosophers who were of the opinion that such entities were figments of the mind.

For the most part Keys to the Gateway of Magic will only be of interest to those who want to study primary source material, with its Christian theology and moralizing, long invocations and complete lack of modern banishing techniques. Keys to the Gateway of Magic presents a type of occultism that will be foreign to many practicing occultists today, however it will also show where much of modern occultism comes from. Even with the issues surrounding the editors’ introduction, the transcription makes the purchase of the book worthwhile, though the price makes such a purchase somewhat daunting. For anyone interested in the history of ceremonial magic Keys to the Gateway of Magic is a must have that I greatly recommend.