Abramelin, Part 1

To commemorate the new release of George Dehn’s English translation of Abramelin, I thought it would be a good idea to write a series of posts giving my impressions on the book in general and the new edition in particular. At any rate, the topic of Abramelin has not been treated with the necessary level of snark, requiring an addition to the existing literature. I hope this will be educational for occultists and the casual reader alike.

The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage is one of the most influential grimoires in modern magic. As with most other influential grimoires, we owe its influence to MacGregor Mathers, who translated the book from a French manuscript at the Bibliotheque de l’Arsenal in Paris. Mathers was unaware of the larger manuscript tradition that made the new Dehn book possible, and thus there are some differences between the new version and Mathers’ translation. Nonetheless, the book’s agenda of putting a magician in touch with their “Holy Guardian Angel” became popular in an era that saw magic as a transformation of consciousness rather than toad’s feet and bile. Despite its length and the composition of more friendly rites of self-transformation, the Abramelin rite is still practiced today. Thus, it deserves some attention as a cultural phenomenon.

As we begin the book, we should note that it actually isn’t written by Abramelin. In fact, as it’s a grimoire, one can usually be sure that the name on the cover is not the actual author. The book presents itself as the work of Abraham, a Jewish man from the German town of Worms. It was Abraham who, long ago, walked into the Egyptian desert and met Abramelin, who bestowed upon him the sacred magic. Now, as he reaches the end of a long and prosperous life, it is time for him to leave his legacy to his two sons. To the older one, he leaves the mysteries of the Qabala, the famous system of Jewish mysticism. To his younger son, Lamech, he leaves the Book of the Sacred Magic.

Two matters should be noted here. First, the transmission of Qabala in former times was usually granted to those judged most worthy. Traditionally, it was divulged only to married Jewish males of forty years of age who had proven their knowledge of the Torah. As the centuries wore on, the Qabala was adopted into Christian and (later and to a lesser extent) Pagan mystical speculation. Thus, it might be unfair to conclude that Abraham considered his son less spiritually worthy than, say, Madonna.

Even if it might be unfair, though, that doesn’t mean that isn’t necessarily true. Abraham doesn’t seem to think too much of his son. Take the following passage from Dehn’s version:

It is true that our holy language is the most comfortable and strongest before God. But how few are there who know it and speak it? Who knows if you can manage it? Therefore I have written this whole book in simple, everyday language – keep to this.

Behind the simple piety of his speech, you can almost hear a sigh. “Yeah, Lamech, you’re probably going to screw up your Hebrew, too, just like everything else. I’d better write this in the vernacular, just to make sure you won’t.”

So, what is the nature of this grand document Abraham is presenting to his second and possibly-not-up-to-snuff son? More on that next time!

UPDATE:  More here.

Published in: on January 27, 2007 at 8:46 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Well, condescending touch notwithstanding, at least he tried to adapt his second son’s illumination to his abilities. He could’ve just written the boy off entirely.

    I know, I know, conceit/metaphor. Not everybody can use the power saw safely It doesn’t mean anyone else shouldn’t build. 🙂

  2. […] 28th, 2007 at 1:30 pm (Occult, Readings) When we last saw Abraham of Worms, he was gearing up to expound upon the Sacred Magic to his younger and possibly slacking son, […]

  3. Thank you for this series.

  4. […] If you want a far more in depth look at Abramelin’s magic, check out this blog. […]

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