This is the second in an ongoing series of posts on grimoires that I’d personally like to see available in English-language editions. The Maqlu Text piece met with considerable approval, so I’m hopeful that this may inspire people to future projects.
Our next book is one of the most influential magical works in the world today. In bookstores from Senegal to Indonesia, it is bought, read, pondered upon, and used by magical practitioners. Even in the countries where the practice of magic is punished with death, it still remains influential. It has inspired an endless series of translations, editions, adaptations, and blatant rip-offs. Still, even if you’re well-read in Western occultism, you’ve likely never heard of it.
The Kitab Shams al-Ma’arif is attributed to Abu’l ‘Abbas Ahmad ibn ‘Ali ibn Yusuf al-Buni al-Qurashi, an Alexandrian Sufi who died in 1225. Still, some debate has been made of this claim, with some dating the book to the fourteenth century. At least three different versions of this book exist, with the longest containing forty chapters dealing with the divine names of God, magic designed to destroy one’s enemies, and incantations to spirits. Some images of pages from the book can be seen here, and more data on the book, as well as images of a nineteenth-century copy intended for the sultan of Morocco, can be found in the two-volume Science, Tools and Magic. The latter includes some beautiful plates of pages illustrating the relation between God and the djinn, as well as a talisman intended to keep bees away from a place.
Some serious obstacles remain for the translation – if the copy mentioned at the first link above is any indication, the book is over a thousand pages long. Nonetheless, the importance of this work cannot be overemphasized. Nicole Hansen, in her article in Magic and Ritual in the Ancient World, explores how the spells from the book still used today have numerous parallels to the practices of the Egyptians of thousands of years ago. If the entire book were available, would be find paralells to the Greek and Demotic magical papyri? To the Picatrix? To traditions of Jewish and Christian magic, both in the Middle East and in Western Europe? Only a translation, which could be examined by scholars of many different backgrounds and fields of expertise, might answer these questions.
More to come.