On the Shelf Review – Sepher Mafteah Shelomoh

As previously discussed, Teitan Press has re-released a classic work on magic, the Sepher Mafteah Shelomoh.  This edition actually combines two works – the text itself, published in 1914, and the Clavicula Salomonis, a commentary on the text by Hermann Gollancz published in 1903.  Its most recent claim to fame was Simon’s attempted use of it in Dead Names to justify that Lovecraft didn’t invent Cthulhu.  This examination will be confined to the English material.

We begin with the foreword by Stephen Skinner, who does an admirable job in running down the history of the work.  He makes it clear that this is not a supposed “original” Hebrew edition attributed to Solomon, but instead a later work in which a scribe translated a Latin or Italian manuscript of the Key back into Hebrew, often without even recognizing Hebrew mystical terms.  He also notes a previously-unrecognized source within the book – the Heptameron visible in one of the magic circles in the book, as well as some other manuscripts discovered since the original publication (though these are not examined).  I’m not quite sure about whether the book’s dating to the 15th-16th century is as precise as he places it, but it’s a good theory nonetheless.

Gollancz’s sections, though not up to date with the latest scholarship, nonetheless contains a great deal of illuminating information the manuscript.  He includes several translated passages, including a complete operation attributed to Simon Magus to summon Lucifer, and another to call a spirit named Barakon.  He also notes that other material in the book comes from traditional works of Jewish magic including the Sepher ha-Razim and the Sepher Raziel.  His list of contents

Following this is a table of contents for the manuscript proper.  At least one section, by my quick examination of Mathers, closely parallels the second book of his Key in content, while others contain material from Liber Lunae, the Almadel, and other sources.  Thus, though this might have appeared under the same title as the book most English readers are familiar with as the Key, its contents are considerably more diverse.

At this point, it’s appropriate to note that both texts, absent Stephen Skinner’s introduction, are available on Joe Peterson’s CD.  Nonetheless, some people work better with reading print rather than text on-screen, so it’s likely those will find this work of considerable value.  Either one, for those able to read Hebrew in a centuries-old cursive script, will likely find its value emphasized many times over.

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Published in: on October 4, 2008 at 7:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

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