Reading Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires

I’m making another go at Aaron Leitch’s book, Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires.  Every so often, I sit down with it to read it, encounter something completely outrageous, and I have to put it down and come back later.

That’s not to say that it’s a bad book.  Leitch has certainly done his homework, engaging with a number of different grimoires as well as the scholarship on books of magic.  I don’t mind that he’s writing for a popular audience, or that he’s a practitioner writing to that market, or that the book is slightly out of date now.  The trouble is, I just can’t get past passages like this  (which I’ve cut down to the troubling matters]:

The Knights Templar… were a mystery cult of warrior-monks who protected the merchant lanes of the Holy Land and practiced the rites of ancient Gnostic Christianity…  [King Philippe le Bel] began to systematically destroy the order one member at a time… In a final maneuver, he attempted to demand judgment against the Templars from the pope.  When the holy leader refused to be manipulated, the king dismissed him and instated his own man, the Bishop of Bourdeaux, as Pope Clement V…  This was the basis of the dreaded Inquisitions… The Templars were merely the first to fall.

This is pretty accurate, once you ignore the material about Gnosticism, or that the King of France actually arrested all the Templars in France at once, or that getting the pope’s permission was actually the first maneuver instead of the final one, or that the king didn’t dismiss the previous pope (who died), or that Clement V was the Archbishop and not Bishop of Bourdeaux, or that the Inquisition was founded nearly a century before the case against the Templars (Leitch quotes the dates for both).

This passage is probably the worst I’ve read so far, and it would be unfair to characterize the book as completely inaccurate.  Still, I keep running into these, and it makes me wonder whether I should continue.  I’ve never made it past the second chapter of Secrets because my penchant for accuracy keeps getting in the way.

Has anyone read it who can advise as to whether it’s worth it?

Published in: on September 10, 2009 at 7:18 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. For me, all such historical errors aside, the discussion placing grimoire traditions in relation to ‘shamanic’ and related practices, and the excellent clarification of the relationship between personal ‘religious’ practice and magic make the book very worthwhile. The valuable stuff in it is the practical stuff – Leitch plainly knows what the grimoiric systems really are and do, and expounds that very well.

  2. I think that it was some of the shamanic material that I had the hardest time with, frankly, but I’ll keep going based on your recommendation to see how it turns out.

  3. I’ll have to read it in order to drive myself crazy. I have no idea how this author is comparing the practices but I happen to truly despise when people use ‘shamanic’ ‘shamanistic’ etc. terms in overly reductionist and ‘metaphoric’ ways.

    Even allowing for certain anthropological comparisons (as opposed to the hard liners that think that ‘shaman’ should only be applied to very specific practices within very specific Siberian groups) when you divorce the practices from the social and ontological context of the culture in question, it is no longer Shamanism.

    Yup. I’ll have to get this book… just to keep my blood pressure high.

  4. […] in it. The history section is better than most websites, and while it does have its issues (see: Dan Harms’ blog for an example), it’s still a very worthwhile resource that’ll hopefully be around for […]

  5. […] Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, Chapter 2 As I’ve discussed previously, I’m slowly making my way through Aaron Leitch’s Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires.  […]

  6. I don’t know If I said it already but …Hey good stuff…keep up the good work! 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,)

    A definite great read..Tony Brown

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