My copy of Crossed Keys from Scarlet Imprint arrived a couple weeks ago. First, although this is not a review copy, I had a positive experience with Peter Gray who graciously replaced a copy lost in the mail, and I wanted to note that.
Crossed Keys, available in hardcover and paperback editions, is an English translation of two famous grimoires, the Dragon Noir or Black Dragon and the Enchiridion attributed to Pope Leo III. The two books have vastly different characters, but they have been brought together because the Black Dragon sometimes refers to parts of the Enchiridion. One might question whether that’s a good reason to include the full text of both, but one should really be quiet and just appreciate it.
The translator, Michael Cecchetelli, tells a fascinating story of the book’s genesis in the introduction. It seems he translated both books while in solitary confinement, which I think is remarkable. Also, it made me think that he probably wasn’t from the US, but it turns out he was mistaken.
I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the translations, and we don’t get the French text for either grimoire, but what is presented is satisfying nonetheless. The Black Dragon is a book of spirit summoning, calling upon seven spirits similar or identical to those from the Grimoire of Honorius and the Grimorium Verum, along with recipes for the Black Pullet (in the “less kind to the chicken” variant) and the Hand of Glory (in the “not really a hand nor particularly glorious” variant). On the other side you have the Enchiridion, a collection of prayers and mystic signs intended mainly to be used for protective ends, said to be a letter to King Charlemagne. Oddly enough, a letter from Jesus to Abgar, King of Edessa, providing him protection against all harms, is tossed in the middle of this, meaning it arrived eight centuries late and for the wrong person. Hey, that makes me feel better about that first copy of Crossed Keys going missing in the post.
Seriously, though, this is a major publication. One previous English translation of the Black Dragon has appeared through the publisher IGOS, but even if I paid significantly less than the $300 Mr. Cecchetelli was charged to own it, it still would have been too much. (For those who haven’t seen them, IGOS is a now-defunct publisher that thinks that graphic layout means making a book look like a double-spaced term paper.) Portions of the Enchiridion were published in Waite’s Book of Ceremonial Magic, but we haven’t seen the whole until now. Plus, we get an additional account of a working that the author did using the Dragon, and a brief set of notes.
This is a pleasing work presenting two texts mostly unknown to English-speaking audiences, and it has much to commend it.