It never fails – every time I forget to renew my subscription to the Societas Magica, they publish something great in their journal, Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft. The latest issue is no exception, as it presents a new translation of the Harba de-Moshe, or the Sword of Moses, the classic work of Jewish magic. Some of you might be familiar with this through the 1896 translation by Moses Gaster, one version of which is posted at the Esoteric Archives.
The new translation by Yuval Harari includes a section discussing the book’s history and context. In particular, he notes that Gaster’s dating of the first to fourth centuries is unlikely, as the earliest fragments of text date to the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
The Sword itself – the “sword” referring to holy magical words – describes thirteen angels whom God has appointed to bring magic to humanity. The magician is required to undergo a three-day initiation consisting of washing, prayer, and fasting, calling upon these angels to grant him the powers of the Sword. At the end of that time, he receives the right to use the mystical names for a wide variety of purposes – healing, obtaining wisdom, catching and protecting against thieves, escaping danger, and other scenarios. Gaster had omitted the names of power from the discussion of the text, and Harari’s text replaces them in their proper context, although the long section of nomina barbara does not appear in the text.
Harari will be issuing a bilingual edition of the text at some point. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out or subscribe to Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft to read this and other interesting articles on the topics of the history of magic and grimoires.