The Sword of Moses Again Unsheathed

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.

Published in: on June 19, 2012 at 11:54 am  Comments (2)  

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  1. This may be of interest. Harari’s manuscript source of the Sword of Moses is posted on the Bibliotheque de Geneve web site.

    Genève, Bibliothèque de Genève, Comites Latentes 145

    The Hebrew orthography may be unfamilar but the ms is easy to read and can be enlarged, but can only be down loaded page by page.

    They are high res 300 dpi color scans. The Sword is only a small part of the manuscript. The scribe also copied Sepher Raziel on many of the same pages as The Sword. This is text is the same as the Amsterdam 1701 edition. Some of the mnanuscript is in Ladino, a judeo-spanish. What Yiddish is to German, Ladino is to Spanish.

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