On the Shelf Review – Magic Circles in the Grimoire Tradition

The latest release from Ouroboros Press is William Kiesel’s Magic Circles on the Grimoire Tradition, a treatise on the protective circles found in many books of magic.  I can’t say that I’ve made a comprehensive study of the field by any means, but I’ve found a good way to handle it in my office:

My Wall

Yes, that’s only part of one wall, and the monkey is a necessity.

Back to William Kiesel’s book.    The work is fairly short – about 60 pages – and covers a variety of topics, including the use of magic circles, their construction, their use in pentacles, and their use in operations of spirit summoning, divination, and treasure hunting.  The book is richly illustrated with magical circles from various works.

As for the content – I’d say that this book factors more on the practitioner than the academic.  This, as usual is perfectly fine, but I want purchasers to know this beforehand.   For example, the section on operative praxis concentrates more on examples  from particular works than making general statements about the corpus as a whole.  As such, it might not give the reader a full picture of the tradition, but for readers looking for bits and pieces to add to their own practice, it would certainly be useful.

I’d also point to the section on circle construction as an indicator.  Kiesel uses the Heptameron as his starting point, moving on from there to discuss its “circle and cross” arrangement as bringing together two factors of sacred geometry which he can show in other sources.  I think this is very much the case, and that the Heptameron has had considerable influence upon the magical corpus.  On the other hand, I can look at my walls and see large numbers of magic circles that minimal or no crosses, instead consisting of straight circles, triangles within circles, and the like.   I’d also question how typical the circle in the Heptameron truly is – circles with customizable words of power are not truly common.

The book does not feature an index, but it does have footnotes and a few pages of bibliography.  The  a good collection of sources, though more recent additions to the genre of published grimoires would have been welcome.  One note:  Davies’ book on grimoires is not included here, but it is referenced in the notes to the text.

I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in magical circles; even if you don’t care for its particular focus, this is probably the only relatively modern work on the topic (and someone will tell me if I’m wrong).  Any sort of work dealing with magical illustration is to be commended, given the sparse number of works in the field.   I’m certainly glad I picked it up, as he’s given me a few to add to my comparative collection.

Published in: on July 14, 2012 at 9:19 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You’ve now given me the perfect picture of the lair of a mad cultist. Also, “Dan the Snake Man” (as per the newspaper story)? Have you taken to Lucha Libre ring?

  2. […] On the Shelf Review – Magic Circles in the Grimoire Tradition (danharms.wordpress.com) […]


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