You might recall an article from a month ago in which I discussed the appearance of the first translation of the classic Faust-attributed grimoire Magia naturalis et innaturalis, translated by Nicolás Álvarez Ortiz and published by Enodia Press. I had some trepidation about ordering from them – apparently the Mexican post office is not as diligent about updating its tracking notices as it could be – but I now have both a print and electronic copy of the book. So, what do we have?
What we have here is an English translation of the German book, along with a brief introduction, some notes, and numerous full-color illustrations collected at the end.
For those who aren’t familiar with the book, it serves primarily as a collection of incantations and pacts for spirits of various orders and elements to fulfill the will of the magician. They range from grand princes of hell such as Marbuel and Aciel, to sets of seven spirits corresponding to all manner of social statuses, from counts to peasants to fools, to pygmies. A large number of full color illustrations portray these beings, along with the seals necessary to compel them. These are conducted for various purposes, ranging from fast travel via flying coat to bringing birds and flowers to the magician, but the foremost would seem to be the discovery of buried treasure. There’s a great deal in here that should be of interest to many readers of ritual magic.
Álvarez’s translation seems well done to me, being coherent and legible. Even though I quibble at some points with his word choices, I’ve been able to see where he was coming from. Perhaps those more conversant with German will have different views, however.
In terms of a scholarly apparatus, Álvarez does provide some notes to define particular concepts, Biblical passages, and notable figures, as well as transcriptions of the wording in the color plates. We do not have the German text, although that is readily available online. Key elements missing are any table of contents, beyond the most rudimentary, or an index. This makes finding any particular section of the book an unnecessary exercise in paging through over 150 pages.
The introduction is notable, although it does sometimes combine very old sources and up-to-date ones in ways that make it unclear why some topics merited more work than others. (One innocent mistake seems to be the usage of a nineteenth-century German scholar to discuss Jewish culture, when there are more recent studies of the origin of the demonic pact.)
I should also make some notes about the presentation. The layout is cramped, with little space between lines and sections. The font in my copy was considerably faded in some places, not enough to be illegible, but certainly enough to make for difficult reading.
If you’re a grimoire completist, I’d say this is definitely for you. It’s in a limited edition of 100 copies, if that helps you make a choice about whether you want to deal with the Mexican post office. Frankly, what I’d really like to see is the next edition of this book, which – I hope – will include a more detailed table of contents, index, and reformatted layout. The book as it stands is both fine and important, but I think those changes would make it into a top priority for many interested in ritual magic.