Review – The Sworn and Secret Grimoire by the Master Arbatel

The next step on working my way through my massive grimoire backlog is a hardback review copy The Sworn and Secret Grimoire, the first volume in the Night School series, as brought to us by “Count Abaka.” Given that the author is identified as Jake Stratton-Kent on the book blurb on the publisher’s website, this pseudonym likely qualifies as one of the worst-kept secrets in modern occultism. Yet the choice seems to be deliberate, displaying how this and other grimoires are given lengthy questionable pedigrees while simultaneously undercutting any pretensions that we should take those pedigrees too seriously. I like that.

This book is a re-working of The Secret Grimoire of Turiel, which is a grimoire first appearing in the twentieth century, in turn derived from Hockley’s compiled Complete Book of Magic Science from the nineteenth century (see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of my review of the latter). Stratton-Kent states in the introduction at the start that he wishes to publish a new edition of Turiel, but found it to be inadequate for his needs, leading to a revised edition. In the spirit of ritual magic traditions, he utilizes the Arbatel, the Grand Albert, the Heptameron, and other sources to compose a relatively straightforward method of invoking planetary spirits assembled from traditional materials.

The procedure is very much a creature of its source materials – Christian elements and prayers, a little Latin lengthy preparations and consecrations of lamens, swords, and other tools -but Stratton-Kent emphasizes the Olympic spirits of the Arbatel and downplays the hierarchical aspects of other ritual magic procedures. The sections and the illustrations of lamens, tools, and circle by my Four Wizards partner S. Aldarnay and Dis Albion fuse together the disparate traditions in a pleasing manner.

Our second section of the book is a discussion of the history and usage of planetary hours, in which each day and night is divided into twelve sections, each assigned to one of the seven traditional planets. Next we have some procedures, sigils, and prayers for planetary magic drawn from the Picatrix, the PGM, and other sources, in order to provide a wider range of tools for this particular topic.

The first appendix describes two different schools of approach to the parts of ritual evocation, one a more traditional one articulated by Stephen Skinner and the other more modern, as presented by Crowley. I think I’m obligated here to say that this does appear in some sources, but the miscellanies sometimes depart widely from this, at least on the page. We then get a discussion of various types of “wandering bishops” and other unorthodox ecclesiastical authorities, with suggestions on how such credentials might be valuable to a ritual magician who – unlike many in the past – has not received holy orders. I’m curious how this relates philosophically to the passage Stratton-Kent repeats earlier from the Arbatel suggesting that magicians are born and not made.

Deciding for whom this book is intended is tricky. Despite Stratton-Kent’s desire to create a simplified procedure, his book presumes the reader is already conversant with the techniques of ritual magic and seeks to pursue planetary magic or refine their own ritual knowledge on the other matters discussed. It won’t please those who want to adhere strictly to an ancient text, but it also may not reflect some modern styles of evocation. I feel that a reader who falls into that box, or who enjoys Jake Stratton-Kent’s writing, should definitely pick it up. I also look forward to further releases in the “Night School” series.

Published in: on August 23, 2021 at 4:46 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. for the record, as implied within, I’m also of the opinion that the ‘six stages of classical magic’ are a useful frame rather than a long standing template every grimoire has always conformed to. On the other hand, The fact a virtual doppelganger appears in Crowley’s works shows that “traditional” and modern magic are not necessarily as opposed as they
    may appear to some.

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