Author: Donald Tyson
Trade Paperback, 330 pages
Publication date: September 2001
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I have had Donald Tyson's The Magician's Workbook: Practicing the Rituals of the Western Tradition in my review stack for some time. I have avoided reading it because I was afraid it would be an introduction to Tyson's personal Mercury-centered version of magick that he has written about in other books. When I finally could ignore it no longer, I quickly discovered that Tyson is using the standard Golden Dawn system (which is Sun-centered). Sometimes even reviewers forget that you cannot judge a book by its cover -- or by other books the author has written on similar subjects.
The Magician's Workbook is a different type of introduction to the Western Magickal Tradition. There's no theory, no moral advice, no attempt to analyze or to place things in a historical context. This book is simply an introduction to the practical skills one needs to actually perform ceremonial magick in the Golden Dawn tradition through a series of 40 exercises. These exercises start out very simple and get progressively more complex, building on the material in earlier exercises.
Many of the exercises in The Magician's Workbook are Golden Dawn material. Others are original exercises and rituals based on Golden Dawn material. Some of the Golden Dawn rituals presented in these exercises include: the Kabblistic Cross, the Middle Pillar ritual, the Lesser and Greater Pentagram Rituals, and the Rose Cross Ritual. Of course, the exercises do not begin with these more complex rituals. Instead Tyson starts with much more simple exercises and builds toward these standard rituals. This is the beauty of this book. Tyson doesn't toss you in the deep end of the pool and tell you to swim the way so many books on ceremonial magick do. Instead, Tyson starts you in the wading pool and allows you to progress in stages into deeper waters.
The major problem I have with this book is the lack of theory and context. This really is not that important in the early exercises, but the exercises in the last section of the book really could benefit from some background and theory. This is especially true of the the last exercise, a complete magickal operation to evoke Paralda, King of the Sylphs, into a triangle. In the introduction Tyson states that theory and background are available in many other books. The suggested reading list at the end of the book lists a number of these books. However, I think the book would have been more useful if some of the more complex exercises either provided some theory or at least referred the reader to specific chapters of other books that could provide this information.
Despite this problem, The Magician's Workbook is a well-written, practical introduction to the skills needed to practice magick in the Western Tradition. By focusing exclusively on practical magickal exercises, it is an excellent workbook to use with any of the more theoretical books on ceremonial magick (such as Regardie's The Tree of Life). It should not be used alone, however, as it provides little of the theory and background needed to understand the "why" behind the exercises and rituals. If you are a beginning student of ceremonial magick or have studied the theory for years but have seldom put much of that theory to work, The Magician's Workbook is a worthwhile addition to your library.
Reviewed by Randall