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Home > Books & Reviews > Pagan > Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires Search

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Book Review:
Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires: The Classical Texts of Magick Deciphered

Author: Aaron Leitch
Trade Paperback, 432 pages
Publisher: Llewellyn
Publication date: 2005
List: US$29.95, C$39.95
ISBN: 0738703036
Price & More Info: Click Here

Okay, before I even got past the cover I was having doubts about this book, and by the time I finished the Contents listing my reservations had grown. The subtitle of this book is "The Classical Texts of Magick Deciphered". Looking through the contents I saw both the Greater and Lesser Keys of Solomon on the same page. Excuse me? Oh, I know that there are rituals from these texts throughout the book, but even a brief description of these two seminal works deserves more than a single page.

I had eagerly awaited the arrival of this book, since I have had an interest in grimoires for a number of years. Upon its arrival, and after reading the first chapter, I discovered that it was not what I had anticipated. I had expected a profusely illustrated tome, with assorted lists of correspondences. Instead, I was presented with a book which contained about 39 pages of illustrations, 15 pages of tables, and over 20 pages of footnotes in small print. To give credit where it is due, the illustrations are large enough, and clearly enough executed, that it isn't necessary, as in many previous cases, to break out a magnifying lens to see details.

This is the first book I have seen which explores the possible connection between the magick in the medieval grimoires and the shamanic practices of primitive peoples. It is not a connection I would have thought to make and/or explore. But Mr. Leitch makes his case carefully and thoughtfully. Agree with his premise or not, you will benefit from the experience. In a topic as serious as grimoiric magic, it is important to be both careful

and precise and, given the long delay in the arrival of this book (it was originally due for release in August of 2004), I expected very careful attention to detail. I was, therefore, disappointed by the number of typographical errors I found. I am not able to comment on potential errors of translation, but the simple appearance of homonymic errors (e.g., "purist" for "purest") was astounding to me.

As with any book devoted to the Ceremonial arts, this is not a book to be taken lightly. Nor should it be rushed through. As a matter of course, I normally plan to read a book in from four to ten days. The sheer volume of information contained between the covers of this book forced me to slow down. The first half of the book is devoted to historical background and covers a range of millennia. It takes a substantial amount of time and energy to follow the evolution of magick from its inception in pre-historic shamanistic cultures, through its development and evolution into medieval priest-craft and beyond. Without this background, however, the latter half of the book would be much less useful. So you must allow yourself adequate time to assimilate the information contained in the first part of the book and make it part of your own reality.

Mr. Leitch stresses, repeatedly, the need for the individual to follow instructions to the utmost of their ability. If something is truly impossible for you to accomplish, then, and only then, can you consider substituting for it. If it is merely difficult, or expensive, or inexplicable from your point of view, that does not grant you a dispensation to make substitutions. A Grimoiric mage must be willing to dedicate themselves to the pursuit and execution of the proper tools, time and obligations.

Having said the above, Mr. Leitch does make allowances for the differences which exist between the 15th century and the 21st century (i.e., computer programs for astrological calculations, and the differences in the pace of life).

Unlike many modern magickal systems which emphasize intent as the single most important element in a ritual, equal emphasis is placed on effort in this work. A lack of effort will greatly diminish, or cause non-existent results.

Some readers will, undoubtedly, be dismayed by the discussion of blood sacrifice, and even more so by the inclusion of animal sacrifice in the discussions of grimoiric magic. Such topics need to be addressed. Even more importantly, they need to be understood. Ignoring something, whether it is the use of Biblical psalms or animal sacrifice, will not make them go away. Even less will it lead to a complete understanding of the system that includes those concepts.

Another unfortunate problem with this book is the lack of care taken in the placement of illustrations. Items described as "above" often appear below the text and, in at least one instance, one set of illustrations intended to appear immediately following a statement (bottom of page 200) do not appear until the top of page two pages later. That is simply carelessness and should not happen in a book on grimoiric magic. This was probably the largest complaint I had with this book. I was hoping for much more. The quality of the illustrations is better than average (primarily a virtue of being larger, and thus easier to reproduce), but the placement of those illustrations is the problem.

Mr. Leitch provides alternatives for some of the most restrictive prohibitions and requirements of the grimoires (do you have any idea how hard it can be to find thread hand spun by a virgin in this day and age?). But while these alternatives exist, one should not automatically turn to them. It if is necessary to use alternatives it is best to work your way down to the least acceptable rather than just jumping to it. Remember, as you sow so shall you reap,

This book deserves to be read by every would-be mage. It provides some necessary insight into the mindset of the medieval writers of the grimoires. Based on the number of errors I encountered I can't recommend it as whole-heartedly as I would like. The sections of the book which offer the author's opinions and insights are very valuable, but I have reservations about the "factual" information due to the typographical errors. In my personal opinion those errors seriously affect the value and usability of the book.

By all means if you are looking towards starting work in grimoiric magic, get this book and use it as a supplement to your study of the grimoires. Do not, however, rely on this book to provide all the answers.

The last half of the book provides a good basis for understanding the workings of medieval magick. You will need some supplemental texts to use this book (first and foremost a copy of the Psalms [either from the Hebrew or Christian scriptures]) since Mr. Leitch does not provide the full text of each Psalm when it is called for.

The practice of grimoiric magic, as laid out by Mr. Leitch, is not for the faint-hearted. Nor is it for the easily distracted. Most importantly, however, is who it IS for. It is for anyone who is willing to make a commitment of time and energy; anyone who is capable of exhibiting both ego and humility; in short, anyone who is sincere in their desire to use magick to alter their world.

Reviewed by Mike Gleason

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