The Book of Abramelin

The Book of Abramelin:
A New Translation
by Abraham von Worms,
compiled and edited by Georg Dehn,
translated by Sephen Guth

Ibis Press, 2006

 

It’s not often that the magical community has the opportunity for a completely new look at one of its old classics, and it’s even less often that such a second look completely redefines its target, standing a century of assumptions on its collective head. The present book, however, is just such an opportunity, and its publication will be warmly welcomed by serious magicians.

Since it was first translated into English in 1893 by Samuel Mathers, one of the founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Book of Abramelin has been one of the most famous, or infamous, of the magical handbooks of the Middle Ages. Some of the most important magical teachers of the 20th century based their entire approach to magic on ideas borrowed from its pages, while at the same time dire rumors circulated among occultists, claiming that even so little as an incautious glance at its pages could unleash demonic powers.

What very few people in or out of the magical community realized was that Mathers’ translation was based on a single incomplete manuscript which left out a quarter of the original text and many crucial details; for example, nearly two-thirds of the magical squares in Mathers’ source had missing letters that are present in more complete manuscripts. This new edition, fortunately, presents a complete translation based on seven manuscripts.

The result is a dramatically new vision of the Abramelin system, enriched by the translator’s diligent historical research. One of the many gems of unexpected lore in the book is the real identity of Abramelin’s author—Rabbi Jacob ben Moses ha Levi Möller, one of the most influential figures in Germany’s Jewish community in the 15th century. Möller’s background in Cabalistic scholarship and Jewish magic casts unexpected light on more than one detail of the Abramelin system.

As a system of practical magic, The Book of Abramelin is one of the most demanding in the Western tradition, and its foundations in Jewish theology and religious practice may make it awkward for many modern magicians to use. Still, this classic of Western magic deserves a place on the bookshelves of serious students of the occult.

JOHN MICHAEL GREER.

RATING: 4 Broomsticks

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