BOOK REVIEW - Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires

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Mike Gleason

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Dec 19, 2005, 11:15:27 AM12/19/05
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Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires by Aaron Leitch Š 2005 Llewellyn
Worldwide 480 pages paperback ISBN 0-7387-0303-6 $29.95 (U.S.)
$39.95 (Canada)

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.


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