The Book
of the Sacred Magic of
Abra-Melin the Mage

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by S.L. MacGregor-Mathers

This book is an example of Victorian High Magic at its best (or worst depending on your point of view). If your scene is practising complex rituals, handed down by hidden masters of the occult or translated from ancient texts then this is for you. However, if you don't have a spare six months (probably not including all the preparation), a private source of income to live on during your magical retirement, and the patience and attention to detail that is rare these days other than in obsessive personalities - then you might as well forget it!

The text that MacGregor-Mathers presents here is described as having been "delivered by Abraham the Jew unto his son Lamech in A.D. 1485". That should give you the flavour of it. It is full of obscure material requirements, numerological calculations, obscure languages, cabbalistic references, specific astrological timings, and all that jazz. This is all in an effort to contact your Holy Guardian Angel (whatever that is). However, in the Twenty First Century, it is most probably impossoble to perform this ritual (or series of rituals) to the letter of its instructions. But, performing these rituals to the letter of the instructions is what this text is all about. The sheer effort of getting every last detail correct, right down to the sand used in your censer (or wherever), being from a particular type of river bed, is what makes this sort of magic work.

On the other hand, if you want to role play the ancient magician from legend (the likes of Merlin or even Gandalf), performing precise magical workings over extended periods, then this is for you. And there's nothing wrong with this if it makes you feel like a magician, in fact it is just the sort of thing the Editor of The Stone argues for in the second Devil's Advocate. So all this is fine if you are prepared to put in the effort, but if you aren't then it is a bit extreme.

The volume is divided into three books. The First Book contains details of Abraham's communications to Lamech, his travels across Fourteenth and Fifteenth Century Europe, the people he is supposed to have met, his magical work with them and all sorts of other stuff. All this is fine if you have the patience to get this far but it is only at the end of the First Book that the impracticalities begin to appear. According to Chapter Twelve of the First Book you require a child of six, seven or eight years as a clairvoyant. (I can hear the social services sharpening their pencils as you read this.) It goes on to describe all the clairvoyant stuff but to be honest, even though it is all innocent enough, this reviewer would prefer not to promote that aspect.

The Second and Third books describe various rituals and secrets concerning dealing with spirits, visions, raising corpses from the dead (oh yes it's all here!), flying in the air, shape shifting, etc., etc., etc.

No doubt there are many people who have modified and performed this series of rituals - and perhaps as an act of discipline, introspection and a retreat from the world it has it's uses. But to a Twenty First Century magician with our differences in perception as regards actual belief in the spirits, demons and not to mention God, it would take so much modification that you might as well write your own. (In fact Ray Sherwin has done just that in a much smaller way in his Book of Results.) Of course, having made the changes to accommodate a Twenty First Century perspective, not to mention the stuff with kids, it ceases to be the original work and the point about the attention to detail is lost. If you don't feel it is strictly necessary to get out of bed at three in the morning to perform an invocation, then your state of mind will not be right for the work.

To be honest, this book is probably of value to a modern magician as one that completes an occult library. Otherwise it may be useful for research, and could be used as a source for rituals to bastardise. Apart from that it is a bit of an anachronism. Whether Mathers actually did translate it from an ancient text as the modern volume claims is unimportant. Mathers certainly was a good researcher but he was also at the head of the Golden Dawn and no doubt had to feed his followers. Whatever the case it doesn't really matter as, just like everything else in this field, somebody has probably made it up at some point in history. On the other hand, having rubbished it thoroughly, if there are scholars of the Golden Dawn out there who know otherwise, the Editor would love to hear from you via the contribution guidelines page.


MacGregor-Mathers, S. L.; The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage, The Aquarian Press, Wellingborough, England, 1980, 268 pages plus Table of Contents, introduction and appendices by S. L. MacGregor-Mathers.

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