Some time ago, I was given a beautiful signed copy of Avalonia’s The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet: a 17th Century London Cunning-man’s Book of Charms, Conjurations and Prayers, edited by David Rankine. With several writing projects and public events to get through this year, it has taken me some time to finish the book and gather my notes for a proper review. Yet, I feel this book is important enough for me to return to it and share what I have found.
So, why do I feel this book is so important? Even better, you may be asking, why should you be interested in the obscure personal grimoire of some guy whose name you’ve never heard before? The answer to both questions is the same, and it comes in two parts. First, I will discuss who Arthur Gauntlet was and then I will discuss the particular treasure his grimoire contains.
Many of you may know that I have described Solomonic magick as a form of “urban shamanism.” Some have taken exception to my use of the term “shamanism” to describe a system of occultism that arose among city-dwelling Christians in the Medieval and Renaissance eras. Most readers, on the other hand, have understood that my use of the term was based on a strict definition of “shamanism” as a social role. In this sense, a shaman is a person who operates outside of Church or Temple authority, and serves his or her community as a liaison between common folk and the realm of spirits. They act as healers and exorcists, and perform spells for day-to-day needs: such as love, money, jobs, friendship, favor with authority figures, finding lost items, divination of the future, etc.
Based on that definition, I have contended that Solomonic mages have historically served the functions of the shaman for their communities. While modern wizards have a tendency to lock themselves away in private and work magick for their own needs, the stereotypical wizard of the past offered his services – usually for a fee – to the laypersons of his town or village. (Much as we see with local cunning men and women and folk magicians even today.)
The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet is a wonderful illustration of this very paradigm. Arthur Gauntlet was a physician of the early seventeenth century, living in a time when medicine still included the use of astrology, magickal talismans and images, and incantations alongside the mundane applications of herbal remedies and tinctures. He moved in circles we would today consider occult – knowing such men as William Lilly, William Laud and possibly even Alias Ashmole (who ended up in possession of Gauntlet’s grimoire and claimed to recognize the man’s handwriting). He also employed a skryer named Sarah Skelhorn, who worked with him until 1636 – the possible time of his death.
Without a doubt, Arthur Gauntlet offered his services – both as a healer and a magician – to his community. And what we have in his grimoire is a practicing wizard’s working notebook – not merely a manuscript intended for mass publication as we find in many of the more common grimoires (i.e. the Key of Solomon the King or the Lemegeton). Instead, The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet falls in the category of a true receipt book – a record of the spells and charms and occult wisdom of a Solomonic mage and healer actively plying his trade.
We can easily see the practical nature of this grimoire by looking at the included material along with the order in which it is recorded:
- On the very first pages we find general instructions for all magick as taught by Ptolemy and Cyprian.
- Following these are the preliminary prayers to God and Psalms for defense and success in all matters, as well as conjurations against all evil spirits, that Dr. Gauntlet was likely to have used at the start of any magickal or healing operation. These include a prayer “for thy Genius” – showing that Dr. Gauntlet understood the importance of invoking his Patron or Guardian Angel at the start of any magickal work.
- Next, we find several charms that, I wager, were used by Dr. Gauntlet somewhat early in his career. (Later sections of the grimoire will contain a larger number and greater variety of such charms.) In this section, we find charms for protection, making spent money return and one for healing a person sick with “worms in his body.”
- Following these are the “49 Aphorisms” copied entirely from the Arbatel of Magic. This is the first of many inclusions from more popular grimoires, showing that Dr. Gauntlet was always on the look out for occult manuscripts to further his own understanding of the magickal arts.
- Next we find a rather lengthy section dedicated to the evocation of angels into a shewstone – several examples of which include the use of a child skryer. (This was a common feature of Solomonic magick, though we know that Gauntlet employed an adult woman for this purpose.) After the instructions given for summoning the angels, several sets of instructions are given for employing the angels for various purposes: discovering theft, finding hidden treasure, curing sickness, obtaining prophecy, returning lost cattle, returning runaway servants and children, and defense against witchcraft.
This section continues with alternate methods of summoning angels for yet further purposes – such as protection, theft, love and pleasures of the flesh.
- Next we find another inclusion from a popular grimoire: this time from the Heptameron. Included are the instructions for creating a magickal circle, exorcism of the fire, information about the garment and pentacle (including several versions of such a pentacle), and the full evocation ceremony – complete with the “considerations” and conjurations for the angels and spirits of every day of the week.
- Following all of this is a lengthy section of text drawn from the Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy – teaching general occult philosophy, characters and forms of spirits, creation of sigils and talismans, books of spirits, evocation, obtaining oracles, etc.
- Then we find several sets of instructions for binding spirits to crystals, and the skrying of the same.
- Next are several experiments of necromancy or summoning the spirits of the dead. The most lengthy of these operations will be of much interest to any of you have have read Jake Stratton-Kent’s Geosophia, because it involves conjuring the spirit of a recently deceased person to go and fetch a fairy named “Sibilia” – who is apparently one of the Sybils (Oracles) of Greek history and myth.
- This is followed, surprisingly, with an elaborate ceremony for summoning “Sathan” (aka Satan) for the purpose of divination upon any subject whatsoever. This is apparently based on the philosophy that Satan is the “god of this world” and should therefore know everything that happens within it. This section ends with the spirit-curses found in many Solomonic texts for entities that are disobedient.
- The following section includes instructions for making and consecrating a magickal wand – the only magickal tool that Dr. Gauntlet seems to have used in his work. (No swords or knives are mentioned.)
- Then we find a section of recipes for incenses appropriate to each planet and zodiac sign. An interesting point here is the fact that all of the planetary perfumes are to be made into “pills” – or small rolled balls. These are created by mixing the powdered plant materials with blood – and in each case the blood is taken from an animal sacred to the planet itself. Such as bat blood for Saturn, that of a white rooster for Sol, that of a goose for Luna, etc.
- The next section might be thought of as a companion to the Sibilia conjuration. This time, the conjuration is for a spirit named “Oberion” – who is obviously the King of Fairies Oberon. It is interesting to note that this ritual also includes an invocation of the “Kaberion”, who are likely the Kabiri of ancient Greek mythos.
- Next we find a section dedicated to various Psalmic charms that Dr. Gauntlet likely used and prescribed in his practice. These are similar to those found in Use of the Psalms or the Book of Gold. They include charms for healing weakness (exhaustion? consumption? fatigue?), protection from demons, easing colic in infants, gaining honors, eloquence, healing sickness and injury, aiding childbirth, overcoming accusations, discovering theft, exorcising demons, protection of children, stopping bleeding, cramps, curing epilepsy, etc., etc.
This same section continues with more charms that do not depend on Psalms, but instead upon characters, herbs, magickal images and the like. Their purposes are more of the same we have seen – such as the curing of several specific injuries and diseases. Among these are seven “images” (actually more like talismans) attributed to the seven days of the week – and therefore the seven planets – fashioned from different metals and alloys. Each is attributed to a particular effect – such as binding tongues, creating discord or love between couples, etc.
This final section of charms is very lengthy - apparently representing bits of useful magickal lore Dr. Gauntlet acquired along the course of his career. I suspect he would have gone right on expanding this last section indefinitely throughout his lifetime.
Overall, we can see clearly in the above a notebook that would have been in use by an active practitioner of the art – specifically one offering his services to others in his community. The arrangement of the text even gives us a clue into how Dr. Gauntlet went about his ritual process – starting with his preliminary prayers and invocations and the methods by which he (and his skryer) made contact with angelic entities. Then follow the various charms and lore he picked up in his own spiritual quest and professional career. Furthermore, we see in the collected philosophy and lore the progression of Gauntlet’s own understanding of occult philosophy – as he would (certainly after much searching) lay his hands on one grimoire after another and hand-copy the portions of them he felt were most important.
I must also point out that the practical nature of this notebook gives us a rare glimpse into the “nuts and bolts” of Solomonic magickal practice. Where the more popular “mass circulation” grimoires often give us only a broad overview of the methods employed, more often than not mixed with a large amount of mythos and fantasy, Dr. Gauntlet’s grimoire is more concerned with specific how-to’s of the practice.
Some of the best examples of this latter dynamic is found in the instructions for skrying – which are absolutely some of the best I have ever seen in print. While this text and many others give us the rituals to use in skrying angels and spirits, only this one among the classical texts gives step-by-step instructions on how to divine specific information from the entities thus evoked.
The first example is found on p. 117, “How you shall make your demands to the Three Angels And first for a Friend.” It concerns how to question three summoned Angels to tell you exactly where a friend of yours is at the time of the working. (Apparently, Gauntlet’s skryer Sarah used this method often enough to continue using it after his death. The introduction describes Sarah later working for a client who would ask her to divine whether or not her – the client’s – mother was at home before she would commit to taking a trip to visit her. Remember this was the day before the phone, or even the telegraph or mail service. It would appear that Sarah was accurate enough in this divination to remain in the employ of the same client for many years.)
In the instructions given on p. 117, we learn that one did not simply ask the angels “where is my friend so-and-so right now?” Instead, a specific process was undertaken: First one asks the angels to show a vision of the friend in whatsoever place he or she may be. The vision will be granted, but no place will be named. The skryer must then ask how far away this place is – “is it five miles away? six miles? seven? eight? ten? twenty?” etc – until an exact number is settled upon. Then the skryer asks which direction the location lies from the current location – asking “is it north from here? south? east? west?” Then the skryer must ask, “Is it such-and-such a place?” The place must be specifically named by the skryer, and possible locations are to be named until the angels answer in the affirmative.
On p. 118, “How you shall make your demands for Theft to the Three Angels” we are told to use the exact same process. First one asks to see the thief – so that a description of the person can be recorded. Then, to find the present location of the thief, one goes through the same sort of questioning one used to locate a friend. First how many miles off he is – naming different distances until one is affirmed. Then which direction, then naming specific locations until one is confirmed as the hideout of the thief.
Also on p. 118 we find “For Treasure hidden”, which uses a similar but more restricted process. One first determines the land wherein one believes treasure is buried. Then the process of elimination is followed as above – only using feet rather than miles.
On p. 119 we learn how this kind of divination is done “For Sickness.” Once the angels have been summoned, the symptoms of the sickness are explained to the entities. Then one asks if the patient is going to live or die. If it is divined that he will die, one then asks how long that will be in coming by naming different lengths of time. If it is divined that the patient will recover, one must then ask how that recovery will take place. Will it be accomplished naturally, or will the doctor need to apply medicines? If it is to be by medicine, then one must determine the disease by naming known maladies until the angels affirm the one afflicting the patient. Then remedies and treatments are to be named until the angels confirm the one(s) that should be applied. Then one asks how long the recovery will take – once again by naming different lengths of time.
What a perfect illustration of how divination is properly done! One can imagine using this technique with a divinatory device such as a pendulum, geomantic squilling, a toss of coins or any other method that can provide a “yes or no” answer to any question. At no point are the angels expected to simply state outright the location of the person or the nature and cure of the disease - but these must be divined one bit at a time until the answer is finally settled upon via a process of elimination.
As you can see, there are many treasures to be found in the Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet. I agree with the editor when he suggests, in the introduction, that this book shows the marks of a person who actually used this material in the real world. That is what makes this book so important. The nuts-and-bolts nature of the instructions give us a rare insight into how this kind of magick was really done – much akin to the few precious eyewitness accounts of such rituals that have been preserved in various journals.
But even those eyewitness accounts are second-hand at best – descriptions of what a person saw and thought they were seeing that gives us little insight into the motivations and skills of the wizard himself. (Imagine, for example, trying to describe to another what you saw a surgeon do during an operation. It would hardly amount to an instruction manual for surgery.) Meanwhile, The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet gives us a real view into Solomonic practice much akin to the eyewitness accounts, while also giving us the step-by-step instruction to do it ourselves.
Yet again – not long after their publications of The Veritable Key of Solomon, A Treatise of Mixed Cabala and The Book of Gold – Avalonia and David Rankine have provided us with another leap forward in our modern understanding of classical Solomonic occultism. Therefore I must urge you to pick up The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet – whether you are a student of cultural history or an active practitioner, you will discover treasures buried within the pages of this obscure physician’s personal grimoire.
Greetings North Carolinians!
I’ll be in your neck o’ the woods toward the end of August (the 25th and 26th), and you’ll have FOUR chances to come see me! I’ll be covering Solomonic and Golden Dawn subjects. See below for information about each event:
Event 1: A Discussion on Solomonic Magick
Come Learn The
Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires!
Aaron Leitch, author of Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires and The Angelical Language: Vols. I and II, is a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the academic Societas Magica. His writings cover such varied fields as religion, shamanism, Hermeticism, Alchemy, Neo-paganism, Angelology, and Qabalah.
Join Aaron for an intimate discussion on the History, Use, and Magick of the Grimoires, those classic books of Magick.
Saturday 25 August 2012
Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
4907 Garrett Road
Durham, NC 27707
11:00 AM thru 2:00 PM
Contact information: Samuel Scarborough.
Event 2: Golden Dawn Discussion and Ritual
On the evening of the 25th, I will be holding a private discussion session, followed by a ritual, at the KNR Temple of the Stella Matutina. This one is only open to Golden Dawn initiates. No subject has been set for the discussion – you will be encouraged to ask about or discuss anything Golden Dawn related.
The ritual will be a brand new invocation formula for the Outer Order. We will be making contact with the Archangel Raphael Mercuriel.
Then the next day:
Events 3 & 4: Two Ceremonial Classes (Basic and Advanced)
Aaron Leitch of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn will be hosting two Ceremonial Magick workshops on Sunday, August 26th, 2012. The first workshop will cover the basics – such as beginner rituals, exercises, magickal correspondences, etc. After a break for lunch, the second workshop will cover intermediate to advanced concepts – invoking Elemental and Planetary forces, consecration of talismans and basic evocation of spiritual entities.
Sunday, August 26th, 2012
(11am-1pm & 2:30pm-4:30pm)
2618 Hillsborough Rd.
(the NEW location!)
Durham, NC 27705
* The event will be $25 per ticket. An advance registration is required.
* Registration must be completed by August 22nd.
* You will not need previous knowledge of Ceremonial Magick or the Golden Dawn to attend the basics class.
* Aaron’s books will be available in the shop, in case you want to pick up any or all of them.
* He will also be available for book signing, after the classes.
Aaron Leitch is among the preeminent authors of today who deal with matters of Ceremonial, Solomonic and Enochian magick. His work has been published by Llewellyn and the titles include Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires and his double volume set, entitled The Angelical Language.
Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires is both theory and practice for working with the ancient texts of magick, such as The Key of Solomon, The Picatrix, The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, The Grimoire Verum, The Arbatel and any other of the cornerstone classic books of the occult that are referred to as “grimoires”.
The Angelical Language is an incredibly in-depth look at the work of Dr. John Dee and the Angelic, or “Enochian” magickal system.
If you want to RSVP for this event, send your full name and phone number to:
You do not want to miss this very special opportunity!
This is going to be a FULL weekend of magick and great discussion! So make sure to reserve your space (or spaces) today.
Greetings God brothers and God sisters!
Scarlet Imprint is now taking pre-orders for an awesome new book called:
This new anthology brings together authors and practitioners of various Afro-Caribbean and Western systems of occultism to compare notes on their traditions’ difference and, especially, similarities. From the Scarlet Imprint page:
At the crossroads the paths of magicians and worlds meet.
Grimoire and root workers, Hoodoo and Vodoun, Quimbanda and Ifa. A potent fusion is occurring, a second diaspora.
At the Crossroads tells the stories of what happens when the Western Magical Tradition encounters the African Diaspora and Traditional religions, and vice versa. It is a mixing and a magic that speaks of a truly new world emerging.
My own offering to this brew is called Folk Traditions and the Solomonic Revival. The above quote, actually, is a fair description of exactly what my essay is about. I discuss the current cross-semination taking place between the modern Solomonic movement and various folks traditions – such as Santeria, Voodoo and Hoodoo. I briefly mention the relationship these traditions have shared in the past, and then explore the important impact such folk traditions are having upon the current understanding and practice of the medieval European grimoires.
And this goes far beyond the magick of Solomon, too. This movement reflects a relationship between Westerners and magick that was lost thousands of years ago, but which is now re-emerging and flourishing throughout every aspect of the occult revival. It is having an effect on everything from the Golden Dawn and Thelema to Wicca and Neopaganism. My essay, and Crossroads overall, gets right to the heart of this new movement and why it is so vastly important for all of us.
At the Crossroads is going to be a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand what exactly is happening to magick in the Western world in the 21st Century.
Peter Grey – Preamble: Standing Still
Jake Stratton-Kent – Necromancy: the Role of the Dead in a Living Tradition
Aaron Leitch - Folk Traditions and the Solomonic Revival
Eric K Lerner – Eleggua; Eleggua’s Worlds (art)
Stephen Grasso – Open up the Gate
Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold – The Invisible City in the Realm of Mystery
Richard Ward – In the Shadow of the Cross
Drac Uber & Ivy Kerrigan - Libations for the Lwa
Michael Cecchetelli – Countermeasures
Humberto Maggi – Crossing Worlds
Ryan Valentine – A brief history of the Juju
Hagen Von Tulien – Soul Dream (art)
Kyle Fite – The Syncretic Soul at the Cross of Cosmic Union
ConjureMan Ali – Goetic Initiation
Christopher D Bradford – Nigromantic Putrfaction
Chad Balthazar – A Garden Amidst the Flames
Angela Edwards – Queen of Fire & Flesh (art)
Jake Stratton-Kent – Magic at the Crosssroads
Greetings, faithful followers!
I thought it might be useful – for me as well as my readers - to post my favorite recipes for planetary incenses here.
In a best case scenario, you would want each incense to include the planet’s sacred number of ingredients. Thus, Saturn incense should include three ingredients, Jupiter incense should contain four, etc. The down side to this is when you reach the higher-numbered planets: six ingredients for Sol and seven for Venus isn’t so much, but by the time you reach Luna’s nine ingredients the recipies begin to get unwieldy. Another option is to have all the recipies include the same sacred number of ingrendients. Three and seven are always “standard” sacred numbers for nearly any purpose.
I generally choose three ingredients for mine – representing each of the three worlds described by Agrippa (physical, mental and spiritual), or the three shamanic worlds (celestial, terrestrial and the underworld). I have found that simpler is better when it comes to mixing aromatic powders together. Quite often, substances that you think would smell wonderful when burned together, instead create acrid and unpleasant burning smells. Whatever number you choose, it will take some trial and error before you find the exact mixture that works best for you.
Incense of Saturn/Saturday:
1 part Myrrh
1 part Asafoetida
1/4 part Sulphur
Incense of Jupiter/Thursday:
1 part cedar
1/4 part clove
1/8th part apple pectin
A few drops of pine oil
NOTE: This is a rare case where I use more than three ingredients, and four is sacred to Jupiter. I find that apple pectin tends to have an acrid burning smell – so I add very little and then offset it with the pine oil.
Incense of Mars/Tuesday:
1 part Pipe Tobacco (or, my favorite, “Black and Mild”)
1/2 part Cinnamon
1/8th part Crushed Red Pepper
WARNING!: Martian incense is one of the most dangerous substances I’ve worked with! It is, quite simply, tear gas. If you make this, do not add too much red pepper. And when you burn it, do it in small quantities. Never, for any reason, lean over the censor and inhale or draw in breath! Too much pepper or direct inhalation can burn your throat and lungs.
Incense of Sol/Sunday:
1 part Frankincense
1 part Copal
1/2 part Benzoin.
NOTE: You may also use standard “Church” incense, which can be found in most botanicas or christian supply stores.
Incense of Venus/Friday:
1 part Sanalwood
1 part Benzoin
1/2 Red Rose Petals
Incense of Mercury/Wednesday:
1 part Benzoin
1/4 part Frankencense
1/8 part Lavender Blossoms
Incense of Luna/Monday:
1 part Calamus
1/2 part Juniper Berries
1/4 part Gardenia Flower
As a note, I generally find that the various flowers used in the above incenses tend to produce a burnt smell when placed on hot coals. A good solution is to replace the flowers with a drop or two of essential oil instead. Just be careful, as too much flower essence will quickly overpower the other ingredients in the recipe.
You should, of course, test these recipes and tweak them according to your tastes and intuition. Or, if you feel inspired to do so, try making scents with the planetary number of ingredients. A wonderful resource for this work is Scott Cunningham’s Incenses Oils and Brews.
Also, you can use these for Elemental incenses as well:
Fire: Martian Incense
Water: Lunar Incense
Air: Mercury Incense
Earth: Saturn incense*
(* – Personally, I find Saturn incense too noxious for Earth. My favorite Earthy scent is Patchouli.)
May you find these suffumigations useful and powerful in your magick.
Ok, folks I just had to blog about this one…
This morning, at work, I encountered a rare instance where I had a few minutes of downtime at the end of my shift. So, having nothing better to do at that moment, I decided to see what ol’ Google had to say about “aaron leitch” (yes, I do that from time to time!). Past all the usual links to my website, blog, Facebook, defunct MySpace page and my books, I found this gem:
How come Aaron Leitch has never seen a spirit?
You can imagine how that grabbed my attention. LOL If you click on the above link – which is a summary of the thread – you’ll find some interesting comments. Such as:
“…it appears he has never evoked a spirit to physical manifestation. Why is that?”
I love this one:
“He calls their name and leaves out cookies. Im not sure that is traditional.”
Maybe they read my essay on Santa Claus and got confused? Of course, someone asked the obvious question:
“Ok, how do we know he has never evoked a spirit to visible manifestation? Has he said so?”
But then we see this reply:
“Yes on many occasions. He said that it does not bother him and it is not a concern. “
Of course we aren’t offered any quotes to back up that claim – which is interesting. I, for one, would love to see someone quote me – from my blogs, books, forums or anywhere else – actually claiming that I have never seen a spirit. LOL
Over the years that I have been an author and forum-poster I have learned two truisms:
1) If people can get the wrong impression about what you write they will.
2) People can always get the wrong impression of what you write.
You guys know that I pride myself on writing some of the most down-to earth documents about magick ever written. No needlessly big words or jargon intended merely to make me look smart and make you feel “out of the loop.” If I am asked (or am addressing) a question, I answer it in plain simple English – suitable for translating into plain simple (insert your language here). Yet, the above two rules apply to my work just as surely as they do the work of Aleister Crowley – who regularly inserted in-jokes and blinds and red herrings because he found it fun to do so.
I am, perhaps, more forthcoming than most with my work – freely sharing my techniques and results, and lately even adding photos into the mix. Of course, that doesn’t mean I share every magickal secret I know with you guys. There are many layers to what I do, and you can bet I’m not going to share every bit of it with the world.
For example, take a look at the photo I posted of the ingredients for my Abramelin Oil. Have you noticed that one ingredient is wrapped in a white paper towel? Why do you suppose I would do that? And, given that, what else do you suppose I’m not telling you? Sometimes what I leave unsaid is as important as what I say. But enough about that.
Here is another interesting quote from the above-linked thread:
“To me it seems that he writes many times as if he were a skeptic. Maybe thats why. At times I fee like asking him “Ok, do you believe in magic or not???”
That one makes a little more sense. I purposefully write as if I were an academic studying magick from a cultural perspective, rather than as a “rabid true believer” who accepts everything occult as pure-distilled fact. Or, as it was stated – as a skeptic. Why? Because I want my work to be read by people outside of occult circles, people who may be skeptics themselves – but who might actually take an interest in the subject matter as a valid aspect of the human experience.
Note my membership in the Societas Magica – an academic, rather than an occult, group. Well-respected scholars are finally looking into these subjects with open minds, rather than looking down their noses at it, and us. I want to encourage them.
Plus, I’m just not “into” dumping a bunch of my personal beliefs and things that my spirits have told me on you – dear reader – and expect you to just accept them without critical thinking. We’ve got enough occult authors out there that do that – and will call you plenty of names if you dare to question or challenge them on any of it. What my spirits tell me is my fucking business, and it really isn’t going to impact how you work anyway. So, I’d rather just stick to documented facts and let you do the Work for yourself.
I registered for that forum in order to clear up the questions those folks have about me. I’m not sure if I’ll even go back to see how they respond. I may or may not, but ultimately I’ve had my say and they will believe what they choose to believe about me regardless of my explanations. They’ve already applied the “two rules” to me anyway – so “what’re ya gunna do?”
In case you groovy folks following my ramblings here are interested, I’ll share with you how I responded to them. Hell, maybe it will clear up some questions even you have had about me.
Aaron Leitch here, and I would like to clear up a few points:
1) Yes, I have indeed seen spirits, had visions, heard sounds, smelled smells, had scientifically-unexplainable manifestations and more. I have never stated, anywhere, that I have never seen a spirit.
However, I have stated that I am not “naturally wired” to interact with the spirits in a visual manner. I seem to be better wired for sound, and sometime smell and always for “feeling.” But, like Dr. Dee, I can’t count on visuals every time, so I often employ a skryer (a very talented one to whom I also happen to be married).
In my writings, I try to get across the idea that evocation is NOT about getting the visuals or other “special effects.” They are damn fun when they happen! But they aren’t the point of the work – and there should be at least one author out there that is willing to admit it. I think this is where some of you have gotten the impression that I’ve “never seen a spirit.”
2) Do I believe in magick or not? Most certainly I do! However, I don’t just write for “true believers.” My writings are fit for study in academic circles as well as occult circles – so I often take what might seem to be a disconnected stance from the material. I present magick as a cultural thing – with a real function to fulfill in society – not just something that I practice myself and desire others to “believe in.”
As for Enochian magick – you can be sure that much of Dee’s material (especially the Heptarchia) has sources older than Dee himself. Enochian magick wasn’t just handed down to humans by angels who carved the words in stone. They chose Dee because he already had a certain basis of knowledge in his head (and at his fingertips) which they needed in order to build the Enochian system as we know it. (Such as when Dee asked for the form of the Seal of the True God, and was told, “It is already perfected in a book of thine.” Said book turned out to be Liber Juratis, and the angels only had to supply new lettering to go with the existing figure.)
Most of the Heptarchia was constructed this way. Some have said that Dee’s work was the “culmination” of all the magick that had come before him, after which he bounded off into new realms with Liber Loagaeth and the Great Table of the Earth.
I hope this has answered some of your questions.
According Unto the Art of the Apothecary:
Making the Oil of Abramelin
Moreover the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels, and of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin: And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil. [Exodus 30: 22-25]
In the Book of Abramelin, a recipe is given for the creation of a powerful holy oil. This oil is used to consecrate the altar, the vestments, the wand and even the aspirant himself before any attempt is made to invoke the Guardian Angel or command the spirits. It is based, nearly exactly, upon the recipe given to Moses by Yahweh for the holy oil used in the Tabernacle (and later, in Solomon’s time, the Temple). It, too, was used to anoint the tools and furnishings, the altars and the priests who would work in the sacred sanctuary.
The original recipe for the holy oil is quoted from Exodus above. The Book of Abramelin, meanwhile, comes in two versions. The most popular has been the French version, translated into English by MacGregor Mathers in 1893. This is actually a recension of a German original, but it was the only version available in English for over one hundred years. Finally, in 2006, the German manuscripts were translated by Steven Guth and used to create a new English edition of the grimoire by Georg Dehn. Both the French and the German manuscripts have different recipes, with the German version providing the closest approximation of the Exodus recipe:
1 pt Myrrh
1 pt Calamus*
1 pt Cassia
1/2 pt Cinnamon
1/4 total weight of the above in Olive Oil
2 pt Cinnamon
1 pt Myrrh
1/2 pt Calamus*
1/2 total weight of the above in Olive Oil
(* – Note: in both Mathers and Dehn’s translations, Calamus is given as Galangal. However, academic opinion seems to be that the original German indicates Calamus. This would make sense, as Calamus is listed in Exodus.)
The primary difference between these recipes is that the French author excluded the cassia and doubled-up on the cinnamon. This is understandable once you know that cassia is a cinnamon substitute. The less expensive “cinnamon” you buy in the store is usually cassia. If you want real cinnamon, you have to pay extra for it. Apparently the French author felt the two spices were similar enough to simply drop the cheaper substitute and use more cinnamon in its place.
I also note the French author halved the amount of calamus – perhaps attempting to mimic the Exodus recipe. He also doubled the amount of olive oil, which does make sense for practical purposes – you get more oil in the final result.
You might think it would be easy to gather the above ingredients and whip up some holy oil. However, once you get started you’ll quickly discover it isn’t so easy. When I made my very first batch, I simply mixed together the powdered plant materials, weighed them, then weighed out half that much olive oil. When I poured the oil into the powder, I found there wasn’t enough to even wet all the dry ingredients! I mixed and mixed and mixed, and finally got a gritty blood-colored mud that smelled heavily of cinnamon and olive oil. It was usable, but definitely not a proper oil.
Apparently, this is an issue that has long been debated. How does one create an herbally-infused oil with more plant material than carrier oil? The answer lies in this cryptic instruction (found in Exodus and both versions of Abramelin):
The which aromatics you shall mix together according unto the art of the apothecary, and shall make thereof a balsam… [Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, French Recension]
The phrase “art of the apothecary” makes it clear that some kind of process must be run on the plant material before adding it to the olive oil carrier. This would be a fundamentally alchemical process by which the essential oils of the plants are extracted, then finally mixed with the olive oil. The debate has been over exactly which process should be used.
Essential Oil of Abramelin
Let me start with the most common type of Abramelin oil. This is the version you will likely get if you buy it from a store. It was invented by Aleister Crowley, and has therefore been used ever since by Thelemites. From there it spread into Golden Dawn practices, Neopaganism and even Hoodoo folk magick. It has become a well-established tradition by this point in time, though keep in mind it is not proper Abramelin oil.
Crowley used the French recipe, but decided to begin with essential oils rather than using plant material to extract his own. This would not have been a bad idea, actually – except Crowley made two errors:
First, he didn’t increase the measurement of the olive oil. Raw plant materials weigh much more than their extracted oils, and thus half the weight of the plants is heavier than half the weight of the oils. Crowley added the mixed essential oils to half the amount of olive oil, meaning the olive oil became a minor ingredient rather than the carrier.
Second, Crowley appears to have measured the oils (essential and olive) by volume rather than by weight. This, once again, results in much less olive oil in the mix than there should have been. Both of these errors combined produce an oil that is primarily cinnamon extract, and very dangerous to use on the skin! I have heard horror stories about people anointing their foreheads in a ritual, only to have sweat wash it into their eyes as the ritual progresses. Some others find that the oil burns and even blisters their skin upon contact.
Thelemites consider this a spiritual ordeal, and it has become an integral part of their overall system. Meanwhile, the Book of Exodus describes this oil being poured over the heads of Aaron and the other priests until it dripped from their beards. That was obviously not the Crowley version of the oil, or else Yahweh would have been served by a blind and disfigured priesthood.
Following is a recipe that will work with purchased essential oils, and will not be as dangerous as Crowley’s version. Make sure to measure by weight rather than volume!
Essential Oil of Abramelin (non-Thelemic version):
1 pt Myrrh Oil
1 pt Calamus Oil or Galangal Oil
1 pt Cassia Oil
1/2 pt Cinnamon Oil
7 times the total weight of the above in Olive Oil
(Note: Kudos to Denise Alvarado, who gives this exact recipe in her Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook. It is the first time I’ve seen it in print!)
Cone-Extracted Oil of Abramelin
Of course, the best thing to do is gather the plant material and extract the oils yourself. Some Biblical scholars have suggested that a curious form of decanting was the method used by Moses and the priesthood. It is not my preferred method, though I see no reason why it shouldn’t work. Here it is:
- Gather a large amount of plant material. You can either get them in powder form, or reduce raw plant material to a powder with a mortar and pestle. Combine them and weigh them.
- Form a cone from a material that can withstand contact with oil, such as leather or cellophane. Prop the cone upright so its smaller point is downward, then fill it with the plant material. Make sure it doesn’t pour out from the point of the cone.
- Place a jar beneath the cone. Then pour a small amount of olive oil into the cone on top of the packed plant material. Don’t drown it, just cover the top.
- Wait a while, and you’ll find the powders have absorbed the oil. So now add the same amount again. You might be able to do this two or three times within a day. Continue this every day until:
- Eventually, olive oil infused with the plants’ essence will begin to drip from the point of the cone. Continue adding a little more oil into the cone each day, until enough infused oil collects in the jar. The amount you want should weigh exactly one-half the weight of the original plant material. Once that is achieved, dispose of the cone and its remaining contents.
To be honest, this sounds a bit like cheating, because it uses much more than the required amount of olive oil – not to mention wasting a large amount at the end of the process. Still, the resulting holy oil would be proper for all intents and purposes.
(A great article on this subject is called The Anal-Retentive’s Guide to Oil of Abramelin by Frater RIKB. It was once found at http://horusset.com/RIKB/abramelin.pdf but has since disappeared from that location. Hopefully it will return – keep checking Google.)
Steam-Extracted Oil of Abramelin
Today, professional oil extraction is done via steam distillation. You need specialized equipment for this process, and it is unlikely to have been the method used by Moses. It is less clear if the author of Abramelin might have intended it when he said “art of the apothecary.” I will outline the process in a simple fashion here:
- In a steam distiller, the plant material (not reduced to powder!) is placed on a grate over heated water. The water is transformed to steam and forced through the grate and over the plants, where the heat vaporizes the plants’ essential oils.
- The still condenses and cools the steam and essential oils and collects them in a separator. The separator then separates the oil from the water.
- The essential oil is placed in a jar and sealed. The water, now called hydrosol, can also be saved. This is where we obtain waters infused with plant essences – such as rose water or lavender water.
- Once you have extracted the necessary oils, gently stir them into olive oil weighing 1/2 of what the original plant material weighed.
Though I would love to have access to all of this wonderful equipment, my means are more humble. Therefore, I decided to go with an alchemical process with which I have previously experimented:
Alcohol-Extracted Oil of Abramelin
My preferred method begins with the creation of a tincture. It is a relatively simple process, and you likely already have most of the tools you need in your kitchen. To begin with, let’s take a look at the recipe I use:
1 pt Myrrh
1 pt Calamus
1 pt Cassia
1/2 pt Cinnamon
1/2 total weight of the above in Olive Oil
This is a synthesis of the German recipe for the plant material and the larger amount of olive oil called for in the French version. You can also choose to replace the calamus with galangal if that is the Abramelin tradition you wish to follow.
Ingredients for Alcohol Extraction
In the above picture you can see the materials needed for the initial extraction. There is 1/4 oz of calamus, so I will also use 1/4 oz of myrrh and 1/4 oz of cassia. That leaves just 1/8 oz of cinnamon. Also pictured are the grain alcohol (you want the highest proof you can get – Everclear is always a good choice) and the sealable glass jar that will hold everything. (A mason jar would work just as well or better.)
Myrrh in the Mortar and Pestle
The ingredients are reduced to a powder in a mortar and pestle.
Abramelin Oil Raw Ingredients in Jar
I then combine all four ingredients – which alchemy calls the prima materia – together in the jar. In total, there is about .88 oz of material here. Some have suggested running an extraction on each ingredient separately, but I choose to do them all at once. There may be chemical reactions taking place between the plants that are necessary in the final result. (However, this doesn’t mean you can’t choose to experiment with individual extractions on each plant.)
Cover Ingredients with Alcohol
Pour in enough of the grain alcohol to completely cover the prima materia. The alcohol will immediately take on a red tinge.
Macreate in Warm Dark Place
Mix the concoction well and set in a warm dark place to macerate. I chose to start this process on the day of the first crescent Moon, and continue for one complete lunar cycle. This phase marks the beginning of the first two weeks.
The Plant Material Forms Sediment in Bottom of Jar
As you can see above, the prima materia will soon collect in the bottom of the jar as a sediment. This is why you want to agitate the mixture two or three times every day, so every particle is bathed repeatedly in the grain alcohol.
Material needed to complete the oil
Pictured above is what you’ll need to complete the oil of Abramelin. There is the macerated prima matera, cheese cloth for straining, extra grain alcohol and the necessary amount of olive oil. (Because I began with .88 oz of plant material, I have measured .44 oz – or half the weight – of pure olive oil.) You’ll also notice the old fashioned stove-top tea kettle and glass bowl – also pictured below:
A simple Bath of Mary – or Double Boiler
This is my Bath of Mary – which is an alchemical term for a double boiler. I simply removed the handle and lid from the tea kettle and placed a bowl on top. Fill the kettle with water and bring to boil, and it will gently heat whatever you place in the bowl. The spout on the side is quite useful – it not only channels steam out and away from the bowl, but also allows you to easily add water as needed.
The Remains of the Prima Materia – or Dead Head
After allowing the plant material to macerate in alcohol for two weeks, I strained it through cheese cloth. Above, you can see what is left over in the cloth – the plant matter from which all of the life has been taken. What remains is called the Dead Head in alchemy, and it contains nothing but the essential Salt of the compound.
I was performing a rather “quick and dirty” process in this case, because I wanted to keep the entire process within a lunar month. However, it would not be a bad idea to replace the Dead Head into the sealable jar, cover it with fresh alcohol and repeat the maceration process. Continue to macerate, strain and repeat until the alcohol ceases to take on any color from the plant material – thus ensuring you have extracted every drop of the essential oils. If you do this, you only need to macerate for a week at a time, quite likely for about a month.
Whichever way you decide to go, you will finally end up with a quantity of darkly colored liquid that smells heavily of alcohol and the plant materials (especially the cinnamon):
Squeeze every drop of tincture from the plant material
Above, you can see the resulting liquid – I am squeezing every last drop I can get from the plant material through the cheesecloth. (Notice my bare hands – I never had any burning sensation or negative skin reaction to this substance.) The dark liquid is called a tincture in alchemy. A tincture is a pure alchemical extract held in an alcohol carrier. If these plants were medicinal, this tincture would be a medicine. If you use aromatic plants, you get a perfume. In fact, you could pour this tincture of Abramelin into a bottle and use it “as is” for magickal purposes. Rub it onto an object or your skin and the alcohol will quickly evaporate, leaving a pleasant cinnamon scent behind.
Meanwhile, in order to turn this into actual oil of Abramelin, we will need to employ the Bath of Mary to get rid of the alcohol:
Reduce the Tincture of Abramelin in the Bath of Mary
Here is the Bath of Mary up and running – you can make out the steam rising from the spout on the side. The tincture is gently warming in the glass bowl so that the alcohol will evaporate. This is called a reduction.
Tincture Reduction 1
Tincture Reduction 2
In the two above pictures, you can see the level of the tincture is lowering as the process continues. You have to babysit this process! Keep adding water to the Bath of Mary, and don’t let the heat get too high – it only needs to be just high enough to keep the water in the kettle gently boiling. You’ll also want to do something about the oils that collect on the sides of the bowl:
Clean sides with q-tips
I just keep a handful of q-tips on hand. Soak the tip in fresh grain alcohol, then use it to clean off the sides of the bowl. The fresh alcohol will dissolve the oil and carry it back down into the warming tincture.
The resulting oil: Sulfur and Mercury
For this amount of tincture, you can expect the reduction to take a couple of hours. The result is pictured above – a thick, sticky, tar-like substance. Alchemy would refer to this as the Sulfur (or oils), which happens to contain the Mercury (or pure spiritual essence) of the plant. (Remember that the Salt is contained in the Dead Head, and is not used in this process.)
Add the Oils to Olive Oil Carrier
At long last, we have reduced .88 oz of plant material to a volume that will fit into .44 oz of olive oil carrier. There will still be some alcohol content, so:
Gently Remove the Remaining Alochol
After vigorously shaking the oils together, I placed the small jar into the Bath of Mary. Notice that I put some warm water into the bowl, so the warming would be even gentler than before. This will allow most of the remaining alcohol to evaporate.
After you are comfortable that you have removed as much of the alcohol as possible, seal the jar, agitate vigorously and put it in the same warm dark place where you macerated the tincture:
You can see in the above two pictures, the plant oils (Sulfur/Mercury) do not immediately like to mix with the olive oil. However, after a day or two of agitation (two or three times a day), it permanently took on the appearance of the second picture. After about a week, I stopped agitating and allowed the mixture to brew for the final week mostly undisturbed.
Finished Holy Oil
When you finally open the jar to see the completed product, you will find the thick tar-like Sulfur is still there, but a small quantity of saturated olive oil has collected on the surface. In the above picture, I put some of both substances onto a spoon for illustration. The thick balsam is obvious, and next to it you can see the true oil of Abramelin. (It looks rather brown in the picture, but actually has a somewhat redder tinge.)
To use, dip your finger lightly into the surface of the oil and gently rub off the sticky substance. What remains on your finger is the oil you want. It should not burn your skin at all – however, still use caution when first handling either the oil or the tincture. You may be allergic to one of the ingredients where I am not. You should not, in any case, be burned by the cinnamon content of this oil.
Plans for the Future (See 11-2012 Update below!)
Like any alchemist, I certainly feel I can improve the above process over time. While it is certainly a viable process for producing proper Abramelin oil, it is not yet the substance described in the Torah. The thick tarry plant oils macerating in the olive oil would have made it quite unpleasant if poured into the hair and beards of priests!
Without a doubt, I will explore methods of separating the Sulfur and Mercury of the plant material. This would do away with the tar-like substance (the Sulfur) and leave only the Mercury – that is, pure essential oil like I could buy in the store. This would then be stirred into the olive oil carrier, resulting in much more of the pure reddish holy oil without all the goop beneath it.
Of course, you don’t use this holy oil very fast – so you’ll have to stay tuned for future updates on similar alchemical experiments. I hope this has been informative, or at least entertaining, for all of you.
As many of you know, I was given the honor of attending Florida Pagan Gathering Samhain 2012 this year as a headliner. While there, and between lectures, I had the opportunity to speak with an herbalist with a lot of experience making oils. I described my process to her – and she recognized every bit of it, so I asked if she might be able to help me figure out that missing last step to remove the “sludge” from the final product. She could, and she shared with me an extremely easy method!
In the above post, you’ll note that after I boiled down the tincture I simply poured the resulting sludge into the olive oil carrier and let that sit for a few days. (And, in fact, it remains in that state to this day.) However, to do it properly I only lacked one item: a cloth tea bag. Like these:
I was told to look for one with a fairly loose weave. It should be enough to allow the oil itself through, but should keep the sludge from passing through.
After boiling down the tincture, you just pour the sludge into the tea bag, tie it up and submerge the bag into the olive oil carrier. Seal up the jar and let it sit in a warm dark place for a long while, agitating it frequently. You can even open the jar every now and then and gently press down on the bag to squeeze more of the extract into the olive oil – just be careful not to force out any of the sludge when you do so.
In time, the olive oil will absorb the essential oils of your extract. When you are satisfied with the result, just take out the tea bag and throw it away. You will be left with pure – sludge free - Abramelin Oil. I’ll try this process (likely on a non-Abramelin oil of some type) and update this post with my results.
Also keep an eye on this blog for a future post where I will describe a method of using a simple refluxer to make your oil. It is not as ‘simple’ as the method described here, but it is much faster and efficiant.