The Book of Abramelin the Mage, Esoteric Grimoire of Kabbalistic Knowledge
Western esoteric thought has its roots in the Late Antique period in the Eastern Mediterranean. This was an area of the world where east met west. Consequently, this was also an area where the religions and intellectual traditions of Babylon, Persia, Egypt, the Levant and Greece were able to intermingle with each other. Through the mingling of these various traditions, schools of esoteric thought distinct from mainstream Christianity, such as Hermeticism, Gnosticism and Neoplatonism, were born. Texts expounding esoteric teaching were written, and these schools of thoughts spread westwards into Europe. In the 14 th and 15 th centuries, an esoteric grimoire, known as The Book of Abramelin the Mage was written.
Front cover of Mathers’ translation of The Book of Abramelin the Mage. Wikimedia
The Book of Abramelin the Mage was written as an epistolary novel or autobiography of a person known as Abraham of Worms. Abraham was a German Jew believed to have lived between the 14 th and 15 th centuries. The Book of Abramelin the Mage involves the passing of Abraham’s magical and Kabbalistic knowledge to his son, Lamech, and relates the story of how he first acquired such knowledge.
Abraham begins his narration with the death of his father, who gave him ‘signs and instructions concerning the way in which it is necessary to acquire the Holy Qabalah’ shortly before his death. Desiring to acquire this wisdom, Abraham said he travelled to Mayence (Mainz) to study under a Rabbi, called Moses, who was well-versed in such studies. Abraham studied under this Rabbi for four years. Abraham commented in retrospect that the teachings of his previous Rabbi were filled with errors, as they contained the ‘arts and superstitions of infidel and idolatrous nations’. Feeling that he was wasting his time with the Rabbi, Abraham travelled for the next six years of his life, eventually reaching Egypt.
Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus, contemporary of Moses. Public Domain
It was in Egypt that Abraham met Abramelin the Mage, an Egyptian mage who was living in the desert outside an Egyptian town called Arachi or Araki. His house was reported to be situated on top of a hill which was surrounded by trees. Abramelin is described as a ‘venerable aged man’, who was courteous and kind. During Abraham’s stay with Abramelin, the mage spoke of nothing other than the “Fear of God”, urged Abraham to lead a “well-regulated life”, warned about “certain errors which man commits through human frailty”, and made Abraham understand that he detested “the acquisition of riches and goods ...through so severe usury exacted from, and harm wrought to, our neighbor”.
Abramelin is said to have then taught Abraham his Kabbalistic magic. Before that, however, Abraham was required to promise to change his manner of life, give up his false dogmas, and live in the Way and Law of the Lord. Having obtained this promise from Abraham, Abramelin then gave him two manuscripts to copy from. Abramelin also asked Abraham for ten gold florins, so that he could distribute them to 72 poor persons in the town. Leaving Abraham to copy the two manuscripts, Abramelin left to distribute the money, returning only 15 days later. The next morning, it is written that Abramelin instructed Abraham to make a ‘confession of his life onto the lord’, and to promise to ‘serve and fear the lord’, as well as to ‘live and die in his most holy law’.
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It is through the two manuscripts that Abramelin passed his Kabbalistic knowledge to Abraham, and forms a large section of The Book of Abramelin the Mage. One of the highlights of this grimoire is an elaborate ritual known as the ‘Abramelin Operation’. The proper performance of this ritual is said to enable a mage to gain the ‘knowledge and conversation’ of his/her ‘guardian angel’. Furthermore, the ritual is said to also allow the mage to blind demons. Another section of the grimoire is about ‘magic word squares’, in which each square would contain words or names relating to the magical goal of the square.
The legacy of the writing is far reaching. Due to the English translation of The Book of Abramelin the Mage by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, this system of Kabbalistic magic became quite popular during the 19 th and 20 th centuries. Its popularity can be seen in its use in occult organizations such as Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley’s mystical system of Thelema.
Featured image: Hermes Trismegistus is the purported author of the Hermetic Corpus, a series of sacred texts that are the basis of Hermeticism. Image Source
Lewis, A. A., 2014. The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. [Online]
Available at: http://national-paranormal-society.org/the-book-of-the-sacred-magic-of-abramelin-the-mage/
Mastin, L., 2009. Famous Witches - Abramelin the Mage (15th Century). [Online]
Available at: http://www.witchcraftandwitches.com/witches_abramelin.html
www.themystica.com, 2014. Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. [Online] Available at: http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/s/sacred_magic_of_abramelin_the_mage.html