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The Book of Ceremonial Magic Reviews

The Book of Ceremonial Magic

The Book of Ceremonial Magic

Culled from the rare and often inaccessible actual manuscripts of magical grimoires from the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, this replica of the 1911 edition of the classic work on magic and its secrets reveals all the modern magician needs to know in order to begin communing with the supernatural and appropriating its power. Waite, a preeminent 19th-century expert in esoterica, here explores: * the difference between white and black magic * the rituals of transcendental magic * the rituals of b

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3 comments on “The Book of Ceremonial Magic Reviews

  1. 33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Lots of information, but not always reliable, December 7, 2001
    By 
    J. H. Peterson (Kasson, MN USA) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    A.E. Waite (1857-1942) was one of the most important and influential figures in Western occultism. Perhaps best known as the creator of the enormously popular Rider-Waite tarot deck, he was a prolific author and had a leadership role in several occult groups (including the Golden Dawn), some of which he founded.

    His Book of Ceremonial Magic (first published in London, 1911?) is a revision of his Book of Black Magic and Pacts (Edinburgh, 1898) It contains a treasurehouse of drawings and quotes from rare handbooks of magic, but it does have some shortcomings. Excerpts often are quoted out of context, without representing any one system intact. Translations are not always reliable and mistakes are surprisingly frequent.

    Although Waite himself practised ritual magic, his treatment of the literature here represented is highly critical. I suspect that Waite deliberately chose passages from the most corrupt manuscripts possible to strengthen his invective. For example, he bases his extracts from the Lemegeton on Sl.2731 which is one of the least accurate manuscripts of that text. Also he uses a text titled True Black Magic (La Vraie Magie Noire) to exemplify techniques from the Key of Solomon method, when other versions are clearly more accurate.

    This book also suffers from a lack of any form of critical apparatus, bibliography, and index.

    Waite did us a service by assembling excerpts from a wide selection of magical texts, giving us a fairly good flavor for the genre, but I advise serious researchers and would-be practitioners of ceremonial magic to use it with caution. Those looking for a much more thorough survey of magical literature would do well to consult E.M. Butler’s Ritual Magic, and Lynn Thorndike’s History of Magic and Experimental Science.

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  2. 12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Ian Myles Slater on: A Standard Old Study, Under Any Title, July 28, 2004
    By 
    Ian M. Slater “aylchanan” (Los Angeles, CA United States) –
    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)
      
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Arthur Edward Waite (1860-1942) was a professed mystic, an historian of mysticism, alchemy, magic, and secret societies, an industrious translator, and a man unusually willing to turn 180 degrees from a published opinion when faced with new and better evidence. His variously titled “Book of Black Magic and of Pacts” (first edition, privately printed 1898; public edition, 1911), or “Book of Ceremonial Magic” (etc.) shows Waite rejecting the misinformation and misrepresentations of his old source and model, “Eliphas Levi” (real name Alphonse Louis Constant, c.1810-1875) and his sometime-associate in the Order of the Golden Dawn, S.L. MacGregor Mathers (1854-1918), and trying to offer the interested public a responsible survey of the literature of ceremonial magic.

    The book in question is frequently reprinted, under a variety of similar titles, although it is now very badly dated; I have reviewed another edition, published as “The Book of Black Magic,” and repeat my observations here. Under any title, it contains a number of oversights and errors of fact, but it retains considerable value and interest, and is worth reading with care, and *critical* attention. Some titles do raise (various and different sets of) false expectations, however. I have not seen all editions; with the exception of the recent Weiser edition as “The Book of Black Magic,” which appears to reprint the shorter, and apparently less (or un-) illustrated, 1898 edition, those I have seen seemed to have identical texts (but there may be differences I’ve missed).

    Waite makes interesting points on the presuppositions of the genuinely early grimoires (books of spells and rituals) which he describes and excerpts, and useful comments on the (un)reliability of the then-current translations, many of which have been reprinted in recent years. Anyone attempting to use it as guide to practicing such magic should heed Waite’s warning that he has taken care to present an incomplete or corrupt form of any ritual involving harm to animals, rendering the spells, by the magical hypothesis, ineffective; entirely out of concern for the animals, not the would-be-magicians, he explains.

    Indeed, Waite has little patience with the operative magician in general, and with those who supply the demand for spellbooks in particular. He points out that, in terms of procedures and intentions, the magical literature allows no real distinction between “white” and “black” magic; indeed, what is presented as “white” magic, is, by making direct use of religious rites and objects, sometimes the more objectionable. He also points out that the medieval and early modern magicians generally seemed unaware that what they were doing could be considered blasphemous.

    Among its other merits, Waite’s book provides extended excerpts and illustrations from the leading pseudo-grimoires published in cheap editions in (mainly) France in the nineteenth century. He points out the origins of some of these tracts in more respectable “occult” writings of the eighteenth century. (A rather wavering line probably could now be drawn back all the way to the Hermetic enthusiasts of the Renaissance, and ultimately to Hellenistic Egypt, but all genuine Egyptian content, except mention of the Pyramids and Pharaohs, had vanished along the way.)

    Waite attempts, albeit with inadequate data, to establish the medieval date and Christian origins of the various “Books” and “Keys” of Solomon, a task still not complete in detail, and compares these texts to explicitly Christian works, some masquerading as highly effective devotions. The book is concerned with the relatively elite practice of ritual magic, including its many vulgarizations, and not with European witchcraft, nor with Satanism as such.

    As Waite points out, the grimoires promise to teach how to compel, bribe, and trick devils, not worship them (although from a theological point of view, as he makes equally clear, the distinction is meaningless). Pacts are attempts to force supernatural beings to serve humans, not promises of one’s own soul — except where the intention is to break the pact.

    The nearest successor to Waite’s book to appear in English was Elizabeth M. Butler’s “Ritual Magic,” first published by Cambridge University Press in 1949, and recently reprinted. It shows a dependence on Waite for materials unavailable to its author in wartime and post-war Britain, but has considerable additional material on actual and supposed magicians (including Gilles de Rais), and on nineteenth century magicians, pseudo-magicians, Satanists, pseudo-Satanists, and hoaxes, and provides an invaluable context for understanding Waite’s writings, not just this book. Her book can be read as a follow-up, but also as an introduction.

    Butler, more importantly, fills a gap in Waite’s coverage. “Ritual Magic” offers a good discussion of the various German (and generally Central…

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  3. 9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Interesting, February 10, 2002
    By 
    Frater AChDAE (Pittsburgh, PA USA) –

    Waite never meant to make this book practical in any sense; instead, he sought to create a reference book. For those interested in Magickal Grimoires, but without the intent to practice from them, this book is a great souce-book. It includes snippets of (and commentary on) various medieval Grimoires, for the edification of the curious.

    Though at times, rather harsh in his judgments of Magick in general, and the Golden Dawn system specifically, he does provide a good deal of information in one package.

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