Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 18, Vol. 2. Vernal Equinox 2010

Angelic Magic: A Different Perspective

Grand Key of Solomon the King: Ancient Handbook for Angel Evocation and Djinn Summoning, Asaph Ben Berechiah. Ishtar Publishing, Vancouver, BC, Canada. 210 pages. $59.95
review by Samuel Scarborough

In the past few months there have been a few new offerings in esoteric circles for innovative types of magic or old texts from Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, or other languages translated into English for the first time. Ishtar Publishing has offered several of these original texts with a specialty towards the Arabic or Islamic magical traditions.  Their recent entry into the Magic/Grimoire genre is Grand Key of Solomon the King.

In Islamic tradition, Solomon, the famous Hebrew king noted for use of magic, has a long and distinguished follow in folk-tales which has influenced the magical traditions as much, if not more so, than in Europe. There is even a “Solomonic” magical tradition in which is separate and differing from that in Europe.  This book is supposed to be one such example.

The book is laid out in a “standard” grimoire format. That is if you have read any of the classic grimoires of the 15th – 17th centuries like the Lemegeton, Grimoirium Verum, the Key of Solomon the King, or either of the Abramelin grimoires then you have an idea of how the information with is set up for the reader. If you have not read these, then a quick overview is in order.  Essentially, the book opens with a preface which is a prayer to God and how the material should be used by the reader.  What follows are various chapters which deal with various aspects of magical work that the magician must accomplish.  These include the Names of Power used, the types of tools that will be needed, along with a description and inscription or inscriptions to use on these tools, various conjurations to make the magician able to command the forces described, and finally several more conjurations for actual use of the spirits summoned to perform wondrous acts.

The material in each chapter follows this grimoire arrangement but the difference is the language and the way that it flows. The author shows a distinct Arabic or Islamic flavor to the style of the writing. Holy men or names of God (and the Angels) have a blessing immediately following the occurrence in the text, for example, “Jibrā’īl (peace be upon him)” is used for the Arabic name of the more familiar Gabriel.  Additionally, the names of the Angels and various Divine Names are followed by their name written in Arabic. Since most of us are unfamiliar with reading Arabic, much less pronouncing it, the translator has provided some phonetic spelling of the Words of Power, Angels, and the assorted Names of God.  This can be seen in the example of “Jibrā’īl” that I cited above.

There are several “seals” that are to be inscribed onto items such as rings, swords, daggers, staves, and even on paper.  These are in Arabic, and can seem rather complex to someone who does not read Arabic (of course looking at some of the classic grimoires, the Hebrew and Latin texts are just as daunting).

One of the interesting notes within the text of Grand Key of Solomon the King is that you often see the names of power in Arabic and Hebrew combined in the same conjuration or inscription.  An example of this is in the instructions for an athame called the Maymun’s Athame, in which the following list of names are to be inscribed on the handle, “Jibrāīl, Mīkā’īl, Isrāfīl, Hanfalat, and Adonai Tzabaoth.”

There are a couple of things about the book that I did not like.  The first is that the book reads like it is a translation of an older Islamic text in the Solomonic tradition. There is no scholarly material relating to original text or texts that this particular grimoire derives, nor to the author. No sources cited where it comes from, nor are there any translator’s notes like we find in the vast majority of grimoires which have been translated from another language such as the classic Hebrew Sepher Rezial Hemelach or the Grand Grimoire.  The text jumps straight into English translation and work of the grimoire.  I have at least one other book from the same publisher (though on a different topic), and it suffers the same problem of no introduction to the material or compiler’s notes.

The second issue that I had with the material were that the pages. They are in a light grey color and have what appears to be simulated old parchment or paper images for the pages themselves. The material on the pages is quite interesting, but the use of these particular pages reminds me of my younger days and many role-playing books, not books on magic that are to be taken seriously.  I realize that the pages were done this way for graphic reasons, but in my opinion the book does not need it.

Aside from the above two complaints, I found the material to be very interesting and the grimoire itself appears to be very workable in the practical sense. I did not perform the operations as set out, but many of them are similar enough to work I have performed from other more classic grimoires like The Goetia and The Key of Solomon to see that they would work fine and accomplish the purpose that they are intended. If a person were interested in grimoire magic, dealing with spirits and angels, but from a slightly different point of view than the traditional European grimoires, then this book may be for you. It does show a definite Arabic flavor to the traditional European Solomonic magical tradition. The book is a great addition to a library and certainly gives insight into an Islamic tradition, but it would be helpful from a scholarly point of view to have more background information as to the Islamic magical tradition relating to Solomon. All in all, Grand Key of Solomon the King is must for any magician regardless of tradition.