Book Review: “Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires” by Aaron Leitch

I came upon this book when I was looking for more information about using approaches from some of the more obscure medieval grimoires in my personal magickal practice.  Since I run a large coven with a longstanding traditional initiation structure, I consider it my responsibility to continue to deepen my own understanding of the oldest magickal sources possible and then to pass my knowledge on to my students.  I have used pieces of magick from “The Key of Solomon the King”, “The Goetia”, “The Black Pullet”, “The 6th and 7th Books of Moses”, “The Book of Abremalin the Mage”, “Raphael’s Book of Ancient Talismanic Magic”, “The Magus” and many more old sources for many years, but never have I attempted the task of following the instructions of The Key or any one grimoire to a tee from the beginning as recommended by the ancient mages.  I was very curious to see what another modern-day magician would have to say on this subject.  I was very impressed and pleasantly pleased right from the beginning as Leitch provided a very thorough and accessible history of what we know of the grimoires and their supposed authors as well as a contextual backdrop for the religious and political climate of the time periods from which they came.  Some of this was information I was never given before in such a manner and it proves to be very important in putting the material into perspective for this day and age.  I particularly enjoyed that Leitch goes on to set out in proving how the grimoires are actually incredibly shamanic in their approaches, and he shows how more ancient longstanding methods of working with spirits are really the continued underpinnings of the grimoiric practices.  It’s funny, because there wasn’t any one thing the author said that was truly new to me, but the way he delivered his logic and facts allowed me to have a lot of moments of clarity and new perspective on how I can integrate a lot of this old magickal material into my existing practice.

Further into the meat of the book, Leitch takes a lot of time to discuss many of the specific tasks from The Key and a few other key works that the magician is supposed to undertake in order to properly prepare him/herself for working with the angelic spirits for magick.  Some of these tasks include long periods of personal preparation-  daily prayers, fasts, lifestyle changes for purity and attunement to spirit.  To a reader of the grimoires it can seem daunting if not impossible.  Only after doing all this is the magician  said to be ready to use all of the planetary seals, call on the angels properly, etc.   What I realized through his telling, though, is that the purpose of all of this dedicated and intricate preparation is to improve both the mental focus and spiritual attunement level of the magician to better prepare him to receive spirit communications.  I realized that the modern day practices prescribed to students in a traditional initiation lineage such as my own coven, the Society of Witchcraft and Old Magick, actually parallel this idea of daily attuning to spiritual energies, honing one’s focusing abilities and working on cleaning up ethics and behaviors to better prepare oneself as a magician.  I have had great success in working with many of the seals and words of the grimoires in my own magick, and realized that though I had never followed the preparations specifically prescribed in the grimoires, that I HAD followed the preparation instructions recommmended in my own lineage tradition for daily ceremony, and that it may have had similar results.

Another thing that Leitch covers in his book is how to make suitable substitutions for some of the grimoiric instructions regarding sacrifice or the obtaining or crafting of other materials for tools or ingredients that don’t seem plausible in the current day.  His discussion of these is very encouraging and gives the reading magician lots of ideas of how to parallel these works in his or her own completely suitable way.  I found it very encouraging and again found myself having moments of clarity on how to incorporate some of these classical techniques for the modern day.  Now Leitch may not agree with me here, but I also felt that in the case of all of the prayers involved, which are predominantly Christian and Hebrew mysticism oriented and with a heavy use of psalms, that some substitutions could be made there as well.  Since I work within a more pan- and  polytheistic spiritual view, my gut feeling is that a lot of the same prayer structures from the grimoires could still be used but saying “the Gods” instead of “our Lord God almighty” and so forth.  Since I have always prayed that way and the seals and words of the grimoires still seem to hold great power for me, I don’t think there is any problem with this.  After all, it is my general belief that all of the various multicultural paths to the divine are equally as valid, and it is up to the practitioner to find the way in which they can fully engage without skepticism, and with fullness of heart and soul.

Studying this book was a true pleasure.  I would heartily recommend it not to my first year students who are engaged in learning the basics of ceremonial magick and foundational information in astrology, Qabbalah, planetary work, etc, but to initiates and already relatively studied practitioners who would like a broader perspective on incorporating the widsom of our oldest magickal gems into their practice.  For those dedicated and seasoned students of the occult who want to deepen their understanding of the grimoires, gain a more integrated historical perspective of these works and ultimately improve upon their own magick, “Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires” will not disappoint.  Many thanks to Aaron Leitch for all of the research and dedication that obviously went into this work.  Blessed Be.

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