Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Aaron Leitch, author of several books, including Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, The Angelical Language Volume I and Volume II, and Essential Enochian Grimoire.
Way back in 1898, the famous magician S.L. Mathers published an English translation of an obscure little 16th century grimoire called the Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. This text contained what may very well be the most unique magickal Rite in the entire Western occult corpus. It wasn’t, like other grimoires, focused upon gaining riches, or lovers, or respect from your boss. It didn’t dwell upon finding buried treasure, becoming bullet-proof, or gaining other magickal superpowers. Oh, all of those things are found in the book, to be sure, but they are all presented as a footnote to the main ritual: the bonding with one’s Holy Guardian Angel (or HGA), the Voice of God in your life, the Divine Representative and Redeemer of your soul. It was not a simple ritual one could perform in a night off from work and call it done; no, the process of Abramelin was a six-month dedication that few had the gumption to attempt.
It would be an understatement to suggest the grimoire fascinated occultists, both at the time it was published and to this very day. Because of the length of time involved, and the lofty spiritual goal of the Rite, it was quickly enthroned as the Western Ritual par excellence. This was the final goal of the adept wizard, the highest and most difficult ordeal he could pass through, after which he would have access to True Power indeed! (Keep in mind, however, that this contradicts the book itself, which presents the Rite as the very first step one should take upon the magickal path, and even assures you that once you have completed the Rite you will still be a neophyte with a long way to go before (with the help of your Guardian Angel) you might someday attain adepthood.)
Thus, the Book of Abramelin has been quite over-hyped, with people making much more of it than they should. You really won’t come away from the Rite with magickal superpowers, or even a firm grasp of how to work with the spirits. (These are all things the Angel will teach you, slowly and surely, over the following years.) Yet, somehow, the book has been simultaneously underestimated—what with most folks assuming (quite incorrectly) that the Rite, despite its length, is simply an evocation ritual for your Guardian Angel. (It is, in fact, a ritual of permanently bonding with said Angel—a prospect much bigger and more dangerous than merely summoning it for a chat and then sending it away again.)
So, in the end, what we have in the Book of Abramelin is an infamous grimoire that most occultists place upon a pedestal, are entirely too frightened to actually try, and generally don’t understand what it’s about to begin with. It became more of a legend than a reality—something to write about with awe, but not something you’d ever dare put into practice. Or, as many have done, you might cherry-pick portions of the text that you like (hey look, word-square talismans I don’t understand! Let’s use them!) while ignoring that months-long angel ritual that just takes too much effort!
Then, in the late 20th century, a few of us decided to actually do that Abramelin thing and see if it worked. And, guess what? It worked—really well. I’m pretty sure, back then, each of us were doing it entirely on our own. (I know I was.) But then the World Wide Web happened and we found one another and began to talk. Then others found us talking about it and realized the Abramelin Rite is not as impossible as it had seemed. Then Georg Dehn entered the scene.
Georg had laid his hands upon an older manuscript of The Book of Abramelin than Mathers had found. This one was in German rather than French, and it was quite apparent the French version was adapted from this (or another) German original. There were many important differences between the two texts—though this blog isn’t about comparing them in detail. Instead, this is about one important difference—probably the largest difference between the two books: the length of time for the Rite of Abramelin in the German original was 18 months, not a mere six!
Now that people have realized Abramelin is a workable grimoire, instead of some far-removed literary device, the two “versions” of Abramelin have caused some concern. It’s not that the technical instructions are that different between the two, but the difference in the length of time is striking. Instead of working through three short phases of two months each, we discovered that you were intended to work through three long periods of six months each. The French wizard who had adapted the Rite had severely shortened it—and that seems like the kind of thing you absolutely shouldn’t do with something as important as this. Therefore, I’ve been seeing this question posed again and again over the past few years: is it possible to attain the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel in a mere six months? Should one even try?
The answer is not a cut-and-dry yes or no. To understand that, there are some important things you have to understand about the Rite. First, Abramelin isn’t a months-long ritual to begin with—it is merely seven days long, which fall at the very end of the process. The months of ritual you perform before those seven days are all aimed at one simple goal: purification. It is a long period of preparation for the Abramelin Rite proper, and as such it isn’t much different than the same purifications outlined in other grimoires. (The main difference being that Abramelin’s purification lasts months, while most grimoires only require days or weeks.)
The second thing you need to understand about Abramelin is that it is far from over when you complete those final seven days. This isn’t a summon-and-go-home ritual! Once you’ve achieved the bond with your HGA, you will then spend the rest of your life working with your Guardian Angel, as it slowly and painstakingly guides and teaches you along your destined path. I’ll return to this point in just a moment.
So, the real Rite of Abramelin is centered upon those final seven days, and that leaves us free to question exactly how long that preliminary period of ritual cleansing needs to be. The French author seemed to believe it wasn’t necessary to spend a year-and-a-half in seclusion and prayer, and shortened it to six months instead. But was he right to do that? Is it detrimental to the ultimate goal—the Knowledge and Conversation of the HGA^#151;to take such a short-cut? Or, if it is ok to shorten the length of purification, how far can we take it? How about just three months? Three weeks? Three days? Three hours? How much is not enough?
I always tell people the same thing: It doesn’t matter which time-length you choose, because in the end you’re going to do the same amount of work.
Remember, the process of Abramelin does not cease when the ritual is done. You will be expected to continue work with your HGA on a regular basis for the rest of your life, during which time the Angel will guide and teach you, slowly progressing you from a head-strong neophyte into a calculating adept. All of the high-ended promises you read about in the Book of Abramelin (which, to its own disservice, it pretends happen instantaneously on the very day you first contact your HGA) actually come about over a lengthy period of time. Not days or weeks, or even months—but years worth of work.
Think of it this way: for you to achieve a full bonding with your HGA, it is going to take X months and/or years. No one knows how long that X will be for you, except for your HGA itself. But, for the sake of this explanation, let’s say it’s going to take you 5 years to accomplish. (It could be less, it could be much more.) So, no matter what, you are going to do five years worth of work to achieve your goal. You can undertake 6 months of purification before performing the 7-day Rite, and it will still take you another 4 1/2 years of regular work with the HGA before you attain. But let’s assume you took the 18 month route—it is STILL going to take you a further 3 1/2 years of regular work with your HGA to attain the goal.
By the way, in the Santerian ritual called Ocha (a Rite very similar to Abramelin), they put you through the bonding ceremony first, then you spend a year in purification, and then your training as a priest of the faith truly begins.
So the length of time you spend in the purification process is relatively arbitrary. (I say “relatively” because I don’t mean it was picked at random, but only that it’s arbitrary from a technical perspective.) Whether it’s 18, 6, or even 0 months, you are *going* to go through the X months/years of work and training with your Angel regardless.
Of course, I do not mean this to suggest you can or should shorten the Abarmelin ritual to something less than 6 months. In fact, I think putting in a mere six months of devotion is already pushing things. Yes, I did achieve it myself (and keep in mind no one knew about the German original at that time), but I also think I had to make up for that in the years that followed. My best advice for aspirants is to go with the 18 month version (but still pulling some useful additions from the French version—like the use of certain Psalms), simply because it gives you a better head-start on those months and years of work you’ve got coming anyway.
Stay devoted, seekers!
Our thanks to Aaron for his guest post! Visit Aaron Leitch’s author page for more information, including articles and his books.