Friday, December 28, 2007

The Goetia of Dr Rudd by Stephen Skinner David Rankine

isbn 978-0-9547639-2-3, £40 Golden Hoard
448pp, hardback includes full text of Lemegeton or Lesser Key of Solomon (Liber Malorum Spiritum seu Goetia, Theurgia Goetia, Ars Paulina (1&2) Ars Almadel)

Is there such a thing as a definitive edition of a grimoire? The authors of this spanking new edition certainly think so. The Goetia or Lemegeton to give it its full title, is a well known sorcerous book still widely available through Aleister Crowley's 1903 edition, which like several other of the master's works was re-badged from the manuscript provided by Samuel Liddel MacGregor Mathers of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Skinner Rankine's justification for reprinting this new edition lies in the fact that the Crowley/Mathers edition is incomplete, contains editorial errors and is peppered with 'extraneous' material including some of Crowley's trade mark jokes. Crowley also added some additional ritual material such as the powerful Egyptian 'Headless Ritual' which is seen as anachronistic by some or a touch of magical genius; by others.

In their Goetia, Skinner & Rankine discuss the recent scholarly edition of The Lesser Key of Solomon edited by Joseph Peterson. They advance many coherent reasons as to why a further edition is useful. Controversially their edition is based on a manuscript actually rejected as defective by Peterson yet, so they argue, it possesses an internal coherence that has perhaps been overlooked. Viz: Dr Rudd's edition, warts and all, shows a system of magic as actually practiced by a working magician of the seventheenth century. In this respect, the edition of Dr Rudd has a lot in common with that of Crowley/Mathers. Dr Rudd also made his own additions to the text, additions that Stephen Skinner David Rankine this time welcome because they make the system more rational and to their minds safer. Rudd's brilliant addition was to add corresponding angelic seals for each of the demonic names, thus provided a technique by which one (the angels) could control the other (the demons).

Skiinner and Rankine's rather excellent introduction now addresses the putative history of the Grimoire, a topic which is in many ways more interesting than the grimoire itself (you might guess I'm not a grimoire man myself - one has to specialise afterall. Although I do have my own theories about the Goetia, but that can wait for another day.) As one might expect, details of the history of the Lemegeton gets murkier, the further back one looks. Ultimately, one is in the territory of myth and selective memory. I wonder if the editors had seen Lon Duquette's lively little book The Key to Solomon's Key (reviewed in MS) in which he addresses the historicity of King Solomon 'the Magician'. In 586bce the Hebrew elite of Jersualem were taken into captivity by the Babylonians and the 'Solomonic' temple destroyed. When this captivity ended the captives returned with a new name and some would say a new history and religion. Which means that all those post captivity stories of King Solomon cannot be taken at face value. King Solomon is a figure of myth who has so far remained invisible in the archaeological and historical record. So is the King Solomon who inspired the Lemegeton really a Hebrew mage or could he derive from Arabic or even Egyptian tradition? Afterall the Goetia itself says that the demons speak the Egyptian tongue?

Which brings me back to my opening question. I've yet to be convinced that the grimoires really deal with a world of facts; they seem to be much more connected to an imaginal world of magick. For all those magicians wanting to address this and other issues for themselves - you probably couldn't ask for a clearer and more complete guide than Stephen Skinner & David Rankine's excelllent new edition. [Mogg Morgan]