Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick Volume 2: Grimoire
by Frater Barrabbas
reviewed by Nina Lazarus for the Esoteric Book Review
The back cover of this book informs us that Frater Barabbas has almost four decades of practical experience of the occult arts. I therefore assume that he is in his fifties, as anyone claiming to practice magick seriously before the age of twelve or thirteen in my experience is usually a deluded fantasist. Let us continue with the outer cover. The subtitle of the book is somewhat misleading, as the use of the term grimoire here is indicative of the current trend to use the word to somehow validate books as being more genuine or of greater provenance, when they are in fact completely unrelated to the Medieval and Renaissance grimoires, which form a distinct tradition of their own.
So to the material contained within. The book should perhaps have been called “Reinventing Wicca by making it more ceremonial with bits of Qabalah, psychology and the Grail thrown in for good measure.” It is not terribly exciting, original or innovative, and in some places the material has clearly not been thought through, or is simply completely off the mark.
Considering the nine ritual components of the book, what is good or bad? Well the first section on the consecration of the magick temple has a slightly revised version of Wiccan circle casting – salt and water, engraving of circle and summoning the four wards. The latter includes the words “to manifest and appear” for the summoned watchtower guardians, which seems incredibly optimistic. Then four emissaries of the deity are invoked, which seems somewhat superfluous, not to mention a little crowded! Why do people always assume that spiritual beings want to come and watch their rituals anyway when they offer no incentive for them to do so, but I digress. The proliferation of So Mote It Be’s in the opening and closing make the Wiccan origins of this material clear.
Then we come to the consecration of the magick grove. This was of similar ilk, however summoning the spirits of the elements into the cakes, oil, milk and honey and wine, and then burying them in the earth and putting a stone over them is not in my opinion a very smart move. Other elemental spirits will know you are the one who trapped their compatriots and have no desire to help you with anything – why should they?
The Pyramid of Power contains the first occurrence of the “Mantle of Glory”, which is a straightforward derivation of the Qabalistic Cross, minus the visualisations which actually empower it. And the author also tells you to assume the Osiris position, not making it clear whether he means the Wiccan crossed arms or the actual position of Osiris on statues, which is holding the arms vertically upward and parallel to each other in front of the chest with hands in front of breasts.
The use of the forty qualified powers is not a bad idea, though calling it the Concourse of Forces (another Golden Dawn borrowing) is not very original. Basically this is the use of the Tree of Life through the Four Worlds to sub-divide types of rite and assign them to the 40 minor Arcana of the Tarot, being Ace to 10 of the four Suits. Unfortunately the author’s knowledge of Qabalah seems somewhat rudimentary, and when I reached his attributions of the angels this was made very clear. He has mixed the traditional grimoire orders of angels with the Qabalistic ones, resulting in some bizarre attributions and the introduction of new orders of angels not seen in either – the Benefactors and Intelligences! The latter term is sometimes used interchangeably with Angels, as seen in the Planetary Intelligences, but that would not fit here. Neither would the Aralim (should be Binah) with the Ten of Swords, Dominions should be Jupiter and Four, not the Three of Swords, and the list goes on.
The Rose Vortex Ritual brings in the Maiden Mother Crone with the Amazon/lover to make up four, for a bit of pagan chanting and fantasy role play (or internal psychological magick if you want to be generous), which will apparently enable you to “create a wave-form causality effect that is stealthy, ultimately potent and irreversible.” You too can change the world with a bit of bad chanting (allegedly). The Grail Spirit ritual continues more of the same flavour, and by this point you may wish to give up. However, amongst all the patchwork of mismatched bits, suddenly there is a gem, when the author gives a very good discussion of assumption of godhead. If the rest of the book were up to this standard it would indeed be a treat. Sadly however it lapses back to the flavour already indicated.
I was slightly puzzled by the bibliography, where “The Qabalah of Aleister Crowley”, “Liber 777” and “777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley” were listed as three separate books, when they are basically all the same thing (ok Liber 777 doesn’t contain Sepher Sephiroth but that is a minor quibble). However perhaps this is thrown in to see if you are still paying attention.
If the author wrote a book around assumption of godhead to the standard of that section I would buy it, however unfortunately the rest of the book is sadly lacking and likely to confuse rather than illuminate.