The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage is a ritual for contacting one’s own Holy Guardian Angel. Considered the one supremely important magical ritual by Aleister Crowley and the Golden Dawn, it has deeply shaped modern occulture.
The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage is a European Kabbalistic grimoire, or book of magick that purports to be a method whereby an individual can make contact with their Holy Guardian Angel. It is attributed to the semi-mythological German Jewish figure Abraham of Worms (c. 1360-1460). The earliest known manuscript, written in German, has been dated to 1608. Six additional early manuscripts exist, many of which are incomplete.
The Book of Abramelin is regarded primarily as a guide for the conjuration of a Holy Guardian Angel or Spirit. Rooted in Jewish Mysticism, the Abrahamic language of the text suggests that these spirits are biblical Angels. They serve as intermediaries with a singular, compassionate, and omnipotent God figure consistent with Medieval Jewish idealizations. Later commentators like Aleister Crowley believed the process could be altered to conjure or construct an idealized entity based in any desired language and symbolism at the discretion of the conjurer. Crowley himself performed the primary ritual of Abramelin twice.
What does the Book of Abramelin contain?
The text is commonly separated into three books. The first primarily describes Abraham of Worms’ meeting with the Egyptian mage Abra-melin and how he acquired his teachings. The second book, which was of primary interest to Hermetic scholars like Crowley, outlines the Abramelin Operation, a ritual process that lasts for 6 to 18 months.
According to the text, when the ritual is undertaken properly, the process leads to communication with the Holy Guardian Angel or Spirit. The Operation is traditionally believed to be derived from ancient oral traditions of Old Testament prophets and serves as a method for obtaining that sort of direct guidance from an infallible supernatural source. After contacting the spirit, the magician is instructed in binding or overcoming specific demons that represent hindrances between the practitioner and the idealized Creator.
The third book, presumably for use after completing the Abramelin Operation, contains individual spells with sigils in the form of “Word Squares.” These spells are similar to those found in Goetic magick. They cover a diverse range of abilities from flight, resurrection and shapeshifting, to divination and access to hidden knowledge.
The French version, which wasn’t printed until the late 1800s, is missing entire sections of text, and some key elements of the rituals were altered. The French manuscript was famously translated by S.L. Macgregor Mathers, one of the founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. This incomplete translation is the most common English version in circulation today, though a new translation by scholar Georg Dehn from the original German manuscript was released in 2006.
The Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley and the Abramelin Ritual
S.L. Macgregor Mathers was a notable enemy of Aleister Crowley, though they once shared a close friendship, with Mathers functioning as Crowley’s teacher for a time. During this period, the Abramelin Magick would lay the foundation for all of Crowley’s future exploration of the conjuration of supernatural beings. Within Thelema, Crowley’s system of magick, the conjuration of a personal guiding spirit was an important step in initiation to higher levels. Later, Crowley would claim that he discovered numerous methods that achieve the same result as the complicated Abramelin process, but they all remain symbolically and theoretically consistent with the Abramelin Operation.
The actual authorship of the Book of Abramelin is highly debated. Scholar and translator Georg Dehn believes the author may have been Rabbi Yakov Levi Moelin, a 14th century German Talmudist, authority on Jewish Law, composer, and rebuilder of communities ravaged by war. Others believe that it was truly written by Abraham of Worms, while some even claim that the similarly mythical alchemist Nicholas Flamel was the true source.
Overall, the work is consistent with Kabbalistic and Goetic ritual practices of the time. Many modern Kabbalah practitioners believe that the initiates of the Abramelin era used the ritual as a tool to transform the mind into something more closely resembling the mind of God. Like some Tantric rituals from Tibetan Buddhism, the eventual visualization of the Holy Guardian Spirit may be more of a deeply meditative, transformative thought exercise than a literal summoning ritual.
Conjuring the Guardian Spirit: A Step-by-Step Guide
The Abramelin operation involves a period of withdrawal from society, focused daily prayer and meditation, and a number of other moral guidelines similar to those found in Monastic traditions around the world. It’s broken down into progressive phases of increasingly diligent practice. The text advises against regarding the hour, day or month, or other socially-rooted habits. It also forbids the practice of any other system of magick that may be in any way contrary to the Abramelin Operation. In the Mathers translation from the incomplete French version, the phases last for two lunar cycles, each for a total of 6 months. In the original translation, the phases are much longer, the whole operation totaling 18 months.
You’ll want to read the original text of the book in its entirety, particularly the sections on what should be considered before undertaking the process, and the ritual specifications for building an altar and other ceremonial objects.
Ritual washing in the morning before sunrise, followed by a prayer for visitation from the Holy Guardian Angel, in a designated space with an open window and altar. Prayers are repeated after sunset. Maintain moderation in all activities, from food and drink to business and social affairs. Change the sheets and perfume the bed chamber on the eve of every Sabbath. Maintain purity, honesty and humility in all actions. Dress moderately, and always be willing to give to others.
Continue morning and evening prayers, but ritually cleanse your hands and face with pure water before entering the altar space. Prayers should be prolonged and intensified. The whole body should be washed every Sabbath eve. All instructions of cleanliness and fairness from the first phase must remain, and ideally be strengthened in daily practice. A fast should be undertaken every Sabbath eve. A retreat from society should be made whenever possible, for as long as possible, during this phase.
Prayers and ritual cleansing continue in morning and night, with the addition of a noon prayer session. All business operations should be ceased except those of charity. Perfume should be kept upon the altar. All free time should be dedicated to meditation, or the studying of sacred texts. All of society, except members of the household, should be shunned during this period.
After the Holy Guardian Angel is successfully invoked, individual spirits are conjured and bound.
While these summaries are oversimplified, this general framework has been adapted and altered by many practitioners throughout history. Some take a fundamentalist approach, believing that the ritual actually achieves the conjuration of supernatural entities and the acquisition of divine powers. The text warns, however, that only those with good intention may successfully complete the operation. Modern commentators often describe the Abramelin Operation as a sort of prolonged contemplative retreat. Diligent, repetitive practices like this can have a profound effect on programming the consciousness, and the transformative process can be unpredictable.
Overall, this practice, which calls for right conduct, action, livelihood, study, rigorous periods of meditation and social withdrawal, has some similarities to esoteric Buddhist and Hindu schools of thought. It also shares many common aspects with other mystical traditions in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.