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Techniques of Solomonic Magic Hardcover – July 8, 2015
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About the Author
Stephen Skinner began his career as a Geography lecturer and magazine publisher, but his long term interests have always been Western magic and feng shui.
During the 1970s he was the driving force behind Askin Publishers, producing a number of classic magical works by Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, Austin Osman Spare, Aleister Crowley, and others. During the 1970s he co-wrote many books with Francis King, including the still popular Techniques of High Magic. Also with Francis King he wrote Nostradamus. His interest in prophecy stimulated by this book, he went on to write the best selling Millennium Prophecies.
Stephen is credited with bringing the art of Feng Shui to the West, and in 1976 he wrote the Living Earth Manual of Feng Shui, which was the first English book on feng shui in the 20th century.
Stephen has written more than 35 books, which have been published worldwide in 28 different languages. These books have had introductions by such diverse people as Colin Wilson, HRH Charles Prince of Wales, and Jimmy Choo, shoe designer to the stars.
Stephen lives in Singapore. Stephen is the first Westerner to be awarded the title of Grand Master of Feng Shui by the International Feng Shui Association.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
An analysis of the methods of Solomonic magic from the 7th to the 19th century as found in the Hygromanteia and Key of Solomon. This volume is about the methods of magic used in 7th century Egyptian Alexandria and how they have been passed via the Greek grimoires of Byzantium (the Hygromanteia), to the manuscripts of the Latin Clavicula Salomonis and its English incarnation as the Key of Solomon. Jewish techniques like the use of pentacles, oil and water skrying were added along the way, but Solomonic magic (despite its name) remained basically a classical Greek form of magic. Amazingly, this transmission has involved very few changes: the ‘technology’ of magic has remained firmly intact. The emphasis is upon specific magical techniques such as the invocation of the gods, the binding of demons, the use of the four demon Kings, the construction of a circle and lamen (for protection of the magician). The requirements of purity, sexual abstinence, and fasting have changed little in the last 2000 years. The concrete reasons for that are explained. The difference between amulets, talismans and phylacteries or lamens is outlined along with their methods of construction. Examples of magical circles have been taken from many sources and their construction and development traced out. Practical considerations such as choice of incense, the timing of the cutting of the wand, utilisation of rings and statues, use of the Table of Evocation, or the acquisition of a familiar spirit are explained.
The structure of a Solomonic evocation puts into perspective the reasons for each step, the use of thwarting angels, achieving invisibility, sacrifice, love magic, treasure finding, and the binding, imprisoning and licensing of spirits. The facing directions and timing of evocations have always been crucial, and these too have remained consistent. By examining the way these same methods were used again and again in the various periods, minor omissions in magical practice can be observed and repaired.
Techniques of Solomonic Magic is thus a follow on from Techniques of Graeco-Egyptian Magic. This volume investigates precise methods used by magicians from the magicians’ own handbooks rather than from the opinions of theologians, historians, anthropologists or legislators. The emphasis is on what magicians did and why.
Tools used by magicians in 7th century Alexandria, 15th century Constantinople and 19th century London are very much the same. Detailed comparisons are made chapter by chapter with 70 illustrations of magical equipment like the wand, the sword, wax and clay images and magical gems, drawn from a wide range of manuscripts and reproduced with detailed analysis. Literally hundreds of manuscripts in libraries across Europe have been read and checked to ensure this is the most detailed analysis of Solomonic magic, from the inside, ever penned.
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Skinner, who is both an experienced practitioner and a judicious scholar, is very careful to define and delimit just what Solomonic method entails (most succinctly in his APPENDIX 6: “The Classic Solomonic Method”). In this, he preserves Solomonic method as “learned magic,” as distinct from “folk magic or village magic,” which would include the English “cunning man,” the hoodoo “conjure man,” and witchcraft (pages 20-21).
The title, Techniques of Solomonic Magic, might lead one to think that this is an instruction book, for the words “practice,” “methods,” and “techniques,” are often used interchangeably. Skinner draws a distinction between “practice” and the other two terms, reserving for “practice” the performative (read “practical”) aspects of his subject. In Techniques of Solomonic Magic, Skinner seeks to determine the historic trajectory of the “techniques” and “methods” of what has coalesced as Solomonic magic.
In composing this trajectory, Skinner has marshaled and built upon a broad array of recent scholarship. More importantly, he has done a vast amount of original research, basing his observations and comparisons directly on the pertinent texts, whether in printed editions or unique manuscripts, the vast majority of which Skinner viewed first-hand. Skinner’s research encompasses more than his years formally working towards his Ph.D. Indeed, his long and admirable career has in large part been involved with the grimoire tradition. In a more concentrated way, the works published in Golden Hoard’s SOURCEWORKS OF CEREMONIAL MAGIC series, for which Skinner edited eight volumes and, of these, co-authored six, serve as a preamble to the production of Skinner’s dissertation.
The value of Techniques of Solomonic Magic goes far beyond Skinner’s conclusions about where the material in the Key of Solomon came from, for Skinner has presented his entire scholarly process, complete with charts (vast outlines of text groups and manuscripts), tables (comparing details of various texts), and illustrations, for us to engage. Skinner admits, in so many words, that the book and, for that matter, his entire dissertation project are works in progress. Case in point: after delivering evidence for his suggestion that Apotelesmatik' Pragmateia by Stephanos is “an early version or forerunner of the Hygromanteia” (page 69), he adds, “I would be happy to have this attribution refuted, but only if a better candidate for the authorship of the Hygromanteia can be discovered.”
Skinner often acknowledges that further research may lead to different conclusions regarding various issues surrounding his primary thesis, but he presents, in overwhelming detail, his case quite convincingly. To me, of Skinner’s conclusions, the following (ii and iii of xix) are by far the most important (page 280):
(ii) There is a clear line of transmission from the Hygromanteia to the Clavicula Salomonis which is identifiable down to the very detailed level of Solomonic method and specific pieces of equipment. Therefore there can be no doubt that the Hygromanteia is the forefather of the Clavicula Salomonis.
(iii) There are two main exceptions to the above point: (a) the scrying chapters in the Hygromanteia have not been passed on to the Clavicula Salomonis. These scrying methods are however found almost word-for-word in an 11th-century Jewish source; accordingly, the Jewish sources probably supplied these chapters to the Hygromanteia; (b) the pentacles chapters in the Clavicula Salomonis do not derive from the Hygromanteia, but probably come from the manuscript Sepher ha-Otot, or from a related Hebrew source.
Thus, the trend away from believing that the Solomonic grimoires had Jewish origins is in part confirmed yet in part reversed through Skinner’s discoveries and observations.
Techniques of Solomonic Magic is not a magic instruction book—the description above provided by Amazon accurately identifies the work. We will have to wait to see what Skinner’s sequel on the practice of Solomonic magic provides. But anyone who has collected grimoires in the Solomonic tradition can here, in the channels that Skinner has excavated, find an enormous amount of information about the province and composition of the oft reproduced texts (The Key of Solomon, The Lemegeton, Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, etc.) while learning that not all of the famous grimoires are “Solomonic,” and acquaint themselves with less-known magic works from antiquity and medieval times that contributed to Solomonic literature.