Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review: The Angelical Language, Volume I by Aaron Leitch

Enochian magick used to have a relatively small but devoted following. As a student of the system myself, I commonly joked back in the day that if I were to release a book on Enochian it would sell a thousand the first day as every Enochian magician in the world bought their copies the minute they were available and after that I would never sell another one. In the last few years this seems to have changed, as more people are becoming interested in the system.

Enochian even makes an appearance on the popular television program Supernatural as the language spoken by angels to produce various magical effects. Sadly, the show's producers adopted the ridiculous pronunciation method proposed by Wynn Wescott during the Golden Dawn days - drawing out the words by pronouncing each letter as its own syllable. Even though I've worked with the system for years it took me a while to figure out whether the angels were speaking real Angelic or some nonsense language made up by the writers that they were just calling "Enochian." Of course, I also make use of the Angelic language in my novel Arcana as I discuss here.

This last year has also seen a number of new non-fiction books released on Enochian magick. Aaron Leitch, author of Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, has put out what seems to be the most ambitious of them, a two-volume hardcover set issued by (believe it or not) Llewellyn, which as a publisher seems to be drifting away from its previous stance of targeting every book released at 12-14 year old girls. So far I have only read volume I of the set, titled The Angelical Language, Volume I: The Complete History and Mythos of the Tongue of Angels. Generally speaking the book is quite good, especially as a complement to Geoffrey James' Enochian Evocation, which covers some of the same material. However, there are also a few caveats that I think anyone interested in practicing Enochian magick as Leitch proposes need to be made aware of.

The best thing about the book is that Leitch makes a good case for using the Angelic Calls with the leaves of Liber Loagaeth and is the first author I've seen who outlines a workable system for doing so. I highly commend him for putting all this material together. I know how difficult a task it is firsthand, as I worked on something like it for myself years ago but found it too frustrating and difficult to assemble in a satisfactory manner. There are some quibbles that I have with his formulations, but the overall idea is great.

Among those quibbles is his attributions for the Calls, in which he attempts to classify Calls 4-7 as a grouping when I think most reasonable readings of the first 18 Calls classify the first two as a group followed by 4 groups of 4, making the first grouping 3-6, the second 7-10, the third 11-14, and the fourth 15-18. This isn't necessarily that big a deal - as Leitch outlines the system the leaves and Calls correspond so that even if you decide to attribute the Calls differently you don't need to mess with the system itself.

A much bigger problem is that Leitch assumes that since he believes the Calls to be related to Liber Loagaeth they must therefore NOT be related to the quadrants of the Great Table. In my opinion this constitutes sloppy, either/or thinking. Especially since Leitch includes decent textual support for the idea that the Loagaeth operation is essentially mystical and not practical in nature, it seems much more logical to me to suggest that Loagaeth would represent the mystical side of the system while the Great Table represents the practical magical side - and both use the Calls, which serve as a sort of "bridge" between the two aspects of the system. This is supported by Dee's explicit linkage of the last 30 Calls with the Parts of the Earth via the Aires, which Leitch acknowledges once but then essentially dismisses.

The book also includes his pronunciation key for the Calls, which is the same as the one he published on his web site. I already critiqued that article here. Interestingly, in the introduction to The Angelical Language Leitch thanks a number of people who were working with Dee's pronunciation notes back in the late 1990's - you know, the ones who "passed over Dee's pronunciation notes in silence" according to his web article. So he must be familiar with their work, and I find it rather confusing that he would characterize it as he did. The statement in question is not repeated in the book, so perhaps Leitch has revised his stance since the publication of the web article.

Beyond this the book gives a decent overview of Dee and Kelly's operations with more textual support than I've seen elsewhere, even in Lon DuQuette's Enochian Vision Magick which is probably the best book on Enochian magick that I have ever read. I would be glad to have it in my library for no other reason than its outline of the Loagaeth operation. But you need to take its interpretations with a grain of salt - as with Donald Tyson, a lot of Leitch's conclusions from the material are much shakier than he makes them out to be.

Want to buy your own copy of The Angelical Language, Volume I by Aaron Leitch? Order from my Books and Media page and you can help support Augoeides.

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8 comments:

Eric said...

Great, great review. A lot of excellent points.

francis sandow said...

I didn't read Aaron Leitch's book yet,but as for a grouping of the calls, it has always seemed obvious to me that two groups could be made by a simple textual analysis: the calls finishing with : "for I am the servant of ye same yor God, the true wurshipper of the Highest. ", which are the first one and the last eight ones. also, these last eight ones seem a lot shorter than the tenth first calls. I have the impression that the first call "governs" the last eight ones, letting the second call "governing" the the calls 3-10, perhaps.
Also, the four last ones are speaking of a "flame"; as the other three elements are not presented so clearly in the other calls, it seems to me that it is not the proof that the calls are invoking the four elements; on the contrary. Fire seems to play an important role by itself, not as a part of a quaternary; perhaps something alchemical ?

Ananael Qaa said...

In my opinion the Calls don't "govern" each other at all. That's a later Golden Dawn addition.

In the arrangement that I use the first two Calls are used to open the temple for evocations or invocations respectively, and the remaining sixteen are divided up numerically into four groups of four. 3-6 are obviously a fourfold grouping and so are 15-18, so I think that the Golden Dawn model of grouping the 7th and later Calls into groups of 3 works poorly.

Aaron said...

Greetings, and thanks for the review of my work. :) I do have just a few issues to address, however:

1) "A much bigger problem is that Leitch assumes that since he believes the Calls to be related to Liber Loagaeth they must therefore NOT be related to the quadrants of the Great Table. In my opinion this constitutes sloppy, either/or thinking."

My book is about what Dee's journals have to say about these subjects. What I believe or whether or not I think the Calls have uses outside those recorded in Dee's journals is irrelevant. Given this, I think your statement of "sloppy thinking" on my part is hitting a bit below the belt. :(

2) "...it seems much more logical to me to suggest that Loagaeth would represent the mystical side of the system while the Great Table represents the practical magical side"

I believe that was a major theme of my book - not exactly something I missed.

2a) "- and both use the Calls, which serve as a sort of "bridge" between the two aspects of the system."

You will have to show me where in Dee's journals he suggested using the Calls with the Great Table. I seem to have missed it entirely. If, on the other hand, he never made such a statement, then that is why it is not included in my book. (The only "original research" I included was in the form of two addendums - one on the poetry of the Calls and one on the use of the Angelical alphabet in magick.)

2b) "This is supported by Dee's explicit linkage of the last 30 Calls with the Parts of the Earth via the Aires,"

Yes - the last 30 Calls are associated with the Aethyrs and (by extension) the Parts of the Earth. And the Parts of the Earth combine to form the Great Table. This is all stated directly in the jourals. But this only tells us that the last 30 Calls are used with the Parts of the Earth, it does not indicate they are used with the Great Table.

2c) "which Leitch acknowledges once but then essentially dismisses."

?? You can't say that I both acknowledge *and* dismiss it at the same time. Unless you mean that I acknowledge the relationship between the last 30 Calls and the Aethyrs (which I do), but then dismiss it as having anything to do with relating the Calls to the Great Table.

In any case, thanks again for the review(s). :)

LVX
Aaron

Ananael Qaa said...

1) There's a difference between stating "there's no evidence supporting x" and "x is not done and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong." The sense I got from reading that section was the latter, not the former. You correctly note that there are contextual cues in the diaries suggesting that the Loagaeth leaves and the Calls correspond, but it seemed to me that you then jumped to the conclusion that "since they go here, they can't go there." "Sloppy" is perhaps too harsh a term for what I meant, but given that according to your schema the Calls for the Aires are "dual use" (for both Loagaeth leaves and the Aethyrs) the logic doesn't strike me as very consistent.

To my knowledge Dee's journals do not explicitly state that the Calls are used with the Loagaeth leaves. To assemble that system you need to rely on contextual cues and interpret many statements that are vague and might or might not be related to the task at hand. That's why I was so impressed that you managed to put it all together as correctly as anyone could as far as I can tell.

2) I led that sentence off with the magical/mystical comment to indicate that I'm in agreement with your interpretation there, not to imply that you hadn't made it.

2a) No, there's no explict statement that they go together. But the same is also true for the Loagaeth leaves. The context suggests the use of the Calls with the Great Table in a number of places, though. The angels generally refer to the Calls collectively, implying that they all have the same basic characteristics. The Calls, Aethyrs, and Great Table are all from the same session of operations, April-July 1584. The last piece of Loagaeth was received almost a year earlier. There are others as well that I can't just pull off the top of my head, and I'll have to see about doing an article bringing them all together at some point.

2b) Well, the parts of the earth all come from the quadrants of Great Table. So opening a part of the earth to my way of thinking constitutes using an Aethyr Call with the Great Table. And that's what strikes me as odd about the idea that the Calls go with Loagaeth RATHER THAN with the Great Table. I think that a better interpretation is that all the Calls are used in both places.

2c) That's exactly what I meant by the statement there.

At any rate, I hope it came across in the review that I liked the book and simply disagree with you over the use of the Calls with the Great Table. That's not really the focus of the book, and your Loagaeth arrangement which is is quite excellent.

Aaron said...

"1) There's a difference between stating "there's no evidence supporting x" and "x is not done and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong.""

You seem to read this into all of my work - or at least anything you've been motivated to review. I mean, with authors like Lisiewski and Runyon out there, you really have to read that stuff into _my_ work? lol

"You correctly note that there are contextual cues in the diaries suggesting that the Loagaeth leaves and the Calls correspond,"

Indeed.

"but it seemed to me that you then jumped to the conclusion that "since they go here, they can't go there."

My book was about Dee's journals - not about making any conclusions at all.

""Sloppy" is perhaps too harsh a term for what I meant, but given that according to your schema the Calls for the Aires are "dual use" (for both Loagaeth leaves and the Aethyrs) the logic doesn't strike me as very consistent."

Beyond discussing what Dee recorded about the Calls, I did not outline what further uses I felt they might be put to.

As a point of fact, I think there is an entire magickal system embedded there that hasn't been fully explored yet. The 30 Aethyrs (into which the final 30 Tables of Loagaeth are gateways) is just one part of that system - but it extends to the other Tables and their Calls as well.

"To my knowledge Dee's journals do not explicitly state that the Calls are used with the Loagaeth leaves."

They do, and it is quoted in my book. P. 104:

I am therefore to instruct and inform you, according to your Doctrine delivered, which is contained in 49 Tables. In 49 voices, or callings, which are the Natural Keys to open those, not 49 but 48 (for one is not to be opened) Gates of Understanding, whereby you shall have knowledge to move every gate... [-Nalvage]

That is an explicit relation of the Calls to 48 of the 49 Tables of Loagaeth.

"2) I led that sentence off with the magical/mystical comment to indicate that I'm in agreement with your interpretation there, not to imply that you hadn't made it."

Ah, sorry then.., I misinterpreted your statement.

"The context suggests the use of the Calls with the Great Table in a number of places, though."

I have to admit I have not seen this same suggestion. While I respect your opinions on this, I state again that my book was about what Dee wrote.

"There are others as well that I can't just pull off the top of my head, and I'll have to see about doing an article bringing them all together at some point."

I look forward to seeing it.

"At any rate, I hope it came across in the review that I liked the book and simply disagree with you over the use of the Calls with the Great Table."

It did. I can't say I grok how you get certain implications from between the lines of my work, but I always appreciate reviews.

"That's not really the focus of the book, and your Loagaeth arrangement which is is quite excellent."

And I honestly thank you for your input. It would be worse if no one said anything at all.

LVX
Aaron

Ananael Qaa said...

I mean, with authors like Lisiewski and Runyon out there, you really have to read that stuff into _my_ work? lol

Well, if that wasn't your intent in the book it sounds like I may have misinterpreted your emphasis. If so, you have my apologies.

And as a point I'm a lot harsher on Lisiewski and I don't even bother with Runyon. He may find his psychologizing of the Goetia worthwhile but if that's all it is I really don't see the point of reading up on his system.

Aaron said...

"Well, if that wasn't your intent in the book it sounds like I may have misinterpreted your emphasis. If so, you have my apologies."

I made it a rule fairly early in my career not to waste any word-space in my work on someone (or any group) that I think has it all wrong. I'm just there to share what I've found, and let everyone else make their own decisions.

"And as a point I'm a lot harsher on Lisiewski and I don't even bother with Runyon. He may find his psychologizing of the Goetia worthwhile but if that's all it is I really don't see the point of reading up on his system."

So we have a lot in common, then. :)

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Aaron