Review by Mike Gleason
Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick Book 1: Foundation by Frater Barrabbas © 2008
Ordinarily, I don’t read other reviewers’ comments before I start reading a book, but the author alerted me to a review which had panned this book, so I took a look to see what had caused the dislike. The gist of the comments amounted to the fact that this book was confusing. While this may have been true, it is somewhat expected for two reasons. First, this is a book of Ritual Magick, which is slightly different from the more common Ceremonial Magick. Second, this is NOT a “101” book, but is designed for intermediate (at least semi-experienced) practitioners, so it makes certain assumptions.
Perhaps that reviewer’s confusion arose from the fact that she was expecting a basic exposition of Ritual Magick, since the book is the foundation of a trilogy. Since Frater Barrabbas assumes a working knowledge of Ritual Magick to begin with he begins in the “deep end of the pool.” This is most certainly not a beginner’s work. If you are a novice you will be confused. You might want to buy this series and put it aside until you are ready for it.
Another potential problem regarding the other reviewer (in my opinion) is her youth. She is not yet out of her twenties and may (potentially) not have enough magickal and life experience under her belt. To an extent, this is evident since she dismisses Frater Barrabbass’ non-amplification of statements without realizing that they were more fully covered in his previous work (The Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick). He consistently refers readers to this earlier work, and to attempt to understand the current work without having read it is like trying to understand advanced college courses without having covered the prerequisite material.
Although I am not a practicing magician on the level of Frater Barrabbas (I have not dedicated the requisite time or energy necessary to work at that level), I have enough exposure to those kinds of workings to recognize the essential truths of his work. While the reviewer referenced earlier found reason to disagree with almost every aspect of this work, having had more exposure to magickal workings (I have been working low level magick longer than she has been in this incarnation), I recognize that disagreement about technique and attitude does not invalidate the workings of others. Like the previous reviewer, I don’t entirely agree with Frater Barrabbas. Unlike her, I took the time to read his earlier work and thus had a basis to understand his positions.
Keying off the title of this series (“mastering the Art of Ritual Magick”), I would not expect this to be a beginner’s book, since mastery of a subject does not come at the start of one’s studies. This is obviously intended as an intermediate series of works, designed to prepare the reader (and encourage them) for further independent, unguided studies and practices.
Expectations can color one’s perceptions. If you tackle a subject expecting to find a simple answer, it is easy to be confused. Conversely, if you expect deeply profound insight, you may miss simply stated truths. Go into this book only if you have clearly defined your own expectations and be prepared to give it more than one reading. Do your preparation (Read The Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick), and your homework, and you can expect to gain new insights and benefits from your magickal workings; attempt it unprepared and unwilling to work at it, and you will come away (at best) confused and/or disappointed.
Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick: Grimoire by Frater Barrabbas © 2009
Once again, I need to remind potential readers that this series of books is NOT intended for the novice magician. The author assumes an intermediate level of working and comprehension on the part of the reader. If you have not been working magick, successfully, for a couple of years (on at least a basic level), you will probably have trouble making use of this material.
This volume, the second of a trilogy, is composed, primarily, of ritual forms. They are not complete, nor are they intended to be. It is intended to provide a framework within which the individual magician can create rituals which are significant and powerful for himself.
The system is one which was developed by the author, and has some unique (in my experience) terminology and concepts. I will be the first to admit, however, that Ritual Magic is not my forte, and these items may not be as unique as they appear to me. As an example, I had never heard of “the 40 qualified powers,” which consists of the ten aspects of Deity in the four elements and their relationship to the numbered cards of the Lesser Arcana of the Tarot. It is logical and, for those dedicated to this style of magickal working, easy to work with.
The two books which preceded this one (The Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick and Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick: Foundation [which is the introduction to the intermediate level of working] lead to the material in this volume. The final volume in this trilogy (Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick: Greater Key) should finish off the instructions offered, although it won’t come close to completing the work – which will continue until the end of the magician’s life on this plane.
There is a lot of information and inspiration herein. Frater Barrabbas has devised a system which is easy to understand. He has broken the rituals down into a standard set which can be easily modified by any competent magician. Don’t be afraid to work with what he gives you. Tweak it and make it yours.
This is not a book, or a series, I would recommend to everyone. It is not suitable for one who only “dabbles” in Ritual Magick. Nor would I recommend it to the “average” Pagan or Wiccan. But, if Ritual Magick is your focus, and if you want a source of inspiration, this is where you want to be. You must be willing to do the work, practice, and focus on your goals to make the most of what is offered.
Mastering the Art of Ritual Magic Book 3: Greater Key by Frater Barrabbas © 2010
This is the conclusion of a series of books dedicated to “Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick” (hereafter abbreviated to MARM). It, like its predecessors ( MARM Volume 1: Foundation and MARM Volume 2: Grimoire, both available from the same publisher) is designed for use by the intermediate student. It is necessary to have a solid foundation and working knowledge of magick theory, technique , and practice before beginning the work laid out in this series. This boon is designed to help the magician build a key of correspondences and the apply that key to the rituals put forth in the series. It also contains suggestions for setting up and maintaining a working group.
For those critics who insist that a TRUE magician doesn’t need books to learn, all I can say is “Why reinvent the wheel?” Books can, and should, serve as inspirations and jumping off points. They are not intended to be followed slavishly, but to provide background. As one of my instructors told me decades ago “I will teach you what has worked for others through the years. If it works for you also, great; if not, we will find what works for you.” My personal correspondences are colored by my own growth and experiences and depart from “standard” in many aspects.
Frater Barrabbas feels that the idea of a magician working in isolation is a bad idea, and I agree with him. It is not necessarily desirable that such an individual be a member of a magical order or lodge (although there are some advantages), but it is desirable that they have contact with others of like mike and varying ability. Feedback (aka “peer review”) keeps one from wandering off into dangerous (on many levels) territory without having backups on call.
Newcomers to the field of Ritual Magick will be well advised to either hold off on purchasing this book, and its predecessors, or else hold off on reading them, as confusion is likely to result. Because a working knowledge of the subject is assumed, explanations are kept to a minimum, or else are couched in terms which could be unfamiliar to the novice.
The author presents three basic forms of the keys: Pagan/Wiccan, Qabbalistic, and Gnostic, thus providing frameworks which should work for the vast majority of practitioners. His position is that SOME form of religious orientation is absorbed by everyone living, and that to make your magick work you need to account for that orientation in your rituals.
The Glossary provided at the end of this book is composed primarily of words used in the MARM series, and thus is not as extensive as many. Still, it is concise and clearly written. The bibliography is relatively short, but is divided into eleven separate categories which even include some good Pagan fiction. Lest you think this is strange, I will remind you that Dion Fortune (a member of the Golden Dawn) once stated that her non-fiction books contained all the theory while the practical information was in her novels.
For those students who are “mid-level” in their studies this book will be a valued resource. The newbies and the more advanced practitioners will find less of use.