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Oil of Abramelin

From Thelemapedia

Abramelin oil, also called Oil of Abramelin, is a ceremonial magical oil blended from aromatic plant materials. Its name came about due to its having been described in a medieval grimoire called The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage written by Abraham of Worms. The recipe is adapted from the Jewish Holy Oil of the Tanakh, which is described in the Book of Exodus attrbuted to Moses.

Abramelin oil experienced new popularity beginning in the 20th century due to several well-known occultists, especially S. L. McGregor Mathers thanks to his English translation of the book, and Aleister Crowley, who used a similar version of the oil in his system of Magick. There are multiple recipes in use today and the oil continues to be used in several modern occult traditions, including Thelema and the gnostic church, Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica.

Table of contents

Ingredients and methods of preparation

There are, especially among English-speaking occulists, numerous variant forms of Abramelin Oil.

Abramelin Oil

In the original manuscripts, the recipe for Abramelin Oil is as follows:

You shall prepare the sacred oil in this manner: Take of myrrh in tears, one part; of fine cinnamon, two parts; of calamus half a part; and the half of the total weight of these drugs of the best oil olive. The which aromatics you shall mix together according unto the art of the apothecary, and shall make thereof a balsam, the which you shall keep in a glass vial which you shall put within the cupboard (formed by the interior) of the altar.

Those familiar with the recipe for Jewish Holy oil will at once recognize the derivation of this formula, right down to the catch phrase "according unto the art of the apothecary." Here is the recipe for Jewish Holy Oil from the Bible:

Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred [shekels], and of sweet cinnamon half so much, [even] two hundred and fifty [shekels], and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty [shekels], And of cassia five hundred [shekels], after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin: And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compounded after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil.

The Bible lists five ingredients: Myrrh, Cinnamon, Cassia, Calamus, and Olive oil.

The four ingedients listed by Abraham of Worms in The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage are Myrrh, Cinnamon, Calamus, and Olive oil.

Since Cinnamon and Cassia are two species of the same Cinnamomum genus, their doubling up into one name by the medieval author Abraham of Worms is not unexpected. His reasons for doing so may have been prompted by a pious decision to avoid duplicating true Holy Oil, or by a tacit admission that in medieval Europe, it was difficult to obtain Cinnamon and Cassia as separate products.

Samuel Mathers' Abramelin Oil

According to the S.L. MacGregor Mathers English translation, which derives from an incomplete French manuscript copy of the book, the recipe is as follows:

You shall prepare the sacred oil in this manner: Take of myrrh in tears, one part; of fine cinnamon, two parts; of galangal half a part; and the half of the total weight of these drugs of the best oil olive. The which aromatics you shall mix together according unto the art of the apothecary, and shall make thereof a balsam, the which you shall keep in a glass vial which you shall put within the cupboard (formed by the interior) of the altar. <ref>The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, ch. 11</ref>

The four ingedients listed by Mathers in his translation of The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage are Myrrh, Cinnamon, Galangal, and Olive oil. The word that he translated from the French as "Galangal" is actually the word "Calamus." All of the other extant manuscripts, in German and Aramaic, also list "Calamus" as the ingredient. It is unknown if Mathers' use of Galangal instead of Calamus was intentional or a mistranslation, but it was to result in several notable changes, including symbolism and use.

Macerated Abramelin Oil

A recipe for Abramelin oil based upon the original German, French, or Aramaic texts is as follows:

The mixture is macerated for one month, then decanted and bottled for use, producing a fragranced oil suitable for anointing any portion of the body, and will not burn the skin. It may be applied liberally, after the manner of traditional Jewish Holy Oils, such as the one which was poured on Aaron's head until it ran down his beard. It is not, however, made "according unto the art of the apothecary", since it is not distilled after the maceration but decanted into bottles.

Mathers' Macerated Abramelin Oil

Those who make Abramelin according to the English translation of Mathers' book compound their Abramelin oil from raw ingredients. They use the ratio given in the book:

This mixture is macerated for one month, then decanted and bottled for use. The result is a fragranced oil suitable for anointing any portion of the body, and it will not burn the skin.

Crowley's Abramelin Oil made with essential oils

Early in the 20th century, the British occultist Aleister Crowley created his own version of Abramelin Oil, which he called "Oil of Abramelin," and sometimes referred to as the "Holy Oil of Aspiration." It was based on Mathers' substitution of Galangal for Calamus. Crowley also abandoned the book's method of preparation—which specifies blending Myrrh "tears" (resin) and "fine" (finely ground) Cinnamon—instead opting for pouring together distilled essential oils with a small amount of olive oil. His recipe (from his Commentary to Liber Legis [1] (http://www.hermetic.com/220/crowley-comments.html)) reads as follows:

Crowley weighed out his proportions of essential oils according to the recipe specified by Abramelin the Mage for weighing out raw materials. The result is to give the Cinnamon a strong presence, so that when it is placed upon the skin "it should burn and thrill through the body with an intensity as of fire." <ref>Crowley, Magick, Book 4, p.60</ref> This formula is unlike the Jewish grimoire recipe and it cannot be used for practices that require the oil to be poured over the head. Rather, Crowley intended it to be applied in small amounts, usually to the top of the head or the forehead, and to be used for anointment of magical equipment as an act of consecration.

Abramelin Oil made with essential oils

A recipe for Abramelin oil using Calamus but also essential oils is as follows:

Since ancient perfumers and apothecaries never compounded their fragrances by mixing essential oils in such large ratio with respect to carrier oils—because the original formula was to be distilled after maceration, not before—it is possible to restore the proportions to something like what they might have been if maceration and distillation had occurred "according to the art of the apothecary":

This is a highly fragranced oil that may be applied to the skin in more liberal amounts; it is a close, modern approximation of the oil described by Abramelin to Abraham of Worms.

Doubly-consecrated Mathers-Crowley Abramelin Oil recipe

Some adherents of Thelema add 1 part of a previously consecrated batch of the Crowley version of Abramelin oil to each new batch they make according to his formula. This is done for magical reasons and does not change the proportions of the ingredients.

Symbolism of the ingredients

Many traditions of magic work with plant materials, and most also assign some symbolic meanings or ascriptions to these ingredients.

In the Jewish tradition, from whence came the original Biblical recipe upon which Abramelin Oil is based, the Olive is a symbol of domestic felicity and stability, Myrrh (which contains opioids) is believed to be sacred to the Lord, Calamus is known for its sweetness and phalliform fruiting body and stands for male sexuality and love, while Cinnamon is favoured for its warming ability.

In hoodoo folk magic, these symbolisms are somewhat changed: Myrrh and Olive remain the same, but Cinnamon is for money and luck, and Calamus is used to sweetly control others. (The Matherian alternative, Galangal, is employed in protective work, especially that involving court cases.)

Crowley also had a symbolic view of the ingredients that he found in the Mathers translation:

This oil is compounded of four substances. The basis of all is the oil of the olive. The olive is, traditionally, the gift of Minerva, the Wisdom of God, the Logos. In this are dissolved three other oils; oil of myrrh, oil of cinnamon, oil of galangal. The Myrrh is attributed to Binah, the Great Mother, who is both the understanding of the Magician and that sorrow and compassion which results from the contemplation of the Universe. The Cinnamon represents Tiphereth, the Sun -- the Son, in whom Glory and Suffering are identical. The Galangal represents both Kether and Malkuth, the First and the Last, the One and the Many, since in this Oil they are One. [...] These oils taken together represent therefore the whole Tree of Life. The ten Sephiroth are blended into the perfect gold. <ref>Crowley, Magick, Book 4, Ch. 5</ref>

Abramelin Oil in occult tradition

The original popularity of Abramelin Oil rested on the importance magicians place upon Jewish traditions of Holy Oils and, more recently, upon Mathers' translation of The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage and the resurgence of 20th century occultism, such as found in the works of the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley, and has since spread into other modern occult traditions. The oil is highly esteemed by those who wish to follow the course of ritual activities outlined in the book by Abramelin the Mage in order to obtain the outcomes he promised those who successfully applied his system of "Divine Science" and "True Magic", namely, the gifts of flight, treasure-finding, and invisibility, as well as the power to cast effective love spells.

Because it derives from the formula for Jewish Holy Oil, Abramelin Oil also finds use among Jewish and Christian Kabbalists who are not specifically performing the works described by Abraham of Worms.

Oil of Abramelin and Thelema

Oil of Abramelin recipe was seen as highly important by Aleister Crowley, the founder of Thelema, and he used his version of it throughout his life. In Crowley's mystical system, the oil came to symbolize the aspiration to what he called the Great Work—"The oil consecrates everything that is touched with it; it is his aspiration; all acts performed in accordance with that are holy." [2] (http://www.hermetic.com/crowley/aba/aba2.html)

Crowley went on to say

The Holy Oil is the Aspiration of the Magician; it is that which consecrates him to the performance of the Great Work; and such is its efficacy that it also consecrates all the furniture of the Temple and the instruments thereof. It is also the grace or chrism; for this aspiration is not ambition; it is a quality bestowed from above. For this reason the Magician will anoint first the top of his head before proceeding to consecrate the lower centres in their turn (...) It is the pure light translated into terms of desire. It is not the Will of the Magician, the desire of the lower to reach the higher; but it is that spark of the higher in the Magician which wishes to unite the lower with itself. <ref>Crowley, Magick, Book 4, Ch. 5</ref>

This oil is currently used in several ceremonies of the Thelemic church, Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, including the rites of Baptism, Confirmation, and Ordination. It is also commonly used to consecrate magical implements and temple furniture. The eucharistic host of the Gnostic Mass—called the Cake of Light—includes this oil as an important ingredient.

Effects of Mathers' recipe and Crowley's use of essential oils

Those who make Abramelin Oil accoding the the recipe given by Abraham of Worms are woking well within the Jewish and Christian occult traditions of the Middle Ages. Mathers use of Galangal instead of Calamus and/or Crowley's innovative use of essential oils rather than raw ingredients in weighing out the proportions has resulted in some interesting changes:

  • Scent: The oils of Mathers and Crowley have an entirely different aroma from the Jewish Abramelin oil. The scent of Galangal is gingergy and spicy whereas Calamus is florally sweet yet a bit yeasty. Insofar as occultists work with plant materials because they value botanical contributions to ceremonial rites, they find that these oils produce different states of mind, of thought, of "being," although the effects of the difference will be a matter of individual experience.
  • Symbolism: In Jewish, Greek, and European magical botanic symbolism, the ascription given to Sweet Flag or Calamus is that of male sexuality, due to the shape of the plant's fruiting body. Crowley, following Mathers' substitution of Galangal for Calamus, gave the following Qabalistic meaning for Galangal: "Galangal represents both Kether and Malkuth, the First and the Last, the One and the Many." Thus Crowley's substituted the symbol of microcosm/macrocosm for the symbol of phallic virility.
  • Skin toxicity: The original recipe for Abramelin Oil does not irritate the skin and can be applied according to traditional Jewish and Christian religious and magical practices. Crowley's recipe has a much higher concentration of Cinnamon than the original recipe. This results in an oil which can be uncomfortably hot on the skin and can actually cause skin burns or rashes if applied too liberally. <ref>Cinnamon essential oil is listed as a dermal (skin) toxin, irritant, and sensitizer. Safety guidelines for essential oil of Cinnamon recommend 10% dilution with 90% neutral carrier oils such as Olive oil (Tisserand & Balacs, 1995). Therefore, the Crowley recipe, in which Cinnamon essential oil is 38% of the whole by weight, or almost four times the recommended safe level, can only be used in relatively small amounts upon the skin and should be carefully placed to avoid sensitive areas, such as the eyes, nostrils, or mucous membranes of the genitals or anus. If dermal sensitivities are an issue, a skin patch test should be conducted prior to first-time use.</ref>
  • Digestive toxicity: Galangal is edible, Calamus is not, being toxic. This is certainly relevant to those who use Crowley's Oil of Abramelin as a core ingredient for the eucharistic Cake of Light, giving it a mild opiated taste (from the Myrrh) and a spicy tang (from the Cinnamon and the Ginger-like Galangal). Any use of Calamus in such a recipe would render the host inedible.

References

External links

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This page has been accessed 7593 times. This page was last modified 01:34, 29 May 2006. Content is available under GNU Free Documentation License 1.2.


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