Review: The Secrets of High Magic (Vintage Edition)

51OHQFp-m2L__SX258_BO1,204,203,200_I bought this at The Works a few months ago.  When I thumbed through it, I struck at how familiar the contents was.  I wondered where I had read this book before.  Then I remembered.

As a teenager I had my eye on a book in a discount book shop; it a had a deep red and gold cover with a picture of a wizard (an bearded man with a pointed hat) embossed on the cover.  I remember asking my parents to buy it for me since at that time they bought most of my things for me but they never did.  But one of my classmates who, like me was inclined towards the occult, did buy it themselves and would occasionally let me read it during morning break when he brought it in.  I remember he brought in this tiny little vial of what looked like ashes.  He told me that he had made it using the instructions  from the book.  Reading through the chapter dedicated to Alchemy, it was probably sal salis (“salt of the salt”), which is a water-soluble salt created from wood ash; and is the first step in creating a planetary tincture (a liquid imbued with the cleansing and fortifying powers of one of the planets, as far as I understand it).  I never actually learned which tincture he was making.

Before I really read the book I didn’t really understand what they meant by they referred to High Magic.  After skimming through this book, I’ve come to understand it as an umbrella term that encompasses practises like as Angel magic, Astrology, Alchemy, and so on.  Like most of the magical arts, there is usually some form of ceremony in the magical traditions, and the practises depicted in this book are no different.  Not only are there western rituals there was also a subchapter dedicated to several Far Eastern practises, mainly Buddhist.  While the practises depicted in this book are a bit too complicated for me, it’s still a fascinating read.  And it has given me a few ideas for my creative writing.

Though it’s an almost brand new book, it smells like an older one which is one things that I love about it.  I have to admit I prefer the old cover but I suppose that the new cover would appeal to a younger audience.  A lot of the illustrations are in a slightly different style than what I remember in the old edition, but the diagrams are pretty much the same.

Its author, Frances Melville is, according to the blurb at the back of the book, a “student of theology and a practitioner of medical alchemy”.  She has also written Defence Against The Dark Arts (another book I own a copy of) and other books on magic and myticism.

At the end of the book, there is a bibliography of sources that Melville used to write this book, if readers wished to read further on the subject.

Conclusively, The Secrets of High Magic will make a great addition to any occult library, especially as an introduction to High Magic.