The Arabian Contribution

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"In the name of Sulaiman, son of David (upon whom be peace) who made all the Jinn subject to him: I do hereby, and in the name of King Sulaiman, and by his seal as my oath, bind myself to use the power that thou shalt give me in the way I think to be for the best, and to keep my power secret from all."—Magician's oath: Book of the Sevenfold Secret, First Gate.

Little is known of Arab magical practices before the rise of Islam in the seventh century of this era. According to Arab tradition, Solomon left a vast heritage of his spells and powers to a number of initiates, who guarded the secrets in out-of-the-way oases. Other magicians, armed with magic words, talismans and spells, filled vast caverns full of treasures and exercised their power as a sort of occult elite, over the entire world.

Before the advent of Islam, the Semitic traditions shared by Arabs, Jews, Assyrians and others were embodied in the rituals and symbolism of the idolatry of the Temple at Mecca: the mystic Kaaba, which Mohammed purified and rededicated to monotheism after the success of his mission. Among the three hundred and sixty spirit-gods set up there were Al-Lat, Manat, 'Uzza and Hobal: demons and gods who 'gave oracles and decided the ways of man'. Their priests were drawn exclusively from the tribe of Quraish, the royal clan. We have sufficient knowledge of the pre-Islamic Arab sorcerers to know that their methods closely resembled those of the other Semitic nations. Where the Arab contribution becomes interesting is during the period after the all-conquering clans swept out of the desert, and the epoch of assimilation with other systems came to the fore.

The story of Arab-Islamic magic follows the pattern of Arab civilization. Under the early caliphs of Syria, Spain and Egypt, the staggering mass of written material captured from the heritage of Rome, Greece, and all the other conquered nations was translated into Arabic. Scholars—frequently at State expense—systematized the teachings of Aristotle and the other Greek writers, summarized ancient histories, organized the codes of law, religion and ethic. At the flourishing universities of Kairouan, Azhar, Cordoba, Baghdad, doctors worked on medicine, magic and alchemy. Jewish and Chaldean magical beliefs were 'boiled down' and studied.

What was the Arab-Moslem attitude towards magic? Taking, as always, their lead from the Quran, the sages accepted the theory that magic, in one form or another, was a definite force. Some of the world's most interesting magical treatises come from the pens of Arab-Moslem writers between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries: and it was partly through their work with learned Jews in the Arab-Spanish universities that much of oriental lore entered Europe.

Fakhr-ed-Din El-Rlzi (Rhazes) outlined one of the first Arab systems of magic. According to him Sihr (magic) is to be divided into three Nau>\ or categories:

First comes Chaldean magic, which meant to him largely a star-cult, and included astrology and spirits attributed to forces of the stars.

Secondly, he says, there is true spirit-magic, which may be a form of spiritualism, together with hypnosis. It also dealt with the interaction of the human soul upon its host the body, and upon the bodies of others. Contact with other human spirits and their employment forms a part of this section. Finally, there are miracles, which are vouchsafed only to prophets, according to the Moslem belief.

Legend has it that there were two angels, Harut and Mirut, who learned magic, and transmitted its knowledge to mankind, and this thesis is basic to all Arab magic. There are also such things as Jinn (genii), which may be part spirit and part something else. Both the angels and genies are mentioned more than once in the Quran. Another form of magic treated by Arabs is Maskh, the art of transforming men into animals which is known in the West as lycanthropy.

The classical books of Arab researchers in many other fields than the occult record magical beliefs and processes. Such authorities as

Chaldean Magic Talisman Spells
Arabian spell to dry up rival's well or cistern —after Ibn Khaldun [See p. 78.]

oriental magic

Tabari, the historian, speak of magic, while the Social Philosophy of Ibn Khaldún mentions certain rites seen and recorded by him. Even the philosophical writings of Al-Ghazzáli, father of modern logic, make it clear that the Arab masters had given the subject serious thought.

Ibn Khaldún, the social philosopher, gives one of the most refreshingly unbiased accounts of a thinker faced with magical beliefs. Writing in the fourteenth century, he says that there were two types of magic: (i) Pure Magic; (ii) Talismans (66).

Pure magic he defines as some force which comes straight from within the magician, without the intermediary of any 'helper' (mua'win). In this form there is no question of spirits being used or conjured.

This is perhaps an echo of the mana-akasa belief in a widespread almost untapped occult force, which is there to be used, and neither good nor evil: almost a psycho-physical force. The second form, which is summarized in the term Talismanic, implies the necessity of making contact with and use of some other force.

Ibn Khaldiin was the first to notice that there is some link between the hypnoidal state and the ability to make use of some sort of power. He says that the pentacle-drawing and other rituals must work up the magician's emotions to a high pitch. If this is not achieved, there will be no result. This is the first scientific comment to be recorded in the study of magic.

This background of intense intellectual activity, covering a study of various systems, produced a wide variety of talismans (67) and other wonder-working items.

Arabic Black Jinn Magic Talisman

Stylized 'power spell' in Chinese brushwork, inscribed on paper with peachwood stylus. The wording is Arabic: 'O Tribe of

—Author's collection

Stylized 'power spell' in Chinese brushwork, inscribed on paper with peachwood stylus. The wording is Arabic: 'O Tribe of

—Author's collection

Hastiiml'

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Fundamentals of Magick

Fundamentals of Magick

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