An amazing thing happened last week – two books I’ve been working on for three years finally arrived in the warehouse, and are now on their way out to a store near you! To celebrate the release of these very special books, I interviewed the author, Aaron Leitch.
Llewellyn (LL): I hold in my hands two gorgeous hard-cover books – The Angelical Language, volume one and volume two. They look amazing! First, let’s talk about volume one: The Complete History and Mythos of the Tongue of Angels. What does this book cover, and what parts are you most excited about in terms of hearing what the magickal community has to say on what you’ve presented here?
Aaron Leitch (AL): Yes, the design of the books is a true work of art! You folks at Llewellyn really outdid yourselves this time, and I am quite proud to see this work presented with such dignified grace!
The first volume starts off with a brief overview of three occult traditions that most directly influenced the Language— and how it is used— in John Dee’s journals. One is the Jewish practice of “Counting the Omer” (involving the Qabalistic 50 Gates of Understanding). Second is the various apocryphal Biblical texts known as the Books of Enoch. Finally, I also include a short exploration of the mysterious grimoire called the “Book of Soyga.” None of this material is exhaustive—I just wanted to give the reader a basic historical foundation before launching into Dee’s material. The rest of the book focuses exclusively upon the Angelical Language recorded in Dee’s journals and personal grimoire. (Most folks know this as the “Enochian Language”, though it was never called such by Dee.)
What excites me the most is that much of the information presented in this book has never been presented before. For example, chapter two is dedicated entirely to John Dee’s own Book of Enoch—also known as the Book of Loagaeth (Speech From God). It is not a short chapter, but explores the Book of Loagaeth in exhaustive detail: its reception by Dee and Kelley, what the Angels had to say about it, instructions on how to construct it, and more. No other book about Dee’s material has ever contained this much information about Loagaeth—and that’s a shame because Loagaeth is the heart and soul of the entire Enochian system of magick.
Further chapters cover the 48 Angelical Keys and their proper relationship to the Book of Loagaeth, instructions on how to use the Keys with Loagaeth, the Angelical Alphabet and how to use it for angel- and talismanic-magick and an exploration of the Biblical mythologies behind the Language. For good measure, I have even thrown in an “Angelical Psalter”, which contains the 48 Keys and other invocations with translations and a phonetic pronunciation guide. (It’s great for use in practical ceremony.)
The bulk of the material in Volume One is rarely mentioned (if at all) in most books about Enochian magick. Both beginners and adepts of Enochiana will learn things here they have never encountered before. This will either generate excitement or controversy—either one is cool with me!
LL: Volume two is An Encyclopedic Lexicon of the Tongue of Angels. This is absolutely fascinating to me, as I am a big language nerd. Whatever possessed you to cross-reference all these words, to look for root words and alternate meanings, to provide an English-to-Angelical dictionary? Are you a Trekkie? (Just kidding!)
AL: This project was born one day as I read my copy of Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. That story is about a man who was lost on an alien planet as a child and raised by the natives there. When he was later discovered and brought back to Earth, they learned something that sent the whole world into chaos: this man could perform miracles at will. He didn’t consider it strange or even magickal. To him, it was like brushing your teeth or putting on your shoes: once you learn how, you just do it. When people asked him to teach them how to do it, he realized there were no human words for what he needed to say. If you wanted to learn the skill, you first had to learn the alien language. He set up a school to teach that language, and called it the Church of All Worlds (sound familiar?).
At the time I read this, I was doing a lot of work with the Enochian Angels. And, as I read the book that day, They contacted me with a message: “Learn the parts of our Language we have already given you (plural), and we will teach you more.” That made perfect sense to me. I had seen dozens of folks out there trying to learn and even expand the “Enochian Language” without the slightest reference back to Dee’s records. How could any Angel take that kind of effort seriously?
So, I set out to tackle Dee’s journals and ferret out every minor scrap of information to be found there about the Language, most of which was not available in any published book about Dee’s magick. I also needed a corrected set of the 48 Keys (also not available), fully cross-referenced, so I could put together the Lexicon. Taken all at once, it was intended as my personal study material so I could learn to read and even think in the language.
As a result, I have not become utterly fluent in the language and I certainly don’t think in it! At least not yet! But the promise made to me by the Angels held true. By doing this work I have discovered Angelical words, word-elements and root words—along with various points of grammar, syntax and pronunciation that no one knew existed. Not to mention the fact that the English-to-Angelical section of the Lexicon is more comprehensive than any previous attempt at such, and could be expanded even more.
Oh and for the record—I’m a linguistics lover myself. And I love Star Trek!
LL: How do you think the Lexicon will help other magicians out there?
AL: Practicing magicians are fond of creating new Enochian invocations for their own magick. However, there has never been a resource for them to translate their texts properly. For example, did you know that Enochian has two different words for the singular “you” and the plural “you”? Most Enochian magicians don’t know that, yet I would think it would be a matter of some importance if you are summoning Angels or spirits in the language. (I can either call “you” from the Sphere of Jupiter, or I can call “all of you” from the Sphere of Jupiter—big difference!) I tend to think that this kind of basic misunderstanding of the material, and how to properly use it, is what leads folks to think that Enochian magick is somehow overly dangerous or even demonic.
Also, and just as important, I have analyzed and deciphered Dee’s pronunciation notes for the words, and created a new phonetic pronunciation key to make the words easy to read. Other pronunciation guides for Enochian have been alphabetical rather than phonetic—meaning they show you how any letter might sound, but they don’t show you how the letters sound when combined into syllables. Because of this and the obscurity of Dee’s own notations, a myth has arisen among Enochian magicians that the words do not have proper pronunciations, and you may simply make it up as you read along. In fact, the words do have proper pronunciations, and you’ll see them in my Lexicon for the first time anywhere.
LL: In both volumes you focus solely on the words that were transmitted by the angels to Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelley. Can you explain some of your reasoning behind not including Crowleyan terms and other latecomers to the Angelical language?
AL: Much as I mentioned previously, those who followed after Dee have attempted to work with his system without spending much time with his journals. This is even more true where the Angelical Language is concerned. Neither the Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley, the Aurum Solis nor many others took the time to exhaustively search Dee’s records, gather every possible scrap of info about the Language and take a look at the bigger picture that would have resulted. They did not bother with what the Angels had to say about it, or about how to use it properly. They just took the 48 invocations (at face value no less!) and ran in their own directions with them.
In fact, much work has been done to purposely tear the Language (and Enochian magick in general) away from its roots in Renaissance Angel magick. I wanted to go back to the roots of the Language, cut out all of the later half-understood inclusions from others, and do the grunt-work with Dee’s records that should have been done hundreds of years ago. Only then can we move forward with the Language with any certainty.
LL: I like to brag that I’ve been working on these books since December 2006, which is when your manuscript first appeared on my desk in a huge box. (I still have that box – so heavy that the postage alone was $15.25!) But how long did it take you just to get to that rough draft stage? How long had you been doing the research and writing before you printed it up and mailed it to Llewellyn?
AL: Ten VERY long years! Well, actually I took two years off to write Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires for you! But then it was back to the Lexicon. I got the idea for the project in 1997, and submitted it to you in late 2006. Add in the time it took for the publication process, it has been a 13 year project! And that, of course, does not include my years of Enochian studies and practices that led to the decision to write the Lexicon.
LL: This book went through many Vision meetings, art meetings, external reader reports, and much more before we were satisfied in sending it to our production department—hence the long timeline of this book. Was this process ever frustrating for you, or was it ever enjoyable?
AL: Oh no, it really wasn’t very frustrating. Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, with its dozens of pieces of medieval artwork and engravings, was a far greater ordeal! This project went very smoothly—it just went slowly due to the specialized attention it obviously received. That always made me feel good about this process, as it really seemed like you guys were taking the project so seriously, paying attention to every minor detail, wanting this to be just right.
Meanwhile, I couldn’t really call it “enjoyable” because it was a lot of hard work! Especially considering the size of this project (over 900 pages between both volumes!), the editing notes just went on forever! But every note was worthwhile, and the resulting book is infinitely better than what I submitted. (My editor, Brett, had an uncanny knack for ferreting out my most annoying writing habits. As for the Angelical, he trusted me to edit my own work since he can’t read it himself. So, I trusted his editing skills in return and it worked beautifully.)
LL: The million-dollar question: do you believe that Angelical is a real language, transmitted by heavenly beings, or do you think it was created by Kelley and Dee, which would be astounding in itself? Or is there a third explanation?
AL: As usual, the truth lies in the middle ground. I certainly do believe in Angelic Intelligences, and my own work with them has indicated that Angelical is indeed a powerful Celestial Language. That doesn’t mean that other people, following other traditions, might not get different results.
Meanwhile, it is undeniable that Dee’s and Kelley’s own minds played a role in what he received from their Angels. After all, the Angelical word for “Kingdom” is Londoh, and the word for “Iniquity” is Madrid. And wouldn’t you know that the United Kingdom (capital: London) was at war with Spain (capital: Madrid) at the time Dee penned his journals?! No channeled information is ever found without the influence of the mind that channeled it.
However, even if the Book of Loagaeth were deciphered and found to be nothing more than encoded political secrets or some such thing, I don’t think it would stop mystics around the world from using Dee’s Angelical in their own magick and mysticism.
LL: One final question—what do the angels have in store for you next?
AL: The Angels have already had me hard at work on the next project for several years! Since Georg Dehn finally gave us an English translation of the original German “Book of Abramelin,” I have been working on correcting, deciphering and translating the infamous word-square Talismans found at the end of the book. Once that is complete (or, at least, as complete as possible) I will add some discussion about the Abramelin Rite itself, including in-depth guides for aspirants who wish to undertake the initiation and put Abramelin’s magick to practical use.
After that, I plan to complete a book that focuses upon the Enochian magickal tools, furniture and the various systems of magick that utilize them. Part of it will be in the same style as The Angelical Language Volume One, in that it will explore Dee’s own journals (and no one else’s) concerning the magick. Then, part of it will be a grimoire explaining how to work the system. You could say it will be an Enochian version of Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires.
Questions? Comments? Join in the discussion by writing in the comments section below. We welcome your thoughts!