A collection of ConjureMan Ali's thoughts about magic, the occult, and spirituality.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Book Review: The Book of Saint Cyprian The Sorcerer's Treasure

Over the years interest in the mysterious Saint Cyprian of Antioch has grown in the English-speaking world, slowly simmering at the edges until being proclaimed as the Saint of Sorcerers and Necormancers. Many have taken him as a patron and accepted him into their lives. But while he may be growing in the English-speaking world, people forget that Saint Cyprian has been a long-time fixture and force in the magical world of Iberian Bruxaria and Latin American folk magic. In particular Saint Cyprian has been associated with a set of magical tomes often found in Spanish and Portuguese. Over the years there have been some attempt to translate bits and pieces, but it has always remained just out of reach for the English-speaking audience--until now. José Leitão has taken the famed Book of Saint Cyprian from the shadows and put it within our grasp, setting ablaze the magical world. 

The Book of Saint Cyprian: The Sorcerer's Treasure is indeed a treasure for anyone interested in the magic of Saint Cyprian. The book is more than a mere translation, but a significant intervention into the interest and study of Saint Cyprian. José Leitão has translated the book with an attention to scholarship and with a devotion only possible from someone who truly loves what is before him. His personal connection to Saint Cyprian and his intimate understanding of the Book of Saint Cyprian is evident throughout the text. He reminds us of the mystery surrounding the book, the dread it evokes, and the promises of its mysteries. With this in mind the reader dives into the sorcerous tome as you read various stories, legends, learn feitiçaria for love, destruction, finding treasure, discover Cyprianic cartomancy and much more. 

But in addition to being the most complete translation of the Book of Saint Cyprian, what sets José Leitão's book apart is his attention to scholarship. As a historian I appreciated his effort to provide cultural and historical background to the text. What you get is not merely a translation, but an introduction into the culture and history that gave birth to the Book of Saint Cyprian. This is a significant contribution for it ties the book directly to the culture(s) and history that gave birth to the text, but also provides us all with a glimpse into the long and beautiful magical traditions of the Iberian sorcerer. With his attention to history, José Leitão gives voice to stories and peoples that have been silenced by the passing of time. There is a particular section discussing the presence of Africans in Iberia which will shake most modern magicians interested in the connection between the European grimoires and the African Traditional Religions as it complicates and challenges the common Euro-centric view of the grimoires influencing the African Traditional Religions.

What the historical and cultural background reminds us is that unlike other so-called grimoires and tomes of magic, the Book of Saint Cyprian is a living book tied to a people with a living culture. People have continuously read and worked from the Book of Saint Cyprian and it has remained a fixture in their cultural practices. This is not a dusty, long-dead tome that is being reconstructed, but a living text of the sorcery of a people. For people just learning about Saint Cyprian it reminds them of his roots and where this saint and sorcerer's legend found its home. Remembering that history should be humbling and hopefully instill some respect for the cultural and historical roots of the saint.  

The translation and history are enough to set this book apart, but José Leitão goes above and beyond that. If you are like me and can read some Portuguese and Spanish, this book still has much to offer. In addition to providing an English translation and an outstanding history, there is even more to be found in the commentary. José Leitão follows up his stellar translation with commentary that puts each spell, rite, story, and Cyprianic work into context. He explains the meanings of certain words, clarifies instructions, and provides insight that truly unlocks the treasures of the work. For the practical sorcerer, this section takes the book from being an intellectual curiosity to a practical tome filled with a treasure trove of knowledge the sorcerer can add to his arsenal. I personally found myself absolutely absorbed in the discussion of the mouros and mouras, so much so that I was caught up as if in an enchantment. This speaks to the writing skill of the author whose humor and passion come through clearly. 

He concludes the book with couple annex that follow various Cyprianic strains and a personal conclusion that explores what the Book of Saint Cyprian has meant to people throughout time. For José Leitão the Book of Cyprian is the keys to the crossroads of life and I could not agree more. 

I could not recommend this book enough and can confidently say it is probably my favorite book of the year so far. Other than a few minor editing details this book is flawless. José Leitão has done a great service to anyone interested in Saint Cyprian and Iberian sorcery and all of its connections to the past and the cultures of Africa and the New World. Within the pages of this book you will find Saint Cyprian himself, a saint and sorcerer who stands at the margins as the Other in all its manifestation and who through his book gives the keys to the kingdom of heaven and hell, to Jesus and the Devil. 

For those interested seek out the wonderful publishers of this tome, Hadean Press. You can purchase the book here: 

No comments: