Recently, I had someone ask me for help in creating a lamen for use with the Trithemian conjuration ritual. While the original text doesn’t go into details about it, it says that “the pentacle may be either wrote on clean virgin parchment, or engraven on a square plate of silver and suspended from thy neck to the breast”. In other words, the lamen used in conjuration is a type of pentacle or talisman worn, and this talisman is associated with the spirit to be conjured by writing the name and seal of the spirit upon the lamen. It’s very similar to wearing the seal of the demon to be conjured according to the Lemegeton Goetia, so the idea is the same, though its execution is a little different.
For one, the lamen used in this conjuration has thirteen names of God written around the edge; I’ve explained these names in an earlier post. Within the names of God is the name of the spirit, its seal, a hexagram, and at least four pentagrams. The original form of the lamen, say for the angel Michael according to Trithemius and Fr. Rufus Opus, has it follow the general pattern:
Here, the name of the spirit is written twice, once in Hebrew (Celestial, in this case) outside and above the hexagram, and once in Roman script inside the hexagram with the seal, with four pentagrams surround the hexagram. Why four? It’s unclear, but we have a strong hint from Cornelius Agrippa (book IV, chapter 10) (emphasis mine)
Now the Lamen which is to be used to invoke any good spirit, you shall make after this maner; either in metal conformable, or in new wax, mixt with species and colours conformable: or it may be made in clean paper, with convenient colours: and and the outward form or figure thereof may be square, circular, or triangular, or of the like sort, according to the rule of the numbers: in which there must be written the divine names, as well the general names as the special. And in the centre of the Lamen, let there be drawn a character of six corners (Hexagonus); in the middle whereof, let there be written the name and character of the Star, or of the Spirit his governour, to whom the good spirit that is to be called is subject. And about this character, let there be placed so many characters of five corners (Pentagonus), as the spirits we would call together at once. And if we shall call onely one spirit, nevertheless there shall be made four Pentagones, wherein the name of the spirit or spirits, with their characters, is to be written. Now this table ought to be composed when the Moon in increasing, on those days and hours which then agree to the Spirit. And if we take a fortunate star herewith, it will be the better. Which Table being made in this manner, it is to be consecrated according to the rules above delivered.
So it seems like the spirit in the hexagram isn’t actually the spirit we conjure, but rather the ruler of the spirit. So, if we were to call upon Nakhiel, the intelligence of the Sun, we still have Michael’s name and seal in the hexagram and the name and seal of Nakhiel in all four pentagrams. If we were to call upon the intelligence Nakhiel, spirit Sorath, and three angels from the choir of Virtues, we’d have five pentagrams around the hexagram, each with a different name and seal according to the spirits we summon. Considering the size of the lamen, this gets way too complicated way too fast. It’s easier to simply deal with the spirit ruling over the sphere we’re coming in contact with and have them in the conjuration to bring the other spirits we wish to commune with. For some reason, though, there should always be at least four pentagrams. Why? It’s never really said, but the number four has plenty of oomph in it, so maybe it’s just a numerological thing; it’s unclear.
So why do we have the name of the spirit both in Hebrew and in Roman outside and inside the hexagram? It’s never really said, and both I and Donald Tyson (who published an updated version of Agrippa’s Books of Occult Philosophy with notes and commentary) think this is an error, or at least unnecessary duplication. In either case, the name should be the same no matter what script you use. If one uses Hebrew on the outside and Roman on the inside, the names should accord given the writing system they’re written in, only using Roman script inside the hexagram and some other script outside. I think they should be different scripts, so if the script used originally for the spirit was Roman, you might consider the use of Theban script outside the hexagram. It gets real crazy real fast, admittedly.
Because of the confusion with the designs, between the number of pentagrams to use and what names should go where and written in which writing system, I decided to come up with my own version of the lamen, based more on Solomonic and Goetic practice. This was a while back, and I wrote a post about it before, but my versions have worked fine and clear for me. For example, contrast the following lamen of Michael to the prior one:
The differences between this lamen style and the Trithemian one aren’t that many, really, but they’re important:
- The name of the spirit is written in another ring around a central circle using only one language most appropriate for the spirit
- Always use six pentagrams around the arms of the hexagrams, points facing outward.
- No Romanization of the spirit’s name.
- Center hexagram is embiggened and centered in the central circle.
- Godnames rotated 90° so that El is aligned at the top.
To reduce confusion, I only write the name of the spirit once around the hexagram and pentagrams, using the inside of the hexagram for the spirit itself and leaving the pentagrams blank.
One thing that can be clearly deduced from Agrippa and Trithemius is how to make the lamen. For timing, the lamens are to be made while the Moon is waxing in a planetary day and hour appropriate to the spirit. Thus, lamens for spirits of the Sun should be made on Sundays in an hour of the Sun, those of Mars should be made on Tuesdays in an hour of Mars, and so forth; this is pretty simple, and fairly basic as far as talismanic creation goes. As for materials, this is where you can really go crazy; I use heavy fancy résumé paper, color the border with gold leaf, and color the insides of the stars and hexagrams according to that planet’s associated colors per the Golden Dawn color rules.
I use simple circles for my lamen designs, though I’ve made other sets before that use different polygons whose number of sides accord with the numbers of the planets, e.g. a triangle for Saturn, a pentagon for Mars, and a nonagon for the Moon. I use a circular shape since I have a circular wooden picture frame I modified to act as a lamen holder, but having your lamens be punched with a hole in the top is also totally workable. Instead of paper, you might use parchment, or you might go really fancy and use colored wax made with essential oils of herbs associated with the planet, or go all out and make silver, gold, or other metallic lamens that accord with the planet. While this isn’t strictly necessary (I haven’t had problems using even plain uncolored copy paper lamens), it’ll help over time to strengthen the contact between you and the spirit, but so would putting more effort with a simpler construction. Of course, if the spirit isn’t planetary or doesn’t really care, you can use whatever method you want for making the lamen so long as it works for the spirit.
So what about the seals inside the hexagrams themselves? It’s easy to find seals for Lemegeton goetic demons or the angels of the planets, but what about the seals for some arbitrary spirit? It can get awkward, I admit, if you only have a name and no seal. One route you can go by is using some sort of sigil generator to make a seal for the spirit based on its name; if the name is in Hebrew, you’d use the Golden Dawn Rosy Cross sigil wheel, and if it’s in Greek, you might try my own sigil wheel for the Greek alphabet based on stoicheiometric principles. If the spirit is associated with a particular planet, you might use the qamea (magic square) of that planet to generate the names, which is how Agrippa gets his seals for the planetary intelligences and spirits (book II, chapter 22). If you have any familiarity with modern magic techniques, you might make a simple sigil based on the letters themselves a la chaos magic. Alternatively, you might not use any seal for the spirit at all, but actually ask for a seal directly from the spirit themselves; this is my approach to them, and how I got my seals for the elemental archangels.
Don’t forget that, despite their role in conjuration, lamens are simply talismans, and should be made according to the same rules and upheld to the same maintenance you’d use for other talismans. These talismans will help link you to the spirit and its sphere to aid in conjuration, communion, and communication, and so should be made with that spirit and sphere in mind. Although it’s traditional to wear the lamen in conjuration, I’ve seen some magicians (including Fr. Rufus Opus in his more modern style of conjuration) just use a metal talisman placed on the Table of Practice itself, so you still have freedom to experiment here. Make the lamen with the spirit you want to communicate with in mind, following a simple premade layout for names and seals, and you’ll be good to go. You might want to wear it, place it on the conjuration circle itself under the scrying medium, or simply set a candle atop it; so long as you use the lamen, you’ll be bringing the spirit down for conjuration.