(Update 1/8/2018: Interested in more about this ritual, especially since this post is old and I’ve learned quite a bit more since then? Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)
Recently, I got back in touch with a good magical colleague of mine whom I hadn’t spoken to in a bit. Not that anything was wrong, it was just that life got in the way of us having a good time. Happily, our mutual absence from each other’s lives is now over, and we’re getting down to brainstorming some good ol’ fashioned powerworking, because we’re fancy like that. My friend and I don’t exactly match much in what we do; I’m the fancy Hermetic quasi-Hellenic part-classical-part-Renaissance ritual magician, and my friend is basically a dirty, fabulous, conjuring, rootworking, Vodou-doing swamp witch. We happily complement each other’s works, and although we’re kinda like night and day, there are a good number of places we overlap.
One night, we were discussing some traditional protection magic involving mirror boxes and representations made of ourselves to act as decoys in attracting maleficia. My friend brought up the idea of circling the representation in ash composed from burning copies of Psalm 23 and Psalm 91, both of which serve extremely well in spiritual protection and defense. The notion of circling an image of oneself in ash struck me as peculiar, but also extraordinarily powerful. The image of Tarot Trump XXII, the World, stuck in my head, and my mind made the leap to using Psalm 119 as the basis for such an ash as well.
After all, Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm in the Bible, and itself is longer than a good number of books from both the Old and New Testament. It’s an example of an acrostic hymn, where each section begins with a different letter of the alphabet (in this case, the Hebrew script). Thus, there are 22 sections of 8 verses each, each verse extolling a different virtue or blessing ascribed to the Law. Because of it’s all-encompassing nature, it’s one of the most powerful psalms used in psalmic magic, like in conjurework and American folk magic. Sometimes just a small section of the Psalm is used, and sometimes the entire psalm.
Add to it, the connection of the different sections of Psalm 119 with the Hebrew letters struck me as powerful. I think my readers are already familiar with my affinity for alphabet magic, especially when it comes to Greek, but that’s not to say I discount the use of Hebrew. After all, qabbalah is still a thing. With each Hebrew letter represented in Psalm 119, the psalm truly does have a universal power that can affect, well, everything. Every force in the Hebrew tradition (12 signs of the Zodiac, 7 planets, and 3 elements because Earth and Spirit aren’t a thing rabbinically speaking) is represented here, and is heavily involved in the modern understanding of the paths of the Tree of Life. If we combine the powers of the building blocks of the cosmos with the already notable power of Psalm 119 as used in traditional magic, we can get a truly powerful result upon ourselves.
Thus, this ritual makes an ash with Psalm 119 and circles a representation of ourselves with it; we effectively encircle, fortify, and bless ourselves with all of creation and all of the blessings and promises of the Lord, while also orienting ourselves to the Law of God and our duties within it. My swamp witch friend heard me out on this and we promptly queened out over the prospects of using this in a separate ritual. After some discussion, we decided to draw out a recitation of the entire Psalm 119 over the course of a lunar month for a general, but profound, empowerment ritual to strengthen, bless, and help us in all our needs in life. A tentative working name for this ritual might be “Anointing of the World’s Blessing”, given a structural similarity with the World card and what it actually does.
The ritual takes place over a full lunar month (30 consecutive days), broken down into several stages. The way we’ve planned it, the ritual requires about 15 minutes per day, but it can be augmented as necessary according to your own preferences.
- Day 0 (New Moon, one day): preparation of supplies and altar
- Days 1 through 3 (three days): initial prayers
- Days 4 through 25 (22 days): Psalm prayers
- Days 26 through 28 (three days): final prayers
- Day 29 (Dark Moon, one day): thanksgiving and cleanup
The materia for this ritual are fairly simple and easily obtained:
- Four white candles (tealights work fine)
- Four seven-day candles (those 7-color glass-encased candles are perfect)
- A recent picture of yourself
- A printout of Psalm 119
- A Bible (any decent translation in your native language is good, but you can’t go wrong with the King James Version)
- A small glass jar or vial with airtight lid
- Olive oil
On the day of the New Moon, prepare your representation of yourself. If you’re just using a picture of yourself, write out your full birth name, followed by “son/daughter/child of” the name of your mother, and your birthday and birthtime (if you have it), perhaps writing your name on it seven times to make a proper name paper out of it. Once this is done, take the printout of Psalm 119 and burn it to ash. On an altar or surface that you’ve already ritually cleaned off for the working, set the representation of yourself down and make a complete circle around it in the Psalm ash, and set the four 7-day candles around the circle aligned to the four cardinal directions.
Set one white candle on top of your representation (with at least some sort of protection between the candle base and your representation) and light it, letting it burn down completely, praying that the ritual to be used with them be purified and blessed with the grace and power of God. Once the white candle has burned out later that day, dispose of it.
On the sunrise after the New Moon (the start of the Noumenia), begin the first three days of the ritual. Light the candle aligned towards the East and face the East as well if you can (not required). On sunrise of each of these three days, recite the Pater Noster once and the Gloria Patri three times. Recite an adaption of the prayer from the Heptameron (normally to be used instead of invocations of the angels of the airs when working above the fifth heaven):
O God, mighty and merciful!
O God, great, excellent, and honored through endless ages!
O God, powerful, strong, and without beginning!
O God, wise, illustrious, just, and divinely loving!
I ask you, most holy Father, that I should complete and completely realize my work, labor, and petition, You who live and reign, world without end. Bless me in all times, in all days, in all places, in all ways. Let boundless bounty and blessing come to me from the four corners of the world. Help me, o Lord, in my life that I may come to be girded by the strength and aid of the world, subject only to You. Amen.
On the sunrise of the fourth day, go to the altar and face East if you can (not required). Recite the following prayer over the altar:
O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
O God, make speed to save me.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
On this day, pray the first section of verses (Psalm 119:1-8) corresponding to the Hebrew letter Aleph. As is traditional, it’s important to actually read this from a hardcopy Bible, but that’s only if you care about being traditional. After praying this section of Psalm 119, meditate briefly on the meaning and content of the section just recited, closing with a silent prayer for the blessing of the world to infuse your life, empower you, strengthen you, illumine you, and assist you in all undertakings.
Repeat this process for the next 21 days, reciting each of the sections of Psalm 119 in turn. Thus, on the fifth day, recite the second section of Psalm 119 (Bet); on the sixth, the third section (Gimel); on the seventh, the fourth section (Dalet); and so on until the 25th day, reciting the 22nd section (Tav). Eventually, the 7-day candle you lit earlier will burn out; on the next sunrise, light the next candle going in a clockwise direction (so East, South, West, then North). The first three candles should have burned out by the 25th day, with more than half of the fourth and final candle having been consumed. If they burn longer than expected, set alight the next candle on the expected day using the flame from the old candle; if they burn shorter than expected, set alight the next candle on the expected day rather than immediately.
On the 26th day, begin the process of closing the ritual for the final three days. The process is the similar to the first three days: on sunrise of each of these three days, recite the Pater Noster once and the Gloria Patri three times. Finally, recite Matthew 7:7-8 from the Bible:
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Ideally, the candle-verse breakdown should go like this:
- Three days of preliminary prayer, Aleph, Bet, Gimel, Dalet
- Heh, Vav, Zayin, Chet, Tet, Yod, Kaph
- Lamed, Mem, Nun, Samekh, Ayin, Peh, Tzaddi
- Qoph, Resh, Shin, Tav, three days of final prayer
On the 29th day, the day before the New Moon (maybe two days depending on the specific month we’re in), all the candles should have burnt out entirely. This is the final day of the ritual when all the other work has been done. First, take your picture and burn it to an ash, then collect the rest of the ash from the Psalm 119 printout and mix it together. If there’s any wax or soot residue from the four seven-day candles, take a small scraping from each candle and mix it with the ash. Get a small vial of good olive oil and mix the ash in fully and well. Dispose of the rest of the remains from the ritual, then set the vial of ash where your picture used to sit, and set three white candles close around the vial. Light them and make an offering of praise in thanksgiving to God for his help and blessing in your life; I recommend the thanksgiving prayers I use, based on Draja Mickaharic’s prayer from the Old Testament. Pray over the oil mixed with the ash that it may assist you henceforth in all your undertakings, both those you desire and those you ought to desire, in the things you do and the things you ought to do, that you may always receive the blessing and strength and courage of the Lord in all your life. Let the candles burn down completely. Once they’ve burned out, the ritual is complete and finished.
The oil mixed with the ash is to be kept safe as a special and private anointing oil for yourself. It’s intrinsically tied to you and your life, and not to be used by others or on the tools of others, only on you and your tools in your workings. Anoint yourself with this oil (perhaps using Psalm 23, perhaps using my own prayer of anointing that you might find useful) before any working or operation, even if it’s a mundane thing like going to an interview; heck, anoint yourself with it upon rising every day. This oil is a blessing for you in addition to having received the blessings from praying Psalm 119 itself.
Some suggestions for alternatives or enhancements to the ritual:
- Instead of using the preface prayer (O Lord, open thou my lips…) to the sections of Psalm 119, you might use Psalm 23 instead, which is also appropriate here.
- A la my daily mathetic letter meditations, you may find it helpful to do a similar meditation ritual for the letter of the section of Psalm 119 being meditated upon, complete with a visualization of the Hebrew letter itself and projecting it and the sounds of the letter into the ash.
- If you’d like to focus the entire ritual to a particular end rather than a general empowerment, dress the candles and your representation with an appropriate oil, as well as the Psalm printout before you burn it. You could also write out the intention of the ritual on the back of your photo as well, writing it in a circle around your name and birth information.
- Consider dedicating the four candles to the four archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel in their appropriate directions (using whatever associations you prefer for this), and invoke them on each day their specific candles are burning. Going with the Tarot theme, you might place the Kings of the Tarot under each candle (King of Wands for Michael, King of Swords for Raphael, etc.) and place the World card under yourself. In the picture of my working setup above, you can see that I did just this, with the World card hidden under the silver platter with my picture and the ashes.
- I only clean off a ritual surface with a light wash of Florida water and holy water (obtained from a church is always a good choice, but you can make it on your own, too), but you might enhance the ritual area by drawing an empowerment sigil under your representation, lining the surface with crossroads dirt, writing sacred verses from the Bible around your representation to be covered with the Psalm ash, or the like.
- The ritual above says only one section of Psalm 119 per day during the main part of the ritual month. You might also consider saying the entire psalm each day, or building up to saying the entire psalm over the course of the month (saying the Aleph section on the first day of this part of the month, Aleph and Beta on the second, Aleph through Gimel on the third, until the final day when you say the entire Psalm 119).
- I know that there are angels for each of the letters of the Greek alphabet, and I’m sure that a similar set of angels exist for the letters of the Hebrew script, though I don’t know (yet) of one. You might consider doing an invocation of the letter-angel on each day corresponding to the particular section of Psalm 119 being said. Alternatively, you might consider invoking the angel associated with the force that is associated with each Hebrew letter (e.g. Heh is associated with Aries, so invoke the angel of Aries, Malkhidael; Aleph is associated with Air, so invoke the angel of Air, Raphael). You can find these names courtesy of Agrippa (book II, chapter 7 for the elements, chapter 10 for the planets, chapter 14 for the signs).
- If you want to be more Jewish about this, instead of reciting the prayers at sunrise, try doing them at sunset when the Jews consider their days to start.
- To be honest, I hadn’t originally considered saving the ash from the Psalm and mixing it with the photo to turn it into an anointing oil, but hey, “waste not, want not”. Instead of doing that, you could save the ash with the picture (not burning it) and turning it into a mojo bag or other similar charm to keep with you.
- You might consider using a lodestone or magnet lightly dusted with the Psalm 119 ash and placing it on top of your image so that it attracts all the blessings of the world to you. This magnet would be placed into the vial of oil to continue drawing the blessings to it and to you over time. I don’t prefer doing this, only because with the ritual, there’s no need to attract anything from the world that you’re already the center of; all of the cosmos revolves around you in this ritual layout. There are arguments for and against this, and I can see benefits for doing both. Experiment!
- If you want to speed up the process, you might be able to condense the whole working into seven days. The first day would be for setup and opening prayers (days 0 through 3) and the last day for closing prayers and thanksgiving (days 26 through 29). The intermediate five days would go more-or-less as usual, except that you’d recite four sections of Psalm 119 a day: open with section Aleph, two of the sections of the psalm (Beth and Gimel, Dalet and Heh, Vav and Zayin, Cheth and Teth, etc.), then close with section Tav. This maintains a coherency along the entire week, but in a faster manner. Still, why rush it? Why use the microwave when you can have a slow-cooked, higher-quality meal instead?
- As with any prolonged ritual working, this may have some unintended side-effects. Read through the entire psalm first before deciding whether you want to use this ritual. I honestly didn’t expect this ritual to have as many effects as it did, not all of which were entirely pleasant to go through, but I’m glad it did.