Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Agrippa’s Lamen Design and the Divine Names

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and now that we wrapped up the table and pedestal (and/or the Table of Practice), we can move on to other topics.  Last time, we wrapped up the Table of Practice, putting together all the elements we discussed previously, and now we can move onto other topics, and today, I want to talk about the lamen.  If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

The biggest challenge in implementing DSIC is the table upon which the pedestal sits (the GTSC approach), or if you prefer to forego the pedestal and lump its designs into the table, creating a Table of Practice to perform the conjuration by (the SS approach).  The reason why this is so challenging is that DSIC only gives the briefest of descriptions about the table without giving an example of how it should look, as well as the pedestal where only one half of it is shown.  But, once we get the table and pedestal and/or the Table of Practice out of the way, the rest of the text’s tools and methods becomes a lot easier to grok and implement.  Let’s remind ourselves what the illustration from DSIC looks like:

Today, let’s (finally) move on from the table/pedestal/Table of Practice talk and get on with the other implements, and specifically, let’s talk about the lamen.  What even is a lamen?  The word itself is (supposedly) Latin, meaning “plate” as in “breastplate”, and typically refers to a wide or large flat thing worn as a pendant suspended from the neck on top of the chest.  In conjuration rituals, there are plenty of different types of lamens, as many as there are grimoires; sometimes the lamen is specifically attuned to a particular spirit to be worked with, sometimes it’s just a general design used to protect the person who wears it in all conjurations.

The lamen of DSIC is of the former type above, where it’s described…well, it isn’t, really.  DSIC mentions the lamen once, and not even by that term:

Then taking your ring and pentacle, put the ring on the little finger of your right hand; hang the pentacle round thy neck ; (Note, 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), then take your black ebony wand, with the gilt characters on it and trace the circle…

That’s it.  There’s no description given in DSIC about the lamen at all, besides the illustration given.  That’s it.  There’s no description given in DSIC about the lamen at all, besides the illustration given.  So, what do we see as far as that?

  • A ring of divine names (El, Elohim, Elohe, Zebaoth, Elion, Escherchie, Adonai, Jah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Saday, Yod, Ehevi)
  • A squiggle at the end of the names
  • Inside the ring of divine names, the following:
    • The name of the angel Michael, given in (wobbly wonky) Hebrew square script
    • A hexagram underneath the Hebrew name
    • Six pentagrams, one each between the arms of the hexagram
    • The name Michael written in Latin along with the seal of the angel Michael

So…where do we go from here?

First, note that the text says “the pentacle”, not “the lamen” or “the holy table” like what the DSIC illustration says.  Nobody has ever said or suggested anything else but that the pentacle refers to anything but the lamen, as even Joseph Peterson of Esoteric Archives says in his notes on the ritual that “the lamin [sic] is also referred to in the text as ‘the pentacle'”.  This makes sense, as there’s no other mention of anything else that could be the lamen in the ritual text itself.  Remember this, because we’ll touch on this later on in a future post.

For comparison, let me show what I’ve been using this whole time.  I’ve made two forms of lamens in the past based on my work with Fr. RO’s RWC and SS, one closer to the DSIC form and one of my own style that I like a bit better for stylistic reasons.  I present both styles, old and new, below, made according to the names and rules given by Fr. RO, using Celestial script for the angelic name instead of square script Hebrew.

It’s important to recall that DSIC was not written in a vacuum.  Heck, even as far as derivative late Solomonic works, DSIC isn’t really a complete text on its own.  Yes, if you know how to read between the lines and take the Arbatel approach of “real magicians already know what to do with this”, then you can figure out what to change and what to replace in order to conjure other spirits, but even then, DSIC has a lot going on behind the scenes that isn’t apparent in the text.  We know that DSIC makes its (almost certainly likely) appearance in Francis Barrett’s The Magus, which was largely plagiarized from a whole bunch of other texts, especially the Three Books and Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy of Henrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim.

In that context, what DSIC is actually presenting makes a lot of sense.  Consider that Agrippa’s Three Books provides a true wealth of information about, well, occult philosophy: the occult-yet-natural virtues of various things in our world, the spiritual significance and meaning behind so many of the things occultists and magicians do, the cosmologies and structures that underlie occult practice and worldviews, and a general overview of different approaches to the divine and to the occult that were used in both antique and (then) modern times.  However, despite all this, Agrippa only provided information about the occult that could be used in rituals, without providing any rituals to actually use.  That’s where the Fourth Book comes into play; this book, which may well be spurious and not actually penned by Agrippa himself, especially since it appeared thirty years after Agrippa’s death and given that one of Agrippa’s students denounced its attribution to his teacher.

Regardless of its origins, it does tie into and build upon the Three Books by giving a bit more meat of actual occult practice, at least where the conjuration and interfacing with spirits is concerned, and gives actual implements and practices to use.  The short text begins (my emendations for modern style and spelling):

In our Books of Occult Philosophy, we have not so compendiously, as copiously, declared the principles, grounds, and reasons of Magic itself, and after what manner the experiments thereof are to be chosen, elected, and compounded, to produce many wonderful effects; but because in those books they are treated of, rather theoretically, then practically; and some also are not handled completely and fully, and others very figuratively, and as it were Enigmatically and obscure Riddles, as being those which we have attained unto with great study, diligence, and very curious searching and exploration, and are heretofore set forth in a more rude and unfashioned manner. Therefore in this book, which we have composed and made as it were a Complement and Key of our other books of Occult Philosophy, and of all Magical Operations, we will give unto you the documents of holy and undefiled verity, and inexpugnable and irresistible magical discipline, and the most pleasant and delectable experiments of the sacred deities. So that as by the reading of our other books of Occult Philosophy, you may earnestly cover the knowledge of these things; even so with reading this book, you shall truly triumph. Wherefore let silence hide these things within the secret closets of your religious heart, and conceal them with constant taciturnity.

This also explains why the Fourth Book also included other texts, such as Agrippa’s “On Geomancy” and non-Agrippan texts including the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano, the Isagoge, “Of Astronomical Geomancy” of Gerard of Cremona, and the Arbatel, all of which serve to fulfill an all-around practice of magic for someone in Agrippa’s day in the 1500s and early 1600s.  However, even then, the Fourth Book could only be used as a guide to spiritual works and conjurations of spirits if someone knew how to piece together what was presented there.  The rest of the texts could be used as extensions of this, but if one were to focus just on the Agrippan non-geomantic works, then there’s not a whole lot to cover; the next best choice would be to use the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano, which doesn’t fully line up with what’s given in the Fourth Book.

That’s where DSIC comes into play.  If you match up what’s in DSIC with Agrippa’s Fourth Book, you see more than just a few parallels; it’s as if DSIC was written as a direct implementation of what’s prescribed for the occult practice of conjuration of spirits in the Fourth Book.  Not all of it, mind you; some of DSIC, especially the prayers, come from other Solomonic texts (including most certainly the Heptameron but also likely other sources), and some of the equipment isn’t described in Agrippa that’s used in DSIC.  However, of them, the lamen most certainly is.

Using Joseph H. Peterson’s chapter numbering of the Fourth Book, we turn now to book IV, chapter 10 which has information “cocnerning the invocation of good and evil spirits”, in the first parts regarding the “Preparation of the place of working and other things to be arranged” generally and “the holy table and lamen” specifically:

Now the Lamen which is to be used to invoke any good spirit, you shall make after this manner; either in metal conformable, or in new wax, mixed with species and colors conformable: or it may be made in clean paper, with convenient colors: 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, both the general names as well as the special. And in the center of the Lamen, let there be drawn a character of six corners (hexagram); in the middle whereof, let there be written the name and character of the Star, or of the Spirit his governor, 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 (Pentagram), as the spirits we would call together at once. And if we shall call only one spirit, nevertheless there shall be made four Pentagram, 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.

And this is the way of making the general Table, serving for the invocation of all good spirits whatsoever. Nevertheless we may make special Tables congruent to every spirit, by the rule which we have above spoken of concerning holy Pentacles.

(Just to note, even though the text here says that this is the design for the “holy table and lamen”, the two terms should be considered identical to each other and not with one referring to the table used to support the pedestal or the Table of Practice, as even the DSIC illustration gives the caption to the lamen as “the Lamen, or Holy Table of the Archangel Michael”.)

When this refers to “the divine names, both the general names as well as the special”, he’s referring to an earlier chapter, book IV, chapter 6 on pentacles and sigils:

But we now come to speak of the holy and sacred Pentacles and Sigils. Now these pentacles, are as it were certain holy signs preserving us from evil chances and events, and helping and assisting us to bind, exterminate, and drive away evil spirits, and alluring the good spirits, and reconciling them unto us. And these pentacles do consist either of Characters of the good spirits of the superior order, or of sacred pictures of holy letters or revelations, with apt and fit versicles, which are composed either of Geometrical figures and holy names of God, according to the course and manner of many of them; or they are compounded of all of them, or very many of them mixed. And the Characters which are useful for us to constitute and make the pentacles, they are the Characters of the good Spirits, especially and chiefly of the good spirits of the first and second order, and sometimes also of the third order. And this kind of Characters are especially to be named holy; and then those Characters which we have above called holy. What Character soever therefore of this kind is to be instituted, we must draw about him a double circle, wherein we must write the name of his Angel: and if we will add some divine name congruent with his Spirit and Office, it will be of the greater force and efficacy. And if we will draw about him any angular figure, according to the manner of his numbers, that also shall be lawful to be done. …

…Moreover, let there be written about it the ten general names, which are, El, Elohim, Elohe, Zebaoth, Elion, Escerchie, Adonay, Jah, Tetragrammaton, Saday.

There’s plenty else in the chapter, too, that describe the sorts of pentacles that we’d see from texts like the Key of Solomon, or like what Balthazar Blacke describes for making custom kabbalistic seals and pentacles.  But the above part is what we want to focus on for making lamens, which constitute a pentacle of sorts for a given kind of spirit.  (Also, note that “double circle” phrasing again.  Remember what we talked about when we brought that up for the design of the DSIC table?  I just wanted to point that out again.)

So let’s sum up what Agrippa is saying about the lamen.  A lamen should be constructed from the following:

  • A double circle
  • Between the two circles, a ring of divine names, both the general (El, Elohim, Elohe, Zebaoth, Elion, Escerchie, Adonay, Jah, Tetragrammaton, Saday) as well as any specific ones (presumably to our spirit we’re conjuring)
  • Inside the ring of divine names in the inner circle, the following:
    • A hexagram, in which is written the name and character of the planet or of the spirit that governs it
    • Four or more pentagrams around the hexagram, each containing the name and character of the spirits to be conjured that belong to the planet or which are ruled by the spirit whose own name and character is written in the hexagram

What DSIC is using here as the design for the lamen is basically one interpretation of the instructions given by Agrippa!  First, let’s talk about the divine names.  I once brought up a brief analysis of the names on the lamen as given in DSIC a good long while ago, which some might be interested to read at this point, but let’s focus now on what’s in Agrippa and what’s in DSIC (and accounting for spelling differences):

  • Common to both: El, Elohim, Elohe, Zebaoth, Elion, Esc(h)erchie, Adona(y/i), Jah, Tetragrammaton, Saday
  • Only in Agrippa: —
  • Only in DSIC: Jehovah, Yod, Ehevi

It would seem that DSIC uses the same basic set of names that Agrippa suggests as the ten general names, and adds three more on top of that.  This suggests that these three names are specific for Michael of the Sun in some way, but it’s not entirely clear.  If we turn back to the numeric Scales of Agrippa (book II, chapters 4 through 15) to find what these names might pertain to, then we get:

  • Jehovah (YHVH): this is the name of God of four letters above and beyond any else, and features prominently first in the Scale of Four, which contains references to Michael, especially if we give the letter Yod (the first letter of the name) to the column in which Michael appears (the first column of the table).
  • Yod, found in the Scale of One.  This is the “one Divine essence, the fountain of all virtues and power, whose name is expressed with one most simple Letter”, and is associated with the Sun.
  • Ehevi, which doesn’t appear in Agrippa, but Fr. RO interprets this name to be a variant spelling of Eheieh (AHYH, אהיה), which would be found in the column for Kether in the Scale of Ten; not exactly specific to the Sun, but it’s a reasonable interpretation.  However, based on this spelling in Latin, we’d expect something like AHVY (אהוי) or even HHVY (ההוי).  This latter name appears twice in the Scale of Twelve, being a permutation of the Tetragrammaton, specifically given to…Pisces.  Okay.  However, if we go back to using the spelling Ehevi and אהוי, then we get a name that uses the four letters in Hebrew that can serve as vowels: aleph, heh, vav, and yod.  Given that this name is well known in Hebrew kabbalah (in some cases serving as the name associated with the “left side of Da`ath”, which I don’t think is a concept in Hermetic qabbalah) and in many other occult texts, I think it should really should be “Ehevi” and not “Eheieh” as Fr. RO makes it out to be; Fr. AC keeps this as “Ehevi”.  Yet, I can’t rightly explain why DSIC would use Ehevi here, especially as the name doesn’t otherwise appear in Agrippa or in Francis Barret’s The Magus.  It might be that, from the earlier entry in The Magus that describes the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano which uses a highly similar list of godnames (“Adonai, El, Elohim, Elohe, Zebaoth, Elion, Eserchie, Jah, Tetragrammaton, Sadai, Lord God Most High”), that “Ehevi” might be a Hebraicization of “Lord God Most High” on the part of the author of DSIC.

What’s not clear is whether, based on Agrippa, DSIC proposes to use all these names for all conceivable lamens or whether we should use the ten general names from Agrippa plus any other divine names that are associated with the planet or spirit that we’re focusing on.  Going down the Scales in Agrippa, as well as looking at all the different divine names answering to the numbers of the planets (book II, chapter 22), we can come up with this list of names specific to the planets:

  • Saturn: Vav (if we want to give the third letter of the Tetragrammaton in the Scale of Four to the third column, containing this planet), YHVH Elohim, Ab, Hod, Yah, Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh
  • Jupiter: Heh (if we want to give the second letter of the Tetragrammaton in the Scale of Four to the second column, containing this planet), El, Abba, Ehi, El Ab
  • Mars: Yod (if we want to give the first letter of the Tetragrammaton in the Scale of Four to the first column, containing this planet), Elohim Gibor, Heh, Adonai
  • Sun: Yah (if we want to give the first name given in the Scale of Two to the first column, containing this planet), Yod (if we want to give the first letter of the Tetragrammaton in the Scale of Four to the first column, containing this planet), Eloh(a/e), Vav, Heh, Eloah
  • Venus: Heh (if we want to give the second letter of the Tetragrammaton in the Scale of Four to the second column, containing this planet), YHVH Tzabaoth, Aha
  • Mercury: Vav (if we want to give the third letter of the Tetragrammaton in the Scale of Four to the third column, containing this planet), Elohim Tzabaoth, Azbogah, Din, Doni
  • Moon: El (if we want to give the second name given in the Scale of Two to the second column, containing this planet), Heh (if we want to give the fourth letter of the Tetragrammaton in the Scale of Four to the fourth column, containing this planet), Shaddai, Hod, Elim

Since there’s often some overlap between these names and the ten general divine names Agrippa says to use in his Fourth Book, the overall lists of names we might want to use—if we wanted to be completionist about it, and to keep both “Jehovah” and “Ehevi” as general names to make the overall number twelve, which Agrippa says is a number “of grace and perfection”—then we’d end up with the following lists of names to use for the planetary lamens (using my preferred spellings):

  • Saturn: El, Elohim, Eloah, Tzabaoth, Elion, Esherehie, Adonai, Yah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Shaddai, Ehevi, Ab, Hod, Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh
  • Jupiter: El, Elohim, Eloah, Tzabaoth, Elion, Esherehie, Adonai, Yah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Shaddai, Ehevi, Heh, Abba, Ehi, Ab
  • Mars: El, Elohim, Eloah, Tzabaoth, Elion, Esherehie, Adonai, Yah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Shaddai, Ehevi, Yod, Gibor, Heh
  • Sun: El, Elohim, Eloah, Tzabaoth, Elion, Esherehie, Adonai, Yah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Shaddai, Ehevi, Yod
  • Venus: El, Elohim, Eloah, Tzabaoth, Elion, Esherehie, Adonai, Yah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Shaddai, Ehevi, Heh, Aha
  • Mercury: El, Elohim, Eloah, Tzabaoth, Elion, Esherehie, Adonai, Yah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Shaddai, Ehevi, Vav, Azbogah, Din, Doni
  • Moon: El, Elohim, Eloah, Tzabaoth, Elion, Esherehie, Adonai, Yah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Shaddai, Ehevi, Heh, Hod, Elim

Note that I didn’t include some names, like “Elohim Tzbaoth”, because this name is composed of two words, “Elohim” and “Tzabaoth”, both of which were already included in the ten general names.  In the case of Mars, for which there’s the divine name “Elohim Gibor”, I only added “Gibor”, since “Elohim” was already present in the general names.  Still, even with those considerations, the above lists are pretty above-and-beyond the completionist.  Both Fr. RO and Fr. AC just stick with the names given in the DSIC lamen (with the Fr. RO substitution of Ehevi with Eheieh), which I think is fine, but if you wanted to go the extra distance and use planet-specific names for the lamens, then you’d probably want to consider using the above.

Also, I simply ordered these names by using the general names that Agrippa gives in his Fourth Book first, then the specific names at the end of that list.  In the DSIC example, which has the order “El, Elohim, Elohe, Zebaoth, Elion, Escherchie, Adonai, Jah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Saday, Yod, Ehevi”, two of the non-general names are at the end (as we would expect using this method), but one of them (Jehovah) appears earlier on, immediately after Jah.  I don’t know why this would be the case; perhaps because Jah and Jehovah are already so similar, that they might belong together in some way?  I dunno.  But I think the general rule of giving the specific names at the end would make sense.

There’s also the matter of the squiggle in the ring of names on the lamen in DSIC.  While I’ve seen some replicate this same squiggle in their own productions of the DSIC lamen (mostly Fr. RO’s earliest forms of the lamens from RWC), both Fr. AC and the later works of Fr. RO don’t (and when they agree, I think we know for a fact that this is the proper approach).  I think the reason for the squiggle is easy: when the illustrator of DSIC filled up the ring of names around the lamen, there was extra leftover space, and given that it’s better to have a filled space than an unsightly blank one in something like this, a squiggle was used as just a space-filler, nothing more.  However, it could be implied that this space could be used for yet other divine names, but given the construction of the lamen above, I think we’d’ve already covered that.

So, in the end?  You could just use the “general names” that Agrippa describes in his Fourth Book, or you could use them plus the planet-specific divine names (which aren’t the names of specific spirits) as he gives in his Second Book.  While most magicians who make use of DSIC today (myself included) just use the set of names on the lamen as the DSIC illustration gives it, I think this may well be a misstep on our parts, including names that can be considered specifically solar for all planetary spirits regardless of their planetary affinity.  If we just stick with Agrippa’s general divine names, then we would be good for all spirits no matter what, which might be the safer option.  There’s no way to tell conclusively what the author of DSIC specifically had in mind, but I think it’s what we’re seeing from Agrippa’s Fourth Book about the general and specific divine names of God being used.

We’ll pick up next time on the real meat of the lamen: the stuff that makes it specific for a particular spirit to be worked with.

4 responses

  1. Pingback: Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: “Thy Little Book” and Oaths of Spirits « The Digital Ambler

  2. Pingback: Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: The Magic Circle and its Heptameron Origins « The Digital Ambler

  3. Pingback: Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: On Constructions and Consecrations « The Digital Ambler

  4. Pingback: Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: The Planetary/Spirit Stuff and Shape of the Lamen « The Digital Ambler

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