Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: The Planetary/Spirit Stuff and Shape of the Lamen

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 began talking about the lamen, where it comes from and how DSIC implements the design given by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim in his (spurious?) Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, and the divine names to be used on the outer ring of the lamen.  If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

Now that we’ve gone over the outer ring of names on the lamen, let’s talk about the actual meat of the thing: the information, names, characters, and layout of all this on the lamen itself.  DSIC itself doesn’t have any text-based description or design of the lamen, but it does give an example of one for the angel Michael of the Sun in its illustration:

More than that, we know that the lamen design is clearly based off of Agrippa’s Fourth Book, from which we know that we need the following (book IV, chapter 10):

…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…

This means we need to have as main design elements a single hexagram (six-pointed star consisting of two triangles, one laid upside-down on top of the other), and at least four pentagrams (five-pointed stars) arranged around the hexagram.  The central hexagram is the big thing here, as it’s the main focus of the lame.  Everyone I’ve ever seen uses the hexagram to specify the seal and name of the spirit we’re calling upon in the ritual itself; if you want to conjure the angel Michael of the Sun, then following the example of DSIC, you’d put the name “Michael” and his seal in the central hexagon of the hexagram; if Gabriel of the moon, “Gabriel” with his seal, and so forth.  Pretty straightforward, no problems there.

What’s interesting, however, are the pentagrams around the hexagram.  Agrippa clearly says that these aren’t just for decoration, but explicitly for conjuring other spirits.  What sorts of spirits?  Read the first part of the Agrippa quote above closely: “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 “let there be placed so many characters of five corners….as the spirits we would call together at once”.  In other words, the lamen is designed to be sufficiently general that it can call upon any kind of spirit (and I do mean any kind, admitting that all spirits have some sort of planetary affinity), but in such a way that it reinforces spiritual hierarchies.

So, let’s say that we wanted to perform a conjuration specifically of Nakhiel, the intelligence of the Sun.  In this case, though the usual common modern approach would be to make a lamen with the name and sigil of Nakhiel in the central hexagram, the proper Agrippan method of doing so would be to place Nakhiel and its sigil in one of the pentagrams around the hexagram, keeping Michael of the Sun’s name and character in the hexagram.  Likewise, if we were to call upon Taphthartharath, the spirit of Mercury, and if we wanted to call upon the intelligence of Mercury Tiriel as well to keep Taphthartharath in line, then we’d make a lamen with the hexagram having the name and seal of Raphael of Mercury inside it, with the name and sigil of Tiriel in one pentagram and those of Taphthartharath in another pentagram.

Alternatively, note how Agrippa also says that the name and character “of the Star” can be placed in the hexagram, not just “of the Spirit his governor”.  This means that instead of constructing a lamen such that the ruling angel of that planetary sphere gets put in the middle (symbolically giving that spirit dominance over all other spirits around it), the planet itself would be put in the middle and all the other spirits around it (symbolically recognizing that all those spirits belong to that planet).  Using this approach, if we wanted to make a lamen for Michael of the Sun, we’d put the name “Sol” (or “Sun”, or “Shemesh” in Hebrew/Celestial script, etc.) with the characters of the Sun (book I, chapter 33) or number square seal of the Sun (book II, chapter 22) in the center part of the hexagram, then put the name and seal of Michael in one of the pentagrams around it.  For our Mercury example above, we’d put the name “Mercurius”, “Mercury”, “Kochab”, etc. with either the characters or number square seal of Mercury in the hexagram, with the names and seals/sigils for the spirits Raphael, Tiriel, and Taphthartharath in the pentagrams around it.

I actually like the approach of putting the planet in the middle of the hexagram, but it seems that literally nobody does this: not Fr. RO, not Fr. AC, not Fr. Acher, nobody, not even Barrett himself in the DSIC illustration.  In fact, it doesn’t seem that anyone has ever taken this approach, whether using the planet in the center and all other spirits around it or even using a ruling spirit in the middle and subordinate spirits around it, and the reason is pretty apparent to me: writing names and seals in those tiny pentagrams is hard.  No size is given for the lamen in either Agrippa or DSIC, but if we would need to make the lamen large enough to support both the writing of the name and character of whatever we put in the central hexagram as well as in the pentagram for the spirits, and that’s pretty large, even if we make the central hexagram the same size as the pentagrams—which nobody does, and probably for the simple design reason of making whatever’s in the center stand out visually both in arrangement and in size.

That being said, let’s go back to the DSIC-style lamen that focuses on Michael.  The DSIC illustration gives the name of the spirit twice, once in Hebrew above the hexagram and once in Latin inside the hexagram.  Why both?  Agrippa doesn’t say to do this, and DSIC is silent on the matter.  Yet, it seems that everyone follows this method, and I’m not sure why.  On this, since we’re looking at Agrippa here anyway, let’s turn to Donald Tyson who, in his version of the Fourth Book from Llewellyn, gives both the original text and a lengthy analysis of it, which is super useful here.  He also gives a bit of interpretation of what Agrippa says about the lamen, along with how Barrett interpreted it for DSIC:

… In the center is drawn a “character of six corners”, which I take to mean a hexagram rather than a hexagon.  In the center of this is written the name and character of the planet, or of the governing angel of the planet, to which the angel invoked is subject.

Around the hexagram are placed as many “characters of five corners” (probably pentagrams rather than pentagons, even though Turner [the original English translator for Agrippa] uses the word “pentagons” here) as there are good spirits to be invoked.  If it happens that only a single spirit is to be invoked, nonetheless four pentagrams are used, and in them is written the name and character of that spirit.  What is to be done if two or three spirits are to be invoked is not made clear in the text.  Perhaps four is the minimum number of pentagrams to be used when the number of spirits is less than four. …

In the example of a lamen made to these specifications that is provided by Francis Barrett in his work, The Magus (plate immediately before bk. 2, pt. 4), here redrawn for clarity, we see Barrett’s interpretation of these instructions, which is not without defect.  It is stated that the hexagram should be drawn in the middle of the lamen, but Barrett’s engraver placed it below center.  The name “Michael”, who is the governing angel of the sun, is written within the hexagram in Latin letters, but also in Hebrew letters above the hexagram.  In my opinion this repetition of the name is unnecessary, and it should not be written outside the hexagram.  Also within the hexagram is the character of Michael.  Around the hexagram are six pentagrams, which are uninscribed in this general example of the lamen, but which would represent six spirits under the authority of the sun, and Michael, who are to be summoned.  The names of these spirits would be written in the pentagrams.  Thirteen divine names are written around [the] lamen within a double circle: El, Elohim, Elohe, Lebaoth [sic], Elion, Escherchie, Adoni, Jah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Saday, Jod, Ehevi.  …

I agree with Tyson on this matter, that the repetition of the name of the spirit to be conjured as shown by the DSIC illustration is unnecessary.  Perhaps it’s to specify what the spirit is we’re actually focused on, in case we’re calling upon a subordinate spirit?  It’s not clear, but I don’t think that it’s needed.  In that case, we could get rid of the outside-the-hexagram name entirely to save some space to make the central hexagram and surrounding pentagrams larger, giving us more space to write names and seals where needed.  However, it would also seem that I and Tyson are in the minority there; everyone else appears to use the name (written most often in Hebrew, sometimes both Hebrew and Latin, and even in one instance where I’ve seen it written in Arabic)  outside any such star in the lamen.

But, going back to the pentagrams, Agrippa says that there should always be a minimum of four.  Why?  It’s not stated in the Fourth Book, and as far as I can tell, it’s not in the Three Books, either.  There are two things that come to mind that might explain this, and the first is a pretty simple one: four stars for the four directions, kings, or archangels.  This effectively reinforces the notion of four “pillars”, for lack of a better term, to further ground and align ourselves as the magician in connecting with the spirit or spirits we’re conjuring, and given the stellar alignment of the angels in general, I’m guessing that these would be the four archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel as would be present on the pedestal/table/Table of Practice…but I don’t like this explanation, as I’d expect such an alignment to be made more explicit if that were the case.

Rather, I think what’s going on is that the Fourth Book is designing lamens in a general enough way to account for a minimum of four spirits per planet no matter what.  Hear out my logic on this:

  • In book II, chapter 10 and chapter 13, Agrippa gives us a single angel for each of the seven planets.
  • In book II, chapter 22, Agrippa gives a bunch of divine names for each planet, including subordinate spirits.  The planets Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, and Mercury all have one intelligence and one spirit each; Venus has an intelligence, spirit, and intelligences; and the Moon has a spirit, a spirit of spirits, and an intelligence of intelligences.
  • To account for all seven planets, there are either three or four total spirits: one angel, one spirit, one intelligence OR intelligence of intelligences (for the Moon), and (only in the case of the Moon) a spirit of spirits OR (only in the case of Venus) intelligences.
  • This method then suggests that the name and character of the planet should be in the hexagram, with all other spirits in the pentagrams.
  • Thus, because there are a baseline of four entities for each planet (though most only have three), there should be four stars at minimum, to account for all these different subordinate spirits given in book II by Agrippa.

Now, I don’t fully buy that explanation, either, because what if we have, say, six solar spirits that aren’t any of the above, even if we were to put the angel of the Sun in the central hexagram?  After all, there are plenty of texts that give a variety of spirits, messengers, intelligences, and other types of spirits for the planets, in addition to one’s own familiar spirits that one might receive from that sphere as well.  I don’t know, but that’s the best explanation I can come up with for why there must be four pentagrams from an Agrippan perspective, and it is a workable explanation, if it weren’t for the fact that for most planets, only three pentagrams would suffice using this logic.  I can’t say for sure.  There might be something I’m missing, or another textual influence that I’m not picking up on here.  (We’ll probably return to this point later on when we talk more about such influences.)

And what about using more pentagrams?  Just keep adding them on, I suppose; Agrippa just says to have as many pentagrams as there are spirits to be conjured.  That said, the fewer, the better; I suppose we should stick to at least one but no more than six in a single conjuration.  Heck, as the Arbatel says (in aphorism VI.36), “Care is to be taken, that experiments be not mixed with experiments; but that every one be onely simple and several: for God and Nature have ordained all things to a certain and appointed end…therefore simplicity is chiefly to be studied, and the knowledge of such simples is to be sought for from God”.

All the same, Agrippa is clear that there needs to be at least four pentagrams.  Yet, even if we put the angel we’re conjuring in the central hexagram, it doesn’t seem like we need to go with the minimum number of pentagrams in general.  After all, the DSIC illustration itself gives six pentagrams around the hexagram, even though the caption gives the lamen only to Michael, and Fr. AC, following the DSIC example, always gives six pentagrams to all of his lamens in GTSC.  Fr. RO, on the other hand, prefers to stick just to four, as shown by his RWC version and SS version of the lamen for the angel of Jupiter below:

Personally, I fall in line with DSIC and Fr. AC to always use six pentagrams around the lamen; it just looks nicer.  But, knowing what my lamens I already use look like, what would they look like if we took some of our observations above into account?  Let’s say we wanted to make a lamen for the angel Michael alone, and another one for all the four main Agrippan spirits of Venus (angel Anael, intelligence Hagiel, spirit Qedemel, intelligences B’nai Seraphim).  What would we do?  Here’s the approach I’d probably take nowadays:

  • Use the ten general divine names (or twelve, as I said last time), plus any others for the specific planet of the spirits to be conjured
  • Write the divine names in Latin script, starting from the top of the lamen (and not the left), beginning with the general names and ending with the specific ones
  • Use the planet’s name (in Latin) and character in the hexagram
  • Put the other spirits’ names and characters in the pentagrams
  • Use the standard Latin-script spelling of the angels from the Heptameron, corrected Agrippa elsewhere (e.g. reading “Bne Seraphim” as “B’nai Seraphim”)
  • Only write the name of each spirit once in its proper star, i.e. no big name outside any of the stars inside the ring of divine names
  • Always use six pentagrams, even if fewer spirits are being conjured
  • Try to place and balance out the names in the pentagrams however necessary according to the number of spirits

That would get us two lamens like the following:

Of course, if we wanted to use the common approach of putting the presiding angel in the hexagram instead of the planet, we’d get these:

While I like the change in the divine names to make use of the more planetary-specific ones, I think we can see why the pentagrams are so underutilized for spirit names and characters: they’re so damn small that it really is a pain to have names in them without making the central hexagram as small, too.  This is a bother, but it is following specifications according to Agrippa.  But why have pentagrams at all in this use?  Consider what Agrippa says in book IV, chapter 12 when dealing with stubborn or lying spirits: “if you doubt of any lye, make without the Circle with the consecrated Sword, the figure of a triangle or Pentagram, and compel the Spirit to enter into it”.  We’ll get into the topic of magic circles later, but note the similarity here of what’s going on: we’re putting a spirit into a structure of binding and obedience.  But, if we’re not putting anything into them, then an argument could be made that we shouldn’t have them at all in the design.  I wouldn’t know how to answer that point, because I simply don’t know what purpose the pentagrams themselves fill on the lamen if they’re not used for containing spirits, but they are used all the same.

However, DSIC does say nothing about using the pentagrams on the lamen in this way, so perhaps the author of DSIC meant (for this very same reason) to just use just one spirit for the lamen, and that placed in a central large hexagram so as to avoid difficulty when writing the names.  For that, I think a third version might be best, which is just the second set of lamens above without any secondary spirit and the central hexagram much larger than the rest:

You’ll also note that all of the pentagrams are pointing upward in these lamens.  While I can think of good meaningful reasons to do so, it feels a little weird to me only because there’s a graphical imbalance and improper use of whitespace.  I would personally be inclined to rotate each pentagram so that it points outward from the central hexagram (as I showed in my second set of “custom” lamens from before), but that’s just a minor stylistic choice on my part.  Looking at the older grimoires, like the Key of Solomon and Lemegeton or Heptameron, it seems like it’s about 50/50 whether surrounding pentagrams are rotated or not.  You could take it or leave it, I suppose; it’s a really minor difference, but I think it looks a bit nicer.

And, just to clarify something I mentioned in passing in the last post: what if the spirit we’re conjuring isn’t a planetary one?  What if we’re not conjuring an angel, intelligence, spirit, messenger, familiar, etc. of a planet, but some other sort of spirit entirely, like a spirit of the land, a demon, or some other type of spirit?  What would we do for all the planetary stuff?  Well, in short, there is nothing that is not planetary in some way; Agrippa is clear on this point that all things that exist underneath in or underneath the realms of the seven planets have an affinity with a planet.  Every possible spirit can be given some sort of planetary nature; indeed, in book IV, chapter 12 (“Calling forth evil spirits to a magic circle”), if we want to call upon an “evil” (demonic, goetic, whatever) spirit:

…it first behooves us to consider, and to know his nature, to which of the Planets it agrees, and what Offices are distributed to him from that Planet; which being known, let there be sought out a place fit and proper for his invocation, according to the nature of the Planet, and the quality of the Offices of the said Spirit, as near as the same may be done…let there be chosen a convenient time, both for the quality of the Air, serene, clear, quiet, and fitting for the Spirits to assume bodies; as also of the quality and nature of the Planet, and of the Spirit, as to wit, on his day, or the time wherein he rules: he may be fortunate or infortunate, sometimes of the day, and sometimes of the night, as the Stars and Spirits do require. …

In that sense, the same lamen format as given above can be used for any spirit.  For instance, if we wanted to use the DSIC method for a spirit from the Lemegeton Goetia, eschewing that specific conjuration method in favor of the DSIC one, we know from the Lemegeton that “the seals of those 72 kings are to be made in Metals, the chiefest King[s] in gold, Marquises in silver, Dukes in copper, Prelates in tin, Knights in mercury/pewter, and Earls in [a mix of] copper and silver equally alike”.  Note that these are the metals given to the planets, and were written originally using the planetary glyphs to stand in for the terms for the metals.  Admitting that the seals of Earls should probably be made in iron, if it weren’t for iron’s property of destroying spirits, then we’d have planetary affinities for each of the 72 demons of the Lemegeton Goetia.  So, if we were to make a DSIC-style lamen for, say, Dantalion, we know that he’s a duke, and thus given to the planet of Venus, so we’d put the name and seal of Anael the angel of Venus in the central hexagram and the name and seal of Dantalion in a pentagram around the hexagram.

Just another small note after all that: I made a point to say that, when describing my lamens above, that I would “write the divine names in Latin script, starting from the top of the lamen (and not the left), beginning with the general names and ending with the specific ones”.  The DSIC lamen starts the divine names at the leftmost point of the lamen and goes clockwise from there.  I find this odd and can’t figure out the reasoning for it; both I and Fr. AC start at the top and go clockwise, but Fr. RO sticks closer to the DSIC illustration and starts at the left, as well, so he’s being more faithful to the DSIC text here.  The only thing I can think of is—maybe—when wearing the lamen, assuming the lamen should be facing away from the magician towards the crystal (and I see no reason why that wouldn’t be the case), the name “El” would be present closest to the right hand, the hand which DSIC says is to both wear the ring and use the wand.  We’ll touch on those two items later, but that’s the only thing I can think of to explain the positioning of the starting point of divine names on the lamen in the DSIC illustration, and it’s not a very good explanation at that.  Still, something to point out.

And one last note!  While we’re touching a bit on materials here, I want to save the materials for the lamen (and all the other tools and supplies, bits and bobs of DSIC) for a later post, there is something else to mention here as well: what shape should the lamen be?  We know the design of it as given in this post and the previous one, but we know that we need to make this lamen to wear from the neck on the chest for the conjuration.  Knowing that the design should be in a double circle as shown above, what shape should the item as a whole be?  Agrippa says that the “outward form or figure thereof may be square, circular, or triangular, or of the like sort, according to the rule of the numbers” (book IV, chapter 10).  This suggests that we should be using a polygon of a number of sides equal to the “rule of the numbers”, as suggested by Agrippa in book II, chapter 22, i.e. three for Saturn, four for Jupiter, and so forth.  That means:

  • Saturn: triangle
  • Jupiter: square
  • Mars: pentagon
  • Sun: hexagon (though Fr. AC in GTSC gives a lovely sunburst pattern for one example of this with 24 rays, and 24 = 4 × 6)
  • Venus: heptagon
  • Mercury: octagon
  • Moon: nonagon (which Fr. AC in GTSC gives a beautiful scalloped form for each of the sides, each side curving inwards slightly)

However, in general, a circle will suffice for them all, as all polygons are approximations of the circle anyway, which is properly has no number of sides at all (except, perhaps, infinite).  However, if you have the means for it, go with shaping the lamen in a shape appropriate to the planet being conjured, as it will increase the planetary attunement and resonance you’re going for to begin with for the lamen.

To make the lamen wearable, there are three major approaches I can think of:

  1. The first is simply to poke or bore a small hole at the top of the lamen itself and thread it with a ribbon, string, cord, thong, or some other kind of strap to make a large pendant out of it, wearing the lamen directly on the chest.  This is easiest no matter what material you make the lamen out of.  The strap can be colored appropriately to the planet of the spirit.
  2. The second approach is to construct the lamen so that it has a hook or loop at the top of some sort; think of those pre-made, pre-cast pewter pendants you’d get.  This is best if you can make the lamen out of some sort of durable material like metal; it keeps the body of the lamen unpoked and unholed, while giving it a more professional, finer look.
  3. The third approach, which I personally prefer, is to make the lamen as a sort of insert into a frame.  This keeps the lamen whole and without having to poke holes in it.  For this purpose, I got a small circular wooden picture frame and put a hook in the top of it with a cord passing through it.  This way, I get to keep my lamens whole and unpierced while still making them able to wear around the neck.  However, this only really works with thin lamens made out of paper or thin metal.

With that, I think we can wrap up this bit on the lamens.  We’ll pick up with some of the other tools from DSIC next time, specifically the wand and the ring mentioned in the ritual text.

6 responses

  1. Pingback: Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: The Wand and the Ring « The Digital Ambler

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

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

  4. Pingback: Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Making What We Need « The Digital Ambler

  5. Pingback: Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: What To Do Now That the Spirit Is Here « The Digital Ambler

  6. Pingback: Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Recap, Summary, Variations « The Digital Ambler

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