Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: On Constructions and Consecrations

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 today we can move on to other topics  Last time, we discussed the form and function of the magic circle and its likely Heptameron-based origins.  If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

I honestly didn’t mean to make this long, or this wordy, of a series of posts; what I thought I could simply discuss in a single post has (so far!) become eleven posts with about 40,000 words (more like 44,000 if you include all the quotations).  And we haven’t even gotten to the actual ritual part yet of DSIC; we’ve just covered the tools and implements of the ritual!  Holy yikes.  Still, before we get on to the ritual itself, there is one more tool-related thing I wanted to discuss: how to actually create and consecrate (where needed) all the implements of DSIC.

So, at this point, we know what we need, right?  According to DSIC, we need the following tools, supplies, and general bits of equipment:

These are all the implements we need according to the text of DSIC.  However, unlike other texts such as the Key of Solomon or Lemegeton, instructions for preparing all the above are badly specified: where specifications are given at all, some are extremely sparse while others are pretty detailed.  We did touch on some of the designs, specifications, and constructions of the above in our earlier DSIC posts, but before we get onto how to actually use all these things, this would be a good time to actually specify what we can, backed up with other sources like what’s in Agrippa’s Fourth Book or other texts.

Okay, so, what do we know from DSIC about the size, materials, and processes used to make everything?  First, let’s remind ourselves once more of our old friend, the DSIC illustration:

We’ve already gone over the designs, inscriptions, and the like for everything in earlier posts, so we can ignore those for this post.  Let’s focus instead on the materials and overall form of the materials as DSIC gives them.  Where I say “engraved” below, this may also be interpreted as “written”, “gilded”, or “inscribed”, depending on the materials to be used.

  • Crystal: quartz, about 1.5″ diameter, spherical, as clear as possible.
  • Plate: pure gold, size not stated (but likely about 2.3″ diameter based on image), circular (according to image), engraved on the front and back with divine names and symbols.
  • Pedestal: ebony or ivory, size not stated,  shaped and engraved like in image.
  • Table: materials not stated, size not stated, shape not stated.
  • Ring: materials not stated, size not stated, shape not stated (but likely that from The Magus‘ earlier illustration).
  • Wand: black ebony, size not stated, shaped and engraved as in image.
  • Lamen: materials not stated, size not stated, shape not stated, engraved as in image.
  • Circle: materials not stated, size not stated, shaped and engraved as in image.
  • Candles: wax, size not stated, must be “holy”
  • Candlesticks: silver, size not stated, shaped as in or approximated by image.
  • Brazier: materials not stated (though must be fireproof), size not stated, shaped as in image.
  • Liber Spirituum: pure white new/unused, vellum or paper, about 7″ long, shape not stated.
  • Pen: materials not stated, size not stated, shape not stated.
  • Ink: materials not stated.
  • Incense: materials not stated.

We don’t have a lot to go on here; DSIC leaves so many of these objects badly specified, if at all, but just says that we need them.  As a result, many people will have different interpretations of what needs to be done and now much work or style needs to go into all these things, as well as taking into consideration availability and cost of some of these tools and implements.  This goes doubly for other things that we might expect to see, based on other Western grimoires or Solomonic literature: robes, crowns, specific types of incense, and the like.  We just don’t have a lot.  We could bring in more things, though it wouldn’t necessarily be “strictly DSIC”, or we could use variants of the things, like using the actual tripod-style vessel for incense that Fr. AC uses instead of the stake-shaped one from the DSIC illustration, , or substituting the specific pedestal from the DSIC illustration with the one we saw from Frederick Hockley’s Occult Spells: A Nineteenth Century Grimoire.

Still, we know enough to get started.  Knowing what the ritual text of DSIC prescribes to use as tools, implements, and supplies is all well and good, but because this is a ritual text we’re discussing, and one that falls more-or-less within the Western grimoire and Solomonic traditions, we can’t talk about tool construction without discussing tool consecration; we can only get but so far if we discuss the purely physical materials involved without discussing how to not just make them but prepare them in a way appropriate for our needs.  Granted, not everything necessarily needs to be made in a magical or spiritual way, but it sure helps if it does.  This is the essence of consecration.

First, what do we mean by consecration?  The word itself literally means “make or declare sacred”, which seems straightforward enough, but how is this thought of from an occult standpoint?  Agrippa goes on at length in his Fourth Book on the topic (book IV, chapter 8), which is pretty well-phrased, in my opinion, so let me just offer a summary of what he says here so as to spare everyone the bother of an unnecessarily long quote:

  • All instruments and things used for magic should be consecrated.
  • Consecration is achieved through the power of the person performing the consecration and the virtue of the prayer used for consecration.
  • The person performing the consecration must live their life in a holy way and must possess the power of sanctification (i.e. consecration), both of which are achieved through “dignification and initiation”, and must also have a strong faith in both.
  • The prayer used for consecration must be suitably holy for the purpose, and such holiness may be derived in one of three ways:
    • From one’s own divine inspiration
    • From the power transferred to such a prayer by initiation or ordination into a spiritual tradition
    • From the sanctification and sanctity of calling upon, remembering, or referring to other things that are holy or done in a holy way, and may be related to the thing presently being consecrated.
      • For water: how God placed the Firmament in the “midst of the waters”, how God placed the font of water in Paradise from which came the four holy rivers to water the whole Earth, how God sent forth the flood to destroy the Nephilim, how God manipulated the waters of the Red Sea during the Exodus of the Jews, how Moses drew forth water from a stone, etc.
      • For fire: how God made Fire to be an instrument to execute justice and punishment and vengeance and expiation of sins, how God will command a conflagration to precede him when he judges the world, how God appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush, etc.
      • For oils and perfumes: how God decreed that the holy anointing oil be made and kept and used, how the name “Christ” itself indicates anointing, how the two divine olive trees produce oil for the lamps that burn continually before the face of God, etc.
      • For candles and lamps: how the altar of God contains a sacred fire for sacrifice, how there are seven lamps that burn before the face of God, etc.
      • For a circle or place: the sanctification of the Throne of God, Mount Sinai, the Tabernacle, of the Covenant, the Holy of Holies, the Temple of Jerusalem, Mount Golgotha, the Temple of Christ, Mount Tabor, etc.
      • For swords: how a sword was divinely and miraculously sent to Judah of the Maccabees, etc.
      • For books, drawings, writings, etc.: how God sanctified the Tablets of the Ten Commandments, how God sanctified the Old and New Testaments, the sanctification of the Law and of Prophets and of Scriptures, the Testament/Book/Knowledge/Wisdom of God, etc.
  • Some consecrations make use of divine names, holy seals, sacramentals of the Church, and other apparati of divinity to lead to a general effect of sanctification and atonement.
  • Every consecration should make use primarily of consecrated water, oil, fire, and incense.
  • Every consecration should be performed in the presence of some source of light, preferably from one or more consecrated candles (literally “holy wax-lights”, note the phrasing!) or lamps.
  • Every consecration of things that are profane, polluted, or defiled in any way should be preceded first by an exorcism and atonement in order to make them sufficiently pure so as to better receive the virtue of consecration.
  • Every consecration should be followed by a blessing upon the object, with the breath passing the lips (i.e. either spoken aloud or silently so long as breath is flowing).
  • Every consecration should be performed with one’s own holiness, authority, license, and need in mind, all performed earnestly and intently.

So much for the general ideas and notions.  In addition to the things to be remembered for a variety of consecrations, Agrippa also gives a few specific rules, too:

  • When consecrating a circle or other ritual space, the Prayer of Solomon at the Dedication of the Temple (2 Chronicles 6:14-42) should be recited while sprinkling the area with holy water and burning sacred incense.
  • When consecrating instruments and “all other things whatsoever that are serviceable to this Art”, they are to be sprinkled with holy water, suffumigated in sacred incense, anointed with holy oil, sealed “with some holy Sigil”, and blessed with prayer, after having commemorated things that were made or done in a holy way as noted above.

And, moreover, he describes two other methods of consecration in addition to the processes and methods given above:

  • “Superstitious” consecration, by which the rite and act of consecration or collection of any sacrament in the Church is transferred to that thing which we would consecrate.
    • This is a little unclear to me, but it seems like when an object either comes in contact with something that has been duly consecrated by someone with the power to do so (e.g. touching a ritual knife with a consecrated Host of the Eucharist).
    • Alternatively, this could be when something is consecrated “by virtue of” some sacrament (e.g. “by the virtue of my baptism, may this dagger be baptized and made holy and fit for divine works”).
  • Vows, oblations, and sacrifice also produce a kind of consecration, given that they are representative of a pact or exchange of power and resource between the one who gives and the one who receives.
    • Whenever we dedicate something with intent and purpose, the thing becomes consecrated.
    • Examples include both physical things like incense, oils, rings, and talismans, as well as immaterial things like sigils, prayers, enchantments, pictures, and so forth.

Agrippa mentions at the end of this section in his Fourth Book that many of these topics about consecration are those “of which we have largely spoken in our third book of Occult Philosophy”, and it’s true; book III, chapter 62 basically touches all of the above, but pretty much everything from chapter 54 (“Of cleanness, and how to be observed”) to chapter 64 (“Of certain religious observations, ceremonies, and rites of perfumings, unctions, and the like”) are useful to read here for more information on how to perform these types of ceremonies and works.

But, on top of all that we get from Agrippa’s books (which is good at a high-level but poor for specific implementation), we also can build upon the vast majority of Solomonic and other Western grimoiric/magical literature which contains specific rites, prayers, exorcisms, and benedictions to be used for a variety of the tools called for in DSIC.  In addition to scouring for whatever we could get from the rest of Francis Barrett’s The Magus, of special note to us would be those of the Heptameron, the Liber Juratus Honorii, the Key of Solomon (especially book II which gives plenty of consecrations for a variety of tools and supplies), the Secret Grimoire of Turiel, and to a lesser extent, the Lemegeton, but I’m sure that there are various other texts that we could draw on for what we would need.

That being said, DSIC doesn’t really prescribe consecrations for many of the things that we need in the ritual, or when they do (especially the “two holy wax lights”), no consecration is given.  The way I think of it, there are three reasons for this:

  1. Some things are consecrated ahead of time, and DSIC just doesn’t specify them (e.g. the candles).
  2. Some things are consecrated “on the fly” in the process of the ritual itself (e.g. the crystal and the circle).
  3. Some things are consecrated “automatically”, whether by the natural virtues of the substances and materials from which they are made, or in the process of constructing them by virtue of the things (especially holy names, holy sigils, seals of spirits, etc.) written, inscribed, or engraved upon them.

And, when it comes to your approach to consecration, there are three ways you can go about it:

  1. Strict approach: if the text doesn’t say to do something, don’t do it.  Conversely, if the text says to do something, do it.
  2. Lenient approach: if the text doesn’t say to do something, you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to, but you can bring in influences from other texts if desired.  But, if the text definitely says to do something, do it, at least as best as you can.
  3. Free approach: like the lenient approach (if the doesn’t doesn’t specify something, you can do something if you want to anyway), but if the text does say to do something specifically, you can take it or leave it, or substitute with another method or construction instead.

The thing about the free approach, even though the way I phrased it might raise some hackles or elicit some sort of immediate “ugh, newbs” response, is that it’s probably the most common approach by far, at least in some cases, because of how bad a job DSIC does at specifying most things.  Consider the pedestal: most people just omit it and fold the design elements of it into the table to produce a Table of Practice, which doesn’t properly match up with DSIC anyway, but which works all the same, as well as the fact that most people don’t bother with a Liber Spirituum or ring of Solomon.  Additionally, though DSIC (and all its predecessors and contemporaries) was written in a heavily Christian or Abrahamic occcultural sphere, many people tend to omit some of the phrasing or change it so that it’s least starkly Christian, or they’ll replace certain names with others to make more Hermetic or qabbalistic sense (e.g. using the divine name Shaddai El Chai in the conjuration itself instead of “blessed and holy Tetragrammaton” when calling upon spirits of the Moon, since that divine name is used for the sephirah Yesod, associated with the Moon).

If one were to take a grimoire-fundamentalist or grimoire-purist approach, then DSIC might be a disappointing text, because it leaves so much unspecified that goes against so much of what we’re used to in a complete grimoire.  For that reason, the strict approach becomes the least satisfying option to take, with the lenient approach becoming something more like what we see Fr. AC taking in GTSC.  For instance, Fr. AC anoints his crystal with an appropriate fluid condenser, references the “benediction of the lamen” and the invocations for the days of the week from the Secret Grimoire of Turiel (specifically from Frederick Hockley’s A Complete Book of Magic Science) as well as using the weekday prayers from the Heptameron as the oaths for the seven planetary angels,  and gives plenty of tips on preparation, purification, and the like—none of which are found in DSIC, but which Fr. AC finds it beneficial to do regardless so as to fill in the gaps left behind by DSIC.  In this “lenient” approach (“lenient” only in the sense of bringing in more things to DSIC than are strictly present), we’d want to do more consecrations ahead of time than simply relying on on-the-fly consecrations for the few things that are made that way, or than by relying on automatic consecrations alone.

In all fairness, I don’t think the strict approach to DSIC is actually feasible, because DSIC is so high-level and bare-bones of a ritual implementation of conjuration that it really needs outside information and practices to make it more complete.  Yes, you could get by with doing what the ritual text describes and no more or less, but that’d be like reading some of the entries in the Greek Magical Papyri and thinking that those would be complete, too.  Consider the Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios (PGM IV.1596—1715), which is my ritual implementation of what the PGM gives, which is only a prayer and nothing else; heck, anywhere we see “add/do/perform the usual” means that there are necessarily gaps that would need to be filled in.  I consider the DSIC in a similar light: it’s a great ritual framework for performing conjurations, but it’s a framework and structure that only has some specifications, not all the ones we’d need to have a fully fleshed-out ritual.  That’s where texts like Fr. AC’s GTSC and Fr. RO’s SS come into play, because they offer (more or less) full implementations of DSIC, complete with scripts, descriptions, instructions, processes, and the like.  However, because DSIC specifies so little, any two magician’s implementations of DSIC will most likely differ in some of the details, keeping only what DSIC actually specifies in common between them.

Okay, so, that being said, let’s take a look at the few consecrations provides us.  Of the tools and supplies that the DSIC text prescribes, only three things are to be consecrated on the fly, viz. in the order they appear in the ritual: the crystal used for conjuring the spirit, the magic circle, and the incense.  The crystal is consecrated by laying your hand upon it and praying over it, the circle is consecrated by tracing its boundaries with the wand, and the incense is consecrated by praying over them after it’s been ignited.  That’s pretty much it; we can get into the specific wording of these prayers in a later post, but suffice it here to say that this is all that DSIC provides us.  But, as far as these specific prayers are concerned, it’s clear that the author of DSIC basically took the exorcism/consecration/blessing of the incense from the Heptameron, but the Heptameron differs in the process a bit for the incense, and doesn’t use the same consecration of the circle at all, nor does Heptameron include a consecration for the crystal since the Heptameron doesn’t make use of any scrying medium.  The conjuration of the Ars Paulina from the Lemegeton includes a bit about the crystal, but though there are some similarities between this and what’s in DSIC, it’s not all that comparable.

That DSIC makes use of Heptameron prayers isn’t surprising; after all, we saw how clearly the Heptameron influenced DSIC at least as far as its magic circle design, and as we’ll eventually see, the overall process of the Heptameron can kinda be seen in DSIC, too.  However, it is surprising that DSIC, despite being indebted to Agrippa on so many other accounts, seems to almost ignore Agrippa’s prescriptions and methods of consecration, not even going as far as what the Heptameron does for the magic circle in sprinkling the magic circle or incense with holy water before blessing them.  And, considering that there are some similarities between the stuff in the Secret Grimoire of Turiel (aka Hockley’s A Complete Book of Magic Science), which is most likely roughly contemporaneous with DSIC, there’s plenty of stuff in there that might be considered parallel works, too, especially as Hockley was likely in touch with people who did both DSIC and Turiel stuff.

We don’t have a lot to work on with how little DSIC provides us, whether in terms of construction or consecration.  But we have enough to get started, and we’ll talk about actually making everything next time, and making it all fit for use.

4 responses

  1. I think the most common superstitious consecration we see in the grimoire and European folk magic is secreting the object under a church altar cloth and allowing a Mass to be carried out over it a given number of times.

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

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

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