I have an article published in this next year’s issue of the Witches’ Almanac!

For those of us who love, use, and collect almanacs and who also do magic, you could do worse than getting yourself into the habit of picking up a copy of the Witches’ Almanac, a wonderful compendium of the usual almanac stuff—sunsets and sunrises, moon phases and stations, eclipses and retrogrades, planting times and suggestions, etc.—all with a magical, spiritual, and witchy bent to it all, but that’s not all!  Each issue of the Witches’ Almanac also has a fantastic array of articles, and each issue has a particular theme.  For instance, this past year’s almanac (Issue 38, Spring 2019—2020) was themed around animals, them being our friends and familiars, and had a bunch of articles in it along those lines.

In this coming year’s almanac (Issue 39, Spring 2020—2021, coming in at 208pp. for the price of US$12.95), the theme is “Stones: the Foundation of Earth”, and has a good number of articles from such authors as Lon Milo DuQuette, Sorita d’Este, John Michael Greer, Oberon Zell, and others—including me!  I was asked to submit an article to this year’s issue, and after wondering what on earth I could contribute, I settled on an old standby of mine: grammatomancy, also known as the Greek Alphabet Oracle, the method of divination that uses the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet.  How would this tie in, you might wonder?  Because one of the oldest and most common ways of performing this kind of divination was with the use of ψηφοι, psēphoi, little pebbles which were inscribed with a different letter of the alphabet on each.  I thought it was a nice tie-in to this year’s theme, and it’s a lovely system besides, so why not?

The amazing and handsome publisher-friend I have at the Witches’ Almanac also thought it was a great idea, too, so in went my article, Stone Spelling: Delving Deeply into the Greek Alphabet Oracle, where I talk about the origins of this oracle and all the different ways it can be of use beyond getting mere advice from the gods.  Heck, it’s even the first feature article in the almanac this coming year, and you can even check out an excerpt of it online on their website!

(Also, John Michael Greer himself published an article in it on, of all possible things, domino divination.  Yanno, that thing that I’ve been obsessed with learning about all summer long and have suddenly started writing one of the most complete books on the topic ever written since one of my spirit guides kicked me in the side of the head with it.  If that’s not a goddamn sign, then I don’t know what is.  Hmph.)

What are you waiting for?  Get yourself a copy and get ready for the coming year with this little treasure trove of wisdom and information that’ll be sure to make your practice smoother and easier!

A quick note about Fr. RO’s old Red Work Courses and who’s licensed to share them

Another quick note in the midst of my own writing projects amidst my yearly hell season of too much going on…

As many people might be aware, Fr. Rufus Opus used to offer a series of ebooks and online classes about his take on Hermeticism, Hermetic practices, and angelic/planetary magic that he collectively titled the “Red Work Course” (RWC) that he wrote back in 2010 and 2011.  Much of this material was collected, condensed, and distilled into what eventually became his Seven Spheres book he put out in 2014.  However, back in 2016, he announced and clarified that he no longer sells access to those files and courses anymore (and, in the case of his old Planetary Gates ebooks, this was announced back in 2014 with the publication of Seven Spheres late that year).  Instead, in an email to his students from around the same time in 2016, he made an arrangement that he would make a test for his old students and, if he approved, he would certify and license them to use the old material he put out for RWC as they see fit.  His logic was that, at the time of him joining the A∴A∴, he wasn’t allowed to charge for teaching what they know, so Fr. RO stopped selling his old courses, but didn’t want to be unfair to his old students who paid for the stuff, so if his old students could show the ability to fully understand what he wrote, they could take charge and sell it or give it away as they chose.

Although a good number of the students from his old RWC mailing lists seemed to be all about the idea, I’m not sure what became of it for most people; it could be that many of his old students took the test, got Fr. RO’s blessing and approval privately and quietly, and kept it quiet since most of them aren’t much for teaching, or they never actually took the test.  However, there is a small handful of three people that Fr. RO has publicly gone on the record to announce as those that he has licensed to share his old RWC files:

  1. James Wood a.k.a. Spanish Moss, over at The Red Crown of Stars (who also heads up the Thicket of a Witch blog)
  2. Mal Strangefellow over at The Society of Royal Philosophers (who also heads up the Ordo Sancti Cypriani and the Church of Light and Shadow)
  3. Myself right here

If, after all these years (especially given how much I referred to it in my recent Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration posts), you’re interested in the RWC files and lessons, please contact one of the three people above at their respective websites.  We all have different teaching styles and requirements, so consider that as well.  James and Mal use a more active class structure or a group/forum structure closer to what the original RWC courses used with Yahoo! groups and mailing lists, while I tend to take a more hands-off approach with separate mentorship sessions as needed/desired by students.  James and Mal have roughly similar price points to what Fr. RO had for the RWC files, but I use a different method entirely; if you’re interested in getting the files from me, contact me about it and we can discuss from there.

While there may be others who are licensed that Fr. RO might have forgotten, the three people above are the only people that Fr. RO has himself confirmed to me to be licensed to publicly use his old RWC files as they see fit.  If you hear or see of any others sharing his coursework, please consider letting him or me know to confirm whether they are also licensed before getting anything from them out of respect for Fr. RO’s work.  If you yourself have been licensed and you’re not part of the list above, contact me and let me know when and how Fr. RO licensed you (email, Facebook post, etc.) to clear up any potential confusion.

P.S.: Mal Strangefellow, in an effort to encourage and reward people to choose legit sources and teachers, is offering 20% his enrollment fees for his version of the Red Work Courses to all my wonderful readers!  Just use the coupon-code POLYPHANES when checking out.

Quick note about sharing/using my posts

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s been quiet here lately.  I’ve been working on a few other projects in the meantime and haven’t had anything that immediately screams “post me!” for the topics, but then, this is also my own Hell Season (from mid-August to mid-October), so perhaps it’s for the best I take a step back for a bit so I can focus on basically everything else going on.  Besides, there’s always my Twitter and Curious Cat for my more short-form antics and answers!  However, even while I’m over here being quiet for a bit, there is something I wanted to bring up and clarify.

In some of the online communities I’m in, it’s come as a major shock and disappointment that the blog Voces Magicae has recently gone offline.  Granted, it hadn’t seen a good update in a while (since like mid-2017), but what was up there has been such a valuable treasure trove for so many researchers, occultists, and magicians in the Greco-Egyptian/PGM crowds for so long.  And now it’s…just, well, gone.  Sure, the Internet Archive Wayback Machine can help a bit, since some of the posts were automatically archived there, but it’s a far cry from the whole thing.  I know I’ve read Leonardo’s work before in amazement and astonishment at how damn good he was, and he’s even been an inspiration and challenge for my own writing.  Whether he’s simply decided to let his Voces Magicae blog-project come to a quiet end on its own or not, what is true is that it’s a loss for us all who didn’t keep good enough notes.

To be honest, this is one of the problems with ephemeral information media, including the vast majority of things on the Internet.  Websites come, websites go; blogs get started, blogs get deleted; forums start up, forums die down.  Heck, even simple website reorganization can be disastrous for some information; I know I’ve had some links on my own blog go bad from taking down old pages that people still periodically ask me about.  As opposed to a book or stele, websites are inherently ephemeral, to the point where some rabbis have argued that it’s okay for the Tetragrammaton to be written fully on digital monitors since they’re not permanently “written” in the same way as it would be with ink on paper or by chisel on stone.

It’s this very same ephemerality, the transitory nature of so much digital media, that really should encourage us how we think about archiving and saving what we write and read.  Heck, it’s not just about the Internet, either; think of how much data is stored on old floppy disks, Zip disks, and other now-obsolete formats of storage media.  And when it comes to formats, think about how many different codecs, compression methods, and other file formats there are that are now so obscure that you’d have to really dig deep to find any modern application to make use of it.  And there’s also the fact that hard drives just sometimes fail, taking all our data on it with it, whether we could access it just fine moments ago or not—and whether it’s our own hard drives we control at home, or networked ones that we simply make use of hosted elsewhere.

I know a lot of people make use of my website and the posts here; it’s a point of pride for me, not gonna lie, that I’ve been able to start something here that helps at least a few people out in addition to myself.  I see links shared to my blog here and there, and it’s always amusing to me to see linkbacks and click-throughs to my blog from WordPress’ analytics utilities.  While I have no concerns about the long-term viability of keeping this website active (I’m on WordPress’ $80/yr plan plus domain name fees, all of which is funded by both my client work, donations from charitable readers, and out of my own pocket if/as necessary) and though I’m certainly not planning on taking this thing down anytime soon (I’d be more worried about WordPress getting sold out or the Internet itself going offline), I do fear the possibility that so much of what I’ve written will eventually be lost to the world in one way or another.  Yes, I take my own backups of my website to make sure I can export it back to another WordPress platform if I need to, but my worries are a bit more than that.

Someone recently asked me if they could use some of my content in a project of theirs, sourcing me appropriately by name and links, and I wholeheartedly agreed to it; they did everything right, and their project looked great.  I’ve been contacted by others before about translating bits and pieces or whole posts of mine into other languages, and I know there are others who have used my stuff before in many other ways on other blogs or in their own projects.  I find this to be a high honor, to be honest, and while I’m not out to ask others to augment such honor or seek to aggrandize myself or my own usefulness, I do want to make something clear in light of Voces Magicae going offline:

I am absolutely, positively, 100% okay, fine, and dandy with you printing out my blog posts or articles that are up on this website for your own use, and I am just as totally okay with you sharing, reposting, or otherwise disseminating the content of this website in your own projects, rituals, research websites, and social media, so long as you give proper accreditation.  

So, so long as you tack on a “This content/image/ritual/etc. was made and originally posted at The Digital Ambler (https://digitalambler.com/)” along with a link to the original post or page you got the information from, I’m basically okay with that.  It would be nice if you contacted me about doing so, if only to let me know (and maybe to spread the word about it myself!), but so long as you include a brief statement that sources where you got something from, that’s all I really ask.  As far as I see it, this is more about security in redundancy to make sure it can survive on the Internet for as long as you like.  And, of course, that’s all in addition to your own private print-outs, too!  Lord knows I have multiple bookshelves filled with binders of printouts of blogs, articles, journals, and the like just in case things go down or if I can’t easily find things again.

Of course, the same doesn’t apply with the images out of context (in other words, please don’t share my designs, lamens, templates, etc. without also crediting them back to me), nor any of my PDFs/ebooks I produce, nor using any content of mine commercially (unless you want to start a formal conversation with me about doing so).  But if you’re reading this on my website where it’s already publicly and freely available as it is, then have at in resharing it freely as well.  If you’re a neurotic legalist, you can also check out the full terms and services of my website over at the bottom of my Services page,

Time to head to the Salem Summer Symposium!

Well, almost, at least.  I have a few more days to wrap things up at home before I make the drive up to New England.

But things are officially getting started tomorrow up in Salem, Massachusetts for the Salem Summer Symposium, a week-long festival for the exploration, celebration, and acceptance of magical and occult education, commerce, community, and activism held throughout the city.  The event is founded and organized by Jacqui Allouise-Roberge of the Cauldron Black, Matthew Venus of Spiritus Arcanum, and Justice the Wizard of Just This Wizard, and is their first major event of this type.  And I get to present and do readings there!

The SSS formally begins tomorrow on Saturday, August 3 with a number of shows, events, and other parties going on for the next few days, but the conference and presentation parts of the SSS begin on Thursday, August 8.   I’ll be presenting at two talks, both next week on Friday, August 9:

  • Double Trouble Geomancy Power Hour (1pm to 3pm), along with my colleague and good friend, the good Dr. Alexander Cummins.  Come on down for a two-hour introductory crash course in the wonderful divinatory art of geomancy! A thousand-year-old system of divination that started in the sands of old Arabia and the Sahara, this system of divination left a lasting impact on Western occulture and spiritual practices for hundreds of years. Undergoing a modern renaissance of its own, join Mr. Block and Dr. Cummins to learn about this system and to get answers to all your questions about the art for divination, magic, and all other spiritual concerns you might have!
  • Geomantic Divination and Theurgy (4pm to 6pm).  The divinatory art of geomancy is old, but for most of its history in the Western occult world, its practice was limited almost exclusively to divination—but there’s no reason why that should always be the case. In this lecture, geomancer extraordinaire Sam Block will talk not only about the divinatory aspect of geomancy for understanding the workings of the world but also how one might use the art of geomancy and its sixteen geomantic figures as foundations for building a spiritual practice of enlightenment of the soul and elevation of the spirit through prayers, rituals, and meditation.

In addition to these two talks, I’ll also be doing readings and consultations all day Saturday, August 10, generously hosted by the Cauldron Black, for anyone who would want them, whether by geomancy, grammatomancy, or my other preferred means.

But don’t just come up to see me!  There are also wonderful talks by Dr. Cummins on his own, including his own talk on geomantic magic (Saturday, August 10 at 10am to 12pm), and a whole slew of other luminaries and dignities besides on so many amazing and wonderful topics.  You can find the whole schedule of events on the SSS website here.  And don’t forget the movie screenings, welcome dinner, pub crawl, and other events going on!

If you haven’t yet, be sure to register soon and get your tickets before it’s too late!  If you have any questions, feel free to contact the SSS folk over on their website.

And, of course, I’ll be in Salem for myself and to meet up with good people, both old friends and new acquaintances besides, so here’s hoping for a wonderful trip for us all!

I just need to, yanno, get my bags packed, and also actually finish writing my presentation notes, so…I should get back to it.  In the meantime, we’ll go quiet on this blog for a bit while I’m out and about traveling and talking.  See you all soon!

The Twelve Irrational Tormentors and the Ten (or Seven) Rational Powers

Lately I’ve been reviewing some of my first real spiritual texts as part of my practice that I first began to familiarize myself with years ago: the Corpus Hermeticum.  These books, being a homegrown Egyptian manifestation of what could be considered Hellenic theurgic philosophy (either as Stoicizing Neoplatonism or Neoplatonizing Stoicism), are some of my favorite texts, amounting to my own “bible” as it were.  Granted, it’s been some time since I’ve last seriously sat down with them, and since I’ve been discussing parts of it with a colleague of mine, I figured it was high time to get back into chewing on them so I’m not just talking out of my ass when it comes to classical Hermetic philosophy and theurgy.  It’s a deeply rewarding practice, after all, and study is something that we can never truly finish; it always helps to review, reread, and rethink things from time to time.

There are essentially four versions of the Corpus Hermeticum that I consult:

  1. Clement Salaman, The Way of Hermes: New Translations of the Corpus Hermeticum and the Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius.  Inner Traditions, 2004.  This is the most readable and accessible version of the Corpus Hermeticum, in my opinion, and also includes the Definitions of Hermēs Trismegistus, which was the focus of that massive blog project I did back in late 2013 that inspected all 49 definitions.  (I should probably review some of those one of these days.)
  2. Brian Copenhaver, Hermetica: The Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius in a New English Translation, with Notes and Introduction.  Cambridge University Press, 1995.  This is the version of the Corpus Hermeticum I started with, and though it’s not as accessible as Salaman’s translation, it’s still a very good translation all the same, and gives a slightly more critical and academic approach.
  3. G. R. S. Mead, The Corpus Hermeticum.  Thrice Greatest Hermes, vol. 2.  London, 1906.  Available in the public domain on Gnosis.org.  This is the most popular one that most people know and have used for over a hundred years, and though it has some Theosophical biases, it’s still a surprisingly good translation, even if the prose is overwrought.
  4. Walter Scott, Hermetica: The ancient Greek and Latin Writings which contain religious or philosophic teachings ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus, vol. 1.  Clarendon Press, 1924.  Though the translation isn’t considered good, Scott includes critical editions of the actual Greek text of the Corpus Hermeticum as well as the Latin of the Asclepius, so this is pretty useful for that reason alone.

If you want to read something better than the Kybalion, which would basically be anything and everything, I’d recommend the Corpus Hermeticum.  (NB: Kybalion delendum est.)

Anyway, I was flipping through the Corpus, refreshing some of the things I knew and being reminded of the things I’ve forgotten.  It was in book XIII, where Tat asks Hermēs Trismegistus for help in attaining divinity and, eventually reaches it, that I found something fascinating that I must have skipped over before.  Whether it’s due to my engineering training or my love of Buddhist text, it’s when things appear in lists that I snap to attention, and Hermēs describes a list of twelve “Hermetic sins of the body” that keep us ensnared in darkness and ignorance, as well as ten “Hermetic virtues of the soul” that free us from darkness and ignorance.  Fascinated by these lists, I dug in, and I started matching them up to a few other parts of the Corpus Hermeticum I know, the results of mulling over which I wanted to share.  I’ll let you, dear reader, pick your own preferred version of the Corpus Hermeticum and read (at minimum) books I and XIII on your own, which I recommend you do so before continuing with this post.

Ready?  Good.  So, as Hermēs states in book XIII, we have these twelve “irrational tormentors of the body” (ἄλογα τιμωρία τῆς ὕλης, áloga timōría tês húlēs).  The specific word being used here is technically τιμωρία, timōría, literally “retribution” or “vengeance” or even “punishment”, but usually translated here as “tormentor” or “torturer”.  Collectively, they all arise fundamentally from irrationality, the true lack of reason (which is emphasized in the Corpus Hermeticum as being divine, as it is truly Λόγος, Lógos, “the Word”).  Hermēs lists these tormentors as below; I give both the Greek term used in Scott along with the various translations that Salaman, Copenhaver, et al. have provided for these terms.

# Greek Salaman Copenhaver Mead Scott
1 ἄγνοια Ignorance Ignorance Not-knowing Ignorance
2 λύτη Sorrow Grief Grief Grief
3 ἀκρασία Intemperance Incontinence Incontinence Incontinence
4 ἐπιθυμία Lust Lust Concupiscence Desire
5 ἀδικία Injustice Injustice Unrighteousness Injustice
6 πλεονεξία Greed Greed Avarice Covetousness
7 ἀπάτη Deceit Deceit Error Deceitfulness
(or being deceived,
i.e. error)
8 φθόνος Envy Envy Envy Envy
9 δόλος Treachery Treachery Guile Fraud
10 ὀργή Anger Anger Anger Anger
11 προπέτεια Recklessness Recklessness Rashness Rashness
12 κακία Malice Malice Malice Vice
(or malice)

Of course, though these are the main tormentors of the body that we have to deal with, Hermēs notes that “besides these there are many others”, but these seem to be the major ones that either rule lesser tormentors or which themselves are the causes or predecessors of others.  Together, they “compel the inner man who dwells in the prison of his body to suffer through his senses”.  Hemēs is explicit, too in giving each of these a zodiacal association, even if he doesn’t say which belongs to which sign: “this tent of the body through which we have passed…is composed from the zodiac and this consists of signs, twelve in number; the body is of one nature and appears in every form; it exists to lead man astray”.  I think a simple association could be drawn up such that the first tormentor listed, “ignorance”, be given to the first sign Aries, the second “sorrow” to Taurus, the third “intemperance” to Gemini, and so forth.  It’s not exactly clear to see how each of these might be matched up with their corresponding sign, like why Aquarius should be linked to Recklessness in this way, but we’ll just accept it for granted for now.

But all hope is not lost for us!  Though these tormentors of the body plague us and trap us, “these tormentors depart one by one from the man who receives God’s mercy”, which manifests itself as ten “powers of God” (δυνάμεις θεοῦ, dunámeis theoû) that cleanse the body and soul of the twelve (and more) irrational tormentors:

# Greek Salaman Copenhaver Mead Scott
1 γνῶσις θεοῦ Knowledge of God Knowledge of God Gnosis of God Knowledge of God
2 χαρα Experience of Joy Knowledge of Joy Joy Joy
3 ἐγκράτεια Self-control Continence Continence Continence
4 καρτερία Steadfastness Perseverance Steadfastness Endurance
5 δικαιοσύνη Justice Justice Righteousness Justice
6 κοινωνία Generosity Liberality Sharing-with-all Unselfishness
7 ἀλήθεια Truth Truth Truth Truth
8 ἀγαθός Supreme Good the Good the Good Good
9 ζωή Life Life Life Life
10 φώς Light Light Light Light

Moreover, each of the powers (or at least most of them) correspond to a specific tormentor that it specifically chases out or conquers.  Using the Salaman translations of the tormentors and powers:

Tormentor Power
Ignorance Knowledge of God
Sorrow Experience of Joy
Intemperance Self-control
Lust Steadfastness
Injustice Justice
Greed Generosity
Deceit Truth
Envy Good, Life, Light
Treachery
Anger
Recklessness
Malice

Note that the last three powers, the Good with Life and Light, seem to act as a triune force, because once Truth arrives, “the Supreme Good arises”, and Life and Light come together with it, and together they chase out the “torments of darkness” (τιμωρία τοῦ σκότος, timōría toû skótos).  Hermēs says that Life and Light are specifically united together, and “this unity is born from spirit”; this echoes what Poimandrēs told Hermēs back in book I of the Corpus Hermeticum: “the truth is: light and life is God and Father, whence Man is begotten”.

With all ten powers present, “spiritual birth is complete…and by this birth we have become divine”.  These are all given by the mercy of God, which quells the torments of the bodily senses, and one who has these powers “knows himself and rejoices”; these ten powers “beget the soul”.  There’s some Pythagorean influence here in how these are described: Life and Light together form a unit, a henad (the number One), and the henad is the source of the decad (the number Ten), and “the Henad contains the Decad” while at the same time “the Decad [contains] the Henad”.  If we consider “spirit” here to be fundamentally the spirit of God, then we can consider this to be equivalent or identified with the power of the Good itself, from which come Life and Light, and from those two all the other powers derive.  This dimly kinda recalls how I plotted out the ten spheres onto the Tetractys as part of my Mathēsis stuff, with “the Supreme Good” being simply the Monad at the top, Light being the right-hand sphaira of the Dyad (the sphere of the fixed stars, the active power) and Life being the left-hand sphaira (the sphere of the Earth, the passive power):

At the same time, note that we have two systems going on here: a system of twelve (the tormentors) and a system of ten (the powers).  We start off by specifically linking one tormentor to one power, but after the first seven pairs, the last five seem to get jumbled together.  Hermēs says that “among the signs…there are pairs united in activity”, and notes that recklessness is inseparable with and indistinguishable from anger.  Copenhaver notes that, in this light, four of the twelve tormentors can be considered as two pairs broken up; if this is so and they are reduced into units, such as anger and recklessness into a combined tormentor, then we go from twelve tormentors to ten, but we don’t know what the other pair is (perhaps envy and treachery?).  If that were the case, and if we consider the sequence of introducing Good and Life and Light to be reversed given a descent of the Dyad from the Henad, then we might come up with the following scheme:

Tormentor Power
Ignorance Knowledge of God
Sorrow Experience of Joy
Intemperance Self-control
Lust Steadfastness
Injustice Justice
Greed Generosity
Deceit Truth
Envy and Treachery Light
Anger and Recklessness Life
Malice Good

That being said, I don’t know if I trust that specific scheme; Copenhaver notes that such an understanding of some of the tormentors isn’t agreed upon.  After all, though it’s definitely not contemporaneous with this, we can bring in a bit of Qabbalah here to justify keeping the systems of twelve tormentors and ten powers separate rather than forcing them onto the same scheme of ten.  Recall that the lower seven sefirot of the Tree of Life are considered underneath the Veil of the Abyss that separate the upper three sephiroth (Keter, Ḥokmah, Binah) from the lower seven (Ḥesed, Geburah, Tiferet, Neṣaḥ, Hod, Yesod, Malkut).  The upper three sefirot, then, are considered a trinity unto themselves that, from the perspective of everything below it, act as a unity.  Not to equate the sefirot of the Tree of Life here with what Hermēs is talking about, but it does offer an interesting possible parallel to how we might consider how these powers function and upon what.

By that same token, however, this means that the last five tormentors of the body (envy, treachery, anger, recklessness, and malice) seem to function differently than the first seven, in that the first seven have a distinct power of God that chases them out while the latter five are only chased out by the highest attainments of powers of God themselves, and that indistinctly.  In a way, this brings to mind part of book I of the Corpus Hermeticum, when Hermēs is communing with Poimandrēs, who tells Hermēs about “how the way back [to Nous, i.e. the Divinity of the Mind] is found”.  In this part of book I, there’s this notion of heavenly ascent through the seven planetary spheres, where one gives up a particular force (vice? tormentor?) associated with each of the planets.  Using Salaman’s translation of this section as a base, and giving the alternative translations of Copenhaver, Mead, and Scott for each of those forces:

First, in the dissolution of the material body, one gives the body itself up to change.  The form you had becomes unseen, and you surrender to the divine power your habitual character, now inactive.  The bodily senses return to their own sources.  Then they become parts again and rise for action, while the seat of emotions and desire go to mechanical nature.

Thus a man starts to rise up through the harmony of the cosmos:

  1. To the first plain [of the Moon], he surrenders the activity of growth and diminution;
    1. Copenhaver: “increase and decrease”
    2. Mead: “growth and waning”
    3. Scott: “the force which works increase and the force that works decrease”
  2. To the second [of Mercury], the means of evil, trickery now being inactive;
    1. Copenhaver: “evil machination”
    2. Mead: “device of evils”
    3. Scott: “machinations of evil cunning”
  3. To the third [of Venus], covetous deceit, now inactive;
    1. Copenhaver: “illusion of longing”
    2. Mead: “guile of desires”
    3. Scott: “lust whereby men are deceived”
  4. To the fourth [of the Sun], the eminence pertaining to a ruler, being now without avarice;
    1. Copenhaver: “arrogance of rulers”
    2. Mead: “domineering arrogance”
    3. Scott: “domineering arrogance”
  5. To the fifth [of Mars], impious daring and reckless audacity;
    1. Copenhaver: “unholy presumption and daring recklessness”
    2. Mead: “unholy daring and rashness of audacity”
    3. Scott: “unholy daring and rash audacity”
  6. To the sixth [of Jupiter], evil impulses for wealth, all of these being now inactive;
    1. Copenhaver: “evil impulses that come from wealth”
    2. Mead: “striving for wealth by evil means”
    3. Scott: “evil strivings after wealth”
  7. And to the seventh plain [of Saturn], the falsehood which waits in ambush.
    1. Copenhaver: “deceit that lies in ambush”
    2. Mead: “ensnaring falsehood”
    3. Scott: “falsehood which lies in wait to work harm”

Then, stripped of the activities of the cosmos, he enters the substance of the eighth plain with his own power, and he sings praises to the Father with those who are present; those who are near rejoice at his coming.  Being made like to those who are there together, he also hears certain powers which are above the eighth sphere, singing praises to God with sweet voice.  Then in due order, they ascend to the Father and they surrender themselves to the powers, and becoming the powers they are merged in God.  This is the end, the Supreme Good, for those who have had the higher knowledge: to become God.

This final part of what Poimandrēs tells Hermēs in book I touches on what Hermēs and Tat discuss in book XIII once Tat receives the ten powers and attains divinity:

T:  Then, o Father, I wish to hear the hymn of praise which you said was there to be heard from the powers, on my birth into the eighth sphere.

H: I will recite it, o son; just as Poimandrēs revealed the eighth sphere to me.  You do well to make haste to free yourself from the tent of the body, for you have been purified.  Poimandrēs, the Nous of the Supreme, gave me no more than what has been written, being aware that I should be able to know all things by myself and to hear what I wanted to hear, and to see all, and he charged me to create works of beauty.  Wherefore the powers in me sing also in all things.

This follows with the Secret Hymn, or what I call the Initiatory Hymn of Silence.  Though some aspects of what Poimandrēs told Hermēs differs from what Hermēs is telling Tat, the fundamental process is the same: we either give up or chase off the irrational forces of matter and flesh that ensnare us and shroud us in ignorant darkness, and what remains after that (or what we replace with them) are the divine powers that enable us to return to a truly divine state.  This is what Hermēs tells Tat earlier on in book IV:

T: I also wish to be immersed in Nous, o father.

H: If you don’t hate your body, son, you cannot love your Self.  If you love your Self, you will have Nous, and having Nous you will partake of knowledge.

T: Why do you say that, father?

H: For, son, it is impossible to be governed by both, by the mortal and by the divine.  There are two kinds of beings, the embodied and the unembodied, in whom there is the mortal and the divine spirit.  Man is left to choose one or the other, if he so wishes.  For one cannot choose both at once; when one is diminished, it reveals the power of the other.

There’s this notion in the Corpus Hermeticum of a spiritual (re)birth that happens when we reject the irrational powers of the body and seek (or, as a result of rejecting the tormentors, are given) the rational powers of God, a process of spiritual ascension through forsaking the material, which we can perform while still embodied so long as we retract our awareness away from the senses and perceptions of the body.  In other words, by letting go of the body (even while still possessing it, or rather, being possessed by it), we grasp onto the Good.  This shouldn’t be interpreted as some sort of banally gnostic, simplistically dualistic world-hating, but as a simple understanding that focusing on the body keeps us in the body and away from God.  (There’s a lovely essay, Agrippa’s Dilemma: Hermetic ‘Rebirth’ and the Ambivalences of De Vanitate and De occulta philosophia by Michael Keefer, that I recommend for reading on this point, especially regarding Cornelius Agrippa’s own Christian interpretation of this Hermetic approach to salvation.)

And what of the torments?  How do they actually torment us?  Consider what Poimandrēs tells Hermēs when they discuss those who do not have Nous:

As for those without Nous—the evil, the worthless, the envious, the greedy, murderers, the ungodly—I am very far from them, having given way to the avenging spirit, who assaults each of them through the senses, throwing fiery darts at them.  He also moves them to greater acts of lawlessness so that such a man suffers greater retribution, yet he does not cease from having limitless appetite for his lust nor from fighting in the dark without respite.  The avenging spirit then puts him to torture and increase the fire upon him to its utmost.

It’s not that the Hermetic deity is a jealous or vengeful god that those without Nous should be deprived from people, since the lack of Nous isn’t really much more than being immersed in the darkness of matter and not living a life that focuses on the light of spirit.  As material beings that are born, we must also die, and so long as we focus on being material, we must and deserve to die, but once we strive for immaterial immortality, we begin to attain Nous.  By identifying with the material, we suffer material conditions, but by identifying with the spiritual, we enjoy spiritual ones; in a cosmic sense, “you are what you eat”.  In this sense, it’s not that Poimandrēs actively wants us to suffer, but that suffering is part and parcel of being material; for as long as we strive to be material, we suffer, and the more we try to be material, the more we suffer.  The “avenging spirit”, in this case, isn’t really a distinct devil or demon, but the torments of the body itself; the phrase used here is τιμωρῷ δαίμονι (timōrôy daímoni), with “avenging” (τιμωρός, timōrós) being fundamentally the same word as “torturer” (τιμωρία) from above.

What’s interesting now, at this point, is how we now have two models of irrational forces: a set of seven that are associated with the planets according to Poimandes, and a set of twelve that are associated with the zodiac signs from Hermēs, and there isn’t a clean match between them for us to link one set to the other.  There are some similarities, sure; the seventh zodiacal torment of Deceit (or, perhaps better, Error) is much like the seventh planetary force of falsehood; the sixth zodiacal torment of Greed is basically the sixth planetary force of evil striving for wealth, and so forth.  But there are also differences; it’s hard to see how the second zodiacal torment of Sorrow is at all like the second planetary force of evil machination.  Except that the word translated as “sorrow” for the second zodiacal torment is λύπη lúpē, which technically refers to pain of body or mind and is also related to the Greek verb λυπέω lupéō, with meanings including “grieve”, “vex”, “distress”, “feel pain”.  In this, if we consider this to be a mental anguish, we might bring to mind the temperament of melancholy, which can lead to states of mind including depression, fear, anxiety, mistrust, suspicion, and deeper cogitations; all these can definitely be linked to “evil machinations”, which was classically considered a symptom of being too melancholic.  Likewise, it’s not easy to immediately link the first zodiacal torment of Ignorance with the first planetary force of increase and decrease, but as Tat complains to Hermēs in book XIII:

T: I am dumbstruck and bereft of my wits, O father, for I see that your size and features remain the same.

H: In this you are deceived.  The mortal form changes day by day, with the turning of time it grows and decays, its reality is a deception.

T: What then is true, Trismegistus?

H: The untroubled, unlimited, colorless, formless, unmoving, naked, shining, self-knowing; the unchanging Good without a body.

So, maybe the seven planetary forces described by Poimandrēs really are the first seven of the zodiacal torments of Hermēs, just phrased in another way for another audience.  This lends some credence to the notion from above that the last five of the zodiacal torments really are of a different set or nature; after all, if Hermēs admits to Tat that there are far more torments than just the twelve he named, maybe Hermēs was just naming more than strictly necessary to show that the way is long and hard, beset by so many torments.  Yet, once we chase out the first seven, the others follow suit, because “upon the arrival of Truth, the Supreme Good arises…the Supreme Good, together with Life and Light, has followed upon Truth, and the torments of darkness no longer fall upon us, but conquered; they all fly off with a rush of wings”.  In this, the final five zodiacal torments could simply be called “darkness”, all chased off by Light (which is unified with Life and the Good).  And, fundamentally, regardless whether we take a planetary approach (being ruled by the wandering stars) or a zodiacal approach (being ruled by the fixed stars), the world of matter is governed by celestial forces that we need to break free of or give back what they force upon us.

Also, note that there are interesting differences in how Hermēs describes the attainment of the various powers of God: Hermēs says that knowledge of God and experience of Joy “come to us”, while he summons self-control, steadfastness, justice, generosity, and truth, and once truth “arrives”, the triune powers of Good-Life-Light “arise”.  Given that truth “arrives” after Hermēs summons it, and that the knowledge of God and experience of joy similarly arrive, it stands to reason that Hermēs also calls on those first two powers as well.  In effect, we have the first seven powers of God which we call or summon, and the last three which arise on their own without being summoned, instead following the summoning of truth.  In this, it seems like we only truly need to work to call forth (or reach towards) the first seven powers of God; once we have those seven, you attain the last three as a natural result.  This is effectively like breaking past the Veil of the Abyss in a Qabbalistic sense; sure, there’s always more work to be done (after all, “before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water”), but once you’ve made that jump, there’s truly nothing left stopping you.  Once you break into the eighth sphere from the seventh, it’s just a matter of time (“in due order”, according to Poimandrēs) of further elevation and ascension.

And, true enough, this isn’t the last we see of these powers that chase off the torments.  At the end of Book XIII, Hermēs passes onto Tat the Secret Hymn, what I call the Initiatory Hymn of Silence.  After Tat has been reborn through the ten divine powers that Hermēs describes and becomes one in Nous, Tat requests Hermēs to sing the “hymn of praise” that is sung by the holy entities of the eighth sphere to God.  Hermēs does so, though he “had not thought to impart [it] so easily”.  Hermēs instructs that it should be said outdoors “under the clear sky” facing the south at sunset, and east at sunrise.  After Hermēs begins the hymn proper, the hymn follows more-or-less the same format of the powers that Hermēs earlier referred to that themselves sing to God:

O powers within me, sing to the One and All!
All you powers, sing praise together at my bidding.
Divine Knowledge, illumined by you, I sing through you of the spiritual light and I rejoice in the joy of Nous.
Sing praise with me, all you powers!
Temperance, sing with me!
Justice, through me praise what is just!
Generosity, through me praise the All!
Truth, sing of the truth!
Good, praise the Good!
Life and Light, from you comes the praise and to you it returns.
I give thanks to you, Father, the strength of all my powers.
I give thanks to you, God, power of all my strength.
Your Word through me sings to you.
Receive all back through me by the Word, a spoken sacrifice.

Though it might have passed as high-brow yet pop spiritual philosophy back in the day, the Corpus Hermeticum really is a fundamental work for Western spiritual practices, and is fundamentally useful and instructive in matters of theurgy.  What we see above is a sort of plan or map for attaining divinity through theurgic practices, by means of purifying the senses and purging the soul of material influences so as to become a freer, truly immortal power of God ourselves.  By taking the accounts of Hermēs into consideration, we can figure out how we stand in terms of our bodies and souls, what we need to focus on to continue along our spiritual paths, and how we can maintain ourselves in a matter of right and proper living through right and divine reason.

EDIT (2019-07-30): So it turns out the excellent Reverend Erik put up his own post touching on this same topic, tying it into other practices and parallels in other traditions, back in September last year.  Go check it out for more information on this wonderful topic!

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: A Postscript from Francis Barrett Himself

So I didn’t intend on writing a postscript so soon to my Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration series of posts, the recap post (with index of posts and my own observations) to which went up literally earlier this week. But, you know, as expansive and detailed as my series may have gone, I didn’t intend for it to be the final word; I fully expected there to be more to find out. Turns out, a bit of further direction came out from mukyo65 when they commented on the Four Kings post, directing me (and all of us) to Francis X. King’s 1992 work The Flying Sorcerer, “being the magical and aeronautical adventures of Francis Barrett, author of The Magus“. It’s a pleasantly short read, but what draws our attention today is Appendix A, “Barrett’s Hitherto Unpublished Skrying Manuscript”.

First, let’s just clarify what we’re talking about: this is a follow-up to our earlier discussions on 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).

In this “hitherto unpublished” text that mukyo65 directed me to, Barrett gives a whole bunch of extra technical advice and guidance on how to conjure spirits using DSIC that weren’t mentioned in the DSIC text itself. His writing style is erratic and weirdly punctuated at times, so when I quote Barrett, especially for the prayers he mentions, I’ll update it for both modern diction as well as punctuation and style rules, keeping as close to the original as otherwise possible.

Astrological Considerations:

  • The time of conjurations should be chosen through the rules of electional astrology, not just according to planetary hour. However, once the spirit is contacted, we may ask them for what seasons and times are best to contact them in beyond electional dates or planetary hours.
  • Thus, the planet associated with the spirit should “be in an Angle and strong”, i.e. the planet associated with that spirit should be in houses I, IV, VII, or X and dignified, or at the least not afflicted by an ill aspect or other ill accident.
  • Your own significator should not “be under the Earth but in as fortunate a part of heaven as can be convenient”. In this case, according to King, this should be interpreted that the planet of the sign rising in your own natal horoscope should be above the horizon (i.e. in houses VII through XII) when the conjuration is performed and dignified. An alternative approach would be to either use your almuten rather than your lord of the ascendant as your significator, or to use the planet ruling the sign rising at the moment of the conjuration be considered as your own significator, all situated according to the same rules above.
  • The Moon should be waxing at the time of the conjuration.
  • The Moon should not be combust when you work. According to the English astrologer William Lilly, this is when the Moon is within 8°30′ of the Sun in the same sign as the Sun or within 12° of the Sun regardless of sign. To be safe, I would interpret this as saying that one should not perform a conjuration starting 24 hours before the moment of the New Moon and until 24 hours after the moment of the New Moon.

Considerations of Place:

  • Barrett recommends performing the conjuration “in some retired place at a distance from your house, rather than in your own chamber”, but he also says that it doesn’t really matter. He notes that spirits are “sooner attracted to an unfrequented place than to appear in a house”.
  • According to Barrett, success in conjuration of the spirit depends on a number of factors, especially those related to the spirit and planet that rule over the place in which you do the conjuration. Thus, not only should the planets of the spirit you’re conjuring and of your own natal horoscope be dignified, but so too should that of the place of conjuration itself. On top of that, the planets of your own natal horoscope and of the place of conjuration itself should be in a good relationship to each other, either by essential nature or by accidental relationship according to the horoscope at the moment of conjuration.
  • We should set everything up as best we can according to the the planet and the spirit of the place wherein the conjuration is to take place. This includes the choice of suffumigations and the spirit we’re to conjure itself; we shouldn’t conjure a spirit of Mars in a place ruled by the Moon, for instance, if Mars and the Moon are in a bad aspect to each other.
  • Likewise, we should choose places that agree with us in terms of our own ruling planets. King explains this point succinctly: “[Barrett] seems to have been suggesting that if a city was ruled by a particular zodiacal sign the magus should not carry out invocations therein unless his significator, the planet ruling the ascendant of his nativity, was strong or exalted in that sign.”

Considerations of Preparation:

  • Barrett first says that one should consume no “animal food” (presumably meat) for 24 hours before the conjuration, and likewise no alcohol whatever until after sunset, “and then only sufficient to clear nature and refresh thy Body”.
  • Barrett later says that the conjuration should be preceded by seven days of fasting and abstinence, specifically from “all heavy rich and strong drink”, eating nothing between sunrise and sunset each day but breaking fast on bread and water after sunset.
  • A preparatory prayer should be recited seven times on the day of the conjuration before the ritual itself. This same prayer may also be recited every morning for the seven days preceding the conjuration.

Other Considerations:

  • Put a “new clean linnen cloth on the table under the Chrystal”. Basically, use an altarcloth, but drape it so that it covers the table itself upon which the pedestal is placed; the table should not be exposed.
  • The smoke of the incense should be “strong and plenty”. (I doubt most people would have an issue with this.)
  • Barrett says that you should have “some clean white paper or Virgin parchment to write down the name of the Spirit, his Planet Sign and character which he may shew you”. Nothing is said or mentioned of a Liber Spirituum.
  • Keep the character and name of the spirit free from all profanity and pollution (or, in other words, keep the lamen of the spirit protected, safe, and untouched by any unless they’re in a state of purity).
  • Do not touch the crystal with your hands after placing it on the table. (This seems to go directly against the DSIC instruction for consecrating the crystal; perhaps one should instead hold their hand above or over the crystal rather than directly on it?)
  • Do not engage with the spirit you’re conjuring longer than an hour. After an hour has passed, give the license to depart to the spirit.
  • The conjuration medium may be a (presumably quartz) crystal, a “smooth shining steel Mirror” (steel?!), or a (crystal of) beryl. Barrett treats all three of these mediums as interchangeable and as equally sufficient for conjuration; beryl wasn’t surprising to us earlier, given Frederick Hockley’s mention of it as well as Agrippa’s description of it being as lunar as quartz is, as well as the historical fact that beryl was used to make early eyeglasses with when glass could not be made sufficiently clear. Using steel for the mirror, however, comes across as a shock, as steel is a variant of iron, which tends to be inimical to most spirits.
  • If you do not succeed in conjuration of one spirit, try another spirit. Barrett gives the example of “if you try the first time under Jupiter let your next work be under Mars or Venus or Mercury or the Moon”.
  • The prayer of conjuration in the ritual itself should be recited not once but seven times.

What we can tell from the above is that Barrett placed a huge emphasis on astrology, specifically electional astrology, in determining specific times to perform conjuration. While most people nowadays (and arguably many earlier Solomonic magicians besides) content themselves with just following the planetary hours and days, Barrett seems to make a point of making sure that the planet associated with the spirit should be as strong as could be reasonably attained according to celestial position and accidents. This also included astrologically understanding the very place of where we conjure the spirit itself, which is a consideration most people likely wouldn’t consider to be as important, yet Barrett himself clearly did. Barrett also takes a staunchly Christian approach to make sure that the magician performing the conjuration is as worthy as possible for the work, not unlike many of the admonitions of the Arbatel.

Barrett also gives a little instruction that makes things interesting:

Meditate Day and night on what you desire to know, have ready Pen and Ink—perfumes—the Virgin parchment—2 wax candles and 2 clean candlesticks, and a small earthen dish with lighted charcoal, likewise the Pentacle of Solomon which you ought to draw out as describ’d in the Magus upon a piece of Virgin Parchment likewise the Name Tetragrammaton wrote upon a piece of Vellum fastened round your Forehead like a wreath.

The bit about the pentacle of Solomon ties in with what we mentioned before when we discussed setting up the altar, and the latter about the wreath agrees with Agrippa (book IV, chapter 10) in his description of the ecstatic method of contacting good spirits: “You shall also have a veil of pure clean linen, and in the fore-part thereof let there be fixed golden or gilded Lamens, with the inscription of the name Tetragrammaton” and “that always as often as he enters into the Circle, he have upon his forehead a golden Lamen, upon which there must be written the name Tetragrammaton“. This means that the “pentacle” described in DSIC may well not have been referring to the lamen of the spirit to be conjured at all, but an actual pentacle of Solomon. Plus we should be using a Tetragrammaton-engraved crown, which ties this ritual in more with the usual Solomonic practices.

But Barrett has even more surprises in store for us. He gives us this instruction regarding one of the supplies and processes for preparing ourselves and our equipment for conjuration:

Have ready a small new phial filled with clear Oil—olive with which you must anoint your eyelids and palms of both hands—and when all is ready make a small cross upon the flat side of the Chrystal where the Characters are and turn the convex side towards thy face—let it be placed between the two lights…

Okay, so we need a new bottle of clear, pure olive oil, with which we anoint our eyelids and palms of our hands before the conjuration; easy enough. But then he goes on to describe that the crystal itself should be anointed with the same oil, but note how he describes it: there’s a flat side to the crystal, so Barrett here seems to suggest that the crystal should be round on one side and flat on the other, i.e. a hemisphere. The flat side should be put on the side with “the Characters” (i.e. the hexagram with central Yod, the pentagram, the cross, and the name Tetragrammaton); this would make the round side put on the side that has the names of the four archangels. We are then to have the crystal oriented such that the round side facing the magician.

This goes against what we decided earlier in our DSIC discussions in several ways. DSIC says that the crystal is to be “globular or round each way alike”, i.e. a total sphere, round on all sides. While the pedestal design itself doesn’t change in terms of what names and characters need to be engraved on it, it does kinda throw in our idea of having Michael on top, Gabriel on the right, Raphael on the bottom, and Uriel on the left into disarray; I earlier decided on this because that’s how the DSIC illustration itself shows the plate, and if we were to face this side away from us, Gabriel would be technically on our left and Uriel on our right when facing away from us, which would put Gabriel in the North and Uriel in the South, in agreement with the directional associations given by Agrippa’s Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7). That reasoning falls apart, however, if that’s the side that we’re supposed to face toward us instead of away from us, which is incredibly obnoxious. We could just flip Gabriel and Uriel so that Gabriel would be engraved on the left of the plate holding the crystal and Uriel on the right if we wanted to preserve those directional associations, I suppose; I don’t think it fundamentally matters since, after all, the order in which the names are presented in the DSIC text don’t match up with the order in which they’re displayed on the DSIC plate. I suppose we might have just been reading too much into the DSIC design, neat though it was.

Still, Barrett’s notes here clearly state that the side with the angels should face the magician and not away from them, yet it also says that the crystal should have a flat side, too, which doesn’t match up with what DSIC says at all, which is that it should be totally spherical and round on all sides. If we assume that DSIC was written by Barrett, then this suggests either that Barrett changed his approach or used a variation of the tools proposed in DSIC itself, but this could also be a major sign that Barrett himself wasn’t the original author of DSIC (despite all suggestions that he did). This also means that the crystal should be exposed on both sides, the round side so that we can gaze into it and the flat side so that we can anoint it, and not covered with gold leaf on one side. This throws out our whole parabolic/spherical mirror idea for the candlelight to enter into the exposed front of the crystal and bounce off the gilded and round rear of it, at least in terms of Barrett’s application of the ritual—though the crystal being exposed on both sides does match up with pretty much everyone who’s ever applied DSIC, either in terms of using a crystal ball without a pedestal at all (for those in the Fr. RO camp) or those who use a pedestal with the crystal exposed on both sides (for those in the Fr. AC camp).

But this isn’t even the most surprising part of what Barrett says about the DSIC tools; of all the notes that Barrett provides, it’s this that I found most gobsmacking and flabbergasting:

You may omit the table on which the/chrystal is placed mentioned in the Magus with the wand which I never use—but instead sett the instruments upon the holy Bible saying [the] Consecration of the Place whereon the bible and Chrystal is sett…

Like…is he for real? The table—that contentious contraption that we spent multiple posts discussing—can just outright be omitted and replaced with a Bible? This lends some credence to the idea I had way back when that we could just use a monstrance and put it on top of a Triangle of Art from the Lemegeton Goetia, but this goes even beyond that. Then there’s also his remark that he never even uses the wand! For all the hassle of designing, creating, and consecrating the damn thing, for Barrett to say that “I never use” the wand should come as a massive shock to many DSIC-using magicians. If anything, I want to interpret this as using the wand as a tool of intimidation and force, in the same vein as a Solomonic sword—again, more evidence against Fr. AC’s argument that it’s not such a tool at all. It’s also in line with Fr. RO’s suggestion that the wand simply isn’t necessary, but it does raise the question of what Barrett would use to trace the circle out with—if he ever did at all, or if he ever even used a circle at all, which he doesn’t describe in this text (he mentions a circle only once in passing, and that with no further explanation). It also recalls that Agrippa never used a circle in his primary means of contacting “good spirits” (book IV, chapter 10).

Back to the bit about replacing the table with a Bible. Note that I don’t think this approach would be preferred if one were using a Table of Practice, i.e. a platform for the crystal that contains the design elements of both the pedestal and the crystal, but so long as one had the pedestal that held the crystal, one could replace the table entirely with a Bible. This means that—if Barrett himself was adapting the ritual for his own ends—then the table itself is nonessential, so long as the pedestal/crystal was put on something holy. It could be the Sigillum Dei Aemeth, it could be a Bible, it could be John Dee’s version of the Sigillum or his own square Table of Practice, an almadel from the Ars Almadel, or the Table of Practice of the Ars Paulina, whatever! I’ll note here, though, that in this case, the only names of four entities present on the tools then are those of the four archangels—and not the four kings. We know that the four kings (Oriens, Paimon, Egyn, Amaymon) are what the DSIC text (most likely) mean when it comes to the design of the table, that’s absolutely true, but let’s be honest: it’s evident, with ten years of modern practice being extant plus Barrett’s own notes included, that it doesn’t matter either way whether you focus on the four directional/elemental entities being angelic or demonic. To me, this is a strong piece of evidence that four entities of some sort (whether demonic or angelic) are necessary for the materialization or manifestation of the spirit in the crystal, and that the four archangels perform this function just fine on their own just as the four usual kings would.

Going back to the manuscript, Barrett gives the following consecration to be said above the Bible upon which the pedestal and crystal are placed:

In the name of the Holy and Blessed Trinity, I consecrate this Table by virtue of the Holy Bible that contains the Word of the Eternal Wisdom, and by the Holy Tables of the Law given unto Moses upon Mount Sinai, so that no evil thing may enter herein to die, hurt, or prejudice anyone. Bless, o Lord, all these instruments and experiments for the sake of your son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Although we didn’t have a prayer or consecration process for the table earlier in our talk when we discussed making everything, this prayer could easily be amended to be used for consecrating the table, which might indeed be useful (and reflects Barrett’s repeated injunctions for everything to be consecrated before use). Barrett also provides several other prayers to be used which differ slightly from those in DSIC proper, such as the prayer of conjuration itself, which should be recited seven times (note his reference to using the Bible instead of a table as described by DSIC):

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost do I conjure you, o you spirit NN., by him who spoke the Word and it was done; by him who is the beginning and the end, the first and the last; by the Creation of the World and by the Last Judgment; that you, o NN., appear to me visibly in this crystal. By the virtue of the Holy Bible on which it is placed, give me true answers concerning those things which I desire to know and be informed of; instruct me truly and show us our desire without any guile or craft. This I do conjure you quickly to do by the virtue of God who shall come to judge the living and the dead and the World by Fire. Amen.

I conjure and exorcise you, o NN., by the Sacrament of Christ’s Body, by his Miracles, by the Sea, by the Earth, by all the things above and under the Earth and all their virtues, by the seven planets, by the seven spirits which stand before the face of God, by the great name of God Tetragrammaton El-Ousin Agla, by all the names of God holy and blessed and all their virtues, by the Circumcision and Baptism and Passion and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ the Blessed Lord and Redeemer at whose name the devils tremble, by his name Emmanuel Messias, by all the good and holy names of the blessed Trinity in Unity! I invoke you, o NN., that you quickly appear in this crystal visibly and with a plain and intelligible voice; show me those things which are proven for me to know, and answer and inform me of these things that I may propose to you through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Note the godnames “Tetragrammaton El-Ousin Agla”. This is almost what we see on the wand, which is “Tetragrammaton On Agla”, but with “On” replaced by “El-Ousin”. As I discussed in my Wand of Art writeup when I made my own wand, “On” is a Greek word meaning “being” or “existing thing”, i.e. The Existent or The One. “Ousin”, in this case, is another Greek word, which should probably better be written as “Ousia”, a term meaning “substance” or “essence” or “the primary substratum underlying reality”. “El-Ousin” (or “El-Ousia”) combines this term with the Hebrew term for God; this then could be interpreted as “The Divine Essence Itself”. To my mind, “On” and “El-Ousin” are equivalent and interchangeable.

The prayer above for the conjuration is followed in King’s Appendix A by a prayer for a license to depart, after reciting which one is to “repeat the Prayer in the Magus returning thanks to God with any additional prayers or Psalms thou mayest think proper”:

God has appointed you a place; go in his name to wherever you belong, and be ready to come when I call you in his name to whom every knee in Heaven, upon the Earth, and under the Earth bows. I give you license to depart in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

There’s also a lengthy prayer included by King in the notes to this appendix, which “was used, or intended to be used, at the beginning of a rite for the invocation of a Saturnian and/or Martial spirit—or so I suppose from the fact that the ‘perfumes’ for the rite included sulphur, hellebore and euphorbium and that the operation was intended to take place in the planetary hour dedicated to Mars”, but which is written in a confused and rambling way. This prayer (the “preparatory prayer” mentioned in the considerations earlier in this post) is what Barrett says should be recited seven times before the conjuration ritual itself and which may be recited every morning in the seven days leading up to the conjuration. King says that the original prayer was written with such random and erratic punctuation that he tried reforming it to what he presumes to be its original; I’ve modified it further to make it make a little more sense, myself, both for punctuation and slight wording.

Almighty and most merciful Lord God, I am your poor, humble, and unworthy Servant, being an admirer of Wisdom, a votary of Science, and student of Knowledge of the Creator, desirous of true spiritual light, although a Worm subject to the frailties, wickedness, temptations, and casualties of the flesh. Grant, o great Jehovah, that I may this night see by thy divine Will and wonderful Power those spirits that may inform me of of those things, good and wholesome for my soul, that may be beneficial to me in my mortal and corruptible state. Grant these things, o most beneficent Being, to me, being desirous of holy things and willing to pursue the paths of Knowledge and true Wisdom.

O Lord, I beseech you to forgive my sins and mercifully incline your heavenly ear to my petition, which I now with my whole heart, soul, and mind offer to you and beseech you to take away the cloud of sensuality and dullness that I may clearly behold the spirit I invoke this day; this I earnestly pray, thinking nothing better for a man in this world than to be informed of things above corruption and to enjoy the sublime benefit of seeing spiritually and conversing with your blessed intelligence. But this I know myself unworthy of, as I am a fleshly creature. But, o God, as your Son, Jesus Christ, says: “whatsoever ye ask, that shall ye receive”; so, most mighty God, I, being one man, ask to receive divine illumination by the ministry of your spirit, a pure spirit, with whom I desire to see openly and fully to converse this day, o God. Grant, great Jehovah, that I may be taught Wisdom by this said spirit this day and that no evil spirit whatsoever may have power to come in the name of the good spirits to deceive me to the ruin of the health of my soul. O most mighty God, I beseech you to pardon this my imbecility in thinking myself capable of making myself heard; but, as I ask, let me receive as my intentions are. So let me be answered!

I know my own unworthiness, o Lord; great are my sins and iniquity; they are more than the hairs upon my head. But, o Lord God Almighty, if I have found any favor in your sight, if my anxious longing after Knowledge and true Wisdom or my anxious endeavors to acquire it be pleasing to you, o Fountain of Life and Light and Wisdom, then let one of your spirits descend and make known to me what course I should pursue. O almighty and merciful Jehovah, I wish through the medium of a gross and earthly body to exert that spark of your divine Essence which I believe you did formerly breathe into our nostrils with the Breath of Life; enable me, o God Almighty, to conquer those bad passions which every day rise in my heart. Let the Blood of Christ be an atonement for my sins, and grant that I, o Lord, who am a disciple of Wisdom, should attain knowledge and destroy those seeds sown by our human nature.

O God, grant I may be rapt up in the divine Vision of your holy Spirit through Jesus Christ, who sacrificed precious and immortal Blood upon the Cross. Enable me, o Most High, to immediately become a servant of your Will and an instrument curing the sick and the diseased, of relieving the distressed and fortifying the afflicted, doing all the good that may be made. Amen.

O Lord Jesus Christ, I earnestly beseech you to intercede with the Father on my behalf. Be pleased, o most merciful God, Ruler of all things visible and invisible, to grant my petitions and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Let him descend this day and make known those things I desire, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Honestly, I wish I had read this text sooner, or at least had known about it before I wrote many of my earlier DSIC posts. There’s plenty of stuff that Barrett has written for us that we can easily (or not-so-easily) incorporate into our earlier discussions as extra guidance and advice, but there’s also a lot of stuff here that doesn’t match up. I don’t think that what Barrett says above invalidates any of our earlier practices, but I also can’t really say that Barrett is wrong, since Barrett is the source (in one way or another) of DSIC at all, and we’re getting Barrett’s own insights on how to use DSIC. Frustrating as it might be, the wrenches that Barrett throws into our earlier discussions are still enlightening; if nothing else, what we discussed earlier could be considered a “purer” form of DSIC practice, or at least another variant of it, if we assume that Barrett indeed didn’t create DSIC to include in The Magus. It certainly gives us all more food for thought in how we approach DSIC and how far we want to take it in terms of either its Agrippan influences or its Solomonic ones.

I think I was successful when I set out to write my DSIC posts to answer many of the questions surrounding this ritual text, although I know I also left some questions that remain to be answered. The process of research isn’t always linear, and the discovery and review of Francis King’s work about Francis Barrett shows just that; this text answers many questions, including some that I thought were sufficiently answered before, but it also raises just as many other questions, including calling into question some of my own conclusions. If nothing else, this should help other magicians get involved and try out different designs, approaches, and uses for DSIC, whether they incorporate Barrett’s own notes or not.

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Recap, Summary, Variations

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of…well, rather, we finally finished 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).  This whole time, 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 earlier today we released the last in this series of posts.  The only thing left to do now, I suppose, is to give a summary of what we’ve discussed in these 21 posts that had over 92,000 (!!!) words between them all; for comparison, this series of posts is nearly 63× the length of the actual ritual text of DSIC itself.

First, an index to all the posts in this series for ease of access:

  1. Introduction to DSIC, the various actors at play, and the crystal ball used to view spirits within
  2. The pedestal for the crystal, the design of the gold plate, and the pedestal’s likely basis in the ostensorium of Catholic Christianity
  3. Introduction to the table, and the debate and decisions behind using either the four kings or the four archangels on it
  4. The planetary components of the design of the table for characters, seals, names, and angels
  5. Assembling the different components of the table together into a coherent design
  6. The basic design of the lamen for the spirits and what the divine names to use on it
  7. The planetary and spirit-specific components of the lamens used for spirits
  8. The design of the wand and the ring used for the ritual
  9. The nature and form of the candles and incense vessel used for the ritual
  10. The Liber Spirituum and its necessary or unnecessary role in the DSIC ritual
  11. The design of the magic circle and both its and DSIC’s origins or connections to the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano
  12. The general ways to consider the construction and consecration of spiritual implements
  13. The specific concerns of materials, timing, and methods to construct and consecrate our DSIC implements
  14. Concerns about ritual attire and general preparations for purification before the ritual
  15. How to set up our temple generally, and specifically how to arrange the magic circle and conjuration altar
  16. How to orient the altar, set up the implements for conjuration on the altar, how to time our conjuration ritual, and whether to use a lamen or pentacle or both
  17. The ritual script and procedure for performing the DSIC conjuration ritual
  18. Advice on conducting yourself in the presence of spirits conjured and ideas on how to work with them
  19. Varying the prayer of conjuration itself to suit non-angelic or non-celestial entities to be conjured
  20. Guidance and advice on what to do when particular aspects of the conjuration ritual go wrong or unexpectedly
  21. Guidance and examples on how to adapt the language of DSIC to avoid Christian overtones in favor of alternate spiritual traditions
  22. BONUS: Francis Barrett’s own notes and approach to DSIC

So, what did we learn from this little blog project of mine we started back in May this year?  Let’s talk about some of the high points and conclusions we can draw, including some stuff that we didn’t place anywhere else in our earlier discussions:

  • The ritual text The Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals is attributed to the Christian abbot Johannes Trithemius of Spanheim, but was most certainly not actually authored by him.
  • DSIC was first realistically published, despite older origins, in Francis Barrett’s 1801 The Magus.
  • DSIC serves as an implementation of conjuration based on many of the ideas, structure, and designs provided by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim in his Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, referencing other entries in his earlier Three Books of Occult Philosophy.
  • DSIC takes Agrippa-style “good spirit” theurgic communion with spirits and combines it with Solomonic-style conjuration of “evil spirits”, especially from the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano (which was translated into English and published with Agrippa’s Fourth Book).
  • Some elements of DSIC seem to be more Solomonic in nature and conflict with the Agrippan/theurgic content, and vice versa.
  • There are now largely two modern schools of implementing DSIC:
    • That of the independently-trained modern Hermetic magician Frater Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) as he taught its use in his Red Work series of courses (RWC) and, later, his Seven Spheres (SS) book, which collectively take a fast-and-loose approach that combines or elides some elements of DSIC in favor of good results fast.  Fr. Acher of Theomagica, also an early adopter of DSIC, falls in line with Fr. RO.
    • That of the by-the-grimoire Solomonic magician Frater Ashen Chassan (Fr. AC), who takes a stricter approach as he teaches it in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (GTSC) to carry out all instructions and designs as close to the letter of DSIC as possible.
  • Despite the desire of many to perform ritual texts “by the book” or “to the letter”, oftentimes without incorporating other grimoires or literary influence, doing so with DSIC is not possible due to how little is actually specified and how it seems to reference other occult texts.
  • The sparseness of DSIC has necessarily led to wide divergence and variability—and as numerous discussions and debates—in how magicians apply DSIC, especially with a popular resurgence in occult literature and practice generally, especially from non-Western methods of occult practice that aren’t necessarily Christian or Hermetic in nature, which was the expected milieu of the audience of DSIC.
  • Based on Google searching and analytics, it honestly seems like there wasn’t any modern interest to speak of (at least, recorded or publicly discussed online) in DSIC up until the end of the first decade in the new millennium.  There is at least one reference to this ritual, or something close to it, being performed in the 1800s (based on the description of a similar piece of equipment, the pedestal and crystal, in Frederick Hockley’s Occult Spells: A Nineteenth Century Grimoire), but little other evidence that the DSIC ritual was ever widely used.
  • It is known that Poke Runyon, aka Fr. Thabion, did bring up DSIC in his Ordo Templi Astarte (OTA) classes at least in the 1990s, but he never went into this text in depth either in the class or in his texts, presenting it merely as an example of crystal-centric conjurations of spirits within a more Ars Almadel-focused approach.
  • Additionally (hat-tip to the splendid Cole Tucker who told me about this after this post went up originally), Fr. Achad discusses DSIC briefly in chapter IV of his 1923 work Crystal Vision through Crystal Gazing, but only at a high level and in the context of crystallomancy and the use of scrying crystals generally.  Though some people have encountered DSIC by this, it’s unclear how many or how often that has happened.
  • Besides Fr. Achad talking about it and Runyon discussing it, it’s unknown how popular this ritual was in modern Western occult practice (I can’t find anything online about it) until late 2006, when Fr. RO began documenting his use of the ritual online and using it in his RWC and his fundamental angelic conjuration ebook (no longer publicly available), Modern Angelic Grimoire, and its corresponding goetic text (soon to be republished), Modern Goetic Grimoire.  Heck, it wasn’t even available on Esoteric Archives until April 21, 1999 (when I was in, like, fifth or sixth grade).  This means that, in reality, the modern application (and adaptations) of DSIC was essentially pioneered by Fr. RO, with Fr. AC coming onto the scene later with a refocus on Solomonic grimoire authenticalism/purism/fundamentalism.
  • As has been shown by Fr. RO and by the actual experiences and implementations of many who came after him, DSIC is a highly flexible ritual, and given how sparse it is in details and specifics, it could well be better considered as a ritual template instead of an actual ritual.  This flexibility allows for adaptation, both in terms of tool use, prayer phrasing, and even the general context of spiritual or religious traditions, so long as a basic understanding of a hierarchical cosmology and framework of receiving and applying divine authority to work with spirits is maintained.
  • DSIC explicitly calls for there to be two people in the ritual, both a magician who conjures the spirit and a scryer who facilitates the communication of the spirit with the magician.
    • This is exactly in line with the vast majority of Solomonic rituals going back to Hygromanteia and PGM times, if not earlier, which call for scryers or other assistants for the magician to be present, just in case the spirit appears to someone else besides the magician.
    • This further allows the magician to focus strictly on managing the overall ritual and temple space, freeing them up to handle any eventualities should and when they occur, as well as handling other ritual needs such as incense consumption or notetaking.
    • However, even though this is a best practice, most modern magicians forego having any assistants or scryers, since we tend to operate independently and alone.  Whether you as the magician operate alone or with a scryer is up to you, depending on your own visionary, discernment, perception, and scrying skills.

Then there are a few great points that were brought up in the course of the discussions and comments of these posts:

  • From Pallas Renatus on the pedestal: if we take the use of the single Hebrew letter Yod as the single-lettered divine name of God per Agrippa and the hexagram as a generalized (solar?) symbol of divinity, then the hexagram with central Yod is a sign of the radiating power and divinity of God into all the cosmos.  Placing this symbol upon the pedestal at the top gives it the centermost and highest symbol of divinity in the whole ritual apparatus: God radiating power and light downwards into and through the four archangels so as to empower and elevate, but also constrain and bind, the spirit present within it.  It is, in effect, “a bare-bones form of what the Table of Practice tries to accomplish in [grander] form, but extended into the third dimension”.
  • On Facebook, Erneus from Magia Pragmatica mentioned that the “ten general names” of God from Agrippa (book IV, chapter 6), which are those that form the bulk of the divine names for the lamen, has an earlier origin from St. Jerome in his “De Decem Dei Nominibus” which he lists as El, Eloim, Eloe, Sabaoth, Elion, Ieje aser Ieje (treated as a divine name), Adonai, Ia (dominus), Iao (dominus), and Saddai.
  • Another great tip from Erneus was that the divine name On (from the wand design) isn’t a Hebrew name, but a Greek one (το Ων); this on its own wasn’t surprising, but he tipped me off that Agrippa himself translates On as Eheieh (אהיה) in book III, chapter 11.  This means that, should one use Hebrew for the three divine names on the wand, you’d end up with three four-letter divine names: instead of Agla On Tetragrammaton, you’d have AGLA AHYH YHVH (אגלא אהיה יהוה).  Along those lines, if one wanted to use something comparable to “Ego Alpha et Omega” (Revelations 22:13), you could use something like אני ראשון ואני אחרון from Isaiah 44:6 (“I am the first and I am the last”, aniy r’išōn v’aniy ‘aḥarōn).  However, given the emphasis on Hebrew godnames (with the exception of “Tetragrammaton”), it’s unclear whether using On itself, either in Roman script or Greek script (ΩΝ) or Hebrew script (ון) really should be replaced by a Hebrew translation or not.  This is a variant that I’d leave up to the individual magician to decide on (though I admit I do enjoy the look and feel of having three four-letter names on the wand, at least if Hebrew is used).  However, given the DSIC author’s familiarity with Agrippa, it can’t easily be explained why they wouldn’t just use a Hebrew name in this case instead of a Greek, if Agrippa himself equated the two.
  • In the post about orienting and setting up the conjuration altar, Fuzzy brought up a point about orienting the table (or Table of Practice) separately from the altar; in other words, regardless which direction the altar is oriented, the table (or Table of Practice) would always be oriented towards the East (or North, if you’re Fr. RO in SS).  To my mind, this would only really be important if you use the double-ring design of the table (or Table of Practice) that has a separate ring of names for the four directional entities (four kings or four archangels), because in the one-ring design, there’s no directionality to be had on the table (or Table of Practice).  It would be weird for me, however, to have the triangle face in any direction besides away from you—especially if you use this method and face West in a conjuration, where the triangle would be pointing right at you, which I consider to be energetically and spatially dangerous.  This also does away with the significance of how we arranged the names of the angels on the pedestal plate, which was meant to line up with the four directions when facing away from the magician; however, if we use any orientation of the altar besides East, that would necessarily have to be done away with, unless if we keep the orientation of the pedestal to the table the same.  I’m not sure how I feel about not keeping the table (or Table of Practice) unaligned with the altar, but that is another valid variation, I suppose, so long as you’re using a separate piece of equipment for the table (or Table of Practice) instead of it being the surface of the altar furniture itself.
  • On the same post, Aaron Leitch himself chimed in and suggested another option for orienting the altar of conjuration: orient the altar towards the direction of the planet itself.  For this, a skymap, compass, or ephemeris would be used, such that if you were to do a conjuration of the angel of Jupiter, and the planet Jupiter was positioned towards the north-northeast, you’d orient the altar towards the north-northeast.  This is basically the system used in other astrological magic texts like the Picatrix.  Moreover, Aaron suggests that whether the planet is above or below the horizon would also be significant so as to tap into the ouranic/celestial side of the planet when the planet is above the horizon or its chthonic/subterrestrial side when below the horizon.  This would give an excellent refinement when used in conjunction with the planetary hour besides simply using a diurnal or nocturnal hour.

But, even after we’ve discussed so much, there are still a few lingering questions that could still be answered by others better than me in the future, perhaps after more research or experimentation:

  • Who is the true author of DSIC?  I consider Barrett himself to be the most likely and obvious possibility, but it’s unclear whether he plagiarized this himself from another source or offered it as an original contribution under attribution to Trithemius.
  • Was DSIC written more as a distillation/simplification of the Heptameron taking influence from Agrippa’s Fourth Book, or was it the reverse, that it was written as an implementation of a combined “good spirit”/”bad spirit” approach from Agrippa, and filling in the gaps with the Heptameron?
  • What were the specific Solomonic influences that led to DSIC?  The Heptameron is a clear influence, but were there others?  How wide and how far back can we trace the Solomonic roots of DSIC?
  • What did the original author of DSIC have in mind for the design of the table, notably left out of the DSIC illustration?
  • How widely was DSIC used after its publishing in Barrett’s The Magus, especially when compared with other forms of conjuration used in Western occulture?
  • What would a full, detailed implementation of DSIC look like in a Iamblichean (or otherwise generally Hellenic) Neoplatonic adaptation?  A PGM adaptation?  An Islamic adaptation?
  • What would a non-Hermetic, non-Solomonic adaptation of DSIC look like?  Would such an adaptation even be possible without relying on a common hierarchical monistic/monolatric/monotheistic divine structure?
  • What would a full, detailed implementation of Agrippa’s theurgic communion with “good spirits” look like?  His ecstatic communion with “good spirits”?  His conjuration of “evil spirits” to a circle?  What other grimoires would most closely resemble Agrippa’s description of such methods?
  • What is the specific Hebrew letter inside the hexagram present on the gold plate, pedestal, and wand?  Fr. RO interprets it as a Yod, Fr. AC interprets it as a Daleth, and Jake Stratton-Kent interprets it either as a Daleth or Resh.  I’m in the Fr. RO camp of interpreting it as a Yod, which seems to be the most sensible choice, but we all know that Western grimoire authors and illustrators weren’t always the best at accurately writing the shapes of Hebrew letters.
  • Regardless of the specific letter used, what is the role of the hexagram with central letter on the plate, pedestal, and wand in the DSIC illustration?  What does the original author of DSIC mean to signify by it?
  • More generally, what is the original, specific role of the three symbols on the pedestal, that of the hexgram with central letter, pentagram, and cross?  Where did these symbols come from?
  • I’ve never been satisfied with a simple or high-level answer regarding the role of the four kings, nor why they would be mixed up in these ritual tools if it’s not a purely Solomonic approach; after all, Agrippa says nothing about them, even in his Solomonic approach, nor are these kings used in the Heptameron, so their inclusion suggests another source or influence entirely.  What is their specific role as far as DSIC is concerned?  How does that role compare to the four archangels?  What is the nature of this role at all?

Now, it’s clear that DSIC, beloved (or not) as it is by many modern magicians and conjurers, isn’t exactly the most clear, unambiguous, or detailed of texts, and that has led to a number of variations in how DSIC can be implemented—on top of the normal adaptations magicians make, anyway, due to laziness, convenience, availability of supplies, or differences in cosmological framework.  So, what about a summary of some of the more reasonable variants that we’ve either encountered or thought up in our endeavor?  We can’t account for every possible variation, but there are a number that even a strict reading of the sparse text in DSIC allows either due to vagueness or ambiguity in the text, or merely because it simply doesn’t say:

  • Using a quartz as the material for the crystal or using a beryl instead, or some other kind of crystal appropriate to the working (especially for the planet of the spirit to be conjured, e.g. citrine or orange calcite for the Sun)
  • Using a crystal that’s clear-colored or colored otherwise (probably a light tinge of red, especially if beryl is used)
  • Arranging the three symbols of the hexagram with central Yod, pentagram, and cross with the divine name “Tetragrammaton” in different orders on the gold plate or in the triangle on the Table of Practice
  • Using the hexagram with a central Yod on just the side of the angels on the pedestal or on both sides, replacing it with a cross, or using no holy symbol at all
  • Using a double circle for the table (or Table of Practice) with one ring of names, or using a triple circle with two rings of names
  • Using any of the following in any order for the planets on the table (or Table of Practice): name, glyph, characters (either Agrippa or Ars Paulina), number square seal
  • Using either one or both of the following for the planetary angels on the table (or Table of Practice): name, seal (usually from Heptameron)
  • Writing the names of the angels in Latin script or Hebrew for the table (or Table of Practice), as well as the specific spellings used in either language based on the source you’re working from (Agrippa, Heptameron, etc.)
  • The order in which the planets/planetary angels are arranged on the table (or Table of Practice) in the ring of names
  • Writing the table (or Table of Practice) design permanently (e.g. engraving, woodburning, paint), or just temporarily (e.g. chalk, coal)
  • Making the table (or Table of Practice) on a small, portable disc, or actually putting it onto/into an actual table surface for permanent altar use
  • Using only one set of divine names used on the lamen based on the DSIC illustration, or varying the names in accordance with the general/specific names based on Agrippa
  • The specific number of pentagrams used on the lamen if only one spirit is to be called
  • Putting the name and seal of the planetary angel in the center hexagram on the lamen, or putting the name and seal of the planet in the central hexagram with the name and seal of the planetary angel in one of the pentagrams
  • Making the lamens always circular in shape, or shaping the overall form of the lamens in a shape concordant with its corresponding planet (e.g. triangular for Saturn)
  • Using the simple hexagram style of ring, or using the Lemegeton style of ring
  • Using just the lamen for the spirit to be conjurated, or using such a lamen in addition to a separate pentacle (i.e. pentacle of Solomon) in addition to the lamen
  • If a separate pentacle is called for, then either wearing the pentacle affixed to the reverse the lamen or wearing/concealing it separately
  • If a separate pentacle of Solomon is to be worn instead of a lamen, then either wearing the lamen for the spirit, or putting it under the crystal
  • Making the lamens in different materials (silver generally, wax, paper or parchment, in metals appropriate for the planet)
  • Using an actual spike-/stake-like brazier or using a tripod brazier for incense
  • Using a properly consecrated Liber Spirituum, or just a generic notebook for writing down information from conjurations
  • Having a permanently-drawn magic circle (tarp, tiles, etc.), or just drawing one out in chalk or coal per conjuration
  • Writing the three divine names in the magic circle in different typefaces and facing different ways, or making them all face the same way in the same typeface
  • Orienting the magic circle to align the four hexagrams with the four directions, or orienting the magic circle such that the quadrant with the spirit’s seal faces the direction of the altar of conjuration
  • Wearing special ritual attire or spirit-specific costume for the ritual, or not
  • Engaging in preliminary preparatory practices involving fasting, abluting, purification, prayer, &c., or not
  • Placing the altar of conjuration outside the magic circle, or placing it inside the circle
  • Placing the altar of conjuration against a wall or in the middle of a room
  • Orienting the altar to face east always, or to face specific directions according to the planet of the spirit being conjured, or any direction at all that’s convenient
  • If using a table (or Table of Practice) separate from the altar of conjuration itself, always keeping the table (or Table of Practice) aligned to the four directions (if such alignment is meaningful based on the design) or orienting it in the same direction as the altar of conjuration
  • Keeping the altar of conjuration sparse (having only the table and pedestal/Table of Practice, crystal, and candles), or decorating it with other elements (e.g. tablecloth, more candles, talismans)
  • What time to begin the conjuration, i.e. starting the first prayer within the desired planetary hour or marking the start of the conjuration itself with the prayer of conjuration
  • Interpreting the three parts of the prayer of conjuration to be a single unit of prayer to be said at once, or each to be said separately in case earlier prayers did not bring the spirit to the conjuration and we need to spur them on faster

And then there are the variations that would or have already been made to account for individual magician’s divergent approaches to DSIC to account for material availability, personal inspiration, incorporation of ideas from other texts, a desire to be lazy or convenient, adapting the ritual for one’s own needs, erroneous understandings of the text carried on as workable practice, etc.:

  • Using a crystal, or using another form of scrying medium (mirror, water vessel, etc.)
  • Using a crystal shaped like a sphere or in another shape
  • Using a crystal that’s entirely clear or has inclusions in it
  • Using a gold plate to suspend the crystal, or using gold-like metal e.g. brass
  • Using a gold plate in the pedestal, or merely gilding or painting in gold the two sides of the pedestal
  • Using ebony or ivory for the pedestal, or using another material entirely for it
  • Making the pedestal in the church-shape (as in DSIC) or the sunburst-shape (as in Hockley’s Occult Spells)
  • Incorporating a hexagram with a central Yod on the pedestal, a cross, both, or neither
  • Using a gold band around the crystal instead of a gold plate suspending the crystal
  • Using a pedestal to support the crystal on top of the table, or using a Table of Practice that combines the design elements of the pedestal and table upon which the crystal is placed
  • For the Table of Practice specifically when not using a separate table and pedestal: using the four kings (Oriens, Amaymon, Paimon, Egyn) or using the four archangels (Michael, Uriel, Raphael, Gabriel), or even both
  • Incorporating extra elements onto the table (or Table of Practice), e.g. signs and/or angels of the Zodiac
  • Writing the name of the spirit being conjured outside the hexagram/pentagram on the lamen, or omitting it entirely
  • Using ebony for the wand, or using another material entirely for it
  • Writing the characters for the wand in gold, or using another material entirely for it
  • Using both “Agla ✡ On 🔯 Tetragrammaton ✠” as well as “Ego Alpha et Omega” on the wand, or just the former
  • Using a hexagram plus a hexagram-with-central-Yod plus a cross on the wand, or replacing the empty hexagram with an empty pentagram to match the three signs on the pedestal
  • Using a ring of Solomon following the Lemegeton model, the Barrett Heptameron model, or another ring entirely, such as the Agla Ring of John Dee
  • Using two candles for the conjuration, or one, or some other number
  • Using candles for the conjuration, or using oil lamps instead
  • Consecrating the candles (or lamps) before use, or not consecrating them
  • Using an actual brazier for the incense vessel, or using whatever is most convenient
  • Using loose incense that would be used on charcoals or in flames, or using self-igniting incense
  • Using the magic circle design in DSIC, or using another magical circle design e.g. the one from the Heptameron
  • Using a physical magic circle at all, or just tracing one out with the wand instead
  • Incorporating other design elements into the magic circle besides just what’s already there in DSIC
  • Consecrating the various elements and implements used in DSIC beforehand, or not
  • Operating with a scryer, or operating alone
  • Operating with non-scryer assistants, or not
  • Using lamens with multiple spirits on them to bring them all at once to the conjuration, or using chained summoning to bring them after a primary spirit has been brought to the conjuration
  • Using just the one prayer of conjuration from DSIC for all spirits of all kinds, or using varying kinds of prayers for specific spirits or specific kinds of spirits for the prayer of conjuration
  • Using the Christian-language prayers of the DSIC text itself, or using alternative adaptations to allow for non-Christian prayers
  • Including preliminary calls to one’s holy guardian angel, agathodaimōn, or supernatural assistant

Alright, that sums it up for this blog project.  But, before we call it quits, there is one last thing I wanted to share.  One of the variations we offered earlier in the post is a variation on the table that uses a proper “double circle” with but a single ring of names.  It’s something I wanted to return to, but there wasn’t much of an opportunity to fit in it anywhere else in our discussion.  Since I think this is the proper interpretation of the DSIC instructions, I wanted to give a better-designed version of that that contains the proper design elements of the planets and the four kings, all written in the Latin script.  Thus, this is what I would recommend for use as a table, plus the front (three symbols and Tetragrammaton) and back (four archangels) of the pedestal inscriptions:

And a secondary variation that could be used as a Table of Practice, based on some of the variations we discussed earlier as well, that I think best combines the design elements of the table and the pedestal into a single piece of equipment, again in the Latin script:

And also, a set of lamens for use with the seven planetary angels, using Latin script for the names, the names taken from the Heptameron, and using a custom set of divine names on the outer ring, both general and specific according to Agrippa:

And notes on the foregoing designs:

  • I standardized the spelling of all names to use the Latin letter I to render I, J, and Y (thus “Iehovah”, “Iah”, and “Iod” instead of “Jehovah”, “Yah”, or “Yod”), and likewise the Latin letter V to render U, V, and W (thus “Vriel” instead of “Uriel”).
  • I moved the divine name Tetragrammaton, split as it was before, but inside the triangle, under the three symbols and above the four archangels.  This way, all of the design elements of the pedestal are now within the triangle entirely, which makes more sense, instead of some being inside and some being outside.
  • I used the seals of the Four Kings from the Clavis Inferni, specifically based on those of the wonderful mage-artist Asterion of Practical Solomonic Magic from his February 2014 post.  I used the names of the Four Kings from the Clavis Inferni, too, which agrees more with Agrippa’s spellings from book III, chapter 24 rather than the spellings in the Scale of Four from book II, chapter 7, though I keep the directional (and thus elemental) associations from Agrippa rather than the Clavis Inferni.  “Maimon” here is used instead of “Amaymon” because Maimon is better attested in older texts and cuts down on crucial space usage.
  • I included two glyphs for each entity in the outer ring on the table/Table of Practice.  For the planetary angels, these are the planetary glyph itself as well as the Heptameron seal for the angels; for the four kings, these are the elemental glyph associated with their directions as well as their seal from the Clavis Inferni.  This satisfies the requirements of the design of the table without sacrificing clarity for the sake of space management, interpreting “seals or characters” for the planetary elements to refer to just the seal of the angels.  Although the DSIC spec only says to include the names of the four kings, I added in the elemental glyphs and seals for them to make the design consistent between the planetary angels and the kings.
  • I changed the direction of the planetary angels and kings on the one ring to start at the bottom and go clockwise in the proper descending order, starting with Cassiel of Saturn and going clockwise from there.  This actually makes it descending instead of technically ascending as in the earlier post.
  • Though I used the Magical Calendar for the seals for most of the angels, I pulled the seals for Sachiel of Jupiter and Cassiel of Saturn from the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano due to their relative clarity and, in the case of Cassiel, completeness.
  • Starting the ring of names at the bottom makes a sort of “gate”, with the most subtle spiritual force (Saturn) on the left hand and the most dense material force (Earth presided over by Maimon) on the right hand.  This organization, read clockwise, helps not only to draw spirits into manifestation under all the seven spheres and four corners of the world, but as we gaze into the triangle from the “bottom”, we can picture our sight “entering in” from the bottom, swirling around clockwise, and exiting once it makes a full cycle back out to us to bring into ourselves a manifest vision of the spirit being conjured.

As for me and my own practice, with any recommendations I might make of my own to implementing DSIC?

  • Ebony, ivory, and gold are fantastic if you can get them, but if you can’t, there are always workarounds.  Their presence certainly helps, but their absence does not impede.  Specifically, while ebony for the wand is ideal, I don’t think the material for the pedestal is at all that significant (as the text itself gives you a choice between ebony and ivory); the important part is the gold plate itself.  Plus, there are ethical issues involved in either material, with ivory often being illegally taken and harvested, and ebony increasingly becoming endangered.
  • Likewise, no, you don’t need a temple room if you don’t have the space or allowance for one.  It’s great if you can, and definitely something to aim for, but not having a dedicated temple space is not going to stop you from doing great magic.
  • The only reason to use a Table of Practice, in which you (according to the usual interpretations) pick either the four kings or the four archangels but not both, is to avoid using the pedestal.  Even if you can’t go all-out on a full ebony pedestal with solid gold plate, Fr. FC’s idea of using a simple painted band around the crystal is sufficient.  The design here matters more than the materials, I’d argue, and the design of the conjuration apparatus as a whole requires both the four kings and four archangels.  However, if you still wanted to forego the pedestal, you could still reasonably argue for using either set of names.
  • The most proper construction of the pedestal for the crystal, as I read and consider it, is to have the crystal exposed on the front side (with the three symbols and the divine name “Tetragrammaton”), but gilded or covered with smooth gold on the reverse (the side of the four names of the angels); this would explain the dark coloration of the crystal orb in the DSIC illustration that’s not distinct from the color of the plate itself.  The two candles should be placed on either side of the table, pedestal, and crystal and brought forward just a bit, not directly to the side, so that the light of the two candleflames can enter into the crystal ball, illuminating and reflecting it as a spherical mirror.  This is the most ideal setup; barring that, with the crystal exposed on the rear of the pedestal, one should have a third candle positioned directly behind the crystal, in addition to the two burning on the sides (which should still be positioned a little forward).  This latter setup would form a triangle around the crystal, and would provide light into it evenly from all three directions.
  • Make your tools large enough to be useful but not too large so as to sacrifice portability and flexibility, as always.  The specifics are up to you and your comfort.
  • Even though DSIC prescribes a specific kind of magic circle (a much-simplified form of the one used for the Heptameron), I don’t think it fundamentally matters, so long as a circle is used, even if just one traced on the ground.  Using a circle custom for the spirit to be conjured, however, can be beneficial in both forging a stronger link to the spirit as well as protecting against said spirit.
  • Use a pentacle of Solomon (I’m most in love with the one from the Veritable Clavicles of Solomon).  It shouldn’t be necessary, but it can always be useful, especially if things go sideways.  This pentacle should be worn on the body of the magician; if the lamen of the spirit is worn, the pentacle should be on the reverse, but otherwise, the lamen should be placed underneath the pedestal (sized appropriately to fit within the triangle of the table) or under the crystal (sized appropriately to fit within the triangle of the Table of Practice).
  • No need for a scryer if you don’t want one, but it can definitely help.  Ditto for assistants.
  • Over my own practice, I developed certain prayers for putting on the ring and also anointing oneself with oil before major works like this that I like using.
  • I cannot recommend enough the Prayer of Joseph the Visionary to use before scrying sessions, the prayer of which was shared once upon a time on Jason Miller’s old blog.
  • Likewise, a brief invocation of one’s holy guardian angel, supernatural assistant, agathodaimōn, etc. is extremely worth your time, no matter what kind of spirit you’re using.  Any such invocation would work, whether a traditional Catholic prayer, one from the Ars Paulina, or the one that Fr. RO uses adapted from the Headless Rite.
  • Take the preliminary preparation period seriously; don’t skimp on your daily prayers, purification, ablution, abstinence, and the like.
  • Build up on prior conjurations, especially if you want to take Fr. RO’s extreme methods of his one-week cycle of “Seven Spheres in Seven Days”, his five-week cycle of going through the planets in descending order, or a two-week cycle of going through the planets in ascending order.  Avoid heavy banishings done in the temple space beyond asperging with holy water so as to keep the resonance of previous works around.

Thank you all for sticking with me over these past number of weeks, and I hope you all enjoyed and learned from what we’ve discovered, discussed, and dreamt up!

And, finally, one last thing: despite the length and detail I went into regarding DSIC, and despite the repeated exhortations of many of my friends, colleagues, and family to do so, I have no intentions (at least at the present time) of writing an actual book about this topic.  Given that there’s already enough hard-published literature about DSIC courtesy of Fr. RO and Fr. AC, and between all the supplies and tools needed for implementing DSIC—even if one takes a bare-bones magic-on-a-budget approach—I figure that people have probably spent enough money on this ritual as it is, and my writing this and sharing it publicly on my website is as much for my benefit as it is for my readers.  If you need to, just bookmark this post, share it with your friends, and save it for ease of access to the rest of the posts in this series, or print out the individual posts and stuff them in a binder for your personal use.  However, if you found this series of posts helpful, thought-provoking, or entertaining and wished you could throw money at me anyway, consider throwing a few bucks my way through Ko-fi!

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

It’s certainly not necessary or expected to do so, but it would help me continue my research, experimentation, and web-hosting, and any and every donation for what I share for free on my website is always deeply and sincerely appreciated from the bottom of my heart.  Alternatively, consider checking out what ebooks and services I have for sale, both on my website and on my Etsy!  That’s also a great way to support the things I do, stuff I make, and posts I write.  But, even if you don’t, your reading my blog and hopefully getting something of use out of it is honestly payment enough for me, and I thank you merely for being my reader and companion on this fun little Hermetic path we walk together.