Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: “Thy Little Book” and Oaths of Spirits

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

Last time, we left off with a sly, snide comment about how the specific form and placement of the incense holder seems to be pretty variable, with not a lot of people seeming to stick to the exact specifications of DSIC; I noted that it’s an underutilized and underemphasized part of DSIC. But that pales in comparison to today’s topic, for which there’s no design shown in the DSIC illustration (so I don’t need to mar your eyes with that picture again), but which is given a surprisingly detailed description in the DSIC text (as far as anything in it can be considered detailed). In the ritual, at the point of having put incense in the brazier (or otherwise lit incense using whatever kind and vessel you have) and just before the conjuration proper, DSIC instructs us to do this:

…take out thy little book, which must be made about seven inches long, of pure white virgin vellum or paper, likewise pen and ink must be ready to write down the name, character, and office, likewise the seal or image of whatever spirit may appear (for this I must tell you that it does not happen that the same spirit you call will always appear, for you must try the spirit to know whether he be a pure or impure being, and this thou shalt easily know by a firm and undoubted faith in God.)

So we have “thy little book”, which is given the following specifications:

  • A book roughly 7″ tall (though no specification is given as to width or number of pages)
  • Pure white virgin (i.e. new and unused) vellum or paper

Additionally, we’re to have pen and ink ready to go at our disposal. The purpose of this book is so that we can write down the name of the spirit we’re conjuring, their character or characters (seal, sigil, etc.), their office, and “the seal or image of whatever spirit may appear”.

What DSIC is describing here is none other than a Book of Spirits, or in Latin, Liber Spirituum. This is described at length in Agrippa’s Fourth Book (book IV, chapter 9) to the point where I hesitate even quoting sections from it here, because Agrippa goes on at length about it. Though I strongly encourage you to just….read Agrippa, here’s a very brief summary of the points of what Agrippa is saying:

  • A Liber Spirituum is to be made, consecrated, and used for the conjuration of specifically evil spirits.
  • Made of pure, clean, new, unused paper (aka “virgin paper”)
  • Any pair of pages, left and right, are to be used for a single spirit
    • On the left-hand page is drawn the image (depiction, visualization, etc.) of the spirit
    • On the right-hand page is drawn the oath of the spirit that uses its name, “dignity” (office), and “place” (origin, role, function, etc.), underneath which is the seal of the spirit
    • Additional information, such as appropriate places, times, hours, planets, and the like for the spirit, should also be noted as discovered or agreed upon
  • Adorned with “Registers and Seals”, e.g. ribbon bookmarks containing glyphs representing the spirit
    • This helps the magician open up the book to any specific spirit as needed at a moment’s notice
    • This also helps prevent the book being opened up to any unwanted or undesired spirit that might harm the magician or those around them
  • This book should be considered and kept as a sacred object, lest it “lose its virtue with pollution and profanation”

If this makes it sound like something out of a movie, then you’re getting the right idea. The Liber Spirituum is essentially a magician’s own personal compendium of spirits, something far more sorcerous than a mere Book of Shadows. The book itself is essentially a rolodex of and cellphone for calling the spirits a magician has conjured, containing the contracts and oaths that he has made the spirits swear by so that they might remain loyal and truthful to the magician, with all necessary information so make future conjurations easier and swifter. Agrippa gives two ways to consecrate such a book:

  1. Whenever a new spirit is conjured for the first time to the magic circle of the magician, the spirit is to be bound into a triangle outside the circle. (This is pretty basic Solomonic stuff a la the Lemegeton Goetia.) With that spirit in the triangle, the magician calls upon the spirit to give their oath and bond to the magician, which is then recorded and consecrated in the book.
  2. Make the book the same way as specified above, but at the end of the book, write the different invocations, oaths, conjurations, bindings, and other prayers as one might use in rituals (like those in the Lemegeton Goetia, Heptameron, or other Solomonic texts) “wherewith every spirit may be bound”. This book then should then be “bound between two Tables or Lamens”, meaning that special lamens (not like the angelic lamens we discussed before, but more like the classic Solomonic lamens like the Pentagram of Solomon or Hexagram of Solomon) should be placed, engraved, or attached to the front cover and back cover, and on the inside covers as well (same or different). The spirits to be contained in the book are to be conjured with the oaths and prayers written in it to the circle “within the space of three days”. This book is then wrapped up in clean linen and buried securely (!) in the middle of the circle and covered, with the circle then being destroyed. The spirits called upon are then given license to depart. Three days later, the magician returns to that spot, makes a new circle, dig up the book, and without opening it, calling upon all those same spirits earlier called upon.

Agrippa says that the first way is preferred, since even though the second method is easier and of “much efficacy to produce every effect, except that in opening this book the spirit do not always come visible”. This suggests that the first method, though probably more laborious to conjure each and every spirit one by one separately and get their separate oaths written and sealed up in the book, gives more power and potency to the book itself.

As to how to use the book? Agrippa further continues that whenever the magician wants to work with one of the spirits with which they have an oath in their Liber Spirituum, all they need to do is open the book directly to that spirit’s entry (using the bookmark “Register”, not opening up to any other page), invoke the spirit by their oath they gave along with their name and seal, and simply go from there, giving license to depart to the spirit when you’re done with them. This effectively gives the magician a way to work more expeditiously and easier with the spirit, as once they have such an oath and bond with them, “without a Circle these Spirits may be called to appear, according to the way which is above delivered about the consecration of a book” (book IV, chapter 14).

So, what’s the purpose of the Liber Spirituum? When we work with spirits, we ask, oblige, compel, or force them to give us an oath and bond of theirs, complete with their name, office, role, appropriate times/materials/etc., and depiction, upon which we can rely to ensure their continued support and assistance at a later time. In doing so, we essentially enter into a formal relationship with the spirit, where the full formality of a complete conjuration ritual with circle and candle and incense and the like aren’t strictly necessary (unless deemed so depending on the nature of the oath to be made by the spirit and the nature of the danger of said spirit). Agrippa makes it clear that we only open the book when we need to, and then only to the select pages related to the spirit; the mere act of opening the book is a conjuration unto itself, which is why we need to use “Registers” or bookmarks to make sure we only open up to the right pages that we need and no other.

Now, of course, DSIC doesn’t really get into any of this except in the briefest of manners. It does say a bit more in the ritual text about how such a book should be used once a spirit is conjured and confirmed to be present:

Here let him swear, then write down his seal or character in thy book, and against it, his office and times to be called, through God’s name; also write down any thing he may teach thee, or any responses he may make to thy questions or interrogations, concerning life or death, arts or sciences, or any other thing…

However, DSIC leaves out all the spiritual powers of such a book that Agrippa takes pains to describe for us. As a result, many modern users of DSIC simply interpret this as little more than a notebook-like catalog of spirits, who they are and what their information is and the like, turning it into more of a record of works than a Liber Spirituum with real power and potency like what Agrippa describes. To be sure, Fr. RO doesn’t take this sort of approach at all in RWC, nor does he say anything about books or pens or ink or anything like this, though he does recommend taking notes after or during conjurations for our own recordkeeping (whether it’s in RWC, SS, his blog, or the old mailing list for RWC, I forget). For my part, I have two notebooks I use: one, which is really more of a binder than anything, holds laminated pockets for each separate lamen I use for conjuring different spirits, and the other is a spiral-bound notebook that I use to record the conversations I have with the angels, headed at the top of each entry with the name and seal of the spirit I’m conjuring, the date of the conjuration, any other information about the conjuration (Moon phase, planetary transits, weather, illness, etc.), and the details of the conjuration itself, what we discussed, and the like. I feel like this is a fairly common approach for those who write anything about their conjurations at all, just to keep a record of what was done, when, and with whom.

And then, of course, there’s Fr. AC, who dedicates a vast chunk of his GTSC chapter on the tools of DSIC to the Liber Spirituum. He goes into fantastic depth about how his process of making and consecrating one, its role in both the real practice and popular conceptions of magic, though he largely keeps to Agrippa’s design and process, even going into detail about the specific materials he used and his own experiences of using (or misusing) such a book. Going through Fr. AC’s blogs, I was able to dig up two posts in which he showed off two versions of his own Liber Spirituum, with the newer one bound in brown leather and the older one in black cloth:

Honestly, I don’t know what or even where to begin quoting Fr. AC on this, because he devotes a full eleven pages to GTSC to this topic. It’s a fascinating read, and he really goes to extreme lengths to make it abundantly clear how to make, consecrate, and use such a tool. Towards the end of GTSC, as well, he gives an example page from his own Liber Spirituum with his own selection for the oath used for the conjuration of Cassiel, the angel of Saturn, and a full account of a conjuration with the angel.

However…there’s something that really bothers me about the use of such a book with DSIC (besides the fact that it seems like a lot of work compared to similar practices, like the Heptameron, that don’t call for such a thing at all). While DSIC is literally titled “Drawing Spirits Into Crystals”, the text appears to be focused most on the conjuration of angels. Yes, it can be used for other spirits (as implied in some of the options given in the ritual text), but by and large, the ritual is focused on angelic conjuration, and indeed, this is largely the main purpose for DSIC in modern usage. If we consider this in light of what Agrippa is describing, well…Agrippa describes two kinds of conjurations, of good spirits and of evil spirits, and angels fall among the good spirits. And, in the chapters of the Fourth Book that involve such conjurations of good spirits, there is no mention at all of books, oaths, bonds, or the like. It’s only in the context of the conjuration of evil spirits are such things used or mentioned, and even Donald Tyson in his analysis of the Fourth Book agrees: “The Book of Spirits is a book used by goetic magicians to compel the obedience of evil spirits.” (He also gives a much more lucid and clear explanation of the construction, consecration, and use of the Liber Spirituum, which I also encourage those who are interested to read.)

While I’m not saying that a Liber Spirituum can’t be used for “good spirits” like angels, I do question whether it’s necessary or even encouraged to do so. By the nature of them being “good spirits”, Agrippa suggests that it’s not necessary (perhaps not even possible) to get them to swear oaths of this manner, probably because of their angelic and divine nature that transcends anything we mortal humans might make them do. It’s only when we deal with “evil spirits”, such as demons, devils, or any terrestrial, chthonic, or otherwise sublunary non-angelic spirit that we might want to use a Liber Spirituum in the sense of how Agrippa describes one. I question Fr. AC’s logic here when he uses a Liber Spirituum for angelic spirits; again, not that he can’t, but perhaps that he shouldn’t. Besides, the oath he gives for the angel Cassiel of Saturn is no more than the Heptameron conjuration for this angel, right down to the use of the final “&c.”, which I find an odd choice for such an oath.

However, backing Fr. AC up, the Magus includes an illustration of “a specimen of the Book of Spirits to be made of virgin Vellum”, which includes a depiction of the angel Cassiel complete with the Latin Heptameron conjuration, again right down to the use of the final “&c.”. So, while I find Fr. AC’s use of this approach to be odd, he is drawing precisely from the source materials itself; while I may not like it, I cannot say that he’s doing things wrong. Yet, at the same time, notice those two weird pentagram-like shapes on the illustration of Cassiel. These are the “penetrate” (“penetrans”) and “broken” (“fracta”) characters from Agripppa (book IV, chapter 4), which details the various characters of specifically evil spirits.

That the angel of Saturn might be considered an “evil spirit” is…honestly startling. Likewise, the whole illustration is plucked almost verbatim from the following chapter in Agrippa’s Fourth Book, the specific chapter on descriptions of spirits which technically all pertain to evil spirits. Putting aside the possibility that an angel of a malefic planet might be considered “evil” by nature of the planet, it seems like Barrett draws no distinction between angels (which I would presume to be “good spirits” according to Agrippa) and “evil spirits”, which kinda makes sense given how DSIC itself seems to conflate many of the aspects of Agrippa’s descriptions of conjurations of “good spirits” and those of “evil spirits”. So it could well be that DSIC is well and truly recommending us to use a Liber Spirituum for the angels in this light; this would make a lot of the confusion between Agrippa’s different methods, as well as our idea that the seven angels on the table should be put in the same ring as the four Kings, make much more sense, if it weren’t for the fact that making planetary angels (or any type of angels) into “evil spirits” still makes little to no sense to my mind.

Now, at least if you’re using DSIC for non-angelic conjuration, then yes, by all means, having a properly consecrated Liber Spirituum can be a great boon! Especially so, when you consider the plus of not necessarily having to go through a full conjuration process for spirits once you’ve already obtained their oath written in such a book. But even then, is it necessary? I would still say no. For one, DSIC doesn’t suggest any miraculous or spiritual powers to “thy little book” or that it can be used in such a way, but more importantly than that, there’s the penultimate prayer of the DSIC process, the license to depart. Note the bold section:

Thou great and mighty spirit, inasmuch as thou camest in peace and in the name of the ever blessed and righteous Trinity, so in this name thou mayest depart, and return to us when we call thee in his name to whom every knee doth bow down. Fare thee well, Michael; peace be between us, through our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Part of that license to depart is essentially a condition: “in the name of God go, and in the name of God, return to me when I call upon you again when I call on you in the name of God”. We’re essentially getting an underhanded agreement out of the spirit we’re telling to go, sending them on the way out and getting their promise in the process that we can just call on them “when we call [them] in [God’s] name” and, boom, they’ll appear. This is actually really sly when you think about it: we’re telling them to go and, if they take that option, that in doing so they’ve already signed the EULA to come back when we call on them. By virtue of the spirit leaving, they’ve already agreed to it, even if they’re already heading out the door. The dismissal and ensuing absence of the spirit has, effectively, become their signature.

Of course, what happens if the spirit doesn’t leave? Well, that’s where DSIC has nothing written about what to do, and we’d resort to the usual Solomonic literature like the Lemegeton Goetia or the Heptameron or the Bond of Solomon for exorcisms, threats, and the like, but so long as we limit ourselves to good spirits, we really shouldn’t have a problem. We can touch on this topic later when we get into the ritual process of DSIC (which…yikes, it’s been so long since having started this post series and we’re still not there?!), but for now, suffice it to say that I don’t think we need a physical object for the spirit to swear by when they can simply swear by them leaving the conjuration ritual area.

Now, there is the simple fact that DSIC is saying that we need to use a book for writing information about the spirit in. Sure! That makes total sense to me; nobody is going to argue with the benefit of taking down notes from our conjuration rituals, and admittedly, DSIC makes this book sound an awful lot like the Liber Spirituum of Agrippa, and by extension according to Fr. AC, similar books of spirits in other goetic grimoires and Solomonic literature. But it doesn’t necessitate such a book being used in that way; after all, it says “let him swear, then write down his seal…”, not “let him swear upon his seal”. After all, in the ritual text of DSIC, the “swearing” going on here is nothing more than the authentication of the spirit, that they really are who they say they are. That’s it, that’s all. DSIC, instead, says that the book should be used to “write down any thing he may teach thee, or any responses he may make to thy questions or interrogations, concerning life or death, arts or sciences, or any other thing”. It really does seem like the book for DSIC is less a Liber Spirituum and more just a Commentarium Spirituum, a notebook of records of conjurations.

In my view? You can use a proper Liber Spirituum if you want to for angelic or other “good spirits”, but I don’t consider it necessary, and depending on your cosmological and theological perspective, doing so may not even be recommended. But, if you’re going for a more goetic approach for using DSIC, then you may want to consider a proper Liber Spirituum to give you the extra edge, even though it, again, may not necessary depending on your specific goetic background and methodology.

But…well, now that I think about it, the same logic above about using goetic tools for non-goetic conjuration of angels in the sense of mixing up “evil spirit” methods with “good spirit” targets can be applied to the wand and the ring just as much to the Liber Spirituum. Remember that Agrippa doesn’t mention a wand at all in his Fourth Book, but instead the use of a sword with which one may threaten, impel, and force spirits to swear oaths or behave, which fits in well with Lemegeton- and Key of Solomon-type goetia; ditto for the ring, which is to preserve the safety and health of the magician by further reinforcing their divinely-granted authority and protection. Yet, if DSIC is focused on angelic works…then why? Just as Agrippa doesn’t reference the use of a Liber Spirituum when working with good spirits, he likewise doesn’t reference wands (or swords) or rings with them, either, simply just prayer (book IV, chapter 10), basically in a way like what the Arbatel suggests (which itself was presented in the same volume as the Fourth Book):

But in the end of these days, on the last day, you shall fast more strictly: and fasting on the day following, at the rising of the sun, you may enter into the holy place, using the ceremonies before spoken of, first by sprinkling your self, then with making a perfume, you shall sign your self with holy oil in the forehead, and anoint your eyes; using prayer in all these Consecrations. Then you shall open the holy Lamen, and pray before the altar upon your knees, as said above: and then an invocation being made to the Angels, they will appear unto you, which you desire; which you shall entertain with a benign and chaste communication, and license them to depart.

In that sense, if we’re just sticking to the seven planetary angels (or angels generally, or any entity in the “good spirit” class), then just as there’s (as I argue) no need for a Liber Spirituum, there’d be equally no need for a wand or ring, because these are more goetic tools that aren’t as suited for working with “good spirits” as they would be for “evil spirits”. There’s nothing saying you can’t use them, of course, but I feel like the argument isn’t strong enough for saying that you have to use them. If you’re going for demonic, “goetic”, or other entities in the “evil spirits” category, then yes, you should use the wand (or sword, or both) as well as the ring, but I think bringing them into angelic conjurations doesn’t actually do much.

I mean, consider: what are you, pitiful and God-reliant mortal that you are, going to do when Michael comes down in conjuration to some demand of yours and says “lol nah, fuk u“? Are you going to imperil Michael himself with your wand to step back and away from the crystal? Are you going to try binding the angel into a badly-made triangle and make him swear an oath to you that would supersede the very will of God that he embodies and exists to fulfill? Are you going to use your dinky ring of Solomon, engraved with Michael’s very own name, to protect yourself from the very same entity himself? Would that ring even do anything against him to hold him back? I would say that such an approach would be among the most laughable of circumstances if it weren’t for the horrifiyingly hubristic danger of trying to antagonize such powerfully divine and divinely powerful entities when they refuse to bow to your whims, bowing instead only to the whims of God. The approach would be different for working with the Lemegeton Goetia crowd, to be sure, but then, those wouldn’t be classed into Agrippa’s “good spirits”.

The only thing I can think of that might argue for the use of the wand and the ring in DSIC isn’t to work with and defend yourself from the spirit you’re conjuring directly, but from other spirits. After all, when engaging with the spiritual world…

…you may end up with a lot more clawing at your door than just the thing you called. That is, after all, why we trace the circle with the wand, to keep ourselves safe from malign spiritual influences, especially if we get a deceiving spirit instead of the one we called, and for the same reason why we wear the ring. But, heck, even the use of the magic circle itself isn’t called for by Agrippa for the conjuration of “good spirits” in a way that would line up with DSIC. It’s like DSIC keeps mashing up two main sources, one of which is clearly Agrippa’s Fourth Book non-Solomonic methods and the other something clearly far more explicitly and detailedly Solomonic, but DSIC doesn’t appear to be doing a great job at sorting this all out and making the mashup clean. It works as it is, to be sure, but perhaps it could work better if it were rethought and tweaked a bit.

Okay, enough on this topic. Just one more post about the design and purpose of the tools we use in DSIC, the magic circle, which will come up next, and then we can finally get into implementing some of this stuff above and beyond just talking about their roles, functions, and forms.

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: The Candles and the Brazier

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

This is going to be a shorter post, I hope, because we’ve been going at a pretty strong pace, and it turns out there’s quite a lot to say, far more than I ever anticipated writing.  We’ll make this post a bit shorter, hopefully, and give ourselves a bit of a break.  First, a simple topic: the two candles.  The DSIC illustration shows “two Holy wax Lights used in the Invocation by the Chrystal”.  Let’s take a look at our old friend again:

A little later on in the DSIC entry of The Magus, there’s a secondary caption later on that says a bit more: “two silver or other candlesticks with the wax tapers burning”.  So we know we need two wax candles supported by silver candle holders, presumably with one placed on each side of the crystal, one to the left and one to the right.  There’s no mention of them, however, in the ritual text itself, neither of when to light them nor how to make them holy or consecrated.

Fr. RO doesn’t mention using two holy candles supported by silver candle holders in RWC, or even just a candle in general, but in SS, he says to use a lamp or tall candle, put behind and off to the side towards the left of the Table of Practice and crystal.  He describes this as:

This can either be a consecrated ritual Lamp that you use to represent the First Father in all your rites, or a candle stick that you use for the same purpose.  It can also be any tall candle.  I use white to represent the purity of the Source, but the First Father exists before any colors.

He additionally gives a short prayer to say when lighting this candle; suffice to say that it’s part of his own original methodology based on Hermetic devotions to God and not part of DSIC.

As for Fr. AC, he says in GTSC that he puts the two candles on either side of the table and pedestal, and that he uses two silver-plated candlesticks fit with tall beeswax taper candles, lit at the beginning of the ceremony.  He suggests that one might use colored candles depending on the planet (e.g. black for Saturn, green for Venus, etc.), and that they should be new and unused for the ritual (or, at least, I presume, not used for any other purpose besides angelic conjuration).  He also notes that, “although it is not necessary to do so”, one may also anoint the candles with an appropriate planetary/angelic oil, fluid condenser, or the like, as he’s experimented with and gotten good results from.  However, he doesn’t describe any formal consecration method for the candles, which I find kinda uncharacteristic of him in this case; perhaps I just didn’t come across it when going through GTSC.  At the end of GTSC, he also suggests and recommends the use of an altar candle lighter and snuffer, such as those used in formal church settings, so as to better reach them better and offer a bit more formality to the ritual.

For myself?  When I perform altar-based rituals, I use either one single candle (placed in the middle towards the end of the altar) or two (placed on either corner opposite me), supported by either wrought iron candle holders or silver ones, depending on the kind of work I’m doing; fundamentally, I don’t think the material of the candle holders themselves matters much, but that’s just me.  I typically use plain white paraffin-wax candles that, at minimum, I asperge with holy water before lighting, if not undertake a full consecration of them.  Since DSIC doesn’t offer much in the way of this, I developed my own form of candle consecration (and holy water, and this and that), based on various rites from the Key of Solomon; I recommend checking out that page for some of the things I do.  It’s simple, straightforward, and clean.  I light them at the start of every ritual I do at the altar, saying a prayer much like that found in DSIC or other texts like the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano (which is pretty similar), and snuff them with a candle snuffer at the end.  I think this is the most appropriate course, at least for myself; this fulfills the caption-based requirement that they be “holy wax Lights”, having undergone a prior consecration before the ritual itself, but since DSIC doesn’t say anything about it, well…fire is still Fire, no matter what, and Fire is holy by itself.

So much for the candles.  What about the incense holder?  The DSIC text, calling it by the generic phrase “vessel for the perfumes”, should e placed “between thy circle and the holy table on which the crystal stands”.  We’ll talk about the circle later on in a later post, but suffice to say here that we’re to stand in a magic circle (one is given “of a simple construction” in the DSIC illustration), with the crystal and pedestal on the table (or crystal on the Table of Practice, if you combine the table and pedestal into a single object) outside the circle, and the “vessel for the perfumes” is to be placed between the circle and the crystal.  An illustration of such a vessel is given in the DSIC illustration, with the caption “the Tripod on which the perfumes are put, & may be either held in the hand or sett in the earth”.  Oddly, the illustration looks nothing like a tripod to me; if anything, it looks more like a steak or torch with a sharp butt on the bottom, as if it should be thrust into the ground.  Plus, the caption is weird; it says that it may be held in the hand, while the text says to have it placed between the circle and crystal.  I suppose one could hold the vessel such that it sticks out beyond the bounds of the circle, but that seems both dangerous as well as super tiring for the magician.

Now, the vast majority of magicians, myself included, tend to just use whatever sort of incense holder we have available.  Fr. RO mentions nothing special about using a tripod or brazier or anything of the sort in RWC or SS, and simply says in SS that any kind of holder may be used, so long as the incense can be put somewhere during the ritual; in the SS version of the rite, Fr. RO places the incense burner behind and to the right of the Table of Practice and crystal, opposite the candle.  However, if we were to use a more strict interpretation of DSIC, the placement of this would be in front of the Table of Practice, between it and the magician.  That being said, I myself like having the incense burner either off to the side or behind the crystal, but that’s just me.  Admittedly, having the incense between the magician and the crystal would probably help produce visions in the crystal better in the eye of the magician or scryer, and I’ll probably take that approach in the future, but I still feel more comfortable with it behind the crystal.  We’ll talk about specific placements later on.

As for the type of incense, DSIC suggests using a flame that can burn incenses or perfumes; after all, charcoals, flames, and the like was what you had to use back in the day because such a thing as self-igniting incense (like stick or cone) just didn’t really exist as a thing.  However, since self-igniting incense is nowadays easily available, cheap, popular, and relatively safe to use, most people just use that for convenience and simplicity’s sake.  Likewise, Fr. RO says that the magician may use any kind of incense they might prefer, whether stick or loose or whatever.  For myself, it depends on what I have on hand and how much I want to do; if I feel like being simple, I’ll use my stick incense stuck in a brazier pot, and if not, I’ll use a self-igniting charcoal and drop some loose incense on top of it.

Now, all that’s the pretty common stuff that many people tend to do…and, as usual, Fr. AC takes a more strict interpretation.  In GTSC, he describes his tripod in depth, and actually gives a proper tripod shape to it instead of a weird stake shape.  After all, tripod-style braziers are ancient in many cultures, and give a pretty safe and convenient way to burn incenses or flames in a controlled way:

In order to keep a constant airflow, Fr. AC says that he uses a wire mesh to support some (presumably self-igniting) charcoals in the brazier.  He describes a bit more about his specific construction and the benefits to both stability, convenience, lightweight design, and safety, and it’s good knowledge to have.  He also describes the option of holding the vessel for incense to be “rather cumbersome and unnecessary”, opting explicitly for a “self-supporting censor [sic]”.  However, in line with DSIC, he says that the vessel should be placed between the circle and crystal.

There’s really not much more else to say.  Agrippa in his Fourth Book only says a bit about vessels for incense (book IV, chapter 10):

… You shall also have in readiness a precious perfume, and pure anointing oil; and let them be both kept consecrated. There must also a Censer be set on the head of the altar, wherein you shall kindle the holy fire, and make a perfume every day that you shall pray. …

To be fair, the rite of invoking spirits (or, at least, “good spirits”) described by Agrippa’s Fourth Book doesn’t precisely line up with DSIC, and here he says that there should be a censer placed “on the head of the altar”, which I interpret to mean the back of it opposite where we might stand (which gives a bit more credence and grounding to my own preferred approach of keeping the incense burner behind the crystal).  He also describes another use of censers later on in the same chapter:

Then a place being prepared pure and clean, and covered everywhere with white linen, on the Lords day in the new of the moon let him enter into that place, clothed with clean white garments; and let him exorcise the place, and bless it, and make a Circle therein with a sanctified coal; and let there be written in the uttermost part of the Circle the names of the Angels, and in the inner part thereof let there be written the mighty names of God: and let him place within the Circle, at the four angles of the world, the Censers for the perfumes.

Again, while we’ll get into the construction of the magic circle in a later text, here Agrippa says that there should be four censers placed at the four directions just inside the magic circle.  However, technically speaking, this is a separate ritual than the one described in the earlier passage, and is one that’s even more unrelated to DSIC.  Still, it’s informative, and as we’ll see when we talk about the magic circle, there is some bearing this has on the magic circle as used in DSIC.

What about the incenses themselves?  I mean, pretty much any and every grimoire and spellbook gives some variation of incense recipe, ranging from the simple and unoffensive to the truly arcane and noxious.  Fr. AC’s GTSC gives several sets of incense recipes for each of the seven planets, no less, all sourced from different texts, and any of them are pretty much fine.  So long as the incense would be appropriate for the planet and spirit you’re conjuring—frankincense is always acceptable for any spirit, even if only to placate and elevate them—you’d be fine.  I don’t think the specific incense matters, so long as you use it; customize it how you need or want to, or as appropriate for the specific aim of conjuration.  Because of the variability and abundance of incense recipes and choices, I don’t think there’s much worth in discussing that here in this post or even in this series of posts; just use the stuff.

That’s it for today!  Simple and easy, like I promised.  If the emphasis placed on the placement and type of censer/brazier/incense holder/vessel for perfumes seems underused and underemphasized in many modern applications of DSIC, just wait until the topic of the next post: the Liber Spirituum, the Book of Spirits!

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: The Wand and the Ring

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

Okay, so now we’ve reviewed some of the biggest things we know we need: the crystal, the pedestal and the table (or, if you combine them, the Table of Practice) and the lamen.  If only those were the only things we needed to discuss, but alas!  There are still even more things!  While we won’t get into all of them today, we can knock out a few of them in a single post, because there’s not that much to say about them—whether because they’re so straightforward or because whether there’s just not much written about them.

First, let’s talk about the wand.  We know we need a wand, because DSIC says so:

…take your black ebony wand, with the gilt characters on it and trace the circle…

And that’s the only instance in the ritual text of DSIC for using the wand.  There’s no description given in the text, but the illustration that accompanies DSIC gives us one:

The wand is the large stick on the left, a long thin cylindrical rod with the divine names “Agla On Tetragrammaton”, with a hexagram between “Agla” and “On”, a hexagram with a central Yod in it (like as depicted on the pedestal as well as described for the gold disc for the pedestal) between “On” and “Tetragrammaton”, and another cross after “Tetragrammaton”.  This depiction is also accompanied by the caption:

The Magic Wand to be used in Invocations by the Chrystal.  Write or engrave on the other side “Ego Alpha et Omega”.

So we know that there needs to be two sets of writings on the wand, which (as stated by the text) should be made of ebony with “gilt characters”, meaning that we need to use gold for all the inscriptions; you can just use gold ink or gold paint, or if you want to go the extra mile, engrave the ebony shaft and use actual gold leaf to gild it.

That’s basically it.  Fr AC, as usual, sticks to the design of this pretty exactly: a simple, straight, unembellished ebony rod with the characters applied in gold paint.  Nothing really that special to note, though I will note that the design of the wand he gives in GTSC omits the central Yod in the second hexagram, even if he includes it on the wands he makes and includes the mark in a separate diagram just before the completed wand design image.  A graphical oversight, I assume; the wand clearly should have the Yod mark (or, as Fr. AC claims, the Daleth mark) in the middle hexagram, as he makes on his actual wands.

However, instead of writing the phrase “Ego Alpha et Omega” in Latin as DSIC indicates, Fr. AC writes “Εγο το Αλφα και το Ω”, since he “decided to use the phrase and alphabet used in the Greek language for ‘I am the Alpha and Omega,’ as it seemed to be appropriate and stayed within the original context”.  Though he says that “end result turned out quite well”, there’s an unfortunate error in his design; as with the linguistic errors he made on on his version of the table, there’s a typo in the Greek here, too.  This phrase is taken from Revelations 22:13, which in Greek starts “Εγω το Αλφα και το Ω” (“Ἐγὼ τὸ Ἄλφα καὶ τὸ Ὦ” using polytonic Greek), using an ōmega instead of omikron for the first word.  Despite the minor though unfortunate typo (especially using such expensive materials as gold and ebony), I don’t disagree with using the original Greek phrase here, though some might find it weird to mix Greek script on one side and Latin script on the other.

Anyway, back to the wand design.  Fr. RO basically takes this same design and approach, but in RWC, he omits the reverse side of the wand; he doesn’t include “Ego Alpha et Omega” on the wand, just the three divine names with the three symbols.  He fixes this approach in SS, where he gives the three divine names with the three symbols on one side, and the phrase “Ego Sum Alpha et Omega” on the back; basically the same thing, with the word “sum” (“I am”) elided in the original statement.   Fr. RO also makes a note in SS: “Note that you don’t have to use a wand; you can also use your index finger, the finger of Jupiter”.  And that’s actually a really interesting point to make, because it taps into some of the symbolism of the wand: depending on your approach, it can be seen as a conductor’s baton, the caduceus of Hermēs/Mercurius, a drumstick to beat the sacred drum of the shaman, or a king’s scepter.  Fr. RO typically has a very Jovian-minded approach to his style of Hermetic magic that focuses much on kingship and royalty, but I don’t disagree with it: the wand is our symbol of divinely-entrusted Power.

For myself?  I originally used a simple version, made of no more than a carved pine dowel I got from Michael’s with just the front half of the inscriptions (since I was working from RWC at the time), which I then carved at the tip and stained and finished off with polyurethane, but I eventually made myself something much nicer from ebony, gold, silver, and quartz.  I described my approach to my wand on the craft page I made for it, documenting how I made it and my own design.  It’s not a close fit with DSIC, but it is based on it; I incorporated the symbols for the wand from the Key of Solomon, rewrote the divine names in Hebrew (אגלא, ון, יהוה), and replaced “Ego Alpha et Omega” with the word AZOTH.  No, it’s not by-the-book DSIC, but it fulfills all the same requirements and needs, and throws in a bit of traditional Solomonica as well.  (And, depending on your line of thinking, the symbols from the Key of Solomon can sometimes be read as highly distorted, devolved, and degraded Hebrew script for many of the same things we’d engrave anyway.)

However, looking at the three symbols on the wand, something does cross my mind.  We know that the illustrator for DSIC loves hexagrams: they’re present on the lamen (which, to be fair, is according to Agrippa’s specifications), they’re present in the magic circle (which we’ll get to in a later post), they’re present on the gold disc for the pedestal, and they’re present on the pedestal stand itself.  And now we see them on the wand, as well, but…I think it’s important to pick up on the fact that there are three separate symbols here on the wand, and the only time we see another set of three symbols is on the front side of the gold plate for the pedestal that has the pentagram, hexagram with central Yod, and cross with the name Tetragrammaton.  It occurs to me that the first symbol on the wand, the hexagram between “Agla” and “On”, might have been intended to be a pentagram and not a hexagram to match with the same symbols on the gold disc that supports the crystal, and that it’s a hexagram could have been a mistake on the part of the illustrator for DSIC.

It’s not clear, and Agrippa’s Fourth Book doesn’t describe the use of a wand at all, and this is the only instance of a wand described or used in the entirety of The Magus, as well.  It’s not clear where DSIC incorporated the wand from, and I’m not sure.  The closest thing I can think of, if not texts like the Key of Solomon itself, is a small description from the Liber Juratus Honorii, the Sworn Book of Honorius (LHJ):

But the wand should have four sides. On one side should be written “Adonay”; on the second side “Sabaoth”; on the third, “Hiskiros”; on the fourth “Emanuel”. On the middle of the wand make the pentagonal figure of Solomon, and where the wand is held, a cross, and thus it will be prepared for sacred and wonderful works.

If you think about it, this is kinda sorta like what DSIC has, if you squint a bit and cross your eyes.  But I do think that it’s significant to note the two symbols on the wand that LJH does describe: a pentagram “on the middle of the wand” and a cross “where the wand is held”.  If you reckon “where the wand is held” to be the bottom end of the wand according to the DSIC illustration, then we get a match with where the cross is placed on the DSIC wand.  The middle symbol of the DSIC wand is the hexagram with central Yod in it, but if you swap that with the blank hexagram and reinterpret the “figure of Solomon” to be a pentagram instead of a hexagram, then you’d end up with a modified form of the DSIC wand with a hexagram with central Yod in it, a pentagram, and a cross—the same set of symbols in the same order that DSIC gives for the gold plate inscription.

I dunno.  I think there’s a semi-convincing argument to be made there, but it’s inconclusive either way.  Looking at the Key of Solomon isn’t really helpful, as the wand described in that doesn’t match with any of this above, though Joseph H. Peterson of Esoteric Archives has the note for this section on their entry for the Key of Solomon:

The staff and wand seem to be interchangeable in book 2 chapter 7. See footnote 4. I believe these characters are nothing more than corrupted versions of the Hebrew characters “AGLA + VN + IHVH” found in TrithemiusScot’s magical texts have “Tetragrammaton + Adonay + Agla + Craton” on the wand. The staff and wand are conspicuously absent from the list of instruments in the Hebrew Key of Solomon as well as Ad. 36674.

How long should the wand be?  No description is given anywhere.  My default preference is the length from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger, fully extended in a straight line.  I find that to be a comfortable length, but it’s up to you.  Joseph H. Peterson has an article up on grimoiric wand lore over at Esoteric Archives, but even then, there’s not much.  Thesaurus Spirituum says one cubit (about 18″), Le Grand Grimoire says 19.5″, and some versions of the Key of Solomon say 24″.  So, pick something in the 20″-ish range and you’ll be good; it just so happens that the average person’s elbow-to-middle-fingertip distance happens to be in that same range, depending on your body’s proportions, so that might be the best standard to measure by, especially if you’re exceptionally tall or exceptionally short.  That said, I’ve seen some people use much shorter wands than this, sometimes even shorter than 12″, so there’s certainly room for variance.  As for thickness, perhaps as thick as your index finger at the knuckle, something with substance but nothing too unwieldy.

Now, all that being said, this assumes that the wand is held by the end with the cross symbol on it, such that the DSIC image shows the wand “pointed up”.  However, looking back through the old mailing list archives of Fr. RO’s RWC Yahoo! Groups, I find (almost seven years after the fact) that Fr. RO uses the wand with the cross-symbol end being the “point”; this is the original interpretation I used, as shown by my first wand.  In other words, the base of the wand starts at the start of the text “Agla…” and finishes with “…Tetragrammaton ✠” at the “point”; when I went to Hebrew script for my ebony wand, I kept Agla close to the base and the Tetragrammaton closer to the tip.  So, really, the DSIC illustration would seem to most conventionally be interpreted to have the wand shown “pointed down”; I think this makes the most sense, since we hold the wand where the text starts, and as the of the divine names text “continues” our reach, it shows the flow of both semantic meaning as well as power from our hands.  Others, however, found that it doesn’t matter for them, since the wand as shown has no actual “point” to it, so it may be used either way as a general rod of power.  Fr. AC doesn’t say which way the wand should be held, though the old promo video for GTSC at the 4:31 mark shows Fr. AC holding the wand in a similar way, with “Agla…” closer to the base and “…Tetragrammaton ✠” at the point.  Based on all this, we should hold the wand from the “Agla…” side, regardless whether we write the names in Latin script or in Hebrew script.

So much for the wand, but I do want to make one more note here: though Agrippa in his Fourth Book doesn’t really describe the use of a wand, he does describe the use of a sword for use in conjurations, mostly when performing conjurations of evil spirits (book IV, chapter 12)

And after all the courses are finished, then cease a little; and if any Spirit shall appear, let the Invocant turn himself towards the Spirit, and courteously receive him, and earnestly entreating him, let him first require his name, and if he be called by any other name; and then proceeding further, let him ask him whatsoever he will: and if in any thing the Spirit shall shew himself obstinate or lying, let him be bound by convenient conjurations: and if you doubt of any lie, make without the Circle with the consecrated Sword, the figure of a triangle or Pentagram, and compel the Spirit to enter into it; and if thou receive any promise which thou would have to be confirmed with an Oath, let him stretch the sword out of the Circle, and swear the Spirit, by laying his hand upon the Sword.

What Agrippa is describing here falls much more in line with classic Solomonic literature of using a sword to impel and threaten spirits, in this case using a consecrated sword to draw a triangle or pentagram into which the spirit is forced to enter so as to compel it to speak truth, making it swear oaths of loyalty and truth upon the sword.  As an implement of iron, the classic material for the bane of spirits generally and evil spirits especially, this makes sense, and recalls similar uses for daggers and other blades in texts such as the Key of Solomon.  However, DSIC doesn’t mention their use at all, suggesting a different origin or lineage of conjuration than the Key of Solomon or Lemegeton Goetia.  Still, it can make sense to think of the wand the wand as a replacement for the Solomonic sword, especially given their similar uses in Agrippa and elsewhere.  This, however, runs counter to what Fr. AC says about the wand in GTSC:

The wand is meant to be a representation of divine authority and command.  As such, it should be treated with the upmost [sic] respect and dignity at all times.  This is not and was never meant to be only a “director of the magician’s will.”  This is also not a “blasting rod” in which to threaten and subdue spirits with either.  It is wielded as an active symbol of holy diplomacy and ambassadorship.  When you invoke holy Archangels with this wand, you are doing so with the assumption of divine inspiration and permission.

Now…do we really need a wand?  Personally, in light of the absence of any other Solomonic-type tool of conjuration, I would say that we should.  But, if not, as Fr. RO suggests, using the forefinger, the “finger of Jupiter”, can work in some cases.  It won’t work for the proper Solomonic purpose of threatening impelling spirits (Mars, properly speaking, doesn’t have a finger associated to it, but the middle finger, given to Saturn, might work instead).  Will a non-DSIC wand work?  I think so, yes.  It’d be best to make it according to spec here, but I don’t think that it’s that important in the long run; a wand with some sort of holy names, or imbued with holiness somehow, is sufficient.

However, an argument can be made that, if all you’re using DSIC for is “good spirits”, then you probably wouldn’t need a wand at all; after all, Agrippa doesn’t mention the use of any such tool or implement in either of his conjuration methods for “good spirits” (either his prayer-based theurgic method or his ecstatic trance method), and even in his conjuration of “evil spirits”, he only uses a sword in certain circumstances.  If it weren’t for the single DSIC instruction of tracing the circle out with the wand (which is such a waste of an exquisite and exotic tool, made of ebony and gold as it is!), I would personally say that you wouldn’t need the wand unless you really wanted one.  It’s not like you can exactly boss angels around, nor can you impress them as being an emissary of the power of God when that’s exactly their own role.

What about the ring?  We can assume that this is basically a Ring of Solomon, but as far as DSIC is concerned, what exactly should we be looking for or aiming at?  Like the wand, DSIC only mentions it once:

Then taking your ring and pentacle, put the ring on the little finger of your right hand…

But, unlike the wand, DSIC doesn’t give a description of what the ring should look like.  Agrippa’s Fourth Book isn’t of much help here, either; there are only a handful of instances of the word.  Here are the relevant passages, with the important parts in bold text:

It is to be known also, that Vows, Oblations, and Sacrifice, have the power of consecration, as much real as personal; and they are as it were certain covenants and conventions between those names with which they are made, and us who make them, strongly cleaving to our desire and wished effect: As, when we dedicate, offer, and sacrifice, with certain names or things; as, Fumigations, Unctions, Rings, Images, Looking-glasses; and things less material, as Deities, Sigils, Pentacles, Enchantments, Orations, Pictures, and Scriptures: of which we have largely spoken in our third book of Occult Philosophy. (book IV, chapter 8)

But he that is willing always and readily to receive the Oracles of a Dream, let him make unto himself a Ring of the Sun or of Saturn for this purpose. There is also an Image to be made, of excellent efficacy and power to work this effect; which being put under his head when he goes to sleep, doth effectually give true dreams of anything whatsoever the mine has before determined or consulted on. The Tables of Numbers do likewise confer to receive an Oracle, being duly formed under their own Constellations. And these things you may know in the third book of Occult Philosophy. … Now he that knows how to compose those things which we have now spoken of, he shall receive the most true Oracles of dreams. And this he shall do; observe those things which in the second book of Occult Philosophy are directed concerning this thing. He that is desirous therefore to receive an Oracle, let him abstain from supper and from drink, and be otherwise well disposed, his brain being free from turbulent vapors; let him also have his bed-chamber fair and clean, exorcised and consecrated if he will; then let him perfume the same with some convenient fumigation; and let him anoint his temples with some unguent efficacious hereunto, and put a ring upon his finger, of the things above spoken of: let him take either some image, or holy table, or holy paper, and place the same under his head: then having made a devout prayer, let him go unto his bed, and meditating upon that thing which he desires to know, let him so sleep; for so shall he receive a most certain and undoubted oracle by a dream, when the Moon goes through that sign which was in the ninth House of his nativity, and also when she goes through the sign of the ninth House of the Revolution of his nativity; and when she is in the ninth sign from the sign of perfection. And this is the way and means whereby we may obtain all Sciences and Arts whatsoever, suddenly and perfectly, with a true Illumination of our understanding; although all inferior familiar Spirits whatsoever do conduce to this effect; and sometimes also evil Spirits sensibly informing us Intrinsically or Extrinsically. (book IV, chapter 11)

But when we do intend to execute any effect by evil Spirits, when an Apparition is not needful; then that is to be done, by making and forming that thing which is to be unto us as an instrument, or subject of the experiment it self; as, whether it be an Image, or a Ring, or a Writing, or any Character, Candle, or Sacrifice, or any thing of the like sort; then the name of the Spirit is to be written therein, with his Character, according to the exigency of the experiment, either by writing it with some blood, or otherwise using a perfume agreeable to the Spirit. Oftentimes also making Prayers and Orations to God and the good Angels before we invoce the evil Spirit, conjuring him by the divine power. (book IV, chapter 14)

None of these really seem to apply to DSIC.  The first passage kinda touches on the consecration of various things, but it’s nothing specific to conjuration, just of consecrated items in general.  The second passage deals with oracles and divination through dreams, and though it specifies a ring to be made for the Sun or Saturn, there’s nothing specific about that.  The third passage talks about dealing with evil spirits, but more in the case of working with them in a non-conjuration framework, such as through talismanic works.  So Agrippa doesn’t seem to help us at all for matters about the ring.  There’s exceedingly little in The Magus about it, too, and nothing specific for conjuration; there’s nothing in LHJ or other texts like the Heptameron, either, about rings.

My only guess is that the ring is an import from Solomonic literature like the Lemegeton Goetia (LG).  From that, we get the following design (first from Esoteric Archive’s version, the second from Mather’s later redrawing):

The older version on Esoteric Archives gives a short description:

This Ring is to be held before the face of the Exorcist to preserve him from The stinking fumes of spirits &c.

Mathers gives a more fuller explanation for the ring that I like:

THIS is the Form of the Magic Ring, or rather Disc, of Solomon, the figure whereof is to be made in gold or silver. It is to be held before the face of the exorcist to preserve him from the stinking sulphurous fumes and flaming breath of the Evil Spirits.

I bring up both designs here to point out something interesting: both rings have the three names “Tetragrammaton”, “Anaphexeton”/”Anaphaxeton”, and “Michael” on them, though Mathers describes this more as a disc, while the older version seems a little…funkier.  I think what the older version is showing is that “Anaphexeton” and “Michael” should be on the outside of the ring, and “Tetragrammaton” on the inside.  (As for the word “Anaphaxeton”, Enoch Bowen of The Occult and Magick blog put up a post some years ago about this word, and how he describes it as related to the more common divine name “Tzabaoth”, related to the heavenly hosts, and this would make sense with the inclusion of the name “Michael”, being their prince and commander.)  This design makes more sense than Mather’s design as a disc, but I suppose either would work.

As for the purpose of this ring?  LG mentions the use of a ring when interacting with certain spirits (using Mathers’ much more readable version for these quotes):

  • Beleth: “And thou must have always a Silver Ring on the middle finger of the left hand held against thy face, as they do yet before  Amaymon. “
  • Berith: “Thou must make use of a Ring in calling him forth, as is before spoken of regarding Beleth.”
  • Astaroth: “Thou must in no wise let him approach too near unto thee, lest he do thee damage by his Noisome Breath. Wherefore the Magician must hold the Magical Ring near his face, and that will defend him.”

The one big difference in use between the ring of LG and the ring of DSIC, namely which finger and hand to wear it on (DSIC says the pinky/little finger of the right hand, LG the middle finger of left hand), but I think the basic idea here is clear: it’s for the protection of the magician from poison.  Silver, after all, is well-known and has long been acclaimed to detect poisons by turning black, and is seen also as a way of nullifying poisons, hence why LG says to wear it before the face in order to preserve the magician from damage from the “noisome breath” (i.e. toxic, noxious, poisonous, deadly, or otherwise unpleasant fumes, smoke, gas, breath, or similar emission from the presence of the spirit).  This would seem, however, to contradict Mathers’ description that the ring could be made of gold when silver is clearly being relied upon here.

Now, Fr. RO doesn’t describe the use of a ring in his RWC or SS, but he does use a lead (!) ring (which he says works as well as gold or silver) based on Mather’s version in the form of a disc.  Moreover, he says that he uses this and other similar tools (the pentagram and hexagram seals of Solomon, basically other protective lamens from Solomonic literature) when conjuring one of the spirits for the first time, though he also says that he has “never had a spirit manifest in a stinking toxic cloud”.

In GTSC, Fr. AC does bring up the ring, but he makes the same conclusions I do: there’s nothing in DSIC to guide us except that we need to wear one on the little finger of our right hand.  However, Fr. AC does bring up something to my attention I missed: The Magus does, in fact, give an illustration of a magic ring, just not where we expected!  On page 106 (part II, chapter 18), there’s an illustration of a number of things: a few pentagrams and other geometric diagrams, an illustration of a sword, and, indeed, a magic ring!  (I blame bad digitizations from Google Books on why I didn’t spot this earlier.)

The ring given in this image is pretty simple: a simple band, with a bevel/jewel that has upon it a hexagram with a single dot (perhaps a precursor to the hexagram with central Yod we see elsewhere?).  This is a very, very simple form of the “seal of Solomon”, but it works for our needs, to be sure.  Fr. AC describes his implementation, where he found just such a ring, and goes more into the materials and uses for it, though he also takes the approach of the old-style LG and engraves “Michael” and “Anaphexiton [sic]” on the outside and “Tetragrammaton” on the inside.  This is basically my own approach, too, as I showed when I had my own ring of Solomon made for me some years back (using Hebrew instead of Latin, and replacing “Anaphaxeton” (or however you want to spell it) with “Tzabaoth” in Hebrew; there’s a hexagram with central dot engraved on the band underneath the sunstone.

To quote a bit of Fr. AC on the purpose of the ring:

The magical ring is a shield of protection and banner of obedience to all spiritual forces.  The ring is a perfect symbol of divine unity and the impenetrable armor of God.  To the spirit, there is no transgressing past this unified symbol of divine completeness.  It is recommended that the ring you use be brand new and used only for this operation.

Also, one more note about that picture from The Magus: the sword in that image bears striking resemblance to the wand from DSIC, even though this is from Barrett’s version of the Heptameron.  Barrett describes this specifically on page 110:

…and let the operator himself carry the sword, over which should be said a prayer of consecration: and on the middle of the sword on one side let there be engraven Agla †, and on the other side, † OnTetragrammaton †.

Fr. AC mistakenly interprets this to be a wand and not a sword, despite the text clearly saying that it’s a sword as well as the caption saying so as well.  Knowing that this is a sword and not a wand, we can pick up how closely Barrett (and the author of DSIC, if separate people) may have considered the DSIC wand to be to the sword here; in my mind, this weakens Fr. AC’s view that the wand is not a “blasting rod”, since it can and should be used as one should the need arise.  After all, many of the tools in magical practice are not necessarily used for one thing and one thing only, nor do they act as symbols that mean one thing and one thing only.  While that might be the case if you’re working from the Key of Solomon that has over a dozen separate implements, DSIC has so far fewer, and as we can see, the wand in DSIC is a distillation of both the Solomonic wand as well as the Solomonic sword, and thus can be used for either of the two in practice and in symbolism.

On that note, let’s call it a day for now.  We’ll pick up next time on two more relatively minor (but still important) parts of the DSIC toolset: the candles and the incense brazier.

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

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

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

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

…And in the center of the Lamen, let there be drawn a character of six corners (hexagram); in the middle whereof, let there be written the name and character of the Star, or of the Spirit his governor, to whom the good spirit that is to be called is subject. And about this character, let there be placed so many characters of five corners (Pentagram), as the spirits we would call together at once. And if we shall call only one spirit, nevertheless there shall be made four Pentagram, wherein the name of the spirit or spirits, with their characters, is to be written. Now this table ought to be composed when the Moon in increasing, on those days and hours which then agree to the Spirit. And if we take a fortunate star herewith, it will be the better. Which Table being made in this manner, it is to be consecrated according to the rules above delivered…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That would get us two lamens like the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then taking your ring and pentacle, put the ring on the little finger of your right hand; hang the pentacle round thy neck ; (Note, the pentacle may be either wrote on clean virgin parchment, or engraven on a square plate of silver and suspended from thy neck to the breast), then take your black ebony wand, with the gilt characters on it and trace the circle…

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

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

So…where do we go from here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the Lamen which is to be used to invoke any good spirit, you shall make after this manner; either in metal conformable, or in new wax, mixed with species and colors conformable: or it may be made in clean paper, with convenient colors: and and the outward form or figure thereof may be square, circular, or triangular, or of the like sort, according to the rule of the numbers: in which there must be written the divine names, both the general names as well as the special. And in the center of the Lamen, let there be drawn a character of six corners (hexagram); in the middle whereof, let there be written the name and character of the Star, or of the Spirit his governor, to whom the good spirit that is to be called is subject. And about this character, let there be placed so many characters of five corners (Pentagram), as the spirits we would call together at once. And if we shall call only one spirit, nevertheless there shall be made four Pentagram, wherein the name of the spirit or spirits, with their characters, is to be written. Now this table ought to be composed when the Moon in increasing, on those days and hours which then agree to the Spirit. And if we take a fortunate star herewith, it will be the better. Which Table being made in this manner, it is to be consecrated according to the rules above delivered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Putting The Table Together

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and right now, we’re in the middle of focusing on the Table of Practice and how DSIC instructs the table and pedestal to be made.  Last time, we continued our talk by figuring out the planetary stuff we needed to fill in around the edge of the table, but due to vague wording and phrasing, it’s not quite clear exactly what planetary stuff is needed, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a consensus on that front.  If you need a refresher, go read the last post!

Now that we have our choice of names, symbols, signs, and everything else out of the way, how do we actually put them all together?  DSIC tells us:

…Let them be all written within a double circle, with a triangle on a table; on which place the crystal on its pedestal: this being done, thy table is complete (as in the Fig. D,) and fit for the calling of the spirits…

The major thrust of this is describing something that surprises nobody: a triangle within a circle.  While I can’t actually cite anyone specifically that might say so (because this is something that I feel is pretty common at this point to say and think), the triangle and circle is pretty much the mainstay of the locus of conjuration.  We see, basically, the same thing in the Triangle of Art from the Lemegeton, just with the circle inside the triangle instead of outside it:

The general thinking on this is that the effectively circle binds the spirit (because the circle is a shape that has no end to its lines, or corners to slip through, but an infinite unbroken boundary), while the triangle (being the first possible polygon with the fewest possible points/lines) helps to give the spirit form.  But, there’s also the fact that the triangle, being a shape with three sides, is also qabbalistically connected by that number to the planet Saturn, which could also suggest making the spirit more obedient and susceptible to our threats and demands.  It’s reminiscent of what Agrippa says in his Fourth Book when dealing with “evil spirits” whose oaths or statements you doubt (book IV, chapter 12):

And after all the courses are finished, then cease a little; and if any Spirit shall appear, let the Invocant turn himself towards the Spirit, and courteously receive him, and earnestly entreating him, let him first require his name, and if he be called by any other name; and then proceeding further, let him ask him whatsoever he will: and if in any thing the Spirit shall shew himself obstinate or lying, let him be bound by convenient conjurations: and if you doubt of any lye, make without the Circle with the consecrated Sword, the figure of a triangle or pentagon, and compel the Spirit to enter into it; and if thou receivest any promise which thou wouldst have to be confirmed with an Oath, let him stretch the sword out of the Circle, and swear the Spirit, by laying his hand upon the Sword.

Here Agrippa uses either a triangle (figure of Saturn) or a pentagon (figure of Mars), though he might also mean “pentagram” instead (but which would suggest a pentagon in its center by virtue of its geometrical shape), and considering the context here, I’d be more inclined to think that the triangle isn’t used so much to help the spirit take physical form as much as it is constrain it, at least according to Agrippa.  Your mileage may vary.  It is interesting, however, that Agrippa describes no such device for working with “good spirits” earlier in the Fourth Book when he mentions how to call upon “good spirits” using either his prayer-based approach or his ecstasy approach (book IV, chapter 10).  (We’ll see more of this weirdness in future posts about the difference in approach between “good spirits” and “evil spirits”.)

All well and good, but there’s that phrase “double circle”.  It seems that everyone who’s worked with Drawing Spirits Into Crystals DSIC, whether or not they use the pedestal, interprets this to mean that there are two rings of names, one for the planets and angels (along with “their seals or characters”), and one for the four elemental kings inside that; this is the form of table that’s used by everyone that I’ve ever seen.  In this system, the four kings are placed evenly spaced on the inner ring aligned with the four elements, typically with Oriens (or Michael) aligned with the Sun towards the East.  For the sake of simplicity for now, let’s use a very basic table design that spells all the names out in the Latin script, uses the four kings instead of the four archangels, and uses only the glyphs of the seven planets along with the names of their corresponding angels:

And, of course, there’s at least one interpretation out there that puts the four kings on the outside, with the seven planets on the inside.  This is certainly a far more uncommon arrangement (most people would cosmologically place the planets “higher up” and the elemental/worldly “further down”), and I’ve only ever seen one such Table of Practice design made by Eryk Adish on Etsy:

But…on a closer reading of the phrasing being used here, and thinking back to other texts that use similar phrasing, I’m not entirely certain that this double-ring-of-names setup is what the text actually implies.  I mean, it makes graphical sense, but “double circle” may not mean two circles of names, but rather, two geometric circles between which the names are written. In this case, I think what DSIC is suggesting is that we have only one ring of names and seals, which is bounded on the outside and on the inside by a circle; these two circles would be the “double circle” within which would be all the things we’d be engraving.

In this case, we’d need to figure out an order for placing the names of the four kings into this, as well, since these things must be given “in order”.  I think we should tie this into the order of the planets we mentioned above, and seeing how the four kings (being representatives of the four elements) come after the planets, it suggests that there’s a notion of density at play here: the further we get along in the order, the denser we get.  This argues in favor of starting with Saturn, then proceeding to Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, and then to the Moon, and then the four kings.  What order for the kings?  Keep the order going in terms of density: Oriens (Fire), Paimon (Air), Egyn (Water), Amaymon (Earth).  This would use the elemental domains of the four kings rather than their directions; if we were to go clockwise starting with Oriens in the East (to befit a magician operating in the northern hemisphere to match the passage of the Sun), then we’d have the order of Oriens, Amaymon, Paimon, and Egyn; those in the southern hemisphere might use the reverse order.  Of course, if we were to just use the elemental density order, then it wouldn’t matter where we’d be on Earth.  Fitting the four kings into this descending order of the planets just ties it into a grander descending order of forces of the cosmos, as can be seen in the Cosmographia diagram above (look closely at the elemental patterns in the center of the diagram).

That said, even though that might be a strict interpretation of “let them be all written within a double circle”, that might be a little too strict and literal.  It kinda breaks with this notion we have that the four kings are a species apart from the planetary angels, that the elements of this world are of a different nature than the planets of the spheres above; while, yes, it can be reasoned out to make everything “fit” within one ring of names, it’s probably more graphically pleasing and cosmologically sound to use two rings of names, writing everything essentially “within a triple circle” instead of a double circle, with the planetary engravings on the outer ring and the four kings (or four archangels, if that’s your jam) on the inside.  However, the DSIC text says what it says.

In either case, using either two rings of names or one ring, in the inside of all the above would be the triangle.  Though DSIC doesn’t specify where or how it should be drawn, it makes sense to have the innermost circle circumscribe the triangle.  Given the description in DSIC, there’s nothing to be engraved inside the triangle, nor outside the triangle and inside the inner circle.  This is probably the easiest part to interpret from a lack of depiction and description of the entire DSIC introduction, and completes the construction of the table itself.

In that light, let’s compare the one ring design with the two ring design, with the planetary order of decreasing geocentric distance followed by increasing elemental density.  Let’s agree to use the four kings for this, and for the sake of a simple construction as above, we’ll limit ourselves to using the names of the four kings, the glyphs of the planets, and the names of the the planetary angels, all spelled out in Latin script, with nothing else.  Completed with the innermost triangle, we’d get ourselves two designs like the following:

The first one on the left has the planetary stuff and the four kings given in the conventional layout of, but that second one on the right with just one ring of names “all written within a double circle” follows from a strict and literal interpretation of DSIC, and…it works.  It makes sense.  We start at the bottom and, going clockwise, proceed through the four kings (in order of their corresponding element based on zodiacal direction), then the seven planets/angels, proceeding from the Moon/Gabriel and going up to Saturn/Cassiel.  This works, and is entirely a valid way to construct a table according to the instructions given in DSIC in the absence of any illustration.  Plus, it also reminds me of the conjuration circles used in texts like the Grimorium Verum, Grand Grimoire, and Grimoire of Pope Honorius, though admittedly those were intended for the conjurer to stand in, not for the basis of the conjuration area for the spirit.  Still, using this single-ring approach does make sense, it follows from the DSIC text, and is an entirely valid approach to creating the table.

But, despite its cleanliness and orderliness…it’s taking me a while to like it.  While it does appeal to me, it seems that literally nobody has ever used this interpretation of what “double circle” means.  Not that it’s unbalanced, but it does feel a bit mismatched to put the four kings in the same ring as the seven angels, on top of it probably feeling unfamiliar and with me not recognizing this as a proper table.  I think it would make more graphical sense to more people, at least, to interpret “double circle” as two circles of names, not one ring of names written between two circles, but that’s not a strict and contemporaneous interpretation of DSIC.  For the sake of keeping the conversation going, I’m going to stick to the two-circles-of-names and not one-ring-of-names-in-two-circles design, because that’s what makes the most immediate cosmological and aesthetic sense to me.  That said, if you were to take a single Table of Practice approach that uses the four archangels instead of the four kings…that could well be appropriate.  We said before last post that figuring out what “seals or characters” would be needed for the planetary parts of the table design was the most serious linguistic point of contention, but I stand corrected: it’s this, at least for the table (there are others which we’ll talk about when we get to that point of our DSIC discussion).  Despite putting the lid on the single-ring design, we’ll come back to it at a later time; for now, we’ll stick to the two-ring design, only for the sake of expediency and it’s what everyone already knows, likes, and wants.

But while we’re here, there is one plausible reason I can think of for putting the four kings on the same “level” as the seven planetary angels.  Given their nature, and considering their potentially old predecessors going back to Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian times, this is actually something to consider: the four kings could be considered survivals of the “four winds” from ancient Mesopotamian times, which were considered deities in their own right and on the same level as the planetary gods of those cultures.  If we consider the role of the four kings here and what they’re doing based on what we said before (and consider also Agrippa, book III, chapter 24, my emphasis in bold text: “every one of these Spirits is a great Prince, and hath much power and freedom in the dominion of his own planets, and signs, and in their times, years, months, days, and hours, and in their Elements, and parts of the world, and winds“), and if we consider the role of the seven planetary angels here to channel and distill their respective planetary forces in a way that the kings would the worldly, elemental forces, then it makes sense that the four kings here would be included with the seven planetary angels.  This would mean that the table isn’t necessarily a cosmogram or anything to show how everything is ideally arranged, but that the presence (and support) of the seven planetary angels and four kings of the world would collectively help to channel, focus, and materialize the spirit in the crystal as visibly and physically as possible, lending it a share of all the forces that combine to manifest everything in this world.  In other words, the presence of these spirits isn’t about the actual planetary and elemental forces, but about the spheres of heaven and four corners of the world, using distinctly worldly processes to bring something to manifest within the triangle; consider how the Circle of Art from the Lemegeton has the snake with all the divine names and attributes of the ten sephiroth of the Tree of Life curling inward towards the center.

On top of that, the “four winds” of back then were assigned to the four zodiac signs of Scorpio (or Aquila), Aquarius, Taurus, and Leo—the four fixed signs, which later became identified with the four archangels Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, and Michael.  In this light, this means that not only the four kings can (and arguably should) be arranged with the seven planetary angels, but that they would, reaching back to their shared origin, be essentially interchangeable with the four archangels.  Not a bad idea, and another point in favor of those who would use the four archangels instead of the four kings on their DSIC tables.

Anyway, let’s continue.  If we were to go with our earlier design choice of using the planetary glyphs, the planetary characters, the names of the angels, and the names of the kings, with the names written in Latin, we’d get the following for our one ring and two ring forms:

Forgive me for having to bunch up the (more numerous) characters for the Sun and Jupiter, but I didn’t want to rebalance all of the spacing for all this just yet.  The idea is there, though.  You can envision what it’d be like for incorporating the angelic seals, too, based on this; smaller font, smaller characters, and a lot more densely-packed use of space on the outer ring.  But, despite all the complexity here, I think this is closer to what DSIC is actually instructing us to do:

…the table on which the crystal stands the following names, characters, &c. must be drawn in order.  First, The names of the seven planets and angels ruling them, with their seals or characters. The names of the four kings of the four corners of the earth. Let them be all written within a double circle, with a triangle on a table…

But, in the end, there you have it.  More table designs for use with DSIC based on different yet equally strict and accurate interpretations of the rather terse instructions given by the text itself.

Whugh.  That took a lot more words, explanation, surveying, and arguing with Adobe Illustrator than I expected, to be sure.

Now, in light of everything above?  Given the lack of explanation of the table in DSIC, as well as the fact that there’s no visual depiction given, along with the level of specificity that is given to the pedestal itself, I want to make the claim that the specific design used for table itself probably doesn’t matter that much, honestly.  It seems like the real focus in DSIC is given to the pedestal supporting the crystal with the names and symbols to be engraved around it, with the table itself being described almost as an afterthought.  In that light, it’s not the table doing the bulk of the protective and spiritual work as far as providing for the right woogity in the ritual (besides the magician themselves, of course), but the pedestal itself.  If we were to actually give credence to the notion that Johannes Trithemius wrote DSIC (and, personally, I don’t), well…recall that he was an abbot, and thus would be more inclined towards religious magic of a higher and more theurgical nature rather than goetia or necromancy, and recall how we likened the pedestal to a monstrance.  In that light, the shape and purpose of the pedestal makes a lot of sense: it’s a monstrance not for displaying the Host or relics, but the presence of actual spirits themselves; the table should be decked out in the signs and symbols of the seven planets and four elements to facilitate the presence of spirits, sure, but beyond that, I don’t know whether DSIC really cares as much about the table as about the pedestal.  Honestly, if somehow you got the money and means to get one, my hunch is that even the use of an actual monstrance that once held a consecrated Host would alone be sufficient, with a crystal or some material held in the chamber, to perform DSIC with, even without a table or names of angels or kings or whatnot; if you can get such a mosntrance and use it on a table, all the better.

Note that I’m not saying that the table doesn’t matter at all; if it didn’t matter, DSIC would probably say as much, or even just decline to mention anything about the table at all.  But so long as the basic idea of the table is there—a triangle circumscribed by two circles, along with planetary names/angels/characters and names of elemental kings (or elemental angels if that’s the route you want to take)—then I think you’ve got enough of what you need to perform the DSIC ritual.  Heck, I’m not 100% convinced (more like 99%) that you need the planetary stuff and the names of the kings at all, honestly, so long as you’ve got the appropriate pedestal made in the appropriate way.  There’s nothing saying you shouldn’t use them, of course, and I’m not making that claim either, but I don’t think it’s as necessary or as important to the spirit of DSIC than having the pedestal.

So, then, why do we focus on the table, or as we like to call it, the Table of Practice?  Because so many of us like simplicity, and let’s be honest: it’s a lot simpler to have a single tool (one Table of Practice) than two tools (table and pedestal), and it’s a lot simpler to have a free-standing crystal ball than having to set it in something else, which requires some specialty crafting skills that not everyone has.  Heck, already not a lot of people have the crafting skills necessary to make even a rudimentary Table of Practice, despite that it’s not that hard to do.  Since DSIC-compatible Tables of Practice began being made about ten years ago, until the advent of Fr. AC’s reintroduction of the pedestal as a separate item, the general approach has largely been focused on combining the designs of the pedestal with the table into a single Table of Practice, and that approach is workable enough, simple enough, and effective enough to do what DSIC claims to do.

Those readers of mine who somehow maintained their mental acuity after all this time that I’m only just now using the phrase “Table of Practice”.  When it comes to the DSIC method on its own terms, of which Fr. AC tends to hit closest to the mark, DSIC says to use both a table and a pedestal; however, when the pedestal and table are combined into something like what Fr. RO (and Fr. Acher, and the Scribbler, and Satyr Magos, and myself, etc.) uses, then you get the Table of Practice.  I’m using the phrase “Table of Practice” to refer to the single-apparatus approach instead of the dual-apparatus approach of table and pedestal, and I think that might help clarify some of the language around all this stuff.

The three symbols of the hexagram with central Yod, the pentagram, and the cross are placed in the corners of the central table triangle, while the use of the name Tetragrammaton tends to get dropped out, though some magicians engrave circularly around the triangle in the gap between the triangle and the (inner) ring of names.  The names of the angels from the pedestal either get left out entirely or replace the names of the four kings, making those names left out; I’ve never seen a Table of Practice that has both the four angels and the four kings.  I’ve seen only one such example of this from Tye, and it puts the names of the angels in the same ring as that of the kings on tyetknot’s Tumblr but in a way that doesn’t follow much with the directions we should see (Raphael in the North?  Uriel in the West?), and though I get the logic behind it, that doesn’t seem to mesh well with me.

But what would it look like if a Table of Practice did have both sets of names that did agree with the nature of the tools that DSIC instructs us to use?  Given how we’re combining the inscriptions on the pedestal with the inscriptions on the table, and noting that we combined the three symbols inside the triangle, this would suggest we should have the four angels inside the triangle as well.  This doesn’t completely surprise me; I mean, we see something similar going on with the Triangle of Art from the Lemegeton Goetia (see the earlier pictures in this post), after all, with the name Michael being split into three—and note how it’s fundamentally a table unto itself, consisting of a circle and triangle and divine names including “Tetragrammaton”.

Further, note how, in the Lemegeton Goetia’s Triangle of Art, there’s a circle inside the triangle itself.  This leads me to a design choice where, just as we can have the names of the four kings on an inside ring within the ring of planetary angelic names, bounded by a circle above and below it, we can have the names of the four archangels on a ring within the triangle, bounded by another pair of circles above and below it.  If I were to make a final, let’s-get-it-all-in Table of Practice design, based on everything above, then we’d end up with this:

This design of the Table of Practice, using two rings as is conventional at this point, with all the names spelled out in Latin script, has all the elements from both the pedestal and the stand on a single surface, and even though foregoing the pedestal isn’t true to the instructions in DSIC or to Fr. AC’s grimoire-strict methodology, this does have all the symbols necessary and in roughly-equivalent positions, just presented in two dimensions horizontally rather than three dimensions horizontally and vertically.  As a result, this might be the most true-to-the-spirit Table of Practice for DSIC-type work, should one forego the pedestal, and it also resolves the debate between having either the names of the four kings or those of the four angels by including both sets of names in an appropriate location.

And, for kicks, let’s do one more design: a final complete Table of Practice that has all the above plus the twelve zodiacal angels in another ring outside that of the planets and their angels, with the planetary and zodiacal angel names written in Celestial Hebrew :

It is weird, I admit, to have the four archangels “underneath” the four kings, but I’m not trying to represent a vertical relationship anymore once we get under the four kings.  Remember that everything in and around the triangle comes from the design of the pedestal, which is supposed to be stand above the table; if we do away with the pedestal (and it’s not true to DSIC to do so), then we should still make an effort to keep the same symbols from it onto the table to make a combined Table of Practice.  It’s common enough to do this by putting the three symbols of the hexagram with central Yod, pentagram, and cross into the corners of the triangle, but those could just as easily go outside the triangle, too; the circumscribed “Tetragrammaton” is unheard of in the way depicted above, either, but I’ve never seen anyone include both the four kings as well as the four angels.  While one could restructure the Table of Practice to put planetary angels on the outside, the four archangels inside them, and the four kings inside them, I think putting the archangels closest to the center of the Table of Practice makes more sense because those are supposed to be closest near the crystal.

One more conjecture at this point, now that I’ve plowed through enough Illustrator work for one day.  Now that I think about it…well, remember what I pointed out about the Triangle of Art from the Lemegeton above?  It’s fundamentally the same thing as the table: a triangle and a circle with some divine names written around it.  If you had a properly-constructed pedestal—or a consecrated monstrance—you could probably just plop that on the Triangle of Art and it would work as well.  After all, nobody’s complained about the Triangle of Art lacking kings or angels or planets and it’s been used for goetic conjurations for quite some time, and they’ve gotten great results with that tool, despite the lack of planetary stuff or the four kings.  My hunch is that you could use just a regular, simple, boring Triangle of Art and a properly-made stand for the crystal and it would be sufficient for DSIC ritual use, omitting everything above about the specific needs of the table from DSIC despite what DSIC says about it.  That’s just a conjecture, but given some of the discussions above, I think there’s a good logic to it that could well be experimented with for those who have a pedestal or monstrance.

When I set out to write about this topic, I had no intention of making this a full survey of the various Tables of Practice that are currently in use by a variety of magicians, nor did I anticipate going into detail on the various versions of the names one might use, but I’m glad I did.  Still, this is just one aspect of the DSIC equipment; there’s still the lamen, circle, and wand to talk about.  We’ll pick up on some of those next, though given how DSIC actually gives examples of those, there’ll be a lot less to discuss, and we’ll have more fun with the Fourth Book of Cornelius Agrippa, besides!

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: The Planetary Stuff on the Table

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and right now, we’re in the middle of focusing on the Table of Practice and how DSIC instructs the table and pedestal to be made.  Last time, we bit into one of the biggest debates about different approaches to the DSIC, namely whether to use the names of the Four Kings of the Earth (Oriens, Paimon, Egyn, Amaymon) or the names of the Four Archngels (Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel); many grimoire-purists and demon-workers argue for the former, while Fr. RO, Fr. Acher, and a number of others argue for the latter or for either or.  But we’re moving on now to keep the discussion moving; if you need a refresher, go read the last post!

Now that we have the debacle-debate about the four kings out of the way, let’s move on with the rest of the table.  We know from the description given in DSIC that the table needs to have the following on it:

…on the table on which the crystal stands the following names, characters, &c. must be drawn in order.

First, The names of the seven planets and angels ruling them, with their seals or characters. The names of the four kings of the four corners of the earth. Let them be all written within a double circle, with a triangle on a table; on which place the crystal on its pedestal: this being done, thy table is complete (as in the Fig. D,) and fit for the calling of the spirits…

With the four kings understood, and the debate about the pros and cons about using the four archangels instead of the four kings, what about the planetary stuff?  DSIC says to draw “the names of the seven planets and angels ruling them, with their seals or characters”.  That’s…quite a lot of stuff, actually.  According to the text, we need the name of the planet, the name of the angel ruling the planet, and then…well, what exactly do we mean by “their seals or characters”?  Do we mean the seals of the angels, the seals of the planet, or both?  The most common form of table that we see, as seen from Fr. RO’s versions above, use only the glyph for the planet (viz. the ones we most commonly see as a representation of them in astrological charts and texts) and the names of the planetary angels, with no other characters or names present.  We see this in the majority of Tables of Practice with some variants, such as the Magian-script one from the Scribbler, another version made by Fr. FC, and many that are commonly made and sold on Etsy

However, Fr. AC, as usual, goes a bit further.  GTSC gives the following for each planet:

  • the glyph of the planet
  • the name of the planet
  • the name of the angel
  • the seal of the angel

GTSC separates these four elements with middle dots (·), and separates groups of these elements with colons (:).  I like that design choice of separation, but I want to call into question his choice of characters here.  Though it’s a little hard to see, an image of how he sets up his table (along with the pedestal) is up on one of his old blog’s posts:

I find it incredibly odd that GTSC uses only the genitive forms of the Latin names instead of the nominative (e.g. Saturni instead of Saturnus, “of Saturn” instead of just “Saturn”).  Maybe this is due to a result of a poor understanding of Latin on Fr. AC’s part? I mean, it could be read as e.g. “Saturni Cassiel” translating to “Cassiel of Saturn”, but the use of the separator dot would seem to break that construction.  I think Fr. AC made a mistake here: he says he likes the “old spelling” of the planets, but that would properly imply using the nominative case here, just as we wouldn’t say “Michaelis” (genitive of Michael) or “Raphaelem” (accusative of Raphael), just “Michael” and “Raphael”.

However, Fr. AC interprets “their seals or characters” to only apply to the angels and not the planets, but there are indeed characters of the planets, too, which Fr. AC completely passes over in this case.  As noted above, Fr. Acher uses the sigils of the planets derived from their magic squares from Cornelius Agrippa (book II, chapter 22), but Satyr Magos over on his blog Journey Through The Obsidian Dream devised a nonce-based version that included only the planetary glyphs and characters (while omitting the angelic names) from earlier on in Cornelius Agrippa (book I, chapter 33).  Similarly, Erneus of Magia Pragmatica: Key to the Key of Solomon developed a Fr. RO-based design of the Table of Practice that includes the angelic names and seals as well as the planetary characters and images from the Magical Calendar, replacing the usual planetary glyphs with their corresponding images.  And, too, recall how Fr. Acher uses the number square-based planetary seals, too, on his table design.

Satyr Magos uses the planetary characters from Agrippa, but the table design made by Erneus uses the characters that were also used in the Ars Paulina.  The Ars Paulina, I should note, is likely the main inspiration or corroborating text that the Magical Calendar sourced its versions of the planetary characters from, and so it’s these that already have a good argument for using them instead of Agrippa’s planetary characters because they’re already part of a Table of Practice used for the same ends as the DSIC one, even if it’s of a fundamentally different design.  That is, there would be a good argument if only it weren’t for the fact that the Ars Paulina likely postdates Agrippa (given its likely Paracelsan origin), and the Magical Calendar definitely postdates Agrippa.  However, I think either set of characters would work, but I would favor the Agrippa set of characters that Satyr Magos uses.  However, Joseph Peterson mentions in his notes to the Lemegeton that the characters from the Ars Paulina, given the connections that the Ars Paulina also has with book II of the Steganographia of Johannes Trithemius (actually the real author instead of his spurious association to DSIC), may well give this latter set of characters a stronger argument.

While it’d be great to have the name, glyph, and character(s) of the planet as well as the name and seal of the angel, Fr. Acher pointed out in his design of his own table that it’s…just kinda too much.  Plus, it also raises the issue of the fact that the four kings have only names and neither characters nor seals (unless you want to go with the really intricate seals from the Clavis Inferni, as Asterion showed on his blog, which may not be necessarily recommend for this purpose); we could use the elemental glyphs, but that seems weird to me, as the four kings are more about the four corners of the Earth rather than the four elements.  If we wanted to make everything follow the same standard, we’d use only the names of the angels and planets and the names of the kings with no other glyphs or seals or characters, because that’s something they all have, but that certainly misses DSIC’s explicit instruction to engrave them with the “seals or characters” of the planets and/or the angels.  If we interpret the “seal or character” of the planet to just be that planet’s glyph, as GTSC appears to do, then that makes the process much easier and cleaner for us, and it avoids having to cram in several batches of things into a tight space, but I don’t like that approach; it seems to stretch what is normally meant by “seal or character”.  But, including the planetary characters, if we weren’t going to go with the seal/sigil like how Fr. Acher did (which is super detailed and can be hard to do on some surfaces with sufficient clarity) would mean we’d either need either a very large table or a very small font to get everything written in.

Thinking on this for myself, just to consider the planetary elements of the design of the table, I would include the glyphs for the planet, the strings of planetary characters from Agrippa, and the name of the angel; those would be my priorities.  The glyph of the planet basically stands in for and is synonymous with the name (and indeed is read as the name itself in many occult texts), and the planetary characters help to give the planetary power to the table as their “seals”, much as in the same way the names of the four kings lend their power to the table as well.  As for the angels, the angelic names are more important for me than their seals; after all, you don’t need a spirit’s seal to conjure them so long as you have their name, and so long as you have their name, you can develop any number of sigils for that name by which you can conjure them as effectively (or nearly so).  Plus, on the lamen itself (which we’ll discuss in the future), it’s the name that’s given the most prominence rather than the seal, which is comparatively hidden and nestled inside the hexagram.  It’s not that we want to bring the full presence of the angel to the table, either, but just their attention; I feel like this is more appropriate for just using their name rather than their fullness.  All this effectively interprets “the names of the seven planets and angels ruling them, with their seals or characters” as referring to the names, angels, and seals of the seven planets, not the names and characters of the angels and of the planets, nor the names and characters of the angels and also of the planets.  This final point really is up to just how specifically you want to interpret the DSIC description here, and is probably the most serious linguistic point of contention between how different people want to design the table.  However, in doing it this way, we also end up with something that’s on the same scale as the GTSC table combined with Satyr Magos’ design above, and yields a slightly cleaner and simpler design choice.

Moving on from that, what order do we put the planetary stuff in?  There’s no order given in DSIC for this, but given that the order of the Scale of Seven from Agrippa (book II, chapter 10) starts with Saturn and proceeds towards the Moon in descending geocentric distance order, I would think that order would be the most sensible to use.  Of course, you could go the other way, going from the Moon up to Saturn.  I don’t think it actually matters much, but as we’ll see in a bit, I think there’s a good argument to be made for the descending geocentric distance order, especially as we’ll see more about in a bit.  Fr. AC in GTSC agrees with this, that one should use the descending order of the planets, and Fr. RO uses this same order in his Modern Angelic Grimoire and RWC.  Both Fr. AC and Fr. RO use the same image in both their respective books to illustrate why this might be the case, the famous design of the geocentric celestial spheres according to Peter Apian’s 1539 work Cosmographia:

While we’re looking at this diagram, by the way, we also see why Fr. AC used the genitive forms of the names of the planets in his table design, because that’s what he most likely read according to this specific diagram.  Properly speaking, however?  Note the word “COELṼ” (read “coelum”, literally “heaven”) to the left of the glyph for Saturn; this should be read as “Coelum Saturni”, or literally “Heaven of Saturn”, and likewise “Coelum Iovis” as “Heaven of Jupiter”.  If we just wanted to use the planetary names on their own, we’d write the names in the nominative case instead: Saturnus, Iovis/Iup(p)iter, Mars, Sol, Venus, Mercurius, Luna.  I’m pretty sure the case-based linguistics of Latin tripped Fr. AC up, leading him to use the wrong form of the planetary names.

Anyway, back to orders.  Interestingly, Fr. RO uses another order instead for SS: going in the direction of the names of the angels (counterclockwise due to the right-to-left nature of Hebrew) he uses the order of Saturn, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Moon, Mars, Sun.  This doesn’t match the distance order, weekday order, or even weight order of the planets (according to their planetary metals, as I discussed once long ago, that of Saturn, Mars, Venus, Moon, Jupiter, Sun, Mercury).  First, compare the following two Tables of Practice he’s put out, the older one from RWC that uses the four archangels and the distance-based order, and the more recent one (posted on his own Facebook page) that uses the four kings and this new weird order.

I know where he got it from: it’s the association of the planets to the elements and directions according to Cornelius Agrippa’s Scale of Four.  Note how Mercury and Saturn, associated with Water, are placed by Egyn in the North, associated with Gabriel the angel of Water in his version of the table; Mars and the Sun, put by Oriens in the East, associated with Michael of Fire; Jupiter and Venus, put by Paymon in the West, associated with Raphael of Air; and the Moon, put by Amaymon in the North, associated with Uriel of Earth (along with the fixed stars according to the Scale of Four, but which aren’t associated with any planetary angel).  Though he never mentions it in SS, this is essentially Fr. RO’s hiding of his old Table of Manifestation layout from his earlier stuff; Fr. RO is organizing the planets according to their elemental associations, according to Agrippa’s Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7).  While I wouldn’t call this an order, it is an arrangement with its own internal logic.

This is classic Fr. RO stuff here.  Using this same organization for the Table of Manifestation as he uses for his Table of Practice is not an approach that I disagree with, given what Fr. RO uses his Table of Manifestation layout for, but it’s not one I particularly like for the table for DSIC.  I still prefer the descending distance order of the planets, myself, but Fr. RO’s arrangement is definitely a valid approach if you take a primarily elemental/directional approach to arranging things on the table from our perspective as incarnate human beings on the Earth—which we necessarily do.

But there’s also one more issue at play here: the specific names to be used.  Fr. RO and Fr. Acher use the Hebrew names as given in Cornelius Agrippa’s Scale of Four; this is simple enough.  However, this isn’t precisely in line with other sets of planetary angel names.  Granted, many of the names are similar, but not identical, and it shows.  GTSC, for instance, use the names as given in the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano, and Erneus put out another version of his table that uses a faithful Hebrew rendition of the same names rather than those used by Cornelius Agrippa (note the subtle differences in the Hebrew in the outer ring).

So there’s also some contention about the exact spelling of names.  To give a comparison between the different versions we’re looking at, here’s a table that shows the various spellings that are common for DSIC Tables of Practice from a variety of sources:

  • The Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano, which gives the names in Latin.  These are the same names given in DSIC itself, with the same spellings.
  • Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy.  He gives them in both Hebrew and Latin transcription.
  • Erneus’ version of the table above, which gives them in Hebrew.
  • GTSC itself, which gives the names both in Latin and Hebrew.  The Latin names are identical to that of the Heptameron.
  • SS itself, which gives the Latin names as given in the Heptameron, but frustratingly, two different Hebrew spellings: one for the Table of Practice (which agrees with Agrippa), and another set that appears to be closer to Erneus and GTSC, but with a number of differences, too.
    • There also appear to be some typos: the Hebrew spelling of Gabriel in the Table itself matches everything else, but the lamen omits the letter Yod (giving us “Gabrel”), and the Hebrew spelling of Haniel in the Table uses an initial Aleph instead of Heh (giving us “Aniel”).  I won’t mention these typos as specific spelling differences, however.
    • Annoyingly, RWC (the old Gates texts upon which SS was based) use a different set of spellings on some of the lamens themselves, but which agree with Agrippa’s Hebrew: the angel of Saturn is given as צדקיאל, that of Jupiter צפקיאל, and that of Mars כמאל.  Oddly, the typo of Gabriel as lacking the letter Yod in his lamen is still present.

This gets us the messy table below to compare a variety of all these angel spelling names:

Latin Hebrew
Heptameron Agrippa Agrippa Erneus GTSC  SS
Saturn Cassiel Zaphkiel*† צפקיאל קפציאל § כאססיאל ¶
Jupiter Sachiel Zadkiel* צדקיאל זכיאל סאחאל ¶
Mars Samael Camael כמאל סמאל סאמאל ¶
Sun Michael‡ מיכאל
Venus Anael Haniel האניאל ענאל ענאל or אנאל ‖ אנאל
Mercury Raphael‡ רפאל
Moon Gabriel גבריאל גבראל

* Agrippa renders Tzaddi as “Z” here according to the custom at the time of Hebrew transcription, so these should probably more accurately read “Tzaphkiel” and “Zadkiel”.  Likewise, he renders Qoph as “K”, which would give us an even more faithful rendition of these names as “Tzaphqiel” and “Tzadqiel”.
† Mistake in the text; Agrippa has “Zaphiel” (or, reading Z as Tzaddi, “Tzaphiel”).  “Zaphkiel” (or “Tzaphqiel”) is given in Agrippa’s Scale of Ten, as expected.
‡ Agrippa swaps Michael and Raphael such that Raphael becomes the angel of the Sun and Michael the angel of Mercury, which is definitely a thing seen in many grimoires of the time, which is also repeated in his Scale of Twelve when it comes to the corresponding sephiroth.  I swapped them back to fit in with modern/conventional practice.
§ This Hebrew spelling of the angel of Saturn in Erneus and GTSC would more faithfully be transliterated as “Qaptziel” and could arguably be transliterated into Latin as “Cassiel” (← Qassiel ← Qafsiel ← Qaptziel, account for the Hebrew combination of the /f/ and /p/ sounds).  While reasonable on its own, I can’t help but wonder if this is a case of propagated dyslexia, because swapping Qoph and Tzaddi here gets you the same spelling as in Agrippa.
‖ GTSC gives both spellings, one that starts with `ayin and one that starts with ‘aleph.
¶ Fr. RO seems to have naïvely transliterated the names from the Heptameron back into Hebrew, as some of these spellings seem really unlikely.

There’s a lot more variation in the Hebrew spellings because we don’t really have consistent or reliable Hebrew spellings for these angel names besides what’s given in Agrippa; the usual approach, it would seem, is to take the Latin names from the Heptameron and back-transliterate them into Hebrew, which gets us such varied results.  I don’t much care for this approach, honestly, but it’s not an unreasonable one, especially if you can trace back the root meanings of the theophoric names or use a bit of numerological magic to finagle them into shape.  I haven’t really seen a lot of reliable and historical Hebrew spellings for these angels besides Agrippa, but that might just be my own lack of literature and infamiliarity with texts that others might be more familiar with.

With all these variants above, what would I recommend?  Honestly, since I’m not sure where the Hebrew spellings of the angels came from in Agrippa, or whether they shared an origin with the Latin ones and one set or the other got corrupt, or one set formed the root for the other via transliteration.  While the spelling of the angel ought to matter, I think practice shows that all these names are, even if they are fundamentally different, just synonyms for the same spirit, so that Cassiel is Qaptziel is Tzaphqiel; heck, “Cassiel” itself is such a problematic name, as it was spelled in so many damn ways in the old grimoires, including Captiel, Caffriel, and Cafriel (cf. the Munich Manual entry on planetary conjurations, which has the same origin as the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano); this could be explained as misreading the lowercase “f” as a long s “ſ” (making the original spelling like Caffiel which was reinterpreted as Cassiel, as in Caſſiel) or the other way around.

My recommendation, at the end of the day, is to pick a set of names from a single source that you like and stick with it.  Experience and reports from many magicians the world over show that they all basically work.  That said, if you wanted to go with Hebrew, I don’t suggest Fr. RO’s Hebrew spellings from SS.  As much as I love the man, I wouldn’t trust these spellings here.  They don’t match the spelling pronunciation rules that are typically used for Hebrew, even for magical names; I’d recommend most going with either Agrippa or GTSC for the Hebrew spellings.

And, one more final note about writing the names themselves and in what script.  Given the late origin of DSIC and the fact that the four kings don’t have a readily agreed-upon spelling in Hebrew, it’s probably best for the sake of uniformity to use the Latin spellings of all the names on the table.  Consider, after all, that all the names and words for the wand, pedestal, and lamen are written in Latin; it follows that those on the table should be, too.  Again, this might have been an innovation by Fr. RO and/or Fr. Acher, who used Hebrew for the names of the angels and, in Fr. Acher’s case, the planets.   However, the lamen design from DSIC does have the name of “Michael” emblazoned on it in Hebrew as well as in Latin, so…I think it could go either way.

If, however, you choose to use Hebrew, at least for the angelic names, then there’s also the option of either using plain old square script that Hebrew is normally and conventionally written in, or the use of the Celestial Script as described by Agrippa (book III, chapter 30), which I personally like doing for planetary, stellar, and celestial angels generally (though I give the square script to the elemental angels as well as the honest-to-God truly-divine seven archangels, but that’s another topic for another day).  The Celestial Script is just another form of Hebrew, using more angular lines and ring-marks to imitate both constellation lines on star maps as well as the ring-mark characters on a variety of magical literature from the classical and medieval periods; this was either introduced or propagated later on by Agrippa with other magical scripts of the time.  While I like using Celestial for writing the names of the planetary angels, I seem to be an outlier in that (except for when I see people using my own designs); Fr. RO doesn’t advocate for this use in either SS or RWC explicitly for his Table of Practice, but I believe I got the idea from the discussion groups in his class (I think).  It made sense to me at the time, given that these entities are celestial beings, and Fr. RO does use the Celestial script for the names of the planetary angels on the lamens themselves.  I just followed suit and used the same font for the table, as well.

And then, related to this point about linguistics, there’s the Fr. AC’s decision in GTSC to spell the four kings out in Greek, which…honestly I don’t understand, and which he doesn’t explain.  I’d just use the Latin spellings, honestly, especially as we don’t know whether, for instance, Paimon should be spelled in Greek script with an ōmega or omikron (ΠΑΙΜΩΝ or ΠΑΙΜΟΝ).  Strangely, Fr. AC spells it ΠΑΥΜΟΝ, interpreting the Latin spelling of “Paymon” to use the equivalent Greek letters, but that’d interpret the Latin “y” as a Greek upsilon, which would give it a pronunciation more like “paow-mon” or “pav-mon”; ditto for Amaymon (“ah-maow-mon” or “ah-mahv-mon”).  I think these are both errors, to be honest; after all, Latin y is not the same letter with the same pronunciation as Greek upsilon.  Consider, further, that the name Amaymon comes from the Arabic jinn Maymūn (ميمون), meaning it should be an “i” sound (Greek iōta, Latin i or y) rather than a “u” sound (which Greek upsilon would imply).  It also ignores the fact that the name “Oriens” is literally just the Latin word for the direction East.  But, even more than that, it also goes against his own reasoning in GTSC for using the Latin names of the angels instead of Hebrew:

I debated for a time whether I wanted to use English, Hebrew, or angelic script for the names of the angels and the planets.  I believe any of these choices are valid and would be appropriate.  However, I eventually settled on the English versions, since this is the language I will be requiring the angels to speak in.

Honestly, to avoid any such confusion, I’d recommend spelling at least the names of the four kings in Latin, and neither guess at what their Greek or Hebrew counterparts would be.  The other names for the angels, both elemental and planetary, could be spelled in any such language or font, but there’s a strong argument to be made to just use the Latin versions of the names (using the English alphabet, which is functionally equivalent) for them all for the sake of standardization and to go along with Fr. AC’s reasoning.