Revisiting the Sixteen Realms of the Figures

Happy solar new year!  Today’s the first full day of spring according to the usual zodiacal reckoning, with the spring equinox having happened yesterday afternoon in my area; if I timed it right, this post should be coming out exactly at my area’s solar noon.  I hope the coming year is bright and full of blessing for all of you.

I’m taking the day to celebrate, as well, and not just for the freshness of the new year.  Since the start of the calendar year, when I made that post about a sort of feast calendar for geomantic holy days, I’ve been busy coming up with an entirely new devotional practice.  It’s not really my doing, but it’s a matter of inspiration, and…well, it’s an impressive effort, even by my own standards.  As part of it, around the start of the month (fittingly, the start of this current Mercury retrograde period!), I undertook my first celebration of the Feast of the Blessed Dead, my own recognition, honoring, and feasting with the blessed ancestors of my kin, faith, work, and practices.

And, of course, far be it from me to pass up a half-decent photo op.

According to the scheme I made for a geomantic calendar, after the Feast of the Blessed Dead at sunrise begins the Days of Cultivation, 16 days of prayer, meditation, study, fasting, purification, and the like.  In a way, it’s kinda like a kind of Lent or Ramaḍān, but at least for only 16 days instead of a lunar month or 40 days.  After those are done, it’s the Feast of Gabriel the Holy Archangel, Teacher of the Mysteries.  Which happens to coincide (either on the day of or day after, depending on the exact time) with the spring equinox.  Yanno, today.  So I’m quite thrilled to bring this ordeal to an end and take things easier again—especially after a good two hours of prayers, rituals, and offerings this morning—but I can’t take it too easy; one of the many benefits I’ve been seeing from doing this practice is that it’s forcing me to get back to a daily practice again, something I’ve been meaning to do now that I have the time again in the way I want to but just haven’t.

(As a side note: one of the things I’ve been doing is a kind of fast, not a whole or total fast, but something more like a Ramadan or orthodox Lent with extra dietary restrictions: no eating or drinking anything except water between sunrise and sunset, one large meal after sunset, no meat nor dairy nor eggs nor honey nor any other animal product.  It wasn’t my intention to go vegan; instead, I had this elaborate progressive fasting scheme that took inspiration from kosher dietary restrictions and the Fast of Daniel from the Book of Daniel, but that proved way too complicated for such a short-term thing, so I just decided to omit meat and dairy, but that then extended to all animal products, so.  I have to say, it’s been a good exercise, all the same, and the intermittent fasting regimen is something I may well keep up, as I’m seeing other benefits besides spiritual focus, even if I do find myself being cold a lot more often than before; more reason to cultivate inner-heat practices.  All that being said, I am excited to indulge in a whole-ass pizza or tub of orange chicken tonight.)

One of the practices I was doing every day during these Days of Cultivation was a contemplation on one of the sixteen figures of geomancy.  In a way, I was returning to one of the oldest and first major things I ever did in my geomantic studies.  John Michael Greer in his Art and Practice of Geomancy, as part of the section on geomantic magic, instructs the reader to “scry” the figures.  Rather than scrying into a crystal ball or anything like that, what he means is an active contemplation and visualization of the figures, or in more Golden Dawn-ish terms, engage in a kind of pathworking of the figures: visualize the figure clearly, then see it emblazoned on a door of some kind, then go through the door and see what you see, hear what you hear, and experience what you experience as part of the realm or world of that figure.  This is a deeply profound and intimate way to learn about the figures, once you have a basic understanding of their usual meanings and correspondences, because you’re actually entering the worlds of the figures themselves.  Those who recall my De Geomanteia posts from way back will remember that I gave an elaborate visualization or scene that helped to impart some of the meaning of that figure; those are the direct results of my contemplations of the figures from years ago.  (If you never read those posts, check them out!  I talk about the figures in depth and at length, and talk a bit about some really useful geomantic techniques, too.)

So, I decided to try contemplating the figures again, except this time, I brought a lot more of my art to bear (I wasn’t really a magician back in those days!) and fit it within the framework of this burgeoning devotional practice, calling on my guardian angel as well as the archangel Gabriel, that famous celestial being who taught the founders of geomancy their art, to help me understand the figure through its mysteries.  The process was, fundamentally, the same, except with some preliminary and concluding prayers (which helped in ways I would never have conceived of even a few months ago, much several years ago): visualize the figure, see it form a door, mentally go up to the door and knock, open the door, and go on through.  I augmented this process by using the geomantic salutes as well as by intoning the epodes for a figure and reciting the orison for a figure (16 short hymns of the figures, available in my Secreti Geomantici ebook!) for an all-around way to get as much of me engaged in the process as I could without breaking out into a fuller ritual involving incenses or candles or the like.  For the order, I used my trusty elemental ordering of the figures according to their primary and secondary elemental rulerships, based on the structure of the figures rather than their planetary or zodiacal correspondences.  So, I started with Laetitia on the first day, Fortuna Minor on the second, Amissio on the third, and so forth, up until Tristitia on the last and final day.

I was looking forward to seeing what new knowledge I could get, getting reacquainted with these figures I see and use so often in my work, maybe even revisiting the same scenes I saw so long ago.  Interestingly enough, that wasn’t the case.  Instead, what I was shown was a city, a vast metropolitan city filled with skyscrapers and towers that came to an abrupt end at a single, long road that ran from an infinite East to an infinite West, on the opposite side of which was an equally-vast forest, filled with every kind of tree and bush and plant imaginable.  Every figure-contemplation took place along that road, dividing that vast city and that vast forest, but every figure-contemplation was drastically different: time of day, weather, what was happening, the condition of the city; heck, there even seemed to be a notion that sometimes years or even decades would pass along that road between visualizations.  In a way that caught me off-guard, the elemental ordering of the figures I used told a deep, intricate, and coherent story of the flow of time of that place, between the metropolitan inhabitants of the city and the autochthonous inhabitants of the forest, ranging from celebration to war to cataclysm to peace and all the things between.

In a way, I guess I was revisiting the realm of Via itself.  After all, the fact that all these visualizations took place along a Road was not lost on me, and seeing how this figure is often considered to be the first figure of geomancy in the historiolas that we have as well as having all elements present, and that I was using an elemental ordering of the figures to arrange and schedule my contemplations of them…well, I guess it makes sense, in retrospect.

I didn’t want to give a whole new set of intricate visualizations, much less share some of the intimate things I witnessed in each contemplation, but I did want to share a few things with you from what I saw: primarily, the form of the door that formed for each figure, and a brief lesson to learn from each figure.  The doors you might see in your own contemplations may well be different, but I figure that giving some sort of description for what to expect could help.  The lessons were, for those who follow me on Twitter, shared day by day in a short-enough form to encapsulate some of the high-level important messages that I could deliver from each realm of the figure.  Perhaps they, too, can be helpful for those who are learning about the figures, or want something to start with that they can expand on in their own meditations.

Laetitia
A large arched banded wooden door situated in a fluted pillar-supported stone arch, opening towards
There are always reasons to celebrate, but celebration need not mean partying. While some take time off, others still serve, and they too have cause to celebrate. To truly celebrate is to rejoice in work, channeling hope into power; true praise of God is praise through Work.

Fortuna Minor
A square, wide, wooden door banded with iron and surrounded by cut stone, opening towards
Don’t chase after sunsets. Diminishing returns will waste you time, and time is something you can’t waste anymore. All we have is all we have; prepare when you can, make do when you must. It’s all we can do to look after ourselves and our own; find independence through community.

Amissio
A normal cheap white bedroom door with plain threshold, opening outwards
Better to be homeless in loss than to build a home on it, lest your foundation sink into quicksand. Refugees, divorcees, ex-employees, we all suffer loss time and again; it hurts, and it hurts to stay and it hurts to go, but in accepting loss, we leave loss behind.

Cauda Draconis
A weak, filthy, dusty, shaky door that smells, opening outwards
This world is meant to end, and yet we are meant to make it last. We must do what we can when we can—but at the proper time, and no sooner? Collapse early, avoid the rush. Loss is nothing compared to perdition; how simple we are to focus only on the now when all else is at stake.

Puer
Metal bulkhead door, opening outwards
Enthusiasm can wash over any disaster like an opportunistic wave, but when faced with actual problems, it can end in dashing oneself against rocks in order to break them, or fleeing to fight another battle and another day. Waves will break and scatter but overwhelm all the same.

Rubeus
A black door, almost invisible, opening outwards
Unbridled desire is like air, stale though thinking it’s fresh, trapped in a cyclone that wrecks damage it cannot see. Over and over it runs roughshod over all, consuming and hurting all. Only true fresh thought clears the air, bringing helpful change instead of harmful calamity.

Coniunctio
A rustic door with a fine, elaborate lintel, opening outwards
In war, all else looks like peace; in peace, all else looks like war. It’s in the liminal space between them, a blue hour of life, that everything and everyone can come together as equals. Not as allies, but as equals in crisis, equals in opportunity, equals in assessment.

Acquisitio
A marble door with engraved inlays of lapis and gold, flanked by fluted columns, opening towards in half
After reckoning comes work; after assessment, business. All come as equals, sharing to increase, increasing their share, carrying our past forever with us. True wealth is practical knowledge, an endless font to always build, augment, and—soon—to rejoice. “Go forth and multiply.”

Puella
An opalescent glass door with a shiny chrome frame, opening outwards
Beauty is an emergent property out of assessment, union, and work. We don’t find beauty; it finds us, when we’re in the embrace of equals whom we don’t just acknowledge but truly know are our equals. Beauty is a property of truth, and truth comes from acceptance of the world.

Via
A color-changing veil suspended from an arch, sliding to the left
Every infinitesimal moment has infinite potential, every one a knife-blade, a parer of possibilities. In each moment lies every potential of every kind of action; it’s up to us to take it, transforming the world and ourselves. Geomancy isn’t called “cutting the sand” for nothing.

Albus
A white wooden door in a white, rough-cut stone threshold, opening towards
After we (re)build, the dust settles, and we can see clearly; purity of the heart leads to purity of the mind. We hollow the church, and fill the world as a monastery, living in peace to remember and re-member. But don’t forget: believing we have peace doesn’t mean we really do.

Populus
A thin, white, translucent veil divided in half, suspended from a thin smooth metal frame, parting to open from the middle
Love leads to peace, but without further direction, leads to inertia and languor. Utter clarity of vision leads us to live utterly in the here and now, and makes us forget our lessons, even as we return to how things always were. We take too much for granted; we lose our way.
*Note: this one feels like it should be first or last, a complete return to how things always were.

Carcer
A double door, the inner one of thick wrought iron bars opening towards, the outer one of heavy steel bulkhead opening outwards
Inertia stops to become hollow convention, which becomes enforced restriction. The word of God is replaced by the word of law, and we become isolated and ignorant of the larger world, and keeps us bound to the same old same old, always for the best, and if you’re not convinced…

Caput Draconis
A pair of elegant-yet-subdued baroque French doors, ivory with bright gold leaf accents, opening outward from the middle
With enough rules, even rulers become slaves, and all the old guard wander in lost memories. It’s the too-young, those too fresh to have known anything else, that begin the coup, but all they know is how to prepare and destroy. Chaos? Yes! The climactic Big Bang, a fecund reset.

Fortuna Maior
A gate of warm gold set with bars of iron with iron gateposts on either side, opening outward from the middle
Forced dominion toils to keep order, but true royalty has no need for force. Rulers naturally assume their role, and all rule their own proper domain; as planets in their orbits, all take care of their own work, honest and pure. Independent success, all for the sake of the All.

Tristitia
The heavy, metal-covered stone door of a tomb with a ring for a handle, opening towards
The Work is easy to start, but hard to continue; hope flees and dread finds us instead. The plague of “what if?” seeps into us like polluted air into sod, turning fertile grass into barren dust. The Sun has set, but will rise again; keep going until dawn, for then there is hope.

On Oils as Offerings

The following is an old post of mine from 2015.  I wrote it a as a guest post for the excellent Quadrivium Supplies, an oil-maker I turn to every so often when I need some real good stuff, and whose oils have never let me down.  She asked me at one point to write a guest post, and I did; it went up in early 2015.  However, she’s since moved platforms and went to a wholesale model, and in that transfer of platforms, her blog got nuked.  While the post went up, it’s no longer there.  I figure I may as well repost it now for posterity, and plus, reading over it reminded me of some good ideas I once had once upon a time.  I hope you enjoy this little relic of writing!


As a ceremonial magician, I go through a lot of supplies.  Yes, there’re the crafting supplies like wood and lead and gold leaf to make Tables of Practice and wands and talismans and the like, but I also go through a lot of consumable supplies like candles, wine, incense, and especially oil.  While I’ve got a grasp of crafting and making some of my own basic supplies, it certainly helps to have friends who can do these things better or who have access to more raw bits and pieces to make better things than I can; after all, while I can make oils for myself, I’d much rather get one of my friends who can expertly create and fine-tune them instead because, well, they know what they’re doing with better equipment and starting goods than I have.

One of my friends owns the lovely Quadrivium Supplies, and she’s an excellent oil-maker that I’ve pinged time and again for very well-made magical oils and advice on how to make a few myself.  My only regret with her work is that I don’t have quite enough income to get some of her oils in bigger quantities!  She knows her recipes well, uses real and natural ingredients that some might shy away from getting, and even makes a series of astrologically-elected oils that are without comparison.  These aren’t cheaply-made garishly-colored artificial oils with a bit of scent, but powerful tools and buffs in their own right.  Recently, she asked me if I’d be interested in writing a guest post on her blog, and I happily obliged.  After thinking for a bit, I figured a good intersection between her work and mine would be a good topic to write on.  Go read my entry there, On Oils as Offerings!

It’s rare that I get the chance to write a guest post for someone else; after all, I have plenty of writing already done and plenty more to do here at the Digital Ambler.  Then again, I’m also not opposed to doing so, since it also gives me a delightful change of pace.


Ceremonial magicians are known for using endless magical tools and magical materia in their works, and I’m no exception; one of the recent choices I had to make in moving to a new house was needing to find a place with a suitable room as my own temple room and magical workshop to house my shrines and altars, as well as providing storage for all my tools and charms that I make.  To be fair, unless tradition dictates otherwise, no system of magic strictly requires material means, but they certainly help, especially in obtaining material ends.  Having a material component in one’s magical work helps to bring down those astral and spiritual forces down, grounding them and giving them a means to work and effect themselves in our world of body and form.  Wands, crystals, talismans, mojo bags, drawn-out circles, engraved candles, and all the rest help in one’s magical works.  Oils are no exception, but they’re also something of a special case.

Not too long ago, I was conversing with one of my spiritual mentors, Saint Cyprian of Antioch, in preparation for a magical undertaking of the Arbatel operation, where one conjures and begins work and initiation with the seven Olympic Spirits associated with the seven traditional planets of Hermetic cosmology.  Saint Cyprian of Antioch, although a Christian saint, was also a powerful magician in his day, and over the centuries has become a steadfast ally to those who call upon him in matters of magic and sorcery of all kinds.  Seeking his advice, he recommended I go through with my plan and conjuration setup: the standard conjuration triangle, crystal scrying medium, incense, yada yada.  However, he suggested one important change: offer the Olympic Spirits a small amount of clear, good oil.  I was considering preparing wine or food, but Saint Cyprian of Antioch turned those down and rather emphatically suggested that I use pure, clean oil as an offering.  He explained that oil has a “volatile” nature, not in the same way as elemental Fire or alchemical Sulfur, but as a magical medium for housing things in a way stronger than water but less than crystal, more pliable than food but less ephemeral than incense.  For housing the soul or power of a spirit, oil would be an excellent offering, especially for entities like those from the Arbatel.

After thinking about this some, I realized that this makes perfect sense.  After candles and incense (and wine, though that’s usually for my own personal use), the material supply I go through the most is a variety of oils.  A full shelf in my supply closet, which is a miniature botanica in its own right, is packed with oils from a variety of distributors and craftspeople, some simple colored-and-scented artificial oils, some intricately developed from the purest extracts all manually taken from herbs and other natural sources.  Most workings that call for candles or talismans will, either due to the recipe or my own inclinations, use an oil in fixing things properly so that a particular power can be fixed.  Abramelin oil, specifically the German recipe, is one I use daily for my own strengthening by anointing my head and palms in prayer.  When using a traditional oil lamp, I’ll mix in some particular oil with the normal fuel for a particular end, like an older cognate to fixing a candle with oil.  I find myself using oils in pretty much any magical operation nowadays; such experimentation has often led me to find alternative uses for oils, sometimes in ways entirely unexpected.

Then again, there are more ways to use oils than in fixing candles or anointing heads.  Among all the oils I have, the one I go through most is common olive oil.  This has a rich history in Mediterranean magic and Western culture generally as a symbol of richness and power, both in this world and in most others.  Simple olive oil can be used towards pretty much any end, not having anything but the pure fruit of the olive tree involved, and when prayed over in a particular manner, can be used on the spot in lieu of any magical oil.  However, I don’t typically use olive oil as a “magical oil”, per se, but as a substance in offering.  For instance, whenever I make an offering to the theoi of the Hellenes, I always pour out an offering of wine with a dash of olive oil.  For one, the Greek gods like the offering of oil with their wine and prayer and incense, but it also suffices to cover the wine and prevent most forms of bacterial or fungal growth in their offerings.  (And yes, the wine still somehow manages to evaporate as the spirits consume it from under the oil, even though this shouldn’t normally be possible, but hey, gods do what they want.)

Of course, I don’t just offer olive oil to the spirits.  Some oils have histories and known uses limited pretty much to offerings, and I’ve taken that route with my own Three Kings oil when working with the Three Wise Men, though they’re also teaching me other methods of using such an oil when working with and under them.  When I need to empower a spirit a particular way, I’ll make them a normal libation but with a few drops of a particular oil that I feel is appropriate.  Household protector spirit needs to be buffed up for an incoming attack?  They’ll get an offering of strong wine with Fiery Wall of Protection oil.  Need to propitiate Aphrodite to help a friend smooth out their relationship?  Sweet wine with Reconciliation oil.  Cleansing a sad spirit who brings in filth?  Clear water with Van Van oil.  Want to placate an angry ancestor with a taste for food?  Good whiskey with turkey drippings (yes, really).  Just as oils can be used to fix a candle or prepare a talisman for ensoulment, oils can also fortify offerings to the spirits and empower them directly.  For that matter, oil can be dedicated to spirits alone for their own use, and if those oils happen to already be consecrated and empowered with herbs or other substances, it can empower the spirit just as strongly as it can empower a talisman.

In the case with the Arbatel spirits, Saint Cyprian of Antioch recommended I use the olive oil as an offering for them to consume, but also to help bring them into the world in their own way.  Oils on their own, according to Saint Cyprian, provide a flexible but useful means to contain the power or presence of a spirit, not unlike talismans or mojo bags, but in a more disposable or usable manner than a set object.  In the case with the Olympic Spirits, Saint Cyprian suggested that I give the spirit pure olive oil to consume and inhabit, then emptying that oil out into the world, allowing the power of that spirit to spread out in our world so it can do its work better in ways that I may not always be able to accomplish.  Oils don’t just evaporate into the air as waters or alcohols do, nor they don’t just vanish into particles like incense or smoke, nor do they stay fixed and firm within a solid containing body.  Oils leak and seep into the world, dispersing themselves and attaching themselves to objects and places, coating things with their powers and imbuing them with their own essences. Oils are much more difficult to get rid of and don’t simply wash away, but they’re not permanent fixtures, either.

Oils, in the end, are just as important a tool as anything else in a ceremonial magician’s temple, if not one of the most important ones.  Sure, not all traditions call for oils in their work, but almost all my workings in a variety of traditions have benefited from including their use for one purpose or another.  I would even rank oil as more important than candles or incense, because a properly prepared oil can take the place of both.  It’s important to remember that oils can be used for many more things than fixing or anointing, but that oils can be used in offerings directly as another method of working with spirits in a way that’s both profound and powerful.

On Banishing, and an Angelic Banishing Ritual

I have to say, Curious Cat is a blast, you guys.  While I’ve been on Twitter since I graduated college in 2010, and though it’s always fun (and sometimes hilariously aggravating) to interact with people on there, there’s not a lot of room for anonymity, and you can’t always send people direct messages if you don’t follow them or if someone’s turned DMs off.  Enter Curious Cat, a platform that syncs up with Twitter and Facebook to let you ask people questions, even (and especially) anonymously.  Since I started using it, I’ve been fielding a lot more questions, ranging from the utterly surreal to bawdily sexual and everything in-between.  Given my focus on magic and the occult, a lot of people ask me questions pertaining to, well, magic and the occult, and it’s been great!  Sometimes I can’t answer due to things that just can’t or shouldn’t be discussed publicly, and other times I can’t answer because I simply don’t know enough about a given topic to give an answer, but at least I can say as much.  Sometimes, though, I might have too much of an answer, and there’s a 3000 character limit for my replies.

One of the recent common things I’ve been asked is on the topic of banishing.  Banishing as a ritual unto itself is a mainstay of many forms of Western magic, especially due to the influence of the Golden Dawn and its Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, and its Thelemic variant the Star Ruby.  Quoth Chic and Tabitha Cicero in their Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition:

This simple yet powerful cleansing ritual can be used as a protection against the impure magnetism of others.  It is also a way to rid oneself of obsessing or disturbing thoughts … we feel that the Neophyte needs to concentrate solely on the banishing form, since s/he has a tendency to light up on the astral and unknowingly attract all manner of Elementals at this early stage of the Work. It is far more important for the Neophyte to know how to banish rather than to invoke. Anyone can attract an Elemental or an energy. Getting rid of the same can be more difficult.

And that’s really what banishing’s about, isn’t it?  It’s a kind of ritual-centric cleansing that gets rid of bad spiritual stuff.  Consider the etymology of the word “banish”:

banish (v.)
late 14c., banischen, “to condemn (someone) by proclamation or edict to leave the country, to outlaw by political or judicial authority,” from banniss-, extended stem of Old French banir “announce, proclaim; levy; forbid; banish, proclaim an outlaw” (12c., Modern French bannir), from a Germanic source (perhaps Frankish *bannjan “to order or prohibit under penalty”), from Proto-Germanic *bannan (see ban (v.)). The French word might be by way of Medieval Latin bannire, also from Germanic (compare bandit). The general sense of “send or drive away, expel” is from c. 1400. Related: Banished; banishing.

To banish is, literally, to put out of a community or country by ban or civil interdict, and indicates a complete removal out of sight, perhaps to a distance. To exile is simply to cause to leave one’s place or country, and is often used reflexively: it emphasizes the idea of leaving home, while banish emphasizes rather that of being forced by some authority to leave it …. [Century Dictionary]

When we banish, we purge a person (e.g. ourselves), an object (e.g. a magical tool or supply), or a space (e.g. a temple or a bedroom) from all malevolent, harmful, or otherwise unwanted spiritual influences, whether they’re entities in their own right (e.g. obsessive spirits or spiritual leeches), spiritual energies that aren’t necessarily conscious on their own (e.g. pollution or miasma), or maleficia that’s been cast upon you (e.g. curses or hexes).  Thus, a banishing ritual is a type of spiritual cleansing or purification that gets rid of all this, or at least helps loosen it to make getting rid of it easier.

The thing about banishing rituals is just that: they’re a ritual, and more often than not, they’re explicitly and only rituals.  They use ritual gestures and words to induce this effect, often without the use of physical cleansing supplies such as holy water, incense, or the like.  Yes, many banishing rituals can incorporate these things, but it might be more helpful to think of banishing rituals as a subset of cleansing practices more generally.  Cleansing can take many forms: ablution with lustral water (e.g. khernimma), taking a spiritual bath (e.g. my Penitential Psalms Bath, bathing in a sacred spring or river, or any other number of spiritual bath mixes like the white bath or another kind of herb bath), “cleaning off” with holy water or Florida Water or eggshell chalk or some other physical substance known to have spiritually purifying properties, suffumigating with incense (or smudging, if you do that sort of thing respectfully), and the like.  Sometimes these processes have ritual involved with prayers or specific motions, and sometimes not, where you just wipe yourself down and call it a day.  In the end, though, all these practices serve fundamentally the same purpose: to get rid of bad spiritual stuff.

What we commonly see in the Western ceremonial magic scene is less of a reliance on physical aids to purification and more of a reliance on ritual approaches to the same that often don’t use physical aids, where we use ritual and ritual alone to cleanse ourselves.  This is especially notable for those who are influenced by the Golden Dawn in one form or another, where the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP, or as my godfather fondly calls it, Le Burp) has spawned any number of variations for any number of pantheons and practices.  However, that doesn’t mean that the LBRP is the only such possible banishing trick we have; there are simpler ones out there, such as Fr. Osiris’ AL-KT Banishing that I’ve incorporated into some of my own works.  Still, the idea is the same: rather than abluting, suffumigating, or other physical approaches to spiritual purification, there are also ritual approaches that don’t use physical means to achieve the same thing.

I agree fully and readily that banishing rituals are useful, because I think spiritual purification is important and necessary for our work as mages and spiritually-inclined people.  When we’re spiritually filthy, it’s harder to think clearly, harder to work well, and harder to keep ourselves hale and whole, while it also makes it easier for us to get distracted, get caught up by life’s problems, and get things messed up easily.  Though spiritual purification, we remove obstacles in our paths or make it easier for us to remove them, but that’s far from being the only benefit!  Purification also prepares us spiritually to become something better and different than we already are, because in purifying ourselves, we not only remove negative spiritual influences that have an external source, but also negative spiritual influences that come from ourselves internally.  In dealing with those, we make ourselves fit and meet to work better and more effectively, sure, but we also prepare ourselves to better accept the powers and blessings of the entities we’re working with.  Purification can be thought of as an aspect of the albedo part of alchemy, where we reduce ourselves to our core essence through removal of all impurities so that we can begin the process of integration from a fresh, clean start.  In this, purification—and thus banishing—are crucial for our work as mages.

But here’s the thing: I don’t like a ritual-focused approach to purification.  Banishing absolutely has its place, but I also claim that physical methods to purity has its place, too.  After all, for all the spiritual stuff we do as magicians and priests and diviners, we’re also incarnate human beings with physical bodies and physical problems.  If we start with the body and work spiritually, we fix the problems we have in the here and now and also loosen and dissolve the problems we have upstream, so to speak.  Not only that, but I find that there are some things that a banishing ritual doesn’t work well to resolve, but which cleansing works done physically do.  And, of course, the reverse applies, too: there are some things that cleansing works done physically don’t resolve, but which banishing rituals do.  Both are needed.  And, moreover, you can do both at the same time, working physical elements into a banishing ritual or ritualizing a cleansing done physically.  You don’t have to do one then the other separately, unless that’s what you want to do.

Personally?  I cleanse (meaning I use physical means to spiritually purify myself, as opposed to “clean”, which is just physical cleaning without a spiritual component) far more often than I banish.  There are times when I will do a proper banishing, sure, but it’s less and less common than a simple dusting with cascarilla or washing myself with holy water, which I do pretty much daily.  Let’s face it: I’m out in the world, dealing with people and their demons, wandering hither and fro through any number of clouds of miasma, and pick up more stuff when I’m out physically in the world than I do in my temple, where, through the protections I have and the safeguards I take, there’s far less that I pick up except that which I try to let in.  I’m not saying I’m impervious to spiritual stuff I attract through the aether, far from it, but I am saying that there’s a lot more that I pick up from just being out in the physical world.  For that reason, I find myself physically cleansing myself far more often than I ritually cleanse myself.  If I were less guarded and less protections up, I’d be banishing more than I am.  But, again, that isn’t to say that I don’t banish.  After all, there’s that whole “purification to readily accept better blessings and good influences” bit I mentioned above, which is one of the reasons why the LBRP is such a mainstay of Golden Dawn practices: it not only keeps you pure, but it prepares you in some pretty profound ways that are utterly necessary for progression within their system of magic.  Those who don’t work Golden Dawn magic or who aren’t in the Golden Dawn system don’t benefit from that, but they can still use it all the same for their own purification needs.

I’m not a Golden Dawn magician, and I’ve never really cared for the LBRP.  While I could use it and get what I needed out of it, it’s not really a thing that I need to do.  Instead, what I use, when I do need a ritual purification that doesn’t rely on physical methods, is something I learned from Fr. Rufus Opus.  Back in the day when he was still teaching his Red Work series of courses (which he’s long since stopped, partially because of his joining the A∴A∴ and partially because he condensed the Green Work section into his book, Seven Spheres), in the very first lesson of the first part of the courses, he introduces a banishing ritual that’s basically a heavily pared-down and modified Trithemian conjuration ritual.  Yes, Johann Trithemius’ Drawing Spirits Into Crystals, that one!  The format is basically the same with many of the same prayers, and calls on the seven planetary angels and the four elemental princes of the world to purify yourself.

I also want to make a note about just that last bit, too.  Fr. RO introduced this ritual as a way to help the beginner purify their sphere, sure, which is great, but he’s using fundamentally the same ritual to banish as we do to conjure the spirits themselves.  More than that, we’re half-conjuring the spirits that are later called upon in the Red Work series of courses to purify the sphere of the magician.  By the use of this ritual, Fr. RO is doing the same thing for his Red Work students as the Golden Dawn did for their initiates with the LBRP: we’re getting used to the fundamental ritual tech that we’ll eventually be expanding upon, and we’re getting slowly acquainted and in tune with the very same angels and spirits that we’ll be working with heavily once we get to that point.  This banishing ritual cleanses the sphere of the magician, sure, but it also prepares the magician for when they start actually working.  Fr. RO never said all this in Black Work 1, nor did he need to; those who would never progress further would still get something useful, and those who would progress further would be slowly prepared for bigger and better results later on far beyond mere purification.

Now, I’m not going to replicate Fr. RO’s original ritual.  Instead, I’m going to share my variant, which I developed slowly over my studies in his Red Work courses years back, and which better matches my own ritual practices; plus, not that there’s anything wrong with this, but the original ritual uses some Christian imagery and language that I don’t much care for anymore, and which I’ve replaced with equivalent deist, Solomonic, or Hermetic language instead.  I’ve also added some visualizations that, though they appeared naturally for me (especially once my spiritual perception became refined and which made sense later on in the course), they can be helpful for those who want them; they’re not necessary, but they can still be useful, especially for beginners.  The only two extra things that might be desired for this ritual are holy water and a wand; both are good to have, but neither are strictly necessary.  The holy water can be used as a preliminary ablution, while the wand is good for tracing a circle and conjuring the presence of the angels generally, but the holy water can be omitted if desired and the wand can be replaced by using the index finger (or the index and middle finger together, if desired) of the dominant hand.  Incense of a purifying and uplifting nature, especially frankincense, may be burned, but it’s absolutely not required for this.  This ritual may be done at any time as necessary or desired, and though it can be done anywhere, it’s best done in a quiet and safe place.

  1. Take a moment to relax and breathe deeply a few times.
  2. Stand to face the East.
  3. If desired, cleanse yourself with some holy water.  You can wipe your forehead and hands, you can make the small three Signs of the Cross on the forehead and lips and heart with the thumb, or you can make one large Sign of the Cross with the thumb and index finger and middle finger on your head, heart, and both shoulders (left to right or right to left, depending on whether you want to go with a Catholic Christian approach, or an Orthodox Christian or qabbalistic approach).
  4. Recite:

    You have cleansed me with hyssop, o Lord; you have washed me whiter than snow.

    O God, author of all good things!  Strengthen me that I may stand fast without fear through this dealing and work.  Enlighten me, oh Lord, so that my spiritual eye may be opened to see and know the works of your hand.

  5. Holding a wand in your dominant hand, or otherwise using the index finger of the dominant hand, trace a circle on the ground around you clockwise starting in the East.  While doing so, recite:

    In the name of God, the Holy, the Almighty, the Light, I consecrate this piece of ground for my defense, so that no evil spirit may have power to break these bounds prescribed here.  Amen.

  6. Conjure the seven planetary angels.  Recite:

    In the name of God, the Holy, the Almighty, the Light!  From the seven heavens above I conjure you, you strong and mighty angels of the seven planets.  Come forth, here to this place and now at this time: Tzaphqiel of Saturn, Tzadqiel of Jupiter, Kamael of Mars, Michael of the Sun, Haniel of Venus, Raphael of Mercury, and Gabriel of the Moon.  Come forth in answer to my call; be with me here, and fill this place with your presence!

    As you do so, visualize the presence of the angels appear around you or the symbols of their planets, starting from behind you to your right and appearing counter-clockwise, with Michael directly in front of you to the East.

  7. Conjure the four elemental angels.  Recite:

    In the name of God, the Holy, the Almighty, the Light!  From the four corners of the Earth I conjure you, you strong and mighty angels of the four elements.  Come forth, here to this place and now at this time: Michael of Fire, Uriel of Earth, Raphael of Air, and Gabriel of Water.  Come forth in answer to my call; be with me here, and fill this place with your presence!

    As you do so, visualize the presence of the angels appear around you or the symbols of their elements, starting in front of you and appearing clockwise, with Michael in the East in front of you, Uriel in the South to your right, Raphael in the West behind you, and Gabriel in the North to your left.  Visualize them a little closer to you and a little below the planetary angels, who stand behind them and a little above them.

  8. Recite:

    Tzaphqiel!  Tzadqiel!  Kamael!  Michael!  Haniel!  Raphael!  Gabriel!
    Michael!  Uriel!  Raphael!  Gabriel!

    Oh you blessed angels gathered, let no spirit nor ill intent nor any scourge of man bring harm to me.  Cleanse now the sphere of this magician; cleanse my body, my soul, my spirit, and my mind of all defilement, all impurity, and all filth.  Let no evil spirit nor pollution nor leech nor any unclean thing here remain.

    Lord, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Make clean my heart within me, and take not your holy spirit from me.

    Amen.

  9. Let yourself become purified with the power and presence of the angels conjured around you.  Feel them washing you with their light and their power, permeating you and passing through you in all directions to remove from you all pollution, harm, and any and every baneful influence.  Stay in this state as long as desired.
  10. Release the spirits. Recite:

    O Lord, I thank you for the hearing of my prayer, and I thank you for having permitted your angels to appear unto me.

    O you angels of the seven planets and you angels of the four elements, I thank you for your presence.  You have come as I have called, and you have aided me as I have asked.  As you have come in peace, so now go in power.

    Amen.

  11. If desired, untrace the circle drawn on the ground with the same implement as before (wand or finger) in a counterclockwise direction, again starting in the East.  Whether or not the circle is untraced, when ready to leave, simply step out of the circle, preferably stepping forward towards the East.

With that specific arrangement of angels of the planets and elements around you, what you’re doing is essentially recreating the arrangement of angels on the Table of Practice used in the Rufus Opus-specific variant of the Trithemian conjuration ritual.  In this case, the angels present aren’t being used to set up a conjuration of the self or anything like that, but rather instead used as a kind of cosmological arrangement of powers upon the magician and their sphere.  It’s a subtle thing, but an important one; again, this ties into the subtle conditioning of banishing to prepare the magician for bigger and better things to come, as well as training the magician in the tools, arrangements, organization, and ultimate cosmology of the practices they’ll later engage in.

So, that’s it.  A simple and straightforward approach to using the planetary and elemental angels for purifying the sphere of the magician with all their powers at once in a balanced, efficient, and effective way.  Are there variants?  Of course!  For instance, the original format of the ritual called on the four elemental kings of the Earth itself: Oriens of the East, Paimon of the West, Egyn of the North, and Amaymon of the South.  If you’re comfortable working with these entities, then by all means, use them!  For those who prefer an angel-only approach, use the four archangel names instead.  There’s good logic for calling on the kings rather than the archangels, especially in that they’re a lot closer to us as incarnate beings than the angels are or ever have been, and so can be called on instead for a better and more incarnation-specific way to purge the sphere of unhelpful or harmful influences.  However, I still prefer to call on the angels for my own reasons.

In addition to calling on the seven planetary angels and the four elemental angels (or kings), you can also call on the twelve zodiacal angels as well: Malkhidael of Aries, Asmodel of Taurus, Ambriel of Gemini, Muriel of Cancer, Verkhiel of Leo, Hamaliel of Virgo, Zuriel of Libra, Barbiel of Scorpio, Adnokhiel of Sagittarius, Hanael of Capricorn, Kambriel of Aquarius, and Barkhiel of Pisces.  This, again, is a cosmological influence from my own, bigger Table of Practice that I personally use nowadays; you’d arrange them so that Malkhidael is aligned to the East, along with Michael of the Sun and Michael (or Oriens) of Fire, and go counterclockwise from there.  You’d conjure them before the planetary angels, using similar language.  However, this is overkill, in my opinion; what’s really necessary are the seven planetary angels and the four elemental archangels/kings.
And there you have it!  A clean ritual for a clean spirit.  What about you?  What sorts of banishing rituals do you use, dear reader?  Do you stick to more physical cleansings and baths, do you take a ritual-centric approach to ritual and spiritual purity, or do you use both?  What techniques, tips, or tricks might you be willing to share?  Feel free to share in the comments!

More Misbaḥa Prayers: Crown of the Dead, along with Crowns for Michael, Raphel, and Uriel

I’ve been working under a bit of a deadline recently for one of my own projects.  I’ve mentioned before, sometimes subtly and sometimes (probably most of the time) not, that I’ve been developing a new practice, a kind of devotional-spiritual-magical geomantic practice.  It’s been taking more and more shape, pleasantly enough; prayers, feasts, celebrations, lunar observances, and an upcoming thing which I’m calling the Days of Cultivation: 16 days of fasting, abstinence, prayer, meditation, and a generally intensified spiritual practice.  I mentioned the idea back when I brought up a sort of geomantic calendar of sorts a few months ago.  Having established that the first full day of spring after the vernal equinox in March would be established as a Feast of Gabriel and also the geomantic/solar new year, I also brought up the idea of two more events: a Feast of the Blessed Dead set 17 days before the Feast of Gabriel, and the sixteen days between them being the Days of Cultivation:

I actually feel pretty comfortable with this novel arrangement. Though there are five main feasts that would be celebrated, which would be an odd number for geomancy, it’s really more like four feasts of the Progenitors plus a special feast that they all center around. They could be balanced by adding in the other three feasts of the archangels to yield a constant and balanced eight feasts per year, sure, peppered with the other feasts throughout the year for the other saints and days taken from Catholic (or Orthodox) tradition. For me, though, it suffices to have these primary five (really, four plus one) feasts to act as holy days for a devotional geomantic practice. I can easily envision having lead-up days, such as one to four days of fasting immediately prior to the feasts of the Progenitors or four to sixteen days of fasting, studying, and praying leading up to the feast of Gabriel at the spring equinox, too, which would also work to deepen and focus devotional practices. Heck, we could give these fancy terms, too, like “Days of Cultivation” for the period leading up to the feast of Gabriel…

…What about a day or feast to recognize the blessed dead, whether familial or spiritual, by blood-lineage or tradition-lineage? Again, you could use All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days for this, or other culturally-appropriate Day of the Dead-type holidays; for specific ancestors, you could use their birthdays or their deathdays. Though, given the above system, I think we could do one better. Those Days of Cultivation, the days of fasting and study and prayer leading up to the geomantic new year and the Feast of Gabriel? Why not make the day before that dedicated to the dead? After all, it’s because of them that all this we have can come to pass, and by “starting” the Days of Cultivation with them, we give them their proper due and respect as we would begin our own period of intensive study and prayer and preparation for the New Year. So, that means that the Feast of the Blessed Dead would be 17 days before the Feast of Gabriel

Well, this year, according to the rules set in that post, the Feast of Gabriel is slated for Thursday, March 21, which means the sixteen days prior would be the Days of Cultivation, which means that the day before those start would be the Feast of the Blessed Dead.

Which is today.

I’ve been slowly building up this whole practice, and though I have most of the feasts established in how I want to recognize them—at least for the four archangels, because prayers and rites to recognize the four progenitors Adam, Enoch, Hermēs, and Daniel stubbornly refuse to come together in any way—the last major feast for me to come up with something was that of the Blessed Dead.  After piecing together something that I’m pretty proud of, based on other ancestor veneration practices I use or with which I’m familiar, there was one more thing I felt like I should add: a set of repetitive prayers.  Specifically, something using prayer beads.

I adore the use of the Catholic Chaplet of the Dead, but it doesn’t fit into the overall practices I’m developing, which are more Hermetically theist rather than being Christian, Jewish, or Islamic (though acknowledging the debt I have to all those faiths and practices that have their origin in them).  Plus, it…it doesn’t last that long, and the most awkward parts of it are the reciting of the first three prayers.  It wouldn’t work for what I wanted to do, so I did the next best thing: I wrote my own set of prayers for use with prayer beads.  I already brought up the misbaḥa in a previous post, the Islamic prayer beads of 99 beads broken up into three sets of 33, which is most commonly used for the famous Tasbīḥ Fātimah (In the name of God the Most Merciful the Most Gracious ×1, Glory be to God ×33, Praise be to God ×33, God is Great ×33, there is no God but God ×1), but for which I also developed the Crown of Gabriel, a specific devotion I wrote for the archangel Gabriel based on the Tanakh, New Testament, and Qur’ān.  So, knowing that the misbaḥa can be used in any number of ways, and knowing that I can write prayers for it, I decided to write one for ancestor veneration and prayers for the dead.

Thus, on this day of the Feast of the Blessed Dead, I’d like to present to you a new misbaḥa devotion, the Crown of the Dead.

  1. At the beginning, recite once: “In the name of God, the Lord of the World, the True Judge.”
  2. On of the first set of 33 beads, recite: “May God give … unbounded mercy.”
  3. On the first separator, recite: “O God, for all the evil … have done in life, overlook it and forgive them in death.”
  4. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite: “May God give … eternal rest.”
  5. On the second separator, recite: “O God, for all the good … have done in life, increase it and honor them in death.”
  6. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite: “May God give … perpetual light.”
  7. At the end, recite once: “May … find peace on the wings of the divine presence of God.”

At each ellipsis, you can dedicate the recitation of the Crown of the Dead to a specific person (e.g. “May God give John son of Elizabeth unbounded mercy” or “May God give Jane Doe eternal rest”), or to all the dead generally (e.g. “May God give all the blessed souls of the dead perpetual light”.  Thus, the Crown of the Dead may be performed for a specific person who has passed away or for the benefit of all the dead.

There are basically four influences on the construction of the Crown of the Dead:

So, pretty nifty, I think.  Simple in its execution, powerful in its meaning, and flexible in its use.

At this point, my little prayerbook-in-development now listed three prayers (Dead, Gabriel, and the Tasbīḥ Fātimah) for the misbaḥa instead of just two, which actually made it worth a section of its own.  But why should I stop there?  After all, I’ve gotten some experience writing chaplets for archangels before, so why not try coming up with other misbaḥa-based prayers for the other three archangels that this system would celebrate, Michael and Raphael and Uriel?  Truth be told, I didn’t originally want to or plan to; I was going to use the Crown of Gabriel as a general preface practice for all the angelic celebrations, because this practice is largely Gabriel-centric.  However, when thinking about it and trying to arrange the celebrations right, they just…it didn’t fit.  Not that that should be surprising, but I ended up buckling and coming up with three more misbaḥa practices for the other archangels, named (oh-so-creatively!) the Crown of Michael, the Crown of Raphael, and the Crown of Uriel.

The Crown of Michael:

  1. At the beginning, recite once: “In the name of God, the Most Holy, the Lord of the Heavenly Host.”
  2. On of the first set of 33 beads, recite: “Holy Michael, defend us in battle.”
  3. On the first separator, recite: “O God, come to my assistance.”
  4. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite: “Protect us against the snares and wickedness of evil.”
  5. On the second separator, recite: “O God, make haste to help me.”
  6. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite: “There is none like unto God but God.”
  7. At the end, recite once: “Save us, o Lord, and grant us the defense of your angels.”

The Crown of Raphael:

  1. At the beginning, recite once: “In the name of God, the Living, Eternal, and Faithful King.”
  2. On of the first set of 33 beads, recite: “O God, may Raphael lead me to health.”
  3. On the first separator, recite: “Holy Raphael, o cure of all diseases! Come to my aid, o terror of all demons!”
  4. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite: “O God, through health, lead me to virtue.”
  5. On the second separator, recite: “Holy Raphael, o guide of all paths! Come to may aid, o friend of all travelers!”
  6. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite: “O God, through virtue, lead me to victory.”
  7. At the end, recite once: “Blessed are you, o God, Lord of creation, who bestows good things upon the unworthy and has bestowed upon me every goodness.”

The Crown of Uriel:

  1. At the beginning, recite once: “In the name of God, the One Light of all creation.”
  2. On of the first set of 33 beads, recite: “O flaming sword cutting darkness and deception!”
  3. On the first separator, recite: “God willing, holy Uriel, enlighten me in my dark understanding.”
  4. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite: “O scales of justice proving truth and fairness!”
  5. On the second separator, recite: “God willing, holy Uriel, enlighten me in my dark understanding.”
  6. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite: “O abundance of the garden nourishing all the world!”
  7. At the end, recite once: “Glory to God and all his deeds, for all that he does is good.”

There are a variety of influences here, ranging from Jewish blessings to Catholic prayers to calling on the general symbolism of the angels and their powers and patronages.  Personally, while I’m set on the Crown of the Dead and the Crown of Michael, the Crown of Raphael and the Crown of Uriel don’t seem quite finished to me yet; there seem to be some subtle differences in how they’re currently written versus the others that I’m not comfortable with, so those are up for some refining, but I still think they’re quite usable on their own.  I haven’t had much of a chance to actually work them—yet—but I’m excited to give them a swing.

I’m really warming up to the use of the misbaḥa as a general prayer tool.  There are (usually) no overt symbols of faith attached to it, and I like the number of beads and the forms it has, plus the general beauty of them compared to so many rosaries I’ve seen before.  Plus, its simplicity and flexibility allows it to be used for any number of devotions and prayer rules, even if a bit of ingenuity needs to be used to come up with them.  For instance, most chaplets for the angels and saints are done on so-called niner chaplets, chaplets that consist of nine beads; a straightforward, though laborious, way to apply chaplet prayers to a misbaḥa is simply to repeat each prayer 33 times instead of just once, going over the misbaḥa three times total for a series of 9 × 33 = 297 invocations.  Definitely worth taking one’s time, I suppose, or one could just apply separators to every 11 sets of beads, so that each invocation is repeated 11 times instead of just once or 33 times.  Plus, with masābiḥ (I think that’s the proper Arabic plural, even though I’m not 100% certain, because I don’t want to use the Anglicized plural of misbaḥas), they’re large enough to be worn comfortably as a necklace, just like a mala might be, and about the same length, too.  I find wearing them to be important, especially immediately after reciting one of the prayers above, like for Gabriel or Michael; I’m not just calling them “crowns” for nothing, after all.

Reviewing and Renewing my Offering to All Spirits

Recently, a friend of mine asked if I could share with him one of my old documents, a digitization of my vademecum that I keep with me as my own personal prayer book and handbook for ritual and ceremony.  I had designs to digitize it and maintain a cleaner, more organized version of it, but I never really got that off the ground.  Still, it did serve as an excellent resource for all the stuff I didn’t want to copy by hand into my vademecum, and I’m glad I kept it up for as long as I did, because I apparently forgot about it sometime in, like, 2014.  It had honestly and completely skipped my mind entirely until my friend reminded me of it, so I dug through my Documents folder and, would you believe it, look at all this awesome stuff I was amassing.  (Including a bunch of recipes that I’m personally thrilled to remember again, thank God and the gods.)

One of the entries in my vademecum is an old prayer I was using at the time for a general offering to the spirits.  Not just for a specific spirit, not for a fill-in-the-blank template, but as an honest offering to all spirits of incense and water.  I wrote about it on my blog back in 2012, and gave my general framework for it then and the prayer as I had it then.  According to what I wrote (you’d be surprised what you forget over six years), at the time I was in the habit of generally making “this offering as the first offering I do after my prayers to the Almighty, so that any other spirit I call upon afterwards can also partake of the offering as they come into the area of the altar”.  I apparently stopped this practice at some point, and six years later, I can certainly recall why and why I might not recommend this practice as commonly or frequent as I once would have.

To start with, this prayer and offering practice was influenced by my friends taking Jason Miller’s Strategic Sorcery class, who shared some of their tech with me.  (If you noticed similarities between my phrasing of things and the phrasing of Strategic Sorcery offering prayers, well, now you know where it came from.)  Jason Miller talks about why we would make such offerings in a recent post of his on generating sorcerer’s luck, when he specifically talks about making daily and widespread offerings:

Not just to specific spirits, but widespread offerings. We use four classes in Strategic Sorcery, but it is good enough to just make an offering to the spirits of the air, land, and underworld where you live. Pour some libarion, light some incense. Do it every day.  Do. It. Every. Day. Not feeling receptive” today? Not feeling “into it”? Not “in the right headspace”? Do it anyway. It’s not about you.  Take care of the spirits and the spirits will take care of you. Shit will start to work out almost as if the universe is conspiring with you. 1000 unnamed helpers from the land in which you live often outweigh the influence of the Archdemon that you spent 3 hours conjuring.

In a general sense, I agree with Jason, because making offerings is a way to build a relationship with the spirits.  It’s like a quote I shared on my Facebook recently, attributed to the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry: “We offer sacrifices to the gods for three reasons: that we may venerate, that we may give thanks, and that we may implore from them things necessary and avert from ourselves things evil”.  By making offerings to the spirits—light, incense, libation, food, blood, song, art, prayer, energy, what have you—we build a relationship with the spirits we engage with, nourish them, strengthen them, and fortify our connection to them.  It’s a wonderful thing to do, whether you think of yourself as a mage or a priest or just as a spiritually thoughtful and considerate person, no matter where you live or what you do.  By showing respect and offering tribute to the higher entities of the cosmos and nourishment to the lower ones, we build up our spiritual networks that we can call upon for any number of ends.

And yet…well, I can’t help but feel anymore that such general offerings, without some limitation or focus or modification to one’s environments, can just as easily be deleterious to one’s safety and stability, or cause other problems that need to be resolved.  Case in point, in fact the very case that got me to scale back these sorts of offerings to begin with: one time I was making my normal prayers in my old apartment, and…something just felt off.  Not wrong, but like there was something there that shouldn’t be, something there that was stuck awkwardly.  It took me a bit to catch on, but there was a spirit stuck in my window.  Like, not trapped in the windowpane, but a spirit that was stuck half-in half-out through my window, like a big dog that tried to get through too small a pet door.  I was caught off-guard when I turned my gaze towards the poor spirit that got stuck there, and the conversation we had basically clarified what happened: it heard my offering prayer and wanted to partake, but something about the protections I had set up on my property had prevented its access inside, while at the same time it was drawn to partake in the offerings within that same property.  This ended up causing an inadvertent trap for the spirit, and it could neither fully enter nor leave as it had gotten so stuck within the property’s spiritual boundaries.  I ended up punching a hole in the protections to the place, gave it offerings of its own, and sent it on its way, but it got me thinking: in my generosity, I was making a banquet for all sorts of spirits, not all of which would normally be permitted entry to my property given my protections, and yet I wasn’t making the right allowances for them.  On top of that, I was also reminded that for those same spirits who were able to partake, how would I be able to keep my property clean and cleansed, and how could I get those spirits to mosey on out if they got too used to enjoying regular offerings to me, without providing any other benefit?

Consider: our resources, supplies, time, and energy are inherently limited.  We might have access to infinity through whatever choice and selection of divinity we work with and call upon, but our capacity to accept and disperse them is limited.  We only have so many hours in the day, we only have so many cups for offerings, we only have so many sticks of incense we can spare, we only have so much attention we can devote to our necessities and chores and obligations.  There’s also the classical notion that we should always give enough, but not too much, so that we might always have something to give, and indeed, my own practices have long since shifted to making offerings only when necessary, and even then, only making the necessary offerings.  This helps prevent certain spirits from getting spoiled and taking us for granted, and it also helps keep me in check so that I don’t get worn out or resentful from always giving so much for the mere sake of giving.  And even then, not all spirits are worth making offerings to; while all spirits are worthy of existence and respect, just like people are, not every spiritual person needs to truck with every spirit.  Some spirits are harmful for us to work with, and some spirits are just those that offerings shouldn’t be received by our hands; I know that, even despite my own good intentions, some spirits find my mere presence harmful, while they might find the presence of my friend more acceptable and so could more easily accept offerings from them.

I understand Jason’s point of view; after all, he’s very much a tantric sorcerer and Buddhist, and in that system, offerings should be widespread, general, and for all sentient beings in all levels of the world.  Really, the systems of offerings he teaches are a kind of very lite chöd, which is wonderful and easy enough for people to pick up and practice without too much danger, so long as they’re diligent about it (and isn’t that really the whole problem right there?).  But in my worldview and practice, that’s not the case; there are some spirits that we simply don’t have any business dealing with or making offerings to, there are some spirits that take us for granted, and there are some spirits that we’re simply not the best ones to make offerings from them even if they want/need them and even if we want to give it to them.  Rather, it’s generally better to at least have an idea of who it is you’re making offerings to, enter into some sort of relationship with them, and gradually build up to making offerings through completion and fulfillment of vows, making offerings for special occasions, and then if the relationship proves itself to be beneficial for the both of you, then making regular offerings.  But even then, there’s also the risk of attracting spirits that we don’t necessarily want around us after the fact; making general offerings can pick up nasty, unwelcome, or harmful spirits who see the offering as a good free meal and then might help themselves to more without you wanting them to, but hey, you’re the one who invited them to begin with.

By no means am I saying that you shouldn’t making offerings for the benefit of all sentient spirits, or for spirits generally, but what I am saying is that you need to be smart about it.  The way I was doing it was wrong, because it ended up being harmful for some spirits that wanted to partake but couldn’t break through the protections I had on my house properly for such a meal, and I know that others who make such offerings often also pick up unwanted spirits that linger around them and cause them more problems down the line that need to be taken care of through banishing and exorcisms that necessarily are harsher than they otherwise would have been.  You need to be careful when making offerings in such a general, widespread format: you need to make sure the door is open enough for them to enter, you need to make sure you keep yourself clean and your place cleansed, and you need to make sure your guests don’t overstay their welcome.  If you can manage all that, you’re set, but figuring out how to do that is part of the problem, isn’t it?  Truth be told, I can easily pick out what went wrong in my earlier practices, and my own mistakes and missteps.

To that end, I took another look at that old offering prayer of mine.  I like the idea, sentiment, and underlying purpose of it, but now that I’m a little older and a little more experienced and wary, there are some changes I’d make to the thing, including the wording of the prayer itself (my writing skills, I like to think, have improved with time).  So, I made the changes, and I’d like to present my updated prayer and methodology here.  One of the most important changes I made to the prayer was that I stopped beckoning the spirits to come to me, so no more “come, all you spirits” again and again; this prevented a need for spirits to try to come to me or enter into my property, because part of the prayer dedicates the offerings to specifically flow out from their place of offering into the rest of the cosmos, so that really, the offerings would come to them rather than the spirits having to come to the offerings.

For this ritual, you will need a simple cup of clean, fresh water and either one stick or three sticks of some generally-pleasing incense.  The water should be left unmixed with anything, though may be sweetened with a drop of honey or rosewater if truly desired; the cup itself is best one dedicated to spiritual work, and better dedicated solely for this specific kind of general offering, but this is not necessary so long as it’s been cleaned and cleansed after each use.  For incense, frankincense is always a good option, but scents like sandalwood, benzoin, sweet or mild musk, jasmine, rose, amber, and the like are also plenty fine; avoid anything too strong, potent, sharp, bitter, or sour.  Blended incenses are perfect, so long as they’re pleasantly fragrant enough without being overpowering.  You don’t need to use sticks, although I find them convenient; if you prefer to go with loose incense, feel free.  Although I like having a candle burning during all my prayers and spiritual work, with an exorcism and/or blessing said over it, it’s not necessary for this offering, as it’s not something being offered to the spirits themselves, although you may find it helpful just in case.  Other offerings, such as food, flowers, candles, and the like may also be set out, but those are entirely extra and unnecessary.  In this case, it’s better to keep the offering simple, short, and clean.

Ideally, this offering would take place in a neutral area, such as an outdoors place not on your own property, or in a place that is not otherwise bounded by spiritual protections belonging to some specific person or ruling entity.  Ideal places for this would be a park, field, crossroads, beach, or some other place that cannot be said to belong to anyone.  It is inadvisable to perform this offering in a place that is controlled by someone else, such as a sacred precinct, church, a place known to be claimed by a particular divinity or spirit, or someone else’s property.  Otherwise, it may be performed in your own home or on your own property, though you may need to ward and protect yourself accordingly to permit the offering to pass from the property without allowing anything baneful to enter in by the same way.  Depending on how you feel afterwards, you may want to follow up this offering with banishing to make sure nothing sticks around that shouldn’t.

When ready, wash your hands, set the cup of water and the incense out on a clean surface, whether on the ground or on a low table or other elevated surface.  Light the incense and let it begin rising through the air.  Hold your arms out, palms upward and out as in the orans gesture and recite the prayer aloud to the spirits:

Hear me, all you spirits, by whatever name you take, by whatever form you take!
Hear me, all you spirits, before, behind, beside, below, or above me who call you!
Hear me, all you spirits, of the north and the south, of the east and the west!
Hear me, all you spirits, within or above the Heavens, upon or under the Earth!
Hear me, all you spirits, with whom I hold favor or disfavor!
Hear me, all you spirits, who owe me debt or to whom I owe debt!
Here do I call to you, wherever you may be: partake of this my offering!
I dedicate to you now this water and this incense as offerings to you;
I give you these offerings freely and joyfully, and ask that you accept them in the same,
as symbols of my thanks, love, goodwill, honor, respect, trust, and joy for you
for your own benefit and peace, that I too might have benefit and peace.

Dip your fingers of your dominant hand (or the hand you prefer to use to give offerings with) into the water and scatter it around you to your front, back, and either side.  Visualize the water to rise up and flow out from the cup outwards as a constant fountain, especially through and beyond the spiritual boundaries of your own property if it is done there.  Resume the orans gesture, then recite the next part of the prayer:

Accept now this water, fresh, clean, and sweet,
that it may refresh you, cleanse you, and cheer you.
Let this water nourish you how it you need it best,
whether as golden rivers of nectar or as boiling seas of blood.
Let this water swell and surround you and the common ground we share,
that we may understand and console each other, comfort and soothe each other.
Let this water overflow this vessel and wash over all that exists,
reaching the uttermost shores of the cosmos in all directions,
that all spirits may partake of this my offering.

With the same hand as before, place it palm-down in the incense smoke, then lift your hand in one swift motion to draw the smoke upwards, then fan it away from you with the same hand seven times.  Visualize the incense to rise up and fill the entire cosmos with its plumes of pure fragrant smoke, especially through and beyond the spiritual boundaries of your own property if it is done there.  Resume the orans gesture, then recite the next part of the prayer:

Accept now this incense, sacred, whole, and pure,
that it may satisfy you, strengthen you, and fortify you.
Receive this incense as you how you need it best,
whether as abundant forests of fruits or as burning mountains of flesh.
Let this incense rise up and fill your beings, your hearts, and your minds,
that we may understand and know each other, hear and see each other.
Let this incense be compounded upon itself a myriad myriad times,
rising up and filling the entire cosmos with its sweet smoke,
that all spirits may partake of this my offering.

Maintain the orans gesture and conclude the prayer:

If I hold favor with you, then let this offering strengthen us and be a mark of alliance and friendship.
If I hold disfavor with you, then let this offering reconcile us and be an expression of apology to you.
If you owe me debt, then let this offering be a symbol of my faith and trust in you.
If I owe you debt, then let this offering be repayment towards its ultimate fulfillment.
Come and take your fill of these offerings, of this water and of this incense!
As you take your fill of these offerings, remember me who gives them to you!
Let this offering aid you in your work; let this offering sate you and please you!
Let this offering of goodwill be taken in goodwill, of peace in peace, of love in love
for your own benefit and peace, that I too might have benefit and peace.
If you came here to me in peace, so now return to your home in peace;
if you reside peacefully with me, so too abide peacefully with me.
Take your fill of this offering and continue in your work,
in the Holy Light of the Creator of us all.

Let the incense burn out completely; you can enter into a period of contemplation or chanting other prayers, if you want to be present for the rest of the offering, or you may take a brief leave and return later.  Once the incense burns out, the offering may be formally drawn to a close. If possible, scatter the incense ash into the wind and pour out the water onto the ground; if done indoors, these may be disposed of in a trash bin and a sink respectfully.  Resume the orans gesture, then recite the next part of the prayer:

The water I poured for you is drained, the incense I burned for you is spent.
The offering I made for you is given, the offering I made for you is complete.
May this offering be pleasing and fit for all spirits where they are,
that they may be at peace, and be at peace with me.
May no ill-will remain, may no malice remain,
but only peace and peace and peace and peace.
All you spirits who have come to me to partake in this offering,
as you have come in peace, so now go in peace.
Go now with my peace, go now with my blessing, and go now to your work,
in the Holy Light of the Creator of us all.

The offering is complete.

Correspondence of Spirits to the Greek Alphabet

Judging from my recent blog post history, you’d be forgiven if you thought that this whole damn blog, and my whole damn practice, was just about geomancy.  Technically, that’d be wrong, but I do, indeed, talk about geomancy a lot.  There’s just a lot to talk about when it comes to that topic.  One of the things I still keep up with, albeit not as much as I’d like or as much as I’d otherwise have time for, is my old Mathēsis practice, that whole system of Greek letter mystiticsm, a kind of neo-Pythagorean quasi-Hermetic system of theurgy and meditation that works closely with the Greek gods.  I’ve made some good innovations when it comes to developing this practice, from coming up with a Tetractys-based “map” of the cosmos, as well as various other meditative and purificatory practices that, even when I’m not working in a mathētic framework, still help out one way or another.  This whole thing came about through my interest and development of grammatomancy, the Greek alphabet oracle, which I’ve found to be an excellent system of divination that I also specialize in along with geomancy.  One of my finest innovations, I think, is the Grammatēmerologion, a lunisolar calendar that maps the days, months, and years themselves to different letters of the Greek alphabet for tracking feasts, holidays, rituals, and meditations, whether according to the days purely or overlaps between the letters of the days along with astrological and astronomical phenomena.  I’ve found it incredibly helpful, and I hope that others can, as well.

One of the things I find it especially useful for is arranging the days of the lunar month, from New Moon to New Moon, to the different gods of the Hellenic pantheon and other aspects of ancient Greek and Mediterranean mythos.  However, in a naïve or simple way, the Greek letters don’t really have very many associations to the various deities, divinities, and spirits, but I wanted to see how far I could take things.  For instance, it makes sense to honor Asklēpios along with Apollōn, his father, and by extension the goddesses of health like Panakeia or Hygieia or Iasō.  But what about the more obscure divinities, like Triptolemos or Amphitritē or Themis?  I began to expand the associations I was working with to associate the Greek letters to the gods, and I ended up with…well, quite a large set, especially because I wanted to be pretty darn complete or at least reasonably so.  Yanno, just in case.

That ended up in making a table so big even I wasn’t comfortable with it, so I ended up making four tables of correspondences of the various deities and spirits of a Hellenic, Pythagorean, or generally Greek pagan practice to the letters of the Greek alphabet.  I tried to make the associations as reasonably as I could, and despite the overwhelming number of entities present in Greek myth, I tried to focus on those that tended to receive cult in classical times.  Below are those tables, as reasonably complete as I could make them.  When gaps exist in the tables, that indicates that I couldn’t find anything to fit there, but that doesn’t mean that there can’t be; perhaps this table could be expanded upon over time, and I’d look forward to it.  Heck, even for the cells that are populated, I’m sure there can be additions or changes made.

What’s also nice is that these tables can also play well with the use of the Kyranides, a famous proto-grimoire “index” of the various minerals, animals, and plants of the world according to their initial letter by their Greek names; connections between those sorts of associations according to the Greek alphabet and how they might play well with the associations given by other authors and sources would be a great thing for me to (eventually) research.

Before we begin, let me share a few resources that were helpful, instrumental, or otherwise important in helping me devise these tables of divine correspondences to the Greek alphabet:

Table I: The Table of the Whole.  This table gives the high-level associations of the letters of the Greek alphabet, both the 24 letters in use from ancient times to modern times as well as the three obsolete letters Digamma, Qoppa, and Sampi, to their various associations: those of the various forces of the cosmos of the elements, planets, and signs of the Zodiac based on Cornelius Agrippa’s associations (book I, chapter 74); the singlemost important deity for that letter of the alphabet based on its corresponding force; a sacred word of power taken from PGM CI.1-53, a holy angel for each letter taken from the Coptic magical manuscript Berlin 11346, and a general part of the body commonly associated with the letters of the Greek alphabet apart from other zodiacal associations.  Note that the three obsolete letters Digamma, Qoppa, and Sampi lack most associations, and are instead given to three classes of spirits of the dead: Digamma has Ancestors of Kin (one’s own blood- and name-related family), Qoppa has Ancestors of Work (ancestors, founders, and forebears of one’s mundane and spiritual professions and lineages), and Sampi has Ancestors of the Great (culture heroes, legendary founders of cities and civilizations, as well as forgotten and wandering dead).  Other oddities, such as the presence of Eōsphoros and Hesperos for Ēta or Zeus Euēnemos for Phi are discussed below in tables for that specific class of letters.

Letter Force Deity Word Angel Body
Α
Alpha
Moon Selēnē ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ
Akrammakhamarei
ΑΧΑΗΛ
Akhaēl
Head
Β

Bēta

Aries Athēna ΒΟΥΛΟΜΕΝΤΟΡΕΒ
Būlomentoreb
ΒΑΝΟΥΗΛ
Banūēl
Neck
Γ
Gamma
Taurus Aphroditē ΓΕΝΙΟΜΟΥΘΙΓ
Geniomūthig
ΓΑΝΟΥΗΛ
Ganūēl
Arms
Δ
Delta
Gemini Apollōn ΔΗΜΟΓΕΝΗΔ
Dēmogenēd
ΔΕΔΑΗΛ
Dedaēl
Breast
Ε
Epsilon
Mercury Stilbōn ΕΝΚΥΚΛΙΕ
Enkuklie
ΕΠΤΙΗΛ
Eptiēl
Chest
Ϝ
Digamma
Ancestors
of Kin
Ζ
Zēta
Cancer Hermēs ΖΗΝΟΒΙΩΘΙΖ
Zēnobiōthiz
ΖΑΡΤΙΗΛ
Zartiēl
Back
Η
Ēta
Venus Eōsphoros and
Hesperos
ΗΣΚΩΘΩΡΗ
Ēskōthōrē
ΗΘΑΗΛ
Ēthaēl
Belly
Θ
Thēta
Earth Hēra Geēros ΘΩΘΟΥΘΩΘ
Thōthūthōth
ΘΑΘΙΗΛ
Thathiēl
Thighs
Ι
Iōta
Sun Hēlios ΙΑΕΟΥΩΙ
Iaeouōi
ΙΩΧΑΗΛ
Iōkhaēl
Knees
Κ
Kappa
Leo Zeus ΚΟΡΚΟΟΥΝΟΩΚ
Korkoūnoōk
ΚΑΡΔΙΗΛ
Kardiēl
Legs
Λ
Lambda
Virgo Dēmētēr ΛΟΥΛΟΕΝΗΛ
Lūloenēl
ΛΑΒΤΙΗΛ
Labtiēl
Ankles
Μ
Mu
Libra Hēphaistos ΜΟΡΟΘΟΗΠΝΑΜ
Morothoēpnam
ΜΗΡΑΗΛ
Mēraēl
Feet
Ν

Nu

Scorpio Arēs ΝΕΡΞΙΑΡΞΙΝ
Nerksiarksin
ΝΗΡΑΗΛ
Nēraēl
Feet
Ξ

Ksi

Water Persephonē ΞΟΝΟΦΟΗΝΑΞ
Ksonophoēnaks
ΞΙΦΙΗΛ
Ksiphiēl
Ankles
Ο
Omikron
Mars Pyroeis ΟΡΝΕΟΦΑΟ
Orneophao
ΟΥΠΙΗΛ
Oupiēl
Legs
Π
Pi
Sagittarius Artemis ΠΥΡΟΒΑΡΥΠ
Pyrobaryp
ΠΙΡΑΗΛ
Piraēl
Knees
Ϙ
Qoppa
Ancestors of
Work
Ρ
Rhō
Capricorn Hestia ΡΕΡΟΥΤΟΗΡ
Rerūtoēr
ΡΑΗΛ
Raēl
Thighs
Σ
Sigma
Aquarius Hēra ΣΕΣΕΝΜΕΝΟΥΡΕΣ
Sesenmenūres
ΣΕΡΩΑΗΛ
Serōaēl
Belly
Τ
Tau
Pisces Poseidōn ΤΑΥΡΟΠΟΛΙΤ
Tauropolit
ΤΑΥΡΙΗΛ
Tauriēl
Back
Υ
Upsilon
Jupiter Phaethōn ΥΠΕΦΕΝΟΥΡΥ
Upephenūru
ΥΜΝΟΥΗΛ
Hymnūēl
Chest
Φ
Phi
Air Zeus
Euēnemos
ΦΙΜΕΜΑΜΕΦ
Phimemameph
ΦΙΛΟΠΑΗΛ
Philopaēl
Breast
Χ
Khi
Fire Hadēs ΧΕΝΝΕΟΦΕΟΧ
Khenneopheokh
ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥΗΛ
Khristūel
Arms
Ψ
Psi
Spirit Dionysos ΨΥΧΟΜΠΟΛΑΨ
Psykhompolaps
ΨΙΛΑΦΑΗΛ
Psilaphaēl
Neck
Ω
Ōmega
Saturn Phainōn ΩΡΙΩΝ
Ōriōn
ΩΛΙΘΙΗΛ
Ōlithiēl
Head
ϡ
Sampi
Ancestors of
the Great

Table II: the Table of the Seven Vowels.  This table expands on the seven vowels of the Greek alphabet, which are given most strongly to the seven traditional planets.  Each planet has its own specific astral titan associated with it, such as Selēnē for the Moon or Hēlios for the Sun, but note that Venus has two astral titans for it, Eōsphoros and Hesperos, because historically this planet was reckoned as two separate entities, Eōsphoros as the Morning Star when Venus rose before the Sun and visible in the dawn hours before sunrise, and Hesperos as the Western Star when Venus set after the Sun and visible in the dusk hours after sunset.  Based on the directions associated with these letters as given in the Heptagram Rite of PGM XIII.734—1077, each of these planets may also be given to the four Elder Titans along with their mother Gaia and their father Ouranos.  Other deities may also be assigned to the planets, such as Artemis for the Moon, along with clusters of lesser deities and other spirits associated with those deities.

Letter Planet Star Titan Deities Cluster
Α Moon Selēnē Hyperiōn Hekatē,
Artemis
Mēnai,
Hōrai
Ε Mercury Stilbōn Koios Hermēs Dioskouroi
Η Venus Eōsphoros,
Hesperos
Iapetos Aphroditē Hesperides
Ι Sun Hēlios Kriōs Apollōn, Dionysos,
Eōs, Theia
Hēliades
Ο Mars Pyroeis Gaia Arēs, Hēphaistos,
Hēraklēs
Υ Jupiter Phaethōn Kronos Zeus,
Ouranos
Ω Saturn Phainōn Ouranos Kronos, Adrasteia,
Khronos
Erinyes,
Moirai

Table III: the Table of the Five Complex Consonants. This table expands on the five complex or double consonants of the Greek alphabet, which are given to the four elements plus the quintessence, the meta-element of Spirit.  Each of these is presided over by one of five gods, with the four classical elements associated with Zeus, Hēra, Hadēs, and Persephonē according to the Greek philosopher Empedocles.  To distinguish this specific Zeus and Hēra from their other forms, the titles “Zeus Euēnomos” (Zeus of the Good Winds) and “Hēra Geēros” (Hera of the Earth) are given specifically to them.  Along with these major divinities, other minor divinities who often received cult and are associated with these elements are given, along with important clusters of (often-named individual) spirits and lesser gods as well as general classes of various spirits.

Letter Element Major
Deity
Minor
Deities
Cluster Spirits
Θ Earth Hēra Geēros Gaia, Rhea, Kybelē,
Mēter Theōn
Kourētes,
Korybantes
Karpoi,
Panes
Ξ Water Persephonē Aphroditē, Ōkeanos,
Tēthys, Hekatē
Seirenēs Naiades,
Potamoi
Φ Air Zeus Euēnemos Aiolos,
Hēra
Anemoi,
Harpyiai
Aurai,
Nephelai
Χ Fire Hadēs Hēphaistos, Hestia,
Hekatē
Erinyes,
Nekrotagoi
Lampades
Ψ Spirit Dionysos Promētheus, Iakkhos,
Priapos
Mainades,
Satyroi

Table IV: the Table of the Twelve Simple Consonants.  This table expands on the twelve simple or single consonants of the Greek alphabet, which are given to the twelve signs of the Zodiac.  Each of these zodiac signs are assigned to one of the twelve Olympian gods according to the Orphic Scale of Twelve as given by Cornelius Agrippa (book II, chapter 14) as their prime divinity, along with lesser or alternate divinities who are closely associated with the functions, roles, and ideals of those gods.  Along with these, other sacred figures are given according to the specific body of the zodiac sign, such as the divine twins Dioskouroi to the sign of the twins of Gemini, as well as important clusters of (often-named individual) spirits and lesser gods as well as general classes of various spirits that are also associated with the major divinities of these letters.

Letter Zodiac
Sign
Maior
Deity
Minor
Deities
Zodiac
Deity
Cluster Spirits
Β Aries Athēna Nikē, Mētis, Pronoia,
Hēphaistos, Erikhthonios
Γ Taurus Aphroditē Erōs, Adonis, Harmonia,
Peithō, Parēgoros
Kharites,
Erōtes
Naiades
Δ Gemini Apollōn Aristaios, Lētō,
Hymenaios, Asklēpios,
Hygeia, Panakeia, Iasō
Dioskouroi Mousai
Ζ Cancer Hermēs Pan, Morpheus,
Maia, Hērakles
Pleiades Panes, Oneiroi,
Oreiades
Κ Leo Zeus Tykhē, Nemesis, Themis,
Ganymēdēs, Hēraklēs,
Bia, Nikē, Kratos, Zēlos
Moirai,
Hōrai
Λ Virgo Dēmētēr Persephonē, Triptolemos,
Hekatē, Ploutos, Iakkhos
Asteria Hōrai
Μ Libra Hēphaistos Athēna, Kēladiōn Dikē Kyklōpes,
Kabeiroi,
Palikoi
Kēlēdones,
Kourai
Ν Scorpio Arēs Phobos, Deimos,
Eris, Enyō
Graiai,
Gorgones
Π Sagittarius Artemis Lētō, Hekatē Kheirōn Nymphai,
Dryades
Ρ Capricorn Hestia Pan
Σ Aquarius Hēra Hēbē, Eileithyia, Iris Ganymēdēs Hesperides,
Kharites
Τ Pisces Poseidōn Prōteus, Amphitritē,
Tritōn, Nēreus,
Palaimon, Leukotheua
Tritones,
Nēreides

One of the fascinating things I find about this Table IV is that there’s a subtle logic in how the major divinities are assigned to the signs of the Zodiac based on the opposing sign.  Consider that Pan is the god most commonly associated with the actual form of the sign Capricorn, but Pan is also often associated with Hermēs in mythos, sometimes even being Hermēs’ own son; there’s an interesting dichotomy here between these two signs, with Hestia essentially being the goddess of what happens inside the home while Hermēs is the god of what happens outside the home.  Likewise, note how the famous centaur Kheiron (or Chiron in modern spelling) is the god of the form of the sign Sagittarius, the opposite sign of Gemini, which itself is associated with Apollōn, his adoptive father and also the father of Asklēpios, whom Kheiron later teaches as his pupil.  Ganymēdēs, too, was the famous cup-bearer taken up by Zeus and placed into the sky as the sign Aquarius, yet this sign itself is given to Hēra, who disapproved of Ganymēdēs, while the sign opposite of both Hēra and Ganymēdēs is none other than Leo, given to Zeus himself.  It’s kinda fascinating to see the logic and polarities going on with how the gods are given to the signs and how they play off each other in a coherent whole of reinforcing-oppositions.

And there you have it!  My system of correspondences I use to categorize and organize the various gods, demigods, daimones, and spirits of the classical and mythic Hellenic world according to the letters of the Greek alphabets.  I’ve personally gotten good mileage out of it, and I hope others can, too, inasmuch as a letter-based system of mysticism might be helpful, but also to just pick out associations and links between the different entities of Hellenic mythos.

On Geomantic Figure Magic Squares

We all know and love magic squares, don’t we?  Those grids of numbers, sometimes called “qamea” (literally just meaning “amulet” or “talisman” generally in Hebrew, קמיע or qamia`), are famous in Western magic for being numerological stand-ins or conceptions of the seven planets, sure, such as the 3×3 square for Saturn, the 5×5 square for Mars, and so forth, but they’re also huge in Arabic magic, too, from which Western magicians almost certainly got the idea.  Sure, magic letter squares are ancient in the West, such as the famous Sator Square from Roman times until today, and have more modern parallels in texts like the Sacred Magic of Abramelin, but magic number squares are fun, because they combine numerical and numerological principles together in an elegant form.

Which is why I was caught off-guard when I saw these two squares online, the first from this French blog post on Arabic geomancy and the other shared in the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook:

Well…would you take a look at that?  Geomantic magic squares!  It took me a bit to realize what I was seeing, but once it hit me, I was gobsmacked.  It might not be immediately apparent how to make a geomantic magic square, but it becomes straightforward if you consider the figures as numbers of points, such that Laetitia stands in for 7, Puer for 5, Carcer for 6, and so forth.  Sure, it’s not a traditional kind of n × n number square that goes from 1 to n², but there are plenty of other magic squares that don’t do that either in occult practice, so seeing a kind of geomantic figure magic square actually makes a lot of sense when they’re viewed as numbers of points.  In this case, the magic sum of the square—the sum of the columns or rows—is 24.

Consider that first magic square, elegant as it is.  When it’s oriented on a tilt, such that one of its diagonals is vertical, we have the four axial figures (Coniunctio, Carcer, Via, and Populus) right down the middle, and all the other figures are arranged in reverse pairs in their corresponding positions on either side of the square.  For instance, Amissio and Acquisitio are on either side of the central axis “mirroring” each other, as are Tristitia and Laetitia, Fortuna Maior and Fortuna Minor, and so forth.  This is a wonderful geometric arrangement that shows a deep and profound structure that underlies the figures, and which I find particularly beautiful.

Of course, knowing that there are at least two such geomantic figure magic squares, and seeing possibilities for variation (what if you rearranged the figures of that first magic square above such that all the entering figures were on one side and all the exiting figures on the other?), that led me to wonder, how many geomantic magic squares are there?  Are there any structural keys to them that might be useful, or any other numerical properties that could be discovered?  So, late one evening, I decided to start unraveling this little mystery.  I sat down and wrote a quick program that started with the following list of numbers:

[ 4 , 5 , 5 , 5 , 5 , 6 , 6 , 6 , 6 , 6 , 6 , 7 , 7 , 7 , 7 , 8 ]
  • Why this list?  Note that the figure magic squares rely on counting the points of the figures.  From that point of view, Puer (with five points) can be swapped by Puella, Caput Draconis, or Cauda Draconis in any given figure magic square and it would still be another valid magic square that would have the same underlying numerical structure.  There’s only one figure with four points (Via), four figures with five points (Puer, Puella, Caput Draconis, Cauda Draconis), six figures with six points (Carcer, Coniunctio, Fortuna Maior, Fortuna Minor, Amissio, Acquisitio), four figures with seven points (Albus, Rubeus, Laetitia, Tristitia), and only one figure with eight points (Populus).  If we simply focus on the point counts of the figures themselves and not the figures, we can simplify the problem statement significantly and work from there, rather than trying to figure out every possible combination of figures that would yield a magic square from the get-go.
  • How does such a list get interpreted as a 4 × 4 square?  There are 16 positions in the list, so we can consider the first four positions (indices 0 through 3) to be the top row of the square, the second four positions (indices 4 through 7) to be the second row, the third four positions (indices 8 through 11) to be the third row, and the fourth four positions (indices 12 through 15) as the fourth row, all interpreted from left to right.  Thus, the first position is the upper left corner, the second position the uppermost inside-left cell, the third position the uppermost inside-right cell, the fourth position the upper right corner, the fifth position the leftmost inside-upper cell, the sixth position the inside-upper inside-left cell, and so forth.  This kind of representation also makes things a little easier for us instead of having to recursively deal with a list of lists.
  • How do we know whether any permutation of such a list, interpreted as a 4 × 4 square, satisfies our constraints?  We need to add up the values of each row, column, and diagonal and make sure they add up to our target number (in our case, 24).

Starting from this list, I set out to get all the unique permutations.  Originally, I just got all 16! = 20,922,789,888,000 possible permutations, thinking that would be fine, and testing them each for fitting the target number of 24, but after running for twelve hours, and coming up with over 170,000 results with more being produced every few minutes, I realized that I’d probably be waiting for a while.  So, I rewrote the permutation code and decided to get only unique permutations (such that all the 5s in the base list of numbers are interchangeable and therefore equal, rather than treating each 5 as a unique entity).  With that change, the next run of the program took only a short while, and gave me a list of 368 templates.  We’re getting somewhere!

So, for instance, take the last template square that my program gave me, which was the list of numbers [6, 6, 5, 7, 8, 5, 6, 5, 6, 7, 6, 5, 4, 6, 7, 7].  Given that list, we can interpret it as the following template magic square:

6 6 5 7
8 5 6 5
6 7 6 5
4 6 7 7

And we can populate it with any set of figures that match the point counts accordingly, such as the one below:

Fortuna
Minor
Fortuna
Maior
Puer Laetitia
Populus Puella Carcer

Cauda
Draconis

Amissio Albus Acquisitio Caput
Draconis
Via Coniunctio Rubeus Tristitia

Excellent; this is a totally valid geomantic figure magic square, where the point counts of each row, column, and diagonal add to 24.  To further demonstrate the templates, consider the two images of the figure magic squares I shared at the top of the post.  However, although I was able to find the first magic square given at the start of the post (the green-on-sepia one), the second one (blue with text around it) didn’t appear in the list.  After taking a close look at my code to make sure it was operating correctly, I took another look at the square itself.  It turns out that, because although all the rows and columns add to 24, one of the diagonals adds up to 20, which means it’s not a true geomantic figure magic square.  Welp!  At least now we know.

But there’s still more to find out, because we don’t have all the information yet that we set out to get.  We know that there are 368 different template squares, but that number hides an important fact: some template squares are identical in structure but are rotated or flipped around, so it’s the “same square” in a sense, just with a transformation applied.  It’s like taking the usual magic number square of Saturn and flipping it around.  So, let’s define three basic transformations:

  1. Rotating a square clockwise once.
  2. Flipping a square horizontally.
  3. Flipping a square vertically.

We know that we can rotate a square up to three times, which gets us a total of four different squares (unrotated, rotated once, rotated twice, rotated thrice).  We know that we can leave a square unflipped, flipped horizontally, flipped vertically, and flipped both horizontally and vertically.  We know that a square can be rotated but not flipped, flipped but not rotated, or both rotated and flipped.  However, it turns out that trying out all combinations of rotating and flipping gets duplicate results: for instance, flipping vertically without rotating is the same as rotating twice and flipping horizontally.  So, instead of there being 16 total transformations, there are actually only eight other templates that are identical in structure but just transformed somehow, which means that our template count of 368 is eight times too large.  If we divide 368 by 8, we get a manageable number of just 46 root templates, which isn’t bad at all.

What about total possible figure squares?  Given any template, there are four slots for figures with five points, four slots for figures with seven points, and six slots for figures with six points.  The figures of any given point count can appear in any combination amongst the positions with those points.  This means that, for any given template square, there are 4! × 4! × 6! = 414,720 different possible figure squares.  Which means that, since there are 368 templates, there are a total of 152,616,960 figure squares, each a unique 4 × 4 grid of geomantic figures that satisfy the condition that every column, row, and diagonal must have 24 points.  (At least we’ve got options.)

What about if we ignore diagonals?  The blue magic square above is almost a magic square, except that one of its diagonals adds up to 20 and not 24.  If we only focus on the rows and columns adding up to 24 and ignore diagonals, then we get a larger possible set of template squares, root template squares, and figure squares:

  • 5,904 template squares
  • 738 root template squares
  • 2,448,506,880 possible figure squares

So much for less-magic squares.  What about more-magic squares?  What if we take other subgroups of these squares besides the rows, columns, and diagonals—say, the individual quadrants of four figures at each corner of the square as well as the central quadrant, or the just the corner figures themselves, or the bows and hollows?  That’s where we might get even more interesting, more “perfect” geomantic figure magic squares, so let’s start whittling down from least magic to most magic.  Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, here are examples of the different patterns I’m considering (four columns, four rows, two diagonals, five quadrants, four bows, four hollows, one set of corners):

To keep the numbers manageable, let’s focus on root template square counts:

  • Rows and columns only: 738 root templates
  • Rows, columns, and diagonals: 46 root templates
  • Rows, columns, diagonals, and all five quadrants: 18 root templates
  • Rows, columns, diagonals, all five quadrants, bows, and hollows: 2 root templates
  • Rows, columns, diagonals, all five quadrants, bows, hollows, and the four corners: 2 root templates

With each new condition, we whittle down the total number of more-magical root templates from a larger set of less-magical root templates.  I’m sure there are other patterns that can be developed—after all, for some numeric magic squares of rank 4, there are up to 52 different patterns that add up to the magic sum—but these should be enough to prove the point that there are really two root templates that are basically as magical as we’re gonna get.  Those root templates, along with their transformations, are:

  1. [6, 4, 7, 7, 8, 6, 5, 5, 5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6]
    1. Unflipped, unrotated: [6, 4, 7, 7, 8, 6, 5, 5, 5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6]
    2. Unflipped, rotated once clockwise: [5, 5, 8, 6, 7, 7, 6, 4, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7]
    3. Unflipped, rotated twice clockwise: [6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 5, 5, 5, 6, 8, 7, 7, 4, 6]
    4. Unflipped, rotated thrice clockwise: [7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6, 4, 6, 7, 7, 6, 8, 5, 5]
    5. Flipped, unrotated: [7, 7, 4, 6, 5, 5, 6, 8, 6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 5]
    6. Flipped, rotated once clockwise: [6, 8, 5, 5, 4, 6, 7, 7, 7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6]
    7. Flipped, rotated twice clockwise: [5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6, 8, 6, 5, 5, 6, 4, 7, 7]
    8. Flipped, rotated thrice clockwise: [6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 7, 7, 6, 4, 5, 5, 8, 6]
  2. [8, 6, 5, 5, 6, 4, 7, 7, 5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6]
    1. Unflipped, unrotated: [8, 6, 5, 5, 6, 4, 7, 7, 5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6]
    2. Unflipped, rotated once clockwise: [5, 5, 6, 8, 7, 7, 4, 6, 6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 5]
    3. Unflipped, rotated twice clockwise: [6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 5, 7, 7, 4, 6, 5, 5, 6, 8]
    4. Unflipped, rotated thrice clockwise: [5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6, 6, 4, 7, 7, 8, 6, 5, 5]
    5. Flipped, unrotated: [5, 5, 6, 8, 7, 7, 4, 6, 6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 5]
    6. Flipped, rotated once clockwise: [8, 6, 5, 5, 6, 4, 7, 7, 5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6]
    7. Flipped, rotated twice clockwise: [5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6, 6, 4, 7, 7, 8, 6, 5, 5]
    8. Flipped, rotated thrice clockwise: [6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 5, 7, 7, 4, 6, 5, 5, 6, 8]

That second one, for instance, is the root template of that first figure magic square given above (green-on-sepia), unflipped and rotated clockwise twice.  So, with these, we end up with these two root template squares, from which can be developed eight others for each through rotation and reflection, meaning that there are 16 template squares that are super magical, which means that there are a total of 6,635,520 possible figure squares—414,720 per each template—once you account for all variations and combinations of figures in the slots.

That there are 16 templates based on two root templates is suggestive that, maybe, just maybe, there could be a way to assign each template to a geomantic figure.  I mean, I was hoping that there was some way we’d end up with just 16 templates, and though I was ideally hoping for 16 root templates, two root templates is pretty fine, too.  With 16 figures, there are at least two ways we can lump figures together into two groups of eight: the planetary notion of advancing or receding (advancing Populus vs. receding Via for the Moon, advancing Albus vs. receding Coniuncto for Mercury, advancing Fortuna Maior and receding Fortuna Minor for the Sun, etc.), or the notion of entering or exiting figures.  Personally, given the more equal balance of figures and the inherently structural nature of all this, I’m more inclined to give all the entering figures to one root template and all the exiting figures to the other.  As for how we might assign these templates to the figures, or which set of templates get assigned to the entering figures or exiting figures, is not something I’ve got up my sleeve at this moment, but who knows?  Maybe in the future, after doing some sort of structural analysis of the templates, some system might come up for that.

More than that, how could these squares be used?  It’s clear that they’ve got some sort of presence in geomantic magic, but as for specifically what, I’m not sure.  Unlike a geomantic chart, which reveals some process at play in the cosmos, these geomantic squares are more like my geomantic emblems project (and its subsequent posts), in that they seem to tell some sort of cosmic story based on the specific arrangement of figures present within the square or emblem.  However, like those geomantic emblems, this is largely a hammer without a nail, a mathematical and structural curiosity that definitely seems and feels important and useful, just I’m not sure how.  Still, unlike the emblems, figure squares actually have a presence in some traditions of geomancy, so at least there’s more starting off there.  Perhaps with time and more concentrated translation and studying efforts, such purposes and uses of figure squares can come to light, as well as how a potential figure rulership of the sixteen most-magical templates can play with the 414,720 different arrangements of figures on each template and how they feel or work differently, and whether different arrangements do different things.  Heck, there might be a way to assign each of the different combinations of figures on the templates to the figures themselves; after all, 414,720 is divisible by 16, yielding 25,920, which itself is divisible by 16, yielding 1620, so there might be 1620 different figure squares for each of the 256 (16 × 16) combinations of figures.  Daunting, but hey, at least we’d have options.

Also, there’s the weird bit about the target sum of the magic squares being 24.  This is a number that’s not really immediately useful in geomancy—we like to stick to 4 or 16, or some multiple thereof—but 24 is equal to 16 + 8, so I guess there’s something there.  More immediately, though, I’m reminded of the fact that 24 is the number of permutations of vowels in my system of geomantic epodes for most figures.  For instance, by giving the vowel string ΟΙΕΑ (omikron iōta epsilon alpha) to Laetitia, if we were to permute this string of vowels, we’d end up with 24 different such strings, which could be used as a chant specifically for this figure:

ΟΙΕΑ ΟΙΑΕ ΟΕΙΑ ΟΕΑΙ ΟΑΙΕ ΟΑΕΙ
ΙΟΕΑ ΙΟΑΕ ΙΕΟΑ ΙΕΑΟ ΙΑΟΕ ΙΑΕΟ
ΕΟΙΑ ΕΟΑΙ ΕΙΟΑ ΕΙΑΟ ΕΑΟΙ ΕΑΙΟ
ΑΟΙΕ ΑΟΕΙ ΑΙΟΕ ΑΙΕΟ ΑΕΟΙ ΑΕΙΟ

From that post, though, Populus only has a three-vowel string, which can be permuted only six times, but if we repeat that chant four times total, then we’d still end up with 24 strings to chant, so that still works out nicely:

ΙΕΑ ΕΑΙ ΑΙΕ ΕΙΑ ΙΑΕ ΑΕΙ
ΙΕΑ ΕΑΙ ΑΙΕ ΕΙΑ ΙΑΕ ΑΕΙ
ΙΕΑ ΕΑΙ ΑΙΕ ΕΙΑ ΙΑΕ ΑΕΙ
ΙΕΑ ΕΑΙ ΑΙΕ ΕΙΑ ΙΑΕ ΑΕΙ

So maybe 24 is one of those emergent properties of some applications of geomantic magic that could be useful for us.  Perhaps.  It’s worth exploring and experimenting with, I claim.

In the meantime, I’ll work on getting a proper list drawn up of all the templates for the various types of geomantic magic squares—ranging from less magic to more magic—at least just to have for reference for when further studies are or can be done on this.  This is more of a curiosity of mine and not a prioritized topic of research, but at least I know it exists and there’s the potential for further research to be done on it for future times.