The Ġayāt al-Ḥakīm, the “Goal of the Wise”, is an Arabic grimoire attributed to the Andalusian scholar Maslama al-Majrīṭī and written sometime around the mid-11th century CE. When it was translated from Arabic into Latin, it became known instead as the Picatrix, by which name the grimoire remains popular, both in the actual practice of magicians as well as in the cultural memory as being the grandfather of grimoires in Europe. Replete with a variety of talismans or “images” from the school of scholastic magic, alchemical recipes, astrological elections, planetary adorations, and many other works, the Picatrix is famous for being a wonderful compendium of astrological and alchemical magic. Although it does not dwell much on theurgy or the conjuration of spirits as in Solomonic magical texts, there is a good deal of philosophy and cosmology in the Picatrix, which lends itself well to the study of any would-be magician, sage, or philosopher.
The most commonly-available or standard versions of the Picatrix in its variety of forms are the following:
- The Arabic edition of the Picatrix edited by Hellmut Ritter (1933, B. G. Teubner)
- The Latin edition of the Picatrix edited by David Pingree (1986, Warburg Institute)
- The English translation from the Arabic by Hashem Atallah and William Kiesel (2008, Ouroboros Press)
- The English translation from the Latin by Christopher Warnock and John Michael Greer (2010, Adocentyn Press)
- The English translation from the Latin by Dan Attrell and David Porreca (2019, Penn State Press)
In book III, chapter 6 of the Picatrix, the author brings up the “Perfect Nature”, a spirit that takes on the role in other traditions of agathodaimōn, genius, tutelar, paredros, guardian angel, or other divine spirit that protects, guides, and teaches the person to whom it belongs. The Picatrix ascribes the discovery of the spirit of Perfect Nature to Hermēs Trismegistus, who then taught it to his various students. The role and function of this spirit, as succinctly described by Hermēs Trismegistus, according to the Warnock and Greer translation:
Certain people inquired of Hermes the sage, asking: “With what are science and philosophy joined?” He answered, “With Perfect Nature.” They asked again, saying, “What is the root of science and philosophy?” He said, “Perfect Nature.” Then they questioned him more closely: “What is the key by which science and philosophy are opened?” He answered, “Perfect Nature.” They then asked of him, “What is Perfect Nature?” He answered, “Perfect Nature is the spirit of the philosopher or sage linked to the planet that governs him. This is that which opens the closed places of knowledge, and by which is understood that which cannot otherwise be understood at all, and from which workings proceed naturally both in sleep and in waking.”
The spirit of Perfect Nature has a fourfold name, though the Latin Picatrix and Arabic Picatrix differ slightly on this point:
- Meegius, Betzahuech, Vacdez, Nufeneguediz
- Tamāġīs, Baġdīswād, Waġdās, Nūfānāġādīs
Each of these names corresponds to a particular power of the Perfect Nature:
- Meegius/Tamāġīs: the power of our senses that join higher things to lower ones. This is our ability to spiritually perceive the cosmos and its various spirits, energies, and powers in their ebb and flow.
- Betzahuech/Baġdīswād: the power of the lower things that we work upon to infuse with higher things. This is the actual physical substance we work with to create images, talismans, confections, and other sacred objects, including the supplies of herbs, stones, incense, fabric, paper, ink, paint, and the like, as well as our understanding of them.
- Vacdez/Waġdās: the power of our own mental and spiritual contemplation. This is our ability to mentally and spiritually process information and power, the strictly internal aspect that can best be thought of as our reliance upon our divinely-granted faculties and our connection to the Divine itself.
- Nufeneguediz/Nūfānāġādīs: the power of labor and works that we do in the world to implement. This is the actual work we do, both in terms of the physical labor involved to create things as well as the rituals we do around, upon, or for them.
Book III, chapter 6 describes a ritual to bring down the Perfect Nature for the sake of communing and communicating with it, on top of other forms of communication through dream and trance states. This ritual and its origins were first mentioned and expounded upon in these posts from March 2020:
- The Spiritual Nature(s) of Perfect Nature
- Analyzing the Vignette and the Names
- Ritual Prep and Setting the Altar
- Associations of the Four Powers
- The Ritual Itself, and Why Do It Anyway
Supplies and tools needed for the ritual:
- Almond oil
- Walnut oil
- If walnut oil cannot be obtained or used, use another nut-based oil that is not almond oil that’s sweet and good for baking or in cooking desserts, like hazelnut or macadamia nut.
- Sesame oil
- Due to linguistic irregularities and potential typographical errors, the phrase used for this can either be read as دهن الخل duhn al-ḵall “oil of vinegar” or as دهن الحل duhn al-ḥall “oil of sesame”. I would most recommend sesame oil (reading duhn al-ḥall), as it makes the most sense in this context, though if the vinegar approach were taken (reading it as duhn al-ḵall), this would probably be implied to be balsamic vinegar or another kind of thick, reduced vinegar.
- Butter made from cow’s milk
- I recommend fresh, unsalted butter.
- One large glass serving dish
- A large low glass bowl would be perfect for this, even better if it had a separation in the middle (like a chips-and-dip serving platter).
- Eight glass cups, pitchers, or tumblers
- Each of these holds the wine, oil, or butter.
- No material for these pitchers is specified, though I’d recommend glass to match the large serving dish above and the symbolism of the glass lantern in the vignette.
- Each container needs to hold between 10 fl oz (1.25 cups) and 16 fl oz (2 cups, 1 pint).
- Date palm sugar would be best if you wanted to go for cultural or historical accuracy.
- Incense blended or compounded from frankincense and mastic
- Frankincense alone may suffice, if mastic is unavailable, though in either case, high-grade frankincense is preferred.
- Self-igniting incense may be used if loose resin incense is unavailable.
- Self-igniting incense may be used if aloeswood chips or powder is unavailable.
- One tall candle
- Two braziers or censers for burning incense
- If censers or smaller incense holders are to be used, small pedestals should be obtained to support them.
- A table
- Supplies for making a small raised dais, either the same size as or slightly larger in size than the table to be used and high enough to be between one to three handsbreadths above the ground
- Cinderblocks or bricks and a large piece of plywood would suffice for this.
- Optionally, a white tablecloth,
The ritual is to be performed at any point, time, or day, so long as the Moon is in the first degree of Aries (0°0’00” to 0°59’59.999…”). No other astrological factors need be considered for this, though if desired, having one’s ruling planet or a sign ruled by that planet rising or culminating, or having one’s ruling planet well-dignified and well-aspected, may be desired. The Moon, on average, spends about 110 minutes in each degree of the Zodiac once every 27.32 days, though the Moon may be moving faster or slower depending on its relative position to the first degree of Aries.
In the week leading up to this time period, the magician should prepare themselves accordingly:
- Engage in fasting and works of spiritual purification, eating little.
- Engage in regular and sincere prayer and other works of devotion to the Divine, especially the rhythmic chanting or repetition of divine names or attributes.
- Physically clean and spiritually cleanse the ritual area in which the ritual is to be done (it is better to have the entire house where this ritual is done to be cleaned).
- Prepare the dais for the altar.
- This is to be set against the eastern wall or in the eastern area of the ritual space.
- Prepare the braziers for the altar.
- These are to be placed to the north and south of the dais several feet away, far enough so that there is enough room to comfortably move between them and the dais.
The day before the ritual, prepare the candy. This is a sweet confection to be made from butter, sugar, honey, and walnut oil, prepared with much oil and much sugar. Depending on your approach, this may turn out to be a stiff buttercream frosting-like substance, butterscotch, or toffee. A toffee-centric approach here would be desired, especially as this may then allow the confection to be parceled out into smaller pieces or candies.
The day of the ritual, at least one hour before the ritual is to be performed, set the altar.
- Lay the tablecloth across the altar, if one is to be used
- One pint-sized pitcher of almond oil, set towards the east on the altar
- One pint-sized pitcher of walnut oil, set towards the west on the altar
- One pint-sized pitcher of cow’s milk-based butter, set towards the south on the altar
- This could be solid or melted or something else; given the presence of liquid oils for the other three such containers, melted butter or even clarified butter may be meant here. My preference would be for whipped or otherwise non-compacted butter.
- One pint-sized pitcher of sesame oil, set towards the north on the altar
- Four pint-sized pitchers of wine, one placed to each of the four directions on the altar
- These may be placed immediately to the side of the containers of the oils and butter along the edge of the table, or just beside them closer to the center, or with the pitchers of wine on the outside and the pitchers of oil and butter on the inside.
- A glass dish filled with the candy/confection made from cow’s butter, walnut oil, honey, and sugar, placed in the center of the altar
- Clear a space in the center of the dish to hold the candle later, if at all possible.
Once the Moon has entered the first degree of Aries and before it has left it, with all other preparations having been made, begin the ritual.
- Light the candle, then put it in the middle of the dish with the candy confection (if the candle is encased in glass or another foodsafe material, or if the dish itself has a space for the candle), or immediately next to it towards the east if this is not possible.
- Fill the two braziers/censers with burning coals or otherwise light the coals in the braziers/censers, and set frankincense and mastic in the one to the north and aloeswood in the other to the south. Alternatively, if using self-igniting stick/cone incense, light those now in the same order.
- Stand upright to the west of the altar facing east towards the altar.
- Recite the four names of the spirits of Perfect Nature seven times, whether using the Latin Picatrix version:
Meegius, Betzahuech, Vacdez, Nufeneguediz
Or the Arabic Picatrix version:
Tamāġīs, Baġdīswād, Waġdās, Nūfānāġādīs
- Recite the following prayer:
I call you, o high and powerful Spirit of Spirits, o Wisest of the Wise, o Intelligent of all Intelligence, o Knowledgeable of the Knowledge of the whole world! It is from you that the knowledge and understanding of the wise proceed, and it is by your virtue that the desires of the wise are accomplished. Hear me, answer me, come to me, be present here with me; unite me with your powers and draw me close to your knowledge; strengthen me with your knowledge, and grant me to understand what I do not understand, know the things I do not know, and see the things I do not see! Remove from me and protect me from all blindness, corruption, forgetfulness, and disease. Lift me up to the level of the ancient sages, those whose hearts were filled with intelligence, wisdom, understanding, and insight. Let all this abide in my heart forever; imprint and affix these things in my heart, that they may never depart from me!
- Engage in communion with the Perfect Nature.
This ritual is best once or twice a year by those who wish to empower and commune with their Perfect Nature in a ritual manner. The Latin Picatrix also suggests that this ritual may be performed in conjunction with one’s colleagues, students, or friends, and that after the ritual, those who are present may proceed to the table to partake in the offerings as a sort of sacred meal; however, other parts of the Latin Picatrix as well as the Arabic Picatrix do not suggest this.