Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: What To Do for Non-Angelic Spirits

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

The conjuration ritual of DSIC, it would seem, has been used chiefly for conjuring and working with angelic spirits, specifically those of the seven planets (regardless of what names you call them by depending on the specific source you’re working from).  This is both how Fr. RO uses his version of DSIC in the Gates texts of the Green Work section of RWC as well as in the subsequent SS book he put out, and is also the focus of GTSC by Fr. AC.  The DSIC text itself suggests that working with the planetary angels is its primary purpose, as it gives a list of planetary hours and their associated seven planetary angels at the end, and the ritual script of DSIC is written to use Michael of the Sun as the main example, using Michael’s name in the conjuration as well as a lamen of Michael of the Sun and a magic circle to be used with the seal of Michael of the Sun.  It also says, towards the start of the ritual text (my own emphasis in bold text):

And forasmuch as thy servant here standing before thee, oh, Lord! desires neither evil treasures, nor injury to his neighbour, nor hurt to any living creature, grant him the power of descrying those celestial spirits or intelligences, that may appear in this crystal

In what time thou wouldest deal with the spirits by the table and crystal, thou must observe the planetary hour; and whatever planet rules in that hour, the angel governing the planet thou shalt call in the manner following

for all celestial operations, the more pure and unmixed they are, the more they are agreable to the celestial spirits

Yet, the ritual text also suggests that spirits other than angels can be called upon in the ritual, too (again, my emphasis in bold text):

…and thou, oh inanimate creature of God, be sanctified and consecrated, and blessed to this purpose, that no evil phantasy may appear in thee; or, if they do gain ingress into this creature, they may be constrained to speak intelligibly, and truly, and without the least ambiguity, for Christ’s sake…

…that forthwith thou cast away every phantasm from thee, that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing…

In the name of the blessed Trinity, I consecrate this piece of ground for our defence; so that no evil spirit may have power to break these bounds prescribed here

Now, this being done in the order prescribed, take out thy little book, which must be made about seven inches long, of pure white virgin vellum or paper, likewise pen and ink must be ready to write down the name, character, and office, likewise the seal or image of whatever spirit may appear

Now the most pure and simple way of calling the spirits or spirit is by a short oration to the spirit himself…

“In the name of the blessed and holy Trinity, I do desire thee, thou strong mighty angel, Michael, [Or any other angel or spirit] …

There’s also the fact that the text consistently refers to the thing being conjured is almost always “spirit”, far more rarely “angel”, even in the title of the text itself (“The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals”).  It is true that, yes, angels are definitely a kind of spirit, and the words “spirit” and “angel” can be used interchangeably when discussing an angelic text—but not all spirits are angels.  And although some of the references to “evil phantasms” or “evil spirits” above should properly be considered exorcisms to ensure the purity, sanctity, and protection of both the implements, elements, and participants in the ritual, it does suggest that DSIC can flirt more with “evil spirits” (as Agrippa might call them in his Fourth Book, as opposed to “good spirits” like angels or other celestial entities) than might be readily apparent.

The usual approach to using DSIC is to work with angels—usually the planetary angels from Agrippa or the Heptameron, as Fr. RO and Fr. AC do, but even including the Olympic Spirits from the Arbatel as I’ve often seen done, especially but not only by Fr. Acher in his Arbatel essays on Theomagica.  In this sense, DSIC can be considered a way to flesh out Agrippa’s conjuration method of “good spirits” (book IV, chapter 10), but DSIC doesn’t strictly implement what Agrippa says there.  Instead, DSIC seems to be an amalgam of Agrippa’s methods of working with both “good spirits” as well as “evil spirits” (book IV, chapters 12 and following), and in that light, further fleshes out what Agrippa says with the techniques and tools of the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano.  It’s also interesting to note that, in the 1655 English translation by Robert Turner, there’s an introduction to this entry that was included with Agrippa’s Fourth Book et al. that says that the Heptameron was specifically included to flesh out what Agrippa had written about such conjurations:

In the former book, which is the fourth book of Agrippa, it is sufficiently spoken concerning Magical Ceremonies, and Initiations.

But because he seems to have written to the learned and well-experienced in this art, because he does not specially treat of the Ceremonies but rather speaks of them in general, it was therefore thought good to add hereunto the Magical Elements of Peter de Abano: that those who are hitherto ignorant and have not tasted of Magical Superstitions may have them in readiness [and] how they may exercise themselves therein…

As we’ve shown at multiple points throughout this series of posts, DSIC is very much a combination of theurgic invocation and communion with “good spirits” as much as it is a Solomonic conjuration of “evil spirits”.  In that light, DSIC should be able to work with “evil spirits”—demons from various goetic texts, non-angelic entities like genii locorum, and the like—as much as it works with “good spirits”.  And there’s nothing, strictly speaking, that says you can’t do just that, or that DSIC as written would be insufficient for such works with them.  After all, we pointed out in the actual ritual script that some descriptors, adjectives, keywords, and names can be changed to suit not just any angel of any planetary or stellar sphere, but to chthonic, terrestrial, or other spirits, as well.  However, as DSIC says, “the most pure and simple way of calling the spirits or spirit is by a short oration to the spirit himself”, and though the prayer used in the Conjuration of the Spirit from DSIC is written in a sufficiently general way to be used for all spirits, we can replace this with prayers that are specifically geared to specific spirits.

First, a note about those prayers for conjuration.  The DSIC text uses three prayers to conjure a spirit, which we had as follows from our script writeup:

In the name of the blessed and holy Trinity, I desire you, o strong mighty angel Gabriel, that if it be the divine Will of Him who is called Tetragrammaton … the Holy God, the Father, that you take upon yourself some shape as best becomes your celestial nature, and appear to me visibly here in this crystal, and answer my demands in as far as I shall not transgress the bounds of divine Mercy and Goodness by requesting unlawful knowledge, but that you graciously show me what things are most profitable for me to know and do, to the glory and honor of His divine Majesty, He who lives and reigns, world without end.  Amen.

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.

O Lord, by Your Name have I called Gabriel; suffer him to administer unto me, and that all things may work together for Your honor and glory, to whom with You the Son and the Holy Spirit be ascribed all might, majesty, and dominion.  Amen.

Fr. AC in GTSC breaks these out into three separate prayers, with only the first one required no matter what, the second one to be used if the spirit does not immediately show after saying the first, and the third one to be used if the spirit still does not show up after saying the second.  These effectively “spur the spirit to arrive to your altar quicker”, and does fall in line with many Solomonic texts that give subsequent calls for the spirit to arrive if they delay, tarry, or otherwise don’t show up at first.  I can see Fr. AC’s logic in separating these prayers out this way, but I prefer to treat them all as a single “unit” of prayer.  The main thing that keeps me from agreeing with Fr. AC’s approach of these prayers as subsequent “spurs” to the spirit is that, typically, Solomonic rituals typically increase these subsequent prayers with stronger language, threats, intimidation, and acts such as revealing pentacles, holding knives in fire, and the like.  In other words, we first ask nicely, but we drop niceness in favor of business, cordial then serious then mafia-style rough, as we need to make sure we get our way.  DSIC does nothing of the sort here, and I don’t read or interpret that last part of the conjuration prayer as any more threatening or intimidating than the first.  I recommend all three be read as a unit.

So, let’s say we want to vary the prayer for specific spirits.  Let’s start with one that’s dear to my heart: the natal genius.  This is a spirit—generally considered angelic and typically of a solar order given its association with one’s life though not necessarily solar in and of itself—who I consider to be the spirit that represents the “idea” of our incarnation in the world, the angel (or a spirit close enough to one) into whose lap we fall into as their ward in the process of our birth.  Agrippa describes this as one entity of the “threefold keeper of man” (book III, chapter 22), and whose name can be derived in any number of ways, though I prefer the method described later on (book III, chapter 26) of deriving the name from the letters associated with the degrees of the Sun, Moon, Ascendant, Part of Fortune, and Prenatal Syzygy points of one’s natal horoscope.  Contact with this spirit is great for learning more about one’s proper place and work in life, and though I don’t consider it equivalent to one’s holy guardian angel or supernatural assistant, they can share some of the same functions.  When I work with this spirit, especially for the first formal conjuration, I use the following prayer instead of the DSIC generic conjuration prayer after the circle is traced and the incense is set to burn:

O spirit NN., I conjure you in the holy name of YHVH Eloah v’Da`ath, in the name of the Logos, in the name of the Holy Guardian Angel!  Come now to this place and appear before me, speak with me, commune with me that I may have the benefit of your direct guidance.

O NN., you who were one with the Logos at the dawn of time, you who are Logos to me now, you who created Heaven and Earth for me, you who has watched over me from the moment of my birth, you who has called me to perform this ritual here and now!  I conjure you to appear before me.  I am XX., child of YY.  You have called me and I am here.  You have led me to this place and brought about all that has transpired in my life to be here calling to you now.  Come now and appear before me in the name of YHVH Eloah v’Da`ath.  I conjure you, o NN.; appear before me here and now!

In this prayer, “NN.” is the name of the natal genius, “XX.” is your own name, and “YY.” is your mother’s name (I like using matronyms in magic operations of this nature).  Note that we’re calling on the spirit specifically in the name of “YHVH Eloah v’Da`ath”, a qabbalistic name associated with Tiphereth and thus of the Sun.  Also, I want to say that I got this prayer from Fr. RO’s RWC, but I cannot for the life of me find it in any of the texts no matter how hard I try.  It might have come from his blog, one of the posts in the mailing list for RWC, or another source of his, but I swear that I didn’t come up with this prayer out of the ether.  (If anyone familiar with his sources, or related ones, can point me in the right direction as to where I got this prayer from, I’d be deeply appreciative.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t write this prayer myself.)

However, there’s another specific conjuration prayer that I do know Fr. RO gave earlier in the Black Work part of RWC, and that’s a conjuration of a genius loci, the spirit of a particular place, especially those centered or linked to a particular river, stone, tree, mountain, home, or the like.  From the third Black Work lesson, Fr. RO describes a much pared-down conjuration ritual, foregoing the usual formalities of candles, circles, and incense, and skipping ahead directly to the conjuration itself, incorporating a libation and offering of food and drink to be poured out and scattered at the specific points indicated in the prayer.  At this point, having brought the genius loci into the crystal with the offerings laid out, you’d then engage in communion with the spirit as usual, learning about the spirit, its name, seal, and so forth.  At the end, a pared-down license to depart is used, using the name of the genius formally for the first time, based only loosely on that of DSIC:

O spirit of [land, tree, river, community, &c.], come to me!  I call upon you by the four angels of the corners of the world, by Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel!  I call upon you by the four kings of the world, by Oriens, Egyn, Paimon, and Amaymon!  Come now and receive this offering of [drink].  Come now and receive this offering of [food].  Come now and appear before me in this crystal, that we may speak and understand each other.

NN., I thank you for coming.  Return to me when I call you by name and by seal, come quickly from wherever you may be, and let there be mutual peace and prosperity between us until the end of our days.

Though Agrippa would probably take issue with Fr. RO’s approach, Agrippa would also probably take issue with DSIC itself.  Just as DSIC plays pretty loose and fast with what Agrippa describes in the Fourth Book, so too is Fr. RO playing loose and fast with DSIC.  Yet—as I can myself attest—this method of working with genii locorum can and does work!  In retrospect, however, I would recommend going through a more formal process that more closely resembles Agrippa’s method of working with “evil spirits” (circle, incense, no triangle or crystal), or eschew it all in favor of a more direct, diplomatic approach of approaching the spirit of a place without any conjuration at all, but just making devotional offerings and getting to know the spirit on their own terms.  Fr. RO, as I interpret it, was introducing people who were brand new to the notion of working with spirits using simple tools and spirits nearby them without them doing a full conjuration yet, but working up towards it later.

Then there’s Fr. RO’s other text, Modern Goetic Grimoire, which he (like the rest of his ebooks) no longer sells but (unlike the rest of his ebooks) I neither share nor bring up at length, especially because the man is heading towards publishing it formally in a new and revised version.  In his (earlier?) approach to goetia, Fr. RO used a hybrid approach that combined some of the tools and techniques from the Lemegeton Goetia with DSIC, replacing the DSIC magic circle with the one from the Lemegeton, incorporating the pentagram-style pentacle of Solomon to be on the reverse of the seal of the spirit (made in the Lemegeton-style instead of the Agrippa-style lamen), and using a generally DSIC approach to setting up the conjuration ritual but replacing the actual prayer of conjuration with one styled heavily after the first conjuration of the Lemegeton Goetia (the one using the names Beralanensis, Baldachiensis, Paumachia, and Apologia Sedes).  Because the Lemegeton Goetia and Heptameron are both Solomonic texts that share very closely-related forms of this prayer, and because the DSIC is itself a derivative of the Heptameron, one could easily use the Heptameron prayer (either as it is or in an altered form) to conjure “evil spirits” in the sense of demons like those found in goetic texts.  While I won’t share Fr. RO’s version of the prayer, this is one that I think follows a little more closely with the Heptameron while still being true to the DSIC format.  Using NN. for the name of the spirit to be conjured:

In the name of the blessed and holy Trinity, by Beralanens and Baldachiens and Paumachia and the seats of Apologia, by the most mighty kings and powers, by the mightiest kings and strongest powers, by the most powerful princes, by the Spirit of Liachida, o you minister of the Tartarean seat!  Hear me, o NN.!

O chief prince of the seat of Apologia in the ninth legion, I desire you and call upon you, o NN., by the power of Almighty God, by the will of Him who is called Tetragrammaton … the holy God, the Father, He to whom all creatures fall obedient, that you come forth here to this place and now to this time, taking your place to appear visibly before me in this crystal, taking upon yourself a peaceful, visible, affable, and comely form.

Come forth, o NN., in the name of God whose mighty and true Name—YHVH—being resounded makes the elements to be overthrown, the winds to shake, the sea to recede, the fire to be quenched, the earth to tremble, and all spirits above the Earth, upon the Earth, and under the Earth cower in fear and confusion!

Come forth, o NN., without delay, quickly, quickly, immediately, immediately, from wherever you may be, from any part of the world, from whatever form or nature you take, in the name of the true and living God—Helioren—that you might manifest and reveal to me that which I desire, answering my demands in as far as I shall not transgress the bounds of divine Mercy and Goodness by requesting unlawful knowledge.

Come forth, o NN., and stay not where you are, delay not for any cause, doing nothing but coming to me to assist me in my desires and needs, in the name of the Lord God—Bachac rushing upon Abrac, Abeor over Aberor—all for the glory and honor of His divine Majesty, He who lives and reigns, world without end.  Amen.

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.

O Lord, by Your Name have I called NN.; suffer him to administer unto me, that no iniquity be done and all harm flee from me, so that all things in Heaven and on Earth may work together for Your honor and glory, to whom with You the Son and the Holy Spirit be ascribed all might, majesty, and dominion.  Amen.

This is my own mishmash of the Heptameron conjuration prayers of such spirits—with my own modifications to structure and grammar—put into the same overall framework as the DSIC conjuration prayer.  Of course, incorporating such prayers for such spirits might be a bit too much for a pure-DSIC approach to handle, so I would still recommend that either you use the the pentacle of Solomon (either hexagram-style or pentagram-style, though I would recommend using the hexagram-style) on the reverse of the lamen of the spirit to be called in this way, as well as having offensive incenses compounded of peppers and sulfur and the like.  Just in case things go wrong.

Now, I don’t mean to limit DSIC to working with just angels, demons, or spirits of the land; the format of DSIC is solid enough, grounded in Agrippa-style theurgy and Solomonic-style conjuration (though sometimes coming across as confused as to which it wants to be or do more of), to be used for truly any kind of spirit.  While the specific conjuration prayer used by DSIC is phrased generally enough to be used for any kind of spirit, we can play around a bit with modifying it or replacing it with other prayers that are specifically geared to specific kinds of spirit or even to specific spirits themselves.  In doing so, we begin a process of reincorporating DSIC into a more traditionally-Solomonic milieu or take it further away into a more animist, theurgic, or other style of approaching and working with spirits.  The above examples show that DSIC can be altered in just such a way—but they are only just a few examples that show what can be done, not to indicate the limits of what could be done.  Other spirits that don’t fall into the categories above should have their own prayers written specifically for them; heck, even specific angels themselves could have their own specific prayers used to conjure them, if one so chooses.

I mentioned at the end of the goetic-style DSIC conjuration prayer that maybe we should include a few other things in the ritual, like proper pentacles and offensive incenses and whatnot, just in case things go wrong or when a stronger arm is needed than might otherwise be desired.  Hopefully it doesn’t have to come to this, but…well, what if they do?  DSIC doesn’t tell you what to do for backup plans or contingencies, nor does it give you any “plan B” for when things don’t go as you expect.  We’ll talk about that next time.

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Setting Up the Temple

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

Alright, so!  We’ve got all our tools made and prepared; we’ve got our temple garments (or conjuration costume) ready; we’ve been fasting and abluting and praying like crazy for the sake of purifying ourselves. What we need to do next—which, if we wanted to go by Agrippa’s recommendation (book IV, chapter 10), we should have taken care of at the start of our purification process—is to actually set up our temple space and the altar of conjuration that we’ll need.  We’ll assume, for the sake of this post, the ideal situation of having a separate room in our house with a door that can be shut for privacy to serve as our temple; having a separate room, after all, to serve as our temple is the ideal for any magician or occultist, but this isn’t strictly necessary for the sake of our needs, and you can make do all the same. So long as, like Agrippa recommends, the place in question be “clean, pure, close, quiet, free from all manner of noise, and not subject to any strangers sight”, then you would be fine. Agrippa does recommend that “this place must first be exorcised and consecrated”, by which he means (based on the rest of the stuff in Agrippa’s Fourth Book) we would first sprinkle the place with holy water, suffumigate it with incense (frankincense is fine, church incense or a blend of frankincense with myrrh and benzoin would be better), and pray either Psalm 51:7 (as in the Heptameron) or 2 Chronicles 16:14-42 (as per Agrippa).

And yes, I do personally recommend that one should have a separate room set apart for their magical works; in this, I am entirely in line with Fr. AC when he says in GTSC that “a magical room should be a priority”. Having a separate room that is undefiled and unprofaned by mundane works or senseless chatter, or people walking in and out, or people or pets messing with your altars and shrines and tools really does make a difference. But I also know that not everyone has the space, means, or ability to set apart a whole separate room for magical works; moreover, I know many magicians, witches, and occultists who do positively phenomenal work without having a dedicated temple room, but instead who operate in hallways or kitchens or bedrooms. It’s far more often the case throughout human history, in every continent and culture and era, that people lived in simple one- or two-room dwellings, and simply didn’t have the luxury of a fully contained separate room for magical works like the upper-class echelons of magical society, and it’s not like they weren’t doing or couldn’t do magic in such circumstances, nor would they willingly let that stop them. If you have the means to do so, get a separate room for temple and magical stuff; if not, despite that Fr. AC “cannot condone this method”, I wouldn’t worry too much, since you’re in about 6000 years and six continents of good company. In the case where you don’t have a separate temple room, spend a bit of extra time purifying, sanctifying, and arranging everything in the space in which you’ll do temple stuff; you can still do DSIC-style conjurations and other magical practices all the same.

What comes to mind when I read this section of Agrippa is the Alchemist’s Laboratory woodcut from Heinrich Khunrath’s 1595 work Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae, or “Amphitheatre of Eternal Wisdom”. Note that the alchemist in question has a special oratory set aside in his laboratory at which he kneels before a table covered with a cloth and a baldachin, the latter denoting that this is specifically an altar, especially with the sanctuary lamp hanging inside. Note also how he kneels before an open book with magical circles; this could be an interpretation of a Liber Spirituum or some other text of devotional and occult focus.

Alternatively, for those who’d prefer a different approach, an oratory of the kind described in the Sacred Magic of Abramelin could also be used quite nicely. Although that text uses a completely different approach of conjuring spirits, and that only after one attains contact with their Holy Guardian Angel, book II, chapter 11 describes the nature and construction of such a place (which far exceeds the demands of what we need for DSIC, but which gives us many other good ideas to play with if possible):

He who commenceth this operation in solitude can elect a place according unto his pleasure; where there is a small wood, in the midst of which you shall make a small altar, and you shall cover the same with a hut (or shelter) of fine branches, so that the rain may not fall thereon and extinguish the lamp and the censer. Around the altar at the distance of seven paces you shall prepare a hedge of flowers, plants, and green shrubs, so that it may divide the entrance [path] into two parts; that is to say, the interior where the altar and tabernacle will be placed after the manner of a temple; and the part exterior, which with the rest of the place will be as a portico thereunto.

Now if you commence not this operation in the country, but perform it in a town, or in some dwelling place, I will show unto ye what shall be necessary herein.

Ye shall choose an apartment which hath a window, joined unto the which shall be an uncovered terrace (or balcony), and a lodge (or small room or hut) covered with a roof, but so that there may be on every side windows whence you may be able to see in every direction, and whence you may enter into the oratory. In the which place [terrace or balcony] the evil spirits shall be able to appear, since they cannot appear within the oratory itself. In the which place, beside the oratory towards the quarter of the North, you shall have a rooted or covered lodge, in the which and from whence one may be able to see the oratory. I myself also had two large windows made in my oratory, and at the time of the convocation of the spirits, I used to open them and remove both the shutters and the door, so that I could easily see on every side and constrain them [the spirits] to obey me.

The oratory should always be clear and clean swept, and the flooring should be of wood, of white pine; in fine, this place should be so well and carefully prepared, that one may judge it to be a place destined unto prayer.

The terrace and the contiguous lodge where we are to invoke the spirits we should cover with river sand to the depth of two fingers at the least…

The chamber [of the oratory itself] should be boarded with pine wood, and a [beautiful] lamp [of gold or silver] full of oil olive should be suspended therein, the which every time that ye shall have burned your perfume and finished your orison, ye shall extinguish. A handsome censer of bronze, or of silver if one hath the means, must be placed upon the altar, the which should in no wise be removed from its place until the operation be finished, if one performeth it in a dwelling-house; for in the open country one cannot do this. Thus in this point as in all the others, we should rule and govern ourselves according unto the means at our disposal.

Still, as I said above, you don’t need a separate room to act as your temple or oratory.  It would be ideal for any number of reasons, but it’s simply not necessary—arguably ideal, sure, but not strictly necessary. If you have your own bedroom with a door that can be shut for privacy, then you’ve already got all you need. If you don’t have even that much, however, then pick a time when there aren’t people at home for you to do your conjuration. You don’t want to be bothered or have people walk in on the middle of you standing in a magic circle, after all. Barring that, find somewhere desolate away from people, foot traffic, and attention where you can work, or borrow/rent a space somewhere you can do what you need to do.  Purify and prepare the space accordingly (which is something you’d do anyway, even if you had a dedicated temple room!).

Okay, so let’s now say you have your temple room (or at least a temple space within a room) set up. Now we need to build and set up the altar of conjuration; how should we make that? Honestly, it doesn’t matter, so long as it can support the implements of DSIC. Fr. AC has a sumptuous Altar of the Stars, described both on his blog and in GTSC, set up with the Grand Seal of Solomon for the table to be placed upon and circumscribed pentagrams for the candlesticks, edged with planetary characters and geomantic sigils, with the planetary glyphs on one side of the main pillar and (what he says but which very readily and apparently aren’t, perhaps inspired instead from the Complete Book of Magic Science by Hockley?) the “Armadel Olympic spirit sigils” on the other, zodiacal glyphs on the support pillars, and a circumscribed hexagram on the base under the main pillar (and thus connecting the table with the Earth itself)…

…but, let’s face it, this is entirely unnecessary and entirely fanciful. I adore Fr. AC’s inspiration and work here, as ever, but let’s be honest: nobody needs something like this. Fr. AC, after all, is well-known not just for going “by the book” when it comes to many grimoires, but also for going well above and beyond them in a beautiful, and sometimes overmuch, manner. This sort of thing falls into the category of what I call “ritual-specific furniture”; as opposed to ritual-specific tools, which I find reasonable enough to make and keep around (though I find good reason for making them general or syncretized enough to be general tools if necessary), ritual-specific furniture is something I internally rebel at and am repulsed by. Even I, with my large basement temple room with ample space to spare, still like keeping the furniture itself just plain furniture in case I need to reorganize, disassemble, combine, or the like. Unless you’re going to make DSIC the One Thing You Do Forever, you don’t need something like this that takes up so much space to be used for this one ritual. That said, there are a number of good reasons to make something like Fr. AC’s , but at least as many and as good reasons to not do so.

Instead of something like what Fr. AC has, you could use a Golden Dawn-/Thelema-style double cube altar, or the altar from Abramelin (same selection as before):

The altar should be erected in the midst of the oratory; and if anyone maketh his oratory in desert places, he should build it of stones which have never been worked or hewn, or even touched by the hammer…

The altar, which should be made of wood, ought to be hollow within after the manner of a cupboard, wherein you shall keep all the necessary things, such as the two robes, the crown or mitre, the wand, the holy oils, the girdle or belt, the perfume; and any other things which may be necessary.

Honestly? You don’t need a specific kind of altar for DSIC. That function is, after all, provided by the DSIC table (or the Table of Practice) itself; the DSIC table is what makes whatever it’s sitting on “an altar”, in a sense, but in reality, the DSIC table is the altar.  After all, it’s not called a “table” for nothing. Yes, the consecrated candles should go next to the DSIC table on either side and collectively may be thought of as “the altar” as a whole, but it’s really just the DSIC table itself that’s needed. Because of that, any table, altar, or clean horizontal surface will suffice to work for the ritual. It should be sturdy enough to not wobble around when things are put on it, when it’s bumped into, or when people walk with a heavy step around it.

Likewise, the altar should be tall enough to view the crystal on at a comfortable level, whether or not a pedestal is used—though, if a pedestal is used, the height of the altar upon which the DSIC table is placed should be considered and adjusted accordingly.  However, you may want to go with a shorter or higher altar depending on whether you prefer to stand during the ritual, sit on a stool or a chair, or kneel before it.  Your specific approach is up to you, but you don’t want to strain your back or neck because of an awkward height mismatch between your preferred posture and the crystal on the altar.  Be aware that conjurations can go on for quite some time, especially if you get more advanced in the work and endure multiple hours of ritual work in this way, so you’ll want something that can be used comfortably for an indefinite period of time.

Fundamentally, since it’s just a piece of supporting non-specific furniture, nothing about the altar table matters so long as it’s sturdy and tall enough without being too tall; I’ve used IKEA LACK sidetables and NORRÅKER bar tables just fine. I do think that the table should be washed with holy water and suffumigated with incense at minimum before its initial use, like with the temple garments and other miscellanea according to Agrippa, perhaps anointed with oil on its corners and legs, perhaps with a bit of extra prayer that it be clean and cleansed and fit for spiritual work, but that’s about it. Nothing more needs to be done with it to make it ready, since it’s a relatively minor consideration after all the actual tool making.

That being said, recall something we said earlier when we discussed the process and elements needed for constructing and consecrating all our DSIC implements about the table, that we could use either a separate piece of equipment for the table that has the proper design on it, or we could use an actual table surface instead, something like Fr. AC’s Altar of the Stars, but instead of having the pentacle from the Veritable Key of Solomon on it in the center, have the actual table design (or Table of Practice design) permanently emblazoned on it. This is also entirely a legitimate approach, as DSIC is not clear on whether “the table” refers to an actual table or to a smaller, more moveable piece of equipment that can be used as a base for the pedestal and/or crystal. I don’t like this latter approach of using an actual table with the design permanently put onto/into it (again, my revulsion at having permanently-designated ritual furniture instead of flexible altar tools), but you can take this approach as well if you want.

Now, how do we set up the altar in the temple space? This depends on whether you want to have your altar against a wall or standing apart from a wall, such that you can walk around it. And this is where we get into another major divergence in DSIC implementation between the DSIC styles of Fr. AC and Fr. RO, especially when you factor in the magic circle: should the altar be placed inside the magic circle or outside it? DSIC doesn’t explicitly say. Fr. Acher from Theomagica shows how his temple setup looks like for conjurations, putting his Table of Practice on top of a double-cube altar in the middle of the magic circle he uses:

This is the approach that basically Fr. RO uses, too, and which I’ve used in the past. That said, now that I think about it…I can’t find any specific reference to this approach in Fr. RO’s RWC or SS; he seems to be as unclear as DSIC is in his written works, but the closest I can find is in his old Modern Goetic Grimoire that says:

When you have the area and tools prepared, begin by casting a Circle. I stand in front of the setup [altar with all the items upon it], and pointing the wand to the East, I turn, tracing out a circle that encompasses the area I will be sitting in. I say “In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I consecrate this ground for our defense.” It’s a traditional Christian Magician’s method that I lifted from the Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals, I believe. It works, and it’s easy. If you’re not a Christian, feel free to substitute whatever names you are more comfortable using. IAO is particularly effective.

By Fr. RO saying to “stand in front of the setup, pointing the wand to the East”, this probably suggests that Fr. RO is directing us to have the altar outside the circle, assuming the altar itself is placed east of the magician performing the ritual, and by standing “in front of the setup”, he means to our front. It could mean that “in front of” means on the side opposite the altar, to the altar’s own East. I actually don’t know, now, where I got my approach of placing the altar inside the circle with me; it might have been based off Fr. Acher’s designs. However, going through the old Yahoo! Group messages for Fr. RO’s RWC, it seems that the consensus there, as well, was to have the altar inside the circle. There’s also the instructions he gives in his old Gates texts from his Green Work:

Take your wand and trace out a circle on the ground around you while you say: …

Then place the incense burner next to your Table of Practice and light the charcoal and sprinkle incense on it, or light the incense stick and say: …

And again from the (astral temple) conjuration done from Lesson 4 of the White Work course:

If you enter through the main doors, you will find your Astral temple all set up. There will be an altar with the elemental tools and planetary seals and everything you use in your daily ritual work, only represented more symbolically than the actual items you use in the “real” world.

Lift the wand and trace out a magic circle around the Temple. Do it the same way in your vision as you do when you conjured Michael and the Genius.

Return the wand to its proper place, and face the East in your Astral Temple…

Between the Gates text (which implies having the altar close enough to reach and manipulate the incense burner on it), the White Work description (which implies having a circle to cover the whole astral temple area including the altar, and then putting the wand back on the altar), and the consensus in the RWC Yahoo! group, plus my own dim recollection of associating this format with Fr. RO, I think there’s a good chance Fr. RO can be associated with this method. Plus, in my own recent personal talks with the man himself to confirm, this is in fact his approach: the circle is traced on the ground with the wand to encompass the whole ritual space, altar and magician both.

It’s important to recognize here what Fr. RO’s specific logic is for placing the altar inside the magician’s circle. In his style of implementing DSIC, he foregoes any formally-drawn circle of art like what we discussed before, and merely traces a circle out with the wand as a means of creating a sacred temple space, which ideally encompasses the whole room used for the ritual but which may be whittled down to just encompass the immediate ritual space. That’s it; the circle doesn’t physically exist by being drawn out in ink or chalk or coal, but by the very act of tracing it with the wand, it spiritually/astrally exists, which is all that matters for the consecration of the temple space. For Fr. RO, the physical circle is an unnecessary formality, and in fact, even drawing any circle with the wand is likewise unnecessary as well, because the actual circle that matters for the protection of the magician is that drawn on the DSIC table itself; the magicians themselves don’t need their own circle since one is already present. The circle that protects the magician is the circle on the Table of Practice itself, which serves to contain the spirit from the magician. For the Fr. RO approach, whether the magician stands inside a circle or whether the spirit does doesn’t matter, so long as there’s a separation at all, and that separation is provided by the Table of Practice as it is by its very design.

But, more than that, Fr. RO considers it helpful (especially in the elevation- and initiation-focused Gates rites in RWC and in SS generally) that we be put as close to the spirit as possible, in effect helping us to raise our own sphere (itself represented physically/astrally by the circle we draw) to the level of the planet whose angel we’re conjuring and seeking initiation from. After all, consider that there’s no magic circle used at all by Agrippa in his primary, prayer-based method of conjuring good spirits that involves the use of lamens (book IV, chapter 10); it’s only in his ecstatic whirling-dervish method that he uses for good spirits, as well as for the conjuration of evil spirits (book IV, chapter 12), that circles are described for the magician to stand in. Fr. RO adapts DSIC to forego any Solomonic-style, Heptameron-style, or DSIC-style formal circle of art for use with conjurations of angelic spirits (or “good spirits” generally) because, according to Agrippa, they’re simply not needed. Fr. RO does use the circle of art from the Lemegeton Goetia in his old Modern Goetic Grimoire, and as we discussed above, but that’s also because that text doesn’t conjure what Agrippa would call “good spirits”.

Anyhow, so much for Fr. RO’s approach for putting the altar inside the circle. Then there’s Fr. AC who prefers the method of putting the altar outside the circle. Though he is aware of the inside-the-circle altar approach and “considered this option at length”, which suggests that even Fr. AC gives this option a good amount of credibility, Fr. AC went with the outside-the-circle approach based on a specific phrasing of the placement of the incense vessel in the DSIC text:

Then place the vessel for the perfumes between thy circle and the holy table on which the crystal stands…

This could be interpreted in one of two ways:

  1. The magician has a circle within which both they and the altar are contained. The magician stands with the altar in front of them, and the vessel for incense behind the altar but still within the circle. Alternatively, the vessel may be placed on the altar itself but behind the crystal.
  2. The magician has a circle within which they stand, but outside of which stands the altar. The vessel for incense is placed outside the circle between the circle and the altar that has the crystal or, alternatively, on the altar itself before the crystal.

It’s that second approach that seems the most clear, even though it goes counter to Agrippa (book IV, chapter 10) which says to have “a Censer be set on the head of the altar, wherein you shall kindle the holy fire, and make a perfume every day that you shall pray”, but we know that DSIC is diverging from Agrippa here on the specifics of the conjuration and is using a combined good-spirit/bad-spirit approach. Besides, Fr. AC using the altar-outside-the-circle approach ties in well with other Solomonic literature, especially the famous Lemegeton Goetia, which places the Triangle of Art outside the circle.

More than that, though, there are two other reasons that I myself find this altar-outside-the-circle approach to be likely. The first is the phrasing of the circle from the DSIC image: “the magic Circle of a simple construction in which the operator must stand or sit when he uses the Chrystal”. Nothing is said about the table or crystal being inside the circle, just the magician. Granted, this isn’t a strong reason, but it does suggest that the circle is meant to hold the magician and only the magician, and not the conjuration apparatus of crystal, pedestal, and table.

The other reason, and a far more practical one, that I find that the altar-outside-the-circle approach is what’s meant. Consider that DSIC instructs us to “take your black ebony wand, with the gilt characters on it and trace the circle”. DSIC doesn’t tell us which hand, but we can assume the right hand which is the hand that wears the ring of Solomon (and is the dominant hand for most people, and in general is historically considered the “correct” hand for works like this). Moreover, he doesn’t tell us in which direction to draw the circle, whether clockwise or counterclockwise, but the general practice is to draw circles clockwise, at least when tracing them out. Now, picture these three scenarios in your mind, dear reader:

  1. If we’re drawing a relatively small circle, in which we can stand in one place and simply rotate in place with the wand on the ground, then we just need to turn our bodies clockwise.
  2. If we’re drawing a large circle, we need to walk forward clockwise around the circle with the wand in our right hand lowered to our left, arm crossing our path, which can be clunky.
  3. Alternatively, for a large circle, we need to walk backwards around the circle with the wand in our right hand lowered down to our right. This is even clunkier and less elegant than the second.

It’s far easier and more elegant to go with the first option, which assumes that (a) there’s nothing in the circle with you that would block you from just spinning in place with the wand extended outwards (b) the circle itself that you’re standing in isn’t very large to begin with. If you’re working in a large circle, then option #1 won’t be possible no matter what (as the bounds of the circle are too far away from the center to reach with the wand), and option #3 looks and feels both ridiculous and awkward. This makes #2 the arguably better choice for large circles, and especially those that have extra equipment (chairs, tables, supplies, people, etc.) inside them, but it can still be clunky. With a wand of sufficient length (recommended to be the length from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger), so long as you bend down a bit, you can make a circle of a pretty good size for yourself and trace it in the easy option of #1 without introducing the clunkiness of options #2 and #3. It’s this practical consideration, I think, that also suggests having the altar outside the circle, since it could not be done if there was anything big in our way.

There is the consideration, of course, of the danger that might be present in placing the altar containing the locus of manifestation in the circle with us; after all, if the whole purpose of a circle is to protect ourselves from the danger presented to us by spirits we conjure, why would we conjure that spirit inside the circle where we’re supposed to be protected by it? This is safe using the DSIC method, because the DSIC table itself is bounded by a circle of its own. According to the usual rules of spiritual geometry, just as spirits outside a circle cannot enter into it, spirits inside a circle cannot leave it. The triangle helps bring them to manifestation as well as binds them (as in Agrippa’s “evil spirit” methods), and the circle keeps them put; thus, even if the spirits we’re conjuring are inside the magician’s circle with us, the spirits themselves are in their own inner circle beyond which they cannot pass. In effect, the table design is its own “magic circle” that keeps the magician protected, whether or not we use a separate magic circle for ourselves—though, as mentioned before, it would be good to do so to cut ourselves off from the other influences and powers outside the ritual space we want to work within.

There’s also the consideration that some people have wondered about that having the altar for the manifestation of the spirit inside the magic circle weakens the spirit, or stifles the connection, or otherwise impedes the manifestation of the spirit. I don’t buy it; after all, if that were the case, then us standing in a circle outside the altar at all would likewise stifle our connection, perception, or communication with the spirit, whether or not they had their own locus or triangle or table or crystal. On top of that, if we consider DSIC equipment by the book, the spirits manifest in a crystal which is bounded by two circles, the first provided by the gold plate with names on the front and the back, and the second by the circles on the table itself upon which the pedestal stands. I don’t give this consideration any credence.

Honestly, either approach works, whether you place the altar for the table and crystal inside the circle with you (as Fr. RO does) or outside the circle (as Fr. AC does). The specific phrasing of DSIC could be read in a more Agrippa-style way (placing the vessel for incense between the crystal and the far edge of the circle, at the “head of the altar”) or in a more common-sense, Lemegeton Goetia way (placing the vessel for incense between you and the crystal in the gap between the circle and the altar). Either way works. Use what you feel most appropriate doing.

Now that we have that out of the way, there’s one more thing to consider: how do we actually set up the altar, and how do we orient it? Is there a specific direction we need to face for DSIC-style conjurations? We’ll talk about that next time.

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: The Planetary Stuff on the Table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Four Kings or Four Angels?

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

Okay, so we have the crystal, and we’ve got the pedestal made with the engraved plate of gold that surrounds the crystal (or some variation on that, or none at all, depending on the approach you want to go with).  With that done, we can now get into the second half of the main apparatus of DSIC: the table upon which the pedestal itself sits.  What does this table look like?  We have this description:

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

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

Let’s break this down:

  • The things that are mentioned must be drawn in order.
  • The things that are mentioned must be drawn within “a double circle”.
  • The things that are mentioned are: “the names of the seven planets and the angels ruling them with their seals or characters”, and “the names of the four kings of the four corners of the earth”.
  • A triangle is also on the table, in which the pedestal is placed.

When we talk about “the four kings of the four corners of the earth”, what names are these?  Although DSIC doesn’t explicitly say, the general consensus that nobody disagrees with is that these would be Oriens in the East, Paimon (or Paymon) in the West, Egyn in the North, and Amaymon in the South.  Joseph Peterson of the very Esoteric Archives itself gives a wonderful note on this topic:

There is considerable variation in identification of the four kings of the cardinal directions. Here are a few: Agrippa, OP2.7 has (E, W, N, S): “Oriens.Paymon.Egyn.Amaymon”, however in OP3.24 he says, “Urieus, King of the East; Amaymon, King of the South; Paymon, King of the West; Egin, King of the North, which the Hebrew Doctors perhaps call more rightly thus, Samuel, Azazel, Azael, Mahazuel,” (See Cichus In Sphaeram Mundi, f. 21 apud quem: Zoroa. Fragm. O104; cf. Salom. ff. 28v-29r; sed addict. K: Reuchl. Arte 3, sig. O7r) MC has: “Bael, Moymon, Poymon, Egyn” or “Asmodel in the East, Amaymon in the South, Paymon in the West, and Aegym in the North”; “Oriens, Paymon, Egyn, and Amaymon”; or “Amodeo [sic] (king of the East), Paymon (king of the West), Egion (king of the North), and Maimon.”

That said, many people use the four archangels Michael for Fire, Raphael for Air, Gabriel for Water, and Uriel for Earth instead of the four kings (as I myself have in the past).  What gives?  Such a table design that uses the four archangels instead of the four kings is mostly credited to Fr. Rufus Opus; even though Fr. RO isn’t the only one to have done it this way, he is the one who most people attribute this design to.  As a result, there’s periodically debate about whether to use the four archangels or the four kings.

Personally, my own work has never significantly involved these spirits beyond a token chat, and even to this day, they’re in this grey area of things that I’m aware are important, but I’m not entirely sure why.  Thankfully, Magister Omega of A Journey into Ceremonial Magick posted a wonderful summary of the four kings in the grimoire tradition, and there’s plenty to show how important the four kings can be, especially for goetic magicians, but also for us as far as DSIC is concerned.  While Omega does cite GTSC and Fr. AC’s own personal view as well as UPG from the angel Metatron, he also cites the good Dr. Stephen Skinner and a number of other authors (I can spot some of Jake Stratton-Kent’s words in there, too):

The four kings are spiritual creatures (and therefore winged) but they are demon kings not angels…

The Kings cannot be approached in the same way you might approach the Archangels.  Start with the lesser demons. Threaten them with the name of their King if necessary.  Only after you have bound a few of the hierarchy, then think about the Kings.  You can use the Kings name without having previously called him (that is just the way it works). …

The Kings open the Gates, not something anyone should do unless they really know what they are doing. Their names are useful to enforce discipline on the spirits belonging to their legions. But, as Frater AC mentioned, they are not the ones you would choose to personally grant the usual run of wishes.

It’s odd to me that we would need the use of the four kings, then, if we were going to use DSIC just for angelic conjuration, but that’s just it: the way DSIC is written (and, as we’ll see later, the sources that DSIC itself builds upon and pulls from) implies that it can be used for angelic/theurgic works as well as goetic/non-angelic works.  In that case, the four kings would be recommended, because it does enforce a sort of authority upon whatever’s being conjured—unless they’re not under the authority of such spirits at all.  But, as Fr. AC said, it may not be about authority at all:

As [the archangels and angels] are the vertical, they are the horizontal.  They are the morally neutral yet powerful governors between the planes of existence.

Still, it’s not like there aren’t multiple traditions of Western magic and cosmology at play here, nor can we ignore that there are different eras and developments in those lines.  It’s simply a fact that many (not all) people haven’t worked with these four kings, needed to work with them, or even had a cosmology that required their presence or their roles in ways that Skinner or JSK or others would describe them, both now and for centuries into the past.  Plus, there are also those who have different views on the roles and nature of these four kings and their relationships to the angels; one person’s UPG is another person’s dismissed rubbish, after all.  If you work with the four kings or recognize them as important in your cosmology, great!  If not, then that’s also fine.  After all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat: there’s no one way to consider the role or nature of the four kings, and no one way to do conjuration (even with DSIC, with all its extant variants).

Now, back to Fr. RO.  What does he say about his design that omits the four kings in favor of the four archangels?  He explains a bit from RWC, specifically in Lesson 6 of the Black Work class:

The Table of Practice is a symbol of the cosmos. It contains an outer circle with the names of the archangels of the spheres, and symbols of their planets. Within that is another circle, this with the names of the Four Angels* of the corners of the Earth. Within that is a triangle with a pentagram, the Star of David with a Yod, and a Maltese cross.

The outermost circle represents the Seven Heavens and the Intelligences therein. They are the governors of the spheres, and their presence helps ensure you get the spirit you’re looking for when you perform your conjuration. The Elemental Kings provide the gate to the material realm, so the spirits can influence your life materially, if necessary, but they also make sure that any spirit you call up of a terrestrial nature won’t go ballistic and eat your soul, leaving you dead by dawn.

These two circles together represent the meeting of the Heavens and the Earth in your temple space.

The triangle in the center of the circle is rather unique. Triangles are used in conjurations as the place the spirit manifests. In the Lemegeton’s Goetia, the magician stands within the center of an elaborate Magic Circle, and the Triangle is placed outside the Circle. The magician is theoretically safe from the evil of the demonic spirits he’s conjuring because the triangle constrains the spirit, and the circles provide further protection.

In The Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals, the source book for the Modern Angelic Grimoire, the magician sits or stands within a Magic Circle, but he’s got the Triangle of Art engraved on the Table of Manifestation inside the protective circle with him. The triangle is within another set of circles to protect him, but it’s different from most of the other approaches to conjuration I’ve seen.

I like it better with the spirit in the circle with you for purely practical purposes. It makes it easier to sit in front of the Table of Practice and do the scrying, the crystal can be right there in front of you instead of across the room.

It should be noted that in the Modern Angelic Grimoire, I adapted the Table of Practice from the original instructions. The circles and the triangle are on the Table that you use, but then you’re supposed to build a separate device to hold the crystal ball you conjure the spirits into.

Bryan Garner, also known as Fr. Ashen, has recently written a book on The Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals. He created the tools as specified in the instructions, and if you want to see how it’s supposed to look, you can see pictures of what he came up with in his interpretation on his blog. He added in some stuff from his experience in traditional Solomonic Magic, but it still remains completely in harmony with the original manuscript.

I tell you this because the things I do, the things I teach are my interpretation, my “Kabala” or “Revelation” of how the grimoires are to be used by magicians who want to use a system that’s proven really effective to me. I encourage you to go back to the sources. In this course, I’ve provided samples and excerpts, but in support of my approach, to make clear certain points that I have found to be really important.

But I’ve filtered it the way I think it should be filtered, and I’ve had good results, but you need to go back to the sources and read them for yourself, explore them with the aid of the spirits. Invest in Tyson’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, or read them for free on

When I put the Table of Practice together, I merged the thing that’s supposed to hold the crystal with the Table of Practice image to accomplish the same functionality as the original design. I didn’t have the ebony and gold to follow the instructions myself, so I made do.

It should probably be noted that this was all done after I attained Knowledge and Conversation with my Holy Guardian Angel. The modifications and adaptations I made were made based on things he had revealed to me as I was studying that and the Scale of the Number 4, and some other things that were percolating in my sphere at the same time.

So it’s not totally made up, but it’s not “by the book” either.

Regardless, it works rather well.

So I put all the symbols where they belonged on the Table of Practice. The triangle is where the spirit appears, and that’s in the center of the Circles.

* Some people say to put the names of the Elemental Kings there, Oriens, Paimon, Amaimon, and Egyn. I prefer the angels, your mileage may vary.

He goes on more at length about the specific symbolism and role of the individual symbols used in the Table of Practice according to his own design, and he sums it up at the end:

Taken altogether, the Table of Practice represents our relationship with the Seven Governors, the Four Elemental Kings, and the Process of Manifestation. It is designed to provide the place where a spirit can manifest, and to give us a shared space between the Heavens and the Earth in which we can work together to accomplish the things we have to do.

Note how he says “Four Elemental Kings” here, even though he’s using the four archangels.  This is because of his interpretation of how Agrippa describes the four angels in his Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7) as the “four Angels ruling over the corners of the world”, in contrast to the “four rulers of the Elements” (Seraph, Cherub, Tharsis, and Ariel), the “four Princes of Devils, offensive in the elements” (Samael, Azazel, Azael, and Mahazael), and “the four Princes of spirits, upon the four angles of the world” (Oriens, Paymon, Egyn, and Amaymon).  On top of them being “rulers over the corners of the world” (which does match the DSIC phrasing), he might have gotten an explicit “king” notion, I presume, due to their correspondence in the Tarot as the Kings of the four suits: the King of Wands to Michael of Fire, the King of Swords to Raphael of Air, and so forth.  It’s not a conventional or historical understanding of the four kings, sure, but it’s not a wrong interpretation, either.

That said, Fr. RO does touch on the role of the four kings of the directions.  In his Lesson 4 of the Black Work course, he says:

Then there are the Four Princes. They aren’t nearly as good as the Angels. The astute student will recognize that at least two of them show up in the Lemegeton’s Goetia as Kings or otherwise as rulers of the Demons. Paimon has a seal and a description in the grimoire, indicating he is one of the rank and file of that system, while Amaymon shows up in a description of Ga’ap, who, among other things, can teach you to consecrate the things “under Amaymon.”

But these guys are not demons, at least, not of the type that will come to you and cause you illness and sickness in order to make you suffer and call out to god for salvation. They can do that, of course, just like the angels can, but they are not specifically designed for that.

These four Princes represent the “neutral” spirits of the elements, and they are as far as close as I get to working with demons these days. They are like the worker bees of the elements, in my experience. They, and their assigned legions, are the ones that oversee the manifestation of the elemental directives of the spirits higher up in the, uhm, hierarchy.

I call on these spirits when I’m doing a banishing ritual, when I’m conjuring up some Genius Loci, or when I’m looking for some instant physical manifestations of something in particular. The last type of conjuration, for instant relief of a desire, is where things get sketchy. It’s generally a bad idea to try to conjure on the fly, but having a good relationship with these four princes can be useful.

I also want to note that Fr. RO began using this design of the Table of Practice as least as early as the start of 2007, because he gives an image of a simple form of it in a post from January 2007, though he mentions beginning to write his Modern Angelic Grimoire back in October 2006, suggesting he was likely already using it around that time.  However, more recently, Fr. RO put out another version of the Table of Practice on his own Facebook page in a post dated May 31, 2015, pretty much identical (with one exception which we’ll get into next time) except using the four kings instead of the four archangels, with the following caption:

I’m preparing to give the Seven Spheres Live course, and going through the slides, I remembered that I corrected the Table of Practice in the courses, but never bothered to say anything publicly about it. The Table of Practice I put together for the Modern Angelic Grimoire used the names of the Four angels of the corners of the world from Agrippa’s Scale of the Number Four.

At the time I put that together, I didn’t know anything about Goetia, or the terrestrial Princes, and since they weren’t called out specifically by name in the Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals, and because I wasn’t sure about working with “demons” at the time, I went with the Angels. It was super effective so I didn’t think it mattered when I went on to other things, and even though I am now very comfortable working with Oriens, Amaymon, Paimon, and Egyn, I never bothered to update the graphics. 

Jake Stratton Kent mentioned it annoys him to no end to have the Angelic names on the Trithemian Table of Practice, cause it’s not technically right (even though it works fine in practice). So I promised I’d fix it in the course, and I did, but for those who haven’t seen the more accurate version, here it is.

Even by Fr. RO’s own admission, the use of the four kings is the correct set of names to use; it’s just that this version never made it into RWC or even SS due to his thinking and approach at the time.  Well, to use his exact words, it’s the “technically right” and “accurate” approach—which doesn’t mean he necessarily agrees with it or that he disavows using the four angels instead of the four kings.  He probably does, but as many people who use the four angels can attest, it’s still a workable method, and so it’s not fundamentally wrong in practice even if it doesn’t agree with the DSIC instructions.

However, remember how I said that Fr. RO wasn’t the only one who used this design choice of the four angels instead of the four kings?  So too did Fr. Acher of Theomagica, as he explains in his own post on the Trithemian Table of Practice, which he developed around 2009.  He explains his own design choices, too (emphasis mine):

On first reading it was clear we needed to amend this design to fit our budgets and purpose. In the original description the whole device is made up of four elements: the crystal, the gold plate, the ivory/ebony pedestal and the table. While we were committed to staying true to the essence of the original, we had to amend the design to match our limited crafting skills as neither of us is a goldsmith nor a carpenter.

After several weeks of study we landed on a design that brought all the carvings together on a horizontal wooden table onto which the actual crystal would be placed. As we had set out to design a table each, we decided to create one fit for a crystal and the other fit for a black mirror.

The actual elements of the carvings are given as follows:

  • These 3 symbols inside a circle around the crystal:
  • The Tetragrammaton next to or around the three symbols
  • Then the names of the 4 archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael
  • On the opposite side of the table the “names, characters, etc.” (sic!) of:
    • the seven planets with their seals,
    • the ruling angels with their seals and
    • the names of the four kings of the four corners of the earth

Of course at the end of the day the whole table had to fit on our altar in the middle of the circle of art. After measuring the maximum space we could give to the table it turned out it couldn’t measure more than 13 inch (30cm) in diameter. Secondly, we knew we wanted to create the whole table from wood and carve all seals, characters and names on it – rather than just painting or drawing them on. Thus we tested carving magical seals into wood with a standard Dremel device and the finest drill applicable. This allowed us to understand the maximum amount of elements in our design that would fit onto a wooden disc of 13 inch diameter.

After these practical considerations we went back to the drawing board and came up with the following design:

We clearly took artistic freedom here and e.g. brought together the seals of the front and back of the table as well as the table and the pedestal on one single surface. We also decided to drop the names of the four kings of the corner of the earth; it would have simply congested the design we had in mind. However, we still felt confident as this version created a full magical circle around the actual crystal. This was a desired effect as the crystal would be used as the locus of manifestation and would be placed inside our circle of art on the altar. Thus any spirit materializing in the crystal would be bound by the circle, names and seals on the Table of Practice.

Since Fr. Acher was doing his work with the Trithemian approach in “late 2009”, this design certainly postdates Fr. RO’s own, but the way Fr. Acher writes, it sounds like he may have come up with the design independently from Fr. RO.  He might have been influenced by Fr. RO for all I know—I’m pretty sure there was at least some back-and-forth between them over the years, especially as far as some of their Arbatel work was concerned, I believe—but I’m not sure that was the case.  And, by Fr. Acher’s own admission, he took “artistic freedom” in the design of the table, but I don’t think anyone would deny that Fr. Acher has gotten good results all the same with his design choices.

Either way, we have at least ten years of people using the four archangels instead of the four kings, and it’s been shown to be another effective approach regardless of how accurate it might be according to the instructions given in DSIC or how much goetic magicians might complain about it or chide others (Al).  It’s also important to remember that neither Fr. RO nor Fr. Acher made use of a separate pedestal for the crystal; if they had, then there wouldn’t be an issue, because the four archangels would go on the pedestal and the four kings on the table.  Because they dropped the pedestal in favor of convenience and expediency, they combined the design instructions for the pedestal and table.  And, importantly, their methods still work without breaking DSIC.

Still, this topic periodically comes up in talks with various magicians, especially as source of debate, as I said earlier.  There’s a fascinating discussion from December 2014 in one of the Facebook groups I’m in that went into the topic at length.  While I won’t quote specific people (Jake Stratton-Kent, Fr. RO, Jason Miller, Fr. AC, and others got all into the discussion along with many others in a ~150-comment thread), here’s the gist of some of the points that were discussed and brought up for the general consideration of my readers:

  • Using the four archangels instead of the four kings can be an unnecessary, unfortunate, and retrogressive sanitization of the grimoire, if not outright being “wussy”.
  • Using the four kings seems to have become more popular in modern general practice after Fr. AC put out GTSC, which has a more accurate rendition of the table from DSIC, yet people were still get results with it anyway.
  • Using the archangels and not the kings can be seen to (but doesn’t necessarily) erase the option of working with elementals, emphasize celestial entities instead of chthonic ones, and result in an imbalanced spiritual approach.
  • Using the archangels may be more appropriate for working strictly or mainly with celestial and angelic entities generally.
  • Using the kings can help “ground” heavenly or celestial entities into a more worldly form, which would be better for actually “drawing spirits into crystals” and, moreover, to a concrete or visible appearance.
  • Some who have used the four archangels at one time and others the four kings at other times get good results either way, so in some ways, the choice boils down to one’s preference and comfort levels working with either set of spirits, but this may also be dependent upon one’s worldview in terms of which is more useful or whether they’re equally useful.
  • Others report that using the four archangels gets results both with conjuring angelic entities as well as demonic, but demonic results always tend to fall short of angelic ones.
  • Others report that the general effect of the ritual is different.  Using the angelic names facilitate more “astral” experiences, being in the realm of the spirit rather than the spirit being in the crystal, while using the king names facilitate a more traditional conjuration experience with the spirits appearing visibly in the crystal.  This might be due to the angels encouraging spiritual elevation and ascension through the spheres, and the kings due to their expansion and facilitation of manifestation on material planes.
  • The four kings, from a grimoiric point of view (especially in light of the fact that many grimoires say that these four entities are not to be conjured directly), provide a necessary warden and converter for various entities to be communicated with from the many levels of reality, whether physical or astral or celestial or something else.  They are, essentially, neutral powers that moderate exchanges between different planes or spheres.
  • Using the four archangels can be seen as redundant or repetitive, considering how several of them overlap with the angels of the planets, leading to the same name engraved in multiple places on the Table.
  • If you consider the circle of names from the pedestal to “overlay” that of the names on the table, then the names of the angels would “cover” those of the kings.  This suggests a binding, controlling, or thwarting influence to the angels who would be seen in command over the kings.  In that light, the presence of the four angels would suggest or imply the presence of the four kings who would be literally and metaphorically “under” them in terms of power or rulership.
  • Even if one doesn’t much care about the specific distinction between the use of angel names and king names in this specific case, it can matter when one considers their overall approach to Neoplatonic cosmology as used in Hermetic or Solomonic ritual, as well as keeping in line with the extensive history and current of tradition that’s repeated time and again in grimoiric literature.

The fact is that DSIC (almost certainly) prescribes the use of the four kings Oriens, Paimon, Egyn, and Amaymon on the table itself, but because it doesn’t explicitly give those names, there is a DSIC style that arose with Fr. RO and (maybe) Fr. Acher of interpreting this to use the four archangels Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel for the same purpose with either exactly or approximately similar results.  Which DSIC approach you use is up to you—and it’s important to note that, for the most part, most people using either approach tend to omit the use of the pedestal and combined the inscriptions on the pedestal with that of the table, where you need the names of both the angels and the kings.  Using either set of names on the table works, but depending on your specific approach, need, and cosmology, one set might work better than the other, or it might not; there are a lot of variables and theories here, and it can be justified any which way.  However, if you want to take a strict approach to DSIC, then you’d want to use the four kings on the table and not the four angels, but having the four angels kept using the pedestal.  (Or, perhaps, placed somewhere else on the table to accommodate the lack of a pedestal.  We’ll talk about that option soon enough.)

The most common approach most people take when using DSIC-based conjuration is that they generally tend to omit the pedestal entirely and only use the table.  This means that, unless you’re going to use some sort of unusual combined approach that has both the four archangels and the four kings at the same time on the table, you’re going to miss out on one group or the other.  Depending on how you view the roles of either or both sets of entities, you might consider it a loss or you might not.  However, I think there’s one thing that we can rule out from the list of concerns raised in that discussion thread from above: that having the four archangels from the pedestal on the table itself is “redundant or repetitive”.  For one, the four archangels are not the planetary angels; Michael of the Sun is not Michael of Fire, and Uriel isn’t planetary at all (despite what DSIC might say about him being an angel of Venus).  The name might be the same, but DSIC (and a number of other texts) that a both a spirit’s name and office are significant, and the offices of these spirits are different, which effectively makes them different spirits.  If this was truly just a repetitive thing, then these four angels as a distinct, discrete set shouldn’t appear anywhere at all on either the pedestal or table, which are meant to operate together as a single overall apparatus.  But they do, which means they’re not unnecessary.

For myself?  Because I started with RWC, I’ve used the four angels approach, and that has gotten me to where I am today; I don’t think anyone can really say that it’s ineffective, because I’m quite the counterfactual anecdote that it’s not (along with Fr. RO, Fr. Acher, and many others).  That being said, if I were to start again knowing what I know now, doing what I do now, I’d probably use the four kings approach, and if or when I make myself another table, I would probably use them instead of the four angels, incorporating the four angels somewhere else, so long as both sets are present.  If nothing else, I’ll have another table to experiment with and can draw my own experiential conclusions from that, and perhaps use the two separate tables for different purposes.

So much for the kings versus angel debate.  Thing is, this is just one part of the contents of the table; we’ll get into the rest of the fun stuff next week when we talk about the planetary considerations.