Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: What To Do Now That the Spirit Is Here

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 the actual ritual itself (finally).  If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

At this point, dear reader, you might be wondering “what the hell does this guy have left to talk about?”  I mean, after seventeen posts, you’d think I’d be running out of steam.  And you would be wrong.  Yes, it is true that we’ve talked about a lot—far more, really, than I ever anticipated talking about.  We’ve discussed the designs of all the implements needed for the DSIC ritual, how to make them regarding both physical components and spiritual influences, how to set up our temple and the altar, and we (finally) got to the actual ritual of DSIC, outlining all the individual steps, motions, gestures, and prayers to make in the course of the conjuration ritual attributed to the good Abbot Johannes Trithemius of Spanheim.  So, really, what else is there to talk about?

What we talk about next is the stuff that DSIC doesn’t talk about but necessitates thinking about.  It’s true that you could, dear reader, stop reading this series of posts at the last one, make all your tools to spec (or as close as an incomplete, mishmash text like DSIC can permit such specs), and be on your merry way with conjuration.  And many people have done just that with Fr. RO’s RWC and SS as well as Fr. AC’s GTSC, and yet, I still get questions on “what do I do next?”.  There are a number of gaps in DSIC, and what we’ll talk about in these last few posts is the stuff that DSIC wouldn’t, couldn’t, or just didn’t discuss.

First up?  What to actually do with a spirit once you’ve conjured it.  Let’s say you’ve gotten all your tools together, put your temple and altar together, and launched into a conjuration of a spirit.  Surprise surprise, the spirit shows up, and it passes your questions of authentication and gives its oath to you.  In the time you have allotted with the spirit…what do you even do?  Well, I’m not you, dear reader, so I can’t tell you what to do.  You obviously must have had some reason to go through the trouble of putting everything together, memorizing all those prayers, and saying them at the right time so as to bother one of the spiritual executives of the corporation that is the cosmos to show up to your humble rock-based abode.  I’m not here to tell you what to do, nor how to go about it; I presume, if you’ve gotten this far, that you generally have a notion of what you’re doing.  Unless I’m your official mentor or godparent, I won’t assume that I can take the role of one, and so I can’t tell you what to do.

But I can tell you what you could do.

However, before we get there, let’s start off with some general advice first on conjurations generally:

First: be polite.  You’re engaging with some of the highest, biggest, strongest, oldest, smartest powers in the cosmos, entities that have existed long before the first human ever was and will be long after the last human ceases to be.  They see more, know more, do more, and are more than you know or could ever possibly know.  The vast majority of these entities we typically conjure are not human, nor have ever been human, and are thus fundamentally of a different essence and nature than you have any frame of reference for.  It’s a lot like Wittgenstein once said “If a lion could speak, we couldn’t understand him”—and many of these entities have many more and much sharper teeth than any lion.  Be humble, polite, grateful, reverent, honest, and straightforward.  Don’t try to be sly, cunning, wicked, deceptive, or trifling.  You have the full attention of a massive shard of Divinity Itself, present literally right before you and with you; act accordingly.  They came because you are a child of Divinity yourself, and if you carry yourself with dignity and authority that is your birthright as a human being, they will be willing to work with you and not against you, but do not think to abuse or misuse them.  And if you haven’t read my two posts on what to do when God says “no”, then read them here and here before continuing.

Second: always take notes.  If you can, have someone scribe for you; otherwise, once the angel is present and there’s no need to be intimidating or controlling of the situation, put down the wand and pick up the pen.  Record everything, the questions you ask as well as the answers they give, whether in the form of words or images or sensations.  Write down not just the date and circumstances and spirit of conjuration, but write down whatever they tell you or reveal to you.  If you can, go into the conjuration with a list of questions with blank spaces ready to go to fill in.  If your writing is shit, bring a laptop to type notes on, or get a voice recorder and record yourself—and be sure that you say aloud whatever it is you say, and repeat whatever it is they tell you.  Communication works best when you actually communicate: let breath and voice actually cross your lips.  The spirits, after all, are truly, physically present with you in one sense or another; treat communication with them as you would someone across a (very formal) dinner table from you.

Third: before you close out the conjuration, ask a simple question: “is there anything you would have me know, learn, or do at this point in time and at this point in my life?”  I find this to be an extraordinarily helpful thing to be the last thing you do, at least when it comes to the cosmic entities (like planetary or elemental angels).  It’s often the case that there are many things that we want to know, do, or become, but we, as finite, ignorant, dim, short-sighted mortals don’t have the foresight or mental acuity to think of or be aware of.  By giving the spirit we conjure an open-ended question like this, we open the field up to them and allow them, in their wisdom and awareness that far exceeds our own, to fill in ours when we don’t know what needs filling in.  Further, based on that, whatever it is they tell you (or not) can open things up for other questions or requests that you might make of them that you weren’t aware you should have asked before this point, or it can give you things to work on and call upon them for when you need their help outside of conjuration.

Fourth: by receiving their oath at the beginning of the conjuration, whether or not it’s your first time conjuring into them, you have effectively received their help for good.  This is especially the case after the end of the first conjuration, for when you give them the license to depart, you also get their oath to return to you “when [you] call [them] in His name to whom every knee bows down”—and that’s whether or not you call them in the context of a conjuration.  Just as you shouldn’t call them down in vain or discuss things vainly with them while they’re present with you, do not call them in vain, even as a joke from then on.  They will come when you call them.  If the bond you form is strong enough, dedicated enough, and sincere enough, then you may only ever need to do one formal conjuration of them, with everything else being relatively informal without nearly as much rigamarole or hullabaloo—but confirm this with the spirits before they go to make sure that they agree to that, or whether they prefer you to call on them formally.

Fifth: sometimes, the spirits we call upon by name and seal might not like that specific name and seal that you use.  Sometimes the spirit might find the names and seals in the grimoires to be distasteful or inappropriate, sometimes they just don’t like them, sometimes they see that you have a specific need for a specific name and seal in your own specific lifetime.  If a spirit gives you a different name or seal to use, use it from then on; that’s your own personal connection to the spirit, and not to be shared with others.  Use what they give you from the moment they give it to you, or as directed to use it by them.  If you want, clarify with the spirit why you’re receiving this specific name and seal, what the limitations of its use are (time? function? place?) and what purpose it would serve for you instead of the name and seal that you were already using.  Afterwards, make a new lamen with that name and seal, using the usual magical timing and consecration methods as desired.

Sixth: sometimes a spirit doesn’t have a seal that we can use.  For instance, when conjuring the four elemental angels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel, we need to remember that, even though the names might be the same for some of these spirits, their office is not (e.g. Michael of the Sun vs. Michael of Fire), and for all intents and purposes, these should be treated as different spirits (even if they are fundamentally “the same” spirit).  If you don’t have a seal for the spirit, use a sigil instead; use the Rose Cross sigil generator, use a planetary magic number square sigilization method, use the AIQ BKR method, or just combine the individual letters of a name into a single glyph.  Something is better than nothing, and the spirit will still respond to it—but they will give you something that they’ll respond to better, if you but ask.  If you can’t figure out how to make a sigil out of a name, you can go in with a lamen that just has a name on it, but it’s better to go in with something rather than nothing.

Seventh: don’t stress about the conjuration.  You don’t need to force yourself to imagine the presence of a spirit; if it’s there, it’ll make itself known.  If you have a hard time perceiving the spirit (and it always helps to practice spiritual perception through psychometry training), ask for its help in opening up your eyes, ears, mind, and all your senses of perception to better attune yourself to it and it to you.  In doing so, you’ll be able to bring yourself more into alignment with the spirit, “get” it better, and receive whatever you can from it with better grace and dignity and ability to process it all.  Don’t worry if you can’t get a strong connection yet; keep trying, and you’ll build that power up over time.  You don’t need to aim for full-on physical manifestation on your first go; whether or not that’s an aim of yours, we all need to start somewhere.  And learn how to interpret information in any sense you get: if all you feel are changes in pressure, changes in temperature, sensations of motion, or weird tastes on the tongue, go with it and “translate” it as best you can into a sensation or perception that you can actually plumb.  Learn how to speak the language of the spirits themselves using whatever tongue you have—whether or not it’s the one in your mouth.

Eighth: spend time afterwards integrating the experiences of the conjuration. There are times when interacting with a spirit—learning from them, receiving initiations from them, bringing their presence and blessing into our lives, and so on—can induce nontrivial changes in our own human sphere of existence and reality, and it can be drastic at times.  Spend at least a few days (a week, a month even) after the conjuration noting what’s different, if anything, and certain patterns that may arise that weren’t there before.  Take care of yourself, because some of these changes can be harsh on you, ranging from problems with your health, romance, interpersonal communication, or emotional stability.  It’ll level out over time, but just be aware that some of these interactions can linger.  And take care to cleanse yourself of negative influences, but at the same time, you don’t necessarily want to banish all the influences together, lest you throw the baby out with the bathwater and undo the work that you need to be doing!

Beyond those bits of advice, the rest is just learning how to handle conjurations and interactions with spirit.  No two spirits are the same, and even spirits from the same sphere may interact with you in wildly different ways according to their specific nature, desires, function, goals, and needs.  It helps to study as much about the sphere you’re about to interact with generally and the spirit you’re about to conjure generally (if at all possible) in the days leading up to the conjuration so as to have at least a surface-level knowledge about the spirit, just the same way as you’d do well to learn about a company’s business audience, habits, and important executive names before you go into a job interview with them.  Agrippa’s Scales tables (book II, chapter 4 through chapter 14) are fantastic for getting a start on this.

Now, what about the stuff that you can do with spirits in conjurations?  Honestly, the sky’s (quite literally) the limit; unless you start asking for unreasonable or ungrantable things or unless you start to push up against the natures of the spirits you’re working with, there’s really nothing you can’t do with the spirit.  As for my suggestions, well, they’re only just suggestions; this should not be interpreted to be a sort of guide, course outline, model of progression, or anything of the sort, but just things I’ve done, have read about being done, or have seen or heard done with spirits in conjuration of this sort.  Some of this stuff may apply to you, some of it may not, so take it all with a grain of salt, but don’t be afraid to experiment, learn, and grow from your conjurations.  See what’s possible, and then see what’s possible because of that.

Soak in the energy of the sphere of the spirit. Assuming you’ve called on a presiding, governing, or otherwise high-up ruling spirit of a particular sphere or planet (or, even if it’s just a minor or subordinate spirit, the realm of that particular spirit as a fragment of a larger whole), this is a fantastic time to just sit and soak in the energies of that sphere.  By praising, lauding, and greeting the forces of that sphere, we enter into its good graces and can passively soak up the blessings of it, leeching out what ails us and encouraging our growth within it.  Ask the spirit to fill the temple space with the light, winds, sounds, songs, smells, airs, and presence of that sphere; sing the Orphic Hymns for that planet, pour out a libation (wine, whiskey, clean water, etc.), burn special incense for that sphere (whether the same incense you chose for that conjuration or above and beyond what you used), play music that can be associated with that sphere (Fr. RO is fond of using Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” series of orchestral pieces), and otherwise just get to feel that planetary force in abundance right then and there in the conjuration.  This can be thought of like a “sound bath” or “spiritual wash of the soul”, and is often a good thing to do if we’re calling upon that sphere for the first time.

Receive induction.  Previously I would have called this “initiation”, but that word can be confusing and can lead to some people getting the wrong idea about what’s going on, so rather, I’ll call this “induction”, being “led into” something by the spirit, as well as having the spirit “induce” changes in you.  This is effectively what Fr. RO does in his old Gates texts as part of the Green Work portion of the RWC, and also what he teaches in SS.  On top of just soaking in the blessing of that sphere as a whole, we ask the spirit to “open the gate” to lead us deeper into the mysteries and realm of that sphere, letting us enter into the power of that sphere so that the power of that sphere can enter into us.  By doing this, we receive a type of “spiritual initiation” (again, hesitant to use that phrase) directly from the spirit themselves, setting us on a path to allow us induce more of that planetary power in ourselves and allowing us to manipulate it within and without ourselves.  Combined with what’s essentially pathworking—consider this basically being taken by the hand to be led into the crystal where the spirit itself is—we scry not just the spirit from our perspective as a magician in a circle, but we scry the whole realm of the spirit from the perspective as a wanderer in a new land, and in effect, we essentially flip the conjuration on its head: we called down the spirit into the crystal from its realm, but we let the spirit take us through the crystal back into their realm.  In this case, the crystal serves as the physical gate, and the spirit opens the spiritual gate for us.

Make requests.  Requesting that the gate of the sphere be opened for us is just one type of many, many possible things that you can request from spirits, and let’s be honest: we call on spirits to get help in our lives with this or with that.  This is pretty straightforward: when a spirit is down whom you know you want or need help from, ask them for what you need, and specify what it is you need done, how you would want it done, under what conditions, and so forth.  Depending on the nature of the spirit and how you want to go about it, you probably won’t be able to issue commands, but you can make requests.  When you do so, be specific with what you’re asking for, and always expect that there’ll be something on your end you’ll need to fulfill as well.  If they say “no”, ask why; if they need something from you, see if it’s reasonable and in line with what you’re asking.  Sometimes you’ll need to offer payment of some sort, sometimes you’ll need to keep a promise or maintain a particular style of living, sometimes you won’t need to do anything at all.

Consecrate talismans.  You’re already likely working within a planetary hour (and, just as likely, within a planetary day) for a ritual, so why not use it for all possible purposes and take home a souvenir after the conjuration?  With the spirit called down, direct them to consecrate a particular talisman for you.  Work out with the spirit the purpose of the talisman, how it’ll be used, how it should be treated or maintained, what needs to be done with it, how it should be decommissioned and under what circumstances, and, if all is worked out, get to it: present the talisman, give the spirit the charge , sprinkle it with holy water, anoint it with a relevant oil, and suffumigate it with incense, letting the spirit fill it with whatever power it needs.  Of course, when it comes to planetary angels, this is often best done with the help of the planetary intelligence and spirit as well, and if they’re not present for the consecration, then we’d need some way to get them present, which leads to…

Chained summoning.  While we discussed how to fill in lamens for getting a number of specific spirits under their president or governor or ruler earlier, that’s not the only way to get subordinate spirits present to the circle.  So long as the primary spirit you’ve conjured has the authority to do so, once they’re present, ask them to bring other spirits as you might need.  What we’re doing is plying the hierarchy of spirits to bring along other spirits as we need to the conjuration so that we have as much support as we might need for the purpose of the conjuration.  This is where knowing your spirits and godnames from Agrippa and other qabbalistic references can help, and helps give a well-rounded power to your consecrations and works with spirits, because each spirit has a particular benefit or function to play.  For instance, in the planetary framework I work within, while you can do what you need to consecrate a Saturn talisman with just the presiding angel of a planet (Tzaphqiel of Saturn), it also immensely helps to have the intelligence there (Agiel of Saturn) in order to properly guide and instruct/construct/form the channels by which the talisman can be spiritually built up, as well as the spirit there (Zazel of Saturn) to actually provide the raw power and force of that planet.  Conceiving of the spirit as being under the authority and guidance of the intelligence, and the intelligence under the angel, and the angel under God, as well as understanding that spirits we conjure aren’t necessarily bound by the laws of locality like we are (i.e. they can be in multiple places at once), we can issue a series of requests within a hierarchical framework to bring the whole party together without necessarily letting the spirits depart until we give the license to depart at the end of the conjuration (just remember to give the license to depart to all the spirits you bring together in the conjuration in this manner):

In the name of God, YHVH Elohim, o Tzaphqiel, bring forth Agiel, the intelligence of Saturn, and Zazel, the spirit of Saturn, here to this place and now at this time!

In the name of YHVH Elohim and by the authority of Tzaphiel, the angel of Saturn who presides over you, do I call upon you, Agiel, o intelligence of Saturn, to be with me, here at this place and now at this time!

In the name of YHVH Elohim and by the authority of Tzaphqiel, the angel of Saturn, and the guidance of Agiel, the intelligence of Saturn, who preside over you, do I call upon you, Zazel, o spirit of Saturn, to be with me, here at this place and now at this time!

Ask for a familiar spirit to be assigned to you from that sphere.  While we can simply work with the big names from the grimoires—the planetary angels and intelligences and spirits, the elemental angels and the kings and the princes, and so on and so forth—there are an uncountably infinite number of spirits out there, and we can learn more about some of them by asking to be put into contact with them.  Something I’ve found to be extremely worthwhile is, when you have the presiding/governing/ruling spirit of a particular sphere called down, is to ask the presiding/governing/ruling spirit of a sphere to go forth and bring forward a lesser, subordinate spirit from that sphere to act as your own personal familiar of that sphere, a spirit who can help, assist, guide, and empower you in the ways that are specifically proper and best for you in your life for the work you need to do.  Issue a chained summoning request as above, and when that familiar spirit is presented to you, get to know them as you would any other spirit: get their name, get their seal, get their image, get their oath to come when you call, get to know when you can call upon them (making it more convenient for you than otherwise), and get to know them, what they like, what they can do, what their functions and purposes are, and the like.

Receive feedback.  As finite, short-sighted, and mortal as we are, we are not always the best judges of ourselves when it comes to our own spiritual development—but the spirits certainly can be.  So long as the spirit is of a high-enough station and elevation to do so, ask them about your place in their sphere (because, even if we’re primarily earth-bound in this material plane of reality, we all have some presence and share in all the spheres above us): ask about how the force of that sphere is working within you, how well you’re integrating it in you life, what your blockages are, what your problems are, what you’re doing well with, what you’re not doing poorly with.  Get their guidance on how you can improve yourself in your life and in your world, and how you can better facilitate the powers of that sphere in your own life and in the world generally.  Listen to the spirits.  Get their guidance and feedback, get their support, and see what you can do both with them there present in the conjuration as well as outside the conjuration in your magical and spiritual life generally to improve on what needs improving, further what needs furthering, and maintaining what needs maintaining.

Now, all the ideas above are just that, ideas and suggestions for you to consider when you engage in conjuration of many of these entities that many people use with DSIC, whether you take Fr. RO’s approach through RWC or SS, Fr. AC’s approach through GTSC, or some other approach entirely.  I don’t mean to imply that the above is all you can do, and far from it!  What you do in conjurations of spirits is up to you, what you need out of the conjuration, and what you want out of the spirits.

Thing is, much of what we’ve been discussing up until this point has been focusing on a particular kind of spirit; most people that use DSIC focus on conjuration of the angels, whether planetary or elemental or stellar or natal or some other sort.  However, because DSIC isn’t strictly an angelic text, and because the text suggests that we can conjure other spirits, we should consider how we might go about that that and tweaking some of our prayers to accomplish it.  We’ll pick up on that next week.

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Orientation, Setting, Timing, and Lamen vs. Pentacle

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 to arrange the altar and the circle in the temple room. If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

The reason we needed to figure out how to arrange the altar and the circle in the temple room is because we need to know how to actually position the altar within the overall temple space itself. Agrippa says that the “table or altar” should be “set towards the east” (book IV, chapter 10), which implies that the altar should be placed against the eastern wall of the temple space. However, if we place the table against the wall, then we can’t really use Fr. RO’s method of including the altar in the circle because we can’t really reach the bounds of the room behind the altar in that way. However, I have a way around this, based on something I learned from one of my pagan friends years back; instead of tracing the circle with the tip of the wand on the ground, one traces a circle with the tip of the wand pointed upwards at the edges of the room where the walls meet the ceilings. This is good for consecrating a whole room as a temple space, and can incorporate an altar positioned against the wall if needed, since one cannot walk or continually trace a circle behind the altar on the ground in such a case.

However, that method of pointing-up is an inspiration of my own that also goes against the DSIC instructions of tracing the circle on the ground. In all fairness, it is more likely that the altar should be placed against a wall, and the easier reading of DSIC suggests the circle for the magician to be placed in front of the altar and not containing it. To use another inspiration of my own, this time from my espiritismo (Cuban-style Kardeckian spiritism) practice, we place the boveda (altar for spirit guides and ancestors) against a wall because the wall acts as a natural “gate” through which spirits can enter. Having the altar positioned in front of a wall would agree with that notion, as well. Again, it’s not from DSIC nor from any Solomonic text I’ve ever read, but it does make sense in that regard. However, I don’t think that consideration is necessarily one to have ourselves beholden to; if you prefer the conjuration altar to be in the middle of the room, it’s not like the spirits will have any more difficulty reaching the crystal there than if it were a only a few inches from a wall.

Now, Agrippa says that the altar should be set towards the east; we might interpret this as being placed against the eastern wall, but if we were to use another interpretation that isn’t unreasonable, we might also read this as Agrippa saying that the altar should be set such that the objects on it are arranged towards the east, whether or not the altar is put against a wall. In other words, we’d arrange the altar so that we’d stand to the west of the altar facing it towards the east. This is also reasonable, and would allow us to trace a circle around the altar as in Fr. RO’s method. So, again, there are different approaches here based on how you want to interpret Agrippa, and either way works, whether you put the altar up against the eastern wall of a room or have it set up such that you face east when you sit before the altar.  This also matches up with pretty standard Christian practice (pre-Vatican II in the West and Catholic world), where traditionally the whole church would be oriented towards the East, and the priest would stand on the western side of the altar facing the East to perform the Eucharist.

But does our ritual direction always have to be east? Agrippa says so, and after all, this is the direction of the sunrise, and is the direction that churches are supposed to be oriented towards, as the sunrise is the direction of Light entering the world, which has definite Christological overtones. But it doesn’t seem like this is the case when implemented by different authors, or at least, not always. Fr. RO in his old Modern Goetic Grimoire arranges the items on the altar in a way that doesn’t suggest the altar is set towards the east, but more like to the north or the south (and, I’d argue, towards the north):

Set up the Table of Practice on a surface you can sit in front of and comfortable gaze into the scrying medium. Place whatever you will be scrying in the center of the Triangle. Place the Wand to the East of the Table of Practice, and the Incense to the West.

Yet, in his White Work section quoted above, one should face east in the astral temple, which suggests that the altar itself is aligned towards the east. However, in another twist, in SS, the illustration he gives of the altar is very explicitly oriented towards the north, which is why he has the Table of Practice in SS set up with the archangel Gabriel at the “top” of the triangle, which he later replaced by Egyn the king of the North. This puts Michael/Oriens at the right of the Table of Practice to the East, which is where Fr. RO puts the wand at rest on the altar. This, combined with the odd order of planetary angels around the edge of the table, as noted before when we discussed the planetary stuff for the DSIC table, ties in with his understanding of the forces associated the four directions according to Agrippa’s Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7). That Fr. RO faces north as a rule for his conjurations might be surprising, but consider that his style of implementing DSIC involves a brief invocation and empowerment taken from the Headless Rite of the Stele of Jeu the Hieroglyphist (PGM V.96—172), which is a staple of Fr. RO’s general magical practice. The Headless Rite instructs the magician to face north, which is the old direction of eternity and immortality in old Egyptian belief (and which we discussed here, here, and here when we talked about the pole stars in PGM magic). For Fr. RO, this is the default magical direction above and beyond any other.

But instead of defaulting to either the east or the north, we might consider using the other directions for specific types of conjuration. Fr. AC in GTSC gives a different direction for each of the seven planetary angels, but some with directions I can’t figure out where he got them from. Stunningly, Fr. AC gives a URL to the Archangels and Angels website (AAA) in the book for “the most reliable correspondence charts concerning these angels”, but while the link he gives is deformed, I was able to find the proper page here. (Note that you would need to use the links at the top of the page which get you the angels of the planets, not to the planetary links to the bottom which get you different correspondences). These webpages do include directions for the angels, but they don’t cite any sources for what they have listed as information, nor do they match up with any other list I can find.

The Liber Juratus Honorii (LJH) gives a set of directions for the angels of the planets (image courtesy, of course, of the wonderful Joseph Peterson of Esoteric Archives):

In addition to that, the Heptameron gives directions (“winds”) for the angels of the air for each of the seven days of the week (i.e. the seven planets), and then there’s Fr. RO’s method of using the four cardinal directions for the four elements from Agrippa’s Scale of Four and how the seven planets are allocated to that (book II, chapter 7). Here’s a table showing the different sets of directions I’ve found for the seven planets and their corresponding angels:

Agrippa LHJ Heptameron AAA
Saturn North North Southwest North
Jupiter West Southeast South Southwest
Mars East South East South
Sun East East North West/South
Venus West Southwest West North
Mercury North Northwest Southwest Northeast
Moon South West West West

Still, even checking through texts like Stephen Skinner’s Complete Magician’s Tables and going through all the texts I can think of that might touch on this, I can’t find anything that matches up with the AAA/GTSC directions. It would honestly shock (and outright appall) me if Fr. AC just uncritically used what some website says without a grimoiric source to back it up, and I’m definitely going to give him the benefit of the doubt on this that there is a legitimate grimoiric or scriptural source for these directional correspondences and accept them as having validity and not just some new-age woo behind them. Still, if anyone knows where AAA got their source from for the directions for the planetary angels, please do let me know either by email or in the comments, and I’ll update this bit of the post if and when I find out; I’m stumped and don’t know where this set of directions came from.

Also, as it turns out, Aaron Leitch wrote a blog post of his own not too long ago about the planetary rulership of the winds and what directions they should be ascribed to, taking a look at the Heptameron and LJH and correcting them to better fit with astrological and zodiacal paradigms, which gives us even more food for thought.

In any case and at any rate, in the end, when it comes to setting up the altar, we can pick a particular direction to have the whole shebang face, such that we face that same direction when seated in front of the altar:

  • Orient the altar to always face east for all spirits (what Agrippa instructs, under a Christian influence).
  • Orient the altar to always face north for all spirits (what Fr. RO instructs, under a Hermetic-Egyptian influence).
  • Orient the altar to face a particular direction associated with the planet of the spirit being conjured. Which direction you face depends on the direction specified by whatever text or correspondence system you’re working with.

Honestly, any of these systems work; I can see reasons and rationales for each of them. Use what’s most comfortable and convenient for you based on your setup and the space you’re working in. I’ve used East for the vast majority of my conjurations, but I’ve also used West and South when I had my temple set up with my altar pushed up against the wall to the only direction I had space for it with equally good results. If you find the direction to face to be important, face the right direction; if not, don’t worry about it. It can help, to be sure, but for the purposes of DSIC, if you can’t manage it, don’t sweat it.

Now that we know what direction the altar should face, what needs to go on top of it? Not much, honestly: the table (if separate from the actual altar table itself) with the pedestal and crystal (or just the Table of Practice with the crystal, if you’re taking that approach) and the two “holy wax lights” i.e consecrated candles set in their candlesticks. That’s all that needs to be on the altar, if you want to take a strict DSIC interpretation, like what Fr. AC describes and has shown before on his blog.

In that approach, in which you’d (most likely) have the magician standing in a circle that does not include the altar, you’d have the vessel for incense placed (most likely, as Fr. AC says) placed between you and the crystal in the space between the circle and the altar. Everything else (the incense itself, wand, ring, lamen, Liber Spirituum, pen, paper, etc.) would be with you inside the circle. For this reason, Fr. AC recommends you have a little table or shelf with you in the circle to hold all these items so that they’re ready and within arm’s reach without simply being put on the floor. Fr. AC also recommends having a stool or chair with you so that you’re not just standing the entire time, which can double as a place to hold the various DSIC instruments, too.

Alternatively, if you take the approach of drawing the circle around the altar, like what Fr. RO suggests in RWC and SS, then the altar that has the table and crystal and the two candles itself may serve as a place to put the incense, wand, and the like. A simple layout, not quite what Fr. RO describes in SS but which builds off of the stuff in RWC, is one that I shared a while back, using a simple IKEA LACK sidetable as my altar, at which I kneeled facing the East, with my notebook and extra supplies (just barely visible) placed underneath the altar:

In any case, the altar for conjuration doesn’t need to have a lot of stuff on it, and in general, the fewer things on it, the better. I would recommend using an otherwise cleared-off space that doesn’t have any unnecessary tools, talismans, statues, or other items on it that aren’t directly related or pertinent to the conjuration to be performed.

However, it can sometimes be beneficial to augment the altar a bit by including things resonant with the planet or the spirit you’re trying to conjure. For instance, using an appropriately-colored altar cloth, placing images of the seals or characters of the planet or the geomantic sigils associated with that planet on the altar, surrounding the table with the crystal with candles (smaller than the “two holy wax lights”) in a number or color appropriate to that planet, flower petals or other paraphernalia to beautify the altar for the spirit, and the like is often a good choice that I can’t not recommend. Consider this simple arrangement I used for the angel Tzadqiel of Jupiter, with hand-drawn images for the geomantic figures Acquisitio and Laetitia as well as the planetary number square seal for the planet itself, along with my personal planetary talisman of Jupiter:

Towards the end of the post on purification and preparation, we mentioned how Agrippa says that, in all the days leading up to the ritual, we should enter into our temple space and pray before the altar that we’re to perform the conjuration at, keeping the lamen covered with clean, white linen, which we are to then remove on the day of the ritual itself (book IV, chapter 10). Now, granted that the DSIC method of conjuration doesn’t match up with this prayer-based theurgic communion with “good spirits”, we can take this approach as well:

  1. On the evening before we begin our preparatory/purification pre-ritual period (however long that might be according to what you can manage and the severity of the ritual), set up the altar for conjuration with everything we would need, including the lamen of the spirit to be conjured. Cover the crystal, pedestal and table (or combined Table of Practice), and lamen with a veil (ideally of white linen). If desired, the ring and wand may also be covered as well.
  2. On the first day of the preparatory period, light the candles and begin your fast.
  3. On each day of the preparatory period as well as the day of the ritual itself, ablute, and pray at the altar while burning incense. Keep candles lit on the altar this whole time, lighting new candles from the flames of the old if necessary.
  4. On the final day of the preparatory period as well as the day of the ritual itself, keep a stricter fast than before.
  5. On the day of the ritual itself, anoint yourself with holy oil on the forehead and the eyelids, pray as before, then lift the veil from the altar and perform the conjuration ritual.

Now, that’s the ideal procedure, based on Agrippa’s recommendations from his Fourth Book; nothing is said of preparation for ritual like this in DSIC proper, but it’s certainly a good practice. However, if you can’t manage having an altar set up like this throughout the preparatory and ritual period, then don’t; set up the altar when you need to immediately before the ritual. However, I do think the preparatory process of fasting, ablution, and prayer should still be done, and although it’s best if it’s done at the altar of conjuration itself, it doesn’t need to be. If you have another shrine or prayer table you use for your daily prayers, just use that instead, or just kneel anywhere is convenient, quiet, and private for you every day and perform your prayers that way. Do what you can.

Of course, knowing when and how long to engage in our preparatory period necessitates knowing when the ritual itself will take place. This is the most straightforward thing we’ve talked about yet: use the planetary hour of the planet associated with the spirit. I’ve already written about planetary hours before, and they’re a staple of Western magic and astrology by this point that most people are already aware of, and that there are guides and calculators and apps that calculate them for you for any date and location, so I won’t get into it here. Suffice it here to say that we need to time the ritual for an appropriate planetary hour. Note that I’m only saying “planetary hour”, not “planetary hour and day”; you don’t need to wait for an hour of the Moon on Monday to perform a conjuration of Gabriel of the Moon, because any hour of the Moon on any day of the week will be enough. It might be better to perform such a conjuration of the lunar angel on both the hour and the day of the Moon, but it’s not necessary, because the hour is more important than the day.

Why do we know that only the hour matters, and not the day? Because the end of DSIC gives a list of the ruling hours and planets of each hour of each day of the week without specifying the ruling planet of the day itself. Plus, the DSIC text only talks about the hour itself:

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…

(After noticing the exact hour of the day, and what angel rules that hour, thou shalt say:)…

More importantly, based on the way DSIC is written, the hour only matters for the actual conjuration prayer itself (the part starting “In the name of the blessed and holy Trinity, I do desire thee, thou strong mighty angel…”). This implies that we actually begin our prayers, setup, circle-tracing, and burning of incense in the hour leading up to the planetary hour we need for the conjuration, and the exact moment it becomes that planetary hour, we can issue the call for the appearance of the spirit. I don’t personally like this approach—I prefer to start the very first prayer of the DSIC ritual within the specific planetary hour we need—but, technically speaking, the moment that matters for the spirit we want is when we give the precise call to that spirit.

So long as you have the planetary hour correct, no other timing really matters. Of course, that’s not to say you don’t need to account for other factors that can increase the potency or efficacy of the ritual: planetary day, lunar phase and speed, retrograde motion of planets, declination of the Sun, planetary elections, eclipses, stars rising or culminating, and the like may all be taken into account as valid reasons to time a conjuration specifically to achieve a particular end. Heck, even taking into account the weather or the specific place you’re performing the conjuration can (and often will) make a difference. This is especially the case if you’re not just conjuring a spirit for the sake of communion and communication, but if you’re getting them to do something specific for you, such as consecrating/enlivening/ensouling a talisman or giving them a charge to take care of a particular task for you. However, in general, the planetary hour is the only thing you need to have right; everything else is a bonus, and while those bonuses can often be worth your while, they’re still just extra.

There is one last consideration, however, based on something we mentioned way back in the first post on the lamen design. We need to remember that the DSIC text says to put on “the pentacle”, not “the lamen” or “the holy table” like what the DSIC illustration says. Nobody has ever said or suggested anything else but that the pentacle refers to anything but the lamen, as even Joseph Peterson of Esoteric Archives says in his notes on the ritual that “the lamin [sic] is also referred to in the text as ‘the pentacle'”. This makes sense, as there’s no other mention of anything else that could be the lamen in the ritual text itself. However, we know that DSIC builds on earlier Solomonic literature like the Heptameron, which does clearly have a pentacle, as do other texts such as the Veritable Key of Solomon or the Lemegeton Goetia (both a hexagram and a pentagram, the hexagram to be saved until needed if spirits become disobedient and the pentagram to be put on the reverse side of the seal of the spirit to be conjured), as well as the Secret Grimoire of Turiel (which, paradoxically, does call it a lamen and has a distinctly different form than the others).

It could be that DSIC really isn’t referring to the lamen when it describes the pentacle to be worn in the ritual, but to an honest-to-God pentacle as used in other Solomonic literature. (Credit goes to the excellent Reverend Erik Arneson of Arnemancy and My Alchemical Bromance for raising this possibility to me.) In which case, we would need to get one of those and prepare it properly, made in a day and hour of Mercury (or those of the Sun or Moon, at least for the pentagram-formed pentacle of Solomon from the Lemegeton Goetia) with the Moon waxing (or, according to the Veritable Key of Solomon, when the Moon is at first quarter or last quarter), on new clean white paper or parchment (or, alternatively, on a square plate of silver, according to the literal instructions in DSIC itself), sprinkled with holy water and anointed with holy oil. When putting it on, one may recite the “Benediction of the Lamens” from the Secret Grimoire of Turiel over it.

But if that’s the case—that we’d need a proper Solomonic pentacle instead of an Agrippan-style lamen of the spirit to wear—where should the lamen of the spirit go? There are two options that I can reasonably see. The first is a synthetic approach: we still make and wear the lamen as normal, but we put the pentagram-formed pentacle of Solomon from the Lemegeton Goetia on the back of the lamen. The side for the spirit should be made in the day and hour of the planet for that spirit, but the pentagram on the reverse side should be made in a day and hour of the Sun, both sides made when the Moon is waxing in the same lunar month. Only once both sides are finished should the lamen be sprinkled with holy water, anointed, suffumigated, etc. to finish it off before it can be used in conjuration by being worn.

For the second approach, we make one of the hexagram-formed Solomonic pentacles as desired above and wear that at the appropriate step, but let’s follow Agrippa’s suggestion instead that the lamen for the spirit should be placed on the conjuration altar. Where on the conjuration altar should the lamen be placed? Considering how DSIC diverges from Agrippa on this point, there’s no one good answer; we could simply place the lamen on the altar in front of the crystal on the altar. However, something better comes to mind: put the lamen on the table under the crystal. If you’re using a pedestal, place the lamen for the spirit in the center of the triangle directly underneath the pedestal base; if you’re not using a pedestal but a Table of Practice instead, simply place the lamen underneath the crystal. The lamen, then, would not be made to be worn with a hole and strap put through it, but instead should be sized to fit cleanly within the triangle on the table (or Table of Practice). This way, the spirit to be conjured would not only be drawn into the crystal by the prayers and direction of the magician, but drawn further by its own name and seal down into the crystal in the triangle itself, acting as a symbolic magnet to draw the spirit down into the crystal from the celestial realms—or, alternatively, to draw it up from the chthonic realms into the crystal. This is actually a really neat idea, and one that makes total sense, providing a neat blend of both the usual Solomonic technique and technology of pentacles as well as the Agrippan method of using the lamen as a focus for conjuration and communion with the spirit themselves.

These options, of course, are nowhere discussed in DSIC, nor have I ever encountered anyone ever suggesting them. But they are valid alternatives that are still within the realm of reason and possibility for DSIC implementation, given the ambiguous wording of the ritual text itself and the historical and literary context from which it arose. It’s something to play with and experiment, to be sure.

On that note, I think we’re good for today. We’ve gotten up to this point, and now, having discussed all the tools and supplies and layouts and setups and preparations, we’re actually (finally) ready to discuss the prayers and structure of the actual conjuration of DSIC. We’ll do 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: Attire and Purificatory Preparations

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 all the considerations we’d need to make, create, obtain, and consecrate the tools called for by DSIC. If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

Okay, so we’ve got all the stuff that DSIC calls for, right? It’s been procured or made in some way or another, according to the outlines of consecration we’ve been able to pluck together from a variety of grimoires that more-or-less fall in line with what we’re doing. Now we can start setting up for the actual ritual, right? Well…we’re not quite done talking about equipment yet, as it turns out. We’ve covered all the designs, forms, functions, materials, and consecrations that we’d need to take care of for the DSIC equipment, but once we get ready to implement the DSIC ritual itself with all these tools and things we’ve now got, whether done by-the-book or made in with lenient or freewheeling substitutions, there are a few more things that we need to consider for the conjuration ritual.

As I mentioned last time, I took some things for granted in the list of materials you’d need for DSIC. I assume, for instance, that you have a resource to obtain or a method to create holy water, holy oil, basic incenses, consecrated chalk or charcoal, a stool or chair, a small table to act as an altar, and the like. This also assumes, of course, that you have things like lighters, candle snuffers, scissors or utility knives, spare candles and candle holders, extra fabric, extra pen and paper, and the like, just basic stuff that every temple should have or every magician should have on hand. But even beyond that, there are a few other things to consider for DSIC that aren’t explicitly discussed there but which we still need to here.

First up? Attire. This topic isn’t brought up by DSIC itself, so there’s nothing said about it, its material, or its consecrations in DSIC, but it’s important enough to talk about here. The three big suggestions for attire when it comes to rituals like this come from the Heptameron, Agrippa (book IV, chapter 10), and the Key of Solomon (book II, chapter 6), respectively:

  1. “Let it be a priest’s garment, if it can be had, let it be of linen, and clean.”
  2. “You shall also have a long garment of white linen, close before and behinde, which may cover the whole body and the feet, and girt about you with a girdle. You shall also have a veil of pure clean linen, and in the fore-part thereof let there be fixed golden or gilded Lamens, with the inscription of the name Tetragrammaton; all which things are to be sanctified and consecrated in order…[and] with your feet naked.”
  3. “…ought to be of linen, as well as those which he weareth beneath them; and if he hath the means they should be of silk. If they be of linen the thread of which they are made should have been spun by a young maiden…shoes or boots should be made of white leather, on the which should be marked the signs and characters of art. These shoes should be made during the days of fast and abstinence, namely, during the nine days set apart before the beginning of the operation, during which the necessary instruments also should be prepared, polished, brightened, and cleaned.”

If you want to go the extra mile and be period-authentic by-the-book, then have at; it is technically what the grimoires themselves recommend. Do I recommend it? No. In my opinion, you do not need to wear a robe. You don’t. I don’t know what else to tell you. Unless you’re actually involved in a clerical or monastic order that wears robes, or unless you want to cosplay or LARP for your present-day ceremony with anachronistic garb that will waste more of your money and time than might give you spiritual or mental benefit, then there’s no need. We don’t live in the 1500s anymore when robes were actually a common sight and had cultural meaning beyond “weirdo”. You can get modern-day jalabiyyas, thobes, or similar garments worn by Muslims and Bedouins in north Africa, the Middle East, and southeast Asia if you want, but this is just simply not a priority or a concern for the vast majority of us.

Now, if you are in a priestly order? Wear priestly garments, if you wish and if you feel comfortable with it. If you’re in a monastic order? Well, chances are you’ll be wearing your habit anyway, because it’s just what you wear. But otherwise, don’t bother, don’t fret, and don’t worry about it. If you’re not a Christian priest or a Christian monk, or Christian at all, there’s no need to dress like one. Wear what befits your station and authority. I claim that the whole point of dressing in priestly garments in the grimoires, if you weren’t already a priest, was to get you in the mindset of being a representative of Divinity and taking on the authority and license as befits such a priest, and looking the part can trick the brain into believing it. But let’s be honest: most people wouldn’t be able to tell a proper priest’s garment from a discount Halloween costume from that one weird store in that shopping center across town, especially nowadays when there are fewer and fewer actual Christians who actually recognize what the priest actually is and stands for in the cosmos. If you’re not in that mindset, you don’t need to oblige yourself by forcing yourself into it.

Also, if you’re not in the Christian clergy of at least the level of a deacon? Do not wear a stole. This isn’t something to argue with or disagree with: do not wear a stole. I don’t care what Fr. AC says; you do not wear a stole unless you’ve actually taken holy orders in the Christian clergy. To do otherwise is disrespectful to the priesthood and makes you out to be something you’re not, just as if you were to wear Lukumí religious bead-jewelry reserved for initiates as a mark of their initiation, or a Plains Indian war bonnet when you haven’t earned the right to. You can wear something else instead of a stole, like a scarf or cape or sash or mantle or shawl or something, but wearing a proper stole is effectively appropriation of a legitimate emblem of a legitimate priesthood for the sake of LARPing; wearing a stole without having earned the right to do so in a ritual like this makes a mockery of those who have actually earned the right to wear it. Unless you’ve actually taken holy orders, do not wear a stole.

Now, should you have some sort of “temple garments”? Absolutely! Don’t get me wrong: I do think that wearing special clothing reserved for ceremonies, and ideally white clothing at that, is important, as is dressing modestly and in a way that covers most of the body for both protection and purity. I do certainly think having a set of clothes you put on for Doing Formal Magic is a highly recommended practice for getting you into the proper mindset. But does it need to be a full-body robe made of white linen? I like robes and I like linen, but no, it doesn’t. You can get a new white cotton hoodie and new white sweatpants, or get a new set of white scrubs, and those will work fine as standard all-around all-purpose temple/ritual wear. I know this might seem weird, if we’re spending so much time and money on the rest of DSIC/conjuration equipment, but I don’t consider the clothes we wear—which are necessarily products of the time and culture we’re living in, as opposed to the tools and names we’re using—to be nearly as important as the other things we discussed in the last post. But, like I said, if you want to go with full-blown robes (and I have my own set I do wear periodically for some rituals, consecrated according to the Key of Solomon, sacred signs and all), then by all means, have at! But this sort of sartiorial choice is about as far as it could get from being a priority in my opinion.

That said, if you want to, you can customize your look for specific rituals instead of donning your preferred default temple garments; in other words, dress for the part. This is something that Fr. RO uses to its max in SS: when interacting with a particular planet, dress for that planet. For Mars? Wear a set of camo BDUs or a martial arts uniform or similar “armor” or “battlegear”. For Jupiter? A three-piece business suit with cufflinks and a silk tie, the more expensive the better. For Venus? Luxurious clothing that makes you feel Good, something you could go to a high-class danceclub in. Et cetera, ad nauseam. I’ve used these outfits before, and I find it great for getting into the mindset of particular planets; it can certainly be a boon, especially if you’re trying to build up as much resonance as possible with the planet and its spirits that you’re about to interact with. Fr. AC, who prefers the LARP approach of wearing robes, says that wearing robes in the color of that planet can be an option, modern though it may be, but he would rather keep the robe white (which I don’t disagree with) and use a girdle (a loose belt) instead colored appropriately. I think that’s a pretty fair approach; our scrubs/sweatpants-and-hoodie approach might use a colored scarf, keffiyeh, sash, or other piece of fabric to do similarly. Either way, it’s up to you whether you pick the the full-costume approach, colored-robe approach, or white-garments-with-an-accent-color approach; I don’t consider it essential, but it can be helpful under the proper circumstances.

Whatever you select for your temple garments, whether scrubs or sweats or linen robes or priestly costume or whatever, keep them clean and in good condition, don’t wear them when not engaged in temple work, and don’t engage in any sort of ill-mannered, immodest behavior while wearing them (unless specifically called for by the ritual, but that’s not a concern for us with DSIC). If you want, you can consecrate your garments using the method from the Key of Solomon (book II, chapter 6), even going so far as stitching on the proper symbols and the like in red silk thread, but that’s still overkill for most people; unless you’re specifically working the Key of Solomon, then you can just throw them in the washing machine with some holy water and call it a day. You can keep this simple and modern based on what you can find accessible and appropriate.

When putting on your temple garments, there are prayers in Solomonic literature, ranging from the Heptameron to the Key of Solomon (same chapter as mentioned above) to the Secret Grimoire of Turiel, that you’ll say when putting on your clothing for your ritual; if you have a girdle (or scarf, sash, etc.) to wear in addition to your temple garments, then recite the blessing of the girdle from the Secret Grimoire of Turiel. You should be in a state of purity for putting on your temple garments, since you’re (a) about to literally clothe yourself with something made holy and pure (b) are about to engage in ritual work because you must have a need to put on temple garments.  Since DSIC doesn’t bring up any specific prayers or anything about clothing, we don’t need to bring up the specific prayers here, but you can use them (or not) as you wish or desire.

But that brings up an important topic on its own: how do we purify ourselves and otherwise spiritually prepare for the work to be done? There are basically three things that we need to do every day for a certain number of days leading up to a ritual of this nature, especially for the first time we contact a spirit or begin working with a planet that we’ve hitherto never formally contacted before:

  1. Fast.
  2. Ablute.
  3. Pray.

First, fasting. For this topic, I’ll just link to a post I wrote a bit ago on that topic extensively that I encourage you to read. You could simply do a water fast (i.e. abstaining from all food and only drinking pure water) or a water-and-bread fast; either of those are good if you wanted to be extreme about this part, or you could just abstain from meat and alcohol and keep the rest of your diet more-or-less the same. However you can limit your attachments, pleasures, indulgences, and addictions to worldly substances and behaviors, do it. This also typically and especially includes any and all sexual activity, whether performed alone or with anyone else in any number; not only do we want to fast from food, we also want to fast from all distracting, immodest, and mundane behaviors, for we are about to engage in a work of holiness and divinity, and need to sufficiently detach ourselves from the world in order to do so. Read my post on fasting, both for food and behaviors, and take it as food for thought.

Next, ablution. Abluting refers to the act of spiritually cleansing and washing yourself; if fasting is purifying yourself from the inside out, ablution is purifying yourself from the outside in. Just as we fast and abstain from worldly things and behaviors to make sure that we go in with clean hearts and minds into a ritual, we need to cleanse ourselves to make sure that we go in with clean hands and mouths, too. Spiritual hygiene mitigates the spiritual problems we encounter in the world, and reduces the influence they have when we engage in ritual. Not only that, but in this sort of ritual, we’re coming into direct contact with divinity in a sacred setting; tracking in worldly filth and spiritual garbage is disrespectful to the work we’re doing, the spirits we’re engaging with, and the God we’re calling upon.

And, last and best of all, prayer. This is essentially the warm-up exercise we do before we engage in the heavy lifting of ritual, and helps us get in tune with both God as well as the spirits we’re about to conjure. In effect, if we maintain a proper prayer practice and earnestly pray every day in the lead-up to the ritual, we’ve basically focused ourselves so much for so long, seeking to adapt ourselves to the work at hand, that by the time we even light the first candle, we’ve practically already put into the contact of the spirit, just not in any focused way. And that’s on top of the purificatory power of prayer, too! If fasting cleanses the body from the inside out and ablution from the outside in, then prayer cleanses not the body but the mind, spirit, and soul, which helps both our fasting practices and our ablution practices to be more efficacious all the while.

How long do we engage in these practices for? Different texts specify different lengths:

  • Agrippa (book IV, chapter 10): a full lunar month leading up to the ritual or, alternatively, forty days, increasing one’s strictness on the day of the ritual itself
  • Heptameron: nine days, increasing one’s strictness on the final three days
  • Key of Solomon (book II, chapter 4): nine days, increasing one’s strictness on the final three days, and increasing it even more on the day of the ritual itself
  • Secret Grimoire of Turiel: seven days

Personally, I think seven days of maintaining purifying practices is sufficient. If you want to go for longer, by all means have at! Keeping up such practices can certainly be worth the trouble, and I cannot argue with going longer if that’s what you can manage. Any less than seven days, well…personally, I consider that one should purify themselves for a bare minimum of three days, and that only if they honestly can’t manage longer than that for some reason—and, honestly, at that point, I’d be wondering what else is going on, because if it’s something that significant or major, then maybe it’s just not the best time to do that ritual. Only in cases of emergency should one skip the purifying phase of preparation, but the fact that it’s an emergency indicates that (a) you probably messed up somewhere along the line and should work it off in other ways than cheapening yourself and the ritual by skipping the purifying process (b) the purifying process is even more worthwhile and necessary than if it wasn’t an emergency.

Also, just as a note? I’m increasingly finding it important to maintain purification practices both before and after a ritual. So, in my recommendation, I’d suggest that you’d spend at least seven days purifying yourself and keeping yourself pure before the ritual, and at least a bare minimum of three days, preferably seven, afterwards as well. This helps you to better incorporate the effects from the ritual in a way without getting immediately tangled up in mundane, worldly, or fleshy matters again, and gives you time to ease back into living a normal life.

Just as different texts specify different lengths for pre-ritual purification, so too do they often offer specifics on the kinds of things to be done. Ablution, for instance, could just be bathing twice a day, or it could also be specifically washing yourself with holy water, or it might also include a daily anointing with holy oil after bathing proper. Fasting, as mentioned, isn’t just about food, but about our behaviors as well; as the Key of Solomon says in the aforementioned chapter:

…is absolutely necessary to ordain and to prescribe care and observation, to abstain from all things unlawful, and from every kind of impiety, impurity, wickedness, or immodesty, as well of body as of soul; as, for example, eating and drinking superabundantly, and all sorts of vain words, buffooneries, slanders, calumnies, and other useless discourse; but instead to do good deeds, speak honestly, keep a strict decency in all things, never lose sight of modesty in walking, in conversation, in eating and drinking, and in all things…

As for the kind of prayer we should cite? This could be something as easy as just partaking in Mass every day during this period, if you’re Christian, or it could be through the recitation of a particular prayer once a day, or once in the morning and twice in the evening, and the like. The prayer from the Arbatel (aphorism II.14) is a wonderful choice for this, but the Key of Solomon prayer from the same aforementioned chapter plus the confession and subsequent prayer from book I, chapter 4 are also excellent, as is the First Morning Prayer from the Secret Grimoire of Turiel or the orison from book II, chapter 12 from the Sacred Magic of Abramelin. No matter which prayer you consider, the basic things we pray for that tend to be common across grimoires are include, but are not limited to:

  • recognizing, admitting to ourselves, and regretting the errors we make by doing the wrong things or doing things wrongly
  • seeking help in assistance in our lives generally to lead better lives and to make the world better
  • seeking help through holy works specifically to lead better lives and to make the world better
  • seeking the assistance of the particular spirit we wish to conjure, that God will permit us to contact the spirit and the spirit to be allowed to be present for us and communicate with us
  • recognizing our place in the world, both as base creatures of flesh and blood as well as spiritual creatures made in the image of God
  • recognizing the place and power of God

I don’t think it’s all that important which prayer you use, or whether you use any pre-written prayers instead of praying from the heart, so long as you pray appropriately. At least, of course, if you’re using DSIC, because no preliminary or preparatory work is specified. If we were working a grimoire or other text that specifies a prayer to use, then we’d be using that, but for DSIC, I’d recommend something along the lines of either the Arbatel prayer or the First Morning Prayer from the Secret Grimoire of Turiel.

Given that these grimoires generally, and DSIC specifically, were written within a predominantly Christian context, the prayers we use are essentially Christian prayers (or Abrahamic generally in the case of the Key of Solomon or the Abramelin). That being said, prayers and process work no matter what religion you practice; the only thing I wouldn’t recommend is if you partake in the Holy Eucharist of Mass if you’re not baptized in the church. However, I do recognize that many people aren’t comfortable with Christian prayers or calling upon Jesus—and, after all, one of the whole reasons for my writing this series of posts to begin with is to analyze the DSIC ritual to both flesh it out as well as have a firm foundation in what it’s specifically doing so I can make my own less-Christian more-Hermetic approach for my own purposes that more closely aligns with my general practices. If you’re not comfortable with these prayers as given by DSIC and other grimoires in the Western magical tradition, then I think Fr. AC’s advice in GTSC is solid here: sit with the ritual (like I am now), and compose your own prayers that match the wording and intent of the original as closely as possible ahead of time. Fr. RO does this in RWC and SS, and I’ve seen a few other variants over the years (mostly privately shared) to make them less Jesus-y and more Hermetic-y or Hellenic-y. This is an acceptable variation and, if done right, won’t have an impact on the effect of the ritual.

Though, that said, I personally question the logic of conjuring angels who by definition are subject to God and who are not the various gods or goddesses or divinities of other pantheons without also having at least some token or intellectual acceptance of the existence of God. I find a belief in God, whether you want to conceive of the God of Abraham or the Nous of Hermēs Trismegistus or the One of Plato or the philosophical Zeus Pantokrator of other Hellenic philosophers and theurges, to be more than simply useful in these sorts of rituals. I can’t tell you how to live your life, nor can I tell you what you ought to believe, but while the wording of the prayers can be changed in DSIC, the fundamental cosmology it taps into with God, the One, the Summum Bonum at the top isn’t so flexible. There is a notion of a divine hierarchy and ultimate power upon whom we call, can enter into, and serve as divine ambassadors of authority and True Will that’s part of Hermetic practice that I cannot divest my perspectives, practices, or DSIC from. While I don’t doubt that there are ways around this, I can’t think of any that would make sense to me at the moment, so I won’t try to come up with them. I will be taking a monistic approach to divinity for the sake of the later DSIC posts; whether you want to interpret this as monotheistic (as in Abrahamic traditions), monolatric (worshiping only one god without denying the existence of others), or polytheism with a single central authority (as is common in many of the PGM texts and other Hermetic or proto-Hermetic works) is up to you.  We’ll return to the notion of a de-Christianized DSIC later on in this series.

Anyway, back to the topic of prayer. Though I don’t think the extreme length of a lunar month or of 40 days is necessary, I do like Agrippa’s method best here for how we go about the daily prayer (book IV, chapter 10). Basically, we first set up our temple space, including exorcising and cleansing it, and set up the altar for the conjuration, but keeping the necessary things covered with a clean white linen cloth. Every day, we purify ourselves, get changed into our temple garments, burn sacred lights (which ideally shouldn’t go out during the preparatory period, changing them out as necessary), burn sacred incense, and pray at the altar as we need. On the day of the ritual, we cleanse ourselves one last time, anoint ourselves with oil, and pray (which effectively consecrates us for the ritual, too!), then we uncover the consecrated objects on the altar and perform the conjuration.

But this all assumes we know how to set up the temple space generally and the altar of conjuration specifically, and we haven’t touched on that yet. We will next time.