On Repurposing Ritual Parts for New Practices

This PGM train won’t stop, at least, not yet.  I hope you’re not bored of this talk of the Greek Magical Papyri, dear reader, because there’s so many awesome things about it, not least for its historical value in understanding some of the origins and foundations of Western magical practice as we know it today and how their rediscovery continues to shape it in modern occulture, but because of all the wonderful techniques they contain.  And just think: what we have in Betz’s famous translation is still only a fraction of what’s still out there, both discovered and undiscovered, translated and untranslated.

So, I meant to have this post out shortly after the ritual writeup of the Royal Ring of Abrasax was put up, but then the last post happened where I also introduced it, so…whoopsie.  Anyway, this ritual, PGM XII.201—269, describes the consecration of a kind of ring of power, “useful for every magical operation and for success”, which it claims is constantly sought after by kings and other types of rulers.  In a sense, this particular ring can act as a general phylactery or protective charm against spirits in magical works and conjurations as well as a charm for success, victory, and fortune in all of one’s endeavors.  In some sense, it can be considered something resembling a conceptual forerunner of the Ring of Solomon known to later magicians; this isn’t to say that PGM XII.201—269 is an ancestor of the Ring of Solomon, but it indicates a transition of magical rings and how they evolved from simple empowerment and fortune charms into phylacteries and guarantors of magical success.  If you haven’t seen my write-up and analysis yet, it’s up under the Occult → Classical Hermetic Rituals menu.  Take a look!  It’s a fine example of a solid Graeco-Egyptian consecration ritual which can be seen as a kind of forerunner to later Hermetic and Solomonic ones.

The reason why I’ve been looking over this ritual is because Gordon White over at Rune Soup used this ritual as his (only) group exercise for his recent 2018 Q2 course on the PGM.  It’s an excellent course, as I’ve mentioned before, especially as it focuses less on the actual rituals present in the PGM and more about the background, context, development, and general methodology behind them.  Of course, it’s not like Gordon only wanted to just talk about them, but he wanted to get people up and running with them in a sensible way that involves some measure of rigor and spiritual connection.  For that purpose, Gordon set up a group exercise for those participating in the course to recite a portion of PGM XII.201—269 as a kind of semi-self-initiation before other PGM work.  As to how, specifically, Gordon accomplishes this, I recommend you head over to Rune Soup to check out the members section and go through his course material.  It’s worth the small cost of admission, I claim.  Just because the course is finished doesn’t mean you can’t perform the self-initiation ritual at any time you want or need, especially now that a current-connection has already been established in the same way by quite a number of other magicians.

Gordon explains his reasoning for adapting this ritual for this purpose at the end of the first module of the course.  Essentially, the author (or compiler) of these parts of the PGM texts was, in all likelihood, an actual Egyptian initiated priest who moonlighted as a magician-for-hire.  Because of his initiated status, he had access and license to work with the gods and spirits found in the PGM in such a way that we never can at this point, or at least, not in the same way; those initiations and lineages are long since vanished, and there’s no way to achieve the exact same status as our original author friend; as I’ve discussed before, lineage can make a world of difference when it comes to starting out at the same point of power based on initiation and lineage or the lack thereof.  To that end, Gordon set up a specially-modified form of PGM XII.201—269 as a sort of quick self-initiation into the powers and currents of the PGM to make our future PGM work that much more effective, serving as an introduction to the PGM powers.  Without performing such a self-initiation, it’s possible that we can get some results out of doing PGM work, but not necessarily to the same extent without a formal introduction, for which Gordon’s modified PGM XII.201—269 serves decently enough for any beginner to PGM-style magic.  Plus, it benefits from the fact that it’s a comparatively simple ritual (at least in Gordon’s modified form) without onerous barbarous names of power, which can be terrifying for those new to the PGM.

The Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual is not a particularly complex or difficult ritual to do; sure, there’s a bit of animal sacrifice involved, but that’s nothing that we can’t work with, either by actually bleeding the required birds or by making a sincere and appropriate substitution (I go over one such method in my write-up for those who are unable or unwilling to perform such a sacrifice, and for more information, check out my last post).  The main hymn of it is rather beautiful, but it also struck me as familiar, and I wasn’t entirely sure why that was the case.  It was some of the footnotes from Betz that tipped me off; part of the hymn was annotated with a reference to PGM XIII.734—1077, which titles itself the Tenth Book of Moses, from which the Heptagram Rite comes (along with its smaller variant the Calling of the Sevenths, aka Heptasphere).  The preliminary invocation of the Heptagram Rite (at least in its Major form that I’ve written about) is basically the entirety of the main hymn of the Royal Ring of Abrasax, just fleshed out with more barbarous names of power, including close variants of the same barbarous name that the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual centers around.  This was fantastic to discover on its own, that these two PGM sections from different papyri could be tied together in this way, but there was another part to discover; the end of the Tenth Book of Moses (after the Heptagram Rite is discussed) introduces a consecration for a particular kind of phylactery that, itself, bears many parallels to the consecration ritual of the Royal Ring of Abrasax.  So, not only do we have a near-identical prayer in these two PGM sections, but we even have a rough match of a consecration for a charm of power and protection!  Finding two such similar rituals in close proximity within the same PGM would be one thing (a la the Eighth Book of Moses from PGM XIII.1—343, 343—646, and 646—734), but this is an even more important realization.  It either indicates that both papyri were compiled or written by the same author, or that two separate authors had the same source for almost the same procedures; I’m not sure which is more likely, but both are exciting things.

However, the parallel parts between PGM XII.201—269 and PGM XIII.734—1077 are separated by quite a lot of content, and what’s present in one is not used in the same way as it’s used in the other.  The near-identical hymn that’s present in both is used for two radically different rituals: in PGM XII.201—269, it’s used as part of a consecration of a charm, and in PGM XIII.734—1077, it’s used as part of (what is essentially) a theurgic ritual.  It’s an interesting example of using the same ritual act or performance for different ends, especially because it’s in the source text of the PGM which we all admire and love.  What this indicates to me is that there’s an implicit acknowledgment that certain things can be used in different ways, a kind of magical upcycling or repurposing of techniques.  This isn’t particularly uncommon; after all, consider the PGM-style framing rite I put out a few days ago.  The vast majority of that is slapped together from a variety of PGM sources, picking and choosing this and that to come up with a more-or-less unified whole.  Heck, one of the sources I picked some techniques from, PGM IV.930—1114 (the Conjuration of Light under Darkness ritual) itself has the markers of being slapped together from two different rituals for different purposes brought into a more-or-less unified whole.  What I did to come up with my framing rite may not sit well with PGM-focused grimoire purists, but it’s solidly within the same tradition and following the same meta-methodology that’s present within the PGM itself.

Consider our modern use of PGM V.96—172, the Headless Rite.  Originally, it was intended as a simple exorcism, but thanks to the innovations of Aleister Crowley, it was adapted into a theurgic self-empowerment and self-elevation ritual, and the way he did it allows for further customizations to be made.  Where Crowley changed “deliver NN. from the demon that restrains him” to “hear me and make all spirits subject unto me” (a reuse of one of the last lines of the ritual), other adaptations can be made to the Headless Rite that can turn it from an exorcism ritual into a banishing, empowering, or theurgic ritual:

  • Exorcism: “Deliver NN. from the demon that restrains him!”
    • Here, NN. is the name of the person to be exorcised.
    • This is the original “rubric” as used in the PGM version of the text, since this was originally intended as an exorcism ritual.
  • Banishing: “Deliver me, NN., from any and all demons, death, defilement, illness, impurity, infirmity, pain, plague, or poison that restrains me!”
    • Here, NN. is your own name.
  • Empowering: “Subject to me all spirits so that every spirit whether heavenly or ethereal, upon the earth or under the earth, on dry land or in the water, of whirling air or rushing fire, and every spell and scourge of God may be obedient to me!”
    • This is the version used in Liber Samekh, which is just a more fleshed-out version of the charge used for donning the coronet, as discussed below.
  • K&CHGA: “Send to me my neverborn friend and guardian, my supernatural assistant, my agathodaimon, my holy guardian angel!  Send to me the spirit NN. whose duty it is to guide, lead, assist, and protect me through this and all lives!”
    • Here, NN. in this case refers to the name of the guardian angel, if known.  Otherwise, omit the use of a name entirely and refer to the guardian angel generally.

Consider also our modern use of the Orphic Hymns, especially those for the planets.  One of my good colleagues suggests that the original use of the Orphic Hymns were that they were to all be sung in succession as a kind of diagnostic theurgic rite so as to call out specific divinities that might be affecting someone at a given time, and not necessarily that individual hymns were to be used on their own.  Yet, magicians have been using them for centuries as individual prayers for individual entities outside their original contexts; consider what Cornelius Agrippa has to say about them in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy (book I, chapter 71):

Besides, with the divers sorts of the names of the Stars, they command us to call upon them by the names of the Intelligencies, ruling over the Stars themselves, of which we shall speak more at large in their proper place. They that desire further examples of these, let them search into the hymns of Orpheus, then which nothing is more efficatious in naturall Magick, if they together with their circumstances, which wise men know, be used according to a due harmony, with all attention.

After all, most people in the modern Hermetic/astrological magic scene (especially those who work outside the Golden Dawn and similar systems) are familiar with the use of the Orphic Hymns for the planets and use them in their rituals, whether as a kind of daily adoration of the ruling planet of the day or as part of a chant for the consecration of a planetary talisman during an election of that planet or for other purposes.  For instance, as a gesture of worship to Hermēs, I recite his Orphic Hymn whenever I enter a post office, no matter the day or time; this is certainly a modern adaptation of the use of such a prayer, and one that wouldn’t fit into any classical scheme except the broadest notions of “general worship”, but it goes to show that bits and pieces of ritual and religious texts can be used in ways that may not have been anticipated by their original authors, yet work well all the same for their new purpose.

In a similar vein, consider the use of the Psalms of the Old Testament.  These were originally devised as songs for worship, celebration, and religious meditation, yet parts of them have been in use in a variety of religious rituals and ceremonies; consider the Asperges Me, a few lines of Psalm 51 that’s recited in some Catholic Masses as well as in folk ceremonies of purification.  Heck, consider the wide and deep practice of psalm-based magic, where particular psalms are recited, either on their own or accompanying other ritual acts such as dressing and lighting candles.  A good example of a similar type of Old Testament-based magic is that of Draja Mickaharic’s Magical Spells of the Minor Prophets, where Mickaharic describes how to use individual verses of the minor prophetical books from the Old Testament for a variety of magical ends, including one chapter where every verse from an entire book can be used magically.  This is definitely magical repurposing on a whole new level, and yet is so firmly grounded and founded in classical magical meta-methodology that it’s hard to see how deep these foundations have been dug.

The trick when repurposing bits and pieces of extant ritual and texts, as always, is to be smart about it.  Cherry-picking without care or caution can get you into a lot of trouble real quickly, because not all individual parts of rituals can be extracted or extrapolated for different use.  For instance, the Conjuration of Light under Darkness is absolutely a conjuration ritual, combined from a lamp divination spell and a theophanic ritual.  However, at a large scale, the Conjuration as a whole cannot be adapted to the conjuration of other entities generally, like how the Trithemian rite of conjuration I use can be used for angels, natal genii, genii loci, and so forth with the right adaptations; instead, it’s pretty specifically geared to the conjuration and communion of one entity.  However, particular parts of this ritual may be used outside of it; I chose the Light-Retaining Charm and the Dismissal of Light, specifically, which kind of come as a set, since if you use one, you need the other.  My whole dismissal prayer I use is cobbled together from two different PGM sources (PGM I.262—347 and PGM VII.930—1114) which work well when mixed together due to overlap of particular phrases, and the fact that they do the same thing.

The compatibility and extensibility of particular techniques, and at what level and for what purpose, is important to consider when trying to pick and pull things together.  This can be difficult with PGM stuff, given the use of barbarous names of power; in general, we don’t know what they mean, and so we don’t know if we’re calling on something generally by their use in a given situation or if we’re calling on something particularly specific for a specific function.  Moreover, we don’t know whether what we’re calling is compatible only with its original context and not with the repurposed one we’re putting it to.  What makes things dicey is that we can’t just omit the barbarous names of power, either; consider Zoroaster’s injunction #155 from the Chaldaean Oracles, “change not the barbarous Names of Evocation for-there are sacred Names in every language which are given by God, having in the Sacred Rites a Power Ineffable”.  The words have power, which is why we say them; to remove the words is to remove the power, and to change the words is to change the power.  Better to use them than not, where present, unless you know precisely what you’re doing and how to get around it.  That’s why one of the reasons it took me so long to cobble together a PGM-style framing rite from off-the-shelf PGM pieces, because I needed to make sure that they were either naturally general enough to be used, or could safely be made general while still being effective as well as compatible with the other parts I was using.

The reuse of the hymn to the Agathos Daimōn between the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual and the Major Heptagram Rite presents us with a unique opportunity, then, to see how one particular magical technique can be repurposed and even reworded; note that the Royal Ring of Abrasax version of the hymn contains far fewer barbarous names, indicating that—perhaps—not all of those are needed here for this purpose, or their use would have been more appropriate to a theurgic ritual rather than a consecration ritual, or that their use was not needed at all for the sake of praising and honoring the Agathos Daimōn.  Noting how the same prayer can be used in different rituals, it’s also easy (and, I’d argue, fruitful) to think how the prayer can be used in other contexts, such as in a daily prayer routine alongside other PGM-derived prayers like PGM IV.1115—1167 (the Hymn of the Hidden Stele, which has no purpose stated either as a header or as part of this section of the PGM) or PGM IV.1167—1226 (the Stele of Aiōn, which works as both a powerful prayer generally as well as being “useful for all things; it even delivers from death”).

When going about cobbling together from parts of other rituals (PGM or otherwise), I would recommend to a few questions to bear in mind to make sure you’re on the right track:

  1. Have you studied or, even better, performed the original ritual you’re choosing parts from to get an intimate understanding of what it does, both as a collection of ritual parts and as a unified whole?
  2. What is the nature of the original rituals, both as a whole and as parts, and how does it compare with the goal of the new ritual, both as a whole and as parts?
  3. What entities are being called upon in the original ritual, and do they conflict with other entities from other original rituals?
  4. Does the part of the original ritual being chosen require something else to be done with it, or can it stand alone on its own?
  5. Can the part being chosen from the original ritual be picked up and used as it is, or does it require modifications to wording or performance?
  6. Does the original ritual use barbarous or divine names of power?  Does the intent behind them in the context of the original ritual work for a different use?
  7. Can the charge or purpose of the part being chosen from the original ritual be modified or generalized while still keeping true to the power of the original ritual?
  8. Is taking a part from an original ritual really needed?  Is that part serving an actual use or function within the cosmological and methodological understanding of the new ritual?
  9. Is a new ritual being put together from parts of original rituals necessary, or will an original ritual suffice, either with or without modifications to charges, commands, or ritual implements?

There is value in knowing and understanding the dozens, hundreds of rituals in the PGM, or in any system or tradition or collection of magical works, and accomplished magicians can pull any ritual they need from their handbooks or private collections to accomplish anything they need or want.  However, there is at least as much value in being able to understand the parts of those same rituals, know what works, know what can be extended or abridged or adapted, and being able to whip something up (big or small) from parts off the shelf that’s at least as effective because they know how to plug certain ritual actions into each other.  The trick is being smart about it and knowing what can—and should—plug into what.

On Elemental Assignments of the Geomantic Figures

It’s a constant joy for me to see the discussions on the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook, and it’s not just because I enjoy wielding power as an admin over scores of people.  Seeing people contribute geomantic charts and offer community feedback on them, as well as being able to read different perspectives on symbols and techniques used in geomancy, helps me out as much as it does anyone else; while I may be good at geomancy, and no matter how long I practice it or delve into its mysteries, I still consider myself a student in the art, because there’s always more to learn and appreciate.  After all, with only 16 figures to represent the multiple myriads of people, things, circumstances, and events in the cosmos, there’s a lot to unpack in the art.

Occasionally, someone will ask a question about geomancy that will get me to my proper computer to type a proper response, which would be burdensome on my phone.  Recently, someone asked just such a question, and this time about one of the bits of geomantic systems I really enjoy discussing: that of the elemental rulerships of the figures.  The forum member was in a state of confusion about how the elements were assigned to the figures, what the difference was between inner and outer elemental rulerships, and whether these rulerships had any system at all behind them or whether they were just spurious and irrelevant.  You can bet your last coin I gave a response to this, especially to that last part of the question.

First, let’s talk about the inner versus outer element.  This is a distinction I’ve only ever seen in John Michael Greer’s out-of-print book Earth Divination, Earth Magic (1999) and his later and more up-dated The Art and Practice of Geomancy (2009).  In short, the outer element of a figure is the element of the sign of the Zodiac he associates with a geomantic figure, while the inner element is more closely tied to the nature and elemental structure of the figure itself.  From “The Art and Practice of Geomancy” (pp. 33 and 34, emphasis his):

One of the four elements is considered to be the inner element of the figure.  In every case but one—Populus, which has no manifest elements at all—the inner element is a manifest element, marked by a single dot.  The inner element is also called the ruling element, and it stands for the elemental pattern that the figure expresses most intently.  Pay attention to the ruling elements in divination and you’ll have a useful key to the way the events that are predicted or analyzed in a divination unfold in daily life. …

Each figure also has an outer element, which relates to the flow of elemental energies through the sixteen figures in their traditional sequence…  In a few cases this element is the same as the inner element, but usually it’s different.  The outer element shows how the figure expresses itself in the world around it, while the inner element shows what kind of power is in the figure itself.  Fortuna Major, for example, has Fire as its outer element, which represents its power to reshape the world in a favorable way.  The figure’s inner element, however, is Earth, which means its power comes not from rushing around, but from establishing itself solidly and letting everything else move around it.

And again from “Earth Divination, Earth Magic” (pp. 26—27):

Each of the figures contains all of the elements, as we’ve seen, but in geomantic tradition one or another element also has a dominant role in each figure.  There are at least as many ways of assigning the elements to the figures in this way as there are for linking the figures with the Zodiacal signs.  Two of them seem to work well in divination.  The first of these simply uses the elements that correspond to the Zodiacal signs just given.  This set, which I have called the “outer elements” of the figures, has much to do with the way the geomantic figures express their energies in practical terms. …

The second set of elemental correspondences comes from the geomancer and magician Cornelius Agrippa, who provided several different systems but labeled this one an “esoteric arrangement.”  I have found that it does a good job of summarizing the dynamics of the elemental structure of each figure, and it can be thought of as the ruling element within each figure.  I have made one change in the system as Agrippa gives it; he assigned Laetitia to Air and Rubeus to Fire, but I have reversed these in order to bring the inner element and the elemental structure into harmony.

Just to be clear about what JMG is referencing from Agrippa, the following is taken from Of Geomancy, found in Cornelius Agrippa’s Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy:

Now we proceed to declare with what Planets these Figures are distributed; for hereupon all the propriety and nature of Figures and the judgement of the whole Art dependeth: Therefore the greater and lesser Fortune are ascribed to the Sun; but the first or greater Fortune is when the Sun is diurnall, and posited in his dignities; the other, or lesser Fortune is when the Sun is nocturnall, or placed in lesse dignities: Via, and Populus that is, the Way, and People are referred to the Moone; the first from her beginning and encreasing, the second from her full light and quarter decreasing; Acquisitio, and Laetitia which is Gaine, Profit; Joy and Gladness are of Jupiter: But the first hath Jupiter the greater Fortune, the second the lesse, but without detriment: Puella, and Amissio are of Venus; the first fortunate, the other as it were retrograde, or combust: Conjunctio and Albus are both Figures of Mercury, and are both good; but the first the more Fortunate: Puer and Rubeus are Figures ascribed to Mars; the first whereof hath Mars benevolent, the second malevolent: Carcer, and Tristitia are both Figures of Saturn, and both evill; but the first of the greater detriment: the Dragons head, and Dragons tayle doe follow their owne natures.

And these are the infallible comparisons of the Figures, and from these wee may easily discerne the equality of their signes; therefore the greater and lesser Fortunes have the signes of Leo, which is the House of the Sun: Via and Populus have the signe of Cancer, which is the House of the Moone: Acquisitio hath for his signe Pisces; and Laetitia Sagitary, which are both the Houses of Jupiter: Puella hath the signe of Taurus, and Amissio of Libra, which are the Houses of Venus: Conjunctio hath for its signe Virgo, and Albus the signe Gemini, the Houses of Mercury: Puella and Rubeus have for their signe Scorpio, the House of Mars: Carcer hath the signe Capricorne, and Tristitia Aquary, the Houses of Saturne : The Dragons head and taile are thus divided, the head to Capricorne, and the Dragons taile adhereth to Scorpio; and from hence you may easily obtaine the triplicities of these signs after the manner of the triplicities of the signes of the Zodiak: Puer therefore, both Fortunes, and Laetitia do govern the fiery triplicity; Puella, ConjunctioCarcer, and the Dragons head the earthly triplicity: Albus, Amitia, and Tristitia, doe make the Airy triplicity: and Via, Populus, and Rubeus, with the Dragons taile, and Acquisitio do rule the watry triplicity, and this order is taken according to the course of manner of the signes.

But if any one will constitute these triplicities according to the nature of the Planets, and Figures themselves, let him observe this Rule, that Fortuna major, Rubeus, Puer, and Amissio doe make the fiery triplicity: Fortune minor, Puella, Laetitia and Conjunctio triplicity of the Ayre: Acquisitio, the Dragons taile, Via, and Populus doe governe the watry triplicity; and the earthly triplicity is ruled by Carcer, Tristitia, Albus, and the Dragons head. And this way is rather to be observed then the first which we have set forth; because it is constituted according to the Rule and manner of the signes.

This order is also far more true and rationall then that which vulgarly is used, which is described after this manner: of the Fiery triplicity are, Cauda, Fortuna minor, Amissio, and Rubeus: of the Airy triplicity are, Acquisitio, Laetitia, Puer, and Conjunctio: of the watry triplicity are, Populus, Via, Albus, and Puella: And Caput, Fortuna major, Carcer, and Tristitia are of the earthly triplicity.

They doe likewise distribute these Figures to the twelve signes of the Zodiak, after this manner, Acquisitio is given to Aries; Fortuna, both major and minor to Taurus; Laetitia to the signe Gemini; Puella and Rubeus to Cancer; Albus is assigned to Leo, Via to Virgo; the Dragons head, and Conjunctio to Libra; Puer is submitted to Scorpio; Tristitia and Amissio are assigned to Sagitary; the Dragons taile to Capricorne; Populus to Aquarius; and Carcer is assigned the signe Pisces.

As it turns out, Agrippa gives three separate ways to associate the elements with the geomantic figures:

  • The first is given at the end of the second paragraph, where Agrippa associates the elements to the figures based on the sign of the Zodiac he gives them.  This largely matches with JMG’s outer element, but note that Agrippa doesn’t give the figures to the signs in a modern planetary method, e.g. giving Cauda Draconis to Scorpio instead of Sagittarius, or Laetitia to Sagittarius instead of Pisces.
  • The second is given in the third paragraph, where Agrippa associates the elements to the figures “according to the nature of the Planets and Figures themselves”, and is not present in JMG’s books.  While Agrippa does not explain the elemental nature of the planets in this text, it doesn’t match with the elemental associations he gives in either book I, chapters 23—29 or book II, chapter 7 of his Three Books of Occult Philosophy.
  • The third is given in the fourth paragraph, where Agrippa gives a “vulgar” system which matches up with JMG’s inner element, noting the swap between Rubeus and Laetitia to Air and Fire, respectively, as JMG noted.

The simultaneous use of two systems of elemental attribution for the figures is an innovation by JMG, and is found nowhere else in the geomantic literature; in almost all cases, a given book on geomancy describes only one system of elemental attribution, and it’s usually the “vulgar” one that Agrippa gives; only after Agrippa’s time do we start to see the rise of the sign-based system.  Interestingly, it’s this same “vulgar” system that Agrippa gives in book II, chapter 48 of his Three Books of Occult Philosophy, with no mention of either the sign-based attribution of the elements or the planet-based attribution of the signs, indicating he either had a change of heart or that Of Geomancy (and the Fourth Book generally) was a spurious text that was only published under his name.

To show which systems were used where in the European geomantic literature, I went through some of my books and texts and came up with the following table showing which author used what elemental rulership system for the figures.  This is by no means a complete or exhaustive list, but just a small sample of texts to show how varied this can get between authors.

Figure Agrippa
Sign-based
(1655)
Agrippa
Planet-based
(1655)
Agrippa
Vulgar
(1655)
John
Heydon
(1663)
John
Case
(1697)
Robert
Fludd
(1687)
Christopher
Cattan
(1591)
Populus Water Water Water Water Water Water Water
Via Water Water Water Water Water Water Water
Albus Air Earth Water Air Air Water Water
Coniunctio Earth Air Air Earth Earth Air Air
Puella Earth Air Water Air Air Water Water
Amissio Earth Fire Fire Earth Earth Fire Fire
Fortuna Maior Fire Fire Earth Fire Fire Earth Earth
Fortuna Minor Fire Air Fire Air Air Fire Fire
Puer Fire Fire Air Fire Fire Air Air
Rubeus Water Fire Fire Water Water Fire Fire
Acquisitio Water Water Air Fire Fire Air Air
Laetitia Fire Air Air Water Water Air Air
Tristitia Air Earth Earth Air Air Earth Earth
Carcer Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth
Caput Draconis Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth
Cauda Draconis Water Water Fire Fire Fire Earth Fire

In general, including other texts like Pietro d’Abano’s Geomantia (1544) and the anonymous 15th century ce Lectura Geomantiae, geomantic authors typically use Agrippa’s “vulgar” system, which is basically the traditional system used by Gerard of Cremona and others, along with JMG and myself (though we use a slight variant where Laetitia is given to Fire and Rubeus to Air).  John Case in his “The Angelical Guide Shewing Men and Women Their Lott or Chance in this Elementary Life” uses Agrippa’s sign-based elemental system, though without using Agrippa’s planet-based sign system (instead, Case uses a modified form of the zodiacal attribution system of Gerard of Cremona).  John Heydon in his Theomagia uses Agrippa’s sign-based system (book I, chapters 19 through 21) with some modifications that bring it in line with what’s commonly used in modern times (book I, chapter 5), and upon which the geomantic texts of the Golden Dawn are based.  Interestingly, late though it is, Franz Hartmann’s The Principles of Astrological Geomancy (1889) preserves the older “vulgar” system.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much in the way of older sources; what little I have of Hugo of Santalla’s 12th century ce work on geomancy doesn’t mention the elements; Thérèse Charmasson’s “Recherches sur une technique divinatoire: la géomancie dans l’Occident médiéval” (1982) mentions an Arabic method of assigning the figures to the elements, which matches up with the “vulgar” system for the most part with some changes, though I don’t know the provenance of her source for this specific system (with the six figures that don’t match in italics):

  • Fire: Laetitia, Puer, Populus, Fortuna Maior
  • Air: Rubeus, Caput Draconis, Coniunctio, Acquisitio
  • Water: Albus, Via, Cauda Draconis, Amissio
  • Earth: Tristitia, Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Puella

So much for where JMG’s outer vs. inner system came from.  As already mentioned before on this blog, I use the same inner elemental system JMG uses, including the Laetitia/Rubeus elemental swap, as I find that it’s an elegant system that reflects the underlying overall element that represents a geomantic figure; with the exception of Populus, the ruling element of a figure will be active/manifest/present in that figure.   Not only do I find that such a system accurately represents the nature and expression of that figure, the same system also allows for a secondary sub-ruler to be assigned, so that each figure has a primary ruler and a secondary ruler, such that e.g. Amissio is primarily Fire and secondarily Water.  This is an innovation of my own that I have found nowhere else in the geomantic literature, and I find that it helps to give some more insight into the symbolism and nature of the figures.

The only thing I can’t rightly answer regarding the inner element system is the historical attribution of Laetitia to Air and Rubeus to Fire.  I agree with JMG that these two should be switched so as to bring the elements active in these figures in accord with their overall ruling element, and I can’t rightly say why they Laetitia was given to Air and Rubeus to Fire in so many older texts.  It’s a possibility that, perhaps, JMG and I are in the right and this is how the system was originally, but a typo early on got propagated from one text to the next, though that notion seems far-fetched even to me, even if similar typos and mixed-up attributions have happened and been propagated as widely and as long as that (e.g. a common such swap is that of the names of Puer and Puella in texts while keeping the rest of their significations the same, even in Fludd).  If the inner element system was not originally based on the elemental structures of the figures themselves, then I’m at a loss to describe what they would be based on unless it was a Septuagint-like miracle that the interpretations of the figures were so closely aligned to the elemental structures of the figures for so many past geomancers for so long.  In any case, the elemental structure-based system of ruling elements that I use and that JMG uses for his inner elements works well, and has a definite logic and reason for it.

That said, however, I do not use two simultaneous systems of overall ruling elements as JMG uses his inner and outer element systems.  In general, I have three issues with the use of an “outer element” system like how JMG describes it.  The simplest is that I find that it confuses the rulership system of the figures to have two co-ruling elements of a figure.  Unlike having a primary and secondary ruler, JMG has two rulers that are to be used in different contexts, but his distinction between those contexts doesn’t make sense to me.  The notion of a figure expressing itself externally differently from how it expresses itself doesn’t sit well with me, because a figure is single and simple; it doesn’t have an indoor voice and outdoor voice, or comfy at-home pants versus a dressed-up suit for the office; to me, a figure is a figure, and it expresses how it is in the way it is by the virtue of what it is.  Coniunctio’s nature, for instance, is about connection and conjunction and meeting and discussion, all of which are inherently airy things; it doesn’t do so with a mind to bring about earthy results, nor does it become an earthy figure when put next to anything else.  To have two “modes” for interpreting the figures here leads to confusion more than it does clarity, and I haven’t found it to be worth the trouble.

The second issue I have is that JMG’s outer element (or Agrippa’s sign/planet-based assignment) system is reliant on a “man in the middle” between the geomantic figures and the elements we’re trying to associate them with.  Rather than associate the figures directly with the elements, we first assign them to the signs of the Zodiac, and then link the signs of the Zodiac to the elements.  The outer element system has us taking two steps to get to our destination (figure → sign → element) rather than just one step (figure → element), and given the choice between a direct versus indirect assignment method, I’ll always take the direct one.  It’s a slippery slope to take indirect associations, especially when you increase the number of steps, because then you end up Liber 777ing everything to link everything to everything else, which becomes a muddled mess.  Here it’s not so bad, but even still, if you have a direct association available, I’d consider that to be inherently more worthy of consideration than any indirect one.

The third issue I have is the most practical: there are multiple ways of assigning the geomantic figures to the zodiac signs, and therefore there would be multiple ways to assign an outer element to the figures.  While the Agrippa- or Heydon-style method of assigning the figures to the zodiac signs is common in modern practice, even into the modern age, the older system of Gerard of Cremona (which is ultimately based on an early assignment of the figures to the 28 mansions of the Moon) is still seen, and I find that this latter system is much more effective in divination and analysis of the figures than the Agrippa/Heydon method (which itself is based on the assignments of the planets to the figures).  The elements of the signs from the Cremona system do not match with the Agrippa/Heydon system, even if it is a valid “outer element” system according to the reasoning JMG gives; were I to talk about outer elements with someone else who used the Agrippa/Heydon zodiacal system without saying what system I used, this would lead to confusion and bickering that “Albus is a watery figure!” “You’re wrong, it’s an airy one!” “Nuh-uh!” ad nauseam.  By using the inner element system, we sidestep such issues in discussion entirely, as well as reducing the number of systems we’d need to pay attention to; plus, as I’ve mentioned before, using an outer element system at all doesn’t seem particularly worthwhile to me even on its own merits.

So, to summarize all the above, some TL;DR points:

  • Inner element vs. outer element is a distinction only JMG uses.
  • Use the inner element system to understand the rulerships of the figures.
  • The outer element system doesn’t matter (at best) and can get you in trouble (at worst).

Now, all that said, let me answer that last question the forum member on Facebook asked: are such associations irrelevant?  By no means!  Each system of correspondences and attributions to the figures gives us deeper insights into how the figures represent the myriad things of the cosmos and how they play out in interpretation, as well as revealing to us their deeper spiritual meaning on their own.  For the vast majority of such correspondences, each is grounded in deeper systems of logic and reason that tie geomancy into broader systems of occult knowledge; only in a handful of cases are they spurious, and they’re either shown to be wrong with a bit of experimentation and analysis, or are shown to be valid through analysis of repeated results that show a trend to be followed, which can then be used to further enhance and empower the overall system of geomancy as we have it.  Only in a very few cases would something like divine revelation or unverified personal gnosis come into play, and it’d still be recommended to test them out both in divination and against existing systems of correspondence before putting them into practice.

For something as large-scale and encompassing as the elemental rulerships of the figures, especially since it’s based on a thorough analysis of the nature of each figure interpretatively as well as structurally, I would consider this to definitely fall on the relevant and not-spurious side of things, especially given how useful the system is to the analysis of each figure, both as a cosmos unto itself as well as a factor in a divination reading with the other figures.  And, even if you do like using the outer element system, I can only argue against it so much; even if I have my own thoughts and opinions on the subject, I must still admit and agree that it’s important to understand the different associations of the figures regardless of author or method so to get an encompassing understanding of how the figures have been understood across the centuries, and then based on your own experience and studies, pick one that works best for you.

On Geomantic Figures, Zodiac Signs, and Lunar Mansions

Geomantic figures mean a lot of things; after all, we only have these 16 symbols to represent the entire rest of the universe, or, as a Taoist might call it, the “ten-thousand things”.  This is no easy task, and trying to figure out exactly how to read a particular geomantic figure in a reading is where real skill and intuition come into play.  It’s no easy thing to determine whether we should interpret Puer as just that, a young boy, or a weapon of some kind, or an angry person, or head trauma or headaches, or other things depending on where we find it in a chart, what’s around it, what figures generated it, and so forth.

Enter the use of correspondence tables.  Every Western magician loves these things, which simply link a set of things with another set of things.  Think of Liber 777 or Stephen Skinner’s Complete Magician’s Tables or Agrippa’s tables of Scales; those are classic examples of correspondence tables, but they don’t always have to be so expansive or universal.  One-off correspondences, like the figures to the planets or the figures to the elements, are pretty common and usually all we need.

One such correspondence that many geomancers find useful is that which links the geomantic figures to the signs of the Zodiac.  However, there are two such systems I know of, which confuses a lot of geomancers who are unsure of which to pick or when they work with another geomancer who uses another system.

  • The planetary method (or Agrippan method) assigns the zodiac signs to the figures based on the planet and mobility of the figure.  Thus, the lunar figures (Via and Populus) are given to the lunar sign (Cancer), and the solar figures (Fortuna Major and Fortuna Minor) are given to the solar sign (Leo).  For the other planet/figures, the mobile figure is given to the nocturnal/feminine sign and the stable figure to the diurnal/masculine sign; thus, Puella (stable Venus) is given to Libra (diurnal Venus) and Amissio (mobile Venus) is given to Taurus (nocturnal Venus).  This system doesn’t work as well for Mars (both of whose figures are mobile) and Saturn (both of whose figures are stable), but we can say that Puer is more stable that Rubeus and Amissio more stable than Carcer.  Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis are analyzed more in terms of their elements and both considered astrologically (not geomantically) mobile, and given to the mutable signs of their proper elements.
  • The method of Gerard of Cremona is found in his work “On Astronomical Geomancy”, which is more of a way to draw up a horary astrological chart without respect for the actual heavens themselves in case one cannot observe them or get to an ephemeris at the moment.  He lists his own way to correspond the figures to the signs, but there’s no immediately apparent way to figure out the association.

Thus, the geomantic figures are associated with the signs of the Zodiac in the following ways according to their methods:

Planetary Gerard of Cremona
Populus Cancer Capricorn
Via Leo
Albus Gemini Cancer
Coniunctio Virgo Virgo
Puella Libra Libra
Amissio Taurus Scorpio
Fortuna Maior Leo Aquarius
Fortuna Minor Taurus
Puer Aries Gemini
Rubeus Scorpio
Acquisitio Sagittarius Aries
Laetitia Pisces Taurus
Tristitia Aquarius Scorpio
Carcer Capricorn Pisces
Caput Draconis Virgo Virgo
Cauda Draconis Virgo Sagittarius

As you can see, dear reader, there’s not much overlap between these two lists, so it can be assumed that any overlap is coincidental.

In my early days, I ran tests comparing the same set of charts but differing in how I assigned the zodiac signs to the figures, and found out that although the planetary method is neat and clean and logical, it was Gerard of Cremona’s method that worked better and had more power in it.  This was good to know, and I’ve been using Gerard of Cremona’s method ever since, but it was also kinda frustrating since I couldn’t see any rhyme or reason behind it.

The other day, I was puzzled by how Gerard of Cremona got his zodiacal correspondences for the geomantic figures, so I started plotting out how the Zodiac signs might relate to the figures.  I tried pretty much everything I could think of: looking at the planetary domicile, exaltation, and triplicity didn’t get me anywhere, and trying to compare the signs with their associated houses (Aries with house I, Taurus with house II, etc.) and using the planetary joys of each house didn’t work, either.  Comparing the individual figures with their geomantic element and mobility/stability with the element and quality of the sign (cardinal, fixed, mutable) didn’t get me anywhere.  I was stuck, and started thinking along different lines: either Gerard of Cremona was using another source of information, or he made it up himself.  If it were that latter, I’d be frustrated since I’d have to backtrack and either backwards-engineer it or leave it at experience and UPG that happens to work, and I don’t like doing that.

Gerard of Cremona wrote in the late medieval period, roughly around the 12th century, which is close to when geomancy was introduced into Europe through Spain.  Geomancy was, before Europe, an Arabian art, and I remembered that there is at least one method of associating the geomantic figures with an important part of Arabian magic and astrology: the lunar mansions, also called the Mansions of the Moon.  I recall this system from the Picatrix as well as Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy (book II, chapter 33), and also that it was more important in early European Renaissance magic than it was later on.  On a hunch, I decided to start investigating the geomantic correspondences to the lunar mansions.

Unfortunately, there’s pretty much nothing in my disposal on the lunar mansions in the geomantic literature I know of, but there was something I recall reading.  Some of you might be aware of a Arabic geomantic calculating machine, an image of which circulates around the geomantic blogosphere every so often.  Back in college, I found an analysis of this machine by Emilie Savage-Smith and Marion B. Smith in their 1980 publication “Islamic Geomancy and a Thirteenth-Century Divinatory Device”, and I recall that a section of the text dealt with that large dial in the middle of the machine.  Turns out, that dial links the geomantic figures with the lunar mansions!

However, I honestly couldn’t make heads-or-tails of that dial, and neither could Savage-Smith nor Smith; it dealt with “rising” and “setting” mansions that were out of season but arranged in a way that wasn’t temporal but geometrical according to the figures themselves.  Add to it, the set of lunar mansions associated with the figures here was incomplete and didn’t match what Gerard of Cremona had at all.  However, a footnote in their work gave me another lead, this time to an early European geomantic work associated with Hugo Sanctallensis, the manuscript of which is still extant.  A similar manuscript from around the same time period, Paris Bibliothèque Nationale MS Lat. 7354, was reproduced in Paul Tannery’s chapter on geomancy “Le Rabolion” in his Mémoires Scientifiques (vol. 4).  In that text, Tannery gives the relevant section of the manuscript that, lo and behold, associates the 16 geomantic figures with 21 of the lunar mansions:

Lunar Mansion Geomantic figure
1 Alnath Acquisitio
2 Albotain
3 Azoraya Fortuna Maior
4 Aldebaran Laetitia
5 Almices Puella
6 Athaya Rubeus
7 Aldirah
8 Annathra Albus
9 Atarf
10 Algebha Via
11 Azobra
12 Acarfa
13 Alhaire Caput Draconis
14 Azimech Coniunctio
15 Argafra Puer
16 Azubene
17 Alichil Amissio
18 Alcalb
19 Exaula Tristitia
20 Nahaym Populus
21 Elbeda Cauda Draconis
22 Caadaldeba
23 Caadebolach
24 Caadacohot
25 Caadalhacbia Fortuna Minor
26 Amiquedam
27 Algarf Almuehar
28 Arrexhe  Carcer

(NB: I used the standard Latin names for the figures and Agrippa’s names for the lunar mansions, as opposed to the names given in the manuscript.  Corresponding the mansion names in the manuscript to those of Agrippa, and thus their associated geomantic figures, is tentative in some cases, but the order is the same.)

So now we have a system of 21 of the 28 lunar mansions populated by the geomantic figures.  It’d be nice to have a complete system, but I’m not sure one survives in the literature, and one isn’t given by Tannery.  All the same, however, we have our way to figure out Gerard of Cremona’s method of assigning the zodiac signs to the geomantic figures.  Each sign of the Zodiac is 30° of the ecliptic, but each mansion of the Moon is 12°51’26”, so there’s a bit of overlap between one zodiac sign and several lunar mansions.  As a rule, for every “season” of three zodiac figures (Aries to Gemini, Cancer to Virgo, Libra to Sagittarius, Capricorn to Pisces), we have seven lunar mansions divided evenly among them.  If we compare how each sign of the Zodiac and their corresponding geomantic figure(s) match up with the lunar mansions and their figures from Tannery, we get a pretty neat match:

Zodiac Signs and Figures Lunar Mansion and Figures
1 Aries Acqusitio 1 Alnath Acquisitio
2 Albotain
3 Azoraya Fortuna Maior
2 Taurus Fortuna Minor
Laetitia
4 Aldebaran Laetitia
5 Almices Puella
3 Gemini Puer
Rubeus
6 Athaya Rubeus
7 Aldirah
4 Cancer Albus 8 Annathra Albus
9 Atarf
10 Algebha Via
5 Leo Via
11 Azobra
12 Acarfa
6 Virgo Caput Draconis
Coniunctio
13 Alhaire Caput Draconis
14 Azimech Coniunctio
7 Libra Puella 15 Argafra Puer
16 Azubene
17 Alichil Amissio
8 Scorpio Amissio
Tristitia
18 Alcalb
19 Exaula Tristitia
9 Sagittarius Cauda Draconis
20 Nahaym Populus
21 Elbeda Cauda Draconis
10 Capricorn Populus 22 Caadaldeba
23 Caadebolach
24 Caadacohot
11 Aquarius Fortuna Maior
25 Caadalhacbia Fortuna Minor
26 Amiquedam
12 Pisces Carcer
27 Algarf Almuehar
28 Arrexhe Carcer

If you compare the figures for the zodiac signs, in the majority of cases you see the same figures at least once in a lunar mansion that overlaps that particular sign.  There are a few exceptions to this rule, however:

  • Fortuna Maior and Fortuna Minor are reversed between Gerard of Cremona’s zodiacal system and Tannery’s mansion system, as are Puer and Puella.  I’m pretty sure this is a scribal error, but where exactly it might have occurred (with Gerard of Cremona or before him, in a corrupt copy of Gerard of Cremona, or in Tannery’s manuscript) is hard to tell.
  • Populus, being given to mansion XX present in Sagittarius, is assigned to Capricorn.  If we strictly follow the system above, we get two geomantic figures for Sagittarius and none for Capricorn.  To ensure a complete zodiacal assignment, we bump Populus down a few notches and assign it to Capricorn.

And there you have it!  Now we understand the basis for understanding Gerard of Cremona’s supposedly random system of corresponding the signs of the Zodiac to the geomantic figures, and it turns out that it was based on the lunar mansions and their correspondences to the geomantic figures.  This solves a long-standing problem for me, but it also raises a new one: since we (probably) don’t have an extant complete system of corresponding the lunar mansions to the geomantic figures, how do we fill in the blanks?  In this system, we’re missing geomantic figures for mansions VII, XI, XII, XVIII, XXII, XXIII, and XIV (or, if you prefer, Aldirah, Azobra, Acarfa, Alcalb, Caadaldeba, Caadebolach, Caadacohot, and Caadalhacbia).  All of the geomantic figures are already present, and we know that some figures can cover more than one mansion, so it might be possible that some of the figures should be expanded to cover more than the mansion they already have, e.g. Rubeus covering mansion VI (Athaya), which it already does, in addition to VII (Aldirah), which is currently unassigned.

This is probably a problem best left for another day, but perhaps some more research into the lunar mansions and some experimentation would be useful.  If an Arabic source listing the geomantic figures in a similar way to the lunar mansions could be found, that’d be excellent, but I’m not holding my breath for that kind of discovery anytime soon.

Mathetic Analysis of Agrippa, the Elements, and the Planets

When I got my start in Hermetic magic a few years back, I began with Fr. Rufus Opus’ texts, which basically took Cornelius Agrippa and ran with it.  To be fair, this is an excellent way to start a study of Renaissance-Modern Hermetic occultism, since Agrippa can arguably be said to be the grandfather-text of all modern neopagan and Hermetic books you find in bookstores nowadays.  His three volume (or four, if you count the spurious collection published after his death) compendium of knowledge talked about literally everything that could be talked about when it came to the occult lore and theory of his day.  It’s so important that I and many others still, almost half a millennium later, still reference it frequently and thoroughly, especially his highly usable tables of correspondence.

One of his most useful is the Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7), where Agrippa gives a list of everything that can be broken down into four categories, such as the four evangelists, the four elements, the four archangels, the four rivers of Hell, and so forth.  It’s important here to notice that Agrippa assigns the eight spheres of the cosmos (seven planets plus the fixed stars) to the four elements in the following way:

  • Fire: Mars, Sun
  • Air: Jupiter, Venus
  • Water: Saturn, Mercury
  • Earth: Fixed Stars, Moon

He doesn’t explain in this section why he associates the planets the way he does, but he does so earlier in the series (book I, chapters 23 to 29).  Agrippa describes in these chapters the qualities, natures, correspondences, and associations of each of the seven planets in detail, including their overall natures:

  • Sun: “lucid flame”
  • Moon: “the Earth, then the Water, as well as that of the Sea, as of the Rivers and all moist things”
  • Saturn: “Earth, and also Water”
  • Jupiter: “Air”
  • Mars: “Fire, together with all adust, and sharp things”
  • Venus: “Air, and Water”
  • Mercury: “Water, although it moves all things indistinctly”

So, while Agrippa may give us a clean and organized way to elementally look at the planets in his Scale of Four, the more thorough description of the planets complicates things.  Jupiter is definitely Air, and the Sun and Mars are definitely Fire, and if Mercury is any one thing then it’d be Water (either in spite of or because of how it “moves all things indistinctly”).  Agrippa then goes on to claim (when combined with the Scale of Four) that the Moon is more earthy than watery, Saturn is more watery than earthy, and Venus is more airy than watery.  Based on how he describes things in book I and then how he classifies them in book II, I’d say there’s something more to the picture here.

Going back to the same Scale of Four, Agrippa gives four “qualities of the celestial elements”, which are:

  • Fire: Light
  • Air: Diaphanousness
  • Water: Agility
  • Earth: Solidity

These four qualities relate to the elements in a high, celestial, almost rarefied way; it’s like what the corresponding quality is among superterrestrial and nonelemental entities.  Fire, after all, gives off light; Air allows things to be seen clearly; Water allows things to move swiftly; Earth allows things to be solid or (and?) slow.  Thus, it makes sense for the light-giving Sun to be given to Fire, and clear-yet-bright Jupiter to Air.

Looking at the planetary organization to the elements given in the Scale of Four, notice how Agrippa organizes the planets.  Going from the Earth to Fire, we have the farthest sphere of the heavens (Fixed Stars) going down to the next farthest (Saturn), then the next (Jupiter), then the next (Mars); at this point, we start back with Fire and go back down to Earth, starting with the Sun, then to Venus, then to Mercury, then to the Moon.  By combining our descriptions of the elements with those of the celestial qualities, we get the following:

  • Fixed Stars: outer, Earth, Solidity
  • Saturn: outer, Water, Agility
  • Jupiter: outer, Air, Diaphanousness
  • Mars: outer, Fire, Light
  • Sun: inner, Fire, Light
  • Venus: inner, Air, Diaphanousness
  • Mercury: inner, Water, Agility
  • Moon: inner, Earth, Solidity

The fact that these eight spheres share four elements among them in two equal and organized groups is something that was pointed out to me by the good Pallas Renatus, and he mentioned that the outer spheres tend to have these celestial qualities “veiled” or “muddled”, while the inner spheres have these qualities “clear”.  In other words, compare the Sun and Mars: they’re both ruled by/ruling Fire, though Agrippa describes the Sun as a “lucid flame” (clear light) while Mars is “Fire, together with all adust [dark]” (veiled light).  However, I can’t find where this notion of veiling comes from, and the system doesn’t always hold; Jupiter would seem to be the version of clear diaphanousness compared to the moist Venus’ veiled diaphanousness, but that’s just me.

So why am I talking about all this?  Because I want to explain why I have the planets arranged on the Tetractys of Life the way I do.  If you recall, I have the planets associated mostly the same as Agrippa, but with a few changes:

Planet Mathesis Agrippa
Fixed Stars Earth
Saturn Earth Water
Jupiter Air
Mars Fire
Sun Fire
Venus Water Air
Mercury Water
Moon Earth
Spirit Air

Most of the planets are the same in both Agrippa’s text and in my system of mathesis, but a few have changed.  Saturn in my system of mathesis is associated with Earth, not Water; Venus is Water, not Air.  To me, Saturn has always been described as cold and dry, which describes the quality of Earth, and I’ve never understood the notion of Saturn being watery except on an intellectual level; going deeper in any way has only ever led me to consider or realize Saturn as being dark, dry, lifeless earth.  This has been borne out by my visions and planetary work with the planet, and even though Agrippa gives Saturn to Water, he also describes it as earthy with many of the other correspondences (black bile/melancholy, heavy thing, black stones, terrestrial or subterranean animals, etc.) all line up with Saturn being earthy more than watery.  Venus, on the other hand, has always struck me as far more watery than airy, though (like any good sexual partner) she can go either way.  The mythological birth of Venus is from the remains of Sky (air) falling into Ocean (water); she rules both phlegm (water) and blood (air).  Speaking on a more meta-elemental level, I suppose it’s this ability of hers to shift between Air and Water that makes her more watery overall.

Further, the system of mathesis specifically recognizes Spirit as a force (a quasi-element between true elements and true planets), while Agrippa doesn’t really recognize it in this schema although he does talk about the quintessence at length (book I, chapter 37).  In the Tetractys of Life, I’ve given Spirit over to Air to pair with Jupiter as a “planet” on its own terms, though I admit this feels a smidge forced to me, even though it’s convenient.  Besides, considering Spirit as airy does indeed work; Spirit is the breath, the vital and invisible (diaphanous) essence that transfers celestial influence into terrestrial bodies.  It works.

While I don’t consider the Fixed Stars to really have their own element (since there’s no Greek letter that refers to it and because its position in the Tetractys of Life is too high up), I think that the Fixed Stars being fiery would be a better match than them being earthy despite my earlier thoughts on the matter.  The Fixed Stars are certainly earthy when compared to the Infinite Light and Unmanifest Monad, but to everything else lower than them, the Fixed Stars are definitely fiery for me.  Still, the Fixed Stars are on a whole different level than the elements, and they themselves are paired with Mundus, or the World (as opposed to the element of Earth).  Mundus doesn’t have a corresponding letter, either (although the element of Earth does), so I don’t think it’s proper to assign the World an element; likewise, the Fixed Stars don’t have their own element.  If anything, Mundus would be Earth and Stellae would be Fire, but in their own dyadic rank, any comparison with the elements would be strictly metaphorical.  Likewise, it’d be hard to assign elements to the triadic Reagents of Salt, Mercury, and Sulfur, though they’d go to Earth, Water, and Fire respectively.  This ties in with their astrological interpretations as Moon, Mercury, and Sun.

So what does that say about the element of Air?  Look at how we just described the elements in the different ranks of the Tetractys: we have all/no elements in the Monad; Fire and Earth in the Dyad; Fire, Water, and Earth in the Triad; and Fire, Air, Water, and Earth in the Tetrad.  Air is the last element to be formed in this understanding, arising only as a distinct force with a distinct metaphor.  In other words, Air has no direct or clean correspondence to any higher force.  Despite its loftiness and diaphanousness, it is the last of the elements to “come out” of the Tetractys, and although it’s by no means the densest, it’s the most complex of them all.  This matches up with our confusing hexagram paths in the Tetractys of Life, which allow for transfer between different levels of manifestation (up or down the Tetractys) as well as for transfer between different levels of activity (left or right on the Tetractys) in a way that the horizontal Water paths or diagonal Fire/Earth paths don’t allow.  Air allows for complete and dynamic change rather than natural evolution (Fire and Earth) or transference/mutation (Water).

Agrippa has some interesting things to say about the element of Air, as well (book I, chapter 6).  Emphasis is my own:

It remains that I speak of the Aire. This is a vitall spirit, passing through all Beings, giving life, and subsistence to all things, binding, moving, and filling all things. Hence it is that the Hebrew Doctors reckon it not amongst the Elements, but count it as a Medium or glue,joyning things together, and as the resounding spirit of the worlds instrument. It immediately receives into it self the influences of all Celestiall bodies, and then communicates them to the other Elements, as also to all mixt bodies: Also it receives into it self, as it were a divine Looking-glass, the species of all things, as well naturall, as artificiall, as also of all manner of speeches, and retains them; And carrying them with it, and entering into the bodies of Men, and other Animals, through their pores, makes an Impression upon them, as well when they sleep, as when they be awake, and affords matter for divers strange Dreams and Divinations…Also, when certain appearances, not only spirituall, but also naturall do flow forth from things, that is to say, by a certain kind of flowings forth of bodies from bodies, and do gather strength in the Air, they offer, and shew themselves to us as well through light as motion, as well to the sight as to other senses, and sometimes work wonderfull things upon us, as Plotinus proves and teacheth. And we see how by the South wind the Air is condensed into thin clouds, in which, as in a Looking-glass are reflected representations at a great distance of Castles, Mountains, Horses, and Men, and other things, which when the clouds are gone, presently vanish…

In this sense, Air is the element that fills all things, but that requires that there first exist things to be filled.  The presence of Air is predicated on the presence of space (which itself must be filled by Air) and on the presence of solid bodies.  The presence of bodies, of course, is predicated on there being at least Earth (for solidity of body), Fire (for spiritual reality and motion), as well as Water (growth and change).  The three elements of Fire, Earth, and Water must exist first before Air can exist; although Air does not come from these three, it can only come about once these three already exist.  Moreover, it works upon itself in a way that the other elements don’t.  Looking back at the Tetractys of Life, the paths of Water, Earth, and Fire all go in certain directions but never back to their beginning, while the paths of Air go in cycles, constantly changing upon itself in a loop like a convection cycle of hot and cold or moist and dry air.

While my interpretation of the planets and elements is slowly drifting further from Agrippa, the Golden Dawn, and Hermetic qabbalah than I originally thought it might, it’s also leading me into a new direction with mathesis becoming its own full system instead of something merely derivative from Qabbalah with names and symbols swapped out for others.  As Pallas Renatus had mentioned to me before, the Tetractys of Life and system of mathesis generally has internal consistency going for it, which is no bad thing; that much of my analysis points to new truths within something still experimental shows promise to my mind.  As I delve deeper into mathesis and possibly drift farther from qabbalah, I figure that the more I can explain differences between the two in a solid Hermetic framework, the better off I’ll be.  This is just part of that effort.

Seven Archangels…but which?

As you might expect, dear reader, the number seven is kinda mystical.  Seven planets, seven days of the week, roughly seven days for one phase of the Moon, seven orifices in the human face, seven Greek sages, seven virtues, seven vices, and so forth.  It’s the fourth odd number and fourth prime number, and there are three ways to sum up lesser numbers to add to seven (6+1, 2+5, 3+4), and three and four are also important numbers in their own rights.  So many attributes have been given to the number seven explaining much of its mysticality, and while I admit that much it might (read: definitely) be stretching things to fit a particular number of associations and categories, seven gives us a lot to work with without being too much.

This is especially important when it comes to working with angels, and archangels in particular.  Archangels, as the name implies, are the princes of the angels, the big guys among the big guys, and by working with them we can more effectively work with their subordinate angels and other spirits, not to mention the rest of the cosmos.  In Western Christianity, notably Catholicism, there is only valid and proper devotion able to be given to three archangels in particular: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, the only three named angels in the Old and New Testaments.  Of course, other varieties of Christianity, official and folk, have venerated many more angels than just these three, each with their own names and attributes.

Such groups of archangels come either in groups of four or groups of seven.  Four archangels makes sense: four elements, four corners of the world, and so forth.  In Western occultism, we usually consider these four to be Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel; in Arabic lore, they’re Mikhail, Jibrail, Israfil, and Izrail (with the first three being the Arabic versions of the names and the last one being Azrael, usually known as the angel of death).  Four is a pretty solid number, but as noted before, seven is often more preferred for its mystical nature.  Add to it, we find references to “seven archangels” in scripture, particularly in Enoch I, and since then lists of seven angels have been common throughout Western religion and occulture.  However, with the exception of the “big three” angels named before, these lists often differ significantly, and it’s hard to figure out which angel has what qualities without relegating oneself to a particular book or mini-tradition.

To give several lists of seven archangels, I present the following table, which (besides Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael) is not meant to directly associate or imply an association between the other angels across traditions.  The first column is taken from Agrippa’s Scale of Seven (book II, chapter 10), which he associates with the seven planets.  The second column is given from the works of Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite, a Christian theologian and philosopher, and the names of which are common in many folk and Hispanic magic circles.  The third columns gives name from the Christian Gnostic and Orthodox traditions, which are popular in more ecclesiastic and personal practices in the eastern part of Europe.  The fourth column gives the names of the seven archangels from Enoch I, and the last gives the names attributed to the archangels from Pope Saint Gregory I “the Great” from the 6th century.

Agrippa
Planetary
Pseudo-
Dionysus
Christian
Gnostic
Enoch 1 Gregory
the Great
1 Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel
2 Raphael Raphael Raphel Raphael Raphael
3 Haniel Chamuel Barachiel Remiel Simiel
4 Michael Michael Michael Michael Michael
5 Kammael Chamuel Uriel Uriel Uriel
6 Tzadqiel Zadkiel Sealtiel Raguel Orifiel
7 Tzaphqiel Iophiel Jehudiel Saragael Zachariel

There are still other lists, but I feel like the ones given here are probably the most important.  That seven archangels is such a common thing across writers speaks to an older tradition, such as that of the amesha spentas in Zoroastrianism, or the Babylonian view of seeing the seven planets as gods in their own right.  Other scriptural references include seven candles, seven kings, seven churches of the world, and the like throughout Revelation, suggesting that the cosmic rulership of seven parts is something that pervades much theological and occult thinking.

In my practice so far, I’ve been working with Agrippa’s planetary angels, since I was introduced to them by means of the planets themselves in Fr. RO’s Red Work courses, as well since the whole Hermetic viewpoint likes putting cosmic rulers on things in the cosmos and the Abrahamic angels work well for that kind of thing.  However, I’ve been going to a number of botanicas lately, and I often find candles and statues for angels besides these seven planetary ones, notably ones to Iophiel (whom I know as either the intelligence of Jupiter or angel of the fixed stars), Chamuel, and Uriel.  Add to it, through my good friend Michael Strojan, I’ve encountered yet another set of angels that include Jehudiel, Sealtiel, and Uriel.

It gets awfully confusing, I’ll admit, but I have started to work with this latter set of seven angels from the Christian tradition.  Basically, the method is more-or-less devotional: assign one angel to each day of the week, and make prayers towards that angel.  I got a set of statues off Amazon for these seven angels, and set them up around my primary devotional altar along with a glass of water and a candle.  On their respective days, I light a candle and some incense for them, give them a new glass of water, and make prayers for them based on prayers such as novenas or chaplets for the angels, if one exists, or I just go by their general associations and make prayers for their intercession along those lines.

But, of course, linking the archangels to the days of the week, too, can be difficult.  Apparently, there are two ways to do this: the standard way, which is common by many Eastern Christians, and another way that Mr. Strojan showed me, where it links the angels to different days based on their divine offices and attributes.  I prefer to use the office-based attribution system, since it’s closer to the planetary method I’m already familiar with.  I haven’t gotten any complaints from the angels themselves, either.

Day Standard Office
Sunday Michael
Monday Gabriel
Tuesday Raphael Uriel
Wednesday Uriel Raphael
Thursday Sealtiel Jehudiel
Friday Jehudiel Barachiel
Saturday Barachiel Sealtiel

Of course, nothing stops me from working with these angels in a more magical framework, either.  I’ve noticed my rituals involving Michael of Fire or Michael of the Sun getting stronger and easier as I’ve been doing more work and offerings to the archangel Saint Michael, and ditto for Raphael of Air/Mercury and Gabriel of Water/Moon, and last I checked, devotional Christians don’t have seals yet for these archangels.  It’d be an interesting project to involve these angels in magical ritual in addition to devotional practice, though Mr. Strojan has told me that in working with any of the seven archangels, you effectively work with all of them; they work together as a cohesive group.

So, what do these particular angels rule over, and what are their attributes?

  • Michael, “who is like God”.  Often shown conquering a dragon with lance or sword.  Spiritual leader to holiness, spiritual offense and defense, protection from harm and evil, courage, preservation from danger.
  • Gabriel, “strength of God”.  Shown with horn, scroll, shield, scepter, or light.  Wisdom, revelation, messages, nurturing the young, and communication.
  • Uriel, “light of God”.  Often shown with a set of scales, flaming sword, or flame.  Protection, enlightenment, illumination, and resolution of conflict.
  • Raphael, “medicine of God”.  Shown with a crook and container of medicine, such as a gourd of salve.  Healing, health, wholeness, guidance, exorcism, and guidance.
  • Jehudiel, “praise of God”.  Shown with a sword, staff, or three-pronged whip, often crowned or holding a crown.  The angel of work, labor, employment, leadership, and government, especially as it pertains to one’s True Will and the Will of God.  By working, we praise God, and by praising God, we reap the power and station given to us.
  • Barachiel, “blessing of God”.  Shown holding a white rose or white rose petals, or a basket overflowing with bread.  Blessings of all kinds, luxuries, wealth, nourishment, growth, harmony, love, humor, success.
  • Sealtiel or Selaphiel, “prayer of God”.  Shown in devotion or contemplation, sometimes with arms folded or clasped together in prayer, sometimes with a thurible or censer.  Focus in devotions and prayers, concentration, steadfastness and resolution in prayers and all worshipful acts, as well as wisdom and skill in magic, exorcisms, and all divine arts.

A recent botanica trip even led me to buy a particular Siete Angeles candle with the names of the seven archangels on them.  Unusual about this candle, however, was that it had both the lists from the Gnostic tradition and Pseudo-Dionysus’ writings, and linked them together!  Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel were the same between the two, while Chamuel/Samuel was associated with Barachiel, Sealtiel with Zadkiel/Zafkiel, and Jehudiel with Iophiel.    While it’s awesome that these angels are associated in such a way, at least at a high level, the Ps.-Dionysus angels and the Gnostic angels often have different attributes that make them highly distinct.  I’ve even found weekday associations of the Ps.-Dionysus angels, but even these differ from practice to practice.

In the end, forming a practice to the seven archangels boils down to picking a particular set of seven angels, divvying up the duties of the world amongst them, assigning days of the week to them in a way that more-or-less makes sense, and working with them on their respective days.  Anyone who works with the seven archangels will recognize the same seven under different names here and there, but it’s hardly incorrect or wrong to pick one set over another.  Mixing angels from different groups may not be great, since that muddles the different traditions in which they work, but working out correspondences between them may be useful.  For instance, by associating Jehudiel with Thursday, I also can associate Jehudiel with Jupiter and Tzadkiel in Agrippa; while I don’t consider the seven planetary angels to be the same as the seven archangels, I can see how the nobility, grace, and fatherliness of Jupiter can easily fit into Jehudiel’s practice and image.  Likewise, with Barachiel on Friday, I can associate Venus and Haniel with Barachiel, and seeing how the luxuries, joys, pleasures, and goods of both work together.

Dream Divination Ritual and Timing

The Sun enters Sagittarius today, the mutable fire sign and ultimate sign of Autumn in the northern hemisphere.  Among its many significations, Sagittarius rules any kind of higher learning or education: philosophy, theology, religion, mysticism, and the like.  Based on these associations, and there being so few institutions of higher education in the old days (e.g. colleges, seminaries, or universities), it’s perhaps not surprising that Sagittarius is also associated with foreign countries and exotic lands, as well as the people inhabiting them and those who taught high education.  Among the most distant places would be the stars and celestial spheres themselves, hence Sagittarius’ connection with astrology, celestial or high magic, divination, and especially dreams.  The ruling planet of Sagittarius, Jupiter in direct motion, bears many of these same significations, including nobility, greatness, and holiness.

It’s also the sign that rules my 9th house, with which it holds many similar associations.  So perhaps it’s fitting now that I start considering a ritual framework for working with dreams magically.  Dreams are not my cup of tea normally; my dream recall has been mediocre throughout my life, with many nights having no dreams to remember.

The Unlikely Mage during his Agrippa project recently summarized chapter 59 of Cornelius Agrippa’s First Book of Occult Philosophy.  I’ll leave you to read his post summarizing dreams and their significations (and, really, his whole amazing blog) for yourself, but Agrippa has this to say about divination by dreams:

… The rule of interpreting this is found amongst Astrologers, in that part which is wrote concerning questions; but yet that is not sufficient, because these kind of Dreams come by use to divers men after a divers manner, and according to the divers quality, and dispositions of the phantastick spirit: wherefore there cannot be given one common rule to all for the interpretation of Dreams. But according to the opinion of Synesius, seeing there are the same accidents to things, and like befall like; so be which hath often fallen upon the same visible thing, hath assigned to himself the same opinion, passion, fortune, action, event, and as Aristotle saith, the memory is confirmed by sence, and by keeping in memory the same thing knowledge is obtained, as also by the knowledge of many experiences, by little, & little, arts, and sciences are obtained. After the same account you must conceive of Dreams. Whence Synesius commands that every one should observe his Dreams, and their events, and such like rules, viz. to commit to memory all things that are seen, and accidents that befall, as well in sleep, as in watching, and with a diligent observation consider with himself the rules by which these are to be examined, for by this means shall a Diviner be able by little, and little to interpret his Dreams, if so be nothing slip out of his memory. Now Dreams are more efficacious, when the Moon over-runs that Sign, which was in the ninth number of the Nativity, or revolution of that yeer, or in the ninth Sign from the Sign of perfection. For it is a most true, and certain divination, neither doth it proceed from nature or humane Arts, but from purified minds, by divine inspiration. …

Basically, all those books with sets of symbols to be used in dreams?  Worthless; “there cannot be given one common rule to all for the interpretation of Dreams” because everyone’s spirit and soul is different and works in different ways.  Similarities may be observed, but these aren’t reliable enough to be made into rules for mass consumption and application.  The images in dreams are based on what happens in our lives and to ourselves, and so we should be aware of the constant activity going on around us and how we interpret it both consciously and subconsciously.  This helps us to not only understand our own minds and our awareness of the area around ourselves, but it helps to build up a conscious knowledge of the symbol set our minds are constantly building to help understand the world.

Agrippa gives several rules for when “Dreams are more efficacious”, and they all center around the 9th house in an astrological chart or horoscope.  Essentially, dreams for divination are best when the Moon is in the 9th house of someone’s chart; the other rules for yearly revolution charts or “the Sign of perfection” are a little more obscure, but since the Moon visits all the signs for about 2.5 days every 29 days, you’ve got a decent window for about two days running for good, honest, divinatory dreaming.  So, for instance, when the Moon is in Sagittarius (the sign ruling my 9th house), my dreams tend to be more potent and clear than otherwise.  Looking back through some of my journals, this actually makes sense, which is a surprise to me.

Because I don’t like to merely throw away dreams as I would trash, I figured I may as well approach them as any decent magician would: ritual and preparation!  Below is a simple ritual framework I’m gonna start using to work with my dreams more and see where this gets me.  It’s assumed that you know which signs rule over the houses of your natal chart, but if not, I’m sure you can find free astrology sites to do that for you.  Keep track of the Moon’s position, since that’s essential for this working.  Sure, the following ritual is a little involved, but then, it helps to dedicate oneself to dreaming when dreaming is Right for oneself, and it echoes the old asklepeions and temples where dreams were seen as holy messages sent to the worthy supplicant.

  1. The day before the Moon enters the sign of the 9th house, prepare yourself mentally and physically for dreaming.
    1. Banish, take a spiritual bath, and generally cleanse and clean oneself and your sleeping area.  
    2. Start winding down your food and drug intake: no caffeine, no heavy foods, light fruit or stomach-soothing foods only.  You can extend the fasting period as long as you like, but one day should be sufficient.
    3. Pray and ritual as you normally would.
    4. If you have a dream-conducive tea (mugwort, jasmine, rose, and valerian work well for me), start drinking this today and continue drinking it through the operation.
    5. Be sure to get a full night’s rest, at least 7.5 hours’ worth of sleep (or five sleep cycles).  Before resting, make an offering to Morpheus, the god of sleep: sing his Orphic Hymn, make an offering of opium or poppy incense, and light a black or dark candle to him.  Ask for his help in bestowing good and healthful rest, and protection in sleep and dreaming.
  2. The next day, the Moon should be in the sign ruling the 9th house before you go to bed at night.  Be sure you have at least ten hours to spare for proper rest and sleeping, with the addition of ritual.
    1. Fast.  Drink only water, and eat only white food with no salt.  Plain or vanilla yoghurt, bananas, and similar are suggested, if any food is to be eaten at all.  If you have a dream-conducive tea, keep drinking that.
    2. In an hour of Mercury while the Moon is in the sign ruling the 9th house, make an adoration to Hermes Chthonios or similar nighttime, underworld, or otherworld guide.  Say a prayer e.g. the Orphic Hymn to Terrestrial Hermes; make offerings of candles, incense, wine, or other preferred goods.  Ask for clarity, memory, truth, and direction in the realm of dreams and sleep.
    3. In an hour of the Moon while the Moon is in the sign ruling the 9th house, make an adoration to the Moon, a lunar angel like Gabriel, or any lunar deity.  Say a prayer e.g. the Orphic Hymn to the Moon; make offerings of candles, incense, wine, or other preferred goods.  Ask for help, guidance, and illumination in dreams and the realm of night.
    4. Set pen, paper, and flashlight by the bed for later.
    5. Meditate for at least twenty minutes before retiring for the night.
    6. Upon retiring, make another offering to Morpheus as before.  In addition, make an offering to his other role as the god of dreams: sing the Orphic Hymn to the Divinity of Dreams; make an offering of a white or lightly-colored candle, along with wine and sweet floral incense such as jasmine, rose, gardenia, violet, musk, or similar.  Ask for truth, understanding, memory, and power in one’s rest, that true and meaningful dreams be bestowed upon them, and similar.  If you have any specific requests that should be answered, now’s the time to do that.
    7. Go to sleep, but set a (quiet) alarm after 4.5 hours (or however long three sleep cycles would be).  Upon waking, write down any dreams that one may have had immediately.  Make another entreaty to Morpheus as God of Sleep as well as God of Dreams using prayer with more incense; their candles should not have burnt out yet, but if they have, light new ones.  If the request for a specific answer has not yet been answered, pray for it again; if so, and if another question needs to be answered, ask it; if no other questions need to be answered, ask for illumination, truth, and awareness generally in dreams.
    8. Return to sleep for at least another three hours; however much is up to you, since this second sleep is the final sleep of the day.  Upon waking, write down any dreams as before.  Make another offering of candles and wine to Morpheus as thanks for the previous night and dreams.
    9. Repeat the above for as as long as the Moon is in the sign ruling the 9th house, asking for more dreams along the way.

Happy dreaming!

Virtues of Labradorite

Despite my primary focus relying on “high magic” or theurgy, which is supposed to be divested from the use of natural or physical objects, material tools and the materials those tools are made from fill many important roles in my work.  For instance, the use of specific herbs, oils, or incenses for rituals, or the consecration of knives or wands using specific liquids or treatments.  Specific stones and gems are important, too, and can not only significantly empower a ritual but can be consecrated tools in their own right.  For instance, I have a handful of large citrine points I use as focuses or pseudo-wands for solar work, especially when I work with the Headless Rite.  The ability of a particular substance to affect the world around it is called its virtue, or its occult or “magical” characteristics that lend it power.  The discussion of virtues is the primary focus of Cornelius Agrippa’s First Book of Occult Philosophy, in which he discusses “Natural Magic”, and from which much modern Western occult literature follows.

Of the stones I like (and there are some I don’t), labradorite is among my favorite.  It’s a feldspar mineral, and so retains all the occult virtues of feldspar, which also includes sunstone, amazonite, and others.  Labradorite specifically has a particular blend of sodium and calcium that has it lie between pure albite (sodium-based without calcium) and anthorite (calcium-based without sodium).  It ranges in color from dark grey to pale grey, sometimes with a brown or dark olive coloration, but it has an interesting optical property called labradorescence, where the fine layers of growth in the stone allow for a kind of metallic iridescence ranging in color from deep blue to green, red, purple, and yellow.  The iridescent qualities, however, rely on a particular angle of reflection; labradorite may appear dull and boring until tilted just so.  Labradorite was officially discovered by the West in 1770 in Labrador in northeastern Canada, but has also been discovered in Finland, Russia, Madagascar, and other places around the world, and occurs among the artifacts of native peoples.  As a type of feldspar, it has many commercial uses of the same including road paving and ceramic integrity, but has also been used as a gemstone since its discovery due to its interesting optical beauty.  Particularly iridescent or gem-quality labradorite is known as the variant spectrolite, with Ylämaa, Finland being the most well-known centers of this variant.  Darker variants of labradorite are also called black moonstone.

Adularescence

Due to its relatively recent discovery, there isn’t that much reliable knowledge on labradorite as it applies to magic, especially in Hermetic work.  As such, Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic lacks an entry on the stone.  According to the fluffy new-agey yet highly thorough Love is in the Earth by Melody, the general mineral feldspar is said to have the following attributes [sic]:

This mineral assists one in detaching from the old, encouraging unconventional and exciting methods to attains ones goals.  It provides for support in issues of self-awareness and self-love, for with realization of love one can become united with all aspects of the world.

It has been found as a constituent of moon rock and provides for a connection with inter-galactic intelligence.  Feldpsar also enables one to access the communicative forces of this intelligence.

It assists one in locating that which has been mis-placed and in discovering and understanding previously unidentified messages from both within and without of the self.

It can be used in the treatment of disorders associated with the skin and muscular structure.

In her entry on labradorite, Melody has this to say [sic]:

In addition to the properties listed in the FELDSPAR section of this book, this mineral protects ones aura, and helps to keep the aura clear, balanced, protected, and free from energy leaks.  It assists in the alignment of the subtle bodies, enhancing the connection between the physical and ethereal realms.

It is said to represent the “temple of the stars”, assisting one in sustaining and maintaining, while providing for the understanding of the destiny one has chosen.  It brings the light of the other planetary beings to the soul of the user.  The labradorescence is a luminescence, derived from extra-terrestrial origin, which is enclosed in the mineral to bring the galactic evolved energies from other worlds to the Earth plane.

The energy of labradorite facilitates the transformation of intuition into intellectual thought such that one can implement the instructions provided.  It assists one to traverse changes, attracting strength and perseverance.  IT has been known as the matriarch of the subconscious mind, providing instructive sessions to the user concerning the implementation of inner messages and the utilization of same in the physical domain.  it can help to provide clarity to the inner sight, instilling a passionless peace of imperturbability via the annihilation of disturbing thoughts.

It also symbolizes the moon and helps one to advance, without constraint, through the cycles of progression, heralding the arrival of ascension.  It also symbolizes the sun, providing for vitality and for a sense of “self” during transitions, and promoting refinement of action and discernment in direction.

It unites the personal self with the understanding required to both realize and achieve the destiny of this life, relieving insecurity and apprehension, while enhancing faith and reliance in oneself and the absolute purity of the universal harmony.

It assists one in eliminating aspects of familiarity which obscures thought and blurs instinct, helping one with originality and precision, and bringing uniqueness without judgment to ones contemplative patterns.

It helps one to reflect and to facilitate transformations which are beneficial.  It also enhances patience and an inner knowing of “the right time”.

It allows for recognition that humanity represents the “Being of Light”, transcending the limitations of the past and the thoughts of the future, and embracing the infinite possibilities of the moment.  It helps one to both “be” and to proceed with the assurance that the light is always there, surrounding and pure.

Labradorite brings the commencement of the recognition of ones inherent and analytical and rational abilities.  It further promotes the synthesis of intellectual thought with the intuitive, mystical, and psychic wisdom.

It assists in inspiring one to introduce the teachings of other worlds to this world of love and light, bringing assimilation and illumination to further the advancement of humanity.

It can be used during radionic analysis; holding a sample and placing a sample on the witness or using a pendulum of this stone, the energy of the stone interferes with the energy of the user and points to the problem[s] involved.

It has been used in the treatment of disorders of the brain, to stimulate mental acuity, and to reduce anxiety and stress.  It can assist in digestion, regulation, and metabolism.  It has also been used to clarify the eyes.

Labradorite has an associated myth according to its Canadian origin.  A common version of this myth says:

According to an Eskimo legend, the Northern Lights were once imprisoned in the rocks along the Labrador coast, until one day an Eskimo warrior found them and freed most of the lights with a blow from his spear. Not all the lights could be freed from the stone however and for that reason we have today what is known as labradorite.

All this is well and good, but even with the nice Native American legend and the wealth(?) of Melody’s new age fluff, this doesn’t speak much about its virtues in Hermetic magic, though it is helpful.  The labradorescent light within the stones definitely has a varying and ephemeral quality not unlike the Aurora Borealis, formed from the interplay of the Sun and the magnetic sphere of the Earth.  This also ties labradorite in with the Roman goddess Aurora, or Dawn, who heralded the coming of the Sun with her many colors, or “rosy fingers” as is frequently seen in literature.  From the legends, then, we can already assign a celestial, nocturnal, and luminary quality to labradorite, a kind of interplay of the Sun and the Moon against the larger firmament of the stars.

Since labradorite was discovered well after Cornelius Agrippa’s time, and since he otherwise doesn’t mention feldspar in his tables of correspondence or discussion of virtues, it helps to look at the qualities of things Agrippa lists to figure out what forces labradorite might play best with.  For this, Agrippa might say that labradorite is lunary, solary, and mercurial based on the qualities of things he ascribes based on these planets:

  • Moon (book I, chapter 24): silver, white, or green things, crystals generally
  • Sun (book I, chapter 23): opal, rainbow quartz (Iris, or “Rainbow”), glittery things
  • Mercury (book I, chapter 29): things that are mixed, those which are of diverse colors or are mixed with yellow and green, things that change forms or appearances

Of these, the connections to Mercury and the Sun are probably the strongest, with the Moon being a little less likely.  Of course, all celestial forces are present in all sublunary things anyway (book I, chapter 30), but labradorite’s strongest connections might lie with Mercury and the Sun.  Peculiar to labradorite, however, we have definite nocturnal tendencies; the Northern Lights are primarily a nocturnal feature, and the darkness of labradorite combined with its bright luminescence is similar to those famed lights at night, or light shining in the darkness from otherwise hidden features.  Mercury is probably the strongest connection to go with, then, with the Sun and Moon playing equal parts in its virtue (or slightly unequal, biased towards the Sun).  If it is mercurial, however, it’s a kind of holy, celestial, or ouranic force of Mercury.  Given the variance in color with labradorescence, it might not be wrong to say that labradorite is definitely stellar, as in pertaining to the sphere of the fixed stars in addition to or instead of any one particular planet.

In addition to its almost-gaudy beautiful radiance, the magical feel, or aura or dweomer, of labradorite is what really hooks me.  It feels very cooling as far as stones go, like smooth, soft, light water or a thick cool mist that washes away filth.  It doesn’t have a strong centering aspect to its feel, but it is clarifying, sharpening the mind into precision.  It doesn’t feel slow or heavy, but it doesn’t seem to speed up the mind or jolt it into activity, either.  It’s not luxurious like stones of Venus or Jupiter, but it has a kind of safe and still feeling that I’ve associated with the Moon and Sun in the past.  It tastes (metaphorically speaking) clean and refreshing, more pleasant than unpleasant, again tastes which are lunar and solar.  It would seem like it would be a spiritual kind of ruby or carnelian; these stones are known for energizing and supercharging physical acts, while labradorite might be better for energizing or supercharging spiritual activity, more than star sapphire or other “celestial” or “spiritual” stones which seem only to draw upward.  Its varied colors do help in unifying various forces within the mind, certainly, and would seem to help act as a kind of “spiritual grounding” stone, in which one can ground “higher up”; use of labradorite in astral ritual would not be a bad thing, using it as an anchor for the physical body to link to the astral one.  Its iridescence that comes from within, normally hidden until turned just right towards the light, can be an indication that this stone can help bring out magical power, talent, or genius from within; again, this ties into supercharging spiritual activity, giving these things more light than would otherwise be known or seen.

During the last gem show that I go to every so often with some of my crafty occult friends, I kept getting distracted (as in past gem shows) with labradorite.  Its interesting appearance kept tricking me, leading me to inspect samples and beads over and over again until I realized that it was just the same stuff.  At the gem show before the last one, I ended up buying a labradorite orb about the size of a small orange, which is beautiful and dark with bright labradorescence showing, which will be good for meditation or scrying of specific entities.  At the most recent one, however, I decided to finally suck it up and got a few strands of labradorite beads that I fashioned into a mala, or prayer beads not unlike a rosary.

Labradorite Mala

A mala is a string of 108 beads, the number 108 assuming high importance in Hinduism, Buddhism, and other dharmic religions.  I’ve always liked malas, and have owned several in my life, but I’ve never crafted one myself before.  Using repetitions of prayers is helpful in my work, and I use Buddhist mantras, my magical motto, or other short prayers with these things.  My mala design uses 108 beads as the actual prayer counter beads, plus four extra beads: a large banded onyx bead plus three extra labradorite beads, with a black tassel and held together with black silk cord.  The four (or three plus one) beads assume different meanings, depending on tradition.  In Buddhism, the larger bead represents the guru or teacher, and the three smaller beads represent the Three Jewels of Buddhism (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha).  For me, since I’m less Buddhist than other things, these extra beads can also refer to the three persons of the Triune God, plus the larger bead to represent the One God, or the One Thing or Whole of Hermeticism.  I used onyx since it’s a stone associated with Saturn, representing the firmament and black night sky against which all the stars shine and the celestial light is filtered through from the Divine Supernals down all the way to our sphere of the Earth.  Plus, onyx is a fairly heavy and dark stone, which can also represent the physical power and material result of prayer, magic, and meditation; in this sense, the three extra labradorite beads and onyx bead can also represent the Hebrew understanding of the elements, where the elements of Fire, Air, and Water are independent in their own right and Earth is a combination of the other three elements.

So, that’s my contribution to widening the scope of magical knowledge on this stone.  What about you, dear readers?  Have you used labradorite in your work for anything?  Are there any particular experiences or thoughts on this stone you’d like to share, or theories on how it might be used in rituals or talismanic magic?