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?

Directional Correspondences Redux

A while back I wrote about some different elemental correspondences for the four directions.  Long story short, there are different systems of corresponding the elements to the four directions, with two primary methods: Agrippa’s method (Fire/East, Earth/South, Air/West, Water/North) and the Golden Dawn method (Air/East, Fire/South, Water/West, Earth/North).  However, in a recent post Aaron Leitch discusses some of the biblical origins of the Golden Dawn system while exploring other methods of correspondence, and in a reply post Alex Sumner discusses why the Golden Dawn correspondences are the way they are.  It’s all pretty interesting to read, so I suggest you do so.

Alex Sumner brings up a good point: should you change the correspondences of the elements to suit your working and placement in the world?  To quote,

In my opinion, there can only be one answer – a categoric NO. And I say so for the following reasons:

A Golden Dawn temple physically located in England or America, is not operating in England or America;

A Golden Dawn temple in (e.g.) Australia, is not operating in Australia.

Both of them, despite being on opposite sides of the world, are actually operating in one and the same place. The magical inner-workings of the Golden Dawn ceremonies take the Temple, and astrally transport it through Time and Space and across dimensions – to the Hall of the Duat, in the Egyptian otherworld.

What he says makes sense, and points to something I’ve brought up in the past: if you’re working within a set tradition, don’t change stuff to suit your needs.  If a text, grimoire, ritual, or teacher says to use a particular method, don’t change what they say to do until you’ve tried it first and, even then, only if you have an actual need to once you understand why it is the way it is.  For the Golden Dawn system of magic, the physical location of the Temple (and thus the place where the elemental correspondences come into play the most) doesn’t matter, but the astral/spiritual location of the work, which takes place Elsewhere.  That said, if you’re not working in that kind of framework, it may be better to experiment and change things before trying them out.  It honestly depends.  For instance, for an upcoming project (if ever I stop putting if off) where I plan to work with Wraeththu magic and mythos, the standard Golden Dawn/neopagan system of elements is used, but the system is also very personalized and dependent upon personal exploration.  In that case, changing the directions of the elements may not be such a bad thing, and may help in my case to tie it into my other overall magic work.

So, with all that in mind and with a slew of elemental correspondences to pick from, which one should you use?  As in all else with magic, it depends.

  • If you’re working in any kind of tradition that has already set its own rules (traditional Wicca, Golden Dawn, etc.), use the correspondences already set down in stone.  This way, you’re tapping into the current of that tradition, which links you to the overall power and history of that tradition, giving your rituals a stronger boost based on the power already built in that.  Unless you want to experiment within the bounds of that tradition, you’re breaking away from it, which deprives you of the force already built up into it.
  • If you’re working in a tradition that is place-independent and takes place in another dimension, much like the Golden Dawn where the physical location of the Temple is meaningless since the work in the Temple takes place in the Hall of the Duat in the Egyptian otherworld, then use the correspondences of that astral/otherworldly place.  Since the correspondences of that otherworldly place take precedence, using a physical set of correspondences is meaningless.
  • If you’re working in a solitary earth-based or nature-primary tradition, you might be best off using the elemental correspondences that best reflect the place where you’re currently working.  This helps plug you into the natural flow of the powers that be where you currently are, and helps sync you to the place where you are, respecting the land and nature you’re actually working with.  The standard Golden Dawn system is fine for Wicca in its original land of Great Britain, but other systems may work better should one works on the east coast of the US (e.g. Water/East, Fire/South, Earth/West, Air/North) or in the Southern Hemisphere (e.g. Air/East, Earth/South, Water/West, Fire/North).
  • If you’re working in a tradition that is celestially-based or star-primary, I’d suggest using Agrippa’s correspondences that use the elemental associations of the zodiac signs.  This implies that the elements come from the planets, which is pretty standard Hermetic doctrine, and helps link your work down here in this worldly sphere with the rest of the spheres of the cosmos, tying your elemental work into that of the planets directly.

For myself, I use that last method, since as a Hermetic magician, my primary work is with the planets and the stars, which form the basis for the elements down here on Earth.  By working with the powers of the cosmos, I can influence how these powers manifest down here, and by using the correspondence of the elements to the directions based on the zodiac, this gives me the easiest opportunity to make the transition from Up There to Down Here as smooth as possible.  However, even this might change depending on the situation; if I were doing something specifically with the spirits of the elements and the land down here limited strictly and solely to down here, I’d find out how the elements locationally and temporally work around me and use the natural power of the place of the working, buffed out with my own celestial correspondences.  Then again, if I were to tap into a more Golden Dawn type of current or if I were involved in setting up a Golden Dawn ritual by the book, I would use the Golden Dawn method because that’s what works for that specific ritual.

In a way, rules in magic are helpful, but only up to a point, and only up to their own usefulness.  Sticking to one rule at the permanent exclusion of all else can very easily deprive you of working methods or ideas to help buff out your work.  As anyone familiar with Saturnine work knows, walls can bind and block, but walls can also be knocked down and rebuilt.  Tradition, focus, scope, and need should all be taken into consideration when setting up a ritual or cosmological framework, and the combination of all of them may not be constant depending on the situation.

Service to Hermes

Why does Hermes (Mercury, though I’ve started calling him by his Greek name) carry the caduceus in his left hand?  So he can masturbate better with his right, duh.  And although I wish that actually were the answer (but who can say?), I asked him recently, and it’s because he’s only the god of messengers, and a messenger himself; scepters and wands are marks of kingship and authority, and he’s only acting as a herald in the name of someone higher than him.  While he’s allowed to work in almighty Zeus’ name and with his authority given to him by the big bearded guy, he cannot take it as his own.  Instead, he guides others to where he needs to be, letting the authority and might of the High, taking the scepter from his superior’s own right hand in his left, to guide him to where he needs to be so that he can do the same for others.  Pretty nifty, no?

This is just one of the things I learned from the god Hermes recently in the course of my life and Work.  As a Hermetic magician, I keep bumping into the guy and, after some talking and self-discovery, I’ve decided to volunteer myself as servant and priest to Hermes, god of the way, of thieves, of magic and astrology, and a slew of other things.  (Or, rather, he decided to volunteer me, but either way, here I am.)  It’s kind of a weird thing for me, never having grown up religious and only interacting with gods and goddesses in the context of magic and exploration of the universe.  Then again, I suppose the cosmos itself has a few tricks up its sleeves, and the cog in the machine that is myself fits into several spots in the wheels that keep things going.

To that end, here’s a compilation of some of the things I know, do, and perform in my service to the god, if you’re so interested.  For those in the know, I’m not coming from a Hellenismos or similar modern path or organization, though now that I think about it, contacting one or two might not be a bad idea.  This is all stuff that I’m learning and doing on my own, but if you have any suggestions, feel free to add in the comments.

First, some background on the god himself.  According to Theoi.com,

Hermes was the great Olympian God of animal husbandry, roads, travel, hospitality, heralds, diplomacy, trade, thievery, language, writing, persuasion, cunning wiles, athletic contests, gymnasiums, astronomy, and astrology. He was also the personal agent and herald of Zeus, the king of the gods. Hermes was depicted as either a handsome and athletic, beardless youth, or as an older bearded man. His attributes included the herald’s wand or kerykeion (Latin caduceus), winged boots, and sometimes a winged travellers cap and chlamys cloak.

As a planetary force, the Picatrix and Agrippa (book I, chapter 29) have this to say about the god and planet:

Things under Mercury are these; amongst Elements, Water, although it moves all things indistinctly; amongst humors, those especially which are mixed, as also the Animall spirit; amongst tasts [tastes] those that are various, strange, and mixed: amongst Metals, Quick-silver, Tin, the Slver Marcasite; amongst stones, the Emrald [emerald], Achates [agates], red Marble, Topaze, and those which are of divers colours, and various figures naturally, & those that are artificiall, as glass, & those which have a colour mixed with yellow, and green. Amongst Plants, and Trees, the Hazle [hazel], Five-leaved-grass, the Hearb [herb] Mercury, Fumitary, Pimpernell, Marjoram, Parsly [parsley], and such as have shorter and less leaves, being compounded of mixed natures, and divers colours. Animals also, that are of quick sence, ingenious, strong, inconstant, swift, and such as become easily acquainted with men, as Dogs, Apes, Foxes, Weesels [weasels], the Hart, and Mule; and all Animals that are of both sexes, and those which can change their Sex, as the Hare, Civet-Cat, and such like. Amongst birds, those which are naturally witty, melodious, and inconstant, as the Linet, Nightingale, Blackbird, Thrush, Lark, the Gnat-sapper, the bird Calandra, the Parret [parrot], the Pie, the Bird Ibis, the bird Porphyrio, the black Betle [beetle] with one horn. And amongst fish, the fish called Trochius, which goes into himself, also Pourcontrell for deceitfulness, and changeableness, and the Fork fish for its industry; the Mullet also that shakes off the bait on the hook with his taile.

Other names for the god in similar parts of the Mediterranean include Mercury (Roman), Turms (Etruscan), Terano (modern Tuscan), and there are lots of closely-related gods that resemble functions of Hermes in other pantheons and cultures.  However, not all of these are exact fits, and some of them are on weird terms with the god, while others are associated through ancillary functions of the dude (e.g. medicine, longevity).

  • Egyptian Thoth, Seshat, Imhotep, Anpu
  • Nordic Odin or Wotan, Loki
  • Hindu Hanuman, Saraswati, Budha, Rama
  • Judeo-Christian angelic Raphael
  • Islamic planetary/magical angelic Harqil
  • Gnostic aeon Anthropos, angelic Metaxas
  • John Dee’s angelic heptad (B)Naspol, (B)Rorges, Baspalo, Binodab, Bariges, Binofon, Baldago
  • Roman Meditrina
  • Greek Eros, Asclepios
  • Orphic Ailoaios or Ailoein
  • Akkadian Gudud, Nabu
  • Sumerian Ningishzida
  • Phoenicio-Caanite Eshmun, Malagbel
  • Celtic Nuada, Ogmios, Math Mathonwy
  • Chinese K’uei-Hsing, Shen Nung
  • Aztec Tezcatlipoca
  • Slavic Veles

Next, some background on my connection with the god.  He’s pretty awesome, for one, and is heavily involved in all the stuff I’m involved with:

  • I’m a software engineer, computer programmer and scientist, linguist, calligrapher, graphologist, classicist, Hermetic magician, and geomancer.  These are all my primary hobbies, and these are all under the rulership of Hermes.
  • The number of the sphere of Mercury, 8, appears four times in my birthdate, with 4 being the number associated with the god.
  • I just happened to work in the Postal Square Building, decked out with invocations and paeans to Hermes and caducei on the outside with the National Postal Museum on the inside, for a software engineering position in a statistics and calculation-focused department.  Hermes is all over that shit, yo.
  • The color of my graduation tassle, having studied in an engineering program, is orange, the color associated with the sphere of Mercury.  Cute.
  • Astrologically, Mercury is in the same house and sign as my Sun, Libra.  It’s not in the best position (combust, Via Combusta), but it is in mutual reception with Venus, my almuten and ruling planet in Virgo.

As for my altar setup and devotional practices:

  • An altar setup shown to me involves a statue of Hermes (I have the “Flying Hermes” by Giovanni da Bologna) in the center with four candles in a square around him, with incense and offerings in front of his statue.  This is the basic setup of my Hermaion, or sacred space for Hermes.
  • I got a small side table, originally $80 but marked down on sale to $64 (a higher scale of 8, and 8 × 8, respectively, with 8 being the magic number of Mercury), for my altar.  I don’t have much space in my room for it, but it turned out to be the perfect size for my needs.  As it turned out, it fit perfectly by my bookshelf with the computer programming, science, and astrology books.  Apparently, the god is cozy there.
  • Under each candleholder (which has a small recess) I placed four Mercury topaz stones and sort of energetically linked them up together with the statue, much as in a Babalon Matrix or crystal grid.  I got the stones at a gem show, and Hermes practically jizzed at the sight of them: four stones for $40 for the four corners of his altar.  I also consecrated them under a rare Mercury Cazimi election, which makes them powerful treasures in their own right.  As the candles burn above the crystals, the force and light from the candles continuously feeds the crystals and the statue itself, keeping the altar and god a powerful force.
  • Suitable offerings include barley, olives and olive oil, coins, and wine (preferably a Greek dark red).  Candles and incense, especially storax, sandalwood, cinnamon, and frankincense, as desired.  The god mentioned live birds, too, but that’s generally not practical unless I have an outdoor altar or temenos.  Other artifacts like bone dice, antique coins, keys, and figurines are really cool, too.  Instead of barley or food offerings, a candle offering can also be made (like in the picture above).
  • The altar is covered with an orange burlap cloth.  I wanted to use silk or a fancy cloth, but I couldn’t find any suitable that Hermes explicitly approved of.  I joked how I’d default to orange burlap, at which Hermes started laughing in my head; I turned around, and was face-to-face with a roll of that very same stuff.  The god has a sense of humor, you know.
  • The statue itself of Hermes is placed in front of  a wooden platform engraved with the Kamea of Mercury and his name woodburned into it in various Mediterranean languages and scripts: Mercurius (Latin), Turms (Etruscan), Hermes (Greek), and E-ma-a (Mycenaean in Linear B).  Four names for the god, one on each side of the square, though I was going to use eight names; these names would have referred to the planet itself in other languages like Sanskrit or Arabic, and not to the god proper, so I left them off.  This is another treasure for the god, and though he originally wanted it to serve as a base for his statue, the altar size had a hard time accommodating this layout.  Plus, I’d like a portable altar or stand for any specifically Mercurial work, and this Table of Mercury would act perfect for it, so he likes this setup as well.  Since it’s properly his and not mine, I’d have to pay him for its use as needed, but nothing extravagant or out of my means proportional to the work being done.  It’s reasonable.
  • Smaller statues to represent different faces of the god, whenever they become accessible, like Thoth and Hanuman.  He’s not on great terms and is sometimes unfamiliar with some of the divine associations and pantheon correspondences above, but what the altar has room for, he’ll enjoy some company.
  • Texts I make use of include the Homeric Hymns to Hermes (devotional though long-winded), the Orphic Hymn to Mercury (awesome generally), the Picatrix Invocation to Mercury (awesome for planetary and magical operations), and the Heptameron Conjuration and Catholic Prayer to Raphael (not normally my style, but it works for more angelic or qabbalistic workings).  For the god proper, he likes the Orphic and Homeric Hymns, along with prayers written to him specifically; Picatrix and other Hermetic invocations aren’t really his cup of tea, from what I’ve been told, and are more suited to other paradigms of working.
  • Tools to be used in my Hermes work include an orange silk scarf to mark my priestly activities, a consecrated bone bracelet to make communicating and communing with the dead and dying easier, the Table of Mercury mentioned above as needed, a caduceus or representation thereof to assist in directing and guiding spirits and forces, and a few oils or balms using scents or materials associated with Hermes for anointing and consecration.  Holy water, specifically the ancient Greek khernips, is also useful to have on the altar for purification, and an extra bottle of Greek extra virgin olive oil is a pleasant addition, too.

Times for rituals:

  • Every Wednesday (day of Mercury) in an hour of Mercury.  There are about four of these: dawn, early afternoon, early nighttime, and godlessly early in the morning.  A good time to do any Mercurial ritual, like a conjuration of Raphael or something, but I use one to make a small offering and invocation to Hermes, too.  This is more planetary/magical than devotional, however, and it’s a simple way to catch up and clean up the altar.
  • The fourth day of the lunar month, starting with the first day being the new moon.  This was the day reserved for the god in ancient Greek religious calendars as a monthly event, somewhat like a birthday (viewed more as monthly rather than yearly events).  Since ancient Hellenic practices were done at dawn, I use sunrise as my time for the god, even if it’s not an hour of Mercury.  This adoration is a monthly ritual, where I make an offering and do a full reading of the Orphic Hymn and Homeric Hymns to Hermes.  Coincidentally, the fourth day of the month is held sacred to Heracles, Aphrodite, and Eros, as well.  At sunset or midnight on this same day, I do an offering and work for Hermes as chthonic god or psychopomp, as well as making an offering to the local and mighty dead.
  • Planetary elections.  Again, this is more a magical event than a religious one, but this is when the power of the planet (the corporeal form of the god) is highly powerful and able to effect great change in the world.  Good ones are difficult to come by, since the planet Mercury is usually too close to the Sun to be very effectual, but when there are elections, you can bet I’ll be taking those opportunities by the horns.
  • Hermaea, the annual Greek festival to Hermes. The Hermaea was a rowdy festival and series of contests, celebrating Hermes’ patronage over gymnastics and physical sport.  This was often celebrated with Hercules, but sometimes had a more Saturnalian character inverting social orders.  I may not be big on physical activity, but trickery and pranks seem to work really well for this festival.  I’m having a hard time finding out about the dates for this festival, but I’m going to guess that it happens somewhere in the period between April 1 and April 15 or so each year.  One trick of the Hellenic ritual calendars was that annual celebrations were never to fall on the monthly ones, so the Hermaea would be shifted a few days in either direction to accommodate large events or monthly celebrations of Hermes.  I might just stick to using the fourth day of the fourth month, April 4th, as my selected date for this.  What I might do specifically for this is unclear to me, since it seemed to be intended for youths and gymnastics, but we’ll see when we get to that point in time.
  • Mercuralia, the Roman festival to Mercury held generally on or around May 4th to May 15.  This is primarily a festival for merchants and commerce, both words coming from the name Mercury, which itself came from Latin merx meaning wages or merchandise.  Roman religion originally never had a correspondence to Mercury, though the Etruscan god Turms was the Italian equivalent of the Hellenic god, and the merchants (who were often Greek or Hellenic) brought over their god.  Because of this, Rome never had an official high priest to Mercury, but imported rituals and festivals from Greece all the same; the name Mercury, with its name referring to goods and merchants, stuck.  Like the Hermaea, the date may be shifted around if needed.  Unlike the Hermaea, the Mercuralia has more literature on it and is much more applicable to my life and goals.
  • After a real rough travel during some snowpocalypse or other (the big Christmas blizzard on the East Coast of 2010), Hermes has really helped me out in keeping me safe and swift on the roads.  I always make a vow and a bargain with him before any long-distance trip: keep me, my goods, and my passengers safe from all harm, delay, and impediment within reason, and I get you a bottle of nice, dark wine to be dropped off at a crossroads as thanks.  I up the number of bottles of wine if something starts looking really awry or desperate, and he hasn’t failed me yet.

All in all, I use 27 or so days of the year as major events for Hermes, plus weekly adorations and any rituals I specifically need to call on him for.  As far as religious practices go, it’s involved, but it’s worth it.  For those on similar but different paths, a quick search on the internets revealed the following rituals for the god:

An Overview of Geomantic Literature

Over on the Geomantic Campus mailing list, there’s been a bit of talk about a new (gasp!) book on geomancy, “Astrogem Geomancy” by Les Cross.  The book was just released this summer, and proposes a new cross between crystallomancy, geomancy, and astrology.  It uses the traditional sixteen geomantic figures and the astrological framework we all love, but offers some exciting innovations about interpretive models and the structure of the figures.  Plus, it also links the sixteen figures to sets of semiprecious stones, which makes sense to me, both the figures and the gems coming from the Earth.  I just ordered a copy and, shockingly, I got a thankful reply back from the author almost immediately.  I had an email exchange with him before after my post reviewing Poke Runyon’s discussion of geomancy, and we both came away the better from it.  Not gonna lie, I’m pretty humbled by his email, and I fully intend on taking him up on his offer to sign the book.

I plan to do a review of the book and technique once it falls into my hands, but in preparation for that, let me do a quick overview of the current state of geomancy in print.  This isn’t intended to be a complete list, but highlights the texts I own or am familiar with and my thoughts on what they have to offer.  Back when I was in college, I used my library and academic connections like the dirty whores they are to get the most information relevant to Western geomancy as I could without it falling too far into the African arts of ifa or sikidy; this, plus a good bit of downtime between papers, led me to be as well-read on the subject as I could.  Where possible, I’ve linked to Amazon listings or PDFs of the texts so you might be able to check out some of the literature as well.

For ancient and medieval sources, in no particular order:

  • Henrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, “Three Books and Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy”.  Probably most magicians’ introduction to geomancy, when they get to those parts of his Second and Fourth Books.  Starting with his “On Geomancy” in the Fourth Book, he presents a fairly standard introduction to the art: generating the Mothers, generating the Shield, making the House chart, and presents the meanings of the figures in the various houses.  He also offers multiple assignments of the figures to the elements, including one based on their zodiacal correspondences and one on the elemental structure of the figures themselves, which is highly interesting, though brief.  It’s nothing terribly special, though, and isn’t great on the details and techniques that make geomancy an art.  His other references in his series of books, namely those in the Second Book (chapters 48 and 51), deal more with the magical correspondences of the figures and how they can be turned into sigils or seals for spirits or enchantment
  • Gerard of Cremona, “On Astronomical Geomancy”.  A short work, but unique in its presentation of using geomantic methods to substitute in for horary astrology.  Gerard Cremonensis shows how to develop a horary chart based on the random number generator feature of geomancy and the planetary correspondences with the figures, as well as laying out how to derive the rising sign for an astrological chart.  From this, he shows the rules of basic horary interpretation (horary without degrees, essentially).
  • Pietro d’Abano, “The Method of Judging Questions”.  A short text on geomancy, but this is one of the first that I know of that establishes how awesome using the astrological house chart and methods of perfection can be in geomancy.  It assumes you already know how to cast a geomantic chart and put them into the houses, and goes from there.  Foundational and pretty concise.  Part of JMG’s book Earth Divination, Earth Magic, which is now unfortunately out of print, but cheap versions can still be found.
  • Robert Fludd, “Utriusque Cosmi”.  This is a massive encyclopedic work, only a small portion of which deals with geomancy.  However, the part that does deal with geomancy is complete, well-organized, detailed, and exact.  It has huge lists of how to interpret a given query (e.g. “should the lost or dropped thing, though bad, be retaken?”) and lays out how geomancy was practiced at the height of its technique and history so far.  It’s also unfortunately in Latin and available only on microfilm.  I’ve only been able to get through a few parts of it, but this is definitely a masterpiece of geomantic literature.  Also, Fludd was a small god at using charts and lists to clearly show relationships and correspondences; among his other inventions and works, he might be called the grandfather of infographics.
  • Robert Fludd, “Fasciculus Geomanticus”.  Rather than a simple chapter outlining geomancy as Fludd did in Utriusque Cosmi, this is his encyclopedic work on geomancy alone, cataloging every technique, interpretation, and method he was aware of in his day.  Again, in Latin, but if you have even a simple understanding of the language with a good dictionary, the labor is worth it by far.  His influence is definitely present in modern authors such as JMG, and parts will eventually be translated as a part of my own book.
  • Christopher Cattan, “The Geomancie”.  I was able to get a pretty nice copy of this at Antiquus Astrology, but it seems like they stopped selling their stuff a while ago, and now all that exists are really horrible-to-read scans and PDFs.  Alas.  He devotes the first part of the text to basic astrology and astronomy, but does give nice detail on the elemental natures and correspondences of the planets.  He then goes on to detail what the geomantic figures are, what they mean in the twelve houses, and what it means when a figure is present in both the first house and some other house at the same time.  He offers a helpful chart listing the 128 Court combinations, charts showing a variety of qualities of the figures, and plenty of techniques with an example for each one (though the examples aren’t always clear).  Not a bad book, and one which I consult tolerably often.
  • John Heydon, “Theomagia, or, the Temple of Wisdome”.  No.  No no no no no.  No no.  Do not go near this one.  Heydon was a little late in catching the bus, and compiled this at the tail end of der Untergang des Okkulten; he had to compile damn near everything he had available into more-or-less a complete unit, and I use those terms very loosely.  It centers largely on the occult nature and forces of geomancy, especially how they correspond to astrology and the heavens, but it’s obtuse, unclear, unfathomably dense, and terse when it really shouldn’t be.  Heydon lavishes attention on the occult background of geomancy without actually doing much to show the actual technique, resulting in a lot of occult fluff and not a lot of real content besides spirit work and planetary correspondences, with one or two other details in a massive set of volumes.  Sadly, this being among the most recent of the “ancient” sources, it was one of the things that groups like the Golden Dawn got their hands on, and resulted in a good century or two of geomantic malaise due to the incomprehensibility of geomancy.

For modern sources, again in no particular order:

  • John Michael Greer, “The Art and Practice of Geomancy”.  This is JMG’s second book on geomancy, which is more like an updated version of the older “Earth Divination, Earth Magic” (which included a copy of Pietro d’Abano’s work above).  I’d call this the modern definitive textbook on geomancy, giving a full review of the basics and details of geomantic divination, from basic pairwise readings to the nuances of multi-significator interpretations.  He also goes through incorporating geomancy with magic, specifically ceremonial operations and astrological timing.  In terms of technique, it’s basically an English translation of most of Robert Fludd’s work on geomancy (see above), leaving the details of specific types of queries up to the reader to figure out.  However, this is definitely a must-read for anyone interested in geomancy nowadays.  You can easily start with this and go pretty much anywhere in a matter of days with geomancy.
  • Franz Hartmann, “Geomancy: A Method for Divination”.  This is a modernized edition of Hartmann’s own reworking of an earlier study on geomancy; indeed, this is pretty much the earliest modern text on geomancy we have, dating to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Hartmann gives a rough introduction to geomantic technique, terse though helpful descriptions of each figure in each house, and a list of the 128 Court combinations along with example interpretations for 16 queries, which constitutes the bulk of the text.  He finishes with a very, very short treatise on astrology, basically showing what each planet and sign generally meant.  A good starting point, but incomplete when put next to most of the rest of the literature.
  • Stephen Skinner, “Geomancy in Theory and Practice”.  This is Skinner’s most recent work on geomancy, surpassing and incorporating his older “Terrestrial Astrology” (largely a historic treatise on the development of geomancy from its Arabic origins through Europe) and the even older and more new-agey “The Oracle of Geomancy”, which was geared more for absolute beginners and repeats a lot of rote information from previous works, including brief and terse descriptions of the figures in the houses and in relation to each other, including repeating Hartmann’s list of Court combinations.  Both of these older books are out of print, with the newest one just having been released this past year.  Unfortunately, I don’t have Skinner’s most recent book, but I assume it’s a basic upgrade of his past works.  “Terrestrial Astrology” is good, especially if you’re a historical researcher, and it has a truly massive list of manuscripts and sources for the avid scholar to inspect.
  • Nigel Pennick, “The Oracle of Geomancy”.  Not gonna lie, I cannot stand Nigel Pennick.  Granted that I’ve only read three of his books (another on leylines but mistakenly called geomancy, and a third on occult symbols and writing systems), he is not that good of an author, and his presentation of geomancy is erring at best and trippingly confusing at worst.  He throws in anything that looks vaguely geomantic, including references to Incan and Amerindian art, ancient Greek pottery, the I Ching, and Nordic devotional art.  The little geomancy he has in there is either pretty common stuff or details that aren’t attested elsewhere; not really worth a look.
  • Ralph Pestka and Priscilla Schwei, “The Complete Book of Astrological Geomancy”.  Now this book is one I wish wasn’t out of print!  Pestka and Schwei come up with a really interesting innovation here: we have geomancy, and we have horary astrology, so why not add them together?  By overlaying a normal geomantic house chart with the horary chart for the moment the question is asked, we can get a whole ‘nother layer of meaning by pairing the figures not just with the houses but with the planets, too!  They lay out the combination of each planet and figure in each house, and offer a new set of interpretations for the 128 Court combinations, which is refreshing and highly useful, more than Hartmann’s or Cattan’s, in my opinion.  Plus, one of their chart examples is on my birthday, which I found pretty nifty.  If you can get your hands on a copy of this, do it!
  • Thérèse Charmasson, “Recherches sur une technique divinatoire: la géomancie dans l’occident médiéval”.  Now this is an academic tome, right here, and also (if you couldn’t tell) written in French.  Google Translate and having a few Francophone friends helps here, but it’s definitely worth a read for the history bit of it.  However, it’s nothing you probably couldn’t glean from Skinner’s works, but Charmasson’s comparisons and research on the development of the figures and their names in various African, Arabic, Greek, and Latin sources is fascinating.  Not very easy to come by, and not cheap, so don’t hold your breath unless you have a good library hookup.
  • Paul Tannery, “Le Rabolion” (from “Mémoires Scientifiques” vol. 4).  Again, another researchy and scholarly French book, but one I highly suggest looking into.  Tannery was a mathematician and mathematical historian, and dedicates this section of a huge series of works to the development of geomancy.  The first chapter of his section on rabolion (a Byzantine Greek loan from Arabic for geomancy) is dedicated to the development of geomancy in the Sahara and Middle East, then in Europe.  The second and third parts of this section contain Greek and Latin texts of geomancy from the medieval and Byzantine eras, which is fascinating all in itself.  Very hard to come by except in the most established of libraries and collections.
  • J. A. Abayomi Cole, “Astrological Geomancy in Africa”.  This is less a work on geomancy as it is traditional Western occult philosophy with passing nods to how it came to exist and be understood through a very Europeanized African set of eyes.  Very little geomancy, very much a distillation of other works and focuses on occultism and astrology in general.  Not a particularly trustworthy source of information, but fascinating to see a glimpse of how geomancy was viewed in a very particular time period.
  • Richard Webster, “Geomancy for Beginners”.  I wrote a review of this book elsewhere on my blog, which you may be interested to read more about my specific take on it, but long story short, given that this is a Llewellyn book and is explicitly marked “for beginners”, the book is a passable though fluffy introduction to geomancy, though it really is meant for rank beginners who know nothing of the basics of Western occult symbols, but even then, the book isn’t that great in giving a strong basis with them, either.  Its presentation of information and technique is disjointed, and though it can be useful for people who don’t have much of an attention span to learn geomancy, its extra fluff and needless expanses of words unfortunately take up as much time as it does to learn the symbols and techniques of geomancy itself.  The only really innovative or new thing Webster brings is his chapter on “Arthurian divination”, but that alone doesn’t justify the rest of the fluff and cruft, especially since it’s not really geomantic.

And just as a note, anything on geomancy from the Golden Dawn is mostly rubbish. You’ll see why people stopped using it once you “read” what they had to “teach” on the matter.  Even if they were meant to be fleshed out by oral lessons and mentors, they’re woefully incomplete even as they are, but this is a problem with how geomancy barely survived the Enlightenment, not a reflection on the Golden Dawn and subsequent traditions.

There’re also a number of scholarly texts written about geomancy.  For those with good library or research connections, you might want to check out the following. If you can’t find them, be aware that I’ve uploaded most of these to the Geomantic Campus (and also to the FB group Geomantic Study-Group), so if you haven’t joined, do so already!

  • William Bascom et al., “Two Studies of Ifa Divination. Introduction: The Mode of Divination”
  • Louis Brenner, “Histories of Religion in Africa”
  • R. Davies, “A System of Sand Divination”
  • Rob Eglash, “Bamana Sand Divination: Recursion in Ethnomathematics”
  • C. H. Josten, “Robert Fludd’s Theory of Geomancy and His Experiences at Avignon in the Winter of 1601 to 1602”
  • Felix Klein-Franke, “The Geomancy of Ahmad B. ‘Ali Zunbul: A Study of the Arabic Corpus Hermeticum”
  • Wim van Binsbergen, “The Origin of Islamic Geomancy in Graeco-Roman Astrology”
  • James Sibree, “Divination among the Malagasy, Together with Native Ideas as to Fate and Destiny”
  • Marion Smith, “The Nature of Islamic Geomancy with a Critique of a Structuralist’s Approach”
  • Emilie Savage Smith et al., “Islamic Geomancy and a Thirteenth-Century Divinatory Device”

UPDATE (2017-10-01): Added Fludd’s “Fasciculus Geomanticus” to the books list, and other minor changes.

Elemental Planets

It’s probably no surprise to you, dear reader, that magicians love correspondences.  You know, “X corresponds to Y”, or “this rules that over there”.  You see it all the time in any occult art or science.  Not everyone likes them, and depending on the source the correspondences can be complete trash; ideally, you should listen to the correspondent and correspondee, but more often than not the correspondences work.  The bigger or more famous the force, the more correspondences the force is likely to have.  In ceremonial or Western magic, the biggest forces one can work with are, after Divinity itself, the planets and the elements.  So, naturally, it would make sense that magicians, especially Agrippa, have figured out correspondences between the two sets of forces:

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

This set of correspondences is suggested by Agrippa in his Table of Four (book II, chapter 7) and explanation of the elements in the heavens (book I, chapter 8), and has worked well for me in my own practice.  However, with the exception of the common-sense attributions of the Sun and Mars to Fire, the correspondences seem rather out of place .  Namely, they seem to run contrary to astrological rulerships or a generally-perceived elemental correspondence, which might run more like:

  • Fire: Sun, Mars
  • Air: Mercury
  • Water: Moon, Jupiter(?)
  • Earth: Saturn, Venus(?)

It makes sense that the Moon, ruling over the tides and the Female, would be watery, and Agrippa agrees that this is a common position to take; that Saturn, being slow, restrictive, and heavy, would be earthy; that Mecury, being fast, intelligent, and communicative would be airy.  Indeed, these are shown by their primary astrological rulerships, with the Moon presiding over Cancer, Saturn over Capricorn, and Mercury over Gemini.  But don’t forget that Saturn also rules over Aquarius, an air sign, and Mercury over Virgo, an earth sign.  Venus and Jupiter, too, rule over two signs each (earthy Taurus and airy Libra, and fiery Sagittarius and watery Pisces, respectively).  Simple astrology doesn’t appear to be helpful, then, in showing how the planets relate to the elements.

To explain Agrippa’s correspondences between the planets and elements, let’s start with the Sun and Mars, which are straightforwardly associated with Fire.  The Sun is the source of light and heat in our solar system, without which nothing could act; Agrippa calls it the “lucid flame”, and associates it with Fire.  Mars, likewise, for his hot temperament and sharp nature, both of which are associated with Fire.  Mars is associated over any sharp or bladed weapon, just as the Platonic solid of Fire is the tetrahedron (a d4, in RPG dice terms), due to its sharp and stinging nature.

The Moon is associated with Earth in Agrippa’s system, which is less astrological and more celestial.  In the geocentric heaven-based model of the cosmos, the heaven of the Moon is the closest to Earth, making it the most dense of the seven planets.  As the most dense planet, it’s the last stop for an Idea coming from the sphere of the Prime Mover through the stars and the other planets to finally come into form; this is the sphere where something actually takes a materialized shape, even if it’s only illusory and ephemeral.  This is also shown since, as the fastest moving planet and the lowest rung on the ladder, it collects the rays and forces of all the other planets and influences above it, focusing them like a lens onto the Earth (this is why the Moon is always considered as a co-significator in horary astrology, and why silver, the metal of the Moon, suffices for any planetary metal).  Like the element of Earth, which takes form and receives the influences of the other elements, the Moon takes form and receives the influences of the other planets.

Mercury is associated with Water.  Mercury’s planetary metal, actual mercury, is the only metal which is liquid at room temparture and standard pressure; this alone might explain its association with Water, at least on an alchemical level, but the correspondence reaches deeper than that.  Mercury is associated with every element and planet, since it’s notable for changing depending on what it’s nearby or aspected with, but it’s because of this adaptable nature that Mercury is associated with Water, which can likewise take on the attributions of whatever it’s nearby or mixed with.  Even though communiation is an airy act, it’s the act of connecting on a level of ideas untainted by concrete form that Mercury signifies; he’s the Messenger, after all, not the message itself.  Between concrete Earth and communicative Air, the Messenger has to travel from place to place and connect entity to entity, and it’s that connective principle of Water that identifies Mercury.

Saturn is also associated with Water, though this correspondence is slightly difficult to explain.  Qabbalistically, Saturn is associated with Binah, the Great Mother, the recepticle of all things that births things from the highest Supernals into the manifesting world; as the third sephirah or heaven, we can associate it with a figure made from three points, a triangle, specifically the downwards-pointing triangle which is the symbol for Water.  Seen as a symbol of boundaries, being the outermost planet from the Earth, Saturn has a very natural affinity for Water, where rivers and seas often formed natural boundaries to lands or claims thereof.  In classical Ptolemaic and Pythagorian systems, Saturn’s primary quality is cold, which is the primary quality of the element of Water (where Fire is primarily hot, Air is primarily moist, and Earth is primarily dry).  Saturn, as the planet representing depression, connects with Water in that Water is always constantly moving downwards, leading to decreased spirits and vitality; Earth, being also cold and dark, at least has stability and rigidity to it, but Water is emotionally volatile and will always seek the lowest possible state unless held up or back by another force.

Jupiter corresponds with Air, and though potentially awkward, it makes sense.  As a gas giant and the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter rules expansion.  Expansion is a quality of gas, the phase state associated with the element of Air, since a gas fills the container it’s in.  Jupiter, as king of the planets and the heavens (think Jove or Zeus) necessarily involves oversight, education, and management from various quarters of the skies; although these things sound more mercurial at first, the massive network that rulership implies must be founded on Air.  Plus, as the planet that rules the humour of blood and the sanguine temperament, which are associated with Air, Jupiter must also be associated likewise.

Venus is the second planet asociated with Air.  Venus is the planet of love, of conjunction and unity between the Male and the Female.  Although the sign of Air is an upwards-pointing triangle with a horizontal line through it, another classical symbol for it is an upwards-pointing triangle overlaid with a downwards-pointing triangle of the same size, also known as the Star of David or hexagram.  The upwards-pointing triangle represents Fire and the Male, with the downwards-pointing triangle represents Water and the Female; fire, when added to water, yields a gas of steam, like masculinity added to feminity produces conjunction and love.  Even though Venus is shown as being associated with water and the oceans (and, indeed, Agrippa also has Venus signify watery things), passion and love are not formed from pure emotion alone; emotion must be whipped up into passion, as waves are by water with wind.  While water may signify empathy, true human connection must be made with communication of that empathy, and communication is done primarily through Air.

Also, although not a planet, Agrippa mentions that the fixed stars are corresponded with the element of Earth as well.  Being fixed and immutable in the sphere of the fixed stars, between the heavens of Saturn and the Prime Mover, these celestial lights are found in the dark of the sky much as gems are in the dark of the earth.  Their influences don’t change, and their positions change only slightly with the precession of the equinoxes and relative to themselves.  Having such a rigid relationship to our sphere, the correspondence between the fixed stars and Earth makes sense.

New lamen set complete!

Recently I discussed my new style for lamens to be used in Trithemian-style conjurations, based on the description given in Agrippa’s “Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy”.  Although the style is largely the same, the latter is more preferred to my taste, being a little more balanced, seeming a little more “magical”, and working just as well as the old style.  Plus, I made the style, and that’s kinda cool.  Up until now, however, I’ve been using the old style of lamens, which I had printed out based on my designs on old-style kinda-translucent copy paper and lightly colored the lamens appropriately for the planetary angels.  They work, even though they’re not made of metal or something fancier.

This past week, during the week of the waxing Moon, I went ahead and printed out lamens for all the spirits I conjure using this new style, including the four Elemental Archangelic Kings and the seven Planteary Angels.  I used heavy faux-parchment cardstock to print them on, and for the planetary angels I also printed them out in their proper day and hour according to their ruling planet.  Like the old lamens, I colored the new ones as well, but this time I got kinda fancy:

  • For the planetary lamens, I lightly colored the ring of godnames and the central hexagon in the hexagram with the queen scale color of the planet, heavily colored the points of the names written in the Celestial script, the pentagrams, and the arms of the hexagram with the queen scale color, and colored in the space between the pentagrams and hexagrams with the king scale color of the planet.  This means black/crimson for Tzaphqiel of Saturn/Binah, blue/violet for Tzadqiel of Jupiter/Chesed, red/orange for Kammael of Mars/Geburah, yellow/rose for Michael of the Sun/Tiphareth, green/amber for Haniel of Venus/Netzach, orange/purple for Raphael of Mercury/Hod, and purple/dark blue for Gabriel of the Moon/Yesod.
  • For the elemental lamens, I swapped queen scale color with the traditional color associated with the element (red for Michael of Fire, blue for Gabriel of Water, yellow for Raphael of Air) and its flashing color for the king scale color (green, orange, purple, respectively).  For the Auriel of Earth lamen, I used the black-olive-citrine-russet color scheme and a light yellow background, since they’re also the colors of the element as well as the colors from the queen and king scales for Malkuth.
  • I also applied gold leaf to the edge of the lamen just as a nice touch to make them all fancy-like.  The gold leaf will be hidden when put in the lamen frame I use, but that’s no biggie.
Arranging the lamens in the same way as Fr. Rufus Opus’ Altar Glyph, here’s my new lamen set (also with a glimpse of the seals I’ve received for personal use from the four Archangels):

Information about the planetary or qabbalistic color scales mentioned above were taken from the Golden Dawn system (see here for a description), and the colors for the elements came from the colors of the Rosy Cross Lamen worn by Adepts of the Golden Dawn (see here for a picture).  The old and new styles of lamens themselves (uncolored, of course) can be found on the Designs page.

The spirits come all the same, and seem to be either the same strength or a little clearer, which makes sense since these colors applied to the lamens help make them more in tune with the force and spirit in question.  I may keep the old lamens, or I may burn them as offerings to the planets and forces I work with, but I’m very pleased with these new lamens.  Plus, the lamen design themselves double as talismans of that sphere and angel; a complex example can be seen on Fr. RO’s blog as a talisman for the angels and forces of Saturn, Jupiter, Virgo, and Capricorn.

Also, yes, I print out my lamens, and I use the graphics from the Magical Calendar for the planetary angelic lamens (but I draw in the seals for other spirits because, well, they don’t exist otherwise).  To be fair, I’ve also got the pattern, series of godnames, angelic names and spellings, and angelic sigils all in memory, and they’ve all been integrated into my sphere appropriately through initiation, alignment with their spheres, and repeated discussion.  If you do not have this done, try drawing out the lamens by hand first before using premade templates.  This functions as a very useful kind of “kinetic meditation”, as Fr. RO is fond of saying, and it’s not without purpose; the more you have this stuff in your mind, the more it’s in your sphere, and the more it’s in your sphere, the more you’re able to function.  It’s like learning a language: the more you use it, the better at it you become.

Experimenting with Angelic Lamens

After a lot of hemming and hawing, I’m finally taking my original lamen design seriously and going to experiment using them.  My original lamen design was based off the one in Barrett’s the Magus to use with the Trithemius rite as well as from Fr. Rufus Opus’ Modern Angelic Grimoire, but altered to look a little cleaner and more magical; plus, the new style relies more on a circular format, similar to the seals given in Crowley/Mather’s Lemegeton.  For comparison, here’s the standard lamen for the angel of Mars, Kammael:

And here’s my new, experimental design:

The differences between the two, in case you’d like a written description:

  • The name of the spirit is written in another ring around a central circle.
  • Always use six pentagrams around the arms of the hexagrams, points facing outward.
  • No Romanization of the spirit’s name.
  • Center hexagram is embiggened and centered in the central circle.
  • Godnames rotated 90° so that El is aligned at the top.

I used this design for a temporary placeholder when testing out the look of some things, but went to the original format out of fear of fucking things up.  However, the basis for the design of the lamen comes from Cornelius Agrippa (book IV, chapter 10):

Now the Lamen which is to be used to invoke any good spirit, you shall make after this maner; either in metal conformable, or in new wax, mixt with species and colours conformable: or it may be made in clean paper, with convenient colours: and and the outward form or figure thereof may be square, circular, or triangular, or of the like sort, according to the rule of the numbers: in which there must be written the divine names, as well the general names as the special. And in the centre of the Lamen, let there be drawn a character of six corners (Hexagonus); in the middle whereof, let there be written the name and character of the Star, or of the Spirit his governour, to whom the good spirit that is to be called is subject. And about this character, let there be placed so many characters of five corners (Pentagonus), as the spirits we would call together at once. And if we shall call onely one spirit, nevertheless there shall be made four Pentagones, wherein the name of the spirit or spirits, with their characters, is to be written. Now this table ought to be composed when the Moon in increasing, on those days and hours which then agree to the Spirit. And if we take a fortunate star herewith, it will be the better. Which Table being made in this manner, it is to be consecrated according to the rules above delivered.

In some ways, my design might be closer to the description Agrippa gives.  Alternate designs could be drawn up that use, say, a pentagon for the shape of the lamen for Kammael (5 = Geburah = Mars).  Although I didn’t color the lamen template, I do hand-color in the lamens after I print them out and cut them in an appropriate planetary day and hour.  The rule about the number of pentagrams annoys me: four for conjuring four spirits and fewer, otherwise as many as the number of spirits being conjured?  Yet Barrett shows six pentagrams for his lamen of Michael.  How confusing!  I may as well just stick with the number six to keep things balanced and even around the design of the lamen, I feel.  Plus, if I do ever get around to using a single lamen for multiple spirits, this layout affords more space for the seals and names of the spirits to be conjured than the standard design.

Tyson, in his notes to his critical edition of Agrippa, notes that Barrett’s design strays from this by adding a Romanized version of the name inside the hexagram, as well as using six pentagrams around the lamen.  However, Tyson also theorizes that the name of the angel (Michael, in Barrett’s example) is the ruling angel of the spirits to be conjured, with the individual spirit being written in the pentagrams around the hexagram.  However, since the lamen is to be worn around the neck, it has to be an appropriate size for wearing, in which case the pentagrams are way too small for that.  Because this can’t be done, I’m going with the interpretation that the name or seal of the spirit written on the lamen itself is the one to be conjured.  However, Agrippa does say that “there be written the name and character of the Star, or of the Spirit his governour, to whom the good spirit that is to be called is subject”; this is why we can use a lamen of, say, the angelic elemental king Auriel to conjure Amaymon, since Amaymon is subject to Auriel.  (That said, the way I’m taught and used to doing things is just conjure Auriel and ask him to bring Amaymon once he’s already there.  YMMV.)

Since I’m scheduled to conjure Kammael this week, I’m going to try this lamen out tomorrow.  I don’t expect too different a result; the spirit should be the same, the strength should be what I’m used to.  If I get better results, I’ll finish off the rest of this lamen set and post them to the designs.  If I get worse results, I’ll just stick to what I already have and use.  Personally, I like my design better, but that’s because I’m biased and proud of my shit.  If it works well enough for me to continue with these things, I may as well make a nice and purty set on strong parchment-like stock.