Unlocking the Observatory: The Spiritual Cosmology of Zoroaster’s Telescope

Where were we? We’re in the middle of discussing the obscure Telescope of Zoroaster (ZT), a manual of divination and spirituality originally published in French in 1796 (FZT) at the close of the French Revolution, which was later translated into German in 1797 (GZT) and then again in an abridged form as part of Johann Scheible’s 1846 Das Kloster (vol. 3, part II, chapter VII) (KZT), with Scheible’s work then translated into English in 2013 as released by Ouroboros Press (OZT).  Although OZT is how most people nowadays tend to encounter this system, I put out my own English translation of FZT out a bit ago as part of my research, and while that translation was just part of the work I’ve been up to, there’s so much more to review, consider, and discover when it comes to this fascinating form of divination.  Last time, we talked about . If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

※ For those following along with their own copy of ZT (get yours here!), this post does not touch on any specific chapter of the text.

Something I touched on briefly in the last post is that, nestled amidst all the interpretations and significations of the tiles as given in ZT’s “First Supplement”, there’s a weird trend specifically with the Intelligence tiles.  These tiles have meanings just like all the others, but there’s a few I want to specifically highlight:

  • Genhelia ☉: Physical soul, home country.
  • Seleno ☾: Earth.
  • Erosia ♀︎: Universal magnet (“love”).
  • Panurgio ☿: Sea.
  • Lethophoro ♄: Darkness (literally “night”), water.
  • Aglaé ♃: Air.
  • Adamasto ♂︎: Fire.
  • Psykomena ☽: Foreign country.
  • Psykelia ◎: Heavenly soul, light (perhaps metaphorically “day”).

Unlike many of the tiles, these seem to be connoting things less about omens or matters of future, and indicate more cosmological aspects.  It’s kind of a neat trend, and it emphasizes how important the nine Intelligences are to the well-ordering of the world around us.  Unlike in astrology proper (which, of course, ZT says is basically just charlatanry) where the planets themselves effect their influences in our world, ZT establishes that the things that happen in the world are effected by the Intelligences of the planets, not the planets themselves.  This reaches not just into the vagaries of emotion and action between humans (as influenced through their natal angels and natal stars which have planetary rulerships themselves), but even into the very world around us, where e.g. fire is an expression of the activity of Adamasto/Mars, the winds of Aglaé/Jupiter, and so forth.  In classical grimoiric (or at least Agrippan) terms, ZT’s Intelligences might be thought of either as grimoiric planetary intelligences or as planetary spirits, being either the tools that shape creation or the raw material that forms it, all in the hands of the Creator (or the two Principles).

What’s so fascinating about this is that this is just one small aspect of a much grander vision of the Great Cabala that ZT proclaims.  True, ZT is a divination manual, a short introductory handbook laying out the fundamental principles of a cute sort of divination, and most people would be inclined to pick it up, read it, and put it down as being nothing more than that.  But, as much as ZT talks about a divination process, ZT also talks about so much more at the same time, spending at least as many words on spirituality, cosmology, and even (dare we say it) religion as it does on divination.  It’s not that it’s hiding this, either; it’s rather up-front and blunt about it, but it doesn’t lay it out as clearly as it does its divinatory content.  By that same token, it’s something that’s more obscured in KZT/OZT because, again, KZT took the original ZT content and abridged it, cutting out a lot of the religious and spiritual flavor and content we see in FZT/GZT for the sake of presenting a more condensed divinatory manual.  If we turn to the older texts like FZT/GZT, however, we find a lot more of this sort of thing, especially in the Epistle.

Like, consider how ZT talks about itself at the start of the “Second Supplement”:

Hence, for once, the gaze of the being to whom the Pure Spirit will have given the eyes such a being needs in order to discover certain sublime objects—by these, we say, and by means of this second supplement—the gaze of the Elect will be able to soar to the highest point of the cabalistic Pyramid, of which the seven Steps earlier described are only its base and first layers. As these approved eyes look upward along the faces of this mysterious edifice, it will happen—should the Pure Spirit allow it—that the clouds, at first reaching down to the ground to hide everything from the profane eye, will rise so slowly as to barely be noticed at once. Stone is succeeded by marble, marble by crystal, crystal by diamond, and diamond finally by a heavenly brilliance—but the Elect are not like to be dazzled with damage. This brilliance, which shows that the Pure Spirit is within this whirlwind of light, retains a final shroud, the only one that the human condition is not allowed to penetrate.

What ZT teaches may well be just a divination system, but what it gives us is far more than just a means to predict the future.  The whole of ZT, both the divinatory system specifically as well as the Great Cabala more generally, is intended to access that which is superhuman by familiarizing the reader with those selfsame superhuman intelligences. The “Key” that ZT provides is not just a key to a particular practice of divination but rather “the key to the superhuman riches of which the Great Cabala is the inexhaustible store”, one that is even “a master key which will open not just the main doors but all the side doors, all the cupboards, all the drawers, and even the smallest secrets”.

To understand what ZT means by “superhuman”, let’s first talk about the word “occult”, literally meaning “hidden”.  This word can be understood in two ways: the secret or hidden virtues in things that confer surprising or powerful benefits to those who know how to tap them, or to teachings and disciplines kept secret and occluded from public dissemination for the education of and use by the few. Anything that cannot be seen or otherwise perceived by the physical senses of the body are, in one sense or another, “occult”, and have historically been bound up in the various traditions and teachings of any number of religions, mysticisms, and spiritualities. To modern sensibilities, many of the activities and interests of such systems deal with what is termed the “supernatural”, which is to say things that are not wholly within the physical and material realm of nature. However, not all such systems would agree that these things are necessarily “supernatural” if all things already belong to a more pervasive view of nature.  In that light, ZT says in its introduction that the Great Cabala has nothing “supernatural”, but rather has things in it that are “superhuman”, things that are technically beyond our reach as human beings. Rather than drawing a distinction between that which is of nature (“natural”) and that which is beyond it (“supernatural”), ZT draws a distinction between what is human and what is superhuman, seeing both as ultimately belonging to the one and same nature of Creation. Although the word “superhuman” is occasionally used throughout ZT, the bulk of the understanding and use of this word comes from the Epistle—and, for that matter, the Epistle provides much of the spiritual contextualization for ZT as a whole, being an apologia of sorts for engaging with the spirituality of ZT.  (This just compounds how much of a shame it is that this compelling essay only appears in the earlier versions of ZT and not in the more condensed versions as in KZT.) The Epistle uses the word “superhuman” a number of times to refer not only to entities as spirits or intelligences, but also to the work of divination, divine inspiration, and holy obligation. At the same time, the Epistle does not classify all spiritual or occult things as superhuman, as it denies that “black or diabolical” magic can rightly be called “superhuman”.

Rather than thinking of “superhuman” to mean “spiritual” or “occult”. it may be better to consider this word in the mind of the author of Epistle (and ZT more generally) to mean “holy”. This then suggests that the word “human” as the antonym of “superhuman” should be interpreted to mean “profane”, but this is not borne out by the Epistle. There are references to “purely human sciences” or that most humans are content with mere reason, but the Epistle also refers in equal measure to humans of genius or otherwise pious humans who admit and seek after divine things with the respect due to them. However, by definition, humans on their own cannot enter into or attain to the superhuman; to do so requires the active participation of the superhuman to grant humanity such access.  As the introduction of ZT itself says:

As to what is superhuman (which does not mean “supernatural”) in the Cabala, the mere idea contained in the word “superhuman” establishes in proof that we cannot lay hold onto what it expresses, and therefore we cannot give it away. It is a definition that can make its own existence felt.

The most common use of the word “superhuman” in the Epistle is to refer to “superhuman intelligences”, referring to immaterial entities with their own agency and capacity for communication, action, and interaction. The term “intelligence” has been used to refer to such immaterial or spiritual entities throughout much of European magical and grimoiric literature, even affecting later spiritual traditions such as Spiritism, so finding it used here should be no surprise especially as a more refined approach to other words such as “spirit”, (although GZT merely refers to them as übermenschliche/himmlischen Wesen “superhuman/heavenly beings”).

As that first passage I quoted above above says, so much is dependent upon not just the dedication and studies of the one who studies ZT, but on the permission and presence of the “Pure Spirit”, because ZT is not purely a thing of humanity and thus requires the superhuman in order to delve into it properly.  So what exactly is the “Pure Spirit”?  Basically, it’s the ZT’s equivalent of the Christian notion of the Holy Ghost, but we need to unpack this idea a bit more to get at what ZT considers this to be, along with ZT’s notions of divinity generally.

Although we can’t truly say that ZT is a Christian work in a technical sense, it is abundantly clear that its author has had a Christian education and upbringing, because the author uses a number of quotes and stories from the Old Testament and New Testament alike, and the author counts themselves as a Christian writing for an assumedly Christian audience. It is certainly true that, as OZT notes in its introduction, “the 18th century was an active time for occultism”, both across the whole of the Western world as a whole in general but especially in France in its transitionary period between the ancien régime and the République. However—even in the face of such infamous occultist circles as La Voisin and the Affair of the Poisons, even given the relative freedom of exploration for heterodox religious beliefs—there were still limits as to what was deemed acceptable or pious for public consumption. It should be no surprise, then, that at least some Christian, or otherwise broadly Judeo-Christian, influence is evident in the spirituality of ZT. Although there is little of Christ or any salvific figure involved in ZT, one would reasonably find ZT’s notions of the Supreme Being and the Pure Spirit to be its analogues for God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Although there is no specific discussion of the Supreme Being (also called the “Eternal One”, “Almighty”, or “Creator”) or Pure Spirit in the ZT, they are referenced throughout it all the same, as well as in Epistle and the Epilogue. The “Second Supplement” explicitly states that it was the Supreme Being that Moses saw in the burning bush, and that Gabriel announced to Mary the birth of Jesus on behalf of the Supreme Being. However, despite the explicit identification of ZT’s Supreme Being with the God of Abraham, absent are the latter’s jealous or even judgmental aspects. Rather, ZT speaks of the Supreme Being as a pious mystic would: worthy of our reverence and devotion and connection, having in mind our best interests and loftiest aims in mind, and wanting to develop us to the point where we might reach them either through their merciful loving-kindness or through their castigating “tough love”. All things are possible for the Supreme Being, and likewise, all things are determined and allotted by the Supreme Being.

Historically, it should be noted that, while “Supreme Being” is a reasonable moniker for the Godhead in many Christian contexts, it should be noted that there was also the Culte de l’Être suprême “Cult of the Supreme Being”, a form of deism pioneered by Maximilien Robespierre and established in France as a state religion during the French Revolution in the early 1790s. This new civic religion was intended to maintain a pious theism as well as social order without descending into the anthropocentric atheism of the Cult of Reason (which appalled Robespierre) nor permit the excesses of Catholicism to continue in the newly-established Republic. In the Decree Establishing the Cult of the Supreme Being on 18 Floréal II (7 May 1794) at the National Convention, it was declared that:

  • The French people recognize the existence of the Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul.
  • They recognize that the worship worthy of the Supreme Being is the practice of the duties of man.
  • They place in the first rank of these duties to detest bad faith and tyranny, to punish tyrants and traitors, to rescue the unfortunate, to respect the weak, to defend the oppressed, to do to others all the good that one can and not to be unjust toward anyone.

Given the publication date of 1796 for FZT, even in spite of the Epistle’s sympathies for the then-deposed aristocracy and nobility, it is impossible to ignore the possibility of Revolutionary religious influence in ZT, at least to some small degree. In a historical and social context where much of the old established order was being upturned so as to build a new one, and considering how much animosity the author of ZT has towards a variety of traditional occult disciplines such as astrology or geomancy, it may be that the author of ZT was (in their mind) trying to recover some long-lost pristine spiritual practice, much as the French Revolution attempted to reclaim the democratic heritage of ancient Greece and Rome. This tendency may be evident in ZT’s encouragement of astronomy and discouragement of astrology, seeing the former as essentially useful and the latter as essentially corrupt, much as revolutionary tendencies in a wide array of cultural arenas elsewhere would have sought to do away with the old and fixate upon the new, or at least newly-recovered. In that light, ZT may well be avoiding an explicitly Christian spirituality and instead tapping into the revolutionary current of its time so as to develop its own revolutionary understanding of divinity.  Of course, given the blatant aristocratic and royalist leanings of the author of ZT (and especially pronounced in the Epistle), maybe this is reading too much into it, putting the cart before the horse: it may be relying on an overall French spirituality that ties as much to Catholicism as it does to revolutionary deistic cults.

Far more commonly mentioned in ZT than the Supreme Being, however, is the Pure Spirit, also occasionally called the “Pure Mind”. Mentioned only twice in Epistle but mentioned at least once (and often many times) in the majority of the chapters of ZT including the Epilogue, the Pure Spirit is a nebulously-defined numinous presence that facilitates the divinity of the Supreme Being in our world. It is the Pure Spirit that is itself the source of all truth; it was the Pure Spirit to whom the ancient Magi dedicated their temples, and it is the Pure Spirit to whom the Cabalists of ZT direct themselves for succor in their cabalistic and divinatory works. ZT is clear on this last point: it is only through the Pure Spirit’s inspiration that the reader might actually perform works of divination, guiding them to speak truth even (or especially) when the diviner runs up against the limit of the methods of ZT. However, the Pure Spirit is not some passive matrix of spiritual presence; ZT describes the Pure Spirit as having an agency and will of its own, deigning to work at some times but not at others, allowing some humans to perform certain works but not other humans or other works.

In many ways, even if one were to discount any Christian involvement in the development of ZT, it is clear that the Supreme Being and Pure Spirit would be close analogues to the Catholic notions of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, though there is no notion of salvation in the ZT, precluding the necessity for an analogue of God the Son. It may better be said that, although both the Supreme Being and the Pure Spirit are God for the author of ZT, the Supreme Being is more distant than the Pure Spirit is, and it is the Pure Spirit who acts as both the presence of God as well as the gateway to God, giving primacy to the Pure Spirit only insofar as is necessary to participate in divinity. It may be said, then, that the Pure Spirit functions as an analogue both to the Catholic Holy Spirit as well as Christ, as it is the breath of the Pure Spirit in ZT that allows one to be truly and divinely inspired.

And, of course, we shouldn’t confuse the Supreme Being or Pure Spirit with the two Principles of Sisamoro and Senamira, either.  If the Supreme Being is the Creator of all Creation, then the two Principles, Sisamoro and Senamira, can roughly be considered as rival demiurges or underlying actors within the dynamic system of the cosmos. In this light, when ZT says that Sisamoro is “inifinite goodness” and Senamira is “infinite wickedness”, the descriptions of Sisamoro and Senamira come into greater clarity, especially with the footnotes noted above. Sisamoro is the encosmic principle and source of all goodness, purity, light, and bliss, while Senamira is the same but for all wickedness, depravity, darkness, and suffering. It is because of this that ZT states that Christians have interpreted the former to be “God” and the latter “Satan”, employing a sort of antagonistic dualism already known to the reader as asserted by the author.  It has to be said that the Principles form one of the few links from ZT to the actual Zoroaster and Zoroastrianism: ZT points out that, because these names are present in the divinatory system, the system must therefore come from that ancient religion.

Sure, the religion of Mazdayasna (“the worship of wisdom”) was founded on the teachings of Zarathustra in the 6th century BCE worships one universal, supreme, transcendent, all-good, and uncreated creator Ahura Mazda (“Lord of Wisdom” or “Wise Lord”) who dwells above, from which emanates asha, the spiritual force of cosmic order and the antithesis of druj, falsehood and disorder, which itself emanates from Angra Mainyu (“destructive spirit”), also known as Ahriman, who dwells below. These two forces are in constant conflict throughout all creation, especially pronounced upon humanity, although Ahura Mazda wins out in the end times, at which point a savior known as the Saoshyant will come forth to resurrect the dead, all of creation will be purified and renovated, and all humanity will be judged twice: once for their spiritual being and once for their physical being. While there are similarities between the above Zoroastrian notions and ZT’s notions of Sisamoro and Senamira, the similarities end there. While the tiles given in the Urn foldout all have a distinct flame motif on each of the Intelligence and Numeral tiles, hearkening to the notion of Zoroastrian fire worship, this is all little more than a superficial appropriation of Zoroastrian symbols and concepts to offer an exotic orientalizing flavor to a relatively modern form of divination. The whole of the rest of the system displays the usual European Christian frameworks and sensibilities which, although at times parallel with Zoroastrian ones, is less an indication of ZT’s ultimate Persian antiquity and more one of cultural resonance.

Especially intriguing on this point, however, is a note from the Epistle. Towards the end, in describing the mythic history of the Great Cabala, the author of the Epistle states that “the Good Principle and the Bad Principle, having become rivals in the opinion of these impious fools, shared equally a desecrated incense”. It is true in Zoroastrianism that Ahura Mazda is the supreme creator, and though they are at war until the end times, their conjoined conflict can be said to provide for the constant creation of the current world which will end when Ahura Mazda eventually and inevitably conquers Ahriman; in this, Ahura Mazda and Ahriman cannot be said to be rivals or equals. Yet, in the divinatory and cosmological system of ZT, Sisamoro and Senamira do appear to fulfill that role, being equal though opposite in power, with the Supreme Being beyond both of them taking on the role in ZT that Ahura Mazda himself has in Zoroastrianism. It may be that the Epistle here is referring to the religious understanding of Ahura Mazda and Ahriman in Zoroastrianism proper than the cosmological signification of Sisamoro and Senamira in ZT, maybe showing at least some awareness beyond the merely superficial of the religion itself.

While Sisamoro and Senamira work on a cosmic scale, the two spirits Sallak and Sokak act on a human scale, almost as their respective emissaries. ZT notes that these are not divinities in their own right as Sisamoro or Senamira might be, but are “only Creatures of the First Order”. Similarly, the implications of a statement like “the two Principles and the two Spirits do not overlap each other in the Great Cabala” and the similar though diminutive designs of the Sallak and Sokak tiles derived from those of Sisamoro and Senamira emphasize the different roles these pairs of entities have. This is further indicated by how their tiles are treated in a divinatory session employing the Great Mirror: the Principle tiles are not used in the Great Mirror itself but are placed beyond it in a way that affects the mirror as a whole, while the Spirit tiles are used just as any other. The suggestion is that Sisamoro and Senamira work on a grander or cosmic (or at least transpersonal) level, while Sallak and Sokak work on a smaller, individual scale.

As a symbol in the divinatory system of ZT, Sallak represents good fortune in general; Sallak is explicitly identified as the Catholic notion of a guardian angel. According to the Catholic Catechism (I.2.1.I.5.I.336):

From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.

On the contrary, Sokak is labeled as “the evil genius of the Ancients…the evil Angel”. Like Sallak, Sokak is a constant companion of each individual human; unlike Sallak who guides and helps each human to their most beneficial end, Sokak lays traps to afflict and waylay each individual human. To that end, in the divinatory system of ZT, Sokak represents ill fortune, but this is more of a concession to the system of divination rather than merely saying that Sallak is merely Eutychē and Sokak Distychē.  These are about our fates, where we encounter things that are good for us so long as we stick to the path of our fate, and encounter things bad for us if we fall off that path.

I’m sure there’s much more that one can extrapolate from ZT about its view of cosmology and spirituality in general, but I’m not sure how much more I could offer beyond mere conjecture; after all, I’m no expert in the history of French religion and occulture, and trying to get into the research of that is a daunting prospect far beyond my capabilities right now.  What I can offer, at least, is what ZT itself says about how it thinks about and constructs notions of divinity and the cosmos—but all this still leaves open the question of “so what?”.  I mean, okay, sure, we have all this notion of a grand cosmos filled with spirits and the Pure Spirit and everything, but where does that leave us, what is our goal, what do we do with all this information?  We’ll save the best for last, dear reader, and get to that next time.

Unlocking the Observatory: 17th Century German Pop-Divination Texts, Natal Stars, and Numbers

Where were we? We’re in the middle of discussing the obscure Telescope of Zoroaster (ZT), a manual of divination and spirituality originally published in French in 1796 (FZT) at the close of the French Revolution, which was later translated into German in 1797 (GZT) and then again in an abridged form as part of Johann Scheible’s 1846 Das Kloster (vol. 3, part II, chapter VII) (KZT), with Scheible’s work then translated into English in 2013 as released by Ouroboros Press (OZT).  Although OZT is how most people nowadays tend to encounter this system, I put out my own English translation of FZT out a bit ago as part of my research, and while that translation was just part of the work I’ve been up to, there’s so much more to review, consider, and discover when it comes to this fascinating form of divination.  Last time, we talked about the “natal stars”, ZT’s own take on the lunar mansions and the angels associated with them, and how utterly weird the whole thing is. If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

※ For those following along with their own copy of ZT (get yours here!), the relevant chapters from ZT are the “Second Supplement” and “Third Supplement”.

Following up on the last post, we talked about how utterly bizarre and obtuse this system is of associating the angels of the lunar mansions, or “natal stars” as ZT calls them, and given that ZT uses them nothing like lunar mansions it may be for the best to use ZT’s moniker instead.  This is all so clearly (and yet so unclearly) depicted by all the oddities of ZT’s Plate VI:

The more I looked at it, the more confused I got.  I tried plotting out all available information every which way: mapping out the house-to-mansion and mansion-to-house-less-the-intelligences-numbers, seeing if there was any repeating pattern of numbers being skipped, trying to trace geometric patterns between mansions on the Great Mirror—nothing.  The more I banged my head against this, the less I understood what was going on.  Heck, I even counted how many of the tiny divisions there are in the Border of Plate VI and found out that, although there are supposed to be 13 of them per mansion to represent the 13(ish) days per Sun traveling through the mansion (which is a super weird notion), which should yield (according to ZT) a total of 365, a handful of them have 14 divisions and one even has 15—and even then, 28 × 13 = 364, which doesn’t match with what ZT says regardless.  Even trying to reverse engineer and come up with my own systems and methods of assigning mansions to the houses wasn’t coming anywhere close to what ZT was doing.

Like, yes, to be sure, there are a number of things about ZT that I don’t have answers for—where it gets its unique take on planetary numerology, for instance—but all of those are relatively minor things that don’t impact the actual function or process of the divinatory method of ZT.  Meanwhile, here we have something that is clearly stated as being important, but which itself is not used in the actual divinatory method at all, which would still be functional (even if somehow potentially incomplete?) without it—and which even the Redactor of ZT says was something thrown on as an extra bit to keep people going in ZT and which wasn’t going to be mentioned at first anyway.  Again, the more I looked and considered this, the less sure I got of what the hell it’s doing.  It was clear that I wasn’t getting anywhere, and even the seeming leads that might have revealed a blind kept going nowhere.

I decided to take a different approach.  I mentioned the various options of what could be going on here last time: either it’s all arbitrary, it’s just a bad and incomplete pattern, it’s a blind, or it’s an importation based on another source that explains something about the method in a way that ZT alone can’t and doesn’t.  Maybe it’s that last option, and I would have to look at non-ZT texts to find something.

First, I tried looking up lists of lunar mansion angels.  It’s a distinct quality of ZT that gives such a list with the three big archangels Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael included; these aren’t in Cornelius Agrippa’s list from TBOP book III, chapter 24, and lists like this tend to be remarkably stable over time even if some of the spelling changes a bit.  The only thing I was coming up with was something from Franz Bardon’s work, specifically the list of angels of the sphere of the Moon which was encoded in Bardon’s work and subsequently decoded by Emil Stejnar, but I cannot for the life of me figure out where Stejnar was getting this list from in any of Bardon’s works, and Stejnar himself doesn’t say; indeed, the annotators of such a website note that the “angelnames are cited according to Stejnar[;] the edition of Agrippa’s ‘Occulta Theosophia’ in my possess gives different angelnames”.  Beyond that one dead-end of a lead, though, I couldn’t find anything.

I backed up and instead reconsidered: what about the lunar mansion names?  The list given in ZT’s “Second Supplement” (Alnacha, Albukaim, Alkoreya, Aldaboran, Almuzin, etc.) are all recognizably the names of the 28 lunar mansions, even considering their variants in older texts, and especially considering all the many and various ways Arabic names and words get corrupted and mangled in European texts.  In general, while such variation can occur from text to text, such changes only happen slowly over the course of many generations of copying, and are as much impacted by the source language as well as the destination language.  In that light, people don’t often just come up with their own transcriptions and spellings; they typically use the ones they’re shown.  While these names of the lunar mansions are definitely intended to represent the lunar mansions, and while they’re kinda close to what Agrippa has, they’re not exactly the same.  Maybe this is an indication of some alternative lineage of astrological information the author of ZT was privy to?

So I started googling for some of the names in older texts, and that’s when I found the 1757 Das Große Planeten-Buch, published in Leipzig by Johann George Löwen (DGPB).  It’s written in an older German in Fraktur, so it’s not the easiest thing to read, but as I was flipping through it, I noticed that it contains a whole lot of information about a lot of different divination systems—astrology, yes, but also geomancy, numerology, palmistry, phrenology, and the like.  In the first part of the book that focuses on astrology, pages 54—96 have information about the lunar mansions, spelled nearly identically to what’s used in ZT.  For example, consider this introductory paragraph from part I, chapter 35 (page 73): Von dem Stern Algayre und seiner Würckung “on the star Algayre and its effects”:

Transcribed and translated:

Dieser Stern so auch Alhayre heißt, und zum Beherrscher Jazariel hat, nimmt seinen Anfang im 2. Grad und 24. Minunten der ♓︎ [♍︎], und reichet mit seiner Kraft bis in den 15. Grad und 54. Minuten der ♎︎, ist temperirter ♃ und ♀︎ Natur, und ist mehr glücklich denn unglücklich.

This star, also called Alhayre, and which has Jazariel as its ruler, begins in 2°24′ of Pisces [Virgo] and its power reaches until 15°54′ of Libra.  It is tempered by the nature of Jupiter and Venus, and is more fortunate than unfortunate.

Here we have a description of DGPB’s mansion XIII Algayre (equivalent to Alhaire in Agrippa), and while the degrees are a bit off from what we’d expect, the chapter goes on to talk about people born in the mansion who have this or that quality, lucky days of the week, colors of clothes to wear and the like, and it even gives an angel name, too—but take a close look at this first paragraph, and you’ll see that it gives a nature of Jupiter and Venus to this lunar mansion.  We see the same with other examples, like mansion XV (Algaphar) being given to the Moon, mansion XVI (Alzibinin) being given to the Moon and Saturn, and so forth.

To be honest, given the contents of the book as a whole, DGPB doesn’t seem to be aimed at actual practicing astrologers; rather, it seems to be more of a manual and guide for non-experts who have an interest (if not quite a full study) in the work, and is meant to offer quick and simple approaches to astrology and other forms of divination and prognosis.  It is, in many ways, a lot like those pop-divination manuals we see for cheap in even otherwise mundane bookstores in the new age section that we often give to beginners or children as a gift to spur their interest.  In that light, consider:

  • It’s uncommon for non-expert guides for astrology to mention the lunar mansions.
  • It’s even more uncommon for such descriptions of lunar mansions to get planetary assignments.
  • It’s still more uncommon for there to be a mix of one or two planetary assignments per mansion.

…and ZT does all those things, too.

And would you look at that: of the 28 mansions that ZT lists, 13 exactly match with what DGPB give and another 6 partially match, for a total of 19 (well more than half):

Mansion ZT DGPB Match
1 ☉ ♃ N/A
2 Full
3 ♀︎ ☿ ☽ No
4 ♀︎ No
5 No
6 Full
7 ☉ ♄ ♀︎ ☽ No
8 ☾ ☽ ♀︎ ☽ Partial ☽
9 ♂︎ No
10 ☿ ☽ Partial ☿
11 ☉ ♀︎ ♃ ♀︎ Partial ♀︎
12 ☉ ☿ ☿ ☽ Partial ☿
13 ♀︎ ♃ ♀︎ ♃ Full
14 ♄ ♀︎ No
15 Full
16 ☽ ♄ ☽ ♄ Full
17 ☽ ☿ ☽ ☿ Full
18 ☉ ♂︎ ☉ ♂︎ Full
19 ☽ ☿ ☽ ☿ Full
20 ♄ ♂︎ ♄ ☽ Partial ♄
21 Full
22 ☽ ♄ ☽ ♄ Full
23 ♄ ♃ No
24 ♂︎ ♀︎ ♃ ♀︎ Partial ♀︎
25 ☉ ♃ ☉ ♃ Full
26 ☉ ♂︎ ☉ ♂︎ Full
27 ♀︎ ♀︎ ♃ Partial ♀︎
28 ♂︎ ♂︎ ☉ Partial ♂︎

Also, I should note, that specific linked copy of DGPB was published just a few decades before ZT in a major printing epicenter, Leipzig—which, I note, was a city that Nerciat himself worked in as a librarian.  Further, this book just happened to be part of a trend of similar books that produced virtually the same information verbatim for centuries.  Like, just searching for the unique spelling of some of the mansion names, I’m able to find dozens of copies of this book dating at least as early as 1650 and as late as 1852, but with even earlier versions under similar titles presenting similar information in a similar format but not the same wording as early as 1544 or 1541.  Notably, however, those earlier versions in the 1500s don’t seem to have the planetary associations, which only appear in the later versions starting (as far as I’ve found) in the 1600s.  At some point between the late-1500s and the mid-1600s, it looks like some minor German tradition of pop-astrology (and I’m only finding books in German in this situation using these similar names) added in planetary associations to the lunar mansions.

At this point, I’m not dragging it out further, because for the purposes of this investigation, we have a solid-enough conclusion, at least to my satisfaction: it appears as though ZT was heavily influenced in its development, at least as far as its angelic stuff is concerned, by some sort of popular or easily-accessible astrological resource (perhaps in or produced from Germany) that provided a brief introduction to the lunar mansions, but weirdly also provided its own innovative system of planetary associations to the lunar mansions, as well, which is not found  (at least to my knowledge) outside this weird “lineage” of “pop-divination” German texts.  The inventor of ZT took this system and adapted it to the geometrical restrictions of the Great Mirror, mapping what it could from these texts to the Great Mirror.  Not all such pairs of planets would work in the Great Mirror, to be sure; DGPB has mansions VII and VIII given to the planetary natures of Venus and the Moon together, but the Great Mirror has these planets on opposite sides of the hexagon, so there’s no such house that falls in both their orbits at the same time.  This would force the inventor of ZT to allocate what they could, and then squeeze in the rest what they couldn’t.  It’s not a perfect match, but it’s far more than just coincidental; barring anything else saying otherwise or any other source coming up with anything better, the notion that the author of ZT was relying on another book of astrology current and available to them and adapting it to their own system is far more likely than there being a blind or this being merely arbitrary.

And, while we’re at it, DGPB also includes a good chunk of numerological stuff.  In that version linked above, on page 14, it has a Tafel der überbleibenden Zahl, dadurch die Planeten den Menschen zugeeignet werden “Table of the remainder-number, whereby the planets are given to humans”.  If you take the numerical sum of someone’s name and reduce it to a single digit, by giving each of the digits 1 through 9 to one of the planets, you can determine the planetary nature of that name (and, by extension, that person).  Such a system doesn’t give numbers their own symbolic meaning, which is otherwise super common in many numerological systems, but rather gives the numbers to the planets and lets the planets define their meanings.  To that end, DGPB gives the following table:

  1. Sun
  2. Venus
  3. Mercury
  4. Moon
  5. Saturn
  6. Jupiter
  7. Mars
  8. Sun
  9. Venus

It’s not an exact match—Venus gets two numbers instead of the Moon, the Sun has one of its numbers off a bit, and Mercury and the Moon (swap with Venus?) would have to be swapped around—but several of the numbers do match between these systems.  This is certainly different than other numerology systems, like that of the Holy Guide (1662) of John Heydon, upon which later numerologists like Sepharial in his The Kabala of Numbers gives a table like:

  1. Sun
  2. Moon (New)
  3. Jupiter
  4. Sun or Earth
  5. Mercury
  6. Venus
  7. Moon (Full)
  8. Saturn
  9. Mars

It seems like those German pop-divination books like DGPB, even if not that specific one, provided both an astrological and numerological basis for ZT’s own system, although not exactly.  Admittedly, it’s just close enough to suggest a connection, but it’s just different enough to suggest that something else is going on, here, too.  I mean, at least with the numbers, if we consider ZT’s Plate II again…

…we can see that there’s this neat symmetry going on in how the planets are associated with the primitive Numbers.  Using Saturn/Lethophoro/5 as a fulcrum, each side is balanced by the other: Mercury with Jupiter (sophist/philosopher or servant/king), Venus with Mars (female/male), matter-Moon with spirit-Moon, and matter-Sun with spirit-Sun, which would also make Saturn in the middle as being the “dark” point between the two extremes of “light”.  By taking a numerological system like that of DGBP as a basis, it’s not inconceivable that the inventor of ZT shifted some of the numbers around to make a more pleasing balance of sorts, and then (like DGPB’s remainder-number planetary system) gives those numbers meanings based on their planets.

It’s all kinda circumstantial, both for the bit about the lunar mansions as well as the planet/number associations, but it’s not too unreasonable or infeasible that this is what happened.  I can’t prove at the present time, unfortunately, that this is what happened, and maybe some reader more adroit at 1600s-ish German (or other continental European languages) with an eye for tracking astrological or numerological texts can help trace and track down more such texts that might afford more leads, especially regarding how such texts like DGPB came to associate planets with the lunar mansions.  However, it’s what I’ve got to go on, and—if I do say so myself—it’s not an unbelievable possibility.

Let’s close down that line of inquiry; I’ve nothing more to go on, after all, and while this is a good thing to stand on, it doesn’t solve the other big issue we raised last time: how do the compound Number tiles themselves get associated to the angels/mansions?  Well, we have at least some inkling of what’s going on, at least.  To go through what we can discern from Plate VI and the table of angels:

  • There are 90 compound Number tiles.  28 goes into 90 a maximum three times with a remainder, so we can allot at least three compound Number tiles per angel.  28 × 3 = 84, and 90 – 84 = 6, so there are 6 remaining compound Number tiles.  ZG gives each of these remainder compound Number tiles to each of the corner houses in the Great Mirror.
  • For most compound Number tiles, we can simply allocate a tile to one of the houses in the orbit of the planet of that compound Number, e.g. how 43 reduces to 7, making 43 a number of Mars/Adamasto, putting this number into the orbit of Mars (specifically house 23 with Raphael).  These seem to have been done first.
  • All of the planets except the Sun have houses in their orbit that belong exclusively to them, while the Sun has no houses in its orbit that belongs exclusively to it.  Additionally, because the Sun and Moon are broken out into their material and spiritual Intelligences for their own houses for the purposes of the Great Mirror for the angelic associations for the rest of the houses (they’re all densely packed into the middle of the Great Mirror), it’s not clear how to cleanly allocate the solar and lunar compound Number tiles.
  • Because of this, the corner houses certainly have to get at least some of these tiles.  ZT says that they’re given to the Sun and Moon, and if we go down the table, the corner houses (mostly marked with a ✠) alternate between the Moon and Sun (mansion VIII/house 34 gets a lunar Number, mansion XI/house 25 gets a solar Number, mansion XVII/house 31 gets a lunar Number, etc.).
  • This also has the result, given how the mansions are allocated to the Great Mirror houses, that the left and upper corners of the Great Mirror all get lunar numbers, and the lower and right corners get solar numbers.  This matches with how the solar and lunar Intelligences themselves are allocated to the Great Mirror, with both Seleno and Psykomena on the upper left side of the Great Mirror, and with Genhelia in the lower right.
  • The rest of the solar and lunar numbers just kinda get…scattered around.

That is…well, frankly, as far as I can discern.  If we take a look at how many tiles fit the patterns above cleanly or not, then out of the 90 total compound Number tiles:

  • 57 tiles have no problem at all getting allocated and are all about where you’d find them; notably, these are almost all tiles of the non-luminaries (e.g. tile 40, given to house 31, a tile of Jupiter/Aglaé and in Jupiter’s orbit).
  • 3 tiles are kinda okay (62, 10, 46), which are in the orbit of their associated planetary Intelligence, but technically speaking these are the “extra” Intelligences of Genhelia (matter-Sun) and Psykomena (spirit-Moon) given to houses 3 and 6, respectively, and it’s not clear whether these Intelligences should be considered to have orbits of their own like the other planets do.
  • 28 tiles are those of Genhelia, Seleno, Psykomena, or Psykelia, which are just sorta scattered all across the Great Mirror.
  • 2 tiles seem completely incorrectly assigned:
    • Tile 39 (expected to be in the orbit of Venus) gets associated to house 23 (Raphael) in the orbit of Mars
    • Tile 94 (expected to be in the orbit of Mercury) gets associated to house 5 (Kiriel) in the orbits of Saturn and Mars.

Notably, of all the angels in the Great Mirror, Kiriel is the only angel that expects a tile of a particular planet (Saturn) but doesn’t have one.  All the other angels get at least one tile of each planet they’re in the orbit of, with the possible exceptions of house 2 (Tagriel) and house 7 (Michael), where they expect solar tiles (specifically of Psykomena) but get the wrong kind of solar tile (Genhelia), but given how closely associated Genhelia and Psykelia are, it’s not clear whether it’s okay that one substitutes in for the other.

Beyond this, I’m stumped.  Unlike the mansion/planet associations or even the possible connections between the planets and numbers, I’m not sure how ZT is actually doing the work of allocating the compound Numbers to the lunar mansion/angelic houses of the Great Mirror beyond the general rules above.  Like, to pick a perfectly regular set of tiles that have no surprises whatsoever (part of that large set of 57), it’s not clear to me why all the Jupiter/Aglaé tiles get associated to the houses they do:

  • Tile 15 with house 27 (mansion 6, Dirachiel)
  • Tile 24 with house 29 (mansion 14, Ergediel)
  • Tile 33 with house 29 (mansion 14, Ergediel)
  • Tile 42 with house 28 (mansion 25, Aziel)
  • Tile 51 with house 12 (mansion 13, Iazekiel)
  • Tile 60 with house 27 (mansion 6, Dirachiel)
  • Tile 69 with house 4 (mansion 1, Gabriel)
  • Tile 78 with house 29 (mansion 14, Ergediel)
  • Tile 87 with house 27 (mansion 6, Dirachiel)
  • Tile 96 with house 14 (mansion 12, Bethunael)

This is, unfortunately, something I’m stumped on.  Beyond the likelihood of the inventor of ZT just allocating what tiles they could based on the overall rules and notions they had and fitting in wherever they could wherever else they had space for it—with the possibility of a slip-up or two, like with the Raphael and Kiriel bits as noted above—I’m not sure what the rhyme or reason is for allocating the compound Numbers to the mansions/angels/houses.  I can’t determine a geometric pattern of triangles or flow, and I’m not seeing anything in DGPB that might indicate anything along these lines in whatever numerological stuff I can find.  It’s a bit of an anticlimax, unfortunately, after the whole bit about finding leads on the other questions I’ve had, but even if I can’t say that there’s a pattern, at least there’s a trend, and that’ll have to be good enough to content myself with for now.

This is, of course, where I plead to the broader community for help, at least for those whose eyes can suffer Fraktur longer than mine can and who can more deftly search Google Books or Archive.org for old German (or other continental European) texts on divination, numerology, and astrology.  If, dear reader, you might have any notions, inklings, or even leads about some of these unanswered questions, do say so in the comments!  It might not lead anywhere, given the obscurity of things like this, but who knows?  I’ve been surprised at a number of points before in this research, and I fully expect to be surprised yet as I continue it.

Unlocking the Observatory: Natal Stars, Stellar Angels, Lunar Mansions, and Questions

Where were we? We’re in the middle of discussing the obscure Telescope of Zoroaster (ZT), a manual of divination and spirituality originally published in French in 1796 (FZT) at the close of the French Revolution, which was later translated into German in 1797 (GZT) and then again in an abridged form as part of Johann Scheible’s 1846 Das Kloster (vol. 3, part II, chapter VII) (KZT), with Scheible’s work then translated into English in 2013 as released by Ouroboros Press (OZT).  Although OZT is how most people nowadays tend to encounter this system, I put out my own English translation of FZT out a bit ago as part of my research, and while that translation was just part of the work I’ve been up to, there’s so much more to review, consider, and discover when it comes to this fascinating form of divination.  Last time, we talked about reading the large hexangular figure as the Great Dial and how to use “option-whittling” to determine the specific details of a situation, including especially matters of time. If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

※ For those following along with their own copy of ZT (get yours here!), the relevant chapters from ZT are the “Second Supplement” and “Third Supplement”.

And now we get to the part of the ZT discussion that had me scratching my head (and banging it against my desk) for the longest time, and one of the reasons why I got so obsessed with trying to figure ZT out.  This is about to get messy, so strap in, dear readers.

We’ve covered a lot of ZT up until this point, it’s true; while I’m not following the order of ZT’s “Steps” or “Supplements”, I have covered the majority of the actual divinatory technique itself (barring the process of divination, refinements to query and tool, etc.), and even part (but only a very small part) of the spirituality, theology, cosmology, and anthropology of the ZT.  And, up until this point, much of the technique-related stuff is surprisingly simple: sure, there’s definitely a lot to it and damn-near countless ways to plot out various arrangements of things in the Great Mirror, but the bulk of the system isn’t a whole lot more than “there are some primary general concepts, we can combine and permute them in these ways, and now we have all these secondary specific concepts”.  This very approach is what got us all the meanings of the 99 Number tiles and the meanings of the 37 houses of the Great Mirror, and even the “option-whittling” approach used to simplistically determine time or other details of situations isn’t too complicated to figure out at a high level and apply in a variety of different ways.  This is why, given all the complexity and specificity that ZT can allow as a divination system, I think ZT is a masterpiece of elegance by means of extrapolation from simplicity.

Take a look, dear reader, at the plate called “The Urn”, which gives ZT’s own depiction of the various tiles to be used for divination, embellished with all relevant information for amateurs to more easily pick up and run with as they learn the system of ZT:

Each of the Number tiles has the number in the center in the middle, the planet (more accurately, the planetary intelligence) it’s associated with on the left, and the Zodiac sign it’s associated with on the right.  Each tile also has a name in the banner underneath the number; tiles 1 through 9, the primitive Numbers, get the names of their respective Intelligences, but each of the other tiles has the name of what appears to be an angel: Gabriel, Kiriel, Barbiel, Dirachiel, and so forth.  Moreover, some of these angel names are repeated across multiple tiles, e.g. Dirachiel has tiles 15, 60, and 87.

Thus do we come to the “Second Supplement”.  This chapter opens up with a lengthy and passionate introduction to how the method of ZT is but the foundation of a much grander system of theurgy and divinity—the layer of stone that gives way to marble, marble to crystal, crystal to diamond, diamond by heavenly brilliance itself—and that we shouldn’t be surprised that humans are but one type of entity throughout a dazzlingly diverse cosmos of entities of all kinds both corporeal and incorporeal, and how humans have the ability to see visions of spirits or who are taught about matters of the future or of God by means of spirits.  Immediately after this, we are introduced to the notion of a particular set of angels relevant for our studies in ZT (although, admittedly, nowhere referenced in any earlier part of the book).  I’m just gonna quote what ZT says on this point:

The Great Cabala recognizes, as we have seen, nine Intelligences. However, the two solar Intelligences and the two lunar Intelligences answer only to one planet each per pair, even if the Intelligence presiding over the material aspect subject to its Planet is not, somehow, a first Satellite of the spiritual Intelligence, rather than an Intelligence of the first order itself. On these grounds, the totality of Intelligences has only seven bases, which are the seven Planets. Each of these planets has four Messengers—Angels, in other words, which are according to the Greek etymology Αγγελος, this word meaning “messenger” in this beautiful language. These Angels, or Messengers of the Planets, are therefore 28 in number. There are as many boxes in the Great Mirror, allowing for each Angel to have their own fixed abode. Each Planet lodges in its orbit the Angels attached to it. Recall that some boxes are common to two Planets; the Angel who dwells in such a box is at the service, then, of its two corresponding Intelligences.

We will present a Table below where all the Cabalistic Angels are named and, next to each, as many mysterious Stars as they govern in the celestial regions. Following these, their names will be specified, as well as their Planets and the box that each Angel occupies in the Great Mirror, along with the three or four numbers assigned to it among the 99 with which the Table of Intelligences is provided. The Angels that rule four numbers each are those that occupy the six corner boxes of the Great Mirror; three of these are solar and three of these are lunar, as the column of signs in the table will show.

Each of the Stars that we will shortly name is, by its own account, a natal Star. It is common enough to hear that “so-and-so was born under a lucky (or unlucky) star”; however trivial this manner of speaking has become, it is still of cabalistic origin. Indeed, each of the allegorical Stars (which we will make known) influences all humans born under it, for each star’s reign is 13 days, 61 minutes, and 25 seconds per year. The total of the reigns of the 28 natal Stars anticipates the six hours per year on the totality of 365 days, with the 366th day of the leap year included in the net total of the days of four years. The domain of the 28 Stars thus starts again from the same instant every four years to complete a new period at the end of the same duration. This calculation can be verified by the Candidate arithmetically.

But let us first provide the promised Table, after which an easy-to-use dial shall be presented to put the Amateur within reach of recognizing, without fear of error, under which Star one is born, of what quality it is, what it allows to hope for, what it threatens, and whether this natal Star is friend or foe to the planet which governed in particular the hour in which the birth took place. It is thus for all the events of life, there not being a single thing however arbitrary or futile it might seem, which is not influenced by the circumstances of Heaven.*

* We do not wish in the slightest to bring the reader back to judicial astrology, for judicial astrology sprang from the Cabala and corrupted it. […]

We are then treated to the following two-page table, where the columns are “Influencing Stars”, “Governing Angels”, “Planets”, “Houses”, and “Numbers Influenced”, respectively:

My rendition of the table, for easier reading:

Stars Angels Planets Houses Numbers
1 Alnacha Gabriel 4 10 45 69
2 Albukaim Amixiel 20 14 59 77
3 Alkoréya Géniel ♀︎ 24 12 66 84
4 Aldaboran Azariel 30 28 58 76
5 Almuzin Sékéliel 36 23 68 86
6 Alkaya Dirachiel 27 15 60 87
7 Aldira Michael 7 32 55 95
8 Albiathra Amnediel 34 19 56 92 17
9 Alkarphès Barbiel ♂︎ 21 61 79 82
10 Algebla Ardéfiel 32 22 67 85
11 Alkratia Néziel ♀︎ 25 18 21 54 81
12 Alsarpha Abdizüel 5 27 31 64
13 Algaira Jazékiel ♀︎ 12 30 51 93
14 Alkimecht Ergédiel 29 24 33 78
15 Algaphar Ataliel 33 26 29 65
16 Alzibian Azéruel 18 38 41 62
17 Alactil Adriel 31 11 40 74 35
18 Alkab Egibiel ♂︎ 22 16 36 63 90
19 Alzébra Amuziel 16 13 20 91
20 Analkaim Kiriel ♂︎ 8 25 73 94
21 Abeldack Béthunael 14 49 71 96
22 Zaddadena Géliel 37 44 50 83 89
23 Sabadola Réquiel 35 47 53 80
24 Sadahad Abrimaël ♂︎ ♀︎ 10 34 48 97
25 Sadalakia Aziel 28 37 42 72 99
26 Alporabot Tagriel ♂︎ 2 46 52 70
27 Alkarga Athémiel ♀︎ 26 57 75 98
28 Albothan Raphaël ♂︎ 23 39 43 88

Alright, let’s cut the crap: this is just a table of the 28 mansions of the Moon with their angels, and the description preceding the table is clearly describing the same thing.  By saying that “each star’s reign is 13 days, 61 minutes, and 25 seconds per year”, it’s basically giving the calendrical equivalent of saying that each mansion’s span of the ecliptic is 12°15’26” (the average daily ecliptic motion of the Moon).  And, to those who are familiar with Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, the names of the mansions (delightfully corrupted as many Arabic names and words always are in any European text) are still basically the same as those given in book II, chapter 33, and ditto for the names of the angels of the mansions from book III, chapter 24.  For a text that so vehemently denies any connection with “judicial astrology”, debased and corrupted as ZT claims it to be, there’s a delicious sting of irony in seeing how far that’s really true.

Let’s take a closer look at the table.  What we have here is:

  • An index of the names of the 28 lunar mansions (what ZT calls “natal stars”) along with the presiding angel of each
  • Each mansion/angel’s corresponding planetary association (more on that in a bit)
  • Which house of the Great Mirror the mansion/angel is associated with (marked with a ✠ if it’s a corner house)
  • What Number tiles are associated with the mansion/angel (three for non-corner houses, four for corner houses along with what that extra Number’s specific planetary association is)

ZT goes on to note, immediately after the table, a few things that would appear to be missing from the table:

  • The primitive Numbers (1 through 9) are direct representatives of their respective planetary Intelligences, so they don’t get associated to any angel; only compound Numbers get associated with angels.
  • Houses 1, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, and 19 in the Great Mirror are already taken up by the seven planets themselves, so those don’t get associated with any angel.
  • Because there are 37 houses in the Great Mirror, if we take away 7 for the seven planets, that leaves us with 30—two too many for the angels of the lunar mansions.  To this end, all nine of the planetary intelligences get associated a house: all the non-luminary Intelligences just get their planet’s own house, but the Sun and Moon are split, such that Psykelia gets house 1 (the Sun’s proper house in the Great Mirror), Genhelia gets house 3 (between Psykelia and Erosia/Venus), Seleno gets house 11 (the Moon’s proper house in the Great Mirror), and Psykomena gets house 6 (between Psykelia and Seleno).

Based on this—as well as a lengthy description—ZT also gives us Plate VI, illustrating the Great Mirror with all the angels associated with it.  It breaks this diagram out into a “Drum” (the large hexangular figure with the names of the Intelligences and angels in it) and “Border” (the zodiacal and lunar mansion divisions along the ecliptic, along with the 13-ish days per lunar mansion).  The Arabic numeral in each house is the house’s rank in the Great Mirror, while the Roman numerals in the non-Intelligence houses indicate the rank of the lunar mansion of those particular angels.

Now, tell me, dear reader, if you so kindly would oblige me: what about any of this makes any goddamn sense I swear to god.  How on Earth is ZT fitting any of this together, when so little of it makes any sense?

  • If you look at the order of the mansions/angels associated with the houses of the Great Mirror, what exactly is happening?  Why does mansion I get put in house 4, II to 20, III to 24, and so forth?
  • While the names of the mansions themselves are basically correct, and most of the angels seem right, there are a few that aren’t.  Comparing with Agrippa’s list, while ZT makes use of the three archangels Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael, these appear nowhere in Agrippa’s list, and instead appear to replace the angels Anediel, Gabiel, and Amnixiel.
  • Further, while most of the mansions in ZT have the same angels in the same order as in Agrippa, some aren’t; mansions 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, and 28 don’t have the right angel names (either being swapped out with an archangel name or just using an existing name in the wrong order, e.g. ZT giving mansion II to Amixiel but Agrippa gives Amixiel to mansion III.
  • The Numbers assigned to each angel/mansion are all over the place.  They tend to be related to the planetary associations of each angel/mansion, but so many of them have ones associated with the Sun or Moon (of either intelligence) as well.
  • What happened to the ✠ mark for mansion XI/house 25 for Neziel?  That’s a corner house, so it should have that mark, because it has four Numbers associated with it.
  • For the most part, whatever angel gets whatever planets in that table, it has at least one tile of those planets associated with it, and not others (except for the solar and lunar tiles getting scattered all over the place).  In that light, why does Raphael—an angel in the exclusive orbit of Mars—get a Number associated with Venus (39)?
  • Why does Kiriel—an angel in the orbit of Mars and Saturn—get a Number associated with Mercury (94)?  For that matter, while Kiriel has a Number of Mars associated with it (25), it lacks one for Saturn.  Where’d it go?

Perhaps the biggest question I have about any of this is this notion of planetary associations with the lunar mansions, which just isn’t…like, a Thing.  Like, I’ve spoken with a number of professional astrologers about this, and the lunar mansions don’t—and shouldn’t—get planetary associations, beyond possibly linking the nature of particular fixed stars found within those mansions to planets and from there to the mansions itself, but this just isn’t done.  None other than Chris Warnock (of Renaissance Astrology) touched on this once upon a time on his blog:

In Vedic astrology the 27 nakshatra do have planetary rulers, but this is based on a planetary period sequence, similarly to firdaria. The sequence is Sun, Moon, Mars, North Node, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, South Node and Venus. A number of traditional Western sources do give planetary rulerships for the Mansions, but each one is different, some use the Chaldean Order, some the days of the week order.

A majority of traditional sources on the Mansions do not provide planetary rulerships and those sources that do, don’t agree on the system. The Liber Lunae, Sloane Ms 3826, a mid-Sixteenth Century English source gives a strange sequence of planetary rulerships, that doesn’t follow the Chaldean Order or the days of the week. The Liber Lunae Mansions are contained in my Mansions of the Moon Book.

I would have to ask why logically the Mansions of the MOON would even have planetary rulers? Aren’t these the Moon’s Mansions? This reminds me of the confusion over planetary rulership of fixed stars. Because Ptolemy in Tetrabiblos says that fixed stars “have the nature of” various planets, this has been taken as meaning that the planets rule these fixed stars. Again, logically the fixed stars are in a higher sphere and in fact the fixed stars “rule” the planets.

My view is that having planetary rulerships for everything is like the modern Aries = Mars = 1st house. It is collapsing the nuances of traditional astrology and losing the underlying structure.

Still, there is some support in traditional sources, the problem is which source do you choose and then what does it mean if Mars, for example, “rules” the first mansion? I can see that the designers of Solar Fire were confused because they insist on giving the location of all the planets in Mansions. We can therefore puzzle over the meaning or to my mind, the lack of meaning, of Saturn in the 5th Mansion.

And in a comment to someone else on that post, he said:

But why would a particular planet be stronger in a particular Mansion of the MOON? What does any planet, except the Moon, have to do with the Mansions? Other than “we always use the planets for everything” that is?

Like, we can consider the signs of the Zodiac and the mansions of the Moon to both be divisions of the ecliptic, sure, but if the signs of the Zodiac get assigned planetary rulerships, then why not the mansions of the Moon?  The difference lies in the conceptual backing of each: for the signs of the Zodiac, they are based on the Sun and Moon together (one solar year is an approximation of twelve synodic lunations, so we divide the ecliptic into twelve equal segments), and then we assign planetary rulerships to the signs based on their aspectual relationship to the Sun and Moon…

…but the 28 mansions of the Moon are a division based only on the daily average ecliptic motion of the Moon.  Moreover, the lunar mansions are meant exclusively for the Moon, and are used for other purposes than the 12 signs of the Zodiac are.  To give them planetary assignments or affiliations just isn’t something that’s really done, much less done commonly or in any standard approach, and as Warnock notes (and as I’ve seen myself), in the handful of texts that do attempt it—because why not, there are 28 = 7 × 4, so just give each planet four mansions—none of them seem to do it in the same way.  The other planets just don’t matter for the lunar mansions, not whether what planet is in whichever mansion, nor wherever the Moon is in any of the mansions; if we wanted to know the Moon’s strength or weakness according to other planets, that’s what the usual signs of the Zodiac are for, not the mansions.

Even if we ignore the planetary stuff, still, nothing about the rest of Plate VI or the angel/house/tile assignments makes sense.  And that’s the really frustrating bit, isn’t it?  It’s clear from everything else we’ve seen in ZT that this is a system that is built on extrapolating from principles, building up from smaller things into larger things; this system is not randomly thrown together, but is clearly something that was intentionally and explicitly designed.  And then we have this system of lunar mansions (disguised as “natal stars”, repurposed as quasi-Zodiac signs to determine someone’s ruling star/angel by seeing what mansion the Sun is in at the time they were born) which uses a system of angel associations which are mostly the same as those used in (damn near, or indeed actually) every other text but which uses some weird variation in it, and just…what?

It was even getting to the point that I was thinking that this might be a blind for something else—and I hate the notion of blinds in occult texts.

Here’s my take: yes, there are some occult and spiritual texts that do legitimately make use of blinds, i.e. ways to encrypt, encode, or otherwise obfuscate information with the use of keys or secrets that only a select subset of people would know, but throwing other people people not in the know off the trail.  It does happen, sure—but it happens so infrequently that anyone claiming that blinds are anything but rare don’t know much about the texts themselves, and are mislead by both romantic notions of secret chiefs encoding ancient wisdom in simple texts as well as the famousness of particular instances of blinds or keyword-translations that have entered the public imagination.  Across the vast majority of texts, when someone says X, it means X.  It is far, far more common to simply present a variation in technique than to present a difference with a wink and a nudge to mean something else—and it’s also even more common to just have typos in any given text.

Like, let’s be honest: unless you’re a legitimate spy (or spymaster) or professional cryptographer (like John Dee or Johannes Trithemius), you’re probably not gonna make a good blind or encryption worth your time, and you risk so much by putting out such a blinded text anyway.  Consider: if you put out a manual that proposes to teach stuff, and you deliberately put misleading information in with the intended goal that the manual should only be used by people worthy of possessing it, then you run into the ethical problem of giving people bad or incorrect processes that can cause severe issues, even irreparable harm.  If that’s the case, if such a book comes into the hands of someone exceptionally crafty who can manage to break such an encryption, then all your work just fell to naught and has entered the hands of someone you don’t know and don’t trust and didn’t want to have the information to begin with—which might be even worse than the previous situation, depending on the nature of such information.  If you want to keep information secure, then the best way to go about it is to just not publish it.  And let’s be honest: publication is expensive!  Between the sheer cost of the supplies and the process of setting type and printing text and binding it into pamphlets or books, to say nothing of making multiple copies thereof?  If you want to keep information limited, the best way is to just not commit it to paper—especially one that has to go through a publisher who can always make more such books on their own.

In that light, let’s consider the method and approach of ZT.  ZT claims to have this ancient teaching of wisdom, divination, and theurgy that allows people to rise and perfect themselves in harmony with celestial intelligences, and it says that the text it provides is a key—granted, it is only a key and not a full treatise that explains the whole system, but it is a key which it claims can unlock anything.  It then provides the most rudimentary basics of its systems and methods tells the reader to use them the rest of the way, and if the “Pure Spirit” guides them, they’ll figure the rest out on their own by using the information in ZT.  Beyond that, it fully expects that this information should be limited, which is why the book was limited to only 50 copies (it claims) and expects most people to disdain it and the author for it.  The approach of ZT here is so completely against the notion of using encryption or encoding or blinding at all: rather than trying to hide something, it just either doesn’t say it or it gives the basics of something and tells the reader to figure out the rest.

All of which is to explain my sheer frustration with this particular instance of assigning angels to the houses or tiles to the angels: everything else in this system just seems so elegant, well-put, and intentional, and then there’s this seemingly random thing, seemingly tacked-on in a later chapter with stuff that is never—not once—mentioned anywhere earlier in the text, and which doesn’t even seem necessary for the actual process of divination?  And then, in the Epilogue, the messages from the Redactor go on about how they only mentioned “the good angels, not betraying the evil ones”, and that how they “[at first] refrained from mentioning anything relating to the angels”?  And how ZT basically forces us to reinvent computus by, instead of just looking up in an ephemeris the Sun’s location along the ecliptic, making us do calendrical math to figure out under what natal star one is born under while also factoring in leap years?

This is the only part of the system of ZT that seems nonsensical, and the more I looked at it from any and every conceivable angle, the more nonsensical it became.  In that light, we have a few options:

  1. This part is really just arbitrary and made up with no real rhyme or reason.
  2. This part has some sort of pattern, but which is not clearly stated in the text and which may have as much noise as it does standardization.
  3. This part is based on some other source that ZT does not explicitly reference, which may itself have its own reasoning and method explainable in another way that isn’t dependent on or related to ZT.
  4. This part is a blind.

Option 1 (it’s arbitrary), while it can’t be ruled out, seems to fly so far into the face of ZT’s method and approach that it’s almost an insult.  Option 2 (it’s an incomplete pattern) is what I was trying to figure out, but not making heads or tails of it and being unable to reverse engineer it is itself a problem, so that’d lead to a dead end.  Option 3 (it’s based on some other system)…well, not knowing what other system that might be, it’s a possibility that would require further research.  Option 4 (it’s a blind)…like, I hate the idea, but this may well be a case of it.  Like, in my bitching about this and saying how tacked-on this whole bit feels to ZT, Nick Chapel from Hermeticulture (the lovable asshole who got me started on all of this) said:

It also sounds like the author wanted to include that supplemental material in the print run of 50, but needed to get it in to the publisher and so settled for an abbreviated explanation. It’s possible that the author might have chosen to blind the information because they knew they wouldn’t be able to lay out an adequately complete explanation in the time or space given, and wanted to ensure that anyone who was going to be using it understood the principles behind it. At least enough to see “hey, this doesn’t make sense” and have enough sense themselves not to use it until they figured it out.

[…]

…as both a puzzle designer and solver, you know that the puzzle wants to be solved. Even if it’s an intentional blind.

Like, it was this specific problem that got me to translate ZT from the original French version of it to begin with, to make absolutely sure that I wasn’t missing anything and that I could go through every section and line with a fine-tooth comb and make sure that there was nothing amiss.  And, while I definitely learned quite a bit more from FZT than I did KZT/OZT, I still found nothing in FZT that helped this particular situation.

But then, acting on a weird hunch, I did—and I’ll talk about that next time.  In the meantime, see if you can figure anything out about this particularly puzzling system, and if you can pick up on any interesting patterns or parallels with other texts, do say so in the comments!

A New Version of the Chaplet of St. Barachiel the Archangel

Back in 2014, I undertook a project where I came up with new chaplets for some of the lesser-known archangels.  Chaplets, as many of you are aware, are types of prayers made using prayer beads in the Western Christian, especially Catholic, traditions; the famous rosary is a specific type of chaplet, and many chaplets exist for any number of holy images, events, entities, and saints in Christianity.  I find them useful to pray in devotion and meditation, myself, and as one of my devotion practices is to the Seven Archangels, I find it fitting to use chaplets as a way to connect and offer veneration to them.  Thing is, however, that while there are definitely seven major archangels venerated throughout Christianity and many Abrahamic traditions, they’re not always the same set of seven.  For me in my practice, I use the Orthodox set: Michael (whose name means Who is Like God?), Gabriel (the Strength of God), Raphael (the Healing of God), Uriel (or Auriel, but either way, the Light of God), Sealtiel (sometimes spelled Selaphiel, but either way, the Prayer of God), Jehudiel (the Praise of God), and Barachiel (the Blessing of God).  Everyone knows who the first three are, as they’re the only archangels named in the Bible (which is why the Roman Catholic Church only officially permits devotions to these three); Uriel is not as well-known, but he’s still pretty popular, especially in magical circles that use Auriel as the angel ruling over the element of Earth.  The latter three, however, are next to unknown in Western contexts.  It’s one of the reasons why I wrote my De Archangelis ebook, to collect and arrange what prayers could be used for them for a Western practitioner.

When it comes to chaplets and the archangels, there are already well-known chaplets for Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and even Uriel (that last which I initially mistook for a simple rewriting of the Raphael chaplet, but which is sufficiently different enough to be its own thing).  However,  no chaplets seemed to exist for Sealtiel, Jehudiel, and Barachiel, so I wrote one for each of them.  I’ve since had a set of seven chaplets for the seven archangels I work with, and I’ve been pretty satisfied with the practice.  However, of the three that I wrote, I’m very pleased with the ones for Sealtiel (which is a very thorough prayer that calls on the archangel as well as each of the nine choirs of angels to help you pray better—Gordon White of Rune Soup finds this approach fascinating and almost so helpful as to be unfair) and Jehudiel (which is based on praising God through Psalm 151), but I’ve never been as pleased or comfortable with the one for Barachiel.  It never seemed to flow right, I kept getting caught up on how it ran, and I can never seem to get it to work.  I like the base idea of it—using the Eight Beatitudes from Matthew 5 as a base for the chaplet combined with the Priestly Blessing from Numbers 6—but it never seemed to work.

Well, last year, when I was struggling to use this chaplet, I finally got fed up with how it ran (or, rather, how it didn’t), so I decided to rewrite it with the gracious help of the angel Barachiel emself, and I’ve been using it ever since.  I wanted to keep the same bead structure from before and keep the same idea, but change how the prayers ran so that it made more sense and flowed easier and nicer, and I took some further pointers from Agrippa’s Scale of Eight (book II, chapter 11), since the chaplet is based on the Eight Beatitudes.  In accordance with the wishes of the archangel emself, I’ve decided to wait some time before publishing this, on the Friday (the weekday associated with Barachiel) leading up to the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel and All the Bodiless Powers of Heaven (September 29); this is an excellent day to use this chaplet if you never have before!

As before, the chaplet beads themselves are constructed of three lead beads with a medal of Saint Barachiel (good luck finding one of those!), a crucifix, cross charm, or other angelic charm at the end, attached to a large bead on a ring of eight sets of four beads.

The initial parts of the chaplet are the same as before.  We start the chaplet on the medal, reciting:

Saint Barachiel the Archangel, blessing of God, pray for us, now and forever, awake and asleep, in prosperity and in hardship, in joy and in sorrow, in solitude and in communion, when guided or when astray.  Amen.

On each of the three lead beads, pray the Hail Mary in honor of Mary, Queen of Heaven and of Angels.

On the large bead, if desired, silently pray the Our FatherGlory Be, or another personal invocation to Saint Barachiel.

Each of the eight sets of four beads has a particular recitation to go along with it: one of the Eight Beatitudes, an invocation of one of the blessings of God through Saint Barachiel the Arachangel, a variation of the Priestly Blessing made into a request, and then finally the Glory Be.

The Eight Beatitudes (first bead of each set of four beads):

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
  2. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
  4. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be fulfilled.
  5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
  6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
  8. Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

The eight invocations of Saint Barachiel (second bead of each set):

  1. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with the keys to the kingdom of my own life, that I might rule over all my affairs with justice and righteousness in all that I do.
  2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with joy, that always I might enjoy all of the fruits of God’s blessing and help bring comfort to others that they too might rejoice in all that God gives.
  3. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with power, directed for the work of God for the benefit of all, to accomplish all that I hope for.
  4. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with incorruptibility, that I might be perfected through wisdom and lead others to purity of heart and righteousness in soul.
  5. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with grace, that I might love God and be loved by God, and all of His creatures that He created.
  6. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with the vision of God, that I might always know true divinity, never losing sight of His radiant Throne.
  7. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with the inheritance of God, as a human made in His divine image, worthy of all of the promises of Christ.
  8. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with victory over all my difficulties in this life, that no one and nothing might stand against me, restrain me, or chase after me in this world.

The Request of the Priestly Blessing (third bead of each set):

May the Lord bless me and keep me.
May the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me.
May the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.

Since that’s still really disconnected, let’s put it all together and pray together now:

  1. First Set
    1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
    2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with the keys to the kingdom of my own life, that I might rule over all my affairs with justice and righteousness in all that I do.
    3. May the Lord bless me and keep me; may the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me; may the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.
    4. Glory Be, &c.
  2. Second Set
    1. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
    2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with joy, that always I might enjoy all of the fruits of God’s blessing and help bring comfort to others that they too might rejoice in all that God gives.
    3. May the Lord bless me and keep me; may the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me; may the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.
    4. Glory Be, &c.
  3. Third Set
    1. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
    2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with power, directed for the work of God for the benefit of all, to accomplish all that I hope for.
    3. May the Lord bless me and keep me; may the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me; may the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.
    4. Glory Be, &c.
  4. Fourth Set
    1. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be fulfilled.
    2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with incorruptibility, that I might be perfected through wisdom and lead others to purity of heart and righteousness in soul.
    3. May the Lord bless me and keep me; may the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me; may the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.
    4. Glory Be, &c.
  5. Fifth Set
    1. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
    2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with grace, that I might love God and be loved by God, and all of His creatures that He created.
    3. May the Lord bless me and keep me; may the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me; may the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.
    4. Glory Be, &c.
  6. Sixth Set
    1. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
    2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with the vision of God, that I might always know true divinity, never losing sight of His radiant Throne.
    3. May the Lord bless me and keep me; may the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me; may the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.
    4. Glory Be, &c.
  7. Seventh Set
    1. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
    2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with the inheritance of God, as a human made in His divine image, worthy of all of the promises of Christ.
    3. May the Lord bless me and keep me; may the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me; may the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.
    4. Glory Be, &c.
  8. Eighth Set
    1. Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
    2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with victory over all my difficulties in this life, that no one and nothing might stand against me, restrain me, or chase after me in this world.
    3. May the Lord bless me and keep me; may the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me; may the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.
    4. Glory Be, &c.

At the end, recite the concluding prayer:

O powerful Archangel, Saint Barachiel, filled with heaven’s glory and splendor, you are rightly called God’s benediction.  We are God’s children placed under your protection and care.  By the grace and power granted to you by God, please aid us in our lives and grant us blessings throughout our travels in this our exile.  Let us know the blessing of God in our physical existence as well in our spiritual growth that we may lack for nothing and have all we need to proceed upon and progress in our paths.  Grant that through your loving intercession, we may reach our heavenly home one day.  Sustain us and protect us from all harm that we may posses for all eternity the peace and happiness that Jesus has prepared for us in heaven.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

This chaplet flows a lot nicer and doesn’t feel as blocky, discontinuous, or otherwise uncomfortable; it’s still one of the more involved chaplets and isn’t simply a repetition of prayers, so in many ways, it’s kind of more in line with what might (content-wise) be considered a litany.  Still, though, it’s much nicer than before.  I’ve updated the main page with the chaplet on my website, but I’ll leave the original 2014 post up for kicks at this point; also, the original chaplet will still be found in my De Archangelis ebook (both on my Etsy and on the Books page).