When God Says No: On God and the Angels

Yes, another post from Curious Cat.  It’s honestly a great way for people to reach out to me, and it gives me a ready store of ideas for posts to write about.  (I’ve been asking for comments on my website, Facebook, and Twitter for ages for when people would like to ask questions, but people either just don’t do that or don’t generally trigger a post-writing reaction.)  Plus, according to Human Design (which my blessed sister studies and practices), I’m a so-called “manifesting generator” type, who responds well to being asked questions in order to produce and effect wonderful things.  But unlike other posts about things that come from questions on Curious Cat, this post is gonna be a little different; we’re going to discuss a common thread that ties together several different questions that were asked, all largely pertaining to angels, their role in the cosmos, how we interact with them, how we’re permitted to interact with them, and what their relationship is to God.  To give a brief summary of the questions asked and my replies to them:

  • Where do angels come from, and what are they?  God made them to carry out his will in infinitesimal slices of divine presence, made discrete and distinct to govern over specific things, entities, events, or phenomena of the cosmos.  Angels have no free will; by definition, their will is the will of God and vice versa, so that they act strictly and solely in accordance with, for, by, and to God.
  • If angels have no free will, then when we invoke or conjure an angel and commission it with a request, it can only fulfill this request if God wills it? Yes!  All the conjurations we do in the Western Hermetic and Solomonic tradition of higher entities, if we’re not taking the rather old-school approach of assuming divine power ourselves and browbeating the cosmos into complying with our (temporarily-assumed) divine will, is to supplicate God through prayer to reveal that he send his angels to us in his name for his honor and glory.  Thus, when we call on an angel, we’re essentially asking God to graciously give his permission for the angel to be sent to us, because God’s will and God’s will alone is what allows all things to happen; how much more this is the case, then, for entities whose sole purpose is to perfectly and only fulfill the will of God!
  • What sort of behavior do angels hate?  It depends on what they’re the angel of, but in general, angels don’t really “hate” because they don’t really do emotion, since they’re the embodiments of and agents for the will of God.  In that sense, angels “hate” anything that goes contrary to the will, design, aims, and goals of God—and, by extension, all that we do that goes against our True Will, which is nothing more or less than the will of God that is right and proper for us to will and accomplish in our lifetimes.
  • How can we discover our True Will if we’re unaware of it?  This is nothing short of the first half of the Great Work; the second half is fulfilling it.  And there is nothing harder or higher than to know and do what it is what we truly Will.  This is exactly the same thing as knowing the purpose God has established for us in life.
  • Why do angels hate emotion, then? Angels don’t hate emotion; they just don’t have it, or at least in any meaningful way that we might recognize as emotion.  We might perceive or interpret them to be acting emotionally, but that’s only because we ourselves are human and thus emotive creatures, while angels are utterly devoid of humanity and completely above and beyond our level, at least or especially where emotions are concerned.  Angels don’t have free will; they don’t even roll or blink their (innumerable) eyes without God willing it.
  • If an angel is being difficult, how do we complain to its manager?  If an angel is being difficult, it’s not because the angel is acting wily or being a punk for the sake of being a punk.  If an angel declines to do something, it’s because God declines to permit that thing from occurring; it’s not that the angels decide against it, but God decides against it.  That’s why, when we pray in conjuration for an angel to appear, we pray that God grant that it should happen (see above).  If something doesn’t happen, then there’s a reason for it; we either must work towards it so that we’re ready and proper for it in the eyes of God, or we must pray for the right thing to occur, whether it involves the conjuration and commissioning of an angel to do something or whether we should do something else entirely that would be better for us to do.
  • If God is unwilling to help us, would intervention from other deities from other traditions or pantheons help instead? Maybe, but if God’s decided against it, then there’s probably a good reason for that. It could be that you should look elsewhere for help, such as from another god or using another set of spirits or practices entirely to get the same thing done rather than by directly appealing to the Highest, but it could also be that you’re asking for the wrong thing entirely or that it’s not meant for you, whether now or at all. That’s where divination is crucial for magicians: it helps us plan out what we can do, but more than that, whether we should do something. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should, and if you shouldn’t, you should learn the reasons why. In other words, don’t go shopping around for a second opinion when you already got The One Opinion To Rule Them All. Keep to the principle of “move, or move me”.
  • But when it comes to other gods, don’t they also share power over our reality as well?  Absolutely!  But for all their greatness and grandness and power, they’re not as great or grand or powerful as the cosmocrator God behind them all. And that’s okay, because they don’t need to be, and it’s often better to work with them directly if you’re in such a tradition than to work with the behind-the-scenes all-ruling One, because they’re more accessible. But there are limits in place that even they can’t argue with, because they’re not in charge of literally everything like God is.

All this ended up with me saying this from that last question in the series, which I want to specifically quote with a special emphasis on one particular line:

God (and I use that term in a very general, very high-and-behind-the-scenes way as in Hermetic theology/philosophy), more often than not, doesn’t really established hard and fixed prohibitions so long as something fits (or is, at least, tolerated and permissible) within the grander scheme of things.  Even the biggest events and problems in our lives are less than specks of dust compared to the grandness of all creation, and accordingly, there’s not too much that really conflicts with the overall overarching design of God; there’s more than one way to skin a cat. But when God says “no” through the creation of the cosmos, there’s no angel, demon, ghost, or god that will say “yes”. If God says “no”, then you should find out why that might be the case and act accordingly, because more often than not, it’s with your own best interests in mind. Again, this is where divination is important, because it will tell you what’s going on, whether you can do something, and whether you should do something.

Now, there’s a lot to unpack in all of this, because I didn’t necessarily summarize everything, and Curious Cat, for all its usefulness, isn’t great for truly nuanced discussions, what with its 3000 character limit on replies, and it’s easy to get some parts of the above misunderstood.  Plus, there are things that I’m hinting at in some of my replies that really need to be said explicitly, but just couldn’t fit reasonably in the above replies within the constraints of Curious Cat.  First, let me preface this by saying that I’m coming from a position that’s largely Hermetic and Neoplatonic and fundamentally emanationist-monist within a polytheistic framework, and I recognize that not all systems of theology, cosmology, or philosophy operate on these principles—but there are still quite a number that do.  Since I’m the one being asked these questions for my opinions, and since this is my own blog, these are my thoughts on all of this.

At the core of it all, the theme of all these questions is what role God has to play in our Work, whether or not we’re monotheistic or monist, and how we relate to God in that sense.

First, what exactly is this God we’re talking about?  Coming from a Hermetic standpoint, God is the ultimate underlying authority and entity that created and creates the whole cosmos.  Without getting into the nitty-gritty of Hermetic philosophy (I did a good-enough job of that in my 49 Days of Definitions blog series from 2013 regarding the “Definitions from Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius”), God is both the end result of spiritual development and the ultimate source of all things that exist, don’t exist, might exist, etc.  Everything else that exists does so within God as part of God.  It may be said that God is fullness itself; instead of merely saying that all things exist within God, it can also be said that all things are God, and since God is all things, God is All.  However, since God is still one divinely simple entity, God is also One, and thus All is One.  God is the Platonic Good, the summum bonum of the philosophers, the object of highest knowledge and importance that is the forerunner and producer of all other objects.  God is also the Monad, the One, that which is alone in itself, made by itself endlessly (i.e. unmade), making all things, coming first; it is the one Source of all things, creating all things within itself yet never being made from anything besides itself, never taking away from itself into less nor multiplying itself into more.  God, further, encompasses all things; not only is God fully immanent in all of creation, but God also transcends all of creation, too.  Everything is permeated with divine essence, but everything is also intrinsically connected to each other and to God by it as well.

Where does that put us, as human beings?  All beings, human and otherwise that are not God are finite; they are not infinite, unending, immovable, or the like, since these are qualities that belong only to God.  Something that is finite has an end; it is defined, or set in by boundaries.  The maximum extent of these boundaries can be called something’s capacity, and nothing that is finite can exceed its own capacity.  Thus, everything that exists that is not God has a certain way of existing up to a certain point, whether it be in quantity or quality or good or evil; these things cannot act outside or beyond that point, because then it would exceed its own capacity.  A being’s capacity is, essentially, its destiny; a being does what its nature is designed to do, which is to fulfill its own capacity, but which it cannot exceed, because that would be going past what its destiny necessitates.  This is essentially our power: to fulfill our capacity, to fulfill our fate, and we have the choice of doing good or evil in a Hermetic sense, to fulfill our fate or to not fulfill it.  And that’s huge!  But, despite all this power we’re entitled to have, we’re not omnipotent; for example, our nature as humans is to die; we are mortal, after all, and the nature of things with material bodies is to die eventually.

What about other entities that aren’t human beings, such as angels or gods that are distinct from capital-G God?  They’re entities in their own rights, to be sure, and have their own capacities, natures, and roles to play.  But they’re still finite, no matter how much power they have.  Whatever something is according to its nature, that is going to be how it will be for that being.  These entities still have power, but they still exist as finite entities within creation; thus, they are still not God.  Rather, it’s God who establishes their natures and capacities, and it’s the role of those entities to fulfill them however they so choose.  Being higher than us and made of more subtle stuff and without the distractions and darkness of incarnate bodies, they also see more and know more than we do, and are necessarily closer to God than we are down here.  All the same, however, they cannot exceed their own capacities, either.

Now, I know that this might seem a little…appropriative, as if I’m trying to fit every possible tradition or religion into a single monist framework.  In a sense, yeah, because that’s what Hermeticism is, and it’s fundamentally one of the ways that Neoplatonic philosophy regards the hierarchy and workings of the cosmos.  To be sure, there isn’t just one Neoplatonism, and I’ll admit that my own philosophical background is amateurish, but it’s a thing I’ve seen and considered time and again and, simply, the framework works.  While I believe in God, I also believe in a plurality of many other gods; they’re all real, and often with varying powers, domains, personalities, temperaments, preferences, and the like.  And yet, they exist as part of creation just like I do, which is why approaching them works.  Yet, as a Hermeticist, I also recognize the existence (such as it is) of a God of gods, a God behind all creation, both within and without.  This is effectively the same God as that of Abraham or Muḥammad as well as of Hermēs Trismegistus, as well as Olodumare of the Yòrubá and Lukumí, as well as the God of the gnostics and the Good of the philosophers.  One can still be a monist without being a monotheist or monolatrist.  Even if you disagree with that approach to divinity and divinities (and I know of at least several who would with very good reasons!), accept the premise of it for the purposes of this post.

When it comes to angels, the word itself literally means “messenger” in Greek (ἄγγελος ángelos), and the notion of it in Abrahamic religions comes from the Hebrew מלאך mal’ākh meaning, again, “messenger”.  More than just being a bearer of the messages of God, however, angels are more like ambassadors, emissaries, or functionaries of God: they accomplish the will of God in every possible way, fulfilling it by governing, ruling, directing, and instructing different parts of the cosmos, essentially acting as the limbs of God and extensions of the will of God.  If we want to take the “messenger” idea a bit further in a way that comports with both Hermeticism and Christianity, consider the role of the Word; after all, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word is God”.  The “Word” of Christianity does refer to Jesus Christ, sure, but it’s also the Logos of the Hermeticists, the rational and intelligible principle that allows God (as the Nous, or Mind) to allow the cosmos to function.  In that sense, angels are messengers of the Word of God; where they bear the Word, they fulfill the will of God.

The thing about angels is that they are still only messengers; they speak the Word of God, but that is all they can speak, for that is their capacity and nature.  Angels, as extensions of the will of God, have no free will of their own; their whole purpose is to effect the will of God in the creation God made.  Whatever an angel “wants” to do is identical with what God wills; their will is inherently God’s will.  That’s why, among many other things, we can’t command an angel to do anything, because that’s equivalent to commanding God to do something, which is so far outside our finite and human capacity and capabilities that it’s laughable.  Angels cannot and do not do anything that God does not command them to do, but “command”, though a familiar concept to us coming from a Jewish, Christian, or Islamic background, isn’t really what’s happening between God and the angels; rather, God speaks his Word, and the angels bear that Word to wherever they’re going to accomplish whatever that Word is.  Angels are almost machine-like in that sense; they exist for the sole purpose of “serving God” by fulfilling the will of God.

In terms more suited to Renaissance Hermeticism, angels are “intelligences”, spiritual entities under the rule of God that guide and direct the manifestation of the forces of the cosmos.  Every force, entity, place, planet, and thing in the cosmos has its own presiding or governing angel, which can be worked with through devotional, magical, or some other kind of spiritual means.  Thus, consider Tzaphqiel, the angel of Saturn; this angel is the “governor” of that planet, and serves to establish the power, roles, functions, motions, and works of Saturn in all things in the cosmos.  Tzaphqiel, as an angel, bears the Word of God in a way that focuses on the Logos as it pertains to Saturn.  If we want to bring more Saturn power into our lives or throttle it back from our lives, we can work with Tzaphqiel to do just that.  But what if Tzaphqiel says “no”?

This is basically what a lot of these questions on Curious Cat are getting at.  Let’s step aside for a bit and consider something else for the moment: where does the nature of angels in relation to God leave us in angelic magic, whether through prayers or conjurations?  It cannot be denied that working with angels is often incredibly effective for any number of ends, and is a staple of European folk religion and folk magic as well as Hermetic, Solomonic, and other kinds of magic generally in both the West and the East.  Obviously, we don’t worship angels—that’d be idolatry, and an insult to both the angel and God—but we do venerate them and honor them, especially when thanking them or calling upon them.  But the thing is that, when we call upon them, there’s something that’s really common in much of Western magical literature that we need to carefully consider: we don’t command the angels to appear, but we ask for them to appear.  Moreover, we don’t ask the angel to appear, but we ask God that the angel appear for us.  And there are very good reasons for that.

Consider the specific conjuration prayer from Johann Trithemius’ Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals.  For clarity, let me use my own slightly reworded version, and note the specific phrasing of the prayer in the emphasized sections:

In the name of the blessed Tetragrammaton, I call upon you, you strong and mighty angel Michael, if it be the divine will of the most holy God that you take the shape that best shows your celestial nature, and appear to me visibly here in this crystal, and answer my demands in as far as I shall not transgress the bounds of divine mercy by requesting unlawful knowledge, and that you graciously show me what things are most profitable for me to know and do, to the glory and honor of his divine majesty, who lives and reigns, world without end.  Amen.

Lord, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Make clean my heart within me, and take not your holy spirit from me.

O Lord, by your name I have called Michael; suffer him to administer unto me, and that all things may work together for your honor and glory, and that to you be ascribed all might, majesty, and dominion.  Amen.

O Lord, I thank you for the hearing of my prayer, and I thank you for having permitted your spirit to appear unto me.  Amen.

For another example, consider the orison from book II, chapter 12 of the Book of Abramelin:

O Lord God of Mercy … Sanctify me also with the oil of thy sanctification, wherewith thou hast sanctified all thy prophets; and purify in me therewith all that appertains unto me, so that I may become worthy of the conversation of thy holy angels and of thy divine wisdom, and grant unto me the power which thou hast given unto thy prophets over all the evil spirits. Amen, amen.

Another example, the prayer from septenary II, aphorism 14 from the Arbatel of Magic:

O Lord of heaven and earth, Creator and Maker of all things visible and invisible; I, though unworthy, by thy assistance call upon thee, through thy only begotten Son Jesus Christ our Lord, that thou wilt give unto me thy holy Spirit, to direct me in thy truth unto all good. Amen.

Because I earnestly desire perfectly to know the Arts of this life and such things as are necessary for us, which are so overwhelmed in darkness, and polluted with infinite humane opinions, that I of my own power can attain to no knowledge in them, unless thou teach it me. Grant me, therefore, one of thy spirits, who may teach me those things which thou would have me to know and learn, to thy praise and glory, and the profit of our neighbor…

Then again, the invocation to call forth angels from the Ars Almadel (language cleaned up to be made more readable for modern readers):

O you great, mighty, and blessed angel of God, NN. … I, the servant of the same your God entreat and humbly beseech you to come and show unto me all the things that I desire of you, so far as in office you can or are capable to perform if God permit to the same.  O you servant of Mercy, NN., I entreat you and humbly beseech you … to inform and rightly instruct me in my ignorant and depraved intellect, judgment, and understanding, and to assist me both in both this and in all other truths that the almighty Adonai, the King of Kings and the Giver of all good gifts, shall in his bountiful and fatherly Mercy be graciously pleased to bestow upon me.  Thus, o you blessed angel NN., be friendly unto me and work for me, so far as God has given you power in office to perform, whereunto I move you in power and presence to appear that I may sing with his holy angels: o mappa la man, hallelujah!  Amen.

I think the message I’m getting across is clear here.  Granted, not all grimoires in the Solomonic or Hermetic tradition use this kind of phrasing, especially when we’re dealing in a more goetic fashion where instead of pleading for God to grant his permission of such-and-such a phenomenon happening, we simply assume that God has given us his authority to make things happen, thus all the perilous threats that Solomonic magicians are known to use.  But how do we actually know or make sure we have that authority, or how do we know whether God will grant us permission?  Consider the very first line of the Key of Solomon (book I, chapter 1): “Solomon, the son of David, King of Israel, hath said that the beginning of our Key is to fear God, to adore him, to honor him with contrition of heart, to invoke him in all matters which we wish to undertake, and to operate with very great devotion, for thus God will lead us in the right way.”

Heck, I think the Key of Solomon is an excellent text to discuss here.  Julio Cesar Ody (of famous occult-lampooning fame), if I recall correctly (and I hope he corrects me if I’m wrong!) has remarked before that people treat the Key of Solomon as something to pilfer and take extracts from, rather than treating it like a full initiatory system of magic unto itself.  And when you look at it…yeah.  It really is far more than just a collection of works and talismans to be made with good prayers to be used for consecrating three dozen and more tools and pentacles.  Consider that the recitation of psalms is a huge part of they Key of Solomon; why would that be the case?  Because the Psalms are fundamentally songs that are used to praise God for his power and  beneficence, creation of the world, and miracles and favors done for mankind generally and for the sake of Israel specifically.  They can take the form of laments, thanksgiving, praisegiving, celebration, or pleas for help, and their study and recitation is common in Judaism and Christianity for imparting wisdom and cultivating grace and an elevated spirituality in accordance with the will and command of God.  Yes, the specific psalms used in the rituals of the Key of Solomon do bear relation to the things being consecrated at times, but it’s a constant practice of keeping ourselves spiritually in line with the will of God, which, when used with the actual prayers of the rituals themselves, produce an all-around feat of holy work.  Consider the first prayer from book I, chapter 5:

O Lord God, holy Father, Almighty and Merciful One who has created all things, who know all things and can do all things, from whom nothing is hidden, to whom nothing is impossible!  You who know that we do not perform these ceremonies to tempt your power, but that we may penetrate into the knowledge of hidden things.  We pray to you, by your sacred Mercy, to cause and to permit that we may arrive at this understanding of secret things of whatever nature they may be by your aid, o most holy ADONAI, whose Kingdom and Power shall have no end unto the Ages of the Ages. Amen.

Fundamentally, working divine magic is just prayer, just supplications to the Divine—to God—that certain things happen, not for the simple reason that we want it to happen, but that it be capital-G Good and ordained by God that it should happen.  That’s really all there is to it.  You might want to use so many words as all the excerpts above show, perhaps to inflame yourself with prayer to reach a more powerful or ecstatic state of working, or you might use less, if you can manage to get as much intent and focus out from fewer words.  Either way, this sort of magic is just prayer.

In this light, what happens when we pray for something and it doesn’t happen?  There could be several explanations:

  • What we’re praying for isn’t permissible within the design of God. It could be that what you’re asking for just isn’t possible, realistic, or appropriate for the world that God has established.  God could look at you and say “you’re being unreasonable here, focus on what’s realistic”.  I could pray to grow wings so that I can fly around the skies, but it’s not going to happen according to the laws of human physiology and basic physics in this world, which were designed according to the will and plan of God.  It could happen on other planes where one’s form isn’t so rigidly fixed, but it’s not going to happen here.  Likewise, if you pray for the consecration of a particular talisman for a particular end and it doesn’t end up consecrated, it’s because God sees that what you’re asking for isn’t permissible within the overall scheme of things that God has set up for us, perhaps due to the nature of what you’re asking (e.g. a talisman to shoot fireballs out of our hands) or due to the ramifications it might have (e.g. it could set off a chain reaction that would end up butting up harshly against things God already has in store for the cosmos).
  • What we’re praying for isn’t for us to receive. It could be that what you’re asking for is good, noble, and proper, but you’re not the right person to request it or have it.  God could look at you and say “this is a good idea, but it’s not for you to work on, so ask for  something else”.  Not everyone is going to be good at everything; I’m no fighter or doctor, so while I might pray for skill in battle or for success in a lucrative medical career, these things aren’t in my life path.  Trying to force them, so long as it doesn’t go against the will of God for me, could get some success, but it could also just as easily happen that trying to go down those paths would end up with me being stymied, frustrated, and blocked at every turn.  These are signs from the cosmos itself that I’m not on the right path and that I’m barking up the wrong tree.  Instead, I should learn what my path truly entails and focus on that; it might not be easy (it rarely is!), but it will be successful in a way that would go far beyond things that I’m not meant to do.  Thus, if you’re praying for something to happen and it doesn’t happen, it’s could be because that thing isn’t for you to have in your life because it won’t help you and could easily harm you.
  • What we’re praying for is something that we can receive eventually but which we’re not ready to receive now. It could be that what you’re asking for is good, noble, and proper, and it’s proper for you to have those things, but you’re not ready to have it yet.  God could look at you and say “you’ve got the potential, but you aren’t at the right state of development for it right now, so keep working at it”.  In other words, you’re on the right track, but it’s above your station; one day, if you keep on the right track, you’ll get there.  Consider the notion of knowledge and conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel; coming in contact with this divine spirit often involves an ordeal because it’s a direct link to God, and quite simply, not everyone is ready for it.  They all have their own guardian angels, to be sure, but they might not be able to truly comprehend the power and, thus, the accompanying responsibility of the conscious company of that spirit yet.  They need to refine themselves through cultivating virtue and abandoning vice until they reach a certain stage of spiritual development.  Receiving those things we pray for earlier than when it’s appropriate for us could very easily cause us and those around us harm at worst or just distractions and delays at best.

How do we know whether a prayer of ours will be granted?  This is where divination comes into play.  Divination is important for magicians of all kinds, not just because it’s a useful and profitable skill to bring in clients and to spy on people, but because it shows us the way for our own Work.  By divination, we can figure out what’s going on and what the appropriate ways are to handle it; as part of that, we can see not just whether we can do a particular ritual for a particular end, but whether we should do it (or, in the words of the good and most reverend Bishop Lainie Petersen, whether it’s wise for us to do it).  If a reading indicates that we can do something but that we should not do it, then it’s within our power to do the thing but it’s not the best use of our power to do it.  If a reading indicates that we can not do something but that we should do it, then it’s not within our power yet to do the thing and that we need to focus on cultivating that power however necessary in order to do it.  And, if a reading indicates that we can not do something and that we also should not do it, then it’s neither in our power nor our best interests to do the thing.  The answer to can-or-can’t ultimately lies with us, but the answer to should-or-shouldn’t lies with God.

We’ll pick up on this tomorrow when we get more into the notion of what “should” really means here, because this is touching on what role the will of God plays for us in our lives.

On the Arbatel’s Principles of Magic

As I’ve mentioned before, the Arbatel is a funny little text.  Its structure is broken down into seven sets of seven aphorisms, each set called a septenary.  While many of them are simple and to the point (in the elaborate, circumlocutory way only a Renaissance grimoire can do), some of them are actually quite complex, and it feels like the author of the Arbatel sometimes bunched a bunch of separate tiny teachings into one broad aphorism with multiple subdivisions.  The most famous of these are aphorisms III.17 (which lists all the Olympic spirits along with their general natures and summaries) and IV.24 (which lists the three types of secrets along with their seven major kinds, as well as seven biblical verses about secrets and their bounties), but there are a handful of other aphorisms that can be broken down into subsections.  Interestingly, it’s these combined-type aphorisms that give some of the clearest pictures into the mind of the author regarding the function and practice of magic itself, which I thought I’d simplify and flesh out here, along with a handful of other observations.

Why do I bring this up now?  Honestly, because it’s a good reminder to myself of some of the things to focus on for magical practices.  Not everything is explicitly applicable, but it is a good reminder and refresher in how to conceive of certain things when it comes to my spiritual practice, especially as it changes and becomes enhanced over time.  I figure this reminder is timely for many of us, especially as the Sun begins its descent into the southern skies, but also because I found this post languishing in my drafts folder for…about a year now, and I figure it may as well be time to start working on some of those drafts.  This is a good one, and good for us all to remind ourselves what it is we’re doing and why we’re doing it, even if we’re not a Paracelsean or Christian magician.

Before anything and everything else, understand that the Arbatel is fundamentally a Christian occult and esoteric work.  It’s been described by some academics as “the first book of white magic in Germany”; it is fundamentally about using one’s inborn gift for magic (if any), given by God, for the glory of God by the grace of God in accordance with the word of God.  Aphorism II.14 says, perhaps in the most terse way throughout the entire book, “truly you must help your neighbor with the gifts of God, whether they are spiritual or material goods”, which is nothing more than the Great Commandment itself.  However, even though the Arbatel is very much a work in the vein of esoteric or highly-spiritualized Christianity, it can also work in a Deistic or just generally divine context; despite the use of verses of the New Testament and the invocation of Christ from Aphorism II.14, the God of the Arbatel does not need in practice to be the God of the Bible so long as one comports themselves in a more-or-less equitable fashion.  That said, practices and worldviews that diverge heavily from standard Western models of ethics and morality might not be so amenable to adopting the principles from the Arbatel, especially when it comes down to how certain magical practices are split up.  Your mileage, as in many other things, may vary.

So, let us start at the best of all places: the beginning.  The first whole septenary, which aphorism IV.28 exhorts the reader to read and reread constantly in the pursuit of all secrets, is a collection of simple moral imperatives that are taken pretty much entirely from the law of Christ.  We can break these down into roughly two groups of directives, those that focus on religion and God and those that focus on living a proper life in general.

On living a divine life:

  • In all things call upon the name of God.
  • Begin nothing without first invoking God.
  • Live in peace for the honor of God and for the benefit of your neighbor.
  • Live according to the life God gave you.
  • Use the gifts God has given you.
  • Always keep the word of God on your lips and your mind.
  • Trust in God above all else, including yourself.
  • Love God and your neighbor as yourself, and God will love you and keep you safe.
  • Call upon God for help.
  • Glorify and thank God.

On living a proper life in general:

  • Know what can be discussed with others and what can’t; keep secret things secret.
  • Know the value of things and don’t take them for granted, because others will.
  • Live for yourself and for the sake of beauty, wisdom, and truth.
  • Avoid being too sociable or concerned with other people.
  • Jealously guard your time and use it wisely.
  • Listen to and heed good advice.
  • Avoid procrastination.
  • Don’t be frivolous or stupid.
  • Act and speak seriously and focused.
  • Don’t indulge in vice or temptation.
  • Focus on what is spiritual and elevating.
  • Avoid what is mundane and carnal.
  • Study, repeat, and review whatever you learn.
  • Learn a lot about a few things, not a little about a lot of things.
  • Learn how to specialize and focus on what you’re good at.

Seriously, read the whole septenary.  In such seven short paragraphs, the Arbatel offers a pretty solid moral framework for living a fairly upstanding, Christlike life.  Would that more of the world would do so.

Aphorism VI.38 lists seven different “divisions”, or types of magic that can be performed.  Although the introduction to the Arbatel lists nine chapters, with chapters II through IX supposedly being focused on different types of magic, this aphorism seems to breach those divisions into something different.  Rather than being “schools” of magic, which implies more of a tradition with philosophy and history, this is more a list of how magic can be generally effected through different means and techniques.  Arbatel says that the first kind of magic (innate blessing from God) is the best, then the second when done properly, and the third when calling upon Christ by Christians.

  1. Magic that comes directly from God to his creatures, the powers of each being made by God for a specific purpose in their existence.
    • The powers given by God to “creatures of light”, i.e. angels.
    • The powers given by God to “creatures of darkness”, i.e. demons, but used to carry out the will of God for benediction and empowerment of the worthy.
    • The powers given by God to “creatures of darkness”, i.e. demons, but used to carry out the will of God for destruction and deception of the sinful.
  2. Ritual magic.
    • “With visible tools through the visible”, i.e. what we normally expect as ceremonial magic, done strictly in the physical world with physical tools.
    • “With invisible tools through the invisible”, i.e. astral magic or a ceremony performed in one’s astral temple.
    • A mix of techniques and tools, e.g. using energetic constructs as tools in the physical or using a physical focus for astral work.
  3. Magic where secrets and miracles are performed solely through the invocation of divinity.
    • When calling upon the one true God, this becomes “Theophrastic” (referring to the works and teachings of Paracelsus), which is “partly prophetic and philosophical”.
    • When calling upon false gods, this becomes “Mercurialistic” (heathens or pagans, but Peterson says that this refers to alchemists).
  4. Magic performed by invoking the spirits of God and carrying out works through the power of the angels as intermediaries.
    • When calling upon the good spirits of God, this is akin to the magic of the “Baalim” (Peterson suggests “idolators”, but could also be “worthy pre-Christian magicians” generally).
    • When calling upon the evil spirits of God, this is akin to the magic of the “minor gods of the pagans”.
  5. Magic performed through directly interfacing with spirits, either through conjuration, dreams, divination, or other means of communication.
  6. Magic performed through magical creatures (not immortal spirits per se, but elemental beings).
  7. Magic performed without actually invoking or requesting anything, but which is effected through spirits who help of their own free will and accord.

Aphorism IV.25 brings up seven verses of the Bible related the blessings and boons that can be obtained from God through the use of magic.  Essentially, “the true and only way to all secrets is that you return to God”, to wit:

  1. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
  2. “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” (Luke 21:34)
  3. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalms 55:22)
  4. “Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.” (Isaiah 48:17)
  5. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” (Psalms 32:8)
  6. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11)
  7. “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:23)

The Arbatel describes in aphorism VI.39 seven preparations the magician should observe when getting ready for a magical operation.  In order:

  1. Study, contemplate, and integrate the teachings, doctrine, and word of God into your life.
  2. Know thyself.
    1. Meditate and contemplate yourself.
    2. Learn what phenomena are internal to yourself and what phenomena are external to yourself.
    3. Learn what the different functions of one’s faculties are and their proper uses.
  3. Always focus on the divine in your life.
    1. With the higher faculties, focus on the grace of God.
    2. With the lower faculties, carry out the works of God.
  4. Only those called to magic are truly magicians, but everyone should learn their proper path in life.
    1. This is the Great Work, one’s True Will, one’s purpose as written in the Book of Life.
    2. Learn what that path is for yourself and live according to it.
    3. If magic is your calling, then you must learn how to carry out the specific types of works called for in your life, and then do them.
  5. Always endeavor to carry out the magician’s true calling: the Great Work.
    1. All magic and all works aided by spirits are to be done for the sake, honor, and glory of God.
    2. By neglecting God, ignoring one’s Great Work, or by carrying out shameful works, one risks their utter destruction.
    3. By carrying out works but without the honor for God, one will only ever carry out minor tasks without accomplishing their Great Work.
  6. Keep silent when possible.
    1. What is given to you spiritually is given to you and you alone.
    2. Secrets of the spirits are as mysteries of the ancients, not to be revealed to the masses.
  7. Always be virtuous and just both in mind and body, for by this all vice and wickedness will flee.

The next aphorism, aphorism VI.40, has another seven statements, which the Arbatel describes as laws for a magician to abide by when he “determineth with himself to do any incorporeal thing either with any exteriour or interiour sense”, i.e. anything magical.  Basically, it offers guidelines for conducting yourself and protecting yourself when interacting with spirits, either in a conjuration or no:

  1. All spirits that appear in conjuration do so only by the grace and order of God.
    1. Spirits only show in conjurations of Hermetic or Solomonic traditions according to the will of God.
    2. Any spirit revealing itself in any context, conjuration or otherwise, does so by the will of God, such as in predestination or in a holy mission.
  2. Whenever spirits are near, pray for a strong, holy spirit, and deliverance from evil.
    1. The Miserere and the Lord’s Prayer are of special and powerful use in this.
    2. Variations on such prayers are found in a number of Solomonic conjuration formats.
  3. Always test the spirits to ensure their truth and to prevent folly or harm.
  4. Do not fall into superstition.
    1. Be intelligent and wise about your works.
    2. Be proper in your actions only as much as they are called for.
    3. Remember that God is the source of all works.
  5. Do not fall into idolatry.
    1. Only God is God.
    2. God is the source of all spirits and all power.
    3. Objects do not have power apart from God.
  6. Do not fall into deceit.
    1. Avoid becoming mislead or misguided.
    2. Always remember that God is the true origin of power and all works.
  7. Always seek the gifts, grace, and glory of God.

Αphorism VI.36 (emphasis mine below) admonishes the reader such that each single magical operation should be “simple”, i.e. focused on one and only one purpose:

Care is to be taken, that experiments be not mixed with experiments; but that every one be onely simple and several: for God and Nature have ordained all things to a certain and appointed end: so that for examples sake, they who perform cures with the most simple herbs and roots, do cure the most happily of all. And in this manner, in Constellations, Words and Characters, Stones, and such like, do lie hid the greatest influences or vertues in deed, which are in stead of a miracle.

So also are words, which being pronounced, do forthwith cause creatures both visible and invisible to yield obedience, aswel creatures of this our world, as of the watry, aëry, subterranean, and Olympick supercelestial and infernal, and also the divine.

Therefore simplicity is chiefly to be studied, and the knowledge of such simples is to be sought for from God; otherwise by no other means or experience they can be found out.

Aphorism VII.44 (emphasis mine below) contains a startlingly modern exhortation to meditation, especially awareness meditation, so as to know what the “inner voice” sounds like especially when compared to the “outer voices”.  This section sounds like something pulled directly from Jason Miller’s blog (like this old post of his).  Beyond that, it also implies knowing what your own will is, and what the manipulations of others are upon your will and thoughts, as Peterson notes in his translation of the Arbatel.

The passage from the common life of man unto a Magical life, is no other but a sleep, from that life; and an awaking to this life; for those things which happen to ignorant and unwise men in their common life, the same things happen to the willing and knowing Magitian.

The Magitian understandeth when the minde doth meditate of himself; he deliberateth, reasoneth, constituteth and determineth what is to be done; he observeth when his cogititions do proceed from a divine separate essence, and he proveth of what order that divine separate essence is.

But the man that is ignorant of Magick, is carried to and fro, as it were in war with his affections; he knoweth not when they issue out of his own minde, or are impressed by the assisting essence; and he knoweth not how to overthrow the counsels of his enemies by the word of God, or to keep himself from the snares and deceits of the tempter.

For being such an incomplete and short work on magic, the Arbatel is actually pretty solid in its advice, even by modern standards, especially with the rise of Christian esoteric traditions in the public sphere (case in point, I can see some strong similarities and outright parallels between Arbatel-style thinking on magic and traditions like Kardeckian spiritism).  Really, most of the Arbatel is filled with this sort of advice, and it’s unwise to simply go through and rewrite every single aphorism or summarize it all simply because it’s already such a simple work.  I’ve only highlighted what I thought was immediately relevant, but the entire work should be reviewed time and again for guidance and support by any magician, especially those with a more devout or religious bent in their work.

The Candle Blitzkrieg House Blessing

I try to keep my home a stable place of safety; after all, the home is the foundation of all that it is we do. It’s where we rest, recover, and rejoice, where we sleep, study, and settle, where we live, love, and laugh. The home is the most sacred place we have, our own personal temples where we are established in our sanctuaries. Without someplace to call our own, our little niche in the world, we really don’t have much. As part of my own spiritual maintenance, I try to keep my home in as good a condition as I try to make myself, complete with its own cleansings and blessings and purifications and wardings so that it can be a place of safety and sanctuary where I feel safe and sacred in.

In addition to keeping the house clean and cleansed and everything else, one of the more effective things I find myself doing is a particular type of blessing upon the house that doesn’t take a lot of labor but does give quite the return on its work. The central idea behind this is that, after the house is more-or-less emptied of unwanted influences and filth, you want to fill the house with greatly-desired influences and Light. For this, what better way than to literally give light to each room, and better, a consecrated light? Because this process uses a lot of candles throughout the house all at once (small ones, not the large novena candles), I call this the Candle Blitzkrieg technique, and I’ve put it to good use both in my home and in others’. After all, one of my favorite tools is fire, and lots of it. May as well turn it to a beneficial use once in a while, eh?

While I tend to use it for a general purpose for just bringing divine Light into the home, I’ve also used it for more specific needs, such as a whole-house prosperity or peace blessing. You’ll note that this ritual takes on a distinctly Abrahamic/Christian tone at times, because that’s just the general mode I work in for this type of work. For many of my conjure-based or Western magician friends, this is fine; however, this ritual format doesn’t need to be held to that religion; using similar prayers to open, consecrate, and bless, you can adapt it to any spiritual tradition you find appropriate to use. The ritual presented below is my general-use form, but adapt it to however you need to.

This ritual may be done at any time as needed, but avoid using it too often, both to avoid an overuse of candles and an overfilling of a home with too many influences all at once, say at most once a month. Especially good times would be during the dark of the Moon, winter solstice, or any other times when Light is needed in the home, as well as after any thorough cleansing or banishing that needs to be sealed up with good influences. Doing this before moving into a new house is also a good practice. I prefer to do this after sunset and before midnight so that the light of the candles really stands out, but any time of day will do. Planetary hours and days may be observed if the blessing is geared towards a specific goal, but this is not strictly necessary.

For this ritual, you will need:

  • One large white candle (a tall taper or glass-encased candle work perfectly)
  • A bunch of small candles, one for each room in the house (tealights are most preferred, especially in their metal tins). These candles must all be the same color; white is always a good option, but they may be colored appropriately for a specific end of your choosing.
  • Three small white candles
  • Two small white dishes
  • Holy oil
  • A blessing oil of your choosing
  • A long match or igniting stick
  • Optionally, a crucifix or other symbol of Divinity
  • Optionally, a wand

First, as I mentioned before, it’s best to have already cleaned and cleansed the home before doing this work. Sweep, mop, vacuum, dust, take out the trash, do the dishes, do the laundry, beat the rugs, wipe the windows, and so forth, whatever you need to do to get the house physically clean; banish, light cleansing incense, use spiritual floor washes, sweep with a consecrated broom, and so forth, whatever you need to get the house spiritual cleansed. The usual protocol is to do these cleansings in a direction from top-to-bottom, back-to-front of the house, all out the front door. Doing so will allow the rest of this work to go much smoother and take effect more strongly and quickly in the home. Similarly, be sure you’re clean and cleansed yourself before taking on this work.

On a large, clean working space, preferably in the kitchen or living room or other “center” of your house, arrange all your supplies. Anoint the large white candle with holy oil on one of the white dishes, and the other candles (less the three white ones) around it with the blessing oil of your choosing; this can also be the same holy oil as you used on the large candle and is best for general blessings, but it can also be something more directed for a specific purpose (money-drawing, peace, reconciliation, joy, love, etc.). Set the three extra white candles on the other white dish, and set it aside for the time being. If so desired, take your chosen symbol of Divinity and set it up on the table or behind it where it can be seen during this work.

Once all the candles (except those last three) are anointed, light the large candle, and consecrate it:

I conjure thee, thou creature of fire, by him who created all things both in heaven and earth, and in the sea, and in every other place whatever, that thou cast away every phantasm from thee, that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing. Bless, oh Lord, this creature of fire +, and sanctify it that it may be blessed +, and that it may burn for your honor and glory +, so neither the enemy nor any false imagination may enter into it, through the Most High and Holy Creator of All. Amen.

Recite a preliminary prayer that allows you to set your mind to the work. For this and other general works, I use the following, which is based off the Preliminary Invocation from the Arbatel (aphorism II.14) and with an invocation from the Heptameron:

O God, mighty and merciful!
O God, great, excellent, and honored throughout endless ages!
O God, powerful, strong, and without beginning!
O God, wise, illustrious, just, and divinely loving!
O God, Lord of Heaven and Earth, maker and creator of all that is visible and invisible; I, though unworthy, call upon you and invoke you, through your only begotten son our Lord Jesus Christ, in order that you give your Holy Spirit to me, which may direct me in your truth, for the good of all. Amen.

I ask you, most holy Father, that I should fulfill and perfectly realize my petition, my work, my labor today. Grant to me your grace, that I may use these great gifts of yours only with humility, fear, and tremblings, through our Lord Jesus Christ with your Holy Spirit, You who live and reign, world without end. Amen.

Pray:

Grant, o Lord, that as I light this candle in your honor and glory, that your divine Light may fill up this home as light fills up the dawn to cast away the darkness of night. Bless this home with your grace, bless this home with your protection, bless this home with your presence that all darkness, all defilement, and all death may flee this place and that only joy, life, and light remain. May the seal of your holiness descend upon this house, and may all those who abide within it rest easy under your guidance. Amen.

After this, recite the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be over the candle.

From the large candle, light all of the smaller candles for each of the rooms of the house. If the large candle is a taper, use that candle to light all of the others; if you can’t do that, use a long match or other wooden stick that can hold a flame to transfer the flame from the large candle to the smaller ones. , As you do this, say a quick blessing upon the smaller candle as you light it that quickly and succinctly captures the intent for the blessing. Examples of something like this might be, depending on your intent:

  • “May the light of God fill this home.”
  • “Fill this home with peace.”
  • “Grant prosperity upon this home.”
  • “Heal those who abide in this home.”
  • “Protect the body and soul of all those who live here.”
  • &c.

This next step is optional, but I prefer doing it. Once all these candles are lit, using your dominant hand’s index finger (or a wand, if you have it, or whatever’s left of the long match/igniting stick you may have used), energetically link the flame of the large candle to each of the smaller candles. The process I use is tapping into the flame of the large candle, forging an energetic channel to the flame of the smaller candle, then back to the large candle; I then do this process again, starting from the flame of the small candle to that of the large candle and back. Then, I push a bit of energy of the Divine (avoid using your own, even if you’re already in a state of cleanliness and purity, which you should be in anyway) through something like the Hymns of Silence or other quick one-word intoned “amen” into the large candle to fix the connection. Do this for each of the smaller candles that have been lit. Even though a strong connection was already formed between the large candle and the smaller candles by spreading the flame out, I prefer to reinforce that connection energetically as well; those who use crystal grids will be familiar with this or similar techniques.

At this point, pray over all the lit candles for your intent. This part is really up to you, so long as you pray from the heart about it. You can use any number of psalms, invocations, litanies, or other prayers for this purpose, so long as it supports what you’re trying to do. For instance, you might use Psalm 122 if you’re blessing the house for prosperity, or Psalm 29 to purify the home generally, and so forth. Take as long or as short as you need; use whatever resources you feel moved to use. Essentially, pray that as each of these candles shines their light into each room of the house, that God may shine Light throughout the entire home, that all those who abide, live, reside, visit, or are invited in may dwell in his Light, and that you may obtain the blessing of his grace for what you seek in the home.

Take all the candles one by one and set them in each room of the house. The most essential places are where you spend most of your time, but it really is best to put one in every room: bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, garage, basement, hallways, crawlspaces, attic, everywhere. The idea is that, no matter where you are in the home, you can see at least one candle burning; if you need to use more than one candle in a room to achieve this effect, do so. Any shelves, wall sconces, or hanging candleholders or candelabras can be put to good use for this purpose. Just take care that the candleflame doesn’t go out in the process of moving and establishing that candle from the large candle to wherever it needs to go, and be careful of where you put each candle that it doesn’t cause a fire hazard. If their spirits, saints, angels, or gods agree to it, set candles in already-existing shrines around the house where you may have them to further empower the work at hand (just check with them before you do so). Try to go from the inside outward from where you started, so that the Light “spreads” throughout the home.

Once the candles have been set throughout the entire house, return to the large candle. If, in the course of setting lights throughout the house, you noticed that there’s a particularly strong “heart center” of the house, take this large candle and your chosen symbol of Divinity (if you have/want one) and establish it there. Otherwise, leave the large candle and the symbol of Divinity where it was where it can burn out completely, such as on the kitchen table, empty counter, fireplace mantel, or living room coffee table. While the large candle is burning, throughout the house generally but especially in the light of this candle, avoid engaging in any arguments, heated words, violence, blasphemy, or other actions that run counter to the presence and blessing of God.

At this point, take the plate with the three white candles on it. For the final part of this ritual as an act of thanksgiving, leave these candles unanointed, but set them up in a triangle pointing upwards on the dish in front of or just beside the large candle already lit. Light the candles one by one, and recite Jonah 2:9 once for each candle:

But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay that that I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord.

(That part comes from Draja Mickaharic’s Magical Spells of the Minor Prophets, which is one of my favorite go-to sources of pretty dang effective magic. Short as it may be, it is a true treasure of that old-school Bible magic. I cannot recommend it enough. This particular working is simple and sweet, but is immensely powerful as an act of gratitude at the close of a working.)

Follow this up with any other silent prayers of thanksgiving, gratitude, respect, and honor to God. Once done, go about your business. Let all the smaller candles (including the thanksgiving ones) burn out on their own before collecting any tins or residue from around the house. The larger candle should be left to burn out on its own as well; if this is a multi-day candle, such as a novena candle, pray over it at sunrise and sunset for as long as it burns to continue the blessing of God into the home. Once this candle is burnt out, dispose of it as well. Enjoy your happily blessed home.

On Fitting Rituals Together

Most of the posts I write are written in one fell swoop, more or less, but on occasion, I’ll save something as a draft to finish later, especially if I feel like I don’t have enough information yet or if an idea hasn’t come through clearly.  The thing about these drafts is that they’ll either be finished in a few days after some more research and thinking it through, or it’ll get shelved indefinitely until I remember that I have drafts backed up waiting for another look.  I have more than a few such drafts from my blog-quiet Year in White, and a few more from before that, that I never really bothered to complete or, if they were complete, publish for one reason or another.

Recently, I went through my drafts and found a post on a PGM conjuration ritual, PGM IV.930—1114, which had a bunch of notes and comments ready for review, that I hadn’t previously touched since June 2014 (jeez).  I decided to pick that one to see where I was, and while it was mostly complete, it had plenty of room for expansion.  I decided to finish out that post, take a deeper look at the source material with a slightly more trained eye than I had before, and finally put it up; seeing how I’ve been on a roll with taking all the old prayers and rituals I’ve posted over the years and putting them into finalized, polished, published pages on this blog (which you can view using the updated navbar at the top of the site), I decided to forego the post and just put out the page.  Thus, if you’re interested, take a look at my write-up on PGM IV.930—1114, the Conjuration of Light under Darkness (under Occult → Classical Hermetic Rituals, with the rest of the PGM/PDM/Coptic stuff).

It’s a pretty nifty ritual, if I do say so myself; it’s a straight-up conjuration of the god Horus Harpocrates, and it bears a huge number of parallels to a proper conjuration ritual in the Solomonic tradition that arose after the PGM period, including prayers of compulsion and formal ritual closings.  One of the more fascinating parts of it is that, instead of performing the ritual on an altar, it uses a sort of anti-altar: a lamp held above the ground on the intersection of two ropes suspended from the ceiling of a room.  Reading deeper into the ritual and Betz’s notes on the source text, the ritual as recorded in the PGM is actually a combination of several earlier rituals: a prayer for divine alliance with a deity, a lamp divination ritual, and a conjuration of a god.  The fact that there are some parts of the ritual that seem duplicated or don’t read as a single flow of a ritual written in one go indicates that it is, indeed, cobbled together, but it also feels somehow familiar to later texts like the Key of Solomon in that same not-quite-jarring, not-quite-disharmonic sense.  It still works, though you can clearly see the distinct parts that make up the whole.

A few days back, Scott Stenwick over at Augoeides wrote a post titled The Template Works for Everything, which I encourage you to read.  He starts out by packing quite the punch:

One of the best things about modular ritual templates is how versatile and effective they are for all different kinds of workings. If there’s a “magical secret” out there, how to put the various rituals and forms together into a coherent operation is probably it. Many published books on magick include instructions on how to do the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. Some include the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram. Some include the Middle Pillar. And so forth. But there’s little instruction on what to do with them aside from recommendations that you practice them daily. …

At any rate, what I found when I published Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy is that nobody else publishes that stuff, either. I was told time and again how useful my book was because it laid out the whole structure of a ceremonial operation including the basic components that go into actually getting stuff done. I’ve gone ahead and published the whole magical and mystical series here on Augoiedes for precisely that reason. We really don’t need any more occult books that teach the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and then don’t really even tell you what it’s for or what it’s supposed to do.

Stenwick talks a lot more about his operant field theory of magic over on his blog, which should be damn-near mandatory for anyone in a Thelemic or Golden Dawn system of magic to read.  Suffice it here to say that Stenwick puts into no uncertain terms that there are certain components for ritual magic—for any kind of magic within a coherent system—that plug into each other in a modular fashion, and by swapping out certain parts as needed according to a particular template of ritual, you can get anywhere you need to go.

The fact that he put this idea into such bald, direct terms shocked me, because it makes so much sense and I wish I had written about it sooner myself.  He’s absolutely right: every tradition of magic has its own kind of template, and builds rituals up according to that template from smaller actions and rituals.  No matter what it is you’re trying to do, no matter what system you’re using, every complete ritual is a machine built from parts that fit together in a more-or-less cohesive whole, and by swapping those parts out as needed, you get a different ritual as needed.  If it seems like there’s something missing, it’s because there is, and you’re not using all the parts you should.

Yes, rituals that are complete unto themselves from the PGM or any number of grimoires of your choosing are a dime a dozen, but consider: those are snapshots, isolated incidents from within a tradition.  If you actually study the tradition from which such an instance of ritual comes, you’d get a more complete view of the preliminary stuff that would be expected to happen before it, the concluding stuff that would be expected to happen after it, how that ritual can be used as a part of an even larger ritual, and (if you’re exceptionally skilled, and for particular rituals) how to break down a ritual into its constituent parts and repurposed for other rituals.

As an example, consider Rufus Opus‘ now-discontinued Red Work series of courses.  I used to half-joke that he was a one-trick pony and that the only proper ritual he taught in his courses was his version of the Trithemian conjuration ritual, because he did.  Heck, he even wrote a whole book on planetary magic, Seven Spheres, with that being the only real ritual.  It’s true, but that’s the whole point of the system of magic he teaches.  His angelic banishing ritual he teaches, the first actual ritual in the text that isn’t making holy water or learning how to meditate, is just a Trithemian conjuration ritual that substitutes a full charge of conjuration with a half-charge that invokes the angels only so far as they banish one’s sphere; his conjuration of a genius loci is a pared-down version of the Trithemian ritual with a charge of conjuration modified specifically for a spirit of the land; his conjuration of one’s natal genius is almost identical to any other angelic use of the Trithemian ritual with the exception of a heavily-modified charge of conjuration; all the conjurations of the elemental and planetary angels are virtually identical except for the time of conjuration, the name of God used in the charge of conjuration, and the name of the angel being conjured.  Rufus Opus got the modularization of the Trithemian ritual down to a science well beyond its original purpose for conjuring the seven planetary angels, even down to adapting parts of it for his own take on goetic conjurations of demons.  When viewed from a naive perspective, sure, Rufus Opus may only have taught one ritual, but what he was really teaching was a framework, a template, a process of ritual and how to adapt that process to any particular need, just not in explicit terms.

On the other end of the spectrum, consider a text like the Arbatel.  This is a text that teaches about a system of magic, including some of the major spirits and types thereof in the system and what they do, but the text gives you next to nothing in the way of a ritual template; while it provides some prayers and suggestions for working with the spirits it discusses in its aphorisms, the text largely assumes either that you already have a framework of ritual you’re comfortable with, or that you’re spiritually developed enough and suited to the work that one will be revealed unto you.  Those who can read between the lines can divine something resembling a framework, vague as it might be, like I have on this blog before, but it’s just as likely (and just as well) that an experienced magician can take the information of the Arbatel, look at a framework of ritual they already know works, and plug in the few parts that the Arbatel provides to get as much out of it as one can get out of a fully detailed text like the Key of Solomon or Grimoirium Verum.

Now take a look again at PGM IV.930—1114.  It’s apparent that this ritual is composed of parts that were, at some point by some author, cobbled together from earlier rituals written by earlier authors that just so happened to fill the needs of that later author for a coherent purpose, combining the prayers, tools, and processes from each into a single whole ritual.  That magician had a good grasp of what he needed, and tried to keep as true as he could to the parts of the ritual without sacrificing any one benefit for the whole thing.  He had a framework for ritual that would match with that of any Renaissance Solomonic conjurer, and he used whatever parts at his disposal to come up with a complete whole.  Can the ritual be augmented with other preliminary work, or concluded or continued with other rituals?  You bet!  The author even included a part for further extending one aspect of the ritual, which is unfortunately lost in the source material, but not only is the possibility there, it’s a certainty that it’s there.

This is why it’s important for magicians to study the small, routine stuff like simple energy work, basic prayers, attunement and banishing acts, and other simple rituals.  While they all have importance on their own for their own sake, it’s not always said how profoundly important they really are as framing rituals or other ritual components in a wider system of magic.  These small building blocks are used to build larger rituals, and without having a solid grasp of the small parts, it makes having a solid grasp of the larger whole all the more difficult.  It’s not just that the smaller stuff produces a firmer foundation than might otherwise be achieved for later works, but it’s that each part must be able to be carried out smoothly and powerfully so that when they’re incorporated as parts in a larger ritual, the whole shebang is smooth and powerful in a way that treating it as a single unit unto itself wouldn’t be able to achieve.  Every ritual isn’t a single note, it’s a harmonic symphony unto itself, and each part is a movement that must flow from one to the next.

Every tradition has its process and framework, from Russian Orthodox ceremonies to Cuban Orisha ceremonies, and if you pay attention, you can easily pick up on the structure of how things flow, what should come next, what can be changed, what should stay the same, what can be considered an indivisible part, what can be broken down into smaller parts, what can be modified or tweaked to come up with a whole new part, and how to put parts together.  Every system of ritual work has a template, and as Stenwick says, “the template works”.

On the Angels of the Hours

In my research on the Arbatel recently, I came up with a slightly more fleshed-out/thought-out approach to using what (little) we have in the actual text to come up with a conjuration ritual.  The skeleton is all there, and bears much resemblance to other conjuration rituals in the late Solomonic line, like the Heptameron or Trithemian rites.  Still, though, I threw in something that wasn’t part of the Arbatel proper: a prayer of invocation to one’s holy guardian angel adapted from the Ars Paulina as found in the Lemegeton (at the very end of the text).  To some, this might be an odd place to dig for extra material, considering how the text (at least in the form given by the Lemegeton from Sloane 3825) is technically dated later than the Arbatel, but there’s an important connection between the two: Paracelsus.  The Arbatel references Paracelsus or Paracelsan/Theophrastic forms of magic and philosophy, and would fit in quite well with the general Paracelsan school at the time of its writing in northern Italy or Germany; if not written by a student of Paracelsus, then definitely by someone in the general circles that the Paracelsans ran in.  The Ars Paulina, on the other hand, doesn’t have such explicit references, but the signs are all there.  Quoth Asterion on his old Solomonic Magic blog where he discusses the Table of Practice from the Ars Paulina (excerpt edited for clarity and formatting):

Upon researching the Archidoxes of Magic of Paracelsus, I came to study more closely it’s relation to the Pauline Art of the Lemegeton.  My guess is that not only it was heavily influenced by the Archidoxes, but composed by the very same man who translated it into English, that is, Robert Turner, or perhaps one of his close circle.  I have four reasons for this conclusion:

  1. The Seals of the Zodiac in the Ars Paulina are the same seals that Paracelsus prescribes in his Archidoexes, On Occult Philosophy.
  2. The recipes use to make these seals are of Paracelsian origin, but all the mistakes are also in the Turner translation. Joseph Peterson made up a comprehensive table, and we can see that all translation mistakes made by Turner turn up in the Ars Paulina. From there, every manuscript of Ars Paulina perpetuates Turner’s mistakes.
  3. The year 1641 is mentioned in the text, also gunpowder.
  4. The Table of Practice:
    In his diatribe against negromancy, Paracelsus rejects seals and signs of the spirits quite violently, but grants particular merit to two figures of astounding power:

    ‘Two triangular figures, cutting one another thorow with a cross, are so painted or engraven, that they do include and divide themselves into seven spaces within, and do make six corners outwardly, wherein are written six wonderful Letters of the great Name of God; to wit, Adonay, according to their true order. This is one of the Characters we have spoken.

    (Paracelsus, of Occult Philosophy, chap. III, page 41, Turner translation)

    We might be tempted to say that this is a quite simple pentacle, met all over. But I was not able to find one such seal, either in print or in manuscript, that dated before the publication of the Archidoxes.
    The author of the Pauline art was so much of a Paracelsian, that he even denied the spirits evoked the right to have a seal, making their lamens exclusively astrological. It is my guess that the table of practice had much to thank Paracelsus; its central figure is exactly what he describes.

Given the Paracelsan connections between the Arbatel and the Ars Paulina, and the fact that they’re not too far distanced in time and space, I found it okay enough to incorporate a prayer from the latter into a ritual of the former.

Of course, once I pulled the guardian angel invocation from the Ars Paulina, I wanted to know more about the context and rest of the practice of the Ars Paulina, if only to sate my own curiosity and make sure I’m not tapping into something I don’t want to be tapping into.  Plus, with an elaborate Table of Practice design like the one given in the Lemegeton, how could I resist busting out my Illustrator skills to make a modern set version?  It helps that Joseph Peterson of Esoteric Archives is so excellent with his scholarship and research, because he pointed out that the squiggly characters on the planetary circles in the Pauline Table of Practice are those given (in a much clearer, more regular form) in the Magical Calendar as the “7 planetarum sigilla”.  Using those versions, I made two variant designs of the Pauline Table of Practice:

As you can see, the first image is designed as close as possible to the original text itself.  The second image, however, is a variant I designed where I first swapped out the placements of the planetary circles to better match a more heliocentric sphere-based (or, as some might say, qabbalah-based) arrangement, rotated the planetary circles so that they “point” outwards away from the center of the Table, and use the divine name Elohim instead of IHVH, with one letter put between each pair of outer planetary circles for a more balanced arrangement.  Of course, were I to use these, I’d first use the by-the-book design and only later, if I felt comfortable enough doing so, would try variants.  Still, it was a fun little project.

So, how does one go about using this Table in the way the Ars Paulina prescribes?  It’s not for general angelic summoning, but for a specific type of angel: those of the hours.  Same sort of deal as the planetary hours, but you’re not calling the angel of the planet of the hour, but the angel of the hour itself.  The Ars Paulina, in its first book, lists 24 angels, each with a list of dukes under each angel:

Hour Angel Ministers
Day I Samuel Ameniel, Charpon, Darosiel, Monasiel, Brumiel, Nestoriel, Chremas, Meresyn
II Anael Menarchos, Archiel, Chardiel, Orphiel, Cursiel, Elmoym, Quosiel, Ermaziel, Granyel
III Vequaniel Asmiel, Persiel, Mursiel, Zoesiel; and Drelmech, Sadiniel, Parniel, Comadiel, Gemary, Xantiel, Serviel, Furiel
IV Vathmiel Armmyel, Larmich, Marfiel, Ormyel, Zardiel, Emarfiel, Permiel, Queriel, Strubiel, Diviel, Jermiel, Thuros, Vanesiel, Zasviel, Hermiel
V Sasquiel Damiel, Araniel, Maroch, Saraphiel, Putisiel; Jameriel, Futiniel, Rameriel, Amisiel, Uraniel, Omerach, Lameros, Zachiel, Fustiel, Camiel
VI Saniel Arnebiel, Charuch, Medusiel, Nathmiel, Pemiel, Gamyel, Jenotriel, Sameon, Trasiel, Xamyon, Nedabor, Permon, Brasiel, Camosiel, Evadar
VII Barquiel Abrasiel, Farmos, Nestorii, Manuel, Sagiel, Harmiel, Nastrus, Varmay, Tulmas, Crosiel, Pasriel, Venesiel, Evarym, Drufiel, Kathos
VIII Osmadiel Sarfiel, Amalym, Chroel, Mesial, Lantrhots, Demarot, Janofiel, Larfuty, Vemael, Thribiel, Mariel, Remasyn, Theoriel, Framion, Ermiel
IX Quabriel Astroniel, Charmy, Pamory, Damyel, Nadriel, Kranos, Menas, Brasiel, Nefarym, Zoymiel, Trubas, Xermiel, Lameson, Zasnor, Janediel
X Oriel Armosy, Drabiel, Penaly, Mesriel, Choreb, Lemur, Ormas, Charny, Zazyor, Naveron, Xantros, Basilion, Nameron, Kranoti, Alfrael
XI Bariel Almariziel, Prasiniel, Chadros, Turmiel, Lamiel, Menasiel, Demasor, Omary, Helmas, Zemoel, Almas, Perman, Comial, Temas, Lanifiel
XII Beratiel Camarom, Astrofiel, Penatiel, Demarae, Famaras, Plamiel, Nerastiel, Fimarson, Quirix, Sameron, Edriel, Choriel, Romiel, Fenosiel, Harmary
Night XIII Sabrathan Domoras, Amerany, Penoles, Mardiel, Nastul, Ramesiel, Omedriel, Franedac, Chrasiel, Dormason, Hayzoym, Emalon, Turtiel, Quenol, Rymaliel
XIV Tartys Almodar, Famoriel, Nedroz, Ormezyn, Chabriz, Praxiel, Permaz, Vameroz, Ematyel, Fromezyn, Ramaziel, Granozyn, Gabrinoz, Mercoph, Tameriel, Venomiel, Jenaziel, Xemyzin
XV Serquanich Menarym, Chrusiel, Penargos, Amriel, Demanoz, Nestoroz, Evanuel, Sarmozyn, Haylon, Quabriel, Thurmytz, Fronyzon, Vanosyr, Lemaron, Almonoyz, Janothyel, Melrotz, Xanthyozod
XVI Jefischa Armosiel, Nedruan, Maneyloz, Ormael, Phorsiel, Rimezyn, Rayziel, Gemezin, Fremiel, Hamayz, Japuriel, Jasphiel, Lamediel, Adroziel, Zodiel, Bramiel, Coreziel, Enatriel
XVII Abasdarhon Meniel, Charaby, Appiniel, Deinatz, Nechorym, Hameriel, Vulcaniel, Samelon, Gemary, Vanescor, Samerym, Xantropy, Herphatz, Chrymas, Patrozyn, Nameton, Barmos, Platiel, Neszomy, Quesdor, Caremaz, Umariel, Kralym, Habalon
XVIII Zaazenach Amonazy, Menoriel, Prenostix, Namedor, Cherasiel, Dramaz, Tuberiel, Humaziel, Lanoziel Lamerotzod, Xerphiel, Zeziel, Pammon, Dracon, Gematzod, Enariel, Rudefor, Sarmon
XIX Mendrion Ammiel, Choriel, Genarytz, Pandroz, Menesiel, Sameriel, Ventariel, Zachariel, Dubraz, Marchiel, Jonadriel, Pemoniel, Rayziel, Tarmytz, Anapion, Jmonyel, Framoth, Machmag
XX Narcoriel Cambriel, Nedarym, Astrocon, Marifiel, Dramozyn, Lustifion, Amelson, Lemozar, Xernifiel, Kanorsiel, Bufanotz, Jamedroz, Xanoriz, Jastrion, Themaz, Hobraiym, Zymeloz, Gamsiel
XXI Pamyel Demaor, Nameal, Adrapan, Chermel, Fenadros, Vemasiel, Camary, Matiel, Zenoroz, Brandiel, Evandiel, Tameriel, Befranzy, Jachoroz, Xanthir, Armapy, Druchas, Sardiel
XXII Iassuarim Lapheriel, Emarziel, Nameroyz, Chameray, Hazaniel, Uraniel
XXIII Dardariel Cardiel, Permon, Armiel, Nastoriel, Casmiroz, Dameriel, Furamiel, Mafriel, Hariaz, Damar, Alachuc, Emeriel, Naveroz, Alaphar, Nermas, Druchas, Carman, Elamyz, Jatroziel, Lamersy, Hamarytzod
XXIV Sarandiel Adoniel, Damasiel, Ambriel, Meriel, Denaryz, Emarion, Kabriel, Marachy, Chabrion, Nestoriel, Zachriel, Naveriel, Damery, Namael, Hardiel, Nefrias, Irmanotzod, Gerthiel, Dromiel, Ladrotzod, Melanas

It also lists numbers of servants, either under the angel or for each duke, and how many dukes there are both of the lesser or greater ranks, and also a name for the hour itself (except for the first hour), but these don’t appear to be used in the grimoire at all.

In this system, for instance, the first hour of any day, no matter what day of the week or sign of the year, is always ruled by the angel called Samael (likely no relation to that Samael; the text uses Samuel or Samael interchangeably for this angel).  Interestingly, unlike other grimoires that deal with angels, the lamens or seals used to conjure these angels do not make use of characters specific to that angel itself; none of the angels listed above have their own unique seals.  Instead, you construct a seal by making one circle inside another, the inner circle containing the symbol for the planet ruling the sign on the ascendant with the sign of the twelfth house at the time of the conjuration, and the outer circle containing all the planets except the one in the inner circle, starting with the Moon or Saturn (whichever is available) and going “up” through the spheres counterclockwise from there.  So, for instance, given the date and place of Wednesday, March 10, 1641 in London, England, at about 7am that day, falling within the first hour of the day (which is the example given in the text), we have Aries rising with Aquarius on the cusp of house XII (using Placidus, Koch, Regiomontanus, Porphyry, or similar space-based divisions of houses).  Thus, the seal to conjure the angel governing this hour in this time and place looks like the following:

Now we can see what Asterion meant when the author of the Ars Paulina “denied the spirits evoked the right to have a seal, making their lamens exclusively astrological”.  There’s a possibility of going with Arbatel aphorism III.17 where one can get a specific seal or character from the spirit to use in that specific hour, which would be good only for that particular magician for a given timeframe like 140 years according to the Arbatel’s reckoning, but I think you’ll see why I wouldn’t bother later on.

The manner of using these seals and these angels is fairly straightforward: make the seal (the material is not specified), put it on the planetary circle of the Table of Practice that matches the lord of the ascendant (Mars, in the case given above), lay your hand on the seal on the Table, burn some incense appropriate to the same planet, and recite the prayer of conjuration (bold text indicates the parts to be swapped out for different hours/angels) :

O you mighty, great, and potent angel Samael who rules in the first hour of the day, I, the servant of the Most High God, do conjure and entreat you in the name of the most omnipotent and immortal Lord God of Hosts, IHVH Tetragrammaton, and by the name of that God that you are obedient to, by the head of the Hierarchy, by the seal that you are known in power by, by the seven Angels that stand before the Throne of God, and by the seven planets and their seals and characters, by the angel that rules the sign of the twelfth house which now ascends in this first hour, that you would be graciously pleased to gird up and gather yourself together, and by divine permission to move and come from all parts of the world, wheresoever you may be, and show yourself visibly and plainly in this crystal stone to the sight of my eyes, speaking with a voice intelligible and to my understanding, and that you would be favorably pleased that I may have familiar friendship and constant society both now and at all times when I shall call you forth to visible appearance to inform and direct me in all things that I shall seem good and lawful unto the Creator and you.

O you great and powerful angel Samael, I invoke, adjure, command, and most powerfully call you forth from your orders and place of residence to visible apparition in and through these great, mighty, incomprehensible, extraordinary, and divine names of the great God who was and is and ever shall be: ADONAI, SABAOTH, ADONAI, AMIORAM, HAGIOS, AGLA, ON, TETRAGRAMMATON!  By and in the name PRIMEUMATON, which commands the whole host of heaven whose power and virtue is most effectual for calling you forth and ordering creation, and which commands you to transmit your visible rays perfectly into my sight, and your voice to my ears, in and through this crystal stone, that I may plainly see you and perfectly hear you; speak unto me!  Therefore, move, o mighty and blessed angel Samael, and in this potent name of the great God IHVH, and by the imperial dignity thereof, descend and show yourself visibly and perfectly in a pleasant and comely form before me in this crystal stone, to the sight of my eyes, speaking with a voice intelligible and to my apprehension, showing, declaring, and accomplishing all my desires that I shall ask or request of you both herein and in whatsoever truths or other things that are just and lawful before the presence of Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, unto whom I beg that He would be graciously pleased to bestow upon me.  O servant of mercy Samael, for all these, be friendly unto me, and act for me as for the servant of the Most High God, so far as God shall give you power in your office to perform, whereunto I move you in power and presence to appear that I may sing with his holy angels: O mappa la man, hallelujah!

Amen.

Conjuration of the dukes under one of the angels of the hour begins with an invocation to the angel itself, then a variant of the conjuration (bold text indicates parts to be swapped out for different hours/angels/dukes, and italic text indicates where to pick up on the above conjuration, again changing names accordingly for the specific duke to be conjured):

O you mighty and potent angel Samael, who is by the decree of the most high King of Glory, ruler and governor of the first hour of the day, I, the servant of the Most High, do desire and entreat you by these three great and mighty names of God AGLA, ON, TETRAGRAMMATON, and by the power and virtue thereof to assist and help me in my affairs, and by your power and authority, to send and cause to come and appear to me all or any of these angels that I shall call by name that reside under your government, to instruct, help, aid, and assist me, in all such matters and things according to their office, as I shall desire and request of them that they may act for me as for the servant of the Most High Creator.

O you mighty and potent angel Ameniel, who rules by divine permission under the great and potent angel Samael, who is the great and potent angel ruling this first hour of the day, I, the servant of the Most High God, do conjure and entreat you in the name of the most omnipotent and immortal Lord God of Hosts

Beyond that, not much is specified in the way of ritual, though as can be seen, a crystal shewstone is mentioned in the invocation.  The text does say that, when the spirit comes, they should be welcomed, you should ask your desire of them, and when you’re finished, “dismiss him according to your orders of dismission” (i.e. whatever usual prayers or words you give to dismiss a spirit).

So why do I bring these angels up?  Well, once I understood the process of the Ars Paulina, it seemed pretty straightforward to me in all respects but one: why would I bother conjuring an angel of the hour, instead of the angel of the planet of the hour?  The text doesn’t elaborate on any differences between the angels besides their names, dukes, and how many legions of spirits they govern.  The angels of the hours have no intrinsic connection to the planets; even the introduction to the Ars Paulina states:

…The Nature of these 24 Angels of the day and night changeth every day, and their offices are to do all things that are attributed to the 7 planets. But that changeth every day also: as for example you may see in the following Treatise that Samuel the Angel ruleth the first hour of the day beginning at Sunrise, suppose it be on a Monday in the first hour of the (that hour is attributed to the Moon) that you call Samuel or any of his Dukes; their offices in that hour is to do all things that are attributed to the Moon. But if you call him or any of his subservient Dukes on Tuesday morning at Sunrise, being the first hour of the day: their offices are to do all things that are attributed to Mars.  And so the like is to be observed in the first hour of every day, and the like is to be observed of the Angels and their servants that rule any of the other hours, either in the day or night…

For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why I would bother with the method given in the Ars Paulina.  Like, it’s interesting, and it’s got my attention, but I honestly don’t know why I would go through the trouble of this, even for the sake of occult exploration.  It’s not a matter of “here’s a more efficient way of getting what you want”, but knowing that I already time my conjurations according to the planetary hours, why would I bother with remembering who’s who and when from a list of 24 angels, rather than working with one of the seven planetary angels, a much smaller list to memorize?  Plus, it seems more, yanno, direct to just work with the angels of the planets rather than the angel of an hour which is ruled by a planet.  If the Trithemian rite of conjuration as given by Francis Barrett was indeed developed later than the Ars Paulina as I suspect, then it seems to be a simplification for the sake of efficiency (to which I can successfully attest).

This is where I started asking questions and digging in deeper.  One helpful description of the Pauline working comes from Imperial Arts on their LJ (where they give a description of how they work the Pauline Table), notes that the method of creating the seals for the angels of the hours doesn’t tie you to them, but rather to the time and space of the conjuration (especially considering the implied use of specific space-based house systems as given by the example seals in the Ars Paulina).  This is unique, and such a simple observation surprises me.  In pretty much every ritual I’ve done, there’s always been the unstated assumption that I need to make some sort of ritual space separated out from the rest of the world; through the use of wards, circles, and spiritual boundaries, I insulate myself and my space so that I can work as undisturbed as possible from external influences in the space around me or my temple.  Separating myself from timing is impossible, and indeed the spiritual connections of the time of my rituals is something I incorporate fully, but the spiritual connections of the place (beyond genii loci or having to deal with physical disturbances) is something that never occurred to me to incorporate in a ritual framework.  Plus, since the hours of the day (in the old reckoning) are inherently tied to the place, I’m kind of embarrassed I never put two and two together like this.

But I kept digging.  Based on a friend’s advice, I signed up for Gordon White’s grimoire course, where I got to hear him talk about the history, development, and use of grimoire-based magic in the West.  This, combined with asking several friends about the use of angels of the hours, led me to learn and understand that the angels of the hours is actually a much older system than I would have realized, going back to the Hygromanteia of Solomon, at least!  Indeed, the Hygromanteia of Solomon even goes one step further, and gives unique angel-demon pairs for each hour of each day of the week, leading to a total of 2 × 24 × 7 = 336 total spirits for that system alone (due to which I’m going to refrain from including them in this post, especially given that Skinner in his edition of the Magical Treatise of Solomon gives five separate lists from different manuscripts, each with their own omissions or changes to the names).  Thus, for any given hour of any given day of the week, there’s a unique demon and its corresponding binding angel, which itself is a practice commonly found in the older Solomonic texts: the demon does something we consider awful according to its nature, but there is a specific angel that binds the demon and keeps it from doing its thing, and by calling upon the angel, we prevent the demon from hurting us.  It does indeed seem like this system got simplified as time went on; excepting the Ars Paulina, the only other relatively modern Solomonic text I can think of that incorporates any kind of hour-based magic apart from the planetary angels is the Heptameron, where each of the 24 hours has a specific name used in creating the elaborate Heptameron-style Circles of Art:

Hour Day Night
I Yayn Beron
II Ianor Barol
III Nasnia Thami
IV Salla Athir
V Sadedali Mathon
VI Thamur Rana
VII Ourer Netos
VIII Thamic Tafrac
IX Neron Sassur
X Iayon Aglo
XI Abai Calerva
XII Natalon Salam

Like the Ars Paulina, however, the Heptameron says that the hours themselves are given to whatever planet rules that given hour on that particular day:

It is also to be known, that the Angels do rule the hours in a successive order, according to the course of the heavens, and Planets unto which they are subject; so that that Spirit which governeth the day, ruleth also the first hour of the day; the second from this governeth the second hour; the third; the third hour, and so consequently: and when seven Planets and hours have made their revolution, it returneth again to the first which ruleth the day.

So what gives?  What’s with all the hour names and angels of the hours?  Besides the fact that using these in ritual ties you temporally and spatially to the ritual, especially in the Ars Paulina way of creating seals based on the actual horoscope of the ritual, why would we bother with using these annoyingly large lists of names as opposed to a simpler, more efficient, and no less effective set of seven planetary angels?

Turns out, that’s the wrong question to ask.  Technically, yes, you can call upon the angels of the hours for pretty much anything that you can call upon the angels of the planets for, at least in terms of getting stuff done down here.  In fact, according to the opinions and experiences of my friends and the reasons why these angels of the hours were developed in the first place, it actually might be more effective to call upon them instead of the planetary angels alone, specifically because of their limited scope and being tied temporally and spatially to a given context.  In some ways, they can be considered one of the most powerful set of spirits because they’re so immediately present in a spatial and temporal (or at least temporal) sense.  Just as you could work with some generic deity of the Earth, you could also work with the specific genius loci of your land, which is generally a more recommended practice because they’re so much more powerful within the limits of their own domain (for more info on this, check out Kalagni’s posts about genii loci on eir’s blog Blue Flame Magick).

For similar reasons, you could work with the angel ruling the planet that rules the hour, but now that I look at it, that could easily be seen as “skipping a step” in the chain of manifestation.  Looking at it from a classical Solomonic way, then, the most immediate and present power would, indeed, be the hour itself, which is ruled by a planet, which is ruled by an angel.  Even if you really just wanted to work with Michael of the Sun, there’s still the matter that he’s more distant than what’s staring you right in the face a foot away.  Plus, if the angels of the hours are given all the powers and offices of that planet, then it actually makes more sense to work with them than the planetary angels, because they’re equivalent in office (at least in regards to getting stuff done “down here”) but greater in effective force because they’re more immediately present in time and space.  Plus, we see that there are demonic allusions to the hours, as well; it’s odd to see an angel described as having “dukes” in the Ars Paulina like in the more well-known demon-focused books of the Solomonic genre, and while the Heptameron has kings and ministers of angels, they’re notably of the airs and winds on a given day, mundane and worldly instead of heavenly or planetary; in the Hygromanteia manuscripts, there are specific demons for the hours with their corresponding binding angels, which are called upon in tandem (MS Athonicus Dion. 282, trans. Skinner):

I conjure you, angel NN who rules this hour and who is appointed for the provision and service of mankind; angel NN, eager at all times, strong, brave, and sharp!  I conjure you by God who ordered you to guard this hour to be my collaborator, together with your submissive demon NN, who is appointed to be servant at this hour.  Cooperate with me, and make my work effective, good, and true.

If the angels (and demons) of the hours are more forceful in their works because of their spatial-temporal presence, then note one of the ramifications of this: any of their antics can cause problems for you both spatially and temporally in a way that planetary spirits wouldn’t be able to cause so quick or so hard because of their spatial-temporal distance.  Just as how any event where the genius loci is troubled can go awry because the spirits of that land are unsettled, how much more so would it be if the angels or demons presiding over the immediate time and space of your ritual were acting up?  Many magicians nowadays take pains to guard their temples and sacred spaces and ritual areas from physical, acoustic, and spiritual invaders, but I haven’t heard of anyone warding the time or the overall spatial-temporal context of the ritual.

In this sense, we have an exceedingly good case to make to bring back the angels of the hours, or at least reincorporate them into our work: to give us further protection in our rituals by warding not only the space of the ritual but also the time of the ritual, by focusing on the most immediately felt and known temporal effect, that of the hour itself, apart and before any planetary rulership even begins to come into play.  You can see this in how far the Heptameron goes to build its Circle of Art, by incorporating the names of the hour, the season, the spirits of the winds, the minor angels of the heavens, and the planetary angel(s) of the day itself.  While we don’t need to go so far to clear the airs, so to speak, I claim that by simply giving a token nod to the angel ruling the hour of the ritual, we can make our results much stronger and more direct.  We probably needn’t do much more than offer a sincere invocation to the angel of the hour with its dukes in the Pauline fashion, or to the angel with its demon of the hour and day in the Hygromantic way, simply to open the ways for our ritual to proceed as we desire and that all baneful, harmful influences be kept at bay by the strength and virtues bestowed upon the angel and its ministering spirits/serving demons.

This is definitely something I want to explore more, in addition to the Arbatel works, and see if I can’t augment my already-existing Trithemian rite with an invocation to the angel of the hours.  I’d need to get more supplies and tools for it, but I think a proper Pauline Table of Practice to experiment with wouldn’t hurt, either.

Practical Arbatel: Conjuration of the Olympic Spirit (Again, but Longer)

A ways back (gosh, has it really been a two and a half years since I posted it?), I made a post about a proposed conjuration of the Olympic Spirits from the Arbatel.  I’ve been looking over my old posts, and I’ve since remembered why I wanted to work with these spirits in the first place: to incorporate the Olympic spirits as a kind of planetary tutelage in my overall work of mathesis.  However, as I’ve been delving more deeply into the aphorisms of the Arbatel and seeing how other magicians have applied it, I’ve since realized more potential in the Arbatel’s system of the Olympic spirits than just that, as well as in how and why it conjures the spirits the way it does.  To that end, in preparation of my own conjuration, I’ve been rethinking how exactly I want to implement an Arbatel-based Western Renaissance-style conjuration of the Olympic spirits, as well as other spirits not explicitly mentioned.  It doesn’t need to be all modern neo-Pythagorean Mathesis-style for me to at least get acquainted, after all, and most of my expertise in conjuration lies in the Trithemian rite, so I may as well stick to the general material that I’m already familiar with.

The issue with the Arbatel is that it’s such a pared-down, incomplete work that it’s intimidating in its simplicity.  I’d wager that most ceremonial magicians are used to all the pomp and presence of a full Solomonic ritual, complete with dress codes and three dozen tools each for their own niche use and exquisite blends of incenses from endangered species of flora and fauna, et caetera ad nauseam.  Heck, even if it’s just a basic Trithemian ritual with simplified tools, we’re used to having something to hold or scry or burn.  Yet we get none of that in the Arbatel, just a small handful of prayers and Bible verses we’re told to recite at the proper time and facing the proper direction.  Add to it that the Arbatel is admittedly incomplete in the form we have it (we only have the first of nine chapters), and we really don’t have a lot to go on; if it feels like the Arbatel is incomplete, it’s because it probably is.  Considering the types of magic in vogue at the time in Italy, Switzerland, and Germany (the three big areas where the Arbatel likely got much of its contemporary influences from in the early-to-mid 16th century), normally replete with astrological talismans and elaborate circles and endless names of God and the heavenly hosts, the Arbatel really sticks out in how little it says to do in order to accomplish what others need so much for.  Plus, consider what the Arbatel has to say about those very methods in aphorism V.34:

All manner of evocation is of the same kinde and form, and this way was familiar of old time to the Sibyls and chief Priests. This in our time, through ignorance and impiety, is totally lost; and that which remaineth, is depraved with infinite lyes and superstitions.

As for the rest of the art of conjuration and evocation, there’s aphorism III.18 (emphasis mine):

There are other names of the Olympick spirits delivered by others; but they onely are effectual, which are delivered to any one, by the Spirit the revealer, visible or invisible: and they are delivered to every one as they are predestinated: therefore they are called Constellations; and they seldome have any efficacie above 140 yeers. Therefore it is most safe for the young practisers of Art, that they work by the offices of the Spirits alone, without their names; and if they are pre-ordained to attain the Art of Magick, the other parts of the Art will offer themselves unto them of their own accord. Pray therefore for a constant faith, and God will bring to pass all things in due season.

Earlier, there’s aphorism II.12 (again, emphasis mine):

In the Acts of the Apostles, the Spirit saith unto Peter after the Vision, Go down, and doubt not but I have sent them, when he was sent for from Cornelius the Centurion. After this maner, in vocal words, are all disciplines delivered, by the holy Angels of God, as it appeareth out of the Monuments of the Ægyptians. And these things afterwards were vitiated and corrupted with humane opinions; and by the instigation of evil spirits, who sow tares amongst the children of disobedience, as it is manifest out of St. Paul, and Hermes Trismegistus. There is no other maner of restoring these Arts then by the doctrine of the holy Spirits of God; because true faith cometh by hearing. But because thou mayst be certain of the truth, and mayst not doubt whether the spirits that speak with thee, do declare things true or false, let it onely depend upon thy faith in God; that thou mayst say with Paul, I know on whom I trust. If no sparrow can fall to the ground without the will of the Father which is in heaven, How much more will not God suffer thee to be deceived, O thou of little faith, if thou dependest wholly upon God, and adherest onely to him?

In other words, for the real magicians to whom God bestows the ability to practice magic, everything you need to conjure spirits will reveal itself by the true actions and teachings of the divine to which the magician must only simply hear and be attentive to.  This implies that, really, even given what little the Arbatel describes for a ritual, even those are suggestions: one only needs faith, and everything else will align itself as according to the need.  This doesn’t exactly offer a firm starting point for people who like to plan ahead meticulously (which, admittedly, the Arbatel itself pooh-poohs in aphorism VII.45 by referencing Jesus’ admonition to Martha), but I understand why; a truly fluent magician, comfortable in their own skin and world, can do anything and everything they need by relying on the powers that be and aligning themselves with their True Will.  However, most of us aren’t at that stage, no matter how blessed we might be, so some guidance is needed.

With that in mind, I’m refining my specific ritual approach to this text.  I can’t properly say “the Arbatel rite” as I might say “the Lemegeton rite” or “Trithemian rite”, because there’s no real rite offered, so I’m instead suggesting an “Arbatel-based” ritual, slightly more fleshed out when possible but pared down when necessary.  Combing through the text for whatever prayers and motions I could find, I’ve come up with the following.  I used a few guiding principles to direct me in this:

  • The Arbatel is already an incomplete text and sparse with what it offers, so use what is explicitly available as much as possible.
  • If not available in the Arbatel explicitly, innovate based on what is implied in the Arbatel.
  • If something cannot be innovated, incorporate only as much as needed from outside sources.
  • When incorporating from outside sources, stick to works likely available or methods common to magicians roughly at the time of the Arbatel’s writing.

As a guiding principle to determine how one should focus or direct a given work, aphorism VI.36 (emphasis mine) admonishes the reader such that each single magical operation should be “simple”, i.e. focused on one and only one purpose:

Care is to be taken, that experiments be not mixed with experiments; but that every one be onely simple and several: for God and Nature have ordained all things to a certain and appointed end: so that for examples sake, they who perform cures with the most simple herbs and roots, do cure the most happily of all. And in this manner, in Constellations, Words and Characters, Stones, and such like, do lie hid the greatest influences or vertues in deed, which are in stead of a miracle.

So also are words, which being pronounced, do forthwith cause creatures both visible and invisible to yield obedience, aswel creatures of this our world, as of the watry, aëry, subterranean, and Olympick supercelestial and infernal, and also the divine.

Therefore simplicity is chiefly to be studied, and the knowledge of such simples is to be sought for from God; otherwise by no other means or experience they can be found out.

Before beginning the work of conjuration, decide from which direction you seek answers to or power from; while technically independent of the planet as all seven planetary powers are present in all the elements (aphorism III.17.4), it would likely be best to match the secret with the planet, such as matching a gold-oriented alchemical working to the first of the medium secrets (transmutation of metals) as well as that of the Sun; thus, one would face the South for this purpose.  Remember that the general kinds of secrets (greater, medium, and lesser, and what those secrets consist of) are given in aphorism IV.24, and the directions given for them in aphorism IV.27:

Secret Set
East Wisdom Greatest
South Tillage Middle
West Strength Lesser
North Harshness Unmentioned

Remember that the conjuration of a single Olympic spirit is to be done in the first planetary hour (beginning at sunrise) of the planetary day of the spirit.  Beyond this, there is no need to observe astrological phenomena for this ritual, but may be done if so desired or if already directed to by the spirits.

In the seven days leading up to the conjuration, begin a light fast, not progressively to total abstinence of food, but simply keep a light, plain diet of moderation and constrain your behavior accordingly, including temptations to intoxication and lust, while keeping to yourself as much as possible.  Ideally, one would live thus each and every day of their lives, but do try to make a turn for the better leading up to the conjuration.  Arise every morning before sunrise and face the direction chosen for the purpose of the conjuration.  Before the sun rises, relax and do some light meditation to quiet the mind and to become aware of yourself (consider aphorism VII.44 exhorting the magician to perform what is essentially awareness meditation, and which reads like something Jason Miller would write).  At sunrise, recite the prayer from aphorism II.14, what I’m calling for the purposes of this post the Preliminary Invocation:

O Lord of Heaven and Earth, maker and creator of all that is visible and invisible; I, though unworthy, call upon you and invoke you, through your only begotten son our Lord Jesus Christ, in order that you give your Holy Spirit to me, which may direct me in your truth, for the good of all.  Amen.

Because with true longing I desire to learn fully the skills of this life, and those things which are necessary for us, who are immersed in immense darkness and fouled with unending human beliefs, as I see that I can understand nothing through my own power, unless you teach me.  Grant to me therefore one of your spirits, who will teach me whatever you wish me to learn and understand, for your praise and honor, and the benefit of our neighbors.  Grant to me also a heart that is easily taught, so that I may easily retain in my mind what you have taught, and I will secure them there to be brought forth, as from your inexhaustible treasures, for all necessary uses.

And grant to me your grace, that I may use these great gifts of yours only with humility, fear, and tremblings, through our Lord Jesus Christ with your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Following that, for each of the seven days of the preparation period, recite (either aloud or silently to yourself) one of the verses of the Bible listed in aphorism IV.25 and contemplate upon its words:

  1. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
  2. “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” (Luke 21:34)
  3. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalms 55:22)
  4. “Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.” (Isaiah 48:17)
  5. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” (Psalms 32:8)
  6. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11)
  7. “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:23)

After contemplating upon the verse for the day, recite the verse Luke 10:20 silently to yourself: “Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in Heaven”.  Contemplate this as well, then conclude with any prayers or acts you so choose if any, such as the Our Father, lectio divina, going to Mass, meditating on the Seal of Secrets, etc.  Before retiring for the night, read the first septenary of aphorisms of the Arbatel and recite the Preliminary Invocation again before lying down.  For these seven days, pay attention to your dreams and any other spiritual communication for any guidance in the matter you seek or for other things you may need for the upcoming conjuration.

On the morning of the conjuration, before sunrise, prepare yourself and your ritual area as desired, and meditate as before.  Just as the sun rises, invoke your guardian angel.  I’ve adapted the invocation from the Ars Paulina; while definitely an addition to the stuff from the Arbatel, the text does say that “it is a canon that everyone may know their own guardian angel, and that he obeys him as if it were the word of God” (aphorism IV.26); considering the importance the tutelary spirit (HGA, agathodaimon, natal genius, paredos, etc.) generally takes in Hermetic magic going back to truly ancient times, I would find it folly to not incorporate some request to this spirit, so I’ve included it here, even though it is strictly optional.

O NN, my great and blessed angelic guardian, vouchsafe to descend from your heavenly mansion with your holy influence and presence, here at this place and now at this time with me, that I may enjoy your company, aid, and assistance both now and forever hereafter. O you who abide higher than the Sun and know the secrets of the God of gods, you who ride upon the wings of the winds and are mighty and potent in your celestial motion, descend and be present, I humbly beg you, that if I have ever merited your company or if any of my actions and intentions be real, pure, and sanctified before you, then be present and empower and protect me, your submissive pupil.

In the name of God the Father through God the Son with God the Holy Spirit, unto whom the entire choir of heaven sings continuously: Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God of Hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory. Amen.

NN here stands for the name of your guardian angel, if known; if unknown, simply omit it from the prayer.

Once again recite the Preliminary Invocation as given above, then recite the prayer for the conjuration of the spirit from aphorism III.21:

O God Almighty and Eternal, you who have established all of creation for your praise and honor and the service of mankind, I beg you to send your spirit NN of the XX, to inform and teach me YY, but may your will, not mine, be done, through Jesus Christ your only begotten Son, our Lord. Amen.

Fill in the blanks where NN is the name of the spirit to be conjured, XX the planetary order of the spirit (e.g. “of the solar order” or “of the heaven of the Sun”) or its general office (e.g. “presidency of the land of Rome”), and YY the topic of request for instruction, which can be something specific (e.g. “the cure for edema”) or more general (e.g. “for all the things I pray from God”).  If the name is not known, omit it, and rely only on the office of the spirit instead.

If no spiritual presence is felt, quiet the mind and all the senses, then repeat the prayer of conjuration again until the spirit is present.  When you perceive the spirit present, continue with the following prayers from aphorism VI.40:

Do not take your Holy Spirit from me, but strengthen me with a perfect spirit.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

I beg you, o heavenly Father, not to give power to a lying spirit, as you did Achab that led to his death, but guard me in your truth. Amen.

At this point, address and test the spirit, their real presence, their office, and their nature (consider aphorism VI.40.3).  If the spirit is a lying one, banish them.  Otherwise, if the spirit is real and faithful, then commune with them as desired.  If this is the first time conjuring a particular spirit, be sure to obtain their name and seal from them for your own personal use; these should only be used in the day and hour of the planet of the spirit.  In the future, use these names and seals instead of those given in the text itself, as they will be most effective for you beyond any others (and, further, ineffective for anyone else).

Unless the spirit is specifically a familiar bestowed to the magician or one that has agreed to stay for an extended time, do not detain them past the end of the first planetary hour.  At that point or when the conjuration is concluded, give the dismissal from aphorism III.21:

Because you came peacefully and quietly, and answered my petitions, I give thanks to God in whose name you have come, and may you go now in peace to your order, returning to me when I call you by your name or order or office, which is permitted by the Creator. Amen.

After this, conclude the conjuration by reciting and meditating upon the verse from Ecclesiastes 5:3-4:

Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God. For God is in Heaven and thou upon Earth; therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through a multitude of business, and a fool’s voice is known by a multitude of words.

Finish with any other prayers or acts as desired.

As can be seen, the Arbatel-style ritual format I’ve drawn up is largely stuff explicitly stated in the Arbatel, mixed with some bits which are inspired by the Arbatel, and a small amount pulled in from other (but reasonable) sources entirely outside the Arbatel.  Still, even with the extra bits I threw in or built upon from the Arbatel, there’s still much that many magicians are accustomed to that simply aren’t here:

  • place and setting, whether indoors or outdoors, weather, etc.
  • use of the actual symbol of the spirit in a lamen, pictorial focus, or other medium
  • use and consecration of a Circle of Art or other protective means
  • use and consecration of the usual tools of the Art, e.g. wands, daggers, holy images
  • use and consecration of clothing and amulets, e.g. lamens, rings, crowns, robes
  • use and consecration of a scrying medium or summoning platform, e.g. Triangle of Art or Table of Practice
  • use and consecration of candles or lamps, their colors, inscriptions, and number
  • use and consecration of incense
  • method of ablutions and purification
  • method of testing the spirit
  • method of banishing lying spirits
  • etc.

For these and all the other trappings of ritual, everything you need will present itself to be used, just as discussed above; if you want it or if you strongly feel that it’s needed, go for it, especially if demanded or recommended by the spirit being conjured.  That said, probably the most frustrating thing about all this is that the Arbatel gives us seals for the seven Olympic spirits, but doesn’t say how to use them.  Still, the same thing applies from before, this time reinforced in aphorism IV.27 (emphasis mine, as expected):

…anyone may easily form [the angels’] names in his own language: so that he which will, may ask a physical Angel, mathematical, or philosophical, or an Angel of civil wisdom, or of supernatural or natural wisdom, or for any thing whatsoever; and let him ask seriously, with a great desire of his minde, and with faith and constancy and without doubt, that which he asketh he shall receive from the Father and God of all Spirits. This faith surmounteth all seals, and bringeth them into subjection to the will of man. The Characteristical maner [i.e. the use of seals in rituals] of calling Angels succeedeth this faith, which dependeth onely on divine revelation; But without the said faith preceding it, it lieth in obscurity

Thus, there is no use in characters or seals of spirits without the faith in the divine that allows it to work, and with that faith, nothing else is technically needed, though many avenues exist that branch off from it.  There is no other explicit reference to the use of seals or characters of the spirits in the Arbatel, and it may be a combination of the fact that the Arbatel is incomplete along with how stingy the author is at revealing some of the deeper secrets of the art; quoth the end of aphorism IV.27:

…But he will not that we give holy things to dogs, nor despise and condemn the gifts of his treasury. Therefore diligently and often read over and over the first Septenary of secrets, and guide and direct thy life and all thy thoughts according to those precepts; and all things shall yield to the desires of thy minde in the Lord, to whom thou trustest.

The first septenary of the Arbatel is largely exhortations to live a good, holy, Christ-like life according to the word of God.  However, note that in the very first aphorism of the Arbatel, aphorism I.1, we find that it talks about secrets explicitly in a way none of the other aphorisms in this section do:

Whosoever would know Secrets, let him know how to keep secret things secretly; and to reveal those things that are to be revealed, and to seal those things which are to be sealed: and not to give holy things to dogs, nor cast pearls before swine. Observe this Law, and the eyes of thy understanding shall be opened, to understand secret things; and thou shalt have whatsoever thy minde desireth to be divinely revealed unto thee. Thou shalt have also the Angels and Spirits of God prompt and ready in their nature to minister unto thee, as much as any humane minde can desire.

Where Turner’s English translation has “the eyes of thy understanding”, the original Latin has “oculi mentis”, literally “the eyes of the mind”.  Yes, this does mean that the subtle faculties of the mind and soul will be used, allowing for greater and deeper understanding and mystical works, but note that the Arbatel also references both inward and outward senses (e.g. aphorism VI.40), indicating that the mind’s visualization and other perceptive skills of the imagination are to be used in this work, either instead of or in addition to the more physical implements of magic.

With this as a tentative base, the only immediate need for the seal of a spirit, without further plans or designs, is in visualizing it; with that, the rest of the faculties will be opened for revelation and communion with the spirit.  Thus, at least for the very first conjuration when making contact (after which, it can be assumed that the spirit will give directions on how to use its seal when prompted to), the seal must be visualized clearly and definitively in the mind when the spirit is being conjured.  Whether it is physically present in the ritual is literally immaterial; if it helps the magician to have it present and visible for ease of focus, or if the magician strongly desires to wear it as a lamen to encourage resonance with the spirit, do so!  All that we need (which we can strongly assume) is that the mind’s eye is opened by the seal to the presence and revelations of divinity through the spirit.

So, given all the above as a starting point, bear in mind the fourth of the greatest secrets given in aphorism IV.24: “to be able to discourse with knowledge and understanding of all things visible and invisible, and to understand the power of every thing, and to what it belongeth”.  The first time we conjure a spirit in the Arbatel fashion, we should always face the East for this purpose; we must not only learn the spirit’s true name and seal (at least for our own selves), but we must also learn how to properly converse with the spirit and to what ends they are present and functional in our lives.  Once we gain that first initial contact, we can establish the pacts and contracts to rely on for future conversations under the guidance of the spirit itself, whether or not we stick with the Arbatel-style ritual above, since, as aphorism II.12 says, “[t]here is no other maner of restoring these Arts then by the doctrine of the holy Spirits of God”.

For me?  I’m still finding out how others have implemented their Arbatel experiments for reference, but given my experience with the Trithemian rite of conjuration and other ceremonies I’m accustomed to doing, I know of a few things I’ll likely adapt from that set of actions and tools into the Arbatel-style ritual as described above, including prepwork, purification, protection, and the like.  I may not use lamens and a crystal scrying medium, but I do figure that a Circle and Wand of Art wouldn’t be remiss, and putting the seal of the Olympic spirit upon the Table of Practice with a candle set atop it seems comfortable to me.  Beyond that, though, once that initial contact is made, I’d see what’s actually needed for my own work with the spirits based on their own input, verifying the things I’ve already done and changing what needs doing, if anything.  From there, it’s just doing the Work.

Who knows, maybe I’ll even get around to actually doing the damn thing sometime before the next 30 months pass!  (I will, I swear.)

On the Arbatel’s Seal of Secrets

So as I work towards the end of a year of interesting spiritual obligations, I’m beginning to get back to some of my projects I had to put on hold about this time last year.  One of those projects is that of the works of the Arbatel, described in the eponymous text the Arbatel: of the Magic of the Ancients, a 16th century text that presents a body of very religious and devout occult wisdom and practice that famously introduce the seven Olympic spirits (Aratron, Bethor, Phaleg, Och, Hagith, Ophiel, and Phul).  However, while these spirits are fairly well-known, less understood and talked about is its Seal of Secrets and what the Arbatel actually preaches about wisdom that can be learned through occult means.  I’ve been mulling this particular diagram over the past few days, and it’s not the most straightfoward or clearly-explained thing in the text.

So, let’s start from the basics.  The Fourth Septenary of the Arbatel focuses on secrets, starting with aphorisms IV.22 and IV.23:

IV.22: We call that a secret, which no man can attain unto by humane industry without revelation; which Science lieth obscured, hidden by God in the creature; which nevertheless he doth permit to be revealed by Spirits, to a due use of the thing it self. And these secrets are either concerning things divine, natural or humane. But thou mayst examine a few, and the most select, which thou wilt commend with many more.

IV.23: Make a beginning of the nature of the secret, either by a Spirit in the form of a person, or by vertues separate, either in humane Organs, or by what manner soever the same may be effected; and this being known, require of a Spirit which knoweth that art, that he would briefly declare unto thee whatsoever that secret is: and pray unto God, that he would inspire thee with his grace, whereby thou maist bring the secret to the end thou desireth, for the praise and glory of God, and the profit of thy neighbour.

Aphorism IV.24 then lists three sets of seven secrets, classifying them into the greatest secrets, the medium secrets, and the lesser secrets, each focusing on a different kind of goal or aim ranging from the divinely sublime to the mundane and temporary.  Arbatel also says that the greatest secrets are those that “a man of an honest and constant minde may learn of the Spirits, without any offence unto God”, a qualifier not given to the other two, suggesting that the greatest secrets are the ones that are innately of God and for God and that the others are more easily inclined to lead away from truth and divine works.  In general, the secrets listed here fall more-or-less in line with the powers claimed by magicians in countless other texts: healing of all illnesses, knowing God and truth, longevity, the obedience of spirits, the transmutation of metals, excellence in all sorts of arts and sciences, and so forth.  By dividing them up into greater, middle, and lesser, however, we get a clear sense of priority from the Arbatel, encouraging us to focus more on the most beneficial, kind, and holy works and less so on the more mundane or “contemptible” ones.

Moving on to aphorism IV.27, the Arbatel then discusses a particular diagram that it calls the Seal of Secrets:

Make a Circle with a center A, which is framed by a square BCDE.  At the East let there be BC, at the North CD, at the West DE, and at the South EB. Divide the Several quadrants into seven parts, that there may be in the whole 28 parts: and let them be again divided into four parts, that there may be 112 parts of the Circle: and so many are the true secrets to be revealed. And this Circle in this manner divided, is the seal of the secrets of the world, which they draw from the onely center A, that is, from the invisible God, unto the whole creature.

This is a simple geometric construction telling us, basically, to make a circle bounded by a square, with the circle divided up into seven divisions, and each division divided further into four sections, for a total of 4 × 7 × 4 = 112 sections.  Some versions of the Arbatel include such a diagram, which I’ve reproduced below without the letters or labels but includes the division-level boundaries, but it could be technically written to be constructed in a more simple way as well with all the lines converging without inner boundary circles:

Continuing from the above, the Arbatel then begins describing the function of the divisions and sectors of the seal:

The Prince of the Oriental secrets is resident in the middle, and hath three Nobles on either side, every one whereof hath four under him, and the Prince himself hath four appertaining unto him. And in this manner the other Princes and Nobles have their quadrants of secrets, with their four secrets.

But the Oriental secret is the study of all wisdom; The West, of strength; The South, of tillage; The North, of more rigid life. So that the Eastern secrets are commended to be the best; the Meridian to be mean; and the West and North to be lesser.

(A note on the word “noble” here: Peterson in his modern translation of the Arbatel uses the word “governors” to describe these six subordinate spirits, while the original Latin uses the word “satrap”, a Persian term originally describing provincial governors but later adapted to refer to leaders who act as surrogates for larger world powers.  I adore the word “satrap”.)

The division of each direction into seven rulers, with one dominating Prince and six Governors under him, is fairly straightforward, and also that each ruler presides over four secrets unto himself.  What’s peculiar is that each direction is also given to have a quality of secret: the East for the greatest secrets, the South for the middle, and the West and North for the lesser.  Though not explicitly stated, it’s pretty much certain to me that the secrets here are meant to refer to the greater, medium, and lesser secrets given before in aphorism IV.24.  However, this seems to break the neat one-to-one regularity we would expect to see here, as we see elsewhere in the Arbatel; why should one set of secrets be given to two quadrants?  Peterson in the preface to his translation of the Arbatel says:

…[f]or symmetry, it is tempting to speculate that the seven lesser secrets listed—those of strength—are actually sought from the west, while the north secrets—those of harshness—are destructive and are not explicitly mentioned.

If Peterson is right, and I’m greatly inclined to think that he is, then that means that there are actually four sets of secrets: the greatest, the medium, the lesser, and a fourth unmentioned set of seven secrets that are focused on destruction, harm, and violence.  If the greatest secrets are those that can be learned “without any offence unto God”, while the medium and lesser secrets are more tempting to lead away from and offend God, then the unmentioned secrets are those that are most likely to veer too close or outright into what the Arbatel considers cacomagy or “evil magic”, which are doomed to offend God and should be avoided to the point where they are not even listed in the text.  The works of the lesser secrets would instead be recommended to replace those of this hypothetical unmentioned set, if only to direct the reader of the Arbatel to maintain a good life without temptation of evil.

Anyway, following this in the same aphorism, the Arbatel describes a twofold purpose of this diagram, one as a divine revelation and the other as a mere mnemonic device:

The use of this seal of secrets is, that thereby thou maist know whence the Spirits or Angels are produced, which may teach the secrets delivered unto them from God. But they have names taken from their offices and powers, according to the gift which God hath severally distributed to every one of them. One hath the power of the sword; another, of the pestilence; and another, of inflicting famine upon the people, as it is ordained by God. Some are destroyers of Cities, as those two were, who were sent to overthrow Sodom and Gomorrha, and the places adjacent, examples whereof the holy Scripture witnesseth. Some are the watch-men over Kingdoms; others the keepers of private persons; and from thence, anyone may easily form their names in his own language: so that he which will, may ask a physical Angel, mathematical, or philosophical, or an Angel of civil wisdom, or of supernatural or natural wisdom, or for any thing whatsoever; and let him ask seriously, with a great desire of his minde, and with faith and constancy and without doubt, that which he asketh he shall receive from the Father and God of all Spirits. This faith surmounteth all seals, and bringeth them into subjection to the will of man. The Characteristical maner of calling Angels succeedeth this faith, which dependeth onely on divine revelation; But without the said faith preceding it, it lieth in obscurity.

Nevertheless, if any one will use them for a memorial, and not otherwise, and as a thing simply created by God to his purpose, to which such a spiritual power or essence is bound; he may use them without any offence unto God. But let him beware, lest that he fall into idolatry, and the snares of the devil, who with his cunning sorceries, easily deceiveth the unwary. And he is not taken but onely by the finger of God, and is appointed to the service of man; so that they unwillingly serve the godly; but not without temptations and tribulations, because the commandment hath it, That he shall bruise the heel of Christ, the seed of the woman. We are therefore to exercise our selves about spiritual things, with fear and trembling, and with great reverence towards God, and to be conversant in spiritual essences with gravity and justice. And he which medleth with such things, let him beware of all levity, pride, covetousness, vanity, envy and ungodliness, unless he wil miserably perish.

In one way, the Seal of Secrets is a sort of divine cosmogram that shows how the spirits presiding over the secrets of the cosmos are produced and how they govern, with a ruling prince of spirits presiding in the center of each direction with three noble subordinate rulers on either side.  Though it has a divine purpose and origin, the Arbatel also concedes it may be used as a mnemonic device merely and only to remember how the spirits that exist apart and away from the Seal function and how they’re organized.  In either way, though, it seems that Arbatel suggests a distinct catalog of 196 secrets and their corresponding spirits.

With all that said, the Arbatel is lacking in actually explaining the deeper use or purpose of the Seal.  It’s likely because the Arbatel is essentially an incomplete work; of the nine books it describes, only the first is extant, which is what we actually call the Arbatel today, though it calls itself the Isagoge, “which in fourty and nine Aphorisms comprehendeth, the most general Precepts of the whole Art”.  To me, the Arbatel raises more questions about the Seal and the secrets it describes than it answers.  So, what’s the deal with dividing the Seal up in the way that it does?  What first came to my mind was to compare the 4 × 7 = 28 divisions of the circle in the Seal of Secrets to the 28 Mansions of the Moon that survive in Western magic, as given by the Picatrix and Agrippa:

However, despite the use of 28 divisions, I don’t think there’s actually a connection (though I’d like there to be).  The 28 Mansions start with Alnath at 0° Aries, which is exactly celestial east.  However, the eastern quadrant of the Seal doesn’t have a well-defined “start”, and given the lack of elaboration in the text as well as the construction of the Seal itself, it would seem that the corresponding eastern point would fall smack-dab in the middle of the central division of the eastern quadrant, the seat of the Prince of Wisdom in the East according to the Seal of Secrets.  That doesn’t seem to lend itself well to associating each ruler of secrets to a single Mansion of the Moon.

That said, we do know that each Mansion of the Moon is given to a particular set of talismans, works, and properties that are used in astrology and astrological magic, each with its own presiding angel.  If we can’t allocate the 4 × 7 = 28 rulers of secrets into the Mansions of the Moons, what about the 7 × 4 = 28 secrets they rule over themselves within a single quadrant?  It could be conceived that each of the secrets ruled over by a direction’s Prince and six Governors could be allocated to a single Mansion of the Moon, giving us more insight into what each of those secrets could be, recalibrated for each direction and its corresponding kind of secret: thus, the rightmost secret of the Prince of Wisdom in the East would be given to the same Mansion (13, Alhaire) as would the same secret of the other Princes, but with Alhaire directed to Wisdom in one instance or to Strength in another, depending on the Prince being worked with.

While this is reasonable, I also don’t find it likely.  While I’m no expert on Paracelsus (who was either a large influence on the Arbatel or who founded the overall school and body of work the Arbatel builds upon within Renaissance Hermeticism) and given that much of his work is lost, I don’t think the Mansions of the Moon would have figured prominently in his or derivative works, so any actual association between the Mansions of the Moon and the rulers of secrets or the secrets themselves based only on the fact that they share the number 28 is tenuous at best; indeed, Peterson doesn’t even mention it in his version of the Arbatel.  That said, I’m still investigating that with the help of friends who are more well-versed in Paracelsian stuff than I am.  However, given that the lunar mansions weren’t really that important a topic in Western astrology or astrological magic since their introduction in the 12th century, I’m not holding my breath for such a connection.

Still, there’s another way to consider how to understand what the multitude of secrets are and their nature.  Consider how the text associates the directions with the four types and four sets of secrets, including Peterson’s hypothetical “unmentioned” set for the North and “a more rigid life”:

Secret Set
East Wisdom Greatest
South Tillage Middle
West Strength Lesser
North Harshness Unmentioned

Something to note is that the strength of the secrets—greatest to lesser and then to unmentionable—follow the path and light of the Sun, which rises in the East, culminates in the South, and sets in the West (at least from the point of view of an observer in the Northern Hemisphere, which makes sense for a book published in Switzerland during the Renaissance).  We know, from aphorism III.21, that the first hour of the day (sunrise) is the most appropriate time to conjure the Olympic spirits, and would be considered the strongest time of day; thus, the East is given the greatest secrets, and the strength descends from there as the Sun’s light grows older.  However, the Sun only rises at (more or less, accounting for time of year) due east, though the eastern quadrant of the Seal of Secrets covers the area from the northeast to the southeast.  If we associate due east with proper sunrise, then this means the three governors to the north of the Prince in the East are about the dawn, the time of early morning when the sky begins to brighten but before the Sun rises.  Likewise, the Prince in the West would be given to sunset, and the governors to the north of that Prince are dusk, the time of evening after the Sun sets but while the sky still has some light in it.  This means that the Prince of the South would be given to high noon, and the Prince of the North to midnight.  Note how the three sets of secrets listed explicitly in the Arbatel are then associated with the times of day when it’s light outside; the dark period of the night, after dusk and before dawn, would then be given to the unmentioned set of secrets.  This spatial-temporal reckoning of daylight with the secrets makes sense, at least to me, such that the secrets that should be revealed are made so by the light of the Sun, and those that shouldn’t remain occluded by the dark of the night when the Sun’s light is gone from the sky, in addition to the usual connections between darkness, nighttime, evil, wickedness, and so on.

Even still, though, there’s much about this Seal that remains unexplained, especially when considered alongside the system of the seven Olympic spirits in the text.  For instance:

  1. Do the four quarters of the Seal have a connection to the four elements that we’d normally see based on their connections to the directions?  If so, can we make use of those connections within the system of secrets within the Arbatel?
  2. Do the seven rulers within a quarter have any connection to the seven planets, or do there just happen to be seven for an unrelated reason?  If there is a planetary connection, which of the seven planets would be the prince of the direction, and who would be the governors under him, and in what order?
  3. Should we consider the seven Olympic spirits to “have their place” among the spirits in the Seal of Secrets, or should we consider a distinct Seal of Secrets for each planet, such that each of the seven planets have their own set of greatest, medium, lesser, and unmentioned secrets?
  4. Are the spirits described in the Seal of Secrets to be conjured alongside or independently of the Olympic spirits?  If so, then what is the purpose of the Olympic spirits within the system of secrets described in the Arbatel?  If not, then again, what’s the connection between the prince/rulers within a direction (or across all four directions) with the planets and their Olympic spirits?
  5. Do the seven rulers each have their own take on the seven secrets associated with that direction, or is it one of the secrets within the set per ruler?  If the former, what distinguishes the specific rulers’ takes on each secret, and do they have other providences, perhaps by relating to the other systems of magic described at the beginning of the Arbatel?  Or, alternatively for the former, are the four secrets under each ruler unrelated and given in addition to the big secrets given within the set associated with the direction?  If the latter, does this actually mean that there are four approaches to each secret within a set given by the Arbatel?
  6. What does the Arbatel mean when it says that the secrets of the South are for “tillage” or “culture”, referring to agriculture or cultivation, and how does this actually relate to the middle secrets which are more associated with the results described in books like the Liber Juratus or Ars Notoria?
  7. What does the Arbatel mean when it says that the secrets of the West are for “strength”, when the lesser secrets are more associated with mundane affairs and success in worldly matters?
  8. If Peterson is right and there is a fourth unmentioned category of secrets, the unmentioned ones for the North, how do they relate to “a rigid life”, and what are they?  If he’s wrong and the lesser secrets really are allocated to both the West and the North, then what distinguishes their spirits and the secrets they rule over?

Some of these questions might have answers based on other hints elsewhere in the Arbatel.  For instance, at the end of aphorism III.17 which contains the information about the seven Olympic spirits, there are the “most general precepts of this secret”; the fourth precept here says that “in all the elements there are the seven Governours with their hosts”, suggesting that the Olympic spirits or the planets they preside over are present in each of the four elements, and thus in the four directions, and that that there is some connection between the seven rulers in each direction and the seven planets with their Olympic spirits.  Later, in the invocation of the Olympic spirits given in aphorism III.21, there’s the statement “…beseech thee that thou wouldst send thy Spirit N.N. of the solar order…”, which indicates that there are multiple spirits of the Sun that can be worked with, not just Och which is the only named solar spirit given in the Arbatel; otherwise, why make the name general but the order definite here as an example?  This may suggest that while Och presides over all works of the Sun, there could be four rulers of secrets set under Och (one for each direction and set of secrets).  As for the fourfold division of secrets under each ruler of secrets in the Seal, note that aphorism VII.49 lists four kinds of good sciences: knowledge of the word of God, knowledge of the government of God through his angels, knowledge of natural things, and wisdom in humane things; these might be hints as to the ways a secret may be known or effected, though since this doesn’t mirror exactly the corresponding evil sciences, this might not necessarily be the case (though a case could be made for this, since even though there are seven evil sciences given, three of these are more states of manners of practice rather than actual works of science, so there could be still four corresponding evil sciences to match the four for the good ones).

Of course, all the above must be understood knowing that I haven’t yet worked with the Olympic spirits themselves, but in the near future, I plan to make that one of my big project priorities.  Perhaps that will help shed some more light on the secrets hidden yet within the Arbatel.