Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: What To Do for Non-Angelic Spirits

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and today we can move on to other topics  Last time, we discussed what to do once the spirit has shown up in the conjuration ritual and temple space.  If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

The conjuration ritual of DSIC, it would seem, has been used chiefly for conjuring and working with angelic spirits, specifically those of the seven planets (regardless of what names you call them by depending on the specific source you’re working from).  This is both how Fr. RO uses his version of DSIC in the Gates texts of the Green Work section of RWC as well as in the subsequent SS book he put out, and is also the focus of GTSC by Fr. AC.  The DSIC text itself suggests that working with the planetary angels is its primary purpose, as it gives a list of planetary hours and their associated seven planetary angels at the end, and the ritual script of DSIC is written to use Michael of the Sun as the main example, using Michael’s name in the conjuration as well as a lamen of Michael of the Sun and a magic circle to be used with the seal of Michael of the Sun.  It also says, towards the start of the ritual text (my own emphasis in bold text):

And forasmuch as thy servant here standing before thee, oh, Lord! desires neither evil treasures, nor injury to his neighbour, nor hurt to any living creature, grant him the power of descrying those celestial spirits or intelligences, that may appear in this crystal

In what time thou wouldest deal with the spirits by the table and crystal, thou must observe the planetary hour; and whatever planet rules in that hour, the angel governing the planet thou shalt call in the manner following

for all celestial operations, the more pure and unmixed they are, the more they are agreable to the celestial spirits

Yet, the ritual text also suggests that spirits other than angels can be called upon in the ritual, too (again, my emphasis in bold text):

…and thou, oh inanimate creature of God, be sanctified and consecrated, and blessed to this purpose, that no evil phantasy may appear in thee; or, if they do gain ingress into this creature, they may be constrained to speak intelligibly, and truly, and without the least ambiguity, for Christ’s sake…

…that forthwith thou cast away every phantasm from thee, that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing…

In the name of the blessed Trinity, I consecrate this piece of ground for our defence; so that no evil spirit may have power to break these bounds prescribed here

Now, this being done in the order prescribed, take out thy little book, which must be made about seven inches long, of pure white virgin vellum or paper, likewise pen and ink must be ready to write down the name, character, and office, likewise the seal or image of whatever spirit may appear

Now the most pure and simple way of calling the spirits or spirit is by a short oration to the spirit himself…

“In the name of the blessed and holy Trinity, I do desire thee, thou strong mighty angel, Michael, [Or any other angel or spirit] …

There’s also the fact that the text consistently refers to the thing being conjured is almost always “spirit”, far more rarely “angel”, even in the title of the text itself (“The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals”).  It is true that, yes, angels are definitely a kind of spirit, and the words “spirit” and “angel” can be used interchangeably when discussing an angelic text—but not all spirits are angels.  And although some of the references to “evil phantasms” or “evil spirits” above should properly be considered exorcisms to ensure the purity, sanctity, and protection of both the implements, elements, and participants in the ritual, it does suggest that DSIC can flirt more with “evil spirits” (as Agrippa might call them in his Fourth Book, as opposed to “good spirits” like angels or other celestial entities) than might be readily apparent.

The usual approach to using DSIC is to work with angels—usually the planetary angels from Agrippa or the Heptameron, as Fr. RO and Fr. AC do, but even including the Olympic Spirits from the Arbatel as I’ve often seen done, especially but not only by Fr. Acher in his Arbatel essays on Theomagica.  In this sense, DSIC can be considered a way to flesh out Agrippa’s conjuration method of “good spirits” (book IV, chapter 10), but DSIC doesn’t strictly implement what Agrippa says there.  Instead, DSIC seems to be an amalgam of Agrippa’s methods of working with both “good spirits” as well as “evil spirits” (book IV, chapters 12 and following), and in that light, further fleshes out what Agrippa says with the techniques and tools of the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano.  It’s also interesting to note that, in the 1655 English translation by Robert Turner, there’s an introduction to this entry that was included with Agrippa’s Fourth Book et al. that says that the Heptameron was specifically included to flesh out what Agrippa had written about such conjurations:

In the former book, which is the fourth book of Agrippa, it is sufficiently spoken concerning Magical Ceremonies, and Initiations.

But because he seems to have written to the learned and well-experienced in this art, because he does not specially treat of the Ceremonies but rather speaks of them in general, it was therefore thought good to add hereunto the Magical Elements of Peter de Abano: that those who are hitherto ignorant and have not tasted of Magical Superstitions may have them in readiness [and] how they may exercise themselves therein…

As we’ve shown at multiple points throughout this series of posts, DSIC is very much a combination of theurgic invocation and communion with “good spirits” as much as it is a Solomonic conjuration of “evil spirits”.  In that light, DSIC should be able to work with “evil spirits”—demons from various goetic texts, non-angelic entities like genii locorum, and the like—as much as it works with “good spirits”.  And there’s nothing, strictly speaking, that says you can’t do just that, or that DSIC as written would be insufficient for such works with them.  After all, we pointed out in the actual ritual script that some descriptors, adjectives, keywords, and names can be changed to suit not just any angel of any planetary or stellar sphere, but to chthonic, terrestrial, or other spirits, as well.  However, as DSIC says, “the most pure and simple way of calling the spirits or spirit is by a short oration to the spirit himself”, and though the prayer used in the Conjuration of the Spirit from DSIC is written in a sufficiently general way to be used for all spirits, we can replace this with prayers that are specifically geared to specific spirits.

First, a note about those prayers for conjuration.  The DSIC text uses three prayers to conjure a spirit, which we had as follows from our script writeup:

In the name of the blessed and holy Trinity, I desire you, o strong mighty angel Gabriel, that if it be the divine Will of Him who is called Tetragrammaton … the Holy God, the Father, that you take upon yourself some shape as best becomes 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 and Goodness by requesting unlawful knowledge, but 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, He 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 have I called Gabriel; suffer him to administer unto me, and that all things may work together for Your honor and glory, to whom with You the Son and the Holy Spirit be ascribed all might, majesty, and dominion.  Amen.

Fr. AC in GTSC breaks these out into three separate prayers, with only the first one required no matter what, the second one to be used if the spirit does not immediately show after saying the first, and the third one to be used if the spirit still does not show up after saying the second.  These effectively “spur the spirit to arrive to your altar quicker”, and does fall in line with many Solomonic texts that give subsequent calls for the spirit to arrive if they delay, tarry, or otherwise don’t show up at first.  I can see Fr. AC’s logic in separating these prayers out this way, but I prefer to treat them all as a single “unit” of prayer.  The main thing that keeps me from agreeing with Fr. AC’s approach of these prayers as subsequent “spurs” to the spirit is that, typically, Solomonic rituals typically increase these subsequent prayers with stronger language, threats, intimidation, and acts such as revealing pentacles, holding knives in fire, and the like.  In other words, we first ask nicely, but we drop niceness in favor of business, cordial then serious then mafia-style rough, as we need to make sure we get our way.  DSIC does nothing of the sort here, and I don’t read or interpret that last part of the conjuration prayer as any more threatening or intimidating than the first.  I recommend all three be read as a unit.

So, let’s say we want to vary the prayer for specific spirits.  Let’s start with one that’s dear to my heart: the natal genius.  This is a spirit—generally considered angelic and typically of a solar order given its association with one’s life though not necessarily solar in and of itself—who I consider to be the spirit that represents the “idea” of our incarnation in the world, the angel (or a spirit close enough to one) into whose lap we fall into as their ward in the process of our birth.  Agrippa describes this as one entity of the “threefold keeper of man” (book III, chapter 22), and whose name can be derived in any number of ways, though I prefer the method described later on (book III, chapter 26) of deriving the name from the letters associated with the degrees of the Sun, Moon, Ascendant, Part of Fortune, and Prenatal Syzygy points of one’s natal horoscope.  Contact with this spirit is great for learning more about one’s proper place and work in life, and though I don’t consider it equivalent to one’s holy guardian angel or supernatural assistant, they can share some of the same functions.  When I work with this spirit, especially for the first formal conjuration, I use the following prayer instead of the DSIC generic conjuration prayer after the circle is traced and the incense is set to burn:

O spirit NN., I conjure you in the holy name of YHVH Eloah v’Da`ath, in the name of the Logos, in the name of the Holy Guardian Angel!  Come now to this place and appear before me, speak with me, commune with me that I may have the benefit of your direct guidance.

O NN., you who were one with the Logos at the dawn of time, you who are Logos to me now, you who created Heaven and Earth for me, you who has watched over me from the moment of my birth, you who has called me to perform this ritual here and now!  I conjure you to appear before me.  I am XX., child of YY.  You have called me and I am here.  You have led me to this place and brought about all that has transpired in my life to be here calling to you now.  Come now and appear before me in the name of YHVH Eloah v’Da`ath.  I conjure you, o NN.; appear before me here and now!

In this prayer, “NN.” is the name of the natal genius, “XX.” is your own name, and “YY.” is your mother’s name (I like using matronyms in magic operations of this nature).  Note that we’re calling on the spirit specifically in the name of “YHVH Eloah v’Da`ath”, a qabbalistic name associated with Tiphereth and thus of the Sun.  Also, I want to say that I got this prayer from Fr. RO’s RWC, but I cannot for the life of me find it in any of the texts no matter how hard I try.  It might have come from his blog, one of the posts in the mailing list for RWC, or another source of his, but I swear that I didn’t come up with this prayer out of the ether.  (If anyone familiar with his sources, or related ones, can point me in the right direction as to where I got this prayer from, I’d be deeply appreciative.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t write this prayer myself.)

However, there’s another specific conjuration prayer that I do know Fr. RO gave earlier in the Black Work part of RWC, and that’s a conjuration of a genius loci, the spirit of a particular place, especially those centered or linked to a particular river, stone, tree, mountain, home, or the like.  From the third Black Work lesson, Fr. RO describes a much pared-down conjuration ritual, foregoing the usual formalities of candles, circles, and incense, and skipping ahead directly to the conjuration itself, incorporating a libation and offering of food and drink to be poured out and scattered at the specific points indicated in the prayer.  At this point, having brought the genius loci into the crystal with the offerings laid out, you’d then engage in communion with the spirit as usual, learning about the spirit, its name, seal, and so forth.  At the end, a pared-down license to depart is used, using the name of the genius formally for the first time, based only loosely on that of DSIC:

O spirit of [land, tree, river, community, &c.], come to me!  I call upon you by the four angels of the corners of the world, by Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel!  I call upon you by the four kings of the world, by Oriens, Egyn, Paimon, and Amaymon!  Come now and receive this offering of [drink].  Come now and receive this offering of [food].  Come now and appear before me in this crystal, that we may speak and understand each other.

NN., I thank you for coming.  Return to me when I call you by name and by seal, come quickly from wherever you may be, and let there be mutual peace and prosperity between us until the end of our days.

Though Agrippa would probably take issue with Fr. RO’s approach, Agrippa would also probably take issue with DSIC itself.  Just as DSIC plays pretty loose and fast with what Agrippa describes in the Fourth Book, so too is Fr. RO playing loose and fast with DSIC.  Yet—as I can myself attest—this method of working with genii locorum can and does work!  In retrospect, however, I would recommend going through a more formal process that more closely resembles Agrippa’s method of working with “evil spirits” (circle, incense, no triangle or crystal), or eschew it all in favor of a more direct, diplomatic approach of approaching the spirit of a place without any conjuration at all, but just making devotional offerings and getting to know the spirit on their own terms.  Fr. RO, as I interpret it, was introducing people who were brand new to the notion of working with spirits using simple tools and spirits nearby them without them doing a full conjuration yet, but working up towards it later.

Then there’s Fr. RO’s other text, Modern Goetic Grimoire, which he (like the rest of his ebooks) no longer sells but (unlike the rest of his ebooks) I neither share nor bring up at length, especially because the man is heading towards publishing it formally in a new and revised version.  In his (earlier?) approach to goetia, Fr. RO used a hybrid approach that combined some of the tools and techniques from the Lemegeton Goetia with DSIC, replacing the DSIC magic circle with the one from the Lemegeton, incorporating the pentagram-style pentacle of Solomon to be on the reverse of the seal of the spirit (made in the Lemegeton-style instead of the Agrippa-style lamen), and using a generally DSIC approach to setting up the conjuration ritual but replacing the actual prayer of conjuration with one styled heavily after the first conjuration of the Lemegeton Goetia (the one using the names Beralanensis, Baldachiensis, Paumachia, and Apologia Sedes).  Because the Lemegeton Goetia and Heptameron are both Solomonic texts that share very closely-related forms of this prayer, and because the DSIC is itself a derivative of the Heptameron, one could easily use the Heptameron prayer (either as it is or in an altered form) to conjure “evil spirits” in the sense of demons like those found in goetic texts.  While I won’t share Fr. RO’s version of the prayer, this is one that I think follows a little more closely with the Heptameron while still being true to the DSIC format.  Using NN. for the name of the spirit to be conjured:

In the name of the blessed and holy Trinity, by Beralanens and Baldachiens and Paumachia and the seats of Apologia, by the most mighty kings and powers, by the mightiest kings and strongest powers, by the most powerful princes, by the Spirit of Liachida, o you minister of the Tartarean seat!  Hear me, o NN.!

O chief prince of the seat of Apologia in the ninth legion, I desire you and call upon you, o NN., by the power of Almighty God, by the will of Him who is called Tetragrammaton … the holy God, the Father, He to whom all creatures fall obedient, that you come forth here to this place and now to this time, taking your place to appear visibly before me in this crystal, taking upon yourself a peaceful, visible, affable, and comely form.

Come forth, o NN., in the name of God whose mighty and true Name—YHVH—being resounded makes the elements to be overthrown, the winds to shake, the sea to recede, the fire to be quenched, the earth to tremble, and all spirits above the Earth, upon the Earth, and under the Earth cower in fear and confusion!

Come forth, o NN., without delay, quickly, quickly, immediately, immediately, from wherever you may be, from any part of the world, from whatever form or nature you take, in the name of the true and living God—Helioren—that you might manifest and reveal to me that which I desire, answering my demands in as far as I shall not transgress the bounds of divine Mercy and Goodness by requesting unlawful knowledge.

Come forth, o NN., and stay not where you are, delay not for any cause, doing nothing but coming to me to assist me in my desires and needs, in the name of the Lord God—Bachac rushing upon Abrac, Abeor over Aberor—all for the glory and honor of His divine Majesty, He 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 have I called NN.; suffer him to administer unto me, that no iniquity be done and all harm flee from me, so that all things in Heaven and on Earth may work together for Your honor and glory, to whom with You the Son and the Holy Spirit be ascribed all might, majesty, and dominion.  Amen.

This is my own mishmash of the Heptameron conjuration prayers of such spirits—with my own modifications to structure and grammar—put into the same overall framework as the DSIC conjuration prayer.  Of course, incorporating such prayers for such spirits might be a bit too much for a pure-DSIC approach to handle, so I would still recommend that either you use the the pentacle of Solomon (either hexagram-style or pentagram-style, though I would recommend using the hexagram-style) on the reverse of the lamen of the spirit to be called in this way, as well as having offensive incenses compounded of peppers and sulfur and the like.  Just in case things go wrong.

Now, I don’t mean to limit DSIC to working with just angels, demons, or spirits of the land; the format of DSIC is solid enough, grounded in Agrippa-style theurgy and Solomonic-style conjuration (though sometimes coming across as confused as to which it wants to be or do more of), to be used for truly any kind of spirit.  While the specific conjuration prayer used by DSIC is phrased generally enough to be used for any kind of spirit, we can play around a bit with modifying it or replacing it with other prayers that are specifically geared to specific kinds of spirit or even to specific spirits themselves.  In doing so, we begin a process of reincorporating DSIC into a more traditionally-Solomonic milieu or take it further away into a more animist, theurgic, or other style of approaching and working with spirits.  The above examples show that DSIC can be altered in just such a way—but they are only just a few examples that show what can be done, not to indicate the limits of what could be done.  Other spirits that don’t fall into the categories above should have their own prayers written specifically for them; heck, even specific angels themselves could have their own specific prayers used to conjure them, if one so chooses.

I mentioned at the end of the goetic-style DSIC conjuration prayer that maybe we should include a few other things in the ritual, like proper pentacles and offensive incenses and whatnot, just in case things go wrong or when a stronger arm is needed than might otherwise be desired.  Hopefully it doesn’t have to come to this, but…well, what if they do?  DSIC doesn’t tell you what to do for backup plans or contingencies, nor does it give you any “plan B” for when things don’t go as you expect.  We’ll talk about that next time.

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: The Actual Ritual Itself

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and today we can move on to other topics  Last time, we discussed how to orient the altar, what needs to go on it, and how to time the conjuration ritual itself.  If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

I’ve now written sixteen posts so far in this series, with about 67,000 words, quotes and images and all, with this being the seventeenth one.  And, just now, we’re finally—finally—getting to the actual ritual portion of DSIC.  To be fair, we did have quite a lot to talk about to get up to this point: what the actual tools and implements specifically called for by DSIC looked like, how to make them, what other stuff we needed, how to prepare ourselves, how to set up our temple space, how to set up the altar of conjuration, and how to time the ritual.  With all that out of the way, we’re now actually ready to discuss the actual ritual format of DSIC.  The format given below is my own personal take on the ritual choreography of DSIC, accounting for magicians, scryers, assistants, and all the things everyone should be doing, how, and when so as to build up to a harmonized performance of the ritual.  Much of this is based on my own experience, with some of it coming from the directions or witnessed implementations of similar Solomonic rituals.

So, let’s get into it.  By this point, we’ve undertaken our preparatory purification period of fasting, abluting, and prayer, our altar has been fully set up with all our supplies and tools at hand, and the awaited day and hour has come.  We will assume the following for the purposes of this post:

  • The conjuration is to call upon the angel Gabriel of the Moon.
  • The conjuration is being performed in an hour of the Moon, with the first prayer begun at the start of that hour of the Moon.
  • The orientation point (the direction the altar is set and to which we face for the conjuration), based on Agrippa’s correspondences from the Scale of Four, will be to the south.
  • The scrying medium to be used is a crystal.
  • The ring, lamen, and wand are all initially placed on the altar of conjuration itself.
  • The right hand will be used for wearing the ring and using the wand.
  • The vessel for incense is placed in a way that may easily be reached from the position of the magician within arm’s length.
  • A book for notes and observations for the conjuration should be present, but kept inside the circle along with pen and ink.
  • We are not using a scryer or any number of other assistants in this conjuration; you, as the magician will be operating alone (but we will make mention of their roles and functions when necessary).
  • We will be taking a full-on formal approach that covers all the necessary instructions, setups, procedures, and the like according to DSIC, Agrippa, and Solomonic literature, not skipping any steps or being casual with any part of the process.

For this post, we’ll be using the actual DSIC text itself and all its Christian prayers, and not any of the variants floating around out there, with only the spelling, punctuation, and phrasing updated for modern English without using the old-style thou/thee/thine/thy pronouns.  Parts that may change in reference to the spirit’s name, nature, related godnames, etc. as well as other changeable aspects of the ritual like the specific scrying medium used, etc. and the like will be in underlined text.  We’ll go over how to adapt the DSIC prayers in non-Christian frameworks in a later post, but for now, let’s stick to the basic DSIC text as written (though updated for readability).

Note that these prayers and instructions are written so as to accommodate any variation on the following, should you choose to depart from the setups and designs and approaches discussed in earlier posts:

  • Having the circle include the altar or exclude it
  • Using an actual table with the table design engraved or written onto it, or a separate piece of equipment that has the design put on top of another surface
  • Having the lamen be a Solomonic pentacle instead of the lamen of the spirit, having the lamen for the spirit with a Solomonic pentacle on the reverse, or wearing a Solomonic pentacle and placing the lamen for the spirit underneath the crystal
  • Using a pedestal to support the crystal on the table or whether the crystal is placed directly on a Table of Practice
  • Any specific design choices made for the pedestal, table, lamens, or wand
  • Placing the vessel for incense on the ground before the altar, off to the side on top of the altar, or behind the crystal on the altar or on the ground, so long as it is easily accessible and reachable
  • Using a proper Liber Spirituum or a regular notebook

Any variation of these above considerations is acceptable for use in this conjuration ritual, as are many other variations besides, I’m sure.

One further note before we get on with the ritual itself: it is absolutely best-practice, recommended, suggested, and urged that the magician learn all these prayers by heart.  They may read off of a script if necessary, and having a copy of such a script is good just in case the magician forgets or slips up on the wording or purpose of something, but it is absolutely the best possible approach for the magician to learn each of these prayers, steps, and routine by heart, forwards and backwards.  The magician should spend as much time as necessary, especially in the preparatory period leading up to the ritual, to review, memorize, and practice the ritual script so that they may execute it easily, correctly, and gracefully without relying on a script.

Pre-Ritual Setup
Begin by performing your usual devotions, supplications, confessions, and any other prayers you routinely or habitually use, or those that you have been reciting every day during the preparatory period; if you’ve been reciting these these while kneeling either in front of the conjuration altar, then do those here, too.  If you’re operating with any assistants, including a scryer, they should recite their own prayers as well.  You, as the magician, should be directly in front of the altar; if operating with a scryer, they should be on your immediate right in front of the altar, and any other assistants should be kneeling behind you.

All those present should have abluted themselves with holy water; if this has not yet been done, do this now.  You as the magician and the scryer, if one is present, should anoint themselves on the forehead and eyelids with holy oil at this point; the assistants, if any are present, may anoint themselves similarly if desired by the magician.  Both the ablution and anointing should be accompanied by appropriate prayers.

Recite any other prayers appropriate to the ritual as desired at this point, including supplications for enhanced visionary skills, protection in the undertaking, invocations of the planet ruling the hour, invocations to the angel of the hour or the genius loci of the time and place the ritual is to be performed, or invocations to one’s holy guardian angel, agathodaimōn, tutelary divinity, or supernatural assistant at this time.

Once any other preliminary prayers have been recited, if any, stand up straight before the altar.  If you’re operating with a scryer, they should remain kneeling on your right, and any other assistants present should remain kneeling where they are behind you.  At this point, if you’re operating with any assistants, only you as the magician should be reciting any prayers aloud, with assistants and scryers staying reverently silent unless directed or bidden to speak.

There should either be self-igniting incense, charcoal, or other fuel present in the incense vessel; if not yet, place it there now but do not light it.

The two candles on the altar should already have been lit from the preparatory period, but if not, light them now.

The altar should additionally contain the lamen, ring, wand, and other implements of conjuration, placed conveniently and respectfully on the altar.

If a veil is present on the altar covering the tools and implements of conjuration, remove it now and put it aside.

Consecration of the Scryer
If you’re operating alone, you may hold the arms out in the orans gesture (basically up and out to the sides with the palms facing upwards or forwards towards the altar), or, better, raise up the left arm in the orans gesture but place the right hand over your heart.  If operating with a scryer, place your right hand either above them or lightly upon their head or back, and your left hand upon your heart.  Recite the following prayer:

O God, You who are the author of all good things!  I beseech You, strengthen this Your poor servant, that he may stand fast without fear through this dealing and work.  I beseech You, o Lord, enlighten the dark understanding of Your creature, that his spiritual eye may be opened to see and know Your angelic spirits descending here into this crystal.

Note that the words and pronouns used here to refer to the magician (in underlined text) should be modified to account for both (a) whether the magician is operating alone or with a scryer and (b) the gender of the scryer, if present, or the gender of the magician, if a scryer is not present.  This prayer should be used primarily to consecrate the scryer and his/her/their “spiritual eye”, but both the magician and scryer should be similarly consecrated.  Consider the above prayer to be for when the magician operates alone and is male; as an alternative, if the magician operates alone and is female, use the following:

O God, You who are the author of all good things!  I beseech You, strengthen this Your poor servant, that she may stand fast without fear through this dealing and work.  I beseech You, o Lord, enlighten the dark understanding of Your creature, that her spiritual eye may be opened to see and know Your angelic spirits descending here into this crystal.

If the magician operates with a scryer, the following prayer instead should be used:

O God, You who are the author of all good things!  I beseech You, strengthen these Your poor servants, that we may stand fast without fear through this dealing and work.  I beseech You, o Lord, enlighten the dark understanding of Your creatures, that our spiritual eyes may be opened to see and know Your angelic spirits descending here into this crystal.

Note that the word “angelic” here may be changed to reflect the nature of the spirit if it’s not angelic, e.g. “demonic” if a demon, “terrestrial” if a spirit of nature or a genius loci, etc.

Note that the word “crystal” may be changed to reflect the actual scrying medium being used if not a crystal (mirror, vessel of water, etc.).

Consecration of the Crystal
Place your right hand upon the surface of the scrying medium (crystal or whatever else is being used for the ritual) and recite the following prayer:

O inanimate creature of God, be sanctified and consecrated and blessed to this purpose: that no evil phantasy may appear in you, or, if one should gain ingress into you, that they be constrained to speak intelligibly, truly, and without the least ambiguity, for Christ’s sake.  Amen.

Remove your right hand from the scrying medium, lift your arms up in the orans gesture, and recite the next part of the prayer:

As Your servant standing here before You, o Lord, who desires neither evil treasures, nor injury to his neighbor, nor hurt to any living creature; grant him the power of descrying those celestial spirits and intelligences that may appear in this crystal, and whatever good gifts—whether the power of healing infirmities, or of imbibing wisdom, or discovering any evil likely to afflict any person or family, or any other good gift—You might be pleased to bestow on me.  Enable me, by Your Wisdom and Mercy, to use whatever I may receive to the honor of Your holy Name. Grant this for the sake of Christ, your Son.  Amen.

Note that the word “crystal” may be changed to reflect the actual scrying medium being used if not a crystal (mirror, vessel of water, etc.).

Note that the word “celestial” here may be changed to reflect the nature of the spirit if it’s not celestial, e.g. “angelic” if a true divine archangel above any planet or heaven, “terrestrial” if a spirit of nature or a genius loci, “chthonic” if a subterrestrial or demonic entity, etc.

Consecration of the Circle
Put your ring of Solomon on the little finger of your right hand.

Pick up the lamen/pentacle from the altar and wear it around your neck so that the design of it faces outward and hangs at about mid-chest-height above the sternum or heart.

If there are any extra candles around the scrying medium on the altar to be given as offerings or decoration, light them now.

Pick up the wand with the right hand, proceed to orientation point of the circle, and place the point of the wand on the outermost edge of the circle being used for the conjuration.  The scryer and assistants, if any are present, should move to the innermost part of the circle out of your way.  Trace the circle clockwise starting from the orientation point, and while tracing it, recite the following:

In the name of the blessed Trinity, I consecrate this piece of ground for our defense, so that no evil spirit may have power to break these bounds prescribed here, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Consecration of the Incense
Proceed in front of the altar and light the incense in its vessel.  The incense to be used should be of an appropriate nature for the spirit or to its corresponding planet, or frankincense may be used generally for all spirits if no specific incense is to be used.  If the incense is self-igniting, light that directly but let the flame burn.  If you’re using loose incense, light the charcoal or flame, and let it complete its process of ignition.  Hold the wand in the right hand, point the wand at the flame, and recite the following:

I conjure you, o creature of fire, by Him who created all things, both in Heaven and Earth and the Sea and in every other place whatsoever, that you cast away every phantasm from you, so that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing.

If you’re using self-igniting incense, blow the flame out now; if you’re using loose incense on a brazier with a flame or charcoal, throw that onto the flame.  Once the smoke of the incense begins to rise, whether the incense is self-igniting or otherwise, hold the wand in the right hand, point the wand at the incense issuing smoke, and recite the following:

Bless, o Lord, this creature of fire, and sanctify it that it may be blessed, and that your blessing may fill up the power and virtue of its odors, so that neither the enemy nor any false imagination may enter into them, through our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Note that, up until this point, only the first-person singular pronouns (I, my, me) are used in the prayers.  After the consecration of incense in the ritual, continue to use the first-person singular pronouns if you are operating alone, or the first-person plural pronouns (we, us, our) if you are operating in tandem with a scryer or other assistant.  The following prayers after this point assume that you’re operating alone as the magician.  The pronouns that are to be changed, if operating with a scryer or other assistants, will be in bold text in the following prayers.

Conjuration of the Spirit
At this point, check one last time to confirm that the hour is correct for conjuring the desired angel, e.g. that it is indeed the hour of the Moon when conjuring Gabriel of the Moon.  If so, continue the operation.  If it is too early, spend time in further prayer and meditation until the proper time arrives without leaving the circle, continuing to keep further incense burning (with or without reciting the blessing over it, as desired).  Otherwise, if it is too late, abort, as the hour is now wrong for the operation unless you can manage to swap out lamens and any other desired paraphernalia for the spirit in accordance with the proper hour.

If the hour is proper for conjuring the desired spirit, hold the wand in the right hand, point the wand at the scrying medium, and recite the following:

In the name of the blessed and holy Trinity, I desire you, o strong mighty angel Gabriel, that if it be the divine Will of Him who is called Tetragrammaton … the Holy God, the Father, that you take upon yourself some shape as best becomes 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 and Goodness by requesting unlawful knowledge, but 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, He 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 have I called Gabriel; suffer him to administer unto me, and that all things may work together for Your honor and glory, to whom with You the Son and the Holy Spirit be ascribed all might, majesty, and dominion.  Amen.

Note that the divine name “Tetragrammaton” is underlined here, as is the ellipsis that follows it.  Any set of divine names, titles, or references of God may be used here, such as the general and specific names of God as referenced earlier in the first post on the design of the lamen.  Saying “Tetragrammaton” here is sufficient for all general purposes, but one may use a different name specific to the spirit being conjured, or a set of names to ensure the compliance and presence of the spirit.  For example one may use any of the appropriate sets of following names following from Agrippa’s general names and the specific ones (book II, chapter 22), the various qabbalistic names of God for the corresponding sephiroth, or the Islamic names of God associated with the planets from the Shams al-Ma`ārif:

Agrippa Qabbalistic Shams al-Ma`ārif
General El, Elohim, Eloah, Tzabaoth, Elion, Esherehie, Adonai, Yah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Shaddai, Ehevi
Saturn Yah
YHVH Elohim al-Bā`ith (the Raiser)
aṣ-Ṣādiq (the Truthful)
Mawlā al-Mawāli (the Lord of Lords)
Jupiter Heh
El al-Quddūs (the Holy)
al-Mannān (the Benfactor)
ar-Raqīb (the Vigilant)
Mars Yod
Elohim Gibor al-`Azīz (the Powerful)
al-Qāhir (the Victorious)
al-Jabbār (the Strong)
Sun Yod Eloah v’Da`at an-Nūr (the Light)
an-Nāfi` (the Propitious)
al-Fāṭir (the Creator)
Venus Heh
YHVH Tzabaoth ar-Raḥīm (the Merciful)
al-Ḥayy (the Living)
al-Ḥasīb (the Reckoner)
Mercury Vav
Elohim Tzabaoth al-Khabīr (the All-Aware)
al-Wāsi` (the All-Pervading)
al-Ākhir (the Infinite Last)
Moon Heh
Shaddai El Ḥai al-Ḥalīm (the Forebearing)
al-Amān (the Safety)
al-`Alīm (the All-Knowing)

Note that the word “celestial” here may be changed to reflect the nature of the spirit if it’s not celestial, e.g. “angelic” if a true divine archangel above any planet or heaven, “terrestrial” if a spirit of nature or a genius loci, “chthonic” if a subterrestrial or demonic entity, etc. However, even for celestial entities such as planetary angels, while “celestial” works for any spirit that is associated with or drawn from any celestial sphere, this word may be replaced with a more exact adjective, e.g. “lunar” for Gabriel, “mercurial” for Raphael, “saturnine” for Cassiel, “stellar” for Raziel or the angel of any zodiac sign or lunar mansion, and so forth.

Note that the word “crystal” may be changed to reflect the actual scrying medium being used if not a crystal (mirror, vessel of water, etc.).

Note that this conjuration prayers is not necessarily appropriate for all types of spirits.  It is, however, appropriate for most kinds of spirits, especially those of an angelic or celestial nature.  We’ll discuss alternative conjuration prayers for less-than-angelic entities in a future post.

Once these prayers of conjuration have been said, await the presence of the spirit you have called; they should appear more-or-less immediately.  If a scryer is present, the spirit may appear visible to either the magician or the scryer or to both.  So long as the spirit is visible to the magician (if operating alone) or either one or both of the magician or the scryer (if operating with a scryer), then proceed to the Authentication and Oath of the Spirit.  If desired, you may wish to ask “is there a spirit present here?” softly but firmly to confirm; if you feel, perceive, or otherwise receive an affirmative signal, proceed on to the authentication.

If, after a little while, nobody present can see, hear, or in any way sense the presence of the spirit, repeat these sets of conjuration prayers, and wait again.  If, after three times you’ve said these prayers of conjuration and nobody has gotten any signal nor connection nor sign of the presence of the spirit, skip ahead to the Dismissal of the Spirit and proceed from there.

Authentication and Oath of the Spirit
Once the presence of a spirit (not necessarily the one you want!) is there, proclaim your thanks for the presence and the ability to perceive it:

O Lord!  I give to You my hearty and sincere thanks for the hearing of my prayer, and I thank You for having permitted Your spirit Gabriel to appear unto me, whom I, by Your Mercy, will interrogate to my further instruction, through Christ.  Amen.

At this point, the magician is to ask the spirit present four questions of authentication to ascertain the true character and nature of the spirit that you have conjured.  Holding the wand in the right hand pointed at the scrying medium, ask the following four questions one-by-one:

  1. In the name of the holy and undefiled Spirit, the Father, the begotten Son, and Holy Ghost who proceeds from both, what is your true name?
  2. What is your office?
  3. What is your true mark that I know you by?
  4. What are the times most agreeable to your nature to hold conference with me?

For Gabriel of the Moon, we would expect answers that are more-or-less in accordance with the following:

  1. “My name is Gabriel, the Strength of God.”
  2. “I am the angel who presides over the sphere of the Moon in the first heaven, Shamayim.”
  3. “This is my seal by which you may know me and call upon me:” (the spirit should visually or perceptibly reveal the same glyph that is used on the lamen)
  4. “The hours in which I may be called are those in which the Moon holds silver sway.”

If the spirit passes those above four questions of authentication, make one final question to confirm the nature of the spirit and receive their oath:

Do you swear by the blood and righteousness of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that you are truly the spirit as you say you are and that you come to help me as I have called you?

Note that “the spirit” here may be replaced with the specific name of the spirit we expect, e.g. “…that you are truly Gabriel as you say you are”.

If the spirit swears affirmatively, then all the above answers to the questions of authentication should be written down in your book.  Once this is complete, continue on to the Communion with the Spirit.

It is possible that the spirit may give a different answer to #3 (the question about the seal of the spirit) than what is used on the lamen.  If so, then make a note of what that seal is, but immediately proceed to another question, “Do you also respond to the seal shown here?” while holding up or pointing towards the lamen.  If the spirit responds affirmatively, then they pass that question, and you may proceed onto question #4.

It is also possible, as Fr. AC says in GTSC, that the spirit may give lengthy, winding, symbolic, metaphorical, or poetic answers.  So long as they say, show, or reveal something that is in agreement with what you expect to be reasonable, they should be considered acceptable; you may not receive verbal responses!

We’ll discuss in a later post what to do if the spirit turns out to not be the one called upon by failing the expected answers to the questions of authentication, or fails to swear to the magician their honest presence and assistance.  Regardless, suffice it here to say that, should the spirit present not be the one desired or fail to swear to the magician, skip ahead to the Dismissal of the Spirit, but if time and energy permits, instead of continuing to Closing the Ritual, resume the process of conjuration of the spirit once more, starting with the Conjuration of the Spirit; otherwise, proceed to the Closing of the Ritual after the Dismissal of the Spirit.

Communion with the Spirit
At this point, the spirit you’ve conjured is present and the field is open to communing and communicating with them.  Chat with them, learn from them, ask for their help, consecrate talismans, receive initiation or empowerment, and whatever else you wish to do with them at this point.  We’ll go over what you can do here in a later post, but all things done with the spirit should be related or pertinent to the spirit in some way, with nothing unnecessary discussed or engaged in.  If desired, the wand may be put down now at this point where convenient inside the circle.

If operating with a scryer, the scryer should communicate to the magician and assistants whatever it is the spirit says, shows, or does while present.  Only the magician should be asking questions or otherwise directing the spirit; the magician is the one in charge of the ritual, and nothing is to be done unless they consent to it.  If anyone else, including the scryer, has a suggestion or recommendation, they should first respectfully ask the magician whether it may or should be done, and, should they consent to it, the magician will facilitate it with the spirit, with the scryer giving the response.

Notes should be taken throughout this process in your book, including of the spirit’s replies, any visions, any confirmations or denials, and the like.  This should be the job of an assistant, if any are present; otherwise, you as the magician should do this.

If possible, keep incense burning throughout this process, adding more incense as necessary.  Subsequent recitations of the prayer of the Consecration of the Incense may be performed if desired, but it is not necessary to do so.  This should be the job of an assistant, if any are present, but not the scryer, whose attention should be given to the crystal; otherwise, the magician should do this.

Technically, this may go on for as long as desired or needed, but we’ll take the Arbatel’s instruction from aphorism III.21 here: do not detain them past the end of the (planetary) hour in which you’ve conjured them unless they agree to stay or are otherwise sworn or bound to you.  If using self-igniting incense, so long as the incense isn’t particularly short-lived, this may be used as a sort of “clock” by which you may measure the length of the conjuration; once the self-igniting incense burns out, bring the ritual to an end.

Dismissal of the Spirit
Once you’ve finished communing with the spirit, take up the wand again in the right hand, point the wand at the scrying medium, and recite the following:

O great and mighty spirit Gabriel, inasmuch as you came in peace and in the name of the ever-blessed and righteous Trinity, so too in this name you may depart, and return to me when I call you in His name to whom every knee bows down.  Farewell, o Gabriel!  May peace be between us, through our blessed Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The spirit should depart the scrying medium, and their presence should no longer perceptibly be felt.  It is normal for some residual resonance or energy to linger, but the spirit should no longer be actively present in the scrying medium or the ritual area anymore at this point.  We will discuss what to do if they choose to not leave in a later post, but for now, we’ll assume that they leave.

Closing the Ritual
Take up the wand with the right hand, proceed to orientation point of the circle, and place the point of the wand on the outermost edge of the circle being used for the conjuration.  Any assistants or scryers should proceed to the innermost part of the circle out of your way.  Trace the circle counterclockwise starting from the orientation point.

Place the wand on the altar as it was at the beginning of the ritual.  Remove the lamen and the ring, then place them back on the altar as they were at the beginning of the ritual.

Proceed directly in front of the altar and kneel before it as you did at the beginning of the ritual; the scryer and assistants, if any are present, should likewise resume their original place and kneel as at the beginning of the ritual.

Lift your arms up in the orans gesture, and recite the following:

To God, the Father, the eternal Spirit, the fountain of Light; the Son; and the Holy Ghost be all honor and glory, world without end.  Amen.

The ritual is officially complete.  All may arise from kneeling at this point, or continue in further prayer and meditation if desired.

Post-Ritual Breakdown
The two consecrated candles on the altar may be left to burn out completely or they may be snuffed out with a candle-snuffer; any other candles burnt to augment the conjuration should be left to burn out completely, as should the incense.

Perform any final cleanup, notetaking, and other finishing tasks as necessary, including disassembling the altar of conjuration if desired, then leave the temple space when all else has been finished.

If you operated alone during the ritual, spend some time in intellectual contemplation and review of the communion and conversation with the spirit in silence, including reviewing any notes that were written down earlier.  If you operated with other people, such as a scryer or assistants, engage in conversation with them about the ritual in a similar way.  Other notes may be taken at this time as well, as desired.  It is good to do this while getting a bite to eat and something to drink to help the body relax and ground down at this time.

Whew. We finally did it, guys; we’ve finally discussed, at length, all the particulars of the actual DSIC ritual itself! But, even if we’ve gotten this far, we still have so much more to talk about.  As mentioned at various places above, there are several other topics to discuss, and we’ll start to tackle those next.

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Attire and Purificatory Preparations

Where were we? We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer. Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively). I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and today we can move on to other topics Last time, we discussed all the considerations we’d need to make, create, obtain, and consecrate the tools called for by DSIC. If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.