Michaelmas Present: Litany of the Holy Archangels

One of the reasons why the second half of September is always so chaotic for me is that, not only is it in the few weeks leading up to my birthday both in flesh and in Santería, but it’s also a cluster of feast days: Our Lady of Mercy and the Days of the Cyprians and the Feast of Saint Cyprian of Antioch, Saint Justina, and Saint Theocistus are definitely important, but today is yet another feast day I hold dear to my heart: Michaelmas, more properly called the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel and All Angels.  Today is the day when we especially revere and honor the bodiless and immaterial Hosts of Heaven, with Saint Michael the Archangel, their divine commander and our divine protector, at the helm and forefront of both God’s armies and our own hearts.  And, of course, to honor the other archangels: Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Sealtiel, Jehudiel, and Barachiel (or whichever set of seven archangels you prefer to use).

I’d also like to share a new(ish) page with you all: a new prayer, the Litany of the Holy Archangels.  This is, for once, not something I wrote, nor could I have written something so beautiful.  Rather, it’s a prayer I’ve been using for years now, courteously and generously shared with me by good colleague and friend Michael Lux of Nigromantic Matters.  Originally written for Johannite Christian spiritual practice, Michael has generously let me share the prayer on my own website for all to use and refer to.  I find it incredibly devout, and can be used in both solitary practice as well as in a community.  I had intended on sharing this page more publicly earlier in the year when I was going to propose a new project and craft for myself, but said project never got off the ground due to logistical issues, so I never really announced the page.  However, today’s a perfect day for just that, so I hope you enjoy and find it a useful blessing in your own practices and prayers!

With that, I hope you all have a blessed end of September, with all the Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Virtues, Powers, Dominions, Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim, and the seven commanders of all the hosts of Heaven blessing you and guiding you every moment of every day!

Blessed Angels, watch over us at all times during this perilous life.
Holy Archangels, be our guides on the way to Heaven.
Heavenly Principalities, govern us in soul and body.
Celestial Virtues, preserve us against the wiles of demons.
Mighty Powers, give us strength and courage in the battle of life.
Powerful Dominions, obtain for us domination over the rebellion of our flesh.
Sacred Thrones, grant us peace with God and Man.
Brilliant Cherubim, illuminate our minds with heavenly Knowledge.
Burning Seraphim, enkindle in our hearts the fire of Charity.

Seven angels around my head, guide us safely where we’re led.
Michael, defend us from all our foes; Raphael, heal us from all our woes.
Gabriel, give us peace on wings; Uriel, release us our attachments to worldly things.
Jehudiel, fill our mouths with praise to God; Sealtiel, open our hearts to prayer of God.
Barachiel, bless us in all our ways; Guardians, guide us through all our days.

Amen.

Earth, Moon, and Stars

Cornelius Agrippa in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy (book I, chapter 8; book II, chapter 7) relates the four elements to the celestial objects, namely the planets, mostly because magicians like to figure out what can stand in for what in different contexts.  According to Agrippa, Earth is the element that basically allows all of Creation to be created (book I, chapter 5):

Now the Basis, and foundation of all the Elements, is the Earth, for that is the object, subject, and receptacle of all Celestiall rayes, and influencies; in it are contained the seeds, and Seminall vertues of all things; and therefore it is said to be Animall, Vegetable, and Minerall. It being made fruitfull by the other Elements, and the Heavens, brings forth all things of it self; It receives the abundance of all things, and is, as it were the first fountain, from whence all things spring, it is the Center, foundation, and mother of all things…It is the first matter of our Creation, and the truest Medicine that can restore, and preserve us.

Agrippa makes a connection between Earth and the Moon and the fixed stars, indicating how the element of Earth can be reflected in the skies.  I mentioned this briefly before, focusing mostly on the connection between elemental Earth and planetary Moon:

…the heaven of the Moon is the closest to Earth, making it the most dense of the seven planets.  As the most dense planet, it’s the last stop for an Idea coming from the sphere of the Prime Mover through the stars and the other planets to finally come into form; this is the sphere where something actually takes a materialized shape, even if it’s only illusory and ephemeral.  This is also shown since, as the fastest moving planet and the lowest rung on the ladder, it collects the rays and forces of all the other planets and influences above it, focusing them like a lens onto the Earth…Like the element of Earth, which takes form and receives the influences of the other elements, the Moon takes form and receives the influences of the other planets.

The connection between the terrestrial sphere of Earth and the celestial sphere of the fixed stars is a little more difficult for me to rationalize.  I suppose I’ve been going on the notion that, just as Earth is the most stable and immovable of the elements, so too are the fixed stars the most stable and immovable of the celestial objects referenced in magic.  After all, they don’t really move much (at an extremely slow rate, not counting the negligible effect the motion of the fixed stars have to each other), especially compared to the otherwise rapid motion of the wandering stars (a.k.a. planets).  Beyond that, I never really thought about it much.  I’ve got some other work before I get up and running with the sphere of the fixed stars, so I haven’t actually gone up to call Iophiel (or Raziel, depending on the text).

Recently, I was chatting with Auriel, the archangelic king of the sphere of Earth, and after the usual friendly chat, catching up over a glass of wine in a circle, and empowerment of myself and my sphere with the element of Earth, we sat down and started talking about what Earth is really like at length and in depth.  As usual, “as above so below” is a good rule to go by, and Auriel instructed me to take a look at the Tree of Life a little more closely, especially between the sephiroth of Malkuth and Kether.  For one, everything in the sphere of the Earth, the sephirah of Malkuth, has at least a little Earth in it; that’s why the elemental colors of Malkuth are “dim” or murky, to show that they’re not the pure elements in their ideal form.  Malkuth is the physical, material universe, the one that modern atheistic scientism holds is the only thing that exists.  On the other hand, Kether is unmanifest infinity, divinely simple in that everything that is, was, will be, isn’t, was never, can never, and may be is all One Thing.

Without Earth, nothing can have a material basis; it’s the only element that can’t combine on its own with itself, but can combine with itself through the use of other elements that it’s blended with.  Earth, for instance, can offer a basis for Fire to burn, a course for Air to flow over, or a container for Water to fill, but Earth cannot do anything with Earth on its own.  Because of this, it’s more than just convenience that everything on Earth is at least partially made of Earth, both sharing the same name.  Earth is the most malleable of elements, and takes the influence from everything above it.  Earth is the key to manifestation; without it, much like in the geomantic figure Cauda Draconis, everything passes away from and nothing can be brought into material reality.  Without Earth, the bottom drops out quite literally.

The highest sephirah is Kether, the Crown, which is basically the starting point for infinity from finite existence, the place where finite reality stops having an end and starts having no end and no limit at all.  Though it has the qabbalistic path number of one, and though I don’t have much experience to talk about it, I feel like this is somewhat misleading.  Although one is computationally the root of all numbers, Kether includes all things that exist as well as all things that don’t exist.  In that sense, Kether might be better termed i or something.  Things don’t really start to begin the process of manifestation until an Idea from the Infinite Mind, a Ray from the Infinite Light passes through the second sephirah called Chokmah, the sphere of the fixed stars.  There, something finally makes the jump from “possibility of manifestation” to “manifesting”, where things actually start to legitimately make the claim of existing.  The fall from grace, the first step of the Fool is just the first step in the Chain of Manifestation, but it’s still progress all the same.

The sphere of the fixed stars allows only rays of light that come from the sphere of the Prime Mover; these rays pass through the darkness of the Fool’s cliff and are filtered through the stars in constellations or particular regions of the sky, and appear to us down on Earth as starlight.  Without that filter to provide form, infinite possibility could never be whittled down to probable possibility.  It is this pure Light, filtered through the eighth sphere, that can take on shape or form or purpose later on based on its Idea above.  The fixed stars take on the influence and nature of the Light above it and pass it down into the world as the beginning of Creation.

The similarities between Kether and Chokmah, or the spheres of the Prime Mover and the fixed stars, with Yesod and Malkuth, or the spheres of the Moon and the Earth, now become apparent.  The Moon and Infinite Light both provide an imagined substance to be manifested in the realm beneath it; the Earth supplies a concrete, manifested form based on the imaged and astral form from the Moon, while the fixed stars supply a viable, manifesting Idea based on the unbound and divine Idea from the Source.  The difference between King and Kingdom lies in where and how things come to be.  Just as the fixed stars provide realization for an idea to manifest something at the beginning, Earth provides substance for form to manifest something at the end.  It’s this ability to turn undefined, vague things into clear(er), specific things that relates the fixed stars to the Earth.

At least, that’s my opinion for now.  Though much can be said of the stars and planets and elements in writing, especially in terms of theory and cosmology, working with magic is still a mystery: it requires working with and experience to really grok the whole shebang.  But I’ll go with Auriel’s guidance for now.

My Little Posse

Despite the title, no, I’m not into My Little Pony, nor am I a bro-ny.  For some reason that escapes me, the new MLP series is all the rage among men 20 to 35 years old.  I…I don’t even.

So I haven’t been completely idle these past few days, though I’m not as caught up as I wanted to be.  However, the next set of coursework for my Hermetic stuff came out, which goes over how to build a proper magician’s altar.  Now, keep in mind that I already have two altars, sorta: I have a devotional altar which I pray at and light candles and make offerings and stuff, and a small Ikea table which I use to perform miscellaneous rituals as the need arises.  The real altar, though, is going to be the Table of Manifestation, my sort of personal map of the macrocosm and microcosm as it relates to me, a supertalisman and focus for all my magical work.  It’ll have all my elemental weapons, symbols and talismans, and so on.  To that end, I’m getting together a rather large shopping list of metal ingots and weights to melt down to make talismans with and various other things (like some real frankincense resin incense and a proper charcoal incense burner).  Clearly, I’m putting my promotion and raise at work to good use.

As part of my altar setup, I’ll need talismans for each of the seven planets.  I got started last night on a Jupiter talisman, it being the day of Jupiter and all.  I took a wooden yo-yo from Michaels, split it apart, woodburned a few symbols into it, covered it in blue paint marker, then filled the woodburned inscription with silver ink.  There’s a hole in the bottom of the disc left from the yo-yo axle, which I’ll fill with molten tin (96% tin-4% silver solder from a hardware store).  Once that solidifies, I’ll apply a layer or two of glossy finish over the thing, then consecrate it under the auspices of Tzadqiel.  Lather, rinse, and repeat for the other six planets; the whole thing should be done by mid-September, if I’m dutiful.  For metal that can’t easily be melted, I might widen out the hole and just fit a piece of the planetary metal in there and glue or fasten it on somehow.  There’ll be pictures once I get all seven done, by which point the whole altar should have come together.

In other crafting news, I took an old staff of mine and made it all Solomonic.  The Key of Solomon has instructions to make a magical staff, which is virtually the same as the Solomonic wand and can be put towards the same use as other wands, such as the wand from Trithemius (I believe).  Unfortunately, I don’t have access to elderberry or cane wood, so I used an old staff I happened to find in a forest behind my last apartment (it was deliberately planted in the ground and already cut to a suitable height).  It’s not in the best of shape, but sanding it down and smoothing it off helped wonders.  I woodburned the symbols from the Key of Solomon into it as well as the Hebrew words AGLA + ON + IHVH, rubbed it with olive oil, and suffumigated it with incense.  Alas that no pictures show it properly since the oil turned the staff rather dark, but it looks pretty nifty.  Definitely an outdoorsy tool for a mage, and wielding a freaking staff feels pretty awesome.  I’ll be rubbing oil in it during hours of Mercury in the future just to make sure it gets waterproofed and treated properly.

Last but certainly not least, and related to the title of the post (of course there’d be a reason), I contacted Auriel and Raphael recently for a number of things, not the least of which to ask about obtaining elemental familiars.  You know, little helper spirits to call upon as I need.  I’m still kinda unsure about why I’d need them off the top of my head, but I figure it’s nice to call upon something already intimately familiar with the element in question as a need arises.  They’re pretty cool beings, I’ll admit, and are closer to humanity than the archangels.  That said, I didn’t expect the earth elemental Auriel to whom introduced me to have the high-pitched perky voice of a female Asian pop star, nor did I expect the air elemental to have fond memories of London and rhymes.

Don’t look at me.  I’m just writing this shit down.

Anyway, they’re pretty cool beings, and agreed to come when I called them.  They have pretty cool names, too, which just so happened to follow the rules of Hebrew theophoric names, which is interesting (ending in -iah or -el).  I’m starting to build myself up a whole circle of beings, apparently, to get things done.  Either I’m awesome or psychotic; after a certain point, I have a hard time telling.

Ooh, ooh!  Also, I splurged last week and got like eight new books for myself, including Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer’s Manual of the Fifteenth Century by Richard Kieckhefer, a modern reprint of the famous Munich Manual.  It’s got a lot of source material for the medieval, Christian, or Hermetic scholar, and has a fair bit of planetary and demonic magic.  I’m not too keen on the demonic aspects of the work, but it’s got a lot of interesting stuff, regardless.  I’ve already translated one ritual from the source in Latin, so expect some more stuff to be thrown up as well.

Kicking it into high gear

Okay, I’ll admit.  Between traveling around Virginia, being sick, hosting a friend who got sick because of me, and wanting to have something resembling a social life, I’ve been slow in my work.  It’s true.  I’d like to do more, and I have the time to do it.  I just need to make the damn time and stop being so lazy.  The big thing is meditation: I can’t stress how important it is to do it frequently and to practice it, but there’s something about sitting there that I keep wanting to avoid, even though it’s only for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time.

Instead, I sit for hours in front of the computer being unproductive.  Go fig.

So I’ve decided to make myself do something, some ritual, some conjuration, something at least twice a week beyond my normal banish/prayer/meditation routine.  I’ve got conversations to hold with spirits and mysteries of the universe to learn, and I can’t afford to languish behind and take things so lazily, especially when there’s so much awesome stuff I can do with a bit more knowledge and practice.  Looking around the blogosphere, I’m seeing all sorts of things that I could do and seem easy enough to do, if only I could get myself in the habit of learning what this shit does or what that shit doesn’t do.  To that end, I’m going to really make myself do stuff while I have the time and energy to do so.

Okay, that’s enough whining.  This morning I called up Auriel again, since at work the other day I drew up a laundry list of questions to ask him (and other spirits, when I get around to conjuring them later in the weekend or next week).  The connection wasn’t as strong this time around, but I could still feel something and I was able to communicate with Auriel.  Plus, in addition to having a number of things cleared up for me, I was able to call up Amaymon through Auriel to ask for an initiation into the knowledge of manifesting things through earth (it’s better, I’m taught, to call up an elemental prince through their elemental king instead of conjuring the prince on their own).  The atmosphere changed decidedly when Amaymon was around; I could feel Auriel’s presence shift outward toward me and around the summoning area, and then a much denser, more brusque and rougher feeling came into the area.  So weird.  However, things felt a little clearer with Amaymon, and I asked him to show me how things work in the material plane.  Things seemed to go fine.

I asked a number of other things, too, including what being immersed in the element of earth felt like.  It was trippy: I felt compressed, like I was packed tightly in soil or sand.  I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move at all.  It was like my limbs were being compressed into spaghetti noodles, and I was immobile and locked in.  That said, it was also comforting in a way: I couldn’t move, but I had no need to; I couldn’t do anything on my own, but I was supported and fortified.  I felt strong, or rather, I felt able to support and be a foundation for other things.  It felt cool, it felt soft but rough like a loofah, it smelled of soil and peat and salt and dry sand.  It was nice, except for the whole not-being-able-to-breathe bit.  I kinda freaked out a bit because of that.

So that was this morning, and it seemed to go fairly well (though I wonder if doing the conjuration on a Wednesday or in an hour of Mercury would have made communication a bit clearer, this should be explored).  I’ve got studying and contemplating like WTF to do this weekend on water and air, and a few more conjurations coming up over the next couple of days.  Plus, it’s Father’s Day tomorrow, so I’ll be calling up my old man and having a pleasant chat with him/bitching about how much my recent car repairs cost me.

Oh, one more thing.  If you’ve taken a look at the Designs page and seen the lamens for the elemental kings, you’ll notice that there’s a blank space in the hexagram as if the seal is missing.  No book, grimoire, or guide will show you seals for these spirits, my teacher doesn’t provide them, and neither do I.  Instead, you get the seals for the elemental kings from them directly.  Because the elemental kings are sublunar spirits, their seals are more mutable than those of the celestial governors of the planets, who are more permanent and stable; this is also why the governors of the planetary spheres have their names written in Celestial, while the angelic kings who are of this world have their names written in Hebrew.  Plus, there’s a good chance that the angelic king of Fire Michael is not the same as the angelic governor of the Sun Michael, at least because their roles in the universe are different.  This is all hinted at by the case of Auriel, who doesn’t have a corresponding planetary governor.  Thus, you use a seal which is unique to your connection with the angelic king that they give you and different from the seal of the planetary angel of the same name.  You can then draw this into the lamen where there should be a seal for the angelic king.

Getting wet

Last week I was studying the element of water in preparation for my next task, conjuring the angel Gabriel for an initiation into the element of water.  After reading for a bit on the correspondences of water, I decided to sit down and contemplate the element of water, not just the correspondences but the element itself.  I felt washed over with emotion and feeling.  It struck a nerve, since I’m not used to feeling like that at all; I’m usually plenty happy and content just being who I am, where I am.  But it felt like I was being permeated and surrounded by rushing water all at once.  I went outside to get a breath of air, when it started to rain pretty heavily.  The first thing that came to mind, given the weather and what I just felt, was a line from one of Robyn’s songs, “it’s a good thing tears never show in the pouring rain / as if a good thing could ever make up for all the pain”.

For some reason, I felt it right to go ahead and conjure Gabriel and ask for the initiation into the element of water right then.  Again, like the first time with Auriel, it wasn’t a very strong connection, and there was only a vague sense of shape that I saw in the crystal, but I felt a sort of wavy-watery turbulence around me.  When I asked for the spirit’s office, just to be sure I conjured the right thing, I sort of felt a light above me illuminate the water that filled the area.  I suppose that’s one way to show you’re in control.

I asked for the initiation into the element of water, and immediately I felt like I was pushed into the deep end of a pool.  I felt scared, confused, lost, in danger, liberated, all sorts of things all at once.  (I had been expecting something like this for a while now, since me and water have never really gotten along before, but damn).  I asked Gabriel if it was ever going to get any easier, and he said that I’ll just have to accept this, kind of like a father trying to convince a child to suck it up.  I thanked him after getting his seal and sent him on his way.

The rest of the night I was just emotionally torn to shreds.  I couldn’t stop feeling like I wanted to curl up and hide but could never curl up small enough, or that I was always going to be scared and wanted to just get out, get out, get out.  It passed by the next morning, largely, but I’ve still been a little emotionally out-of-balance, going from both extremes of exuberance and moodiness.  I can occasionally recall the feeling of being washed over with water, and how it brings back to mind the feelings of fear, confusion, and just plain openness that such…I dunno.  It’s still really hard to put into words, but that’s water for you.  The thing is that whenever I’ve been recalling that feeling of water, there always feels like something solid inside of me that doesn’t get washed away or permeated.  It’s like it doesn’t want to be washed away at all, it wants to resist, it wants to fight back, it wants to escape, and it feels like all the fear is being centered around that solid part of myself.

So, yesterday, I did another meditation on water, again recalling the feeling of being washed over and just contemplating what it was.  I focused on that solid part of me, I explored what the seal that Gabriel gave me felt like (a column of water falling down and becoming a river), and just in general began to really get water.  I can’t say understand or comprehend, since water, being emotional, doesn’t obey the laws of logic or clearheadedness; that’s not what water is or does.  Water is something completely different, and that’s always posed a problem for me in relating to certain people.

I began to understand what it meant to let things go, why people are scared and react the way they do out of emotion.  It began to click what happened when Promethea let go to the water in Netzach, why samurai meditate and train under waterfalls, why that solid place in my center never wanted to let go and dissolve with the rest of me.  It sounds more significant than it felt, since I still have a long way to go in learning about water and how emotion works its way.  But at least I got my toes wet.

Oooh, pretty PDFs.

In terms of my work, I’m holding off on conjuring the elemental prince Amaymon, prince of Earth in the South, since I decided to do a bit of research on Amaymon in my chat with Auriel last week.  Little has come up except some stuff from the Goetia, so I struck up a conversation with a good friend who was once a member of the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn (OSOGD).  I asked about whether he had any experiences with the prince himself, and indeed he did.  He was surprised, however, that I didn’t mention it in the context of the Abramelin operation.

So, he sent me a PDF copy of the Abramelin work.  Since then I’ve come across a number of other grimoires including the Arbatel, all free, all prettily and authentically kerned.  Now I have several more binders to take care of on my shelf that, with enough luck and time, I’ll eventually get to and through.  Maybe the universe is just prepping me for the future one day or something.

New blog site! Also, a conjuration!

First things first: I got tired and bored with Blogger which, although sufficient, wasn’t as nice as other things I’ve seen.  I’ve instead opted to go for a WordPress page, which (who knows?) may eventually replace my own website and stuff, since this looks much nicer and easier to use than messing with a crappy Kentuckian provider and CPanel.  From now on, this will be the new site of the Digital Ambler and all my rantings and stuff.

So, in my coursework, we’re finally getting to the “real meat” of the Work, where we get to conjure spirits and perform wondrous acts and stuff.  In reality, it’s more like getting into Intro to Physics 101 with instructor permission, only instead of a half-broken web-based course management system, I’m using a crystal ball.

The current goal is to get initiated and acquainted with the four elements both on a spiritual level and a physical level in order to understand how things manifest.  Earth, being the most concrete and final of the elements, is the first to ask for an initiation.  So, after studying the correspondences of things to earth and memorizing the ritual, I carried it out this morning in an hour of the Moon, since the Moon is related to the element of earth.  I donned what I’m using as a robe (a decent galabiyya that I’m fond of but never wear), got the gear set up, and did my thing.

Of course, me being as inexperienced as I am, summoning the angel Auriel to ask for an initiation into his sphere wasn’t as clear as I had hoped.  No clear words coming through, no clear shapes visible in the crystal ball, not much of anything.  I did get a faint form-like-image in the crystal ball that wasn’t there before or after the ritual and a faint but distant heavy presence responding to me, so, even though I had my doubts, I guess Auriel did, in fact, come by.  When I asked to be initiated into his sphere, I got a weird feeling of my own, instead: there was no response that I could sense, but my arms felt cool and I felt drawn in or towards the crystal, as if I was being embraced or something.  I’m hoping that was a “yes”; when I asked the spirit whether that was in fact what he meant, I got a feeling of an impatient affirmation.  And, just for completeness’ sake, I also got my own seal of Auriel to conjure him with when I need to again.  It looks like a stylized mountain, which is kinda cool.

Maybe it’s because I’ve got a lot of earthy dispositions as it is, but I didn’t feel too different after the ritual, though I did note a definite sense of “hereness” or something, as if I felt more concrete and present than before.  Better than feeling melancholy, I suppose.  I’ll keep on the lookout for any changes ahead.  Once I feel grounded in the element of earth (nyuk nyuk), I’ll get started on Gabriel and the element of water.  I’d like to hear or see these spirits a bit clearer, but I suppose that comes with practice and more initiations.