A Little Discourse On Apianus’ Cosmological Diagram

Okay, so, this thing:

A lot of people who’ve been around in Western occulture or astrology have probably encountered this image before in one context or another (it’s even appeared before on my own blog in a discussion about Ashen Chassan’s implementation of the Trithemian conjuration ritual and again when I discussed the Hermetic tormentors in CH XIII), and so many of us are familiar with this image to one degree or another.  True, it’s a really neat depiction of a Renaissance version of the geocentric Ptolemaic model of the solar system and cosmos, but there’s other stuff going on in it that I really want to explore and explain.

To start with, where does this image come from, and what specifically does it depict?  This illustration of the celestial spheres was originally made by the German humanist, mathematician, astronomer, and cartographer Petrus Apianus (anglicized as Peter Apian) in his 1524 work Cosmographia.  Apianus depicts this “scheme of the divisions of the spheres” for his second chapter, “on the motion of the spheres and the division of the heavens”.  At the center of the image we have the Earth, depicted as a circle of seas and land (corresponding to the elements of Water and Earth), surrounded by a sphere of clouds (Air) and that by flames (Fire). Outside the Earth, in successively larger concentric circles, we have the seven celestial spheres for the seven planets following the usual Chaldaean ascending order: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn.  Skipping to the outermost edge of the whole thing (the eleventh “sphere”, as it were, though it’s really more like the infinitude beyond the spheres as a whole), we have “the Empyrean Heaven, Dwelling-place of God and of all the Chosen”. This is divine infinity beyond all the spheres, unlimited and unbounded and unmoving, under/within which all creation exists.  All straightforward stuff for most people, I suppose.

But it’s the stuff between the heaven of Saturn and the empyrean heaven that trip up a lot of people: the eighth, ninth, and tenth spheres.  To head off such speculation at the pass: no, it’s nothing qabbalistic or sephirothic in any meaningful sense (Apianus doesn’t appear to have been interested in such stuff).  Each of these circles in Apianus’ diagram all have the twelve signs of the Zodiac in them, but they’re respectively described as “the eighth heaven of the firmament”, “the ninth crystalline heaven”, and “the tenth heaven, the first cause”.  While all being zodiacal, they’re all somehow…different?  On top of that, they’re not all aligned with each other, only the eighth heaven has little stars in it, and the ninth heaven has this weird quartered-circle symbol at the ends of the sectors for Virgo and Pisces.  So what’s going on here, exactly?

Welcome, dear reader, to the funtime of medieval astronomy and cosmology!

Let’s start with the tenth sphere, the Primum Mobile (“First Mover”).  Ironically, despite being the most distant finite sphere of all (finite at least in comparison to the truly infinite empyrean heaven surrounding it), this is probably the easiest for us to approach.  The Primum Mobile is the outermost sphere and rotates endlessly, setting all things underneath/within it into motion as well, much like if you spin a pitcher of water, the water inside the pitcher itself won’t spin immediately but is set into motion by the spinning of its container.  In the old geocentric model of the cosmos, the Primum Mobile rotates constantly, performing one complete rotation every 24 hours, moving clockwise from the East to the South to the West to the North all the way back to the East.  According to Apianus, there exists precisely one and only one star in this tenth heaven.  Which star?  He doesn’t say and it’s not wholly clear to me, though if I were to leap to an assumption, I’d say that it’d be the northern pole star α Ursae Minoris (aka Polaris), given how this star was historically and culturally reckoned to be the axis (literally the “pole”) of rotation of all the heavens.

Let’s skip over the ninth heaven for a moment and take a look at the eighth heaven called the “firmament” in Apianus’ diagram.  This heaven is what contains the background stars of the nighttime sky that don’t wander around from night to night, month to month, or year to year.  This is why we call such stars “fixed stars”, as opposed to the “wandering stars” (ἀστέρες πλανῆται asteres planētai) of the planets (whose motion is defined according to their own heavens).  It’s because the eighth heaven of the firmament contains the fixed stars that Apianus’ diagram has all these stellated figures in this circle.  As for the motion of the eighth sphere, Apianus describes it as being subject to the motion of the tenth sphere such that they move all at once as the tenth sphere does, which is why the night sky as a whole rotates around the Earth once per 24-hour period.  Easy enough, I guess.

Between the eighth and tenth spheres is the ninth, described as “crystalline or aqueous” by Apianus (though just labelled as “crystalline” in the diagram).  First, what we can pick out is those two quartered circles.  Although they occur at the ends of the sectors for Virgo and Pisces, they’re really intended to be between these signs and the ones that follow to mark the equinoxes: the September equinox (occurring at the end of Virgo and the start of Libra) and the March equinox (occurring at the start of Aries and end of Pisces) respectively.  As for the motion of this heaven, Apianus says that the ninth heaven “vibrates” (trepidat), which causes the fixed stars in the eighth heaven to move forward and backward.  This would make no sense to modern folk today, but what Apianus is describing was a feature of older forms of astronomy: trepidation, a sort of oscillation in the precession of the equinoxes.  While an obsolete theory nowadays, trepidation has its origins as far back as the 4th century CE and was popular generally from the 9th to 16th centuries (putting Apianus roughly at the end of that period).

First, let’s back up a bit and talk about precession of the equinoxes (and yes, the ancients knew about axial precession all the way back in the 2nd century BCE).  Imagine a top, like the child’s toy: you pick it up, you give it a twist, and it spins around on its point upon a flat surface until it loses enough momentum to keep itself balanced.  At first, when the momentum is fast, the top stands upright, but as it continues, it eventually develops a kind of “wobble”, such that the axis of rotation is no longer precisely upright but ends up rotating on its own in a circle.  As the axis itself wobbles and rotates around, it causes the whole top to rotate in a different way on top of its already ongoing rotation around the axis, including the relative position of where such rotation around its axis “starts”.  This is what is meant by “axial precession”, and when it’s applied to the Earth as a whole, we call it “precession of the equinoxes” because it’s what causes the whole of the background sky to appear to “rotate backwards” relative to its daily regular motion—which includes the equinox points where the ecliptic (the Sun’s path around the sky) crosses the celestial equator.  The axis of the Earth precedes in a complete loop roughly once every 26000 years (currently 25772 years given our current observed rate of precession).

The theory of trepidation, on the other hand, suggested that the rate of the precession of the equinoxes was not a constant rate, but varied and could go either forward or backward.  In the original theory from the classical era, reversing its direction every 640 years or so.  Thus, given a rate of precession of 1° every 80 years, after 8° (thus 640 years), the precession would reverse into procession, such that the equinoxes would move forward eight degrees for the next 640 years, then reverse again, and so forth.  In later and more popular models from the medieval period (especially in Islamic astronomy), trepidation was more of a smaller, less-rigid variation that added to the motion of precession, where the oscillation provided by trepidation occurred over 7000 years, causing the precession of the equinoxes to take place over 49000 years rather than 26000.  It’s this later model that Apianus was describing and subscribed to when he says that the ninth heaven “trepidates”.

Interestingly, the ninth heaven (at least in Apianus’ model) was starless.  While the eighth sphere was full of fixed stars (all conceived of as being roughly the same distance away from the Earth in this geocentric model) and the tenth having just its one sole star (Polaris?), the ninth is a void having nothing in it—except, perhaps, the “waters which were above the firmament” (Genesis 1:7).  Apianus using this biblical model to describe the distant heavens would explain his description of the ninth heaven as being “aqueous”, and would moreover suggest that the wobbling of trepidation could be accounted for by the ripples and waves occurring in such celestial waters.

So there we have it!  We’ve finally knocked out what those intermediate heavens are in Apianus’ famous cosmological diagram, situated between the planetary heavens and the ultimate divine one.  While some of this might be a new thing for some, when placed in its own historical context, all of this is the natural development and expected evolution of a Renaissance take on the geocentric Ptolemaic cosmic model, depicted in a beautifully concise diagram.

But there’s still one issue left: why do the zodiacal sectors not line up in those eighth, ninth, and tenth heavens?  If you look at the eighth and ninth spheres, they line up exactly at Aries and Libra (the equinox points), but they seem to diverge slightly (starting at the east-north-east part of the diagram) before converging again (at the opposite, west-south-west part).  I have honestly no explanation for this beyond it being an artistic whoopsie; after all, sometimes considerations of space and communicability (in the form of the stellated figures and the circle labels) make accuracy and precision a secondary concern.  I feel like there should be a better reason than that, but I haven’t honestly found one beyond it just being something handmade in a constrained space.

But then there’s the dramatic mismatch between the zodiacal sectors of the eighth and ninth heavens with that of the tenth heaven, which can’t possibly be just a slip.  The tenth heaven has Aries starting at the due east point of the diagram, while the eighth and ninth heavens have it starting to the northeast.  What gives?

Well, using my handy-dandy free-to-use planetary observer software Stellarium for the year 1524, we can see exactly what’s going on:

The bright slightly-slanted orange line is the ecliptic, with the faint orange grid of lines being the ecliptical coordinate grid based off it to look at points in the night sky.  The bright more-slanted blue line is the celestial equator (which divides the sky into a “north” part and “south” part).  The ecliptic intersects with the equator at two points, which is where we call the equinox points.  In this case, the image above is centered on the March equinox point, where the ecliptic goes from being below the celestial equator (on the right) to above it (on the left).  The small squiggly faint blue lines in the background indicate constellations, and as you can see, the March equinox point is hanging out somewhere in Pisces, with Aries to the left and Aquarius to the right.

It should be remembered at this point that Western astrology (and historical astronomy, for that matter) has been founded on the notion of a “tropical zodiac”, which is to say a zodiacal system comprising twelve equal 30° segments of the night sky (according to the ecliptic) where the starting point of it (0° Aries) aligns with the March equinox point (where the ecliptic crosses to rise above the celestial equator).  Thus, we consider the segment from 0° to 30° of the ecliptic to be the sign Aries, from 30° to 60° Taurus, from 60° to 90° Gemini, and so on through from 330° to 360° (o°) to be Pisces.  The issue here—as many of my astrologer friends on Twitter are tired of hearing—is that this notion of “sign” doesn’t match up cleanly with the actual physical constellations of the night sky.  Although the constellations were more-or-less aligned with the signs once upon a time, due to precession of the equinoxes, the constellations began drifting “forward” from the signs while the signs drifted “backwards” from the constellations.  Again, precession here was something known to older astrologers from a very early date, so this came as no surprise to any of them—and it’s precisely this mismatch that Apianus is documenting between the eighth/ninth heavens and the tenth heaven.

Thus, in Apianus’ diagram, the tenth heaven’s zodiacal sectors represent the tropical zodiac (aligned to the seasons and the ecliptical crossing of the celestial equator), while the eighth and ninth heavens represent the actual constellations and stars of the sky (which would be a sidereal zodiac, literally “according to the stars” as opposed to according to ecliptical intersections).  This is why the equinox markers (those quartered circles) are placed in Pisces and Virgo in Apianus’ diagram (because technically we have those equinoxes occur while the Sun is in one sign according to the tenth heaven but in another constellation according to the eighth/ninth), and why the Aries sector of the eighth/ninth heavens in Apianus’ diagram start in the northeast rather than th eeast, just as it does celestially if you consider the March equinox point to be due (celestial) east.

Also, one more note: yes, it’s true that while the tropical zodiac doesn’t align with the constellations, neither does the sidereal zodiac.  In both of these zodiacal systems, we’re working with signs, not constellations, and a sign is defined as being a 30° segment of the ecliptic.  The tropical and sidereal zodiacs are identical in every regard except for one: at what point along the ecliptic it should start as being o° Aries.  The tropical zodiac defines this to always be the intersection between the ecliptic and the celestial equator, but the sidereal zodiac…well, it’s a little more complicated.  The sidereal zodiac aims to be closer to the constellations by using what’s called an ayanāṃśa to account for the precession of the equinoxes, and there are a number of different ones in use with some more popular than others (resulting in what’s technically a number of sidereal zodiacs rather than just one).  The issue with even this sidereal approach, however, is that the actual constellations themselves that lend their names and symbolism to the signs don’t neatly align with this equal-segments-of-30° approach.  Some signs are much shorter than 30° (as short as Scorpio’s 6°), some signs much larger (as large as Virgo’s 44°), and there’s even that dumb stupid notion of there being a “thirteenth sign” (Ophiuchus) because its constellation is considered close enough to the ecliptic to make it count (it doesn’t).

Courtesy of this article from Kosmic Mind, here’s a depiction and comparison of the tropical zodiac (inner circle), rough sidereal zodiac (middle circle), and the constellations (outer circle):

Apianus’ diagram makes use of a sidereal zodiac for the eighth and ninth heavens but a tropical zodiac for the tenth heaven, but does not bother with trying to use the constellations themselves (because they weren’t ever really used except perhaps in classical Babylonian or otherwise ancient Mesopotamian times).

Anyway, I thought this was all pretty neat to consider and learn about.  While we today all understand, given the advances of astronomy and physics we’ve had over the past five centuries since Apianus’ time, that a heliocentric model of our solar system is a more accurate descriptor of what’s going on, the geocentric model is still what we intuitively “see” and “feel” from our perspective down here on Earth.  It’s for that reason, coupled with the various and varied religious and cultural traditions that we inherit, that the geocentric model likewise helps us for innumerable spiritual endeavors and systems, too.  I mean, as a comparison, consider the following diagram, produced by Walter Scott in volume 3 of his Hermetica, page 374 in his discussion of the sixth Stobaean Fragment (SH 6):

SH 6 talks about the decans and their relationship to the signs and how their energies affect us down here, and in the course of such a discussion, we end up with a cosmological model again consisting of ten spheres: with the Earth in the center, there’s the seven planetary heavens around that, the eighth heaven of the Zodiac, the ninth heaven of the decans, and then the outermost heaven that wraps around everything.  In this fragment, Hermēs describes the heaven of the decans to be “in between the circle of the universe and that of the zodiac, dividing both circles”, and that the decans “buoy up, as it were, the circle of the universe and define the shape of the zodiac”.  Hermēs describes here also the motion of these heavens with each other, with the tenth heaven whirling constantly, the ninth heaven slowing it down and throttling it, and the planets being whirled around and accelerated by the motion of the decans; in this, the decans move both the planets as well as the outermost sphere of the cosmos itself.  It’s certainly not the same model as what Apianus was describing over a thousand years later, but there are certainly commonalities as both share in a common geocentric Ptolemaic ancestor, and both aim to describe the cosmos according to what we can see and observe down here on Earth.

Notably, we should also remember that what Apianus was getting at wasn’t so much to describe a spiritual reality of the cosmos, but rather a scientific one according to the science of his time.  His Cosmographia is an incredible and well-designed work, and besides the fascinating woodcarved illustrations also included little movable dials and tools that allowed readers to interact with the illustrations to learn about cosmology, geography, cartography, and other sciences.  As a result, it’s been argued that such a work as his not only facilitated better understanding of such topics popularly, but also spurred on the field of amateur astronomy precisely by equipping people with the basic tools they needed, preparing for and facilitating the later scientific revolutions that were to come.  However, even if his aim was more purely “scientific” in the modern sense of the word, we can’t neglect that such sciences are just one part of our lives, with the physical aspects to be integrated with the spiritual, which would also go a ways in explaining why Apianus’ cosmological diagram depicting the various heavens is so popular in occult discussions even today.  (And which also lends itself to some rather beautiful modern pieces of art as well.)

And yes, as the astrologer and geomancer Eric Purdue (yes, the same one who recently translated Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy afresh and correctly into modern English!) took the opportunity to reiterate on Twitter: the signs lie outside the stars, and we shouldn’t conflate signs with constellations.

The above post was originally a thread on Twitter, which you can read here but which I’ve reformatted and expanded into a proper blog post.  Although I made it earlier this summer and then promptly forgot about it, a conversation on one of the Discord servers I’m on reminded me that I wrote about it, so I figured that I may as well make it a bit more visible and readable.

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.

Celestial versus Hebrew

From a Hermetic point of view, the abilities to communicate and write are awesome things.  Heck, the philosophy’s named after Hermes Trismegistus, a form of Hermes, the Greek god of language.  He was also worshiped in a syncretic form as Thoth-Hermes, combined with the Egyptian god of scribes and the written word, face shaped like a reed pen (the dude literally speaks the written language).  And ever since those ancient days when Hermeticism was first coming around, we’ve had this idea of magical tomes and scrolls of power, with wizards writing arcane formulae to achieve great changes in the world.

Of course, the medium in which those arcane formulae is just as important as the content, and that medium is the kind of script to be used.  Hebrew and Greek, for a long time, were the default liturgical or magical languages, but as the Catholic Church gained in power throughout western Europe, Latin became the primary medium for occult knowledge.  However, some things were kept more-or-less the same, such as the “barbarous words” that are sometimes bastardized renditions of Coptic words or Aramaic names.  Sometimes, magicians just kept using a particular language for its heritage and vocabulary, which is a good reason Hebrew has been so persistent in Hermetic/qabbalistic/theurgic practice.

Of course, even within Hebrew, there are different ways to write things down: namely, the square script (what we think of as Hebrew printed letters) and the Celestial script.  The latter is a styled form of Hebrew script, more angular and with little dots instead of serifs.  It was the language that the stars themselves spelled out in the night sky, and was preferred for use with angelic or celestial beings instead of the more base, earthly square script.

I only realized this when I compared instructions to make lamens for the angelic kings of the elements and for the angelic governors of the planets.  The former take their names written in Hebrew square script, since they’re “of this world” and closer to human contact; thus, we use a script that says the same.  The governors of the planets, on the other hand, use the Celestial script, since they’re from a supralunar realm, above the earth and belonging to the stars.  The script, again, says as much.  The letters may look similar, but it’s like speaking with a different accent: Californians may use one set of pronunciations and slang, while someone from Manchester would use a radically different set.  Altering one’s accent and dialect to be made more understood by the listener would be important to getting across ideas and establishing a clear channel of communication.

And then there are things like the Tetragrammaton and the highest of the highest beings, which don’t tend to communicate in any way we normally think of communication.  I’ve barely got any experience with this, but when you get to that level, different things happen.  Eventually I’ll have more to write about this.

Of course, in writing this, I don’t mean that other magical writing systems can’t be used.  Theban is another good “earthly” language substitute for anything not written in Hebrew, such as English names, which don’t often lend themselves to Hebrew transliteration.  Malachim and Passage du Fleuve are also alternatives for Celestial, and Enochian’s similar but on a whole ‘nother level of communication and angel work.  I’ve also seen the Alphabet of the Magi used for both celestial and mundane writing as well.  There are many choices, and the spirits know we’re calling them and are apparently fairly multilingual (given how many generations of magicians across linguistic lines have called them up, I’d hope they be).

As a resource for writing systems, I strongly suggest heading over to the wonderful site Omniglot, which strives to detail every writing system and written language. They even have a section on magical writing systems including Celestial.

Update 6/18/2011: I found a site that shows you how to write the Hebrew script, including the proper stroke order of each letter, at Hebrew4Christians. It shows you how to write each individual letter both in the square script modern cursive styles, which is helpful if you plan to do a lot of calligraphic or fanciful work with Hebrew names and words.

Update on Ritual Tools: Crystal Ball and Lamen

So, despite that I’ve had this fancy Table of Practice for almost a month, it’s only been sitting on my shelf gathering dust. To use the Table to summon and communicate with spirits and angels, I also need some sort of scrying medium like a crystal ball (as Trithemius suggests), scrying mirror, or something along those lines. I could have used a small quartz crystal I’ve had lying around, but I wanted something bigger, more substantial. After thinking about my budget for a bit, I went ahead and splurged on a 2 1/2″ quartz crystal ball. It just got in the mail, and I’m pleased to show it off. (More photos at my Flikr photo set if you’re interested.)

Of course, as these things go, I’ve got a few more things to get or create. Trithemius also says to use an incense burner/tripod, which Frater RO does away with for summoning some spirits but not others; I’ll keep this on my wish list for now, along with a fine selection of resins and wood chips. For now, my normal incense holder and some sticks will work fine. The Wand I already have, and have been using for banishing in the meanwhile.

Another part of this whole summoning spirits business is the use of a lamen. It’s another kind of magic circle that is inscribed names of God, a Star of David, some number of pentagrams, and the names and symbols of what you’re summoning. It’s used to clearly mark what spirit you’re summoning and to call it to the crystal for a chat. Because Illustrator makes things pretty and easy, here’s an example of such a lamen (specifically, that of Raphael):

My design is based off Trithemius’, and it has all the same symbols on it. However, I made some changes to the design because the original didn’t have a proper feel or something. Specifically, I changed the spelling and spacing of some of the holy names (ESCHERCHIE became ESHEREHIE, wrapped the names completely around the circle, etc.), spelled the name of the spirit in Celestial instead of Hebrew, did away with the spirit’s name in Roman script, centered and enlarged the hexagram and pentagrams, and arranged the name of the spirit in its own circle around the hexagram. This makes a bit more room for spelling out the name of the spirit as well for the spirit’s seal. Frater RO and Agrippa say to have one pentagram for each spirit being summoned but never less than four (apparently one lamen can be used for multiple spirits at once), but since Trithemius has six stars around his lamen for just Michael, I wonder why this would be. All the same information is there and in a manner more pleasing to me, so I think it should work.

Trithemius says to inscribe the lamen on a piece of “virgin parchment” or a square of silver and to wear it on the chest as a pendant. Because silver’s a bit out of my price range, I’m opting for clean paper. However, because I don’t like the idea of having a piece of paper hanging around my neck, I’m fancying the lamen up by using a frame to hold the lamen, kind of like an oversized pendant.

My original idea was to use an unfinished wood circular photo frame, woodburn the names of God on the outside, and stain it; then, I’d swap out the symbols of the planet/spirit and bam, insta-lamen. The problem was that they don’t make circular unfinished wood frames, apparently. Circular photo frames in general seem to be rare anyway, and I only found three on the Internet after several days, none of which were suitable for my original idea. I bought one off Etsy from a guy who reuses old pieces of wood, and it turns out it’s the perfect size for such a thing to wear. I screwed a little hook into the top of the frame and crimped it so it forms a loop for a chain or cord to wear it on.

Making the lamens is what I’m excited about. Instead of just printing pieces of paper out, I’m thinking of consecrating or empowering the lamens of the planetary angels to more firmly link the lamen to their power. In addition to being a general beacon for the spirit, it could double as a talisman when I need it to, though I’d probably be better off using something more sturdy than paper.

This would be a three-step process: designing, printing, and consecrating. Designing the lamens is done in Illustrator and is easy enough to do. According to Trithemius, the lamen should be inscribed (printed) during a waxing moon in the day and hour of the planet whose angel will be evoked; this gives me a window of two or three days a month, with about three hours on each day available. This would yield a workable lamen.

Consecrating the lamen would be the last step, though optional by this point. I’d first make an infusion of an herb ruled by the planet in question, stain the paper in another waxing moon/planetary hour/planetary day, then let it dry. On the following waxing moon/planetary hour/planetary day, I’d suffumigate it in incense related to the planet and say some prayer or other over it. Alternatively, I could wait for a proper election for that planet to consecrate the lamen, but those may be sparse and I don’t know enough to calculate elections on my own. This would definitely charge the lamen, but since it was already charged by its creation at a decent time, this may be overdoing it. Wouldn’t hurt to try it, I suppose.

Update 4/26/2011: Turns out that the lamen design wouldn’t fly as I thought it might have. I kept the spelling changes of the names of God, but both the Celestial and the Roman names of the spirit in question are needed in order to summon both the spiritual and physical manifestations of the spirit. Makes sense. Below is an updated lamen of Raphael the angel of Mercury, more traditional than the above and much closer to that of Trithemius. I guess I should read things more closely and at least carry out the instructions given before trying to go do my own thing. I just finished making a new batch of templates for each of the angels of the planets as well as those of the kings of the elements (Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Auriel).

If you ever want to use a design or template of mine, feel free to ask. I’ll eventually get my website set up to host these things for the public domain.