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.

First ritual tools!

So, like a number of occultists, I have a need for specialized tools in order to do things. The Hermetic coursework I’m working through, early as it is in the lesson, has me needing a Table of Practice and a wand. The Table of Practice (or of Art, depending on which book you read) is sort of like a summoning circle that you summon things into to talk to them, often with some kind of scrying medium like a crystal. The wand, well, it’s a wand. I’m assuming it’s just the standard symbol of fire and will and can be used in other tasks besides communing with spirits, angels, and the like.

I had the basic template for the Table of Practice from my coursework, and knew it had to fulfill certain requirements. The original source for this part of the coursework, John Trithemius’ “Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals” lists more things to be drawn than what I used, but as I did it, it needed: the symbols for the planets, the names of the angels of the planets written in an outer ring, the names of the kings of the four elements written in an inner ring, an equilateral triangle inside the inner ring, and a Maltese-like cross, a Star of David with a yod in the middle, and a pentagram in each corner of the triangle. I’ve seen several variations, such as that of Rufus Opus whose model I based mine off of, of Frater Acher whose work is absolutely stunning, and this one I found through the Magian Rumination blog which uses the Alphabet of the Magi.

So, knowing what I needed, I got out my compass set and calligraphy markers and got to work. I got some good experience drawing out the things as I needed to, but since none of them were pattern-worthy, I sucked it up and got a copy of Illustrator. After fiddling with the application a bit, I ended up with the following:

Much better than anything I could freehand. I used the Celestial script for the angel names, a variant of the Hebrew script. I ended up doing away with the TETRAGRAMMATON in the end, because at this point less was probably more anyway.

The thing is that I wanted to make something more sturdy than writing this on cardboard or using paper Tables of Practice, so I got myself a woodburning kit off Amazon, got some pine circles from Michaels with carbon transfer paper, stain, finish, and brushes, and got to work. Over about three days, I ended up with the following:

For being my first woodburning project, complete with stain and finish, I’m very pleased. This may be something to be redone at a later stage, since I can spot a dozen errors due to bad kerning of the letters or just inexperienced woodburning, but for what it is, I’m proud of it.

While I was working on the Table, though, I knew I also needed a wand. Since I had also got a dowel from Michael’s when I got the other supplies, I decided, why not? I knew that the wand was supposed to have the words “AGLA ON TETRAGRAMMATON” inscribed on the wand, with a Star of David between the first two words, a Star of David with a yod in the middle between the second two, and a Maltese-ish cross after “TETRAGRAMMATON”. Knowing this, I tried to make a template, but I found out that the size of the dowel wouldn’t let me easily tape on this and carbon paper. So, I took my best shot at freehandedly writing out the words.

Before I did that, though, I decided to be a little fancy with the wand and turn the tip of the wand into something resembling a flame. Since I haven’t whittled anything since I was much younger, it’s not very good, but it gets the point across. I first completely burned the butt and the flame tip of the wand and carved a small channel to separate the shaft proper of the wand from the ends before working on the inscription itself.

For being a more spontaneous project, and freehanded at that, I’m very pleased. Also, I have a wand now. That’s awesome. Of course, after rereading John Trithemius, I found that he suggests to write “EGO ALPHA ET OMEGA” on the other side of the wand, which I didn’t read about before. Since I read this after I had already done the staining of the wand, it was too late to do this. If I do another wand, I’ll keep that in mind.

There are more pictures of the Table of Practice and the wand at my Flikr photo set, if you’re interested in seeing some closeups or intermediate stages of the tools.