Soapbox Time: Animal Sacrifice and “Black Magic”

I tried to not put a post out about this again.  I really did, you guys, especially since I was fortunate enough to completely miss the recent Internet debacle-argument about this topic, and moreso since I wrote one post on the one topic and another on the other years ago and was hoping to not have to succumb to this particular urge again.  But, then again, it has been like five years since I wrote those posts, and though quite a lot has happened, my views on these two topics hasn’t particularly changed much except for being refined.

So, the other day, I put out my write-up on PGM XII.201—269, which I’ve entitled the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual, a consecration of an engraved ring of power that protects the wearer and also ensures their success in magical workings, a sort of forerunner to the Ring of Solomon found in later centuries.  Part of the ceremony calls for the sacrificial offering of seven birds—a pure white goose, three roosters, and three pigeons—but since I’m fully aware that not everyone is willing, trained, or able to perform such a ceremony, I also offered an alternative approach using sacrificial, animal-less cakes made to symbolize the offering of the birds instead.  I think that it’s a wonderful ritual that I’m eager to try at some point in the future, using the cake substitutions instead of bird sacrifices, not because I’m unable or unwilling to use birds here, but because I want to keep things simple for a first honest attempt, along with other personal accommodations for my own circumstances and situations.

Well, shortly after I shared it on one of the social media platforms I use, the ritual got a particular comment that rubbed me the wrong way, which was all of: “Whoa. That’s some serious black magick“, complete with a sadface. Granted, with such a terse comment that gave no justification for saying what it did, I honestly can’t say why that particular person commented that this was “black magic”, but I’m pretty certain I can hone in on it.  And I just…I just can’t, y’all.  I did make a reply to that comment, but since this particular thing set me off sore on two volatile topics at once, I figured if I was gonna get this urge out my system, I may as well get it out in full, in depth, and at length here.

First, let’s get the easy bit out of the way: “black magic” is a ridiculous term that we should have abandoned long ago, right along with “white magic”.  For some, it’s an issue of racism; for others, an issue of not understanding other traditions; for yet others, a shaming mechanism to get people to “evolve” into “higher states of spiritual being” from “backwards” or “primitive” or “dark” places.  Whether for these or other reasons, “black magic” is a deplorable term that’s often used to (a) make someone seem way more spooky than they are (b) market themselves as an edgelord sorcerer a la E.A. Koetting (c) shame the practices, rites, and occulture of others because one is uncomfortable with what they do.  Yes, I know the world is wide and full of awe, things that are both awesome and awful.  At the same time, you generally don’t have the right to judge other practices and cultures, especially those which are foreign to you or those which are from antiquity, unless you can also claim some measure of expertise in the context, development, and reasoning behind those practices of those cultures.

“Black magic” is a phrase that’s often more in line with really spooky witchcraft, devil-working, demon-summoning, cursing, and other outright maleficia in the sense of magic that’s intended to cause harm, pain, suffering, or death to others, generally out of a sense of wrath, greed, malice, or other vice-fueled emotion.  Then again, the term “black magic” is used at best when it “accurately” refers to these things as they are actually done; just as often as not, if not more so, the phrase “black magic” is used to describe any type of magic that one might find transgressive, dangerous, unpalatable, or frightening.  This is ridiculous, to be frank about it; the use of magic in general is transgressive and dangerous, and to anyone who isn’t familiar with anything in magic, it’s all unpalatable and frightening.  I can’t tell you how many people I’ve scared off by saying I conjure angels, much less work with ancient subterranean deities, and those are generally the more appealing and “kinder” spirits we work with (though angels are terrifying as shit, too, and we should never forget why the first thing they say in biblical literature is “be not afraid”, nor should we ever forget our place amongst the gods lest we fall into hubris and suffer the extreme penalties for doing so).  If you call something “black magic” because it’s unpalatable or frightening, it’s because it’s unpalatable or frightening to you.  Others, for whom it’s their bread and butter, may find it normal and natural, even holy and sanctified in its own right.  It’s much like how many Christians think of a variety of non-Christian religions as “evil”, “wicked”, “witchcraft”, or even “black magic”; to call the practices of another that you don’t understand “black magic” is just as farcical; consider Mark Twain’s The War Prayer, which would be an example of maleficia that’s otherwise grounded in normalized, culturally-acceptable religion.  Heck, even if you do understand it, call it what it is: is it a curse, or devil-working, or maleficium?  Call it that, and be clear and accurate about it!  But don’t call it “black magic” and think that by being judgmental you’re preserving your pristine ethics and morals, because you’re not, and you end up making yourself look ridiculous.

So, the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual got called “black magic”.  Why might that be?  Considering any of the “accurate” meanings of what “black magic” might mean (and I use the term “accurate” very loosely here), we simply don’t find any of that in this ritual.  In fact, we find a pretty standard, pretty pious hymn to the Agathos Daimōn, the “Good Spirit” of Hellenic influence that became a sort of personalized almighty God figure, much as how many modern Christians conceive of God as not just the God of all the cosmos but also their own personal, private God that watches out for them.  We find the preliminary invocation calling upon all the beneficent gods who rule over the world in all its forms and in all its ways, almost in an animist worldview rather than a polytheistic one, so as to establish the authority of the magician in mythic terms with the right to call upon them.  We find the consecration of the ring to be such that the magician “may wear this power in every place, in every time, without being smitten or afflicted, so as to be preserved intact from every danger while I wear this power”, so that “none of the daimones or spirits will or can oppose” them.  If it weren’t for the explicit Egyptian references and comparatively outdated terminology in the ritual, we might be forgiven for thinking this was something from one iteration or another of the Key of Solomon.  I think we can pretty solidly establish that whatever type or field of magic might be referenced by “black magic”, the Royal Ring of Abrasax doesn’t fall into it.

If you want good PGM examples of maleficia, you don’t have to search hard: PDM xiv.675—694 (the Evil Sleep of Seth; much of PDM xiv has similar recipes and poisons for causing “evil sleep” i.e. catalepsy, as well as blindness or death), PGM IV.2622—2707 (the Slander Spell of Selēnē), PGM IV.3255—3274 (Seth’s curse of punishments), PGM VII.396—404 (for silencing, subjecting, and restraining), PGM XII.365—375 (for inflicting the separation of Seth and Osiris or Seth and Isis on two friends or lovers through strife, war, odiousness, and enmity), and PGM CXXIV.1—43 (to inflict illness), to say nothing of all the other restraining and binding spells, as well as all the love spells which verge on domination, subjection, and inflicting pain so as to make someone love the magician.  Then there are also the curse tablets, also known as defixiones or katadesmoi, which we find across the entire western Old World across many, many centuries (more information available at Ancient Esotericism).  Those are all undoubtedly maleficia of various types and kinds, which may or may not have their justifiable uses; the Royal Ring of Abrasax, however, bears nothing in common with these.

The only objectionable part of the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual, then, must be the use of animal sacrifice, which is seen as a generally distasteful thing amongst…well, let’s be honest: urbanite or suburbanite, middle-class or upper-class, Western-centric practitioners who are separated from the cycle of life and death present in agriculture and animal husbandry as well as social, religious, and magical practices that go back literal millennia across every culture and continent.  On the other hand, I’m a proponent of animal sacrifice, for the ceremonies that call for them, when there’s a recognizable need to incorporate them in those ceremonies, and when performed by someone who is properly capable of carrying out such an act of sacrifice.

Before I continue, I want to mention a bit about the gravity of animal sacrifice.  While a staple of the religious and magical practices of most (not every) culture at some point on Earth, it’s a pretty big deal to sacrifice an animal; more than fruit or grain, raising animals is an investment.  Sure, agricultural goods are investments, too, but the nature of animal sacrifice is different because they’re expensive and, more importantly, have the blood and breath of life in them.  This is what makes them far more potent than offerings of libations, incense, foodstuffs, or other votive gifts, no matter how rare or intricate.  To sacrifice an animal is truly a sacrifice, because you have to come to terms with the cycle of life and death that enabled you to come into the presence of such a sacrifice as well as the process by which you cease its life for the dedication and offering to a divinity, or using its life force in a directed way for magical ends that cannot (whether easily or at all) be accomplished through the use of non-animal means.  It’s not like setting out a cup of barley grains for Hermēs or a plate of pears for Obatala, then tossing it out the next week; the process of animal sacrifice is not to be taken for granted, and neither is the life of the thing to be sacrificed.

Given that, I recognize that there are a variety of reasons one might choose to abstain from animal sacrifice, many of which were brought up in the comments on my original post on this topic from 2012:

  • One takes an egalitarian animist view of the cosmos: everything has a spirit, nothing is spiritually master or owner of another.  In this light, the notion of “dedication” and “sacrifice” become moot, because there is no point in dedicating a sacrifice to an entity that cannot own anything.
  • One takes a strictly pacifist, nonviolent approach in all their works: no harm done to anything as a result of ritual or as part of it.  This may or may not overlap with animal rights activism and vegetarianism/veganism out of concern for the well-being of animals.
  • One has a sincere love and care for the well-being of animal life, whether they are people, pets, or livestock.  This may or may not overlap with animal rights activism and vegetarianism/veganism out of concern for the well-being of animals.
  • The rules and restrictions of one’s own practices and religion forbid it (e.g. Orphism).
  • The gods and spirits one works with insist on or mandate bloodless sacrifice for their worship and works.

One common argument I see against animal sacrifice is that “you wouldn’t sacrifice your pet dog or cat, so why would you sacrifice a chicken or goat?”.  You’re right; I wouldn’t sacrifice my pet, because pets aren’t livestock.  Pets are animals we raise for support, companionship, protection, and entertainment; for all intents and purposes, pets are family, and I wouldn’t sacrifice a member of my family.  Livestock, on the other hand, do not fall into that category.  They are raised for food, for breeding, for their hair, for their eggs; livestock are animals for consumption.  To cross the semantic boundary between pet and livestock is…even I find it distasteful, but I also recall myths and stories where such things were done in times of extreme need or revelation (e.g. Baucis and Philemon about to sacrifice their pet goose when they realized that it was truly Zeus and Hermēs visiting them in their hovel).

Heck, even if one is okay with animal sacrifice, there are plenty more reasons why one might not do it:

  • Lack of skill in safely and, as much as possible, humanely slaughtering an animal
  • Lack of funds for animals
  • Lack of appropriate space or privacy to keep animals, whether on a short- or long-term basis, as well as to conduct the ceremony
  • Lack of means or skill to properly process and butcher the animal for ritual or personal consumption, if applicable to the ceremony
  • Lack of means or space to dispose of any non-sacrificial and non-processable parts
  • Lack of knowledge of the proper ritual procedure for conducting such a sacrifice

That said, farms that raise livestock for personal use are often quite skilled in quickly and safely slaughtering animals, and butchery is a time-honored profession that overlaps significantly with slaughtering animals.  So long as one is willing to get their hands and apron bloodied, it’s not hard to learn these skills at least to a rudimentary, acceptable level, and make accommodations where needed for processing, disposal, and the like.  Most humans eat meat to some extent, and for many people, it’s a necessary part of their diet and culinary culture.  (Some might argue that nobody needs to eat animals and that everyone should be vegan, but it’s not a sustainable practice for many parts of the world, and it negates the fact that the human body does not operate on a one-diet-fits-all approach.)  Many people don’t get any sort of glimpse into the process of raising, slaughtering, or processing animals for consumption nowadays, especially in the Western urban world, but we can’t lose sight of the fact of where our sliced deli meats, Thanksgiving turkeys, grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, and pork chops come from, especially considering how many people thoughtlessly and mindlessly pick up such animal products from their supermarkets and grocery stores to eat them later.  More people in the past were far more familiar with what it takes to process animals from field to plate; heck, if your grandparents are still alive, ask them what it was like to pluck chickens.  It wasn’t that long ago that many people killed animals on their own properties for their own benefit and sustenance in many Western first-world countries, either, and many still do, especially outside the Western first-world sphere.

When it comes to the religious use of animal sacrifice, we need to think about the role religion plays in our lives.  In some cultures, mainly the Greco-Roman ones I’m thinking of, there was no word for “religion” in the sense of a distinct field of human activity; there were words to describe particular modes of worship, but they struggled with a way to define the role of religion in their lives, because they couldn’t separate it out from the other things they did on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis.  More than just religious festivals and rites of passage, religion was intertwined with every breath of every day.  In that sense, if we’re going to kill something that took time and effort to raise, why not honor the gods by it and give them their fair share?  Also consider the Jewish practice of shechita, the kosher-permissible ritual slaughter of animals for consumption, which ties in with the practice of qorban, the acts and regulations of sacrifice permitted within the Temple of the Jews.  Then, bring in the long-standing and vital role that animal sacrifice plays in a variety of African religions, both practiced to this day within Africa as well as in the diaspora in forms such as La Regla de Ocha Lukumí, Candomblé, Vodou, and so forth; in these moments, animal sacrifices are often special occasions, celebrating a particular divinity, festival, or other sincere need, and are often communal celebrations where the meat is shared.  Indeed, in many traditional cultures, it’s more often than not that people got a substantial amount of their meat intake from participating in religious ceremonies.  And, more recently, some reconstructionist and revivalist pagan traditions are reincorporating the practices of animal sacrifice in their modern practices as was documented to have been done before Christianity knocked them off the map.

There are lots of schools of thought on the exact, precise role animal sacrifice plays (and, moreover, ought to play) in religious works, and generally these are limited to at most a handful of practices and traditions that involve them; I wouldn’t use Neoplatonic views on the appropriateness of animal sacrifice in Santería, nor would I try to impose Jewish ritual practices in a Hellenic ceremony.  Likewise, I would find it unconscionable for someone to judge the practices of another to which they don’t belong.  The most that I would personally agree with would be, if you have an issue for one reason or another, do your best to neither participate or benefit from it.  That’s fine!  In that case, you don’t need such practices, and they don’t need you.  If it comes to pass that you do, for some reason, need such practices as requires animal sacrifice, on the other hand, follow their rules, because they’ve been doing this a lot longer than you have and, simply put, still don’t need you to change, judge, or opine on the appropriateness of their ritual process.  There are a variety of legitimate needs and purposes for animal sacrifice; heck, even in a Neoplatonic setting, Porphyry and Iamblichus are in agreement that it has its place, and for some people, it’s a valuable and useful part of worship and theurgy to make use it in the right circumstances (cf. this excellent paper by Eleonora Zeper on the subject).

Then, on the other hand, we have magical practices.  Rather than following the institutions of religion and their practices that are typically carried on for many generations, magical practices may overlap with religion, take on religion as an independent and asocial activity, or have no overlap whatsoever.  Because of the variety of these practices, it’s hard to say anything about them in general besides the fact that they exist: they’re in the PGM, they’re in the Picatrix, they’re in the Key of Solomon, they’re in the Book of St. Cyprian, they’re in pretty much any and every pre-modern tradition and source text we have (and a number of modern ones, too).  Ranging from frogs to falcons, swine to swans, there are endless purposes for a variety of particular animals, some of which require no more than some hair or a feather plucked from them, some which require blood but without killing the animal, which require their whole burning once sacrificed (as in the Royal Ring of Abrasax), some require torture and deforming (such as a variety of frog-based spells in the Book of St. Cyprian), and so forth.  If you’re able and willing to do such acts for the sake of ritual, do it; if not, don’t do it and move on with your life.

There’s also the case of substituting blood sacrifices with bloodless sacrifices.  I give one example of this in the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual, where instead of sacrificing seven birds, one sacrifices seven specially-made cakes that represent those birds.  Substitution of one ritual process with a similar-enough stand-in is a longstanding practice both ancient and less-ancient; we have records of Egyptian rituals where this was done, we know many folk practices across the world that once relied on animal sacrifices have come to use substitutions instead, and similar substitutions are made in particular traditions of Tibetan and some (but not all) other Vajrayana or Vedic practices, as well.  If done appropriately, done with the right intent, and done in a situation where a bloodless substitute is deemed acceptable by both the magician/priest and the forces they’re working with, then there’s no reason to worry for those who wish to perform a ritual but who are either unable or unwilling to perform the animal sacrifice for it: just use the substitute instead.  However, as Jason Miller points out in his recent post about animal sacrifice and using substitutes, this isn’t always possible: if the use of substitutes is not deemed necessary, whether because there’s a sincere need for a proper animal sacrifice or because the spirits reject bloodless substitutes, then you’re out of luck with substitutes.  I’ve heard stories of at least one modern ATR community that insisted on using bloodless sacrifices for their ceremonies until one of their gods came down in the flesh and demanded it of them, lest he take it from them by force; this type of thing can happen, though hopefully though less extreme measures such as through ceremonial divination and regular check-ins with the spirits you’re working with.

There’s also the possibility of reworking the format and structure of a ritual that calls for animal sacrifice to avoid using it entirely.  Consider that the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual given in PGM XII.201—269 has a parallel, closely-related consecration ceremony of a phylactery later on in PGM XIII.734—1077, where no animal sacrifice is required (though an offering of sweetbreads is called for along with bread, seasonal flowers, and pine-cones).  It is entirely feasible to use this alternate ritual procedure, or adopt and adapt the methodology of one with the prayers and purposes of the other, to come up with a blend of ritual praxis that can (but not necessarily promised to be) as effective as either.  Additionally, consider that one may try to avoid the use of sacrifices entirely and simply use the prayers of the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual in an otherwise usual, normally-conducted consecration ritual according to one’s regular process.  Is this always acceptable?  Not necessarily; the more you change the format or requirements or implements of a ritual, the further you get from being able to claim that you “did” the ritual, and the less likely you’ll end up with the expected results.  However, it is possible to come up with a new version of an old ritual, so long as you know what you’re doing.

This is a lot of digital ink to spill on something, but in short?  Animal sacrifice does not equate to “black magic”, and “black magic” is a ridiculous term that shouldn’t be used anyway.  If you find the practice distasteful, consider your own dietary habits, your own cultural heritage, your own biases about such practices, and whether you really think you know better than both age-old religious institutions and the gods and spirits they work with before you voice such opinions.  Don’t disparage the works and methods of others from a place of privilege, naiveté, and badly-conceived ethics; if you absolutely have to be judgmental about something, judge on the purpose and merits of the ritual.

Propitiation Ritual of Saturn

Many of my friends take note of particular astrological phenomena, whether they’re just for the “planetary weather” effects the stars have on our lives, or for their more in-depth and particular motions for elections and magical workings.  Mercury retrograde is probably the most common, especially to mock for its (perhaps overblown) infamy in pop culture, but there are many other motions people take note of.  One of which is Saturn’s transition into the sign of Capricorn, one of its two domiciles, where Saturn is particularly strong.  Saturn takes just under 2.5 years to transit through a sign of the Zodiac, so the last time Saturn was in Capricorn was around the late 1980s and early 1990s.

This is particularly important for people whose natal Saturn is in Capricorn, as it signals their Saturn return, a rough time in one’s life that was the literal astrological definition of “mid-life crisis”.  To prepare for my own, I erected and worked a personal shrine to Saturn, and wrote a post about it back last year as Saturn came up on its own position in my own natal chart in late Sagittarius.  For that shrine and its works, I came up with a set of altar tools pulling from the Western astrological tradition as well as some things borrowed from the Vedic tradition for his counterpart in that system, Lord Śani.  Granted, I didn’t work with it as much as I anticipated due to everything else going on in my life, but I do feel like it helped stabilize those Saturnine energies into a useful focal point in my physical domain.

Given that Saturn is moving into Capricorn, and the fact that the Sun just moved into this sign through the passage of the winter solstice, I think it’s time to bring something out of my own playbook to the table, yes?  To help those who are interested in forming a stable, beneficial relationship with this great, powerful planet, here’s the basic ritual I use at my Saturn shrine to call upon the god and seek his blessing in my life.

First, let’s talk about the prime piece, the focal point of my Saturn shrine, an altarpiece I call the Platform of Saturn.  Essentially, it’s nothing more than a planetary hexagram, much as we might find in Western qabbalistic or Golden Dawn-type systems, except that instead of the Sun being the center of the hexagram, we place Saturn in the middle instead, and we put the Sun in Saturn’s position.  In this way, Saturn becomes the focus of the piece, with the other planets balancing and reinforcing Saturn’s power as the spiritual “center” of the shrine.  I went a bit extra with my design for the Platform of Saturn by writing the six-lettered name of the Greek god ΚΡΟΝΟΣ between the points of the hexagram, as well as inscribing the magical characters for the planets (taken from the Magical Calendar) around or inside the hexagram.  Plus, when I made the thing, I also put the six-lettered name of God Elohim (אלוהים) at the points of the hexagram on the bevel, using the more angular Phoenician/Paleo-Hebrew script instead of the more modern square script.  On the underside of the Platform, I also inscribed the three-by-three planetary square of Saturn surrounded by the Tetragrammaton, the divine name of the Saturnine sephirah Binah; nothing special, but since the piece of wood I used for the Platform has a plate-like recess on the underside, I also use it to cover the old lead Saturn talisman I made back in 2011, further deploying even more power to the altarpiece as a sort of celestial foundation.

 

The use of this Platform is to act as a base for setting lights and lamps to the planets: six small candles for the non-Saturn planets, and a larger candle (or, in my case, oil lamp) for Saturn.

For this ritual, you will need:

  • Six white tealights, or other small candles/amps in the appropriate planetary color
  • A clean oil lamp with fresh wick
  • A small amount of sesame oil with three drops of myrrh oil
  • Clean room-temperature water, preferably from a well or other underground source
  • Myrrh resin
  • A dry mixture of rock salt and two of your choice of the following:
    • Black gram (Vigna mungo, commonly sold as “black lentils”)
    • Black rice
    • Black mustard seeds
    • Black sesame seeds
    • Other plants, bark, resins, or organic material associated with Saturn, but most preferably cultivated grains
  • Optionally, prayer beads for chanting
  • Incense holder, offering glasses, charcoal, source of fire, etc.

In the minutes leading up to an hour of Saturn on a day of Saturn, arrange the six smaller lights in a hexagram around the large central lamp, putting each candle on top of its particular planetary glyph following the pattern of the Platform of Saturn.  Get your incense ready, and once you make sure your offering glasses are clean, fill one with water and the other with a few spoonfuls of the dry offering mixture.  Fill the lamp with the oil.  (Alternatively, instead of using a lamp, you could use a large candle, either white if the other smaller candles are white, or jet black.)  Set the incense to the right of the candles, and the water with dry offering to the left of the candles, either in a horizontal line or an equilateral triangle.

At the start of the hour of Saturn, begin the preliminary invocation to the other six planets.  Light each candle in turn according to the design of the Platform:

  1. I light this candle and offer its light to the Moon, Lady of the First Heaven, who sings with a pure, sweet voice into our world: Α

  2. I light this candle and offer its light to Mercury, Ruler of the Second Heaven, who sings with a pure, sharp voice into our world: ΕΕ

  3. I light this candle and offer its light to Venus, Lady of the Third Heaven, who sings with a pure, lovely voice into our world: ΗΗΗ

  4. I light this candle and offer its light to the Sun, Lord of the Fourth Heaven, who sings with a pure, holy voice into our world: ΙΙΙΙ

  5. I light this candle and offer its light to Mars, Lord of the Fifth Heaven, who sings with a pure, strong voice into our world: ΟΟΟΟΟ

  6. I light this candle and offer its light to Jupiter, Lord of the Sixth Heaven, who sings with a pure, royal voice into our world: ΥΥΥΥΥΥ

If desired, energetically link the six smaller lights to the central lamp of Saturn at this point, so that all the lights are dependent upon and reflect the ultimate light of Saturn.

Light the myrrh incense and the lamp of Saturn.  Invoke the planetary presence of Saturn according to a prayer of your choosing; for this, you might use the Orphic Hymn of Saturn, or an invocation from a grimoire such as the Heptameron, the Hygromanteia, or the Picatrix (as I used in my Saturn talisman creation).  Recite this prayer at least once, preferably three times.

Dedicate the light of the lamp to Saturn:

I light this lamp and offer its light to Saturn, Lord of the Seventh Heaven, who sings with a pure, dark voice into our world: ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ

Grant as this light shines upon this place, so too, Lord Saturn, shine your light upon us, gently and kindly enlightening us, illuminating our paths, and keeping us safe from all harm!

Dedicate the incense to Saturn (putting more on at this point if necessary)

I burn this incense and offer its smoke to Saturn, Lord of the Seventh Heaven, who sings with a pure, silent voice into our world: ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ

Grant as this incense rises up and fills up this place with its sweet heavenly smoke, so too, Lord Saturn, fill our spheres, souls, and spirits with your blessing, essence, divinity, and presence!

Dedicate the water offering to Saturn:

I pour out this water and offer its power to Saturn, Lord of the Seventh Heaven, who sings with a pure, profound voice into our world: ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ

Grant as this water is poured out for your refreshment and enjoyment, so too pour over us your blessing, cleansing us from all pollution, cleansing our ways of all obstacles, cleansing our senses from all obstructions, and cleansing our hearts from all wickedness!

Dedicate the dry offering to Saturn:

I set out this grain and offer its strength to Saturn, Lord of the Seventh Heaven, who sings with a pure, heavy voice into our world: ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ

Grant as this grain and salt are set out for your nourishment and satisfaction, so too strengthen us inwardly and outwardly, in our bodies, souls, spirits, and minds, and protect us from all harm while giving us space to grow without undue burden!

At this point, continue the worship and exaltation of Saturn however you choose.  This is the point where I would first begin a chant for Saturn using a set of prayer beads; in my case, I chanted the Sanskrit mantra for the planet of Saturn 108 times on a mala made from black volcanic rock soaked in a magical Saturn oil.  Such chants, if desired, could be any of the following:

  • AUṂ PRAṂ PRĪṂ PRAUṂ SAḤ ŚANAIŚCARĀYA NAMAḤ
  • AUṂ SHAṂ ŚANAIŚCARA NAMAḤ
  • ΙΩ ΦΑΙΝΩΝ ΙΩ ΚΡΟΝΕ ΙΩ ΙΩ ΙΩ
  • IAVE SATURNE MAXIME NITIDE SEVERE

After chanting an appropriate number of times (33, 81, 108, 27000 etc.), continue praying, communing, or meditating with the presence of Saturn thus called.  Once finished, thank Saturn however you will; if this is a once-off ritual, give him a polite and trusting farewell, but otherwise, if this is part of a shrine installation, there’s no strict need for that.

At the end of the planetary hour, put out the lamp of Saturn, and let the other candles burn out on their own.  Once the hour is over, be sure to clean off physically and spiritually, or do some light solar work to balance out and brighten your personal sphere so as to not get too burdened with the heavy weight of Saturn.  This isn’t to banish its energies, but to balance them out so as to be able to better incorporate them as human beings.

Compared to the Western tradition of planetary invocations, Hinduism has a rich body of prayers, chants, and texts to appreciate.  Veneration and worship of the planets as gods in their own rights is alive and well in Hinduism, and many temples have a section just for the Navagraha, the nine planetary gods (seven planets, plus the North Node and South Node as planets of their own).  There are plenty of ways to make offerings in the Hindu system, which is where I got the inspiration for some of the dry offerings and the use of sesame oil.  Still, some of the prayers are positively splendid (when they don’t need to be chanted 23,000 times over), and one of my personal favorites is a prayer to Lord Śani for protection and blessing of one’s body.  In a sense, it’s a Saturnine version of the Lorica of Saint Patrick, and thus, I call it the Vedic Shield of Shani:

I bow down to the slow-moving Śani, whose complexion is dark blue like the ointment of nilañjana. The elder brother of Lord Death, he is born from the Sun and his wife Chāyā.

O god of night-blue skin dressed in night-blue silk, who wears a crown, who rides the vulture, who gives misfortunes, who wields the bow, who has four hands and is the son of the Sun, be pleased with me always and happily grant me your blessing!

Let the son of the Sun protect my head!
Let the darling son of Chāyā protect my eyes!
Let the strong brother of Yama protect my ears!
Let the child of Sūrya protect my nose!
Let the bright god always protect my face!
Let he with a pleasant voice protect my own!
Let the great-armed god protect my arms!
Let my shoulders be protected by Śani!
Let my hands be protected by he who does good!
Let the brother of Yama protect my chest!
Let he who is dark protect my belly!
Let my stomach be protected by the lord of all planets!
Let the slow-mover protect my hips!
Let he who makes all ends protect my thighs!
Let the sibling to Yama protect my knees!
Let my legs be protected by him who goes slow!
Let all my organs be protected by him who wears the cloak of darkness!
Let all my body be protected by the darling son of the Sun God!

AUṂ PRAṂ PRĪṂ PRAUṂ SAḤ ŚANAIŚCARĀYA NAMAḤ

With that, I hope that you have a happy time Saturning, no matter whether you’re coming up on your first Saturn return or are looking forward to the blessed release of your fourth!