Colors of the Planets

The core components of much of the ritual I do is simple: a candle lit for God and prayer.  Everything else is, strictly speaking, optional.  Yes, even incense, especially when simply performing prayer and adoration of the Divine, as Hermēs tells his students towards the end of the Perfect Sermon:

[Asclepius said:] “Let us suggest to father, Tat,—what he did bid us do,—that we should say our prayer to God with added incense and with unguents.”

Whom when Thrice-greatest heard, he grew distressed and said: “Nay, nay, Asclepius; speak more propitious words! For this is like to profanation of [our] sacred rites, when thou dost pray to God, to offer incense and the rest. For naught is there of which He stands in need, in that He is all things, or all are in Him. But let us worship, pouring forth our thanks. For this is the best incense in God’s sight, when thanks are given to Him by men.”

So, really, even perhaps my candle lit for God, a sacred flame I have burning at my main shrine whenever I do any sort of temple work, could be considered extraneous; I prefer, following usual ancient practices, to always have a sacred lamp lit with a sacred fire, so that I never pray or work in darkness.  But, when performing pure theurgy, Hermēs suggests that prayer is the only required element—indeed, the only element that should be used.

But that’s really only applicable for God and the highest-of-the-high practices I engage in.  And there are a lot of other gods and practices I engage in, and other components, like incense, are pretty damn useful.

I don’t think I’m making a controversial claim for when I say that everything present in a ritual should be present to further that ritual’s application and efficacy; having extra elements or components there that either aren’t used or aren’t related to the ritual shouldn’t be there in the ritual itself.  This is far from encouraging minimalism, of course; with this maxim, you can get as complex and as complicated, as embellished and exaggerated as you like, by throwing in element after component or tool after supply into a ritual.  Sometimes, that can be extremely helpful; other times, not so much.  But this goes far beyond simply the choice or variety of incense and libation; everything in a ritual, down to the thread used to hem your robes (or sweatpants), can be engineered towards a particular ritual.  After all, if you want to take a more psychological or semantic approach to ritual, everything in a ritual is a symbol, and all symbols have meaning.  And color symbolism is huge in many kinds of occult and spiritual work.

With my renewed Hermetic practice I’ve been working on since the beginning of the year, I’ve been mulling over how I would want to make a new set of planetary talismans.  I have an old set from when I was doing Fr. Rufus Opus’ Red Work course, which I’ve used ever since, and have been solid tools in their own right.  Materially, they’re just halves of wooden craft yo-yos that I took apart; taking them apart left a hole in the underside of them, which I filled with the appropriate planetary metal, and after I did that, I woodburned the name and seal of the planetary angel and used the planetary characters from the Magical Calendar (originally(?) used for the Table of Practice from the Ars Paulina of the Lemegeton) around the sides.  The effect was pretty nifty, if I do say so myself.

For these talismans, I painted each talisman in an appropriate planetary color: purple for the Moon, orange for Mercury, green for VEnus, yellow for the Sun, red for Mars, blue for Jupiter, and black for Saturn.  Of course, “appropriate” here could be debated; the source for these colors is largely taken from Golden Dawn practice using their Queen scale of colors for the sephiroth of the Hermetic Tree of Life.  Of course, the Queen scale—perhaps the most commonly known and used—is just one of four scales; there’s also the King scale (indigo, violet purple, amber, clear pink rose, orange, deep violet, crimson), the Prince scale (very dark purple, russet red, bright yellowish green, rich salmon, bright scarlet, deep purple, dark brown), and the Princess scale (citrine flecked azure, yellowish brown flecked gold, olive flecked gold, golden amber, red flecked black, deep azure flecked yellow, grey flecked pink).  The link above gives an appreciable examples of all these colors (which, rather than being vague suggestions, were actually meant to be quite exact and specific), as well as for the other sephiroth and each of the paths on the Tree of Life.  Complicated, to be sure, but if nothing else, the Golden Dawn takes complication and turns it into an art form.  Plus, those who have ever read Alan Moore’s comic series Promethea (still a great primer on popular modern Western Hermetic mystery cosmology from a Golden Dawn/Thelemic standpoint) will find these colors for the planets incredibly familiar, as the artist specifically used these color scales for the sephiroth as Sophie Bangs (and Promethea) ascends through them from Earth/Malkuth to God/Kether.

But…well, I’m not a Golden Dawn magician.  Like, I’ve never done the LBRP, or any [LG][IB]R[PH] type of ritual, or a Middle Pillar, or whatever.  While these colors (or at least the Queen scale colors) are incredibly common, and incredibly useful, this surely can’t be the only magical color system for the planets, and while I don’t want to fix what’s not broken, I do want to try distancing myself from Golden Dawn stuff and see if other systems work, hopefully as well if not better.  To that end, I’ve been looking into what other options there might be in the usual magical literature we typically consult from the pre-Golden Dawn days, like Agrippa et al., and seeing what such color symbolism might already have been present in classical or antique times.

For the usual grimoires we might turn to, we can find color lists in the following texts:

Plotting them out and comparing them, we can get a color table like the following:

Planet Key of Solomon Key of Knowledge Agrippa

Colors

Agrippa Planets Agrippa Clothes
Saturn black black black, earthy,
leaden, brown
dull blue black
Jupiter celestial blue green sapphire, “airy colors”,
green, clear, purple, darkish, golden,
mixed with silver
pale citrine blue
Mars red red (“vermilion”) red, burning/fiery/flaming colors,
violet, purple, bloody/iron colors
fiery red red
Sun gold, yellow, citron rich yellow (“saffron”),
green
gold, saffron, purple, bright colors yellow or
glittering red
yellow, gold
Venus green azure, violet white, pale colors,
eye-catching colors,
ruddy between saffron and purple
white and shining,
or red
white, green
Mercury mixed colors yellow-orange
(“eggyolk”)
glittering mixed and changing
Moon silver or argentine earth white
(“white lead”)
“fair” (pale white) green, silver

I’m sure there are plenty of other Western Renaissance and medieval sources for attributing magical colors to the planets, but this is already lining up to be kinda uniform, and we can see how such a color system informed the Golden Dawn set—at least as far as the Queen scale is confirmed.  But the use of color symbolism for the planets is much older than this; it’s not like colors are a new thing for magicians or people generally.  As many of my readers know, using rituals and information from the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM) is one of my favorite things to do, so I thought about looking back to classical and pre-modern sources in the West for more information.  Happily and fortuitously, Tony Mierzwicki in his Graeco-Egyptian Magick has basically already done the work for us there.  I’ll summarize his findings and sources:

  • PGM CX.1—12, some sort of astrological divination that uses mineral or metallic objects: Sun, gold; Moon, silver; Saturn, obsidian; Mars, yellow-green onyx; Venus, lapis lazuli streaked with “gold” (pyrite); Mercury, turquoise (καλλάϊνος, literally “like a precious stone of a greenish blue”, turquoise or chrysolite, or even the famous blue-green Egyptian faïence); Jupiter, “a dark blue stone, but underneath of crystal” (“ὁ δὲ Ζεὺς ᾔτῳ κυάνου λίθου ὑπὸ δὲ κρυστάλλου”, possibly amethyst).  Mierzwicki gives the “apparent colors” for these planets then as: Sun, gold; Moon, silver; Saturn, black; Mars, yellow-green; Venus, blue; Mercury, blue-green; Jupiter, dark blue and clear (or indigo/dark puple and white).
  • Mierzwicki also matches PGM CX.1—12 with evidence from the seven-stepped zigurrats of Ecbatana and Khorsabad, according to Herodotus and archaeological evidence, respectively: gold/gold, silver/silver-grey, orange/orange, blue/blue, red/reddish-purple, black/black, white/white.  Mierzwicki gives these the planets Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter, respectively.

It’s important to note that red is generally a taboo color in PGM and Egyptian stuff generally, as it’s considered to be a color associated with Set, and thus Typhōn.  This is why so many PGM rituals call for “lamps that are not colored red”, and might explain the lack of red in the above PGM text, which appears to be currently the only one known that links particular colors (well, stones and minerals) to the planets.  However, scanning through the rest of the PGM for bits and pieces that are color-related, we can also get the following:

  • PGM XII.270ff:  heliotrope (green chalcedony with small spots of red jasper) for the Sun
  • PGM V.213ff: “costly green stone” (“σμάραγδον πολυτελῆ”, “expensive emerald”) for a scarab ring to speak with the Sun
  • PGM VI.2622ff: purple used to color a skin that encloses a phylactery for calling upon the Moon
  • PGM V.370ff: purple used for a cord to wrap up hair as a sacrifice to the Moon (well, really, Hermēs, but here meaning Thoth as a lunar god)
  • PGM IV.2891ff: white used for a dove as an offering to Venus
  • PGM IV.3209ff: white used for a saucer and wax for a saucer divination under Venus
  • PGM VII.478ff: white used for a dove, the droppings of which are used in a ritual to Eros, connected to Venus
  • PDM xiv.920ff and 933ff: white is the color of a stone called “foam of the moon”, like galbanum or glass

So, not a lot, as it turns out.  But at least we have something we can plot out in another table:

Planet PGM CX.1—12 Babylonian Other PGM
Saturn black black
Jupiter dark blue/purple and white white
Mars yellow green (or red) red
Sun yellow, gold yellow, gold green
Venus rich blue blue white
Mercury light blue-green orange
Moon white, grey, silver silver purple, white

Funnily enough, in the process of writing this post, one of my mutual followers on Astrology Twitter, @jaysunkei, posted a surprised tweet about planetary colors, especially that for the planet Mercury, which started off a whole bunch of conversations about different texts and traditions of colors, including those listed above:

The stuff posted in that Twitter thread gives us even more options to work with based on a variety of astrological sources as well as cultural ones (cf. David McCann’s article The Astrology of Color on Skyscript.co.uk and this article about colors and planets through different cultures and time periods):

Planet Picatrix Al-Biruni Ibn Ezra Lilly Sepharial
Saturn black, dark black, dark black, dark white, pale, ashy, black, dark black, dark
Jupiter green brown, white green purple
Mars red red red red red
Sun yellow orange red yellow, red, purple orange
Venus light blue, light green white, yellow light green light blue, light green, white light blue, light green
Mercury blue purple, mixed colors blue, grey, mixed colors blue, grey, pink, yellow
Moon orange, yellow blue, orange, yellow green, white green, orange, yellow, white green, orange, yellow, white

In the end, it looks like we have a lot of options to pick from, all based on different authors and time periods and cultures and styles of working, some more astrological than magical, others more magical than astrological, some more grounded in the Earth and some more grounded in Heaven.  There are a few commonalities, sure, and if I were to summarize some of the most common colors to make a “general” color scheme for the seven planets, I’d go with the following:

  • Saturn: black.  Everyone seems to be in agreement with this one, although this could be expanded to any super dark, dull color, more like a hue.
  • Jupiter: blue or purple.  Blue seems to be more common than purple, but both are considered “royal” colors, which fits in nicely with Jupiter’s significations.  Still, blue seems to be more common.
  • Mars: red.  This is pretty common across everyone, shockingly enough.
  • Sun: gold or yellow.  Gold, of course, is ideal for the Sun, but that’s more a metal rather than a color; a rich yellow, tending slightly more towards orange than green, would be better if a simple color is preferred.
  • Venus: primarily green, secondarily white.  Green seems to be more common than white (though “green” here is probably best described as a “light blue-green”, like teal, aquamarine, spring green, cyan, Persian green, jade green, or turquoise), though white is also a common option.  However, white can also be used for the Moon, so be careful here (more on this below).
  • Mercury: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  Mercury’s colors are all over the map, and I think the best way to describe Mercury’s color is “plaid”, meaning any set of mixed, changeable, shifting, or interwoven colors.  Barring that, however, orange seems to not be a bad choice, as this is sometimes considered to be a “muddled” or “mixed” color itself, compared to the more pure yellow or red.
  • Moon: silver or white.  Silver is preferred, but this is more a metal than a color, so the best way to describe this in terms of simple colors is just white.  However, white is also an option for Venus; if white is chosen for Venus, use silver for the Moon, and if white is used for the Moon, use green for Venus.

Lots of options, indeed, and of course the above isn’t exhaustive; there’re also Mesoamerican and Native American traditions, Chinese and Indian/Vedic systems, and other systems of astrology and magic out there that have their own color associations with the planets and stars, too.  But, even with this much, at least we can make things look nice for ourselves and our works.

Suitable Jewelry for Magic, Spirits, and Forces

As many of my readers and followers on Twitter and Facebook are aware, one of the most important things I craft for my personal practice are pieces of jewelry I wear in honor of the spirits or as talismans of particular forces.  This goes far beyond the lamens used in conjuration or Solomonic rings, but include what I’ve come to call carcanets, beaded necklaces and bracelets with colors, stones, and metals that resonate well with a particular spirit.  I started making them to have simple wearable talismans of planetary and elemental forces that wouldn’t attract too much attention or be too bulky to carry around, but I ended up making more for some of my gods and spirits, and then more for other people based on custom needs.  On Facebook, The Professor from the blog Traif Banquet noted that she’s seen me make many different types of carcanets and was interested in how I pick the colors and patterns for each, and how I consecrate them and use them in ritual work.  Of course, I was headed to a theme park that day to support the local LGBT community, so it wasn’t quite the time for such a discussion then and there, but I decided to oblige anyway and write a fuller explanation of what exactly I do.

So, what is a carcanet?  Physically speaking, a carcanet is ritual talismanic jewelry made from beads that sometimes incorporate precious and semi-precious stone or metal or wood or bone, sometimes religious items like saint medallions or crosses, and sometimes other items that is worn to derive the blessing, presence, and aid of a particular spiritual force or entity.  I make mine from artificial twine and seed beads and make them into necklaces and bracelets, though there’s nothing saying you have to use the same materials I do.  I use artificial twine because it’s sturdy and resistant to breaking, though elastic cord or leather can be useful too on occasion.  Each carcanet is attuned and consecrated to a particular force or spirit, and the colors, materials, and patterns on the carcanet indicate exactly what that attunement is and to whom or to what it’s consecrated by or under.

For instance, consider my Sash of Powers, something I made a while back for use in standard Western ceremonial work, which contains representations of all the forces used in Western ceremonial magic based on the Golden Dawn and Agrippan materia.  This is worn across one shoulder and drapes down to the opposite hip, since it’s far too long to wear as a necklace or bracelet.  Among other forces, the Sash of Powers contains the 24 forces that we use in mathesis and, for that matter, most of the Western mystery tradition, and the colors I use for this tend are those I tend to use in most of my work:

Sash of Powers

  • Four elements: I use the system of flashing colors that the Golden Dawn instituted.  Thus, I use red (primary) and green (secondary) for Fire, yellow and purple for Air, and blue and orange for Water.  They didn’t really have flashing colors for Earth that I can find, instead using the “muddled” colors associated with the sephirah Malkuth (black, citrine, olive, russet), so instead I use black (primary) and white (secondary).
  • Spirit: I’ve never really considered this an element proper (as my mathesis stuff shows), though it can be considered an element or a planet or any other force based on the need.  Because of this, it’s hard to give a color for pure Spirit; I tend to use pure white, clear, pearlescent, or rainbow for Spirit.  If we consider Spirit to be the realm of the fixed stars (i.e. Chokmah), then some combination of silver, clear grey, or light blue might work; if we consider it pure divinity (i.e. Kether), then white and clear would work.
  • Seven planets: I use the system of Queen and King scales of the Golden Dawn, so black and crimson for Saturn, blue and purple for Jupiter, red and orange for Mars, and so forth.
  • Twelve signs of the Zodiac: I never liked the scales of the Four Worlds the Golden Dawn uses for the paths of the Tree of Life, from which we can get  colors for the twelve Zodiac signs.  Instead, I use a combination of the Queen scale of the Golden Dawn for the ruling planet of the sign as well as the colors that Agrippa gives for the sign (book I, chapter 49).  Thus, as an example, consider Aries and Libra.  Agrippa gives white as the color for both these signs, while the corresponding Queen scale of the ruling planets are red for Aries ruled by Mars and green for Libra ruled by Venus.  Thus, Aries has red and white, and Libra has green and white as its colors.  I tend to differentiate the Agrippan zodiacal colors from the Queen scale planetary colors by using a slightly brighter, more reflective, or metallic variant (so a reflective clear red instead of a flat red), but it’s not necessary.

Of course, the Sash also has a few other things marked on it, including the 12 Banners of the Names of God and the 16 geomantic figures, but those aren’t forces, per se.  These are less colors to be used with forces and more representations of more complex things that can vary.  Geomantic figures, being ultimately related to the Earth, use white and black as the colors of the element of Earth (with a white bead noting an active line and a black bead a passive line in a geomantic figure); I used white, yellow-gold, black, and brown to represent the four letters of the Tetragrammaton put in their different permutations, but I’m not sure that it matters for this how or which colors to use.

Of course, I don’t make carcanets and the like for just pure forces.  The major focus of what I make nowadays is for individual spirits, gods, saints, and the like, and that’s where creativity and research really come into play.  Unfortunately, most of the Western tradition (especially books like the Lemegeton) focus on the use of certain kinds of metals or woods and less on colors than I’d like, so I have to branch out and be a little more innovative to figure out what colors go with what spirit.  However, the way I tend to settle on colors follows a pattern:

  1. Traditions of the spirits takes precedence; if there’s a body of lore or worship built up around something, I’ll likely start with those colors, if not just use those colors.  For instance, it’s tradition that Saint Cyprian of Antioch’s colors are generally perceived to be black, purple, white, and red, so nearly all my Saint Cyprian gear has black, purple, and white on it (red I tend to reserve for specific workings or subsume it into purple, perhaps settling on a compromise of wine or dark red).  The archangels of Christianity often have their own color symbolism, especially in icons from the Orthodox tradition, so I might use the colors most commonly seen on their robes or in their icons, like light blue and pink for Sealtiel.
  2. Association with the forces described above can play a role in deciding colors.  For instance, I work with Hephaistos, the blacksmith god of the Greeks, except there’s so little known about Hephaistos’ cult back in the day that I have no tradition to go on.  However, Agrippa in his scale of 12 (book II, chapter 15) helpfully gives an association between the 12 Olympian gods (including Hestia and excluding Dionysus) and the 12 signs of the Zodiac.  There, Hephaistos is associated with the zodiac sign of Libra, and my colors for Libra are white and green, so good colors to use for Hephaistos can include white and green, as well.
  3. Asking the spirit themselves for colors they like can also work well.  This generally requires being in tune and in good standing with the spirit to get that kind of information about, and it might require divination or light trancework to get a good set of colors that works well, but overall asking the spirit themselves for what colors they like can be hugely helpful.  However, no two people may arrive at the same colors for the same spirit, based on their relationship with them.  For instance, my Hermes altar uses orange as the primary color (since I started off conflating the god Hermes with the planet Mercury, which isn’t too hard a leap to make), but my ritual necklace I have for him uses bone-white, brown, light blue, and gold beads based on a color scheme he gave me.
  4. Syncretism of different traditions can be informative as well.  If it’s alright with the spirit, looking at other traditions not native to them can help me pick what colors to use.  Going back to Hephaistos, I asked if it was alright if I looked at another tradition with a huge repertoire of color symbolism: Santeria.  The elekes and collares of Santeria are color-coded necklaces that indicate which orisha one has received, and although the ATR I’m in (yes, I’m an initiate in one) doesn’t have colors of its own, our spirits in that ATR are happy with using the same colors as Santeria (since they’re basically cousins of each other, much as how Roman and Greek gods are mythological cousins).  In Santeria, the blacksmith god Ogun has the colors black and green, so with the permission of Hephaistos, I also use black and green for some of my works in conjunction with white and green derived from Hephaistos’ association with the zodiac sign of Libra.  This can be tricky, however, and you need people on both sides to agree that the use of another traditions’ colors is alright, especially if you happen to live in an area with a large number of that other tradition who might confuse you for one of them.

As a rule, I like to have at least two colors on the carcanet.  To be honest, this keeps the thing from being visually boring; I dislike having a single solid color unless it’s required for a spiritual purpose, kind of like the Santerian orisha Obatala having his eleke being pure white.  That said, most spirits tend to have a multitude of powers, fields, strengths, and things they rule over; the different colors I use reflect those different responsibilities and dominions.  Too many colors can be confusing, however; I usually stick between two and four colors per carcanet, but sometimes more if there’s a specific need for it or if the spirit itself is associated with having many colors.

Beyond the colors of beads themselves, most of my carcanets and the like often make use of precious and semi-precious stone and metal beads, and those are much better attested in the Western traditions generally.  Of course, color symbolism is important in picking these, too, as well as the specific resonances of the stones or metals or whatnot.  For instance, red stones tend to be ruled by Mars in general, though carnelian, ruby, and fire agate all have slightly different feels that may make them better for some forces or spirits instead of others.  The minerals and chemicals within the stones themselves, too, can be important, which can link them together with metals.  For instance, one of my favorite green stones is malachite, which contains a high amount of copper that gives it its bright green color.  Copper and green are both associated with Venus, which makes this an excellent Cytherean/Venereal stone suitable for the planetary force as well as the goddess Aphrodite.

Once I have the colors figured out, then it’s time to figure out the patterns.  The most straightforward and simple pattern, assuming two colors, is to alternate the colors of beads one by one (so red, black, red, black, red, black…).  Personally, I hate this system, and I try to stay away from it as much as I can.  I generally figure out patterns based on numbers sacred to the spirit.  For instance, Saint Cyprian’s sacred number is 9, so the patterns I use tend to involve 9 in some way; one such carcanet I made for him has nine black beads, three wine beads, one white bead, one clear bead, one white bead, and three more wine beads for a “set” of 18, or 2 × 9, and I’ll repeat this as many times as necessary to get a carcanet of suitable length.  My mathesis carcanet (yes, I even made one for that) has ten white beads followed by one gold bead, since 10 and 1 are sacred numbers in mathesis and Pythagoreanism.  My Venus carcanet has two sets of seven green beads separated by a tiger’s eye bead, two sets of seven gold beads separated by a green aventurine bead, and a set of 14 (2 × 7) beads that alternate green and gold.  Making the patterns can be tricky, but usually I have a good idea in my head before I launch into stringing the beads.  On occasion, I’ll decide a few sets into the carcanet that the pattern isn’t good and I’ll start over, but they’re generally close to what I had in mind.

Of course, crafting the carcanets and the like is only half the process; the other half is consecration.  Just like how the colors and patterns may change based on the purpose, the means of consecrating the carcanet will also change.  Generally speaking, however, consecration falls into two different methods.  Both methods first start off with ritually washing the carcanet off in holy water to cleanse and prepare it for future blessing, and both tend to involve anointing with oil and suffumigation in incense, but beyond that, they’re different:

  • Force carcanet consecration: A carcanet that’s a talisman of a force (e.g. Water, Mercury, or Taurus) is consecrated by conjuring the angel associated with the force (e.g. Gabriel, Raphael or Asmodel, respectively) at an appropriate time, generally during an appropriate planetary day and hour or when the zodiac sign in question is rising or culminating during the waxing moon.  I’ll charge the angel in the appropriate godname and office to consecrate, sanctify, dedicate, bless, and empower the carcanet to serve for me a powerful talisman and connection and link to the force in question, that it may radiate the same force into my sphere that I may call upon and direct it at will and in my need.  I’ll suffumigate it in the incense burning for the conjuration and anoint it with an appropriate oil if desired and if I have one.  You know, the usual.  After the conjuration, I’ll set the carcanet on top of the lamen of the angel wrapped around a candle to continue and complete the charge of the carcanet.  Once the candle burns out, I’ll often (but not always) conjure the angel again and thank them for helping me consecrate the carcanet, charging them to seal the power into the carcanet and make it a powerful tool and instrument for my work.  This completes (and, usually, overdoes) the consecration.
  • Spirit carcanet consecration: A carcanet that’s dedicated in the honor and blessing of a spirit, on the other hand, takes a slightly different route.  Instead of turning the carcanet into a simple talisman, it becomes more of a devotional offering to be worn in the honor and service of a particular spirit.  Yes, it still accomplishes the result of bringing the blessings of a particular force into my life, but this way it’s less that it’s being filled with a particular power or motion and more that it’s bringing the attention and blessings of a particular spirit.  In this way, I’ll go up to the spirit, make offerings to them at a time good or convenient for them, and formally dedicate the carcanet as an offering to them to be worn in their honor and devotion.  I’ll often anoint the carcanet in oil or their offering drink (wine or water, usually), drape the carcanet on the image or statue of the spirit or wrap it around a prepared candle, and I’ll ask that they consecrate, sanctify, dedicate, yada yada the carcanet to their own blessings and purpose.  After leaving the carcanet on their altar or shrine for a week, I’ll make another offering to them thanking them for the carcanet’s blessings and wear it during certain times to obtain their blessing and in their honor as a kind of votive action.

Now that I think about it, the methods for consecrating them for a force via an angelic conjuration and for a spirit by dedication aren’t that different; it’s just two variations of the same idea, really.  Plus, depending on the carcanet and spirit/force it’s consecrated under, I may maintain its power in different ways, sometimes by anointing it with oil or “feeding” it with other sundry liquids, sometimes by praying over it, sometimes by letting it sit out in sunlight or moonlight.  It all depends.  The carcanet is a general ritual tool that, even though the material basis looks the same being made out of twine and glass, its spiritual essence and use may vary wildly.

Speaking of, how are these things used?  It’s pretty simple: you wear them.  That’s it.  I’ll often say a short blessing or invocation of the spirit or force to which a carcanet is dedicated or consecrated under when I don one, and I’ll say a prayer of thanks and blessing when I remove one, but that’s about it.  Seed beads are often too small for my big fingers to manipulate, so I don’t bother with using them as prayer tools but rather as part of spiritual regalia, armor, and connection when I need it.  On occasion, I’ll make a chaplet or set of prayer beads large enough to be worn, and in those cases the carcanet doubles as a prayer instrument, but this is the exception and not the norm for me; such prayer carcanets tend to use stone and metal beads more than seed beads, so the way I make them tends to differ a little bit since my options are usually more limited.

And yes, if you’re interested, I do take custom commissions for carcanets and can make them to your specifications or based on my own interactions with the gods and spirits.  If you like, contact me or send me a message through my Etsy shop and we can hash something out.

Another Look at the Letters on the Paths of the Tetractys

The big thrust of this whole mathesis thing was to develop a graphical outline of the structure of the cosmos, both macrocosmic and microcosmic, and allow for the use of letters as vehicles of transformation between different states on the cosmic map.  We decided to use the Tetractys as our overall map, and found a set of 24 paths between the ten spheres of the TetractysEach path was then assigned to one of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet (excepting the obsolete letters digamma, qoppa, and sampi), and boom, we have our graphical cosmic map.  Thing is, all this was experimental and an exercise in logic and extrapolation; it’s been largely untested, but it does provide a neat way to arrange the letters on the Tetractys.

I’ve been feeling comfortable with the assignment of the spheres on the Tetractys to the ten forces: the Monad or Source, light or activity, darkness or passivity, alchemical sulfur, alchemical mercury, alchemical salt, fire, air, water, and earth.  Mapping these forces to their cosmological equivalents, likewise, was fairly straightforward.  What I haven’t been completely comfortable this whole time with, however, was the assignment of letters to the paths themselves.  I’ve guessed from the beginning that, no matter how logical my original assignment was, chances are it wasn’t going to be a permanent assignment.  I all but definitively knew that at least some of the letters on the paths were going to change, and I’d leave it to until I actually got around to exploring the Tetractys through ritual and scrying to change them.

Somewhat ahead of that predicted schedule, however, I asked Hermes and asked for some guidance about the upcoming trips on the Tetractys paths, but unfortunately he was unusually tight-lipped; this was definitely something I would have to explore when the time came.  He did say he’d help open some doors in the meanwhile to help me get a feel for what’d be coming up, however, so I went back and took another close look at what I’ve been discussing since I first laid out how I assigned the letters to the paths.  This time, however, I kept the distinction of direction and the Gnosis/Agnosis Schemata in mind, and started over from there.  I ended up with a wholly new way to assign letters to the paths and, although I’m still feeling a little unsure, this has a much different feel than the first arrangement, and it’s one I conceptually like more.  I warn you, in this post I’m going to be using lots of gaudy color, and since we’ve already been through this kind of analysis once before, I’ll be a little more rough when explaining things.

So, in the Gnosis Schema, we have twelve paths that go around the Tetractys, hitting the sphere of Mercury four times and every other sphere once:

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths_circuit1The Agnosis Schema, on the other hand, has the twelve remaining paths that only connect to the non-Mercury middling spheres:

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths_circuit2

Consider that the Gnosis Schema is an orderly array of paths, a sequence that follows a strict ordering.  The Agnosis Schema, however, has no such inherent order, and has criss-cross of paths that allow for wandering around without a plan, so to speak.  If we start with these two ideas, we have two sets of twelve paths.  We have 24 letters, which are divvied up between four elements, the meta-element Spirit, seven planets, and twelve zodiac signs.  We can divide the letters and their corresponding forces, likewise, into two groups of twelve: the twelve zodiac signs/simple consonants, and the twelve forces/vowels and complex consonants.  The zodiac signs follow a particular celestial order, and while we can ascribe orders to the elements based on density or planets based on distance from Earth, we also recognize that the elements shift among themselves and the planets move around from place to place.

So, if we assign the twelve zodiac signs to the twelve paths of the Gnosis Schema, in the order that we proceed from Mercury to Air to Fire and so forth, we end up with the paths in the same order as the twelve signs of the Zodiac, as below:

tetractys_paths_gnosis_signs

Alright, easy part’s over.  We still have the twelve paths of the Agnosis Schema to set out, and this is where things get a little more complicated.  First, let’s review what we know about the letters and their stoicheia again:

  • There are two sets of forces: zodiacal and energetic.  Zodiacal forces are the 12 signs of the zodiac, and the energetic forces are the four elements, the meta-element spirit, and seven planets.
  • There are four elements of the forces: fire, air, water, earth.
  • There are three modes of the forces.  In the zodiac forces, these are manifested as cardinal (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn), fixed (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius), and mutable (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces).  In the energetic forces, these are manifested as the ideal (the four elements Fire, Air, Water, Earth), the empyrean (the planets of the Sun, Mercury, Moon, and spirit considered as a planet), and the ouranic (the planets of Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn).
  • We can link the ideal mode of the energies to the fixed mode of the zodiac signs, the empyrean to the cardinal, and the ouranic to the mutable.
  • There are four groups of three zodiac signs and four groups of three energies based on element.
  • There are three groups of four zodiac signs and three groups of four energies based on mode.
  • There are thus six forces (three energetic and three zodiacal) for each of the four elements.
  • There are thus eight forces (four energetic and four zodiacal) for each of the three modes.

Drawn out in tables, we see the following:

Fire Air Water Earth
Ideal Fire Air Water Earth
Empyrean Sun Spirit Mercury Moon
Ouranic Mars Jupiter Venus Saturn
Fire Air Water Earth
Cardinal Aries Libra Cancer Capricorn
Fixed Leo Aquarius Scorpio Taurus
Mutable Sagittarius Gemini Pisces Saturn

We know what the letters and their corresponding forces look like for the Gnosis Schema, and we can use that to help guide us with a bit of geometrical innovation to figure out what the paths on the Agnosis Schema should be based on the geometry of element and mode.

Let’s focus on the elements of the zodiac signs first.  If we divide the twelve Gnosis Schema paths up by element, we get the following four figures: three paths for the Fire signs, three for Water, three for Air, and three for Earth.  Below are the paths color coded such that red paths are Fire, blue are Water, green are Earth, and yellow are Air:

tetractys_paths_gnosis_signs_element_color

The Fire and Water signs both emanate out from the central sphere of Mercury, while the Air and Earth signs emanate out from the three extreme spheres of the Monad, Fire, and Earth.  Note that if we look at the Fire set of signs and Water set of signs separately, we can draw an equilateral triangle that connects the outer points of their paths.  These would give us another three paths for both the elements of Fire and Water to complete the set, which forms the hexagram in the center of the Tetractys, a symbol renowned as the mark of combining fire with water.

As for Air and Earth, on the other hand, it gets a little less clear.  We know from the elements themselves that Air likes to connect and bridge gaps, while Earth likes to close it on itself and separate.  Thus, let’s give Air the three paths in the middle of the outer edges of the Tetractys, trying to reach and form one large triangle, while Earth gets the three paths in the corners of the Tetractys, trying to form three small triangles.  Just as the Fire and Water paths intersect with each other to form a cohesive union, the Air and Earth paths must be joined together (though they don’t intersect) in order to form complete wholes on their own; the triangles that the Earth paths form are completed by Air, and the larger triangle that the Air paths form is completed by Earth.  Thus, we have three more paths for Air and three more paths for Earth:

Note the interplay of elements for the paths with this.  The central hexagram joins Fire and Water together, with one triangle belonging to Fire and the other to Water, and if we include the zodiacal paths that connect the vertices of the triangles, we end up with a 2-dimensional birds-eye look of two interlocked tetrahedrons, one pointing up (Fire) and one pointing down (Water).  The hexagon around the hexagram alternates Air and Earth, and with the six zodiacal paths inside the hexagon, we end up with a 2-dimensional view of a cube facing one of its corners, with its 12 edges bounded by the elements four times each.  Each of the elements comes in contact with all the other elements at least once each by means of the paths on the Tetractys, forming a completely yet regularly mixed whole.

tetractys_paths_gnosis_elements_color

Now we need to figure out the modes of the paths, and this is where things get a little less geometrically clean.  We already know the modes of the zodiacal forces, after all, and if we plot them out by cardinal, mutable, and fixed, we end up with this weird “broken W” shape rotated each way around the Tetractys.  Let’s use orange for cardinal paths, purple for fixed paths, and pink for mutable paths:

Remember, though, that these are for the zodiacal forces on the Gnosis Schema, while we need to figure out the energetic forces on the Agnosis Schema.  Both the Gnosis Schema and Agnosis Schema have four paths for each of the three modes, and we’re trying to divide up the twelve hexagon/hexagram paths of the Agnosis Schema into three groups of four.  We did this a ways back when we were discussing the meditation of the divine name IAŌ on the Tetractys by making three rectangles that orbited the central sphere of Mercury:

We used a similar method to complete the division of elemental forces based on zodiacal mode, but now I think that method was somewhat misguided since it conflated the two, and further it never really resolved the association of the hexagram paths of Air to their forces in a clean way.  Instead, let’s talk about what I mean by the energetic modes of Ideal, Empyrean, and Ouranic:

  • Ideal energies are the pure elements themselves, their most high and abstract concepts and overall form to which the other energies are associated.  These are the four elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.
  • Empyrean energies are the four forces of the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, and Spirit.  The three planets here are those that are those represented by the Triadic rank of the Tetractys, associated respectively with Sulfur, Salt, and Mercury.  These are the high holy forces of Light/Sameness, Darkness/Difference, Motion/Existence, and Spirit/Emptiness.  Although “empyrean” literally means “on fire” and often refers to the abode of the gods/God, I’m using it here to denote a different kind of “heavenly planet” from…
  • Ouranic energies are the four forces of Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn.  These are the other four planets that are represented in the Tetrad rank of the Tetractys, and associated respectively with Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.  Unlike the empyrean forces, the ouranic forces (also meaning “heavenly” but in a sense closer to “celestial” rather than “divine”) are not planets associated with the process of alchemy, but planets associated with the materials of alchemy, the four elements.  They’re in a sense “lower” than the four empyrean forces.

We have three modes of energetic forces, and we also have three modes of zodiacal forces.  We’ve already established from before that the fixed signs are closest to the elements themselves, so we can associate the zodiacal mode of fixity with the energetic mode of ideality.  Carrying the idea (pun unintended) through, the zodiacal mode of mutability might best be associated with the energetic mode of ouranicity, which leaves us the zodiacal mode of cardinality which can be associated with the energetic mode of empyreality.  This allows us to associate the zodiac forces with the energetic forces quite nicely and cleanly:

Fire Air Water Earth
Primary
Mode
Cardinal Aries Libra Cancer Capricorn
Empyrean Sun Spirit Mercury Moon
Secondary
Mode
Fixed Leo Aquarius Scorpio Taurus
Ideal Fire Air Water Earth
Tertiary
Mode
Mutable Sagittarius Gemini Pisces Virgo
Ouranic Mars Jupiter Venus Saturn

Although my previous attempt to assign the modes to the three elements of Fire, Water, and Earth may have been misguided, I do like how I assigned the three rectangular sets of paths to the three modes.  Thus, the vertical rectangle with short horizontal paths is still given to the fixed/ideal mode, the diagonal rectangle with short down-right paths given to the cardinal/empyrean mode, and the diagonal rectangle with short down-left paths given to the mutable/ouranic mode.  We thus end up with the following combinations of paths based on their mode:

Putting it all together, we now know the mode of every path in the Tetractys:

tetractys_paths_gnosis_modes_color

When we combine our knowledge of what element each path should be along with what mode it should be, knowing already whether it’s a zodiacal force (on the Gnosis Schema) or an energetic force (on the Agnosis Schema), we end up with a new Tetractys of Life with the appropriate letters on each of the 24 paths:

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_gnosis_paths

Overall, I like this version of the Tetractys more; it has a different “ring” to it, something a little clearer and smoother, but I’m still unsure as yet whether it’s the right one.  Only exploration and testing will show that out, and whether any adjustment (or outright rewriting) is needed.  What’s interesting, though, is how this might affect our exploration of the Tetractys in a structured way.  Note that we’ve assigned the Gnosis Schema paths to the twelve signs of the zodiac.  The Zodiac is the belt of stars that the Sun and all the other planets travel through over the course of their orbits, and we make one revolution through the Zodiac every year.  Thus, we have a sort of solar schedule for how we travel through the paths: for instance, we make the trip between Mercury and Air during Aries, Air and Fire during Taurus, Fire and Sulfur during Gemini, Sulfur and Mercury during Cancer, and so forth until we end up back at Mercury while we’re in Pisces.

The association of the Zodiac with the Gnosis Schema paths, further, divides the year up into three periods, one for each of the Initiatory Cycles as mentioned before. the first four signs (from the start of Aries to the end of Cancer) to the Hot Initiation (Mercury, Air, Fire, Sulfur); the second four signs (start of Leo to the end of Scorpio) to the Cold Initiation (Mercury, Salt, Earth, Water); and the last four signs (start of Sagittarius to the end of Pisces) to the Cosmic Initiation.  Of course, this is slightly adrift from our notion of having four seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, but we do go from a period of cold to hot (heating the year), a period of hot to cold (cooling the year), and a period of just cold (darkest and coldest point of the year).  It’s not hard to make associations between these three quasi-seasons with the three Initiatory Cycles, but of course, my living in the Northern Hemisphere is coloring my views somewhat.

Of course, I don’t think we need to follow the Sun in the Zodiac as we follow the paths in the Tetractys, but it does imply that there’s a natural flow, a cycle that’s inherent in the mechanics of the cosmos.  Consider the three empyrean planets of the Sun, Moon, and Mercury: the Sun only ever goes in one direction through the Zodiac, as does the Moon; Mercury does go retrograde fairly often, but its retrograde periods are also extremely short compared to all the other planets, and is so close to the Sun that it basically is taken along with it.  Spirit, the other empyrean energy, is both lower than and amidst the planets themselves, providing the space and nature for them to exist and coexist at all.  Between the Sun, Moon, and Mercury, there’s a natural flow that pretty much only ever goes in one direction, and that’s around the Zodiac in its proper order.  As the Sun and Moon pretty much define nearly all the natural cycles down here on Earth, it suggests that there’s a natural flow and pull for ourselves to be taken along the Gnosis Schema ever onwards towards gnosis and henosis.

However, we get trapped and caught up by the forces of the other planets and elements, which gets us tangled up and going against the natural flow and rhythm of the Gnosis Schema.  We get swept up in a particular planet’s influence, we get brought down by a particular element’s effects, and we generally get caught up in long periods of retrograde motion and muddled manifestation of forces that keep us from flowing naturally with the cosmos as we should.  In aikido terms, the more stressed we are, the less ki can flow through us; in quasi-Thelemic terms, the more we focus on our temporary will, the less we naturally enact our True Will.  If we could simply incorporate the powers of the planets and elements without being subsumed or dominated by them, we could live with the natural flow of the cosmos to attain our true destinations and ends.  Of course, because of the various influences shining down upon us and emanating from within us, we have to struggle to constantly align and realign ourselves with the natural flow of things.  We have to constantly be on guard so that we don’t fall from Gnosis back to Agnosis; we have to constantly keep ahead of the ghost of Argos so we don’t become trapped once more.

From a Gnostic standpoint, this set of paths makes even more sense than the one before.  While we’re trapped in this world, we’re subject to the seven heavens of planets and their associated archons, which clothe us in misunderstanding and agnosis; they give us false notions of how the cosmos works, as well as how we ourselves work.  But, once we break free of them outside the realm of elements and planets, we enter into the realm of the fixed stars, that starry Eighth Sphere, where we proceed into gnosis.  Quoth the Divine Poemander:

First of all, in the resolution of the material body, the Body itself is given up to alteration, and the form which it had becometh invisible; and the idle manners are permitted, and left to the Demon, and the senses of the body return into their Fountains, being parts, and again made up into Operations.  And Anger, and concupiscence, go into the brutish or unreasonable nature; and the rest striveth upward by Harmony.

And to the first Zone [planet] it giveth the power it had of increasing and diminishing.  To the second, the machinations or plotting of evils, and one effectual deceit or craft.  To the third, the idle deceit of Concupiscence.  To the fourth, the desire of Rule, and unsatiable Ambition.  To the fifth, profane Boldness, and the headlong rashness of confidence.  To the sixth, Evil and ineffectual occasions of Riches.  To the seventh Zone, subtle Falsehood, always lying in wait.

And then being made naked of all the Operations of Harmony, it cometh to the Eighth Nature [sphere of the fixed stars, realm of the Zodiac, etc.], having its proper power, and singeth praises to the father with the things that are, and all they that are present rejoice, and congratulate the coming of it; and being made like to them with whom it converseth, it heareth also the Powers that are above the Eighth Nature, singing Praise to God in a certain voice that is peculiar to them.  And then in order they return unto the Father, and themselves deliver themselves to the Powers, and becoming Powers they are in God.  This is the Good, and to them that know, to be desired.

Thus, while we’re trapped in this world, we cycle chaotically and confusedly around the cosmos without real understanding of how it works, no matter how much we jive with the planetary and elemental forces.  It’s only once we recognize them for the powers that they are that we break free of them, traveling among the fixed stars themselves.  Even in agnosis, there is learning; we need to be aware of what the elements and planets do to us before we can truly break free of them and shed ourselves of their influence.  Once we know how to work them and how to get rid of their influence while remaining in control of them, we then proceed to rise above them to gnosis and understand what the whole cosmos is really about.  Planetary and elemental magic can only get us so far; they cannot get us to the most extreme parts of the cosmos (or, in this model, the outermost spheres of the Tetractys) nor can they get us to a point where we’re balanced and able to go in any direction we want (the sphere of Mercury).  It’s only by making the leap from agnosis to gnosis that we can do that, but even then, we must be on our guard; we can slip and fall back into agnosis by dwelling too much on any one energetic force, allowing it to entrap us once more.

Personally, though I don’t expect this to be the final draft of the Tetractys with lettered paths, I think it’s definitely an improvement, and unless Hermes opens up any more doors in the meanwhile, I expect this to be the system of letters and paths that I’ll use.  If nothing else, it goes to show that there really isn’t just one way to attribute letters to the paths; then again, without having come up with the notion of the Gnostic/Agnostic Schemata, this set of lettered paths wouldn’t’ve been possible.  Still, even using the Schemata as our base, we could still attribute each cycle of Initiations to one of the three groups of energetic forces instead of the zodiac signs, perhaps by giving the empyrean energies to the Hot Initiation, the ouranic energies to the Cold Initiation, and the ideal energies to the Cosmic Initiation.  There are many ways to arrange the paths systematically, so it’s unclear without testing it to see which one works best, if any at all even really matter.  To that end, let’s see how well this particular system can be used.

The Sash of Powers, or a Fancy New Magical Thingie

So, beading and jewelry making has been a recent hobby of mine ever since my good friends in some ATRs got me hooked on them.  The use of colored seed beads and semiprecious (or precious!) stone beads really opens up a lot of avenues for occult crafting and designing.  After all, my carcanets aren’t too bad an innovation, reducing the need for drawing intricate pentacles and expanding on the powerful uses and correspondences of color to various forces.  Still, although having beaded necklaces to represent the forces is nice, I decided one night to make something fancy, something grand, something awesome with these supplies I have on hand.  To that end, I ended up making a large beading project, what I fancifully call the Cingula Potestatum, or the Sash of Powers:

Sash of Powers

It’s a pretty long thing, worn as a sash over one shoulder and down the opposite hip, measuring about 6′ 6″ in length total, which is a surprisingly good fit for someone my height.  I could, of course, wrap it three times around my neck and wear it as an exceptionally elaborate necklace, but having a sash in ceremonial work is surprisingly comforting and empowering.  Basically, the sash represents all the powers I work with: the celestial, supercelestial, subcelestial, elemental, abstract, and divine powers of the cosmos, world, and universe.  After all, other magicians use the lionskin belt from Golden Dawn-style Solomonic work for much the same purpose, and finding ways to jazz up my white ceremonial robe and indicating the powers I call upon is always something I enjoy and support.

The design for the sash can be broken down into seven major sets representing different levels of manifestation or cosmic power in the Hermetic paradigm I work within, each set being separated by a particular kind of bead; the major sets use gold/blue tiger’s eye (solar/lunar or light/dark), the zodiac signs use labradorite, the planets use onyx, the elements use bone, the banners use quartz, and the geomantic figures use dark agate.  I also threw on some skull and eye beads at the end with a crucifix to mark this as an instrument and sign of life, death, wisdom, protection, and holiness; a pentacle of Solomon, or the grand hexagram of Solomon, would work equally well.

  1. The Prime Mover (white, clear, 10 pairs)
  2. The Fixed Stars (silver, grey, 12 pairs)
  3. The Zodiac Signs
    1. Aries (white, red, 6 pairs)
    2. Taurus (emerald, green, 6 pairs)
    3. Gemini (bright orange, orange, 6 pairs)
    4. Cancer (ruby, purple, 6 pairs)
    5. Leo (gold, yellow, 6 pairs)
    6. Virgo (black, orange, 6 pairs)
    7. Libra (white, green, 6 pairs)
    8. Scorpio (black, red, 6 pairs)
    9. Sagittarius (gold, blue, 6 pairs)
    10. Capricorn (ruby, black, 6 pairs)
    11. Aquarius (bright orange, black, 6 pairs)
    12. Pisces (emerald, blue, 6 pairs)
  4. The Seven Planets
    1. Saturn (black, maroon, 3 pairs)
    2. Jupiter (blue, purple, 4 pairs)
    3. Mars (red, orange, 5 pairs)
    4. Sun (yellow, pink, 6 pairs)
    5. Venus (green, orange, 7 pairs)
    6. Mercury (orange, purple, 8 pairs)
    7. Moon (purple, blue, 9 pairs)
  5. The Four Elements
    1. Fire (red, green, 4 pairs)
    2. Air (yellow, purple, 8 pairs)
    3. Water (blue, orange, 20 pairs)
    4. Earth (black, white, 6 pairs)
  6. The Creator: The Twelve Banners of the Tetragrammaton (white forIod, yellow for Heh, red for Vav, black for final Heh in groups of 4 as needed)
    1. IHVH
    2. IHHV
    3. IVHH
    4. HVHI
    5. VHIH
    6. HHIV
    7. VHIH
    8. VHHI
    9. VIHH
    10. HIHV
    11. HIVH
    12. HHVI
  7. The Creation: The SixteenGeomantic Figures (white for active elements, black for passive elements in groups of 4 as needed)
    1. Via
    2. Cauda Draconis
    3. Puer
    4. Fortuna Minor
    5. Puella
    6. Amissio
    7. Carcer
    8. Laetitia
    9. Caput Draconis
    10. Coniunctio
    11. Acquisitio
    12. Rubeus
    13. Fortuna Maior
    14. Albus
    15. Tristitia
    16. Populus

The color choices and number of beads might need a bit of explaining.  The geomantic figures use white and black, fitting enough for their binary and abstract nature, using the order of the beads to indicate the figure (e.g. white-black-white-black is Amissio).  The planetary beads use the Queen and King scale colors of their corresponding sephiroth in as many sets as corresponds to their sephiroth, so Jupiter (associated with Chesed, the fourth sephirah) gets four blue beads alternating with purple beads.  The elemental beads are similar, using the flashing colors of the elements, with the numbers coming from the number of sides of their corresponding Platonic solids (fire/tetrahedron/four, air/octahedron/eight, etc.).  The zodiacal beads use two sources for the colors: the first color given in each set comes from Agrippa (book I, chapter 49), though each color represents two signs; the second color comes from the Queen scale of the sign’s ruling planet.  Thus, Agrippa’s color for Aries and Libra is white, and Aries is ruled by red Mars and Libra by green Venus, so Aries is white and red while Libra is white and green.  I made the Agrippa colors a little brighter or flashier (using reflective red or ruby beads instead of solid red) to help differentiate the beads a bit more.  The pairs of the zodiacal beads come out to 6, each pair representing 5° of that particular sign.  The colors for the sphere of the Prime Mover and of the Fixed Stars as a whole come from the Queen scale of the Tree of Life, though instead of using light blue beads for Chokmah I used clear grey beads; instead of using sets of 1 and 2 for these spheres, respectively, I used 10 (1 × 10) and 12 (2 + 10) since I wanted some substance there, and also since these numbers also work well for their corresponding forces.  The Twelve Banners simply used four earthy colors, representing the faces of Divinity apparent to us down here throughout creation.

Of course, no bit of ceremonial regalia is complete without an accompanying prayer, and the grander the regalia, the grander the prayer, amirite?  Trying to come up with a prayer that hits all the forces that this sash represents, however, would take a lot of doing, except there’s actually something that’s already been written up that fulfills this purpose.  Many of my readers will be familiar with the Circle of Art from the Lemegeton Goetia, especially the version that Crowley and Mathers produced.  This Circle has, around the space where the magician stands, a series of words that are basically the correspondences of the ten sephiroth of the Tree of Life.  Crowley and Mathers “explained” these names, not as a series of correspondences, but rather as a series of prayers to be said when writing out the names.  In effect, the prayers consecrate the circle by connecting the circle and the magician to the sephirah being invoked through the prayers.

Lemegeton Circle of Art

 

Since this Sash of Powers represents, in a more colorful fashion, all the same forces as the Lemegeton Circle of Art, I figured I may as well appropriate the prayers for my own purposes, adding on a bit more to invoke the corresponding angels of the forces invoked.  The resulting set of prayers for the sash then becomes something like this:

God Almighty, God Omnipotent, hear my prayers and the cries of your servant N.!  You, whose dwelling is in the highest heavens, the great King of Heaven and all the Powers therein, and of all the holy hosts of Angels and Archangels, hear the prayers of thy servant who puts his whole trust in You.  Let the holy Angels command and assist me at this and all times; command thy holy Angels above and below the fixed stars to assist and aid thy servant that I may command all the spirits of the air, fire, water, earth, and hell so that it may tend unto Your glory and Man’s good.  O God who is with us, be always present with me; strengthen me and support me both now and forever in these mine undertakings which I do as an instrument in Your hands, o God of Hosts.  Great God, governor and creator of all the planets and the hosts of heaven, command them by Your almighty power to be now present and assist me, your poor servant, both now and forever.  Most Almighty, eternal, and ever-living Lord God, command thy seraphim to attend to me now at this time to assist me and defend me from all peril and danger.  O Great God of Hosts, all-seeing and almighty God, be present with me both now and forever, and let Your almighty power and presence ever guard and protect me at this present time and forever. Great God of Hosts, let Your almighty power defend me and protect me both now and forever.  Come and expel all evil and danger from me both now and forever.  O great God of all wisdom and knowledge, instruct thy poor and most humble servant by thy holy cherubim.  Direct me and support me at this present time and forever.

God Almighty, God Omnipotent, hear my prayers!  May your holy angels of the stars, planets, and elements Metatron, Iophiel, Malkhidael, Asmodel, Ambriel, Muriel, Verkhiel, Hamaliel, Zuriel, Barbiel, Advakhiel, Hanael, Cambriel, Barkhiel, Tzaphqiel, Tzadqiel, Kamael, Michael, Haniel, Raphael, Gabriel, Sandalphon, Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raziel attend to the work of your servant.

May the angelic choirs of the Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Powers, Virtues, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels attend to the work of your servant.

May the seven archangels Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael, Jehudiel, Barachiel, and Sealtiel who stand before the August Throne attend to the work of your servant.

May Your holiest of holy Names resound throughout all creation, and may all creation of Your divine hand be at mine own to aid me in this work.

Is the use of this sash traditional?  Yes and no; there are parallels between other magical practices, such as that of the bandera of Palo Mayombe, elekes of Santeria, the lionskin belt of the Golden Dawn, the stole of Christian priests, and the like.  It’s certainly its own kind of innovation, but it’s one that makes sense, especially as a kind of badge of office when presenting myself to spirits in formal ritual, or if I ever get together and form a temple with others (a laughable notion!).  Still, making use of this kind of crafting is just ongoing development of the spiritual work and work I’m doing.  Who knows?  It may even become part of a new tradition handed down over time.

Colored Views

I recently saw someone on my Twitter feed post a sentiment along the lines of annoyance that people still use the term “white magic” to market or label things in the occult,   The annoyance stemmed, according to them, because the use of “white” to mean “pure” or “good”, and “black” to mean “impure” or “evil”, has significant racist underpinnings.  It got into a kind of mini-debate where I honestly don’t get what there is to be offended about the terms, and that this person wanted the language to change since clearly it has an impact on the occult community with notions of social racism and that the use of such terms acts as a shaming mechanism.

This person also has a Tumblr, and as my witful sister once said about people on that network, “I had no idea there were so many things to be offended about”.

The use of white to mean purity and black to mean impurity goes a long, long way back before the civil rights era or, as far as I can tell, the use of skin color for social discrimination.  Many color associations are ancient, if not instinctual to humans based on our own evolution, and many others are based on traditions and beliefs that go as far back as the beginnings of society itself.

  • The Bible, arguably a foundational document in Western culture, contains many uses of white and black.  The Asperges Me has the phrase “wash me and I will be whiter than snow”.  God separated the darkness from the light on the First Day of Creation.  There are many injunctions to keep pure with white clothes in the Old and New Testaments.  White is associated with innocence, sacrifice, and purity, a la Jesus as the Sacrificial Lamb.  Black and darkness are associated with evil, ignorance, demons, and the like.  (Just as a note, the people who wrote these books were decidedly not white.)
  • Ancient Greek religion considered white animals appropriate for the celestial gods and black ones for the underworld gods.  They also considered the black underworld to be the home of pains, Furies, tortures, and the like, while the white heavens were the home of the beautiful gods and Olympos.  Hades was considered to be a gloomy, dim, dark place for the dead, and Tartarus was said to be the darkest pit of them all for the most wicked.
  • Kali, a violent destroyer purger goddess in Hinduism, is portrayed with black or dark-blue skin, and whose name means “dark one”.  She, however, is often seen as a fearful figure, but has powers for a kind of hard-to-fathom cosmic good, as well.
  • Asian cultures often use white in funerary and purification rituals.
  • Yoruban mythology has the orisha Obatala, the King of White Cloth, good for purification, cooling down, and being detached from drama and pain.  Babalu Aye, the orisha of death and disease, has dark colors like black and purple.  (And these people, who are based in modern-day Nigeria, are most certainly not white.)
  • Cornelius Agrippa mentions that prayers and holy work should always be done with light present, and the Heptameron rituals offer a blessing to purify fire and incense for light and spirit to cast out any darkness or deception from the working area.
  • In ancient Egyptian thought, black was associated with Osiris, the god who died and was reborn, and also with fecundity and fertility, since it was the color of the fertile life-sustaining black soil that remained after the Nile floods each year.

These are only a very few examples I can pull off the top of my head, and I’m sure there are many more some of my readers can think of.

Why might we have had these associations?  Honestly, because we see them in the world.  White things turn black with dirt, grime, and mold.  Food that turns black from another color tends to indicate that the food has gone bad and may make one sick or die when ingested.  Corpses decompose and rot, turning dark colors, over time.  Diseases often leave black marks or sores.  Things that are consumed in fire become blackened and charred.  Metal becomes tarnished and dark.  Nighttime, a time of blackness, is when we cannot see easily and more things can more easily harm or kill us in the cover of shadow than in the daytime.   And so forth, and so on.  These color associations are as old as many others, such as red indicating life and vitality, blue indicating peace or wisdom, gold indicating nobility or wealth, and so on.  Does that make white better than black?  No.  Does that make black worse than white?  No.  They have different purposes for different ends.  Neither is better than the other, just as gold isn’t a better color than silver, or blue over orange.  They have different purposes according to their hue and saturation; that’s it.

Of course, that apparently didn’t matter to this one person.  Apparently, because it’s got such a long history and because it’s so entrenched in our symbolic languages, that’s all the more reason for us to stop using it entirely.  It’s apparently harmful, ignorant, and disastrous to people’s mindsets, and acts as a shaming mechanism to put people of color down.  This person linked me to a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., on this:

Somebody told a lie one day. They couched it in language. They made everything black, ugly and evil. Look in your dictionary and see the synonyms of the word “black.” It’s always something degrading and low and sinister. Look at the word, “white.” It’s always some pure, high and. I want to get the language so right that everybody here will cry out, “Yes I’m Black and I’m proud of it. I’m Black and I’m beautiful”.

…and this quote didn’t really further their argument in any way I could see.  In fact, their argument (as little as they made before the discussion was ended and they rage-unfollowed me) didn’t seem to amount to anything more than “the use of white and black color symbolism is always racist, period”.   I assume, to expand on what they didn’t, that because we use the word “black” to describe people of African descent, all the associations of color we have with black automatically are transferred to them, so we should get rid of the associations, because all those associations are demeaning when applied to humans.  And, to an extent, I agree; calling someone impure, evil, ignorant, and the like is a dick move, even if they are those things.  But calling them those things by means of a color that kinda-sorta resembles the optical result of the melanin in their skin?  That’s even more of a dick move, because it ignores their actual state and misapplies the term itself entirely.  Beating this term and all its associations of ignorance, evil, and the like into their heads because they’re described with a black skin tone is racism, flat out, but that’s not a function of the color having those attributions.  That’s a function of the person being a racist and a douchebag.

To me, the MLK quote indicates that people do, in fact, use the term “black” to signify both evil and people of African descent at the same time.  MLK, as I understand him, wanted to break that association as applied to people.  As a Christian minister, though, he was surrounded with the color associations day in and day out, since it formed a lot of his ethics, religious background, philosophy; these things, however, are meant in a spiritual, metaphoric sense, not necessarily physical.  MLK doesn’t believe that those same associations should apply to people on the basis of their skin color, which is a physical attribute detached from spiritual color, and I agree with that.  Besides, as a magician, I find lots of uses for white and black that do, in fact, correspond to these spiritual meanings.  For purity and blessing and elevation works, I’ll wear white clothes; for cursing, underworld, or grieving jobs I’ll wear black ones.  This is something completely different from skin color; discrimination with skin color came long, long after the spiritual associations of the colors white and black.  This person thinks we should get rid of the color associations; why not, instead, get rid of the racism?

Do I think that the use of white and black in the occult can be bent for social discrimination?  Sure it can!  This would be to abuse the associations, however, and would make one equivalent to European colonists and slavetraders who thought that one with dark skin had “the mark of Cain” or was dumber or whatever.  One’s skin color has no effect on one’s propensity for magic, physical purity, or spiritual purity; it’s a non-issue.  To associate “black magic” with evil and also with black people is to do a disservice to the color itself; to think that black people are always up to no good is mere racism, outside of any occult meaning of the term, and to think that black people cannot do white magic is disastrously wrong on so many levels.  To use metaphysical associations of color to justify social and worldly racism is racism.  It’s just another tool racism can use to propagate itself, but it isn’t a function of the colors themselves.  And if you’re the one doing this?  You’re racist.  Cut that shit out.

Do I think we should use the terms “white magic” and “black magic” at all?  Hell no!  These terms are utterly stupid and fail to illustrate the nuances and fine gradations within the Work as a whole and individual workings.  A noble, magnanimous prayer for victory for one’s country in war necessarily prays simultaneously for the destruction, demolition, and death of the other country (cf. Mark Twain’s The War Prayer).  A working for justice for one who is harmed often harms the one who perpetrated it.  A ritual to kill someone in power often saves those that a megalomaniac leader would torture in turn.  Any particular ritual or working can affect the world in dozens, hundreds, myriads of ways, and to say that “this spell only does good” or “this spell only does bad” is flat-out wrong.  The use of these labels simply isn’t useful in learning, working, or dealing with magic, and should be abandoned.

Do I think the terms “white” or “black” have any use in magic?  Gods, yes.  I think you’ll find the use of colors well-written about on this blog, even in this very post, and white and black are no exception.

Do I think the terms “white” or “black” can be used as a shaming mechanism?  I…guess?  I mean, if you care about labels and descriptors applied by others so much that it forces you to do something or prohibits you from doing something, that’s your business.  If you care about results and getting work done, then it’s not going to matter so long as you actually make your plans and follow them through.  In other words, this kind of “shame” is beneath me and a waste of my time.  Worrying about how other people, with their itty-bitty tiny sliver of human perception seeing no more than an infinitesimal fraction of the cosmos, are going to label your workings when they’re not involved and operating with incomplete knowledge, is not going to help you.  Now, if you’re the one trying to shame others by using these terms, what the hell is wrong with you? It’s honestly none of your business to judge and shame others.  Everyone from Jesus Christ (“judge not, that ye be not judged”) to Aleister Crowley (“it is necessary that we stop, once for all, this ignorant meddling with other people’s business”) has said to stop worrying about what other people are doing and start worrying about yourself, your own actions, and your own will.  It does often happen that people are conditioned by other people using shaming mechanisms or reinforcement techniques and are actually affected by this; it’s shitty, and it happens.  Instead of breaking the associations, which are in fact helpful to have from both a magical and an evolutionary standpoint, why not instead stop using the shaming mechanisms to oppress others, and help those who are oppressed and conditioned to break out of that conditioning through philosophy, magic, and spiritual growth/healing?

Temples are really just for holding all your crap.

With the amount of stuff I’m accumulating and crafting, I need a much larger space to keep all of it, or even a separate building, like an insulated shed.  Hopefully I can get an extra room in my next apartment or house to use as a temple room or something.  Did you know that places like the Parthenon or other temples in the old Mediterranean were ancillary buildings as part of a more general sacred space?  They were used as warehouses to store all the loot they got from wars and worshippers alike.  The actual “temple” and sacred focus of the place was just a small stone altar, which the whole complex was oriented upon.  Funny how the temples get all the respect anymore.

First, the planetary talismans project.  All the talismans have been enmetaled, engraved, colored, and lacquered, with the Saturn talisman drying as I type this.  With the construction happily and mercifully done, and now that Mercury is direct and the Moon waxing, I’m printing out lamens for each of the planetary angels so I can conjure them and consecrate each of the planetary talismans I made.  My plan is to just start with consecrating the Sun talisman this Sunday and continue straight through to Saturday, asking each angel to consecrate the talisman with their planetary essence, as well as to begin the process of integrating its forces into my own sphere.  The Unlikely Mage generously helped me with formulating a request to the angels instead of going “Hey, sup Tzaphqiel.  I was wondering if you in your awesomeness would maybe make this wooden thing I made awesome like you.  That cool?  Sweet.”  If all goes well, I’ll have a complete set of talismans, and a complete altar, before too long.  A divination reading I did recently implied that there might be some delays with this, but we’ll see.

Not long ago I got wind from a local pagan blog that the well-known store Esoterica in Northern Virginia was going out of business.  S’a shame when that happens, but in this economy, it happens.  Everything there was on markdown, and so I helped myself to a number of goodies and ended up spending more than I feel comfortable admitting.  I will admit that I got, amongst other things, a rackful of herbs, a pair of selenite candleholders, and a selenite orb the size of a large orange (so pretty!).  Apparently, I really like selenite.  It’s easy on my eyes and I get a soothing feeling from it. It has connections to Taurus and the Moon, according to a few books I read, and is good for energy work and healing.  (If you know of any other uses or purposes for selenite besides looking really cool, please leave a comment below.)  In addition to all that, I got ten 1yd pieces of fabric for my working altar, one for each Queen scale color of the sephiroth for when I do planetary or qabbalistic rituals (using a dark natural linen cloth for Malkuth).  They’re all a little rough on the edges, so I want to get them hemmed up, maybe using the King scale for the threads.

The selenite orb didn’t come with a decent stand, so I decided to make one.  I had a spare circular wooden plaque lying around, into which I carved in a shallow pit and burned out more-or-less smooth.  Turns out that it fits both the selenite orb as well as my quartz ball I use for conjurations and, surprisingly, the stand itself fits the inner circle of my Table of Practice perfectly.  I decided to woodburn on some more symbols onto the stand (the triangle and its symbols from the Table of Practice, and the Tetragrammaton), which I’ll proceed to use in conjunction with the Table of Practice for conjurations.  With a little bit of stain and finish, the whole set looks kinda awesome.

I actually burned the inner circle before I did the pit, and just happened to make the pit the right size for its circumscribed triangle to perfectly fit inside the inner circle.  The whole thing was done informally with a compass and straightedge.  Without planning the size of the stand with reference to the Table of Practice or measuring the design for the triangle and circles, I almost have a hard time imagining it was just luck that things turned out as nicely as they did.  Almost.

As a side note, be wary when you ask an archangel to introduce you to a familiar spirit “harmonious and compatible with your temperament and self”.  You may end up getting one that likes to flirt with you.