Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Recap, Summary, Variations

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of…well, rather, we finally finished discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  This whole time, I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and earlier today we released the last in this series of posts.  The only thing left to do now, I suppose, is to give a summary of what we’ve discussed in these 21 posts that had over 92,000 (!!!) words between them all; for comparison, this series of posts is nearly 63× the length of the actual ritual text of DSIC itself.

First, an index to all the posts in this series for ease of access:

  1. Introduction to DSIC, the various actors at play, and the crystal ball used to view spirits within
  2. The pedestal for the crystal, the design of the gold plate, and the pedestal’s likely basis in the ostensorium of Catholic Christianity
  3. Introduction to the table, and the debate and decisions behind using either the four kings or the four archangels on it
  4. The planetary components of the design of the table for characters, seals, names, and angels
  5. Assembling the different components of the table together into a coherent design
  6. The basic design of the lamen for the spirits and what the divine names to use on it
  7. The planetary and spirit-specific components of the lamens used for spirits
  8. The design of the wand and the ring used for the ritual
  9. The nature and form of the candles and incense vessel used for the ritual
  10. The Liber Spirituum and its necessary or unnecessary role in the DSIC ritual
  11. The design of the magic circle and both its and DSIC’s origins or connections to the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano
  12. The general ways to consider the construction and consecration of spiritual implements
  13. The specific concerns of materials, timing, and methods to construct and consecrate our DSIC implements
  14. Concerns about ritual attire and general preparations for purification before the ritual
  15. How to set up our temple generally, and specifically how to arrange the magic circle and conjuration altar
  16. How to orient the altar, set up the implements for conjuration on the altar, how to time our conjuration ritual, and whether to use a lamen or pentacle or both
  17. The ritual script and procedure for performing the DSIC conjuration ritual
  18. Advice on conducting yourself in the presence of spirits conjured and ideas on how to work with them
  19. Varying the prayer of conjuration itself to suit non-angelic or non-celestial entities to be conjured
  20. Guidance and advice on what to do when particular aspects of the conjuration ritual go wrong or unexpectedly
  21. Guidance and examples on how to adapt the language of DSIC to avoid Christian overtones in favor of alternate spiritual traditions
  22. BONUS: Francis Barrett’s own notes and approach to DSIC

So, what did we learn from this little blog project of mine we started back in May this year?  Let’s talk about some of the high points and conclusions we can draw, including some stuff that we didn’t place anywhere else in our earlier discussions:

  • The ritual text The Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals is attributed to the Christian abbot Johannes Trithemius of Spanheim, but was most certainly not actually authored by him.
  • DSIC was first realistically published, despite older origins, in Francis Barrett’s 1801 The Magus.
  • DSIC serves as an implementation of conjuration based on many of the ideas, structure, and designs provided by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim in his Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, referencing other entries in his earlier Three Books of Occult Philosophy.
  • DSIC takes Agrippa-style “good spirit” theurgic communion with spirits and combines it with Solomonic-style conjuration of “evil spirits”, especially from the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano (which was translated into English and published with Agrippa’s Fourth Book).
  • Some elements of DSIC seem to be more Solomonic in nature and conflict with the Agrippan/theurgic content, and vice versa.
  • There are now largely two modern schools of implementing DSIC:
    • That of the independently-trained modern Hermetic magician Frater Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) as he taught its use in his Red Work series of courses (RWC) and, later, his Seven Spheres (SS) book, which collectively take a fast-and-loose approach that combines or elides some elements of DSIC in favor of good results fast.  Fr. Acher of Theomagica, also an early adopter of DSIC, falls in line with Fr. RO.
    • That of the by-the-grimoire Solomonic magician Frater Ashen Chassan (Fr. AC), who takes a stricter approach as he teaches it in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (GTSC) to carry out all instructions and designs as close to the letter of DSIC as possible.
  • Despite the desire of many to perform ritual texts “by the book” or “to the letter”, oftentimes without incorporating other grimoires or literary influence, doing so with DSIC is not possible due to how little is actually specified and how it seems to reference other occult texts.
  • The sparseness of DSIC has necessarily led to wide divergence and variability—and as numerous discussions and debates—in how magicians apply DSIC, especially with a popular resurgence in occult literature and practice generally, especially from non-Western methods of occult practice that aren’t necessarily Christian or Hermetic in nature, which was the expected milieu of the audience of DSIC.
  • Based on Google searching and analytics, it honestly seems like there wasn’t any modern interest to speak of (at least, recorded or publicly discussed online) in DSIC up until the end of the first decade in the new millennium.  There is at least one reference to this ritual, or something close to it, being performed in the 1800s (based on the description of a similar piece of equipment, the pedestal and crystal, in Frederick Hockley’s Occult Spells: A Nineteenth Century Grimoire), but little other evidence that the DSIC ritual was ever widely used.
  • It is known that Poke Runyon, aka Fr. Thabion, did bring up DSIC in his Ordo Templi Astarte (OTA) classes at least in the 1990s, but he never went into this text in depth either in the class or in his texts, presenting it merely as an example of crystal-centric conjurations of spirits within a more Ars Almadel-focused approach.
  • Additionally (hat-tip to the splendid Cole Tucker who told me about this after this post went up originally), Fr. Achad discusses DSIC briefly in chapter IV of his 1923 work Crystal Vision through Crystal Gazing, but only at a high level and in the context of crystallomancy and the use of scrying crystals generally.  Though some people have encountered DSIC by this, it’s unclear how many or how often that has happened.
  • Besides Fr. Achad talking about it and Runyon discussing it, it’s unknown how popular this ritual was in modern Western occult practice (I can’t find anything online about it) until late 2006, when Fr. RO began documenting his use of the ritual online and using it in his RWC and his fundamental angelic conjuration ebook (no longer publicly available), Modern Angelic Grimoire, and its corresponding goetic text (soon to be republished), Modern Goetic Grimoire.  Heck, it wasn’t even available on Esoteric Archives until April 21, 1999 (when I was in, like, fifth or sixth grade).  This means that, in reality, the modern application (and adaptations) of DSIC was essentially pioneered by Fr. RO, with Fr. AC coming onto the scene later with a refocus on Solomonic grimoire authenticalism/purism/fundamentalism.
  • As has been shown by Fr. RO and by the actual experiences and implementations of many who came after him, DSIC is a highly flexible ritual, and given how sparse it is in details and specifics, it could well be better considered as a ritual template instead of an actual ritual.  This flexibility allows for adaptation, both in terms of tool use, prayer phrasing, and even the general context of spiritual or religious traditions, so long as a basic understanding of a hierarchical cosmology and framework of receiving and applying divine authority to work with spirits is maintained.
  • DSIC explicitly calls for there to be two people in the ritual, both a magician who conjures the spirit and a scryer who facilitates the communication of the spirit with the magician.
    • This is exactly in line with the vast majority of Solomonic rituals going back to Hygromanteia and PGM times, if not earlier, which call for scryers or other assistants for the magician to be present, just in case the spirit appears to someone else besides the magician.
    • This further allows the magician to focus strictly on managing the overall ritual and temple space, freeing them up to handle any eventualities should and when they occur, as well as handling other ritual needs such as incense consumption or notetaking.
    • However, even though this is a best practice, most modern magicians forego having any assistants or scryers, since we tend to operate independently and alone.  Whether you as the magician operate alone or with a scryer is up to you, depending on your own visionary, discernment, perception, and scrying skills.

Then there are a few great points that were brought up in the course of the discussions and comments of these posts:

  • From Pallas Renatus on the pedestal: if we take the use of the single Hebrew letter Yod as the single-lettered divine name of God per Agrippa and the hexagram as a generalized (solar?) symbol of divinity, then the hexagram with central Yod is a sign of the radiating power and divinity of God into all the cosmos.  Placing this symbol upon the pedestal at the top gives it the centermost and highest symbol of divinity in the whole ritual apparatus: God radiating power and light downwards into and through the four archangels so as to empower and elevate, but also constrain and bind, the spirit present within it.  It is, in effect, “a bare-bones form of what the Table of Practice tries to accomplish in [grander] form, but extended into the third dimension”.
  • On Facebook, Erneus from Magia Pragmatica mentioned that the “ten general names” of God from Agrippa (book IV, chapter 6), which are those that form the bulk of the divine names for the lamen, has an earlier origin from St. Jerome in his “De Decem Dei Nominibus” which he lists as El, Eloim, Eloe, Sabaoth, Elion, Ieje aser Ieje (treated as a divine name), Adonai, Ia (dominus), Iao (dominus), and Saddai.
  • Another great tip from Erneus was that the divine name On (from the wand design) isn’t a Hebrew name, but a Greek one (το Ων); this on its own wasn’t surprising, but he tipped me off that Agrippa himself translates On as Eheieh (אהיה) in book III, chapter 11.  This means that, should one use Hebrew for the three divine names on the wand, you’d end up with three four-letter divine names: instead of Agla On Tetragrammaton, you’d have AGLA AHYH YHVH (אגלא אהיה יהוה).  Along those lines, if one wanted to use something comparable to “Ego Alpha et Omega” (Revelations 22:13), you could use something like אני ראשון ואני אחרון from Isaiah 44:6 (“I am the first and I am the last”, aniy r’išōn v’aniy ‘aḥarōn).  However, given the emphasis on Hebrew godnames (with the exception of “Tetragrammaton”), it’s unclear whether using On itself, either in Roman script or Greek script (ΩΝ) or Hebrew script (ון) really should be replaced by a Hebrew translation or not.  This is a variant that I’d leave up to the individual magician to decide on (though I admit I do enjoy the look and feel of having three four-letter names on the wand, at least if Hebrew is used).  However, given the DSIC author’s familiarity with Agrippa, it can’t easily be explained why they wouldn’t just use a Hebrew name in this case instead of a Greek, if Agrippa himself equated the two.
  • In the post about orienting and setting up the conjuration altar, Fuzzy brought up a point about orienting the table (or Table of Practice) separately from the altar; in other words, regardless which direction the altar is oriented, the table (or Table of Practice) would always be oriented towards the East (or North, if you’re Fr. RO in SS).  To my mind, this would only really be important if you use the double-ring design of the table (or Table of Practice) that has a separate ring of names for the four directional entities (four kings or four archangels), because in the one-ring design, there’s no directionality to be had on the table (or Table of Practice).  It would be weird for me, however, to have the triangle face in any direction besides away from you—especially if you use this method and face West in a conjuration, where the triangle would be pointing right at you, which I consider to be energetically and spatially dangerous.  This also does away with the significance of how we arranged the names of the angels on the pedestal plate, which was meant to line up with the four directions when facing away from the magician; however, if we use any orientation of the altar besides East, that would necessarily have to be done away with, unless if we keep the orientation of the pedestal to the table the same.  I’m not sure how I feel about not keeping the table (or Table of Practice) unaligned with the altar, but that is another valid variation, I suppose, so long as you’re using a separate piece of equipment for the table (or Table of Practice) instead of it being the surface of the altar furniture itself.
  • On the same post, Aaron Leitch himself chimed in and suggested another option for orienting the altar of conjuration: orient the altar towards the direction of the planet itself.  For this, a skymap, compass, or ephemeris would be used, such that if you were to do a conjuration of the angel of Jupiter, and the planet Jupiter was positioned towards the north-northeast, you’d orient the altar towards the north-northeast.  This is basically the system used in other astrological magic texts like the Picatrix.  Moreover, Aaron suggests that whether the planet is above or below the horizon would also be significant so as to tap into the ouranic/celestial side of the planet when the planet is above the horizon or its chthonic/subterrestrial side when below the horizon.  This would give an excellent refinement when used in conjunction with the planetary hour besides simply using a diurnal or nocturnal hour.

But, even after we’ve discussed so much, there are still a few lingering questions that could still be answered by others better than me in the future, perhaps after more research or experimentation:

  • Who is the true author of DSIC?  I consider Barrett himself to be the most likely and obvious possibility, but it’s unclear whether he plagiarized this himself from another source or offered it as an original contribution under attribution to Trithemius.
  • Was DSIC written more as a distillation/simplification of the Heptameron taking influence from Agrippa’s Fourth Book, or was it the reverse, that it was written as an implementation of a combined “good spirit”/”bad spirit” approach from Agrippa, and filling in the gaps with the Heptameron?
  • What were the specific Solomonic influences that led to DSIC?  The Heptameron is a clear influence, but were there others?  How wide and how far back can we trace the Solomonic roots of DSIC?
  • What did the original author of DSIC have in mind for the design of the table, notably left out of the DSIC illustration?
  • How widely was DSIC used after its publishing in Barrett’s The Magus, especially when compared with other forms of conjuration used in Western occulture?
  • What would a full, detailed implementation of DSIC look like in a Iamblichean (or otherwise generally Hellenic) Neoplatonic adaptation?  A PGM adaptation?  An Islamic adaptation?
  • What would a non-Hermetic, non-Solomonic adaptation of DSIC look like?  Would such an adaptation even be possible without relying on a common hierarchical monistic/monolatric/monotheistic divine structure?
  • What would a full, detailed implementation of Agrippa’s theurgic communion with “good spirits” look like?  His ecstatic communion with “good spirits”?  His conjuration of “evil spirits” to a circle?  What other grimoires would most closely resemble Agrippa’s description of such methods?
  • What is the specific Hebrew letter inside the hexagram present on the gold plate, pedestal, and wand?  Fr. RO interprets it as a Yod, Fr. AC interprets it as a Daleth, and Jake Stratton-Kent interprets it either as a Daleth or Resh.  I’m in the Fr. RO camp of interpreting it as a Yod, which seems to be the most sensible choice, but we all know that Western grimoire authors and illustrators weren’t always the best at accurately writing the shapes of Hebrew letters.
  • Regardless of the specific letter used, what is the role of the hexagram with central letter on the plate, pedestal, and wand in the DSIC illustration?  What does the original author of DSIC mean to signify by it?
  • More generally, what is the original, specific role of the three symbols on the pedestal, that of the hexgram with central letter, pentagram, and cross?  Where did these symbols come from?
  • I’ve never been satisfied with a simple or high-level answer regarding the role of the four kings, nor why they would be mixed up in these ritual tools if it’s not a purely Solomonic approach; after all, Agrippa says nothing about them, even in his Solomonic approach, nor are these kings used in the Heptameron, so their inclusion suggests another source or influence entirely.  What is their specific role as far as DSIC is concerned?  How does that role compare to the four archangels?  What is the nature of this role at all?

Now, it’s clear that DSIC, beloved (or not) as it is by many modern magicians and conjurers, isn’t exactly the most clear, unambiguous, or detailed of texts, and that has led to a number of variations in how DSIC can be implemented—on top of the normal adaptations magicians make, anyway, due to laziness, convenience, availability of supplies, or differences in cosmological framework.  So, what about a summary of some of the more reasonable variants that we’ve either encountered or thought up in our endeavor?  We can’t account for every possible variation, but there are a number that even a strict reading of the sparse text in DSIC allows either due to vagueness or ambiguity in the text, or merely because it simply doesn’t say:

  • Using a quartz as the material for the crystal or using a beryl instead, or some other kind of crystal appropriate to the working (especially for the planet of the spirit to be conjured, e.g. citrine or orange calcite for the Sun)
  • Using a crystal that’s clear-colored or colored otherwise (probably a light tinge of red, especially if beryl is used)
  • Arranging the three symbols of the hexagram with central Yod, pentagram, and cross with the divine name “Tetragrammaton” in different orders on the gold plate or in the triangle on the Table of Practice
  • Using the hexagram with a central Yod on just the side of the angels on the pedestal or on both sides, replacing it with a cross, or using no holy symbol at all
  • Using a double circle for the table (or Table of Practice) with one ring of names, or using a triple circle with two rings of names
  • Using any of the following in any order for the planets on the table (or Table of Practice): name, glyph, characters (either Agrippa or Ars Paulina), number square seal
  • Using either one or both of the following for the planetary angels on the table (or Table of Practice): name, seal (usually from Heptameron)
  • Writing the names of the angels in Latin script or Hebrew for the table (or Table of Practice), as well as the specific spellings used in either language based on the source you’re working from (Agrippa, Heptameron, etc.)
  • The order in which the planets/planetary angels are arranged on the table (or Table of Practice) in the ring of names
  • Writing the table (or Table of Practice) design permanently (e.g. engraving, woodburning, paint), or just temporarily (e.g. chalk, coal)
  • Making the table (or Table of Practice) on a small, portable disc, or actually putting it onto/into an actual table surface for permanent altar use
  • Using only one set of divine names used on the lamen based on the DSIC illustration, or varying the names in accordance with the general/specific names based on Agrippa
  • The specific number of pentagrams used on the lamen if only one spirit is to be called
  • Putting the name and seal of the planetary angel in the center hexagram on the lamen, or putting the name and seal of the planet in the central hexagram with the name and seal of the planetary angel in one of the pentagrams
  • Making the lamens always circular in shape, or shaping the overall form of the lamens in a shape concordant with its corresponding planet (e.g. triangular for Saturn)
  • Using the simple hexagram style of ring, or using the Lemegeton style of ring
  • Using just the lamen for the spirit to be conjurated, or using such a lamen in addition to a separate pentacle (i.e. pentacle of Solomon) in addition to the lamen
  • If a separate pentacle is called for, then either wearing the pentacle affixed to the reverse the lamen or wearing/concealing it separately
  • If a separate pentacle of Solomon is to be worn instead of a lamen, then either wearing the lamen for the spirit, or putting it under the crystal
  • Making the lamens in different materials (silver generally, wax, paper or parchment, in metals appropriate for the planet)
  • Using an actual spike-/stake-like brazier or using a tripod brazier for incense
  • Using a properly consecrated Liber Spirituum, or just a generic notebook for writing down information from conjurations
  • Having a permanently-drawn magic circle (tarp, tiles, etc.), or just drawing one out in chalk or coal per conjuration
  • Writing the three divine names in the magic circle in different typefaces and facing different ways, or making them all face the same way in the same typeface
  • Orienting the magic circle to align the four hexagrams with the four directions, or orienting the magic circle such that the quadrant with the spirit’s seal faces the direction of the altar of conjuration
  • Wearing special ritual attire or spirit-specific costume for the ritual, or not
  • Engaging in preliminary preparatory practices involving fasting, abluting, purification, prayer, &c., or not
  • Placing the altar of conjuration outside the magic circle, or placing it inside the circle
  • Placing the altar of conjuration against a wall or in the middle of a room
  • Orienting the altar to face east always, or to face specific directions according to the planet of the spirit being conjured, or any direction at all that’s convenient
  • If using a table (or Table of Practice) separate from the altar of conjuration itself, always keeping the table (or Table of Practice) aligned to the four directions (if such alignment is meaningful based on the design) or orienting it in the same direction as the altar of conjuration
  • Keeping the altar of conjuration sparse (having only the table and pedestal/Table of Practice, crystal, and candles), or decorating it with other elements (e.g. tablecloth, more candles, talismans)
  • What time to begin the conjuration, i.e. starting the first prayer within the desired planetary hour or marking the start of the conjuration itself with the prayer of conjuration
  • Interpreting the three parts of the prayer of conjuration to be a single unit of prayer to be said at once, or each to be said separately in case earlier prayers did not bring the spirit to the conjuration and we need to spur them on faster

And then there are the variations that would or have already been made to account for individual magician’s divergent approaches to DSIC to account for material availability, personal inspiration, incorporation of ideas from other texts, a desire to be lazy or convenient, adapting the ritual for one’s own needs, erroneous understandings of the text carried on as workable practice, etc.:

  • Using a crystal, or using another form of scrying medium (mirror, water vessel, etc.)
  • Using a crystal shaped like a sphere or in another shape
  • Using a crystal that’s entirely clear or has inclusions in it
  • Using a gold plate to suspend the crystal, or using gold-like metal e.g. brass
  • Using a gold plate in the pedestal, or merely gilding or painting in gold the two sides of the pedestal
  • Using ebony or ivory for the pedestal, or using another material entirely for it
  • Making the pedestal in the church-shape (as in DSIC) or the sunburst-shape (as in Hockley’s Occult Spells)
  • Incorporating a hexagram with a central Yod on the pedestal, a cross, both, or neither
  • Using a gold band around the crystal instead of a gold plate suspending the crystal
  • Using a pedestal to support the crystal on top of the table, or using a Table of Practice that combines the design elements of the pedestal and table upon which the crystal is placed
  • For the Table of Practice specifically when not using a separate table and pedestal: using the four kings (Oriens, Amaymon, Paimon, Egyn) or using the four archangels (Michael, Uriel, Raphael, Gabriel), or even both
  • Incorporating extra elements onto the table (or Table of Practice), e.g. signs and/or angels of the Zodiac
  • Writing the name of the spirit being conjured outside the hexagram/pentagram on the lamen, or omitting it entirely
  • Using ebony for the wand, or using another material entirely for it
  • Writing the characters for the wand in gold, or using another material entirely for it
  • Using both “Agla ✡ On 🔯 Tetragrammaton ✠” as well as “Ego Alpha et Omega” on the wand, or just the former
  • Using a hexagram plus a hexagram-with-central-Yod plus a cross on the wand, or replacing the empty hexagram with an empty pentagram to match the three signs on the pedestal
  • Using a ring of Solomon following the Lemegeton model, the Barrett Heptameron model, or another ring entirely, such as the Agla Ring of John Dee
  • Using two candles for the conjuration, or one, or some other number
  • Using candles for the conjuration, or using oil lamps instead
  • Consecrating the candles (or lamps) before use, or not consecrating them
  • Using an actual brazier for the incense vessel, or using whatever is most convenient
  • Using loose incense that would be used on charcoals or in flames, or using self-igniting incense
  • Using the magic circle design in DSIC, or using another magical circle design e.g. the one from the Heptameron
  • Using a physical magic circle at all, or just tracing one out with the wand instead
  • Incorporating other design elements into the magic circle besides just what’s already there in DSIC
  • Consecrating the various elements and implements used in DSIC beforehand, or not
  • Operating with a scryer, or operating alone
  • Operating with non-scryer assistants, or not
  • Using lamens with multiple spirits on them to bring them all at once to the conjuration, or using chained summoning to bring them after a primary spirit has been brought to the conjuration
  • Using just the one prayer of conjuration from DSIC for all spirits of all kinds, or using varying kinds of prayers for specific spirits or specific kinds of spirits for the prayer of conjuration
  • Using the Christian-language prayers of the DSIC text itself, or using alternative adaptations to allow for non-Christian prayers
  • Including preliminary calls to one’s holy guardian angel, agathodaimōn, or supernatural assistant

Alright, that sums it up for this blog project.  But, before we call it quits, there is one last thing I wanted to share.  One of the variations we offered earlier in the post is a variation on the table that uses a proper “double circle” with but a single ring of names.  It’s something I wanted to return to, but there wasn’t much of an opportunity to fit in it anywhere else in our discussion.  Since I think this is the proper interpretation of the DSIC instructions, I wanted to give a better-designed version of that that contains the proper design elements of the planets and the four kings, all written in the Latin script.  Thus, this is what I would recommend for use as a table, plus the front (three symbols and Tetragrammaton) and back (four archangels) of the pedestal inscriptions:

And a secondary variation that could be used as a Table of Practice, based on some of the variations we discussed earlier as well, that I think best combines the design elements of the table and the pedestal into a single piece of equipment, again in the Latin script:

And also, a set of lamens for use with the seven planetary angels, using Latin script for the names, the names taken from the Heptameron, and using a custom set of divine names on the outer ring, both general and specific according to Agrippa:

And notes on the foregoing designs:

  • I standardized the spelling of all names to use the Latin letter I to render I, J, and Y (thus “Iehovah”, “Iah”, and “Iod” instead of “Jehovah”, “Yah”, or “Yod”), and likewise the Latin letter V to render U, V, and W (thus “Vriel” instead of “Uriel”).
  • I moved the divine name Tetragrammaton, split as it was before, but inside the triangle, under the three symbols and above the four archangels.  This way, all of the design elements of the pedestal are now within the triangle entirely, which makes more sense, instead of some being inside and some being outside.
  • I used the seals of the Four Kings from the Clavis Inferni, specifically based on those of the wonderful mage-artist Asterion of Practical Solomonic Magic from his February 2014 post.  I used the names of the Four Kings from the Clavis Inferni, too, which agrees more with Agrippa’s spellings from book III, chapter 24 rather than the spellings in the Scale of Four from book II, chapter 7, though I keep the directional (and thus elemental) associations from Agrippa rather than the Clavis Inferni.  “Maimon” here is used instead of “Amaymon” because Maimon is better attested in older texts and cuts down on crucial space usage.
  • I included two glyphs for each entity in the outer ring on the table/Table of Practice.  For the planetary angels, these are the planetary glyph itself as well as the Heptameron seal for the angels; for the four kings, these are the elemental glyph associated with their directions as well as their seal from the Clavis Inferni.  This satisfies the requirements of the design of the table without sacrificing clarity for the sake of space management, interpreting “seals or characters” for the planetary elements to refer to just the seal of the angels.  Although the DSIC spec only says to include the names of the four kings, I added in the elemental glyphs and seals for them to make the design consistent between the planetary angels and the kings.
  • I changed the direction of the planetary angels and kings on the one ring to start at the bottom and go clockwise in the proper descending order, starting with Cassiel of Saturn and going clockwise from there.  This actually makes it descending instead of technically ascending as in the earlier post.
  • Though I used the Magical Calendar for the seals for most of the angels, I pulled the seals for Sachiel of Jupiter and Cassiel of Saturn from the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano due to their relative clarity and, in the case of Cassiel, completeness.
  • Starting the ring of names at the bottom makes a sort of “gate”, with the most subtle spiritual force (Saturn) on the left hand and the most dense material force (Earth presided over by Maimon) on the right hand.  This organization, read clockwise, helps not only to draw spirits into manifestation under all the seven spheres and four corners of the world, but as we gaze into the triangle from the “bottom”, we can picture our sight “entering in” from the bottom, swirling around clockwise, and exiting once it makes a full cycle back out to us to bring into ourselves a manifest vision of the spirit being conjured.

As for me and my own practice, with any recommendations I might make of my own to implementing DSIC?

  • Ebony, ivory, and gold are fantastic if you can get them, but if you can’t, there are always workarounds.  Their presence certainly helps, but their absence does not impede.  Specifically, while ebony for the wand is ideal, I don’t think the material for the pedestal is at all that significant (as the text itself gives you a choice between ebony and ivory); the important part is the gold plate itself.  Plus, there are ethical issues involved in either material, with ivory often being illegally taken and harvested, and ebony increasingly becoming endangered.
  • Likewise, no, you don’t need a temple room if you don’t have the space or allowance for one.  It’s great if you can, and definitely something to aim for, but not having a dedicated temple space is not going to stop you from doing great magic.
  • The only reason to use a Table of Practice, in which you (according to the usual interpretations) pick either the four kings or the four archangels but not both, is to avoid using the pedestal.  Even if you can’t go all-out on a full ebony pedestal with solid gold plate, Fr. FC’s idea of using a simple painted band around the crystal is sufficient.  The design here matters more than the materials, I’d argue, and the design of the conjuration apparatus as a whole requires both the four kings and four archangels.  However, if you still wanted to forego the pedestal, you could still reasonably argue for using either set of names.
  • The most proper construction of the pedestal for the crystal, as I read and consider it, is to have the crystal exposed on the front side (with the three symbols and the divine name “Tetragrammaton”), but gilded or covered with smooth gold on the reverse (the side of the four names of the angels); this would explain the dark coloration of the crystal orb in the DSIC illustration that’s not distinct from the color of the plate itself.  The two candles should be placed on either side of the table, pedestal, and crystal and brought forward just a bit, not directly to the side, so that the light of the two candleflames can enter into the crystal ball, illuminating and reflecting it as a spherical mirror.  This is the most ideal setup; barring that, with the crystal exposed on the rear of the pedestal, one should have a third candle positioned directly behind the crystal, in addition to the two burning on the sides (which should still be positioned a little forward).  This latter setup would form a triangle around the crystal, and would provide light into it evenly from all three directions.
  • Make your tools large enough to be useful but not too large so as to sacrifice portability and flexibility, as always.  The specifics are up to you and your comfort.
  • Even though DSIC prescribes a specific kind of magic circle (a much-simplified form of the one used for the Heptameron), I don’t think it fundamentally matters, so long as a circle is used, even if just one traced on the ground.  Using a circle custom for the spirit to be conjured, however, can be beneficial in both forging a stronger link to the spirit as well as protecting against said spirit.
  • Use a pentacle of Solomon (I’m most in love with the one from the Veritable Clavicles of Solomon).  It shouldn’t be necessary, but it can always be useful, especially if things go sideways.  This pentacle should be worn on the body of the magician; if the lamen of the spirit is worn, the pentacle should be on the reverse, but otherwise, the lamen should be placed underneath the pedestal (sized appropriately to fit within the triangle of the table) or under the crystal (sized appropriately to fit within the triangle of the Table of Practice).
  • No need for a scryer if you don’t want one, but it can definitely help.  Ditto for assistants.
  • Over my own practice, I developed certain prayers for putting on the ring and also anointing oneself with oil before major works like this that I like using.
  • I cannot recommend enough the Prayer of Joseph the Visionary to use before scrying sessions, the prayer of which was shared once upon a time on Jason Miller’s old blog.
  • Likewise, a brief invocation of one’s holy guardian angel, supernatural assistant, agathodaimōn, etc. is extremely worth your time, no matter what kind of spirit you’re using.  Any such invocation would work, whether a traditional Catholic prayer, one from the Ars Paulina, or the one that Fr. RO uses adapted from the Headless Rite.
  • Take the preliminary preparation period seriously; don’t skimp on your daily prayers, purification, ablution, abstinence, and the like.
  • Build up on prior conjurations, especially if you want to take Fr. RO’s extreme methods of his one-week cycle of “Seven Spheres in Seven Days”, his five-week cycle of going through the planets in descending order, or a two-week cycle of going through the planets in ascending order.  Avoid heavy banishings done in the temple space beyond asperging with holy water so as to keep the resonance of previous works around.

Thank you all for sticking with me over these past number of weeks, and I hope you all enjoyed and learned from what we’ve discovered, discussed, and dreamt up!

And, finally, one last thing: despite the length and detail I went into regarding DSIC, and despite the repeated exhortations of many of my friends, colleagues, and family to do so, I have no intentions (at least at the present time) of writing an actual book about this topic.  Given that there’s already enough hard-published literature about DSIC courtesy of Fr. RO and Fr. AC, and between all the supplies and tools needed for implementing DSIC—even if one takes a bare-bones magic-on-a-budget approach—I figure that people have probably spent enough money on this ritual as it is, and my writing this and sharing it publicly on my website is as much for my benefit as it is for my readers.  If you need to, just bookmark this post, share it with your friends, and save it for ease of access to the rest of the posts in this series, or print out the individual posts and stuff them in a binder for your personal use.  However, if you found this series of posts helpful, thought-provoking, or entertaining and wished you could throw money at me anyway, consider throwing a few bucks my way through Ko-fi!

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It’s certainly not necessary or expected to do so, but it would help me continue my research, experimentation, and web-hosting, and any and every donation for what I share for free on my website is always deeply and sincerely appreciated from the bottom of my heart.  Alternatively, consider checking out what ebooks and services I have for sale, both on my website and on my Etsy!  That’s also a great way to support the things I do, stuff I make, and posts I write.  But, even if you don’t, your reading my blog and hopefully getting something of use out of it is honestly payment enough for me, and I thank you merely for being my reader and companion on this fun little Hermetic path we walk together.

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: The Planetary/Spirit Stuff and Shape of the Lamen

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and now that we wrapped up the table and pedestal (and/or the Table of Practice), we can move on to other topics.  Last time, we began talking about the lamen, where it comes from and how DSIC implements the design given by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim in his (spurious?) Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, and the divine names to be used on the outer ring of the lamen.  If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

Now that we’ve gone over the outer ring of names on the lamen, let’s talk about the actual meat of the thing: the information, names, characters, and layout of all this on the lamen itself.  DSIC itself doesn’t have any text-based description or design of the lamen, but it does give an example of one for the angel Michael of the Sun in its illustration:

More than that, we know that the lamen design is clearly based off of Agrippa’s Fourth Book, from which we know that we need the following (book IV, chapter 10):

…And in the center of the Lamen, let there be drawn a character of six corners (hexagram); in the middle whereof, let there be written the name and character of the Star, or of the Spirit his governor, to whom the good spirit that is to be called is subject. And about this character, let there be placed so many characters of five corners (Pentagram), as the spirits we would call together at once. And if we shall call only one spirit, nevertheless there shall be made four Pentagram, wherein the name of the spirit or spirits, with their characters, is to be written. Now this table ought to be composed when the Moon in increasing, on those days and hours which then agree to the Spirit. And if we take a fortunate star herewith, it will be the better. Which Table being made in this manner, it is to be consecrated according to the rules above delivered…

This means we need to have as main design elements a single hexagram (six-pointed star consisting of two triangles, one laid upside-down on top of the other), and at least four pentagrams (five-pointed stars) arranged around the hexagram.  The central hexagram is the big thing here, as it’s the main focus of the lame.  Everyone I’ve ever seen uses the hexagram to specify the seal and name of the spirit we’re calling upon in the ritual itself; if you want to conjure the angel Michael of the Sun, then following the example of DSIC, you’d put the name “Michael” and his seal in the central hexagon of the hexagram; if Gabriel of the moon, “Gabriel” with his seal, and so forth.  Pretty straightforward, no problems there.

What’s interesting, however, are the pentagrams around the hexagram.  Agrippa clearly says that these aren’t just for decoration, but explicitly for conjuring other spirits.  What sorts of spirits?  Read the first part of the Agrippa quote above closely: “let there be written the name and character of the Star, or of the Spirit his governor, to whom the good spirit that is to be called is subject” and “let there be placed so many characters of five corners….as the spirits we would call together at once”.  In other words, the lamen is designed to be sufficiently general that it can call upon any kind of spirit (and I do mean any kind, admitting that all spirits have some sort of planetary affinity), but in such a way that it reinforces spiritual hierarchies.

So, let’s say that we wanted to perform a conjuration specifically of Nakhiel, the intelligence of the Sun.  In this case, though the usual common modern approach would be to make a lamen with the name and sigil of Nakhiel in the central hexagram, the proper Agrippan method of doing so would be to place Nakhiel and its sigil in one of the pentagrams around the hexagram, keeping Michael of the Sun’s name and character in the hexagram.  Likewise, if we were to call upon Taphthartharath, the spirit of Mercury, and if we wanted to call upon the intelligence of Mercury Tiriel as well to keep Taphthartharath in line, then we’d make a lamen with the hexagram having the name and seal of Raphael of Mercury inside it, with the name and sigil of Tiriel in one pentagram and those of Taphthartharath in another pentagram.

Alternatively, note how Agrippa also says that the name and character “of the Star” can be placed in the hexagram, not just “of the Spirit his governor”.  This means that instead of constructing a lamen such that the ruling angel of that planetary sphere gets put in the middle (symbolically giving that spirit dominance over all other spirits around it), the planet itself would be put in the middle and all the other spirits around it (symbolically recognizing that all those spirits belong to that planet).  Using this approach, if we wanted to make a lamen for Michael of the Sun, we’d put the name “Sol” (or “Sun”, or “Shemesh” in Hebrew/Celestial script, etc.) with the characters of the Sun (book I, chapter 33) or number square seal of the Sun (book II, chapter 22) in the center part of the hexagram, then put the name and seal of Michael in one of the pentagrams around it.  For our Mercury example above, we’d put the name “Mercurius”, “Mercury”, “Kochab”, etc. with either the characters or number square seal of Mercury in the hexagram, with the names and seals/sigils for the spirits Raphael, Tiriel, and Taphthartharath in the pentagrams around it.

I actually like the approach of putting the planet in the middle of the hexagram, but it seems that literally nobody does this: not Fr. RO, not Fr. AC, not Fr. Acher, nobody, not even Barrett himself in the DSIC illustration.  In fact, it doesn’t seem that anyone has ever taken this approach, whether using the planet in the center and all other spirits around it or even using a ruling spirit in the middle and subordinate spirits around it, and the reason is pretty apparent to me: writing names and seals in those tiny pentagrams is hard.  No size is given for the lamen in either Agrippa or DSIC, but if we would need to make the lamen large enough to support both the writing of the name and character of whatever we put in the central hexagram as well as in the pentagram for the spirits, and that’s pretty large, even if we make the central hexagram the same size as the pentagrams—which nobody does, and probably for the simple design reason of making whatever’s in the center stand out visually both in arrangement and in size.

That being said, let’s go back to the DSIC-style lamen that focuses on Michael.  The DSIC illustration gives the name of the spirit twice, once in Hebrew above the hexagram and once in Latin inside the hexagram.  Why both?  Agrippa doesn’t say to do this, and DSIC is silent on the matter.  Yet, it seems that everyone follows this method, and I’m not sure why.  On this, since we’re looking at Agrippa here anyway, let’s turn to Donald Tyson who, in his version of the Fourth Book from Llewellyn, gives both the original text and a lengthy analysis of it, which is super useful here.  He also gives a bit of interpretation of what Agrippa says about the lamen, along with how Barrett interpreted it for DSIC:

… In the center is drawn a “character of six corners”, which I take to mean a hexagram rather than a hexagon.  In the center of this is written the name and character of the planet, or of the governing angel of the planet, to which the angel invoked is subject.

Around the hexagram are placed as many “characters of five corners” (probably pentagrams rather than pentagons, even though Turner [the original English translator for Agrippa] uses the word “pentagons” here) as there are good spirits to be invoked.  If it happens that only a single spirit is to be invoked, nonetheless four pentagrams are used, and in them is written the name and character of that spirit.  What is to be done if two or three spirits are to be invoked is not made clear in the text.  Perhaps four is the minimum number of pentagrams to be used when the number of spirits is less than four. …

In the example of a lamen made to these specifications that is provided by Francis Barrett in his work, The Magus (plate immediately before bk. 2, pt. 4), here redrawn for clarity, we see Barrett’s interpretation of these instructions, which is not without defect.  It is stated that the hexagram should be drawn in the middle of the lamen, but Barrett’s engraver placed it below center.  The name “Michael”, who is the governing angel of the sun, is written within the hexagram in Latin letters, but also in Hebrew letters above the hexagram.  In my opinion this repetition of the name is unnecessary, and it should not be written outside the hexagram.  Also within the hexagram is the character of Michael.  Around the hexagram are six pentagrams, which are uninscribed in this general example of the lamen, but which would represent six spirits under the authority of the sun, and Michael, who are to be summoned.  The names of these spirits would be written in the pentagrams.  Thirteen divine names are written around [the] lamen within a double circle: El, Elohim, Elohe, Lebaoth [sic], Elion, Escherchie, Adoni, Jah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Saday, Jod, Ehevi.  …

I agree with Tyson on this matter, that the repetition of the name of the spirit to be conjured as shown by the DSIC illustration is unnecessary.  Perhaps it’s to specify what the spirit is we’re actually focused on, in case we’re calling upon a subordinate spirit?  It’s not clear, but I don’t think that it’s needed.  In that case, we could get rid of the outside-the-hexagram name entirely to save some space to make the central hexagram and surrounding pentagrams larger, giving us more space to write names and seals where needed.  However, it would also seem that I and Tyson are in the minority there; everyone else appears to use the name (written most often in Hebrew, sometimes both Hebrew and Latin, and even in one instance where I’ve seen it written in Arabic)  outside any such star in the lamen.

But, going back to the pentagrams, Agrippa says that there should always be a minimum of four.  Why?  It’s not stated in the Fourth Book, and as far as I can tell, it’s not in the Three Books, either.  There are two things that come to mind that might explain this, and the first is a pretty simple one: four stars for the four directions, kings, or archangels.  This effectively reinforces the notion of four “pillars”, for lack of a better term, to further ground and align ourselves as the magician in connecting with the spirit or spirits we’re conjuring, and given the stellar alignment of the angels in general, I’m guessing that these would be the four archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel as would be present on the pedestal/table/Table of Practice…but I don’t like this explanation, as I’d expect such an alignment to be made more explicit if that were the case.

Rather, I think what’s going on is that the Fourth Book is designing lamens in a general enough way to account for a minimum of four spirits per planet no matter what.  Hear out my logic on this:

  • In book II, chapter 10 and chapter 13, Agrippa gives us a single angel for each of the seven planets.
  • In book II, chapter 22, Agrippa gives a bunch of divine names for each planet, including subordinate spirits.  The planets Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, and Mercury all have one intelligence and one spirit each; Venus has an intelligence, spirit, and intelligences; and the Moon has a spirit, a spirit of spirits, and an intelligence of intelligences.
  • To account for all seven planets, there are either three or four total spirits: one angel, one spirit, one intelligence OR intelligence of intelligences (for the Moon), and (only in the case of the Moon) a spirit of spirits OR (only in the case of Venus) intelligences.
  • This method then suggests that the name and character of the planet should be in the hexagram, with all other spirits in the pentagrams.
  • Thus, because there are a baseline of four entities for each planet (though most only have three), there should be four stars at minimum, to account for all these different subordinate spirits given in book II by Agrippa.

Now, I don’t fully buy that explanation, either, because what if we have, say, six solar spirits that aren’t any of the above, even if we were to put the angel of the Sun in the central hexagram?  After all, there are plenty of texts that give a variety of spirits, messengers, intelligences, and other types of spirits for the planets, in addition to one’s own familiar spirits that one might receive from that sphere as well.  I don’t know, but that’s the best explanation I can come up with for why there must be four pentagrams from an Agrippan perspective, and it is a workable explanation, if it weren’t for the fact that for most planets, only three pentagrams would suffice using this logic.  I can’t say for sure.  There might be something I’m missing, or another textual influence that I’m not picking up on here.  (We’ll probably return to this point later on when we talk more about such influences.)

And what about using more pentagrams?  Just keep adding them on, I suppose; Agrippa just says to have as many pentagrams as there are spirits to be conjured.  That said, the fewer, the better; I suppose we should stick to at least one but no more than six in a single conjuration.  Heck, as the Arbatel says (in aphorism VI.36), “Care is to be taken, that experiments be not mixed with experiments; but that every one be onely simple and several: for God and Nature have ordained all things to a certain and appointed end…therefore simplicity is chiefly to be studied, and the knowledge of such simples is to be sought for from God”.

All the same, Agrippa is clear that there needs to be at least four pentagrams.  Yet, even if we put the angel we’re conjuring in the central hexagram, it doesn’t seem like we need to go with the minimum number of pentagrams in general.  After all, the DSIC illustration itself gives six pentagrams around the hexagram, even though the caption gives the lamen only to Michael, and Fr. AC, following the DSIC example, always gives six pentagrams to all of his lamens in GTSC.  Fr. RO, on the other hand, prefers to stick just to four, as shown by his RWC version and SS version of the lamen for the angel of Jupiter below:

Personally, I fall in line with DSIC and Fr. AC to always use six pentagrams around the lamen; it just looks nicer.  But, knowing what my lamens I already use look like, what would they look like if we took some of our observations above into account?  Let’s say we wanted to make a lamen for the angel Michael alone, and another one for all the four main Agrippan spirits of Venus (angel Anael, intelligence Hagiel, spirit Qedemel, intelligences B’nai Seraphim).  What would we do?  Here’s the approach I’d probably take nowadays:

  • Use the ten general divine names (or twelve, as I said last time), plus any others for the specific planet of the spirits to be conjured
  • Write the divine names in Latin script, starting from the top of the lamen (and not the left), beginning with the general names and ending with the specific ones
  • Use the planet’s name (in Latin) and character in the hexagram
  • Put the other spirits’ names and characters in the pentagrams
  • Use the standard Latin-script spelling of the angels from the Heptameron, corrected Agrippa elsewhere (e.g. reading “Bne Seraphim” as “B’nai Seraphim”)
  • Only write the name of each spirit once in its proper star, i.e. no big name outside any of the stars inside the ring of divine names
  • Always use six pentagrams, even if fewer spirits are being conjured
  • Try to place and balance out the names in the pentagrams however necessary according to the number of spirits

That would get us two lamens like the following:

Of course, if we wanted to use the common approach of putting the presiding angel in the hexagram instead of the planet, we’d get these:

While I like the change in the divine names to make use of the more planetary-specific ones, I think we can see why the pentagrams are so underutilized for spirit names and characters: they’re so damn small that it really is a pain to have names in them without making the central hexagram as small, too.  This is a bother, but it is following specifications according to Agrippa.  But why have pentagrams at all in this use?  Consider what Agrippa says in book IV, chapter 12 when dealing with stubborn or lying spirits: “if you doubt of any lye, make without the Circle with the consecrated Sword, the figure of a triangle or Pentagram, and compel the Spirit to enter into it”.  We’ll get into the topic of magic circles later, but note the similarity here of what’s going on: we’re putting a spirit into a structure of binding and obedience.  But, if we’re not putting anything into them, then an argument could be made that we shouldn’t have them at all in the design.  I wouldn’t know how to answer that point, because I simply don’t know what purpose the pentagrams themselves fill on the lamen if they’re not used for containing spirits, but they are used all the same.

However, DSIC does say nothing about using the pentagrams on the lamen in this way, so perhaps the author of DSIC meant (for this very same reason) to just use just one spirit for the lamen, and that placed in a central large hexagram so as to avoid difficulty when writing the names.  For that, I think a third version might be best, which is just the second set of lamens above without any secondary spirit and the central hexagram much larger than the rest:

You’ll also note that all of the pentagrams are pointing upward in these lamens.  While I can think of good meaningful reasons to do so, it feels a little weird to me only because there’s a graphical imbalance and improper use of whitespace.  I would personally be inclined to rotate each pentagram so that it points outward from the central hexagram (as I showed in my second set of “custom” lamens from before), but that’s just a minor stylistic choice on my part.  Looking at the older grimoires, like the Key of Solomon and Lemegeton or Heptameron, it seems like it’s about 50/50 whether surrounding pentagrams are rotated or not.  You could take it or leave it, I suppose; it’s a really minor difference, but I think it looks a bit nicer.

And, just to clarify something I mentioned in passing in the last post: what if the spirit we’re conjuring isn’t a planetary one?  What if we’re not conjuring an angel, intelligence, spirit, messenger, familiar, etc. of a planet, but some other sort of spirit entirely, like a spirit of the land, a demon, or some other type of spirit?  What would we do for all the planetary stuff?  Well, in short, there is nothing that is not planetary in some way; Agrippa is clear on this point that all things that exist underneath in or underneath the realms of the seven planets have an affinity with a planet.  Every possible spirit can be given some sort of planetary nature; indeed, in book IV, chapter 12 (“Calling forth evil spirits to a magic circle”), if we want to call upon an “evil” (demonic, goetic, whatever) spirit:

…it first behooves us to consider, and to know his nature, to which of the Planets it agrees, and what Offices are distributed to him from that Planet; which being known, let there be sought out a place fit and proper for his invocation, according to the nature of the Planet, and the quality of the Offices of the said Spirit, as near as the same may be done…let there be chosen a convenient time, both for the quality of the Air, serene, clear, quiet, and fitting for the Spirits to assume bodies; as also of the quality and nature of the Planet, and of the Spirit, as to wit, on his day, or the time wherein he rules: he may be fortunate or infortunate, sometimes of the day, and sometimes of the night, as the Stars and Spirits do require. …

In that sense, the same lamen format as given above can be used for any spirit.  For instance, if we wanted to use the DSIC method for a spirit from the Lemegeton Goetia, eschewing that specific conjuration method in favor of the DSIC one, we know from the Lemegeton that “the seals of those 72 kings are to be made in Metals, the chiefest King[s] in gold, Marquises in silver, Dukes in copper, Prelates in tin, Knights in mercury/pewter, and Earls in [a mix of] copper and silver equally alike”.  Note that these are the metals given to the planets, and were written originally using the planetary glyphs to stand in for the terms for the metals.  Admitting that the seals of Earls should probably be made in iron, if it weren’t for iron’s property of destroying spirits, then we’d have planetary affinities for each of the 72 demons of the Lemegeton Goetia.  So, if we were to make a DSIC-style lamen for, say, Dantalion, we know that he’s a duke, and thus given to the planet of Venus, so we’d put the name and seal of Anael the angel of Venus in the central hexagram and the name and seal of Dantalion in a pentagram around the hexagram.

Just another small note after all that: I made a point to say that, when describing my lamens above, that I would “write the divine names in Latin script, starting from the top of the lamen (and not the left), beginning with the general names and ending with the specific ones”.  The DSIC lamen starts the divine names at the leftmost point of the lamen and goes clockwise from there.  I find this odd and can’t figure out the reasoning for it; both I and Fr. AC start at the top and go clockwise, but Fr. RO sticks closer to the DSIC illustration and starts at the left, as well, so he’s being more faithful to the DSIC text here.  The only thing I can think of is—maybe—when wearing the lamen, assuming the lamen should be facing away from the magician towards the crystal (and I see no reason why that wouldn’t be the case), the name “El” would be present closest to the right hand, the hand which DSIC says is to both wear the ring and use the wand.  We’ll touch on those two items later, but that’s the only thing I can think of to explain the positioning of the starting point of divine names on the lamen in the DSIC illustration, and it’s not a very good explanation at that.  Still, something to point out.

And one last note!  While we’re touching a bit on materials here, I want to save the materials for the lamen (and all the other tools and supplies, bits and bobs of DSIC) for a later post, there is something else to mention here as well: what shape should the lamen be?  We know the design of it as given in this post and the previous one, but we know that we need to make this lamen to wear from the neck on the chest for the conjuration.  Knowing that the design should be in a double circle as shown above, what shape should the item as a whole be?  Agrippa says that the “outward form or figure thereof may be square, circular, or triangular, or of the like sort, according to the rule of the numbers” (book IV, chapter 10).  This suggests that we should be using a polygon of a number of sides equal to the “rule of the numbers”, as suggested by Agrippa in book II, chapter 22, i.e. three for Saturn, four for Jupiter, and so forth.  That means:

  • Saturn: triangle
  • Jupiter: square
  • Mars: pentagon
  • Sun: hexagon (though Fr. AC in GTSC gives a lovely sunburst pattern for one example of this with 24 rays, and 24 = 4 × 6)
  • Venus: heptagon
  • Mercury: octagon
  • Moon: nonagon (which Fr. AC in GTSC gives a beautiful scalloped form for each of the sides, each side curving inwards slightly)

However, in general, a circle will suffice for them all, as all polygons are approximations of the circle anyway, which is properly has no number of sides at all (except, perhaps, infinite).  However, if you have the means for it, go with shaping the lamen in a shape appropriate to the planet being conjured, as it will increase the planetary attunement and resonance you’re going for to begin with for the lamen.

To make the lamen wearable, there are three major approaches I can think of:

  1. The first is simply to poke or bore a small hole at the top of the lamen itself and thread it with a ribbon, string, cord, thong, or some other kind of strap to make a large pendant out of it, wearing the lamen directly on the chest.  This is easiest no matter what material you make the lamen out of.  The strap can be colored appropriately to the planet of the spirit.
  2. The second approach is to construct the lamen so that it has a hook or loop at the top of some sort; think of those pre-made, pre-cast pewter pendants you’d get.  This is best if you can make the lamen out of some sort of durable material like metal; it keeps the body of the lamen unpoked and unholed, while giving it a more professional, finer look.
  3. The third approach, which I personally prefer, is to make the lamen as a sort of insert into a frame.  This keeps the lamen whole and without having to poke holes in it.  For this purpose, I got a small circular wooden picture frame and put a hook in the top of it with a cord passing through it.  This way, I get to keep my lamens whole and unpierced while still making them able to wear around the neck.  However, this only really works with thin lamens made out of paper or thin metal.

With that, I think we can wrap up this bit on the lamens.  We’ll pick up with some of the other tools from DSIC next time, specifically the wand and the ring mentioned in the ritual text.

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Agrippa’s Lamen Design and the Divine Names

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and now that we wrapped up the table and pedestal (and/or the Table of Practice), we can move on to other topics.  Last time, we wrapped up the Table of Practice, putting together all the elements we discussed previously, and now we can move onto other topics, and today, I want to talk about the lamen.  If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

The biggest challenge in implementing DSIC is the table upon which the pedestal sits (the GTSC approach), or if you prefer to forego the pedestal and lump its designs into the table, creating a Table of Practice to perform the conjuration by (the SS approach).  The reason why this is so challenging is that DSIC only gives the briefest of descriptions about the table without giving an example of how it should look, as well as the pedestal where only one half of it is shown.  But, once we get the table and pedestal and/or the Table of Practice out of the way, the rest of the text’s tools and methods becomes a lot easier to grok and implement.  Let’s remind ourselves what the illustration from DSIC looks like:

Today, let’s (finally) move on from the table/pedestal/Table of Practice talk and get on with the other implements, and specifically, let’s talk about the lamen.  What even is a lamen?  The word itself is (supposedly) Latin, meaning “plate” as in “breastplate”, and typically refers to a wide or large flat thing worn as a pendant suspended from the neck on top of the chest.  In conjuration rituals, there are plenty of different types of lamens, as many as there are grimoires; sometimes the lamen is specifically attuned to a particular spirit to be worked with, sometimes it’s just a general design used to protect the person who wears it in all conjurations.

The lamen of DSIC is of the former type above, where it’s described…well, it isn’t, really.  DSIC mentions the lamen once, and not even by that term:

Then taking your ring and pentacle, put the ring on the little finger of your right hand; hang the pentacle round thy neck ; (Note, the pentacle may be either wrote on clean virgin parchment, or engraven on a square plate of silver and suspended from thy neck to the breast), then take your black ebony wand, with the gilt characters on it and trace the circle…

That’s it.  There’s no description given in DSIC about the lamen at all, besides the illustration given.  That’s it.  There’s no description given in DSIC about the lamen at all, besides the illustration given.  So, what do we see as far as that?

  • A ring of divine names (El, Elohim, Elohe, Zebaoth, Elion, Escherchie, Adonai, Jah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Saday, Yod, Ehevi)
  • A squiggle at the end of the names
  • Inside the ring of divine names, the following:
    • The name of the angel Michael, given in (wobbly wonky) Hebrew square script
    • A hexagram underneath the Hebrew name
    • Six pentagrams, one each between the arms of the hexagram
    • The name Michael written in Latin along with the seal of the angel Michael

So…where do we go from here?

First, note that the text says “the pentacle”, not “the lamen” or “the holy table” like what the DSIC illustration says.  Nobody has ever said or suggested anything else but that the pentacle refers to anything but the lamen, as even Joseph Peterson of Esoteric Archives says in his notes on the ritual that “the lamin [sic] is also referred to in the text as ‘the pentacle'”.  This makes sense, as there’s no other mention of anything else that could be the lamen in the ritual text itself.  Remember this, because we’ll touch on this later on in a future post.

For comparison, let me show what I’ve been using this whole time.  I’ve made two forms of lamens in the past based on my work with Fr. RO’s RWC and SS, one closer to the DSIC form and one of my own style that I like a bit better for stylistic reasons.  I present both styles, old and new, below, made according to the names and rules given by Fr. RO, using Celestial script for the angelic name instead of square script Hebrew.

It’s important to recall that DSIC was not written in a vacuum.  Heck, even as far as derivative late Solomonic works, DSIC isn’t really a complete text on its own.  Yes, if you know how to read between the lines and take the Arbatel approach of “real magicians already know what to do with this”, then you can figure out what to change and what to replace in order to conjure other spirits, but even then, DSIC has a lot going on behind the scenes that isn’t apparent in the text.  We know that DSIC makes its (almost certainly likely) appearance in Francis Barrett’s The Magus, which was largely plagiarized from a whole bunch of other texts, especially the Three Books and Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy of Henrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim.

In that context, what DSIC is actually presenting makes a lot of sense.  Consider that Agrippa’s Three Books provides a true wealth of information about, well, occult philosophy: the occult-yet-natural virtues of various things in our world, the spiritual significance and meaning behind so many of the things occultists and magicians do, the cosmologies and structures that underlie occult practice and worldviews, and a general overview of different approaches to the divine and to the occult that were used in both antique and (then) modern times.  However, despite all this, Agrippa only provided information about the occult that could be used in rituals, without providing any rituals to actually use.  That’s where the Fourth Book comes into play; this book, which may well be spurious and not actually penned by Agrippa himself, especially since it appeared thirty years after Agrippa’s death and given that one of Agrippa’s students denounced its attribution to his teacher.

Regardless of its origins, it does tie into and build upon the Three Books by giving a bit more meat of actual occult practice, at least where the conjuration and interfacing with spirits is concerned, and gives actual implements and practices to use.  The short text begins (my emendations for modern style and spelling):

In our Books of Occult Philosophy, we have not so compendiously, as copiously, declared the principles, grounds, and reasons of Magic itself, and after what manner the experiments thereof are to be chosen, elected, and compounded, to produce many wonderful effects; but because in those books they are treated of, rather theoretically, then practically; and some also are not handled completely and fully, and others very figuratively, and as it were Enigmatically and obscure Riddles, as being those which we have attained unto with great study, diligence, and very curious searching and exploration, and are heretofore set forth in a more rude and unfashioned manner. Therefore in this book, which we have composed and made as it were a Complement and Key of our other books of Occult Philosophy, and of all Magical Operations, we will give unto you the documents of holy and undefiled verity, and inexpugnable and irresistible magical discipline, and the most pleasant and delectable experiments of the sacred deities. So that as by the reading of our other books of Occult Philosophy, you may earnestly cover the knowledge of these things; even so with reading this book, you shall truly triumph. Wherefore let silence hide these things within the secret closets of your religious heart, and conceal them with constant taciturnity.

This also explains why the Fourth Book also included other texts, such as Agrippa’s “On Geomancy” and non-Agrippan texts including the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano, the Isagoge, “Of Astronomical Geomancy” of Gerard of Cremona, and the Arbatel, all of which serve to fulfill an all-around practice of magic for someone in Agrippa’s day in the 1500s and early 1600s.  However, even then, the Fourth Book could only be used as a guide to spiritual works and conjurations of spirits if someone knew how to piece together what was presented there.  The rest of the texts could be used as extensions of this, but if one were to focus just on the Agrippan non-geomantic works, then there’s not a whole lot to cover; the next best choice would be to use the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano, which doesn’t fully line up with what’s given in the Fourth Book.

That’s where DSIC comes into play.  If you match up what’s in DSIC with Agrippa’s Fourth Book, you see more than just a few parallels; it’s as if DSIC was written as a direct implementation of what’s prescribed for the occult practice of conjuration of spirits in the Fourth Book.  Not all of it, mind you; some of DSIC, especially the prayers, come from other Solomonic texts (including most certainly the Heptameron but also likely other sources), and some of the equipment isn’t described in Agrippa that’s used in DSIC.  However, of them, the lamen most certainly is.

Using Joseph H. Peterson’s chapter numbering of the Fourth Book, we turn now to book IV, chapter 10 which has information “cocnerning the invocation of good and evil spirits”, in the first parts regarding the “Preparation of the place of working and other things to be arranged” generally and “the holy table and lamen” specifically:

Now the Lamen which is to be used to invoke any good spirit, you shall make after this manner; either in metal conformable, or in new wax, mixed with species and colors conformable: or it may be made in clean paper, with convenient colors: and and the outward form or figure thereof may be square, circular, or triangular, or of the like sort, according to the rule of the numbers: in which there must be written the divine names, both the general names as well as the special. And in the center of the Lamen, let there be drawn a character of six corners (hexagram); in the middle whereof, let there be written the name and character of the Star, or of the Spirit his governor, to whom the good spirit that is to be called is subject. And about this character, let there be placed so many characters of five corners (Pentagram), as the spirits we would call together at once. And if we shall call only one spirit, nevertheless there shall be made four Pentagram, wherein the name of the spirit or spirits, with their characters, is to be written. Now this table ought to be composed when the Moon in increasing, on those days and hours which then agree to the Spirit. And if we take a fortunate star herewith, it will be the better. Which Table being made in this manner, it is to be consecrated according to the rules above delivered.

And this is the way of making the general Table, serving for the invocation of all good spirits whatsoever. Nevertheless we may make special Tables congruent to every spirit, by the rule which we have above spoken of concerning holy Pentacles.

(Just to note, even though the text here says that this is the design for the “holy table and lamen”, the two terms should be considered identical to each other and not with one referring to the table used to support the pedestal or the Table of Practice, as even the DSIC illustration gives the caption to the lamen as “the Lamen, or Holy Table of the Archangel Michael”.)

When this refers to “the divine names, both the general names as well as the special”, he’s referring to an earlier chapter, book IV, chapter 6 on pentacles and sigils:

But we now come to speak of the holy and sacred Pentacles and Sigils. Now these pentacles, are as it were certain holy signs preserving us from evil chances and events, and helping and assisting us to bind, exterminate, and drive away evil spirits, and alluring the good spirits, and reconciling them unto us. And these pentacles do consist either of Characters of the good spirits of the superior order, or of sacred pictures of holy letters or revelations, with apt and fit versicles, which are composed either of Geometrical figures and holy names of God, according to the course and manner of many of them; or they are compounded of all of them, or very many of them mixed. And the Characters which are useful for us to constitute and make the pentacles, they are the Characters of the good Spirits, especially and chiefly of the good spirits of the first and second order, and sometimes also of the third order. And this kind of Characters are especially to be named holy; and then those Characters which we have above called holy. What Character soever therefore of this kind is to be instituted, we must draw about him a double circle, wherein we must write the name of his Angel: and if we will add some divine name congruent with his Spirit and Office, it will be of the greater force and efficacy. And if we will draw about him any angular figure, according to the manner of his numbers, that also shall be lawful to be done. …

…Moreover, let there be written about it the ten general names, which are, El, Elohim, Elohe, Zebaoth, Elion, Escerchie, Adonay, Jah, Tetragrammaton, Saday.

There’s plenty else in the chapter, too, that describe the sorts of pentacles that we’d see from texts like the Key of Solomon, or like what Balthazar Blacke describes for making custom kabbalistic seals and pentacles.  But the above part is what we want to focus on for making lamens, which constitute a pentacle of sorts for a given kind of spirit.  (Also, note that “double circle” phrasing again.  Remember what we talked about when we brought that up for the design of the DSIC table?  I just wanted to point that out again.)

So let’s sum up what Agrippa is saying about the lamen.  A lamen should be constructed from the following:

  • A double circle
  • Between the two circles, a ring of divine names, both the general (El, Elohim, Elohe, Zebaoth, Elion, Escerchie, Adonay, Jah, Tetragrammaton, Saday) as well as any specific ones (presumably to our spirit we’re conjuring)
  • Inside the ring of divine names in the inner circle, the following:
    • A hexagram, in which is written the name and character of the planet or of the spirit that governs it
    • Four or more pentagrams around the hexagram, each containing the name and character of the spirits to be conjured that belong to the planet or which are ruled by the spirit whose own name and character is written in the hexagram

What DSIC is using here as the design for the lamen is basically one interpretation of the instructions given by Agrippa!  First, let’s talk about the divine names.  I once brought up a brief analysis of the names on the lamen as given in DSIC a good long while ago, which some might be interested to read at this point, but let’s focus now on what’s in Agrippa and what’s in DSIC (and accounting for spelling differences):

  • Common to both: El, Elohim, Elohe, Zebaoth, Elion, Esc(h)erchie, Adona(y/i), Jah, Tetragrammaton, Saday
  • Only in Agrippa: —
  • Only in DSIC: Jehovah, Yod, Ehevi

It would seem that DSIC uses the same basic set of names that Agrippa suggests as the ten general names, and adds three more on top of that.  This suggests that these three names are specific for Michael of the Sun in some way, but it’s not entirely clear.  If we turn back to the numeric Scales of Agrippa (book II, chapters 4 through 15) to find what these names might pertain to, then we get:

  • Jehovah (YHVH): this is the name of God of four letters above and beyond any else, and features prominently first in the Scale of Four, which contains references to Michael, especially if we give the letter Yod (the first letter of the name) to the column in which Michael appears (the first column of the table).
  • Yod, found in the Scale of One.  This is the “one Divine essence, the fountain of all virtues and power, whose name is expressed with one most simple Letter”, and is associated with the Sun.
  • Ehevi, which doesn’t appear in Agrippa, but Fr. RO interprets this name to be a variant spelling of Eheieh (AHYH, אהיה), which would be found in the column for Kether in the Scale of Ten; not exactly specific to the Sun, but it’s a reasonable interpretation.  However, based on this spelling in Latin, we’d expect something like AHVY (אהוי) or even HHVY (ההוי).  This latter name appears twice in the Scale of Twelve, being a permutation of the Tetragrammaton, specifically given to…Pisces.  Okay.  However, if we go back to using the spelling Ehevi and אהוי, then we get a name that uses the four letters in Hebrew that can serve as vowels: aleph, heh, vav, and yod.  Given that this name is well known in Hebrew kabbalah (in some cases serving as the name associated with the “left side of Da`ath”, which I don’t think is a concept in Hermetic qabbalah) and in many other occult texts, I think it should really should be “Ehevi” and not “Eheieh” as Fr. RO makes it out to be; Fr. AC keeps this as “Ehevi”.  Yet, I can’t rightly explain why DSIC would use Ehevi here, especially as the name doesn’t otherwise appear in Agrippa or in Francis Barret’s The Magus.  It might be that, from the earlier entry in The Magus that describes the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano which uses a highly similar list of godnames (“Adonai, El, Elohim, Elohe, Zebaoth, Elion, Eserchie, Jah, Tetragrammaton, Sadai, Lord God Most High”), that “Ehevi” might be a Hebraicization of “Lord God Most High” on the part of the author of DSIC.

What’s not clear is whether, based on Agrippa, DSIC proposes to use all these names for all conceivable lamens or whether we should use the ten general names from Agrippa plus any other divine names that are associated with the planet or spirit that we’re focusing on.  Going down the Scales in Agrippa, as well as looking at all the different divine names answering to the numbers of the planets (book II, chapter 22), we can come up with this list of names specific to the planets:

  • Saturn: Vav (if we want to give the third letter of the Tetragrammaton in the Scale of Four to the third column, containing this planet), YHVH Elohim, Ab, Hod, Yah, Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh
  • Jupiter: Heh (if we want to give the second letter of the Tetragrammaton in the Scale of Four to the second column, containing this planet), El, Abba, Ehi, El Ab
  • Mars: Yod (if we want to give the first letter of the Tetragrammaton in the Scale of Four to the first column, containing this planet), Elohim Gibor, Heh, Adonai
  • Sun: Yah (if we want to give the first name given in the Scale of Two to the first column, containing this planet), Yod (if we want to give the first letter of the Tetragrammaton in the Scale of Four to the first column, containing this planet), Eloh(a/e), Vav, Heh, Eloah
  • Venus: Heh (if we want to give the second letter of the Tetragrammaton in the Scale of Four to the second column, containing this planet), YHVH Tzabaoth, Aha
  • Mercury: Vav (if we want to give the third letter of the Tetragrammaton in the Scale of Four to the third column, containing this planet), Elohim Tzabaoth, Azbogah, Din, Doni
  • Moon: El (if we want to give the second name given in the Scale of Two to the second column, containing this planet), Heh (if we want to give the fourth letter of the Tetragrammaton in the Scale of Four to the fourth column, containing this planet), Shaddai, Hod, Elim

Since there’s often some overlap between these names and the ten general divine names Agrippa says to use in his Fourth Book, the overall lists of names we might want to use—if we wanted to be completionist about it, and to keep both “Jehovah” and “Ehevi” as general names to make the overall number twelve, which Agrippa says is a number “of grace and perfection”—then we’d end up with the following lists of names to use for the planetary lamens (using my preferred spellings):

  • Saturn: El, Elohim, Eloah, Tzabaoth, Elion, Esherehie, Adonai, Yah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Shaddai, Ehevi, Ab, Hod, Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh
  • Jupiter: El, Elohim, Eloah, Tzabaoth, Elion, Esherehie, Adonai, Yah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Shaddai, Ehevi, Heh, Abba, Ehi, Ab
  • Mars: El, Elohim, Eloah, Tzabaoth, Elion, Esherehie, Adonai, Yah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Shaddai, Ehevi, Yod, Gibor, Heh
  • Sun: El, Elohim, Eloah, Tzabaoth, Elion, Esherehie, Adonai, Yah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Shaddai, Ehevi, Yod
  • Venus: El, Elohim, Eloah, Tzabaoth, Elion, Esherehie, Adonai, Yah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Shaddai, Ehevi, Heh, Aha
  • Mercury: El, Elohim, Eloah, Tzabaoth, Elion, Esherehie, Adonai, Yah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Shaddai, Ehevi, Vav, Azbogah, Din, Doni
  • Moon: El, Elohim, Eloah, Tzabaoth, Elion, Esherehie, Adonai, Yah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Shaddai, Ehevi, Heh, Hod, Elim

Note that I didn’t include some names, like “Elohim Tzbaoth”, because this name is composed of two words, “Elohim” and “Tzabaoth”, both of which were already included in the ten general names.  In the case of Mars, for which there’s the divine name “Elohim Gibor”, I only added “Gibor”, since “Elohim” was already present in the general names.  Still, even with those considerations, the above lists are pretty above-and-beyond the completionist.  Both Fr. RO and Fr. AC just stick with the names given in the DSIC lamen (with the Fr. RO substitution of Ehevi with Eheieh), which I think is fine, but if you wanted to go the extra distance and use planet-specific names for the lamens, then you’d probably want to consider using the above.

Also, I simply ordered these names by using the general names that Agrippa gives in his Fourth Book first, then the specific names at the end of that list.  In the DSIC example, which has the order “El, Elohim, Elohe, Zebaoth, Elion, Escherchie, Adonai, Jah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Saday, Yod, Ehevi”, two of the non-general names are at the end (as we would expect using this method), but one of them (Jehovah) appears earlier on, immediately after Jah.  I don’t know why this would be the case; perhaps because Jah and Jehovah are already so similar, that they might belong together in some way?  I dunno.  But I think the general rule of giving the specific names at the end would make sense.

There’s also the matter of the squiggle in the ring of names on the lamen in DSIC.  While I’ve seen some replicate this same squiggle in their own productions of the DSIC lamen (mostly Fr. RO’s earliest forms of the lamens from RWC), both Fr. AC and the later works of Fr. RO don’t (and when they agree, I think we know for a fact that this is the proper approach).  I think the reason for the squiggle is easy: when the illustrator of DSIC filled up the ring of names around the lamen, there was extra leftover space, and given that it’s better to have a filled space than an unsightly blank one in something like this, a squiggle was used as just a space-filler, nothing more.  However, it could be implied that this space could be used for yet other divine names, but given the construction of the lamen above, I think we’d’ve already covered that.

So, in the end?  You could just use the “general names” that Agrippa describes in his Fourth Book, or you could use them plus the planet-specific divine names (which aren’t the names of specific spirits) as he gives in his Second Book.  While most magicians who make use of DSIC today (myself included) just use the set of names on the lamen as the DSIC illustration gives it, I think this may well be a misstep on our parts, including names that can be considered specifically solar for all planetary spirits regardless of their planetary affinity.  If we just stick with Agrippa’s general divine names, then we would be good for all spirits no matter what, which might be the safer option.  There’s no way to tell conclusively what the author of DSIC specifically had in mind, but I think it’s what we’re seeing from Agrippa’s Fourth Book about the general and specific divine names of God being used.

We’ll pick up next time on the real meat of the lamen: the stuff that makes it specific for a particular spirit to be worked with.

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Putting The Table Together

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and right now, we’re in the middle of focusing on the Table of Practice and how DSIC instructs the table and pedestal to be made.  Last time, we continued our talk by figuring out the planetary stuff we needed to fill in around the edge of the table, but due to vague wording and phrasing, it’s not quite clear exactly what planetary stuff is needed, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a consensus on that front.  If you need a refresher, go read the last post!

Now that we have our choice of names, symbols, signs, and everything else out of the way, how do we actually put them all together?  DSIC tells us:

…Let them be all written within a double circle, with a triangle on a table; on which place the crystal on its pedestal: this being done, thy table is complete (as in the Fig. D,) and fit for the calling of the spirits…

The major thrust of this is describing something that surprises nobody: a triangle within a circle.  While I can’t actually cite anyone specifically that might say so (because this is something that I feel is pretty common at this point to say and think), the triangle and circle is pretty much the mainstay of the locus of conjuration.  We see, basically, the same thing in the Triangle of Art from the Lemegeton, just with the circle inside the triangle instead of outside it:

The general thinking on this is that the effectively circle binds the spirit (because the circle is a shape that has no end to its lines, or corners to slip through, but an infinite unbroken boundary), while the triangle (being the first possible polygon with the fewest possible points/lines) helps to give the spirit form.  But, there’s also the fact that the triangle, being a shape with three sides, is also qabbalistically connected by that number to the planet Saturn, which could also suggest making the spirit more obedient and susceptible to our threats and demands.  It’s reminiscent of what Agrippa says in his Fourth Book when dealing with “evil spirits” whose oaths or statements you doubt (book IV, chapter 12):

And after all the courses are finished, then cease a little; and if any Spirit shall appear, let the Invocant turn himself towards the Spirit, and courteously receive him, and earnestly entreating him, let him first require his name, and if he be called by any other name; and then proceeding further, let him ask him whatsoever he will: and if in any thing the Spirit shall shew himself obstinate or lying, let him be bound by convenient conjurations: and if you doubt of any lye, make without the Circle with the consecrated Sword, the figure of a triangle or pentagon, and compel the Spirit to enter into it; and if thou receivest any promise which thou wouldst have to be confirmed with an Oath, let him stretch the sword out of the Circle, and swear the Spirit, by laying his hand upon the Sword.

Here Agrippa uses either a triangle (figure of Saturn) or a pentagon (figure of Mars), though he might also mean “pentagram” instead (but which would suggest a pentagon in its center by virtue of its geometrical shape), and considering the context here, I’d be more inclined to think that the triangle isn’t used so much to help the spirit take physical form as much as it is constrain it, at least according to Agrippa.  Your mileage may vary.  It is interesting, however, that Agrippa describes no such device for working with “good spirits” earlier in the Fourth Book when he mentions how to call upon “good spirits” using either his prayer-based approach or his ecstasy approach (book IV, chapter 10).  (We’ll see more of this weirdness in future posts about the difference in approach between “good spirits” and “evil spirits”.)

All well and good, but there’s that phrase “double circle”.  It seems that everyone who’s worked with Drawing Spirits Into Crystals DSIC, whether or not they use the pedestal, interprets this to mean that there are two rings of names, one for the planets and angels (along with “their seals or characters”), and one for the four elemental kings inside that; this is the form of table that’s used by everyone that I’ve ever seen.  In this system, the four kings are placed evenly spaced on the inner ring aligned with the four elements, typically with Oriens (or Michael) aligned with the Sun towards the East.  For the sake of simplicity for now, let’s use a very basic table design that spells all the names out in the Latin script, uses the four kings instead of the four archangels, and uses only the glyphs of the seven planets along with the names of their corresponding angels:

And, of course, there’s at least one interpretation out there that puts the four kings on the outside, with the seven planets on the inside.  This is certainly a far more uncommon arrangement (most people would cosmologically place the planets “higher up” and the elemental/worldly “further down”), and I’ve only ever seen one such Table of Practice design made by Eryk Adish on Etsy:

But…on a closer reading of the phrasing being used here, and thinking back to other texts that use similar phrasing, I’m not entirely certain that this double-ring-of-names setup is what the text actually implies.  I mean, it makes graphical sense, but “double circle” may not mean two circles of names, but rather, two geometric circles between which the names are written. In this case, I think what DSIC is suggesting is that we have only one ring of names and seals, which is bounded on the outside and on the inside by a circle; these two circles would be the “double circle” within which would be all the things we’d be engraving.

In this case, we’d need to figure out an order for placing the names of the four kings into this, as well, since these things must be given “in order”.  I think we should tie this into the order of the planets we mentioned above, and seeing how the four kings (being representatives of the four elements) come after the planets, it suggests that there’s a notion of density at play here: the further we get along in the order, the denser we get.  This argues in favor of starting with Saturn, then proceeding to Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, and then to the Moon, and then the four kings.  What order for the kings?  Keep the order going in terms of density: Oriens (Fire), Paimon (Air), Egyn (Water), Amaymon (Earth).  This would use the elemental domains of the four kings rather than their directions; if we were to go clockwise starting with Oriens in the East (to befit a magician operating in the northern hemisphere to match the passage of the Sun), then we’d have the order of Oriens, Amaymon, Paimon, and Egyn; those in the southern hemisphere might use the reverse order.  Of course, if we were to just use the elemental density order, then it wouldn’t matter where we’d be on Earth.  Fitting the four kings into this descending order of the planets just ties it into a grander descending order of forces of the cosmos, as can be seen in the Cosmographia diagram above (look closely at the elemental patterns in the center of the diagram).

That said, even though that might be a strict interpretation of “let them be all written within a double circle”, that might be a little too strict and literal.  It kinda breaks with this notion we have that the four kings are a species apart from the planetary angels, that the elements of this world are of a different nature than the planets of the spheres above; while, yes, it can be reasoned out to make everything “fit” within one ring of names, it’s probably more graphically pleasing and cosmologically sound to use two rings of names, writing everything essentially “within a triple circle” instead of a double circle, with the planetary engravings on the outer ring and the four kings (or four archangels, if that’s your jam) on the inside.  However, the DSIC text says what it says.

In either case, using either two rings of names or one ring, in the inside of all the above would be the triangle.  Though DSIC doesn’t specify where or how it should be drawn, it makes sense to have the innermost circle circumscribe the triangle.  Given the description in DSIC, there’s nothing to be engraved inside the triangle, nor outside the triangle and inside the inner circle.  This is probably the easiest part to interpret from a lack of depiction and description of the entire DSIC introduction, and completes the construction of the table itself.

In that light, let’s compare the one ring design with the two ring design, with the planetary order of decreasing geocentric distance followed by increasing elemental density.  Let’s agree to use the four kings for this, and for the sake of a simple construction as above, we’ll limit ourselves to using the names of the four kings, the glyphs of the planets, and the names of the the planetary angels, all spelled out in Latin script, with nothing else.  Completed with the innermost triangle, we’d get ourselves two designs like the following:

The first one on the left has the planetary stuff and the four kings given in the conventional layout of, but that second one on the right with just one ring of names “all written within a double circle” follows from a strict and literal interpretation of DSIC, and…it works.  It makes sense.  We start at the bottom and, going clockwise, proceed through the four kings (in order of their corresponding element based on zodiacal direction), then the seven planets/angels, proceeding from the Moon/Gabriel and going up to Saturn/Cassiel.  This works, and is entirely a valid way to construct a table according to the instructions given in DSIC in the absence of any illustration.  Plus, it also reminds me of the conjuration circles used in texts like the Grimorium Verum, Grand Grimoire, and Grimoire of Pope Honorius, though admittedly those were intended for the conjurer to stand in, not for the basis of the conjuration area for the spirit.  Still, using this single-ring approach does make sense, it follows from the DSIC text, and is an entirely valid approach to creating the table.

But, despite its cleanliness and orderliness…it’s taking me a while to like it.  While it does appeal to me, it seems that literally nobody has ever used this interpretation of what “double circle” means.  Not that it’s unbalanced, but it does feel a bit mismatched to put the four kings in the same ring as the seven angels, on top of it probably feeling unfamiliar and with me not recognizing this as a proper table.  I think it would make more graphical sense to more people, at least, to interpret “double circle” as two circles of names, not one ring of names written between two circles, but that’s not a strict and contemporaneous interpretation of DSIC.  For the sake of keeping the conversation going, I’m going to stick to the two-circles-of-names and not one-ring-of-names-in-two-circles design, because that’s what makes the most immediate cosmological and aesthetic sense to me.  That said, if you were to take a single Table of Practice approach that uses the four archangels instead of the four kings…that could well be appropriate.  We said before last post that figuring out what “seals or characters” would be needed for the planetary parts of the table design was the most serious linguistic point of contention, but I stand corrected: it’s this, at least for the table (there are others which we’ll talk about when we get to that point of our DSIC discussion).  Despite putting the lid on the single-ring design, we’ll come back to it at a later time; for now, we’ll stick to the two-ring design, only for the sake of expediency and it’s what everyone already knows, likes, and wants.

But while we’re here, there is one plausible reason I can think of for putting the four kings on the same “level” as the seven planetary angels.  Given their nature, and considering their potentially old predecessors going back to Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian times, this is actually something to consider: the four kings could be considered survivals of the “four winds” from ancient Mesopotamian times, which were considered deities in their own right and on the same level as the planetary gods of those cultures.  If we consider the role of the four kings here and what they’re doing based on what we said before (and consider also Agrippa, book III, chapter 24, my emphasis in bold text: “every one of these Spirits is a great Prince, and hath much power and freedom in the dominion of his own planets, and signs, and in their times, years, months, days, and hours, and in their Elements, and parts of the world, and winds“), and if we consider the role of the seven planetary angels here to channel and distill their respective planetary forces in a way that the kings would the worldly, elemental forces, then it makes sense that the four kings here would be included with the seven planetary angels.  This would mean that the table isn’t necessarily a cosmogram or anything to show how everything is ideally arranged, but that the presence (and support) of the seven planetary angels and four kings of the world would collectively help to channel, focus, and materialize the spirit in the crystal as visibly and physically as possible, lending it a share of all the forces that combine to manifest everything in this world.  In other words, the presence of these spirits isn’t about the actual planetary and elemental forces, but about the spheres of heaven and four corners of the world, using distinctly worldly processes to bring something to manifest within the triangle; consider how the Circle of Art from the Lemegeton has the snake with all the divine names and attributes of the ten sephiroth of the Tree of Life curling inward towards the center.

On top of that, the “four winds” of back then were assigned to the four zodiac signs of Scorpio (or Aquila), Aquarius, Taurus, and Leo—the four fixed signs, which later became identified with the four archangels Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, and Michael.  In this light, this means that not only the four kings can (and arguably should) be arranged with the seven planetary angels, but that they would, reaching back to their shared origin, be essentially interchangeable with the four archangels.  Not a bad idea, and another point in favor of those who would use the four archangels instead of the four kings on their DSIC tables.

Anyway, let’s continue.  If we were to go with our earlier design choice of using the planetary glyphs, the planetary characters, the names of the angels, and the names of the kings, with the names written in Latin, we’d get the following for our one ring and two ring forms:

Forgive me for having to bunch up the (more numerous) characters for the Sun and Jupiter, but I didn’t want to rebalance all of the spacing for all this just yet.  The idea is there, though.  You can envision what it’d be like for incorporating the angelic seals, too, based on this; smaller font, smaller characters, and a lot more densely-packed use of space on the outer ring.  But, despite all the complexity here, I think this is closer to what DSIC is actually instructing us to do:

…the table on which the crystal stands the following names, characters, &c. must be drawn in order.  First, The names of the seven planets and angels ruling them, with their seals or characters. The names of the four kings of the four corners of the earth. Let them be all written within a double circle, with a triangle on a table…

But, in the end, there you have it.  More table designs for use with DSIC based on different yet equally strict and accurate interpretations of the rather terse instructions given by the text itself.

Whugh.  That took a lot more words, explanation, surveying, and arguing with Adobe Illustrator than I expected, to be sure.

Now, in light of everything above?  Given the lack of explanation of the table in DSIC, as well as the fact that there’s no visual depiction given, along with the level of specificity that is given to the pedestal itself, I want to make the claim that the specific design used for table itself probably doesn’t matter that much, honestly.  It seems like the real focus in DSIC is given to the pedestal supporting the crystal with the names and symbols to be engraved around it, with the table itself being described almost as an afterthought.  In that light, it’s not the table doing the bulk of the protective and spiritual work as far as providing for the right woogity in the ritual (besides the magician themselves, of course), but the pedestal itself.  If we were to actually give credence to the notion that Johannes Trithemius wrote DSIC (and, personally, I don’t), well…recall that he was an abbot, and thus would be more inclined towards religious magic of a higher and more theurgical nature rather than goetia or necromancy, and recall how we likened the pedestal to a monstrance.  In that light, the shape and purpose of the pedestal makes a lot of sense: it’s a monstrance not for displaying the Host or relics, but the presence of actual spirits themselves; the table should be decked out in the signs and symbols of the seven planets and four elements to facilitate the presence of spirits, sure, but beyond that, I don’t know whether DSIC really cares as much about the table as about the pedestal.  Honestly, if somehow you got the money and means to get one, my hunch is that even the use of an actual monstrance that once held a consecrated Host would alone be sufficient, with a crystal or some material held in the chamber, to perform DSIC with, even without a table or names of angels or kings or whatnot; if you can get such a mosntrance and use it on a table, all the better.

Note that I’m not saying that the table doesn’t matter at all; if it didn’t matter, DSIC would probably say as much, or even just decline to mention anything about the table at all.  But so long as the basic idea of the table is there—a triangle circumscribed by two circles, along with planetary names/angels/characters and names of elemental kings (or elemental angels if that’s the route you want to take)—then I think you’ve got enough of what you need to perform the DSIC ritual.  Heck, I’m not 100% convinced (more like 99%) that you need the planetary stuff and the names of the kings at all, honestly, so long as you’ve got the appropriate pedestal made in the appropriate way.  There’s nothing saying you shouldn’t use them, of course, and I’m not making that claim either, but I don’t think it’s as necessary or as important to the spirit of DSIC than having the pedestal.

So, then, why do we focus on the table, or as we like to call it, the Table of Practice?  Because so many of us like simplicity, and let’s be honest: it’s a lot simpler to have a single tool (one Table of Practice) than two tools (table and pedestal), and it’s a lot simpler to have a free-standing crystal ball than having to set it in something else, which requires some specialty crafting skills that not everyone has.  Heck, already not a lot of people have the crafting skills necessary to make even a rudimentary Table of Practice, despite that it’s not that hard to do.  Since DSIC-compatible Tables of Practice began being made about ten years ago, until the advent of Fr. AC’s reintroduction of the pedestal as a separate item, the general approach has largely been focused on combining the designs of the pedestal with the table into a single Table of Practice, and that approach is workable enough, simple enough, and effective enough to do what DSIC claims to do.

Those readers of mine who somehow maintained their mental acuity after all this time that I’m only just now using the phrase “Table of Practice”.  When it comes to the DSIC method on its own terms, of which Fr. AC tends to hit closest to the mark, DSIC says to use both a table and a pedestal; however, when the pedestal and table are combined into something like what Fr. RO (and Fr. Acher, and the Scribbler, and Satyr Magos, and myself, etc.) uses, then you get the Table of Practice.  I’m using the phrase “Table of Practice” to refer to the single-apparatus approach instead of the dual-apparatus approach of table and pedestal, and I think that might help clarify some of the language around all this stuff.

The three symbols of the hexagram with central Yod, the pentagram, and the cross are placed in the corners of the central table triangle, while the use of the name Tetragrammaton tends to get dropped out, though some magicians engrave circularly around the triangle in the gap between the triangle and the (inner) ring of names.  The names of the angels from the pedestal either get left out entirely or replace the names of the four kings, making those names left out; I’ve never seen a Table of Practice that has both the four angels and the four kings.  I’ve seen only one such example of this from Tye, and it puts the names of the angels in the same ring as that of the kings on tyetknot’s Tumblr but in a way that doesn’t follow much with the directions we should see (Raphael in the North?  Uriel in the West?), and though I get the logic behind it, that doesn’t seem to mesh well with me.

But what would it look like if a Table of Practice did have both sets of names that did agree with the nature of the tools that DSIC instructs us to use?  Given how we’re combining the inscriptions on the pedestal with the inscriptions on the table, and noting that we combined the three symbols inside the triangle, this would suggest we should have the four angels inside the triangle as well.  This doesn’t completely surprise me; I mean, we see something similar going on with the Triangle of Art from the Lemegeton Goetia (see the earlier pictures in this post), after all, with the name Michael being split into three—and note how it’s fundamentally a table unto itself, consisting of a circle and triangle and divine names including “Tetragrammaton”.

Further, note how, in the Lemegeton Goetia’s Triangle of Art, there’s a circle inside the triangle itself.  This leads me to a design choice where, just as we can have the names of the four kings on an inside ring within the ring of planetary angelic names, bounded by a circle above and below it, we can have the names of the four archangels on a ring within the triangle, bounded by another pair of circles above and below it.  If I were to make a final, let’s-get-it-all-in Table of Practice design, based on everything above, then we’d end up with this:

This design of the Table of Practice, using two rings as is conventional at this point, with all the names spelled out in Latin script, has all the elements from both the pedestal and the stand on a single surface, and even though foregoing the pedestal isn’t true to the instructions in DSIC or to Fr. AC’s grimoire-strict methodology, this does have all the symbols necessary and in roughly-equivalent positions, just presented in two dimensions horizontally rather than three dimensions horizontally and vertically.  As a result, this might be the most true-to-the-spirit Table of Practice for DSIC-type work, should one forego the pedestal, and it also resolves the debate between having either the names of the four kings or those of the four angels by including both sets of names in an appropriate location.

And, for kicks, let’s do one more design: a final complete Table of Practice that has all the above plus the twelve zodiacal angels in another ring outside that of the planets and their angels, with the planetary and zodiacal angel names written in Celestial Hebrew :

It is weird, I admit, to have the four archangels “underneath” the four kings, but I’m not trying to represent a vertical relationship anymore once we get under the four kings.  Remember that everything in and around the triangle comes from the design of the pedestal, which is supposed to be stand above the table; if we do away with the pedestal (and it’s not true to DSIC to do so), then we should still make an effort to keep the same symbols from it onto the table to make a combined Table of Practice.  It’s common enough to do this by putting the three symbols of the hexagram with central Yod, pentagram, and cross into the corners of the triangle, but those could just as easily go outside the triangle, too; the circumscribed “Tetragrammaton” is unheard of in the way depicted above, either, but I’ve never seen anyone include both the four kings as well as the four angels.  While one could restructure the Table of Practice to put planetary angels on the outside, the four archangels inside them, and the four kings inside them, I think putting the archangels closest to the center of the Table of Practice makes more sense because those are supposed to be closest near the crystal.

One more conjecture at this point, now that I’ve plowed through enough Illustrator work for one day.  Now that I think about it…well, remember what I pointed out about the Triangle of Art from the Lemegeton above?  It’s fundamentally the same thing as the table: a triangle and a circle with some divine names written around it.  If you had a properly-constructed pedestal—or a consecrated monstrance—you could probably just plop that on the Triangle of Art and it would work as well.  After all, nobody’s complained about the Triangle of Art lacking kings or angels or planets and it’s been used for goetic conjurations for quite some time, and they’ve gotten great results with that tool, despite the lack of planetary stuff or the four kings.  My hunch is that you could use just a regular, simple, boring Triangle of Art and a properly-made stand for the crystal and it would be sufficient for DSIC ritual use, omitting everything above about the specific needs of the table from DSIC despite what DSIC says about it.  That’s just a conjecture, but given some of the discussions above, I think there’s a good logic to it that could well be experimented with for those who have a pedestal or monstrance.

When I set out to write about this topic, I had no intention of making this a full survey of the various Tables of Practice that are currently in use by a variety of magicians, nor did I anticipate going into detail on the various versions of the names one might use, but I’m glad I did.  Still, this is just one aspect of the DSIC equipment; there’s still the lamen, circle, and wand to talk about.  We’ll pick up on some of those next, though given how DSIC actually gives examples of those, there’ll be a lot less to discuss, and we’ll have more fun with the Fourth Book of Cornelius Agrippa, besides!

Clarifications on Terms for Symbols

It’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine when people badly use terms in an occult context.  To be fair, different traditions may use certain terms in particular ways that are specific to that particular tradition, which may or may not differ from normal use.  Other groups treat some terms completely interchangeably when, strictly speaking, the terms signify different things.  Generally, however, there’s not much rigor in how people use specific terms, and end up misusing them (through their own ignorance and confusion) or abusing them (to intentionally mislead or annoy others).  I’d like to clear up a few things and offer some of my definitions for particular terms used in an occult context, this time focusing specifically on terms used for different types of symbols.

For any of these terms, “symbol” is the highest-level term I can think of for any of these following terms.   If you’re not sure what kind of symbol a particular thing is, just say “symbol”.  Everyone understands that.  Not everyone understands what a particular person means by “sigil” or “rune”, however.  Granted, these words are given with my personal definitions, and again, may not be those used by other traditions.  However, for the sake of having a regular inventory of words with specific, unambiguous meanings, here’s how I use these particular things.

Glyphs are symbols used to indicate a basic thought or sound.  In other words, a glyph is much like a written-down word.  Individual letters communicate sounds; individual numerals communicate numbers; individual Chinese characters communicate sounds or concepts or words; the glyphs for the planets, zodiac signs, elements, and alchemical concepts communicate those things and only those things.  Glyphs are essentially a generalized notion of a letter in an alphabet; they are characters in a writing system that includes letters, numbers, punctuation,  labels, and so forth.  Glyphs may or may not be used in an occult context; for instance, these words you’re reading right now are composed of glyphs (letters and punctuation of the English alphabet), but so is an astrological chart (the symbols used to denote the planets and Zodiac signs) or a computer science textbook (punctuation and numerals and diagrams to indicate logical connections or mathematical operations).  Glyphs may be used one at a time (using the symbol for the Sun) or in combination with other glyphs (multiple letters to spell out a name).

Seals are symbols that are invented as a complete unit or are received from a spirit.  Seals cannot be decomposed into more basic things, but are a whole unto themselves.  They are symbols that are not generated according to a particular rule or composed according to sacred geometry.  They are simply abstract symbols that refer to something.  Importantly, especially in my own work, seals are “revealed” or given unto someone by a spirit or person to refer to themselves; seals are an abstract “body” to give an idea a graphical or visual form.  Consider the symbols used to refer to spirits in the Lemegeton Goetia; these are not composed of more base units or other symbols, but are whole things unto themselves.  These are seals, and often have no origin besides “this is what I was shown to use and has no rhyme or reason beyond that”.  Seals are to constructed diagrams what barbarous words of power are to words in the dictionary; they may not have any communicable meaning that us humans can understand, but they work.

Sigils are symbols that are constructed according to a particular algorithm.  Think of the standard way of creating a letter-based sigil according to Agrippa (book III, chapter 30) or as used in modern chaos magic, or like with my own shorthand system.  Alternatively, consider the sigils used for the planets with their planetary intelligences and spirits from Agrippa (book II, chapter 22), which are lines drawn over the qameas of particular planets and playing connect-the-dots with the gematria values of individual letters of a name or word.  Sigils are symbols created according to a defined set of rules (combine these letters, connect these numbers on this qamea, etc.).  They are not always artistically made, although the algorithms used to generate a sigil may have some leeway for style and innovation.  A painting may incorporate sigils, but a sigil is not made of pictures; a sigil is a geometric, abstract form composed or generated from glyphs.

Runes are letters of the writing systems used for Germanic languages prior to the introduction of the Roman script.  In other words, runes are no more than letters of a particularly old style of European alphabet.  These can be classified, generally speaking, into two families: the Scandinavian futhark (both Elder and Younger, together used between the 2nd and 11th centuries) and the Anglo-Saxon futhorc.  There were medieval runes used in some astrological contexts, but generally runes stayed out of Hermetic and Western ceremonial stuff.  However, a particular alphabet known as Darlecarlian runes was in use until the 20th century in a small province in Sweden, but this was certainly the exception to the historical abandonment of runic writing.  There are other systems of writing and symbols that are runiform, such as Old Turkic and Old Hungarian, but these bear only a superficial resemblance to Germanic runes, and are not technically runes on their own as they belong to a different writing system, culture, and geographic area.

Pentagrams are five-pointed stars.  That’s it.  Nothing more than that.  You can only really draw a pentagram one way, regardless of orientation.

Hexagrams are six-pointed stars . Again, nothing special here, but there’s a bit more complexity.  The Star of David is nothing more than a hexagram composed of two overlapping equilateral triangles, which is what’s usually meant by “hexagram”.  The unicursal hexagram is another type, though it’s not original to Crowley by any means; the mathematician Blaise Pascal depicts it in one of his works from 1639.  The “elemental hexagrams” shown in the Key of Solomon (book I, chapter 3) are not, strictly speaking, hexagrams (with the exception of one); they are configurations of two triangles each that do not, necessary, combine to form a proper hexagon.

Pentacles are not stars.  They are not necessarily pentagrams, nor are they necessarily hexagrams.  Pentacles are more of a system of symbols that work together in unison for a particular goal; they are something usually, but not always, more elaborate than a sigil and are not necessarily combined in an algorithmic way.  Consider the pentacles from the Key of Solomon (book I, chapter 18), or the Elemental Weapon of the Earth as used in the Golden Dawn, or the protective lamen with the pentagram and extra symbols used in the Lemegeton Goetia, or that used in the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano.  Pentacles are, essentially, the physical version of a graphic design composed of one or more symbols, often including letters and names, and arranged in a method more akin to sacred geometry than algorithmic combining or tracing.  Pentacles are tangible objects, things you can hold and touch and wear.  All pentacles are talismans, although not all talismans are pentacles.  For instance, a talisman engraved in a circular stone may have the design of a fish surrounded by Hebrew words can be considered a pentacle, but a talisman of a stone fish with words engraved on it is not a pentacle.  Pentacles are generally round, flat objects such as a circular piece of paper or a metal disc that have a design engraved, painted, drawn, or otherwise inscribed upon it as a graphic design of a system of symbols.  Pentacles are not oddly-shaped things like carved statues or rings or wands, despite its talismanic properties or designs on them.  Although the words “pentacle” and “pentagram” are related and were originally used interchangeably, the word “pentacle” started to be used for any magical talisman in the form of a pentagram or hexagram starting in medieval French.  An alternate etymology combines this with an older French word for pendant, pentacol or pendacol, or something worn around the neck.  Indeed, most pentacles are typically worn around the neck as lamens, which is probably the most correct use of this word in my opinion, but can easily be expanded to other (typically circular and flat) objects with a system of magical symbols inscribed upon it.

Tetragrammaton (more properly the Tetragrammaton) is another word for the four-letter name of God, Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh or Yahweh or Jehovah or whatnot.  The word is Greek and literally means “the thing of four letters”.  It is a title to refer to the sacred name of God, akin to the Hebrew haShem “the Name”, but is often used in Hermetic and Solomonic work as itself as a sacred name of God.  However, this is nothing more than a word composed of individual letters; the word “Tetragrammaton” does not refer to any pentacle or other occult design.

On Tattoos of Spiritual Artifices

Recently on the endless stream of half-formed thoughts that keeps me sane in the office, which is to say Twitter, I was approached by someone who likes my work and thinks highly of it.  While I take this as a humbling and honoring thing, I was troubled by this as well, since they asked if it was a bad idea to take the Table of Practice design I developed based on Fr. Rufus Opus’ coursework and use it as a tattoo on their body.

Table of Practice

I told them bluntly that, yes, this is indeed a bad idea.  Why?  Because the Table of Practice pattern is a combination of spiritual geometry and sacred names that is put together in such a way so as to contain and manifest spirits; this is the point of the diagram.  To have this on their body would mean that, wherever they go, they risk having spirits collect on their tattoo with or without their knowledge and, worse, to give those spirits form and place in the world without actively working with them or even attentively or intentionally calling upon them.  These things happen anyway, which is why regular cleansings and baths and banishings and the like are so necessary, but to trigger that even more than it happens on its own and in a more dangerous way is a terrible, awful, no-good idea.  Worse, the person in question wanted to use this for spiritual protection, which is not the point of this design at all!  It can be used for containment and isolation, sure, but it is not primarily intended for that, and has way too many side-effects that make this a poor choice for a protection tattoo.

Put simply, this person was coming from a place of ignorance, a place which I hope I was able to help them out from.  The occult world is full of arcane geometries, obscure patterns, and unusual shapes that many a graphical artist would love to get their hands on or take credit for.  Add to it, so much of this stuff is just so cool-looking (and if you’re one of the vast majority of people who get into the occult, you got into it because it looks so freaking awesome).  There’s a heavy and high danger in this, though, because if you merely work with this stuff because it looks cool, you often overlook how powerful and grave and serious this stuff is.  It’s easy to forget that these things that appear so simple are in and of themselves so dangerous; a simple stray mark, a vowel pronounced with the wrong intonation, the wrong type of pepper used in incense, or such minor differences could honestly and hugely change how something works.  Just because something looks simple and straightforward doesn’t mean that it can be used in a simple and straightforward manner.

This stuff is called the occult, and the word “occult” means “that which is hidden”.  This stuff is not always apparent but always needs to be studied and mulled over for it to make sense and for it to click.  Picking something up and running with it is a bold move, and can easily cross over into folly; without a firm understanding of what you’re doing and to what end, as well as the construction of the tools and designs and artifices you’re using, you could really hurt yourself or those around you.  This goes double for tattoos of spiritual designs and artifices, because you’re literally and permanently transforming your body into an occult tool or a container for occult forces and entities; you need to take extra care when getting a spiritual tattoo because you may be biting off far more than you can chew.

PSA: It’s easier to ask permission than forgiveness

In doing research for another ebook of mine that’s coming up soon, I was googling around for a particular set of seals of the four elemental archangels.  Eventually, I found what I was looking for, but in the process I found something else: my own lamen designs for the planetary angels Haniel and Gabriel.  Now, I’ve made many designs for my occult work, and I share a good number of them freely on my blog, so it’s not uncommon anymore for me to come across my own work when looking for something new while searching Google.  (It’s a curse, truly.)  Add to it, I post my designs on my blog for free so that people who are interested in following the path of a Renaissance Hermetic magician and whatever-the-fuck-else-I-am can make use of the same tools and designs for their own personal experiments.

The thing was, however, that these specific lamens I had come across had been printed out and were being sold as a listing on somebody’s Etsy page.  The Etsy seller had never contacted me for my permission or right of use, and I know them only because I saw some of Asterion’s fine occult art also copied for their own listings (again, as it had turned out, without Asterion’s permission).  Their listing never attributed the designs to me.  That’s not cool.

Don’t get me wrong, of course.  I’m personally thrilled that other people are able to make use of my lamens, Tables of Practice, force compasses, and various other types of seals in their own magical work and practices.  I’m flattered that people find them worthy and powerful enough, maybe even pretty enough, to share around online.  After all, it makes me feel like my time and my productions are useful and well-used, and I share these designs freely for the benefit of everyone.  That said, using my designs and productions for commercial purposes without attributing the design to me, without my permission, and without even asking me if it’s alright to do so is disrespectful, and I will not allow it.  I’m not a fan of taking my ball and going home, but I make my designs free for others to help them out without cost; if you’re going to ruin it for everyone and make it so that I stop sharing these designs, stealing them for your own ends is a good way to do that.

Just to make it explicit: my designs are under my copyright and are provided for personal noncommercial use only.  So, going forward, here’s what my policy is:

  • You are free to download, print, copy, and modify any design I make and post on my blog to use in your own magical workings, public or private.
  • You are free to redistribute without cost these designs while giving due credit for the design to me or my blog.  A link would suffice.  Heck, if you want to pass out my business cards to other people in the flesh, lemme know and I’ll send you a pack!
  • You may not redistribute these designs without linking to my blog or attributing me (polyphanes) as the creator of the design.  Hey, if crazy armageddon-minded conspiracy-theoried Christian bloggers can do that to defame me and my vocation, you can, too!
  • You may not redistribute, replicate, or use these designs in any publication, physical or electronic, without my permission.  This excludes blogs, Pinterest, Facebook, and others, of course, but don’t try putting my lamens in a book you’re writing about conjuration without asking whether it’s okay.
  • You may not use my designs to sell in physical or electronic form for commercial gain without my permission.  This includes printing out the lamen designs and consecrating them to sell for others, making resinated pendants, or simply selling sets of the lamens that you yourself print out.  If you have a commercial idea for a product that uses or incorporates my design, ask me whether it’s okay first.
  • If you do not ask me for permission to redistribute, replicate, or use these designs before using them, I will ask you to remove the designs from your work, take down your shop listings, etc. and you will never have permission to use any of my designs publicly for any purpose.
  • If you do not comply with my requests to remove my work from your commercial work, we’re going to have some problems that will be resolved with lawyers.

Now, as a priest and devotee of Hermes, I understand the power of theft and how it may be needed.  I also realize that, from my point of view here on the end of a computer outside of DC, that I’m not omniscient and cannot see the actions of everyone who comes to my blog.  If you’re going to steal my designs for profit, do it smart and off the radar where I can’t see you and where your pictures won’t come up on Google.  If I catch you, you’re done.

Now, if you want me to custom design you something, by all means, contact me!  I’ll make you a design that’s yours and yours alone; my rates are decently priced and fair, and I’m pretty handy with Adobe Illustrator and a pen.  Publishers, I’m talking to you!

And while I’m at it, about my PDF ebooks I sell on my own Etsy page?  Please don’t redistribute them, either.  I haven’t noticed it becoming a problem, and I’d like for it to stay that way, but if I find people sharing my PDFs, I’m going to ask that you stop and take down whatever links or resources you have to share them.  If you’re going to share my work without my permission and if there’s nothing I can do can stop you, then do it in a way that I can’t track, will never know about, and have no means to change.  I have no way to ensure that it doesn’t happen, of course, but I won’t go to the lengths that Fr. Rufus Opus has gone and put a conditional curse on my PDFs that kicks in if you illegally share them, either.  I understand the benefit that a single copied PDF can give.

Really, in the end, just don’t be a douchebag.  Give credit where credit is due.  Ask me whether it’s okay first if you use something.  If you want to see me make more stuff, help support me so I can make more stuff.  Stealing from me is only going to make me annoyed and make it so that I produce less stuff for fewer people.