Seven Archangels…but which?

As you might expect, dear reader, the number seven is kinda mystical.  Seven planets, seven days of the week, roughly seven days for one phase of the Moon, seven orifices in the human face, seven Greek sages, seven virtues, seven vices, and so forth.  It’s the fourth odd number and fourth prime number, and there are three ways to sum up lesser numbers to add to seven (6+1, 2+5, 3+4), and three and four are also important numbers in their own rights.  So many attributes have been given to the number seven explaining much of its mysticality, and while I admit that much it might (read: definitely) be stretching things to fit a particular number of associations and categories, seven gives us a lot to work with without being too much.

This is especially important when it comes to working with angels, and archangels in particular.  Archangels, as the name implies, are the princes of the angels, the big guys among the big guys, and by working with them we can more effectively work with their subordinate angels and other spirits, not to mention the rest of the cosmos.  In Western Christianity, notably Catholicism, there is only valid and proper devotion able to be given to three archangels in particular: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, the only three named angels in the Old and New Testaments.  Of course, other varieties of Christianity, official and folk, have venerated many more angels than just these three, each with their own names and attributes.

Such groups of archangels come either in groups of four or groups of seven.  Four archangels makes sense: four elements, four corners of the world, and so forth.  In Western occultism, we usually consider these four to be Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel; in Arabic lore, they’re Mikhail, Jibrail, Israfil, and Izrail (with the first three being the Arabic versions of the names and the last one being Azrael, usually known as the angel of death).  Four is a pretty solid number, but as noted before, seven is often more preferred for its mystical nature.  Add to it, we find references to “seven archangels” in scripture, particularly in Enoch I, and since then lists of seven angels have been common throughout Western religion and occulture.  However, with the exception of the “big three” angels named before, these lists often differ significantly, and it’s hard to figure out which angel has what qualities without relegating oneself to a particular book or mini-tradition.

To give several lists of seven archangels, I present the following table, which (besides Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael) is not meant to directly associate or imply an association between the other angels across traditions.  The first column is taken from Agrippa’s Scale of Seven (book II, chapter 10), which he associates with the seven planets.  The second column is given from the works of Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite, a Christian theologian and philosopher, and the names of which are common in many folk and Hispanic magic circles.  The third columns gives name from the Christian Gnostic and Orthodox traditions, which are popular in more ecclesiastic and personal practices in the eastern part of Europe.  The fourth column gives the names of the seven archangels from Enoch I, and the last gives the names attributed to the archangels from Pope Saint Gregory I “the Great” from the 6th century.

Agrippa
Planetary
Pseudo-
Dionysus
Christian
Gnostic
Enoch 1 Gregory
the Great
1 Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel
2 Raphael Raphael Raphel Raphael Raphael
3 Haniel Chamuel Barachiel Remiel Simiel
4 Michael Michael Michael Michael Michael
5 Kammael Chamuel Uriel Uriel Uriel
6 Tzadqiel Zadkiel Sealtiel Raguel Orifiel
7 Tzaphqiel Iophiel Jehudiel Saragael Zachariel

There are still other lists, but I feel like the ones given here are probably the most important.  That seven archangels is such a common thing across writers speaks to an older tradition, such as that of the amesha spentas in Zoroastrianism, or the Babylonian view of seeing the seven planets as gods in their own right.  Other scriptural references include seven candles, seven kings, seven churches of the world, and the like throughout Revelation, suggesting that the cosmic rulership of seven parts is something that pervades much theological and occult thinking.

In my practice so far, I’ve been working with Agrippa’s planetary angels, since I was introduced to them by means of the planets themselves in Fr. RO’s Red Work courses, as well since the whole Hermetic viewpoint likes putting cosmic rulers on things in the cosmos and the Abrahamic angels work well for that kind of thing.  However, I’ve been going to a number of botanicas lately, and I often find candles and statues for angels besides these seven planetary ones, notably ones to Iophiel (whom I know as either the intelligence of Jupiter or angel of the fixed stars), Chamuel, and Uriel.  Add to it, through my good friend Michael Strojan, I’ve encountered yet another set of angels that include Jehudiel, Sealtiel, and Uriel.

It gets awfully confusing, I’ll admit, but I have started to work with this latter set of seven angels from the Christian tradition.  Basically, the method is more-or-less devotional: assign one angel to each day of the week, and make prayers towards that angel.  I got a set of statues off Amazon for these seven angels, and set them up around my primary devotional altar along with a glass of water and a candle.  On their respective days, I light a candle and some incense for them, give them a new glass of water, and make prayers for them based on prayers such as novenas or chaplets for the angels, if one exists, or I just go by their general associations and make prayers for their intercession along those lines.

But, of course, linking the archangels to the days of the week, too, can be difficult.  Apparently, there are two ways to do this: the standard way, which is common by many Eastern Christians, and another way that Mr. Strojan showed me, where it links the angels to different days based on their divine offices and attributes.  I prefer to use the office-based attribution system, since it’s closer to the planetary method I’m already familiar with.  I haven’t gotten any complaints from the angels themselves, either.

Day Standard Office
Sunday Michael
Monday Gabriel
Tuesday Raphael Uriel
Wednesday Uriel Raphael
Thursday Sealtiel Jehudiel
Friday Jehudiel Barachiel
Saturday Barachiel Sealtiel

Of course, nothing stops me from working with these angels in a more magical framework, either.  I’ve noticed my rituals involving Michael of Fire or Michael of the Sun getting stronger and easier as I’ve been doing more work and offerings to the archangel Saint Michael, and ditto for Raphael of Air/Mercury and Gabriel of Water/Moon, and last I checked, devotional Christians don’t have seals yet for these archangels.  It’d be an interesting project to involve these angels in magical ritual in addition to devotional practice, though Mr. Strojan has told me that in working with any of the seven archangels, you effectively work with all of them; they work together as a cohesive group.

So, what do these particular angels rule over, and what are their attributes?

  • Michael, “who is like God”.  Often shown conquering a dragon with lance or sword.  Spiritual leader to holiness, spiritual offense and defense, protection from harm and evil, courage, preservation from danger.
  • Gabriel, “strength of God”.  Shown with horn, scroll, shield, scepter, or light.  Wisdom, revelation, messages, nurturing the young, and communication.
  • Uriel, “light of God”.  Often shown with a set of scales, flaming sword, or flame.  Protection, enlightenment, illumination, and resolution of conflict.
  • Raphael, “medicine of God”.  Shown with a crook and container of medicine, such as a gourd of salve.  Healing, health, wholeness, guidance, exorcism, and guidance.
  • Jehudiel, “praise of God”.  Shown with a sword, staff, or three-pronged whip, often crowned or holding a crown.  The angel of work, labor, employment, leadership, and government, especially as it pertains to one’s True Will and the Will of God.  By working, we praise God, and by praising God, we reap the power and station given to us.
  • Barachiel, “blessing of God”.  Shown holding a white rose or white rose petals, or a basket overflowing with bread.  Blessings of all kinds, luxuries, wealth, nourishment, growth, harmony, love, humor, success.
  • Sealtiel or Selaphiel, “prayer of God”.  Shown in devotion or contemplation, sometimes with arms folded or clasped together in prayer, sometimes with a thurible or censer.  Focus in devotions and prayers, concentration, steadfastness and resolution in prayers and all worshipful acts, as well as wisdom and skill in magic, exorcisms, and all divine arts.

A recent botanica trip even led me to buy a particular Siete Angeles candle with the names of the seven archangels on them.  Unusual about this candle, however, was that it had both the lists from the Gnostic tradition and Pseudo-Dionysus’ writings, and linked them together!  Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel were the same between the two, while Chamuel/Samuel was associated with Barachiel, Sealtiel with Zadkiel/Zafkiel, and Jehudiel with Iophiel.    While it’s awesome that these angels are associated in such a way, at least at a high level, the Ps.-Dionysus angels and the Gnostic angels often have different attributes that make them highly distinct.  I’ve even found weekday associations of the Ps.-Dionysus angels, but even these differ from practice to practice.

In the end, forming a practice to the seven archangels boils down to picking a particular set of seven angels, divvying up the duties of the world amongst them, assigning days of the week to them in a way that more-or-less makes sense, and working with them on their respective days.  Anyone who works with the seven archangels will recognize the same seven under different names here and there, but it’s hardly incorrect or wrong to pick one set over another.  Mixing angels from different groups may not be great, since that muddles the different traditions in which they work, but working out correspondences between them may be useful.  For instance, by associating Jehudiel with Thursday, I also can associate Jehudiel with Jupiter and Tzadkiel in Agrippa; while I don’t consider the seven planetary angels to be the same as the seven archangels, I can see how the nobility, grace, and fatherliness of Jupiter can easily fit into Jehudiel’s practice and image.  Likewise, with Barachiel on Friday, I can associate Venus and Haniel with Barachiel, and seeing how the luxuries, joys, pleasures, and goods of both work together.

Chaplet of Saint Cyprian of Antioch

My recent prayer work has definitely gotten a boost lately.  It’s always refreshing to get back on the ball, so to speak, after several weeks of having things go wonky or with other life events interfering in my Work and study, and (even though I’m guilty of procrastinating as often as not on this) prayer is one of the things I really enjoy.  Sometimes I get a good spiritual buzz out of it, sometimes I engage with conversation and communion with the spirits, and sometimes I do it for the sake of contemplation or introspection.  Regardless, prayer forms a good foundation for my spiritual work.  Generally, my prayers don’t take that long to do, which may not be a great thing.  Admittedly, I should probably slow down with my prayers and perform them in a more contemplative, slow manner, but it’s easy to just fall into the habit of falling into the right “feel” of the prayer and letting the words of the prayer carry me on from there.  Prayer should be more than just words, after all.

Something I’ve found helpful for me to slow down and focus more on the prayers individually are repeating them, especially with the use of prayer beads.  I’ve been using them for years, often in the form of 108-bead malas (usually made of sandalwood or rosewood) for Buddhist mantras and, more recently, personal mantras or names using my 108-bead labradorite mala.  Not too long ago, the good Michael Seb Lux helped me out with sharing a gnostic Marian rosary, since a rosary is also a style of repeated prayer using prayer beads.  Since then, I’ve explored other styles of prayer beads, one of which is the chaplet used in Western Christian, especially Catholic, traditions.  The word “chaplet” can refer to either the actual prayer beads themselves or the prayers to be done using the beads, and in either case help those who use them for prayer and devotion.  There’s no set form to chaplets generally speaking besides the use of beads and repeated prayers, and not all chaplets have official status or recognition, though a good number do.

One of the most common chaplets is the generic “niner” chaplet, which consists of a medallion of a saint or holy image, followed by nine beads (either evenly spaced or spaced into three groups of three beads), sometimes followed by a crucifix.  One begins by holding the saint medallion and invoking the saint (e.g. “Saint NN., pray for us”); on each set of three beads, one says a Pater Noster, a Gloria Patri, and an Ave Maria; on the crucifix, one says the  or some other personal prayer.  Sometimes these niner chaplets are done as part of novenas or as a novena, repeated for nine days.  It’s simple and generic, and generally useful for pretty much any saint or holy figure.  As with all chaplets, praying a simple niner chaplet in the name of some saint can further one’s devotion, relationship, and intercession with them, which is no bad thing, especially if you plan to call upon them for help or in ritual.

However, many saints have their own special chaplets designed especially for them, with a certain number of beads in a particular order or arrangement, some with a crucifix, some not.  Often, there are customary colors for each of the saints, such as red and gold for Saint Michael the Archangel, red and white for Saint Philomena, and so forth.  In this sense, the rosary itself is essentially a specialized chaplet celebrating the Mysteries, and is particularly associated with Mary.  There are many types of specialized chaplets, some devoted to a particular saint or to a particular event, and unlike novenas or other well-known prayers, many chaplets are unofficial and used primarily in personal devotions but are kept in a fixed way according to custom and tradition.  I personally use the chaplet of Saint Michael the Archangel and the chaplet of Saint Gabriel the Archangel once a week (Sundays for Michael and Mondays for Gabriel) which I’ve found to not only improve my relationships with the angels themselves but also substantially reinforces any magic done with them when used in a ritual.

To that end, I was wondering whether there might be a chaplet associated with my newest spiritual ally and teacher, Saint Cyprian of Antioch.  I didn’t have very many hopes of this, since Saint Cyprian isn’t that well-known of a saint except by folk traditions, and he’s often confused with the similarly-named but as poorly-known Saint Cyprian of Carthage.  Even then, though, Saint Cyprian of Carthage didn’t have his own chaplet, so my options were limited.  I didn’t feel like using a simple niner chaplet for Saint Cyprian was good enough for me or for him, so I decided to design and write up my own Chaplet of Saint Cyprian of Antioch.

This chaplet consists of a medal of Saint Cyprian of Antioch, followed by three beads, attached to a ring of 27 beads separated into three groups of enneads (a set of 9 beads) with three separator beads.  The medal and three initial beads are attached to one of the separator beads.  The beads should be colored according to the preferences of Saint Cyprian of Antioch: dark red, purple, indigo, black, and white.  I suggest black and purple beads, given his associations with some African Diasporic gods like Babalu Aye.  Alternatively, you might consider the first ennead to consist of black beads, the second to consist of purple beads, and the third to consist of white beads.  When using precious or fancy beads, I find that onyx, jet, or black tourmaline; amethyst or garnet; and howlite, white agate, or bone work very nicely; for wood, ebony, rosewood, and white oak would be excellent.  Since Saint Cyprian of Antioch medals are hard to come across, a crucifix can work instead, calling on the power of Christ through the intercession of Saint Cyprian of Antioch; a simply named “Saint Cyprian” medal (usually of the image of Saint Cyprian of Carthage) can suffice, since the two saints are often confused enough to merge the two.  If these can’t be found, a black-and-white evil eye charm or large skull bead can work instead.  Be creative and work with what you’ve got.

Chaplets of Saint Cyprian of Antioch

Since the number 9 is sacred to Saint Cyprian, I figured it was appropriate to have the sets of beads have nine each.  Each of the three enneads represents one of the three persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), as well as the three stages of Saint Cyprian’s life (initiate, magus, and saint).  The medal and the first three beads form the introduction, praying an act of contrition (though I’m waffling between using this and the Confiteor instead) followed by two prayers to Saint Cyprian, one Orthodox and one Catholic. The chaplet generally consists of the formula “Saint Cyprian of Antioch, …, pray for us”, each prayer followed by a Gloria Patri, with the middle of the prayer containing a short description of an event from the life of Saint Cyprian, and the beads separating the enneads indicating one to pray the Pater Noster.  The descriptions of Saint Cyprian are combined from a history from the Orthodox tradition as well as a prayer of Jason Miller to the good Saint Cyprian.

  1. Introduction
    1. Medal: Saint Cyprian of Antioch, pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.
    2. First Bead: O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins because they offend you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do good, avoid evil, and to amend my life.  Amen.
    3. Second Bead: Saint Cyprian of Antioch, you were converted from the art of sorcery, O divinely wise one, to the knowledge of God, and were manifested to the world as a most wise physician, granting healing to those who honor you, O Cyprian together with Justina.  With her, then, entreat the Master, the Lover of mankind, that He may save our souls.  Amen.
    4. Third Bead: Saint Cyprian of Antioch, who by Divine Grace was converted to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, you who possessed the highest secrets of magic, build now a refuge for me against my enemies and their evil deeds.  For the merit that you obtained before God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, cancel out evil spells, products of hate, the spells that hardened hearts have cast or will come to cast against my person and against my home.  With the permission of God Almighty answer my prayer and come to my assistance, for the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.
  2. First Separator: Pater Noster, &c.
  3. First Ennead: Cyprian the Initiate
    1. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, born to pagan parents, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    2. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, dedicated to the god Apollo as a child, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    3. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, taught sorcery in Olympos, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    4. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, taught illusion in Argos, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    5. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, taught witchcraft in Tauropolis, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    6. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, taught necromancy in Sparta, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    7. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, taught enchantment in Memphis, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    8. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, taught astrology in Chaldaea, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    9. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, master of all the occult arts, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
  4. Second Separator: Pater Noster, &c.
  5. Second Ennead: Cyprian the Magus
    1. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, magus residing in Antioch, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    2. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, approached by Aglaias to seduce Justina, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    3. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, unleashing demons of lust upon Justina, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    4. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, unleashing demons of deception upon Justina, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    5. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, unleashing the Devil himself upon Justina, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    6. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, wringing disaster on Antioch against Justina, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    7. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, casting deadly illness upon Justina, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    8. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, all magic defeated by the prayers of Justina, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    9. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, seeing Truth and rebuking the Devil and his snares, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
  6. Third Separator: Pater Noster, &c.
  7. Third Ennead: Cyprian the Saint
    1. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, burning his books in sacrifice to God, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    2. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, confessing repentantly for his sins before all Antioch, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    3. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, baptized in the name of the Blessed Trinity, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    4. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, made priest within a year by his zeal for holiness, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    5. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, made bishop to lead all to divine virtue, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    6. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, condemned to death by the Romans, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    7. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, beheaded and departed into Heaven, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    8. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, entering into the communion of the holy saints, pray for us.  Gloria Patri, &c.
    9. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, preserving us from all evil arts and acts, pray for us. Gloria Patri, &c.

Once completed, the chaplet may be concluded with any personal prayers to Saint Cyprian of Antioch or with something more general, such as the Creed of the Faith.  The chaplet may be prayed at any time, but is especially fitting on Saint Cyprian’s feast day (September 26 in the Western tradition, October 2 in the Orthodox tradition) or on Saturdays, the day of the week associated with Saint Cyprian, and generally at nighttime, especially midnight.  Saying the chaplet for nine consecutive days can be sufficient for a novena to Saint Cyprian, though there already exists a novena (available mostly in Spanish, but I’ve got my own translation in line for a future ebook).  The chaplet pays to be prayed slowly and carefully, as any prayer might; by doing it slowly, the chaplet should take about 10 minutes to perform.

A Devotional Questionnaire

Recently I was browsing the good Sannion’s blog, and he mentioned something about a polytheist meme that one of his colleagues had posted. Turns out, Galina Krasskova over at Gangleri’s Grove had posted a type of questionnaire to help with interfaith and cross-tradition discussion, specifically to “get the ball rolling” on discussing our own paths and practice. I thought it was a fascinating set of questions, so I decided to try my hand at answering them for myself. These types of probing questionnaires are nearly always helpful to clarify one’s own situation and view thereof, and this was no exception. While Galina is writing a full post for each answer to her 24 questions, I contented myself by condensing them to simple paragraphs unless necessary.

As I read it, Galina’s questionnaire was probably intended more for people in traditions with set names, such as “Asatru” or “Hellenismos”. I don’t really fall into any one category; I work with the Greek gods and am a priest of Hermes, and I work with the saints and angels of God and perform devotion to God as well as the Logos and the Pneuma. My work as a ceremonial Hermetic magician only complicates matters further, so I’m really sorta winging it in my life on my own amalgamating Hermetic path. That said, this gives me all the more reason to try to answer these questions for myself.

  1. What wealth have the divinities brought into your life?
    Oh jeez. The love of my life, a stable job with good pay, continued health, safe travels and journeys, abundant knowledge, good friends, an understanding and loving family that knows to give me space and distance, protection and safety, skill in crafting and engineering (software and otherwise)…it’s hard to list them all. I attribute what successes I have to the gods or to my talent (itself given by the gods) or to my friends (themselves led to me and I to them by the gods). What poverty and paucity I have is from not living my life right according to the gods, or misusing my talents in ways that the gods never intended me to.
  2. What does your tradition do to increase the power and flow of blessings?
    Prayer, right living and right mindsets, ritual to come to know the gods, sacrifice to please the gods, vows and offerings to exchange work with the gods, meditation to know what’s truly a blessing and what’s not or to know what I should ask for and what I shouldn’t ask for, and the like.
  3. How have the divinities helped you in times of adversity and violent upheaval?
    I can’t really say that they have, only because my life has been blessedly free of upheaval. What troubles I have, the gods preserve me with consolation, comfort, and talking things through; they give me aid and luck when I need it, and direction and strength if I call upon it. They’re kind to me, and I honor them for that. My life has been exceedingly lucky at just the right times, just when I need the help, and I thank them by living my life well and making good and proper use of the help they give me. In doing so, this keeps my life free from adversity and upheaval as much as possible, living the life I’m supposed to live and how I’m supposed to live it. The trials they give me are never more than I can bear, and they either exhort me to action or offer me the advice I need to surpass them. I have not yet been through a time when the gods have forsaken me, and I pray I never do.
  4. What are some of the ways that you communicate with the divinities?
    Divination, oracular media, watching for omens, prayer, and simply chatting with them as I would any dear and respected friend. Sometimes they’re always with me and able to communicate; sometimes I have to go to an altar or a shrine where their power is focused enough to communicate clearly. Sometimes I have to go through ritual in order to access them; sometimes I can ping them with a mere thought and they reply. Depends on the spirit.
  5. If you could travel anywhere on pilgrimage where would it be and what would you do?
    Probably Mt. Kyllini in Western Corinth, Greece, birthplace of Hermes, son of Zeus and Maia. I’d like to go mountain climbing there, perhaps find a cave where I can make some offerings in privacy, take some dirt or vines for the place for use in devotional tools and offerings back home, and get a good meal from local restaurants.
  6. What does it feel like when one receives inspiration from the divinities?
    It may not feel like much at all, really. Physically it might be felt like an uncharacteristic gleam in the eye, a sudden temperature change in the body, or a short blackout when suddenly you’re buying something you had no plans to purchase. Mentally, it might feel like a thought or good idea popping into the head, or a dim recollection of something you never knew you witnessed.
  7. What offerings do you make in your tradition and why?
    Depends on the spirit being offered something, really. I always light at least one candle, no matter who I’m offering something to, and almost always burn incense pleasing to the spirit (heather for Dionysus, frankincense for the angels, patchouli for the ancestors, etc.). Burnt offerings have always been held in high esteem, and it takes something firmly out of this world and gives it entirely to the spirits; it’s an efficient way to do sacrifice. Beyond that, I generally make offerings of alcohol, such as wine to the gods or rum to the ancestors, since these are volatile substances with a good spiritual kick in them (in several senses of the word). Devotional acts are also common, such as helping to pick up litter when performing a devotion to land spirit or acts of charity in the name of the saints, since it helps me make a change in the world using my own power and means when material offerings aren’t as needed. Whatever’s asked of me that I can give, I give; generally the spirits don’t ask for anything that would put me in too dire of harm, but when they say “jump”, it’s extraordinarily rare for me to ask anything else besides “how high”.
  8. What methods of inducing altered states of conscious does your tradition have?
    Hm…the two main sources for this in my practice are the Christian-Hermetic tradition and the more blatantly pagan one. In the former, choices are limited: fasting, meditation, and prayer can help build up to a state of ecstasy, though it can be slow-going at times. In the latter, pretty much anything goes, though a loosening of the mind is most easily achieved with wine or rum (or gin). There’s really nothing stopping me here from using drugs or states of trance obtained through relaxation, so anything goes so long as it works. I personally prefer a light buzz from wine or rum along with good-tasting tobacco. I’ve also noticed that drumming has a more powerful effect on me than I thought it would, so anything with a good and steady and (most importantly) loud beat can get me up and out easily, including a 4/4 timed dance song heavy on the bass.
  9. How does your tradition handle wrathful, savage and destructive divinities?
    My first inclination is to reply “carefully”, but who am I kidding? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was straight-up known for being a volcano unfortunately-underendowed Canaanite plains storm god who made a habit out of flooding the world and cursing those who dared eat a banana the wrong way. The apple didn’t far fall from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, either, with his son Jesus, who threw fits in public spaces and chased after economists with whips (which I find kinda endearing) and publicly mocked his followers for being dimwitted idiots (which didn’t change much after the Transfiguration and sending upon of the Holy Spirit). Dionysus, the good cousin to Jesus, had his epithets and images of the bull for a reason, and being the son of another thunder-god definitely knew how to cause chaos and turmoil where he went (and not in the orgiastic and ecstatic way, either). Honestly, the best way to deal with these types of divinities is to either not work with them at all and treat them as facts of life that must be worked with respectfully and honorably instead of conquered, or to placate them when possible and give them restraint and discipline. Mars in Orphic and Roman religion, after all, was both a god of war and a god of agriculture, using steel for swords as well as plows, and by propitiating him with good times (Venus and Bacchus, who could turn that down with sexy-strong Mars?), he would lay down the spear to aim for “gentle works” instead. Wrathful gods abound; they have their place, especially when wrath and “tough love” is needed. I’m not opposed to letting wrathful gods have free rein when it’s called for, but once their objective is attained, it’s time to let the wrath go by propitiation and sacrifice and thanksgiving.
  10. Have you encountered any obstacles as a result of your religion?
    Socially, no. I pass as pagan enough in pagan circles, magicky enough in magic circles, and Christian enough in Christian circles. One of my friends has commented that I have a type of personality and energy behind me that “delightfully meshes with but not of any particular force or religion”. When it comes to devotion, it’s all a matter of fulfilling my duties to my gods and my calling; sometimes it can be difficult, but they’re never insurmountable. Mostly these things involve me going out of my way to show them my devotion, doing something extra besides the usual offering of wine and honor. Of course, wine and candles and incense and altar gifts add up over time financially, but I make enough money where it’s just another expense that I live with contentedly like I would rent or a phone bill.
  11. What blocks to devotion have you had to overcome?
    Time constraints, primarily. Faith is easy, and experimentation too. I don’t need massive funds to maintain my work; a cup of wine here and there, a candle lit, and incense sweetening the airs is all I need to buy, and I can do my devotions on my bed as well as I can any full temple.
  12. What sort of festivals, memorials or seasonal observances do you keep throughout the year?
    Plenty. Primarily, the monthly ritual to Hermes I do on the fourth of the lunar month. I try to do a lunar ritual on the night of the Full Moon if the sky is clear, and a star ritual on the night of the New Moon likewise, but if the weather is bad, I skip it and wait for the weather to be clear on the following month. A few feast days here and there I hold extra prayers or offerings on, but nothing really tied much to the seasons.
  13. Have you ever found it difficult to uphold your end of a bargain with the divinities?
    Not really. What bargains I make, I make sure I can pay off, and I work out my terms of payment with the gods ahead of time before I agree to anything. The only issues I have are with timing, such as vowing to offer a bottle of wine on the day of my return from a trip but being too tired to actually do so; in these cases, I simply pay off the vow when I can and ask if there’s anything I can do to make up for the lost time. Beyond that, though, the gods haven’t asked me (yet?) for anything not in my reach or ability.
  14. What role does mystery play in your tradition?
    Many magicians follow the four rules of the Sphinx: to know, to dare, to will, to keep silent. that final part is about mysteries, things that one has to be initiated into in order to fully understand and reap the benefits of. Most of what I do would, technically, be considered a mystery: the initiations of the planets and elements and the stars, K&CHGA, knowing the abodes of the gods, and the like. Anything that is not apparent, anything esoteric is a mystery, and must be worked towards and into. To simply read or be told of something is just to know about it, but to live and experience it is to be initiated into the mystery. Some things I cannot know or do since I am not initiated into these things; if I’m to know or do them, I seek the initiation, like being baptized first before taking Christian communion or receiving an empowerment before reciting a particular Vajrayana mantra. Initiations and mysteries go hand-in-hand, if not the same hand itself, so it’s pretty important. Plus, if one doesn’t respect initiations and tries to go ahead and do something in the mystery anyway, that only leads to bad, at best cultural appropriation and at worst utter ruin due to hubris.
  15. What methods does your tradition employ for protection and the warding off of malign influences?
    The general rule I’ve found, no matter what tradition I look at, is that no matter how big something coming at you may be, always call on something bigger to come at it. Whether it’s calling on the Almighty to protect one from demons, Typhon-Set to bully the gods into a certain action, or a powerful angel to keep one safe at night, asking for the help of those you work with is the first thing you do. Having an extra set of eyes and hands to watch and guard your back in a world and life where everything is both seen and unseen, front-facing and backwards, is the most useful thing you can do. Building up power on your own and exercising it (daily energy work and physical training), relying on the world around us to protect ourselves (secure locks and strong oils), and the like are also vital to one’s protection. Banishing and cleansing are regular things I do for my living and work area, and I frequently keep up on my offerings to sweeten and propitiate the spirits I work with to keeping me and mine safe, as well as to put a good word in with the other spirits of the cosmos that I’m a cool guy and other spirits should be cool with me.
  16. What devotional goals have you set for yourself?
    Speaking abstractly, more work and action. I’m here to do my work, to do the magic, so to do anything else unrelated to that is me not doing my job. More specifically, I try to learn more about the gods I work with and engage in a deep, ecstatic relationship with those that are proper, or learn about the arts and skills and dedications of their crafts, or facilitate their influences and powers where they’re needed in the world. Even more specifically, this boils down to listening to the gods more, studying more about practices to them both ancient and new, and involving them in every aspect of my life where they’re called for. The converse of this is to get off my ass more, stop dicking around so much on the computer, and using my time more efficiently and effectively.
  17. What qualities should a leader in your tradition possess?
    Spiritually cool (clear-headed, not impulsive, unbiased, respectful, humble), able to communicate effectively (well-spoken and well-written), learned and educated in a wide variety of subjects both spiritual and material, experienced in ritual and crafting, able to improvise, possessing a strong memory, compassionate and empathic (able to deescalate tense situations, crisis manager, understanding of personal issues, perceptive). Just a few things I’d consider important.
  18. What does fertility mean to you?
    Being able to produce anything from oneself. Being a gay man with absolutely no interest in childbearing or childrearing (I would like a child one day, deep-fried), I don’t really have much to contribute to humanity or my family in means of bringing in new humans to the world, the mass of which I’m not a fan of generally. However, there’s a lot more to creation than mere procreation, and Venus (the planet of both) runs very strong in me. Writing, drawing, painting, woodcrafts, smithing, jewelry making, carving, engineering, code development, calligraphy, and the like are all things that require innovation and power to bring into the world; in each case, you’re making something new where there was nothing before. This is the true meaning of being a creator, just as Hermes Trismegistus has prayed: “o light of mind…o life of life…of womb of every creature…o womb pregnant with the Father’s nature…o eternal permanence of the begetting Father”. We all are capable of creating, and we all are capable of being filled with creation; even the most barren and infertile earth can be used to make clay. How we express that fertility, however, depends on our own inclinations, and not everyone is meant for human children.
  19. How do you incorporate movement into your worship?
    Not much. I might make some ritual gestures here and there, such as those for the elements or the planets, or kneel with arms orans before an altar. For other rituals, I might acknowledge the four corners by turning and greeting them, or draw out circles in the around. At free-standing shrines or monuments, I like to circumambulate them clockwise in respect several times before proceeding with anything more. Dancing doesn’t have a large part in my spiritual work, or at least not yet.
  20. Does your religion help you to be a better human being?
    Yes, but how depends on your notion of “human being”. To me, a true human (in the vein of Herbert’s Bene Gesserit) is someone who is fully aware of where they come from, where they’re going, and the divinity within them and in all other things; you can call this a bodhisattva, a prophet, a sanctus/a/um, Ipsissimus, whatever. This requires gnosis and full self-divinity that can only be realized through the Logos and the spiritual transformation that it delivers, but whether that Logos is given through Dionysus or Hermes or Christ or Buddha Shakyamuni is irrelevant, since they all give Logos in their own logoi. Being a “better human being” (kinder, more compassionate, more self-aware, more peaceful, etc.) follows as a result from that.
  21. Have you ever had dreams or visions sent by the divinities?
    Very rarely. Dreams are usually not my thing, and between having shoddy dream memory to begin with as well as not having enough time to sleep comfortably regularly, dreams are generally a poor way to contact me. Visions, on the other hand, are another thing; I’ll often be taken on vision-walks or impromptu scrying sessions when I’m at the altars of the gods or saints, and they’ll show me fascinating things that are often highly pertinent to what I’m doing in my life. Something out-of-the-blue that overwhelms me, though, hasn’t occurred yet.
  22. What customs are associated with the home and family in your tradition?
    Not much. I was raised in a mostly areligious household with very faint Jewish leanings, and we celebrated Chanukkah and Christmas (the latter more for family with no mention of religion). We didn’t do anything else in my family.
  23. When did it first dawn on you that the divinities are real?
    I can’t remember time when I didn’t think they were real. I’ve always had a magical perspective on the world, and the existence of spirits was just a piece to the puzzle that fit in quite nicely early on. As for my own divinities, I pretty much accepted their existence as a truth and fact as I studied the old myths and stories, just as the ancients might’ve. There was plenty of discovery once I really opened myself up to them, but their existence and reality was pretty much never in question.
  24. What have you inherited from your ancestors?
    Besides a bunch of antiques and hand-me-down knickknacks (I can hear them getting all huffy as I call them that, nyeh nyeh), my own life. I literally would not exist without my ancestors, their lives, and their works, so I owe my life and existence to my ancestors. This isn’t just those of my blood and kin, but also of my faith and traditions, so I consider my ancestors all those upon whom my life is based: my blood lineage; Hermeticists, Christians, Jews, pagans; Egyptians, Palestinians, Ukrainians, Russians, Greeks, Romans, Italians, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, Native Americans; computer scientists, mathematicians, astronomers, astrologers, geomancers, engineers, and so very, very many more. All of my blood in my veins comes from my family; all of my Works come from my traditions; all of my crafts come from my teachers; all of my thoughts come from my philosophies. More than any single ritual, possession, name, or title, the ability and knowledge of the things I do and can do are the most important and valued possessions I have from my ancestors.

Give the questions a try, yourself. Depending on your path (so much use of that word, “depend”), you might need to write more than me or less than me. I’d be excited to see what you guys say about your own work!

A Devotional Prayer

A devotional prayer I was inspired to write one morning recently.  I ended up using some of the formulas below in my freeform devotional or contemplational prayers to the Almighty Source, but honestly it can be redirected to any god in the right context, if appropriate.  Just thought I’d share.

Blessed are you, who grant good things, in time of hardship and in time of prosperity.
Blessed are you, who guide, lead, protect, and shelter us who follow.
Blessed are you, who illumine, enlighten, empower, and free, light in darkness and darkness in light.
Blessed are you, who as One are All and within whom are All as One.

May every idea be thought for you!
May every word be spoken for you!
May every letter be written for you!
May every emotion be felt for you!
May every motion be moved for you!
May every path be walked for you!
May every action be made for you!

Altar Maintenance

Living in an apartment in a fairly metropolitan suburb of DC has its benefits and its downsides, like anywhere else, not least of which is cleaning.  It gets mad dusty in here, yo, and being a neatfreak and cleanfreak as I am, I like things to look generally good.  (I may get lazy with the dishes, but that’s another story.)  It follows, then, that my altars as well get a distinct layer of dust.  So, when it gets to be too obnoxious for me to live with it, I’ll disassemble my altars and give them a good cleaning.  Besides, with the food offerings to the genii locorum I make, crumbs and stray drops of wine really do make a mess that tempts hordes of bugs that even my household genius and I can’t fend off.

Now, I only have two altars (my devotional altar where I pray and make offerings of candles, incense, food, etc., and my magician’s altar or Table of Manifestation), and this may not be the rule in the future, especially when I get my complete Hermaion set up, but for now, here’s what I’ll do:

Devotional altar:

  • Remove all food offerings (combine them and throw them out into the yard by some trees, giving the physical food to the physical world)
  • Wash all dishes, plates, stands, etc. with a cleansing solution (holy water, Florida water, 7-11 Holy oil)
  • Remove all ash and burnt offerings from the incense holders, wipe down with cleansing solution
  • Clear off the altar and wipe it down with cleansing solution, then reassemble everything as it was or update the arrangement
  • Spritz cleansing solution on each of the spirit placards, statues, etc.
  • Make a full offering of food, drink, light, incense, etc. to all spirits the same day

Magician’s altar:

  • Remove all tools, talismans, etc. from the altar
  • Spritz the altar with cleansing solution
  • Wipe off all tools, talismans, etc. with cleansing solution
  • Reassemble the altar
  • Perform an Alignment Ritual to resituate and empower the tools

This is just for my own practice, as it stands right now.  I don’t know about the rules for altar or oratory maintenance in other traditions, even within my own, but I feel that physical dust leads to spiritual gunk building up over time.  This is all in addition to regular spraying of banishing water and prosperity water solutions around my house, as well.

The cleaning or rearranging of altars is a minor technical detail of magical practice that isn’t often discussed in the literature I can find.  What do you do for your altars, if any?  Do you even have one spot you work or pay in?  Do you let the dust, wax, and feelings there accumulate over time, or do you keep it in a pristine state?