Fire and Water: A Tool for Steam-Powered Enchantment

Admittedly, it’s weird to see the WordPress write-post screen so frequently lately after so long without writing anything.  Quoth Alan Moore’s “Promethea” issue #19: “Man, this is like city transport.  You gonna wait forever for a beautiful woman, then three gonna show up at once.”  Then again, I suppose that’s the nature of inspiration: having the time, being at the right time, and having the resources available to present themselves.

Like everyone else on Facebook, my news feed (I remember back in the days when we just called them “walls”) is filled with videos, sometimes funny, sometimes stupid, sometimes educational.  One such video demonstrated a series of eight physics tricks, often involving magnets and batteries, but there was one in particular that caught my eye because it relied on water and fire.  While I couldn’t find the original video in a way to show here, I did find another video from Grand Illusions (whose channel is full of wonderful toys, tricks, gimmicks, and projects demonstrated by an amazing wizened Brit) that shows the exact same thing with a better description and demonstration:

The presenter isn’t sure what to call the thing, but it is similar to the kind of toys known as “pop-pop boats”, which use a tiny boiler to propel a tiny boat in water, making a continuous pop-pop sound.  This, however, isn’t quite the same.  Rather, it’s better described as a steam-powered top, constructed out of a bit of copper tubing extended through some corkboard, with its ends projecting out underneath and facing opposite directions.  The copper tubing is filled with water, then the “boat” is set on top of a bowl or container of water, and a candle is set on top of the platform under the coil.  The candle, once lit, heats the water inside the coil, turning it to steam and pushing it out, and then as the vapor cools in the coil not directly heated by the flame, sucks water back in, producing a top with sudden bursts of movement followed by slow periods of inertial spinning.  In a way, it’s a neat demonstration of the same principle underlying an aeolipile, but with a different setup and arrangement.

A neat little gimmick on its own, sure, but when it comes to matters combining fire and water, my mind starts thinking about possible occult applications.  And, for this, I think the occult applications are shockingly wonderful for how simple this would be as an extra tool in my kit.  Consider: it is not uncommon for us to bless, enchant, or otherwise bespooken liquids in our work, yes?  We normally achieve this by praying over the water, adding certain ingredients, setting it out in sunlight or moonlight, or extinguishing candles in them (either by setting a candle in the water and letting it burn out into it, or lighting a candle and quenching it in the water).  Separately, we often use candles in our work, which forms the entire field of candle magic unto itself in addition to being used as integral parts of other ceremonies.  We anoint, engrave, or dress candles, set them atop petitions, or use them as a means to empower other workings.  However, it’s not common to see an explicit merging of candle magic and water magic given the intrinsic opposition between fire and water, but the steam-powered top has a way of doing precisely just that using an almost-alchemical apparatus.

My idea for combining the two is, essentially, another technique to empower or enchant an amount of water by using the candle (dressed appropriately) to transfer its power directly into the water, but in a more prolonged and directed means than simply by extinguishing a candle in the water itself.  Assuming the copper tubing is clean and the corkboard itself doesn’t disintegrate (and it might be worth it to replace the corkboard with something more stable and hardy at some point), the water isn’t contaminated by any pollutants or additions, making it perfect for an innocuous substance that only the magician would be inclined to recognize as empowered.  Plus, instead of another method where one might heat a container of water directly using enchanted fuel (such as a cauldron heated by sacred woods and incenses), this can be done on a much smaller scale with a lot less overhead.  Additionally, the steam-powered top does its own job at keeping the water mixed through its constant spinning, though different videos show it spinning in different directions; the YouTube above shows a clockwise-spinning top, but other videos show it spinning in counterclockwise motion.  Either way, the tool seems to be useful in transferring the energy and intent of a candle directly to water, in a clean and full way that doesn’t leave residue or candle remnants.

Let’s give some examples of use, shall we?  Say that a friend has contracted a prolonged sickness, and some investigation shows a possible spiritual influence.  Dress a candle with the intent for health and shaking off spiritual gunk and set it atop a small name paper of your friend on the corkboard, then use the top in a bowl of clean water.  Administer the water to your friend in the form of baths and drinks to cleanse them internally and externally.  Being “nothing more” than clean water, perhaps with a faint metallic aftertaste, such a water could be used innocuously and without notice, or for those with sensitivities to particular herbs or oils.  Instead of giving it to them to drink or bathe with, you could also use the water in a humidifier, or set it in a pot to boil, so as to fill an entire area with the water, or use it in the washing machine for a load of laundry to do the same.  Alternatively, for a more malefic use, say you want to get rid of a troublesome coworker in the workplace, but the usual methods of doing so would draw too much undue attention, such as the laying of powders, dressing with oils, or other charms or tricks.  Dress a candle with hot-foot or get-fired oil and pray over the water to do the same, then once empowered, bring the water with you to work in an otherwise-normal water bottle (that you may not want to ever drink out of again).  “Accidentally” spill the water on your coworker’s uniform, shoes, or desk; it being water, most people would think no-harm no-foul, but you know better, don’t you?  Or, if they have a habit of leaving their desk or supplies unattended, put a few drops in their coffee mug on their desk or on their chair when they’re not looking.

If you’re comfortable with doing so, of course, there’s nothing saying you have to use plain old water for this sort of tool; most herbal infusions would likely work fine, though you’d do well to make sure they don’t corrode copper or corkboard too quickly, and that you thoroughly clean the tubing before and after each use to prevent both spiritual and material contamination.  Alternatively, the water could be used as an ingredient in other recipes, with the steam-powered top enchantment providing a kind of “pre-blessing” to prime the recipe as a whole.  I’d refrain from using this tool with anything with a high alcohol content, of course, given the obvious dangers of open flame around flammable liquids, though with a different construction of such a top in a fire-safe chamber, perhaps this wouldn’t be so much an issue.  The YouTube video above links to the Grand Illusions website where you can get your own pre-made steam-powered top for a not-unreasonable price, which I’ve already done and I’m excited to put to work when such an opportunity presents itself.  However, it wouldn’t be hard to make one of these yourself, though getting the copper tubing (or some other non-corroding heat-conducting metal) fixed in just the right direction may be a challenge for some.

On Light in the Darkness of the Home

Winter is rough.  Sure, some people like it, but even for those who do, it’s not the easiest season to survive.  Full of short days and long nights and temperatures lower than high school students’ ages, it gets pretty bleak at the best of times, and downright deadly when it gets really bad.  I know of several people whose houses don’t have heat due to shoddy contractor work or slummy sleazy landlords, not to mention other friends who’ve gotten into accidents from driving on icy roads.  Historically, winter is the whole point of having a giant harvest season, because if you didn’t put in the work earlier in the year, you were setting yourself up for starvation and death.  Hell, even in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, the phrase “winter is coming” is famous and ominous at the same time, and for good reason.  All told, winter isn’t exactly the gentlest of times.

This isn’t just a mere weather-based inconvenience thing, either.  In the winter, the Sun is so weak so as to be close to death or is only freshly reborn, far from being king over all during his summer solstice height.  Plants in general die or go into stasis and animals hibernate, depriving the world of motion and activity to keep things flowing properly.  The cold itself saps life away, and buries everything in a locked-down sense of malaise.  Even sound loses its echo after a snowfall, leaving words themselves drained of any power you put into them.  The long nights induce depression in those who are seasonally affected, and can even bring down the brightest of moods in those normally manic.  The unseelie court wields power, for those who’re into faerie lore; the strict Holly King rules.  We’re having to build ourselves up from scratch while living on so little.

It’s during this season that having Light in the home is most important, moreso than any other time of the year.  I’m not just talking about the usual Solar work, either, but I mean real, actual fire that you burn.  Whether it’s a fire in the hearth or a simple candle by your bedside, I’d urge you to follow through.  Keep the Light going, and it’ll make your life easier.

When I do a thorough house cleansing, like if someone’s having issues in their home due to spiritual malignancy or moving into a new place, one of the first things I do is I set up Light throughout the house.  I take a large white candle, either a pillar candle or a novena candle, and a number of white tealights, as many as there are rooms in the house.  After gathering them all together in the center of the home (central hearth, stove of the kitchen, whatever), with the large candle in the middle and the tealights around it, I inscribe or write on the symbols from the Key of Solomon (book II, chapter 12):

Characters for Consecrating Candles from the Key of Solomon

After this, I anoint each candle with holy oil, starting first with the large candle and going clockwise with all the other tealights.  I then light the large candle, and use my normal candle benediction, a slight variation on that of the Trithemius conjuration:

I conjure thee, oh thou creature of fire! by him who created all things both in heaven and earth, and in the sea, and in every other place whatever, that forthwith thou cast away every phantasm from thee, that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing. Bless, oh Lord, this creature of fire, and sanctify it that it may be blessed, and that it may burn for your honor and glory; so neither the enemy, nor any false imagination, may enter into them; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

From this central candle, I light each of the other candles in turn.  Once all the candles have been lit, I energetically link the primary candle to the smaller ones, so that the same blessing is set upon all of them at once.  Then, with all the tealights lit, I move them and set them in all of the rooms in the house, such that no matter where you are, you’re always within eyesight of one of these little flames.  This includes bathrooms, walk-in closets, sheds, and the like, so that literally every part of the property has light burning inside.  I leave the primary pillar candle at the center of the house, and return to it after moving all the tealights everywhere; there, I pray over it, and from it radiate Light and warmth and blessing throughout the entire place.  Whether it’s my own prayer of lightbringing or another prayer more focused on a particular problem at hand, by means of this central focus candle, I fill the entire house with the same prayer and the same oomph.  After this, I go through the house doing my thing, and leave all the candles to burn out on their own.  The remains are then collected together and disposed of respectfully.

This is a little ritual I developed on my own as part of a thorough house-cleansing and -blessing, as one of the first things I do.  Think about it: if a house is filled with gunk and filth, or if you have crusty crap stuck on your stove or sinks, you want to get rid of it.  However, some of the tougher gunk tends to be harder to remove, so what do you do?  You soak it in cleaning agent for a few minutes before actually scrubbing it off.  The candles set up above do a similar thing; the Light weakens any darkness and any filth that may have accumulated, so that when I go through and actually banish the place by suffumigations or prayer, the groundwork has already been established to weaken the filth and to further empower me as I go about my work.  In addition, the candles in each room act as a kind of warning-canary; if the flame of a particular candle gets weak, flickers a lot, or goes out on its own, then it’s a signal that there’s something especially rough in the vicinity of that particular candle.  If such a candle goes out, I relight it and pray over it specifically before re-linking it back to the focus candle in the home’s center; I focus on that room specifically before continuing on elsewhere, making sure it’s sufficiently emptied of gunk and filth before going on to another room.

That said, I’m also in the habit of just having a candle burning in the center of the house anyway all the time.  For me, it’s partially related to the small work I do with Hestia as overseer and mistress of the home, and the goddess of the hearth herself; with a fire burning under this goddess, it helps ensure my house and home and family that we always have fire to warm ourselves, power to strengthen ourselves, purity to cleanse ourselves, and protection to keep ourselves safe under her watch over the most sacred of all places, the οικος-domus-home.  In point of fact, for myself and my housemates, I’ve noticed our mental health levels decrease and malaise increase over time the longer we don’t have at least one fire going in the house; we tend to slack off, leave more messes behind us, and generally feel crappy.  This is essentially us starting to lose our own inner heat without an external heat to empower us; if we get too cool or go cold, we start on a slippery slope to nowhere good.  When spiritually-inclined friends come over, if we don’t have a candle burning, they tend to sleep rougher and with more active or disturbing dreams; sure, myself as houseowner may be used to it and shrug it off, but for people who’re used to their own levels of protection in their own environments of familiarity, it can be a jarring experience.

Keeping at least one fire burning, whether under the watchful eyes of Hestia or the Virgin Mary or God himself, in the home for the sake of the home is always something I’d recommend to everyone.  Heck, this would go for people traveling, too.  Whenever I’m in a new room I’m unaccustomed to sleeping in, especially hotels, I always bring a candle with me and keep it lit when I’m asleep.  Sure, the hotel may not exactly approve, but it’s something I prefer to do to bring some of that extra protection with me (in addition to the normal wards and protections I set up).  Some people insist on having a candle burning by their bedside no matter where they sleep; if I’m doing a particular working that demands light at all times, I’ll do this, too, but normally that’s just overkill for me when I keep my own stuff up and running.

Of course, never forget the usual warnings about keeping fires burning, especially unattended.  Make sure pets or children don’t reach them, make sure they’re stable enough to resist being knocked over, keep them enclosed, &c.  Don’t burn down your house for want of warmth, even if you do have a generous insurance plan.

Search Term Shoot Back, April 2014 (and an announcement!)

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of April 2014.

First, a bit of an announcement: I’m going to be taking the month of May off from blogging, since I’m moving from my apartment of four years into a house with my boyfriend and a friend of ours.  I just need some time to myself and away from writing the blog for a bit so I can get all my stuff packed up and moved, my new ritual schedules implemented, my new commute acclimated to, and my old place cleaned out and patched up.  I’ll still do my Daily Grammatomancy on Twitter and Facebook when I can, and if you have any questions, please feel free to email me or contact me through social media, and I’ll still reply to comments on my blog.  Also, I won’t be taking any craft commissions until the start of June, though you’re welcome to get a divination reading from me or get one of my ebooks off my Etsy page.  I still have those St. Cyprian of Antioch chaplets for sale, too, if you want to help out with moving expenses.  With that, onto the search results!

“computer generated geomancy” — If you’re looking for a place to get you geomancy figures automatically generated, you could do worse than go to random.org and use their random number generator to produce 16 binary results (0 or 1), or 4 results with a value of 0 through 15 (or 1 through 16).  If you’re looking for a program that draws up geomancy charts for you, there are a handful out there; I’ve coded one myself, geomancian, which is available for free on the Yahoo! and Facebook geomancy groups, but it’s command-line only (and old).  There’s Geomanticon available from Chris Warnock’s Renaissance Astrology, and I think there are a few mobile apps that do similar, but you’d have to pay for these.  If I ever learn mobile programming, I’d make a new one for Android, that’s for sure.  Still, no application can ever give you a proper interpretation of a full geomancy reading, though it can help you with interpreting the chart for yourself; if you want a full reading, I’m more than happy to offer them.

“do virgo males have big penises like greek god hermes” — I…really can’t speak to this.  (Disclaimer: my boyfriend is a Virgo, so there’s nothing I could say here that would end well for me.)  Also, save for the odd herm and a few ithyphallic representations of Hermes (more properly Mercury, especially in Roman art), Hermes isn’t portrayed with a particularly large cock.  It was actually seen as a good thing for a man to have a small dick in classical times, since they were easier to keep clean and reduced the risk of vaginal/anal/oral injury, trauma, or tearing, which would’ve very easily led to infection in pre-modern times.  That said, well, Hermes has shown me a few, shall we say, fulfilling things once in a while.  I’ll let you get on your knees and pray for that yourself, if you like.

“how to turn holy water into wax” — I don’t think you have a proper understanding of the physics that goes on here.  I mean, water and wax don’t mix, literally or metaphorically, and no ritual or physical process could achieve this short of a biblical miracle.  It’d be easier to turn water into wine, but that wouldn’t turn out so great, either.

“occult symbols of death” — Good question, and not one I really know an answer to.  You might use a seal for a spirit of Saturn, commonly associated with death, or of Azrael, the angel of death itself.  You might find symbols associated with Santissima Muerte, too, since she literally is death.  Other such symbols, such as the cap of Hades, associated with gods of death can work equally well.  When trying to find symbols for concepts like this when a spirit is not necessarily called for, I tend to look for sigils made from the letters of the word itself (so a sigil for the word “death” or “θανατος“), an Egyptian hieroglyph, or an ancient Chinese bone script or seal script character which you can easily find on Chinese Etymology.

“invocation of akasha or ether” — I suggest you don’t bother.  The only Western tradition that can even make good use of akasha is the Golden Dawn, since they’ve spent so much of their time augmenting classical and Renaissance Western mystery traditions with pilfered and appropriated Eastern, Vedic, Taoist, and Buddhist systems.  The use of a fifth element directly in magic doesn’t really have that much of a place, as I see it; Agrippa doesn’t reference it in his Scale of Five (book II, chapter 8) where he lists “a mixed body” instead, and its description in Plato’s Timaeus has it “arranging the constellations on the whole heaven”, so it’s probably more strongly based in stellar powers than perceived emptiness.  This makes sense, since we have no prayers, invocations, or workings of quintessence in the Western tradition before the Golden Dawn, but we have plenty for the gods, signs of the Zodiac, and stars.  To that end, you might use the Orphic Hymn to the Stars.  Alternatively, since the quintessence is the underlying substratum of the elements themselves, you might pursue your own Great Work, much as the alchemists did to find the Summum Bonum and Philosopher’s Stone, to understand and invoke ether on your own; I personally use the Hymns of Silence and invocations of pure Divinity.  And if you’re a neopagan who insists there are five elements because Cunningham says so, I hope you’re up for some actual magical lifting.

“how do i attach a crystal to a wooden dowel for wand” — In my experience, use two-part epoxy.  It forms one of the strongest adhesive bonds I can think of, far stronger than superglue, and it’s commonly and cheaply available at most craft or hardware stores.  If you have some sort of aversion to using artificial materials in crafting, the best I can suggest is carve out a niche in the wand just big enough for the crystal to fit and hold it in place with wire or cord.  Even then, it might fall out.  I strongly suggest the use of some kind of suitable adhesive for this, especially if you’re a heavy duty tool user.

“the use of crystals in conjuring” — Generally, I use crystals as the scrying medium within which I see spirits and by which I communicate with them, and this is often the case by many conjurers, especially those doing Enochiana with Dee’s works or the Trithemian system I use.  I also make use of a crystal on my ebony Wand of Art to help direct and focus power, if needed, but the crystal is not strictly necessary for the wand.  Beyond that, use crystals how you otherwise would in other rituals if you find a need for them; otherwise, don’t bring them into the ritual at all.  You don’t need a crystal for your wand, nor even for the scrying medium; a mirror, an obsidian plate, a blown-glass paperweight orb, a bowl of inky water, or a glass of clear water can all suffice as a perfectly good scrying medium, depending on your preferences; hell, depending on your second sight or conjuration skills, you may not need a scrying medium at all; with practice you’ll be able to perceive the spirit directly in the mind, or even evoke them to visible and material manifestation (which isn’t as important, I claim, as others may say it is, since it’s mostly a gimmick done for bragging rights at that point).

“when u draw a circle in a triangle,does it summon spirits? — On its own, no, otherwise every copy of Harry Potter with the Sign of the Deathly Hallows would actually be magical in more than the fantasy sense.  You’re just drawing shapes at this point, and the shapes are so basic and simple as to have no direct effect on their own.  However, you can summon spirits into the circle in the triangle afterward, which is the standard practice in Solomonic magic.

“is holy water used to bless the new fire?” — I mean, you could flick holy water into a fire to bless it, but the mixing of water and fire here bothers me.  The better way to make holy or blessed fire is to bless the fuel you use, such as the wood or oil, in conjunction with or just by saying prayers over the fire once lit.  This is common in Solomonic magic as it is in other religions, such as the fire blessing rituals of Zoroastrianism.  You might also consider making fire from holy woods or herbs, such as Palo Santo, sandalwood, or similar trees, depending on your tradition.  Generally speaking, fire is already one of the holiest substances we know of in the world and held in high esteem by many religions and traditions.  It can be made infernal, wicked, or evil, but the same can be said for anything material or physical, while it being naturally holy and closest to holiness is something that can be said for very few things, indeed.

“people who write in theban scripts” — Generally fluffy Wiccans, nowadays, who insist on making things blatantly-yet-“seekritly” magical.  The Theban script, as noted by Agrippa and Trithemius, has its origins in medieval alchemical ciphers common at the time, a simple 1-to-1 cipher for the Roman script (hence the use of a doubled U/V for a W).  Theban script used to be popular for enciphering alchemical and occult texts, but now it’s used once in a while for neopagan charms or quasigothic anime character design.

“how did saint isidore react when things went wrong” — Uh…”went wrong” is a pretty vague thing here.  For that matter, so is the saint; are you referring to Saint Isidore of Seville or Saint Isidore the Laborer?  The former didn’t really have much go wrong in his life, and the latter had his son fall into a well and needed to be rescued, so that’s hardly an epic to recount to kings.  I mean, the general Christian thing to do when things go wrong is prayer, which is probably what these guys did generally and how they also became, you know, saints.

“can we use orgonite ennrgy to cean air ?” — Short answer: no; long answer: fuck no.  Orgonite energy is properly orgone, which is a meta-energy that does not directly affect the physical world.  Orgonite is a lump of resin and metal shavings with other fanciful crap inside which is claimed to purify orgone from deadly orgone (DOR) to positive orgone (POR), which is crap and impossible even according to the (surprisingly versatile and workable) pseudoscience of Wilhelm Reich who developed orgone technology.  All orgonite could feasibly do is collect orgone energy inside to pull things out; even according to the rules of orgone theory, it cannot purify orgone from DOR to POR, since orgone tech cannot distinguish between the two (nor do I think a distinction is even possible, having never noticed any negative effects of DOR or overly positive effects of POR).  Physically speaking, there’s no mechanism for cleaning the air using a lump of congealed robot vomit, and you’d be better off putting a few fine sheets of cloth on your home HVAC air intake vent and washing it every month or so.  Orgone is orgone, energy is energy; there’s no real difference between “good energy” or “bad energy” when you’re talking about orgone.  You’d be better off learning energy manipulation and clearing space than using orgonite.

“greek alphabet as magical sigils” — Totally doable.  People have used various forms of the Hebrew alphabet magically for centuries now, and the Hebrew letters are well-known as symbols and referrants to the paths on the kabbalistic and Kircher Tree of Life, especially as stoicheic symbols for numbers, elements, planets, and signs of the Zodiac.  The Greek alphabet, sharing an ancestor with Hebrew and many of the same qualities, can be used similarly, right up to its own system of qabbalah.  Just as there exist magical cipher scripts for Roman script (Theban and the Trithemian cipher) and the Hebrew script (Celestial, Malachim, Passing the River, and the Alphabet of the Magi), I know of two cipher scripts for Greek: Apollonian and a medieval Frankish cipher (from Trithemius’ Polygraphia).  I’m sure others could be devised from similar principles or adapted from another magical script; alternatively, you could use archaic or variant styles of the Greek script, such as Coptic or even a variant of Phoenician.

“cockring orgone” — I…suppose this could be a thing.  Orgone does have its origins in the study of the life energy produced from sexual activity, so you’d just be going to the source for this.  I suppose you could make a cockring out of…hm.  Maybe something made of layers of synthetic latex and natural rubber?  Metal with a plastic core?  I’m unsure.  But more importantly, WHYYYYYYY.  If I wanted to give my partner a good zap, I’d just as soon use mentholated lubricant or, better yet, Tiger Balm (protip: for the love of God never do this).

“alan shapiro puts off the fire for the usps” — G…good for him?  I guess?  Seeing how I’ve never used that name on this blog nor known anyone by it, I…well, let’s just say that I’m so odd, because I can’t even.

“circle filled with triangles orgonite” — My first thought was the image of the Flower of Life, a circle filled with overlapping circles which can form triangle-like shapes within, and a potent magical and religious symbol for thousands of years.  And then I saw “orgonite”, and my next thought was “new age bullshit”, which is about what people use the Flower of Life nowadays for anyway.  On the one hand, you’re talking about sacred geometry, and on the other, you’re talking about lumps of crap, so I’m unsure what you’re getting at here.  Also, I’m starting to loathe the popularity of these orgone searches, but they’re just so ripe for making fun of.

“hermetism and homosexualit” — Hermetism isn’t a word often used, and chances are that you’re referring to “Hermeticism”, the Neoplatonic-Gnostic-ish philosophy that came about in the classical Mediterranean from a whole bunch of philosophies and religions rubbing shoulders with each other.  In that sense, Hermeticism and Neoplatonism generally helped form a new concept of what was then called “Platonic love”, a love of souls more than that of bodies.  Men and men, men and women, and women and women can all have Platonic love for each other, while before this movement (especially in the Renaissance) it may have been hard to communicate one’s feelings about another, especially if love was itself defined between two people of the opposite gender.  Another point to consider is that “homosexuality” as a concept and identification didn’t exist until the late 1800s; labeling ourselves in this manner simply wasn’t done before then.  You either never had gay sex, were having gay sex at that moment, or had gay sex at some point in the past; it was an action and not a state.  Actions like this have no significant ramifications I can think of in Hermeticism, since there’s no sin to deal with or laws that say you can’t do that; it’s a very abstract yet thorough philosophy that embraces pretty much whatever and whoever you throw at it.  As for the other meaning of Hermetism, which I take to be a henotheistic worship of Hermes, well, the god-dude himself likes the occasional dick, so he has no problem with it.

“the most homosexual magician on the planet” — I…honestly don’t think I’m the best candidate for this esteemed title.  I mean, yeah, I’ve sucked a lot of dick, but I don’t go around drinking skinny margs, watching Glee, or wearing turtlenecks, either.  I mean, I’m not particularly effeminate (though I do have my moments), nor am I stereotypically promiscuous (not like that’s a bad thing), so…yeah.   Besides, the notion itself is kind of absurd; unless you’re a 6 on the Kinsey scale, I don’t think “most homosexual” is really a thing, but since I do score a 6 on that scale, I suppose I get the title?  Maybe?  I still claim that you’d be better off finding candidates for this title on Twitter, all of whom are good, noble, professional, upright people and magi (also I love you guys~).

“energy circle when summoning spirits how do you draw it” — You don’t draw energy circles when summoning spirits; you draw conjuration or summoning circles to conjure or summon spirits.  In that case, you draw (shock of the ages!) a circle.  You can add other symbols, names, or whatever to it as you want, but these are highly varied, as Ouroboros Press’ Magic Circles in the Grimoire Tradition by William Kiesel points out, but really, a circle is all you need.  You can use chalk, a knife, paint, rope, or whatever to draw it out, but do draw it out, even if it’s just in the carpet with a finger.  Energy circles are used in various forms of energy work with varying degrees of significance, though I’ve never needed such a thing except for shielding or putting out feelers in my local surroundings.

“ikea-rituals” — I’m not aware of any Ikea-specific rituals, but their wide array of furniture and household goods is quite amazing, much of it able to be repurposed to ritual use.  I plan on getting a few more LACK side tables as a series of altars, to be sure, and some nice shelves for my temple and personal library in the near future.  I assume rituals for Ikea would take on a strongly Nordic and Scandinavian flavor, but that’s not my area of expertise.

“where do i put my incense when summoning a demon”  — I would put the incense somewhere between you and the conjuration space for the demon, that way you have the smoke rising up to offer a kind of veil or ethereal lens through which you can more easily perceive the demon.  Where you put the conjuration space (Triangle of Art, Table of Practice, etc.), however, is another question entirely.  Some grimoires offer directions you should face, or a particular direction associated with the demon or spirit, which would provide you with a good idea of directional and spatial layout.

Also, this wasn’t really a search term, but something did catch my eye.  I keep track of what other sites lead people to my blog; search engines like Google and sites like Facebook are at the very top of the list, of course, but also some blogs are also notable.  One crazy hilarious blog linked to my post on the divine names written on the Trithemius lamen,  From the crazy blog itself, it’s about:

We are living in Biblically significant Times. Ironically it was the most persecuted man in modern history that lead me to dig deeper into the Bible and taught me more about God than any other human being on the planet. And that man is Michael Jackson. I started a blog to defend him. I ended up researching him and learned just why they were after him. They did everything they could to shut him down. In the song “Cry” he said “take over for me”, so that is what I am doing. God bless that man and his faith and strength

…alright, then.  Specifically, the post referenced my blog in that those silly Jews never understood God in that God obviously only has one possible name (the one referred to as the Tetragrammaton, which even they say has two pronunciations…I think? it’s hard to read the post) and that all other names refer to demons, and that Michael is not the angel of the Sun but is a demon because it’s another Michael besides Michael Jackson.  They also attempted to bind the angel Michael and God in the name of God because reasons.  My good friend Michael Seb Lux, before discovering that the blog doesn’t allow comment except from certified crazy people it allows, was going to reply with this:

Actually, there are multiple names ascribed to G-d in the Hebrew Scriptures. While Yahweh is the more common one, in Exodus 3:14 G-d speaks His Name as, “Ehyeh asher ehyeh” or “I am that what I shall be”. Similarly, the use of Adonai is common as a theophoric and literally means, “Lord”. Other names used in Scripture are Yahweh Tzevaot (1 Samuel 17:45), ha’el elohe abika (Genesis 46:3), Elah Elahin (Daniel 2:47), Elohim (Exodus 32:1; Genesis 31:30, 32; and elsewhere), and so forth. The four-fold name may have originated as an epithet of the god El, head of the Bronze Age Canaanite pantheon (“El who is present, who makes himself manifest”) or according to the Kenite hypothesis accepted by scholars, assumes that Moses was a historical Midianite who brought the cult of Yahweh north to Israel.

May all the angels pray for us and God (in every one of his names) bless the Internet that we may be worthy of the lulz of paradise.

Anyway, see you guys in June!

On Candles and Their Uses

(Update 1/10/2018: Interested in more about this ritual?  Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

I think we can all agree that fire is a really cool thing.  I mean, who doesn’t like fire, or burning things, or setting things on fire?  I’m not just talking about the romanticism of bonfires on a summer or autumn night, but even simple candles that can give light to a dark room.  Fire is kinda important to us, not just as magicians, but as humans.  With fire, we bright light into the dark, enabling us to see what we could not previously; we can cook food, nourishing us and allowing us to eat better and safer; we can warm ourselves, staving off cold and death when there is no heat.  From a spiritual standpoint, these are all really important things, and more; fire is considered holy in many traditions, not least Zoroastrianism, which actually venerates fire.  After all, it always burns upward, toward heaven and God.  Notions of light, illumination, and enlightenment are kinda big in Hermeticism, too, and the element of Fire is associated with the Mind, the Intellect that allows us to know the Intelligible according to Cornelius Agrippa (book II, chapter 7).  Fire, among all the elements, is one that in a lot of ways is “alive”, and its special spiritual properties make it more than suitable but almost a mandatory requirement for much spiritual work.  Of course, the most I usually do with fire is light candles, but it’s not all the same depending on why I’m burning candles.  When it comes to burning candles for ritual work, I tend to classify candles into three groups: offering candles, work candles, and consecrated candles.  I treat each group differently in their preparation, purpose, and burning.

Offering candles are those I use as sacrifices for spirits and gods; unlike incense or wine, I will always have at least one candle burning when I make an offering to a spirit.  Everything else is optional, but not some sort of burnt offering.  I typically use unscented white tealights, with the exception of my ancestor altar, which I use a 7-day white candle; if a particular spirit prefers or asks for a specific color or a scented candle, I’ll give that to them instead, but unscented white tealights are the norm.  When making an offering, I light the candle, formally dedicate it to the spirit I’m making an offering to, and leave it to burn out completely on its own; you can find an example of such a dedication in this offering ritual I posted a while back.  While I won’t formally prepare the candles ahead of time as I would consecrated candles (more on that below), I may wipe them down with a bit of Florida water or holy water to clean them and make them pure and fit for offerings, assuming the spirit being offered it would like that.

Work candles are those that I use in a non-conjuration ritual to boost the power of the working; these are your general magic candles.  These will typically be colored candles, dressed with an oil, and engraved with names or symbols.  Candles used in most forms of magic nowadays (like for money or love spells), and especially most 7-day fixed candles you’d find in a hoodoo store or botanica, fall into this category.  The type of candle used, including color and oil and inscription, is heavily dependent on the ritual at hand.  I’ll usually leave work candles to burn on their own unless a particular working determines otherwise.

Consecrated candles are those I burn as part of a ritual to bring the light of God/Ain Soph Aur/Source into a formal ritual or as protection in a room or home.  These are always unscented white candles, either candlesticks or jarred 7-day candles.  I always keep one burning on my devotional altar (where I make most of my daily prayers, especially to God), and I light one on my Table of Manifestation (magic altar where I do non-conjuration work) as well as in conjuration rituals (which acts as the primary source of light and Light in the ritual).  With the exception of the candle on my devotional altar, I’ll put out consecrated candles either with a candle snuffer or a soft puff of breath at the end of a ritual.  I haven’t found any difference between putting them out with a candle snuffer or blowing them out, so this minor detail is up to you and what you think is proper.

I prepare my consecrated candles more-or-less according to the Key of Solomon (book II, chapter 12).  The way I prepare my consecrated candles requires suitable candles (obviously), holy water, holy oil (I use Lucky Mojo’s 7-11 Holy Oil, but high-quality olive oil works fine), and incense (frankincense at minimum, though I prefer a blend of sandalwood, myrrh, frankincense, and cinnamon), as well as having an already-consecrated candle lit and present (if possible).  In a day and hour of Mercury during the waxing Moon, I engrave or write on the candles the following symbols:

Characters for Consecrating Candles from the Key of Solomon

If it’s a candlestick, I engrave these symbols directly onto the candle (downwards from the top) using a stylus; if it’s a jarred 7-day candle, I write this in marker on the UPC of the candle (may as well put that sticker to good use, especially since they’re difficult to remove in my experience).  After this, I set a censer with the incense and light the incense, and set the candles around the censer in a circle.  Then, I say Psalms 150, 103, and 117, then say the following prayer over the candles:

O Lord God, Who governest all things by Thine Almighty Power, give unto me, a poor sinner, understanding and knowledge to do only that which is agreeable unto Thee; grant unto me to fear, adore, love, praise and give thanks unto Thee with true and sincere faith and perfect charity. Grant, O Lord, before I die, and descend into the realms beneath, and before the fiery flame shall devour me, that Thy Grace may not leave me, O Lord of my Soul. Amen.

I exorcise thee. O Creature of wax, by Him Who alone hath created all things by His Word, and by the virtue of Him Who is pure truth, that thou cast out from thee every Phantasm, Perversion, and Deceit of the Enemy, and may the Virtue and Power of God enter into thee, so that thou mayest give us light, and chase far from us all fear or terror.

After this, I rub the candles with holy water (the whole candle if it’s a candlestick, or the top part with the wick and around the glass if it’s a 7-day), praying that the candle might be cleansed and purified; I rub the candle with holy oil (the whole candle if a candlestick, or the top part with the wick and inside the glass if it’s a 7-day), praying that it might shine with the light of God; and I suffumigate the candles in the burning incense, praying that it might be filled with the spirit of God to aid me in all my works.  Then I let the incense burn out, let the holy water dry on the candles, and set them aside until I need them.

When I light a consecrated candle, I use the following prayer to sanctify the light:

I conjure thee, thou creature of fire, by him who created all things both in heaven and earth, and in the sea, and in every other place whatever, that thou cast away every phantasm from thee, that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing.  Bless, oh Lord, this creature of fire +, and sanctify it that it may be blessed +, and that it may burn for your honor and glory +, so neither the enemy nor any false imagination may enter into it, through the Most High and Holy Creator of All.  Amen.

Versions of this are found in the Heptameron as well as the Key of Solomon and even Trithemius’ Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals.  I use the one from Trithemius, with a few modifications to bring it more in line with the Heptameron.  At the + signs, I make a cross over the flame.

I’ve found that, in pretty much every working I do, I like to have at least one consecrated candle burning throughout the ritual, whether it’s a consecration of a talisman, conjuration of an angel, or the blessing of a home.  In that latter case, I’ll light a consecrated candle and use that flame to light a whole bunch of other tealights; I set the consecrated candle by the hearth (or kitchen, if there’s no fireplace), and each of the other candles in each room of the house.  Not only does this bring Light into the house, but it also helps to weaken any darkness or defilement that may have taken up residence.  In this function, consecrated candles act as a kind of protection-by-holiness, which can be helpful in many cases.  In conjuration, this has the effect of keeping bad stuff out of the conjuration circle, and forces whatever’s in the conjuration to be truthful and to stay away if they’re trying to deceive or lie to me.  In other workings, it simply acts as a connection and representation of God, from which all power derives.

What are your thoughts on burning candles in magic?  Do you have other uses of candles besides the above (and besides burning them for how pretty or warm they are)?  Do you have a different candle consecration ritual, if any at all?  Do you have a favorite type of candle-based spell?  Let me know in the comments!

49 Days of Definitions: Part II, Definition 6

This post is part of a series, “49 Days of Definitions”, discussing and explaining my thoughts and meditations on a set of aphorisms explaining crucial parts of Hermetic philosophy.  These aphorisms, collectively titled the “Definitions from Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius”, lay out the basics of Hermetic philosophy, the place of Man in the Cosmos, and all that stuff.  It’s one of the first texts I studied as a Hermetic magician, and definitely what I would consider to be a foundational text.  The Definitions consist of 49 short aphorisms broken down into ten sets, each of which is packed with knowledge both subtle and obvious, and each of which can be explained or expounded upon.  While I don’t propose to offer the be-all end-all word on these Words, these might afford some people interested in the Definitions some food for thought, one aphorism per day.

Today, let’s discuss the eleventh definition, part II, number 6 of 6:

Light is a good, a clear vision, (which makes) appear all of the visible (things).  The essence of fire is burning.  However, fire is one (thing) and light is another one.  For what fire has reached shall be destroyed, but light appears just as it is by itself.  Every move of soul is perceived by Nous; since it is some (kind of) energy, breath performs (it).

This last definition of part II may come as a surprise, seeing how the second through fifth definitions focused on the four elements; where the hell was light mentioned?  It doesn’t appear to be an element, and it wasn’t really spoken of in II.1.  However, read II.1 closely again, and you’ll read two parts that link this definition cohesively into this section:

  • “Nous is the invisible good; soul is a necessary movement adjusted to every kind of body.”
  • “Breath is the body of soul or the column of soul.”

Bearing in mind that we now know about the four elements that constitute “every kind of body”, this definition then goes on to describe the nature of the thing behind the body.  If this is starting to make this sound like a fifth element or quintessence (literally, “the fifth essence”) like spirit or akasha of modern occultism, you’re catching on, but there’s some more unpacking to do first.

First, let’s talk about light.  Light is “a good”, not “the good” of the Nous, but it is “a good”.  While this type of phrase hasn’t yet been encountered in the Definitions, we can assume that this means that light is a quality of the Nous, or that light is something from of and part of the Nous.  In either way, light is something divine, something mental.  Light is also “a clear vision, which makes appear all of the visible things”.  When modern people think of light, they think of some sort of electromagnetic waves that bounce off and reflect from objects, and these waves are then registered by the eyes to produce neural signals to be interpreted as a vision.  Classically, however, light was seen to emanate from the eyes or objects themselves and catch alight of other things (and is one of the reasons gazing magic and the “evil eye” are still around).  Light is vision itself; more importatly, light is a clear vision, that which illumines and enlightens, that which presents things clearly and truly in its true form. However, light can only work to make things appear that are already visible, or able to be seen.  Things that are bodiless or only intelligible without being sensible cannot be seen, and so light is independent of these things; light, then, is probably a component of the Nous in the cosmos, since being visible is a special kind of being sensible, and only the cosmos is the part of God that is sensible. 

However, this is an ideal kind of light, a mental or spiritual light that is independent of physical processes.  The definition then goes on to compare fire and light, where “the essence of fire is burning” and that “fire is one thing and light is another one”.  Many people, especially classically, equated fire and light as the same, since fire and other extraordinarily hot things are what gives off light.  Fire does indeed give off light, but this is not the light that is a good; “what fire has reached shall be destroyed, but light appears just as it is by itself”.  In other words, fire burns up and burns away, and anything exposed to firelight has this effect made upon itself.  True light, however, acts differently: it presents what is visible and sensible, and nothing more.  Compare Tat’s exclamation from the Corpus Hermeticum (chapter X, part 4):

Her. For It doth will to be, and It is both Itself and most of all by reason of Itself. Indeed all other things beside are just because of It; for the distinctive feature of the Good is “that it should be known.” Such is the Good, O Tat.

Tat. Thou hast, O father, filled us so full of this so good and fairest Sight, that thereby my mind’s eye hath now become for me almost a thing to worship.  For that the Vision of the Good doth not, like the sun’s beam, fire-like blaze on the eyes and make them close; nay, on the contrary, it shineth forth and maketh to increase the seeing of the eye, as far as e’er a man hath the capacity to hold the inflow of the radiance that the mind alone can see.  Not only does it come more swiftly down to us, but it does us no harm, and is instinct with all immortal life.

Things like firelight are temporary and easily consumed; once the matter on fire is consumed by fire, the fire dies out.  When firelight dies out, darkness remains.  However, light is something independent of sources of fire, and anything that can be seen can be illumined by light.  Light, then, is something different, and anything that can be perceived or sensed is done so with light.  In a sense, light is wherever the mind is, and if the mind of Man is made more fully like the Nous in whose image it is made, and if Nous is God, and if God is the All and the One, then light is everywhere, since light is in all things, not just in the sensible cosmos.  Compare the Corpus Hermeticum (chapter XI, part 7):

Behold, again, the seven subject Worlds; ordered by Æon’s order, and with their varied course full-filling Æon!  [See how] all things [are] full of light, and nowhere [is there] fire; for ’tis the love and blending of the contraries and the dissimilars that doth give birth to light down shining by the energy of God, the Father of all good, the Leader of all order, and Ruler of the seven world-orderings! …

Thus, while bodies are sensible, light may be the actual function of sense itself, where anything sensed is done so by means of light, which illumines the mind.  And since all bodies in the cosmos have a soul made just for it, since each body cannot exist without one, soul itself is what makes itself known by means of the body.  After all, the soul is “a necessary movement adjusted to every kind of body”, though itself is invisible, much how the Nous is the “invisible good”.  The soul is what enables a body to move and function in the cosmos, and since the body is sensible, the soul is evident through the body.  Because of light, we can sense the motion of bodies and therefore of souls, either physically through our eyes or mentally through the sight of the mind, but in either case this perception is done with light.  And, further, because the Nous perceives all things, especially through and because of the minds of Man, “every move of soul is perceived by Nous”, and this perception is made possible through light.

The last part of this definition is a little complex, but it relates to the connection between soul and spirit.  “Since [every move of soul] is some kind of energy, breath performs it.”  In other words, the soul provides a force that is enacted through the body into the cosmos, but the relationship between the soul and the breath (or spirit, since these terms are interchangeable so far) has not yet really been fully explored.  We know that Man exists as a microcosm due to “soul and breath” (I.4), and that breath is the “body of soul or the column of soul”.  Because the body is moved by the soul, the body is moved by means of the breath because of the soul.  The breath is what keeps the physical body able to receive the soul’s motions, so the breath is the facilitator of the soul into the physical body.  In other words, breath performs the motions in the body that the soul desires to give it.  We can think of the breath as something akin to air.  Air is the element that binds the upper heavens with the lower earth.  Similarly, the breath is something that combines the soul with the body.  Just as the influences of the higher heavens can be felt down here by means of the air and the forces that travel through it, the influences of the soul can be felt and enacted by the body by means of the breath and the motions that pass through it.

So much for the last definition of part II.  From this set, we know there are four elements that constitute the body: earth that provides the material basis for action, water which nourishes and moistens, air which conjoins and permits influence between different locations, and fire which desiccates and destroys.  All bodies are made out of some composition from these elements, and all bodies are given motion and movement from the soul.  The soul, which is necessary but not sufficient to animate the body, is given expression through the breath or spirit, which like the air that conjoins the upper heavens and lower Earth conjoins the soul and body together.  All bodies, being sensible, are known by means of light, which provides pure and clear vision.  Light, however, is not just a property of cosmos, but also of Nous, and by means of light the minds of Man as well as the Mind of God can know all things.

49 Days of Definitions: Part II, Definition 5

This post is part of a series, “49 Days of Definitions”, discussing and explaining my thoughts and meditations on a set of aphorisms explaining crucial parts of Hermetic philosophy.  These aphorisms, collectively titled the “Definitions from Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius”, lay out the basics of Hermetic philosophy, the place of Man in the Cosmos, and all that stuff.  It’s one of the first texts I studied as a Hermetic magician, and definitely what I would consider to be a foundational text.  The Definitions consist of 49 short aphorisms broken down into ten sets, each of which is packed with knowledge both subtle and obvious, and each of which can be explained or expounded upon.  While I don’t propose to offer the be-all end-all word on these Words, these might afford some people interested in the Definitions some food for thought, one aphorism per day.

Today, let’s discuss the tenth definition, part II, number 5 of 6:

Fire is a sterile essence, the duration of the immortal bodies and the destruction of the mortal: an infertile substance, in as much (it belongs to) the destructive fire which makes (things) disappear; and the perpetuation of the immortal (beings), since what cannot be consumed by fire is immortal and indestructible, but the mortal can be destroyed by fire.

While definition II.2 described air, II.3 earth, and II.4 water, definition II.5 describes fire, the last but certainly not the least element to be discussed.  Air is the conjoining element that binds other things together; earth is the foundation of matter for other elements to act upon it; water nurtures and nourishes and allows for growth.  Air and earth can be seen as opposites in a way: while earth allows for distinct bodies to be formed, air helps bind them together again.  Thus, water and fire can also be seen as a pair of opposites; if water helps to nourish, fire then must help to destroy.

Fire is the “sterile essence”; fire prohibits things from growing or producing things, unlike water which helps things to grow or produce.  Sterility is something that we might attribute to bare earth, as well, earth unmixed with water.  However, as seen from earlier definitions, water and earth are both the support of the cosmos, and are inextricably linked together; they are going to be combined together in all cosmic things (at least down here on the Earth).  Fire, however, is something different; fire is hot, it is heat, it is burning, it is active.  And these things are not conducive to life for mortals.

Fire is also the “duration of the immortal bodies and the destruction of the mortal”.  This is a pair of opposites that contrasts that which is immortal (like gods or planets) and that which is mortal (like human bodies or animals).  In the first part of this statement, fire is the “duration of the immortal”, or that fire is that which maintains, empowers, and sustains immortal bodies.  In a way, immortal bodies are primarily fire, and fire is what enables them to “live”.  I use quotes around “live” here because fire is inherently antithetical to life, or at least life as we know it: mortal life.  Immortal beings live in a way that is distinct from mortal beings, and based on what we know about fire, I think one of the qualities of immortal beings is that they cannot give birth.  After all, if fire is the “duration of the immortal”, and if fire is also a “sterile essence”, then beings who are primarily fire cannot give birth due to their sterility. 

That said, anyone who’s lit a fire before can attest to how quickly it can spread from tinder to tinder, twig to twig, log to log.  Fire expands and catches other things on fire, so it doesn’t just burn out immediately; in a way, fire “lives” on its own, but in a way distinct from other bodies that are composed of water and earth (e.g. human bodies).  Because of how fire catches, immortal beings can definitely reproduce or spread their influence by means of their fire, but this is simply an effect of fire on the earth of a body.  And, because fire is sterile and hot, fire also desiccates and burns up; fire destroys any body that is not immortal.  Thus, fire is “the destruction of the mortal”; fire corrupts, decreases, and burns up anything that is not also fire.  The ability to be destroyed and undergo decrease back into basic components is a characteristic of mortal beings, and now we know that these actions are caused (at least in part) by fire.

Fire, as well as being sterile (inhibiting life), is also an “infertile substance”, meaning that it cannot be the growth of anything, nor can it help to produce anything.  Then again, the text continues this to qualify that fire is infertile insofar as “it belongs to the destructive fire which makes things disappear”.  This suggests that there are multiple types of fire: a destructive fire is that which decreases, desiccates, and the like on bodies that are capable of undergoing that function (mortal bodies).  When we get to immortal bodies, however, not only is fire their primary life-giving substance, but fire is “the perpetuation of the immortal beings”.  Just as fire spreads and catches onto other things, so too do immortal beings “catch onto” and spread their influence across other bodies.

Immortal beings don’t simply catch on fire; they themselves already are fire, and they are not harmed by it or by the fire of other immortals.  After all, immortal beings cannot undergo destruction or desiccation, and so are an ever-living fire on their own; their fires may combine to form a bigger fire, or their fire may ignite elsewhere to “perpetuate” themselves.  In any case, because they cannot be consumed by fire, they are “immortal and indestructible”.  However, mortal beings “can be destroyed by fire”.  So now we know that fire is something that acts fundamentally different for mortal beings and immortal beings: immortal beings are perpetuated by the use and spread of fire, while mortal beings are destroyed and consumed by fire.

49 Days of Definitions: Part II, Definition 1

This post is part of a series, “49 Days of Definitions”, discussing and explaining my thoughts and meditations on a set of aphorisms explaining crucial parts of Hermetic philosophy.  These aphorisms, collectively titled the “Definitions from Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius”, lay out the basics of Hermetic philosophy, the place of Man in the Cosmos, and all that stuff.  It’s one of the first texts I studied as a Hermetic magician, and definitely what I would consider to be a foundational text.  The Definitions consist of 49 short aphorisms broken down into ten sets, each of which is packed with knowledge both subtle and obvious, and each of which can be explained or expounded upon.  While I don’t propose to offer the be-all end-all word on these Words, these might afford some people interested in the Definitions some food for thought, one aphorism per day.

Today, let’s discuss the sixth definition, part II, number 1 of 6:

Nous is the invisible good; soul (is) a necessary movement adjusted to every (kind of) body.  A body is (made out) of the four qualities, (as) a well-tempered composition of warm, cold, dry and wet: of warm (i.e.) of fire, of cold (i.e.) of air, of dry (i.e.) of earth, of wet (i.e.) of water.  Breath is the body of soul or the column of soul.

While the first set of definitions focused on an introduction to the three worlds of Hermes Trismegistus, now we start to dig deeper into the actual meat of the worlds, and here we’re given an introduction to the world of the cosmos, that of ordered creation.  Recall that, while God is intelligible, the cosmos is sensible and intelligible where God exists and is evident.  Although the world is visible (a special kind of sensible), God is invisible, and since God is the Nous and is also the Good, so too is Nous the Good and invisible.  From the Nous is created the cosmos, within the Nous and not exceeding it, so all things that exist in the cosmos are part of the Nous.  Plus, the Nous has a special power over the cosmos: the cosmos is moved by the Nous, while the Nous itself is immovable.

The cosmos is formed from a multitude of bodies, some of which are the body of Man, a particular world that intersects with the material world of the cosmos and with the immaterial world of God, being both destructible, inasmuch as anything material can be “destroyed”, i.e. changed or reorganized into another material form.  Each body, being movable, must have some quality that allows it to be moved; this is the soul (see definition I.3), where “all of the visibile cannot possibly be constituted without the invisible”, where the invisible portion here is the soul without which “[the body] cannot possibly be constituted”.  The soul here is explained to be a “necessary movement” that allows it to function, the special quality derived from God that allows things made in the cosmos to still be a part of God while being so distinct from it.

Further, each soul is “adjusted to every kind of body”, so the animating principle of each body in the cosmos is unique depending on the type of body it is.  Note here that the definition says “kind of body” and not simply “body”; this indicates that there are uniform types of souls for different classes of bodies.  However, we also know that something made from another thing inherits the qualities of those things; thus, the cosmos as made by God inherits a certain divinity from God, though because the cosmos is not identical with God, it does not inherit those qualities identically.  So, while there may be a soul for the type of bodies known as “mammals”, there are also souls for those of “squirrels”, which is a type of mammal; likewise, there will be individual souls for individual squirrels, each suited for each individual body (which itself can be considered a class with only one member).  Essentially, this statement is the Hermetic equivalent of the Liskov substitution principle in software engineering.  However, to go with a more Hermetic route, we might also explain it with the Corpus Hermeticum (pretty much all of chapter XII, but especially parts 2 through 4):

But in irrational lives Mind is their nature. For where is Soul, there too is Mind; just as where Life, there is there also Soul.  But in irrational lives their soul is life devoid of mind; for Mind is the in-worker of the souls of men for good;—He works on them for their own good.  In lives irrational He doth co-operate with each one’s nature; but in the souls of men He counteracteth them.  For every soul, when it becomes embodied, is instantly depraved by pleasure and by pain.  For in a compound body, just like juices, pain and pleasure seethe, and into them the soul, on entering in, is plunged.

O’er whatsoever souls the Mind doth, then, preside, to these it showeth its own light, by acting counter to their prepossessions, just as a good physician doth upon the body prepossessed by sickness, pain inflict, burning or lancing it for sake of health.  In just the selfsame way the Mind inflicteth pain upon the soul, to rescue it from pleasure, whence comes its every ill.  The great ill of the soul is godlessness; then followeth fancy for all evil things and nothing good.  So, then, Mind counteracting it doth work good on the soul, as the physician health upon the body.

But whatsoever human souls have not the Mind as pilot, they share in the same fate as souls of lives irrational.  For [Mind] becomes co-worker with them, giving full play to the desires towards which [such souls] are borne,—[desires] that from the rush of lust strain after the irrational; [so that such human souls,] just like irrational animals, cease not irrationally to rage and lust, nor ever are they satiate of ills. For passions and irrational desires are ills exceeding great; and over these God hath set up the Mind to play the part of judge and executioner.

Now that we understand more about the soul, we can now go onto more about bodies.  And, finally, we get something concrete: “a body is made out of the four qualities, as a well-tempered composition of warm, cold, dry and wet: of warm i.e. fire, of cold i.e. air, of dry i.e. earth, of wet i.e. water”.  Here we have the four classical elements of Empedocles along with his four qualities: hot and cold, wet and dry.  However, unlike Empedoclean classical elements with two qualities, each element here is ascribed one quality: fire is hot, air is cold, water is wet, earth is dry.  Empedoclean elements have two qualities: fire is hot and dry, air is hot and wet, water is wet and cold, earth is dry and cold.  Aristotle ascribed each of the Empedoclean elements a primary and secondary quality: fire is primarily hot and secondarily dry, air is primarily moist and secondarily hot, water is primarily cold and secondarily moist, earth is primarily dry and secondarily cold.  The system in this definition, however, is the same as that of the Stoics, which focused more on the material basis of the cosmos than most other philosophies.

These four qualities of hot, cold, dry, and moist provide the foundation for all bodies that exist, and each body has certain amounts of each.  We can be simple about things, saying that a body of water has little air in it since it is full of water, or that a brick has little air in it since it is full of earth; likewise, that things like fire have no coldness, and that ice has no heat in it.  However, this can also be expanded as Cornelius Agrippa does in his First Book to more spiritual or immaterial distinctions (book I, chapter 3):

For some are heavy, as Earth and Water, and others are light, as Aire and Fire. Wherefore the Stoicks called the former passives, but the latter actives. And yet once again Plato distinguished them after another manner, and assigns to every one of them three qualities, viz. to the Fire brightness, thinness and motion, but to the Earth darkness, thickness and quietness. And according to these qualities the Elements of Fire and Earth are contrary. But the other Elements borrow their qualities from these, so that the Aire receives two qualities of the Fire, thinness and motion; and one of the Earth, viz. darkness. In like manner Water receives two qualities of the Earth, darkness and thickness, and one of Fire, viz. motion. But Fire is twice more thin then Aire, thrice more movable, and four times more bright: and the Aire is twice more bright, thrice more thin, and four times more moveable then Water. Wherefore Water is twice more bright then Earth, thrice more thin, and four times more movable. As therefore the Fire is to the Aire, so Aire is to the Water, and Water to the Earth; and again, as the Earth is to the Water, so is the Water to the Aire, and the Aire to the Fire. And this is the root and foundation of all bodies, natures, vertues, and wonderfull works; and he which shall know these qualities of the Elements, and their mixtions, shall easily bring to pass such things that are wonderfull, and astonishing, and shall be perfect in Magick.

So much for an introduction to the elements.  All bodies that exist, as said above, consist of these four elements and qualities, but there is one more physical phenomenon to explain still in this definition: that of breath.  Breath “is the body of soul or the column of soul”, and the text seems to offer both these descriptions equivalently or equally.  In the first, that the breath is the “body of soul”, we can go back to our earlier definitions and describe the breath as the physical evidence of the invisible part of the body that affords it motion; in other words, the breath (or spirit) is the mechanism that allows the soul to come in contact with the body and vice versa.  As such, just as all bodies are given a mind, and because all bodies require a soul in order to be moved, the spirit allows the mind to interface between the soul and the body.  In this sense, the spirit can be seen as the body of soul that allows the body of Man to live.

In the other view, however, the breath is the “column of soul”, which is a similar but new interpretation.  Columns indicate support or understanding, something that holds another thing up, and just as the soul “keeps up the figure while being within the body” (from I.3), the breath is similarly the support that keeps up the soul while being within the soul.  In this view, the spirit is within the soul, and animates the soul as much as the soul animates the body.  However, in the previous view where the spirit is the body of the soul, it’s the soul that exists within the spirit, which may indicate that the soul is within the spirit independently of the body or that the soul inhabits the body as well as the spirit and the spirit interacts with the body in a different manner than the soul does, or that the soul is within the spirit which is itself in the body.  In the former interpretation, it would seem that the Mind goes through two agents to work with the Body: both soul and spirit equally yet independently, with the soul acting on the spirit which acts on the body as well as with the soul acting on the body directly.  In the latter interpretation, it sould seem that the Mind goes through the soul to activate the spirit which itself activates the Body.  Both of these accounts, however, conflict with the notion that the breath is the “column of soul”, where it seems that the Mind goes through the spirit to activate the soul which itself activates the body.

Between the different interpretations here of the role of body, soul, spirit, and mind, it doesn’t seem clear which view is being presented here.  Then again, perhaps that’s the point; maybe different bodies simply require different arrangements of soul and spirit, having one but not the other or operating in different ways depending on the body and the type of soul.  After all, we know that all bodies have souls, and that all souls come from Nous.  However, we only have concrete evidence that man has breath (from I.4) without yet speaking of other types of bodies, and this makes sense, kinda.  Rocks don’t breathe, right?  Rocks, despite having souls, also don’t really move independently (yet, being movable, still have souls) but are utterly movable and mutable, being changed by other forces that are more animate than itself.  Perhaps the function of spirit is tailored to each body much as the soul is for each body, or that spirit really is independent of soul but relies on the nature of the body (bodies without lungs or means to breathe simply do not breathe).  In either case, where the breath is the body of soul (having the soul within the spirit to animate it) or the column of soul (having the spirit within the soul to animate it), it’s clear that both interpretations have different roles to play in the cosmos.