A Little Discourse On Apianus’ Cosmological Diagram

Okay, so, this thing:

A lot of people who’ve been around in Western occulture or astrology have probably encountered this image before in one context or another (it’s even appeared before on my own blog in a discussion about Ashen Chassan’s implementation of the Trithemian conjuration ritual and again when I discussed the Hermetic tormentors in CH XIII), and so many of us are familiar with this image to one degree or another.  True, it’s a really neat depiction of a Renaissance version of the geocentric Ptolemaic model of the solar system and cosmos, but there’s other stuff going on in it that I really want to explore and explain.

To start with, where does this image come from, and what specifically does it depict?  This illustration of the celestial spheres was originally made by the German humanist, mathematician, astronomer, and cartographer Petrus Apianus (anglicized as Peter Apian) in his 1524 work Cosmographia.  Apianus depicts this “scheme of the divisions of the spheres” for his second chapter, “on the motion of the spheres and the division of the heavens”.  At the center of the image we have the Earth, depicted as a circle of seas and land (corresponding to the elements of Water and Earth), surrounded by a sphere of clouds (Air) and that by flames (Fire). Outside the Earth, in successively larger concentric circles, we have the seven celestial spheres for the seven planets following the usual Chaldaean ascending order: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn.  Skipping to the outermost edge of the whole thing (the eleventh “sphere”, as it were, though it’s really more like the infinitude beyond the spheres as a whole), we have “the Empyrean Heaven, Dwelling-place of God and of all the Chosen”. This is divine infinity beyond all the spheres, unlimited and unbounded and unmoving, under/within which all creation exists.  All straightforward stuff for most people, I suppose.

But it’s the stuff between the heaven of Saturn and the empyrean heaven that trip up a lot of people: the eighth, ninth, and tenth spheres.  To head off such speculation at the pass: no, it’s nothing qabbalistic or sephirothic in any meaningful sense (Apianus doesn’t appear to have been interested in such stuff).  Each of these circles in Apianus’ diagram all have the twelve signs of the Zodiac in them, but they’re respectively described as “the eighth heaven of the firmament”, “the ninth crystalline heaven”, and “the tenth heaven, the first cause”.  While all being zodiacal, they’re all somehow…different?  On top of that, they’re not all aligned with each other, only the eighth heaven has little stars in it, and the ninth heaven has this weird quartered-circle symbol at the ends of the sectors for Virgo and Pisces.  So what’s going on here, exactly?

Welcome, dear reader, to the funtime of medieval astronomy and cosmology!

Let’s start with the tenth sphere, the Primum Mobile (“First Mover”).  Ironically, despite being the most distant finite sphere of all (finite at least in comparison to the truly infinite empyrean heaven surrounding it), this is probably the easiest for us to approach.  The Primum Mobile is the outermost sphere and rotates endlessly, setting all things underneath/within it into motion as well, much like if you spin a pitcher of water, the water inside the pitcher itself won’t spin immediately but is set into motion by the spinning of its container.  In the old geocentric model of the cosmos, the Primum Mobile rotates constantly, performing one complete rotation every 24 hours, moving clockwise from the East to the South to the West to the North all the way back to the East.  According to Apianus, there exists precisely one and only one star in this tenth heaven.  Which star?  He doesn’t say and it’s not wholly clear to me, though if I were to leap to an assumption, I’d say that it’d be the northern pole star α Ursae Minoris (aka Polaris), given how this star was historically and culturally reckoned to be the axis (literally the “pole”) of rotation of all the heavens.

Let’s skip over the ninth heaven for a moment and take a look at the eighth heaven called the “firmament” in Apianus’ diagram.  This heaven is what contains the background stars of the nighttime sky that don’t wander around from night to night, month to month, or year to year.  This is why we call such stars “fixed stars”, as opposed to the “wandering stars” (ἀστέρες πλανῆται asteres planētai) of the planets (whose motion is defined according to their own heavens).  It’s because the eighth heaven of the firmament contains the fixed stars that Apianus’ diagram has all these stellated figures in this circle.  As for the motion of the eighth sphere, Apianus describes it as being subject to the motion of the tenth sphere such that they move all at once as the tenth sphere does, which is why the night sky as a whole rotates around the Earth once per 24-hour period.  Easy enough, I guess.

Between the eighth and tenth spheres is the ninth, described as “crystalline or aqueous” by Apianus (though just labelled as “crystalline” in the diagram).  First, what we can pick out is those two quartered circles.  Although they occur at the ends of the sectors for Virgo and Pisces, they’re really intended to be between these signs and the ones that follow to mark the equinoxes: the September equinox (occurring at the end of Virgo and the start of Libra) and the March equinox (occurring at the start of Aries and end of Pisces) respectively.  As for the motion of this heaven, Apianus says that the ninth heaven “vibrates” (trepidat), which causes the fixed stars in the eighth heaven to move forward and backward.  This would make no sense to modern folk today, but what Apianus is describing was a feature of older forms of astronomy: trepidation, a sort of oscillation in the precession of the equinoxes.  While an obsolete theory nowadays, trepidation has its origins as far back as the 4th century CE and was popular generally from the 9th to 16th centuries (putting Apianus roughly at the end of that period).

First, let’s back up a bit and talk about precession of the equinoxes (and yes, the ancients knew about axial precession all the way back in the 2nd century BCE).  Imagine a top, like the child’s toy: you pick it up, you give it a twist, and it spins around on its point upon a flat surface until it loses enough momentum to keep itself balanced.  At first, when the momentum is fast, the top stands upright, but as it continues, it eventually develops a kind of “wobble”, such that the axis of rotation is no longer precisely upright but ends up rotating on its own in a circle.  As the axis itself wobbles and rotates around, it causes the whole top to rotate in a different way on top of its already ongoing rotation around the axis, including the relative position of where such rotation around its axis “starts”.  This is what is meant by “axial precession”, and when it’s applied to the Earth as a whole, we call it “precession of the equinoxes” because it’s what causes the whole of the background sky to appear to “rotate backwards” relative to its daily regular motion—which includes the equinox points where the ecliptic (the Sun’s path around the sky) crosses the celestial equator.  The axis of the Earth precedes in a complete loop roughly once every 26000 years (currently 25772 years given our current observed rate of precession).

The theory of trepidation, on the other hand, suggested that the rate of the precession of the equinoxes was not a constant rate, but varied and could go either forward or backward.  In the original theory from the classical era, reversing its direction every 640 years or so.  Thus, given a rate of precession of 1° every 80 years, after 8° (thus 640 years), the precession would reverse into procession, such that the equinoxes would move forward eight degrees for the next 640 years, then reverse again, and so forth.  In later and more popular models from the medieval period (especially in Islamic astronomy), trepidation was more of a smaller, less-rigid variation that added to the motion of precession, where the oscillation provided by trepidation occurred over 7000 years, causing the precession of the equinoxes to take place over 49000 years rather than 26000.  It’s this later model that Apianus was describing and subscribed to when he says that the ninth heaven “trepidates”.

Interestingly, the ninth heaven (at least in Apianus’ model) was starless.  While the eighth sphere was full of fixed stars (all conceived of as being roughly the same distance away from the Earth in this geocentric model) and the tenth having just its one sole star (Polaris?), the ninth is a void having nothing in it—except, perhaps, the “waters which were above the firmament” (Genesis 1:7).  Apianus using this biblical model to describe the distant heavens would explain his description of the ninth heaven as being “aqueous”, and would moreover suggest that the wobbling of trepidation could be accounted for by the ripples and waves occurring in such celestial waters.

So there we have it!  We’ve finally knocked out what those intermediate heavens are in Apianus’ famous cosmological diagram, situated between the planetary heavens and the ultimate divine one.  While some of this might be a new thing for some, when placed in its own historical context, all of this is the natural development and expected evolution of a Renaissance take on the geocentric Ptolemaic cosmic model, depicted in a beautifully concise diagram.

But there’s still one issue left: why do the zodiacal sectors not line up in those eighth, ninth, and tenth heavens?  If you look at the eighth and ninth spheres, they line up exactly at Aries and Libra (the equinox points), but they seem to diverge slightly (starting at the east-north-east part of the diagram) before converging again (at the opposite, west-south-west part).  I have honestly no explanation for this beyond it being an artistic whoopsie; after all, sometimes considerations of space and communicability (in the form of the stellated figures and the circle labels) make accuracy and precision a secondary concern.  I feel like there should be a better reason than that, but I haven’t honestly found one beyond it just being something handmade in a constrained space.

But then there’s the dramatic mismatch between the zodiacal sectors of the eighth and ninth heavens with that of the tenth heaven, which can’t possibly be just a slip.  The tenth heaven has Aries starting at the due east point of the diagram, while the eighth and ninth heavens have it starting to the northeast.  What gives?

Well, using my handy-dandy free-to-use planetary observer software Stellarium for the year 1524, we can see exactly what’s going on:

The bright slightly-slanted orange line is the ecliptic, with the faint orange grid of lines being the ecliptical coordinate grid based off it to look at points in the night sky.  The bright more-slanted blue line is the celestial equator (which divides the sky into a “north” part and “south” part).  The ecliptic intersects with the equator at two points, which is where we call the equinox points.  In this case, the image above is centered on the March equinox point, where the ecliptic goes from being below the celestial equator (on the right) to above it (on the left).  The small squiggly faint blue lines in the background indicate constellations, and as you can see, the March equinox point is hanging out somewhere in Pisces, with Aries to the left and Aquarius to the right.

It should be remembered at this point that Western astrology (and historical astronomy, for that matter) has been founded on the notion of a “tropical zodiac”, which is to say a zodiacal system comprising twelve equal 30° segments of the night sky (according to the ecliptic) where the starting point of it (0° Aries) aligns with the March equinox point (where the ecliptic crosses to rise above the celestial equator).  Thus, we consider the segment from 0° to 30° of the ecliptic to be the sign Aries, from 30° to 60° Taurus, from 60° to 90° Gemini, and so on through from 330° to 360° (o°) to be Pisces.  The issue here—as many of my astrologer friends on Twitter are tired of hearing—is that this notion of “sign” doesn’t match up cleanly with the actual physical constellations of the night sky.  Although the constellations were more-or-less aligned with the signs once upon a time, due to precession of the equinoxes, the constellations began drifting “forward” from the signs while the signs drifted “backwards” from the constellations.  Again, precession here was something known to older astrologers from a very early date, so this came as no surprise to any of them—and it’s precisely this mismatch that Apianus is documenting between the eighth/ninth heavens and the tenth heaven.

Thus, in Apianus’ diagram, the tenth heaven’s zodiacal sectors represent the tropical zodiac (aligned to the seasons and the ecliptical crossing of the celestial equator), while the eighth and ninth heavens represent the actual constellations and stars of the sky (which would be a sidereal zodiac, literally “according to the stars” as opposed to according to ecliptical intersections).  This is why the equinox markers (those quartered circles) are placed in Pisces and Virgo in Apianus’ diagram (because technically we have those equinoxes occur while the Sun is in one sign according to the tenth heaven but in another constellation according to the eighth/ninth), and why the Aries sector of the eighth/ninth heavens in Apianus’ diagram start in the northeast rather than th eeast, just as it does celestially if you consider the March equinox point to be due (celestial) east.

Also, one more note: yes, it’s true that while the tropical zodiac doesn’t align with the constellations, neither does the sidereal zodiac.  In both of these zodiacal systems, we’re working with signs, not constellations, and a sign is defined as being a 30° segment of the ecliptic.  The tropical and sidereal zodiacs are identical in every regard except for one: at what point along the ecliptic it should start as being o° Aries.  The tropical zodiac defines this to always be the intersection between the ecliptic and the celestial equator, but the sidereal zodiac…well, it’s a little more complicated.  The sidereal zodiac aims to be closer to the constellations by using what’s called an ayanāṃśa to account for the precession of the equinoxes, and there are a number of different ones in use with some more popular than others (resulting in what’s technically a number of sidereal zodiacs rather than just one).  The issue with even this sidereal approach, however, is that the actual constellations themselves that lend their names and symbolism to the signs don’t neatly align with this equal-segments-of-30° approach.  Some signs are much shorter than 30° (as short as Scorpio’s 6°), some signs much larger (as large as Virgo’s 44°), and there’s even that dumb stupid notion of there being a “thirteenth sign” (Ophiuchus) because its constellation is considered close enough to the ecliptic to make it count (it doesn’t).

Courtesy of this article from Kosmic Mind, here’s a depiction and comparison of the tropical zodiac (inner circle), rough sidereal zodiac (middle circle), and the constellations (outer circle):

Apianus’ diagram makes use of a sidereal zodiac for the eighth and ninth heavens but a tropical zodiac for the tenth heaven, but does not bother with trying to use the constellations themselves (because they weren’t ever really used except perhaps in classical Babylonian or otherwise ancient Mesopotamian times).

Anyway, I thought this was all pretty neat to consider and learn about.  While we today all understand, given the advances of astronomy and physics we’ve had over the past five centuries since Apianus’ time, that a heliocentric model of our solar system is a more accurate descriptor of what’s going on, the geocentric model is still what we intuitively “see” and “feel” from our perspective down here on Earth.  It’s for that reason, coupled with the various and varied religious and cultural traditions that we inherit, that the geocentric model likewise helps us for innumerable spiritual endeavors and systems, too.  I mean, as a comparison, consider the following diagram, produced by Walter Scott in volume 3 of his Hermetica, page 374 in his discussion of the sixth Stobaean Fragment (SH 6):

SH 6 talks about the decans and their relationship to the signs and how their energies affect us down here, and in the course of such a discussion, we end up with a cosmological model again consisting of ten spheres: with the Earth in the center, there’s the seven planetary heavens around that, the eighth heaven of the Zodiac, the ninth heaven of the decans, and then the outermost heaven that wraps around everything.  In this fragment, Hermēs describes the heaven of the decans to be “in between the circle of the universe and that of the zodiac, dividing both circles”, and that the decans “buoy up, as it were, the circle of the universe and define the shape of the zodiac”.  Hermēs describes here also the motion of these heavens with each other, with the tenth heaven whirling constantly, the ninth heaven slowing it down and throttling it, and the planets being whirled around and accelerated by the motion of the decans; in this, the decans move both the planets as well as the outermost sphere of the cosmos itself.  It’s certainly not the same model as what Apianus was describing over a thousand years later, but there are certainly commonalities as both share in a common geocentric Ptolemaic ancestor, and both aim to describe the cosmos according to what we can see and observe down here on Earth.

Notably, we should also remember that what Apianus was getting at wasn’t so much to describe a spiritual reality of the cosmos, but rather a scientific one according to the science of his time.  His Cosmographia is an incredible and well-designed work, and besides the fascinating woodcarved illustrations also included little movable dials and tools that allowed readers to interact with the illustrations to learn about cosmology, geography, cartography, and other sciences.  As a result, it’s been argued that such a work as his not only facilitated better understanding of such topics popularly, but also spurred on the field of amateur astronomy precisely by equipping people with the basic tools they needed, preparing for and facilitating the later scientific revolutions that were to come.  However, even if his aim was more purely “scientific” in the modern sense of the word, we can’t neglect that such sciences are just one part of our lives, with the physical aspects to be integrated with the spiritual, which would also go a ways in explaining why Apianus’ cosmological diagram depicting the various heavens is so popular in occult discussions even today.  (And which also lends itself to some rather beautiful modern pieces of art as well.)

And yes, as the astrologer and geomancer Eric Purdue (yes, the same one who recently translated Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy afresh and correctly into modern English!) took the opportunity to reiterate on Twitter: the signs lie outside the stars, and we shouldn’t conflate signs with constellations.

The above post was originally a thread on Twitter, which you can read here but which I’ve reformatted and expanded into a proper blog post.  Although I made it earlier this summer and then promptly forgot about it, a conversation on one of the Discord servers I’m on reminded me that I wrote about it, so I figured that I may as well make it a bit more visible and readable.

Zodiacal Timing Review

Not that long ago, I made a post about retooling planetary hours for zodiacal hours.  I suggest you read over it to figure out where I’m coming from, but basically, one substitutes the planet ruling over a particular hour with a zodiac sign it rules, viz. a masculine sign if it’s a diurnal hour and a feminine sign if it’s a nocturnal hour.  It’s a pretty straightforward extension of the system, I thought, and I wanted to show it off before I start putting it towards use for a year-long project I have planned: conjurations of the 12 angels of the Zodiac signs, each done while the Sun is in the appropriate sign.  That way, by timing a particular conjuration to the zodiacal hour on the planetary day most closely associated with that sign, I thought I could get a better or more refined, though limited, timing to perform the conjuration.  While Iophiel is the angel presiding over all the fixed stars, different subsets are known for different effects, each with their own angel, just as there are individual angels of specific fixed stars as well as the lunar mansions.

Alas, though, my system of zodiacal hours is apparently not the best way to do things.  Last Tuesday at dawn, I conjured Malkhidael, the angel presiding over Ares, and learned about zodiacal conjurations generally as well as the nature of the sign of Aries as well as of the fixed stars in general.    When it comes to the conjurations of zodiacal angels, however, timing to the hours isn’t that preferred.  While it can be done, it’s obtuse and not the preferred way to come in contact with them.  Rather, the best time to perform a zodiacal ritual for something like a conjuration, according to Malkhidael, is when the sign in question is “brightened”.  When asked for an explanation of this, he clarified that a sign is “brightened” when it is either on the ascendant (rising) or on the midheaven (culminating), so about when the Sun is at heliacal rising or zenith while the Sun is in that particular sign.

This…actually makes a lot of sense, since these two points are hugely empowering when it comes to astrological elections.  In fact, that’s backed up in several sources, such as Agrippa (book II, chapter 30 and 31, as well as book I, chapter 41):

…when they are in Angles, especially of the rising, or Tenth, or in houses presently succeeding, or in their delights…There is the like consideration to be had in all things concerning the fixt stars…

…Now the manner of making these kinds of Rings, is this, viz. when any Star ascends fortunately, with the fortunate aspect, or conjunction of the Moon…

The significance of these locations is widespread in astrology.  Both the ascendant and midheaven are angles, with the ascendant representing the location where planets and celestial objects rise into the sky from the underworld (going from complete obscurity due to the Earth to visibility and light), and the midheaven representing the zenith and highest point of the sky (where everyone and everything can see the object).  If I go with a strictly solar timing of zodiacal rituals with this, calling on a particular sign only when the Sun is in that sign, then that gives me the hours of sunrise and solar noon when we’re in that particular sign.  I have a strong hunch that the same would work when the Moon is present instead of or in addition to the Sun in that particular sign, which would give me more options throughout the year.  Even then, though, I could just go with the sign itself rising or culminating without regard to what’s in it, which would give me about one hour twice a day to work with that particular sign.

Ah well.  The best part about working with experiential sciences like the occult is figuring out what works and what doesn’t.  At least I got my answer early on in this series of workings about this particular technique, and now I have some principles to help guide my future work.

Search Term Shoot Back, February 2014

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 February 2014.

“+dearth spell magick on my self” — If you meant “dearth” as in famine and scarcity of resources, that’s fairly easy, though people tend to work prosperity magic for themselves rather than poverty magic; invoke Saturn to keep your means and resources restricted, banish all forces of Jupiter and Venus, and invoke Mercury to lead all good and providing things away from you.  If you meant “death” magic, well, dearth and death go hand in hand, so you could similarly invoke Saturn again for that, but really?  You want to use death magic on yourself?  You may want to read up on actual and reasonable necromancy first, hon.  Try giving Tomekeeper a good read, to start with; he’s working on his necromancy book, “Ars Falcis”, too.

“runes to supercharge labradorite” — Labradorite was discovered by European peoples in the late 18th century, long after runes had been used, and even longer after they had been used for magical purposes (except for the occasional astrological text).  Thus, there are no real runes to work with labradorite, though I’m sure associations could be made between runes and stones nowadays that are based off traditional lore.  If you meant “rune” in the broader magical sense of “a magical operational symbol”, then which symbol you’d want to use is entirely up to how you want to “supercharge” it.  Personally, for empowering things generally, I just like setting things out in the Sun and Moon for a lunar month or so, or praying over it, or using an astrological election to consecrate them, or so many other methods.  Symbols themselves are nice, but how are you going to use that symbol?

“the psalms and ‘planetary hours'” — This is actually a really interesting idea.  I don’t know of any system that corresponds the planetary hours to particular psalms; there are seven planets and seven days, so there are 49 distinct day-hour combinations, or 98 if you consider diurnality (e.g. day solar hour on Monday vs. night solar hour on Monday), while there are 150 psalms, so there’s no easily notable matchup between the two.  However, I do know that the Christian Books of Hours and breviaries often have sets of prayers, especially the psalms, to be used at different times during different days, following a set of canonical hours that are not unlike the calculation and setup of planetary hours.  Combining the two might be an interesting project for a Christian planetary magician.

“does criss angel consider planetary hours in his magic” — Criss Angel is not a magician.  It’s like, yeah, a person with a Ph.D. in Mongolian literature and the person who gives you medicine at the clinic are technically both called “doctors”, but they’re nothing the same; likewise, his “magic” and my magic are not the same thing, and he is not a “magician” like how I’m a magician.  Criss Angel is a performer and illusionist, and his stuff has nothing to do with the magic Hermeticists, ceremonialists, and other actual magicians do.  Thus, I strongly doubt he even knows about planetary hours, much less considers them in his “magic”.

“conjuring spirits within you” — Generally a poor idea, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.  If you’re an expert in it, you might end up with something like the Santería ocha ritual, where you’re initiated and have a spirit share your headspace with you from then on.  At worst, you’ll end up performing Crowley’s Choronzon experiment, and with probably even worse results than he got.  It’s like if I wanted to get to know you better, I’d meet you out for coffee or something, not immediately say that I’m gonna share your bed with you for cuddles and conversation.  You’d be far better off conjuring spirits in a space set aside for them, like a Solomonic triangle or Table of Practice.

“how to properly bless a blade for satanic ritual” — This is contradictory on several levels.  Blessing indicates that you want to consecrate something and make it holy, which is the work of God.  Satanic rituals (if you’re taking this in a theological direction) indicate that you’re buying into the entire Judeo-Christian framework with the enmity and opposition between God and Satan, and then deliberately picking the losing side of the battle.  First, that’s stupid because it’s already been prophesied in the tradition that Satan comes from that he’s not gonna do too well in the end, nor for that matter any of his followers; second, Satan is by definition unholy in the Christian theme of things, so anything that’s blessed cannot be used for a satanic ritual, nor does Satan have the capacity to bless things.  You could desecrate something that was once made holy, sure, but that’s not the same thing.  Blessed things tend to hurt rather than help in such works, not to mention showing yourself to the spirits as a stupid whiny brat who’s probably still in high school who wants to be some spookeh dark warlock of uber powerz.  I’m not your guy for that kind of BS.  And while an argument could be made that Satan exists as a god alongside God, you’re suddenly straying into a weird dualist theology a la Zoroastrianism (where even that religion’s dark god fails in the final days) that is no longer Christian nor satanic, and you better have a lot of mythos and power built up for your new god to have the capacity to bless things in his own name, which is already empty without the backing of the Judeo-Christian mythos and religion behind it.

“sphere of the fixed stars symbol” — The various spheres of heaven have many symbols associated with themselves: the planetary symbols, symbols of their ruling angels, and the like.  However, the sphere of the fixed star is weird in that it doesn’t have a symbol, or rather, it doesn’t have any one symbol.  Using the symbols of the signs of the Zodiac together can work, and similarly those for the lunar mansions (the astrology program ZET has a set based on the Vedic mansions which I’ve heard work well); there are also .  In visualization exercises, I tend to just visualize the starry sky itself as a symbol, but I’ve also asked Iophiel, the angel ruling over the sphere of the fixed stars as a whole, for a seal for which I can conjure and commune with him.  There are also seals for a few of the fixed stars themselves, but that’s not for the whole sphere.  Qabbalistically, the sphere of the fixed stars is associated with the second sephirah Chokmah, so the number 2 and anything pertaining to it would work on a numerological standpoint.

“how do you drill a hole in orgonite” — Get a drill and some orgonite, then drill a hole into the orgonite using the drill.  The fact you have to ask shows that you might need something stronger for your mental and spiritual well-being than glittery congealed robot vomit, anyway.

“english sharthand” — Dear gods, I’m so sorry.  You may not want to scratch your ass next time you have indigestion.

“free geomancy readings” — While I don’t offer free readings often, I sometimes do if I’m doing a promotional deal or a devotional act for the gods.  In the meantime, I charge $30 for a normal geomancy reading.

“angelic symbol” — There are so many of them,  I don’t know where to begin.  You can even get original ones for your own use from the angels themselves, you know; this is how I developed my own set of seals for the elemental archangels (Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel) since no common symbols for them exist.  That said, the notion of a symbol is pretty wide-ranging, especially when this deals with spirits; the spoken or written name of the spirit, an image of them, their numbers, their colors, their elements or planets or celestial forces, the seal or graphical logo, all of these things are their symbols, and wherever those symbols are, so too is that spirit, and vice versa.  Y̹̖̰͖̥ͨ͛͘O̡͚͋̊ͬ͂͌̀̊U̢͎̲̲̟̼̭̥̤̅ͧ͘ ̸̛̺̻͚̺̠͎̰̘̽͞ͅA̜̩͎̣͔̅̊̑̌͟R̷̢̫̖̫̓̌͌̕E͗̈̈̂͂̍̌̏҉̠̗̣̟̪̺̭ ̤̟̟̼̳͈̖̃̅̓͐̌́̐͜N̨̩̖̘͈̽ͅE̩̺̱͓̥͍͐̽̔̽̽͑͠V̸͕̩̭̼̖̤̻̂̈́ͭ̀̾̚E̴̛̻̙̠̺̺̖̱̅̀͛̎̐ͫŖ̤̌̌̿͆̈́ͮ͒͟ ̶̼͊̇ͪ̄͋T̘̮ͯ̽̓̍̉ͣ̉͢͞R̜̞͒̓̆̋ͣ͜Ü̪̙̳͍̜̗̹͈͛̉͟L͗̋̿ͦ̓̄ͮ͢҉̝̻͎̮̻͙̞Y̪ͯͦ ̰͉̞̹̞̪ͫ͡A̛̳̥̘̠̭̥ͩ̍͌̍ͭͨ̌̌̀L͍͍̜͙͙͙̮͉̎͌͆̄̈̄̆̀̚Ő͍̗̩̝̼ͯ̀̑̏̅N̵̪̠̆ͫ̈́͑̋͊͋̀E͚͉̳̠̯̱̮ͯͨ̇̔͜

“badass calligraphy alphabet” — Why, thank you.

“spirit wife ritual” — I’m…not really sure.  I assume this means that you want to make a spirit your wife, so good luck with that.  I might suggest talking to an angel to assign you such-and-such a spirit who’s compatible with you in all regards, mentally and sexually and emotionally and etc., then perform some sort of bonding ritual between you and the spirit assuming that it’s amenable to such a thing.  I guess.

“how to summon hermes” — Hermes is a god, and one of the few gods given permission in Greek mythos to be given permission to go anywhere and everywhere; further, the Homeric Hymn to Hermes notes that he cannot be constrained by force or binding.  To that end, unless you’re the king of the gods Zeus himself, I don’t think you have permission or business to summon Hermes as you would other angels or demons.  You can invoke him and offer him sacrifice, performing a ritual to invite him down to a sacred or sanctified place, but that’s by no means a summons to the god.  Even I, as his priest and devotee, have no business saying “Yo, Hermes, get your wingy ass down here, I got shit for you to do”.  This is a clear case where invoking and evoking have different natures, and you want to invoke a god rather than evoke them.

“what symbol did gabriel put on solomon’s ring” — I don’t really know where the symbols on the Ring of Solomon came from. There are two major versions of this ring in Western magic: the one from the Lemegeton Goetia, and the one from John Dee.  The former has the names “Michael, Tetragrammaton,Anepheneton” (or “Michael, IHVH, Tzabaoth” if you use an interpretation from Greekish names to Hebrew like I did for my own ring).  The latter is commonly known as the PELE ring, so called because it has a circle with a V crossing the top and an L at the bottom, bisected by a horizontal lines, with the letters P, E, L, and E at the four corners clockwise from the upper left.  However, Dee’s books say that the angel Michael, not Gabriel, gave him such a design, and the Lemegeton remains silent on the matter as far as I can read.

“what does it mean when lighting a spritual candle and the wick lets out a poof” — I love how this was described, first of all.  As for “poof”, this could mean different things.  If you mean that it sparked or crackled, I might say that this means a spirit came by and inhabited the candle, and is set to work on the job; more materially, this might mean that there are impurities in the wick or pockets of gas or air that perturb the flame.  If you mean that a puff of smoke came out of the candle, I might say that this means there could be difficulties in getting the work done on your own; materially, that there are carbon impurities in the wick that create a sooty deposit.  Both of these can be avoided by trimming the wick down to a short length, say 1/4″.

Earth, Moon, and Stars

Cornelius Agrippa in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy (book I, chapter 8; book II, chapter 7) relates the four elements to the celestial objects, namely the planets, mostly because magicians like to figure out what can stand in for what in different contexts.  According to Agrippa, Earth is the element that basically allows all of Creation to be created (book I, chapter 5):

Now the Basis, and foundation of all the Elements, is the Earth, for that is the object, subject, and receptacle of all Celestiall rayes, and influencies; in it are contained the seeds, and Seminall vertues of all things; and therefore it is said to be Animall, Vegetable, and Minerall. It being made fruitfull by the other Elements, and the Heavens, brings forth all things of it self; It receives the abundance of all things, and is, as it were the first fountain, from whence all things spring, it is the Center, foundation, and mother of all things…It is the first matter of our Creation, and the truest Medicine that can restore, and preserve us.

Agrippa makes a connection between Earth and the Moon and the fixed stars, indicating how the element of Earth can be reflected in the skies.  I mentioned this briefly before, focusing mostly on the connection between elemental Earth and planetary Moon:

…the heaven of the Moon is the closest to Earth, making it the most dense of the seven planets.  As the most dense planet, it’s the last stop for an Idea coming from the sphere of the Prime Mover through the stars and the other planets to finally come into form; this is the sphere where something actually takes a materialized shape, even if it’s only illusory and ephemeral.  This is also shown since, as the fastest moving planet and the lowest rung on the ladder, it collects the rays and forces of all the other planets and influences above it, focusing them like a lens onto the Earth…Like the element of Earth, which takes form and receives the influences of the other elements, the Moon takes form and receives the influences of the other planets.

The connection between the terrestrial sphere of Earth and the celestial sphere of the fixed stars is a little more difficult for me to rationalize.  I suppose I’ve been going on the notion that, just as Earth is the most stable and immovable of the elements, so too are the fixed stars the most stable and immovable of the celestial objects referenced in magic.  After all, they don’t really move much (at an extremely slow rate, not counting the negligible effect the motion of the fixed stars have to each other), especially compared to the otherwise rapid motion of the wandering stars (a.k.a. planets).  Beyond that, I never really thought about it much.  I’ve got some other work before I get up and running with the sphere of the fixed stars, so I haven’t actually gone up to call Iophiel (or Raziel, depending on the text).

Recently, I was chatting with Auriel, the archangelic king of the sphere of Earth, and after the usual friendly chat, catching up over a glass of wine in a circle, and empowerment of myself and my sphere with the element of Earth, we sat down and started talking about what Earth is really like at length and in depth.  As usual, “as above so below” is a good rule to go by, and Auriel instructed me to take a look at the Tree of Life a little more closely, especially between the sephiroth of Malkuth and Kether.  For one, everything in the sphere of the Earth, the sephirah of Malkuth, has at least a little Earth in it; that’s why the elemental colors of Malkuth are “dim” or murky, to show that they’re not the pure elements in their ideal form.  Malkuth is the physical, material universe, the one that modern atheistic scientism holds is the only thing that exists.  On the other hand, Kether is unmanifest infinity, divinely simple in that everything that is, was, will be, isn’t, was never, can never, and may be is all One Thing.

Without Earth, nothing can have a material basis; it’s the only element that can’t combine on its own with itself, but can combine with itself through the use of other elements that it’s blended with.  Earth, for instance, can offer a basis for Fire to burn, a course for Air to flow over, or a container for Water to fill, but Earth cannot do anything with Earth on its own.  Because of this, it’s more than just convenience that everything on Earth is at least partially made of Earth, both sharing the same name.  Earth is the most malleable of elements, and takes the influence from everything above it.  Earth is the key to manifestation; without it, much like in the geomantic figure Cauda Draconis, everything passes away from and nothing can be brought into material reality.  Without Earth, the bottom drops out quite literally.

The highest sephirah is Kether, the Crown, which is basically the starting point for infinity from finite existence, the place where finite reality stops having an end and starts having no end and no limit at all.  Though it has the qabbalistic path number of one, and though I don’t have much experience to talk about it, I feel like this is somewhat misleading.  Although one is computationally the root of all numbers, Kether includes all things that exist as well as all things that don’t exist.  In that sense, Kether might be better termed i or something.  Things don’t really start to begin the process of manifestation until an Idea from the Infinite Mind, a Ray from the Infinite Light passes through the second sephirah called Chokmah, the sphere of the fixed stars.  There, something finally makes the jump from “possibility of manifestation” to “manifesting”, where things actually start to legitimately make the claim of existing.  The fall from grace, the first step of the Fool is just the first step in the Chain of Manifestation, but it’s still progress all the same.

The sphere of the fixed stars allows only rays of light that come from the sphere of the Prime Mover; these rays pass through the darkness of the Fool’s cliff and are filtered through the stars in constellations or particular regions of the sky, and appear to us down on Earth as starlight.  Without that filter to provide form, infinite possibility could never be whittled down to probable possibility.  It is this pure Light, filtered through the eighth sphere, that can take on shape or form or purpose later on based on its Idea above.  The fixed stars take on the influence and nature of the Light above it and pass it down into the world as the beginning of Creation.

The similarities between Kether and Chokmah, or the spheres of the Prime Mover and the fixed stars, with Yesod and Malkuth, or the spheres of the Moon and the Earth, now become apparent.  The Moon and Infinite Light both provide an imagined substance to be manifested in the realm beneath it; the Earth supplies a concrete, manifested form based on the imaged and astral form from the Moon, while the fixed stars supply a viable, manifesting Idea based on the unbound and divine Idea from the Source.  The difference between King and Kingdom lies in where and how things come to be.  Just as the fixed stars provide realization for an idea to manifest something at the beginning, Earth provides substance for form to manifest something at the end.  It’s this ability to turn undefined, vague things into clear(er), specific things that relates the fixed stars to the Earth.

At least, that’s my opinion for now.  Though much can be said of the stars and planets and elements in writing, especially in terms of theory and cosmology, working with magic is still a mystery: it requires working with and experience to really grok the whole shebang.  But I’ll go with Auriel’s guidance for now.