Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: A Postscript from Francis Barrett Himself

So I didn’t intend on writing a postscript so soon to my Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration series of posts, the recap post (with index of posts and my own observations) to which went up literally earlier this week. But, you know, as expansive and detailed as my series may have gone, I didn’t intend for it to be the final word; I fully expected there to be more to find out. Turns out, a bit of further direction came out from mukyo65 when they commented on the Four Kings post, directing me (and all of us) to Francis X. King’s 1992 work The Flying Sorcerer, “being the magical and aeronautical adventures of Francis Barrett, author of The Magus“. It’s a pleasantly short read, but what draws our attention today is Appendix A, “Barrett’s Hitherto Unpublished Skrying Manuscript”.

First, let’s just clarify what we’re talking about: this is a follow-up to our earlier discussions on the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer. Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).

In this “hitherto unpublished” text that mukyo65 directed me to, Barrett gives a whole bunch of extra technical advice and guidance on how to conjure spirits using DSIC that weren’t mentioned in the DSIC text itself. His writing style is erratic and weirdly punctuated at times, so when I quote Barrett, especially for the prayers he mentions, I’ll update it for both modern diction as well as punctuation and style rules, keeping as close to the original as otherwise possible.

Astrological Considerations:

  • The time of conjurations should be chosen through the rules of electional astrology, not just according to planetary hour. However, once the spirit is contacted, we may ask them for what seasons and times are best to contact them in beyond electional dates or planetary hours.
  • Thus, the planet associated with the spirit should “be in an Angle and strong”, i.e. the planet associated with that spirit should be in houses I, IV, VII, or X and dignified, or at the least not afflicted by an ill aspect or other ill accident.
  • Your own significator should not “be under the Earth but in as fortunate a part of heaven as can be convenient”. In this case, according to King, this should be interpreted that the planet of the sign rising in your own natal horoscope should be above the horizon (i.e. in houses VII through XII) when the conjuration is performed and dignified. An alternative approach would be to either use your almuten rather than your lord of the ascendant as your significator, or to use the planet ruling the sign rising at the moment of the conjuration be considered as your own significator, all situated according to the same rules above.
  • The Moon should be waxing at the time of the conjuration.
  • The Moon should not be combust when you work. According to the English astrologer William Lilly, this is when the Moon is within 8°30′ of the Sun in the same sign as the Sun or within 12° of the Sun regardless of sign. To be safe, I would interpret this as saying that one should not perform a conjuration starting 24 hours before the moment of the New Moon and until 24 hours after the moment of the New Moon.

Considerations of Place:

  • Barrett recommends performing the conjuration “in some retired place at a distance from your house, rather than in your own chamber”, but he also says that it doesn’t really matter. He notes that spirits are “sooner attracted to an unfrequented place than to appear in a house”.
  • According to Barrett, success in conjuration of the spirit depends on a number of factors, especially those related to the spirit and planet that rule over the place in which you do the conjuration. Thus, not only should the planets of the spirit you’re conjuring and of your own natal horoscope be dignified, but so too should that of the place of conjuration itself. On top of that, the planets of your own natal horoscope and of the place of conjuration itself should be in a good relationship to each other, either by essential nature or by accidental relationship according to the horoscope at the moment of conjuration.
  • We should set everything up as best we can according to the the planet and the spirit of the place wherein the conjuration is to take place. This includes the choice of suffumigations and the spirit we’re to conjure itself; we shouldn’t conjure a spirit of Mars in a place ruled by the Moon, for instance, if Mars and the Moon are in a bad aspect to each other.
  • Likewise, we should choose places that agree with us in terms of our own ruling planets. King explains this point succinctly: “[Barrett] seems to have been suggesting that if a city was ruled by a particular zodiacal sign the magus should not carry out invocations therein unless his significator, the planet ruling the ascendant of his nativity, was strong or exalted in that sign.”

Considerations of Preparation:

  • Barrett first says that one should consume no “animal food” (presumably meat) for 24 hours before the conjuration, and likewise no alcohol whatever until after sunset, “and then only sufficient to clear nature and refresh thy Body”.
  • Barrett later says that the conjuration should be preceded by seven days of fasting and abstinence, specifically from “all heavy rich and strong drink”, eating nothing between sunrise and sunset each day but breaking fast on bread and water after sunset.
  • A preparatory prayer should be recited seven times on the day of the conjuration before the ritual itself. This same prayer may also be recited every morning for the seven days preceding the conjuration.

Other Considerations:

  • Put a “new clean linnen cloth on the table under the Chrystal”. Basically, use an altarcloth, but drape it so that it covers the table itself upon which the pedestal is placed; the table should not be exposed.
  • The smoke of the incense should be “strong and plenty”. (I doubt most people would have an issue with this.)
  • Barrett says that you should have “some clean white paper or Virgin parchment to write down the name of the Spirit, his Planet Sign and character which he may shew you”. Nothing is said or mentioned of a Liber Spirituum.
  • Keep the character and name of the spirit free from all profanity and pollution (or, in other words, keep the lamen of the spirit protected, safe, and untouched by any unless they’re in a state of purity).
  • Do not touch the crystal with your hands after placing it on the table. (This seems to go directly against the DSIC instruction for consecrating the crystal; perhaps one should instead hold their hand above or over the crystal rather than directly on it?)
  • Do not engage with the spirit you’re conjuring longer than an hour. After an hour has passed, give the license to depart to the spirit.
  • The conjuration medium may be a (presumably quartz) crystal, a “smooth shining steel Mirror” (steel?!), or a (crystal of) beryl. Barrett treats all three of these mediums as interchangeable and as equally sufficient for conjuration; beryl wasn’t surprising to us earlier, given Frederick Hockley’s mention of it as well as Agrippa’s description of it being as lunar as quartz is, as well as the historical fact that beryl was used to make early eyeglasses with when glass could not be made sufficiently clear. Using steel for the mirror, however, comes across as a shock, as steel is a variant of iron, which tends to be inimical to most spirits.
  • If you do not succeed in conjuration of one spirit, try another spirit. Barrett gives the example of “if you try the first time under Jupiter let your next work be under Mars or Venus or Mercury or the Moon”.
  • The prayer of conjuration in the ritual itself should be recited not once but seven times.

What we can tell from the above is that Barrett placed a huge emphasis on astrology, specifically electional astrology, in determining specific times to perform conjuration. While most people nowadays (and arguably many earlier Solomonic magicians besides) content themselves with just following the planetary hours and days, Barrett seems to make a point of making sure that the planet associated with the spirit should be as strong as could be reasonably attained according to celestial position and accidents. This also included astrologically understanding the very place of where we conjure the spirit itself, which is a consideration most people likely wouldn’t consider to be as important, yet Barrett himself clearly did. Barrett also takes a staunchly Christian approach to make sure that the magician performing the conjuration is as worthy as possible for the work, not unlike many of the admonitions of the Arbatel.

Barrett also gives a little instruction that makes things interesting:

Meditate Day and night on what you desire to know, have ready Pen and Ink—perfumes—the Virgin parchment—2 wax candles and 2 clean candlesticks, and a small earthen dish with lighted charcoal, likewise the Pentacle of Solomon which you ought to draw out as describ’d in the Magus upon a piece of Virgin Parchment likewise the Name Tetragrammaton wrote upon a piece of Vellum fastened round your Forehead like a wreath.

The bit about the pentacle of Solomon ties in with what we mentioned before when we discussed setting up the altar, and the latter about the wreath agrees with Agrippa (book IV, chapter 10) in his description of the ecstatic method of contacting good spirits: “You shall also have a veil of pure clean linen, and in the fore-part thereof let there be fixed golden or gilded Lamens, with the inscription of the name Tetragrammaton” and “that always as often as he enters into the Circle, he have upon his forehead a golden Lamen, upon which there must be written the name Tetragrammaton“. This means that the “pentacle” described in DSIC may well not have been referring to the lamen of the spirit to be conjured at all, but an actual pentacle of Solomon. Plus we should be using a Tetragrammaton-engraved crown, which ties this ritual in more with the usual Solomonic practices.

But Barrett has even more surprises in store for us. He gives us this instruction regarding one of the supplies and processes for preparing ourselves and our equipment for conjuration:

Have ready a small new phial filled with clear Oil—olive with which you must anoint your eyelids and palms of both hands—and when all is ready make a small cross upon the flat side of the Chrystal where the Characters are and turn the convex side towards thy face—let it be placed between the two lights…

Okay, so we need a new bottle of clear, pure olive oil, with which we anoint our eyelids and palms of our hands before the conjuration; easy enough. But then he goes on to describe that the crystal itself should be anointed with the same oil, but note how he describes it: there’s a flat side to the crystal, so Barrett here seems to suggest that the crystal should be round on one side and flat on the other, i.e. a hemisphere. The flat side should be put on the side with “the Characters” (i.e. the hexagram with central Yod, the pentagram, the cross, and the name Tetragrammaton); this would make the round side put on the side that has the names of the four archangels. We are then to have the crystal oriented such that the round side facing the magician.

This goes against what we decided earlier in our DSIC discussions in several ways. DSIC says that the crystal is to be “globular or round each way alike”, i.e. a total sphere, round on all sides. While the pedestal design itself doesn’t change in terms of what names and characters need to be engraved on it, it does kinda throw in our idea of having Michael on top, Gabriel on the right, Raphael on the bottom, and Uriel on the left into disarray; I earlier decided on this because that’s how the DSIC illustration itself shows the plate, and if we were to face this side away from us, Gabriel would be technically on our left and Uriel on our right when facing away from us, which would put Gabriel in the North and Uriel in the South, in agreement with the directional associations given by Agrippa’s Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7). That reasoning falls apart, however, if that’s the side that we’re supposed to face toward us instead of away from us, which is incredibly obnoxious. We could just flip Gabriel and Uriel so that Gabriel would be engraved on the left of the plate holding the crystal and Uriel on the right if we wanted to preserve those directional associations, I suppose; I don’t think it fundamentally matters since, after all, the order in which the names are presented in the DSIC text don’t match up with the order in which they’re displayed on the DSIC plate. I suppose we might have just been reading too much into the DSIC design, neat though it was.

Still, Barrett’s notes here clearly state that the side with the angels should face the magician and not away from them, yet it also says that the crystal should have a flat side, too, which doesn’t match up with what DSIC says at all, which is that it should be totally spherical and round on all sides. If we assume that DSIC was written by Barrett, then this suggests either that Barrett changed his approach or used a variation of the tools proposed in DSIC itself, but this could also be a major sign that Barrett himself wasn’t the original author of DSIC (despite all suggestions that he did). This also means that the crystal should be exposed on both sides, the round side so that we can gaze into it and the flat side so that we can anoint it, and not covered with gold leaf on one side. This throws out our whole parabolic/spherical mirror idea for the candlelight to enter into the exposed front of the crystal and bounce off the gilded and round rear of it, at least in terms of Barrett’s application of the ritual—though the crystal being exposed on both sides does match up with pretty much everyone who’s ever applied DSIC, either in terms of using a crystal ball without a pedestal at all (for those in the Fr. RO camp) or those who use a pedestal with the crystal exposed on both sides (for those in the Fr. AC camp).

But this isn’t even the most surprising part of what Barrett says about the DSIC tools; of all the notes that Barrett provides, it’s this that I found most gobsmacking and flabbergasting:

You may omit the table on which the/chrystal is placed mentioned in the Magus with the wand which I never use—but instead sett the instruments upon the holy Bible saying [the] Consecration of the Place whereon the bible and Chrystal is sett…

Like…is he for real? The table—that contentious contraption that we spent multiple posts discussing—can just outright be omitted and replaced with a Bible? This lends some credence to the idea I had way back when that we could just use a monstrance and put it on top of a Triangle of Art from the Lemegeton Goetia, but this goes even beyond that. Then there’s also his remark that he never even uses the wand! For all the hassle of designing, creating, and consecrating the damn thing, for Barrett to say that “I never use” the wand should come as a massive shock to many DSIC-using magicians. If anything, I want to interpret this as using the wand as a tool of intimidation and force, in the same vein as a Solomonic sword—again, more evidence against Fr. AC’s argument that it’s not such a tool at all. It’s also in line with Fr. RO’s suggestion that the wand simply isn’t necessary, but it does raise the question of what Barrett would use to trace the circle out with—if he ever did at all, or if he ever even used a circle at all, which he doesn’t describe in this text (he mentions a circle only once in passing, and that with no further explanation). It also recalls that Agrippa never used a circle in his primary means of contacting “good spirits” (book IV, chapter 10).

Back to the bit about replacing the table with a Bible. Note that I don’t think this approach would be preferred if one were using a Table of Practice, i.e. a platform for the crystal that contains the design elements of both the pedestal and the crystal, but so long as one had the pedestal that held the crystal, one could replace the table entirely with a Bible. This means that—if Barrett himself was adapting the ritual for his own ends—then the table itself is nonessential, so long as the pedestal/crystal was put on something holy. It could be the Sigillum Dei Aemeth, it could be a Bible, it could be John Dee’s version of the Sigillum or his own square Table of Practice, an almadel from the Ars Almadel, or the Table of Practice of the Ars Paulina, whatever! I’ll note here, though, that in this case, the only names of four entities present on the tools then are those of the four archangels—and not the four kings. We know that the four kings (Oriens, Paimon, Egyn, Amaymon) are what the DSIC text (most likely) mean when it comes to the design of the table, that’s absolutely true, but let’s be honest: it’s evident, with ten years of modern practice being extant plus Barrett’s own notes included, that it doesn’t matter either way whether you focus on the four directional/elemental entities being angelic or demonic. To me, this is a strong piece of evidence that four entities of some sort (whether demonic or angelic) are necessary for the materialization or manifestation of the spirit in the crystal, and that the four archangels perform this function just fine on their own just as the four usual kings would.

Going back to the manuscript, Barrett gives the following consecration to be said above the Bible upon which the pedestal and crystal are placed:

In the name of the Holy and Blessed Trinity, I consecrate this Table by virtue of the Holy Bible that contains the Word of the Eternal Wisdom, and by the Holy Tables of the Law given unto Moses upon Mount Sinai, so that no evil thing may enter herein to die, hurt, or prejudice anyone. Bless, o Lord, all these instruments and experiments for the sake of your son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Although we didn’t have a prayer or consecration process for the table earlier in our talk when we discussed making everything, this prayer could easily be amended to be used for consecrating the table, which might indeed be useful (and reflects Barrett’s repeated injunctions for everything to be consecrated before use). Barrett also provides several other prayers to be used which differ slightly from those in DSIC proper, such as the prayer of conjuration itself, which should be recited seven times (note his reference to using the Bible instead of a table as described by DSIC):

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost do I conjure you, o you spirit NN., by him who spoke the Word and it was done; by him who is the beginning and the end, the first and the last; by the Creation of the World and by the Last Judgment; that you, o NN., appear to me visibly in this crystal. By the virtue of the Holy Bible on which it is placed, give me true answers concerning those things which I desire to know and be informed of; instruct me truly and show us our desire without any guile or craft. This I do conjure you quickly to do by the virtue of God who shall come to judge the living and the dead and the World by Fire. Amen.

I conjure and exorcise you, o NN., by the Sacrament of Christ’s Body, by his Miracles, by the Sea, by the Earth, by all the things above and under the Earth and all their virtues, by the seven planets, by the seven spirits which stand before the face of God, by the great name of God Tetragrammaton El-Ousin Agla, by all the names of God holy and blessed and all their virtues, by the Circumcision and Baptism and Passion and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ the Blessed Lord and Redeemer at whose name the devils tremble, by his name Emmanuel Messias, by all the good and holy names of the blessed Trinity in Unity! I invoke you, o NN., that you quickly appear in this crystal visibly and with a plain and intelligible voice; show me those things which are proven for me to know, and answer and inform me of these things that I may propose to you through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Note the godnames “Tetragrammaton El-Ousin Agla”. This is almost what we see on the wand, which is “Tetragrammaton On Agla”, but with “On” replaced by “El-Ousin”. As I discussed in my Wand of Art writeup when I made my own wand, “On” is a Greek word meaning “being” or “existing thing”, i.e. The Existent or The One. “Ousin”, in this case, is another Greek word, which should probably better be written as “Ousia”, a term meaning “substance” or “essence” or “the primary substratum underlying reality”. “El-Ousin” (or “El-Ousia”) combines this term with the Hebrew term for God; this then could be interpreted as “The Divine Essence Itself”. To my mind, “On” and “El-Ousin” are equivalent and interchangeable.

The prayer above for the conjuration is followed in King’s Appendix A by a prayer for a license to depart, after reciting which one is to “repeat the Prayer in the Magus returning thanks to God with any additional prayers or Psalms thou mayest think proper”:

God has appointed you a place; go in his name to wherever you belong, and be ready to come when I call you in his name to whom every knee in Heaven, upon the Earth, and under the Earth bows. I give you license to depart in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

There’s also a lengthy prayer included by King in the notes to this appendix, which “was used, or intended to be used, at the beginning of a rite for the invocation of a Saturnian and/or Martial spirit—or so I suppose from the fact that the ‘perfumes’ for the rite included sulphur, hellebore and euphorbium and that the operation was intended to take place in the planetary hour dedicated to Mars”, but which is written in a confused and rambling way. This prayer (the “preparatory prayer” mentioned in the considerations earlier in this post) is what Barrett says should be recited seven times before the conjuration ritual itself and which may be recited every morning in the seven days leading up to the conjuration. King says that the original prayer was written with such random and erratic punctuation that he tried reforming it to what he presumes to be its original; I’ve modified it further to make it make a little more sense, myself, both for punctuation and slight wording.

Almighty and most merciful Lord God, I am your poor, humble, and unworthy Servant, being an admirer of Wisdom, a votary of Science, and student of Knowledge of the Creator, desirous of true spiritual light, although a Worm subject to the frailties, wickedness, temptations, and casualties of the flesh. Grant, o great Jehovah, that I may this night see by thy divine Will and wonderful Power those spirits that may inform me of of those things, good and wholesome for my soul, that may be beneficial to me in my mortal and corruptible state. Grant these things, o most beneficent Being, to me, being desirous of holy things and willing to pursue the paths of Knowledge and true Wisdom.

O Lord, I beseech you to forgive my sins and mercifully incline your heavenly ear to my petition, which I now with my whole heart, soul, and mind offer to you and beseech you to take away the cloud of sensuality and dullness that I may clearly behold the spirit I invoke this day; this I earnestly pray, thinking nothing better for a man in this world than to be informed of things above corruption and to enjoy the sublime benefit of seeing spiritually and conversing with your blessed intelligence. But this I know myself unworthy of, as I am a fleshly creature. But, o God, as your Son, Jesus Christ, says: “whatsoever ye ask, that shall ye receive”; so, most mighty God, I, being one man, ask to receive divine illumination by the ministry of your spirit, a pure spirit, with whom I desire to see openly and fully to converse this day, o God. Grant, great Jehovah, that I may be taught Wisdom by this said spirit this day and that no evil spirit whatsoever may have power to come in the name of the good spirits to deceive me to the ruin of the health of my soul. O most mighty God, I beseech you to pardon this my imbecility in thinking myself capable of making myself heard; but, as I ask, let me receive as my intentions are. So let me be answered!

I know my own unworthiness, o Lord; great are my sins and iniquity; they are more than the hairs upon my head. But, o Lord God Almighty, if I have found any favor in your sight, if my anxious longing after Knowledge and true Wisdom or my anxious endeavors to acquire it be pleasing to you, o Fountain of Life and Light and Wisdom, then let one of your spirits descend and make known to me what course I should pursue. O almighty and merciful Jehovah, I wish through the medium of a gross and earthly body to exert that spark of your divine Essence which I believe you did formerly breathe into our nostrils with the Breath of Life; enable me, o God Almighty, to conquer those bad passions which every day rise in my heart. Let the Blood of Christ be an atonement for my sins, and grant that I, o Lord, who am a disciple of Wisdom, should attain knowledge and destroy those seeds sown by our human nature.

O God, grant I may be rapt up in the divine Vision of your holy Spirit through Jesus Christ, who sacrificed precious and immortal Blood upon the Cross. Enable me, o Most High, to immediately become a servant of your Will and an instrument curing the sick and the diseased, of relieving the distressed and fortifying the afflicted, doing all the good that may be made. Amen.

O Lord Jesus Christ, I earnestly beseech you to intercede with the Father on my behalf. Be pleased, o most merciful God, Ruler of all things visible and invisible, to grant my petitions and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Let him descend this day and make known those things I desire, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Honestly, I wish I had read this text sooner, or at least had known about it before I wrote many of my earlier DSIC posts. There’s plenty of stuff that Barrett has written for us that we can easily (or not-so-easily) incorporate into our earlier discussions as extra guidance and advice, but there’s also a lot of stuff here that doesn’t match up. I don’t think that what Barrett says above invalidates any of our earlier practices, but I also can’t really say that Barrett is wrong, since Barrett is the source (in one way or another) of DSIC at all, and we’re getting Barrett’s own insights on how to use DSIC. Frustrating as it might be, the wrenches that Barrett throws into our earlier discussions are still enlightening; if nothing else, what we discussed earlier could be considered a “purer” form of DSIC practice, or at least another variant of it, if we assume that Barrett indeed didn’t create DSIC to include in The Magus. It certainly gives us all more food for thought in how we approach DSIC and how far we want to take it in terms of either its Agrippan influences or its Solomonic ones.

I think I was successful when I set out to write my DSIC posts to answer many of the questions surrounding this ritual text, although I know I also left some questions that remain to be answered. The process of research isn’t always linear, and the discovery and review of Francis King’s work about Francis Barrett shows just that; this text answers many questions, including some that I thought were sufficiently answered before, but it also raises just as many other questions, including calling into question some of my own conclusions. If nothing else, this should help other magicians get involved and try out different designs, approaches, and uses for DSIC, whether they incorporate Barrett’s own notes or not.