You’re Probably Not Chosen, and That’s Okay

Last night on Twitter, I found a tweet thread that I thoroughly agreed with pertaining to the notion of spirit animals and how it’s culturally appropriative to use the term, and outright disrespectful when people say “unicorns are my spirit animal” or “whiskey is my spirit animal”:

I’ll let you read the whole thread, written by an Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) person with actual claim and propriety to speak on the matter, because the thread is a little long and it deserves reading.

It’s a sensitive topic for many people, but she makes fine points all around, and I can’t really disagree with them in any reasonable sense.  There are good comparisons between how people in popular occulture and New Age scenes use the word “spirit animal” with the word “shaman”, which originally applied only to Central Asian steppe-based Mongolian or Turkic tribal religions; unless you’re practicing a form of Tengrism, technically speaking, you’re not a shaman or working a shamanic path.  However, the term was adopted and adapted by anthropologists (who, I might add, typically are from Western Europe and take on a subtly colonialist-universalist view of every culture that isn’t theirs) to be applied across the board to countless religions, traditions, and cultures far removed in time, space, and language from those Central Asian priests based on perceived or superficial similarities.  In general, the word “shaman” is used wherever “priest” would normally be used, except for cultures that were deemed more “primitive” or “undeveloped” as, say, something more established, formalized, structured, or civilized as in the West.  As Kalagni shared in a related discussion on my Facebook page,

When (white) people go on about how there are analogs in other cultures, and that “spirit animal” is generic, they really mess up their history. Yes, “spirit animal” is generic and in English, but the term was coined in English to refer to Native beliefs as part of their persecution and eradication. Also, as part of another side rant, if wypipo also want to harp on about how “we have culture”, then use the goddamn names from your our culture then and prove it.  Then again, white (North American) culture did steal a lot from Native folks…so it’s part of their culture in that way.

I’d say shaman is a better case, because it’s not an English word, so despite being applied to “shamanic” traditions everywhere now, you can point and say “This is the language and culture it came from.” People have trouble grokking that with spirit animal because it’s in English, so obviously it’s a white people thing.

And, of course, as is commonly joked-not-joked?

There’s so much that can be said about this topic, and how the line is hazy or non-existent between cultural appropriation and syncretism, what the best term to describe something is depending on circumstance and originating context, whether fylgjas or totems or tutelars or paredoi or other concepts are similar enough to be clustered together (typically they aren’t except by people who don’t understand them), and so on.  Honestly, while I thought about writing about this discussion, I really don’t have much to add at the present time besides “don’t do it, and understand what you’re actually describing before you open your mouth and why you should or shouldn’t say it a certain way”; that wouldn’t make for a very exciting blog post, though, would it?  Besides, I’ll let people from the actual originating cultures speak for themselves, and keep my own mouth shut.

But there is a related topic that I can speak about, and don’t think is spoken about enough in Western occulture, New Age, and pagan thought.  People (think they) have spirit animals because they feel that the animal has chosen them; some people have patrons or matrons/patronesses (I’m not sure why “matron” isn’t the default term here, but okay, whatever) in this pantheon or that system, and all around people claim that they are “chosen” by some big-name entity or to do some monumental task.

People go on about how they’ve been chosen by some thing for some thing to do some thing, and…in general?  I don’t buy it as much as others do, or as much as I did.

I suspend my disbelief out of politeness, and see how far it goes for the person in our conversations, but for the vast majority of people and the vast majority of cases, they’re not chosen. And that’s okay!  Not only is it the norm to not be chosen, but in many of these traditions, there’s no notion of “choosing” that the gods or spirits do for us.  Moreover, any such notion is generally a recent Western overlay, much how “shaman” is used for African, Native American, and Central Asian religions despite their differences in context and origin.

I would think that the notion of having a patron in general comes from Catholic influences, where people can have a patron saint, or where a certain profession, area, or trade is associated with a saint who’s related to the thing in some way.  By being involved in that profession or trade, you can petition that saint for special help above and beyond a general-purpose spirit, sure, but you can also do the same by having your own patron saint.  Sometimes this is found based on the day of the year of the calendar of saints you’re born on, sometimes this is based on where you’re born, and sometimes it’s simply something you choose (note that it’s you doing the choosing of the saint, not necessarily the other way around) at baptism or confirmation.  This saint helps intercede for you through their unceasing prayer, not as a mediator of prayer to God but to pray alongside you to better live a better life here and in the hereafter.  This is a pretty common practice in Catholic and close-to-Catholic traditions, and seeing how that undergirds much of the past thousand-ish years of Western European philosophy and religion…well, it’s a common notion, to say the least.

So now we have all these new or newly-reborn traditions and religions, some invented out of whole (old) cloth, some reconstructed from historical and religious research: Hellenism, Heathenry, Kemeticism, Religio Romana, Rodnovery, and so on.  There are also living traditions, such as Vajrayana Buddhism or Shinto, that never died out and are extant, vibrant, and practiced to this day in their own ways.  In each, there are often an abundance of deities, demigods, heroes, saints, spirits, and whatnot.  Okay, good, cool, excellent!  The more, the merrier.  Each has its own cultural background, historical context, linguistic reliances, and so on; sometimes those who are in the know of more than one tradition can syncretize parts of them, sometimes parts of different religions ought to stay separate and far from each other.  Something I can say, however, regarding many of these traditions?  The notion of a spirit “picking” or “choosing” you is…uncommon, if not absent entirely, without having been previously syncretized with Western Christian or modern neopagan (which has some Western Christian elements) ideas.

Let me offer my own experience with something personal to me.  In La Regla de Ocha Lukumí (or Santería, as is commonly known, the Yoruba diasporic religion as it developed in Cuba with Catholic influences), there is a notion that everyone has a patron saint of sorts, an orisha that claims the head of everyone.  You don’t really get a say in who owns your head; that comes out in a special divination reading where humans don’t get to choose, but the orisha themselves choose.  In my case, it came out (surprisingly to me, at the time) that Ogun owns my head; that is a case where I was, in fact, chosen to have that connection with him in a way that other people don’t necessarily have, even if they work with Ogun or have other connections or relationships with him.  However, unlike the orisha who owns my head, it was not chosen for me to be initiated.  Some people are told that, yes, they are meant to initiate as a priest in Santería, that it is indeed an already done deal where they don’t really have much of a say in the matter if they want to continue living their destiny as it was written for them.  That wasn’t the case for me; regardless of what orisha owns my head, it was not chosen for me to initiate, and I was not told that it was necessarily part of my destiny nor that I must initiate.  Instead, I made the choice to initiate; I chose to have that relationship with Ogun, and I chose to have Ogun put on my head.  The fact that I have Ogun on my head doesn’t preclude me from working with other orisha; I still have vows and pacts made with my courts of orisha, and I can and do work with them in ways that others can’t or don’t.  Even then, however, Ogun may have been my patron saint all along in that system, but it was I who made that relationship real and tangible by my own volition and sacrifice.

Now, let me compare the similarities of that to my work with Hermes.  There are lots of things in my life that I do or that I have going on that do, in fact, relate well to Hermes’ domain: linguistics, languages, mathematics, programming, astrology, divination, conjuration, magic, trickery, trade, and on and on.  I work in a building that used to be one of the grandest post offices in the United States, and is designed with caducei and paeans to Hermes-Mercury on the pediments.  For all this, it makes sense for me to work with Hermes, because the things of his influence are already around me.  However, that does not mean I’m chosen by him to work with him, any more than a person who grew up in a family of chefs and bakers is chosen to be a culinarian themselves.  Rather, I chose to establish a shrine to him and offer sacrifices and honor in his name; I chose to have his emblem tattooed on my mortal flesh; I chose to work with him.  He did not chose me, not only because the notion of having a patron deity is unfamiliar and foreign to Hellenism, but because he…well, didn’t.  All these things in my life that are under his influence are things I chose to have in my life; he didn’t send them in my way to lure me to him, but I chose them.  Just so did I choose him, and I continue to choose him.

Another example I can offer is my own connection to what I may have called my “spirit animal” in an earlier time.  (Forgive me for declining to say what it is, but those who know me will already know what it is.)  This is an animal that I indeed feel a connection to, and which seems right and proper for me to work with.  But, that said, I’ll be honest with you: I went out of my way to find this animal, and I formed a connection with it of my own volition.  I can’t say that it’s my totem (because that’s more of a clan/lineage/family thing) or my spirit animal, because I don’t belong to the tradition that came up with the idea or that uses those terms; I rather say that it’s my tutelary animal or that I simply work with that animal spirit, because that’s more accurate and descriptive of what I do.  Moreover, this is a connection that allows for other connections to be formed with other animals as the case may be, sometimes as strongly as my primary tutelar, sometimes not so much, sometimes stronger as the case may be; I work with the spirit on my own connection, and listen to it if it needs something, but this is a spirit that ultimately I chose.  I may have encountered it in a strong way, but it was I who chose to stay with it and not pass over it.

I see that distinction a lot like how an astrological magician might view their own horoscope.  For instance, it was not a matter of my choosing when I was born; I am a Libra by virtue of my birth, and so could be said to have been “chosen” to be born under that sign.  It does not necessarily mean that Venus is my ruling planet, nor does it mean that I have to work with Venus or any of the deities associated with that planetary sphere except by my own volition.  Nor, for that matter, does it mean that I can’t work with other planets, or that I have some past-life connection with Venus, or that I am specifically chosen to do Venerial things in the world above and beyond other people, especially other Venus-ruled people (whether or not they’re Libras, Tauruses, Pisces, or another sign entirely).  I know of some people who live lives that would seem to run directly counter to their zodiac sign or almuten, often to great effect and purpose, but that’s because they often chose that path in life and worked for it.

Some people have certain entities that they work with closely and intimately, sometimes to enhance their own works; a photographer, for instance, could petition Saint Veronica because she holds special significance for photography and photographers generally.  Other times, they work with a certain entity because it enhances their own personal development, like a mask they can adopt to adapt themselves to the traits and characteristics of that entity that, over time, they can better facilitate and embody, like someone working with the spirit of the Wolf to be stronger, more cunning, braver, or more ruthless.  We can easily and properly say that we work with these spirits or entities because we’re already involved in their sphere, but that’s not because they came to us and made us work in their sphere.  Consider: at a banquet where you’re presented with multiple dishes, you don’t say that the first dish that was presented with you is what “chose” you, or that whatever dish you most like “chose” you.  You choose what you want to eat or pass over, and you choose what you want to take home and try to recreate in your own kitchen to make your life tastier.

In some cases, yes, someone is, in fact, chosen by some entity to do some sort of work.  The more I see, however, someone being chosen like this is actually kinda uncommon; more people who claim that they’re chosen aren’t, and are rather describing something they chose of their own volition as being out of their hands.  I consider this a kind of false modesty, ascribing one’s own choices in something to the work of the gods, and I…it twangs my sensibilities.  Some people might ascribe such choices to fate or predestination, which is not only a kind of false modesty but also handwaving away their own choices to something that can’t be proved.  Rather, people may feel a draw to some practice or divinity, but be honest: is that because they’re actually being lured to it by the divinity, or are they acting on an impulse and drive that they themselves have and want to explore because it’s actually something that clicks with them?  Are they told that they need to work with some deity or entity, or are they doing so because the person has their own needs given the themes and motifs in their lives that that particular entity can help with more than others?  Are they chosen to work with that deity, or do they chose to work with that deity?

There is no harm in saying that you chose a connection, relationship, or patronage with some spiritual entity.  While it may be an honor to have been chosen, it is also exceedingly honorable to willingly make that choice yourself, if not even more honorable, because it’s you who’s forming the connection, doing the work, making the sacrifices, and going above and beyond the normal level of devotion one might have into something truly special, rare, and powerful.  To do something of one’s own free will and unbidden by the gods that pleases them is almost always a sweeter sacrifice than any fumigation or libation or festival than they demand.  There’s no shame in saying that you chose this animal, this saint, this deity as your patron; if you’re earnest about it, and actually dedicate (literally giving over) yourself, I would say that you’re doing both you, the spirit themselves, and the world an honor by it.

So be honest with yourself.  Did the spirit you claim chose you actually choose you, or did you choose the spirit and choose to form that relationship with them?

I know this can press some people’s buttons, and this can easily lead to a topic of debate that borders on insult and aggravation.  Plus, there are definitely problems of destiny, fate, free will, and the subtle machinations of spirits that can influence what we “choose”, but in our limited human consciousness, we have to take responsibility as much as we can for our actions.  By all means, dear reader, share your thoughts and experiences in the comments, but please be respectful towards others if you do so.

Greek Words and Names for a Greek Qabbalah

Lately, based on my grammatomantic research, I’ve been looking more into using Greek as my go-to magical language.  Despite the prevalence of Greek ideas, theology, mythology, and philosophy rife throughout a lot of occulture, there’s surprisingly little that I can access in English when it comes to the work I’m interested.  Either things go full Renaissance Hermetic, when Latin was the main working language of things, or full Hermetic Hebrew, due to the influence of the Golden Dawn and traditional qabbalah.  To that end, I know of the Greek gods and their myths, and I use the gods’ names for the planets, and I have a few Greek-origin terms and prayers here and there, but little else.  Seeing how more and more of my practice is turning towards the northeast Mediterranean rather than the Near East or western Mediterranean, I figured that I should get all my terms and words in order to allow for more fluent use of Hellenic and Greek terms.

For instance, take the planets.  In the past, I’ve referred to them by the names of the Greek gods they’re associated with, which isn’t wrong; after all, the planets were often considered to be the physical bodies of the gods themselves.  That said, it turns out there are another set of names used to refer to the planets themselves, which are properly the planetary titans.

  1. The Sun, associated with the god Apollo, is given to the titan Hēlios
  2. The Moon, associated with the goddess Artemis, is given to the titan Selēnē, also called Mēnē
  3. Mercury, associated with the god Hermes, is given the name Stilbon
  4. Venus, associated with the goddess Aphrodite, is given to the titans Eōsphoros (Morning Star) and Hesperos (Evening Star)
  5. Mars, associated with the god Ares, is given the name Pyroeis or, lesser used, Mesonyx
  6. Jupiter, associated with the god Zeus, is given the name Phaethōn
  7. Saturn, associated with the titan Kronos, is given the name Phainōn

So, let’s start from the beginning.  Just as the Hebrew Tree of Life has ten sephiroth (sing. sephirah), the Greek Tree has ten sphairai (sing. sphaira, “sphere”) or arithmoi (sing. arithmos, “number”).  Each of these has a name of its own, modeled after the names of the Hebrew Tree.  While Michael Strojan has his own naming system, the one I’ve seen first was given in Stephen Flowers’ Hermetic Magic, and written about at length by the Confraternity of the Rose Cross (albeit in a long-winded and sometimes purposefully obtuse series of articles).  Those names are:

  1. Arkhē, “First Principle”
  2. Sophia, “Wisdom”
  3. Noesis, “Understanding”
  4. Doxa, “Glory”
  5. Dynamis, “Power”
  6. Agathōsynē, “Goodness”
  7. Nikē, “Victory”
  8. Megalōsynē, “Greatness”
  9. Themelion, “Foundation”
  10. Basileia, “Kingdom”

And, of course, just as the missing sephirah Da`ath means “Knowledge”, the equivalent missing sphaira is Gnōsis, meaning the same.

Similarly, just as each Hebrew sephirah has its own corresponding name of God, so too does each individual sphaira.  However, while a simple translation of each could be done, much as in the same way as the names of the sphairai were made, I thought it more appropriate to look through both the Old and New Testaments, as well as a bit of Gnostic literature here and there, to compile a list of names of God and ascribe them to the sphairai based on numerological connections as well as their semantic resonance with their corresponding Hebrew names.  As many of the names are technically imperfect Greek without an article or predicate noun applied, they’re given in parentheses.

  1. (ho) Ōn, “He who Is”
  2. (ho) Ēn, “He who Was”
  3. (ho) Erkhomenos, “He who Is to Come”
  4. (ho) Theos, “(the) God”
  5. Iskhyros (ho Theos), “(God is) Strong”
  6. Athanatos (ho Theos), “(God is) Immortal”
  7. Pantarkhos (ho Theos), “(God is) All-Ruling”
  8. Pantokrator (ho Theos), “(God is) All-Mighty”
  9. Pantosōmatos (ho Theos), “(God is) In All Bodies”
  10. (to) Alpha kai (to) Ōmega, “(the) First and (the) Last”

The names were developed by dividing the Tree of Life into four groups based on the familiar triads: the supernal (or first) triad consisting of the first three sphairai (1, 2, 3), the middle (or second) triad consisting of the next three (4, 5, 6), the lower (or third) triad consisting of the next three (7, 8, 9), and the final sphaira (10) left alone in its own group.  Based on these, I found names of divinity used in pagan, Hermetic, Hellenic Jewish, and Christian traditions, and associated them in particular groups that fit together well.

  • The supernal triad got its names from the Revelation of John (Revelation 1:8), reflecting the eternality (existing outside of time) and sempiternality (existing within all of time) of God.  Technically, the first two godnames are variations on the Greek verb “to be” (present participle and imperfect, respectively, of eimi), while the third is a form of “to come” (present participle of erkhomai).  This draws a distinction between sheer Presence undifferentiated by time (Ōn) and Presence that stirs and changes over time (Ēn), while the third becomes that which brings about change (Erkhomenos).  This distinction is reflected in the astrological correspondences of these sphairai, with the first being pure Light (Infinity), the second being Light that has moved in space (stars), and the third being a planet that moves and introduces change below it (Saturn).
  • The Trisagion Prayer formed the basis for the divine names for the middle triad, with the fourth sphaira (associated with Jupiter and Zeus, already recognized as “the” God) given to Theos, the fifth sphaira (associated with Mars and Ares, thus power and strength) given to Iskhyros, and the sixth sphaira (associated with Sol Invictus and, especially, Jesus Christ himself) associated with Athanatos.  Further, Theos and Iskhyros tie in with their corresponding Hebrew names, El and Elohim Gibor, respectively.  Also, the use of Theos can be appended to any sphaira godname after the fourth sphaira, since all the following names (with the exception of that of the tenth) are all technically adjectives, with “God” being the noun that they apply to in the sense of “God is Strong” or “God is Immortal”.  The fourth sphaira is conventionally held to be the beginnings of solid reality after the Fall from Divinity (cf. the Abyss), separating the eternal/sempiternal Presence of Divinity (Mind) from itself into a distinct Person of Divinity (God).
  • The names in the lower triad share the same omnipresent qualities, as well as being the epithets for Isis, Hermes, and the Universe respectively in pagan and Hermetic traditions.  Further, the Hebrew names for the seventh and eighth sephiroth, YHVH Tzabaoth and Elohim Tzabaoth, are similar in the notion of God presiding over the entirety of heaven and the heavenly hosts.  The use of Pantosōmatos comes from the Corpus Hermeticum (V.10) in referring to God “beyond all name, unmanifest, most manifest, of no body, of many body, of every body”, and the notion of linking the Moon (sphaira 9, Themelion) with bodies, corporeality, and manifestation is not a new one, since all things that exist lower than the Moon must pass through the Moon and contain some of its essence in it, especially when the Hebrew name for the corresponding sephirah is Shaddai El Chai, or “Almighty God of Life”.
  • The use of Alpha and Ōmega for the tenth sphaira comes from the description of Jesus/God from Revelation 1:8 and used throughout that book, which I found appropriate as the tenth sphaira is the World, containing every essence of every other plane of existence in itself as well as being the final sphaira reflecting the first, just as the English phrase “from A to Z” would be, and especially so as Alpha represents the Moon and Ōmega the planet Saturn in their esoteric meanings, encapsulating all the heavens between them.

That said, the names of God associated with the sphairai aren’t that important, except maybe in conjurations following Solomonic practice, since the sphairai themselves bear names of God.  After all, the sphairai are emanations of God and given titles of God, and it’s likely that the attribution of divine names to the sephiroth in Hermetic qabbalah developed from another tradition.  After all, most of the names of God given to the Hebrew sephiroth are, well, holy names not meant to be taken in vain or even spoken aloud, and it was more likely that magicians using them would prefer to use titles of God given to the sephiroth rather than names of God directly that they shouldn’t even write without several ablutions, much less speak aloud.  I’m starting to think that the correspondence of these set of divine names to the sephirah was an outside tradition tacked onto qabbalah, probably under the influence of Western Solomonic or goetic magic that used divine names like nobody else’s business.  When using one of these divine names in, say, a conjuration, the names for sphairai 5 through 10 would be reversed, so instead of “Iskhyros ho Theos” (God is Strong), it’d be “ho Iskhyros Theos” (the Strong God).  Greek is weird.

One thing I don’t feel comfortable with, at least just yet, is making a new set of Greek spirit names, especially those for the angels.  It can’t be escaped that much of Hermetic magic is based on Abrahamic lore, such as those of the angels, and so many of the names are going to remain Hebrew in origin; thus, Michael will remain Michael (though spelled in Greek as Mikhaēl) and so forth.  Likewise, the names of the planetary intelligences and spirits are based on Hebrew gematria principles, and so couldn’t be easily translated into Greek.  However, at least one set of angelic names can be translated: those of the choirs, or taxiarkhies.  Even then, though, those with explicitly Hebrew names (viz. Seraphim and Cherubim) would remain in Hebrew, but the rest wouldn’t, even though several of the names are really similar in English because much of Christian doctrine comes from, you guessed it, Greek.

  1. Serapheim, Seraphim
  2. Kheroubeim, Cherubim
  3. Thronoi, Thrones
  4. Kuriotētes, Dominions
  5. Dynameis, Powers
  6. Exousies, Virtues
  7. Arkhes, Principalities
  8. Arkhangeloi, Archangels
  9. Angeloi, Angels

One of the keys to developing new spirit names, especially for those of the planets, would be to recreate the qameas, or magic squares, of the planets.  The sigils for the planetary spirits and intelligences are based off the magic squares for their respective planets, and since the letters of the Hebrew script double as numbers, it would be possible to redraw the magic squares using Greek letters instead of Hebrew.  Since these names are all based on numerological principles and founded on the numbers associated with the planets, new names can feasibly be drawn up for these entities based on numerology (one of the few useful instances I’ve found of the craft, but I digress).  However, while redrawing the magic squares in Greek letters is easy, finding acceptable names of planetary spirits and intelligences that adhere to the same numeric values as the Hebrew names is not, since there are far more permutations of letters that would add up to the same value than I can calculate off the top of my head.  A good amount of work would be needed to develop a set of names and see which would work for the spirit and intelligence of each sphaira, not to mention figure out whether an “intelligence of intelligences” or “spirit of spirits” would be needed for spheres like those of the Moon and Venus.

At this point, there’s really little else than to make a new set of tables of correspondences a la Cornelius Agrippa’s Scales, replacing Hebrew godnames and the like with native Greek ones where appropriate, and honestly there’s already a lot done for me that I don’t need to do again (thank you, Stephen Skinner).  That and, of course, a hellish amount of scrying, pathworking, and exploration to really see what needs doing, patching up, and evaluating to see what’s actually needed for theurgy and thaumaturgy.  I’m thinking I might have to go with what Kalagni of Blue Flame Magick did a while back, scrying up a new style of Tree of Life on my own Starry Path.  I was thinking I was going to go that route anyway, using my grammatomantic lunar calendar to set certain days to scry the paths of the Greek Tree of Life, but now that I’m realizing how big an effort this is going to be, it’s certainly not going to be a short-term project.

One final thing, though: what would this new system be called?  Kabbalah or qabbalah (I use the K to signify the Jewish practice and Q the Hermetic one) is still a Hebrew word itself, meaning “receiving” or “tradition”.  The Greek Wikipedia article uses the word “kampala”, with “kabbala” as an alternate spelling.  Going by the meaning of the word, I think “(to) Paradedomenon” (that which is handed down) isn’t too far off the mark; “kampala” would be the shorthand name for the system as a transliteration of the Hebrew.  But of course, since clearly nobody speaks Greek (including myself, which I should eventually get around to fixing), “Greek kabbalah” would be the most easily accessible name for the system.

Oh, and for those of you who keep tabs on my Facebook, you’ll notice I posted an interesting photo about Greek kabbalah.  We’ll get into that more later on; I’ve got plenty to write about it for those who’re interested in a Neoplatonic/Pythagorean kinda thing.

Search Term Shoot Back, May 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 May 2014.

“why is yesod important in ring of solomon” — As far as I know, it’s not.  The Ring of Solomon, given in the Lemegeton, has the names “Tetragrammaton”, “Tzabaoth”, and “Michael” written on it; the one given to John Dee is known as the “PELE Ring”, having that word inscribed on it (perhaps a reversed romanized “Aleph”?) with a circle with a V and L sticking through it.  None of this is particularly associated with Yesod, the sephiroth associated with the sphere of the Moon, whose commonly-associated godname is Shaddai El Chai and whose angel presiding over it is Gabriel.

“big cock anal” — Yes, please.

“can orgonite be used for penis growth ?” — First, orgonite can’t really be used for anything that, say, a rock, a crystal, or a piece of wood can’t, and honestly anything else looks prettier than orgonite.  Second, the penis is pretty much a fixed size once you hit puberty; with the exception of prolonged penis pumping or jelqing (either of which can be dangerous if you don’t do it right, including literally exploding the penis), you really won’t be changing the size much.  Third, no.  No, you cannot use orgonite for penis growth.  You must be extraordinarily desperate to be thinking of that.

“black pepper in rituals” — It’s a pretty useful ingredient, actually.  Anything that has a sharp or stinging smell or taste to it tends to be Martial, while anything dark black tends to be Saturnine; black pepper, being both, is a good example of an herb that combines both of these forces, but pepper generally tends to be a Martial ingredient.  It’s good for banishing things, and a standby banishing incense of mine combines black pepper, red pepper, myrrh, clove, and star anise.  It’s also good for offensive magic, especially if you’re trying to get someone to get the fuck out of your life or cause them slow-burning harm.  Be careful when burning it, however, and don’t inhale it directly or get the smoke in your eyes.

“since greek god hermes had a big dick do virgo guy born on august 23 have big dicks as well” — …again?  Why is this a thing people are searching for?  (I may as well ask why there exists Rule #34 on the Internet.)  First, August 23 is really on the cusp between Leo and Virgo, and depending on the year and exact time of birth, someone could be clearly on one side or the other, or could be really right on the fence between the two.  In my experience, cusp people who have the physical attributes of one sign have the personality characteristics of the other.  Second, the bigger (…erm) thing is that one’s rising sign really influences one’s physical form, which I would assume continue down to the girth and length of one’s cock; it’s not just the Sun sign that matters.  Third, it’s really in very few depictions of Hermes that he’s presented with a huge dick; the hermai statues weren’t always Hermes but acted as generic intermediary messengers between humans and gods in ritual depictions, and it’s really only that huge ithyphallic Roman drawing of Mercury that we see a Pan-like figure with a caduceus.  I mean, sure, the gods can present themselves (heh) in any way they chose, including the size of particular attributions of theirs, but I genuinely don’t think a huge cock is something attributable to Hermes in the same way the caduceus or winged sandals are.  That said, he definitely has nothing to worry about, either.

“likeness between virgo males and greek god hermes” — If search term results are any indication, apparently a huge cock is one of them?  This question is kinda weird to me, since it’s like asking the likeness between a Jew and YHVH, or a citizen of the United States and George Washington.  Virgoan and Geminese people are both born under the Zodiac signs ruled by Mercury, but that’s hardly much to talk about.  Again, the rising sign, Moon sign, signs of the Parts of Fortune and Spirit, and the planet of the almuten are all hugely important factors that can change from Virgo to Virgo, Gemini to Gemini, and so forth.  In many regards, if a particular Virgo male has a huge cock, it’s probably coincidental and attributable to many other factors besides their Sun sign.

“can you pray to summon satan” — Totally, yes!  Just make sure whom you’re praying to and why you’re praying for it line up right.  Don’t pray to the Judeo-Christian God to summon Satan for world domination, and don’t pray to Satan himself to imprison himself for the rest of eternity.  You might make more enemies than friends that way.

“religious amulet sash that you wear across the shoulder and end at the hip in yoruba” — I’m not an expert on ATR practices, but Santería (or Lukumi, which has its origins in the Yoruba culture) doesn’t wear these.  They wear elekes or collares, beaded necklaces and bracelets, the colors and patterns of which reflect different orisha (Santerían deities).  The sashes are from a nearby culture from the Congo, whose religion is known as Palo (viz. Palo Mayombe, Palo Kimbisa, Palo Briyumba, etc.).  They don’t wear the beaded necklaces or bracelets (except maybe as a personal affectation), but instead wear the bandera, a sash that goes over the shoulder and down to the other hip, the beaded patterns of which represent the different nkisi (Palo deities), along with chains, cowrie shells, and other charms to reflect ancestry, ancestors, and the like.

“can i use orgonite in my crystal grid” — You can, but why?  Crystals tend to be cheaper and more easily accessible and tend to have a purer energy feel to them.  Besides, crystals are already present in orgonite, which tends to be a mishmash of metal shavings, glitter, sticks, and glue, so why bother?  Just use crystals and leave the orgonite crap alone.

“keys of solomon used in a ritual death” — Very little in the Key of Solomon has to do with ritual deaths or killing, much less those of humans.  However, animal sacrifice is a thing, and the use of blood as ingredients in ink or pigments is common in several of the rituals, as well as in making offerings to the demons in the Lemegeton Goetia.  If you do this, first make the white-handled knife (which itself requires the blood of a goose) to consecrate it, then use that as the sacrificial blade for further sacrifices.  Be careful, and also study how Jewish kosher slaughter works and try to use that method to ensure a quick and as-close-to-painless-as-possible death.  If you cut yourself, halt all working and make sure you don’t get any of your own blood mixed up in the offerings or ink, and GTFO the ritual area.  If you’re at all squeamish about using sacrifices of animals or blood, just look elsewhere or work on making plant-based substitutes for blood.

“hermetic wand pricing” — Depends on whom you ask.  I can make wands for you as a custom commission, depending on complexity and style, though for wands used in the Golden Dawn, you’d be better off looking elsewhere or studying the craft and making one for yourself.

“are there any of the penticles of the moon out of the greater key of solomon that have to do with arc angel azreal” — Sorta?  Azrael, sometimes known as Azriel, is commonly known as the Angel of Death, though his name literally means “One whom God Helps”.  He’s known in Islamic traditions, though never by this name in the Qur’an, instead being referred to as the angel of death.  The Zohar of Jewish Kabbalah has this angel receive the prayers of the faithful in Heaven and leads the heavenly hosts, and some esoteric forms of Christianity associate this angel with Sealtiel or Selaphiel, the angel of prayer.  All told, though, he’s most known in his function of giving death to mankind.  Though I didn’t think this angel appeared in the Key of Solomon, there is actually a pentacle of the Moon that references a very similar name to this: the Fifth Pentacle of the Moon, which “serveth to have answers in sleep”, and “serveth unto destruction and loss, as well as unto the destruction of enemies”,  as well as “against all phantoms of the night, and to summon the souls of the departed from Hades”.  This pentacle has the name “Azarel” written on it, which could just as easily be romanized from Hebrew as “Azrael”, so maybe this is the pentacle you’re looking for.

“i want to write my name in angelic script” — First learn to write your name in Hebrew, or find a Hebrew version of your name; then simply write the same letters in angelic script, which is basically a different font of Hebrew.

“letter v in isopsephy” — There isn’t one.  Isopsephy is Greek gematria, and there is no letter V in Greek.  The modern pronunciation of Beta or Upsilon can sometimes sound like the English V, but there is no such letter.  Likewise, in Hebrew gematria, there is no letter V either, though Bet or Waw can sometimes sound like it, too.  If you’re using isopsephy based on purely phonetic principles, you could pick either of those letters from those scripts, but the thing is that you’d be applying phonetic principles to a text-based system, and the disconnect is large enough to give me pause for concern.  And no, I haven’t found an English/Latin isopsephy/gematria worth discussing yet.

“how to write a curse tablet in latin”  — Much the same way as you’d write a curse tablet in any other language.  The language doesn’t really factor into the magic unless you’re working with specifically Latin-speaking spirits, and depending where you are, those might be few and far between.  Write in the language most comfortable to you; the spirits will understand.  That said, if you happen to know Classical Latin or Greek comfortably well, by all means write in those languages.

“are summoming triangles evil?” — As much as pens and paper are.  The summoning triangle is a tool used in rituals, which I suppose can only be declared “good” or “evil” based on their intent and result.

And, as you may have noticed, dear readers, I’m back!  I’m all situated in the new house, all the spirits and altars are set up, and a few days’ worth of housewarming parties are complete.  I’m getting settled back into a routine of commuting, ritual, and martial arts practice, so everything’s going well.  I’m now open for craft commissions again, though I now have a minor backlog of things to do from people who happened to order something over the past month.  How’ve you been this past May?

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!