When God Says No: On True Will and the Will of God

Yesterday, we started talking about a number of questions from Curious Cat that focused on the role of angels in magical work, and what happens when they don’t show up or don’t do what we ask, command, or commission them to do for us.  This is a really complex topic, at least so complex that I can’t really answer it in the 3000 character limit that Curious Cat sets for question replies, but I’m trying to flesh it out as best as I can here on my blog.  Again, I’m approaching this from a Hermetic monist-yet-polytheist standpoint that takes in the existence of both angels and gods under God in the same creation that we’re in.  What we ended up with so far is this idea that we can’t really command angels to do anything; all we can do is pray that they do something for us, whether it’s appearing in a crystal for a conjuration or fulfilling some task or teaching us some mystery.  And when we make such prayers, we’re directing those prayers to God, because angels exist solely to fulfill the will of God; that’s their nature.  Angels don’t have free will; their will is the will of God, or they just constantly and forever want the exact same thing God wants in the exact same way, and will act in their capacities to fulfill the will of God.  This means that it’s our prayers to God that matter more than the presence or help of the angels, and there are lots of reasons why prayers might not be answered: sometimes it’s because we’re not asking for what’s possible according to the will of God, and sometimes it’s best we don’t get what we want because it’s not for us or because we’re not ready for it yet.

What it all comes down to is this: we, as human beings, are blessed with quite a lot of power, but it’s not infinite power.  We’re actually quite small and insignificant in the grander scope of the cosmos, but we still have some significance.  That significance plays through our True Will, which is a fancy modern way to describe “our path in life”, the purpose and plan of God that God has established for us as individuals as written in his Book of Life.  Everything we do in life, in order to be successful, has to be either in explicit accordance with our True Will or at least tolerated and permissible within the bounds of what our True Will necessitates; to give a mundane example, it’s necessary that I leave my house at 7:20 am to go get to the train station on time, but that doesn’t mean I have to wake up at 6 am in order to be sufficiently ready, because I have the freedom to wake up earlier or later so long as I’m out the door by 7:20 am.  Likewise, we have to live according to our True Will, whether or not we’re consciously aware of it, but we also have leeway to do things explicitly outside it because it doesn’t fundamentally matter one way or another, so long as we’re not doing things that actively go against our True Will.

When we act in accordance with our True Will, then we’re acting in accordance with the will of God, and we effectively become his angels for as long as our will is his will, and so long as that synchronization is maintained, there is nothing that can stop us; we might be delayed, slowed down, or face other difficulties in accomplishing it according to the usual vicissitudes of life and the struggles we face against the ignorant actions of ourselves or other human beings or the inimical actions of malevolent spirits, but God will not bar us or deny us from it, because it is his will that we should do the thing we’re doing.  When we act within the permissibility of our True Will, then what we’re doing may not be explicitly necessitated or mandated by God, but we have the license to act on it anyway because it doesn’t fundamentally matter one way or another so long as we get the right things done in the right way.  But when we act outside the permissibility of our True Will, then we go against the will of God, and there is nothing we can do that will change that, and we’re off-track from the proper path for ourselves in life.

The topic of True Will is one that I’ve talked about time and again on my blog in the past, and I think I’ve made some really important points on this before:

When we follow and carry out our True Wills, things generally go easier for us, since they’re increasingly tied into the things we’re doing.  We encounter fewer and fewer difficulties, since we’re effectively carrying out our roles to play in the cosmos, and “if God is for us, who can be against us”?  Sure, we might still attract haters (who will, after all, continue to hate on ‘choo), but when we work our Will on the cosmos, people who would interfere with us are either brought over to our side and begin helping us instead, or are drowned out, burned up, or otherwise silenced and made powerless to counteract or contradict us.  Plus, the more we work our True Will, the more we begin to find and associate with those who are also carrying out their Will, and since they’re doing what they must for the cosmos, it’ll naturally fall in line and correlate with what we must do for the cosmos, as two players on opposite sides of an orchestra play harmoniously in the whole.

It’s only when someone else messes up their part and trashes their Will so badly that it ends up careening into yours that can cause problems, like a planet that suddenly shifts out of orbit and collides into other planets, or a player in an orchestra that decides to start playing a march when everyone else is playing a waltz just to confuse others.  Sometimes this is out of earnest confusion and spiritual flailing, sometimes this is out of deliberate spite and (mis- or ab-)use of their power and Will.  This can certainly cause issues, and can even put a cold damper or shut down the flame of one who’s actually working their Will as they should.  All it needs is a bit of correction on both our part and the parts of others to get everything singing harmoniously again, and then we’ll all be aweseome again as we should.

In a way, the idea of True Will is starting to sound a lot like Grace to me: just as Grace is not a reward, neither is True Will, but they’re both the state and result of being doing the highest Good, of becoming properly Godly, and coming to truly know yourself, your origins, and your duty. (January 31, 2013)

So too is the wand of the magician not used as a blasting rod or an offensive weapon, but it’s used as a mark of divine right and being rightly divine.  The wand should be used to remind the magician and guide them to their True Will, not used to enforce their temporary will onto others.  After all, if one is following their True Will, then pretty much all else will fall into place accordingly (except in dire or unusual circumstances when other work must be applied).  The image of control that the wand bestows is just that, an illusory image; it’s the obedience of entities to their proper stations in the cosmos that the wand reminds them of, and helps them fall into place when in the presence of one who is effectively sent from on high.  To use  the wand to simply force or bind something to the whimsy of the magician is to abuse the authority given to the magician, and when abused enough, the magician incurs punishment just as Chinese emperors might lose the Mandate of Heaven. (October 11, 2013)

What do we, as conjurers and magicians and magi, do?  We take our divine birthright as children of the Most High and join with him in the ever-continuing act of creation of the cosmos.  We ask for the blessing of God to do what is Right and to enact our True Wills, thereby rejoining God in his infinite Grace.  We step into the role as agents of the Divine, of the Most Divine, to work with the spirits who are our relatives, who are our brothers and sisters from the same Source, and who endeavor to aid us as they aid the Divine themselves.  We, essentially, become a consciously direct extension of God and join with God.  I’m going to stop this little poetic waxing short of saying “we become God”, because we already are essentially part of the Prime Mover down in this little ass-end of the cosmos, but we come closest to it consciously when we do our Work.

There are points when working with the spirits simply does not work; as Fr. Rufus Opus has said, the general idea is “move  this or move me”, where either a thing desired is changed or made in the world or where we ourselves are changed if nothing else can be changed.  God, clearly, can change everything, since that’s pretty much his thing; nothing disobeys God, since everything is a part of God and works as part of the One, the cohesive Whole.  But, that said, by moving ourselves, we partake in that same action, and bring ourselves closer to becoming what we need to Be and do what we need to Do; in these cases, we bring ourselves closer to attaining and carrying out our True Wills.  This is also the same in all other instances when working with the spirits gets us results in the external world. (November 2, 2013)

This ties in tightly to notions of True Will and divine providence, too, and the ideas are similar.  When we do what God wants us to do, carrying out and serving our divine purpose, that’s our True Will, the will we are meant to fulfill which we ourselves can know once we can see ourselves clearly enough.  To do that, however, we have to carry out the Great Work, which helps us prepare ourselves across the four parts of the world and begin to hear and use Logos.  This allows our sensible, material bodies to better heed and serve our souls, which can then develop properly into a fully-knowledgeable and divine soul with Nous.  With Nous being known to ourselves, we then can carry out what it is we’re supposed to do; at that point, any distinction between what we want and what God wants is meaningless, because our wills have become God’s will and vice versa. (December 8, 2013)

I’ve brought up the idea before that, if we envision the whole grand scheme of things, the Cosmos, as a giant machine, then everyone is a gear in that machine. So long as we keep on doing what we need to do, every part works in harmony with every other part, and the machine works well. If even one part, however, gets out of sync or decides to revolt, then much of the rest of the system we find ourselves in can malfunction or break down, and other parts have to accommodate the malfunction until things get into proper working order again. (This is why life isn’t perfect, I suppose.) Kalagni of Blue Flame Magick once described this to me (in a discussion on True Will) as how a solar system works: the planets don’t need to think or plan or consciously strive towards orbiting the Sun, they just do it naturally as an expression of their selves and their purpose. But imagine, dear reader, if a rogue planet suddenly whipped itself into our solar system, or worse, imagine if one of our own planets suddenly got a wild hare up its axis of rotation and jumped out of its orbit. What happens? The other planets get knocked out of their own orbits, potentially colliding with other planets or celestial bodies, and the whole system gets out of whack until it finds a new equilibrium to settle down in. There’s no guarantee that this equilibrium will be equivalent to the previous one, or that the solar system as a whole will survive such an accident, but hey, shit happens. The Cosmos will do what it needs to do in order to work out its own problems, and its our job to make sure that we do our own Work accordingly to handle our Will, regardless of what the vicissitudes of fate throw at us. (February 12, 2017)

When you seek to work against your True Will, you cause problems, and the only solution is to get back in line with your True Will; there is no other option or alternative, and as I said earlier, no angel, demon, ghost, or god will make what you seek permissible without them going against their own True Wills.  Yes, other entities have their own True Wills.  It stands to reason that if we have a particular purpose in the creation of the Creator, then so does everyone and everything else, too, with the same kinds of boundaries and limits, just on different scales and with different scopes.  I brought this up in my answer to that last question from Curious Cat, since the question referenced other deities as examples of ones one might go to when God himself says “no”, one of which was the orisha Yemaya:

Since you bring up Yemaya, my mother in Ocha who’s extraordinarily dear to my heart (though my father and crown is Ogun), I can phrase this in a more Ocha-centric way. In Ocha theology, there are all these orisha, the divinities of the world, but there’s a hierarchy among them, with Obatala as king of the orisha. But Obatala is not the almighty all-ruler of the cosmos; that role goes to Olodumare (or Olorun or Olofi, they’re all basically the same), the divine creator of the whole cosmos. All things exist to carry out the will of Olodumare, including the orisha; as oloshas, we don’t interact with Olodumare because ey’s so far distant and removed from our day-to-day life, but instead, we interact with eir’s emissaries, stewards, and regents: the orisha. They cannot go against the will of Olodumare, who sets the laws for everything and everyone, but within their own domains, they have the power to work and act. So long as Olodumare grants them license to do so, they can do what they want.

Heck, even in orisha religion, there’s a notion that “no orisha can bless you if your own Ori does not accept it”.  Ori, in this case, is a special kind of head spirit that we all have, initiated or not, and is a kind of notion of “higher self” as well as our own “spirit of destiny”.  In many ways, if I were to translate it in to Western Hermtic terms, it’s essentially the spirit of our True Will.  If we ask for something but our Ori says “nope”, then it’s not part of your destiny to receive it, and no orisha will be able to give it to you, even if they want to give it to you or if you want to get it from them.  But if your Ori says “yup”, then it doesn’t matter whether we want the thing or not, because it’s part of our destiny to have it; we might delay on it or we might speed up towards it, but we can’t avoid it, and no orisha will be able to stop it, no matter how hard they try.  There might be ways to ameliorate or “fix” one’s destiny, but it’s limited, and even then, defaults back to the will of Olodumare (i.e. the will of God).

Even in Hellenic traditional religion, there’s a notion that Zeus is not just the king of Olympos, but the king of truly the entire cosmos whose power and rule is absolute, and whose will must be obeyed by all.  I dimly recall a scene from the Iliad (I forget where) where Zeus proclaims his own power, saying that if all the other gods and goddesses and spirits held on to the end of an unbreakable rope and if Zeus alone had it wrapped around his little finger, he could still yank the rope with such force as to fling all the other deities to the far ends of the world with just a nudge.  The will of Zeus is absolute, and no things can go against that supreme will; though Zeus is not necessarily a creator deity, he is still a cosmocrator all the same; he just happens to go along with his own designs and plans and will when he “obeys” the powers of other deities such as Anankē (Necessity) or the Moirai (Fates), because he does not permit himself to break the rules that he himself has set in conjunction with the other deities that establish the purpose and path of all things.

Consider it this way: in order to get around mental blocks about fighting against God when God says “no”, replace the word “God” (or “Olodumare” or “Zeus” or any other cosmocrator/creator deity) with the phrase “the fundamental nature of the cosmos”.  Thus, when the fundamental nature of the cosmos says “yes”, there’s nothing that can stop it from happening, and when the fundamental nature of the cosmos says “no”, there’s nothing that can make it happen.  Likewise, to get around the mental blocks when angels or any particular deity or divinity say “no”, replace the word “angels” or “other gods” with the phrase “the fundamental forces of the cosmos”.  When the fundamental forces of the cosmos say “yes”, that’s because the fundamental nature of the cosmos necessitates that those forces act in a certain way in order for the cosmos to maintain its nature; when the fundamental forces of the cosmos say “no”, that’s because the fundamental nature of the cosmos cannot allow those forces to function in that way in accordance with the rules that the fundamental nature of the cosmos set up and plays by.  However, those same fundamental forces of the cosmos may function in ways that produce interesting and perhaps unexpected side effects or which produce emergent properties that arise from particular combinations or edge-cases of forces interacting; these don’t go against the fundamental nature of the cosmos, but are still part of the cosmos because of how those forces work.  A force will do whatever it will do, and given the proper setting and context, it can and will do a lot, especially if there’s nothing stopping it, but it cannot do what it was not designed to do nor can it do anything when it has no power in a particular situation or context.

This is essentially where fate and destiny come into play, because “fate” is essentially “the course that the fundamental nature of the cosmos will take”, and it’s up to us to live our lives in accordance with fate, just as one can’t really go upstream down a torrentially-flowing river.  The thing is that we can go with it or fight against it; whether we’re successful or not is, ultimately, up whether what we’re doing is in accordance with that destiny and whether it plays a role in accomplishing it.  It sounds like, in the debate between fate vs. free will, all the above argues against free will and for the undeniable power of fate.  And yes!  That’s true.  But it’s also true that, from our point of view, we have freedom of choice and freedom of will, to be sure.  We don’t have to go along with the the fundamental nature of the cosmos, but it probably won’t end well, and even within the boundaries of the fundamental nature of the cosmos, we can still do a lot that the fundamental nature of the cosmos hasn’t explicitly mandated, often including how we do what we need to do.  After a certain point in the cosmos, the distinction between fate and free will becomes moot; you just do what you’re supposed to do, not because you don’t have a choice, but because you capital-W Want to.

For as important and wonderful and powerful as we are as human beings, we are still so small and weak.  The cosmos is filled with things far bigger, older, smarter, cleverer, and stronger than us.  Sometimes we can fight against them, and on occasion, we might even win.  In general, though, issues with authority will only cause you problems, and issues with the underlying authority of all of creation itself won’t get you very far at all.  When we appeal to God for help, we might get it, or we might not; it’s not up to us to demand it, because quite frankly, the cosmos owes you nothing at all.  You were made to fulfill some purpose or role; strive for that, because all else is meaningless in the end!  If you want something and you’re both meant to have it and capable of having it, then it will be yours; if you want something and you’re meant to have it but you’re not capable of having it, then start working on being capable of having it so that it can be yours; if you  want something and you’re not meant to have it, then accept it and move on to the things that you’re meant to have.  This is not an easy lesson to learn, because this is fundamentally the lesson of humility before God: “be it done unto me according to your word”.  We might be kings of our spheres and worlds, but there are still higher powers that we, too, must obey in order for our kingdoms to survive.  We are both ruler of that which is below and within and servant to that which is above and without.

This is essentially the whole point of our Great Work, our Magnum Opus, our True Will: we must learn what is appropriate and best for us, then work towards accomplishing it.  It’s not a one-and-done event that you can spend a month studying for then doing a simple ritual one night and going to bed and partying for the rest of your life; it’s literally the constant work of lifetimes, the most important and the most difficult thing we can ever do and ever be doing.  By that very same token, it’s also the most worthy, worthwhile, valuable, and precious thing we can ever hope to accomplish, and there is nothing we can do that is truly worthy of such a blessing and reward except to simply do it.  That we have the means and capability of fulfilling our fate is, in a sense, true grace from God.  We just need to keep our eyes on the target, keep facing towards God, and keep learning about our True Will so that we can fulfill it, day by day, step by step, stone by stone, breath by breath, bite by bite.  One day, we’ll get there.  There is nothing else in all of creation that is as worthy, or as difficult, than for us to fulfill what we were meant to do.

Whether we get what we want doesn’t ultimately matter, regardless whether or not we get it.  It’s whether we get what we Want that matters.

When God Says No: On God and the Angels

Yes, another post from Curious Cat.  It’s honestly a great way for people to reach out to me, and it gives me a ready store of ideas for posts to write about.  (I’ve been asking for comments on my website, Facebook, and Twitter for ages for when people would like to ask questions, but people either just don’t do that or don’t generally trigger a post-writing reaction.)  Plus, according to Human Design (which my blessed sister studies and practices), I’m a so-called “manifesting generator” type, who responds well to being asked questions in order to produce and effect wonderful things.  But unlike other posts about things that come from questions on Curious Cat, this post is gonna be a little different; we’re going to discuss a common thread that ties together several different questions that were asked, all largely pertaining to angels, their role in the cosmos, how we interact with them, how we’re permitted to interact with them, and what their relationship is to God.  To give a brief summary of the questions asked and my replies to them:

  • Where do angels come from, and what are they?  God made them to carry out his will in infinitesimal slices of divine presence, made discrete and distinct to govern over specific things, entities, events, or phenomena of the cosmos.  Angels have no free will; by definition, their will is the will of God and vice versa, so that they act strictly and solely in accordance with, for, by, and to God.
  • If angels have no free will, then when we invoke or conjure an angel and commission it with a request, it can only fulfill this request if God wills it? Yes!  All the conjurations we do in the Western Hermetic and Solomonic tradition of higher entities, if we’re not taking the rather old-school approach of assuming divine power ourselves and browbeating the cosmos into complying with our (temporarily-assumed) divine will, is to supplicate God through prayer to reveal that he send his angels to us in his name for his honor and glory.  Thus, when we call on an angel, we’re essentially asking God to graciously give his permission for the angel to be sent to us, because God’s will and God’s will alone is what allows all things to happen; how much more this is the case, then, for entities whose sole purpose is to perfectly and only fulfill the will of God!
  • What sort of behavior do angels hate?  It depends on what they’re the angel of, but in general, angels don’t really “hate” because they don’t really do emotion, since they’re the embodiments of and agents for the will of God.  In that sense, angels “hate” anything that goes contrary to the will, design, aims, and goals of God—and, by extension, all that we do that goes against our True Will, which is nothing more or less than the will of God that is right and proper for us to will and accomplish in our lifetimes.
  • How can we discover our True Will if we’re unaware of it?  This is nothing short of the first half of the Great Work; the second half is fulfilling it.  And there is nothing harder or higher than to know and do what it is what we truly Will.  This is exactly the same thing as knowing the purpose God has established for us in life.
  • Why do angels hate emotion, then? Angels don’t hate emotion; they just don’t have it, or at least in any meaningful way that we might recognize as emotion.  We might perceive or interpret them to be acting emotionally, but that’s only because we ourselves are human and thus emotive creatures, while angels are utterly devoid of humanity and completely above and beyond our level, at least or especially where emotions are concerned.  Angels don’t have free will; they don’t even roll or blink their (innumerable) eyes without God willing it.
  • If an angel is being difficult, how do we complain to its manager?  If an angel is being difficult, it’s not because the angel is acting wily or being a punk for the sake of being a punk.  If an angel declines to do something, it’s because God declines to permit that thing from occurring; it’s not that the angels decide against it, but God decides against it.  That’s why, when we pray in conjuration for an angel to appear, we pray that God grant that it should happen (see above).  If something doesn’t happen, then there’s a reason for it; we either must work towards it so that we’re ready and proper for it in the eyes of God, or we must pray for the right thing to occur, whether it involves the conjuration and commissioning of an angel to do something or whether we should do something else entirely that would be better for us to do.
  • If God is unwilling to help us, would intervention from other deities from other traditions or pantheons help instead? Maybe, but if God’s decided against it, then there’s probably a good reason for that. It could be that you should look elsewhere for help, such as from another god or using another set of spirits or practices entirely to get the same thing done rather than by directly appealing to the Highest, but it could also be that you’re asking for the wrong thing entirely or that it’s not meant for you, whether now or at all. That’s where divination is crucial for magicians: it helps us plan out what we can do, but more than that, whether we should do something. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should, and if you shouldn’t, you should learn the reasons why. In other words, don’t go shopping around for a second opinion when you already got The One Opinion To Rule Them All. Keep to the principle of “move, or move me”.
  • But when it comes to other gods, don’t they also share power over our reality as well?  Absolutely!  But for all their greatness and grandness and power, they’re not as great or grand or powerful as the cosmocrator God behind them all. And that’s okay, because they don’t need to be, and it’s often better to work with them directly if you’re in such a tradition than to work with the behind-the-scenes all-ruling One, because they’re more accessible. But there are limits in place that even they can’t argue with, because they’re not in charge of literally everything like God is.

All this ended up with me saying this from that last question in the series, which I want to specifically quote with a special emphasis on one particular line:

God (and I use that term in a very general, very high-and-behind-the-scenes way as in Hermetic theology/philosophy), more often than not, doesn’t really established hard and fixed prohibitions so long as something fits (or is, at least, tolerated and permissible) within the grander scheme of things.  Even the biggest events and problems in our lives are less than specks of dust compared to the grandness of all creation, and accordingly, there’s not too much that really conflicts with the overall overarching design of God; there’s more than one way to skin a cat. But when God says “no” through the creation of the cosmos, there’s no angel, demon, ghost, or god that will say “yes”. If God says “no”, then you should find out why that might be the case and act accordingly, because more often than not, it’s with your own best interests in mind. Again, this is where divination is important, because it will tell you what’s going on, whether you can do something, and whether you should do something.

Now, there’s a lot to unpack in all of this, because I didn’t necessarily summarize everything, and Curious Cat, for all its usefulness, isn’t great for truly nuanced discussions, what with its 3000 character limit on replies, and it’s easy to get some parts of the above misunderstood.  Plus, there are things that I’m hinting at in some of my replies that really need to be said explicitly, but just couldn’t fit reasonably in the above replies within the constraints of Curious Cat.  First, let me preface this by saying that I’m coming from a position that’s largely Hermetic and Neoplatonic and fundamentally emanationist-monist within a polytheistic framework, and I recognize that not all systems of theology, cosmology, or philosophy operate on these principles—but there are still quite a number that do.  Since I’m the one being asked these questions for my opinions, and since this is my own blog, these are my thoughts on all of this.

At the core of it all, the theme of all these questions is what role God has to play in our Work, whether or not we’re monotheistic or monist, and how we relate to God in that sense.

First, what exactly is this God we’re talking about?  Coming from a Hermetic standpoint, God is the ultimate underlying authority and entity that created and creates the whole cosmos.  Without getting into the nitty-gritty of Hermetic philosophy (I did a good-enough job of that in my 49 Days of Definitions blog series from 2013 regarding the “Definitions from Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius”), God is both the end result of spiritual development and the ultimate source of all things that exist, don’t exist, might exist, etc.  Everything else that exists does so within God as part of God.  It may be said that God is fullness itself; instead of merely saying that all things exist within God, it can also be said that all things are God, and since God is all things, God is All.  However, since God is still one divinely simple entity, God is also One, and thus All is One.  God is the Platonic Good, the summum bonum of the philosophers, the object of highest knowledge and importance that is the forerunner and producer of all other objects.  God is also the Monad, the One, that which is alone in itself, made by itself endlessly (i.e. unmade), making all things, coming first; it is the one Source of all things, creating all things within itself yet never being made from anything besides itself, never taking away from itself into less nor multiplying itself into more.  God, further, encompasses all things; not only is God fully immanent in all of creation, but God also transcends all of creation, too.  Everything is permeated with divine essence, but everything is also intrinsically connected to each other and to God by it as well.

Where does that put us, as human beings?  All beings, human and otherwise that are not God are finite; they are not infinite, unending, immovable, or the like, since these are qualities that belong only to God.  Something that is finite has an end; it is defined, or set in by boundaries.  The maximum extent of these boundaries can be called something’s capacity, and nothing that is finite can exceed its own capacity.  Thus, everything that exists that is not God has a certain way of existing up to a certain point, whether it be in quantity or quality or good or evil; these things cannot act outside or beyond that point, because then it would exceed its own capacity.  A being’s capacity is, essentially, its destiny; a being does what its nature is designed to do, which is to fulfill its own capacity, but which it cannot exceed, because that would be going past what its destiny necessitates.  This is essentially our power: to fulfill our capacity, to fulfill our fate, and we have the choice of doing good or evil in a Hermetic sense, to fulfill our fate or to not fulfill it.  And that’s huge!  But, despite all this power we’re entitled to have, we’re not omnipotent; for example, our nature as humans is to die; we are mortal, after all, and the nature of things with material bodies is to die eventually.

What about other entities that aren’t human beings, such as angels or gods that are distinct from capital-G God?  They’re entities in their own rights, to be sure, and have their own capacities, natures, and roles to play.  But they’re still finite, no matter how much power they have.  Whatever something is according to its nature, that is going to be how it will be for that being.  These entities still have power, but they still exist as finite entities within creation; thus, they are still not God.  Rather, it’s God who establishes their natures and capacities, and it’s the role of those entities to fulfill them however they so choose.  Being higher than us and made of more subtle stuff and without the distractions and darkness of incarnate bodies, they also see more and know more than we do, and are necessarily closer to God than we are down here.  All the same, however, they cannot exceed their own capacities, either.

Now, I know that this might seem a little…appropriative, as if I’m trying to fit every possible tradition or religion into a single monist framework.  In a sense, yeah, because that’s what Hermeticism is, and it’s fundamentally one of the ways that Neoplatonic philosophy regards the hierarchy and workings of the cosmos.  To be sure, there isn’t just one Neoplatonism, and I’ll admit that my own philosophical background is amateurish, but it’s a thing I’ve seen and considered time and again and, simply, the framework works.  While I believe in God, I also believe in a plurality of many other gods; they’re all real, and often with varying powers, domains, personalities, temperaments, preferences, and the like.  And yet, they exist as part of creation just like I do, which is why approaching them works.  Yet, as a Hermeticist, I also recognize the existence (such as it is) of a God of gods, a God behind all creation, both within and without.  This is effectively the same God as that of Abraham or Muḥammad as well as of Hermēs Trismegistus, as well as Olodumare of the Yòrubá and Lukumí, as well as the God of the gnostics and the Good of the philosophers.  One can still be a monist without being a monotheist or monolatrist.  Even if you disagree with that approach to divinity and divinities (and I know of at least several who would with very good reasons!), accept the premise of it for the purposes of this post.

When it comes to angels, the word itself literally means “messenger” in Greek (ἄγγελος ángelos), and the notion of it in Abrahamic religions comes from the Hebrew מלאך mal’ākh meaning, again, “messenger”.  More than just being a bearer of the messages of God, however, angels are more like ambassadors, emissaries, or functionaries of God: they accomplish the will of God in every possible way, fulfilling it by governing, ruling, directing, and instructing different parts of the cosmos, essentially acting as the limbs of God and extensions of the will of God.  If we want to take the “messenger” idea a bit further in a way that comports with both Hermeticism and Christianity, consider the role of the Word; after all, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word is God”.  The “Word” of Christianity does refer to Jesus Christ, sure, but it’s also the Logos of the Hermeticists, the rational and intelligible principle that allows God (as the Nous, or Mind) to allow the cosmos to function.  In that sense, angels are messengers of the Word of God; where they bear the Word, they fulfill the will of God.

The thing about angels is that they are still only messengers; they speak the Word of God, but that is all they can speak, for that is their capacity and nature.  Angels, as extensions of the will of God, have no free will of their own; their whole purpose is to effect the will of God in the creation God made.  Whatever an angel “wants” to do is identical with what God wills; their will is inherently God’s will.  That’s why, among many other things, we can’t command an angel to do anything, because that’s equivalent to commanding God to do something, which is so far outside our finite and human capacity and capabilities that it’s laughable.  Angels cannot and do not do anything that God does not command them to do, but “command”, though a familiar concept to us coming from a Jewish, Christian, or Islamic background, isn’t really what’s happening between God and the angels; rather, God speaks his Word, and the angels bear that Word to wherever they’re going to accomplish whatever that Word is.  Angels are almost machine-like in that sense; they exist for the sole purpose of “serving God” by fulfilling the will of God.

In terms more suited to Renaissance Hermeticism, angels are “intelligences”, spiritual entities under the rule of God that guide and direct the manifestation of the forces of the cosmos.  Every force, entity, place, planet, and thing in the cosmos has its own presiding or governing angel, which can be worked with through devotional, magical, or some other kind of spiritual means.  Thus, consider Tzaphqiel, the angel of Saturn; this angel is the “governor” of that planet, and serves to establish the power, roles, functions, motions, and works of Saturn in all things in the cosmos.  Tzaphqiel, as an angel, bears the Word of God in a way that focuses on the Logos as it pertains to Saturn.  If we want to bring more Saturn power into our lives or throttle it back from our lives, we can work with Tzaphqiel to do just that.  But what if Tzaphqiel says “no”?

This is basically what a lot of these questions on Curious Cat are getting at.  Let’s step aside for a bit and consider something else for the moment: where does the nature of angels in relation to God leave us in angelic magic, whether through prayers or conjurations?  It cannot be denied that working with angels is often incredibly effective for any number of ends, and is a staple of European folk religion and folk magic as well as Hermetic, Solomonic, and other kinds of magic generally in both the West and the East.  Obviously, we don’t worship angels—that’d be idolatry, and an insult to both the angel and God—but we do venerate them and honor them, especially when thanking them or calling upon them.  But the thing is that, when we call upon them, there’s something that’s really common in much of Western magical literature that we need to carefully consider: we don’t command the angels to appear, but we ask for them to appear.  Moreover, we don’t ask the angel to appear, but we ask God that the angel appear for us.  And there are very good reasons for that.

Consider the specific conjuration prayer from Johann Trithemius’ Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals.  For clarity, let me use my own slightly reworded version, and note the specific phrasing of the prayer in the emphasized sections:

In the name of the blessed Tetragrammaton, I call upon you, you strong and mighty angel Michael, if it be the divine will of the most holy God that you take the shape that best shows your celestial nature, and appear to me visibly here in this crystal, and answer my demands in as far as I shall not transgress the bounds of divine mercy by requesting unlawful knowledge, and that you graciously show me what things are most profitable for me to know and do, to the glory and honor of his divine majesty, who lives and reigns, world without end.  Amen.

Lord, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Make clean my heart within me, and take not your holy spirit from me.

O Lord, by your name I have called Michael; suffer him to administer unto me, and that all things may work together for your honor and glory, and that to you be ascribed all might, majesty, and dominion.  Amen.

O Lord, I thank you for the hearing of my prayer, and I thank you for having permitted your spirit to appear unto me.  Amen.

For another example, consider the orison from book II, chapter 12 of the Book of Abramelin:

O Lord God of Mercy … Sanctify me also with the oil of thy sanctification, wherewith thou hast sanctified all thy prophets; and purify in me therewith all that appertains unto me, so that I may become worthy of the conversation of thy holy angels and of thy divine wisdom, and grant unto me the power which thou hast given unto thy prophets over all the evil spirits. Amen, amen.

Another example, the prayer from septenary II, aphorism 14 from the Arbatel of Magic:

O Lord of heaven and earth, Creator and Maker of all things visible and invisible; I, though unworthy, by thy assistance call upon thee, through thy only begotten Son Jesus Christ our Lord, that thou wilt give unto me thy holy Spirit, to direct me in thy truth unto all good. Amen.

Because I earnestly desire perfectly to know the Arts of this life and such things as are necessary for us, which are so overwhelmed in darkness, and polluted with infinite humane opinions, that I of my own power can attain to no knowledge in them, unless thou teach it me. Grant me, therefore, one of thy spirits, who may teach me those things which thou would have me to know and learn, to thy praise and glory, and the profit of our neighbor…

Then again, the invocation to call forth angels from the Ars Almadel (language cleaned up to be made more readable for modern readers):

O you great, mighty, and blessed angel of God, NN. … I, the servant of the same your God entreat and humbly beseech you to come and show unto me all the things that I desire of you, so far as in office you can or are capable to perform if God permit to the same.  O you servant of Mercy, NN., I entreat you and humbly beseech you … to inform and rightly instruct me in my ignorant and depraved intellect, judgment, and understanding, and to assist me both in both this and in all other truths that the almighty Adonai, the King of Kings and the Giver of all good gifts, shall in his bountiful and fatherly Mercy be graciously pleased to bestow upon me.  Thus, o you blessed angel NN., be friendly unto me and work for me, so far as God has given you power in office to perform, whereunto I move you in power and presence to appear that I may sing with his holy angels: o mappa la man, hallelujah!  Amen.

I think the message I’m getting across is clear here.  Granted, not all grimoires in the Solomonic or Hermetic tradition use this kind of phrasing, especially when we’re dealing in a more goetic fashion where instead of pleading for God to grant his permission of such-and-such a phenomenon happening, we simply assume that God has given us his authority to make things happen, thus all the perilous threats that Solomonic magicians are known to use.  But how do we actually know or make sure we have that authority, or how do we know whether God will grant us permission?  Consider the very first line of the Key of Solomon (book I, chapter 1): “Solomon, the son of David, King of Israel, hath said that the beginning of our Key is to fear God, to adore him, to honor him with contrition of heart, to invoke him in all matters which we wish to undertake, and to operate with very great devotion, for thus God will lead us in the right way.”

Heck, I think the Key of Solomon is an excellent text to discuss here.  Julio Cesar Ody (of famous occult-lampooning fame), if I recall correctly (and I hope he corrects me if I’m wrong!) has remarked before that people treat the Key of Solomon as something to pilfer and take extracts from, rather than treating it like a full initiatory system of magic unto itself.  And when you look at it…yeah.  It really is far more than just a collection of works and talismans to be made with good prayers to be used for consecrating three dozen and more tools and pentacles.  Consider that the recitation of psalms is a huge part of they Key of Solomon; why would that be the case?  Because the Psalms are fundamentally songs that are used to praise God for his power and  beneficence, creation of the world, and miracles and favors done for mankind generally and for the sake of Israel specifically.  They can take the form of laments, thanksgiving, praisegiving, celebration, or pleas for help, and their study and recitation is common in Judaism and Christianity for imparting wisdom and cultivating grace and an elevated spirituality in accordance with the will and command of God.  Yes, the specific psalms used in the rituals of the Key of Solomon do bear relation to the things being consecrated at times, but it’s a constant practice of keeping ourselves spiritually in line with the will of God, which, when used with the actual prayers of the rituals themselves, produce an all-around feat of holy work.  Consider the first prayer from book I, chapter 5:

O Lord God, holy Father, Almighty and Merciful One who has created all things, who know all things and can do all things, from whom nothing is hidden, to whom nothing is impossible!  You who know that we do not perform these ceremonies to tempt your power, but that we may penetrate into the knowledge of hidden things.  We pray to you, by your sacred Mercy, to cause and to permit that we may arrive at this understanding of secret things of whatever nature they may be by your aid, o most holy ADONAI, whose Kingdom and Power shall have no end unto the Ages of the Ages. Amen.

Fundamentally, working divine magic is just prayer, just supplications to the Divine—to God—that certain things happen, not for the simple reason that we want it to happen, but that it be capital-G Good and ordained by God that it should happen.  That’s really all there is to it.  You might want to use so many words as all the excerpts above show, perhaps to inflame yourself with prayer to reach a more powerful or ecstatic state of working, or you might use less, if you can manage to get as much intent and focus out from fewer words.  Either way, this sort of magic is just prayer.

In this light, what happens when we pray for something and it doesn’t happen?  There could be several explanations:

  • What we’re praying for isn’t permissible within the design of God. It could be that what you’re asking for just isn’t possible, realistic, or appropriate for the world that God has established.  God could look at you and say “you’re being unreasonable here, focus on what’s realistic”.  I could pray to grow wings so that I can fly around the skies, but it’s not going to happen according to the laws of human physiology and basic physics in this world, which were designed according to the will and plan of God.  It could happen on other planes where one’s form isn’t so rigidly fixed, but it’s not going to happen here.  Likewise, if you pray for the consecration of a particular talisman for a particular end and it doesn’t end up consecrated, it’s because God sees that what you’re asking for isn’t permissible within the overall scheme of things that God has set up for us, perhaps due to the nature of what you’re asking (e.g. a talisman to shoot fireballs out of our hands) or due to the ramifications it might have (e.g. it could set off a chain reaction that would end up butting up harshly against things God already has in store for the cosmos).
  • What we’re praying for isn’t for us to receive. It could be that what you’re asking for is good, noble, and proper, but you’re not the right person to request it or have it.  God could look at you and say “this is a good idea, but it’s not for you to work on, so ask for  something else”.  Not everyone is going to be good at everything; I’m no fighter or doctor, so while I might pray for skill in battle or for success in a lucrative medical career, these things aren’t in my life path.  Trying to force them, so long as it doesn’t go against the will of God for me, could get some success, but it could also just as easily happen that trying to go down those paths would end up with me being stymied, frustrated, and blocked at every turn.  These are signs from the cosmos itself that I’m not on the right path and that I’m barking up the wrong tree.  Instead, I should learn what my path truly entails and focus on that; it might not be easy (it rarely is!), but it will be successful in a way that would go far beyond things that I’m not meant to do.  Thus, if you’re praying for something to happen and it doesn’t happen, it’s could be because that thing isn’t for you to have in your life because it won’t help you and could easily harm you.
  • What we’re praying for is something that we can receive eventually but which we’re not ready to receive now. It could be that what you’re asking for is good, noble, and proper, and it’s proper for you to have those things, but you’re not ready to have it yet.  God could look at you and say “you’ve got the potential, but you aren’t at the right state of development for it right now, so keep working at it”.  In other words, you’re on the right track, but it’s above your station; one day, if you keep on the right track, you’ll get there.  Consider the notion of knowledge and conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel; coming in contact with this divine spirit often involves an ordeal because it’s a direct link to God, and quite simply, not everyone is ready for it.  They all have their own guardian angels, to be sure, but they might not be able to truly comprehend the power and, thus, the accompanying responsibility of the conscious company of that spirit yet.  They need to refine themselves through cultivating virtue and abandoning vice until they reach a certain stage of spiritual development.  Receiving those things we pray for earlier than when it’s appropriate for us could very easily cause us and those around us harm at worst or just distractions and delays at best.

How do we know whether a prayer of ours will be granted?  This is where divination comes into play.  Divination is important for magicians of all kinds, not just because it’s a useful and profitable skill to bring in clients and to spy on people, but because it shows us the way for our own Work.  By divination, we can figure out what’s going on and what the appropriate ways are to handle it; as part of that, we can see not just whether we can do a particular ritual for a particular end, but whether we should do it (or, in the words of the good and most reverend Bishop Lainie Petersen, whether it’s wise for us to do it).  If a reading indicates that we can do something but that we should not do it, then it’s within our power to do the thing but it’s not the best use of our power to do it.  If a reading indicates that we can not do something but that we should do it, then it’s not within our power yet to do the thing and that we need to focus on cultivating that power however necessary in order to do it.  And, if a reading indicates that we can not do something and that we also should not do it, then it’s neither in our power nor our best interests to do the thing.  The answer to can-or-can’t ultimately lies with us, but the answer to should-or-shouldn’t lies with God.

We’ll pick up on this tomorrow when we get more into the notion of what “should” really means here, because this is touching on what role the will of God plays for us in our lives.

On Prayer Beads, Devotions to Gabriel, and a New Way of Doing Just That

I think that, as of this moment…god, how many sets of prayer beads do I have in my temple room? Seven chaplets for the archangels I made myself, one rosary each for Mary the Theotokos and for Saint Cyprian of Antioch and for my ancestor shrine, a chaplet of Saint Cyprian of Antioch I designed myself, an Orthodox Christian prayer rope, a set of tiger’s eye prayer beads I made for solar work (specifically for a variant of my Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios), a set of labradorite prayer beads I made for my Holy Guardian Angel, a chaplet for Hermēs based on the work of the good Dr. Jeffrey S. Kupperman (yes, that one, the one with the book! he put out a wonderful novena rule and chaplet for Hermēs not too long ago), and a set of Islamic prayer beads (misbaḥa) for my ancestor shrine for one of my spirit guides. All told, that makes 16 different sets of prayer beads scattered throughout my temple, though admittedly I don’t use all of them; sometimes they’re there more for the shrine’s sake or the use of the spirits rather than my own. I used to have a rosewood mala for my old Buddhist stuff, but I’ve since gifted that away to a friend who can put it to better use since there’s nothing more for me to do along those lines or practices.

What? I like the convenience, customizability, and attractiveness of prayer beads. They’re useful, they’re tangible, they let the body focus on one thing and allow the mind to focus on another in a semi-autonomous way.

Well, lately, as part of my burgeoning geomantic devotional practice, I’ve been getting more interested in Islamic prayer methods. Credit where it’s due: Islamic devotional practice, prayers, and supplication frameworks are amazing. There’s a massive body of beautiful, poetic, and wonderfully specific literature-cum-prayer rules of endless supplication after supplication after supplication, and it’s at once dazzling and daunting. Now, I’m not a Muslim, nor have I intention to convert given…all the other obligations I have and some theological differences, but I cannot deny the beauty and profundity of how they approach divinity through prayer. As you might have guessed, there’s also a method of prayer with Islam’s own kind of prayer beads: the misbaḥa, also known as tasbīḥ. The word has its origins in the word subḥa, meaning “glory”, as in the phrase Subḥāna-llāh, “Glory be to God” (the recitation of which is also called Tasbīḥ, just as the recitation of the phrase Allāhu ‘akbar, “God is Great”, is called Takbīr).

Misbaḥa are easy to understand: they’re made of 99 beads, with two separators that stand out in some way to break the counting beads up into three sets of 33 beads each. The “head” or “tail” (depending on how you look at it) typically has a long, cylindrical bead, plus some other number of beads for keeping track of iterations of going through the entire thing. Other misbaḥa are made with other numbers, some as few as 11 beads or sometimes 33 broken into three sets of 11, but others used in some religious orders can have as many as a thousand beads. Some misbaḥa have a slidable marker to further mark off particular sets of beads, such as for holding one’s place or when reaching a particular count desired (e.g. 40 is a common number found in Islamic devotional repetitions).

Probably the most popular way, or at least one of the most popular and acclaimed ways, of using misbaḥa is through the method known as the Tasbīḥ Fāṭimah, the method ascribed to Fāṭimah, the daughter of the Prophet Muḥammad. The method is simple:

  1. On each of the first set of 33 beads, recite the Tasbīḥ: Subḥāna-llah (“Glory be to God”).
  2. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite the Taḥmīd: Alḥamdu li-llāh (“Praise be to God”).
  3. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite the Takbīr: Allāhu ‘akbar (“God is Great”).

Unlike rosaries or chaplets in the Christian tradition, note how the separators don’t have associated prayers or anything said on them; they’re just used solely as markers to switch up prayers. There are variations of this method, too, of course; some say to recite the Takbīr first followed by the Taḥmīd and the Tasbīḥ in that order, some say to recite the Takbīr 34 times instead of 33 times, some say to conclude by reciting the first part of the Shahāda (Lā ‘ilāha ‘illā-llāh, “there is no god but God”), but the general method is fundamentally the same. It is recommended for the observant to perform this devotion immediately after every compulsory prayer, but the original story behind the Prophet giving it to his daughter also recommends saying it before one retires for sleep.

Discussing this with one of my Muslim colleagues online, this is just one method of using misbaḥa; there are countless ways to use them, such as for reciting individual attributes or names of God (of which there are, of course, a conventional set of 99 in Islam), reciting particular verses of the Qur’ān over and over, and the like. The possibilities are endless, apparently.

So, of course, this got me thinking: while I, too, can use the Tasbīḥ Fāṭimah devotion, is there a way I could use this venerable tool in a way specifically geared for my own needs? Of course there is. The Tasbīḥ Fāṭimah practice is wonderful on its own, and doesn’t require one to be a Muslim to use it; after all, the supplications involved in it are pretty basic and can work for anyone with an Abrahamic, Hermetic, or just plain deist bent, and it’s a clean and straightforward practice that doesn’t involve a lot of preliminary setup, education, or training. It’s effective, I’ll absolutely grant it that. But if there are other ways to use misbaḥa, why not also try something else as well for a more specific purpose than just worship, hesychasm, and henosis?

There being three sets of 33 beads reminded me of the Chaplet of Saint Gabriel the Archangel from Catholic devotions, which is constructed with a lead chain of three beads linked to a ring of 33 beads broken into three sets of 11 beads with one separator bead between each set.

  1. Lead bead 1: “Heavenly Father, through the salutation of the Archangel Gabriel, may we honor the incarnation of your divine Son.”
  2. Lead bead 2: “Mother of our Savior, may we strive always to imitate your holy virtues and respond to our Father, ‘be it done unto me according to thy Word’.”
  3. Lead bead 3: “Archangel Gabriel, please praise our Father for the gift of his Son praying, one day, by his grace, we may all be one.”
  4. On each of the beads in each set of 11: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”
  5. On each of the two separator beads: “Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus.”

Simple and straightforward. It wouldn’t be a stretch to simply expand the repetitions from three sets of 11 for a total of 33 to three sets of 33 for a total of 99 (33 being a sacred number for Christians, being the number of years Jesus was alive when he was crucified). I could definitely use misbaḥa for Gabriel-based devotions, which is good given the importance of Gabriel being the angel of revelation to the prophet Daniel as well as to Elizabeth, Mary, Muḥammad, Enoch, and so many others, and given the fact that Gabriel is the angel who taught the founders of geomancy their art. However, I didn’t feel like the Catholic approach here—although totally workable—felt appropriate for either my own devotional needs or for use with the misbaḥa.

So, I scoured some verses of Scripture in which Gabriel was either directly present by name or directly being referenced from the Tanakh, the Bible, and the Qur’ān, and in the end, I developed a new method of repetition-based devotions to God through his archangel, a method I’m tentatively calling the “Crown of Gabriel”, to be used on a standard misbaḥa of 99 beads:

  1. At the beginning, recite once: “In the name of God who created me.”
  2. On of the first set of 33 beads, recite: “May God fill me with his grace.”
  3. On the first separator, recite: “God willing, teach me, o Gabriel, mighty in power, revelations to be revealed.”
  4. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite: “May God be with me.”
  5. On the second separator, recite: “God willing, come forth, o Gabriel, to give me understanding and insight.”
  6. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite: “Do unto me according to his word.”
  7. At the end, recite once: “My Lord is the Most Generous.”

The specific supplications come from four verses of Abrahamic scripture, one from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, and two from the Qur’ān, all of which are associated with Gabriel in one way or another:

  • Daniel 9:22 (the clarification of the Prophecy of Seventy Weeks):

    And he [Gabriel] informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding.

  • Luke 1:28—38 (the Annunciation):

    And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured [full of grace], the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

  • Qur’ān, Sūrah An-Najm, 53:1—10 (which describes the appearance of Gabriel to the prophet, with connections to the star Sirius):

    By the star when it descends, your companion [Muhammad] has not strayed, nor has he erred, nor does he speak from [his own] inclination. It is not but a revelation revealed, taught to him by one intense in strength, one of soundness. And he rose to [his] true form while he was in the higher [part of the] horizon. Then he approached and descended and was at a distance of two bow lengths or nearer. And he revealed to His Servant what he revealed.

  • Qur’ān, Sūrah Al-`Alaq, 96:1—5 (the very first revelation to the Prophet by Gabriel):

    Recite in the name of your Lord who created, created man from a clinging substance. Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous, who taught by the pen, taught man that which he knew not.

For my own needs, I didn’t keep the exact wording from scripture as the Chaplet of Saint Gabriel does; rather, I tweaked them to be more specific to me, that God might teach, fill, and guide me through his angel in a personal way appropriate to me and me alone. Unlike the usual method of Tasbīḥ Fāṭimah and like the Chaplet of Saint Gabriel, I did include prayers for use on the separator beads; originally, I had those supplications for the separator beads and the supplications done at the first and last swapped (so that you’d start with “God willing, teach me…” and end with “God willing, come forth…”), but I felt like swapping them was better so that the whole thing could start off with an invocation of God of sorts—not the proper and usual Basmala (bi-smi-llāhi ar-raḥmāni ar-raḥīm, “in the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful”), but something that works as well and follows the same structure.

Also, what’s nice is that, even though the Crown of Gabriel is designed for a misbaḥa, it can still be used on a regular Chaplet of Saint Gabriel, reducing the number of repetitions of the main supplications from 33 to 11. As for what to recite on the three lead beads, one might add in generic prayers (the Sanctus, the Trisagion, etc.) for all three to be followed with the initial supplication of the Crown of Gabriel, or one could break out the initial supplication into three by incorporating the Basmala as well:

  1. “In the name of God, the Most Compassionate!”
  2. “In the name of God, the Most Merciful!”
  3. “In the name of God, who created me!”

And, on the joint of the chaplet and lead beads, recite the Our Father, just to keep things moving.

Up till now, my angelic devotions largely focused (and will still focus!) on the archangel Michael and my own holy guardian angel. However, I cannot deny the huge role Gabriel necessarily plays in the religions that recognize the archangels at all, as well as in the mythological origins and continued practices of geomancy. Granted that all the archangels work together in a synaxis (basically, where you call on one, you’re basically getting the whole set together no matter what), it’s clear I need to amp up my own devotional practices to Gabriel. I think the Crown of Gabriel method should suffice nicely for that, while also being a way to increase my own intuitive abilities as a diviner in the process. God willing, of course.

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.  Then there’s also the fact that 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.  For me, I took the plunge and made the decision to initiate; I entered willingly into that relationship with Ogun, and I had 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!