On Banishing, and an Angelic Banishing Ritual

I have to say, Curious Cat is a blast, you guys.  While I’ve been on Twitter since I graduated college in 2010, and though it’s always fun (and sometimes hilariously aggravating) to interact with people on there, there’s not a lot of room for anonymity, and you can’t always send people direct messages if you don’t follow them or if someone’s turned DMs off.  Enter Curious Cat, a platform that syncs up with Twitter and Facebook to let you ask people questions, even (and especially) anonymously.  Since I started using it, I’ve been fielding a lot more questions, ranging from the utterly surreal to bawdily sexual and everything in-between.  Given my focus on magic and the occult, a lot of people ask me questions pertaining to, well, magic and the occult, and it’s been great!  Sometimes I can’t answer due to things that just can’t or shouldn’t be discussed publicly, and other times I can’t answer because I simply don’t know enough about a given topic to give an answer, but at least I can say as much.  Sometimes, though, I might have too much of an answer, and there’s a 3000 character limit for my replies.

One of the recent common things I’ve been asked is on the topic of banishing.  Banishing as a ritual unto itself is a mainstay of many forms of Western magic, especially due to the influence of the Golden Dawn and its Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, and its Thelemic variant the Star Ruby.  Quoth Chic and Tabitha Cicero in their Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition:

This simple yet powerful cleansing ritual can be used as a protection against the impure magnetism of others.  It is also a way to rid oneself of obsessing or disturbing thoughts … we feel that the Neophyte needs to concentrate solely on the banishing form, since s/he has a tendency to light up on the astral and unknowingly attract all manner of Elementals at this early stage of the Work. It is far more important for the Neophyte to know how to banish rather than to invoke. Anyone can attract an Elemental or an energy. Getting rid of the same can be more difficult.

And that’s really what banishing’s about, isn’t it?  It’s a kind of ritual-centric cleansing that gets rid of bad spiritual stuff.  Consider the etymology of the word “banish”:

banish (v.)
late 14c., banischen, “to condemn (someone) by proclamation or edict to leave the country, to outlaw by political or judicial authority,” from banniss-, extended stem of Old French banir “announce, proclaim; levy; forbid; banish, proclaim an outlaw” (12c., Modern French bannir), from a Germanic source (perhaps Frankish *bannjan “to order or prohibit under penalty”), from Proto-Germanic *bannan (see ban (v.)). The French word might be by way of Medieval Latin bannire, also from Germanic (compare bandit). The general sense of “send or drive away, expel” is from c. 1400. Related: Banished; banishing.

To banish is, literally, to put out of a community or country by ban or civil interdict, and indicates a complete removal out of sight, perhaps to a distance. To exile is simply to cause to leave one’s place or country, and is often used reflexively: it emphasizes the idea of leaving home, while banish emphasizes rather that of being forced by some authority to leave it …. [Century Dictionary]

When we banish, we purge a person (e.g. ourselves), an object (e.g. a magical tool or supply), or a space (e.g. a temple or a bedroom) from all malevolent, harmful, or otherwise unwanted spiritual influences, whether they’re entities in their own right (e.g. obsessive spirits or spiritual leeches), spiritual energies that aren’t necessarily conscious on their own (e.g. pollution or miasma), or maleficia that’s been cast upon you (e.g. curses or hexes).  Thus, a banishing ritual is a type of spiritual cleansing or purification that gets rid of all this, or at least helps loosen it to make getting rid of it easier.

The thing about banishing rituals is just that: they’re a ritual, and more often than not, they’re explicitly and only rituals.  They use ritual gestures and words to induce this effect, often without the use of physical cleansing supplies such as holy water, incense, or the like.  Yes, many banishing rituals can incorporate these things, but it might be more helpful to think of banishing rituals as a subset of cleansing practices more generally.  Cleansing can take many forms: ablution with lustral water (e.g. khernimma), taking a spiritual bath (e.g. my Penitential Psalms Bath, bathing in a sacred spring or river, or any other number of spiritual bath mixes like the white bath or another kind of herb bath), “cleaning off” with holy water or Florida Water or eggshell chalk or some other physical substance known to have spiritually purifying properties, suffumigating with incense (or smudging, if you do that sort of thing respectfully), and the like.  Sometimes these processes have ritual involved with prayers or specific motions, and sometimes not, where you just wipe yourself down and call it a day.  In the end, though, all these practices serve fundamentally the same purpose: to get rid of bad spiritual stuff.

What we commonly see in the Western ceremonial magic scene is less of a reliance on physical aids to purification and more of a reliance on ritual approaches to the same that often don’t use physical aids, where we use ritual and ritual alone to cleanse ourselves.  This is especially notable for those who are influenced by the Golden Dawn in one form or another, where the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP, or as my godfather fondly calls it, Le Burp) has spawned any number of variations for any number of pantheons and practices.  However, that doesn’t mean that the LBRP is the only such possible banishing trick we have; there are simpler ones out there, such as Fr. Osiris’ AL-KT Banishing that I’ve incorporated into some of my own works.  Still, the idea is the same: rather than abluting, suffumigating, or other physical approaches to spiritual purification, there are also ritual approaches that don’t use physical means to achieve the same thing.

I agree fully and readily that banishing rituals are useful, because I think spiritual purification is important and necessary for our work as mages and spiritually-inclined people.  When we’re spiritually filthy, it’s harder to think clearly, harder to work well, and harder to keep ourselves hale and whole, while it also makes it easier for us to get distracted, get caught up by life’s problems, and get things messed up easily.  Though spiritual purification, we remove obstacles in our paths or make it easier for us to remove them, but that’s far from being the only benefit!  Purification also prepares us spiritually to become something better and different than we already are, because in purifying ourselves, we not only remove negative spiritual influences that have an external source, but also negative spiritual influences that come from ourselves internally.  In dealing with those, we make ourselves fit and meet to work better and more effectively, sure, but we also prepare ourselves to better accept the powers and blessings of the entities we’re working with.  Purification can be thought of as an aspect of the albedo part of alchemy, where we reduce ourselves to our core essence through removal of all impurities so that we can begin the process of integration from a fresh, clean start.  In this, purification—and thus banishing—are crucial for our work as mages.

But here’s the thing: I don’t like a ritual-focused approach to purification.  Banishing absolutely has its place, but I also claim that physical methods to purity has its place, too.  After all, for all the spiritual stuff we do as magicians and priests and diviners, we’re also incarnate human beings with physical bodies and physical problems.  If we start with the body and work spiritually, we fix the problems we have in the here and now and also loosen and dissolve the problems we have upstream, so to speak.  Not only that, but I find that there are some things that a banishing ritual doesn’t work well to resolve, but which cleansing works done physically do.  And, of course, the reverse applies, too: there are some things that cleansing works done physically don’t resolve, but which banishing rituals do.  Both are needed.  And, moreover, you can do both at the same time, working physical elements into a banishing ritual or ritualizing a cleansing done physically.  You don’t have to do one then the other separately, unless that’s what you want to do.

Personally?  I cleanse (meaning I use physical means to spiritually purify myself, as opposed to “clean”, which is just physical cleaning without a spiritual component) far more often than I banish.  There are times when I will do a proper banishing, sure, but it’s less and less common than a simple dusting with cascarilla or washing myself with holy water, which I do pretty much daily.  Let’s face it: I’m out in the world, dealing with people and their demons, wandering hither and fro through any number of clouds of miasma, and pick up more stuff when I’m out physically in the world than I do in my temple, where, through the protections I have and the safeguards I take, there’s far less that I pick up except that which I try to let in.  I’m not saying I’m impervious to spiritual stuff I attract through the aether, far from it, but I am saying that there’s a lot more that I pick up from just being out in the physical world.  For that reason, I find myself physically cleansing myself far more often than I ritually cleanse myself.  If I were less guarded and less protections up, I’d be banishing more than I am.  But, again, that isn’t to say that I don’t banish.  After all, there’s that whole “purification to readily accept better blessings and good influences” bit I mentioned above, which is one of the reasons why the LBRP is such a mainstay of Golden Dawn practices: it not only keeps you pure, but it prepares you in some pretty profound ways that are utterly necessary for progression within their system of magic.  Those who don’t work Golden Dawn magic or who aren’t in the Golden Dawn system don’t benefit from that, but they can still use it all the same for their own purification needs.

I’m not a Golden Dawn magician, and I’ve never really cared for the LBRP.  While I could use it and get what I needed out of it, it’s not really a thing that I need to do.  Instead, what I use, when I do need a ritual purification that doesn’t rely on physical methods, is something I learned from Fr. Rufus Opus.  Back in the day when he was still teaching his Red Work series of courses (which he’s long since stopped, partially because of his joining the A∴A∴ and partially because he condensed the Green Work section into his book, Seven Spheres), in the very first lesson of the first part of the courses, he introduces a banishing ritual that’s basically a heavily pared-down and modified Trithemian conjuration ritual.  Yes, Johann Trithemius’ Drawing Spirits Into Crystals, that one!  The format is basically the same with many of the same prayers, and calls on the seven planetary angels and the four elemental princes of the world to purify yourself.

I also want to make a note about just that last bit, too.  Fr. RO introduced this ritual as a way to help the beginner purify their sphere, sure, which is great, but he’s using fundamentally the same ritual to banish as we do to conjure the spirits themselves.  More than that, we’re half-conjuring the spirits that are later called upon in the Red Work series of courses to purify the sphere of the magician.  By the use of this ritual, Fr. RO is doing the same thing for his Red Work students as the Golden Dawn did for their initiates with the LBRP: we’re getting used to the fundamental ritual tech that we’ll eventually be expanding upon, and we’re getting slowly acquainted and in tune with the very same angels and spirits that we’ll be working with heavily once we get to that point.  This banishing ritual cleanses the sphere of the magician, sure, but it also prepares the magician for when they start actually working.  Fr. RO never said all this in Black Work 1, nor did he need to; those who would never progress further would still get something useful, and those who would progress further would be slowly prepared for bigger and better results later on far beyond mere purification.

Now, I’m not going to replicate Fr. RO’s original ritual.  Instead, I’m going to share my variant, which I developed slowly over my studies in his Red Work courses years back, and which better matches my own ritual practices; plus, not that there’s anything wrong with this, but the original ritual uses some Christian imagery and language that I don’t much care for anymore, and which I’ve replaced with equivalent deist, Solomonic, or Hermetic language instead.  I’ve also added some visualizations that, though they appeared naturally for me (especially once my spiritual perception became refined and which made sense later on in the course), they can be helpful for those who want them; they’re not necessary, but they can still be useful, especially for beginners.  The only two extra things that might be desired for this ritual are holy water and a wand; both are good to have, but neither are strictly necessary.  The holy water can be used as a preliminary ablution, while the wand is good for tracing a circle and conjuring the presence of the angels generally, but the holy water can be omitted if desired and the wand can be replaced by using the index finger (or the index and middle finger together, if desired) of the dominant hand.  Incense of a purifying and uplifting nature, especially frankincense, may be burned, but it’s absolutely not required for this.  This ritual may be done at any time as necessary or desired, and though it can be done anywhere, it’s best done in a quiet and safe place.

  1. Take a moment to relax and breathe deeply a few times.
  2. Stand to face the East.
  3. If desired, cleanse yourself with some holy water.  You can wipe your forehead and hands, you can make the small three Signs of the Cross on the forehead and lips and heart with the thumb, or you can make one large Sign of the Cross with the thumb and index finger and middle finger on your head, heart, and both shoulders (left to right or right to left, depending on whether you want to go with a Catholic Christian approach, or an Orthodox Christian or qabbalistic approach).
  4. Recite:

    You have cleansed me with hyssop, o Lord; you have washed me whiter than snow.

    O God, author of all good things!  Strengthen me that I may stand fast without fear through this dealing and work.  Enlighten me, oh Lord, so that my spiritual eye may be opened to see and know the works of your hand.

  5. Holding a wand in your dominant hand, or otherwise using the index finger of the dominant hand, trace a circle on the ground around you clockwise starting in the East.  While doing so, recite:

    In the name of God, the Holy, the Almighty, the Light, I consecrate this piece of ground for my defense, so that no evil spirit may have power to break these bounds prescribed here.  Amen.

  6. Conjure the seven planetary angels.  Recite:

    In the name of God, the Holy, the Almighty, the Light!  From the seven heavens above I conjure you, you strong and mighty angels of the seven planets.  Come forth, here to this place and now at this time: Tzaphqiel of Saturn, Tzadqiel of Jupiter, Kamael of Mars, Michael of the Sun, Haniel of Venus, Raphael of Mercury, and Gabriel of the Moon.  Come forth in answer to my call; be with me here, and fill this place with your presence!

    As you do so, visualize the presence of the angels appear around you or the symbols of their planets, starting from behind you to your right and appearing counter-clockwise, with Michael directly in front of you to the East.

  7. Conjure the four elemental angels.  Recite:

    In the name of God, the Holy, the Almighty, the Light!  From the four corners of the Earth I conjure you, you strong and mighty angels of the four elements.  Come forth, here to this place and now at this time: Michael of Fire, Uriel of Earth, Raphael of Air, and Gabriel of Water.  Come forth in answer to my call; be with me here, and fill this place with your presence!

    As you do so, visualize the presence of the angels appear around you or the symbols of their elements, starting in front of you and appearing clockwise, with Michael in the East in front of you, Uriel in the South to your right, Raphael in the West behind you, and Gabriel in the North to your left.  Visualize them a little closer to you and a little below the planetary angels, who stand behind them and a little above them.

  8. Recite:

    Tzaphqiel!  Tzadqiel!  Kamael!  Michael!  Haniel!  Raphael!  Gabriel!
    Michael!  Uriel!  Raphael!  Gabriel!

    Oh you blessed angels gathered, let no spirit nor ill intent nor any scourge of man bring harm to me.  Cleanse now the sphere of this magician; cleanse my body, my soul, my spirit, and my mind of all defilement, all impurity, and all filth.  Let no evil spirit nor pollution nor leech nor any unclean thing here remain.

    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.

    Amen.

  9. Let yourself become purified with the power and presence of the angels conjured around you.  Feel them washing you with their light and their power, permeating you and passing through you in all directions to remove from you all pollution, harm, and any and every baneful influence.  Stay in this state as long as desired.
  10. Release the spirits. Recite:

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

    O you angels of the seven planets and you angels of the four elements, I thank you for your presence.  You have come as I have called, and you have aided me as I have asked.  As you have come in peace, so now go in power.

    Amen.

  11. If desired, untrace the circle drawn on the ground with the same implement as before (wand or finger) in a counterclockwise direction, again starting in the East.  Whether or not the circle is untraced, when ready to leave, simply step out of the circle, preferably stepping forward towards the East.

With that specific arrangement of angels of the planets and elements around you, what you’re doing is essentially recreating the arrangement of angels on the Table of Practice used in the Rufus Opus-specific variant of the Trithemian conjuration ritual.  In this case, the angels present aren’t being used to set up a conjuration of the self or anything like that, but rather instead used as a kind of cosmological arrangement of powers upon the magician and their sphere.  It’s a subtle thing, but an important one; again, this ties into the subtle conditioning of banishing to prepare the magician for bigger and better things to come, as well as training the magician in the tools, arrangements, organization, and ultimate cosmology of the practices they’ll later engage in.

So, that’s it.  A simple and straightforward approach to using the planetary and elemental angels for purifying the sphere of the magician with all their powers at once in a balanced, efficient, and effective way.  Are there variants?  Of course!  For instance, the original format of the ritual called on the four elemental kings of the Earth itself: Oriens of the East, Paimon of the West, Egyn of the North, and Amaymon of the South.  If you’re comfortable working with these entities, then by all means, use them!  For those who prefer an angel-only approach, use the four archangel names instead.  There’s good logic for calling on the kings rather than the archangels, especially in that they’re a lot closer to us as incarnate beings than the angels are or ever have been, and so can be called on instead for a better and more incarnation-specific way to purge the sphere of unhelpful or harmful influences.  However, I still prefer to call on the angels for my own reasons.

In addition to calling on the seven planetary angels and the four elemental angels (or kings), you can also call on the twelve zodiacal angels as well: Malkhidael of Aries, Asmodel of Taurus, Ambriel of Gemini, Muriel of Cancer, Verkhiel of Leo, Hamaliel of Virgo, Zuriel of Libra, Barbiel of Scorpio, Adnokhiel of Sagittarius, Hanael of Capricorn, Kambriel of Aquarius, and Barkhiel of Pisces.  This, again, is a cosmological influence from my own, bigger Table of Practice that I personally use nowadays; you’d arrange them so that Malkhidael is aligned to the East, along with Michael of the Sun and Michael (or Oriens) of Fire, and go counterclockwise from there.  You’d conjure them before the planetary angels, using similar language.  However, this is overkill, in my opinion; what’s really necessary are the seven planetary angels and the four elemental archangels/kings.
And there you have it!  A clean ritual for a clean spirit.  What about you?  What sorts of banishing rituals do you use, dear reader?  Do you stick to more physical cleansings and baths, do you take a ritual-centric approach to ritual and spiritual purity, or do you use both?  What techniques, tips, or tricks might you be willing to share?  Feel free to share in the comments!

On the Meanings of the Geomantic Houses

Probably the most confusing thing about the Shield Chart in geomancy that people go right to the House Chart for is that, with the House Chart, we have clear delineations of what figure applies to what part of a situation.  For instance, the first house is about the querent, the second house about wealth, the third house about siblings and neighbors, the fourth house about the home, and so forth.  Thus, if we know what the query is about, we know what house we’d want to inspect right off the bat (and if you don’t, think about the query some more before you draw up a chart).  The Court, of course, will answer the query, but it can be hard to see exactly how the Court applies to the situation if it’s so broad.  This is, perhaps, one of the failings of the Shield Chart when it’s not used properly, in that we don’t immediately know how to clarify the broad, though correct, meaning of the Judge and Witnesses.  After all, if those were really the only figures we’d need, then we’d likely do as well with generating two figures and making a third rather than generating four Mothers and making another twelve.

So, if we want to use the individual houses (or fields, as I put it in the last post) of the Shield Chart, then how do we do that?  We’d need some sort of system to assign meanings to each of the twelve fields, rather than generalized meanings relating to groups of three figures or assigning elemental correspondences to each of them.  Honestly, while it might be in some traditions of geomancy that each of the twelve fields of the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces have meanings independent of the House Chart houses, especially in non-European and non-Arabic styles of geomancy,  I think it’s best to just use the same meanings for both.  After all, the tradition of doing this very thing, even using Shield Charts without the House Chart, extends very far back in Western geomancy; Cattan, Fludd, and other geomancers of yore have all considered the houses of the House Chart as identical to or overlapping significantly with the fields of the Shield Chart.

After all, consider: when we draw up a House Chart for a geomantic reading based on the Shield Chart, we’re not actually making anything new.  We’re taking the same figures in the same order and dropping them into a circular arrangement (House Chart) instead of a binary tree structure (Shield Chart).  As I’ve said before, whatever information you get from the House Chart can be gotten from the Shield Chart, because they’re the same chart presented in different ways.  It’s not that Cattan or Fludd thought of these two styles of chart as different with overlapping meanings, but that there was no difference in meaning at all.

So, what are the meanings of the twelve houses?  You can pick up pretty much any book on astrology and find the same meanings for the 12 houses of the House Chart as you can the 12 fields of the Shield Chart, though I recommend using a traditional text from before the 1800s on what those things are (modern astrologers tend to add in some weird changes that neither I nor traditional astrologers agree with).  I was considering translating another section of Robert Fludd’s Fasciculus Geomanticus (book III, chapter 5) for his meanings of the houses, but they’re pretty much exactly what you expect.  Because this is such common knowledge and so easily accessible, I’ll save my time and yours by foregoing another recitation of the same list here.

Of course, there’s a bit of an issue here.  I’ve mentioned before that there are multiple ways of allotting the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart.  I know specifically of three ways to do this:

  1. The traditional way is to simply go through the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces from right to left and allot them to the houses of the House Chart in order.  Thus, the First Mother is given to house I, the Second Mother to house II, the Third Mother to house III, the Fourth Mother to house IV, the First Daughter to house V, and so forth until we get to the Fourth Daughter to house XII.  This is the most traditional and most common way of assigning the figures to the houses, and is seen in all geomantic works prior to the Golden Dawn.  This is also the way I draw up my charts.
  2. The Golden Dawn way is based on the importance of the houses in the House Chart, dividing them into the cardinal (strongest; I, IV, VII, X), succedent (middling; II, V, VIII, XI), and cadent houses (weakest; III, VI, IX, XII).  Because Aries is often associated in modern times to house I, this means that Capricorn is given to house X.  Capricorn, being the earthiest of the signs, was thought to resonate most closely with geomancy, and thus being the strongest house for starting geomantic studies.  Thus, the Mothers, being considered the strongest of the figures, are given to the cardinal houses starting in house X and proceeding clockwise (First Mother to X, Second Mother to I, Third Mother to IV, Fourth Mother to VII).  The Daughters, coming after the Mothers, are given to the succedent houses starting in house XI and going clockwise.  The Nieces, coming last as combinations of Mothers or Daughters, are given to the cadent houses starting in house XII and going clockwise.
  3. The esoteric way is a variant of the Golden Dawn way, and likely came before it and used by other modern or early modern occultist groups.  Again, this manner allots the Mothers to the cardinal houses, Daughters to the succedent ones, and Nieces to the cadent ones, but we start with houses I, II, and III, respectively, and go clockwise from there.

In all honesty, I claim that any of these three systems work for someone who chooses to use them.  The difference, as I see it, is much the same as what kind of house division system you use in astrology; some prefer Placidus, some Porphyry, some Koch, some Regiomontanus, some equal house, and so forth.  All their results are pretty much the same, though how they arrive tends to differ in the details.  Likewise, if you find that you resonate most with a particular house system, then go ahead and use it; I can’t fault you for using what works.

However, I will say that the Golden Dawn and esoteric methods of allotting the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart don’t jive with me very well, and seem to be very late hacks to morph geomancy to a particular ideology that doesn’t always work.  Plus, these newer methods have been around for one or two hundred years, while the traditional method has been with us for at least nine hundred.  Add to it, the traditional method preserves the connection between the meanings of the fields of the Shield Chart with those of the houses of the House Chart; the other methods mess with that severely, since a figure as the Second Mother (field II) no longer relates to the wealth or possessions of the querent but, in the Golden Dawn system, then becomes the condition and well-being of the querent itself (house I in the Golden Dawn system).

As a result, I claim that the Golden Dawn, esoteric, and other ways of allotting the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart are suboptimal for use in geomancy.  I’m holding myself back from calling them “wrong”, but I don’t think they mesh well with the rest of geomantic technique and seem to be innovations with an agenda, and I would suggest that geomancers stick to the standard traditional manner.  Not only is it cleaner and simpler, but it preserves an integral link between the Shield Chart and House Chart that allows them to be truly in sync with each other rather than shuffling them up for purely pseudo-astrological considerations.

Towards a Greek Kabbalah: First Swirlings

A few weeks ago, I made a post about an idea about working with a Greek style of Hermetic qabbalah, tentatively calling it kambala (Greek way to write out qabbalah from Hebrew) or to Paradedomenon (lit. “that which is handed down”).  The idea, I claim, is an interesting one: in the absence of Hebrew kabbalah, is it possible to make a Hellenic style of emanationist cosmological magic and theology that works with the Greek letters as magical units and entities in their own right?  Asked another way, could there conceivably be such a thing as a Greek qabbalah?  So I started thinking about it, and I first went and looked up translations of the names of the sephiroth and the like from Hebrew into Greek, and started translating other names into Greek as well, and also rewriting the magic number squares of the planets using Greek letter-numerals to develop new planetary spirit names.

Now I’m thinking I was going down the wrong path and need to start fresh without using the Tree of Life, or even using Jewish kabbalah at all.

I mean, what is Jewish kabbalah?  It is a deep, powerful, multifaceted, beautiful system of Jewish mysticism that can deliver one great, perhaps infinite, knowledge and power through the proper use of its system, but it’s still at its heart a Jewish system.  Thus, it is Jewish, and geared towards those who are Jewish: not only by blood (as tradition would have it), but also by culture (having the means and faculties available to a proper Jew) and definitely by religion and religious studies.  Kabbalah is really only meant for those who are prepared to study it, which requires a deep and thorough study of the Tanakh, Talmud, Midrash, Mishnah, and so many other aspects of Jewish religion and how it ties into Jewish life.  For all intents and purposes, to get the most out of kabbalah, you have to be Jewish.  You don’t necessarily have to be a Jew (unless you’re so hard-core traditionalist that only the first-born son of a kabbalist can learn it from his rabbi father), but you definitely have to be Jewish in order to properly study kabbalah.  Anything less, and you’re not going to be able to use it as much as it can or ought to be.

As for me?  Sure, I can claim descent as a Jew, but I’m about as Jewish as an Olive Garden is Italian, which is to say “hahaha not really”.  Sure, I can say the berakhah for Chanukah, and that’s about it.  I’ve never had my bar mitzvah (even though my father has idly wondered that we should probably get ours done eventually at the same time), and it’s more likely that I’ll be baptized into Christianity before having a bar mitzvah.  I’ve only read the Old Testament in English, not even in the proper order of the books that the Tanakh would have; I don’t maintain kosher standards of purity or cleanliness (especially not with the occasional use of blood rum), and I can’t even read or speak Hebrew.  In all honesty, for me to properly study kabbalah, I’d need to learn Hebrew, get bar mitzvah’d, and undergo what’s likely to be many years of studying before I even read properly about the sephiroth.  Which is why I’m not, nor will I ever, learn about Jewish kabbalah outside a few books by Aryeh Kaplan.

But of course, that’s not the only way to study the Tradition.  What about Hermetic qabbalah (this time with a Q)?  I’ve been making good use of that, to be sure, as have many others in the Golden Dawn, Thelemite, and other modern Hermetic movements, and heck, even in a good number of neopagan movements I’ve seen that are influenced by Gardnerian Wicca and the Golden Dawn.  While I’d argue that the heart of Hermetic qabbalah and Jewish kabbalah is the same (it provides a means to understand the source of an emanationist panentheist cosmos by means of a cosmological Abrahamic structure), the study of the two nearly couldn’t be further apart.  And, to be honest, after mulling it over some, I’m not sure Hermetic qabbalah is even recognizably able to achieve the same goal as Jewish kabbalah.  My good friend the Rev. Michael Strojan has compared Jewish kabbalah to a beautiful rose garden maze leading to a unique spiritual experience of the mind of God in creation, while Hermetic qabbalah is a far more rational, utilitarian cosmological mapping.

In fact, when a Hermeticist tends to refer to “qabbalah”, they’re usually referring to the specific teaching of the Tree of Life, the linking of the ten sephiroth with 22 paths in a particular geometric array.  In Hebrew, this is known as the upright arrangement of the sephiroth, or “yosher”, which is one way to view the sephiroth; the other is “iggulim”, or “circles”, viewing the cosmos as a series of nested circles with God on the outside and Malkuth in the innermost circle.  I’ve seen a similar way to represent the sephiroth before in Hermetic qabbalah, but only as an introduction to emanationist principles and never for serious magic or prolonged study.  While the paths of the Tree of Life are important, they’re usually grossly understudied in favor of the sephiroth themselves; I’ve seen plenty of people talking about scrying the spheres but next to nobody about scrying the paths, and I admit that I’m guilty of this, too!  It’s nearly all about corresponding things to the ten spheres, and that’s about it.  Consider Yesod, the ninth sephirah: Yesod is associated with the first heaven, which coincides with the sphere of the Moon, so anything lunar can be corresponded to Yesod.  That’s nearly about it in Hermetic qabbalistic framework, it’d seem, unless I’m missing a large amount of the cultural movement and study of the thing.  I’m aware that many Hermeticists have gone in much deeper study of the sephiroth and the paths, but I wouldn’t call them a majority.  To most magicians who use Hermetic qabbalah, they only use it as a system of correspondences.

More than that, however, for a non-Jew, even a learned Neoplatonic theosopher and magician, to attempt their own study of kabbalah can come off as something insincere.  I mean, as non-Jews (and I’m including myself de facto in that group), we’re not raised Jewish, we celebrate different holidays, we’re not studied in the traditions and text that Jewish kabbalah builds upon.  While it’s certainly possible to get a lot out of the system, we won’t be able to fully plumb the depths of the system without having all those other things under our belt.  And while it’s certainly allowed to study any and all knowledge and teachings out there on the subject, it’s still a subject that’s pretty much not meant for most of us.  Even in traditional kabbalistic teachings, many Jews couldn’t learn it, which is why we have the Sacred Magic of Abramelin, since (chapter 9, my emphasis):

This wisdom hath its foundation in the high and holy Qabalah which is not granted unto any other than unto the first-born, even as God hath ordained, and as it was observed by our predecessors. Thence arose the difference, and the truck or exchange between Jacob and Esau; the primogeniture being the Qabalah, which is much nobler and greater than the Sacred Magic. And by the Qabalah we can arrive at the Sacred Magic, but by the latter we cannot have the Qabalah. Unto the child of a servant, or of an adulterer, the Qabalah is not granted, but only unto a legitimate child; as occurred in the case of Isaac and Ishmael; but the sacred wisdom through the mercy of God all can acquire, provided that they walk in the right path; and each one should content himself with the gift and grace of the Lord. And this must not be done out of curiosity, and with extravagant and ridiculous scruples, wishing to know and understand more than is right; seeing that temerity is certainly punished by God, who then permitteth him who is presumptuous not only to be turned aside out of the true way by the Second Causes, but also the demon hath power over him, and he ruineth and exterminateth him in such a manner, that we can only say that he himself is the sole cause of his own ruin and misery. It is certain that the Old Serpent will attempt to contaminate the present book with his venom, and even to destroy and lose it utterly, but O Lamech! as a faithful father I entreat thee by the true God who hath created thee and all things, and I entreat every other person who by thy means shall receive this method of operating, not to be induced or persuaded to have any other sentiment or opinion, or to believe the contrary. Pray unto God and ask him for his assistance, and place all thy confidence in him alone. And although thou canst not have the understanding of the Qabalah, nevertheless the holy guardian angels at the end of the six Moons or months will manifest unto thee that which is sufficient for the possession of this Sacred Magic.

Is there a means for us to study divinity and obtain power and knowledge thereby?  Of course!  The Word of God is something all humans with ears can hear (as much of my 49 Days of Definitions project indicated), but not every word is meant for us.  There are many words out there for us to understand the Word; they are all the Word, but not using the same words.  In a Hermetic sense, kabbalah is a form of Logos for the Jews who are able and allowed to study it.  So, while a Hermetic qabbalah with roots and liberal borrowing from the Hebrew kabbalah is not improper, strictly speaking, it does seem like trying to borrow a prayer in another language to another divinity and speaking it aloud with a bad accent to your own.  To be terse, the more I look at it, the more Hermetic qabbalah looks like cultural appropriation, and knowing how rife much of the Golden Dawn material was with culturally appropriated techniques and technology, this isn’t too surprising.

Besides, while Jewish kabbalah is definitely Jewish, it’s not entirely Jewish.  It’s apparent that there was much cross-pollination between Jewish and Neoplatonic thought back in the days of the Roman Empire, especially after the Jewish Diaspora after the destruction of the Second Temple, and it was only then did the Hebrew alphabet begin to be used as numbers in addition to letters, a notably Greek practice that had already been in place for centuries, along with the Greek practice of isopsephic exegesis in interpreting words as numerical strings and linking them to numerological concepts and other words by means of isopsephy.  Heck, even the Hebrew word “gematria” has its origins in Greek “geometria”.  It might reasonably be said that what is today Jewish kabbalah is a combination of Greek Neoplatonist philosophy and isopsephic techniques combined with the native Jewish Merkava and Hekhalot mystic techniques.  This was used, then merged again with other European thought as the centuries passed, so that kabbalah borrowed and reborrowed other philosophies just as it was borrowed and reborrowed from.  As a magician in the vein of Neoplatonism, I can definitely see much that I resonate with in kabbalistic thought and practice, but the system takes place in a context that is sufficiently different from my own that it’s difficult for me to penetrate it without my entering into that context itself.

In that light, recontextualizing kabbalah into Hermetic qabbalah wholesale just isn’t the best way to go about it, and to develop an even further-detached system as a Hellenic or Greek kabbalah based on the Hermetic qabbalah would be even less effective.  While such a Greek kabbalah would be great for my own practice and context, being much more familiar with Neoplatonic, Stoic, and even some Pythagorean philosophy (which is really the root of much of this, anyway), trying to base it on the already “debased” (to exaggerate the sense) Hermetic qabbalah would be like a game of Translation Party.  And, just like with proper English-to-Japanese translation, you need to have a good sense of the language, structure, and system you’re trying to build things into based on the ideas and thoughts you already have instead of trying to go through a predetermined middleman system with its own rules already in place.  In order to create a Greek kabbalah, I’d need to start fresh from first principles.  Scrying the Tree of Life in a Greek framework isn’t the only work that has to be done, but the creation of a new map of the cosmos and new paths, developing an understanding more fitting to my own context instead of that of a different religion and tradition, is all necessary.

In other words, I hope you stay tuned as I work towards a Greek kabbalah.  This will be a series of posts over the coming month exploring all the aspects I consider necessary to build such a system, so I hope you follow along.

Search Term Shoot Back, January 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 January 2014.

“honoring hermes on fourth day of the month” — One tidbit about Hermes is that he was born in the tenth month of the lunar year (starting with the first new moon after the summer solstice, so sometime in April) on the fourth day of the lunar month (four-ish days after the New Moon).  The religious practices of Attic Greece, where Athens was and thus where most of our knowledge about ancient and classical Greece is focused, celebrated a bevy of gods on their “monthly birthdays”, as evidenced by what we know of their calendar (which forms the basis of my lunisolar grammatomantic calendar).  Thus, a monthly public ritual was performed for Hermes on the fourth of every lunar month in ancient Athens, which is the day I use as well for my monthly Hermaia ritual.  For example, yesterday was the new moon, so today is the first day of the lunar month; the fourth day would then be this coming Monday, February 3, when I celebrate the next monthly Hermaia.

“letter a in shorthand”, “short hand alphabet”, “shorthand in english alphbet”, etc. — I get a lot of talks about shorthand, and my posts on the personal shorthand I’ve devised as a type of private cursive are among the most popular posts on this blog.  That said, I think it’s important to realize that shorthand is just cursive writing taken to its logical extreme.  Normal handwriting, or “print”, is meant to be formal and clear; cursive (from Latin currere, “to run”) is meant for faster, more fluid writing.  Shorthand is handwriting sped up to keep up with speech as it happens; because it can be difficult to maintain a congruence between spoken sounds and sometimes convoluted rules of spelling, most stenographic systems use phonetic methods of writing as opposed to normal ways of spelling.  A few such systems used in the Anglophone world are Pittman and Gregg, which can be found on this page at Omniglot.  My style of shorthand differs in that it’s meant to preserve the orthographic spelling of English while being fast to write; in that sense, it’s much more a cursive than a shorthand, which is often more a style of abbreviated symbolic writing than proper orthographic writing.

“orgone pot leaf” — I…uh?  I know doing a lot of drugs can lead you into some weird places, but…what?  I mean, I suppose you could use cannabis leaves to make an orgone accumulator, being an organic substance that attracts orgone, but why waste good weed?

“what periodof the day does the ruling archangel of the planet start?” — I don’t your English understand quite so.  Angels can be said to rule over particular hours of the day based on the planetary hours, and Trithemius gives a list of them in his ritual.  As always, planetary hours are based on your local latitude and longitude, since it relies on sunrise and sunset times, and may not be calculable at extreme latitudes due to the extreme brevity or complete lack of solar daytime and nighttime.

“what does each geomantic figure mean?” — You may be interested in checking out my series of posts on geomancy, De Geomanteia, where I go over what each geomantic figure means in a Western geomantic-divinatory framework.

“the magical value of mem in the hebrew alphabet” — Ah, the occult study of letters!  Normally I work with Greek, but knowledge of Hebrew letters and their occult significations is also highly regarded in modern Hermetic magic, especially given the influence of the Golden Dawn.  Mem is the 13th letter of the Hebrew script, with a phonetic value of /m/ and two written forms mem and mem sofit; the former is given the gematria value of 40 and the latter the value of 600, though 40 is the more important value to know.  Cornelius Agrippa gives it the magical correspondence of the Zodiac sign Virgo, though the Golden Dawn (based on other qabbalistic works) give it the association of the element Water.  Going by the Kircher Tree of Life used by the Golden Dawn and Thelema, Mem is associated with the Tarot card trump XII, the Hanged Man, as well as path 23, between Geburah and Hod on the Pillar of Severity.  Its form is said to come from the Egyptian hieroglyph for water, and its name from the Phoenician word for the same, and is associated with the Greek letter mu and Latin/Cyrillic letters em.

“can a pentacle really charge an object” — Er…it depends, really.  To “charge” something implies the use of what what’s known as the “energy model” of magic, where magic works due to some ethereal, nonphysical energy that can be directed around to achieve occult ends.  If we “charge” something, we consider it to be filled with an energy, much as we charge batteries.  To that end, I suppose you could say that some pentacles, when properly made, become a source of a particular energy or are themselves charged with an energy, and can then (if designed in a certain way) give that charge to other objects.  Not all pentacles are designed to do this, though; some pentacles are used to attract love, which isn’t charging any kind of object.  Further, this only makes sense if you use the energy model of magic, which is a pretty modern framework; the more traditional framework is the “spirit model”, where magic works due to the action of and interaction with spirits.  In this model, a pentacle might be a place of habitation for a spirit or receive its blessing to attain a certain end, and using the pentacle essentially sends the spirit out to change something out in the cosmos.  It’s not so much a matter of “charging” as it is “spirit-action”, so it depends on your worldview and which model you think works best at a given moment.  Generally speaking, though, and to prevent any more use of semantic sophistry, yes, a pentacle can charge an object given that that’s what the pentacle was designed to do.

“can labradorite be used for grounding” — I wouldn’t suggest it.  My thoughts on labradorite associate it most with the sphere of the fixed stars, along with the Sun, Moon, and Mercury.  It’s a very stellar, astral type of stone, and I use it for work with Iophiel as well as with pure Light.  Grounding suggests bringing things in the body outward and literally grounding it out, like an electrical charge, so it helps to calm and make the body more mundane, more earthy, more relaxed, and less charged.  Labradorite, on the other hand, I’ve found works for subtle charging generally or strong empowerment with stellar or lucid force, so it would not be good for grounding.

“geomantic wizard” — At your service.

“the hexagram of ifa” — As a prefatory disclaimer, I know little about ifá besides what I’ve learned from Western geomancy and its history.  Ifá is the great geomantic tradition of the Yoruban people based in Nigeria, often seen in the West nowadays closely allied with Santeria communities.  Ifá uses the same sixteen figures as Western geomancy, though with different names and meanings; however, unlike Western geomancy that uses four Mothers to generate 65536 charts, ifá diviners (often called “babalawo” or “father of secrets”), only use two figures to generate 256 readings.  That said, each of the 256 readings has about a Bible’s worth of knowledge, stories, prohibitions, rules, situations, and the like that can be ascribed to it, all of which for all the combinations must be memorized by heart.  It’s an intense system, and one that has my highest respect.  That said, I know of no part of ifá that uses any sort of hexagram; the figures themselves have four rows of one or two marks each, and the figures are not arranged in any form of hexagram or six-figure arrangement.  You may be getting ifá confused with the Chinese I Ching, which does have hexagrams instead of tetragrams.

“concave golden dawn pentacle” — My Golden Dawn-style pentacle is just a flat wooden disc I got at a Michaels that I woodburned, colored, and customized to my ends.  Now, I’m no expert on Golden Dawn regalia or paraphernalia, so I’m unsure about the precise needs or designs of these things.  That said, if I recall correctly from my days sneaking into my older brother’s neopagan stuff long ago, Donald Michael Kraig had offered this design idea in his Modern Magick.  His idea was that the pentacle, the Elemental Weapon of Earth, was used to both collect the forces of Earth as well as act as a shield for protection.  If we use rays of light as a metaphor, if we use a flat mirror, we reflect the light away from the source; if we use a convex mirror (one that bulges outward), only a small portion gets reflected at the source; if we use a concave mirror (one that sinks inward), nearly all the light gets reflected back at the source.  Thus, if we use a concave pentacle, anything unwanted sent towards us gets reflected back at the source; plus, it acts to “collect” the energy of Earth with its bowl-like shape, much as the chalice “collects” the energy of Water.

“is ritual and invocation one and the same?” — No; an invocation is a type of ritual, but there are many types of ritual.  There are many types of ritual, some of which I’ve classified before in my own admittedly-arbitrary system.  Sometimes you may want to get rid of something (banishing or exorcism), which is the opposite of bringing something in or up (invocation or evocation), though either type of ritual may involve the other (clearing out a space for something to be brought in, or invoking a higher power to drive something away forcefully).

“is orgone bunk?” — God, how I wish it were, yet I know from my experiments with orgone that it’s actually useful magical tech.  It just seems like such BS because of its modern pseudoscientific quackery language, but it’s actually pretty good stuff when applied and understood from a less forcedly-modern scientific manner.  It’s like how people often used to phrase theories and explanations of magic based on electricity (Raphaelite 1800s occultism) or magnetism (Franz Bardon) or quantum physics (modern New Age swill); the theories offered simply don’t line up with what’s physically happening, and betray a deep misunderstanding of the actual physics involved with electricity, magnetism, quantum physics, etc.  However, when it’s removed from this sort of stuff, orgone fits right in with an energy-based model of magic, not unlike the use of ki/qi in Eastern systems of energy manipulation.  So, no, orgone is not bunk, though it certainly can be seen that way when viewed from the way Wilhelm Reich wanted it to be viewed.

“digital phylactery” — This one puzzled me a bit; I have information about a phylactery of mine I made before, but I don’t quite know what a digital phylactery is.  Then I realized that I use several of them, based on modern advances with Buddhist prayer wheels.  A prayer wheel is a device used in prayer or meditation that rotates; the rotating object is a chamber that contains a written prayer, like a mantra or holy image, that when spun generates the same effect as having said that mantra or seen that holy image.  Usually, the paper inside contains many hundreds or thousands of repetitions of that mantra or prayer, so one spin of the prayer wheel would be equivalent to saying that mantra as many times as it was written.  Consider that we use computers with hard disks, pieces of cylindrical or circular hardware that store data written on it and that spin at speeds of as much as or exceeding 15000 RPM.  Data written on hard disks is the same as any other data just using a different writing system, theoretically, so having a mantra or prayer in a text file spinning on a hard disk can be used immensely well.  Thus, you might consider saving a text file with a prayer, mantra, bitmap image of a holy image or shrine, on any computer you work with or own that has a hard drive (solid-state drives are another matter).  For instance, I have prayers to XaTuring (yes, I still occasionally do a minor thing or two with that patron god of the Internet) saved in my home directory as invisible files on the UNIX servers I use at work, as well as on my personal Linux machines.  You might set up your own server that contains nothing but a RAID array of prayer text files spinning up and down at regular intervals, which could easily suffice as a high-grade digital phylactery.

“how to conjure demon wordpress” — I’m unsure whether this is asking about how to conjure the demon known as WordPress (one unknown to me) or how to conjure a demon by means of WordPress, and since I know nothing of the demon called WordPress (and I’m pretty fond of the platform), I assume it must be the latter.  I mean, there is the one time I made a post in thanks to and in homage of the elemental demon Paimon, but that’s not really a conjuration.  You might have the conjuration text along with an image of the demon’s seal stored on a hard drive to use the “digital phylactery” idea from above, and draw a Solomonic triangle or Table of Practice on the hard disk or put the entire computer within one, or you might use a consecrated computer where you write WordPress blog posts within conjurations of a demon as a running liber spirituum.  I dunno, really.

“japanese alphabet with english letters” — This is one thing I really don’t get; so many people have come to my blog looking for Japanese writing translated into English, when I’ve mentioned Japanese four times on my blog to date, and none were about transliterating Japanese into English.  First, Japanese does not use an alphabet; an alphabet is a system of writing that uses letters to indicate either consonants or vowels.  Japanese uses several writing systems, among them kanji (Chinese characters that are combinations of semantic, phonetic, and pictoral images drawn in a codified way) and the syllabaries hiragana and katakana.  A syllabary is a writing system that use letters to indicate syllables, often consonant-vowel combinations.  Thus, while English uses the two letters “k” and “i” to write the syllable “ki” (as in “key”), Japanese might use キ (in katakana), き (in hiragana), and any number of kanji for the syllable depending on the context and meaning of the character; some might be 幾 (meaning “some” or “how many”), 氣 (meaning “energy” or “atmosphere”), 木 (meaning “tree”), 箕 (referring to the “winnowing basket” constellation in Chinese astrology), or any other number of kanji, all of which we would transliterate as “ki”.  So it’s not as easy as it sounds; not everything is an alphabet!

“using pewter in orgonite” — Pewter is an inorganic material, not having organic sources, so in orgonic terms it’d be used in orgone systems to repel orgone.  You could also use lead, mercury, arsenic, or cyanide (provided it comes from an inorganic source!) equally well, especially so if you like wasting your life on orgonite (which, unlike orgone, is bunk as far as I can reckon.  Pewter is a blend of metals, any generic cheap greyish alloy, so because of its mixed material it’s assigned to the planet Mercury, if that makes any difference in the waste of materials that is orgonite.

Directional Correspondences Redux

A while back I wrote about some different elemental correspondences for the four directions.  Long story short, there are different systems of corresponding the elements to the four directions, with two primary methods: Agrippa’s method (Fire/East, Earth/South, Air/West, Water/North) and the Golden Dawn method (Air/East, Fire/South, Water/West, Earth/North).  However, in a recent post Aaron Leitch discusses some of the biblical origins of the Golden Dawn system while exploring other methods of correspondence, and in a reply post Alex Sumner discusses why the Golden Dawn correspondences are the way they are.  It’s all pretty interesting to read, so I suggest you do so.

Alex Sumner brings up a good point: should you change the correspondences of the elements to suit your working and placement in the world?  To quote,

In my opinion, there can only be one answer – a categoric NO. And I say so for the following reasons:

A Golden Dawn temple physically located in England or America, is not operating in England or America;

A Golden Dawn temple in (e.g.) Australia, is not operating in Australia.

Both of them, despite being on opposite sides of the world, are actually operating in one and the same place. The magical inner-workings of the Golden Dawn ceremonies take the Temple, and astrally transport it through Time and Space and across dimensions – to the Hall of the Duat, in the Egyptian otherworld.

What he says makes sense, and points to something I’ve brought up in the past: if you’re working within a set tradition, don’t change stuff to suit your needs.  If a text, grimoire, ritual, or teacher says to use a particular method, don’t change what they say to do until you’ve tried it first and, even then, only if you have an actual need to once you understand why it is the way it is.  For the Golden Dawn system of magic, the physical location of the Temple (and thus the place where the elemental correspondences come into play the most) doesn’t matter, but the astral/spiritual location of the work, which takes place Elsewhere.  That said, if you’re not working in that kind of framework, it may be better to experiment and change things before trying them out.  It honestly depends.  For instance, for an upcoming project (if ever I stop putting if off) where I plan to work with Wraeththu magic and mythos, the standard Golden Dawn/neopagan system of elements is used, but the system is also very personalized and dependent upon personal exploration.  In that case, changing the directions of the elements may not be such a bad thing, and may help in my case to tie it into my other overall magic work.

So, with all that in mind and with a slew of elemental correspondences to pick from, which one should you use?  As in all else with magic, it depends.

  • If you’re working in any kind of tradition that has already set its own rules (traditional Wicca, Golden Dawn, etc.), use the correspondences already set down in stone.  This way, you’re tapping into the current of that tradition, which links you to the overall power and history of that tradition, giving your rituals a stronger boost based on the power already built in that.  Unless you want to experiment within the bounds of that tradition, you’re breaking away from it, which deprives you of the force already built up into it.
  • If you’re working in a tradition that is place-independent and takes place in another dimension, much like the Golden Dawn where the physical location of the Temple is meaningless since the work in the Temple takes place in the Hall of the Duat in the Egyptian otherworld, then use the correspondences of that astral/otherworldly place.  Since the correspondences of that otherworldly place take precedence, using a physical set of correspondences is meaningless.
  • If you’re working in a solitary earth-based or nature-primary tradition, you might be best off using the elemental correspondences that best reflect the place where you’re currently working.  This helps plug you into the natural flow of the powers that be where you currently are, and helps sync you to the place where you are, respecting the land and nature you’re actually working with.  The standard Golden Dawn system is fine for Wicca in its original land of Great Britain, but other systems may work better should one works on the east coast of the US (e.g. Water/East, Fire/South, Earth/West, Air/North) or in the Southern Hemisphere (e.g. Air/East, Earth/South, Water/West, Fire/North).
  • If you’re working in a tradition that is celestially-based or star-primary, I’d suggest using Agrippa’s correspondences that use the elemental associations of the zodiac signs.  This implies that the elements come from the planets, which is pretty standard Hermetic doctrine, and helps link your work down here in this worldly sphere with the rest of the spheres of the cosmos, tying your elemental work into that of the planets directly.

For myself, I use that last method, since as a Hermetic magician, my primary work is with the planets and the stars, which form the basis for the elements down here on Earth.  By working with the powers of the cosmos, I can influence how these powers manifest down here, and by using the correspondence of the elements to the directions based on the zodiac, this gives me the easiest opportunity to make the transition from Up There to Down Here as smooth as possible.  However, even this might change depending on the situation; if I were doing something specifically with the spirits of the elements and the land down here limited strictly and solely to down here, I’d find out how the elements locationally and temporally work around me and use the natural power of the place of the working, buffed out with my own celestial correspondences.  Then again, if I were to tap into a more Golden Dawn type of current or if I were involved in setting up a Golden Dawn ritual by the book, I would use the Golden Dawn method because that’s what works for that specific ritual.

In a way, rules in magic are helpful, but only up to a point, and only up to their own usefulness.  Sticking to one rule at the permanent exclusion of all else can very easily deprive you of working methods or ideas to help buff out your work.  As anyone familiar with Saturnine work knows, walls can bind and block, but walls can also be knocked down and rebuilt.  Tradition, focus, scope, and need should all be taken into consideration when setting up a ritual or cosmological framework, and the combination of all of them may not be constant depending on the situation.

New lamen set complete!

Recently I discussed my new style for lamens to be used in Trithemian-style conjurations, based on the description given in Agrippa’s “Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy”.  Although the style is largely the same, the latter is more preferred to my taste, being a little more balanced, seeming a little more “magical”, and working just as well as the old style.  Plus, I made the style, and that’s kinda cool.  Up until now, however, I’ve been using the old style of lamens, which I had printed out based on my designs on old-style kinda-translucent copy paper and lightly colored the lamens appropriately for the planetary angels.  They work, even though they’re not made of metal or something fancier.

This past week, during the week of the waxing Moon, I went ahead and printed out lamens for all the spirits I conjure using this new style, including the four Elemental Archangelic Kings and the seven Planteary Angels.  I used heavy faux-parchment cardstock to print them on, and for the planetary angels I also printed them out in their proper day and hour according to their ruling planet.  Like the old lamens, I colored the new ones as well, but this time I got kinda fancy:

  • For the planetary lamens, I lightly colored the ring of godnames and the central hexagon in the hexagram with the queen scale color of the planet, heavily colored the points of the names written in the Celestial script, the pentagrams, and the arms of the hexagram with the queen scale color, and colored in the space between the pentagrams and hexagrams with the king scale color of the planet.  This means black/crimson for Tzaphqiel of Saturn/Binah, blue/violet for Tzadqiel of Jupiter/Chesed, red/orange for Kammael of Mars/Geburah, yellow/rose for Michael of the Sun/Tiphareth, green/amber for Haniel of Venus/Netzach, orange/purple for Raphael of Mercury/Hod, and purple/dark blue for Gabriel of the Moon/Yesod.
  • For the elemental lamens, I swapped queen scale color with the traditional color associated with the element (red for Michael of Fire, blue for Gabriel of Water, yellow for Raphael of Air) and its flashing color for the king scale color (green, orange, purple, respectively).  For the Auriel of Earth lamen, I used the black-olive-citrine-russet color scheme and a light yellow background, since they’re also the colors of the element as well as the colors from the queen and king scales for Malkuth.
  • I also applied gold leaf to the edge of the lamen just as a nice touch to make them all fancy-like.  The gold leaf will be hidden when put in the lamen frame I use, but that’s no biggie.
Arranging the lamens in the same way as Fr. Rufus Opus’ Altar Glyph, here’s my new lamen set (also with a glimpse of the seals I’ve received for personal use from the four Archangels):

Information about the planetary or qabbalistic color scales mentioned above were taken from the Golden Dawn system (see here for a description), and the colors for the elements came from the colors of the Rosy Cross Lamen worn by Adepts of the Golden Dawn (see here for a picture).  The old and new styles of lamens themselves (uncolored, of course) can be found on the Designs page.

The spirits come all the same, and seem to be either the same strength or a little clearer, which makes sense since these colors applied to the lamens help make them more in tune with the force and spirit in question.  I may keep the old lamens, or I may burn them as offerings to the planets and forces I work with, but I’m very pleased with these new lamens.  Plus, the lamen design themselves double as talismans of that sphere and angel; a complex example can be seen on Fr. RO’s blog as a talisman for the angels and forces of Saturn, Jupiter, Virgo, and Capricorn.

Also, yes, I print out my lamens, and I use the graphics from the Magical Calendar for the planetary angelic lamens (but I draw in the seals for other spirits because, well, they don’t exist otherwise).  To be fair, I’ve also got the pattern, series of godnames, angelic names and spellings, and angelic sigils all in memory, and they’ve all been integrated into my sphere appropriately through initiation, alignment with their spheres, and repeated discussion.  If you do not have this done, try drawing out the lamens by hand first before using premade templates.  This functions as a very useful kind of “kinetic meditation”, as Fr. RO is fond of saying, and it’s not without purpose; the more you have this stuff in your mind, the more it’s in your sphere, and the more it’s in your sphere, the more you’re able to function.  It’s like learning a language: the more you use it, the better at it you become.

Directional Correspondences

Four elements and archangels, four directions.  GO.

Agrippa’s system (book II, chapter 7):

  • East – Fire (Michael)
  • West – Air (Raphael)
  • North – Water (Gabriel)
  • South – Earth (Auriel)

The logic for this can be understood by looking at a horoscope.  Let’s say that, at the start of the astrological year, the Sun rises at dawn on the spring equinox (0 Aries).  Aries, then, is ascending on the east; Libra descends on the west; Capricorn is at the midheaven; Cancer is at the nadir.  Aries is ruled by Fire, Libra Air, Capricorn Earth, and Cancer Water.  In this system, the hot elements (Fire and Air) are on the East-West axis, while the cold elements (Water and Earth) are on the North-South axis.  This makes sense to me, at least, though I haven’t seen this put forth as an official explanation of this. 

Something more official might go something like this: the order of the elements in the Zodiac is fire, earth, air, and water (Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer…); the order of the elements, going around clockwise starting at East, is fire, earth, air, and water; the order of the four cherubim presented in Rev 4:7 is “lion, calf, man and eagle”, representing, respectively, fire, earth, air, and water.  Lots of stuff to chew on here, and definitely reverberates well.

Golden Dawn system:

  • East – Air (Raphael)
  • West – Water (Gabriel)
  • North – Earth (Auriel)
  • South – Fire (Michael)

These attributions seem to have originated with the Golden Dawn who were trying to expand on Dee’s work, and the four angels and angels from Dee were assigned their elements.  Later on, Gerald Gardner used Golden Dawn material in forming Wicca, which has propagated this system to many forms of neopagan cosmologies that exist today.

The Golden Dawn likely used a solar-based or geographic system to determine these elemental attributions.  At least from the northern hemisphere, when the Sun is at its highest point and hottest, it’s in the southern part of the sky (hot and dry, Fire).  At dawn and dusk, things are heating up and evaporating the dew (hot and moist, Air) or cooling down with sweat and rain (cold and moist, Water).  At nighttime, things are dark, cold, and hidden, all qualities associated with Earth (cold and dry).  Alternatively, from their primarily European frame of reference, they considered the southern lands to be hot and dry like the Sahara (Fire), and northern lands like Scotland or Scandinavia to be barren and frozen (Earth).  The Atlantic ocean was to the west (Water), while fertile lands and places of learning and civilization were out to the east (Air).  This system breaks down when applied to other parts of the world, especially the entire southern hemisphere, which might be better off switching Fire and Earth.  Indeed, this is one of the major issues with this system, and I’ve seen it applied, changed, or tweaked in various ways.

The angels ruling the elements are the same between the two systems, as are most of the other correspondences between the elements and other beings and attributions.  The Golden Dawn style of attribution is common, both in modern ceremonial and neopagan systems of magic, but I prefer the traditional Agrippan attributions and use that in my own work.  Since the attributions between elements and other things are largely the same regardless of the system, with just the directions and minor details switched around, I normally fit things into the Agrippa system whenever I adapt a ritual or tool into my own practice.  It’s a more classical or Renaissance system that I prefer, following in the steps of past and present traditional Hermetic magicians, and would seem to be independent of hemisphere, but YMMV.

For instance, my Circle of Art has four four-lettered names of God around the outer ring: Agla in the East, Eloah in the North, Eheieh in the West, and Adonai in the South.  I got these godnames from Fr. Osiris’ New Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, which I find of much better than the standard LBRP; however, he follows the GD correspondences and uses Agla in the South, Eloah in the West, Eheieh in the East, and Adonai in the North.  Given the system I work within, I find that East=Fire/Michael/Agla works better than East=Air/Raphael/Eheieh.  Likewise, when I decide to do a personal Litany to the Holy Angels, I swap the order of the angels, calling on Michael, Auriel, Raphael, and Gabriel in turn instead of Raphael, Michael, Gabriel, and Auriel.

Correspondences differ between traditions.  That’s alright.  Different traditions operate on different views of the same cosmos, different interpretations of the same reality.  Within one system, complete and well-structured according to its own rules, things work well; swapping between systems without taking into account different correspondences may cause things to slighty out of tune or entirely out of order.