On Geomancy and Light

Those who follow me on Twitter know that I’ve been working on a new shrine project of sorts.  Earlier this year, I had the sudden kick-in-the-ass inspiration to start compiling things together, so I started pricing them on my wishlists and getting notes together.  I swore, up and down, that I would pay off my credit card before getting any of it.  But, yanno, just to see how much it would all cost when tallied up, I put it all into my online shopping cart to check out the shipping and taxes, and whoops there went $700 and suddenly I have all these packages showing up at my house however could this have happened let’s get to work, I guess my poor credit card statement.

Long story short, after I made that second post about geomantic holy days earlier this year, I got some sort of spirit all up in me that necessitated, demanded I put this thing together.  I ended up making a Shrine of the Geomancers, honoring the four Progenitors of the art Adam, Enoch, Hermes Trismegistus, and Daniel under the tutelage of Gabriel, with a notable Islamic influence.

I’ll save some of the details and what goes along with this whole shrine later, including a few things that aren’t shown in those above pictures, since it’s such a new thing that even I’m not sure why I have everything on it yet, just that I know I need it.  The last time an inspiring spirit this forceful came upon me was when I ended up writing my Sixteen Orisons of the Geomantic Figures in a single night (and then spent the next month editing and polishing), which you can take a look at in my ebook, Secreti Geomantici (also on Etsy!).  That was pretty fun, too, though exhausting.  I ended up making sixteen prayer-invocations to channel and work with the forces of the figures; that was just a night of power for me, as if I couldn’t shut off whatever fire hydrant of Words was turned on in my head.  The same thing happened with this shrine: I had to get these things and put them together.  Had to.

On top of getting this shrine put together, I’ve had to take a break from writing my geomancy book to take a detour into writing prayers, invocations, and incantations for geomantic practice.  Taking heavy inspiration from Islamic supplications and verses of the Qurʾān, the Book of Daniel, the Psalms, Solomonic and Hermetic literature, and other sources, I’ve been putting together a bunch of prayers—some that I wrote as original works, some I wrote a long time ago, some I’m heavily basing off other sources but tweaked for purpose and diction—for use with this shrine.  Many of the old prayers I wrote a while back, like my Prayer of the Itinerant or my Blessing of Light, fit right in with all these new ones.  It’s like so much of my previous routine, habits, and practices get tied into something so nice, so neat, so…oddly complete in this new shrine practice.  I honestly don’t know where this is all coming from, and it’s surprising me as much as it would anyone else.  If ever I would think that spirits can and do work through us, this would be one of those cases, absolutely.  There are still a lot of prayers I know for a fact I need to write and compile, but even with what I have, I’m pretty thrilled with what I have to work with.  It’s like stumbling on a new grimoire full of detailed instructions—except you don’t know for what, exactly.  It’s also happily convenient that I’m doing all these geomancy readings and follow-up divinations for the New Year, which gives me ample opportunity to try some of these very same prayers.

Now that the shrine is put together and all these prayers are coming together, I need to figure out exactly how to put this all to practice; after all, after dropping so much time and money and energy on this, there’s no way in hell I can just let this thing sit and gather dust (as if the same spirit that had me get all this together in the first place would let me).  I’ll work out routine and times and stuff later, but for now, it’s lovely.  As I noted above, there’s a heavy Islamic influence in this, and why not?  After all, geomancy is ultimately an Islamic occult art and science that arose in the sands of north Africa.  While I’m not going to be doing ṣalāt or proclaiming the five pillars of Islam, I feel it’s still important to honor the traditions and faiths of those that learned, taught, and spread the art of geomancy so far and wide in a language, or at least with symbols and practices, that would be familiar to them.  Which is also why I’m turning to so many supplications and verses of the Qurʾān for prayer inspirations, in addition to the fact that I already know that some such verses are used just for geomancy and divination generally.

One of the things I got for the shrine is a misbaḥah, a set of Islamic prayer beads.  It’s a lot simpler than a rosary, but slightly more complex than a mala; this has 99 beads, with two separators (that apparently aren’t used in counting prayers) to divide up the whole misbaḥah into three sets of 33 beads.  This kind of prayer beads can be used in any number of ways in Islamic devotions, not least the famous Tasbīḥ of Fāṭimah, and a way of kinda-sorta maybe-not-divination-per-se seeking guidance from Allah (istikhāra) can be done using misbaḥah, too, by focusing on the question for guidance and selecting two beads at random on the misbaḥah, and counting down until there are either only one or two beads left.  (The geomantic applications here are obvious.)  There are simpler ways, too, such as just intoning and focusing on one of the attributes or names of Allah, of which there are 99.

(Also, just as an entirely hilarious tangential aside?  This current post is marked as post #9999 in WordPress’ internal system for my blog.  So that’s a kinda fun synchronicity.)

One of the 99 names of Allah in Islam is النُّورُ (an-Nūr), literally “the Light”.  This is often used in the sense of being the Pure Light of the world, or the Prime Light of creation, or the One who Guides by Light.  It’s also especially associated with the Verse of the Light, a beautifully mystic verse taken from Qurʾān 24:35 (my own rendition):

God is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth.
The image of his Light is that of a niche.  In it is a lamp.
The lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a brilliant star.
Lit from the oil of a blessed olive tree, neither of the East nor of the West,
whose oil would almost glow on its own even if fire had not touched it.
Light upon Light!
God guides to his Light whom he wills.
God gives images to follow for his people.
God is All-Knowing of all things.

The use of “The Light” as a name of Allah (or, just, yanno, God, because they really are the same and so much of Arabic theology can be expressed beautifully in Hermeticism and vice versa) is meaningful to me, given how important divine light is in my own personal theology and magical practice, especially in my Hermetic work, given how Light can be thought of as a thing that allows the intelligible to be intelligible and the visible to be visible, as both light of Nous (Mind) and light of Logos (Word).  Even my own magical motto, Lautitia Laborum Lucis Laetor “I rejoice in the splendor of the works of the Light”, is based on this same idea, and many of my more meaningful prayers incorporate Light in some way, whether directly or by puns, like in my Prayer of the Itinerant:

Shed your light on my path that I may see where I go.
Lighten the burden on my shoulders that I may go without hesitation.
Enlighten my heart that I may go with fortitude, courage, and wisdom wherever I may be.

Even before having encountered this Islamic sense of the notion, Light has already been and continues to be for me a powerful force unto itself, and a pure one that is directly associated in my mind and cosmological models with the highest divinity and source of all that is.

Then we bring in a bit of numerology.  Normally, I don’t take numerology particularly seriously; sure, gematria and isopsephia are nice tools to have, and I’ve experimented with it in some classical systems before now and again, but it’s largely a curiosity for me to find other connections with.  But take a look at the name an-Nūr more closely; the “an-” (really “al-” but Arabic rules assimilate the sounds) is just an article, so the real word to look at is Nūr, Light.  In Arabic numerology (which follows the same principles as Hebrew and Greek, since they all come from the same written language to begin with), the value of Nūr is 256.

Those who are familiar with binary mathematics and geomancy should be slapping your heads right about now.  256 = 16 × 16, the total number of pairwise combinations of geomantic figures with each other.  But even then, if we were to reduce it further, 2 + 5 + 6 = 13, and 1 + 3 = 4; alternatively, 256 % 9 = 4.  Four is also a huge number for us, there being four elements, four rows in a geomantic figure, four Mothers/Daughters/Nieces/Court figures, and so forth.  I don’t really need to expound on the myriad meanings of the number 4, given its importance in Hermetic, Pythagorean, and other systems of the occult.  Taking it a bit further as a letter-numeral, 4 is represented by the Hebrew Dālet, Arabic Dāl, and Greek Delta.  Its original meaning and form likely indicated “door”; in stoicheia, I principally associate Delta with the zodiacal sign Gemini, but it can also refer to the element of Water and the zodiacal sign of Cancer in other systems.  I also note that the Arabic Dāl is also the letter used to represent the element of Water in the Dā`irah-e-BZDḤ and Dā`irah-e-ABDḤ organizing systems of the figures, the former of which I’ve put to use in my geomantic energy working as being an Arabic-inspired seed syllable for Water.  Four is, also, the number associated with the sephirah Chesed on the Tree of Life, given to the planetary sphere of Jupiter.

On top of that, although the usual word for “light” in Hebrew is or (אור), the word nur (נור) using the same exact letters as in Arabic, and thus with the same exact numerology, refers to things that flare, flash, fire, or shine; this is an old Semitic triliteral root N-W-R that means light, illumination, and shining.  So that’s also really neat.  This word can also be associated with Hebrew ner (נר) meaning “candle”; “candle” is one of the names and images for the figure Via in some lineages of geomancy according to JMG and Skinner, and Via is sometimes considered to be the oldest or most important and powerful of the geomantic figures, as it contains all of the four elements active and present within itself as a complete whole.

Keeping with Hebrew numerology a bit longer, if we wanted to associate the usual Hebrew word for light numerologically, consider that or (אור) has a value of 207.  256 – 207 = 49, and 49 = 7 × 7, the total number of pairwise combinations of the seven planets as well as just being 7² and important for its own sake; that’s a fun connection, if not a bit contrived.  I also note that 256 is the same value as “spirit of the mother” (רוח אמא, ruach ima), which is important to recognize given that the first four figures we make are called the Mothers and are ungenerated from any other figure in the geomantic process.  It’s also the same value of the words B’nei Tzedeq (בני צדק), or “Sons of the Righteous”; in addition to being a popular name for Jewish synagogues and temples, it’s also a term used by the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls to refer to the good and devout portion of humanity (including/especially themselves), as opposed to the B’nei `Avel (בני עול), the “Sons of Iniquity”.  Besides the Qumran connection, if there were ever a choir of angels to be associated with geomancy or if we ever wanted a good Hebrew euphemism to refer to geomancers, I suppose B’nei Tzedeq would be a good start.  Plus, Tzedeq is also the Hebrew name for the planet Jupiter, hearkening back to the numerological connection with Chesed above.

I also, somewhat regrettably and hilariously, note that 256 is the numerology of the name Viagrahel, the angel of Viagra, for which I will never thank/blame Kalagni of Blue Flame Magick enough.  (I’m as shocked as you are that that, of all things, would come back to bite me in the ass after almost seven goddamn years.  It’s like my life is one big Chekhov’s dildo.)

What about Greek?  There aren’t many words I can find that add up to 256, but there’s one big one I know of: ἀληθής (alēthēs), meaning “[that which is] unconcealed/true” but also with uses that encapsulate: real, unerring, actual, not forgetting, careful, honest.  The root of this word is –lēth-, which refers to forgetfulness (as in the mythological river of the underworld Lethe and also our modern word “lethargic”, referring to idle forgetfulness).  In that case, ἀληθής refers to things that are unconcealed, true, and honest by means of recovery from forgetfulness or by keeping forgetfulness and ignorance at bay, or alternatively, that which cannot escape notice or remain hidden.  All this ties into the actual Greek word (and, for that matter, goddess) for truth, ἀλήθεια (alētheia), too.  Even if I couldn’t find any other Greek numerological equivalent, I think this one is huge enough to make up for any others.

So where do we end up?  We have a particularly beautiful attribute of the divine, “the Light”, used in the worship and reverence of God in Islam, the religious culture in which geomancy historically developed.  To be extraordinarily terse, notions of divine light fill numerous religious and philosophical traditions as being representative of divinity, especially in any Western tradition influenced by Neoplatonism, Abrahamic faiths, or Hermeticism.  This can be further stretched through a bit of numerology, connecting the word for Light to words for fire, illumination, revelation, and truth.  Calling God “the Light” is a lot more than just thinking of that which allows us to see; God is, in a more complete sense of this attribute, the sudden and revealing flash of illumination that allows us to see that which is true and real, bringing it out of darkness, forgetfulness, and ignorance  God is the quiet, true Light behind all Fire, able to spread and open doors of wisdom to us, communicating to us on an intellectual and emotional level through our sense faculties.  This Light is not just a quiet flame in a dimmed lamp that barely illuminates the shelf it sits on, but it is a fierce, conquering, undeniable, unassailable blast into the darkness, a Light that completely destroys and wipes away anything that could or would try to cover it, a Light that breaks into the cracks of any door, window, wall, or mind and fills every niche, crevice, and corner with its presence.   It is the Light of God, or even the Light that is God, that allows the unseen to be seen, the hidden to be revealed, the unknown to be known, and the forgotten to be remembered.  God is not just Light, but the Light of Light, Light within Light, and Light upon Light.

More than that, this sacred Light of the Mind and of the Word can reach us at any place and at any time, but we can approach it too through the devout study of the mysteries of the geomantic figures, specifically in how they add up amongst themselves in their 256 different combinations.  This same illuminating Light is the fundamental impulse from which the first stirrings of knowledge can be made, and provide the seeds themselves from with the four Mothers in geomantic divination are formed, from whom the entire rest of the geomantic process can be derived.  The Light of God is the necessary existent in order for us to see and know things by geomancy.  Understanding the geomantic figures themselves to be representative of the actual combinations of the four elements amongst the elements in 4 × 4 = 16 ways, and the combinations of elements amongst themselves in 16 × 16 = 256 ways, all of the possible things that come to be in the world and all the ways in which they pass into being and pass out of being are also undergirded by the Light of God, being ways in which that same Light emanates from God into the world, condensing through the four elements from Fire to Air to Water to Earth, mixing and matching between all possible states.  All this is fundamentally Light.

I always felt that Light was important for me to focus on in a religious and spiritual sense.  It’s nice to see that all coming together in ways that the ancients themselves would appreciate, and in ways that show me new things in new combinations.  And, perhaps, to reinforce the habit of keeping a lit candle or lamp burning nearby when I do geomancy.

Towards a Greek Kabbalah: Why the Alexandrian Tree Isn’t Really a Thing

So, let’s clear up some naming terminology before we continue this thread of thought.  Because there are different traditions of qabbalah depending on religion, I’m going to differentiate between them all using the following spellings:

  • Kabbalah (with “k”): Jewish
  • Qabbalah (with “q”): Hermetic
  • Cabala (with “c”): Christian
  • Kampala (with “k” but “mp” instead of “b”): my new Greek framework

Alright.  If I want to end up with what’s effectively a Greek kabbalah, the system of kampala is going to need to fulfill several requirements:

  1. Provide a cosmological framework that allows for the ten spheres of the cosmos (Earth, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Fixed Stars, Divinity)
  2. Provide a cosmological map that allows for traversing the spheres of the cosmos with paths that connect them together
  3. Provide a mapping between the paths of the map with the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet
  4. Provide a means of starting from awareness on the Earth sphere (where the majority of us live and operate on a day-to-day basis) and reaching any other sphere by means of the paths, especially that of Divinity
  5. Provide a description of the creation of the cosmos by means of the cosmological framework and mapping
  6. Provide a means of correspondence to link other forces, concepts, objects, etc. to the paths and spheres on the framework and map
  7. Be rooted primarily in Neoplatonic and Pythagorean thought, referencing Hermeticism as necessary without relying on explicitly Jewish principles that are not also present in Hermeticism

I’m sure there will be other requirements as we come along, but so far, so good.

The whole business with wanting to work with a Greek kabbalah started when I found the Rosicrucian Archives site, which contains a series of posts describing a Greek kabbalah with a Tree of Life with 24 paths.  The spheres themselves are the same as those of the sephiroth on the Jewish Tree, just with their names in Greek.  Most of the paths are the same as on the standard Hermetic qabbalah tree, except that two paths were removed (between spheres 2/6 and 3/6) and four paths were added (between spheres 3/4, 2/5, 1/5, and 1/4).  The paths were numbered in a different way than the Golden Dawn did with their Kircher tree, with the first letter of the Greek alphabet Alpha being assigned to the path between spheres 9/10 and working upward from there.  The picture they use is highly similar to the one given in Stephen Flowers’ Hermetic Magic: The Postmodern Papyrus of Abaris, where he gives the image as “the form of the Kabbalistic ‘Tree of Life’ as it might have been framed by the Hellenistic cosmologists” when giving an overview of Neoplatonic cosmology.  Both trees are presented below; the paths are the same, as far as I can tell, while the names differ slightly for the spheres.

It’s an interesting Tree, and the analysis the Rosicrucian Archives gives to describe the internal logic of the Tree is a fascinating read, though with a sometimes purposely obtuse and obnoxiously mysterious style.  They also use the same stoicheic associations I do when assigning the Greek letters to the planets, elements, and Zodiac signs, which is a nice addition, and make use of those distinctions an important part in their analysis.  As might be expected from a Rosicrucian organization, the analysis is steeped in Christian theology, which is appropriate and not that much a stretch; after all, if Hebrew is the language of the Jews, Greek can arguably be said to be the language of the early Christians, especially since that’s the original script of the New Testament.  Stephen Flowers, on the other hand, leaves much more wanting when it comes to describing the Tree and kabbalah generally; he claims that “it has long been suspected that the cosmology of the Hebrew Kabbalah—as outlined in the Sefer Yetzirah and the Zohar—was based on a now lost Greek original”.  Mentally, I’m just throwing in [citation needed] tags all over his book nowadays, though it was useful to get started with as a basic, though fanciful, primer.  He claims that the “restored [Neoplatonic kabbalah] is based on simple principles using the classic cosmological pattern inherited by the Hebrew Kabbalah together with what we know of the Hellenistic philosophical tradition”.

If anything in this world is simple, the cosmology and patterns present in Jewish kabbalah aren’t it.

At any rate, I liked this schema, since it already fit nicely with what I already do and simply changed a few of the paths near the top of the Tree around.  Nothing big, right?  Well, as my ponderings from last time indicated, the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to work with this system.  What was substantially different?  Different numbering of the paths?  Big deal, plenty of Trees have been used by different traditions with different success.  Different associations of stoicheia on the paths?  Crowley himself changed the Star and Emperor, and thus their stoicheia, around on the Golden Dawn Tree.  Different paths towards the top?  Even the Golden Dawn had the use of several Trees, as did the Jewish kabbalists before them.  Even with the different coating of Greek bark, the Tree was still kabbalah, and relies on connections and culture that don’t fit quite right for me.  Even though it’s used by most modern Western magicians nowadays, what (maybe) works for them doesn’t dictate what will work for me.

Besides, even as a matter of correctness, there’s no real evidence to show that this Alexandrian Tree of Life is anything more than a fanciful mental exercise in what I was going to get myself engaged with.  Kieren Barry in his “The Greek Qabalah” describes many uses of the Greek letters in understanding the forces of the cosmos, but (chapter 6):

On the evidence we have seen, it is plainly incorrect to state that there are only a few correspondences to the letters of the Greek alphabet along the lines of those found much later in the Hebrew Qabalah.*  It is also anachronistic, as well as completely pointless, to attempt to project Hebrew Qabalistic symbolism onto the Greek alphabet, or to imagine anything so historically impossible as an “Alexandrian Tree of Life,” as has been done.**  It is hoped that the extensive Greek letter symbolism examined above is enough to put an end to any perceived need for this unnecessary practice by those with a background in Hebrew Qabalah.

* (47) See for example, D. Godwin, Light in Extension—Greek Magic from Modern to Homeric Times (St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1992), pp. 197-198.  Through historical error, Godwin also unfortunately alleges that the Milesian system “which seems to have originated around 400 B.C., more or less copies the Hebrew/Phoenician system”; all of which is quite wrong.
** (48) See for example, S. Flowers, Hermetic Magic (York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, 1995), a forgettable mixture of historical fact and personal fantasy.

In other words, Barry is of the opinion that the Greek letters are alive and well with their own internal symbolism and meaning, as well as those of the stoicheia behind them linking them to the elements and astrology, but nothing in the classical world along the lines of today’s kabbalah with the Hebrew script.  Like Greek letters, Hebrew letters have their own symbolism and biographies, with whole personalities and worlds within each letter.  Greek letters have the same, tailored just for themselves and not borrowed from another script.  To borrow the meanings of Hebrew kabbalistic practice, though, into Greek wholesale is folly.

Barry says that “the extensive Greek letter symbolism examined above is enough to put an end to any perceived need for this unnecessary practice [of making an Alexandrian Tree] by those with a background in Hebrew Qabalah”, and I agree with him.  However, where we may diverge (he’s not explicit with this) is that I think a method of understanding a creation of the world by letters, which are numbers, in a systematic and coherent way is worthy of our attention.  Thus, if the Alexandrian Tree of Life won’t do, something else needs to be made in its place that not only achieves the same ends but in a way more faithful to the Greek philosophic tradition.

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.

My Little Posse

Despite the title, no, I’m not into My Little Pony, nor am I a bro-ny.  For some reason that escapes me, the new MLP series is all the rage among men 20 to 35 years old.  I…I don’t even.

So I haven’t been completely idle these past few days, though I’m not as caught up as I wanted to be.  However, the next set of coursework for my Hermetic stuff came out, which goes over how to build a proper magician’s altar.  Now, keep in mind that I already have two altars, sorta: I have a devotional altar which I pray at and light candles and make offerings and stuff, and a small Ikea table which I use to perform miscellaneous rituals as the need arises.  The real altar, though, is going to be the Table of Manifestation, my sort of personal map of the macrocosm and microcosm as it relates to me, a supertalisman and focus for all my magical work.  It’ll have all my elemental weapons, symbols and talismans, and so on.  To that end, I’m getting together a rather large shopping list of metal ingots and weights to melt down to make talismans with and various other things (like some real frankincense resin incense and a proper charcoal incense burner).  Clearly, I’m putting my promotion and raise at work to good use.

As part of my altar setup, I’ll need talismans for each of the seven planets.  I got started last night on a Jupiter talisman, it being the day of Jupiter and all.  I took a wooden yo-yo from Michaels, split it apart, woodburned a few symbols into it, covered it in blue paint marker, then filled the woodburned inscription with silver ink.  There’s a hole in the bottom of the disc left from the yo-yo axle, which I’ll fill with molten tin (96% tin-4% silver solder from a hardware store).  Once that solidifies, I’ll apply a layer or two of glossy finish over the thing, then consecrate it under the auspices of Tzadqiel.  Lather, rinse, and repeat for the other six planets; the whole thing should be done by mid-September, if I’m dutiful.  For metal that can’t easily be melted, I might widen out the hole and just fit a piece of the planetary metal in there and glue or fasten it on somehow.  There’ll be pictures once I get all seven done, by which point the whole altar should have come together.

In other crafting news, I took an old staff of mine and made it all Solomonic.  The Key of Solomon has instructions to make a magical staff, which is virtually the same as the Solomonic wand and can be put towards the same use as other wands, such as the wand from Trithemius (I believe).  Unfortunately, I don’t have access to elderberry or cane wood, so I used an old staff I happened to find in a forest behind my last apartment (it was deliberately planted in the ground and already cut to a suitable height).  It’s not in the best of shape, but sanding it down and smoothing it off helped wonders.  I woodburned the symbols from the Key of Solomon into it as well as the Hebrew words AGLA + ON + IHVH, rubbed it with olive oil, and suffumigated it with incense.  Alas that no pictures show it properly since the oil turned the staff rather dark, but it looks pretty nifty.  Definitely an outdoorsy tool for a mage, and wielding a freaking staff feels pretty awesome.  I’ll be rubbing oil in it during hours of Mercury in the future just to make sure it gets waterproofed and treated properly.

Last but certainly not least, and related to the title of the post (of course there’d be a reason), I contacted Auriel and Raphael recently for a number of things, not the least of which to ask about obtaining elemental familiars.  You know, little helper spirits to call upon as I need.  I’m still kinda unsure about why I’d need them off the top of my head, but I figure it’s nice to call upon something already intimately familiar with the element in question as a need arises.  They’re pretty cool beings, I’ll admit, and are closer to humanity than the archangels.  That said, I didn’t expect the earth elemental Auriel to whom introduced me to have the high-pitched perky voice of a female Asian pop star, nor did I expect the air elemental to have fond memories of London and rhymes.

Don’t look at me.  I’m just writing this shit down.

Anyway, they’re pretty cool beings, and agreed to come when I called them.  They have pretty cool names, too, which just so happened to follow the rules of Hebrew theophoric names, which is interesting (ending in -iah or -el).  I’m starting to build myself up a whole circle of beings, apparently, to get things done.  Either I’m awesome or psychotic; after a certain point, I have a hard time telling.

Ooh, ooh!  Also, I splurged last week and got like eight new books for myself, including Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer’s Manual of the Fifteenth Century by Richard Kieckhefer, a modern reprint of the famous Munich Manual.  It’s got a lot of source material for the medieval, Christian, or Hermetic scholar, and has a fair bit of planetary and demonic magic.  I’m not too keen on the demonic aspects of the work, but it’s got a lot of interesting stuff, regardless.  I’ve already translated one ritual from the source in Latin, so expect some more stuff to be thrown up as well.

The Thirteen Holy Names of the Lamen

Because I’m bored and taking a break between study sessions today, I thought I’d do a bit of research into the thirteen names of God written a lamen.  Since the names of God are held to hold innate power, similar to a mantra in Hinduism and tantric Buddhism, the names of God on a lamen are probably used to charge or guide the power of the spirit the lamen is dedicated to in order to fashion a stronger connection between the conjurer and conjured.

For reference, the lamen of Michael, the angel of the Sun is shown below.  The original form of the lamen is based on Trithemius’ design in the Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals.  I’ve changed the spelling and format of the names, but they’re essentially the same (I prefer to use the traditional Latin spellings, but also polished the spelling of some of the names that I think got mangled over the centuries).  The Hebrew rendering of the names are given where appropriate.

  1. EL (אל): “God”, the generic Hebrew term for a deity, but also used for the God of Israel.  Very commonly used for epithets of God.
  2. ELOHIM (אלהים): A masculine plural form of the singular feminine noun Eloah (see #3), often rendered just as “God” but also “the powers that be”.  The plural might be used to denote majesty or refer to the many faces or aspects of the singular God.
  3. ELOAH (אלוה): The feminine singular base of Elohim (see #2), again rendered as “God”.  It is sometimes used for pagan deities or idols in ancient Israel, and so might be used to refer to God as any holy form or entity.
  4. TZABAOTH (צבאות): “Hosts” or “armies”, referring to the heavenly host of God.
  5. ELION (עליון): “The supreme” or “the highest”.  Note that this does not have the same root as El, since it is spelled with an ayin and not an aleph, though Agrippa spells it with an aleph.
  6. ESHEREHIE (אשראהיה): A contraction for the name God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, “I am that I am” or “I will be that which I will be” (אהיה אשר אהיה, ehyeh asher ehyeh).  The name is given by Agrippa as Asher Eheie as a name of God with seven letters.
  7. ADONAI (אדני): Hebrew for “my Lord”.
  8. IAH (יה): The first two letters of the Tetragrammaton (see #10), also used to mean “God”.  Much like how Iod refers to the active principle and element of fire (see #12), the first two letters of the Tetragrammaton are linked to the active and passive principles, or the elements of fire and water, respectively.  This hints at God being both male and female, the union of polar opposites.
  9. IEHOVAH: A vocalization of the Tetragrammaton (see #10), taking the vowels from the name Adonai (see #7).  The vowels originally served as a reminder to the reader to say “Adonai” instead of the Tetragrammaton, but was taken as the actual vocalization in Europe starting in late antiquity.
  10. TETRAGRAMMATON: The Greek term for the most holy four letter name of God (יהוה, IHVH), although the Hebrew term for the name is just “the Name” (השם, haShem).  It has the meaning of “he exists” or “he who causes to exist”.  Although it can be read as “Yahweh”, other vocalizations include “Iaō” (from Greek Ἰαῶ) and Yehowah (see #9).  That the lamen uses the word Tetragrammaton which refers to the name but not the name itself implies that it is too holy to be written down even for some uses in the Work, or even that just referring to the name has innate power.
  11. SHADDAI (שדי): “The almighty”, “the overpowering”, or even “the destroyer”.  Alternatively, it may mean “sufficient” or “enough”, in that God is enough to supply and fulfill all of one’s needs as he is, wills, and does.
  12. IOD (יוד): The first letter in the Tetragrammaton, representing the active principle, the element of fire, and the first cause.  It is also similar to the word “yad” (יד), or “hand”, referring to the Hand of God.  The letter is qabbalistically linked to the world of Atziluth, the realm of pure divinity and the highest of the four realms of the Universe.  In the Tarot, especially in the Rider-Waite family of decks, you can see little yod-shaped symbols in cards like the Tower, which also points to the presence and action of God.  Agrippa lists this as the sole name of God with a single letter.
  13. EHEIEH (אהיה): “I become” or “I am”.  Same word as “ehyeh” in Esherehie (see #6).
According to tradition, scribes of the Tanakh or any holy scripture in Judaism had to prepare mentally and ritually to write seven of the above names: El, Elohim, Adonai, the Tetragrammaton , Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, Shaddai, and Tzabaoth.  That all of these seven names, plus another six which are epithets or alternate forms, indicates that a lamen of this type is a pretty significant and powerful instrument used in conjuration.  I can’t imagine that my orthodox Jewish brother would be too pleased to see me throw around these names like I was preparing for an interview, though.

Kicking it into high gear

Okay, I’ll admit.  Between traveling around Virginia, being sick, hosting a friend who got sick because of me, and wanting to have something resembling a social life, I’ve been slow in my work.  It’s true.  I’d like to do more, and I have the time to do it.  I just need to make the damn time and stop being so lazy.  The big thing is meditation: I can’t stress how important it is to do it frequently and to practice it, but there’s something about sitting there that I keep wanting to avoid, even though it’s only for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time.

Instead, I sit for hours in front of the computer being unproductive.  Go fig.

So I’ve decided to make myself do something, some ritual, some conjuration, something at least twice a week beyond my normal banish/prayer/meditation routine.  I’ve got conversations to hold with spirits and mysteries of the universe to learn, and I can’t afford to languish behind and take things so lazily, especially when there’s so much awesome stuff I can do with a bit more knowledge and practice.  Looking around the blogosphere, I’m seeing all sorts of things that I could do and seem easy enough to do, if only I could get myself in the habit of learning what this shit does or what that shit doesn’t do.  To that end, I’m going to really make myself do stuff while I have the time and energy to do so.

Okay, that’s enough whining.  This morning I called up Auriel again, since at work the other day I drew up a laundry list of questions to ask him (and other spirits, when I get around to conjuring them later in the weekend or next week).  The connection wasn’t as strong this time around, but I could still feel something and I was able to communicate with Auriel.  Plus, in addition to having a number of things cleared up for me, I was able to call up Amaymon through Auriel to ask for an initiation into the knowledge of manifesting things through earth (it’s better, I’m taught, to call up an elemental prince through their elemental king instead of conjuring the prince on their own).  The atmosphere changed decidedly when Amaymon was around; I could feel Auriel’s presence shift outward toward me and around the summoning area, and then a much denser, more brusque and rougher feeling came into the area.  So weird.  However, things felt a little clearer with Amaymon, and I asked him to show me how things work in the material plane.  Things seemed to go fine.

I asked a number of other things, too, including what being immersed in the element of earth felt like.  It was trippy: I felt compressed, like I was packed tightly in soil or sand.  I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move at all.  It was like my limbs were being compressed into spaghetti noodles, and I was immobile and locked in.  That said, it was also comforting in a way: I couldn’t move, but I had no need to; I couldn’t do anything on my own, but I was supported and fortified.  I felt strong, or rather, I felt able to support and be a foundation for other things.  It felt cool, it felt soft but rough like a loofah, it smelled of soil and peat and salt and dry sand.  It was nice, except for the whole not-being-able-to-breathe bit.  I kinda freaked out a bit because of that.

So that was this morning, and it seemed to go fairly well (though I wonder if doing the conjuration on a Wednesday or in an hour of Mercury would have made communication a bit clearer, this should be explored).  I’ve got studying and contemplating like WTF to do this weekend on water and air, and a few more conjurations coming up over the next couple of days.  Plus, it’s Father’s Day tomorrow, so I’ll be calling up my old man and having a pleasant chat with him/bitching about how much my recent car repairs cost me.

Oh, one more thing.  If you’ve taken a look at the Designs page and seen the lamens for the elemental kings, you’ll notice that there’s a blank space in the hexagram as if the seal is missing.  No book, grimoire, or guide will show you seals for these spirits, my teacher doesn’t provide them, and neither do I.  Instead, you get the seals for the elemental kings from them directly.  Because the elemental kings are sublunar spirits, their seals are more mutable than those of the celestial governors of the planets, who are more permanent and stable; this is also why the governors of the planetary spheres have their names written in Celestial, while the angelic kings who are of this world have their names written in Hebrew.  Plus, there’s a good chance that the angelic king of Fire Michael is not the same as the angelic governor of the Sun Michael, at least because their roles in the universe are different.  This is all hinted at by the case of Auriel, who doesn’t have a corresponding planetary governor.  Thus, you use a seal which is unique to your connection with the angelic king that they give you and different from the seal of the planetary angel of the same name.  You can then draw this into the lamen where there should be a seal for the angelic king.

Celestial versus Hebrew

From a Hermetic point of view, the abilities to communicate and write are awesome things.  Heck, the philosophy’s named after Hermes Trismegistus, a form of Hermes, the Greek god of language.  He was also worshiped in a syncretic form as Thoth-Hermes, combined with the Egyptian god of scribes and the written word, face shaped like a reed pen (the dude literally speaks the written language).  And ever since those ancient days when Hermeticism was first coming around, we’ve had this idea of magical tomes and scrolls of power, with wizards writing arcane formulae to achieve great changes in the world.

Of course, the medium in which those arcane formulae is just as important as the content, and that medium is the kind of script to be used.  Hebrew and Greek, for a long time, were the default liturgical or magical languages, but as the Catholic Church gained in power throughout western Europe, Latin became the primary medium for occult knowledge.  However, some things were kept more-or-less the same, such as the “barbarous words” that are sometimes bastardized renditions of Coptic words or Aramaic names.  Sometimes, magicians just kept using a particular language for its heritage and vocabulary, which is a good reason Hebrew has been so persistent in Hermetic/qabbalistic/theurgic practice.

Of course, even within Hebrew, there are different ways to write things down: namely, the square script (what we think of as Hebrew printed letters) and the Celestial script.  The latter is a styled form of Hebrew script, more angular and with little dots instead of serifs.  It was the language that the stars themselves spelled out in the night sky, and was preferred for use with angelic or celestial beings instead of the more base, earthly square script.

I only realized this when I compared instructions to make lamens for the angelic kings of the elements and for the angelic governors of the planets.  The former take their names written in Hebrew square script, since they’re “of this world” and closer to human contact; thus, we use a script that says the same.  The governors of the planets, on the other hand, use the Celestial script, since they’re from a supralunar realm, above the earth and belonging to the stars.  The script, again, says as much.  The letters may look similar, but it’s like speaking with a different accent: Californians may use one set of pronunciations and slang, while someone from Manchester would use a radically different set.  Altering one’s accent and dialect to be made more understood by the listener would be important to getting across ideas and establishing a clear channel of communication.

And then there are things like the Tetragrammaton and the highest of the highest beings, which don’t tend to communicate in any way we normally think of communication.  I’ve barely got any experience with this, but when you get to that level, different things happen.  Eventually I’ll have more to write about this.

Of course, in writing this, I don’t mean that other magical writing systems can’t be used.  Theban is another good “earthly” language substitute for anything not written in Hebrew, such as English names, which don’t often lend themselves to Hebrew transliteration.  Malachim and Passage du Fleuve are also alternatives for Celestial, and Enochian’s similar but on a whole ‘nother level of communication and angel work.  I’ve also seen the Alphabet of the Magi used for both celestial and mundane writing as well.  There are many choices, and the spirits know we’re calling them and are apparently fairly multilingual (given how many generations of magicians across linguistic lines have called them up, I’d hope they be).

As a resource for writing systems, I strongly suggest heading over to the wonderful site Omniglot, which strives to detail every writing system and written language. They even have a section on magical writing systems including Celestial.

Update 6/18/2011: I found a site that shows you how to write the Hebrew script, including the proper stroke order of each letter, at Hebrew4Christians. It shows you how to write each individual letter both in the square script modern cursive styles, which is helpful if you plan to do a lot of calligraphic or fanciful work with Hebrew names and words.