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.