Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Making What We Need

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and today we can move on to other topics  Last time, we discussed the actual supplies and materials needed to make everything we’d need for the ritual.  If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

Since DSIC doesn’t offer a lot in terms of how to actually make, prepare, or consecrate, we need to take some initiative on our own to figure out how not only physically construct the things, but under what magical or astrological conditions and what consecrations need to be performed on each.  For this, we can look to the Heptameron, the Liber Juratus Honorii, the Key of Solomon (especially book II which gives plenty of consecrations for a variety of tools and supplies) and its other variants/sisters/antecedents like the Veritable Key of Solomon, the Secret Grimoire of Turiel (and its near-identical sister text, A Complete Book of Magic Science by Frederick Hockley), the Lemegeton, and elsewhere as needed, in addition to what Agrippa says about consecrations generally like we discussed last time (book IV, chapter 8).  What follows is my recommendations for procuring, making, and consecrating the tools and supplies called for by DSIC.

Note that I’m going to prescribe the same supplies and materials that DSIC does, but if you can’t access them due to scarcity or lack of affordability, either do what you can or make do with what you can.  Likewise, I’m going to focus on the DSIC-style tools, including the pedestal and table; if you want to substitute or use alternatives, try to take the same logic I’m using and apply it as best you can.  Also, I assume some things for granted, that you have (or know how to make or otherwise procure) some basic elements of the Western magical tradition, including holy water, holy oil, church incense, and the basic stuff that isn’t explicitly called for by DSIC but which are such basic, fundamental staples that we all end up using anyway.

Lamens
Based on Agrippa and other texts, we know that all spirits have a planetary affinity, and it’s this planetary affinity that we make use of when designing lamens by putting the name and seal of that planet or the angel presiding over that planet into the central hexagram.  Since the whole design of the lamen comes from Agrippa (book IV, chapter 10), which provides the design and process for making them, we should use that method: make the lamen in the day and hour of that planet when the Moon is increasing (between New and Full).  The lamen can be made of a metal associated with that planet, in fresh unused wax mixed with herbs or oils or dyes appropriate to that planet, or of clean new paper colored appropriately for that planet.  The overall shape of the lamen may be circular or made in a polygon whose number of sides corresponds to the number of that planet.

However, DSIC gives the option to have this always made on a “square plate of silver” in addition to paper; silver makes sense, since silver is the metal of the Moon, and the Moon may be used as a substitute for any other planet since the Moon is the lowest of the planets closest to Earth, receiving and sending all the rays of all the other planets; four makes sense, as well, as it’s the number of four directions and four elements of the world.  However, even if one makes a lamen for any planet in this way, I would still recommend that the planetary day and hour appropriate to the planet of the spirit be used, and not of the Moon, unless the spirit for whom the lamen is made is a lunar spirit.

No matter what, however, the lamen must be made so that it can be worn, hung from the neck so that the lamen itself covers the middle of the chest (about the area of the sternum).  The size should be large enough to be able to both clearly read and write all the names and symbols on it; 3″ or 4″ in diameter, depending on the size of the elements, should be sufficient.  The lamen should either be made to fit in a frame that can be worn as a pendant, or the lamen itself should have a hole or loop at the top for a string, strap, thong, chain, necklace, or other material that can allow it to be worn as such.  Though not required, I recommend the string/chain/etc. be washed in a small amount of holy water at minimum to at least cleanse and purify it.

Either way, create the lamen in the day and hour of the planet that is aligned with the spirit to be conjured while the Moon is increasing; as a rule, and this goes for everything else, if you don’t finish it in the same hour, you can either continue working on it (using the moment of starting the project as the major concern) or set it aside to continue (and maybe finish) for the next possible hour(s) that fulfills the same condition (keeping the whole creation from start to finish locked within the same planetary influences).

No consecration is given for the lamens in DSIC; they’re just to be put on immediately before tracing the circle.  Fr. AC references the Benediction of the Lamen found in the Secret Grimoire of Turiel, but properly speaking, that lamen in that text isn’t the same kind of lamen that we’re using for DSIC; if you want to apply it, go ahead, but I don’t think it’s necessary.  Considering that these lamens are effectively talismans of spirits in and of themselves, in order to properly consecrate them in the usual way, we’d need to first conjure the spirit—but that’s precisely the point of making the lamen in the first place!  This is a chicken-or-the-egg problem here, but Agrippa says that the lamens should be consecrated according to the same principles he usually gives: sprinkle with holy water, anoint with oil, suffumigate with incense, etc.  In that case, in the same timeframe as one makes the lamen, I would do just that: sprinkle it with holy water, anoint it with an appropriate kind of oil for the spirit or planet, suffumigate it in a bit of incense appropriate to that spirit or planet, and offer a prayer to God that the lamen be given the virtues and resonance of that spirit and planet for conjuration, that sort of thing.

Wand
The wand should be made out of ebony, and have written upon it in gold ink (whether directly on the surface or engraved and then filled in) the required names and symbols.  I recommend a custom length of the distance between one’s elbow and tip of the middle finger, but any convenient size (but ideally around 18″) may be used.  The thickness of the wand, according to Fr. AC, should be about the width of your index finger at it’s widest point; I don’t disagree, but use what you can, so long as it feels natural and not too clunky to hold or use.  Although a plain cylindrical rod is shown in DSIC and is the format used by Fr. AC for his wands, I like shaping mine so that there’s a “tip” at one end, either due to the shape of the wand or by attaching some sort of crystal point to it; this is up to you and your tastes, of course.

I can’t find any specific planetary affinity for ebony; it’s a wonderful wood that works with all powers powerfully, but its planetary affinity could be argued in different ways.  Since the wand is the tool of Hermēs, one could argue for an affinity with Mercury; as a scepter, Jupiter; as a replacement for the Solomonic sword, Mars; as a replacement for the Solomonic black-handled knife, and in alignment with its dark and hard properties, Saturn; considering the gold used for inscribing on the wand, the Sun.  Fr. AC suggests Mercury the most, given that the wand is the symbol of the magician and of Hermēs, and how ebony compounds all these natures into a single material; I agree with him, especially as well given that the wand and staff from the Key of Solomon (book II, chapter 8) recommends the first day and hour of Mercury for its making.  In that light, while any planetary time may be used for the creation of the wand, I would be most in agreement with using days and hours of Mercury.

No consecration of this tool is present in DSIC or Agrippa, though as Barrett says for the Heptameron sword in The Magus, and in agreement with general principles from Agrippa, there should be a prayer of consecration said over it.  To this end, I would recommend sprinkling the wand with holy water, anointing it with holy oil (if you’re gilding the wand with gold leaf, you could mix this into the size oil used as adhesive as well), suffumigating it with holy incense (church incense works, or incense compounded of frankincense, benzoin, myrrh, and dragon’s blood).  For such a prayer, we might turn to those of the staff/wand or the sword from the Key of Solomon as mentioned above (again, remember that the DSIC wand is a combination of the Solomonic wand and Solomonic sword!), or another or original such prayer might be recited instead.  For that reason, one might as well use the prayer for the Consecration of the Sword from the Secret Grimoire of Turiel.

Crystal
DSIC only says to “procure of a lapidary” such a crystal, and since most people aren’t expected to have access to raw quartz (or beryl) and the tools to shape and polish it, this makes sense.  However, there’s nothing stopping you if you do.

Given the crystal’s lunar nature, at least according to Agrippa (book I, chapter 7), it would make the most sense to either craft yourself or purchase (and ideally have brought home) the crystal in a day and hour of the Moon while the Moon is increasing.  Increasing, here, would be useful because, as the title of DSIC says, we want to “draw spirits into crystals”, so having a waxing Moon would be helpful for the overall vibe of the crystal.

If desired, as Fr. AC recommends in GTSC, the crystal may be washed ahead of time with a fluid condenser, herbal wash, oil, or other suitably appropriate material conducive to visions and manifestations.  A lunar fluid condenser (wash, etc.) may be used for all rituals, but when dealing with specifically non-lunar or Moon-unaffiliated spirits, substances appropriate to the planet of the spirit may be used instead and washed off after the end of the ritual, preferably with holy water and other mild cleansing substances.

No prior consecration is mentioned in DSIC for the plate, but instead, the crystal is consecrated on-the-fly in the course of the actual DSIC ritual; in addition to this, however, I would also recommend at least an sprinkling of holy water before using it in any way for the first time.

Plate
The plate is to be made of pure gold, if possible.  If pure gold is not available, then use what you can: gold-filled metal, gold leaf, gold paint, shiny brass, or something similar that gives a similar-enough effect, even if not ideal, would still be appropriate.  It being a plate, it should be made as thin as possible without losing stability or strength so as to properly support the weight of the crystal (which, being small, should not be too heavy), but thin enough to allow the crystal to almost completely protrude from both sides.

Due to the solar nature of gold, the plate should be made/purchased and engraved appropriately in a day and hour of the Sun when the Moon is increasing.  Even if you don’t use gold and replace this with something else (engraving the pedestal and applying gold foil, using wood, etc.), this should still be done at such a solar time.

However, because this is of a fundamentally different planetary nature than the (lunar) crystal, I would not recommend setting the crystal into the plate on a day and hour of the Sun necessarily.  Either a day of the Moon and hour of the Sun or a day of the Sun and hour of the Moon while the Moon is increasing would be better, in my mind, or (even more preferred) at the moment of syzygy between the Sun and the Moon (i.e. a New Moon, but not if it’s a solar eclipse).  Doing so would most harmoniously link the illuminating power of the Sun and the materializing power of the Moon.

However, if the crystal is being made to be kept separate from the pedestal, i.e. something disassembled, or using a different format of such tools entirely (e.g. using a different kind of horizontal stand or base for the crystal instead of supporting it vertically), then I would recommend the stand, &c. be made in the day and hour of the Sun with a waxing Moon all the same, and the crystal placed onto the stand at the start of the ritual process itself.

No consecration is mentioned in DSIC for the plate.  However, as the plate is not used separately from the pedestal, I would recommend conscerating this with the pedestal (if at all) once it’s set into place.

Pedestal
The pedestal is to be made from either ebony or ivory, if possible.  As noted in the earlier post, because the crystal size is specified to be pretty small, and given the DSIC illustration, the main face of the pedestal does not need to be large, either.  It should be just large enough to securely hold the plate with the crystal in place.  Following the DSIC illustration, the pedestal plate may be made in the churchhouse-type monstrance shape (as Fr. AC prefers to make them) with the hexagram with central Yod above the crystal, or one may take the Hockley approach from Occult Spells: A Nineteenth Century Grimoire for the more round, sunburst-type monstrance shape.  The pedestal does not need to be elaborate, just something sturdy enough to hold the plate with the crystal aloft.

How high should the pedestal be made?  High enough for the magician and/or scryer to comfortably look at it.  Fr. AC doesn’t seem to make them very tall, but the Hockley illustration seems to make it much taller, probably about 7″ or 8″ from base to top of the plate (including the small cross at the top), assuming a 1.5″ crystal.

As noted before with the wand, ebony’s best choice of planetary affinity may well be Mercury, and the only other instance of ivory I can find on Esoteric Archives besides DSIC is the Clavicle of Solomon, where it’s prescribed as the material for the handle of the white-handled knife (book II, chapter 8), which itself is to be made in the day and hour of Mercury while the Moon is increasing, so whether the pedestal is to be made out of ebony or ivory (or another material entirely), a day and hour of Mercury while the Moon is increasing is a good time to make it.  Alternatively, like when combining the crystal and the plate, one might use a combination of the days and hours of the Sun and Moon, as both these planets rule over the two eyes by which we see, which is the whole purpose of the pedestal.  In addition to those times, I would also recommend making this while the Sun is above the horizon during the daytime; I would argue, further to make this while the Sun is setting (hours 7 through 12) to signify the “drawing down” of spirits into the crystal and triangle.

No consecration is mentioned in DSIC for the pedestal, nor do I personally think one is needed.  However, given the pedestal’s role as a DSIC-equivalent to the Catholic monstrance, one might use the Blessing of a Monstrance or Ostensorium from the Rituale Romanum as a basis for saying such prayers of consecration, in addition to washing it with holy water, anointing it with oil (especially on the engravings on the plate), and suffumigating it with holy incenses like frankincense.  This might be done as one sets the crystal into the plate, if it wasn’t done before the plate was set into the pedestal.

Table
DSIC only tells us what needs to go on the table and the general organization for arranging them, and nothing about its material or size.  Honestly, use whatever material you find comfortable and useful for this: some good sturdy wood is always a good choice (Fr. AC recommends oak, but I don’t think it matters), but polished stone, pure unused wax, clean unused paper or parchment, or any other material will work.  You could even just draw this out in chalk or charcoal if you wanted, but taking inspiration from the Liber Juratus Honorii for the Sigillum Dei Aemeth as well as the use of wax tables from the Ars Almadel of the Lemegeton, wax might be the most ideal and traditional material, but it’s honestly up to you.  I just recommend whatever good, sturdy wood you can find.  Ebony might be ideal to match the ebony pedestal and ebony wand, but it’s not necessary; the most important part of the table is the actual design itself.

As for the size, the table should be made big enough to accommodate all the things that need to be written upon it clearly and neatly, and such that the base of the pedestal (or other stand) for the crystal can fit comfortably within the inner triangle of the table without crossing the lines of the triangle; we want to keep the physical contact of the thing holding the crystal, i.e. the temporary body/vessel of the spirit, as confined as possible within the physical bounds of the triangle.  Plan accordingly based on your pedestal or other stand for the crystal.

As an alternative to making the table using a round piece of wood (or stone, or wax, or whatever), consider that DSIC only ever calls this piece of equipment “the table on which the crystal stands”.  There’s nothing saying that this cannot be an actual table’s surface, such that, if you wanted, you could take an actual table (side table, coffee table, bar table, dinner table, shelf, etc.) and engrave/paint/write the necessary elements directly into/onto that surface.  This is up to you, whether you have the space to dedicate for a permanent DSIC altar or whether you want something smaller, more flexible, and more manageable to move around onto different surfaces as needed.  Because I don’t like the idea of having large pieces of furniture that are hard to move and store and not in constant, active use, I prefer the portable table method, but this is up to you.

Additionally, nothing is said about how permanent the markings need to be.  While it would be best to go the high-quality option of engraving, woodburning, painting, inlaying, or gilding the design onto the table material (whether a portable disc or an actual tabletop’s surface), you could make a temporary one on-the-fly with consecrated chalk or coal.  Heck, if you were in a rush, there’s nothing saying you couldn’t just print out a table onto paper and use that for on-the-fly, gotta-do-this-now conjurations.  It’s not ideal, but it is absolutely an option.

Due to the multiplanetary nature of the table, I don’t think it needs to be made in any one kind of time or day or hour or anything like that, nor can I find any sort of recommended time for other similar devices like the Sigillum Dei Aemeth or the Table of Practice from the Ars Paulina, though the Ars Almadel recommends the days and hours of the Sun.  I don’t think that’s necessary, honestly, but it’s not a bad idea.  Likewise, given that the purpose of the table is to bind spirits given the triangle, one might use days and hours of Saturn (which is also placed over all the other planets) instead.  All that said, regardless of when you might make the table, I do like making things in general while the Moon is waxing, and having the Moon waxing would help to “draw spirits into crystals” just as said before.

No consecration is mentioned in DSIC for the table, nor do I personally think one is needed.  If nothing else, I think a preliminary sprinkling with holy water and a light amount of suffumigation with holy incense of the table would be more than sufficient.

All the same considerations for the table apply if you choose to eschew the separate pedestal and table approach for a combined Table of Practice approach.

Ring of Solomon
Following the example of both the Lemegeton Goetia as well as Barrett’s earlier illustration of magic tools for use with the Heptameron, the ring should be made out of silver and sized appropriately for the little finger of the right hand.  The ring should have on the front (whether the band itself, a bevel, or a gemstone) a hexagram with either a central dot in the center of it (🔯, the classic Seal of Solomon) or, following the inspiration of the DSIC symbols, a central Yod in it. If a gemstone is used, anything of a solar or fiery nature would be ideal, with carnelian or sunstone being most preferred.

The ring should be made while the Moon is increasing, preferably in hours and days of the Sun, or at a suitably appropriate solar election.

Taking the Lemegeton influence a bit further, and in agreement with Fr. AC, if one wishes to have further inscriptions on the ring, then either “Tetragrammaton” or יהוה should be engraved on the inside of the band, with “Michael” and “Anaphexeton” on the outside of the band (or, in Hebrew interpreting “Anaphexeton” as “Tzabaoth”, מיכאל and צבאות).

No consecration is given for the ring in most texts, but if we look at some of older texts (e.g. Testament of Solomon, Veritable Key of Solomon, etc.) as well as what Agrippa says about rings generally, it might be best to consecrate the ring by sprinkling it with holy water, anointing it with holy oil, suffumigating it with frankincense and other solar incenses all in the day and hour of the Sun with the Moon waxing.  The prayer before the exorcism of Astaroth from the Veritable Key of Solomon could be used here for this (translation by Stephen Skinner):

O Lord God who created everything out of nothing, and foresaw them before they existed, and crowned us with honor and glory and set us over the works of your hands, and subjected all things under our feet, all sheep and oxen, and over this most sacred word may you always be blessed for ever and ever. Amen.

Alternatively, the various prayers from the different versions of the Hygromanteia might be used for consecrating the ring, although the rings from that line of Solomonic texts are of a different nature and style.  However, in general, it seems that the ring is consecrated automatically by construction, so beyond sprinkling/anointing/suffumigating, anything more would be up to you.

Incense
DSIC says nothing about the types of incenses to be used, so we can default to whatever blends we want that are in agreement with the planet of the spirit we’re calling upon.  Fr. AC gives a bunch of such lists in GTSC, but you can use whatever you want.  In general, frankincense is always a recommended default if you can’t get anything more specific than that.  Whether you want to use self-igniting incense like sticks or cones, loose incense on self-igniting charcoal, or loose incense on a burning flame is up to you and not really important to the practice of DSIC.

The incense is consecrated on-the-fly in the course of the ritual.  However, I would recommend sprinkling the incense with a very small flick of holy water immediately before reciting their consecration.

Vessel for Incense
Although the DSIC illustration gives a depiction of a stake-like “tripod” that may be held or thrust into the ground, which agrees with the designs given in Turiel and Complete Book of Magic Science, this (a) is unwieldy as most people aren’t going to do many conjurations outside anymore unless you have a specific need for it (b) can’t be put safely on a stable or solid floor (c) is awkward and tiring to hold (d) assumes you’re going to be using loose incense to be burnt on a source of sufficiently high heat enough to melt and burn them.  None of these assumptions are great to make anymore as a necessity, given the types of incense we have easily available to us nowadays and given the fact we tend to do conjurations inside on hard floors, so a different kind of brazier or incense vessel might be better instead.  Use whatever you have that’s convenient: a tripod with fireproof bowl (like what Fr. AC uses), a simple incense brazier, a stick holder, whatever.

No consecration of these is given in DSIC or any related text; incense is consecrated on-the-fly in many Solomonic texts, but that doesn’t seem to apply to the incense.  If the vessel is one made of iron or steel, you could use the consecration of the needle or other iron instruments from the Key of Solomon (book II, chapter 19) in a day and hour of Venus (?!) (or of Jupiter, when the Key of Solomon says to begin making the instruments but not finish them, or of Mercury instead of Venus according to one manuscript) or, more simply than that, a day and hour of Mars.  Mars might be good in general, since the purpose of the incense vessel is to support some sort of combustion to consume the incense.  More generally, you could just sprinkle the vessel with holy water before its initial use.

Candles
DSIC says to use “two holy wax lights”, which mandates two candles over any other source of flame-based illumination (like oil lamps).  Since most people nowadays use candles anyway with oil lamps being far rarer, this is fine and acceptable for modern practice (and is an indication of the relative modernity of DSIC).  If you wanted to be fancy about it, like Fr. AC suggests, you could use pure beeswax for them, but any wax would be fine, so long as the wax was new and fresh and the candles not previously burned for any prior work or need.  I personally recommend white or uncolored plain wax for this for general workings, as it also ties in well with the silver candle holders that are prescribed for their use, with white being both a color of the Moon and appropriate for all works for all planets.  Regardless, two candles should be used and prepared accordingly.

However, as Fr. AC says, you could switch them out for other candles colored appropriately for the planet aligned with the spirit to be conjured, if you want.  Frater AC also suggests that the candles, if to be used specifically for a particular planet, may also be anointed with an appropriate planetary or angelic fluid condenser, or oil, or some other substance to further align the candles to the spirit to be called in the conjuration.  I don’t like that approach, personally, and would rather add a number of smaller candles to surround the table and crystal in a number and color appropriate to that planet, both for extra light and as offerings, and anointing those instead.

Because DSIC says that the candles should be “holy”, this is where consecration for them is mandated, but no consecration is given.  The Key of Solomon gives a reasonable consecration of candles (book II, chapter 12), which is what I base my own consecration method on, to be done in the day and hour of Mercury while the Moon is waxing.

Candle Holders
The holders for the candles should be made of silver or otherwise silver-plated metal; barring that, any similarly high-polish, reflective, smooth candlesticks of a similar appearance would work fine, so long as they can hold the candles upright in a stable and fireproof way.  That’s basically it.

However, the Secret Grimoire of Turiel and Complete Book of Magic Science show similar candlesticks, much taller in height, one of which has the Tetragrammaton engraved on the base in Hebrew (יהוה), the other the name “Saday” in Latin script.  These same names in any combination of script (יהוה and שדי, Tetragrammaton and Shadai, etc.) may be used.

No consecration of these is given in DSIC, Turiel, Hockley, Heptameron, or other Solomonic texts.  However, an initial washing or sprinkling with holy water is recommended before their initial use.

Book of Spirits (Liber Spirituum), Pen, and Ink
We already discussed the nature of the Liber Spirituum, so between the physical description given in DSIC of it being made about 7″ and from pure white, unused, new paper (or vellum, or parchment, or whatever), I would most recommend the consecration process given as the first option by Agrippa (book IV, chapter 9).  Fr. AC gives a more thorough description of this in GTSC, in which he also references the Veritable Key of Solomon and other Solomonica.  Follow those instructions; I don’t need to explain them here, besides that they should be followed.

With such a consecrated Liber Spirituum, it would be ideal to have an appropriately-consecrated pen and ink.  For this, the Key of Solomon once again provides a wonderful consecration, whether to use on its own or use as a base for a derived consecration (book II, chapter 14).  The ink may also be consecrated appropriately, and may either be made general for use with all spirits, or may be made in special ways for each of the seven planets (such that you’d have a Mars ink, a Saturn ink, a Jupiter ink, etc.).  Recipes for these may be found elsewhere.

But, if you’re taking the simpler approach more of a Commentarium Spirituum, a record of conjurations rather than a proper Book of Spirits, then it can just be as simple as a new, unused notebook, or as fancy as a unique custom-bound journal.  Sprinkle it with holy water and flip the pages through some frankincense, if you want.  As for the pen, I recommend that you just use a new ballpoint pen of your liking; you can use the aforementioned Key of Solomon-style consecration if you want, or just do the same sprinkling/suffumigation with incense and be done with it.  Both the notebook and pen would most reasonably be consecrated in days and hours of Mercury while the Moon is increasing, just as the Key of Solomon instructs.  However, even with so little done for them, both this notebook and ballpoint pen are still considered consecrated, so they shouldn’t be used for mundane purposes after they’re consecrated.

Either way, Liber or Commentarium, keep it safe and free from inspection by the eyes of other people that you don’t explicitly trust.

Circle
DSIC doesn’t say what the circle should be drawn upon, with what it should be drawn, or how big it should be drawn.  Obviously, the circle should be on the ground somehow, but depending on your approach and the environment in which you’re working (outside, inside, hard floor, carpet, etc.), you might take a different approach.  You could use a tarp that you paint the circle upon, perhaps using extra bits to temporarily cover the empty quadrant for the spirit information, or paint it on in temporary/washable paint or ink that can later be washed out.

However, if you’re doing this on a hardwood floor or otherwise firm surface, and have the space and means to do so, then according to Agrippa (book IV, chapter 10), you would draw the circle directly on the ground in consecrated coal, though chalk would work as well.  Consecrating writing materials of this sort could be as simple as just sprinkling them with holy water and suffumigating them in frankincense or church incense, though I have my own method of consecrating chalk based on Key of Solomon consecrations for ink and pens that I’d prefer to use.  If you’re doing this outside on soil, then you’d inscribe the circle; given how we don’t have a dagger here for that purpose like what we’d use in the Key of Solomon or other Solomonica, the next best choice available to us if we don’t want to introduce a dagger into the ceremony would be using the wand itself.  This makes sense, especially as the wand is the DSIC replacement for the Solomonic sword, and given how Agrippa says to use the sword to inscribe pentagrams or triangles on the ground, and given how the wand is supposed to at least trace the DSIC circle, this is a natural use for the wand.  If you didn’t want to use the wand, however, then we might introduce a dagger into our DSIC methods, such as that from the Secret Grimoire of Turiel or the black-handled knife from the Key of Solomon (book II, chapter 8).

There are different diameters given in different grimoires; some say 9′ in diameter, others say 9′ in radius (meaning 18′ in diameter!), whatever.  Make the circle large enough for you and your needs, taking into account how much space you have available, whether you have a scryer with you, whether you need a table in the circle with you for supplies, whether you plan on spinning or lying down, etc.

The circle is consecrated in the process of the DSIC ritual by tracing it with the wand with the right hand, presumably (but not explicitly) clockwise, while reciting a short prayer.  Unlike the process described in the Heptameron or in Agrippa, DSIC does not say that one should sprinkle the space with holy water before entering it; I personally like adding in this approach, though it’s not strictly necessary according to DSIC, but one may also sprinkle the whole of the ritual area (both inside the circle and outside it) as a single whole temple space before even the first proper prayer of DSIC is said, reciting either Psalm 51:7 (as in the Heptameron) or 2 Chronicles 16:14-42 (as per Agrippa).


Oof.  I don’t like to make single posts this long (clocking in at around 5900 words!), but I figured this was the best way to get all this out at once in one fell swoop.  We’ll pick up next time on some other concerns leading up to implementing the DSIC ritual.

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: On Constructions and Consecrations

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and today we can move on to other topics  Last time, we discussed the form and function of the magic circle and its likely Heptameron-based origins.  If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

I honestly didn’t mean to make this long, or this wordy, of a series of posts; what I thought I could simply discuss in a single post has (so far!) become eleven posts with about 40,000 words (more like 44,000 if you include all the quotations).  And we haven’t even gotten to the actual ritual part yet of DSIC; we’ve just covered the tools and implements of the ritual!  Holy yikes.  Still, before we get on to the ritual itself, there is one more tool-related thing I wanted to discuss: how to actually create and consecrate (where needed) all the implements of DSIC.

So, at this point, we know what we need, right?  According to DSIC, we need the following tools, supplies, and general bits of equipment:

These are all the implements we need according to the text of DSIC.  However, unlike other texts such as the Key of Solomon or Lemegeton, instructions for preparing all the above are badly specified: where specifications are given at all, some are extremely sparse while others are pretty detailed.  We did touch on some of the designs, specifications, and constructions of the above in our earlier DSIC posts, but before we get onto how to actually use all these things, this would be a good time to actually specify what we can, backed up with other sources like what’s in Agrippa’s Fourth Book or other texts.

Okay, so, what do we know from DSIC about the size, materials, and processes used to make everything?  First, let’s remind ourselves once more of our old friend, the DSIC illustration:

We’ve already gone over the designs, inscriptions, and the like for everything in earlier posts, so we can ignore those for this post.  Let’s focus instead on the materials and overall form of the materials as DSIC gives them.  Where I say “engraved” below, this may also be interpreted as “written”, “gilded”, or “inscribed”, depending on the materials to be used.

  • Crystal: quartz, about 1.5″ diameter, spherical, as clear as possible.
  • Plate: pure gold, size not stated (but likely about 2.3″ diameter based on image), circular (according to image), engraved on the front and back with divine names and symbols.
  • Pedestal: ebony or ivory, size not stated,  shaped and engraved like in image.
  • Table: materials not stated, size not stated, shape not stated.
  • Ring: materials not stated, size not stated, shape not stated (but likely that from The Magus‘ earlier illustration).
  • Wand: black ebony, size not stated, shaped and engraved as in image.
  • Lamen: materials not stated, size not stated, shape not stated, engraved as in image.
  • Circle: materials not stated, size not stated, shaped and engraved as in image.
  • Candles: wax, size not stated, must be “holy”
  • Candlesticks: silver, size not stated, shaped as in or approximated by image.
  • Brazier: materials not stated (though must be fireproof), size not stated, shaped as in image.
  • Liber Spirituum: pure white new/unused, vellum or paper, about 7″ long, shape not stated.
  • Pen: materials not stated, size not stated, shape not stated.
  • Ink: materials not stated.
  • Incense: materials not stated.

We don’t have a lot to go on here; DSIC leaves so many of these objects badly specified, if at all, but just says that we need them.  As a result, many people will have different interpretations of what needs to be done and now much work or style needs to go into all these things, as well as taking into consideration availability and cost of some of these tools and implements.  This goes doubly for other things that we might expect to see, based on other Western grimoires or Solomonic literature: robes, crowns, specific types of incense, and the like.  We just don’t have a lot.  We could bring in more things, though it wouldn’t necessarily be “strictly DSIC”, or we could use variants of the things, like using the actual tripod-style vessel for incense that Fr. AC uses instead of the stake-shaped one from the DSIC illustration, , or substituting the specific pedestal from the DSIC illustration with the one we saw from Frederick Hockley’s Occult Spells: A Nineteenth Century Grimoire.

Still, we know enough to get started.  Knowing what the ritual text of DSIC prescribes to use as tools, implements, and supplies is all well and good, but because this is a ritual text we’re discussing, and one that falls more-or-less within the Western grimoire and Solomonic traditions, we can’t talk about tool construction without discussing tool consecration; we can only get but so far if we discuss the purely physical materials involved without discussing how to not just make them but prepare them in a way appropriate for our needs.  Granted, not everything necessarily needs to be made in a magical or spiritual way, but it sure helps if it does.  This is the essence of consecration.

First, what do we mean by consecration?  The word itself literally means “make or declare sacred”, which seems straightforward enough, but how is this thought of from an occult standpoint?  Agrippa goes on at length in his Fourth Book on the topic (book IV, chapter 8), which is pretty well-phrased, in my opinion, so let me just offer a summary of what he says here so as to spare everyone the bother of an unnecessarily long quote:

  • All instruments and things used for magic should be consecrated.
  • Consecration is achieved through the power of the person performing the consecration and the virtue of the prayer used for consecration.
  • The person performing the consecration must live their life in a holy way and must possess the power of sanctification (i.e. consecration), both of which are achieved through “dignification and initiation”, and must also have a strong faith in both.
  • The prayer used for consecration must be suitably holy for the purpose, and such holiness may be derived in one of three ways:
    • From one’s own divine inspiration
    • From the power transferred to such a prayer by initiation or ordination into a spiritual tradition
    • From the sanctification and sanctity of calling upon, remembering, or referring to other things that are holy or done in a holy way, and may be related to the thing presently being consecrated.
      • For water: how God placed the Firmament in the “midst of the waters”, how God placed the font of water in Paradise from which came the four holy rivers to water the whole Earth, how God sent forth the flood to destroy the Nephilim, how God manipulated the waters of the Red Sea during the Exodus of the Jews, how Moses drew forth water from a stone, etc.
      • For fire: how God made Fire to be an instrument to execute justice and punishment and vengeance and expiation of sins, how God will command a conflagration to precede him when he judges the world, how God appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush, etc.
      • For oils and perfumes: how God decreed that the holy anointing oil be made and kept and used, how the name “Christ” itself indicates anointing, how the two divine olive trees produce oil for the lamps that burn continually before the face of God, etc.
      • For candles and lamps: how the altar of God contains a sacred fire for sacrifice, how there are seven lamps that burn before the face of God, etc.
      • For a circle or place: the sanctification of the Throne of God, Mount Sinai, the Tabernacle, of the Covenant, the Holy of Holies, the Temple of Jerusalem, Mount Golgotha, the Temple of Christ, Mount Tabor, etc.
      • For swords: how a sword was divinely and miraculously sent to Judah of the Maccabees, etc.
      • For books, drawings, writings, etc.: how God sanctified the Tablets of the Ten Commandments, how God sanctified the Old and New Testaments, the sanctification of the Law and of Prophets and of Scriptures, the Testament/Book/Knowledge/Wisdom of God, etc.
  • Some consecrations make use of divine names, holy seals, sacramentals of the Church, and other apparati of divinity to lead to a general effect of sanctification and atonement.
  • Every consecration should make use primarily of consecrated water, oil, fire, and incense.
  • Every consecration should be performed in the presence of some source of light, preferably from one or more consecrated candles (literally “holy wax-lights”, note the phrasing!) or lamps.
  • Every consecration of things that are profane, polluted, or defiled in any way should be preceded first by an exorcism and atonement in order to make them sufficiently pure so as to better receive the virtue of consecration.
  • Every consecration should be followed by a blessing upon the object, with the breath passing the lips (i.e. either spoken aloud or silently so long as breath is flowing).
  • Every consecration should be performed with one’s own holiness, authority, license, and need in mind, all performed earnestly and intently.

So much for the general ideas and notions.  In addition to the things to be remembered for a variety of consecrations, Agrippa also gives a few specific rules, too:

  • When consecrating a circle or other ritual space, the Prayer of Solomon at the Dedication of the Temple (2 Chronicles 6:14-42) should be recited while sprinkling the area with holy water and burning sacred incense.
  • When consecrating instruments and “all other things whatsoever that are serviceable to this Art”, they are to be sprinkled with holy water, suffumigated in sacred incense, anointed with holy oil, sealed “with some holy Sigil”, and blessed with prayer, after having commemorated things that were made or done in a holy way as noted above.

And, moreover, he describes two other methods of consecration in addition to the processes and methods given above:

  • “Superstitious” consecration, by which the rite and act of consecration or collection of any sacrament in the Church is transferred to that thing which we would consecrate.
    • This is a little unclear to me, but it seems like when an object either comes in contact with something that has been duly consecrated by someone with the power to do so (e.g. touching a ritual knife with a consecrated Host of the Eucharist).
    • Alternatively, this could be when something is consecrated “by virtue of” some sacrament (e.g. “by the virtue of my baptism, may this dagger be baptized and made holy and fit for divine works”).
  • Vows, oblations, and sacrifice also produce a kind of consecration, given that they are representative of a pact or exchange of power and resource between the one who gives and the one who receives.
    • Whenever we dedicate something with intent and purpose, the thing becomes consecrated.
    • Examples include both physical things like incense, oils, rings, and talismans, as well as immaterial things like sigils, prayers, enchantments, pictures, and so forth.

Agrippa mentions at the end of this section in his Fourth Book that many of these topics about consecration are those “of which we have largely spoken in our third book of Occult Philosophy”, and it’s true; book III, chapter 62 basically touches all of the above, but pretty much everything from chapter 54 (“Of cleanness, and how to be observed”) to chapter 64 (“Of certain religious observations, ceremonies, and rites of perfumings, unctions, and the like”) are useful to read here for more information on how to perform these types of ceremonies and works.

But, on top of all that we get from Agrippa’s books (which is good at a high-level but poor for specific implementation), we also can build upon the vast majority of Solomonic and other Western grimoiric/magical literature which contains specific rites, prayers, exorcisms, and benedictions to be used for a variety of the tools called for in DSIC.  In addition to scouring for whatever we could get from the rest of Francis Barrett’s The Magus, of special note to us would be those of the Heptameron, the Liber Juratus Honorii, the Key of Solomon (especially book II which gives plenty of consecrations for a variety of tools and supplies), the Secret Grimoire of Turiel, and to a lesser extent, the Lemegeton, but I’m sure that there are various other texts that we could draw on for what we would need.

That being said, DSIC doesn’t really prescribe consecrations for many of the things that we need in the ritual, or when they do (especially the “two holy wax lights”), no consecration is given.  The way I think of it, there are three reasons for this:

  1. Some things are consecrated ahead of time, and DSIC just doesn’t specify them (e.g. the candles).
  2. Some things are consecrated “on the fly” in the process of the ritual itself (e.g. the crystal and the circle).
  3. Some things are consecrated “automatically”, whether by the natural virtues of the substances and materials from which they are made, or in the process of constructing them by virtue of the things (especially holy names, holy sigils, seals of spirits, etc.) written, inscribed, or engraved upon them.

And, when it comes to your approach to consecration, there are three ways you can go about it:

  1. Strict approach: if the text doesn’t say to do something, don’t do it.  Conversely, if the text says to do something, do it.
  2. Lenient approach: if the text doesn’t say to do something, you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to, but you can bring in influences from other texts if desired.  But, if the text definitely says to do something, do it, at least as best as you can.
  3. Free approach: like the lenient approach (if the doesn’t doesn’t specify something, you can do something if you want to anyway), but if the text does say to do something specifically, you can take it or leave it, or substitute with another method or construction instead.

The thing about the free approach, even though the way I phrased it might raise some hackles or elicit some sort of immediate “ugh, newbs” response, is that it’s probably the most common approach by far, at least in some cases, because of how bad a job DSIC does at specifying most things.  Consider the pedestal: most people just omit it and fold the design elements of it into the table to produce a Table of Practice, which doesn’t properly match up with DSIC anyway, but which works all the same, as well as the fact that most people don’t bother with a Liber Spirituum or ring of Solomon.  Additionally, though DSIC (and all its predecessors and contemporaries) was written in a heavily Christian or Abrahamic occcultural sphere, many people tend to omit some of the phrasing or change it so that it’s least starkly Christian, or they’ll replace certain names with others to make more Hermetic or qabbalistic sense (e.g. using the divine name Shaddai El Chai in the conjuration itself instead of “blessed and holy Tetragrammaton” when calling upon spirits of the Moon, since that divine name is used for the sephirah Yesod, associated with the Moon).

If one were to take a grimoire-fundamentalist or grimoire-purist approach, then DSIC might be a disappointing text, because it leaves so much unspecified that goes against so much of what we’re used to in a complete grimoire.  For that reason, the strict approach becomes the least satisfying option to take, with the lenient approach becoming something more like what we see Fr. AC taking in GTSC.  For instance, Fr. AC anoints his crystal with an appropriate fluid condenser, references the “benediction of the lamen” and the invocations for the days of the week from the Secret Grimoire of Turiel (specifically from Frederick Hockley’s A Complete Book of Magic Science) as well as using the weekday prayers from the Heptameron as the oaths for the seven planetary angels,  and gives plenty of tips on preparation, purification, and the like—none of which are found in DSIC, but which Fr. AC finds it beneficial to do regardless so as to fill in the gaps left behind by DSIC.  In this “lenient” approach (“lenient” only in the sense of bringing in more things to DSIC than are strictly present), we’d want to do more consecrations ahead of time than simply relying on on-the-fly consecrations for the few things that are made that way, or than by relying on automatic consecrations alone.

In all fairness, I don’t think the strict approach to DSIC is actually feasible, because DSIC is so high-level and bare-bones of a ritual implementation of conjuration that it really needs outside information and practices to make it more complete.  Yes, you could get by with doing what the ritual text describes and no more or less, but that’d be like reading some of the entries in the Greek Magical Papyri and thinking that those would be complete, too.  Consider the Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios (PGM IV.1596—1715), which is my ritual implementation of what the PGM gives, which is only a prayer and nothing else; heck, anywhere we see “add/do/perform the usual” means that there are necessarily gaps that would need to be filled in.  I consider the DSIC in a similar light: it’s a great ritual framework for performing conjurations, but it’s a framework and structure that only has some specifications, not all the ones we’d need to have a fully fleshed-out ritual.  That’s where texts like Fr. AC’s GTSC and Fr. RO’s SS come into play, because they offer (more or less) full implementations of DSIC, complete with scripts, descriptions, instructions, processes, and the like.  However, because DSIC specifies so little, any two magician’s implementations of DSIC will most likely differ in some of the details, keeping only what DSIC actually specifies in common between them.

Okay, so, that being said, let’s take a look at the few consecrations provides us.  Of the tools and supplies that the DSIC text prescribes, only three things are to be consecrated on the fly, viz. in the order they appear in the ritual: the crystal used for conjuring the spirit, the magic circle, and the incense.  The crystal is consecrated by laying your hand upon it and praying over it, the circle is consecrated by tracing its boundaries with the wand, and the incense is consecrated by praying over them after it’s been ignited.  That’s pretty much it; we can get into the specific wording of these prayers in a later post, but suffice it here to say that this is all that DSIC provides us.  But, as far as these specific prayers are concerned, it’s clear that the author of DSIC basically took the exorcism/consecration/blessing of the incense from the Heptameron, but the Heptameron differs in the process a bit for the incense, and doesn’t use the same consecration of the circle at all, nor does Heptameron include a consecration for the crystal since the Heptameron doesn’t make use of any scrying medium.  The conjuration of the Ars Paulina from the Lemegeton includes a bit about the crystal, but though there are some similarities between this and what’s in DSIC, it’s not all that comparable.

That DSIC makes use of Heptameron prayers isn’t surprising; after all, we saw how clearly the Heptameron influenced DSIC at least as far as its magic circle design, and as we’ll eventually see, the overall process of the Heptameron can kinda be seen in DSIC, too.  However, it is surprising that DSIC, despite being indebted to Agrippa on so many other accounts, seems to almost ignore Agrippa’s prescriptions and methods of consecration, not even going as far as what the Heptameron does for the magic circle in sprinkling the magic circle or incense with holy water before blessing them.  And, considering that there are some similarities between the stuff in the Secret Grimoire of Turiel (aka Hockley’s A Complete Book of Magic Science), which is most likely roughly contemporaneous with DSIC, there’s plenty of stuff in there that might be considered parallel works, too, especially as Hockley was likely in touch with people who did both DSIC and Turiel stuff.

We don’t have a lot to work on with how little DSIC provides us, whether in terms of construction or consecration.  But we have enough to get started, and we’ll talk about actually making everything next time, and making it all fit for use.

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: The Wand and the Ring

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and today we can move on to other topics  Last time, we wrapped up the design of the lamen, noting how to fill in the circles and with what names or seals you might need.  If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

Okay, so now we’ve reviewed some of the biggest things we know we need: the crystal, the pedestal and the table (or, if you combine them, the Table of Practice) and the lamen.  If only those were the only things we needed to discuss, but alas!  There are still even more things!  While we won’t get into all of them today, we can knock out a few of them in a single post, because there’s not that much to say about them—whether because they’re so straightforward or because whether there’s just not much written about them.

First, let’s talk about the wand.  We know we need a wand, because DSIC says so:

…take your black ebony wand, with the gilt characters on it and trace the circle…

And that’s the only instance in the ritual text of DSIC for using the wand.  There’s no description given in the text, but the illustration that accompanies DSIC gives us one:

The wand is the large stick on the left, a long thin cylindrical rod with the divine names “Agla On Tetragrammaton”, with a hexagram between “Agla” and “On”, a hexagram with a central Yod in it (like as depicted on the pedestal as well as described for the gold disc for the pedestal) between “On” and “Tetragrammaton”, and another cross after “Tetragrammaton”.  This depiction is also accompanied by the caption:

The Magic Wand to be used in Invocations by the Chrystal.  Write or engrave on the other side “Ego Alpha et Omega”.

So we know that there needs to be two sets of writings on the wand, which (as stated by the text) should be made of ebony with “gilt characters”, meaning that we need to use gold for all the inscriptions; you can just use gold ink or gold paint, or if you want to go the extra mile, engrave the ebony shaft and use actual gold leaf to gild it.

That’s basically it.  Fr AC, as usual, sticks to the design of this pretty exactly: a simple, straight, unembellished ebony rod with the characters applied in gold paint.  Nothing really that special to note, though I will note that the design of the wand he gives in GTSC omits the central Yod in the second hexagram, even if he includes it on the wands he makes and includes the mark in a separate diagram just before the completed wand design image.  A graphical oversight, I assume; the wand clearly should have the Yod mark (or, as Fr. AC claims, the Daleth mark) in the middle hexagram, as he makes on his actual wands.

However, instead of writing the phrase “Ego Alpha et Omega” in Latin as DSIC indicates, Fr. AC writes “Εγο το Αλφα και το Ω”, since he “decided to use the phrase and alphabet used in the Greek language for ‘I am the Alpha and Omega,’ as it seemed to be appropriate and stayed within the original context”.  Though he says that “end result turned out quite well”, there’s an unfortunate error in his design; as with the linguistic errors he made on on his version of the table, there’s a typo in the Greek here, too.  This phrase is taken from Revelations 22:13, which in Greek starts “Εγω το Αλφα και το Ω” (“Ἐγὼ τὸ Ἄλφα καὶ τὸ Ὦ” using polytonic Greek), using an ōmega instead of omikron for the first word.  Despite the minor though unfortunate typo (especially using such expensive materials as gold and ebony), I don’t disagree with using the original Greek phrase here, though some might find it weird to mix Greek script on one side and Latin script on the other.

Anyway, back to the wand design.  Fr. RO basically takes this same design and approach, but in RWC, he omits the reverse side of the wand; he doesn’t include “Ego Alpha et Omega” on the wand, just the three divine names with the three symbols.  He fixes this approach in SS, where he gives the three divine names with the three symbols on one side, and the phrase “Ego Sum Alpha et Omega” on the back; basically the same thing, with the word “sum” (“I am”) elided in the original statement.   Fr. RO also makes a note in SS: “Note that you don’t have to use a wand; you can also use your index finger, the finger of Jupiter”.  And that’s actually a really interesting point to make, because it taps into some of the symbolism of the wand: depending on your approach, it can be seen as a conductor’s baton, the caduceus of Hermēs/Mercurius, a drumstick to beat the sacred drum of the shaman, or a king’s scepter.  Fr. RO typically has a very Jovian-minded approach to his style of Hermetic magic that focuses much on kingship and royalty, but I don’t disagree with it: the wand is our symbol of divinely-entrusted Power.

For myself?  I originally used a simple version, made of no more than a carved pine dowel I got from Michael’s with just the front half of the inscriptions (since I was working from RWC at the time), which I then carved at the tip and stained and finished off with polyurethane, but I eventually made myself something much nicer from ebony, gold, silver, and quartz.  I described my approach to my wand on the craft page I made for it, documenting how I made it and my own design.  It’s not a close fit with DSIC, but it is based on it; I incorporated the symbols for the wand from the Key of Solomon, rewrote the divine names in Hebrew (אגלא, ון, יהוה), and replaced “Ego Alpha et Omega” with the word AZOTH.  No, it’s not by-the-book DSIC, but it fulfills all the same requirements and needs, and throws in a bit of traditional Solomonica as well.  (And, depending on your line of thinking, the symbols from the Key of Solomon can sometimes be read as highly distorted, devolved, and degraded Hebrew script for many of the same things we’d engrave anyway.)

However, looking at the three symbols on the wand, something does cross my mind.  We know that the illustrator for DSIC loves hexagrams: they’re present on the lamen (which, to be fair, is according to Agrippa’s specifications), they’re present in the magic circle (which we’ll get to in a later post), they’re present on the gold disc for the pedestal, and they’re present on the pedestal stand itself.  And now we see them on the wand, as well, but…I think it’s important to pick up on the fact that there are three separate symbols here on the wand, and the only time we see another set of three symbols is on the front side of the gold plate for the pedestal that has the pentagram, hexagram with central Yod, and cross with the name Tetragrammaton.  It occurs to me that the first symbol on the wand, the hexagram between “Agla” and “On”, might have been intended to be a pentagram and not a hexagram to match with the same symbols on the gold disc that supports the crystal, and that it’s a hexagram could have been a mistake on the part of the illustrator for DSIC.

It’s not clear, and Agrippa’s Fourth Book doesn’t describe the use of a wand at all, and this is the only instance of a wand described or used in the entirety of The Magus, as well.  It’s not clear where DSIC incorporated the wand from, and I’m not sure.  The closest thing I can think of, if not texts like the Key of Solomon itself, is a small description from the Liber Juratus Honorii, the Sworn Book of Honorius (LHJ):

But the wand should have four sides. On one side should be written “Adonay”; on the second side “Sabaoth”; on the third, “Hiskiros”; on the fourth “Emanuel”. On the middle of the wand make the pentagonal figure of Solomon, and where the wand is held, a cross, and thus it will be prepared for sacred and wonderful works.

If you think about it, this is kinda sorta like what DSIC has, if you squint a bit and cross your eyes.  But I do think that it’s significant to note the two symbols on the wand that LJH does describe: a pentagram “on the middle of the wand” and a cross “where the wand is held”.  If you reckon “where the wand is held” to be the bottom end of the wand according to the DSIC illustration, then we get a match with where the cross is placed on the DSIC wand.  The middle symbol of the DSIC wand is the hexagram with central Yod in it, but if you swap that with the blank hexagram and reinterpret the “figure of Solomon” to be a pentagram instead of a hexagram, then you’d end up with a modified form of the DSIC wand with a hexagram with central Yod in it, a pentagram, and a cross—the same set of symbols in the same order that DSIC gives for the gold plate inscription.

I dunno.  I think there’s a semi-convincing argument to be made there, but it’s inconclusive either way.  Looking at the Key of Solomon isn’t really helpful, as the wand described in that doesn’t match with any of this above, though Joseph H. Peterson of Esoteric Archives has the note for this section on their entry for the Key of Solomon:

The staff and wand seem to be interchangeable in book 2 chapter 7. See footnote 4. I believe these characters are nothing more than corrupted versions of the Hebrew characters “AGLA + VN + IHVH” found in TrithemiusScot’s magical texts have “Tetragrammaton + Adonay + Agla + Craton” on the wand. The staff and wand are conspicuously absent from the list of instruments in the Hebrew Key of Solomon as well as Ad. 36674.

How long should the wand be?  No description is given anywhere.  My default preference is the length from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger, fully extended in a straight line.  I find that to be a comfortable length, but it’s up to you.  Joseph H. Peterson has an article up on grimoiric wand lore over at Esoteric Archives, but even then, there’s not much.  Thesaurus Spirituum says one cubit (about 18″), Le Grand Grimoire says 19.5″, and some versions of the Key of Solomon say 24″.  So, pick something in the 20″-ish range and you’ll be good; it just so happens that the average person’s elbow-to-middle-fingertip distance happens to be in that same range, depending on your body’s proportions, so that might be the best standard to measure by, especially if you’re exceptionally tall or exceptionally short.  That said, I’ve seen some people use much shorter wands than this, sometimes even shorter than 12″, so there’s certainly room for variance.  As for thickness, perhaps as thick as your index finger at the knuckle, something with substance but nothing too unwieldy.

Now, all that being said, this assumes that the wand is held by the end with the cross symbol on it, such that the DSIC image shows the wand “pointed up”.  However, looking back through the old mailing list archives of Fr. RO’s RWC Yahoo! Groups, I find (almost seven years after the fact) that Fr. RO uses the wand with the cross-symbol end being the “point”; this is the original interpretation I used, as shown by my first wand.  In other words, the base of the wand starts at the start of the text “Agla…” and finishes with “…Tetragrammaton ✠” at the “point”; when I went to Hebrew script for my ebony wand, I kept Agla close to the base and the Tetragrammaton closer to the tip.  So, really, the DSIC illustration would seem to most conventionally be interpreted to have the wand shown “pointed down”; I think this makes the most sense, since we hold the wand where the text starts, and as the of the divine names text “continues” our reach, it shows the flow of both semantic meaning as well as power from our hands.  Others, however, found that it doesn’t matter for them, since the wand as shown has no actual “point” to it, so it may be used either way as a general rod of power.  Fr. AC doesn’t say which way the wand should be held, though the old promo video for GTSC at the 4:31 mark shows Fr. AC holding the wand in a similar way, with “Agla…” closer to the base and “…Tetragrammaton ✠” at the point.  Based on all this, we should hold the wand from the “Agla…” side, regardless whether we write the names in Latin script or in Hebrew script.

So much for the wand, but I do want to make one more note here: though Agrippa in his Fourth Book doesn’t really describe the use of a wand, he does describe the use of a sword for use in conjurations, mostly when performing conjurations of evil spirits (book IV, chapter 12)

And after all the courses are finished, then cease a little; and if any Spirit shall appear, let the Invocant turn himself towards the Spirit, and courteously receive him, and earnestly entreating him, let him first require his name, and if he be called by any other name; and then proceeding further, let him ask him whatsoever he will: and if in any thing the Spirit shall shew himself obstinate or lying, let him be bound by convenient conjurations: and if you doubt of any lie, make without the Circle with the consecrated Sword, the figure of a triangle or Pentagram, and compel the Spirit to enter into it; and if thou receive any promise which thou would have to be confirmed with an Oath, let him stretch the sword out of the Circle, and swear the Spirit, by laying his hand upon the Sword.

What Agrippa is describing here falls much more in line with classic Solomonic literature of using a sword to impel and threaten spirits, in this case using a consecrated sword to draw a triangle or pentagram into which the spirit is forced to enter so as to compel it to speak truth, making it swear oaths of loyalty and truth upon the sword.  As an implement of iron, the classic material for the bane of spirits generally and evil spirits especially, this makes sense, and recalls similar uses for daggers and other blades in texts such as the Key of Solomon.  However, DSIC doesn’t mention their use at all, suggesting a different origin or lineage of conjuration than the Key of Solomon or Lemegeton Goetia.  Still, it can make sense to think of the wand the wand as a replacement for the Solomonic sword, especially given their similar uses in Agrippa and elsewhere.  This, however, runs counter to what Fr. AC says about the wand in GTSC:

The wand is meant to be a representation of divine authority and command.  As such, it should be treated with the upmost [sic] respect and dignity at all times.  This is not and was never meant to be only a “director of the magician’s will.”  This is also not a “blasting rod” in which to threaten and subdue spirits with either.  It is wielded as an active symbol of holy diplomacy and ambassadorship.  When you invoke holy Archangels with this wand, you are doing so with the assumption of divine inspiration and permission.

Now…do we really need a wand?  Personally, in light of the absence of any other Solomonic-type tool of conjuration, I would say that we should.  But, if not, as Fr. RO suggests, using the forefinger, the “finger of Jupiter”, can work in some cases.  It won’t work for the proper Solomonic purpose of threatening impelling spirits (Mars, properly speaking, doesn’t have a finger associated to it, but the middle finger, given to Saturn, might work instead).  Will a non-DSIC wand work?  I think so, yes.  It’d be best to make it according to spec here, but I don’t think that it’s that important in the long run; a wand with some sort of holy names, or imbued with holiness somehow, is sufficient.

However, an argument can be made that, if all you’re using DSIC for is “good spirits”, then you probably wouldn’t need a wand at all; after all, Agrippa doesn’t mention the use of any such tool or implement in either of his conjuration methods for “good spirits” (either his prayer-based theurgic method or his ecstatic trance method), and even in his conjuration of “evil spirits”, he only uses a sword in certain circumstances.  If it weren’t for the single DSIC instruction of tracing the circle out with the wand (which is such a waste of an exquisite and exotic tool, made of ebony and gold as it is!), I would personally say that you wouldn’t need the wand unless you really wanted one.  It’s not like you can exactly boss angels around, nor can you impress them as being an emissary of the power of God when that’s exactly their own role.

What about the ring?  We can assume that this is basically a Ring of Solomon, but as far as DSIC is concerned, what exactly should we be looking for or aiming at?  Like the wand, DSIC only mentions it once:

Then taking your ring and pentacle, put the ring on the little finger of your right hand…

But, unlike the wand, DSIC doesn’t give a description of what the ring should look like.  Agrippa’s Fourth Book isn’t of much help here, either; there are only a handful of instances of the word.  Here are the relevant passages, with the important parts in bold text:

It is to be known also, that Vows, Oblations, and Sacrifice, have the power of consecration, as much real as personal; and they are as it were certain covenants and conventions between those names with which they are made, and us who make them, strongly cleaving to our desire and wished effect: As, when we dedicate, offer, and sacrifice, with certain names or things; as, Fumigations, Unctions, Rings, Images, Looking-glasses; and things less material, as Deities, Sigils, Pentacles, Enchantments, Orations, Pictures, and Scriptures: of which we have largely spoken in our third book of Occult Philosophy. (book IV, chapter 8)

But he that is willing always and readily to receive the Oracles of a Dream, let him make unto himself a Ring of the Sun or of Saturn for this purpose. There is also an Image to be made, of excellent efficacy and power to work this effect; which being put under his head when he goes to sleep, doth effectually give true dreams of anything whatsoever the mine has before determined or consulted on. The Tables of Numbers do likewise confer to receive an Oracle, being duly formed under their own Constellations. And these things you may know in the third book of Occult Philosophy. … Now he that knows how to compose those things which we have now spoken of, he shall receive the most true Oracles of dreams. And this he shall do; observe those things which in the second book of Occult Philosophy are directed concerning this thing. He that is desirous therefore to receive an Oracle, let him abstain from supper and from drink, and be otherwise well disposed, his brain being free from turbulent vapors; let him also have his bed-chamber fair and clean, exorcised and consecrated if he will; then let him perfume the same with some convenient fumigation; and let him anoint his temples with some unguent efficacious hereunto, and put a ring upon his finger, of the things above spoken of: let him take either some image, or holy table, or holy paper, and place the same under his head: then having made a devout prayer, let him go unto his bed, and meditating upon that thing which he desires to know, let him so sleep; for so shall he receive a most certain and undoubted oracle by a dream, when the Moon goes through that sign which was in the ninth House of his nativity, and also when she goes through the sign of the ninth House of the Revolution of his nativity; and when she is in the ninth sign from the sign of perfection. And this is the way and means whereby we may obtain all Sciences and Arts whatsoever, suddenly and perfectly, with a true Illumination of our understanding; although all inferior familiar Spirits whatsoever do conduce to this effect; and sometimes also evil Spirits sensibly informing us Intrinsically or Extrinsically. (book IV, chapter 11)

But when we do intend to execute any effect by evil Spirits, when an Apparition is not needful; then that is to be done, by making and forming that thing which is to be unto us as an instrument, or subject of the experiment it self; as, whether it be an Image, or a Ring, or a Writing, or any Character, Candle, or Sacrifice, or any thing of the like sort; then the name of the Spirit is to be written therein, with his Character, according to the exigency of the experiment, either by writing it with some blood, or otherwise using a perfume agreeable to the Spirit. Oftentimes also making Prayers and Orations to God and the good Angels before we invoce the evil Spirit, conjuring him by the divine power. (book IV, chapter 14)

None of these really seem to apply to DSIC.  The first passage kinda touches on the consecration of various things, but it’s nothing specific to conjuration, just of consecrated items in general.  The second passage deals with oracles and divination through dreams, and though it specifies a ring to be made for the Sun or Saturn, there’s nothing specific about that.  The third passage talks about dealing with evil spirits, but more in the case of working with them in a non-conjuration framework, such as through talismanic works.  So Agrippa doesn’t seem to help us at all for matters about the ring.  There’s exceedingly little in The Magus about it, too, and nothing specific for conjuration; there’s nothing in LHJ or other texts like the Heptameron, either, about rings.

My only guess is that the ring is an import from Solomonic literature like the Lemegeton Goetia (LG).  From that, we get the following design (first from Esoteric Archive’s version, the second from Mather’s later redrawing):

The older version on Esoteric Archives gives a short description:

This Ring is to be held before the face of the Exorcist to preserve him from The stinking fumes of spirits &c.

Mathers gives a more fuller explanation for the ring that I like:

THIS is the Form of the Magic Ring, or rather Disc, of Solomon, the figure whereof is to be made in gold or silver. It is to be held before the face of the exorcist to preserve him from the stinking sulphurous fumes and flaming breath of the Evil Spirits.

I bring up both designs here to point out something interesting: both rings have the three names “Tetragrammaton”, “Anaphexeton”/”Anaphaxeton”, and “Michael” on them, though Mathers describes this more as a disc, while the older version seems a little…funkier.  I think what the older version is showing is that “Anaphexeton” and “Michael” should be on the outside of the ring, and “Tetragrammaton” on the inside.  (As for the word “Anaphaxeton”, Enoch Bowen of The Occult and Magick blog put up a post some years ago about this word, and how he describes it as related to the more common divine name “Tzabaoth”, related to the heavenly hosts, and this would make sense with the inclusion of the name “Michael”, being their prince and commander.)  This design makes more sense than Mather’s design as a disc, but I suppose either would work.

As for the purpose of this ring?  LG mentions the use of a ring when interacting with certain spirits (using Mathers’ much more readable version for these quotes):

  • Beleth: “And thou must have always a Silver Ring on the middle finger of the left hand held against thy face, as they do yet before  Amaymon. “
  • Berith: “Thou must make use of a Ring in calling him forth, as is before spoken of regarding Beleth.”
  • Astaroth: “Thou must in no wise let him approach too near unto thee, lest he do thee damage by his Noisome Breath. Wherefore the Magician must hold the Magical Ring near his face, and that will defend him.”

The one big difference in use between the ring of LG and the ring of DSIC, namely which finger and hand to wear it on (DSIC says the pinky/little finger of the right hand, LG the middle finger of left hand), but I think the basic idea here is clear: it’s for the protection of the magician from poison.  Silver, after all, is well-known and has long been acclaimed to detect poisons by turning black, and is seen also as a way of nullifying poisons, hence why LG says to wear it before the face in order to preserve the magician from damage from the “noisome breath” (i.e. toxic, noxious, poisonous, deadly, or otherwise unpleasant fumes, smoke, gas, breath, or similar emission from the presence of the spirit).  This would seem, however, to contradict Mathers’ description that the ring could be made of gold when silver is clearly being relied upon here.

Now, Fr. RO doesn’t describe the use of a ring in his RWC or SS, but he does use a lead (!) ring (which he says works as well as gold or silver) based on Mather’s version in the form of a disc.  Moreover, he says that he uses this and other similar tools (the pentagram and hexagram seals of Solomon, basically other protective lamens from Solomonic literature) when conjuring one of the spirits for the first time, though he also says that he has “never had a spirit manifest in a stinking toxic cloud”.

In GTSC, Fr. AC does bring up the ring, but he makes the same conclusions I do: there’s nothing in DSIC to guide us except that we need to wear one on the little finger of our right hand.  However, Fr. AC does bring up something to my attention I missed: The Magus does, in fact, give an illustration of a magic ring, just not where we expected!  On page 106 (part II, chapter 18), there’s an illustration of a number of things: a few pentagrams and other geometric diagrams, an illustration of a sword, and, indeed, a magic ring!  (I blame bad digitizations from Google Books on why I didn’t spot this earlier.)

The ring given in this image is pretty simple: a simple band, with a bevel/jewel that has upon it a hexagram with a single dot (perhaps a precursor to the hexagram with central Yod we see elsewhere?).  This is a very, very simple form of the “seal of Solomon”, but it works for our needs, to be sure.  Fr. AC describes his implementation, where he found just such a ring, and goes more into the materials and uses for it, though he also takes the approach of the old-style LG and engraves “Michael” and “Anaphexiton [sic]” on the outside and “Tetragrammaton” on the inside.  This is basically my own approach, too, as I showed when I had my own ring of Solomon made for me some years back (using Hebrew instead of Latin, and replacing “Anaphaxeton” (or however you want to spell it) with “Tzabaoth” in Hebrew; there’s a hexagram with central dot engraved on the band underneath the sunstone.

To quote a bit of Fr. AC on the purpose of the ring:

The magical ring is a shield of protection and banner of obedience to all spiritual forces.  The ring is a perfect symbol of divine unity and the impenetrable armor of God.  To the spirit, there is no transgressing past this unified symbol of divine completeness.  It is recommended that the ring you use be brand new and used only for this operation.

Also, one more note about that picture from The Magus: the sword in that image bears striking resemblance to the wand from DSIC, even though this is from Barrett’s version of the Heptameron.  Barrett describes this specifically on page 110:

…and let the operator himself carry the sword, over which should be said a prayer of consecration: and on the middle of the sword on one side let there be engraven Agla †, and on the other side, † OnTetragrammaton †.

Fr. AC mistakenly interprets this to be a wand and not a sword, despite the text clearly saying that it’s a sword as well as the caption saying so as well.  Knowing that this is a sword and not a wand, we can pick up how closely Barrett (and the author of DSIC, if separate people) may have considered the DSIC wand to be to the sword here; in my mind, this weakens Fr. AC’s view that the wand is not a “blasting rod”, since it can and should be used as one should the need arise.  After all, many of the tools in magical practice are not necessarily used for one thing and one thing only, nor do they act as symbols that mean one thing and one thing only.  While that might be the case if you’re working from the Key of Solomon that has over a dozen separate implements, DSIC has so far fewer, and as we can see, the wand in DSIC is a distillation of both the Solomonic wand as well as the Solomonic sword, and thus can be used for either of the two in practice and in symbolism.

On that note, let’s call it a day for now.  We’ll pick up next time on two more relatively minor (but still important) parts of the DSIC toolset: the candles and the incense brazier.

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Putting The Table Together

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and right now, we’re in the middle of focusing on the Table of Practice and how DSIC instructs the table and pedestal to be made.  Last time, we continued our talk by figuring out the planetary stuff we needed to fill in around the edge of the table, but due to vague wording and phrasing, it’s not quite clear exactly what planetary stuff is needed, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a consensus on that front.  If you need a refresher, go read the last post!

Now that we have our choice of names, symbols, signs, and everything else out of the way, how do we actually put them all together?  DSIC tells us:

…Let them be all written within a double circle, with a triangle on a table; on which place the crystal on its pedestal: this being done, thy table is complete (as in the Fig. D,) and fit for the calling of the spirits…

The major thrust of this is describing something that surprises nobody: a triangle within a circle.  While I can’t actually cite anyone specifically that might say so (because this is something that I feel is pretty common at this point to say and think), the triangle and circle is pretty much the mainstay of the locus of conjuration.  We see, basically, the same thing in the Triangle of Art from the Lemegeton, just with the circle inside the triangle instead of outside it:

The general thinking on this is that the effectively circle binds the spirit (because the circle is a shape that has no end to its lines, or corners to slip through, but an infinite unbroken boundary), while the triangle (being the first possible polygon with the fewest possible points/lines) helps to give the spirit form.  But, there’s also the fact that the triangle, being a shape with three sides, is also qabbalistically connected by that number to the planet Saturn, which could also suggest making the spirit more obedient and susceptible to our threats and demands.  It’s reminiscent of what Agrippa says in his Fourth Book when dealing with “evil spirits” whose oaths or statements you doubt (book IV, chapter 12):

And after all the courses are finished, then cease a little; and if any Spirit shall appear, let the Invocant turn himself towards the Spirit, and courteously receive him, and earnestly entreating him, let him first require his name, and if he be called by any other name; and then proceeding further, let him ask him whatsoever he will: and if in any thing the Spirit shall shew himself obstinate or lying, let him be bound by convenient conjurations: and if you doubt of any lye, make without the Circle with the consecrated Sword, the figure of a triangle or pentagon, and compel the Spirit to enter into it; and if thou receivest any promise which thou wouldst have to be confirmed with an Oath, let him stretch the sword out of the Circle, and swear the Spirit, by laying his hand upon the Sword.

Here Agrippa uses either a triangle (figure of Saturn) or a pentagon (figure of Mars), though he might also mean “pentagram” instead (but which would suggest a pentagon in its center by virtue of its geometrical shape), and considering the context here, I’d be more inclined to think that the triangle isn’t used so much to help the spirit take physical form as much as it is constrain it, at least according to Agrippa.  Your mileage may vary.  It is interesting, however, that Agrippa describes no such device for working with “good spirits” earlier in the Fourth Book when he mentions how to call upon “good spirits” using either his prayer-based approach or his ecstasy approach (book IV, chapter 10).  (We’ll see more of this weirdness in future posts about the difference in approach between “good spirits” and “evil spirits”.)

All well and good, but there’s that phrase “double circle”.  It seems that everyone who’s worked with Drawing Spirits Into Crystals DSIC, whether or not they use the pedestal, interprets this to mean that there are two rings of names, one for the planets and angels (along with “their seals or characters”), and one for the four elemental kings inside that; this is the form of table that’s used by everyone that I’ve ever seen.  In this system, the four kings are placed evenly spaced on the inner ring aligned with the four elements, typically with Oriens (or Michael) aligned with the Sun towards the East.  For the sake of simplicity for now, let’s use a very basic table design that spells all the names out in the Latin script, uses the four kings instead of the four archangels, and uses only the glyphs of the seven planets along with the names of their corresponding angels:

And, of course, there’s at least one interpretation out there that puts the four kings on the outside, with the seven planets on the inside.  This is certainly a far more uncommon arrangement (most people would cosmologically place the planets “higher up” and the elemental/worldly “further down”), and I’ve only ever seen one such Table of Practice design made by Eryk Adish on Etsy:

But…on a closer reading of the phrasing being used here, and thinking back to other texts that use similar phrasing, I’m not entirely certain that this double-ring-of-names setup is what the text actually implies.  I mean, it makes graphical sense, but “double circle” may not mean two circles of names, but rather, two geometric circles between which the names are written. In this case, I think what DSIC is suggesting is that we have only one ring of names and seals, which is bounded on the outside and on the inside by a circle; these two circles would be the “double circle” within which would be all the things we’d be engraving.

In this case, we’d need to figure out an order for placing the names of the four kings into this, as well, since these things must be given “in order”.  I think we should tie this into the order of the planets we mentioned above, and seeing how the four kings (being representatives of the four elements) come after the planets, it suggests that there’s a notion of density at play here: the further we get along in the order, the denser we get.  This argues in favor of starting with Saturn, then proceeding to Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, and then to the Moon, and then the four kings.  What order for the kings?  Keep the order going in terms of density: Oriens (Fire), Paimon (Air), Egyn (Water), Amaymon (Earth).  This would use the elemental domains of the four kings rather than their directions; if we were to go clockwise starting with Oriens in the East (to befit a magician operating in the northern hemisphere to match the passage of the Sun), then we’d have the order of Oriens, Amaymon, Paimon, and Egyn; those in the southern hemisphere might use the reverse order.  Of course, if we were to just use the elemental density order, then it wouldn’t matter where we’d be on Earth.  Fitting the four kings into this descending order of the planets just ties it into a grander descending order of forces of the cosmos, as can be seen in the Cosmographia diagram above (look closely at the elemental patterns in the center of the diagram).

That said, even though that might be a strict interpretation of “let them be all written within a double circle”, that might be a little too strict and literal.  It kinda breaks with this notion we have that the four kings are a species apart from the planetary angels, that the elements of this world are of a different nature than the planets of the spheres above; while, yes, it can be reasoned out to make everything “fit” within one ring of names, it’s probably more graphically pleasing and cosmologically sound to use two rings of names, writing everything essentially “within a triple circle” instead of a double circle, with the planetary engravings on the outer ring and the four kings (or four archangels, if that’s your jam) on the inside.  However, the DSIC text says what it says.

In either case, using either two rings of names or one ring, in the inside of all the above would be the triangle.  Though DSIC doesn’t specify where or how it should be drawn, it makes sense to have the innermost circle circumscribe the triangle.  Given the description in DSIC, there’s nothing to be engraved inside the triangle, nor outside the triangle and inside the inner circle.  This is probably the easiest part to interpret from a lack of depiction and description of the entire DSIC introduction, and completes the construction of the table itself.

In that light, let’s compare the one ring design with the two ring design, with the planetary order of decreasing geocentric distance followed by increasing elemental density.  Let’s agree to use the four kings for this, and for the sake of a simple construction as above, we’ll limit ourselves to using the names of the four kings, the glyphs of the planets, and the names of the the planetary angels, all spelled out in Latin script, with nothing else.  Completed with the innermost triangle, we’d get ourselves two designs like the following:

The first one on the left has the planetary stuff and the four kings given in the conventional layout of, but that second one on the right with just one ring of names “all written within a double circle” follows from a strict and literal interpretation of DSIC, and…it works.  It makes sense.  We start at the bottom and, going clockwise, proceed through the four kings (in order of their corresponding element based on zodiacal direction), then the seven planets/angels, proceeding from the Moon/Gabriel and going up to Saturn/Cassiel.  This works, and is entirely a valid way to construct a table according to the instructions given in DSIC in the absence of any illustration.  Plus, it also reminds me of the conjuration circles used in texts like the Grimorium Verum, Grand Grimoire, and Grimoire of Pope Honorius, though admittedly those were intended for the conjurer to stand in, not for the basis of the conjuration area for the spirit.  Still, using this single-ring approach does make sense, it follows from the DSIC text, and is an entirely valid approach to creating the table.

But, despite its cleanliness and orderliness…it’s taking me a while to like it.  While it does appeal to me, it seems that literally nobody has ever used this interpretation of what “double circle” means.  Not that it’s unbalanced, but it does feel a bit mismatched to put the four kings in the same ring as the seven angels, on top of it probably feeling unfamiliar and with me not recognizing this as a proper table.  I think it would make more graphical sense to more people, at least, to interpret “double circle” as two circles of names, not one ring of names written between two circles, but that’s not a strict and contemporaneous interpretation of DSIC.  For the sake of keeping the conversation going, I’m going to stick to the two-circles-of-names and not one-ring-of-names-in-two-circles design, because that’s what makes the most immediate cosmological and aesthetic sense to me.  That said, if you were to take a single Table of Practice approach that uses the four archangels instead of the four kings…that could well be appropriate.  We said before last post that figuring out what “seals or characters” would be needed for the planetary parts of the table design was the most serious linguistic point of contention, but I stand corrected: it’s this, at least for the table (there are others which we’ll talk about when we get to that point of our DSIC discussion).  Despite putting the lid on the single-ring design, we’ll come back to it at a later time; for now, we’ll stick to the two-ring design, only for the sake of expediency and it’s what everyone already knows, likes, and wants.

But while we’re here, there is one plausible reason I can think of for putting the four kings on the same “level” as the seven planetary angels.  Given their nature, and considering their potentially old predecessors going back to Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian times, this is actually something to consider: the four kings could be considered survivals of the “four winds” from ancient Mesopotamian times, which were considered deities in their own right and on the same level as the planetary gods of those cultures.  If we consider the role of the four kings here and what they’re doing based on what we said before (and consider also Agrippa, book III, chapter 24, my emphasis in bold text: “every one of these Spirits is a great Prince, and hath much power and freedom in the dominion of his own planets, and signs, and in their times, years, months, days, and hours, and in their Elements, and parts of the world, and winds“), and if we consider the role of the seven planetary angels here to channel and distill their respective planetary forces in a way that the kings would the worldly, elemental forces, then it makes sense that the four kings here would be included with the seven planetary angels.  This would mean that the table isn’t necessarily a cosmogram or anything to show how everything is ideally arranged, but that the presence (and support) of the seven planetary angels and four kings of the world would collectively help to channel, focus, and materialize the spirit in the crystal as visibly and physically as possible, lending it a share of all the forces that combine to manifest everything in this world.  In other words, the presence of these spirits isn’t about the actual planetary and elemental forces, but about the spheres of heaven and four corners of the world, using distinctly worldly processes to bring something to manifest within the triangle; consider how the Circle of Art from the Lemegeton has the snake with all the divine names and attributes of the ten sephiroth of the Tree of Life curling inward towards the center.

On top of that, the “four winds” of back then were assigned to the four zodiac signs of Scorpio (or Aquila), Aquarius, Taurus, and Leo—the four fixed signs, which later became identified with the four archangels Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, and Michael.  In this light, this means that not only the four kings can (and arguably should) be arranged with the seven planetary angels, but that they would, reaching back to their shared origin, be essentially interchangeable with the four archangels.  Not a bad idea, and another point in favor of those who would use the four archangels instead of the four kings on their DSIC tables.

Anyway, let’s continue.  If we were to go with our earlier design choice of using the planetary glyphs, the planetary characters, the names of the angels, and the names of the kings, with the names written in Latin, we’d get the following for our one ring and two ring forms:

Forgive me for having to bunch up the (more numerous) characters for the Sun and Jupiter, but I didn’t want to rebalance all of the spacing for all this just yet.  The idea is there, though.  You can envision what it’d be like for incorporating the angelic seals, too, based on this; smaller font, smaller characters, and a lot more densely-packed use of space on the outer ring.  But, despite all the complexity here, I think this is closer to what DSIC is actually instructing us to do:

…the table on which the crystal stands the following names, characters, &c. must be drawn in order.  First, The names of the seven planets and angels ruling them, with their seals or characters. The names of the four kings of the four corners of the earth. Let them be all written within a double circle, with a triangle on a table…

But, in the end, there you have it.  More table designs for use with DSIC based on different yet equally strict and accurate interpretations of the rather terse instructions given by the text itself.

Whugh.  That took a lot more words, explanation, surveying, and arguing with Adobe Illustrator than I expected, to be sure.

Now, in light of everything above?  Given the lack of explanation of the table in DSIC, as well as the fact that there’s no visual depiction given, along with the level of specificity that is given to the pedestal itself, I want to make the claim that the specific design used for table itself probably doesn’t matter that much, honestly.  It seems like the real focus in DSIC is given to the pedestal supporting the crystal with the names and symbols to be engraved around it, with the table itself being described almost as an afterthought.  In that light, it’s not the table doing the bulk of the protective and spiritual work as far as providing for the right woogity in the ritual (besides the magician themselves, of course), but the pedestal itself.  If we were to actually give credence to the notion that Johannes Trithemius wrote DSIC (and, personally, I don’t), well…recall that he was an abbot, and thus would be more inclined towards religious magic of a higher and more theurgical nature rather than goetia or necromancy, and recall how we likened the pedestal to a monstrance.  In that light, the shape and purpose of the pedestal makes a lot of sense: it’s a monstrance not for displaying the Host or relics, but the presence of actual spirits themselves; the table should be decked out in the signs and symbols of the seven planets and four elements to facilitate the presence of spirits, sure, but beyond that, I don’t know whether DSIC really cares as much about the table as about the pedestal.  Honestly, if somehow you got the money and means to get one, my hunch is that even the use of an actual monstrance that once held a consecrated Host would alone be sufficient, with a crystal or some material held in the chamber, to perform DSIC with, even without a table or names of angels or kings or whatnot; if you can get such a mosntrance and use it on a table, all the better.

Note that I’m not saying that the table doesn’t matter at all; if it didn’t matter, DSIC would probably say as much, or even just decline to mention anything about the table at all.  But so long as the basic idea of the table is there—a triangle circumscribed by two circles, along with planetary names/angels/characters and names of elemental kings (or elemental angels if that’s the route you want to take)—then I think you’ve got enough of what you need to perform the DSIC ritual.  Heck, I’m not 100% convinced (more like 99%) that you need the planetary stuff and the names of the kings at all, honestly, so long as you’ve got the appropriate pedestal made in the appropriate way.  There’s nothing saying you shouldn’t use them, of course, and I’m not making that claim either, but I don’t think it’s as necessary or as important to the spirit of DSIC than having the pedestal.

So, then, why do we focus on the table, or as we like to call it, the Table of Practice?  Because so many of us like simplicity, and let’s be honest: it’s a lot simpler to have a single tool (one Table of Practice) than two tools (table and pedestal), and it’s a lot simpler to have a free-standing crystal ball than having to set it in something else, which requires some specialty crafting skills that not everyone has.  Heck, already not a lot of people have the crafting skills necessary to make even a rudimentary Table of Practice, despite that it’s not that hard to do.  Since DSIC-compatible Tables of Practice began being made about ten years ago, until the advent of Fr. AC’s reintroduction of the pedestal as a separate item, the general approach has largely been focused on combining the designs of the pedestal with the table into a single Table of Practice, and that approach is workable enough, simple enough, and effective enough to do what DSIC claims to do.

Those readers of mine who somehow maintained their mental acuity after all this time that I’m only just now using the phrase “Table of Practice”.  When it comes to the DSIC method on its own terms, of which Fr. AC tends to hit closest to the mark, DSIC says to use both a table and a pedestal; however, when the pedestal and table are combined into something like what Fr. RO (and Fr. Acher, and the Scribbler, and Satyr Magos, and myself, etc.) uses, then you get the Table of Practice.  I’m using the phrase “Table of Practice” to refer to the single-apparatus approach instead of the dual-apparatus approach of table and pedestal, and I think that might help clarify some of the language around all this stuff.

The three symbols of the hexagram with central Yod, the pentagram, and the cross are placed in the corners of the central table triangle, while the use of the name Tetragrammaton tends to get dropped out, though some magicians engrave circularly around the triangle in the gap between the triangle and the (inner) ring of names.  The names of the angels from the pedestal either get left out entirely or replace the names of the four kings, making those names left out; I’ve never seen a Table of Practice that has both the four angels and the four kings.  I’ve seen only one such example of this from Tye, and it puts the names of the angels in the same ring as that of the kings on tyetknot’s Tumblr but in a way that doesn’t follow much with the directions we should see (Raphael in the North?  Uriel in the West?), and though I get the logic behind it, that doesn’t seem to mesh well with me.

But what would it look like if a Table of Practice did have both sets of names that did agree with the nature of the tools that DSIC instructs us to use?  Given how we’re combining the inscriptions on the pedestal with the inscriptions on the table, and noting that we combined the three symbols inside the triangle, this would suggest we should have the four angels inside the triangle as well.  This doesn’t completely surprise me; I mean, we see something similar going on with the Triangle of Art from the Lemegeton Goetia (see the earlier pictures in this post), after all, with the name Michael being split into three—and note how it’s fundamentally a table unto itself, consisting of a circle and triangle and divine names including “Tetragrammaton”.

Further, note how, in the Lemegeton Goetia’s Triangle of Art, there’s a circle inside the triangle itself.  This leads me to a design choice where, just as we can have the names of the four kings on an inside ring within the ring of planetary angelic names, bounded by a circle above and below it, we can have the names of the four archangels on a ring within the triangle, bounded by another pair of circles above and below it.  If I were to make a final, let’s-get-it-all-in Table of Practice design, based on everything above, then we’d end up with this:

This design of the Table of Practice, using two rings as is conventional at this point, with all the names spelled out in Latin script, has all the elements from both the pedestal and the stand on a single surface, and even though foregoing the pedestal isn’t true to the instructions in DSIC or to Fr. AC’s grimoire-strict methodology, this does have all the symbols necessary and in roughly-equivalent positions, just presented in two dimensions horizontally rather than three dimensions horizontally and vertically.  As a result, this might be the most true-to-the-spirit Table of Practice for DSIC-type work, should one forego the pedestal, and it also resolves the debate between having either the names of the four kings or those of the four angels by including both sets of names in an appropriate location.

And, for kicks, let’s do one more design: a final complete Table of Practice that has all the above plus the twelve zodiacal angels in another ring outside that of the planets and their angels, with the planetary and zodiacal angel names written in Celestial Hebrew :

It is weird, I admit, to have the four archangels “underneath” the four kings, but I’m not trying to represent a vertical relationship anymore once we get under the four kings.  Remember that everything in and around the triangle comes from the design of the pedestal, which is supposed to be stand above the table; if we do away with the pedestal (and it’s not true to DSIC to do so), then we should still make an effort to keep the same symbols from it onto the table to make a combined Table of Practice.  It’s common enough to do this by putting the three symbols of the hexagram with central Yod, pentagram, and cross into the corners of the triangle, but those could just as easily go outside the triangle, too; the circumscribed “Tetragrammaton” is unheard of in the way depicted above, either, but I’ve never seen anyone include both the four kings as well as the four angels.  While one could restructure the Table of Practice to put planetary angels on the outside, the four archangels inside them, and the four kings inside them, I think putting the archangels closest to the center of the Table of Practice makes more sense because those are supposed to be closest near the crystal.

One more conjecture at this point, now that I’ve plowed through enough Illustrator work for one day.  Now that I think about it…well, remember what I pointed out about the Triangle of Art from the Lemegeton above?  It’s fundamentally the same thing as the table: a triangle and a circle with some divine names written around it.  If you had a properly-constructed pedestal—or a consecrated monstrance—you could probably just plop that on the Triangle of Art and it would work as well.  After all, nobody’s complained about the Triangle of Art lacking kings or angels or planets and it’s been used for goetic conjurations for quite some time, and they’ve gotten great results with that tool, despite the lack of planetary stuff or the four kings.  My hunch is that you could use just a regular, simple, boring Triangle of Art and a properly-made stand for the crystal and it would be sufficient for DSIC ritual use, omitting everything above about the specific needs of the table from DSIC despite what DSIC says about it.  That’s just a conjecture, but given some of the discussions above, I think there’s a good logic to it that could well be experimented with for those who have a pedestal or monstrance.

When I set out to write about this topic, I had no intention of making this a full survey of the various Tables of Practice that are currently in use by a variety of magicians, nor did I anticipate going into detail on the various versions of the names one might use, but I’m glad I did.  Still, this is just one aspect of the DSIC equipment; there’s still the lamen, circle, and wand to talk about.  We’ll pick up on some of those next, though given how DSIC actually gives examples of those, there’ll be a lot less to discuss, and we’ll have more fun with the Fourth Book of Cornelius Agrippa, besides!

Search Term Shoot Back, April 2015

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 April 2015.

“which demon spirit can grant the conjurer every kind of need” — Be careful with these guys.  Many demons are proud and prideful enough to claim that they can do anything anywhere anytime, and granted, they often have enough power to do so.  However, just because a single spirit can do something doesn’t mean it will do it well, or whether it should do it at all.  Consult books like the Lemegeton or the Munich Manual to get little snippets of information that can tell you what a given spirit excels at; alternatively, check in with your supernatural assistant or Holy Guardian Angel, or simply do a bit of divination, to check whether a particular spirit can help you and whether they should help you.  It’s unlikely you’ll find a demonic spirit to fulfill every single one of your desires on their own.  The supernatural assistant or HGA on the other hand…

“are summoned spirits following you?” — They might be, if you don’t send them away.  After all, once summoned, they tend to not leave unless given leave to do so (or are powerful enough to simply blow off the magician anyway).  In any summoning or conjuration ritual, it’s good practice to close it out with an offering of thanks and goodwill to the spirit along with a formal giving of leave to depart; if you prefer, and this isn’t always suggested, you can banish the area and cleanse yourself afterwards to get rid of any residual resonance with the spirit.

“what is the means of talisman use in the ritual your name will be written 9x around the diagram own blood in talisman” — I think you’d be better off than me to say how to use such a talisman.  I haven’t encountered anything that describes this sort of talisman outside fantasy works and tawdry modern occult manuals that I pay little attention and less credence to, but given the number 9 there, I’d say you might use it in visceral works involving the Moon or Saturn.

“ebony huge cocks” — Man, I had to search high and low for a suitable bit of ebony to make my Wand of Art before it was given to me by a good friend.  Trying to find a phallus made of ebony would be near impossible, as I doubt many woodworkers are willing to use such rare and expensive wood on so unusual a bit of art.  That said, I’m sure a few of my gods would appreciate such a statue.

“what magical element begins with the letter k” — I…I can’t say there is one.  Of the four elements, there’s Fire, Air, Water, Earth, and then there’s the fifth quasi-element sometimes called spirit, ether, or quintessence (the closest thing to a K I can come up with).  The seven planets don’t start with any such letter, either, so unless you’re referring to some other system of magic that recognizes other elements, or using the cop-out of using another language, then I think you’d be better off telling me the answer when you find one than me trying to make one up on my own.

“ακραμμαχαμαρει meaning” — One of my favorite barbarous words of power, commonly seen in Mediterranean classical magic like from the PGM.  The prevailing theory behind this word is that it’s a corruption of an Aramaic phrase meaning “cast off the nets”, or “remove all obstacles or blockages”.  I use this word when piercing through shields or protections, but also to free myself from things that entangle or trap me.  However, it canonically has no meaning on its own that humans can understand, being a divine word and name on its own.  I also use it to refer to the luminary of the heights, the protector of the space above us, whose image is that of an old man in grey robes holding a staff in his right hand and a ring of keys in his left, but that’s a personal innovation in my own practice that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

“is sun bad for labradorite” — No.  Labradorite is, beyond anything else, a rock.  Sunlight doesn’t degrade that, and leaving such a stone out in the Sun will not cause it to shatter or lose its labradorescence.  Energetically, there might be a bit of a conflict; labradorite is more resonant with the aurora borealis of the nighttime skies, and is more stellar than solar.  Still, it’s a silly thing to worry about unless you’re tuning the stone to a very specific need over time.

“communing with the spirit of your unborn child” — First of all, uh, ew.  I have no disrespect towards parents or parents-to-be, but I’m not one of them nor will I ever be.  I have no fathering instinct and I do not like being around children until they can start forming logical, coherent thoughts that are worthy of discussion.  Yes, I was a child once, too, but it was a phase and I grew out of it.  Anyway, as for the spirit of an unborn child, what do you hope to glean from that?  Speaking Hermetically, while the moment of conception is an important time, the moment of birth itself is more important, because at that point the child finally becomes separate from the mother and becomes an independent (strictly speaking) living being, as opposed to something that is still part of and inside the mother.  Before it becomes its own being, it’s still a part of the mother, and has no life of its own to speak of; heck, it doesn’t even have much of an existence because it hasn’t had experience of developing, growing, or interaction, and as such is like a spirit of a newly dead person; it’s unreliable, confused, and still nebulous enough to the point that it’s better to leave them alone for the time being.  While singing, treating yourself holistically well, and the like is a good idea, and while pregnant women are holy in and of their own selves, I don’t think there’s much of a spirit of the unborn fetus to communicate with.  Then again, I’m probably not the right person to ask about this; I have a bias against children anyway, and seeing how I’m a gay man who will never seed, bear, or give birth to a child, my opinions and pontification aren’t worth much, anyway.

“lemegeton cloth circle” — Large cloth and tarp sheets are excellent ideas for Solomonic work because they allow you to draw on the magic Circles of Art once and transport it anywhere, so long as the space is large enough to unfold the sheet.  Before, you might have had a stone or wooden floor with the same pattern inscribed or painted onto it permanently, but traditionally, you’d do it in the dirt.  If you read the instructions given in the Keys of Solomon to create the magic circle, it references using rope and knives to mark out the boundary of the circle, which can only really work if you’re doing it on an earthen floor that can have a knife stuck into it or scratching the surface of it.  The whole point of the Black-handled Knife or athame, after all, wasn’t just to act as the Weapon of Saturn and to threaten and intimidate spirits, but also mark out the Triangle of Art and other magical patterns into the ground.  Cloth is more convenient, but if you want to go cheap and old-school, use the knife for all it’s worth and draw the patterns out in the dirt.

“conjuration of spirit to see visions past present” — Many spirits can show you this, and there’s no one conjuration to do.  In fact, if you’re blessed with a spirit of prophecy, then you may not need to do anything besides calm your mind and get into the right headspace.  There are problems here, however: you have little assurance that you’re seeing the right thing (the past, present, or future itself as it actually occurs) nor that you’re seeing the thing right (actual physical happenings versus metaphors).  If you’re seeing through the eyes of a spirit, bear in mind that the spirit may see the world and cosmos from a radically different perspective than you’ll ever be able to attain, and trying to translate from spirit-sight to human-sight can be more difficult than it is worth it.  Spirits may focus on different things than humans do, and trying to make sense of spiritual descriptions of events may not make any sense to us.  Add to it, you have to trust the spirit that they saw exactly what you’re asking about, and not all spirits are able to traverse time nor ubiquitous; sometimes they’ll have to call on other spirits who were at the event both in time and space, or they’ll have to branch out themselves.  In other words, trying to use a spirit to gain clairvoyance through time and space is a risky business.

“orgonite octahedron with charged talismans inside” — You’re precious.  Go away.

“sick person determine the illness by geomancy divination” — Ah, medical queries!  This is a type of query where geomancy really shines, but there are some caveats.  First, unless you’re a licensed doctor giving a medical examination, you are not certified to give medical advice, so don’t do it.  Bear in mind that geomancy is not a certified method of practicing modern Western medicine, and as such you can get yourself into huge trouble if you misrepresent yourself as capable of doing so.  Once you’ve gotten that understood and out of the way between yourself and your querent, you want to inspect the figure in house VI, the house of illness, and see whether that figure passes anywhere else in the chart.  If it does, then the part of the body indicated by that house the figure passes to is the source or primary affliction of the illness (I’ll let you look those up on your own); if it doesn’t, then the illness is relegated to the stomach, GI tract, and overall humours.  Take into account the elemental and planetary association of the figure itself, and you start to get a good idea of what’s going on with the illness exactly.  For more information, house VII represents the doctor who can help the querent, house X represents the regimen or prescription or treatment of the illness, and house IV represents the overall outcome of the illness.  Noting perfection between these multiple houses indicates how well things can be affected by each.

“gods dick” — They pack a whallop, that’s for sure, and can be quite nice, besides.  Check out your own if you get the fancy; the phallus is a mystery in and of itself, though one more explicit and, thus, more easily misunderstood.

“occult epiphany chalk blessing is occult” — This refers to the practice where, on Epiphany, the Christian holy day that remembers the visitation of the Three Wise Men to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.  At Mass, the priest blesses chalk that the faithful take home and mark YY + C + M + B + XX, where YYXX is the year of the Ephiphany AD, and CMB stand for the names Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar (the Three Wise Men) or for the phrase Christus Mansionem Benedictat, “may Christ bless [this] house”.  I try to do this myself on Epiphany day, even though it’s not well-practiced in American Christianity (and even then, relegated to mostly traditional Catholics).  As for whether it’s occult, absolutely, in the sense that anything spiritual or actively religious is occult.  If you want to see it as merely a religious custom, you’re free to do so, but if you believe in the apotropaic and blessing power of the act, then it becomes closer to a miracle or magical act, and thus occult in the strictest sense of the word.

De Conjuratione et Compulsione

A good chunk of the work I do is conjuration: the summoning, evocation, and invoking of spirits to communicate with me and help me out in my Work, either by having them do something for me externally or empowering or educatingme internally for a particular aim.  Conjuration is definitely a primary tool for me: divination, simple energy work, astral sight, and the like all have their place, but I wouldn’t be where or what I am without chatting with the spirits I’ve called up. 

The word “conjuration” means “command on oath” or “constrain by spell”, from Latin conjurare, “to swear together, conspire”.  It’s a pretty forceful term, come to think of it, and it’s not hard to see why.  Look at any text in the Solomonic tradition and you’ll find that the prayers and incantations used to evoke the spirits can be pretty heavy-handed, if not replete with threats, curses, and ultimatums.  (For a real good example of this, check out the Bond of Solomon from the Munich Manual, which is ridiculously long and uses basically every divine act in the Old and New Testaments to convince a spirit “hey you, do this now”.)  Between “behold your conclusion if you do not obey me”, the Spirit’s Chain, and various other orations from the grimoires, it’s not hard to picture the conjurer or magician as someone in charge of an “enhanced information extraction” torture chamber.

Of course, given that a lot of spirits referred to in the Solomonic tradition are demonic or outright harmful to the magician, you probably do want to be stern with them, but are they harmful because of the magician’s threats, or does the magician threaten them because they’re harmful?  It’s an interesting chicken-and-egg problem, not helped any by the fact that most Solomonic magicians in the Western tradition were likely priests or devout Christians who saw any spirit not explicitly an angel of God to be a lacky of Satan.  And, as Fr. MC from the Lion’s Den noted in his Crossed Keys, a lot of these spirits are ancient and benevolent, having only committed the crime of not bowing down to the Judeo-Christian God.  To be honest, I can’t blame them.

Now, a good occultist friend of mine says that while she likes the work I do, she dislikes that I use conjuration to do it.  She’s a big proponent of free will and the ability of choice for all entities (save for predator/prey situations, defense, and necessary facts of life like that), and is barred by her own tradition and powers from doing anything like conjuration.  Instead, she appeals to the spirit directly and builds up a relationship with them to ask for their help and favor, or, if something’s causing a serious issue, she appeals to her own higher powers to take care of it.  From that point of view, I can certainly understand: it’s often better to ask for permission or help than just outright command something you have no apparent connection to to get something done.  It’s more respectful, kind, and appropriate, especially since most of these spirits I deal with are far older than me, my family name, or even humanity, not to mention more powerful.

In other words, it’s as if you worked for a certain company, and I was your boss’ child, and I told you “Get your ass over here and show me this internal report or I’ll tell your boss you done fucked up”.  It disrespects you, disregards your tenure in the company, elides the previous work you’ve done, and assumes that it’s in your purview to even do what I asked (or demanded) you do.  It also presumes that your boss would even bother listening to me, which may not be a valid assumption based on relevance, acceptibility, and how favored I am with your boss.

At the same time, from the Hermetic point of view, that’s actually exactly what’s going on, but in a different light.  From that perspective, we are made in God’s image (ultimate infinite all-encompassing God, not this God or that God) through and through, and even though all things come from God, we’re the only ones to be made like God.  Because all things bear a love for God (even if it’s in some crazy, harmful, or demonic way), when they see us, they see a small part of God, and so will obey us as they obey God, though perhaps not as readily or happily.  However, as we descended through the spheres and gained more and more density, we also gained more and more power from the spirits of those spheres who wanted to help us and empower us out of love for the First Father.

In other words, it’s as if you’re good friends with my parents, and since you like them and I remind you of them, you’d be willing to help me out if I were to call upon you for a favor or request.  It’s really similar to the case above, but phrased and seen like this, it’s not that blatantly disrespectful; I wouldn’t ask you to help me out unless there were already a strong connection and willingness to help.  However, I wouldn’t rightly demand that you do something for me, either, since that’d be taking advantage over you who would only want to do me good; disrespecting you would reflect poorly on me by means of my parents, who would disapprove of the way I’d treat you.

In a recent chat with the angel Michael of the Sun, I asked for his thoughts on conjuration in magic and the Work.  Now, granted, he’s coming from a soldier’s point of view (right-hand man of God, prince of the heavenly host, etc.), but he made a pretty good point:

All things have a job to do.  You can ask them to do it, and if they do it willingly, it is good.  When they do not and their job needs to be done, you need to make them do it.

The cosmos is a complete system where everything plays a part, no matter how minute or how grand it may be.  If something isn’t doing its job, it needs to get a swift kick in the rear or languish about until it finally decides to do it on its own.  In this light, I can see how the efficiency of a well-ordered cosmos would demand the occasional slap on the wrist of a lazy person, but that isn’t always what’s happening in conjuration.

For angels and the like, conjuration’s a fairly straightforward deal.  Supposedly (and I’m unsure how much I buy this idea, but let’s go with it), they don’t have free will but only act as emissaries, mouthpieces, and actors for God, hence their etymology as “messenger”.  If I ask for something that’s absolutely right out of bounds with God, or not in line with the Will of the Father, they’ll decline, but that’s about the only reason they have for declining.  They don’t seem to mind being conjured in the name of God (or in one of the various godnames from the Tree of Life), but that’s because it’s really similar to just directly calling on God and interfacing with a more concrete, non-infinite form of Divinity that’s easier for the human mind to handle and geared specifically for the task at hand.

For other spirits and things that assert their own will and choice, things get a little more hairy.  Sure, being made in the image of God definitely gives us a natural boost in authority, and moreso if you actually work for divine might-makes-right.  However, we’re also pretty young when it comes to creation, and being the favored child doesn’t always cut it.  Personally, I’d always go with an ask-first approach, always paying respect and kindness and understanding to the spirits unless they actively try to initiate harm; in that case, the gloves come off. 

For instance, the first time I met the local nature spirits in my neighborhood, it wasn’t through a conjuration; instead, it was just by taking a walk and calling out to the forest itself, and letting the genius loci appear to me on their own.  In my adaptation of the conjurations from the Lemegeton, I’m only planning on using the first conjuration; I’ll respectfully call upon the goetic spirit (in the name of their rulers and higher powers, yes, but not in an overtly belligerent way), maybe twice or thrice if they do not appear the first time, and after that just be done with it.  At the risk of sounding like a fluffy whitelighter, unless the spirit is being a real prick, I don’t want to bust out anything more offensive than “Hey, I’m calling you here, please come, I have the authority to ask for you”.  I’ve got no compunction against using weaponry when I need it, but until I get more warlike and experienced in this sort of stuff, I’d rather delay the need for them as long as possible until nothing else will cut it.

What do you think?  Do you consider conjuration to be useful for all spirits, even when a polite summons and invitation will do?  Do you find conjuration to be anathema and overly heavy-handed in all circumstances?  Do you use conjuration for some spirits and other techniques for others?