Genius in the Picatrix: Ritual Prep and Setting the Altar

Last time, we started talking about a particularly interesting bit of the Ġāyat al-Ḥakīm, the “Goal of the Wise”, sometimes just known as the Ġayah, but definitely better known in the West as the Picatrix, most likely written in Arabic sometime in the middle of the 11th century CE.  Everyone knows the Picatrix, everyone loves the Picatrix; it’s a fantastic text of astrological magic, and among the earliest of true grimoires in Europe.  Although focused on what we’d nowadays call stellar image magic, the creation of astrological talismans bearing magical images and scenes made under particular stellar configurations, the text is famous for its wide inventory of bizarre magical concoctions and confections for a variety of purposes, its lengthy invocations to the planetary spirits, and its preservation of older pagan practices from the Hermetists, Sabians, Nabataeans, and various other Mediterranean peoples.  It is not, however, a particularly theurgical text on the whole, even though it contains a wealth of information on philosophy, spiritual and cosmic frameworks, and the like in how and why magic works the way that it does.  Yet, in book III, chapter 6, we encounter an interesting section on the “Perfect Nature”, a sort of guiding spirit or genius, originally encountered by Hermēs Trismegistus himself.  The last post went on at length analyzing the meaning of the vignette of Hermēs Trismegistus encountering Perfect Nature; if you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

So, after the vignette, or rather as part of it, Perfect Nature introduces itself to Hermēs Trismegistus.  But he doesn’t just stop there (Warnock/Greer translation):

I asked him who he was, and he replied: “I am Perfect Nature; if you wish to speak to me, call me by my proper name, and I will answer you.” I asked him them by what name he was called, and he answered me, saying, “By the four names mentioned above I am named and called.” I asked him next at what times I should call him, and how I should make the invocation.

At this point, Perfect Nature describes a ritual to Hermēs Trismegistus to be done to invoke the Perfect Nature as a form of divine communion.  According to the Picatrix, which itself claims that all this is according to the Kitab al-Isṭamāḵis/Liber Antimaquis, “the ancient sages used to perform this working every year” (the Atallah/Kiesel translation says “once or twice a year”) “for the sake of their spirits, so that they might put in order their Perfect Natures”.  The Picatrix also goes on to say that Aristotle himself claims that this allowed the ancient sages to have “his proper virtue infused into him by exalted spirits, by whose powers their senses were closed, their intellects opened, and sciences revealed to them”, and that “this virtue was conjoined with the virtue of the planet ruling the radix of the nativity” (i.e. one’s ruling planet, the almuten of one’s natal chart) “so that the virtue thus co-created in them strengthened them and gave intelligence to them”, and that in this way the sages “helped themselves in their knowledge and understanding, and the increase of their business and possessions, and guarded themselves from the plots of their enemies, and did many other things”.

Warnock and Greer make an important observation at this point in their translation:

This entire passage is reminiscent of the Poemandres, the first dialogue of the Corpus Hermeticum, in which Hermes has a conversation with a similar spiritual being.  The ritual that follows is of great interest; it seems to bridge the gap between classical rituals for evoking a guardian spirit, of the sort found in the Graeco-Egyptian magical papyri, and early modern rituals for the same purpose such as the famous Abramelin working.

Based on the ritual that follows and everything we already know about the Perfect Nature, I’m absolutely in agreement with them.  Perfect Nature is already being presented through the vignette as an actual spirit one can interact with, and is described as a sort of spirit that neatly fills the role of genius, tutelar, agathodaimōn, or guardian angel.  What’s interesting about the Picatrix, however, is that it also breaks out the single entity of Perfect Nature into its four works of Meegius/Tamāġīs, Betzahuech/Baġdīswād, Vacdez/Waġdās, and Nufeneguediz/Nūfānāġādīs, each corresponding to a particular power—or individual spirit, if you choose to interpret the Picatrix that way.  In either case, Perfect Nature is both one and many: a single entity with distinct powers, or a single entity as a collective of four spirits.  I lean towards the former interpretation, as discussed earlier.

According to the Latin Picatrix and its translations, the ritual to commune with Perfect Nature is to be done when the Moon is in the first degree of Aries (i.e. between 0°0’0″ Aries and 0°59’59.999…” Aries); it does not matter whether the ritual is done during the daytime or nighttime, so long as the Moon is in this degree of Aries.  On average (and this can vary incredibly depending on the specific speed of the Moon at this time, based on where the Moon’s apogee/perigee is relative to the first degree of Aries), this gives you a window about 110 minutes long on average, or a little less than two hours, once every 28-ish days.  This also puts the Moon starting a new sidereal cycle, coinciding with:

  • The first lunar mansion, An-Naṭḥ (Alnath), which is good “to go on a journey, so as to travel safely and return in good health…to place discord and enmity between husband and wife, and between two friends so that they become enemies, and to sow discord between two allies…to cause servants to flee” (book I, chapter 4), as well as “for destruction and depopulation” (book IV, chapter 9).
  • The first face/decan of Aries, “a face of strength, high rank and wealth without shame” (book II, chapter 11), which makes one to be “always victorious in battle, litigation and controversy and gain what they wish, and are never defeated; and…to hinder the milk of beasts and destroy their butter” (book II, chapter 12).

Granted, these observations are really more for making talismans in the vein of stellar image magic than anything connected to the present ritual, although the notions of “going on a journey safely and in good health” along with “strength, high rank, and wealth without shame” and victory without defeat are always nice suggestions, too.  What matters most is that the Moon is in the first degree of Aries; if you wanted to put a nice touch on it, you could aim for this to coincide with a planetary hour and/or day corresponding to the planet that governs you, or have a sign of that planet rising or culminating, but these are secondary concerns at best.  However, in the Atallah/Kiesel translation of the Arabic Picatrix, the phrasing is given somewhat differently: “when the Moon comes down to the level of the Head of Aries at any time in either day or night”.  This might be a poetic or idiomatic way of saying the same thing the Latin Picatrix is saying (“cum Luna in primo gradu Arietis fuerit in die vel in nocte”), but it could be interpreted in other ways.  For instance, knowing that the first lunar mansion is associated with the star β Arietis (Sheratan, the lower/first horn of Aries), we could do away with signs and lunar mansions entirely and link the entire ritual to the conjunction of the Moon with this star, ignoring the effects of precession.  Still, I think the simple explanation here is the easiest and most straightforward: the ritual is to be done in that brief window of time when the Moon is in the first degree of Aries.

Taking a step back, now that we know when to do the ritual, what about preliminary purification or other spiritual preparations to be made ahead of the ritual?  Although the Picatrix doesn’t really say much about this, it does say that the philosopher Tintinz the Greek (طمطم الهندي Ṭumṭum al-Hindī in the Arabic Picatrix, a name known to students of geomancy as a student of Hermēs Trismegistus) claims that “one who desires to perform this work ought to abandon all intention and contemplation concerning other things, because the root and foundation of all these workings consists of contemplations” (see above about the role of contemplation as the main vehicle for empowering images), and that either the philosopher Caraphzebiz (in the Arabic Picatrix, كرفسايس Karafsāyis?) or his student Amenus (in the Latin Picatrix, who is not mentioned in the Arabic Picatrix as far as I can tell), likewise says that (Warnock/Greer translation):

…any sage who wanted to work magic, and preserve himself with the powers of the spirits, ought strictly to give up all cares and all other sciences beside this one, because when all the senses and the mind, and all contemplations about other things, are strictly turned to magic, it may be acquired with ease; and since many assiduous contemplations are appropriate to this science of magic, the magician must wrap himself in these, rather than being wrapped around any other things.

In other words, yeah, works of purification and other preliminary preparations of the mind, spirit, soul, and body should be undertaken before this ritual, even if only to refine the focus and desire of the person who undertakes it.  This is especially backed up by what Ibn Khaldūn says in the Muqaddimah:

A man is said to have done this after he had eaten but little and done dhikr exercises for several nights. A person appeared to him and said, “I am your perfect nature.” A question was put to that person, and he gave the man the information he desired.

So, based on this, I would suggest engaging in a period of fasting accompanied by works of steadfast devotion and sincere prayer, especially the repetition of divine names or chants (perhaps including the Four Names of Perfect Nature as well?), at least for three days leading up to the ritual, but more preferably seven or longer, perhaps even for a full lunar month starting from the previous time the Moon entered the first lunar mansion.

Before or during this preparatory period, gather together the following supplies:

  • Almond oil
    • If one has an allergy to nuts, substitute with a neutral oil not otherwise listed here.
  • Walnut oil
    • Warnock/Greer and Attrell/Porreca both only say “nut oil” based on the Latin “oleum nucum”, but Atallah/Kiesel specify “walnut oil” for دهن الجوز duhn al-jawz.  The word there can mean nut generally, but it is used specifically for walnuts as well.
    • If walnuts are a no-go, use another nut-based oil that is not almond oil that’s sweet and good for baking or in cooking desserts, like hazelnut or macadamia nut.
    • If one has an allergy to nuts, substitute with pine nut oil.
  • Sesame oil
    • Atallah/Kiesel say “vinegar oil”, and I have no idea what they mean by that.  Perhaps a thick, reduced vinegar, like a balsamic vinegar?
    • The Arabic phrase used for this is دهن الخل duhn al-ḵall, which does literally mean “oil of vinegar”, and is called for in another part of the Picatrix (book III, chapter 11, “that you may appear in the form of any animal you wish”), where, again, the Latin Picatrix renders this as “sesame oil”.  There are also other Latin works based on Arabic works that do seem to regularly translate sesame oil for “oil of vinegar”.
    • The confusion here is between دهن الخل duhn al-ḵall (oil of vinegar) and دهن الحل duhn al-ḥall (oil from whole sesame seeds).  In Arabic script, the difference is of the presence or absence of a single dot, which can confuse the two meanings.  In general, it seems that the use of “vinegar” here is a typo in the Arabic, given how common it was across the Mediterranean to translate this phrase as “sesame oil” into a variety of languages by different translators.
    • I suppose, however, that one could make an argument that this is something more alchemical than anything else (a la “oil of egg” or “oil of gold”), but this seems unlikely to me.
    • I would most recommend sesame oil (reading it as duhn al-ḥall), as it makes the most sense in this context, though if the vinegar approach were taken (reading it as duhn al-ḵall), this would probably be implied to be balsamic vinegar.
  • Cow’s milk butter
    • I’d recommend unsalted butter, personally.
    • Although there exist non-dairy butter substitutes, I cannot recommend their use due to the symbolic importance of this having come from a living creature (more on that later).
    • In the case of an extreme allergy to dairy, I might recommend the use of shea butter or cocoa butter, but only as an extremely limited case.
  • Wine
    • Atallah/Kiesel just say “alcohol”, though the word used in the Arabic Picatrix is خمر ḵamr, wine.  However, no specific type of wine is mentioned in the Latin Picatrix or its translations.  My personal preference would be a semi-dry white wine, and barring that a light sweet red wine, but that’s just me.
  • One large glass serving dish
    • A large low glass bowl would be perfect for this, even better if it had a separation in the middle (a la a chips-and-dip serving platter).
  • Eight glass pint-sized pitchers or tumblers
    • Each of these holds the wine, oil, or butter.  Warnock/Greer say that each of these pitchers “should have a capacity of around one pint”, while Attrell/Porreca and Atallah/Kiesel both say that these pitchers should be big enough to hold one pound of the wine, oil, or butter.  Checking WolframAlpha, making these to be pint-sized containers does in fact check out.
    • However, that assumes we know exactly which “pound” is intended for use.  One avoirdupois pound (standard in the modern US) is 453.6 grams which is equivalent to 497mL or 16.8 fl oz, but there are other definitions of pound out there historically, too, and may be closer to what was intended in the original Picatrix (using olive oil as a neutral base for unit conversion and comparison here):
      • Roman pound, equivalent to 328.9 grams (360mL, 12.2 fl oz)
      • Byzantine gold pound, which was originally 327.6 grams (359mL, 12.1 fl oz) but decreased over time to about 319 grams (349mL, 11.8 fl oz)
      • Byzantine silver pound, equivalent to 333 grams (365mL, 12.3 foz)
      • Byzantine oil pound, equivalent to 256 grams (280mL, 9.48 fl oz)
    • Based on these, I’d personally go with the Byzantine oil pound, which means instead of using pint-sized (16oz) pitchers, one needs more like 10oz containers, so a little more than half that size, about the size of a standard disposable styrofoam cup or a little more than halfway of a Solo cup.  I think this is fine, especially as almond oil or walnut oil can be expensive.
    • No material for these pitchers is specified, though I’d recommend glass to match the large serving dish above and the symbolism of the glass lantern in the vignette.
  • Sugar
    • Date palm sugar would be best if you wanted to go for cultural or historical accuracy.
  • Honey
  • Coal
  • Incense blended or compounded from frankincense and mastic
    • Atallah/Kiesel say “kandar, a good-smelling glue”.  From what I can find, this is actually a Persian term that just refers to frankincense, but probably high- or top-grade milky-white frankincense.  However, a gloss in the footnotes says that either a part of this phrase that references what to use (بالكية والكندر) is either just frankincense or is frankincense and mastic.  I’d go with using both.
  • Aloeswood (aka oudh or agarwood)
  • One tall candle
  • Two braziers for burning incense
  • A table

Before the ritual, physically clean and spiritually cleanse the ritual area so that it may be made “clean and splendid”.  Although the Picatrix says “house” here, this should better be understood to mean one’s temple space or ceremonial chamber—though cleaning and purifying the whole house where this would take place certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Once the ritual area has been appropriately cleaned and cleansed, prepare the altar.  On the eastern side of the ritual area, set up a table (a card table, coffee table, etc. would be perfect for this).  The Warnock/Greer translation says “a raised table”, the Attrell/Porreca translation “a table raised from the ground”, and the Atallah/Kiesel translation “a table…on a step higher than the ground”.  What we’re looking at is a table set on a dais or other low platform, with the dais probably no more than a foot in height.  For comfort’s sake, I’d recommend the dais be a little larger than the table itself, but not too much so.  An impromptu platform made from bricks, a piece of plywood supported by some low cinderblocks, or the like would be perfect.

Before setting up the altar, a particular kind of sweet confection must be made with butter, honey, walnut oil , and sugar.  Based on the Latin and Latin-translated Picatrix alone, this may look like a sweet whipped creation, much like a buttercream frosting.  Atallah/Kiesel, however, say that this is “a candy” (later, “candies”, suggesting less a mass of substance and more parceled-out bits of it) made with “lots of sugar” and that “it needs to be very sweet and heavy on oil”.  Rather than buttercream frosting, what this may mean is to aim for something closer to toffee or butterscotch candy.

The altar should have the following things on it:

  • One pint-sized pitcher of almond oil, set towards the east on the altar
  • One pint-sized pitcher of walnut oil, set towards the west on the altar
  • One pint-sized pitcher of cow’s milk-based butter, set towards the south on the altar
    • This could be solid or melted or something else; given the presence of liquid oils for the other three such containers, melted butter or even clarified butter may be meant here.  My preference would be for whipped or otherwise non-compacted butter.
  • One pint-sized pitcher of sesame oil, set towards the north on the altar
  • Four pint-sized pitchers of wine, one placed to each of the four directions on the altar
    • These may be placed immediately to the side of the containers of the oils and butter along the edge of the table, or just beside them closer to the center, or with the pitchers of wine on the outside and the pitchers of oil and butter on the inside.
  • A glass dish filled with the candy/confection made from cow’s butter, walnut oil, honey, and sugar, placed in the center of the altar
    • No description of the containing dish is given beyond “glass”, but to my mind, simple clear glass would be best; the other containers for wine and oil would best be made of the same material, ideally even in a matching style.
    • Clear a space in the center of the dish to hold the candle later, if at all possible.

I suppose, of course, that one could also cover the table with a tablecloth; I’d recommend a white linen cloth that hangs down generously around the table, but that’s just me.  None is mentioned in the original text, so we’d be fine without it.

In addition to preparing the ritual space and the altar, we also need to prepare two braziers or censers, one to burn a mixture of frankincense and mastic (or just frankincense, maybe? per the Arabic Picatrix), the other to burn aloeswood, but the Picatrix does not say where to put these things.  If free-standing braziers are to be used (which seems to be the best practice here), I would put the one with frankincense and mastic to the north of the altar and the one with aloeswood to the south, at least three feet away on either side, depending on how much space one has available.  If smaller censers are to be used, they may be put on platforms of their own (milk crate-sized boxes would be perfect, or taller standing pillars if you wanted to be fancy) in the same positions.  Other options for using smaller censers could be to put them directly on the altar itself (I’d recommend keeping to the north/south positioning halfway between the cups and the dish) or underneath the altar directly on the dais (which I don’t find likely or recommended here at all).  The brazier approach, or otherwise keeping the censers off and away from the altar, seems to be the most reasonable.

Unlike other parts of the Picatrix that specify the metal to be used for the censers (e.g. book IV, chapter 2), no description of the material is given, so it probably doesn’t matter.  Simple braziers, made from a steel or iron bowl or chafing dish to hold the coals and incense and supported on metal or wooden legs as a tripod, or otherwise simple small censers, would really be best, especially given the simplicity of the ritual as a whole.  However, if you wanted to customize this aspect of the ritual setup for yourself based on other Picatrix practices for your own ruling planet, the metals from book III, chapter 7 would be good to observe:

  • Saturn: iron
  • Jupiter: tin
  • Mars: bronze or brass
  • Sun: gold
  • Venus: electrum (gold and silver alloy)
  • Mercury: “fixed mercury” (mercury alloy)
  • Moon: silver

If you wanted to go the extra mile, you could also make a special censer for yourself based on the instructions given in book III, chapter 5.  Such a censer would be best used for works with a particular planet, to be made with that planetary metal in the form of a hollow cross, open at the top to allow smoke to exit, and with the container for the coal/wood/fire and the incense underneath such that all the smoke of the incense would flow up through the cross and out the top.  This also has the beneficial symbolic association of smoke rising up a single channel, in the sense of rising up from a pit or straight up to Heaven in our inverted vignette.  Again, this is almost certainly and entirely unnecessary for the present ritual, but the Picatrix does have quite a lot of tech to share.  For reasons that we’ll get to later, a more general metal or material rather than one specific to any given planet might be better; better to keep it simple.

And yes, of course, for those who are operating on a budget and cannot afford braziers/censers, frankincense/mastic resin, and aloeswood (whether as whole wood chips or as powder), using self-igniting stick or cone incense is also acceptable.  It’s definitely better to go with loose incense on coals, especially as stick and cone incense tends to be compounded with fillers and other scents, but it’ll work for those who need it to work.

All this is a lot to talk about the initial ritual prep, but there’s still more to talk about along these lines, not to mention the ritual itself.  That’ll be in the next post, so stay tuned!

On Oils as Offerings

The following is an old post of mine from 2015.  I wrote it a as a guest post for the excellent Quadrivium Supplies, an oil-maker I turn to every so often when I need some real good stuff, and whose oils have never let me down.  She asked me at one point to write a guest post, and I did; it went up in early 2015.  However, she’s since moved platforms and went to a wholesale model, and in that transfer of platforms, her blog got nuked.  While the post went up, it’s no longer there.  I figure I may as well repost it now for posterity, and plus, reading over it reminded me of some good ideas I once had once upon a time.  I hope you enjoy this little relic of writing!


As a ceremonial magician, I go through a lot of supplies.  Yes, there’re the crafting supplies like wood and lead and gold leaf to make Tables of Practice and wands and talismans and the like, but I also go through a lot of consumable supplies like candles, wine, incense, and especially oil.  While I’ve got a grasp of crafting and making some of my own basic supplies, it certainly helps to have friends who can do these things better or who have access to more raw bits and pieces to make better things than I can; after all, while I can make oils for myself, I’d much rather get one of my friends who can expertly create and fine-tune them instead because, well, they know what they’re doing with better equipment and starting goods than I have.

One of my friends owns the lovely Quadrivium Supplies, and she’s an excellent oil-maker that I’ve pinged time and again for very well-made magical oils and advice on how to make a few myself.  My only regret with her work is that I don’t have quite enough income to get some of her oils in bigger quantities!  She knows her recipes well, uses real and natural ingredients that some might shy away from getting, and even makes a series of astrologically-elected oils that are without comparison.  These aren’t cheaply-made garishly-colored artificial oils with a bit of scent, but powerful tools and buffs in their own right.  Recently, she asked me if I’d be interested in writing a guest post on her blog, and I happily obliged.  After thinking for a bit, I figured a good intersection between her work and mine would be a good topic to write on.  Go read my entry there, On Oils as Offerings!

It’s rare that I get the chance to write a guest post for someone else; after all, I have plenty of writing already done and plenty more to do here at the Digital Ambler.  Then again, I’m also not opposed to doing so, since it also gives me a delightful change of pace.


Ceremonial magicians are known for using endless magical tools and magical materia in their works, and I’m no exception; one of the recent choices I had to make in moving to a new house was needing to find a place with a suitable room as my own temple room and magical workshop to house my shrines and altars, as well as providing storage for all my tools and charms that I make.  To be fair, unless tradition dictates otherwise, no system of magic strictly requires material means, but they certainly help, especially in obtaining material ends.  Having a material component in one’s magical work helps to bring down those astral and spiritual forces down, grounding them and giving them a means to work and effect themselves in our world of body and form.  Wands, crystals, talismans, mojo bags, drawn-out circles, engraved candles, and all the rest help in one’s magical works.  Oils are no exception, but they’re also something of a special case.

Not too long ago, I was conversing with one of my spiritual mentors, Saint Cyprian of Antioch, in preparation for a magical undertaking of the Arbatel operation, where one conjures and begins work and initiation with the seven Olympic Spirits associated with the seven traditional planets of Hermetic cosmology.  Saint Cyprian of Antioch, although a Christian saint, was also a powerful magician in his day, and over the centuries has become a steadfast ally to those who call upon him in matters of magic and sorcery of all kinds.  Seeking his advice, he recommended I go through with my plan and conjuration setup: the standard conjuration triangle, crystal scrying medium, incense, yada yada.  However, he suggested one important change: offer the Olympic Spirits a small amount of clear, good oil.  I was considering preparing wine or food, but Saint Cyprian of Antioch turned those down and rather emphatically suggested that I use pure, clean oil as an offering.  He explained that oil has a “volatile” nature, not in the same way as elemental Fire or alchemical Sulfur, but as a magical medium for housing things in a way stronger than water but less than crystal, more pliable than food but less ephemeral than incense.  For housing the soul or power of a spirit, oil would be an excellent offering, especially for entities like those from the Arbatel.

After thinking about this some, I realized that this makes perfect sense.  After candles and incense (and wine, though that’s usually for my own personal use), the material supply I go through the most is a variety of oils.  A full shelf in my supply closet, which is a miniature botanica in its own right, is packed with oils from a variety of distributors and craftspeople, some simple colored-and-scented artificial oils, some intricately developed from the purest extracts all manually taken from herbs and other natural sources.  Most workings that call for candles or talismans will, either due to the recipe or my own inclinations, use an oil in fixing things properly so that a particular power can be fixed.  Abramelin oil, specifically the German recipe, is one I use daily for my own strengthening by anointing my head and palms in prayer.  When using a traditional oil lamp, I’ll mix in some particular oil with the normal fuel for a particular end, like an older cognate to fixing a candle with oil.  I find myself using oils in pretty much any magical operation nowadays; such experimentation has often led me to find alternative uses for oils, sometimes in ways entirely unexpected.

Then again, there are more ways to use oils than in fixing candles or anointing heads.  Among all the oils I have, the one I go through most is common olive oil.  This has a rich history in Mediterranean magic and Western culture generally as a symbol of richness and power, both in this world and in most others.  Simple olive oil can be used towards pretty much any end, not having anything but the pure fruit of the olive tree involved, and when prayed over in a particular manner, can be used on the spot in lieu of any magical oil.  However, I don’t typically use olive oil as a “magical oil”, per se, but as a substance in offering.  For instance, whenever I make an offering to the theoi of the Hellenes, I always pour out an offering of wine with a dash of olive oil.  For one, the Greek gods like the offering of oil with their wine and prayer and incense, but it also suffices to cover the wine and prevent most forms of bacterial or fungal growth in their offerings.  (And yes, the wine still somehow manages to evaporate as the spirits consume it from under the oil, even though this shouldn’t normally be possible, but hey, gods do what they want.)

Of course, I don’t just offer olive oil to the spirits.  Some oils have histories and known uses limited pretty much to offerings, and I’ve taken that route with my own Three Kings oil when working with the Three Wise Men, though they’re also teaching me other methods of using such an oil when working with and under them.  When I need to empower a spirit a particular way, I’ll make them a normal libation but with a few drops of a particular oil that I feel is appropriate.  Household protector spirit needs to be buffed up for an incoming attack?  They’ll get an offering of strong wine with Fiery Wall of Protection oil.  Need to propitiate Aphrodite to help a friend smooth out their relationship?  Sweet wine with Reconciliation oil.  Cleansing a sad spirit who brings in filth?  Clear water with Van Van oil.  Want to placate an angry ancestor with a taste for food?  Good whiskey with turkey drippings (yes, really).  Just as oils can be used to fix a candle or prepare a talisman for ensoulment, oils can also fortify offerings to the spirits and empower them directly.  For that matter, oil can be dedicated to spirits alone for their own use, and if those oils happen to already be consecrated and empowered with herbs or other substances, it can empower the spirit just as strongly as it can empower a talisman.

In the case with the Arbatel spirits, Saint Cyprian of Antioch recommended I use the olive oil as an offering for them to consume, but also to help bring them into the world in their own way.  Oils on their own, according to Saint Cyprian, provide a flexible but useful means to contain the power or presence of a spirit, not unlike talismans or mojo bags, but in a more disposable or usable manner than a set object.  In the case with the Olympic Spirits, Saint Cyprian suggested that I give the spirit pure olive oil to consume and inhabit, then emptying that oil out into the world, allowing the power of that spirit to spread out in our world so it can do its work better in ways that I may not always be able to accomplish.  Oils don’t just evaporate into the air as waters or alcohols do, nor they don’t just vanish into particles like incense or smoke, nor do they stay fixed and firm within a solid containing body.  Oils leak and seep into the world, dispersing themselves and attaching themselves to objects and places, coating things with their powers and imbuing them with their own essences. Oils are much more difficult to get rid of and don’t simply wash away, but they’re not permanent fixtures, either.

Oils, in the end, are just as important a tool as anything else in a ceremonial magician’s temple, if not one of the most important ones.  Sure, not all traditions call for oils in their work, but almost all my workings in a variety of traditions have benefited from including their use for one purpose or another.  I would even rank oil as more important than candles or incense, because a properly prepared oil can take the place of both.  It’s important to remember that oils can be used for many more things than fixing or anointing, but that oils can be used in offerings directly as another method of working with spirits in a way that’s both profound and powerful.

Search Term Shoot Back, August 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 August 2015.

“how do we summon spirit astaroth to appear physically” — Carefully.  Summoning a spirit, whether to physical manifestation or just to spiritual presence, is no joke, and takes a lot of practice, study, and dedication.  Summoning a spirit to physical manifestation is even less of a joke and something that, as I see it, is nearly never necessary.  It’s all well and good if you can pull it off, but I see it as a kind of bragging right if you can do it; it requires strict fasting, serious self-empowerment, a good relationship with the spirit, intent focus on the ritual, and a huge expense of energy that…honestly, most people can’t afford and have no need to spend.  If you can do it, great!  If not, don’t worry.  So long as you can bring them in enough contact so you can communicate and perceive them, you’re doing what you need to do.  Anything more is cool.

“big cork anal prison” — Nope.

“runes that look like sigils” — I’m not sure what your idea of “sigil” means here.  To me, a sigil is a symbol that refers to some concept, word, name, entity, or intent that has been graphically encoded through a mechanical means, such as through a qamea sigil or a sigil wheel or simple combination of letters.  Seals, on the other hand, are symbols that refer to some concept, word, etc. that are obtained or revealed directly from a spirit, and are not generated through any conscious process.  Many people use the terms interchangeably, though I find the distinction helpful in my work.  So, sigils can take many forms, but runes are more or less fixed with a few variations based on era and geographic origin.  Perhaps you mean the system of bindrunes, a ligature (or, I suppose, letter-combination sigil) of two or more runes?

“crystal ball uses” — Crystal balls have many uses, and some of their more common uses are seen everywhere in our culture.  However, I’d like to go over some of the more arcane uses that only the most dedicated crystal users might consider applying crystal balls for, as it’s not always apparent how to do so.  Paperweight.  Decoration in a fountain.  Regift for a new age friend.  Drain stopper.  Candle snuffer.  Meat tenderizer.  Foot/back massager.  Game piece.  Cosplay costume component.  Laser light scatterer.  Blunt trauma weapon.  Anal bead/ben-wa ball.  Body modification implant.  Dough spreader.

“oil lamps less soot” — I wrote a post on how to use oil lamps for great effect in home and ritual, but a few points probably need restating for clarity.  There are several ways you can use an oil lamp with less soot: trim the wick before using it so that all the worst charred parts of it are removed, keep the wick low enough so that you have a big enough flame without it trying to use too much fuel at once, use a clean and pure wick made of natural cellulose or linen with no chemical additives, use clean and pure oil with few chemical (natural or artificial) additives.  Mineral oil tends to be good, but that’s because it tends to be pretty neutral in most respects, as well; olive oil would produce some soot due to its natural compounds, but the higher grade the oil, the better quality flame you’ll get.

“how should fiery wall of protection oil be applied to home” — Different traditions and practices will tell you different things, and even within a tradition, you may have different ways to apply oil for different oils.  For me, I apply Fiery Wall of Protection oil in a small cross on every threshold or lintel in the house: everywhere there’s a gate, doorway, or windowsill that leads to another room or to the outside, I put the oil towards the top and center of that threshold.  If I’m going all out, I’ll also anoint all doorknobs, latches, air vents, drains, and the like just to cover every possible means of ingress or egress from the house.  Alternatively, you could use a five-spot pattern (a dab on each corner and once in the middle) on every window and door, or anoint four large iron spikes (railroad spikes are perfect) and nail them into the ground at the four corners of your house.  The possibilities are endless!

“working with seals of iupiter in virgo” — Assuming you’re working with the Pentacles of Jupiter from the Key of Solomon (book I, chapter 18), I’d go with the consecration instructions given for each pentacle.  Mind you, Jupiter is weak in Virgo (detriment), as he’s opposite his domicile sign of Pisces, so Jupiter isn’t particularly happy about being there.  However, if the pentacle was well-made at a time good for it (day and hour of Jupiter at a minimum), then I’d think it’d be good to use whenever with little change in effect otherwise.  Thus, I wouldn’t want to make anything particularly under the planet Jupiter while he’s in Virgo, unless I really needed his specific influence where no other planet or means of obtaining something could work; in other words, unless it’s an emergency that only Jupiter and nothing else can fix, I’ll probably look elsewhere for help.  The same goes for any Jupiterian working.  Mind you, Jupiter spends just under a year, give or take a few weeks, in each sign.

“how do you spell your name in angelic script?” — First, note that nearly all forms of “angelic script” tend to be different 1-to-1 ciphers (or “fonts”) of Hebrew script; Celestial Hebrew, Malachim, Passing the River, and Paracelsus’ Magi script all follow this trend.  Thus, although these might be considered alphabets, they follow the same rules and have the same number of letters as Hebrew does.  To that end, you’d want to first learn how to spell your name in Hebrew, then use your preferred angelic script.  The big exception to this is Enochian, which was transmitted to John Dee and, although it claims to be an original proto-Hebrew Adamic language, follows the same rules as English spelling and grammar of his day.  However, Enochiana, although technically angelic, tends to be in a whole different field than the rest of the angelic stuff, and may not correspond semantically to other types of angelic work.

“ancient human giant cocks” — As I like to say, there’s nothing new under the sun; I claim that humanity has been pretty much the same today since the dawn of civilization or the dawn of language, if not the dawn of humanity itself some 60,000 years ago.  Sure, we have newer things to play with, complicated systems we’ve engineered, and a variety of abstract philosophies to lose ourselves in, but we’re still fundamentally the same.  This goes for penis size, too; I can’t seem to find any information on historical penis size, but I assume they’re more or less the same size today as they were for ancient humans.  If anything, penis sizes are probably, on average, larger today than they were in earlier eras; several cultures of the past considered smaller penises to be ideal, as they’d cause less vaginal/anal stretching and, thus, less tearing in sensitive tissue, which would lead to fewer rates of infection; similarly, huge cocks were something reserved for the gods, and even then, only in a sense of comical debauchery or intimidation (cf. guardposts with an ithyphallic Pan).  As we’ve gotten better about hygienic practices, internal tearing due to getting on a huge dick hasn’t been as much a concern, so there’s a little more bias now towards going for guys with bigger cocks, and if that’s genetic, then there’s a slight evolutionary trend for more well-endowed guys.

“how to conjure smaller angels” — Use a smaller triangle.

“what do occultists think of the kybalion” — Different occultists will give you different opinions.  Some occultists love it for its own virtue, some love it because it’s a “gateway text” that gets people into heavier and more interesting forms of occultism.  I personally detest the thing and would rather see all copies of it used for toilet paper.  It’s not Hermetic, despite what it claims, as its points and “axioms” are distinctly modern, and instead have its origins in the 19th century New Thought movement.  All of its major points and cosmological theories are either derived from modern New Thought stuff, or are only tangentially and convolutedly connected to actual Hermetic teachings.  I honestly find it to be a waste of paper and ink, and as its usually one of the first texts newbies encounter in the occult (for one unfortunate reason or another), it can lead to some really messed up ideas that ill-prepare them for serious education in Hermeticism.

“how to bless my pentacle in santeria” — Oh, honey.  You are doing everything so wrong.  You don’t; further, you don’t even, do you?  Because I can’t.

Search Term Shoot Back, March 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 March 2015.

“yes and no divination” — Easily one of the easiest and most important forms of divination you can do.  Drawing one of two different stones from a bag, flipping four coins or four shells, rolling dice to get an odd or even answer, and any number of ways can be done to get a yes or no answer from a spirit.  Personally, I find the Chinese system of jiaobei particularly elegant.

“symbols that summon spirits” — Offhand, I don’t know of a symbol that by itself has the power to summon spirits generally, but the one symbol you need for best results is the symbol of the specific spirit itself that you’re trying to summon.  The idea goes that the symbol is a physical “form” or circuit for the spirit, a type of “body”, so wherever the symbol is drawn, the spirit is already there at least in some form.  The rest of the ritual uses that symbol as a basis to bring the spirit more into being for a proper summoning.

“greek sigil magick” — Sigils weren’t that big in ancient and classical Greek styles of magic as far as we can tell; according to extant magical texts, the celestial letters, sigils, seals, and the like came about from Alexandrian magic (think PGM), and weren’t native to Greece.  Rather, instead of combining letters together into a single glyph, Greeks used isopsephy (Greek gematria) to condense words into a single “symbol”, that symbol being a number.  This has the added benefit of linking any number of words together that share the same number through isopsephy; this would be akin to two different words or phrases turned into the same sigil, provided they were reduced to the same set of letters and arranged in the same way, but would be much harder to achieve in letter-based sigil magic.

“st cyprian and justina medal” — While prayer medals of St. Cyprian of Antioch can be found, they’re not that common, and it’s sometimes easy to mix up his medal with that of St. Cyprian of Carthage (though he doesn’t really mind and both work).  However, I’ve never heard or found a prayer medal to both St. Cyprian and St. Justina, or even to St. Justina.  I’d love to find one!

“geomantic representation of numbers and alphabet” — Ugh, this is one of the things that Western geomancy disappoints me with.  I have not yet found any good way to divine letters or numbers with the geomantic figures, and it’s not for lack of trying.  I’m working on another scheme to assign the geomantic figures to the letters of the Greek alphabet (which I find to be easiest to work with), but it’s still in development and hasn’t been tested yet.  Western geomancy has techniques to divine numbers and letters based on Robert Fludd, Christopher Cattan, and John Heydon, but I’ve used all these methods and found none of them to be worth the effort.  Either it can’t be done and people who say they do it are either lucky or liars, or it can be done and the systems we have from Fludd, Cattan, and Heydon simply aren’t the ones we should be using.  I have some theoretical and linguistic issues with the notion of assigning letters to the figures (which language? which dialect? what pronunciation?) that still should be figured out, too.

“what are the planetary hours of the 1-12a.m and p.m?” — That’s not how planetary hours work.  Planetary hours are divisions of daylight and nighttime and don’t follow clock hours.  They’re based on the time of sunrise and the day of the week you’re currently on, so there’s a bit of calculation that goes along with it.

“olympic arbatel enns occult” — I’m honestly not sure where the word “enn” comes from.  As I understand it, it’s like a mantra or an incantation used in conjuring a spirit, a sort of expanded name or verbal seal one can use to catch a spirit’s attention, and I’ve seen it used for the goetic spirits of the Lemegeton.  That said, I’m not aware of any such things for the Olympic spirits; the Arbatel has a pretty simple and clear format for conjuring the Olympic spirits, and they don’t involve enns or incantations or mantras of any sort beyond a short and direct prayer to God asking for the presence of the spirit.

“mix anoited oil.and.florida.water to banish.evil” — I suppose you could, though most oil I know of doesn’t dissolve in Florida water particularly well.  Rather, anointing oil doesn’t really banish evil as much as it does inculcate goodness; Florida water helps to dispel or loosen darkness on a thing and “brighten” it, but may not be enough on its own to properly banish or exorcise evil.  Try keeping them separate and used for separate stages of the process.

“christian rituals to summon angels” — You mean, like, prayer?  Or pretty much the entirety of the Western Hermetic tradition dating from the late classical period?

“why should amblers keep to the path?” — Good question!  Tell me where you’re going and how much fun you want to have, and I’ll tell you whether there’s a path to stick to.

“geomancy gpod days to pray ancestors in 2015” — Honestly, any and all days are good to call on your ancestors.  I can’t think of one that isn’t, generally speaking; any and every day you’re alive is a testament to what your ancestors have done for you—give you life through their own lives through the ages—and you don’t need any system of divination to tell you that.  Still, I suppose you could throw a chart to determine whether a particular day is especially good or ill for ancestor veneration, or use some sort of geomantic astrology to find when the Moon should be in a certain sign or mansion, but beyond that, just pray to them and you’ll be fine.

“can you use vegetable oil in oil lamps” — I mean, you can, but ew.  Vegetable oil doesn’t tend to burn very clean and leaves not only an oily smell but an oily feel in the air.  Stick to pure olive oil.

“which arcangel to pray for improvement in oratory skilks” — As far as the Christian archangels go, I would consider Gabriel to be helpful, since Gabriel is the famous herald and foremost messenger of God.  After all, he was the one who announced to Mary what was going to happen, and there’s the apocryphal horn of Gabriel to call everyone to attention on Judgment Day.  Raphael would be helpful in a more medical method, such as removing speech pathology issues, but Gabriel would probably be best for actually learning how to deliver a message clearly and communicatively.  Planetary magic would suggest Raphael of Mercury and Michael of the Sun, and their elemental counterparts Raphael of Air and Michael of Fire, though Gabriel of the Moon (or of Water) would be good for that human touch in speech that hooks everyone into believing what you have to say.

“orgone radiatior” — While I’ve heard of orgone accumulators (to gather and store orgone) and accelerators (to push and direct the flow of orgone), I’ve never really heard of an orgone radiator which, I assume, would emanate and radiate orgone.  I mean, I have, and those would be living bodies.  Orgone is an ambient, pervasive force that’s generated from living corporeal entities; in that sense, your own body is a radiator.  Thinking of this in terms of a machine you could build, I dunno; the thought’s never really occurred to me, and I don’t know whether there’s a need for this considering the ambient, pervasive sources of orgone already present in the environment literally everywhere.

“how to create talism of desease in geomantic figures” — Probably the same as any other talisman for disease, involving curses, conjuration of baneful spirits, using astrologically harmful times, and the like.  For incorporation of geomancy, I’d recommend applying the figures Cauda Draconis or Rubeus combined with the figures that govern the parts of the body you’d like to injure, then using the resulting talisman in a suitably earthy way: sneaking the item into their belongings, burying it where they frequently visit or walk over, somehow dissolving it and sneaking it into their food or drink, and the like.  Fun times!

“how do i locate my phone using geomancy” — (11 hits?  Really?) Lost item and recovery charts are one of the things I find geomancy to really excel at, and the process is simple.  Phones, being a possession you own, are ruled by house II.  See whether this figure moves around in the chart, and see what the figure itself is to determine its condition and for clues as to where it will be.  Be wary of the Judge, however, in case the phone is actually lost or destroyed for good.

Empowerment Candle Ritual with Psalm 119

(Update 1/8/2018: Got here by Googling around or followed a link from another site?  Interested in more about this ritual, especially since this post is old and I’ve learned quite a bit more since then?  Want to know how to do this ritual better?  Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

Recently, I got back in touch with a good magical colleague of mine whom I hadn’t spoken to in a bit.  Not that anything was wrong, it was just that life got in the way of us having a good time.  Happily, our mutual absence from each other’s lives is now over, and we’re getting down to brainstorming some good ol’ fashioned powerworking, because we’re fancy like that.  My friend and I don’t exactly match much in what we do; I’m the fancy Hermetic quasi-Hellenic part-classical-part-Renaissance ritual magician, and my friend is basically a dirty, fabulous, conjuring, rootworking, Vodou-doing swamp witch.  We happily complement each other’s works, and although we’re kinda like night and day, there are a good number of places we overlap.

One night, we were discussing some traditional protection magic involving mirror boxes and representations made of ourselves to act as decoys in attracting maleficia. My friend brought up the idea of circling the representation in ash composed from burning copies of Psalm 23 and Psalm 91, both of which serve extremely well in spiritual protection and defense.  The notion of circling an image of oneself in ash struck me as peculiar, but also extraordinarily powerful.  The image of Tarot Trump XXII, the World, stuck in my head, and my mind made the leap to using Psalm 119 as the basis for such an ash as well.

tumblr_inline_n3l6jaKKuk1rw0bgl

After all, Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm in the Bible, and itself is longer than a good number of books from both the Old and New Testament.  It’s an example of an acrostic hymn, where each section begins with a different letter of the alphabet (in this case, the Hebrew script).  Thus, there are 22 sections of 8 verses each, each verse extolling a different virtue or blessing ascribed to the Law.  Because of it’s all-encompassing nature, it’s one of the most powerful psalms used in psalmic magic, like in conjurework and American folk magic.  Sometimes just a small section of the Psalm is used, and sometimes the entire psalm.

Add to it, the connection of the different sections of Psalm 119 with the Hebrew letters struck me as powerful.  I think my readers are already familiar with my affinity for alphabet magic, especially when it comes to Greek, but that’s not to say I discount the use of Hebrew.  After all, qabbalah is still a thing.  With each Hebrew letter represented in Psalm 119, the psalm truly does have a universal power that can affect, well, everything.  Every force in the Hebrew tradition (12 signs of the Zodiac, 7 planets, and 3 elements because Earth and Spirit aren’t a thing rabbinically speaking) is represented here, and is heavily involved in the modern understanding of the paths of the Tree of Life.  If we combine the powers of the building blocks of the cosmos with the already notable power of Psalm 119 as used in traditional magic, we can get a truly powerful result upon ourselves.

Thus, this ritual makes an ash with Psalm 119 and circles a representation of ourselves with it; we effectively encircle, fortify, and bless ourselves with all of creation and all of the blessings and promises of the Lord, while also orienting ourselves to the Law of God and our duties within it.  My swamp witch friend heard me out on this and we promptly queened out over the prospects of using this in a separate ritual.  After some discussion, we decided to draw out a recitation of the entire Psalm 119 over the course of a lunar month for a general, but profound, empowerment ritual to strengthen, bless, and help us in all our needs in life.  A tentative working name for this ritual might be “Anointing of the World’s Blessing”, given a structural similarity with the World card and what it actually does.

The ritual takes place over a full lunar month (30 consecutive days), broken down into several stages.  The way we’ve planned it, the ritual requires about 15 minutes per day, but it can be augmented as necessary according to your own preferences.

  • Day 0 (New Moon, one day): preparation of supplies and altar
  • Days 1 through 3 (three days): initial prayers
  • Days 4 through 25 (22 days): Psalm prayers
  • Days 26 through 28 (three days): final prayers
  • Day 29 (Dark Moon, one day): thanksgiving and cleanup

The materia for this ritual are fairly simple and easily obtained:

  • Four white candles (tealights work fine)
  • Four seven-day candles (those 7-color glass-encased candles are perfect)
  • A recent picture of yourself
  • A printout of Psalm 119
  • A Bible (any decent translation in your native language is good, but you can’t go wrong with the King James Version)
  • A small glass jar or vial with airtight lid
  • Olive oil

(Again, this is an outdated post, and even so, I don’t like deleting them.  If you’re interested in performing this ritual, check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

On the day of the New Moon, prepare your representation of yourself.  If you’re just using a picture of yourself, write out your full birth name, followed by “son/daughter/child of” the name of your mother, and your birthday and birthtime (if you have it), perhaps writing your name on it seven times to make a proper name paper out of it.  Once this is done, take the printout of Psalm 119 and burn it to ash.  On an altar or surface that you’ve already ritually cleaned off for the working, set the representation of yourself down and make a complete circle around it in the Psalm ash, and set the four 7-day candles around the circle aligned to the four cardinal directions.

psalm119altar

Set one white candle on top of your representation (with at least some sort of protection between the candle base and your representation) and light it, letting it burn down completely, praying that the ritual to be used with them be purified and blessed with the grace and power of God.  Once the white candle has burned out later that day, dispose of it.

20141122_165740

On the sunrise after the New Moon (the start of the Noumenia), begin the first three days of the ritual.  Light the candle aligned towards the East and face the East as well if you can (not required).  On sunrise of each of these three days, recite the Pater Noster once and the Gloria Patri three times.  Recite an adaption of the prayer from the Heptameron (normally to be used instead of invocations of the angels of the airs when working above the fifth heaven):

O God, mighty and merciful!
O God, great, excellent, and honored through endless ages!
O God, powerful, strong, and without beginning!
O God, wise, illustrious, just, and divinely loving!

I ask you, most holy Father, that I should complete and completely realize my work, labor, and petition, You who live and reign, world without end.  Bless me in all times, in all days, in all places, in all ways.  Let boundless bounty and blessing come to me from the four corners of the world.  Help me, o Lord, in my life that I may come to be girded by the strength and aid of the world, subject only to You.  Amen.

On the sunrise of the fourth day, go to the altar and face East if you can (not required).  Recite the following prayer over the altar:

O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
O God, make speed to save me.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

On this day, pray the first section of verses (Psalm 119:1-8) corresponding to the Hebrew letter Aleph.  As is traditional, it’s important to actually read this from a hardcopy Bible, but that’s only if you care about being traditional.  After praying this section of Psalm 119, meditate briefly on the meaning and content of the section just recited, closing with a silent prayer for the blessing of the world to infuse your life, empower you, strengthen you, illumine you, and assist you in all undertakings.

Repeat this process for the next 21 days, reciting each of the sections of Psalm 119 in turn.  Thus, on the fifth day, recite the second section of Psalm 119 (Bet); on the sixth, the third section (Gimel); on the seventh, the fourth section (Dalet); and so on until the 25th day, reciting the 22nd section (Tav).  Eventually, the 7-day candle you lit earlier will burn out; on the next sunrise, light the next candle going in a clockwise direction (so East, South, West, then North).  The first three candles should have burned out by the 25th day, with more than half of the fourth and final candle having been consumed.  If they burn longer than expected, set alight the next candle on the expected day using the flame from the old candle; if they burn shorter than expected, set alight the next candle on the expected day rather than immediately.

On the 26th day, begin the process of closing the ritual for the final three days.  The process is the similar to the first three days: on sunrise of each of these three days, recite the Pater Noster once and the Gloria Patri three times. Finally, recite Matthew 7:7-8 from the Bible:

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Ideally, the candle-verse breakdown should go like this:

  1. Three days of preliminary prayer, Aleph, Bet, Gimel, Dalet
  2. Heh, Vav, Zayin, Chet, Tet, Yod, Kaph
  3. Lamed, Mem, Nun, Samekh, Ayin, Peh, Tzaddi
  4. Qoph, Resh, Shin, Tav, three days of final prayer

On the 29th day, the day before the New Moon (maybe two days depending on the specific month we’re in), all the candles should have burnt out entirely.  This is the final day of the ritual when all the other work has been done.  First, take your picture and burn it to an ash, then collect the rest of the ash from the Psalm 119 printout and mix it together.  If there’s any wax or soot residue from the four seven-day candles, take a small scraping from each candle and mix it with the ash.  Get a small vial of good olive oil and mix the ash in fully and well.  Dispose of the rest of the remains from the ritual, then set the vial of ash where your picture used to sit, and set three white candles close around the vial.  Light them and make an offering of praise in thanksgiving to God for his help and blessing in your life; I recommend the thanksgiving prayers I use, based on Draja Mickaharic’s prayer from the Old Testament.  Pray over the oil mixed with the ash that it may assist you henceforth in all your undertakings, both those you desire and those you ought to desire, in the things you do and the things you ought to do, that you may always receive the blessing and strength and courage of the Lord in all your life.  Let the candles burn down completely.  Once they’ve burned out, the ritual is complete and finished.

The oil mixed with the ash is to be kept safe as a special and private anointing oil for yourself.  It’s intrinsically tied to you and your life, and not to be used by others or on the tools of others, only on you and your tools in your workings.  Anoint yourself with this oil (perhaps using Psalm 23, perhaps using my own prayer of anointing that you might find useful) before any working or operation, even if it’s a mundane thing like going to an interview; heck, anoint yourself with it upon rising every day.  This oil is a blessing for you in addition to having received the blessings from praying Psalm 119 itself.

(Yeah, you could do the ritual above, but it’s not as good as the one you should be doing! Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

Some suggestions for alternatives or enhancements to the ritual:

  • Instead of using the preface prayer (O Lord, open thou my lips…) to the sections of Psalm 119, you might use Psalm 23 instead, which is also appropriate here.
  • A la my daily mathetic letter meditations, you may find it helpful to do a similar meditation ritual for the letter of the section of Psalm 119 being meditated upon, complete with a visualization of the Hebrew letter itself and projecting it and the sounds of the letter into the ash.
  • If you’d like to focus the entire ritual to a particular end rather than a general empowerment, dress the candles and your representation with an appropriate oil, as well as the Psalm printout before you burn it.  You could also write out the intention of the ritual on the back of your photo as well, writing it in a circle around your name and birth information.
  • Consider dedicating the four candles to the four archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel in their appropriate directions (using whatever associations you prefer for this), and invoke them on each day their specific candles are burning.  Going with the Tarot theme, you might place the Kings of the Tarot under each candle (King of Wands for Michael, King of Swords for Raphael, etc.) and place the World card under yourself.  In the picture of my working setup above, you can see that I did just this, with the World card hidden under the silver platter with my picture and the ashes.
  • I only clean off a ritual surface with a light wash of Florida water and holy water (obtained from a church is always a good choice, but you can make it on your own, too), but you might enhance the ritual area by drawing an empowerment sigil under your representation, lining the surface with crossroads dirt, writing sacred verses from the Bible around your representation to be covered with the Psalm ash, or the like.
  • The ritual above says only one section of Psalm 119 per day during the main part of the ritual month.  You might also consider saying the entire psalm each day, or building up to saying the entire psalm over the course of the month (saying the Aleph section on the first day of this part of the month, Aleph and Beta on the second, Aleph through Gimel on the third, until the final day when you say the entire Psalm 119).
  • I know that there are angels for each of the letters of the Greek alphabet, and I’m sure that a similar set of angels exist for the letters of the Hebrew script, though I don’t know (yet) of one.  You might consider doing an invocation of the letter-angel on each day corresponding to the particular section of Psalm 119 being said.  Alternatively, you might consider invoking the angel associated with the force that is associated with each Hebrew letter (e.g. Heh is associated with Aries, so invoke the angel of Aries, Malkhidael; Aleph is associated with Air, so invoke the angel of Air, Raphael).  You can find these names courtesy of Agrippa (book II, chapter 7 for the elements, chapter 10 for the planets, chapter 14 for the signs).
  • If you want to be more Jewish about this, instead of reciting the prayers at sunrise, try doing them at sunset when the Jews consider their days to start.
  • To be honest, I hadn’t originally considered saving the ash from the Psalm and mixing it with the photo to turn it into an anointing oil, but hey, “waste not, want not”.  Instead of doing that, you could save the ash with the picture (not burning it) and turning it into a mojo bag or other similar charm to keep with you.
  • You might consider using a lodestone or magnet lightly dusted with the Psalm 119 ash and placing it on top of your image so that it attracts all the blessings of the world to you.  This magnet would be placed into the vial of oil to continue drawing the blessings to it and to you over time.  I don’t prefer doing this, only because with the ritual, there’s no need to attract anything from the world that you’re already the center of; all of the cosmos revolves around you in this ritual layout.  There are arguments for and against this, and I can see benefits for doing both.  Experiment!
  • If you want to speed up the process, you might be able to condense the whole working into seven days.  The first day would be for setup and opening prayers (days 0 through 3) and the last day for closing prayers and thanksgiving (days 26 through 29).  The intermediate five days would go more-or-less as usual, except that you’d recite four sections of Psalm 119 a day: open with section Aleph, two of the sections of the psalm (Beth and Gimel, Dalet and Heh, Vav and Zayin, Cheth and Teth, etc.), then close with section Tav.  This maintains a coherency along the entire week, but in a faster manner.  Still, why rush it?  Why use the microwave when you can have a slow-cooked, higher-quality meal instead?
  • As with any prolonged ritual working, this may have some unintended side-effects.  Read through the entire psalm first before deciding whether you want to use this ritual.  I honestly didn’t expect this ritual to have as many effects as it did, not all of which were entirely pleasant to go through, but I’m glad it did.

(Again, this post is old, so please check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

Search Term Shoot Back, November 2014

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of November 2014.

“wicks for middle eastern oil lamp” — Honestly, for those little clay, metal, or terracotta lamps you find from the Middle East, the best type of wicks are those you make yourself from a cotton ball.  Every cotton ball is actually a tiny roll of cotton; simply unroll it into a flat-ish sheet, then roll it again tightly lengthwise like a dreadlock.  Stick it into the spout of the lamp, soak in oil for five minutes before lighting, and boom, you have yourself a perfectly good wick.  Follow the rest of the rules for oil lamps here.

“seven sphere rufus opus”, “‘seven spheres’ opus”, “seven spheres rufus opus”, “rufus opus seven spheres”, “seven spheres by rufus opus” — Yes, Fr. Rufus Opus (my instructor, who is not me) released a book this month, “Seven Spheres” by Nephilim Press.  It is an awesome book (that I did not write).  You should totally buy it from him (who is not me).  I have my copy that I’m working through, and it’s truly an awesome text.

“cinnamon powder spell benefits to sprinkle in four corners” — I don’t know of any, myself, but cinnamon is used to sweeten things up, as well as bring prosperity and joy into one’s life; given its connections to the Sun (cassia and Saigon cinnamon are a little spicier and given to Mars), it also has some mildly protective benefits in magic.  Some ideas for sprinkling cinnamon in this fashion would be to do so in an hour of Jupiter in the day of the Sun, praying for prosperity and happiness to fill up your home, hearth, and house, that all rooms in the house and all places on the property be blessed with the grace of the Lord.  Simple stuff like that, perhaps also setting a white candle dressed in cinnamon oil in each room.

“how to relate question to geomancy houses” — The twelve houses of geomancy are the same twelve houses in astrology.  You, as the querent, have a query to ask.  That query has a topic.  Find the house that best relates to that topic: e.g., if marriage then house VII, if children then house V, if job then house X, if curses then house XII, etc.  It really doesn’t get any simpler than that.  If your query doesn’t have a topic, then you don’t have a query.  If your query can be associated with several houses equally, then inspect each of those houses.  Take your time.  There is no rush to ask a question of geomancy.  Make sure your query is clear, concise, and concrete enough for you to handle instead of being vague, complicated, and abstract.

“tetractys divination” — This is an idea I’ve been experimenting with, using the Tetractys (especially in mathesis) for divination.  I haven’t yet found a suitable way to do so, but there are opportunities here I may not be looking at yet.  My idea would be to use two ten-sided dice (2d10) from a tabletop gaming set, with the 0-9 die given to “answer #1” (where you’re coming from, where you’re based out of, past experiences) and the 00-90 die given to “answer #2” (where you’re headed to, what you need to become, future experiences).  The number on each die could be associated with one of the ten sphairai on the Tetractys, such that if I rolled a 3 and a 50, that’d indicate the sphairai of Fire and of Salt, respectively, indicating that it’s time for me to reduce myself from pure action in the world to a base of nothing, to burn out completely, to focus on the substance that keeps me burning rather than focusing on the results of acting.  That kind of thing.  It’s a side project, but one that could be useful.

“penis growth curse” — …is this really a curse? I mean, usually you’d want to shrink or remove the penis as an effective curse, which is actually a cultural phenomenon in Africa known as koro.  People actually get killed for being accused as wizards or witches there who shrink or disappear away men’s penises, so this is a pretty big thing, but cursing a penis to get bigger?  Dude, that’s like a fetish of everyone who likes penises, especially their own, unless you’re talking about something so big that it’d crush cars.  Even then, there’s a fetish for that, too (hyper and/or macro).

“huge dick images.” — You won’t find any of those on this blog, sadly; I may be a little colorful with my vocabulary, but nothing here is generally NSFW.  I do make the “big anointed wand” joke occasionally, though.

“how to use elohim gibor in prayer” — Technically, you don’t.  From my point of view, you let him use you.  Elohim Gibor (lit. “Strong God”) is one of the names of God, associated in Western qabbalistic practice to the sephirah of Geburah and thus to the planet Mars.  I’ve used this name when working with a martial aspect of God or when working with martial spirits who respond to this name of God.  However, the process is the same otherwise as with any other name of God: you seek the aid of God for his blessing, grace, guidance, and protection that his will be done and not your own lest it be in accordance with his, that you work with the authority of God that God may work through you, etc. etc.  So, really, the answer to this turns out like that Soviet Russia joke, with Elohim Gibor using you.  Beyond that, gematrialize it, intone it, contemplate it, meditate on it, calligraphy it, and whatever else you want to use to figure the name out.

“rufus opus review” — Dude’s cute but in a relationship, also straight, so I typically don’t have my eye out for him like that.  He’s charismatic, for sure, especially once he’s got a few whiskeys in him.

“do males born on a leo/virgo cusp have big dicks” and also “do guys born on a leo/virgo cusp have big penises like greek god hermes” — I’m not surprised I got these searches (again), though I am surprised that they came apart several days away from each other.  Either this is one very concerned searcher, or two separate searchers who have similar tastes and problems.  Hermes, if you look at his Homeric Hymn, would actually be born sometime around the end of Pisces or the start of Aries (a few days after the third New Moon after the winter solstice), and he’s not generally the most sexualized of the gods (though he has his own thing going on), and isn’t exactly a god of giant endowments.  Then again, he might be totally the god to go to if you have a koro curse to enact on someone, which would be hilarious for everyone except those who’d get killed in Africa for it, so I dunno.

“geomancy blog” — While this blog covers many topics, I do occasionally write about geomancy.  A while ago, I wrote a 20-post series on geomancy that covers each of the 16 figures in depth and at length along with four aspects of geomantic technique. the I even wrote a translation of a medieval text on geomancy, which is available on my Etsy that you should check out!  Spread the word, check it out, and I hope it helps.

“congo men biggest cocks” — Since I’ve never slept with someone from the Congo region of Africa, I can’t say whether this is true or not. Also, seriously, I know the US had two federal holidays this past month, but if having two extra days off (for only a percentage of the population here, mind you) gets you that hot and bothered that I’m getting a higher than average hit count for people looking for giant pictures of dicks or for people with giant dicks, I seriously question why you’re using Google and WordPress and not Grindr or Scruff.  Tumblr’s where I go to get my porn, generally speaking, so you might also check that out.

“material used in summoning a spirit” — Technically speaking, you don’t need anything material to summon a spirit; intent, prayer, and a mental connection are all you strictly need.  Some people do a bit of centering prayer to contact a spirit, some people go to their astral temples, and other people just see them, flag them down, and have a conversation with them.  That said, many people (including myself) find it extraordinarily useful to have material tools, for which I suggest a scrying medium (e.g. crystal ball, glass of water, mirror), a summoning platform (e.g. Triangle of Art, Table of Practice), a tool of will (wand or knife or dominant index finger), a few candles, some appropriate incense, and the usual stuff.  Again, none of it is strictly needed, but it helps.

“books on loan from australian libraries about hinese and japanese astrology specifically nine star ki” — I know literally nothing about any of these these things.  I am definitely not an Australian library, nor have I ever been to one nor gotten a book out on loan from one. I’ve talked about these things exactly zero times on my blog or my Twitter.  Why did Google lead you here.  I apologize.

“adherent bandage and jelq” — For those who don’t know, jelqing is a method some men use to increase their penis size (both length and girth) by forcing more blood than normal into it with an extra-firm grip, using an almost udder-milking technique.  The jury’s out on whether this works, but I’ve heard good things with it, so long as you keep at it regularly like any workout; the idea is that you’ll slowly stretch the blood cavities in the soft tissue of the shaft, which allows it to hold more blood when you get an erection, which means getting a bigger hardon.  It’s not recommended for everyone, and there are definitely unsafe ways to do this.  Since you’re forcing more blood into the cock than normally goes in, if you have a cut or scrape or other wound on it that requires a bandage, you really really shouldn’t be handling it that roughly, if at all.  But then, who am I kidding, if you’re already into jelqing then you’re probably not looking to play by all the rules.

“do quadrivium.oils work” — Absolutely!  Some of my favorite oils comes from Quadrivium Supplies, and I’m a big fan of her work.  She charges a pretty reasonable amount for pretty powerful magical oils, and occasionally stocks some other useful and interesting supplies.  By all means, take a look; this time of the year, she has some good sales going on, so have at!

“san lazaro bead pattern” — San Lazaro, more commonly known in English as Saint Lazarus, can be a bit confusing for some people, since there are two Lazaruses in the Bible.  One is Saint Lazarus of Bethany, the brother of Mary and Martha and the one who was raised by Jesus Christ from the dead after being in his tomb for four days.  The other is…well, he has no formal appellation, just “Lazarus” from the parable of Jesus known as “The Rich Man and Lazarus”, from the Gospel of Luke.  San Lazaro kinda merges these two Lazari, mostly from the second, and is often depicted as a beggar covered in sores, walking on crutches, and licked upon by dogs.  He’s syncretized with the orisha Babaluaye, the orisha of illness, poverty, death, and the like.  However, there are many paths or aspects to San Lazaro, each possessing their own name, focus, and bead pattern for their elekes.  While you should always go to your local olorisha or Santero/a for real information, you can find some information online that may not be as trustworthy.

“hermes/mercury and legba” — They’re all pretty cool guys who don’t afraid of anything.  However, they are not the same entity, and you’d do well to take heed of that.  Hermes is Greek, Mercury is Roman; these two basically grew up together, with Mercury being solidly based on Hermes (the name “Mercurius” literally means “god of the merchants” and isn’t a native Roman god).  Legba is one of the variants of the name Eleggua, the childlike trickster and messenger of the crossroads who opens the ways.  Yes, they both preside over crossroads, messages, pranks, children, medicines, and many other things, but there are also important differences, too.  Legba, specifically, indicates more of a Haitian variant from Vodou, which has its own means of contacting Legba than Santería does Eleggua.  I highly suggest against conflating Legba with another crossroads gods, especially from a white or European culture.

On Using an Oil Lamp

Not that long ago, one of my good friends and colleagues Ahmadi Riverwolf (who also founded Bones and Stars, the paranormal investigation and spiritual consulting group I’m in), gifted me with something rather nice and unique: an old fashioned terra cotta oil lamp.  Bless her heart, she didn’t know what it was for and had been using it as an incense burner for years.  She had been cleaning out her house one day and found this old thing, then decided to give it to me.  I practically came with excitement over it.

Once I got it and finished cleaning it out from the old incense remains, I decorated it a bit, writing on certain prayers and symbols and…well, kinda left it unused.  I mean, who the hell uses oil lamps anymore?  They’ve been out of vogue generally in the Western world since the eletrification of both urban and rural areas, and the really old style of oil lamp like this one is best known to be used in the antique and classical Mediterranean and Middle East.  I’ve never seen references to oil lamps being used outside of the Greek Magical Papyri, if that gives you any indication of how old these things are, but I know that lamps hold a special significance in many religious and spiritual communities beyond simply acting as a source of light or a spot of remembrance.  To that end, I did some research, experimented with the use of oil lamps, and now I find it to be an invaluable addition to my ritual toolset.  Here are some guidelines and suggestions I’ve found out and read on for using an oil lamp like this, both generally and for ritual use.

On the lamp:

  • There’s usually at least two holes on the lamp: one for the wick at the spout or nozzle of the lamp, and one on the main chamber to fill the oil.  Don’t get the two confused.
  • Some oil lamps can be suspended with chains.  Be careful when you suspend them that they’re held in a stable position, won’t be bumped into, and won’t set the ceiling or its support on fire.
  • When setting the lamp down on a surface, be sure that it’s heat-proof or has something to insulate the lamp.  Although the lamp itself shouldn’t get hot, try to use precautionary measures whenever you can.
  • Many traditional oil lamps from the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East have religious designs on them, usually a Chi-Rho logogram or a Hebrew seven-branched menorah.  Pick one that suits your faith, or find one that has a generic design if you don’t want an overly religious lamp.
  • If you’re using an old lamp, make sure it’s clean by washing it with rock salt and rubbing alcohol, shaking the salt around inside.  Rinse well with clean water.
  • Newer lamps, such as those from the Victorian and 1900s, often have a glass chimney to keep the flame safe from wind as well as to keep it contained, as well as to collect soot.  Some chimneys are decorative and have shaded or frosted glass; try to use clear glass chimneys so you can see the flame clearly, if at all.  I recommend not using chimneys, personally, or lamps that use them.
  • Feel free to embellish and decorate your lamp!  Write spells, words of power, prayers, or characters of particular entities on the lamp using heat-safe paint or permanent marker.  I suggest the Orphic Hymn to Fire (Aither) in Greek, personally, but it’s up to you.
  • Many of these lamps are made of terra cotta or ceramic.  Be careful with them, since they can break fairly easily.  Bronze and metal lamps are more resistant to damage, but not by much.
  • Old oil lamps are meant to be low and shallow, not the long and large ones known from more recent centuries which use fast-moving oil.  Oil lamps with long, elaborately curved nozzles aren’t really meant to be used and are likely to be merely decorative.

On the wick:

  • Unless you have a wick holder that can be inserted into the lamp, just push the wick into the nozzle while twisting it.  It’ll go in easily enough either way, insert or no.
  • You don’t need fancy wicks from a craft store for the lamp; cotton balls work fine.  Most cotton balls are actually rolled up, so if you unroll them you get a large fluffy “sheet” of cotton.  Roll this between your hands into a thick strand of cotton.  You have a wick!  One large cotton ball can be rolled into a long enough strand to produce two wicks easily, maybe three if you’re being stingy.
  • For a brighter flame, soak the wicks in strong salt water thoroughly, then let dry.  The sodium makes the flame burn a brighter yellow.  Try experimenting with other mineral or metal salts to get the wick to burn different colors, such as green, red, blue, or white, but be careful of any noxious fumes these might produce.
  • Instead of using cotton balls, use low thread count natural fabric.  The plus of this is that you can write incantations or signs on the fabric which will burn with the lamp as the oil flows through it.
  • The purer and cleaner the wick, the less soot it’ll produce.  Try to use 100% clean cotton, linen, or hemp whenever possible, and never use synthetic fabrics.
  • Put the wick in before the oil, and let the wick sit in the oil for at least five minutes before burning.  The wick needs to soak up enough oil so that it can start burning the oil immediately instead of burning down the wick.
  • Clip the most burnt part of the wick off with scissors before igniting the oil lamp again.
  • If the wick is too long and too far away from the oil reservoir, it won’t be able to draw oil up fast enough to burn at the edge of the wick.  Be sure the wick is close enough to the nozzle spout to prevent overburn of the wick.

On the oil:

  • Be sure to not overfill the lamp with oil.  Fill the lamp until it’s between 3/4 and 5/6 full; you may need to test out proper measures by filling it up with water and seeing how much water you put in with a measuring glass.
  • You can use olive oil, vegetable oil, sesame oil, or even liquified ghee for the lamp if you want, but I prefer pure olive oil.  You don’t need to burn extra virgin olive oil unless you’re rich and insist on basically burning your money away.  Mineral oil might also be good to use (and is just about mandatory in Victorian era oil lamps), but olive oil is traditional.  Vegetable oil tends to smell bad and leaves residues that need to be cleaned out, but can be used in a pinch.
  • The purer the oil, the less soot it’ll produce.  Try to use clean oil whenever possible, and keep the flame away from walls or pictures so that soot doesn’t build up on them.  Unless, of course, you want to collect lampblack for making other things, which is totally doable and preferred from an oil lamp.
  • The purer the oil, the less residue it’ll produce on your walls and the room you use the lamp in.  A small amount of residue is unavoidable, but using cheap and dirty oil will leave a distinctly greasy feeling in the air and on the walls.  Either keep the windows open or expect to have to repaint the room in a few years when your rent is up.

On the flame:

  • Although the flame burns the oil, it also slowly burns away the wick, too.  Use tongs or tweezers to pull the wick up and down to manage both the size of the flame as well as how big the flame becomes; the more wick is out, the bigger the flame gets.
  • The smaller the flame is, the longer the fuel will last.  Big flames not only use more oil, but also burn more of the wick up.
  • The bigger the flame is, the faster it’ll produce soot.  Burn the wick at a low flame to prevent a notable trail of soot from rising from the flame.
  • Never leave an open flame unattended.  Obvi.
  • Keep the flame away from flammable substances and surfaces.  Duh.
  • When putting out the flame, use a candle snuffer or a clamp that can close around the burning part of the wick completely.  Do not blow the flame out, since this can blow parts of the wick away onto the surrounding area (which themselves might have enough oil in them to still be on fire).

On ritual use:

  • Before making use of the oil lamp in rituals, figure out how much oil you need to last for a certain amount of time.  Fill the lamp appropriately with a measured amount of oil, let the wick soak, light the wick, and adjust the flame to get a decent height, then time how long it takes for the oil to be used up completely.  Small amounts of oil are okay for short rituals, so long as as the wick is soaked in oil enough to be lit.  In my experience, a 1.5″ flame using 3 tablespoons of oil takes about three hours to burn up.
  • Most Renaissance magic calls for the use of candles and not oil lamps; consequently, I can’t find any Renaissance or Hermetic consecrations for an oil lamp or a flame burning upon one.  A Catholic blessing of fire might be used when lighting the lamp if you want to go a Christian devotional route.  For the more magically inclined, the conjuration of the fire from the Heptameron or the Trithemius conjuration ritual, both of which use variants of the conjuration of fire for incense from the Key of Solomon (book II, chapter 10), can be used as well if not better.  You might also adapt the consecration of candles from the Key of Solomon (book II, chapter 12) for consecrating the lamp itself as well as the oil and wick to be burned.  One of these days, I might experiment with writing up my own and sharing it.
  • Many parts of the PGM specify a lamp “that has not been colored red” (PGM I.262, inter alia).  This is because one of the colors of Set or Seth-Typhon is red, and many parts of the PGM didn’t particularly want to call on him through the use of his colors or symbols.  When painting a lamp, be sure to use only red ink or paint when working with this destructive god; otherwise, use black or any other color if possible.
  • For rituals, experiment by adding in magical oils into the fuel.  You don’t need much; if you normally use 2 tablespoons of olive oil, use 1 3/4 tablespoons olive oil and 1/4 tablespoon magical oil.  This can be useful for specific rituals, or you can just mix olive oil with holy oil and use that as a general consecrated light. Be careful when burning magical oils; not all magical oils are made from natural ingredients, and some oils may not burn well or may produce noxious fumes when burned.  Experiment outside first using a small amount of oil.
  • Although oil lamps are referenced throughout the PGM, few consecration rituals are described for one.  PGM I.262 says that the wick should be made of cotton and have the ABERAMENTHO formula written on it (ΑΒΕΡΑΜΕΝΘΩΟΥΘΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞΕΘΡΕΛΘΥΟΩΘΕΝΕΜΑΡΕΒΑ) for the purposes of lamp divination with Apollo. PGM II.1 says that “a lump of frankincense” should be put into the wick of the lamp before going to bed for the purposes of a dream divination before saying a particular prayer; in the same section, the lamp should be set on a lampstand made from virgin oil with a bit of the oil poured onto the stand itself.  Other parts of the PGM say that the wick should be taken from the corpse of one who has died violently or be made of a particular type of reed.

One particular ritual involving an oil lamp from the Greek Magical Papyri is PGM VII.359, which induces a dream oracle or prophetic dreams.  One is to take a strip of clean linen and write on it ΑΡΜΙΟΥΘ ΛΑΙΛΑΜ ΧΩΟΥΧ ΑΡΣΕΝΟΦΡΗ ΦΡΗΥ ΦΘΑ ΑΡΧΕΝΤΕΧΘΑ (an Egyptian or Coptic phrase, no doubt, involving some sort of darkness or “khōūkh”).  Roll up the linen to make a wick, set it in a lamp, and light it with pure olive oil.  In the evening just before going to sleep, while “being pure in every respect”, light the lamp using the linen wick and say the following prayer:

ΣΑΧΜΟΥΝΕ ΠΑΗΜΑΛΙΓΟΤΗΡΗΗΝΧ, the one who shakes, who thunders, who has swallowed the serpent, surrounds the moon, and hour by hour raises the disk of the sun, ΧΘΕΘΩΝΙ is your name.  I ask you, lord of the gods, ΣΗΘ ΧΡΗΨ, reveal to me concerning the things I wish: …

Then go to sleep and you will be given answers in your dream.  The PGM is full of these types of rituals, including ones that involve Eros (PGM VII.478), Anubis (PGM VII.540), Hermes (PGM VII.664), and others.  Others, like PGM XXIIb.27, make use of repeating a particular incantation to a lamp until it is extinguished just before bed to get a yes or no answer in sleep; they ask for a particular image (“water and a grove”, “rivers and trees”, etc.) for an affirmative answer and another image (“water and a stone”, “fire and iron”, etc.) for a negative answer.  Some Demotic spells use lamp divination in conjunction with a virgin boy to act as a seer, while many other spells use lamps to constrain or compel someone to act in a particular manner.  Generally speaking, and with many exceptions, the use of a lamplight gave the power of one to see what cannot normally be seen, either by our own eyes in daylight or by our mind in the subconscious world of sleep; on occasion, the lamp was considered a connection to divine entities by which one could converse or cause to act and cause change in the world.

Personally, I’m switching out the use of consecrated candles for my rituals with the use of an oil lamp with consecrated oil for the same purpose.  In any given conjuration ritual, for instance, I might have several candles burning, but there will always be one specific candle that I consecrate to shine forth the light of the Infinite.  It’s that candle that I’d like to replace, since that’s the one candle I need at a minimum; everything else is decoration.  Plus, given the adjustability of the flame, I can get more light out of an oil lamp than I can a candle.  This is especially nice given the preponderance of biblical and Hermetic references to the use and symbolism of lamps; plus, the sheer use of an oil lamp gives a ritual a much different feel and charm that brings things closer to how the ancients did.  I use pure olive oil for the fuel mixed with a bit of holy oil for general rituals, though for small amounts I like to mix in vision oils or planetary oils in a clean lamp for rituals that could really use the kick.  If I ever start up a collection of oil lamps, I plan on using one just for conjuration rituals, and using another to burn for my ancestors with a specific oil blend burning as an eternal flame offering for them to elevate, pacify, and appease them; other oil lamps can be used for similar purposes with other spirits quite easily.

Given the affordability and availability of old-style oil lamps, both modern replicas and old-world antiquities, it’s not hard to get a good oil lamp for yourself in your own Work.  I strongly consider the use of them, especially given how easy they are to maintain.