Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Recap, Summary, Variations

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of…well, rather, we finally finished discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  This whole time, I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and earlier today we released the last in this series of posts.  The only thing left to do now, I suppose, is to give a summary of what we’ve discussed in these 21 posts that had over 92,000 (!!!) words between them all; for comparison, this series of posts is nearly 63× the length of the actual ritual text of DSIC itself.

First, an index to all the posts in this series for ease of access:

  1. Introduction to DSIC, the various actors at play, and the crystal ball used to view spirits within
  2. The pedestal for the crystal, the design of the gold plate, and the pedestal’s likely basis in the ostensorium of Catholic Christianity
  3. Introduction to the table, and the debate and decisions behind using either the four kings or the four archangels on it
  4. The planetary components of the design of the table for characters, seals, names, and angels
  5. Assembling the different components of the table together into a coherent design
  6. The basic design of the lamen for the spirits and what the divine names to use on it
  7. The planetary and spirit-specific components of the lamens used for spirits
  8. The design of the wand and the ring used for the ritual
  9. The nature and form of the candles and incense vessel used for the ritual
  10. The Liber Spirituum and its necessary or unnecessary role in the DSIC ritual
  11. The design of the magic circle and both its and DSIC’s origins or connections to the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano
  12. The general ways to consider the construction and consecration of spiritual implements
  13. The specific concerns of materials, timing, and methods to construct and consecrate our DSIC implements
  14. Concerns about ritual attire and general preparations for purification before the ritual
  15. How to set up our temple generally, and specifically how to arrange the magic circle and conjuration altar
  16. How to orient the altar, set up the implements for conjuration on the altar, how to time our conjuration ritual, and whether to use a lamen or pentacle or both
  17. The ritual script and procedure for performing the DSIC conjuration ritual
  18. Advice on conducting yourself in the presence of spirits conjured and ideas on how to work with them
  19. Varying the prayer of conjuration itself to suit non-angelic or non-celestial entities to be conjured
  20. Guidance and advice on what to do when particular aspects of the conjuration ritual go wrong or unexpectedly
  21. Guidance and examples on how to adapt the language of DSIC to avoid Christian overtones in favor of alternate spiritual traditions
  22. BONUS: Francis Barrett’s own notes and approach to DSIC

So, what did we learn from this little blog project of mine we started back in May this year?  Let’s talk about some of the high points and conclusions we can draw, including some stuff that we didn’t place anywhere else in our earlier discussions:

  • The ritual text The Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals is attributed to the Christian abbot Johannes Trithemius of Spanheim, but was most certainly not actually authored by him.
  • DSIC was first realistically published, despite older origins, in Francis Barrett’s 1801 The Magus.
  • DSIC serves as an implementation of conjuration based on many of the ideas, structure, and designs provided by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim in his Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, referencing other entries in his earlier Three Books of Occult Philosophy.
  • DSIC takes Agrippa-style “good spirit” theurgic communion with spirits and combines it with Solomonic-style conjuration of “evil spirits”, especially from the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano (which was translated into English and published with Agrippa’s Fourth Book).
  • Some elements of DSIC seem to be more Solomonic in nature and conflict with the Agrippan/theurgic content, and vice versa.
  • There are now largely two modern schools of implementing DSIC:
    • That of the independently-trained modern Hermetic magician Frater Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) as he taught its use in his Red Work series of courses (RWC) and, later, his Seven Spheres (SS) book, which collectively take a fast-and-loose approach that combines or elides some elements of DSIC in favor of good results fast.  Fr. Acher of Theomagica, also an early adopter of DSIC, falls in line with Fr. RO.
    • That of the by-the-grimoire Solomonic magician Frater Ashen Chassan (Fr. AC), who takes a stricter approach as he teaches it in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (GTSC) to carry out all instructions and designs as close to the letter of DSIC as possible.
  • Despite the desire of many to perform ritual texts “by the book” or “to the letter”, oftentimes without incorporating other grimoires or literary influence, doing so with DSIC is not possible due to how little is actually specified and how it seems to reference other occult texts.
  • The sparseness of DSIC has necessarily led to wide divergence and variability—and as numerous discussions and debates—in how magicians apply DSIC, especially with a popular resurgence in occult literature and practice generally, especially from non-Western methods of occult practice that aren’t necessarily Christian or Hermetic in nature, which was the expected milieu of the audience of DSIC.
  • Based on Google searching and analytics, it honestly seems like there wasn’t any modern interest to speak of (at least, recorded or publicly discussed online) in DSIC up until the end of the first decade in the new millennium.  There is at least one reference to this ritual, or something close to it, being performed in the 1800s (based on the description of a similar piece of equipment, the pedestal and crystal, in Frederick Hockley’s Occult Spells: A Nineteenth Century Grimoire), but little other evidence that the DSIC ritual was ever widely used.
  • It is known that Poke Runyon, aka Fr. Thabion, did bring up DSIC in his Ordo Templi Astarte (OTA) classes at least in the 1990s, but he never went into this text in depth either in the class or in his texts, presenting it merely as an example of crystal-centric conjurations of spirits within a more Ars Almadel-focused approach.
  • Additionally (hat-tip to the splendid Cole Tucker who told me about this after this post went up originally), Fr. Achad discusses DSIC briefly in chapter IV of his 1923 work Crystal Vision through Crystal Gazing, but only at a high level and in the context of crystallomancy and the use of scrying crystals generally.  Though some people have encountered DSIC by this, it’s unclear how many or how often that has happened.
  • Besides Fr. Achad talking about it and Runyon discussing it, it’s unknown how popular this ritual was in modern Western occult practice (I can’t find anything online about it) until late 2006, when Fr. RO began documenting his use of the ritual online and using it in his RWC and his fundamental angelic conjuration ebook (no longer publicly available), Modern Angelic Grimoire, and its corresponding goetic text (soon to be republished), Modern Goetic Grimoire.  Heck, it wasn’t even available on Esoteric Archives until April 21, 1999 (when I was in, like, fifth or sixth grade).  This means that, in reality, the modern application (and adaptations) of DSIC was essentially pioneered by Fr. RO, with Fr. AC coming onto the scene later with a refocus on Solomonic grimoire authenticalism/purism/fundamentalism.
  • As has been shown by Fr. RO and by the actual experiences and implementations of many who came after him, DSIC is a highly flexible ritual, and given how sparse it is in details and specifics, it could well be better considered as a ritual template instead of an actual ritual.  This flexibility allows for adaptation, both in terms of tool use, prayer phrasing, and even the general context of spiritual or religious traditions, so long as a basic understanding of a hierarchical cosmology and framework of receiving and applying divine authority to work with spirits is maintained.
  • DSIC explicitly calls for there to be two people in the ritual, both a magician who conjures the spirit and a scryer who facilitates the communication of the spirit with the magician.
    • This is exactly in line with the vast majority of Solomonic rituals going back to Hygromanteia and PGM times, if not earlier, which call for scryers or other assistants for the magician to be present, just in case the spirit appears to someone else besides the magician.
    • This further allows the magician to focus strictly on managing the overall ritual and temple space, freeing them up to handle any eventualities should and when they occur, as well as handling other ritual needs such as incense consumption or notetaking.
    • However, even though this is a best practice, most modern magicians forego having any assistants or scryers, since we tend to operate independently and alone.  Whether you as the magician operate alone or with a scryer is up to you, depending on your own visionary, discernment, perception, and scrying skills.

Then there are a few great points that were brought up in the course of the discussions and comments of these posts:

  • From Pallas Renatus on the pedestal: if we take the use of the single Hebrew letter Yod as the single-lettered divine name of God per Agrippa and the hexagram as a generalized (solar?) symbol of divinity, then the hexagram with central Yod is a sign of the radiating power and divinity of God into all the cosmos.  Placing this symbol upon the pedestal at the top gives it the centermost and highest symbol of divinity in the whole ritual apparatus: God radiating power and light downwards into and through the four archangels so as to empower and elevate, but also constrain and bind, the spirit present within it.  It is, in effect, “a bare-bones form of what the Table of Practice tries to accomplish in [grander] form, but extended into the third dimension”.
  • On Facebook, Erneus from Magia Pragmatica mentioned that the “ten general names” of God from Agrippa (book IV, chapter 6), which are those that form the bulk of the divine names for the lamen, has an earlier origin from St. Jerome in his “De Decem Dei Nominibus” which he lists as El, Eloim, Eloe, Sabaoth, Elion, Ieje aser Ieje (treated as a divine name), Adonai, Ia (dominus), Iao (dominus), and Saddai.
  • Another great tip from Erneus was that the divine name On (from the wand design) isn’t a Hebrew name, but a Greek one (το Ων); this on its own wasn’t surprising, but he tipped me off that Agrippa himself translates On as Eheieh (אהיה) in book III, chapter 11.  This means that, should one use Hebrew for the three divine names on the wand, you’d end up with three four-letter divine names: instead of Agla On Tetragrammaton, you’d have AGLA AHYH YHVH (אגלא אהיה יהוה).  Along those lines, if one wanted to use something comparable to “Ego Alpha et Omega” (Revelations 22:13), you could use something like אני ראשון ואני אחרון from Isaiah 44:6 (“I am the first and I am the last”, aniy r’išōn v’aniy ‘aḥarōn).  However, given the emphasis on Hebrew godnames (with the exception of “Tetragrammaton”), it’s unclear whether using On itself, either in Roman script or Greek script (ΩΝ) or Hebrew script (ון) really should be replaced by a Hebrew translation or not.  This is a variant that I’d leave up to the individual magician to decide on (though I admit I do enjoy the look and feel of having three four-letter names on the wand, at least if Hebrew is used).  However, given the DSIC author’s familiarity with Agrippa, it can’t easily be explained why they wouldn’t just use a Hebrew name in this case instead of a Greek, if Agrippa himself equated the two.
  • In the post about orienting and setting up the conjuration altar, Fuzzy brought up a point about orienting the table (or Table of Practice) separately from the altar; in other words, regardless which direction the altar is oriented, the table (or Table of Practice) would always be oriented towards the East (or North, if you’re Fr. RO in SS).  To my mind, this would only really be important if you use the double-ring design of the table (or Table of Practice) that has a separate ring of names for the four directional entities (four kings or four archangels), because in the one-ring design, there’s no directionality to be had on the table (or Table of Practice).  It would be weird for me, however, to have the triangle face in any direction besides away from you—especially if you use this method and face West in a conjuration, where the triangle would be pointing right at you, which I consider to be energetically and spatially dangerous.  This also does away with the significance of how we arranged the names of the angels on the pedestal plate, which was meant to line up with the four directions when facing away from the magician; however, if we use any orientation of the altar besides East, that would necessarily have to be done away with, unless if we keep the orientation of the pedestal to the table the same.  I’m not sure how I feel about not keeping the table (or Table of Practice) unaligned with the altar, but that is another valid variation, I suppose, so long as you’re using a separate piece of equipment for the table (or Table of Practice) instead of it being the surface of the altar furniture itself.
  • On the same post, Aaron Leitch himself chimed in and suggested another option for orienting the altar of conjuration: orient the altar towards the direction of the planet itself.  For this, a skymap, compass, or ephemeris would be used, such that if you were to do a conjuration of the angel of Jupiter, and the planet Jupiter was positioned towards the north-northeast, you’d orient the altar towards the north-northeast.  This is basically the system used in other astrological magic texts like the Picatrix.  Moreover, Aaron suggests that whether the planet is above or below the horizon would also be significant so as to tap into the ouranic/celestial side of the planet when the planet is above the horizon or its chthonic/subterrestrial side when below the horizon.  This would give an excellent refinement when used in conjunction with the planetary hour besides simply using a diurnal or nocturnal hour.

But, even after we’ve discussed so much, there are still a few lingering questions that could still be answered by others better than me in the future, perhaps after more research or experimentation:

  • Who is the true author of DSIC?  I consider Barrett himself to be the most likely and obvious possibility, but it’s unclear whether he plagiarized this himself from another source or offered it as an original contribution under attribution to Trithemius.
  • Was DSIC written more as a distillation/simplification of the Heptameron taking influence from Agrippa’s Fourth Book, or was it the reverse, that it was written as an implementation of a combined “good spirit”/”bad spirit” approach from Agrippa, and filling in the gaps with the Heptameron?
  • What were the specific Solomonic influences that led to DSIC?  The Heptameron is a clear influence, but were there others?  How wide and how far back can we trace the Solomonic roots of DSIC?
  • What did the original author of DSIC have in mind for the design of the table, notably left out of the DSIC illustration?
  • How widely was DSIC used after its publishing in Barrett’s The Magus, especially when compared with other forms of conjuration used in Western occulture?
  • What would a full, detailed implementation of DSIC look like in a Iamblichean (or otherwise generally Hellenic) Neoplatonic adaptation?  A PGM adaptation?  An Islamic adaptation?
  • What would a non-Hermetic, non-Solomonic adaptation of DSIC look like?  Would such an adaptation even be possible without relying on a common hierarchical monistic/monolatric/monotheistic divine structure?
  • What would a full, detailed implementation of Agrippa’s theurgic communion with “good spirits” look like?  His ecstatic communion with “good spirits”?  His conjuration of “evil spirits” to a circle?  What other grimoires would most closely resemble Agrippa’s description of such methods?
  • What is the specific Hebrew letter inside the hexagram present on the gold plate, pedestal, and wand?  Fr. RO interprets it as a Yod, Fr. AC interprets it as a Daleth, and Jake Stratton-Kent interprets it either as a Daleth or Resh.  I’m in the Fr. RO camp of interpreting it as a Yod, which seems to be the most sensible choice, but we all know that Western grimoire authors and illustrators weren’t always the best at accurately writing the shapes of Hebrew letters.
  • Regardless of the specific letter used, what is the role of the hexagram with central letter on the plate, pedestal, and wand in the DSIC illustration?  What does the original author of DSIC mean to signify by it?
  • More generally, what is the original, specific role of the three symbols on the pedestal, that of the hexgram with central letter, pentagram, and cross?  Where did these symbols come from?
  • I’ve never been satisfied with a simple or high-level answer regarding the role of the four kings, nor why they would be mixed up in these ritual tools if it’s not a purely Solomonic approach; after all, Agrippa says nothing about them, even in his Solomonic approach, nor are these kings used in the Heptameron, so their inclusion suggests another source or influence entirely.  What is their specific role as far as DSIC is concerned?  How does that role compare to the four archangels?  What is the nature of this role at all?

Now, it’s clear that DSIC, beloved (or not) as it is by many modern magicians and conjurers, isn’t exactly the most clear, unambiguous, or detailed of texts, and that has led to a number of variations in how DSIC can be implemented—on top of the normal adaptations magicians make, anyway, due to laziness, convenience, availability of supplies, or differences in cosmological framework.  So, what about a summary of some of the more reasonable variants that we’ve either encountered or thought up in our endeavor?  We can’t account for every possible variation, but there are a number that even a strict reading of the sparse text in DSIC allows either due to vagueness or ambiguity in the text, or merely because it simply doesn’t say:

  • Using a quartz as the material for the crystal or using a beryl instead, or some other kind of crystal appropriate to the working (especially for the planet of the spirit to be conjured, e.g. citrine or orange calcite for the Sun)
  • Using a crystal that’s clear-colored or colored otherwise (probably a light tinge of red, especially if beryl is used)
  • Arranging the three symbols of the hexagram with central Yod, pentagram, and cross with the divine name “Tetragrammaton” in different orders on the gold plate or in the triangle on the Table of Practice
  • Using the hexagram with a central Yod on just the side of the angels on the pedestal or on both sides, replacing it with a cross, or using no holy symbol at all
  • Using a double circle for the table (or Table of Practice) with one ring of names, or using a triple circle with two rings of names
  • Using any of the following in any order for the planets on the table (or Table of Practice): name, glyph, characters (either Agrippa or Ars Paulina), number square seal
  • Using either one or both of the following for the planetary angels on the table (or Table of Practice): name, seal (usually from Heptameron)
  • Writing the names of the angels in Latin script or Hebrew for the table (or Table of Practice), as well as the specific spellings used in either language based on the source you’re working from (Agrippa, Heptameron, etc.)
  • The order in which the planets/planetary angels are arranged on the table (or Table of Practice) in the ring of names
  • Writing the table (or Table of Practice) design permanently (e.g. engraving, woodburning, paint), or just temporarily (e.g. chalk, coal)
  • Making the table (or Table of Practice) on a small, portable disc, or actually putting it onto/into an actual table surface for permanent altar use
  • Using only one set of divine names used on the lamen based on the DSIC illustration, or varying the names in accordance with the general/specific names based on Agrippa
  • The specific number of pentagrams used on the lamen if only one spirit is to be called
  • Putting the name and seal of the planetary angel in the center hexagram on the lamen, or putting the name and seal of the planet in the central hexagram with the name and seal of the planetary angel in one of the pentagrams
  • Making the lamens always circular in shape, or shaping the overall form of the lamens in a shape concordant with its corresponding planet (e.g. triangular for Saturn)
  • Using the simple hexagram style of ring, or using the Lemegeton style of ring
  • Using just the lamen for the spirit to be conjurated, or using such a lamen in addition to a separate pentacle (i.e. pentacle of Solomon) in addition to the lamen
  • If a separate pentacle is called for, then either wearing the pentacle affixed to the reverse the lamen or wearing/concealing it separately
  • If a separate pentacle of Solomon is to be worn instead of a lamen, then either wearing the lamen for the spirit, or putting it under the crystal
  • Making the lamens in different materials (silver generally, wax, paper or parchment, in metals appropriate for the planet)
  • Using an actual spike-/stake-like brazier or using a tripod brazier for incense
  • Using a properly consecrated Liber Spirituum, or just a generic notebook for writing down information from conjurations
  • Having a permanently-drawn magic circle (tarp, tiles, etc.), or just drawing one out in chalk or coal per conjuration
  • Writing the three divine names in the magic circle in different typefaces and facing different ways, or making them all face the same way in the same typeface
  • Orienting the magic circle to align the four hexagrams with the four directions, or orienting the magic circle such that the quadrant with the spirit’s seal faces the direction of the altar of conjuration
  • Wearing special ritual attire or spirit-specific costume for the ritual, or not
  • Engaging in preliminary preparatory practices involving fasting, abluting, purification, prayer, &c., or not
  • Placing the altar of conjuration outside the magic circle, or placing it inside the circle
  • Placing the altar of conjuration against a wall or in the middle of a room
  • Orienting the altar to face east always, or to face specific directions according to the planet of the spirit being conjured, or any direction at all that’s convenient
  • If using a table (or Table of Practice) separate from the altar of conjuration itself, always keeping the table (or Table of Practice) aligned to the four directions (if such alignment is meaningful based on the design) or orienting it in the same direction as the altar of conjuration
  • Keeping the altar of conjuration sparse (having only the table and pedestal/Table of Practice, crystal, and candles), or decorating it with other elements (e.g. tablecloth, more candles, talismans)
  • What time to begin the conjuration, i.e. starting the first prayer within the desired planetary hour or marking the start of the conjuration itself with the prayer of conjuration
  • Interpreting the three parts of the prayer of conjuration to be a single unit of prayer to be said at once, or each to be said separately in case earlier prayers did not bring the spirit to the conjuration and we need to spur them on faster

And then there are the variations that would or have already been made to account for individual magician’s divergent approaches to DSIC to account for material availability, personal inspiration, incorporation of ideas from other texts, a desire to be lazy or convenient, adapting the ritual for one’s own needs, erroneous understandings of the text carried on as workable practice, etc.:

  • Using a crystal, or using another form of scrying medium (mirror, water vessel, etc.)
  • Using a crystal shaped like a sphere or in another shape
  • Using a crystal that’s entirely clear or has inclusions in it
  • Using a gold plate to suspend the crystal, or using gold-like metal e.g. brass
  • Using a gold plate in the pedestal, or merely gilding or painting in gold the two sides of the pedestal
  • Using ebony or ivory for the pedestal, or using another material entirely for it
  • Making the pedestal in the church-shape (as in DSIC) or the sunburst-shape (as in Hockley’s Occult Spells)
  • Incorporating a hexagram with a central Yod on the pedestal, a cross, both, or neither
  • Using a gold band around the crystal instead of a gold plate suspending the crystal
  • Using a pedestal to support the crystal on top of the table, or using a Table of Practice that combines the design elements of the pedestal and table upon which the crystal is placed
  • For the Table of Practice specifically when not using a separate table and pedestal: using the four kings (Oriens, Amaymon, Paimon, Egyn) or using the four archangels (Michael, Uriel, Raphael, Gabriel), or even both
  • Incorporating extra elements onto the table (or Table of Practice), e.g. signs and/or angels of the Zodiac
  • Writing the name of the spirit being conjured outside the hexagram/pentagram on the lamen, or omitting it entirely
  • Using ebony for the wand, or using another material entirely for it
  • Writing the characters for the wand in gold, or using another material entirely for it
  • Using both “Agla ✡ On 🔯 Tetragrammaton ✠” as well as “Ego Alpha et Omega” on the wand, or just the former
  • Using a hexagram plus a hexagram-with-central-Yod plus a cross on the wand, or replacing the empty hexagram with an empty pentagram to match the three signs on the pedestal
  • Using a ring of Solomon following the Lemegeton model, the Barrett Heptameron model, or another ring entirely, such as the Agla Ring of John Dee
  • Using two candles for the conjuration, or one, or some other number
  • Using candles for the conjuration, or using oil lamps instead
  • Consecrating the candles (or lamps) before use, or not consecrating them
  • Using an actual brazier for the incense vessel, or using whatever is most convenient
  • Using loose incense that would be used on charcoals or in flames, or using self-igniting incense
  • Using the magic circle design in DSIC, or using another magical circle design e.g. the one from the Heptameron
  • Using a physical magic circle at all, or just tracing one out with the wand instead
  • Incorporating other design elements into the magic circle besides just what’s already there in DSIC
  • Consecrating the various elements and implements used in DSIC beforehand, or not
  • Operating with a scryer, or operating alone
  • Operating with non-scryer assistants, or not
  • Using lamens with multiple spirits on them to bring them all at once to the conjuration, or using chained summoning to bring them after a primary spirit has been brought to the conjuration
  • Using just the one prayer of conjuration from DSIC for all spirits of all kinds, or using varying kinds of prayers for specific spirits or specific kinds of spirits for the prayer of conjuration
  • Using the Christian-language prayers of the DSIC text itself, or using alternative adaptations to allow for non-Christian prayers
  • Including preliminary calls to one’s holy guardian angel, agathodaimōn, or supernatural assistant

Alright, that sums it up for this blog project.  But, before we call it quits, there is one last thing I wanted to share.  One of the variations we offered earlier in the post is a variation on the table that uses a proper “double circle” with but a single ring of names.  It’s something I wanted to return to, but there wasn’t much of an opportunity to fit in it anywhere else in our discussion.  Since I think this is the proper interpretation of the DSIC instructions, I wanted to give a better-designed version of that that contains the proper design elements of the planets and the four kings, all written in the Latin script.  Thus, this is what I would recommend for use as a table, plus the front (three symbols and Tetragrammaton) and back (four archangels) of the pedestal inscriptions:

And a secondary variation that could be used as a Table of Practice, based on some of the variations we discussed earlier as well, that I think best combines the design elements of the table and the pedestal into a single piece of equipment, again in the Latin script:

And also, a set of lamens for use with the seven planetary angels, using Latin script for the names, the names taken from the Heptameron, and using a custom set of divine names on the outer ring, both general and specific according to Agrippa:

And notes on the foregoing designs:

  • I standardized the spelling of all names to use the Latin letter I to render I, J, and Y (thus “Iehovah”, “Iah”, and “Iod” instead of “Jehovah”, “Yah”, or “Yod”), and likewise the Latin letter V to render U, V, and W (thus “Vriel” instead of “Uriel”).
  • I moved the divine name Tetragrammaton, split as it was before, but inside the triangle, under the three symbols and above the four archangels.  This way, all of the design elements of the pedestal are now within the triangle entirely, which makes more sense, instead of some being inside and some being outside.
  • I used the seals of the Four Kings from the Clavis Inferni, specifically based on those of the wonderful mage-artist Asterion of Practical Solomonic Magic from his February 2014 post.  I used the names of the Four Kings from the Clavis Inferni, too, which agrees more with Agrippa’s spellings from book III, chapter 24 rather than the spellings in the Scale of Four from book II, chapter 7, though I keep the directional (and thus elemental) associations from Agrippa rather than the Clavis Inferni.  “Maimon” here is used instead of “Amaymon” because Maimon is better attested in older texts and cuts down on crucial space usage.
  • I included two glyphs for each entity in the outer ring on the table/Table of Practice.  For the planetary angels, these are the planetary glyph itself as well as the Heptameron seal for the angels; for the four kings, these are the elemental glyph associated with their directions as well as their seal from the Clavis Inferni.  This satisfies the requirements of the design of the table without sacrificing clarity for the sake of space management, interpreting “seals or characters” for the planetary elements to refer to just the seal of the angels.  Although the DSIC spec only says to include the names of the four kings, I added in the elemental glyphs and seals for them to make the design consistent between the planetary angels and the kings.
  • I changed the direction of the planetary angels and kings on the one ring to start at the bottom and go clockwise in the proper descending order, starting with Cassiel of Saturn and going clockwise from there.  This actually makes it descending instead of technically ascending as in the earlier post.
  • Though I used the Magical Calendar for the seals for most of the angels, I pulled the seals for Sachiel of Jupiter and Cassiel of Saturn from the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano due to their relative clarity and, in the case of Cassiel, completeness.
  • Starting the ring of names at the bottom makes a sort of “gate”, with the most subtle spiritual force (Saturn) on the left hand and the most dense material force (Earth presided over by Maimon) on the right hand.  This organization, read clockwise, helps not only to draw spirits into manifestation under all the seven spheres and four corners of the world, but as we gaze into the triangle from the “bottom”, we can picture our sight “entering in” from the bottom, swirling around clockwise, and exiting once it makes a full cycle back out to us to bring into ourselves a manifest vision of the spirit being conjured.

As for me and my own practice, with any recommendations I might make of my own to implementing DSIC?

  • Ebony, ivory, and gold are fantastic if you can get them, but if you can’t, there are always workarounds.  Their presence certainly helps, but their absence does not impede.  Specifically, while ebony for the wand is ideal, I don’t think the material for the pedestal is at all that significant (as the text itself gives you a choice between ebony and ivory); the important part is the gold plate itself.  Plus, there are ethical issues involved in either material, with ivory often being illegally taken and harvested, and ebony increasingly becoming endangered.
  • Likewise, no, you don’t need a temple room if you don’t have the space or allowance for one.  It’s great if you can, and definitely something to aim for, but not having a dedicated temple space is not going to stop you from doing great magic.
  • The only reason to use a Table of Practice, in which you (according to the usual interpretations) pick either the four kings or the four archangels but not both, is to avoid using the pedestal.  Even if you can’t go all-out on a full ebony pedestal with solid gold plate, Fr. FC’s idea of using a simple painted band around the crystal is sufficient.  The design here matters more than the materials, I’d argue, and the design of the conjuration apparatus as a whole requires both the four kings and four archangels.  However, if you still wanted to forego the pedestal, you could still reasonably argue for using either set of names.
  • The most proper construction of the pedestal for the crystal, as I read and consider it, is to have the crystal exposed on the front side (with the three symbols and the divine name “Tetragrammaton”), but gilded or covered with smooth gold on the reverse (the side of the four names of the angels); this would explain the dark coloration of the crystal orb in the DSIC illustration that’s not distinct from the color of the plate itself.  The two candles should be placed on either side of the table, pedestal, and crystal and brought forward just a bit, not directly to the side, so that the light of the two candleflames can enter into the crystal ball, illuminating and reflecting it as a spherical mirror.  This is the most ideal setup; barring that, with the crystal exposed on the rear of the pedestal, one should have a third candle positioned directly behind the crystal, in addition to the two burning on the sides (which should still be positioned a little forward).  This latter setup would form a triangle around the crystal, and would provide light into it evenly from all three directions.
  • Make your tools large enough to be useful but not too large so as to sacrifice portability and flexibility, as always.  The specifics are up to you and your comfort.
  • Even though DSIC prescribes a specific kind of magic circle (a much-simplified form of the one used for the Heptameron), I don’t think it fundamentally matters, so long as a circle is used, even if just one traced on the ground.  Using a circle custom for the spirit to be conjured, however, can be beneficial in both forging a stronger link to the spirit as well as protecting against said spirit.
  • Use a pentacle of Solomon (I’m most in love with the one from the Veritable Clavicles of Solomon).  It shouldn’t be necessary, but it can always be useful, especially if things go sideways.  This pentacle should be worn on the body of the magician; if the lamen of the spirit is worn, the pentacle should be on the reverse, but otherwise, the lamen should be placed underneath the pedestal (sized appropriately to fit within the triangle of the table) or under the crystal (sized appropriately to fit within the triangle of the Table of Practice).
  • No need for a scryer if you don’t want one, but it can definitely help.  Ditto for assistants.
  • Over my own practice, I developed certain prayers for putting on the ring and also anointing oneself with oil before major works like this that I like using.
  • I cannot recommend enough the Prayer of Joseph the Visionary to use before scrying sessions, the prayer of which was shared once upon a time on Jason Miller’s old blog.
  • Likewise, a brief invocation of one’s holy guardian angel, supernatural assistant, agathodaimōn, etc. is extremely worth your time, no matter what kind of spirit you’re using.  Any such invocation would work, whether a traditional Catholic prayer, one from the Ars Paulina, or the one that Fr. RO uses adapted from the Headless Rite.
  • Take the preliminary preparation period seriously; don’t skimp on your daily prayers, purification, ablution, abstinence, and the like.
  • Build up on prior conjurations, especially if you want to take Fr. RO’s extreme methods of his one-week cycle of “Seven Spheres in Seven Days”, his five-week cycle of going through the planets in descending order, or a two-week cycle of going through the planets in ascending order.  Avoid heavy banishings done in the temple space beyond asperging with holy water so as to keep the resonance of previous works around.

Thank you all for sticking with me over these past number of weeks, and I hope you all enjoyed and learned from what we’ve discovered, discussed, and dreamt up!

And, finally, one last thing: despite the length and detail I went into regarding DSIC, and despite the repeated exhortations of many of my friends, colleagues, and family to do so, I have no intentions (at least at the present time) of writing an actual book about this topic.  Given that there’s already enough hard-published literature about DSIC courtesy of Fr. RO and Fr. AC, and between all the supplies and tools needed for implementing DSIC—even if one takes a bare-bones magic-on-a-budget approach—I figure that people have probably spent enough money on this ritual as it is, and my writing this and sharing it publicly on my website is as much for my benefit as it is for my readers.  If you need to, just bookmark this post, share it with your friends, and save it for ease of access to the rest of the posts in this series, or print out the individual posts and stuff them in a binder for your personal use.  However, if you found this series of posts helpful, thought-provoking, or entertaining and wished you could throw money at me anyway, consider throwing a few bucks my way through Ko-fi!

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It’s certainly not necessary or expected to do so, but it would help me continue my research, experimentation, and web-hosting, and any and every donation for what I share for free on my website is always deeply and sincerely appreciated from the bottom of my heart.  Alternatively, consider checking out what ebooks and services I have for sale, both on my website and on my Etsy!  That’s also a great way to support the things I do, stuff I make, and posts I write.  But, even if you don’t, your reading my blog and hopefully getting something of use out of it is honestly payment enough for me, and I thank you merely for being my reader and companion on this fun little Hermetic path we walk together.

A Critique of a Summary of Geomancy

Fellow ambler freemanpresson commented recently on a recent post on geomancy, asking if I had listened in on a recent show of Poke Runyon (a.k.a. Frater Thabion) about geomancy.  I had seen it before, but I didn’t have the time to listen in when it came out in April, and promptly forgot about it.  I listened to it once he reminded me, and although I found it interesting, I have more than a few bones to pick with how Poke Runyon describes geomancy and its history.  Granted, I don’t know much about Poke Runyon or his work, but these are a few of the things I’d argue (in order of his talking points in the show).  The following are my thoughts on what he’s saying, so if it appears unstructured, it’s meant to be read alongside listening to the show.

  • Geomancy can involve but does not require planets, planetary spirits, and the like.  They were later astrological add-ins to an already complete system that was practiced in the Sahara, and is still practiced in the forms of ifa and sikidy further south in Africa.  Although the house-based chart format of geomancy is popular, it was an astrological add-in as well, and the shield chart is still the most traditional and stable form of geomantic layout.
  • The system is called “geomancy” as a calque from an earlier Arabic phrase `ilm al-raml, or “science of the sand”, and then called “rabolion” in Byzantine Greek before it got its modern name.  Geomancy, as a desert art, was originally practiced by making sixteen lines of points in the sand, and is still done by some traditionalists in sand or soil, whether on the ground or in a special box made for the purpose.
  • Geomancy is not prehistoric or paleolithic.  The earliest writings we have from it are from the early 1000s A.D. from the Sahara and Middle East, and although some research has indicated the use of similar dot-forms to relate to planets or other phenomena, there is no indication that these were at all related to or an ancestor of geomancy (The astrological origin of Islamic geomancy, Wim van Binsbergen, 2004).
  • Agrippa’s Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy does have a significant section on geomancy, but I wouldn’t call it the primary text of modern geomancy.  Geomancy was well-known and well-established in Europe and the Middle East for centuries, and only started to fall out of the limelight due to what I contend to be two primary reasons: the Industrial Age with its focus on hard science, and the rise of Tarot, New Thought, and other occult systems of knowledge.  Various texts have survived, some in manuscript and some printed, that have helped geomancy survive, Agrippa only being a minor text among them.  Agrippa being a famous author handed down to us in the ceremonial and Hermetic traditions, however, did help geomancy stay alive in those traditions.
  • Honestly, I wish Poke Runyon chose a more updated selection of geomancy texts to choose from.  I haven’t gone over Israel Regardie’s A Practical Guide to Geomantic Divination, but I do own a copy of Stephen Skinner’s long-out-of-print The Oracle of Geomancy.  Both of these books came out in the 1970s, and a good deal more has come out on geomancy since then, including John Michael Greer’s book The Art and Practice of Geomancy and Stephen Skinner’s updates to his first book on geomancy, Terrestrial Astrology and Geomancy in Theory and Practice.  Donald Tyson’s commentary on the Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy is a good start and fairly thorough, though, but isn’t great on history if I recall rightly.
  • I don’t have an issue with Poke Runyon or the OTA having their own tradition of geomancy, and that sounds pretty awesome to me, really; heaven knows the art could use an influx of new methods and innovation!  But attributing Biblical or paleolithic origins to the art isn’t much better than attributing it to Hermes Trismegistus, Idris, Gabriel, Daniel, Mohammed, or other prophets or angels.  They may give geomancy a kind of spiritual authority, but it’s hardly a factual history.
  • Everything from the figures’ traditional names in the earliest Arabic writings reflecting a nomadic society to the right-to-left orientation of the figures indicates a Bedouin, Arabic, or otherwise nomadic Semitic origin.
  • Hermetic philosophy isn’t that old; although some people put Hermes Trismegistus as a contemporary of Moses, we don’t start seeing distinctly Hermetic ideas until after the rise of Platonism and Neoplatonism in the Roman Empire.  This still well predates any mention of geomancy in the historical record by a good five to nine hundred years at the earliest.
  • I don’t know much about Parzival, but that geomancy appears in literature throughout Europe doesn’t surprise me.  I know of two places it makes a cameo: in Dante’s Purgatory (canto XIX), and in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (Parson’s Tale).  It also appears in the Arabic of One Thousand and One Nights to find treasure, and Shakespeare used it for comic relief in some of his works.  Geomancy being second in popularity and authority only to astrology back in the day, I’ll bet it appears in a lot more literary works than these as well.
  • Granted that ifa and sikidy, African derivatives of geomancy, are very old, Oruban and Madagascan cultures indicate in their own historical records and stories that they got the art from what we would conclude to be Middle Eastern travelers, lending further support to the idea that it had a Saharan or Arabian Bedouin origin.
  • Although the I Ching and geomancy are superficially similar systems, they aren’t related.  For one, the I Ching is based into trigrams (three lines) or hexagrams (six lines), while geomancy has always been equivalently tetragrams (four lines).  For two, the I Ching is historically ancient, having written documentation stretching back to 500 B.C. in manuscript and as far back as the second millenium B.C. in composition, while geomancy has no such historical documentation.  For three, although there does exist a variety of I Ching symbols that have four lines with its origins around 2 BC, they also have three values for each line, in contrast to the two values for the classical trigrams and hexagrams of the I Ching and figures of geomancy: a solid line, a line broken once, and a line broken twice.
  • Two systems alone sharing a binary system of mathematics or development does not mean those systems are related.  Africa has a long history of using binary mathematics in writing, notation, and engineering, which again leads credence to an African/Saharan/Arabian origin (Bamana Sand Divination: Recursion in Ethnomathematics, Ron Eglash, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 99, No. 1 (Mar., 1997), pp. 112-122).  Besides, binary systems of thought are helpful and can get one pretty far, but pose problems of their own that can’t be solved except by translating things into a trinary or n-ary system, or by reducing things to the One Thing, which is kinda hard to do if you’re not already Divine.
  • The placement of figures from the shield chart into the house chart depends on what specific method you’re using.  Poke Runyon suggests putting the first four figures (the Mother figures), into the cardinal houses of the house chart, then the next four (Daughters) into the succedent, and the next four (Nieces) into the cadent.  This, I believe, has its origins in the Golden Dawn methods, while traditional European methods (maybe Islamic/Arabian, I haven’t seen them use houses like how European geomancy uses houses) simply put the figures into the houses in the order of their generation: the first four figures into the first four houses, the next four into the next four, and so on.  This is a bit like quibbling over what house system to use in astrology (Placidus, Regiomantus, Koch, equal, etc.), so while not a bone to pick, I would just like to say that there are other ways of making the house chart.  Personally, I follow the sequential, traditional method.
  • The Judge figure is always there, not if the geomancer didn’t like the other figures.  It’s the figure after the Judge (called the sixteenth figure, the result of the result, the Reconciler, the Sentence, and so on) that isn’t always used depending on the geomancer.  Personally, I always use the Sentence, and insist that the Judge always be looked at no matter the query.
  • I know of one method that uses geomancy to make horoscopes (On Astrological Geomancy, Gerard of Cremona), but this is a very derivative method of geomancy that doesn’t make use of the traditional geomantic procedure.  It’s a neat system all the same, though.  Otherwise, I haven’t heard of people substituting geomancy entirely for astrology in any time period; although geomancy was considered “astrology’s little sister”, they’ve always been distinct, at least to the sources I can find.
  • Although divination with dice, especially that knucklebones, is definitely ancient, I strongly doubt that they were related to geomancy for reasons stated above.  Ifa uses shells or nuts to make their figures in a similar way, but this was probably an innovation on their part and not something passed down from paleolithic antiquity.
  • Urim and Thummim?  Er…really?  And fluorite crystals?  I’m really confused at this apparently random inclusion.  I get the connection of Urim and Thummim to cleromancy and divination (because that’s pretty clearly what they were used for), but their connection with geomancy is tenuous even given the best of times, especially given the lapse of time between the Temple Period of Israel and the documented use and development of geomancy.
  • Just because a single animal could produce a set of four hucklebones with four sides each (4d4, essentially) possible to be marked with simple dots and figures, I don’t see why this would indicate a connection with geomancy, especially considering the time frames Poke Runyon is talking about (ancient prehistory and medieval-modern occultism).  16 is the fourth power of two, and so is likely to come up in any system that involves the numbers 2, 4, or 8 (or any combination thereof, because math is awesome).
  • Using dice to do geomancy is well-attested, though, despite what I’m saying above.  Modern geomancers with connections to tabletop RPG players might use a d4, d6, d8, and d20 (related to the Platonic solids of fire, earth, air, and water, respectively).  I’ve seen racks of old dice that have four points in a square, three points in an upwards-pointing triangle, three points in a downwards-pointing triangle, and two points aligned vertically; two of these dice rolled and placed atop each other form a single geomantic figure.  Geomancy, being a binary system, is very adaptable to anything that can give a binary answer (heads/tails, even/odd, white/black, etc.).
  • One issue I find with Poke Runyon’s method of geomancy is that it restricts the number of possible charts drastically.  In traditional methods of making a geomantic chart, it is possible to have more than one figure appear amongst the Mothers; it’s even possible, though it’s a 1/32768 chance, to have all four Mothers be the same figure.  In his method, if I understand it right, you only have the possibility of one figure appearing once, and even then it’s restricted based on what figures are engraved together on the same die.  Although there are a total of 32768 possible geomantic charts (one of sixteen figures, one of sixteen figures, one of sixteen figures, one of sixteen figures), his method yields something like 256 (one of four possible figures, another of four different possible figures, another of four different possible figures, another of four different possible figures).  This is a major handicap.  Compare either of these to Tarot, where in a simple ten-card spread and ignoring reversed cards you may have  6.12344584 × 10103 possible spreads. Geomancy in its full style is sufficient enough to be adaptable to many situations, but not in Poke Runyon’s style, if I understand his method right.
  • It’s pretty clear in Biblical and historical records that the Urim and Thummim were not shewstones, but were used for cleromancy, even in the books of Exodus and Samuel; one possible etymology of their names effectively renders them to mean “guilty” or “innocent”, using them to show the truth of a certain legal or religious matter.  I’m unclear where he got the shewstone idea from.  I don’t know about the legitimacy of their shapes being octahedrons, so I can’t say anything on that, but I feel like that something like that would be reflected in Biblical or Talmudic texts.  Again, the link between geomancy and these divination stones is highly suspect to me.  Plus, fluorite crystals do give their names to the phenomenon of fluorescence, but they only glow under UV light, which was not really documented until the 1500s A.D.; their etymology comes from the Latin verb “to flow”, referring to their use in smelting and metalworks.
  • Geomancy does not give “nasty, brutal, and short” answers unless you’re reading an old text that has a list of answers for a given figure/figure combination or figure/house combination (like everything the Golden Dawn was using), and I’ve been able to tease out whole stories on all kinds of topics with it.  It’s down to earth and snarky, sure, because it still has its origins in the earth, but it’s by no means limited to strictly important yes/no queries.  However, it does function best with yes/no queries, filling in lots of details along the way with any number of techniques to determine the speed of resolution, favorability, interference, origins of concern, hidden resources and factors, intents and spiritually destined factors, and the like.
  • I do like his idea of ceremonial divination, calling upon the genius/spirit of a query (as sorted according to the planet it’s ruled by) and using a particular ceremonial setup for divination; John Michael Greer suggests something similar as one valid and potent means of divination, too, in his works.  However, that’s hardly how most people function, especially most people involved with magic and divination today (freeform, neopagan, chaotes, etc.).  I hardly use a ceremonial framework; I might stick to using days and hours of Mercury or Saturn for divination and call on Tiriel, the intelligence (not spirit!) of Mercury, for help, but that’s about it.  With or without the timing or spiritual aid of Tiriel, though, I’ve gotten pretty consistent and accurate answers for years now.  Read up on the methods available and pick what method appeals to you most.
  • Carcer ruled by Mercury?  Puella ruled by the Moon?  What on earth has he been reading from?  I’ve seen Carcer attributed to Saturn or the Moon, but Puella only ever by Venus; I know of two distinct methods of attributing the figures to the planets, but whatever one Poke Runyon is using is definitely not among them.
  • The resolution of the query found in the house opposite the significator?  The seventh house is in opposition to the second?  Now I’m really confused, guys.  I’ll grant the first as a quirk of his particular method of geomantic divination, but the second is just plain wrong unless he’s using a ten-house chart (which isn’t attested anywhere).
  • I fully agree when he says that queries should always be “brief, simple, direct, and practical”.  This is how any divination should be posed, no matter the method or diviner.  A good third of the time I spend with clients myself, I spend on refining the query so that it makes sense with a definite answer.  The more detail in the query, the more detailed the answer; the vaguer the query, the vaguer the answer.
  • “In those days, astrological malefics were much, much more malefic than they are today, as any astrologer will tell you.”  Uh…no.  Unless he’s referring to the perceptions of them, no.  Saturn sucks.  Mars sucks.  The Tail of the Dragon sucks.  Generally.  They’re favorable for some queries, yes, but more often than not they’re inimical to what humans like.  That hasn’t really changed in the few hundred years since this has been going on; that’s like saying our brains have dramatically increased or decreased in functionality in the past few decades or so.  No.  “Modern interpretations” require a modern restructuring and reevaluation of the entire system; you’d risk muddling the system with meaninglessness.  Saying Carcer represents delays and restriction is fine, because it does; saying it’s going to help you out in matters in which you need speed and freedom is a lie. 
  • Although Poke Runyon says otherwise, the Judge was always used and always referred to as the answer of the query.  I’ve never heard this being done in any other way in any source; it wasn’t a conditional thing to be used in case the rest of the chart was confused or unfavorable.
  • When Poke Runyon says “traditional geomancy”, I think he’s referring more to the generation of the Mothers (a stick and sand, a pen and paper, etc.).  The generation of the Mothers can be done in any way that involves a binary process or that gives figures in their entirety; I myself use a deck of geomancy cards I made with 64 cards, four cards per figure, and Poke Runyon mentions Paul Huson’s method of popsicle sticks and another method of Regardie’s.  I’ve even read of people counting the eyes on sixteen potatoes plucked from a field, which is about as earthy as you can get.
  • Granted the saying “different strokes for different folks”, I can claim my own experience with traditional geomancy as being highly in favor of its accuracy.  Since I’ve never used Poke Runyon’s method of ceremonial geomancy, I can’t say much about its accuracy, but I’ve noted above a few things awry with either it or my interpretation/his explanation of it.
  • Oh lord, incorporating the dreidle (those Chanukah tops) into all this?  It’s a children’s gambling game made to make the Jewish equivalent of a Biblically-mandated V-Day more fun while the parents are praying and getting sloshed.  That’s distinctly not related to the Urim and Thummim, and certainly not to geomancy.