On the Arbatel’s Principles of Magic

As I’ve mentioned before, the Arbatel is a funny little text.  Its structure is broken down into seven sets of seven aphorisms, each set called a septenary.  While many of them are simple and to the point (in the elaborate, circumlocutory way only a Renaissance grimoire can do), some of them are actually quite complex, and it feels like the author of the Arbatel sometimes bunched a bunch of separate tiny teachings into one broad aphorism with multiple subdivisions.  The most famous of these are aphorisms III.17 (which lists all the Olympic spirits along with their general natures and summaries) and IV.24 (which lists the three types of secrets along with their seven major kinds, as well as seven biblical verses about secrets and their bounties), but there are a handful of other aphorisms that can be broken down into subsections.  Interestingly, it’s these combined-type aphorisms that give some of the clearest pictures into the mind of the author regarding the function and practice of magic itself, which I thought I’d simplify and flesh out here, along with a handful of other observations.

Why do I bring this up now?  Honestly, because it’s a good reminder to myself of some of the things to focus on for magical practices.  Not everything is explicitly applicable, but it is a good reminder and refresher in how to conceive of certain things when it comes to my spiritual practice, especially as it changes and becomes enhanced over time.  I figure this reminder is timely for many of us, especially as the Sun begins its descent into the southern skies, but also because I found this post languishing in my drafts folder for…about a year now, and I figure it may as well be time to start working on some of those drafts.  This is a good one, and good for us all to remind ourselves what it is we’re doing and why we’re doing it, even if we’re not a Paracelsean or Christian magician.

Before anything and everything else, understand that the Arbatel is fundamentally a Christian occult and esoteric work.  It’s been described by some academics as “the first book of white magic in Germany”; it is fundamentally about using one’s inborn gift for magic (if any), given by God, for the glory of God by the grace of God in accordance with the word of God.  Aphorism II.14 says, perhaps in the most terse way throughout the entire book, “truly you must help your neighbor with the gifts of God, whether they are spiritual or material goods”, which is nothing more than the Great Commandment itself.  However, even though the Arbatel is very much a work in the vein of esoteric or highly-spiritualized Christianity, it can also work in a Deistic or just generally divine context; despite the use of verses of the New Testament and the invocation of Christ from Aphorism II.14, the God of the Arbatel does not need in practice to be the God of the Bible so long as one comports themselves in a more-or-less equitable fashion.  That said, practices and worldviews that diverge heavily from standard Western models of ethics and morality might not be so amenable to adopting the principles from the Arbatel, especially when it comes down to how certain magical practices are split up.  Your mileage, as in many other things, may vary.

So, let us start at the best of all places: the beginning.  The first whole septenary, which aphorism IV.28 exhorts the reader to read and reread constantly in the pursuit of all secrets, is a collection of simple moral imperatives that are taken pretty much entirely from the law of Christ.  We can break these down into roughly two groups of directives, those that focus on religion and God and those that focus on living a proper life in general.

On living a divine life:

  • In all things call upon the name of God.
  • Begin nothing without first invoking God.
  • Live in peace for the honor of God and for the benefit of your neighbor.
  • Live according to the life God gave you.
  • Use the gifts God has given you.
  • Always keep the word of God on your lips and your mind.
  • Trust in God above all else, including yourself.
  • Love God and your neighbor as yourself, and God will love you and keep you safe.
  • Call upon God for help.
  • Glorify and thank God.

On living a proper life in general:

  • Know what can be discussed with others and what can’t; keep secret things secret.
  • Know the value of things and don’t take them for granted, because others will.
  • Live for yourself and for the sake of beauty, wisdom, and truth.
  • Avoid being too sociable or concerned with other people.
  • Jealously guard your time and use it wisely.
  • Listen to and heed good advice.
  • Avoid procrastination.
  • Don’t be frivolous or stupid.
  • Act and speak seriously and focused.
  • Don’t indulge in vice or temptation.
  • Focus on what is spiritual and elevating.
  • Avoid what is mundane and carnal.
  • Study, repeat, and review whatever you learn.
  • Learn a lot about a few things, not a little about a lot of things.
  • Learn how to specialize and focus on what you’re good at.

Seriously, read the whole septenary.  In such seven short paragraphs, the Arbatel offers a pretty solid moral framework for living a fairly upstanding, Christlike life.  Would that more of the world would do so.

Aphorism VI.38 lists seven different “divisions”, or types of magic that can be performed.  Although the introduction to the Arbatel lists nine chapters, with chapters II through IX supposedly being focused on different types of magic, this aphorism seems to breach those divisions into something different.  Rather than being “schools” of magic, which implies more of a tradition with philosophy and history, this is more a list of how magic can be generally effected through different means and techniques.  Arbatel says that the first kind of magic (innate blessing from God) is the best, then the second when done properly, and the third when calling upon Christ by Christians.

  1. Magic that comes directly from God to his creatures, the powers of each being made by God for a specific purpose in their existence.
    • The powers given by God to “creatures of light”, i.e. angels.
    • The powers given by God to “creatures of darkness”, i.e. demons, but used to carry out the will of God for benediction and empowerment of the worthy.
    • The powers given by God to “creatures of darkness”, i.e. demons, but used to carry out the will of God for destruction and deception of the sinful.
  2. Ritual magic.
    • “With visible tools through the visible”, i.e. what we normally expect as ceremonial magic, done strictly in the physical world with physical tools.
    • “With invisible tools through the invisible”, i.e. astral magic or a ceremony performed in one’s astral temple.
    • A mix of techniques and tools, e.g. using energetic constructs as tools in the physical or using a physical focus for astral work.
  3. Magic where secrets and miracles are performed solely through the invocation of divinity.
    • When calling upon the one true God, this becomes “Theophrastic” (referring to the works and teachings of Paracelsus), which is “partly prophetic and philosophical”.
    • When calling upon false gods, this becomes “Mercurialistic” (heathens or pagans, but Peterson says that this refers to alchemists).
  4. Magic performed by invoking the spirits of God and carrying out works through the power of the angels as intermediaries.
    • When calling upon the good spirits of God, this is akin to the magic of the “Baalim” (Peterson suggests “idolators”, but could also be “worthy pre-Christian magicians” generally).
    • When calling upon the evil spirits of God, this is akin to the magic of the “minor gods of the pagans”.
  5. Magic performed through directly interfacing with spirits, either through conjuration, dreams, divination, or other means of communication.
  6. Magic performed through magical creatures (not immortal spirits per se, but elemental beings).
  7. Magic performed without actually invoking or requesting anything, but which is effected through spirits who help of their own free will and accord.

Aphorism IV.25 brings up seven verses of the Bible related the blessings and boons that can be obtained from God through the use of magic.  Essentially, “the true and only way to all secrets is that you return to God”, to wit:

  1. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
  2. “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” (Luke 21:34)
  3. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalms 55:22)
  4. “Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.” (Isaiah 48:17)
  5. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” (Psalms 32:8)
  6. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11)
  7. “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:23)

The Arbatel describes in aphorism VI.39 seven preparations the magician should observe when getting ready for a magical operation.  In order:

  1. Study, contemplate, and integrate the teachings, doctrine, and word of God into your life.
  2. Know thyself.
    1. Meditate and contemplate yourself.
    2. Learn what phenomena are internal to yourself and what phenomena are external to yourself.
    3. Learn what the different functions of one’s faculties are and their proper uses.
  3. Always focus on the divine in your life.
    1. With the higher faculties, focus on the grace of God.
    2. With the lower faculties, carry out the works of God.
  4. Only those called to magic are truly magicians, but everyone should learn their proper path in life.
    1. This is the Great Work, one’s True Will, one’s purpose as written in the Book of Life.
    2. Learn what that path is for yourself and live according to it.
    3. If magic is your calling, then you must learn how to carry out the specific types of works called for in your life, and then do them.
  5. Always endeavor to carry out the magician’s true calling: the Great Work.
    1. All magic and all works aided by spirits are to be done for the sake, honor, and glory of God.
    2. By neglecting God, ignoring one’s Great Work, or by carrying out shameful works, one risks their utter destruction.
    3. By carrying out works but without the honor for God, one will only ever carry out minor tasks without accomplishing their Great Work.
  6. Keep silent when possible.
    1. What is given to you spiritually is given to you and you alone.
    2. Secrets of the spirits are as mysteries of the ancients, not to be revealed to the masses.
  7. Always be virtuous and just both in mind and body, for by this all vice and wickedness will flee.

The next aphorism, aphorism VI.40, has another seven statements, which the Arbatel describes as laws for a magician to abide by when he “determineth with himself to do any incorporeal thing either with any exteriour or interiour sense”, i.e. anything magical.  Basically, it offers guidelines for conducting yourself and protecting yourself when interacting with spirits, either in a conjuration or no:

  1. All spirits that appear in conjuration do so only by the grace and order of God.
    1. Spirits only show in conjurations of Hermetic or Solomonic traditions according to the will of God.
    2. Any spirit revealing itself in any context, conjuration or otherwise, does so by the will of God, such as in predestination or in a holy mission.
  2. Whenever spirits are near, pray for a strong, holy spirit, and deliverance from evil.
    1. The Miserere and the Lord’s Prayer are of special and powerful use in this.
    2. Variations on such prayers are found in a number of Solomonic conjuration formats.
  3. Always test the spirits to ensure their truth and to prevent folly or harm.
  4. Do not fall into superstition.
    1. Be intelligent and wise about your works.
    2. Be proper in your actions only as much as they are called for.
    3. Remember that God is the source of all works.
  5. Do not fall into idolatry.
    1. Only God is God.
    2. God is the source of all spirits and all power.
    3. Objects do not have power apart from God.
  6. Do not fall into deceit.
    1. Avoid becoming mislead or misguided.
    2. Always remember that God is the true origin of power and all works.
  7. Always seek the gifts, grace, and glory of God.

Αphorism VI.36 (emphasis mine below) admonishes the reader such that each single magical operation should be “simple”, i.e. focused on one and only one purpose:

Care is to be taken, that experiments be not mixed with experiments; but that every one be onely simple and several: for God and Nature have ordained all things to a certain and appointed end: so that for examples sake, they who perform cures with the most simple herbs and roots, do cure the most happily of all. And in this manner, in Constellations, Words and Characters, Stones, and such like, do lie hid the greatest influences or vertues in deed, which are in stead of a miracle.

So also are words, which being pronounced, do forthwith cause creatures both visible and invisible to yield obedience, aswel creatures of this our world, as of the watry, aëry, subterranean, and Olympick supercelestial and infernal, and also the divine.

Therefore simplicity is chiefly to be studied, and the knowledge of such simples is to be sought for from God; otherwise by no other means or experience they can be found out.

Aphorism VII.44 (emphasis mine below) contains a startlingly modern exhortation to meditation, especially awareness meditation, so as to know what the “inner voice” sounds like especially when compared to the “outer voices”.  This section sounds like something pulled directly from Jason Miller’s blog (like this old post of his).  Beyond that, it also implies knowing what your own will is, and what the manipulations of others are upon your will and thoughts, as Peterson notes in his translation of the Arbatel.

The passage from the common life of man unto a Magical life, is no other but a sleep, from that life; and an awaking to this life; for those things which happen to ignorant and unwise men in their common life, the same things happen to the willing and knowing Magitian.

The Magitian understandeth when the minde doth meditate of himself; he deliberateth, reasoneth, constituteth and determineth what is to be done; he observeth when his cogititions do proceed from a divine separate essence, and he proveth of what order that divine separate essence is.

But the man that is ignorant of Magick, is carried to and fro, as it were in war with his affections; he knoweth not when they issue out of his own minde, or are impressed by the assisting essence; and he knoweth not how to overthrow the counsels of his enemies by the word of God, or to keep himself from the snares and deceits of the tempter.

For being such an incomplete and short work on magic, the Arbatel is actually pretty solid in its advice, even by modern standards, especially with the rise of Christian esoteric traditions in the public sphere (case in point, I can see some strong similarities and outright parallels between Arbatel-style thinking on magic and traditions like Kardeckian spiritism).  Really, most of the Arbatel is filled with this sort of advice, and it’s unwise to simply go through and rewrite every single aphorism or summarize it all simply because it’s already such a simple work.  I’ve only highlighted what I thought was immediately relevant, but the entire work should be reviewed time and again for guidance and support by any magician, especially those with a more devout or religious bent in their work.

De Regnis: On Principles of Practice and Regular Practices

Although most of my writing is visible and accessible through my blog and my ebooks, there are a bunch of writing projects that I don’t necessarily intend for public release.  When I was recently going through my old documents folder on my computer, I found a writing project I had intended to be a compendium of Hermetic and Neoplatonic knowledge, guidance, and advice that would serve to document my understandings and work as a textbook unto itself, both for my benefit and any who might come after me.  This project, De Regnis or “On Kingdoms”, got pretty far along before it got abandoned, though parts of it serve as seeds or are outright cannibalized for some of my other works.  Though I have no plans to continue writing this text, I want to share some of the sections I wrote that can act as a useful introduction to some of the practices of Hermetic magic in a modern context.  My views and practices and experiences have grown considerably since then, but perhaps it can help those who are just getting started or are curious about how to fortify their own practices and views.  If you have any views, comments, suggestions, or ideas on the topics shared in this post, please feel free to share in the comments!

Today’s selection (and the last!) will be on the topics of the principles of magical practice and regular practices.

On Principles of Practice

Dealing with the raw forces of creation, the elements, the planets, the stars, and other spiritual entities is dangerous, though rewarding. By interacting with these forces, magicians risk being overwhelmed by them without proper and regular practice and maintenance. Laying the foundation of daily practice to stabilize, sanctify, and secure one’s life cannot be overstated in importance;though it may not be glamorous or immediately rewarding, and though it may take considerable time and effort all on its own, regular practice is a crucial aspect of a magician’s life. Several principles can help guide a magician to developing a regular, consistent, and strong foundation in living magically.

Sanitize. Keep your entire sphere clean and cleansed, from the basest material components to the highest intellectual and divine ones. Air out your house, vacuum your carpets, sweep the floorboards, dust the fan blades, wash the car, light the candles, burn the camphor, sprinkle the holy water, clean all the things. Asperge yourself with holy water or other cleansing agents frequently.Do regular banishing and force balancing on yourself. Recleanse and reconsecrate your tools,talismans, and ritual space every so often. The more astral dirt you accrue by tracking it in from the higher spheres, or the more dust you bring in from inviting higher ups down into your house,the more confused and imbalanced things get down here and up there alike. Keep yourself, your surroundings, your tools, and your mind clean, cleansed, and clear.

Learn. You can do nothing if you know nothing. Read any and all books you can find on magic,philosophy, religion, spirituality, mathematics, literature, mythology, archaeology, linguistics, folktraditions, fiction ancient and new, science, engineering, history, economics, crafting, and more.Take classes in whatever you have an interest in, whether related to magic or not. Talk withfriends about their hobbies, experiences, stories, advice, warnings, hopes, dreams, fears, and desires.Expanding your mind also expands the potential horizons you can explore, no matter how innocuousor trivial something may seem. Harbor no biases on what you read, study, or discuss; keep an openmind and admit anything with practical merit. Go on roadtrips to see new things. Walk in big citiesto see new faces and fashions. Read blogs with political opinions opposite yours yet are well-writtenand reasoned.

Protect. If you have one foot in the door to get into the mysteries, you also leave the door ajar for ethereal enemies to attack you. Keep yourself safe. Set up barriers, shields, or guards around your house. Make protective charms, phylacteries, or enchanted trinkets to keep on yourself. Find out what force you best resonate with and manipulate it to act as a shield around you. Always keep an eye out for anything awry or ominous. Create magical or ritual weapons to call on or call up when needed. Create magical oils or incenses to keep out bad things and keep in good things. Be mindful of barriers, boundaries, and circles that have already been erected. Leave gossip, dangerous places, and risky situations be instead of looking for bad stuff to happen.

Breathe. Breathing is the source of life down here, and aspiration shares the same root with “inspiration” and “spirit”. By knowing, feeling, and controlling the breath one can control voice level, speech and diction, blood flow, thought patterns, and ultimately the entire being tied into material reality just as one is into spiritual reality. Breathing is the crux of meditation, and meditation is the crux of knowing yourself, which is the holiest injunction humanity has. Breathing,just breathing, is magical in and of itself; breathing is what animates us, ensouls us, and keeps us alive and living. Breathing is the foundation of magic, and breathing must be known, understood,and integrated constantly with oneself in order to progress.

Pray. Humans, powerful as they are, were never meant to be alone in any sense of the word, nor can they accomplish their goals on their own. People need help, and prayer is how humans can obtain it, especially from the divine. Pray for guidance, for patience, for mercy, for compassion, for humility, for forgiveness, for health, for sight, for knowledge, for wisdom, for authority, for power, for light, and in that order. Pray the Source, the gods, the angels, the celestials, the elementals, the dead, and each other for their blessings, advice, guidance, alignment, unity, and boons. Pray to know how to use the blessings and boons given to us to the best of abilities and for the best result for all of us. Pray with praise, pray with emotion, pray with silence. Pray with your entire body,soul, spirit and mind. Pray every day, pray several times a day. Pray.

Stay healthy. Humans are amphibious, both spiritual and physical. Magic is largely focused on the spiritual, but it always needs to bring the spiritual and astral down into the material and physical. Be sure you do not neglect your body, because the body the primary and only vehicle you have to work magic, and the one tool you will always have with you in the world. Get enough sleep every night. Go to bed at the same time every night. Get enough to eat every day, but no more. Eat the proper things in the proper amounts. Shower, wash your hair, brush your hair, brush your teeth, floss your teeth, exfoliate, deodorize. Get at least half an hour of light physical activity every day. Expose yourself to the elements once every so often. Go outside and enjoy the sunlight,moonlight, starlight, wind, mist, clouds, rain, rivers, oceans, dirt, trees, and animals. “Healthy”has its roots in the same word as “whole” and “holy”, and you need to stay whole physically in order to spiritually progress wholesomely.

Get dirty. Actually go out into the world and remind yourself that you are still a physical,material being that has physical, material needs. Everything in moderation, including moderation:get sick, get drunk, get high, get rich, get poor, get happy, get sad, get angry, get lonely, get loved.You are a human being to experience human life, and without that experience you will have failed at your birth’s purpose. Getting yourself meshed in human life, living in the world while not wholly of it, helps keep things in perspective and shows the power of the cleansing, cleaning, Light-bearing work you do. Getting dirty helps us realize that even dirt is pure and holy, that nothing is truly separate from the Source from which it came.

Do it. Complain however much you like or complain not at all; magic and life are going to suck no matter what. That does not change the fact that you are a magician to do magic. Do it. Do it now. There is no other way, time, or place to do it. Just do it.

On Regular Practices

Based on these principles, a magician should develop a strict regimen of practice that is carried out each and every day. It cannot be overstated or overemphasized how important and crucial it is fora regimen and routine of regular practice to be developed; this is the beating heart of the Great Work. Just as a musician must study music theory and practice for years, or an engineer technology and science rigorously for as long, before reaching mastery, so too must regular practice be both regular and practiced. This is the way magicians refine their skills as well as themselves, both in this world and in all others.

Upon creating a regular practice, one should endeavor every day to carry it out without fail. Even though this is ideal, however, sometimes life throws the machine of practice out of balance:people get sick, family emergencies occur, mundane matters must temporarily take importance,and so forth. Sometimes a little bit more sleep is needed, or one simply and honestly forgets to carry out one’s tasks for the day. This is alright, and no cause for inflicting punishment on oneself.In such cases when a set routine is broken, all that is required is to continue it where one left off. Failure and change is destined to happen in life, and the notion of success in a system where failure is inevitable is to keep trying and keep going after every failure. This dedication and willingness to keep up one’s routine and practice is the core ethic of the Work, just as the routine itself is the praxis of it.

Further, there are limitations to regular practices that have been set. Although it is good to keep oneself to a set practice, it is not necessarily as good to keep the same practice forever.As magicians grow and evolve in their spiritual and cosmic lives, some practices cease to become useful, while others can suddenly hold more importance never before considered. Every so often,but not too frequently, one should reevaluate oneself and one’s spiritual progress, understanding which practices are of use, which were of use but no longer, and what new practices might become of use or are interesting enough to pursue. Upon investigation and conferring with resources and other advisers, one should change one’s practice, add to it, or remove unhelpful acts to keep one spiritually fresh and constantly evolving.

To illustrate the notion of regular practice, a simple routine of daily rituals might look like the following:

Daily morning practice: ablution with holy water and ritual cleansing, prayers to the Almighty (adoration, intercession, requests for guidance and power), prayers to any powers or patrons one allies with, general offering of water and incense to local spirits and ancestors, at least thirty minutes of meditation, simple energy work.

Daily evening practice: at least twenty minutes of meditation, simple energy work, reflection on the day’s events, prayers to the Almighty and other powers (confession, intercession, protection, thanksgiving).

Weekly practice: thorough banishing and cleansing of one’s sphere, offering to one’s spiritual allies, divination of any pressing questions and the coming week, contemplation of a magical symbol.

Monthly practice: thorough banishing and cleansing of one’s home and local environment, divination for the coming month, reconsecration of one’s tools, consecration of holy water and other supplies used in magical workings.

Yearly practice: special feast days or festivals, offerings to one’s dead heroes or ancestors, pilgrimages to one’s hometown or spiritual focus, analysis of one’s progress in the past year, changes to one’s practice.

In addition to regular practice, having a regular space dedicated to practice is essential. Setting up a corner of one’s bedroom to act as a spiritual center, or using a spare room or insulated large shed for the same, will suffice to set up a temple for spiritual work. At least two focuses for spiritual work should be erected: a shrine at which one can comfortably kneel for devotional work and prayers, and a waist-high altar for operations, spiritual work, and conjuration. This area should be kept clean and pure, especially if kept in a bedroom or other public space where other people visit.

Diviner’s Syndromes: Prometheus, Tithonos, Teireisias

Recently in the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook, there were a few discussions about how long one should study and practice before charging for their services.  As always, these conversations are enlightening, and occasionally entertaining; I’m also pleased to note that such conversations never seem to get overheated or rage-inducing anymore, neither for myself nor others.  This conversation did take an interesting turn, however; someone brought up an interesting view, apparently common in some Asian worldviews, which is another argument for why diviners ought to charge at all:

…diviners tend to have “shortened” lifespans due to their profession of revealing the heavenly secrets to others. Therefore, it’s only right to charge a fee, in return for revealing the heavenly secrets. This resulted in people charging, regardless in the level of skills…

…There’s often a belief that diviners often suffer some sort of disability or misfortune, as a result of being in a profession that goes against the Will of the Heavens.

It’s a fascinating viewpoint, and I immediately chimed in with two points from ancient Greece as a sort of circumlocuitous approach to my answers and thoughts:

  1. There’s a division of these arts between the gods Apollo and Hermes, according to that fun classical read the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. They both deal with foresight, sure, but they do so in different ways: Apollo is, properly speaking, the divinity of prophecy, while Hermes is the god of divination. The two are not the same. Prophecy is actually knowing the mind and will of Zeus (i.e. true and unadulterated knowledge of fate), while divination is simply reading and extrapolating from patterns in natural things or randomly generated patterns aided and assisted by the gods, which may or may not necessarily match up with the will of Zeus. Only Apollo could grant prophecy, but Hermes was given divination because Apollo (the previous “owner” of the art) had no need for it once he had prophecy as his Thing. Going to Apollo was a hard time indeed, but anyone could easily approach Hermes.
  2. It was commonly known that the Pythia, the sacred oracle and prophetess of Delphi under Apollo, would tend to lead shorter lives than other women of the same area due to her sacred work. Whether this can be attributed to the potentially psychotropic gases that inhabited her sacred cave or to the nature of her spiritual work is unknown, but it was believed to be the latter, not as retribution for speaking the will of heaven but because of how hard it is on a mortal body to contain the spirit of an immortal, especially repeatedly as a kind of career.

Eventually, after a bunch of other people put in their excellent points and I had some time to actually think and write out my thoughts, this is what I replied with:

… [regarding how money is passed from client to diviner in] divination in Santeria, there’s a lot more going on than just an exchange of money for getting the tools familiarized with the energy of the client; there’s a whole process to sanctify the area for the divination, and there are protocols involved for if the reading gets too “hot”, or energetically excited to the point of danger, or just to ward off negative omens so that they can be more effectively dealt with and so that nothing “sticks” to the diviner. Plus, for some priests, they need to undergo a light purification ahead of the reading to make sure they’re clean and focused enough to do the reading properly, and it’s almost always considered good practice to do a cleansing afterwards of the space and reader themselves to make sure no “ick” was left behind. In other words, we clean up after ourselves.

Plus, in the first year of being initiated in Santeria, there’s generally a blanket ban on…quite a lot, but that also includes spiritual works such as divination for oneself or others. This is because the new initiate requires a year of isolation from anything that could pose physical or spiritual danger, and this includes tapping into the energies, lives, and minds of others, which may not be always so pure or kind as we’d otherwise like them to be. When we perform divination for someone, we get at least a little mixed up in their life, a little entangled in their energies, which can rub off on us or leave us “stained” with their spiritual activities. If other spiritual hygiene isn’t implemented, those effects build up over time into a spiritual miasma that can really put us under.

There’s also the idea that, when we do divination, we’re using a little of our own spiritual power to fuel the act, even if it’s not “us” doing the real Talking. Just how a day of investigating papers and books to do research can leave us with a headache and eyesores, prolonged divination or doing lots of successive divinations in short order can leave us drained, which is a state of weakness, which can make us more vulnerable to spiritual miasma or other negative afflictions, which can lead very well to encountering physical dangers.

Do I think we’re revealing some cosmic secrets which are not to be known by mere mortals and which which the gods jealously guard? Not necessarily. Do I think there are other risks and dangers inherent to the act of divination? Absolutely! Having an active spiritual practice that includes proper rest, recharging, cleansing, hygiene, and spiritual upkeep is important for everyone, but especially so for diviners, who can often end up facing some real pieces of work out there which can really leave us a mess as we try to help others with theirs.

For the supplies we consume and the time we take preparing and maintaining our own well-being, I think that alone deserves compensation, for sure! And that’s not including the cost of tapping into and expending our spiritual power for the reading, the years of training and expertise we’re calling on, travel expenses, and so on, all of which deserve at least an attempt to pay for.

This led me to think of three “diviner’s syndromes” to tack onto my older notions of divinaddiction and divinaversion, the latter two affecting the person receiving divination and the new three affecting the person doing divination.  For the sake of art and whimsy, I’m naming these three diviner’s syndromes after three figures from Greek mythology:

  • Prometheus (Προμηθεύς) was the Titan god of forethought who, after sculpting humanity out of clay, wanted to make their lives better and thus tricked the gods out of meat for their sacrifices and stole the secret of fire from the gods, both for the sake of humanity.  As punishment for this, the theoi bound him to Mount Kaukasos, condemned to have his ever-regenerating liver plucked out by an eagle for the rest of time…at least until Herakles rescued him.
  • Tithonos (Τιθωνός) was a prince of Troy, and beloved of the goddess of dawn Eos.  Eos wanted to take Tithonos as her lover, and wanted to make him immortal.  However, she could not do this herself, and so asked Zeus to do this.  Zeus did so, but it only became apparent later that Eos made a critical misstep and forgot to ask for eternal youth along with immortality.  Tithonos grew old and older, never dying, but losing all his strength and sense and sanity.
  • Teireisias (Τειρεσίας) was one of the most famous seers in ancient Greece.  Having lived life as both a man and woman due to some incidents involving snakes, Zeus and Hera decided to use him as a judge in one of their debates regarding who had more pleasure during sex, the man or the woman; Zeus said that the woman did, and Hera argued that the man did.  Teireisias agreed with Zeus, giving him victory; Hera, in her rage, blinded Teireisias.  Zeus, unable to undo another god’s actions, gave Teireisias the power of perfect foresight to make up for his being deprived of eyesight.

I think you can see where I’m going with this, dear reader, if you’re at all familiar with how adopting the signs and symbols of myth can play out in our real lived lives.

  • Prometheus syndrome is an affliction of the diviner that comes about as an honest-to-god theft of secrets and revealing of information that cannot be known, causing offense to the gods or other spirits and which causes them to act upon you offensively.
  • Tithonos syndrome is an affliction of the diviner that results in decreased vitality, strength, intellect, health, and overall well-being due to being neglectful of one’s own physical and spiritual hygiene and maintenance.
  • Teireisias syndrome doesn’t really fit in with either of the two above; it indicates that a physical handicap of some sort allows for a greater spiritual strength, sort of how like those who are blind often have increased senses of hearing.  Like Teireisias, who gave up physical sight for spiritual foresight, those who are often outcast make the best of their situation and rise above their mundane problems through spiritual development.

Of these three, I think Tithonos syndrome is probably the most hazardous, and also the most likely we as diviners encounter.  I know that from my own experience and from the reported experience of others, doing a string of divination readings in a row can often tire me out and wear me down, causing me headaches, fatigue, light-headedness, or just making me more predisposed to being hangry.  And that’s the ideal case, too; if I do readings for people who have some really heavy shit going on, or who are being meddled with on a spiritual level by people throwing curses at them or by spirits obsessing over them, or if mental illness comes out in the reading or in their behaviors that play out on a spiritual level, then the problems ramp up real quickly.  And that’s all on top of the actual personal interactions I have to work with to act, not just as seer, but as counselor to make sure the person can integrate my advice in a healthy, productive way that isn’t threatened by fear, jealousy, anxiety, mental illness, or the like.  Between the energy I’m putting out, the energy I have to put up with, and the constant personal investment I have to make to accomplish the reading, it’s truly no small matter.

So, to prepare myself for a divination (and especially any string of divinations, like for a psychic fair or if I have multiple appointments lined up on the same day), I’ll be sure to take a special bath to protect myself while enhancing my sight and quickening my tongue, warding the reading space to make sure the information comes out clear without spiritual interference, and wear my preferred diviner’s charms and recite my prayers to make sure all goes well; to wrap things up, even if I’m dead tired from doing everything above, I’ll make myself cleanse the area of the divinations along with myself, lock everything down, cut all loose threads that didn’t want to be tied up earlier, and then get a good meal and a good night’s rest.  It’s a lot to handle, but it’s absolutely necessary, because without such precautions and postactions, it’s almost laughably easy to get so tired you get vertigo, faint, pass out, fall sick, or come to some other bad end that results in physical illness or injury.  It’s not worth it to ignore these ameliorating actions, because the cost will always be higher in the end.  Over time, with practice, your spiritual stamina can be lengthened, your focus sharpened, your defenses strengthened, and so forth through routine meditation, warding, energy work, prayer, and so forth, but this only lessens the harm because you can deflect more of it at a time; it doesn’t eliminate the threat or effects of it entirely.  Tithonos syndrome is no joke, dear reader; if you engage with divination, this is a real risk you bring upon yourself.  Take care of yourself.

Then there’s Prometheus syndrome, which…I’ll be honest, I don’t think it plays out like this.  If the gods didn’t want us to speak about the future, they wouldn’t let us know it to begin with.  Consider what Apollo says in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, where Hermes tries to strike a bargain with Apollo so that he could get in on the sweet, sweet gift of prophecy (emphasis mine):

But as for sooth-saying, noble, heaven-born child, of which you ask, it is not lawful for you to learn it, nor for any other of the deathless gods: only the mind of Zeus knows that. I am pledged and have vowed and sworn a strong oath that no other of the eternal gods save I should know the wise-hearted counsel of Zeus. And do not you, my brother, bearer of the golden wand, bid me tell those decrees which all-seeing Zeus intends. As for men, I will harm one and profit another, sorely perplexing the tribes of unenviable men. Whosoever shall come guided by the call and flight of birds of sure omen, that man shall have advantage through my voice, and I will not deceive him. But whoso shall trust to idly-chattering birds and shall seek to invoke my prophetic art contrary to my will, and to understand more than the eternal gods, I declare that he shall come on an idle journey; yet his gifts I would take.

In other words, Apollo cannot give prophecy to Hermes because Zeus has ordained that prophecy belongs only to Apollo, and that all those who seek to trespass on prophetic powers or augury or other omens without the proper license do so in vain, no matter what they try to bribe or tempt Apollo with.  Only those who are true and truly guided by the proper channels can obtain such truth from Apollo; all others will fail in the attempt.  In this light, I find it less likely that one suffers the fate of Prometheus in stealing fire from the gods for speaking what ought not be spoken, and more likely that one just says wrong things; at best, such a bad prediction is useless and without effect, but at worst, it can truly mislead someone into ruin of their own doing for paying heed to the wrong people.

That said, I think that there are three cases where Prometheus syndrome could actually take place:

  1. One has a pact with a particular spirit who acts as a familiar or tutelary divinity of divination, and that pact allows the diviner to rely on that entity for divination in exchange for honoring that spirit through sacrifice and payment, and relying on that entity only as much as that entity agrees to share.  To press that entity further than what they agree to can end up angering that spirit to the point of causing punishment, just as neglecting one’s own end of the deal by ignoring or foregoing sacrifice and payment to them.  Still, this would less be a case of “speaking what ought not be spoken” and more a matter of “violating spiritual vows”.  If you rely on such a spirit for aid in divination, work such boundaries out for yourself, then stick to them; if you have a taboo or prohibition on divining for a particular topic (e.g. one’s eventual date of death), don’t try to pry into those secrets.
  2. While all the above makes sense to me from my Western perspective, I can’t discount that there may very well be cultures and traditions where divination is truly seen as a means of theft from the gods, and the methods they use actually work out in that way.  I can’t speak to this, but it may well be that any such form of divination is truly like Prometheus stealing fire from Olympos, which would them open them up to punishment.  I can’t say for sure, but it’s not something I can discount.  To avoid this, try a different system of divination and cosmological worldview that doesn’t see it this way, I guess?
  3. The last case would technically be considered an inverted Prometheus syndrome; rather than suffering punishment for speaking what ought not be spoken, I find it a very real threat to not speak what ought to be spoken.  In other words, if you see something in a divination, you as the diviner are obliged to inform the client about it, especially if it’s about a danger or risk to their well-being.  The idea goes that whatever you don’t inform the client of comes back to hurt you instead; it’s thus in your best interest to speak everything that you see and can correlate into a cohesive story (and the once-off “just popped into my mind” bits, too) to the client.  That way, the client has as complete and thorough understanding as can be given to them at the time, and the diviner can say that they did their best to help the client.  After all, knowing is half the battle, but if the diviner withholds knowledge that they’re privy to from a client that the client is paying for, not only is it dishonest, it also opens up the diviner to either punishment or “taking the hit” for the client simply from whatever is coming for the client.  Of these three cases, it’s this inverted Prometheus syndrome I’m most concerned about, but that can be resolved pretty easily: don’t lie in divination, don’t hide in divination, don’t mislead in divination.  If you speak what you see and all that you see as best as you can, then not only do you uphold your own professionalism in divination, you also hold yourself clean and free from the repercussions of problems that you’d otherwise stand in the way of.

So much for Prometheus syndrome and Tithonos syndrome.  Then there’s Teireisias syndrome, which…I dunno.  Like, I know plenty of diviners of all kinds: male, female, trans, nonbinary, straight, gay, queer, old, young, abled, disabled, of every race and every socioeconomic class and every attractive quality (or lack thereof).  I haven’t really noticed much of a pattern in seeing whether “disabled people make better diviners” or “gay men make better prophets” or whatnot, so for me, I’d probably chalk Teireisias syndrome up to more of a myth than something to actually consider as a thing.  I suppose it’s more like self-selection or selection bias; consider, after all, that many people who get involved in the occult arts and sciences tend to already be outcasts, and being different in some way (queer, nonbinary, disabled, poor, neuro-atypical, etc.) is a big cause of being considered outcasts.  I guess it’s like how many men think women talk more than they do; if they see queer/nonbinary/otherwise-different people doing divination, then it’d be a matter of overrepresentation becoming rumour becoming fable rather than something mystically inherent in different people.  But, hey, if it helps us with getting more business, you can bet I’ll play my asthma, bad knee, and gayness up for as much as it’d be worth, and I’d encourage everyone else to do the same with whatever makes them different (so long as they’re also, yanno, competent enough to be worth it).

Those are my thoughts on diviner’s syndromes that we might encounter, along with some of the dangers and problems we face and how we might begin to rectify them.  What about you, dear reader?  If you’re a diviner yourself, have you noticed any problems that you encounter with divination that affect you on a spiritual or physical level?  Do you know of any tales, cultures, or myths where divination is taken as a last resort out of fear of divine punishment (besides the whole Witch of Endor thing from the Book of Samuel)?  How do you try to keep yourself in as good a condition as you can before, during, and after divination?  Let us know down in the comments!

Work, Lineage, and Auturgy

I’m going through an interesting development in my life, pursuant to the awesome life choices I made back in October.  It’s the cause for several sets of changes, some of which are more immediately felt than others, some of which are more mental or intellectual than others.  One of those intellectual realizations I’ve made is how stark the difference is between different kinds of Work based on how one obtains access to it, and I think it bears discussing how that plays out within one’s own practice.

For most of my magical practice, I’ve largely worked on my own, sometimes with one or two other people, but it’s largely been an independent process.  I’ve made my own tools and consecrated them, I built my own temple, I learned my prayers and rituals and made up my own in the process, and I’ve built up my own body of knowledge, wisdom, and expertise.  I’m not saying I did this fully on my own; I proudly claim Fr. Rufus Opus as my instructor and mentor, but that’s all he is: an instructor, one who instructs.  He passed nothing onto me that I could not have obtained elsewhere, but he taught me where to look and offered guidance, tips, and advice of the process that he explicitly claims is a series of self-initiations into the spheres of the elements, the planets, and the Self.  No matter how much instruction or mentorship he provides, it doesn’t change the fact that all the Work to be done must be done, developed, and built by one’s own self.  It’s been a long road and highly educational, and extraordinarily worth it to build up your own Power and maintain it for your own ends.

And yet, that’s far from the only way to operate.  Just because that’s one method of Work doesn’t mean that it’s the only kind of Work out there, and the other is a matter of initiation into a lineage.  Consider that, in October, I was initiated by my godparent into a religion that spans centuries across several continents.  I was initiated by my godfather, who was initiated by his godmother, she by her godmother, she by her godfather, and so forth on many more times back to a time when we forget names.  In the duration from the first godparent we all share in common to my own initiation, prayers and songs and protocols have been developed as a type of pact with our divinities, and all the power that my godfather has was shared and passed along to me; what applies to him in the religion largely applies to me, as well, and I follow the precepts and protocols of this religion to obtain the same benefits.  They pre-existed my own initiation, and my initiation is a pact I make with our divinities that I can rely on this huge body of Work that was already done so long as I accept the terms and conditions.  I’m free to build up more power and pacts on my own, of course, but I pass down what was passed onto me, and as a result, keep the lineage going.  I don’t need to independently develop these pacts or these powers or these protocols; all I had to do was accept them.  The Work was done before my time, and now I participate in that same Work of the lineage.

It’s because of this distinction that I want to make explicit a difference between lineaged Work and what I call “αυτουργια” (“auturgy” in a modern spelling), or self-driven, self-sustained, self-begun Work that is without lineage and independent of it.  Most Western Hermetic work nowadays is auturgic in nature; we learn from books with nobody to initiate ourselves and little pre-existing power or pacts to rely on, and instead we must forge our own tools, protocols, and power to accomplish our Work.  Sure, we rely on the work done by our forebears, but they’re only passing on their instructions to us.  They do not hand us power or have their pacts take effect over ourselves, and many of the pacts they made with their spirits do not necessarily work for us the same way; we must make new pacts in the process of our auturgic Work.  This is starkly different from lineaged Work, where such power is already in place, and all you need to do is be given license to interact with it.

To make the distinction clear, take for example a particular tool you might use in ritual, say a crystal shewstone or the very area itself used in the Trithemian conjuration ritual.  The Trithemian ritual does not prescribe a consecration for either of these things to be done ahead of time, as might be done for some of the tools in the Key of Solomon; rather, they are consecrated in the ritual itself for the purposes of that specific instance of the ritual:

…O inanimate creature of God, be sanctified, consecrated, and blessed, so that no evil phantasy may appear in you, and that all spirits within you speak intelligibly, truly, and without the least ambiguity.  Amen.

…In the name of the thrice-holy Tetragrammaton Elohim Tzabaoth, I consecrate this piece of ground for my defense, so that no evil spirit may have power to break these bounds prescribed here.  Amen.

Whenever the Trithemian ritual is performed, the shewstone or the ritual area is consecrated for as long as that ritual is performed, and after which the consecration isn’t technically valid anymore.  Every time the ritual is performed, these things must be consecrated again in order for them to be useful in the ritual being performed at that instance.  Over time, with repeated application, the residual power and blessing build up, so that they eventually become powerful tools in their own right.  For example, the original wand I made for conjuration was nothing more than a pine dowel woodburned according to the instructions of the ritual (as Fr. RO taught it); it was not previously consecrated, but its use in conjuration over and over eventually made it a tool of power that gave it the same “oomph” that my ebony Wand of Art, made of ebony and gold and silver and crystal and consecrated over the course of a week, already had from the get-go.  There was a lot of prep involved in the ebony Wand that the pine wand didn’t go through, but over time, the pine wand was conditioned, programmed, and “seasoned” enough to have the same power that the ebony Wand would have had from the get-go.  However, I used that pine wand near-constantly for a full two years before I made my ebony Wand, and it took quite a bit of time for it to attain that same strength.  The ebony Wand, however, already had all that power as soon as I made it, given the use of powerful natural materials and the layers of consecration I put upon it, and it quite easily became even more powerful at a faster rate than the pine wand ever had.  This is why, in many cases, texts like the Key of Solomon have all those elaborate consecration rituals for pretty much everything the magician touches, from quills and paints to knives both utility and spiritual.  By taking the effort of consecrating each of the tools ahead of time, you don’t need to consecrate them on-the-fly each time you use them; simply pick them up and go.  But, to make sure that the consecrations are done right, you too need to be consecrated, purified, and prepared so as to make sure that all the other consecrations are effective.  The Key of Solomon is important in the Western Hermetic tradition because it implies a set of preexisting pacts and processes that one must enter into so as to make the most of the system; Solomon bound the demons, and in some sense the demons are still bound to Solomon’s word, and they will honor whatever Solomon did regardless of who performs it nowadays, and Solomon passed along the pentacles that he received so as to accomplish miraculous works for us to use so long as we make them in the same way he did.  You could make something similar and make a temporary consecration upon it, but you’d need to do the same thing over and over again every time you used it; likewise, you could make a pact with a new spirit that Solomon never contacted, but you wouldn’t be able to rely on the pacts and processes Solomon used because that spirit was never bound by them originally, so you’d need to make a new set of pacts and protocols with that spirit with new, perhaps unpredictable effects or side-effects.

Take that same idea, of on-the-fly consecrations versus pact-based protocols of consecration, and apply it to the idea of whole systems of magic, and you have the auturgia/lineage difference.  On the one hand, you’re building yourself up through new practices that do not rely on preexisting powers or pacts, and on the other hand, you’re being given a set of protocols and pacts that already work and have been worked and have had power put into them.  In the former, you have freedom to do and develop pretty much as you please for your Work, and you get out of it what you put into it.  In the latter, the system is already powerful and stable, and it relies only on your agreements to the terms and conditions in order to do your Work.  As a more modern example, consider the religion I was just initiated into versus the Mathesis practice I’m developing.  In the former, I have been initiated into a godfamily which has maintained practices, protocols, pacts, and powers that they are allowing me access to so long as I continue to work with them and learn with them, and they all received the same from their initiators and godparents, and so forth; our divinities are accustomed to hearing these songs and prayers from us, and know how to act and react accordingly; both the divinities and the initiates know what to expect from each other, so long as we rely on the protocols that have been passed down onto us; we know what works, what doesn’t, what’s approved, what’s disapproved, what’s safe, what’s dangerous.  We all support each other and lend each other our powers and assistance in order to do what we must do, and we all serve as a system of checks and balances on each other to make sure we’re all still doing everything right.  (Note that the word “tradition” literally means “that which is handed down”; if it’s not handed down to you, it’s not a tradition.)  On the other hand, in Mathesis, I’m working directly with the theoi and letters in a novel, experimental way and seeing what works and what doesn’t, what pacts can be made and what pacts should be made, and what practices to develop as useful and what to ignore as useless.  There’s nothing binding me to anything done previously, because nothing has been done previously.  There’s not a lot of power in it yet, because I haven’t yet tapped into what’s powerful, and that’s because I’m still finding out what’s powerful about it.  Mathesis is, as of now, a strictly auturgic practice that relies on no community because there are none others who are initiated into it; it relies on no sacred body of wisdom because there hasn’t been enough wisdom yet to be built up into a body; it relies on no firm protocols because everything is so nebulous and experimental.

However, there’s a way for Mathesis to change itself from being an auturgic practice into a lineaged one.  Once I build it up enough as a system of theurgic exploration and development, once I refine some of the techniques a bit more, once I establish pacts and fail-safes when I work with the spirits, it can be passed onto others.  Once others become initiated into Mathesis, it becomes a lineage, even if it’s just one godparent-godchild step that exists.  At that point, I’ll be able to pass on the powers, pacts, and protocols that have been developed for another to tap into and use, and grant them access to that same power.  Over time, that initiate will be able to initiate others.  With each person that becomes initiated, the fertility of the tradition grows, adding new ideas, powers, and developments to the mix that allow it to grow and develop and mature as a proper tradition.  Will that happen?  Depends on how far I take Mathesis myself; if I never pass it on, then it’d just be something I did by myself for myself, but if I do pass it on, it’ll be passed onto others.  It was an old Greek ideal for a father to pass on his inheritance to his children “in at least the same condition as I received it, if not better”; if an initiate can add to the tradition in a useful, helpful way that grants it more power and stability and maturity, fantastic!  But if not, so long as they can pass on the tradition in the same way they received it without augmentation, and certainly without detriment or loss, then that’s all that’s needed for a tradition or lineage to survive.

From the perspective of a new initiate into a lineage who is accustomed to auturgic Hermetic work, it’s something a relief that most of the heavy Work of pact-building, empowerment, and protocol-development has already been done for me; I just need to be taught the practices, pacts, protocols, and plans that make the tradition work after having gone through them.  In fact, I don’t learn any practice in the religion without it first being done to me; the act of undergoing a ceremony is itself a kind of initiation that grants me access to learning what and how a thing is done.  Compared to auturgic Work, so much is honestly experimental: “I don’t know what this will do to me, but I need to study how to do it in order to accomplish it, and then later I can build upon it”.  It’s one of the reasons why I suggest all newcomers to Hermetic work follow rituals as they are written as closely as possible without innovation first so as to get them accustomed to the baseline practice, and only once they have the baseline set firmly in both the execution of the ritual and the expectation of effects should they innovate, take shortcuts, or change the ritual.  If you’re going to experiment, do so wisely, and only after you know what to expect.

Is there such a thing as a lineaged Hermetic tradition?  Absolutely!  Any initiatory practice done by others, from one generation of initiates to the next, is a lineage: the Golden Dawn and Gardnerian/Alexandrian Wicca are some prime examples that come to mind.  You have a lodge or a temple or a coven that initiates new members and teaches them their practices, protocols, and pacts to new initiates, and then those initiates (if/when ready) go on to initiate their own spiritual godchildren.  Of course, this is more the exception rather than the norm in the Western world; most people choose an auturgic practice, whether because they can’t stand “coven politics”, because they don’t have access to a spiritual family, or because they’re unfit for initiation themselves.  This doesn’t mean they can’t do the Work they need to, but it might be a path that has its own challenges.  Don’t get me wrong, lineaged Work has its own difficulties and problems: politics, policing of character and behavior, agreement to sometimes distasteful practices, and so forth, but it’s a price one must pay.  No such restrictions are there for the auturge, but they have the problems of having nothing to build upon and everything to build.  I suppose it’s a situation where there’s one product and multiple methods of payment available for it.

Are auturgic systems of practice any less worthwhile than lineaged ones?  No, and far from it!  My devotion, love, and respect for the Greek theoi remains unchanged, if not greater than before, but compared to the divinities I was just initiated to, there’s such a stark difference of presence: the divinities I was initiated to are already so powerful when I received them into my life, while I must continuously forge and reforge and strengthen my connection to the theoi in order to achieve the same level of presence.  Both sets of entities can hear me and work with me, but there’s so much less up-front work to do with the initiated divinities that I have to do with the non-initiated theoi because I was not initiated into a tradition of theoi-worship; pacts were not maintained, prayers were not continuously made, and protocols were not remembered, and I must do all the work to dust off whatever I can find and fill in the gaps where necessary so as to “bring the system online” again, as it were.  To continue to use a computer metaphor, it’s much easier for an online gamer to pick a game that already exists and simply get an account and log in, abiding by the terms and conditions and UI-issues and non-intuitive in-game quirks that exist, rather than plan a game idea, code the game, build a server to host the game, and get people to play the game with them.  Same result, different routes and costs to get there.

There’s a difference between simply teaching someone a spiritual/magical system and initiating them into it.  Fr. RO teaches me a kind of magic, but leaves the actual work to me; he did not initiate me into Hermeticism, and this is no fault against him; it never could have been, as it was never his goal to initiate people into a system that he himself was never initiated into, nor needed initiation.  My godfather is teaching me another kind of practice, but he had to initiate me into it so that all the same things that work for him can also work for me, giving me the license and right to work with it that otherwise I would had to pick and guess at.  I see many teachers of Western systems, but few initiators.  There are some Hermetic magicians out there who are, indeed, initiating students into a particular set of practices and pacts, passing on their own license and power onto their students, but this is the uncommon exception to the usual practice.  We don’t often think of Hermetic magic as a kind of initiation-/lineage-based practice, but in many cases, it probably should be.  I know for a fact that some of the powers and blessings we receive from the spheres, such as the Hymns of Silence, can be passed onto others who are ready, but I’ve rarely heard of a magician doing this for their students.

Given the general quietude of the occult blogosphere, and how so much has petered out or calmed down over the past few years (my own blog included!), I wonder if this is a sort of predicament-shift that is facing many people who got into magic around the Great Blogosphere Renaissance, and how many others are wondering this same thing I am now.

Beginner’s Practices

Recently, I’ve been getting more requests for consultations, which I’m happy to do for people.  (Yes, I charge, and you can find my rates on my Services page.)  Normally, people book a consultation for the purpose of an extended divination reading, where I do as many questions as time will allow and talk them through problems or offer advice as the situation calls for it.  However, a few consultations lately haven’t been anything of the sort, and fall under a type of consultory category that I personally love to do: ritual advice.  This is where, essentially, you ask me questions about practice, methodology, technique, or philosophy when it comes to magic and the occult, and I share with you my experiences, research, and the like, kind of like a 1-on-1 tutoring session.  I personally love doing this, since I typically learn as much from people as they learn from me, and we’re both better off for it.

However, I’ve also noticed that I’m seeing an uptick in the number of people who are new to magic and the occult asking for advice, like people who are in Fr. Rufus Opus’ new Seven Spheres classwork who want another view or advice from one of his other students.  Some are just studying on their own and want to know where to go or how they might accomplish something with a bare minimum of resources, while others are just wondering where to begin at all.  This is awesome and flattering, because even though I don’t consider myself a teacher (I’m still pretty damn new to this all myself as it is), I’d love to share my own experiences and lessons (sometimes learned the hard way) so that others don’t have to bungle things or get a slow start when they can hit the ground running.

For people who are utterly new to the occult, seeing all this stuff about grimoires and conjuration and sacrifice and Greek/Hebrew/Latin/Sanskrit/Egyptian terms and whatnot can be downright pants-shittingly frightening, not to mention bewildering.  I know that, when I first started, I was a little overwhelmed myself trying to figure out where to begin or what texts to read (assuming I could read them at all in modern English), but also what it is I should be doing to start.  That’s a crucial thing for a magician, and the line that divides an armchair magician from a practicing magician: what is it that you’re doing?  It’s all very well to rattle off the history of a particular incantation or memorize all the variations of the seals and designs from the Lemegeton Goetia, but if you’re not putting them to use, why are you doing this at all?  Magic should, in my opinion, be more than just a hobby of curiosity, but something that mixes a good way of living with a method of helping yourself and others in this world and all others.

Still, there’s a lot to do, and there’s always more to do even when you think you’ve done what you need.  So, if I had to suggest some basic practices that anyone interested in practicing magic or any spiritual way of life, what might I suggest?  Three things, all of which are pretty simple but which are endlessly profound and rewarding.

1: Learn two forms of divination.
You can’t figure out shit if you don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t always mean by talking with spirits.  Divination is an excellent way to get your foot in the door with magic; it’s how I got started, and this is my view on the subject.  Back in the day, I considered myself only a diviner and a seer, because I didn’t want to get involved with all that magic stuff.  I just wanted to see what was going on and help others make good decisions with new information they couldn’t get on their own; actually changing that stuff was out of my scope, as I considered it.  Then again, one thing led to the next, and I found myself researching what the planets and elements could be used for instead of just what they meant in astrology or Tarot, and the transition was so subtle that I became a magician without even really recognizing it.  Divination was the gateway drug for me, and it makes sense, because it helped inform me every step of the way, and still does as a matter of fact.

Now, I say that you should learn two forms of divination, if only to increase your skill set and to broaden your horizons.  These can be any two, but I recommend two different forms: a simple one that focuses on yes/no answers, and a complex one that can describe a whole situation at length and help provide detail as well as judgment.  The complex one is considerably easier to find in modern use: Tarot, runes, geomancy, astrology, I Ching, grammatomancy, astragalomancy, and the like are all good examples of what I mean by “complex divination”.  The easier one is more like child’s play and some diviners find it beneath them to just focus on yes/no queries, but at the same time, this is a vital skill to figure out.  Sure, you could use one divination system for both purposes, but I find it better to have two methods that complement each other.

Add to it, there’s an added benefit to learning two forms of divination like this.  The complex divination method you choose is excellent for understanding a whole system or situation when you need the guidance and detail that such a divination system can provide.  The simple divination method can be used for this, too, if a simple answer will suffice, but the real purpose I suggest the simple method is for communicating with spirits and discerning their will.  Having a yes/no method of divination, like chamalongos or coin tosses, is amazing to figure out how to proceed with offerings or rituals involving a particular spirit in conjunction with actually listening to them and getting the proper feeling of action.

2: Learn psychometry.
Psychometry literally means “measuring souls”, but it’s basically a fancy way to describe getting the “feel” or “vibe” off something.  It’s one of the first distinctly magical practices I picked up from my sister years ago while I was in college, a few years before actually getting into Hermetic stuff, since she’s more attuned to it than I am, but it’s turned out to be a valuable skill and one of the ones I recommend beginners to pick up ASAP.  Although the notion of reading the energy off objects seems simple and underneath some people, it’s one of the most vital skills a magician can develop, since it can be used in so many instances and is far more applicable than mere objects alone.  The point here is that you’re not just getting the impressions, charges, memories, and the like off of objects, but that you’re actually measuring the soul-stuff of a thing, and it doesn’t have to be tangible; in other words, you’re learning to sense magic itself.

The process of psychometry is simple: focus on a particular object, and figure out what it “feels” like.  How do you perceive the stuff in the object?  That’s really basically it; it’s no more complicated than touching something or coming into contact with it and getting information of the color, weight, temperature, or texture of an object, except that it doesn’t rely on the physical senses.  My sister’s advice for psychometry made a distinct impression on me and guides me to this day, not only in matters of psychometry but in pretty much all magical endeavors: “it feels like you’re making it up, but you’re not”.  The information pretty much pops up in your head, and to a less discerning mind, it would feel just like normal thoughts arising and coming and going.  The thing is, though, that these thoughts aren’t yours; they’re no more “your” thoughts than the sensation of your keyboard or phone in your hand is “your” sensation.  This is information, energy, spirit, presence, whatever that is simply coming in contact with your own sense abilities; there’s not much active practice to go with this, just like how seeing or hearing isn’t an active process but merely light or sound entering into your eyes or ears.

Now, once you get the hang of getting the feel or vibe off a particular object, it’s not a hard leap in any sense to go from small hand-held things to bigger things.  The size of the thing ultimately doesn’t matter, but what does matter is the power inside the thing.  (That’s what he said.)  The more something has been carried around, used, loved, or hated, the more power increases in the thing.  Animate things, like people and animals, naturally have a strong power in themselves, and one can detect how they feel or what they know but also how energy and power flows through and within them.  That said, I would recommend the following general process to practice learning psychometry:

  • Small objects (pebbles, jewelry, cell phones, writing utensils)
  • Large objects (cooking utensils, computers, cars, machines)
  • Places (graves, buildings, fields, forests, mountains)
  • People and animals

Not everyone will get the same type of vibe off an object.  My sister gets emotions and physical states (angry, happy, caffeinated, sweaty, etc.) off of objects, especially worn objects, but I get memories and impressions of place or use.  Some people will find that they get impressions or vibes in the form of colors or images, while others get sounds, yet others get temperature, and others just get pure thoughts or verbal statements arising in the mind.  This is important to recognize, since how you get impressions and sensations the best indicates how you best perceive magical presence and energy.  Not everyone will “see” stuff; I myself don’t have a strong psychic visual sense, but my psychic taste and smell are excellent, and I get the same information as others would but delivered in a different way.  I just have to translate them into the same ideas that others might get in a different “language”.

Just as it’s not a big leap to go from small inanimate objects to larger animate ones, it’s also not a big leap to go from tangible things to spiritual entities.  This is why psychometry is vital: the ability to perceive information spiritually is what we use to sense and detect spiritual presence, energetic flows, and the like.  If you can’t detect the presence of a spirit in conjuration, why bother calling them up?  If you can’t get a feel for where a strong place of power is, why bother tracking ley lines?  The ability of spiritual/energetic perception is vital for anyone who works with spirits/energy, since if you can’t perceive what’s going on, you won’t be able to react to it.

3: Meditate.
This is big, and even though I’ve listed it here last, it really should be first and foremost in everybody’s lives, and not just magicians.  Jason Miller, Rufus Opus, and any number of magicians, occultists, priests, monks, and spiritualists have gone on at length about the importance of meditation, so I won’t describe the nuances or details here, nor will I talk too much at length about why it’s so important.  But I will say this: meditation is the art and practice of understanding and working with your own mind.  If you don’t understand how your mind works, and if you don’t know how to react to your own mind’s actions (especially the involuntary ones), you won’t know how to best use your mind.  Seeing how your mind is literally the place where everything happens for you, if you don’t have a basic grasp of how to work with your mind, you won’t be getting far in anything.

Meditation is basically mental exercise.  I’m not talking about strengthening the logical faculties with puzzles or the emotional ones with empathy, but strengthening how your mind itself acts underneath any other action.  The mind is crucial to everything we do.  Writing a novel?  You’ll want to organize your thoughts and focus on the story.  Coding a program?  You’ll need to form a clear design and take into account abstract and obscure exceptions.  Working in retail?  Keep your cool with people and don’t try to let them influence you when it’s your job to influence them.  Running a marathon?  Don’t let your body dissuade you from completing your goal with pessimism despite it being within your body’s ability.  Literally everything we do, from thinking to planning to seeing to hearing to wanting to getting to creating and beyond, takes place in the mind.  If your mind isn’t strong, you don’t have a strong foundation to build great things.

There are so many ways to meditate and any number of traditions have ten score more methods to do so, but I’m a fan of the simplest and most bare-bones way:

  1. Sit comfortably.  Wear relaxing, non-constrictive clothing and sit in a way that allows you to maintain focus without getting sleepy or sore.
  2. Observe your mind.  Just watch how thoughts come up and do their thing, but let them go on their own.  Let those random thoughts arise and fall without getting attached to them or following any train of thought.  If you realize you’re following a thought, become aware of it and let it go.
  3. Continue for a reasonable length of time.  If you’re just starting out, try five minutes.  Work your way up from there.
  4. Repeat daily.  You don’t need a lot of time for this, but I recommend it in the morning when you first get up before you even look at your phone.  If you want, try twice or more a day, but always regularly at least once.

You might get bored.  You might get distracted.  You might get worried or angry or sad or any number of things.  Good; let that happen and keep going.  I’m going to warn you: even the Dalai Lama sucks at meditation, and even the Buddha and the Christ themselves kept meditating because there was always more to do.  The thoughts that arise will, eventually, begin to slow down and relax until they stop arising entirely, even if it’s just for a split-second, and that’s awesome.  Over more time, those periods of thoughtlessness will continue longer and longer.  Over more time, those periods of thoughtlessness will themselves pass away into something deeper.

The more you meditate, the healthier you’ll be, both mentally and physically; you’ll be able to focus more, have a better grip of your emotions, direct your thoughts better, develop more complex thoughts more easily, manage your body and its voluntary and involuntary actions, remember more things that happen to you, and so much more.  Add to it, the spiritual benefits aren’t to be neglected, especially for magicians; with meditation, you’ll be able to understand what “your” thoughts are versus “something else’s” thoughts, which is crucial when spirits communicate with you (because there’s going to be a mental part of this, and if you can’t discern what they’re saying from what you say to yourself, you’re not going to get very far).  You’ll be able to discern what a thought is from a perception from an idea from a want from a need from a physical lust from an emotional attachment from a logical prerogative from a spiritual command.  You’ll be able to work with spirits better and develop other spiritual and psychic powers that you’ve only heard legends and myths about.  All from just sitting down and shutting up.

So what are you waiting for?  Go do your thing.  Experiment with what you like, read history, study techniques, talk with other occultists, take notes and journal entries, make a plan for what you want to accomplish, develop some crafting skills in a medium that catches your eye.  Conjure spirits, sacrifice to the gods, appease your ancestors, take an astral journey, go into the underworld, open your mind with entheogens, prophesy in the name of your patron, heal with energy and prayer.  For the sake of the gods, of the cosmos, and of your own self, just get to it!

Basic Daily Practices of Mathesis

Since my self-initiation with Hermes, I’ve adopted something of a daily ritual practice that generally works with the forces I’ve been describing here.  It’s nothing too in-depth and nothing too difficult, but it does tie in a lot of both mathetic and grammatomantic practice (which is really what I was aiming for this whole time).  None of this is stuff that’s relegated to initiates of mathesis, either, and really anyone who’s interested can tap into this emerging current by engaging in a similar practice; ideally, I’d have anyone interested before initiation do a daily mathetic practice for some time well before I’d even consider initiating them to help them get adjusted to the forces and symbols of mathesis.  Still, a lot of this practice is stuff I’ve gone over before or at least mentioned, so it’s good to tie it all together into a coherent and cohesive practice.  Plus, it’s good for me to at least try out different things to do to see what works and what doesn’t, so that when I get around to teaching others this or writing a book or something, I can be more authoritative in what can help an initiate or seeker (or, to use my hypothetical school’s terms, the gnostai or hypognostai).

Now, I do a lot of ritual and magical work each day, so it’s interesting to see what exactly is mathetic in nature and what’s not; general awareness meditation, for instance, definitely helps with mathesis but itself isn’t mathetic, as is my routine energy work, but I don’t want to bring either of those into this discussion.  When it comes to mathetic practice, I do something like this each day, along with a rough minimum estimate of the time I spend on each and when:

  1. Invocation of the Tetractys and Tetractean meditation (15 minutes first thing in the morning)
  2. Meditation on the letter of the lunar date (15+ minutes in the morning)
  3. Daily grammatomantic divination (5 minutes in the morning)
  4. Offering to the god of the lunar date (optional, 5+ minutes preferably in the morning)
  5. Invocation of Hermes for sleep and dreams (5 minutes just before going to bed)
  6. Recollection of the day’s activities (5+ minutes when going to sleep)

So, let’s walk through each act of the day and when it’s done.

1.  Invocation of the Tetractys and Tetractean meditation.
This is something I was doing during my 10-day period of self-initiation, and Hermes has instructed me to maintain this practice.  Every day, usually in the early mornings, I pray the Invocation of the Tetractys and meditate on the Tetractys itself.  In doing this, I keep my practice focused on the overall symbolism, structure, and current of mathesis as it revolves around the Tetractys and the power of the numbers One through Ten, or the Monad through the Decad.  As I mentioned before, the Invocation itself is a specific prayer I’ve adapted from Pythagorean practice:

Bless us, divine Number, you who enform gods and men!  O holy, holy Tetractys, you who contain the root and the source of all eternal and eternally flowing creation! For the divine Number begins with the profound, pure Monad until it comes to the holy Tetrad, then it begets the mother of all, the all-comprising, all-bounding, first-born, never-swerving, never-tiring, holy Decad, the keyholder of all!

As for the whole process of invocation and meditation, the process goes like this:

  1. Brief breath awareness meditation to slow the breath and calm the mind.
  2. Invocation of the Tetractys.
  3. Clap ten times slowly, counting from one to ten as I clap.
  4. Perform the Tetractys visualization meditation.
  5. Brief breath awareness meditation to slow the breath and calm the mind.

2.  Meditation on the letter of the lunar date.
Like the ancient Greeks and most people before the widespread adoption of the Gregorian calendar, many people used the passage of the Moon around the Earth to time their months (and some people, like the Jews, Hindus, Chinese, and Muslims, still do this).  A lunar month has either 29 or 30 days, and each day of the lunar month can be ascribed its own Greek letter for divinatory and ritual purposes.  I described such a lunisolar grammatomantic calendar before,  and I’ve found it to be a tremendous help in my ritual practice generally and mathetically since I’ve developed it.  In a similar fashion to the symbols of the Mayan 20-day cycle calendar, every day of the lunar month can be given an overall “feeling” based on its associated Greek letter.  I meditate on the letter of the day, both in terms of phonological and symbolic nature of the letter.  The process I generally use is pretty straightforward and is a form of scrying or contemplation, though one could definitely experiment with using astral travel and trancework to do the same.  The meditation is similar to the Tetractean meditation, though since this usually comes right after the Tetractean visualization meditation, I’m already usually pretty calm and focused enough to jump right into the meditation.  But, if not, I start the whole process over:

  1. Brief breath awareness meditation to slow the breath and calm the mind.
  2. Intonation of the name of the letter, seeing the form of the letter clearly in my mind as a standalone image.
  3. Various pronunciation techniques of the sound letter, feeling how the letter feels in my mouth and lungs, how the air passes through my mouth and nose, how the letter sounds when paired with other letters (vowels and consonants together), etc.
  4. Another intonation of the name of the letter, seeing the form of the letter clearly in my mind, but this time emblazoned on a veil.
  5. Contemplation of the symbolism of the letter by walking through the veil into the “world” of the letter, noting what images, scenes, powers, and spirits are associated with the letter.  Once this is done, I walk out from the world taking the same path I took to get to where I was and pass through the veil once more.
  6. Another intonation of the name of the letter, seeing the form of the letter clearly in my mind as a standalone image, but this time “breathing in” the letter to harmonize my sphere with it.
  7. Brief breath awareness meditation to slow the breath and calm the mind.

3.  Daily grammatomantic divination.
Yes, of course, grammatomancy.  People who follow me on Twitter or my page on Facebook know that, whenever possible, I make a Daily Grammatomancy post, where I do a random daily divination using grammatomancy.  Specifically, I invoke Apollo and Hermes, the gods of divination, and ask the query:  “For myself and for all who come in contact with my words, on this day, on this very day, how best should we mortals live our lives in accordance with the divine will of the immortal gods?”  The query is phrased so that it’s as general as possible as a kind of newspaper horoscope-esque forecast for my readers and subscribers, but it works, and people have commented before that the advice I give through the daily grammatomantic divination has hit the nail on the head, more often than not.  My descriptions are, of necessity, shorter on Twitter than on Facebook, but (here’s a secret) I tend to customize the Twitter forecast based on my overall intuition while my Facebook post is more generalized but also more generally in-depth; as a bonus for those who follow my page on Facebook, I also talk about the lunar date letter.  By doing this, I understand what’s expected of me in the world, and how to respond to the different forces that the world presents me with every day.  If the lunar date letter meditation helps me understand what’s going on in the world around me based on the lunar date, then the daily grammatomantic divination helps me understand how best I’m to respond to it and act with those forces.  And, if you’re unaware of the divination method of grammatomancy, then you should totally buy my ebook on the subject from my Etsy, because a lot of mathesis is built up on the occult symbolism of the letters and I’ve already written at length about it in there.  Besides, while my Daily Grammatomancy posts can help, doing a daily divination with this system can help you specifically instead of being part of my general audience (awesome though you are).

4.  Offering to the god of the lunar date.
Based on the letter of the lunar date, I’ve also developed a method to arrange my offering rituals and worship of the Greek gods as well as a bevy of other spirits based on the lunar calendar; I’ve written about my lunar grammatomantic ritual calendar before, too, though I’ve refined the associations of each letter/day with the gods much since then.  The idea is that, as part of the symbolism of each letter in grammatomancy, we can ascribe a particular god or a set of gods to each letter based on their stoicheia (elemental/planetary/zodiacal force).  So, for example, if the day is ruled by Gamma, and we know that Gamma is associated with Taurus and Taurus with Aphrodite, then Aphrodite should be honored on the day of Gamma.  Now, I don’t make offerings to all the gods, though it certainly wouldn’t hurt; lighting a simple tealight and an invocation to honor the god of the day would probably be a good practice generally.  However, I do work closely with several gods, including Hermes (duh), Aphrodite, and Hephaistos, and it’s on the days ascribed to them that I break out the incense and wine and make a good offering to them, including praying their associated Orphic and (short) Homeric hymns, and generally spending time with them and asking for their blessing or doing work with them specifically.  In general, it’s best to do offerings to the gods in the morning at sunrise, though some gods prefer other times like midnight or noon, and generally my schedule isn’t flexible enough to allow for that, so I make offerings at some point in the day of the god.  As for the purpose of this practice, although not required, it’s good to get in good with all the gods above and below and develop good relationships with them.  Piety is a virtue for its own sake, and by living in accordance with the gods (as indicated by the lunar grammatomantic date and daily grammatomantic divination) and honoring the gods, we become closer to them, earn their blessing, and generally live better lives by and because of them.

5.  Invocation of Hermes for sleep and dreams.
This is another thing Hermes has instructed me to do, but unlike the rest of the daily activities, this is to be done just before retiring to bed for the night.  Just before bed, I go before Hermes’ shrine and invoke his darker, nighttime aspects of Hypnophoros and Oneirodōtēs, Sleep-bringer and Dream-giver, since these are jobs that are ascribed to him and, specifically, his caduceus.  Dream work, eventually, is going to be more important for me, which kinda sucks since my dream skills (recall, lucid dreaming, etc.) are shit.  However, I have noticed in the past that by going before him before sleep (and getting a decent amount of sleep, mind you, at least six hours) greatly increases the chance of vivid and remembered dreams.  To that end, Hermes has instructed me to approach him every night before going to bed as a way to formally close the day.  I take this time to touch base with Hermes, get out any urgent matters from my heart and mind to him, and perhaps ask for a specific omen in my dreams if he’s feeling gracious enough to grant me one.  As I rise the next day, I spend a few moments before doing anything else reviewing my dreams, whatever I can remember.  One can pray the Orphic Hymn to Terrestrial Mercury (Hermes Chthonios), which I usually do, but I also fine-tune my prayer with the following:

Hail, Hermēs Hypnophoros, you who bring sleep to weary eyes!
As I lie down, Hermēs, close my eyes with your wand and send me sweet sleep,
that I may rest tonight for a new day tomorrow, for this day is done.
Give me deep sleep, Hermēs, that my body may be rested and healed from this day’s work!
Help me preserve myself in darkness by ever walking in waking light, even in sleep, even in rest, even in healing.

Hail, Hermēs Oneirodōtēs, you who send dreams upon those who sleep!
As I sleep tonight, Hermēs, open my mind with your wand and send me dreams,
dreams that I remember, dreams that I know to be dreams as messages of the gods.
Give me true dreams for Truth, Hermēs; do not give me lies for lies, nor lies for truth, nor truth for lies, but truth for truth!
Help me come to understand the truth, reality, and power of the world, of the cosmos, of the universe, and of the gods.

Hail, Hermēs Nyktios! Hail, Hermēs Hypnophoros! Hail, Hermēs Oneirodōtēs! Hail, Hermēs Diaktoros!

6.  Recollection of the day’s activities.
Once I lie down in bed, I do something I picked up from John Michael Greer’s Learning Ritual Magic, but which was also done in a similar way by the old Pythagoreans themselves as well as other philosophers.  What I do is I walk through each event and action of the day, starting with going to bed and going backwards to the beginning of the day.  That way, I go from the most recent to the most distant memories of the day, walking them over and chewing on them to review my actions, whether I did things I was supposed to do, didn’t do things I was supposed to do, did things I wasn’t supposed to do, or didn’t do things I wasn’t supposed to do.  The same goes for things said or not said, thought or not thought, and the like.  Not only does this help out one’s memory skills, but it also plants the seed in the mind at a vulnerable time (drifting off to sleep) to improve one’s physical and mental actions in the future.  Generally, I tend to fall asleep well before I get to the beginning of the day, but according to JMG, the mind will keep going on its own; I don’t know about that, since I sometimes get distracted on tangential thoughts when I get to the threshold of sleep, but maybe that’s true.  If, however, your memory is so good that you get to the beginning of the day after everything else and you haven’t gotten to sleep yet, then return again to your dreams of the previous night (since, after all, they were things that happened, too!) and keep going from there to the previous day’s events, and so forth, until you get to sleep.

Now, this is just how my daily mathesis practice is shaping up to be; there’s nothing to say that I won’t add stuff to it in the future as I get deeper into this current, especially as I start working with the sphairai and odoi of the Tetractys.  For instance, it was also a habit of the Pythagoreans to take daily walks in the morning, and while I’d love to do that, I live out in the country where there are no sidewalks nor parks, just roads and fields in which I’d probably arouse suspicion by walking around in at 5 a.m. from the farmers; to substitute this, I might just do some light aerobic exercise, tai chi, yoga, or aikido katas to get the blood flowing and to wake up the body and mind.  Other magical practices often include a daily banishing ritual or energy work exercise, and I do plan on writing a mathetic version of both, but those are a little advanced while all the above is basic enough for anyone to pick up and start applying immediately.  Once I get to more magical and theurgical practices of mathesis, I’ll probably exchange the daily offering of the gods for something a little more personal and profound, perhaps expanding the daily meditation of the letter with a brief pathworking exercise, and so forth.  We’ll cross that bridge once we get there.

Seven Archangels…but which?

As you might expect, dear reader, the number seven is kinda mystical.  Seven planets, seven days of the week, roughly seven days for one phase of the Moon, seven orifices in the human face, seven Greek sages, seven virtues, seven vices, and so forth.  It’s the fourth odd number and fourth prime number, and there are three ways to sum up lesser numbers to add to seven (6+1, 2+5, 3+4), and three and four are also important numbers in their own rights.  So many attributes have been given to the number seven explaining much of its mysticality, and while I admit that much it might (read: definitely) be stretching things to fit a particular number of associations and categories, seven gives us a lot to work with without being too much.

This is especially important when it comes to working with angels, and archangels in particular.  Archangels, as the name implies, are the princes of the angels, the big guys among the big guys, and by working with them we can more effectively work with their subordinate angels and other spirits, not to mention the rest of the cosmos.  In Western Christianity, notably Catholicism, there is only valid and proper devotion able to be given to three archangels in particular: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, the only three named angels in the Old and New Testaments.  Of course, other varieties of Christianity, official and folk, have venerated many more angels than just these three, each with their own names and attributes.

Such groups of archangels come either in groups of four or groups of seven.  Four archangels makes sense: four elements, four corners of the world, and so forth.  In Western occultism, we usually consider these four to be Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel; in Arabic lore, they’re Mikhail, Jibrail, Israfil, and Izrail (with the first three being the Arabic versions of the names and the last one being Azrael, usually known as the angel of death).  Four is a pretty solid number, but as noted before, seven is often more preferred for its mystical nature.  Add to it, we find references to “seven archangels” in scripture, particularly in Enoch I, and since then lists of seven angels have been common throughout Western religion and occulture.  However, with the exception of the “big three” angels named before, these lists often differ significantly, and it’s hard to figure out which angel has what qualities without relegating oneself to a particular book or mini-tradition.

To give several lists of seven archangels, I present the following table, which (besides Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael) is not meant to directly associate or imply an association between the other angels across traditions.  The first column is taken from Agrippa’s Scale of Seven (book II, chapter 10), which he associates with the seven planets.  The second column is given from the works of Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite, a Christian theologian and philosopher, and the names of which are common in many folk and Hispanic magic circles.  The third columns gives name from the Christian Gnostic and Orthodox traditions, which are popular in more ecclesiastic and personal practices in the eastern part of Europe.  The fourth column gives the names of the seven archangels from Enoch I, and the last gives the names attributed to the archangels from Pope Saint Gregory I “the Great” from the 6th century.

Agrippa
Planetary
Pseudo-
Dionysus
Christian
Gnostic
Enoch 1 Gregory
the Great
1 Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel
2 Raphael Raphael Raphel Raphael Raphael
3 Haniel Chamuel Barachiel Remiel Simiel
4 Michael Michael Michael Michael Michael
5 Kammael Chamuel Uriel Uriel Uriel
6 Tzadqiel Zadkiel Sealtiel Raguel Orifiel
7 Tzaphqiel Iophiel Jehudiel Saragael Zachariel

There are still other lists, but I feel like the ones given here are probably the most important.  That seven archangels is such a common thing across writers speaks to an older tradition, such as that of the amesha spentas in Zoroastrianism, or the Babylonian view of seeing the seven planets as gods in their own right.  Other scriptural references include seven candles, seven kings, seven churches of the world, and the like throughout Revelation, suggesting that the cosmic rulership of seven parts is something that pervades much theological and occult thinking.

In my practice so far, I’ve been working with Agrippa’s planetary angels, since I was introduced to them by means of the planets themselves in Fr. RO’s Red Work courses, as well since the whole Hermetic viewpoint likes putting cosmic rulers on things in the cosmos and the Abrahamic angels work well for that kind of thing.  However, I’ve been going to a number of botanicas lately, and I often find candles and statues for angels besides these seven planetary ones, notably ones to Iophiel (whom I know as either the intelligence of Jupiter or angel of the fixed stars), Chamuel, and Uriel.  Add to it, through my good friend Michael Strojan, I’ve encountered yet another set of angels that include Jehudiel, Sealtiel, and Uriel.

It gets awfully confusing, I’ll admit, but I have started to work with this latter set of seven angels from the Christian tradition.  Basically, the method is more-or-less devotional: assign one angel to each day of the week, and make prayers towards that angel.  I got a set of statues off Amazon for these seven angels, and set them up around my primary devotional altar along with a glass of water and a candle.  On their respective days, I light a candle and some incense for them, give them a new glass of water, and make prayers for them based on prayers such as novenas or chaplets for the angels, if one exists, or I just go by their general associations and make prayers for their intercession along those lines.

But, of course, linking the archangels to the days of the week, too, can be difficult.  Apparently, there are two ways to do this: the standard way, which is common by many Eastern Christians, and another way that Mr. Strojan showed me, where it links the angels to different days based on their divine offices and attributes.  I prefer to use the office-based attribution system, since it’s closer to the planetary method I’m already familiar with.  I haven’t gotten any complaints from the angels themselves, either.

Day Standard Office
Sunday Michael
Monday Gabriel
Tuesday Raphael Uriel
Wednesday Uriel Raphael
Thursday Sealtiel Jehudiel
Friday Jehudiel Barachiel
Saturday Barachiel Sealtiel

Of course, nothing stops me from working with these angels in a more magical framework, either.  I’ve noticed my rituals involving Michael of Fire or Michael of the Sun getting stronger and easier as I’ve been doing more work and offerings to the archangel Saint Michael, and ditto for Raphael of Air/Mercury and Gabriel of Water/Moon, and last I checked, devotional Christians don’t have seals yet for these archangels.  It’d be an interesting project to involve these angels in magical ritual in addition to devotional practice, though Mr. Strojan has told me that in working with any of the seven archangels, you effectively work with all of them; they work together as a cohesive group.

So, what do these particular angels rule over, and what are their attributes?

  • Michael, “who is like God”.  Often shown conquering a dragon with lance or sword.  Spiritual leader to holiness, spiritual offense and defense, protection from harm and evil, courage, preservation from danger.
  • Gabriel, “strength of God”.  Shown with horn, scroll, shield, scepter, or light.  Wisdom, revelation, messages, nurturing the young, and communication.
  • Uriel, “light of God”.  Often shown with a set of scales, flaming sword, or flame.  Protection, enlightenment, illumination, and resolution of conflict.
  • Raphael, “medicine of God”.  Shown with a crook and container of medicine, such as a gourd of salve.  Healing, health, wholeness, guidance, exorcism, and guidance.
  • Jehudiel, “praise of God”.  Shown with a sword, staff, or three-pronged whip, often crowned or holding a crown.  The angel of work, labor, employment, leadership, and government, especially as it pertains to one’s True Will and the Will of God.  By working, we praise God, and by praising God, we reap the power and station given to us.
  • Barachiel, “blessing of God”.  Shown holding a white rose or white rose petals, or a basket overflowing with bread.  Blessings of all kinds, luxuries, wealth, nourishment, growth, harmony, love, humor, success.
  • Sealtiel or Selaphiel, “prayer of God”.  Shown in devotion or contemplation, sometimes with arms folded or clasped together in prayer, sometimes with a thurible or censer.  Focus in devotions and prayers, concentration, steadfastness and resolution in prayers and all worshipful acts, as well as wisdom and skill in magic, exorcisms, and all divine arts.

A recent botanica trip even led me to buy a particular Siete Angeles candle with the names of the seven archangels on them.  Unusual about this candle, however, was that it had both the lists from the Gnostic tradition and Pseudo-Dionysus’ writings, and linked them together!  Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel were the same between the two, while Chamuel/Samuel was associated with Barachiel, Sealtiel with Zadkiel/Zafkiel, and Jehudiel with Iophiel.    While it’s awesome that these angels are associated in such a way, at least at a high level, the Ps.-Dionysus angels and the Gnostic angels often have different attributes that make them highly distinct.  I’ve even found weekday associations of the Ps.-Dionysus angels, but even these differ from practice to practice.

In the end, forming a practice to the seven archangels boils down to picking a particular set of seven angels, divvying up the duties of the world amongst them, assigning days of the week to them in a way that more-or-less makes sense, and working with them on their respective days.  Anyone who works with the seven archangels will recognize the same seven under different names here and there, but it’s hardly incorrect or wrong to pick one set over another.  Mixing angels from different groups may not be great, since that muddles the different traditions in which they work, but working out correspondences between them may be useful.  For instance, by associating Jehudiel with Thursday, I also can associate Jehudiel with Jupiter and Tzadkiel in Agrippa; while I don’t consider the seven planetary angels to be the same as the seven archangels, I can see how the nobility, grace, and fatherliness of Jupiter can easily fit into Jehudiel’s practice and image.  Likewise, with Barachiel on Friday, I can associate Venus and Haniel with Barachiel, and seeing how the luxuries, joys, pleasures, and goods of both work together.