How to Construct the Shield Chart of Geomancy

Over the ten years I’ve been maintaining The Digital Ambler, I’ve written no small amount about geomancy on my blog, whether it’s about the symbols, the techniques we use for it, the magic one can do with it, the spirituality lying latent within it, or the approach of divination that one should take with the art. In fact, I started keeping up with a hand-curated index of my geomancy posts, loosely organized by topic, up underneath the About menu of my website, just for ease of reference (both for myself and others). But, of all the things I’ve written about, one thing seems to have been glossed over: how to make the Shield Chart. It’s probably bizarre to some that this is the one thing I haven’t written about, probably the first fundamental practice of geomancy (and, indeed, all geomantic practices) following how to generate the geomantic figures themselves for divination. It wasn’t always so, though; once upon a time, I had a separate page that went over specifically how to construct the Shield Chart, but I took it down years ago as part of my website redesign since I felt it was such boring, introductory-level material that you could find in every book on geomancy and online pretty much on any website that discussed it. But, it would seem, that information is sorely missed by some, and some people would rather stick to this website than go to others when it comes to geomancy (a notion which I can’t say I’m not pleased about!).

So, with that, let’s talk about the Shield Chart.

As I mentioned in my last post about how to allocate the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart, historically speaking, there’s really only one way to put the figures into the House Chart from the Shield Chart: the traditional method, where each of the first twelve figures in the Shield Chart is given to the twelve houses of the House Chart in the usual order of their creation. This is because, traditionally speaking both in European and Arabic geomancy, there was no distinction between the House Chart and the Shield Chart: the two charts are the same chart with the same information with the same figures in the same order, so the only benefit one gets out of the House Chart is to make it easier on the eyes for those used to horoscope charts in astrology as well as to make certain techniques used in geomancy easier to apply at a glance. But, fundamentally, there’s really only one chart in geomancy, and if one is comfortable looking at the Shield Chart, no House Chart need be drawn up separately. More than that, however, and unlike the debacle with different House Chart allotment methods, there’s only one way to draw up the Shield Chart common to all of geomancy regardless of individual practice or school.

Geomancers started calling it the Shield Chart relatively late in geomancy’s history in Europe—I can’t recall any reference to “Shield” versus “House” in any pre-modern text—because the whole thing is sometimes seen to look somewhat like a standard heater shield common in Europe, like how Robert Fludd is fond of doing:

However, not all geomancers depicted it like this; some simply depicted it like a series of recursive rectangles, like how Christopher Cattan does:

Arabic geomancers keep the same overall arrangement, but don’t usually contain the figures in the chart within an overall boundary, rather using a few lines to divide the left side from the right side. With the nature of the Arabic script, they’ll often start off the long vertical line as an offshoot of the word علم `ilm, meaning “science” (as in علم الرمل `ilm ar-raml “science of the sand”, i.e. geomancy). I’ve also seen used for this flourish the letter ص ṣād, the phrase هو العليم الخبير hū al-`alīm al-khabīr “He is the All-Knowing, the Great” or “He is the Greatest of Knowers” with the line connected to the last letter of al-`Alīm, or يا عليم الخبير yā `alīm al-khabīr “o greatest knower!”, with the line connected to `alim likewise. That’s if such a flourish is used at all (most do, some don’t), or if lines like this are used at all to mark off the chart (which is rare to see, at least in printed works).

I suppose a Western approach to the flourish would be to use the Greek word gnōsis, either spelling it uppercase (ΓΝΩΣΙΣ) and using the vertical line of the initial uppercase gamma to start the vertical line, or to spell it lowercase (γνοσις) and use the tail of the final sigma instead. I’m sure other similar words could be used instead, but this is still just an innovative flourish one could do for style’s sake, and one that I’ve never seen in any extant European text on geomancy.

Finally, the way I personally draw out the Shield Chart, I just don’t even bother with any little demarcations. Although less common in printed texts, this more casual manner is common for geomancers the world over who don’t need little boxes to put figures in.

Astute readers will note that the first two charts given above (from Fludd and Cattan) only have fifteen figures in the chart, while the Arabic ones and my own have sixteen. We’ll get to that in a moment, as the difference is just a matter of choice, but suffice it to say here that, despite apparent graphical differences and flourishes, the fundamental form, structure, and arrangement of figures of the Shield Chart is the same across time periods and cultures.

To be absolutely clear on this point, the Shield Chart is the backbone of geomantic divination, the abstract framework within which we apply all geomantic techniques; although material tools help us develop the first four figures we plug into the Shield Chart, the Shield Chart is what allows us to come up with the whole “spread”, as it were, of geomancy by applying particular mathematical operations on the four figures that we first plug in. The Shield Chart contains sixteen positions—I like calling them “fields”—for the figures, broken down into groups of four:

  • The four Mothers, the original figures produced by an outside process as the seed for the whole Shield Chart
  • The four Daughters, generated by transposition from the Mothers
  • The four Nieces, generated by addition from pairs of the Mothers or Daughters
  • The four figures of the Court
    • The Right and Left Witnesses, generated by addition from pairs of the Nieces
    • The Judge, generated by addition from the Witnesses
    • The Sentence (sometimes called the Reconciler, Superjudge, the Result of the Result, or the Sixteenth Figure), generated by addition from the Judge and the First Mother

Only the figures of the Court have special names for them (Right Witness, Left Witness, Judge, or Sentence); the other groups of figures are simply named according to their number (e.g. First Mother, Second Daughter, Third Niece, etc.). Some Shield Charts present all sixteen figures, but some (especially European ones) only have fifteen, hiding/excluding the Sentence. Where this figure is placed is up to the geomancer, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The Sentence is as much a figure as the rest of the Shield Chart, and even if it’s not explicitly shown, it should still be counted as part of the Shield Chart.

The structure of the Shield Chart is this: sixteen fields arranged in four rows, with the topmost row having eight fields, the second row having four, the third row having two, and the last row having one. The topmost row, containing eight fields, is separated out into four Mother fields and four Daughter fields (traditionally reckoned from right to left, given the Arabic origins of this art), with the Mothers on the right-hand side of the chart and the Daughters on the left-hand side. The second row is broken down into four Niece fields (again reckoned from right to left); the third row into two fields for the Right Witness and the Left Witness; and the bottom row having one field for the Judge. As noted earlier, the Sentence may or may not be shown; my own preference is to show it off to the right side of the Judge directly underneath the First Mother. Most Arabic geomancers I’ve seen, who show two figures at the bottom of the chart in the same little “divet” marked in half, will put the Judge as the left-hand figure and the Sentence as the right-hand figure, but others will either draw the Sentence off below the Judge somehow somewhere; only a minority of Arabic geomancers, as far as I’ve seen, will leave off the Sentence entirely.

Using a simple rectangular layout (like Cattan) and showing the Sentence off to the side of the Judge in the same row (which is my own practice), the Shield Chart is arranged like this at an abstract level:

Knowing these fields of the Shield Chart and what figures go where, we can now begin the process of filling in the Shield Chart.

First up, the Mothers. These are the only four figures one generates through a random (though inspired) process through some manner of manipulation of tools or numbers. Traditionally, one would draw out a random number of points in sixteen lines and cross them off two-by-two until either one or two points are left in a row, then read the remaining points one didn’t cross off downward in groups of four, but there are many other ways geomancers have used to come up with figures, any of which are good to use for this process (though I strongly urge the stick-and-surface method for beginners to the art, at least until one becomes proficient in the method). Once these four figures are generated, they’re put in order into the four Mother fields in the upper right hand part of the chart from right to left.

So, let’s say we got out our stick and surface, and through the process of generating figures that way, we produced the four figures Populus, Populus, Puella, and Via, in that order. We put those four figures in that order into the four Mother fields in the Shield Chart, from right to left in the uppermost row of the chart:

Note that each of the four Mothers are generated randomly and independently of each other, so it’s quite possible to have one figure appear more than once in the Mothers.  This is totally fine and to be expected; it can even happen that all four Mothers are the same figure.  Unlike other forms of divination where a particular figure can appear a maximum of once in a chart or spread, geomancy expects (and, in fact, requires) certain figures to appear multiple times in the chart, and many techniques make use of this repeating of figures to derive useful information.  This doesn’t just happen with the Mothers but, as we’ll soon see, can happen at many points throughout the chart as a result of the mathematical operations we’re about to apply on the Mothers to generate the other figures in the chart.  So, if you’re new to geomancy, don’t let this worry you!

Once the Mothers have been generated and put into the Shield Chart, we can then proceed with the four Daughters. The Daughters are generated from the four Mothers by reading the points of the figures in the Mothers row-wise from right to left across all four Mothers. Thus, the First Daughter is formed from the topmost (Fire) row of each Mother from right to left, such that the Fire row of the First Mother is the Fire Row of the First Daughter, the Fire row of the Second Mother is the Air row of the First Daughter, the Fire row of the Third Mother is the Water row of the First Daughter, and the Fire row of the Fourth Mother is the Earth row of the First Daughter. For the Second Daughter, one uses the Air rows of the Mothers; for the Third Daughter, the Water rows; for the Fourth Daughter, the Earth rows.

Another way to think of generating the Daughters is to think of this as a matrix of transposition, rotating the points 90° to read them in a different direction. Instead of seeing the points of the Mothers as four sets of four rows, think of them as being entries in a 4×4 grid. (This makes the most sense if we generated each row of points of the Mothers separately, like with the stick-and-surface method, where we put each new entry in this grid from top to bottom and from right to left, in that order). If we read the columns of this grid, we get the Mothers; if we read the rows, we get the Daughters. This should show that the Daughters aren’t necessarily “new” figures, as they’re composed of the same original points as the Mothers are, just in a different order, and why the Daughters are placed in the same overall row of the Shield Chart (being “roots” of the rest of the chart, as we’ll show in a bit).

Following either way of thinking, the figures we get for the four Daughters based on our earlier Mothers (Populus, Populus, Puella, and Via) are Fortuna Maior, Tristitia, Fortuna Maior, and Fortuna Maior. Fortuna Maior is produced from reading the Fire rows of the four Mother figures from right to left (two, two, one, one), Tristitia from the Air rows (two, two, two, one), Fortuna Maior again from the Water rows (two, two, one, one), and Fortuna Maior again from the Earth rows (two, two, one, one). Once these figures are made, we put them into the four Daughter fields of our Shield Chart:

Now that we have our four Mother figures and our four Daughter figures, we then proceed to making the Nieces of the chart in the next row. As the structure of the Shield Chart suggests, each Niece figure is a combination of the two figures above it, such that the First Niece is a combination of the First and Second Mothers, the Second Niece a combination of the Third and Fourth Mothers, the Third Niece a combination of the First and Second Daughters, and the Fourth Niece a combination of the Third and Fourth Daughters. This process of combination that we use is what we call geomantic addition (some Arabic geomancers say multiplication, but the idea is the same either way).

When I say “addition”, I kinda mean it and kinda don’t: the process of adding two figures together to get a third is, in some ways, the heart of the process of developing figures from a line consisting of a random number of points as we do in the stick-and-surface method of generating figures. When we cross off the points two-by-two until either one or two points are left in the stick-and-surface method of generating figures, what we’re doing is seeing whether the total number of points in that line is odd or even; if it’s even, the resulting row in that figure will have two points, and if it’s odd, the resulting row in that figure will have one point. When we add two figures, the same logic holds: we combine the total number of points between the same respective rows between two figures, and if it’s even (whether two or four), the resulting row of the final figure will have two points, and if it’s odd (i.e. three points), the resulting row of the final figure will have one point. Thus, consider the figures Fortuna Maior and Acquisitio:

  • The Fire row of Fortuna Maior and the Fire row of Acquisitio both have two points in each. 2 + 2 = 4, so we “reduce” four by crossing off two (using the stick-and-surface method) to end up with two points in the Fire row of the resulting figure.
  • The Air row of Fortuna Maior has two points, while that of Acquisitio has one point. 2 + 1 = 3, so we “reduce” three to one by crossing off two to end up with one point in the Air row of the resulting figure.
  • The Water row of Fortuna Maior has one point, while that of Acquisitio has two points. 1 + 2= 3, so we “reduce” three to one by crossing off two to end up with one point in the Water row of the resulting figure.
  • The Earth row of Fortuna Maior and the Earth row of Acquisitio both have one point in each. 1 + 1 = 2, which we don’t need to reduce, so the Earth row of the resulting figure has two points.

Thus, if we add Fortuna Maior and Acquisitio together, we get the resulting figure of Coniunctio:

Another way to think of this process is the logical exclusive or (XOR) function. Given two inputs that can either be true (single point in geomantic terms) or false (double point), the resulting function will output true if both values are different, i.e. only one is true and the other is false; in cases where both are true or both are false, the output will be false. In geomantic terms, the resulting row of a figure produced through geomantic addition will have two points if both the corresponding rows of its parent figures are the same (both odd or both even), and will have one point if they differ (one odd and one even, or vice versa).

With geomantic addition understood, we can make the rest of the Shield Chart. As noted above, a Niece is produced by adding together the two figures immediately above it:

Continuing our example from earlier, we add together the following figures to make their corresponding Nieces:

  • First Mother + Second Mother = First Niece → Populus + Populus = Populus
  • Third Mother + Fourth Mother = Second Niece → Puella + Via = Rubeus
  • First Daughter + Second Daughter = Third Niece → Fortuna Maior + Tristitia = Albus
  • Third Daughter + Fourth Daughter = Fourth Niece → Fortuna Maior + Fortuna Maior = Populus

With the Nieces done, we continue that process of addition to come up with the first three figures of the Court. Again, the structure of the Shield Chart should be informative here: each of these three figures (the Right Witness, the Left Witness, and the Judge) are produced by adding the two figures directly above it, such that the Right Witness is formed by adding together the first two Nieces, the Left Witness by adding together the second two Nieces, and the Judge by adding together the two Witnesses.

Thus, continuing our example from earlier:

  • First Niece + Second Niece = Right Witness → Populus + Rubeus = Rubeus
  • Third Niece + Fourth Niece = Left Witness → Albus + Populus = Albus
  • Right Witness + Left Witness = Judge → Rubeus + Albus = Coniunctio

Many European geomancers tend to stop here, as there doesn’t appear to be any more positions on the Shield Chart to fill—but they forget the sixteenth figure of the Sentence. Like the Nieces, Witnesses, and Judge, this figure is also formed from addition, but this time, by adding together the Judge with the First Mother:

Although some geomancers don’t show this figure, I strongly urge every geomancer to show it in every Shield Chart, as its importance is huge (and absolutely necessary for some techniques) yet grossly undervalued, especially in modern Western texts influenced by the Golden Dawn. My preference is to place the Sentence off to the side of the Judge underneath the First Mother, as below. Here, we have Coniunctio + Populus = Coniunctio, giving us Coniunctio as the Sentence to this Shield Chart:

And with that, our Shield Chart with all its sixteen fields is complete.

At this point, although we could jump straight into interpreting the chart or start looking at the House Chart, it’s always wise to first check the validity of the chart. Given that each of the four Mother figures are generated randomly and independently of each other, that means that there are only 16 × 16 × 16 × 16 = 65536 valid charts. While this sounds like a daunting number, we should note that if every one of the 16 figures were placed independently of all the others in the Shield Chart (e.g. selection with replacement), there would technically be over 18 quintillion possible charts; if we were to select every figure randomly without replacement, we’d still have over 20 trillion charts. We’re constrained by the mathematical process of geomancy to be limited to this proper selection of only 65536 charts, so if we have a chart that’s not in that set, then what we have is a mathematical error in calculating the Daughters, Nieces, or Court figures somewhere that we need to rectify. Mathematically invalid charts are not worth investigating; it’d be like drawing up a horoscope with a planet dyslexically put in the sixth house instead of the ninth, or getting the degree and minute parts of a planetary position mixed up; it’s just a simple error that just needs to be fixed, not interpreted as some mystical omen of terrible import. Read this post here to learn more about mathematically validating the chart, but there are three basic criteria we use to judge whether a given chart is a valid one:

  1. The Judge must have an even number of points.
  2. The sixteen figures in the Shield Chart must have at least one figure that is present at least twice in the chart.
  3. Particular pairs of the figures in the Shield Chart must all add up to the same figure:
    1. First Niece + Judge
    2. Second Mother + Sentence
    3. Second Niece + Left Witness

If any of those three conditions do not hold, the chart is invalid and needs to be inspected and corrected for errors.

I should note at this point that, although the right-to-left format of the Shield Chart is overwhelmingly the most common choice, there are a (very) few European geomancers out there (tragically, Franz Hartmann among them) who use a left-to-right method, both in generating figures using the stick-and-surface method as well as in constructing the Shield Chart. This isn’t necessarily wrong, per se, but the convention and tradition is to do everything from right to left because of the right-to-left nature of the original Arabic practices and of the right-to-left nature of the Arabic (and other Semitic) languages. If you use the left-to-right method, you’ll likely need to clarify that before sharing your charts with others; if you come across a book that uses the left-to-right method, you’ll want to bear that in mind and flip the meanings of the Right and Left Witnesses as well as remember the new order of how things get added together and where things get put. It’ll be apparent that something is wrong, because trying to read a left-to-right chart using a right-to-left approach will usually screw something up in the relationship between what would appear to be the Mothers and Daughters because the apparent transposition won’t look right.

Once we have a Shield Chart and have checked that it’s a mathematically valid one, then we can proceed with interpretation of the chart: the Ways of the Point, triads, the Sum of the Chart, and so on and so forth. But I’ve already touched on those topics elsewhere, so you know where to take a look from here. Beyond that, I hope this resolves any questions about the Shield Chart, and can give those who are just starting in this art a good understanding of the foundation of geomantic divination, upon which all other techniques and interpretative methods are built!

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: The Actual Ritual Itself

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

I’ve now written sixteen posts so far in this series, with about 67,000 words, quotes and images and all, with this being the seventeenth one.  And, just now, we’re finally—finally—getting to the actual ritual portion of DSIC.  To be fair, we did have quite a lot to talk about to get up to this point: what the actual tools and implements specifically called for by DSIC looked like, how to make them, what other stuff we needed, how to prepare ourselves, how to set up our temple space, how to set up the altar of conjuration, and how to time the ritual.  With all that out of the way, we’re now actually ready to discuss the actual ritual format of DSIC.  The format given below is my own personal take on the ritual choreography of DSIC, accounting for magicians, scryers, assistants, and all the things everyone should be doing, how, and when so as to build up to a harmonized performance of the ritual.  Much of this is based on my own experience, with some of it coming from the directions or witnessed implementations of similar Solomonic rituals.

So, let’s get into it.  By this point, we’ve undertaken our preparatory purification period of fasting, abluting, and prayer, our altar has been fully set up with all our supplies and tools at hand, and the awaited day and hour has come.  We will assume the following for the purposes of this post:

  • The conjuration is to call upon the angel Gabriel of the Moon.
  • The conjuration is being performed in an hour of the Moon, with the first prayer begun at the start of that hour of the Moon.
  • The orientation point (the direction the altar is set and to which we face for the conjuration), based on Agrippa’s correspondences from the Scale of Four, will be to the south.
  • The scrying medium to be used is a crystal.
  • The ring, lamen, and wand are all initially placed on the altar of conjuration itself.
  • The right hand will be used for wearing the ring and using the wand.
  • The vessel for incense is placed in a way that may easily be reached from the position of the magician within arm’s length.
  • A book for notes and observations for the conjuration should be present, but kept inside the circle along with pen and ink.
  • We are not using a scryer or any number of other assistants in this conjuration; you, as the magician will be operating alone (but we will make mention of their roles and functions when necessary).
  • We will be taking a full-on formal approach that covers all the necessary instructions, setups, procedures, and the like according to DSIC, Agrippa, and Solomonic literature, not skipping any steps or being casual with any part of the process.

For this post, we’ll be using the actual DSIC text itself and all its Christian prayers, and not any of the variants floating around out there, with only the spelling, punctuation, and phrasing updated for modern English without using the old-style thou/thee/thine/thy pronouns.  Parts that may change in reference to the spirit’s name, nature, related godnames, etc. as well as other changeable aspects of the ritual like the specific scrying medium used, etc. and the like will be in underlined text.  We’ll go over how to adapt the DSIC prayers in non-Christian frameworks in a later post, but for now, let’s stick to the basic DSIC text as written (though updated for readability).

Note that these prayers and instructions are written so as to accommodate any variation on the following, should you choose to depart from the setups and designs and approaches discussed in earlier posts:

  • Having the circle include the altar or exclude it
  • Using an actual table with the table design engraved or written onto it, or a separate piece of equipment that has the design put on top of another surface
  • Having the lamen be a Solomonic pentacle instead of the lamen of the spirit, having the lamen for the spirit with a Solomonic pentacle on the reverse, or wearing a Solomonic pentacle and placing the lamen for the spirit underneath the crystal
  • Using a pedestal to support the crystal on the table or whether the crystal is placed directly on a Table of Practice
  • Any specific design choices made for the pedestal, table, lamens, or wand
  • Placing the vessel for incense on the ground before the altar, off to the side on top of the altar, or behind the crystal on the altar or on the ground, so long as it is easily accessible and reachable
  • Using a proper Liber Spirituum or a regular notebook

Any variation of these above considerations is acceptable for use in this conjuration ritual, as are many other variations besides, I’m sure.

One further note before we get on with the ritual itself: it is absolutely best-practice, recommended, suggested, and urged that the magician learn all these prayers by heart.  They may read off of a script if necessary, and having a copy of such a script is good just in case the magician forgets or slips up on the wording or purpose of something, but it is absolutely the best possible approach for the magician to learn each of these prayers, steps, and routine by heart, forwards and backwards.  The magician should spend as much time as necessary, especially in the preparatory period leading up to the ritual, to review, memorize, and practice the ritual script so that they may execute it easily, correctly, and gracefully without relying on a script.

Pre-Ritual Setup
Begin by performing your usual devotions, supplications, confessions, and any other prayers you routinely or habitually use, or those that you have been reciting every day during the preparatory period; if you’ve been reciting these these while kneeling either in front of the conjuration altar, then do those here, too.  If you’re operating with any assistants, including a scryer, they should recite their own prayers as well.  You, as the magician, should be directly in front of the altar; if operating with a scryer, they should be on your immediate right in front of the altar, and any other assistants should be kneeling behind you.

All those present should have abluted themselves with holy water; if this has not yet been done, do this now.  You as the magician and the scryer, if one is present, should anoint themselves on the forehead and eyelids with holy oil at this point; the assistants, if any are present, may anoint themselves similarly if desired by the magician.  Both the ablution and anointing should be accompanied by appropriate prayers.

Recite any other prayers appropriate to the ritual as desired at this point, including supplications for enhanced visionary skills, protection in the undertaking, invocations of the planet ruling the hour, invocations to the angel of the hour or the genius loci of the time and place the ritual is to be performed, or invocations to one’s holy guardian angel, agathodaimōn, tutelary divinity, or supernatural assistant at this time.

Once any other preliminary prayers have been recited, if any, stand up straight before the altar.  If you’re operating with a scryer, they should remain kneeling on your right, and any other assistants present should remain kneeling where they are behind you.  At this point, if you’re operating with any assistants, only you as the magician should be reciting any prayers aloud, with assistants and scryers staying reverently silent unless directed or bidden to speak.

There should either be self-igniting incense, charcoal, or other fuel present in the incense vessel; if not yet, place it there now but do not light it.

The two candles on the altar should already have been lit from the preparatory period, but if not, light them now.

The altar should additionally contain the lamen, ring, wand, and other implements of conjuration, placed conveniently and respectfully on the altar.

If a veil is present on the altar covering the tools and implements of conjuration, remove it now and put it aside.

Consecration of the Scryer
If you’re operating alone, you may hold the arms out in the orans gesture (basically up and out to the sides with the palms facing upwards or forwards towards the altar), or, better, raise up the left arm in the orans gesture but place the right hand over your heart.  If operating with a scryer, place your right hand either above them or lightly upon their head or back, and your left hand upon your heart.  Recite the following prayer:

O God, You who are the author of all good things!  I beseech You, strengthen this Your poor servant, that he may stand fast without fear through this dealing and work.  I beseech You, o Lord, enlighten the dark understanding of Your creature, that his spiritual eye may be opened to see and know Your angelic spirits descending here into this crystal.

Note that the words and pronouns used here to refer to the magician (in underlined text) should be modified to account for both (a) whether the magician is operating alone or with a scryer and (b) the gender of the scryer, if present, or the gender of the magician, if a scryer is not present.  This prayer should be used primarily to consecrate the scryer and his/her/their “spiritual eye”, but both the magician and scryer should be similarly consecrated.  Consider the above prayer to be for when the magician operates alone and is male; as an alternative, if the magician operates alone and is female, use the following:

O God, You who are the author of all good things!  I beseech You, strengthen this Your poor servant, that she may stand fast without fear through this dealing and work.  I beseech You, o Lord, enlighten the dark understanding of Your creature, that her spiritual eye may be opened to see and know Your angelic spirits descending here into this crystal.

If the magician operates with a scryer, the following prayer instead should be used:

O God, You who are the author of all good things!  I beseech You, strengthen these Your poor servants, that we may stand fast without fear through this dealing and work.  I beseech You, o Lord, enlighten the dark understanding of Your creatures, that our spiritual eyes may be opened to see and know Your angelic spirits descending here into this crystal.

Note that the word “angelic” here may be changed to reflect the nature of the spirit if it’s not angelic, e.g. “demonic” if a demon, “terrestrial” if a spirit of nature or a genius loci, etc.

Note that the word “crystal” may be changed to reflect the actual scrying medium being used if not a crystal (mirror, vessel of water, etc.).

Consecration of the Crystal
Place your right hand upon the surface of the scrying medium (crystal or whatever else is being used for the ritual) and recite the following prayer:

O inanimate creature of God, be sanctified and consecrated and blessed to this purpose: that no evil phantasy may appear in you, or, if one should gain ingress into you, that they be constrained to speak intelligibly, truly, and without the least ambiguity, for Christ’s sake.  Amen.

Remove your right hand from the scrying medium, lift your arms up in the orans gesture, and recite the next part of the prayer:

As Your servant standing here before You, o Lord, who desires neither evil treasures, nor injury to his neighbor, nor hurt to any living creature; grant him the power of descrying those celestial spirits and intelligences that may appear in this crystal, and whatever good gifts—whether the power of healing infirmities, or of imbibing wisdom, or discovering any evil likely to afflict any person or family, or any other good gift—You might be pleased to bestow on me.  Enable me, by Your Wisdom and Mercy, to use whatever I may receive to the honor of Your holy Name. Grant this for the sake of Christ, your Son.  Amen.

Note that the word “crystal” may be changed to reflect the actual scrying medium being used if not a crystal (mirror, vessel of water, etc.).

Note that the word “celestial” here may be changed to reflect the nature of the spirit if it’s not celestial, e.g. “angelic” if a true divine archangel above any planet or heaven, “terrestrial” if a spirit of nature or a genius loci, “chthonic” if a subterrestrial or demonic entity, etc.

Consecration of the Circle
Put your ring of Solomon on the little finger of your right hand.

Pick up the lamen/pentacle from the altar and wear it around your neck so that the design of it faces outward and hangs at about mid-chest-height above the sternum or heart.

If there are any extra candles around the scrying medium on the altar to be given as offerings or decoration, light them now.

Pick up the wand with the right hand, proceed to orientation point of the circle, and place the point of the wand on the outermost edge of the circle being used for the conjuration.  The scryer and assistants, if any are present, should move to the innermost part of the circle out of your way.  Trace the circle clockwise starting from the orientation point, and while tracing it, recite the following:

In the name of the blessed Trinity, I consecrate this piece of ground for our defense, so that no evil spirit may have power to break these bounds prescribed here, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Consecration of the Incense
Proceed in front of the altar and light the incense in its vessel.  The incense to be used should be of an appropriate nature for the spirit or to its corresponding planet, or frankincense may be used generally for all spirits if no specific incense is to be used.  If the incense is self-igniting, light that directly but let the flame burn.  If you’re using loose incense, light the charcoal or flame, and let it complete its process of ignition.  Hold the wand in the right hand, point the wand at the flame, and recite the following:

I conjure you, o creature of fire, by Him who created all things, both in Heaven and Earth and the Sea and in every other place whatsoever, that you cast away every phantasm from you, so that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing.

If you’re using self-igniting incense, blow the flame out now; if you’re using loose incense on a brazier with a flame or charcoal, throw that onto the flame.  Once the smoke of the incense begins to rise, whether the incense is self-igniting or otherwise, hold the wand in the right hand, point the wand at the incense issuing smoke, and recite the following:

Bless, o Lord, this creature of fire, and sanctify it that it may be blessed, and that your blessing may fill up the power and virtue of its odors, so that neither the enemy nor any false imagination may enter into them, through our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Note that, up until this point, only the first-person singular pronouns (I, my, me) are used in the prayers.  After the consecration of incense in the ritual, continue to use the first-person singular pronouns if you are operating alone, or the first-person plural pronouns (we, us, our) if you are operating in tandem with a scryer or other assistant.  The following prayers after this point assume that you’re operating alone as the magician.  The pronouns that are to be changed, if operating with a scryer or other assistants, will be in bold text in the following prayers.

Conjuration of the Spirit
At this point, check one last time to confirm that the hour is correct for conjuring the desired angel, e.g. that it is indeed the hour of the Moon when conjuring Gabriel of the Moon.  If so, continue the operation.  If it is too early, spend time in further prayer and meditation until the proper time arrives without leaving the circle, continuing to keep further incense burning (with or without reciting the blessing over it, as desired).  Otherwise, if it is too late, abort, as the hour is now wrong for the operation unless you can manage to swap out lamens and any other desired paraphernalia for the spirit in accordance with the proper hour.

If the hour is proper for conjuring the desired spirit, hold the wand in the right hand, point the wand at the scrying medium, and recite the following:

In the name of the blessed and holy Trinity, I desire you, o strong mighty angel Gabriel, that if it be the divine Will of Him who is called Tetragrammaton … the Holy God, the Father, that you take upon yourself some shape as best becomes your celestial nature, and appear to me visibly here in this crystal, and answer my demands in as far as I shall not transgress the bounds of divine Mercy and Goodness by requesting unlawful knowledge, but that you graciously show me what things are most profitable for me to know and do, to the glory and honor of His divine Majesty, He who lives and reigns, world without end.  Amen.

Lord, your Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Make clean my heart within me, and take not Your holy Spirit from me.

O Lord, by Your Name have I called Gabriel; suffer him to administer unto me, and that all things may work together for Your honor and glory, to whom with You the Son and the Holy Spirit be ascribed all might, majesty, and dominion.  Amen.

Note that the divine name “Tetragrammaton” is underlined here, as is the ellipsis that follows it.  Any set of divine names, titles, or references of God may be used here, such as the general and specific names of God as referenced earlier in the first post on the design of the lamen.  Saying “Tetragrammaton” here is sufficient for all general purposes, but one may use a different name specific to the spirit being conjured, or a set of names to ensure the compliance and presence of the spirit.  For example one may use any of the appropriate sets of following names following from Agrippa’s general names and the specific ones (book II, chapter 22), the various qabbalistic names of God for the corresponding sephiroth, or the Islamic names of God associated with the planets from the Shams al-Ma`ārif:

Agrippa Qabbalistic Shams al-Ma`ārif
General El, Elohim, Eloah, Tzabaoth, Elion, Esherehie, Adonai, Yah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Shaddai, Ehevi
Saturn Yah
YHVH
YHVH Elohim al-Bā`ith (the Raiser)
aṣ-Ṣādiq (the Truthful)
Mawlā al-Mawāli (the Lord of Lords)
Jupiter Heh
Abba
Ehi
Ab
El al-Quddūs (the Holy)
al-Mannān (the Benfactor)
ar-Raqīb (the Vigilant)
Mars Yod
Gibor
Heh
Elohim Gibor al-`Azīz (the Powerful)
al-Qāhir (the Victorious)
al-Jabbār (the Strong)
Sun Yod Eloah v’Da`at an-Nūr (the Light)
an-Nāfi` (the Propitious)
al-Fāṭir (the Creator)
Venus Heh
Aha
YHVH Tzabaoth ar-Raḥīm (the Merciful)
al-Ḥayy (the Living)
al-Ḥasīb (the Reckoner)
Mercury Vav
Azbogah
Din
Doni
Elohim Tzabaoth al-Khabīr (the All-Aware)
al-Wāsi` (the All-Pervading)
al-Ākhir (the Infinite Last)
Moon Heh
Hod
Elim
Shaddai El Ḥai al-Ḥalīm (the Forebearing)
al-Amān (the Safety)
al-`Alīm (the All-Knowing)

Note that the word “celestial” here may be changed to reflect the nature of the spirit if it’s not celestial, e.g. “angelic” if a true divine archangel above any planet or heaven, “terrestrial” if a spirit of nature or a genius loci, “chthonic” if a subterrestrial or demonic entity, etc. However, even for celestial entities such as planetary angels, while “celestial” works for any spirit that is associated with or drawn from any celestial sphere, this word may be replaced with a more exact adjective, e.g. “lunar” for Gabriel, “mercurial” for Raphael, “saturnine” for Cassiel, “stellar” for Raziel or the angel of any zodiac sign or lunar mansion, and so forth.

Note that the word “crystal” may be changed to reflect the actual scrying medium being used if not a crystal (mirror, vessel of water, etc.).

Note that this conjuration prayers is not necessarily appropriate for all types of spirits.  It is, however, appropriate for most kinds of spirits, especially those of an angelic or celestial nature.  We’ll discuss alternative conjuration prayers for less-than-angelic entities in a future post.

Once these prayers of conjuration have been said, await the presence of the spirit you have called; they should appear more-or-less immediately.  If a scryer is present, the spirit may appear visible to either the magician or the scryer or to both.  So long as the spirit is visible to the magician (if operating alone) or either one or both of the magician or the scryer (if operating with a scryer), then proceed to the Authentication and Oath of the Spirit.  If desired, you may wish to ask “is there a spirit present here?” softly but firmly to confirm; if you feel, perceive, or otherwise receive an affirmative signal, proceed on to the authentication.

If, after a little while, nobody present can see, hear, or in any way sense the presence of the spirit, repeat these sets of conjuration prayers, and wait again.  If, after three times you’ve said these prayers of conjuration and nobody has gotten any signal nor connection nor sign of the presence of the spirit, skip ahead to the Dismissal of the Spirit and proceed from there.

Authentication and Oath of the Spirit
Once the presence of a spirit (not necessarily the one you want!) is there, proclaim your thanks for the presence and the ability to perceive it:

O Lord!  I give to You my hearty and sincere thanks for the hearing of my prayer, and I thank You for having permitted Your spirit Gabriel to appear unto me, whom I, by Your Mercy, will interrogate to my further instruction, through Christ.  Amen.

At this point, the magician is to ask the spirit present four questions of authentication to ascertain the true character and nature of the spirit that you have conjured.  Holding the wand in the right hand pointed at the scrying medium, ask the following four questions one-by-one:

  1. In the name of the holy and undefiled Spirit, the Father, the begotten Son, and Holy Ghost who proceeds from both, what is your true name?
  2. What is your office?
  3. What is your true mark that I know you by?
  4. What are the times most agreeable to your nature to hold conference with me?

For Gabriel of the Moon, we would expect answers that are more-or-less in accordance with the following:

  1. “My name is Gabriel, the Strength of God.”
  2. “I am the angel who presides over the sphere of the Moon in the first heaven, Shamayim.”
  3. “This is my seal by which you may know me and call upon me:” (the spirit should visually or perceptibly reveal the same glyph that is used on the lamen)
  4. “The hours in which I may be called are those in which the Moon holds silver sway.”

If the spirit passes those above four questions of authentication, make one final question to confirm the nature of the spirit and receive their oath:

Do you swear by the blood and righteousness of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that you are truly the spirit as you say you are and that you come to help me as I have called you?

Note that “the spirit” here may be replaced with the specific name of the spirit we expect, e.g. “…that you are truly Gabriel as you say you are”.

If the spirit swears affirmatively, then all the above answers to the questions of authentication should be written down in your book.  Once this is complete, continue on to the Communion with the Spirit.

It is possible that the spirit may give a different answer to #3 (the question about the seal of the spirit) than what is used on the lamen.  If so, then make a note of what that seal is, but immediately proceed to another question, “Do you also respond to the seal shown here?” while holding up or pointing towards the lamen.  If the spirit responds affirmatively, then they pass that question, and you may proceed onto question #4.

It is also possible, as Fr. AC says in GTSC, that the spirit may give lengthy, winding, symbolic, metaphorical, or poetic answers.  So long as they say, show, or reveal something that is in agreement with what you expect to be reasonable, they should be considered acceptable; you may not receive verbal responses!

We’ll discuss in a later post what to do if the spirit turns out to not be the one called upon by failing the expected answers to the questions of authentication, or fails to swear to the magician their honest presence and assistance.  Regardless, suffice it here to say that, should the spirit present not be the one desired or fail to swear to the magician, skip ahead to the Dismissal of the Spirit, but if time and energy permits, instead of continuing to Closing the Ritual, resume the process of conjuration of the spirit once more, starting with the Conjuration of the Spirit; otherwise, proceed to the Closing of the Ritual after the Dismissal of the Spirit.

Communion with the Spirit
At this point, the spirit you’ve conjured is present and the field is open to communing and communicating with them.  Chat with them, learn from them, ask for their help, consecrate talismans, receive initiation or empowerment, and whatever else you wish to do with them at this point.  We’ll go over what you can do here in a later post, but all things done with the spirit should be related or pertinent to the spirit in some way, with nothing unnecessary discussed or engaged in.  If desired, the wand may be put down now at this point where convenient inside the circle.

If operating with a scryer, the scryer should communicate to the magician and assistants whatever it is the spirit says, shows, or does while present.  Only the magician should be asking questions or otherwise directing the spirit; the magician is the one in charge of the ritual, and nothing is to be done unless they consent to it.  If anyone else, including the scryer, has a suggestion or recommendation, they should first respectfully ask the magician whether it may or should be done, and, should they consent to it, the magician will facilitate it with the spirit, with the scryer giving the response.

Notes should be taken throughout this process in your book, including of the spirit’s replies, any visions, any confirmations or denials, and the like.  This should be the job of an assistant, if any are present; otherwise, you as the magician should do this.

If possible, keep incense burning throughout this process, adding more incense as necessary.  Subsequent recitations of the prayer of the Consecration of the Incense may be performed if desired, but it is not necessary to do so.  This should be the job of an assistant, if any are present, but not the scryer, whose attention should be given to the crystal; otherwise, the magician should do this.

Technically, this may go on for as long as desired or needed, but we’ll take the Arbatel’s instruction from aphorism III.21 here: do not detain them past the end of the (planetary) hour in which you’ve conjured them unless they agree to stay or are otherwise sworn or bound to you.  If using self-igniting incense, so long as the incense isn’t particularly short-lived, this may be used as a sort of “clock” by which you may measure the length of the conjuration; once the self-igniting incense burns out, bring the ritual to an end.

Dismissal of the Spirit
Once you’ve finished communing with the spirit, take up the wand again in the right hand, point the wand at the scrying medium, and recite the following:

O great and mighty spirit Gabriel, inasmuch as you came in peace and in the name of the ever-blessed and righteous Trinity, so too in this name you may depart, and return to me when I call you in His name to whom every knee bows down.  Farewell, o Gabriel!  May peace be between us, through our blessed Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The spirit should depart the scrying medium, and their presence should no longer perceptibly be felt.  It is normal for some residual resonance or energy to linger, but the spirit should no longer be actively present in the scrying medium or the ritual area anymore at this point.  We will discuss what to do if they choose to not leave in a later post, but for now, we’ll assume that they leave.

Closing the Ritual
Take up the wand with the right hand, proceed to orientation point of the circle, and place the point of the wand on the outermost edge of the circle being used for the conjuration.  Any assistants or scryers should proceed to the innermost part of the circle out of your way.  Trace the circle counterclockwise starting from the orientation point.

Place the wand on the altar as it was at the beginning of the ritual.  Remove the lamen and the ring, then place them back on the altar as they were at the beginning of the ritual.

Proceed directly in front of the altar and kneel before it as you did at the beginning of the ritual; the scryer and assistants, if any are present, should likewise resume their original place and kneel as at the beginning of the ritual.

Lift your arms up in the orans gesture, and recite the following:

To God, the Father, the eternal Spirit, the fountain of Light; the Son; and the Holy Ghost be all honor and glory, world without end.  Amen.

The ritual is officially complete.  All may arise from kneeling at this point, or continue in further prayer and meditation if desired.

Post-Ritual Breakdown
The two consecrated candles on the altar may be left to burn out completely or they may be snuffed out with a candle-snuffer; any other candles burnt to augment the conjuration should be left to burn out completely, as should the incense.

Perform any final cleanup, notetaking, and other finishing tasks as necessary, including disassembling the altar of conjuration if desired, then leave the temple space when all else has been finished.

If you operated alone during the ritual, spend some time in intellectual contemplation and review of the communion and conversation with the spirit in silence, including reviewing any notes that were written down earlier.  If you operated with other people, such as a scryer or assistants, engage in conversation with them about the ritual in a similar way.  Other notes may be taken at this time as well, as desired.  It is good to do this while getting a bite to eat and something to drink to help the body relax and ground down at this time.


Whew. We finally did it, guys; we’ve finally discussed, at length, all the particulars of the actual DSIC ritual itself! But, even if we’ve gotten this far, we still have so much more to talk about.  As mentioned at various places above, there are several other topics to discuss, and we’ll start to tackle those next.

Mathētic Order of Offerings to the Theoi

One of the longest spiritual practices I’ve maintained more-or-less continually, or at least kept around in one form or another, is that to the Greek gods.  I have a shrine to a few of them in my temple, and though the form and shape of it has waxed and waned over the years, I’ve kept venerating and offering to them since I got started, pretty much.  From my apartment after college where I had Hermēs in one corner of my bedroom and Asklepios against the wall, and after with Dionysos joining Asklepios; then moving into a house with my boyfriend and having an entire room for my spiritual stuff, with an elaborate set of glass shelves for the theoi, with separate spaces for Zeus and Aphroditē and Apollo and Hephaistos and even Hadēs at one point; now into the house I moved in with my now-husband and having another room set up with different qualities and things got downsized a bit.  Hestia, of course, has been around in every house in one form or another, and Dionysos has gone from having an entire shrine dedicated and decorated to him to being…reduced in size but not in presence to a special contraption I set up just for him.  All the same, throughout all these changes, I’ve still kept up my worship of the theoi.

My practices have changed somewhat between moves from house to house and temple to temple; for instance, in the last place where I lived, my temple room was across from the hallway bathroom and had a window outside, so it was trivial to dump offerings out or get water anytime I needed.  Now, however, my temple is in a basement room with no easy access to either external ventilation or a sink or drain of any sort.  This makes disposing of old offerings and libations a little different, and given the lack of ventilation and general light, it’s easy for libations set out to evaporate really quickly or get mold faster than I would’ve thought otherwise.  That makes, for instance, the use of many small libation vessels for each theos I have enshrined a pain, because they all have to be hauled up the stairs to the kitchen to be emptied and washed then all hauled back downstairs, and so forth.  Besides that, I used to open the window during ritual as a symbolic act as a means to “let the god in” and for incense offerings to reach the heavens, but I can’t do that at this point, so I have to adjust my processes for that.

As I’m getting back to my daily practice (and struggling to find out how to make things more efficient and effective while still making things count), I’ve also been digging through my notes to see what insights I had before, what my proposed methodologies or practices were, and how I managed to get by before and how I did things.  I suppose that’s one benefit of blogging so much, because I found two such posts on my method of offering to the theoi, specifically within the context of Mathēsis, one post on general daily mathētic practices, the other on a specifically mathētic procedure to make offerings to the gods.  The former is good for me to review anyway, because it’s something I need to get back on as well, either by reworking it to be less-than-daily or by incorporating it into my general daily practices, and because it recommends a regular, daily offering or invocation of the god of the day according to my Grammatēmerologion calendar.  The latter is actually useful, because it documents one such way that an invocation and offering to a god might be done, whether associated with a particular day or otherwise, and whether it’s a grand offering or just a small quick invocation.

However, as I look back on this procedure, there are things that I really would feel more comfortable changing than keeping the same.  (That’s one good benefit of writing my own blog; I get to make the claim that anything I write can be improved on later!)  Between my own experiences and interactions with the theoi on their own terms and by bringing in other ideas that I’m comfortable with applying across the board, there are some things I’m getting into the habit of that I wouldn’t’ve considered before.  For instance, while in the past I would often (but not always) make a perfunctory and preliminary offering to Hestia while also saying that it’s not strictly necessary, nowadays I’m definitely on the side of always making an offering to her to start with before any others, though I’m not entirely convinced that every offering must also conclude with another one to her, as well.  Rather, I’m now in the habit of honoring Zeus in every offering, regardless whether he’s the focus of my prayers or not, due to his role as divine cosmic king who rules over the three realms; at first I had his name praised and made a perfunctory offering to him before any other god (besides Hestia), but after some conversation, I make him last.  Or second-to-last, if Hestia gets a final offering as well.

So, let me draw out my process and my thinking.  It is true that many of the theoi operate independently in some respects, but it is also true that they are all part of the same pantheon and part of the same cosmic schema.  Just as you can’t remove a single number from the Decad and have it still remain the Decad, you can’t really remove a single theos from the theoi and have it remain the pantheon.  However, not every individual theos needs to be worshipped at all times, but a few key ones that allow for worship to happen at all makes more sense.  For that, the general order of invocation and offering that I use nowadays goes like this:

  1. Perfunctory initial offering to Hestia.  Hestia should always get the first offering, because she’s the goddess of the hearth and home itself.  Without her, we would have nowhere to live, build, or establish shrines; it is only by her support that we can make such offerings in our own homes, dwellings, and temples.  If one is living in the wild and makes offerings in a pristine place untouched by civilization with offerings that are not the products of agriculture or animal husbandry, then I would make an argument that an offering to Hestia is not needed, but it would still be appreciated as she is still rightly the eldest of the first generation of the Olympian Theoi.
  2. Perfunctory offering of wine to Dionysos.  This step is sometimes skipped depending on what I’m offering.  If I’m offering wine in this ceremony, and I’m either going to run out of an existing bottle or if I’m opening a new bottle of wine for any reason, I open it up here and pour a small amount for Dionysos, giving him thanks for his own sacrifices and allowing us to partake in his sacrifice of flesh and the grape which allows us to perform our own sacrifices.  In many ways, Dionysos is the god of wine as well as the god in wine; by opening a new bottle and giving him the first pour, we recognize his presence and dedicate our sacrifices to his own.
  3. Perfunctory offering to Hermes.  Hermēs is important to always recognize, and by calling on him, we ensure that our prayers can be heard by any and all the gods.  Hermēs is the messenger of the gods, to be sure, but he’s also the messenger between gods and mankind; it’s by him that we come to know the will and desires of the gods, but it’s also by him that they come to know our prayers and supplications.  Hermēs is, indeed, the god of prayer and ritual in general, just as Hestia can be said to be the goddess of shrines in general and Dionysos the god of sacrificing wine in general.  Plus, this helps with the notion of “bringing the god in” for when I call upon the presence of a particular deity; before, I’d open the window as a formal “opening of the gate”, but since I don’t have a window anymore, this seems to suffice as well.  It’d still be great to have a window or some other aperture, but I simply don’t have that option available to me.
  4. Main offering.  This is where the actual invocation to the god begins.  All their prayers and invocations and offerings and whatnot take place after all the initial offerings are made.
  5. Perfunctory concluding offering to Zeus.  At the end of the ceremony, once the other offerings are made, Zeus should also always be honored, as the divine ruler of the cosmos, the father of gods and men, and the supreme king of all.  In honoring Zeus who rules over the three domains of sky, sea, and land, we also honor all those who live within them, both mortal and immortal.  This suffices not only to render tribute to the god of gods, but also to recognize the divinity of all the other gods who fall under Zeus’ domain.
  6. Other perfunctory concluding offerings.  As Hestia is the first-born of Rhea and Kronos, she is also their last-born; she was born first from Rhea’s womb, and torn out last from Kronos’ belly.  The Homeric Hymn to Hestia (#24) says that “without you mortals hold no banquet, where one does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last”.  However, I don’t think that this sort of concluding offering is strictly needed after that of Zeus, but it can certainly be done; if it were, I think it would also be appropriate to honor both Hermēs and Hestia both for both their roles as divinities of prayer-speaking as well as that of shrine-keeping.  In other words, after the main offering and offering to Zeus, we work backwards: if we start with Hestia and Hermēs, we end with Hermēs and Hestia.  It’s something I’m still working out, admittedly.

This idea of a ritual process, going through multiple divinities in order to sacrifice to one, may seem needlessly complicated; I know I thought that at one point, and before, I’d just go to my Apollo shrine and do my thing and be done with it.  That said, I think of my other traditions where there is absolutely an order to worship, where certain divinities must be honored before others; this idea works for the Greek gods, too.  Plus, there are other examples of having such an order; consider the Hellenist reconstruction group Elaion and their ritual templates shared by Elani Temperance over at Baring the Aegis, where every ritual begins with a libation to Hestia, to Gaia, and to Themis before proceeding with the main event, and all of which conclude with a final offering to Hestia.  This also makes sense: just as we honor Hestia for being the goddess of hearth and home and shrine, so too do we honor the Earth for supporting all that happens and to divine Law and Order for that which is proper that all might continue to be proper.  Sure, it might seem easier to just make offerings to one god (and a lot less use of wine and oil and incense), but the more I think about it and the more I practice it, the more sense it makes to really go in for the process and proper sequencing of things in a formal offering.

Of course, all that above is just the general template, and templates change in certain circumstances.  For instance, if I were to just make an offering to Hestia for Hestia’s own sake, I wouldn’t really bother with Hermēs or the other gods, because Hestia is already right there present in my home, so Hestia is one of the very few (perhaps the only) divinity I could just sacrifice directly to and not get the rest of the gang involved and not feel bad about it.  In general, however, there’s always going to be a process, and there are certain rules to how that process might change in certain examples.  Let’s consider a few examples, with the main event in bold text and anything unexpected in italics:

  1. Hestia
    1. Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hestia, Zeus
    2. Because Hestia is always first no matter what, she still comes first.  However, as she’s immediately present and we’re already making an offering to her, we don’t need the messenger/interpreter presence of Hermēs.  If a new bottle of wine is to be opened, a perfunctory offering to Dionysos should come first before Hestia, though this is really more a respect gesture than anything else.  Likewise, Zeus can still be honored afterwards, but beyond Hestia and honoring the hearth itself that even the gods honor, there’s not too much that needs to be done.
  2. Dionysos
    1. Hestia, Hermēs, Dionysos, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. Normally, we’d have a perfunctory offering to Dionysos before Hermēs if we’re opening a new bottle of wine.  However, if I’m offering to Dionysos himself, I’d skip that stage and celebrate him entirely in his own part of the ceremony.  Instead of being given just a token, perfunctory offering, he gets his own full thing going on.  After Dionysos is honored, then we’d give a perfunctory offering to Zeus, and if desired, any other concluding offerings to e.g. Hermēs and Hestia.
  3. Hermēs
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. Pretty straightforward here; Hermēs takes his usual place after Dionysos (if needed) and before Zeus, but as there are no other gods to be worshiped, Hermēs himself becomes the focus.  Instead of giving Hermēs a perfunctory offering, he gets a full offering here.
  4. Zeus
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Zeus, libation to all the gods, other conclusions
    2. Like with Hermēs, instead of just getting a perfunctory offering, Zeus himself is celebrated in full.
    3. However, remember that Zeus is normally celebrated in every ceremony to remind ourselves of his divine and cosmic importance, and by him, we can honor all the other gods and goddesses of the cosmos.  However, if we’re worshiping and offering to Zeus as Zeus alone, then we’d need something to step in to formally recognize all the other entities of the cosmos, hence a separate step for the “libation to all the gods” after Zeus.  This would be perfunctory, as the offering to Zeus any other time would be.
  5. Apollo
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Apollo, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. This is the basic template, using Apollo as the main offering.  Nothing unexpected here.
  6. Asklepios
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Apollo, Asklepios, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. This is essentially the basic template, with Asklepios as the main offering, but note how we’re also honoring Apollo immediately before him.  This is because, as I reckon it, Asklepios is not sufficiently independent or major of a god in his own right.  Sure, he can be offered to independently and on his own, but I find it more proper to recognize his father Apollo first.  In other words, to use a royal metaphor, Asklepios is a noble in the royal court ruled by Apollo; as Apollo is the ruler of that court, he gets first honors, and then any
    3. A similar case would go for any other minor god that is clearly part of another god’s “court”, such as Hēbē under Hēra, Eros under Aphroditē, Tykhē under Zeus, Nikē under Athena, and so forth.   Recognize the primary god of that court first with a perfunctory offering, then the minor god as the main offering.

Although the Greeks may not have conceived of their gods as belonging to “courts” per se, I think it’s still a useful classification of the minor gods and goddesses around central rulers who were more well-known.  For instance, I would consider all the thalassic deities Triton, Nereus, and the Nereides and Naiadēs including Thetis to all belong to the court of Poseidon, who either is the father, husband, brother, or conquering usurper of the other gods.  In sacrifice and myth, this may not really be true, but it’s a really useful way to organize “groups” of the theoi for the purposes of my Grammatēmerologion calendar, which assigns the letters of the Greek alphabet to the days of the lunar month, and by the letters, to individual signs of the Zodiac or other powers, which are associated the major gods of the Hellenic pantheon.  For instance, in the Grammatēmerologion, the twenty-third day of the lunar month is given to the letter Tau.  Tau is given to the zodiacal sign of Pisces, which is associated with the theos Poseidon; thus, it makes sense to cluster the worship of all the oceanic deities onto the day of Tau, just as all the deities associated with Hēra like Hēbē and Eileithyia are given to Hēra’s day of Sigma and so forth.  If nothing else, honoring the “court ruler” of a minor god also counts as honoring the primary god of the same day that minor god would be worshiped on, which fulfills part of my daily mathētic practices.

So, when I say “perfunctory offering”, what exactly do I mean?  Basically, a token offering, a nod, something I give just enough to recognize the divinity I’m making such an offering to.  It’s really little more than a very quick pour of wine or clean water, no more than an ounce or a few drops, accompanied by a few words of honor and veneration, calling upon their aid.  If I feel like it, I’ll recite the entire Orphic Hymn or one of the shorter Homeric Hymns to them, but in general, what I’ll say is something short, like:

Hestia, as you were first born of Rhea and last born of Kronos, so too do you receive the first offering and the last!  Queen goddess of the hearth, without you we could not live nor could we offer to the gods.  Right and proper it is to honor you first in all such rites.

Dionysos, roaring lord of reborn life, yours is the blood of the vine which we cut and rend that we might live and live well.  As you spilled your blood that we might partake in it, I give you the first offering of this bottle that you might always be honored in every pour and spill.

Hermēs, you are the messenger of gods and men, to whom we all turn in all our rites.  Hear my prayers, take these sacrifices, and carry them aloft to divine ears and immortal hands!  May all the righteous ways of worship be opened for me and for the gods!

With that, I’ll pour out a bit of wine and olive oil out—not a lot, because it’s better to give a little so that we always have something to give, and if we’re going through the process, then we’ve already got a lot to give.  From what I’ve been doing, it seems that a standard set of offerings will take around half a normal 750ml bottle of wine and maybe an ounce or two of olive oil.  While before I was pouring straight from the wine bottle into individual vessels for each individual divinity, which was fine when I could more easily wash them or empty them without having to schlep them up and down stairs, I’m now in the habit of using a large white bowl I set before my entire Greek shrine, and pouring in libations into that from a smaller white bowl.  That way, I can partake of the libation and give a toast to each of the gods as I offer, and I replicate the old practice of pouring a libation out on the ground itself.  The bowl, of course, keeps it all contained instead of splashing everywhere, and is easier to carry up instead of four or six silver or glass chalices full of wine and oil.

Of course, all of the above—the process, the order, the perfunctory offerings versus the main offerings, the courts, etc.—only really count if I’m making an actual offering to the theoi.  On days when I don’t, either because I don’t want to or don’t need to, there’s no need to go through all of that.  Instead, a simple invocation will suffice.  For instance, say that it’s the day of Gamma; Gamma is associated with Taurus, and thus with Aphroditē.  If I’m going to make a full offering to Aphroditē that day, then yes, I’ll go through the process of Hestia, Dionysos, Hermēs, Aphroditē, Zeus, &c.  However, if I’m not, whether because I’m too tired or don’t plan on doing an offering to Aphroditē that day, then I’d just call on her and give her a simple prayer; rather than giving her a main offering in the midst of a bunch of perfunctory offerings, I’d just give her a perfunctory (or bigger) invocation with no other process involved.  In other words, if all I’m doing is verbally honoring and recognizing the god of the day, then there’s no sacrifice or offering, so the whole process of offering doesn’t apply.  Easy, indeed, and if it’s all I need to get by for a daily practice, then all the better.

I’m sure, given enough time, this proposed method will continue to change.  What is becoming clear to me is that it’s easier for me to bundle my already-existing Hellenic/Greek practices into my overall Mathēsis work, which is fine by me; the less I have to arrange as separate “practices”, especially when one directly comes from the other and is going to subsume it anyway, the better.  By refocusing my Hellenic work into my Mathēsis work, I can better focus both together and synthesize them in a way that reduces stress and conflict while still being able to expand and expound on both.  Plus, if this Mathēsis stuff is actually going to head in the direction I want it, having processes for this sort of thing are definitely a needed and beneficial organizing principle.

On Fitting Rituals Together

Most of the posts I write are written in one fell swoop, more or less, but on occasion, I’ll save something as a draft to finish later, especially if I feel like I don’t have enough information yet or if an idea hasn’t come through clearly.  The thing about these drafts is that they’ll either be finished in a few days after some more research and thinking it through, or it’ll get shelved indefinitely until I remember that I have drafts backed up waiting for another look.  I have more than a few such drafts from my blog-quiet Year in White, and a few more from before that, that I never really bothered to complete or, if they were complete, publish for one reason or another.

Recently, I went through my drafts and found a post on a PGM conjuration ritual, PGM IV.930—1114, which had a bunch of notes and comments ready for review, that I hadn’t previously touched since June 2014 (jeez).  I decided to pick that one to see where I was, and while it was mostly complete, it had plenty of room for expansion.  I decided to finish out that post, take a deeper look at the source material with a slightly more trained eye than I had before, and finally put it up; seeing how I’ve been on a roll with taking all the old prayers and rituals I’ve posted over the years and putting them into finalized, polished, published pages on this blog (which you can view using the updated navbar at the top of the site), I decided to forego the post and just put out the page.  Thus, if you’re interested, take a look at my write-up on PGM IV.930—1114, the Conjuration of Light under Darkness (under Occult → Classical Hermetic Rituals, with the rest of the PGM/PDM/Coptic stuff).

It’s a pretty nifty ritual, if I do say so myself; it’s a straight-up conjuration of the god Horus Harpocrates, and it bears a huge number of parallels to a proper conjuration ritual in the Solomonic tradition that arose after the PGM period, including prayers of compulsion and formal ritual closings.  One of the more fascinating parts of it is that, instead of performing the ritual on an altar, it uses a sort of anti-altar: a lamp held above the ground on the intersection of two ropes suspended from the ceiling of a room.  Reading deeper into the ritual and Betz’s notes on the source text, the ritual as recorded in the PGM is actually a combination of several earlier rituals: a prayer for divine alliance with a deity, a lamp divination ritual, and a conjuration of a god.  The fact that there are some parts of the ritual that seem duplicated or don’t read as a single flow of a ritual written in one go indicates that it is, indeed, cobbled together, but it also feels somehow familiar to later texts like the Key of Solomon in that same not-quite-jarring, not-quite-disharmonic sense.  It still works, though you can clearly see the distinct parts that make up the whole.

A few days back, Scott Stenwick over at Augoeides wrote a post titled The Template Works for Everything, which I encourage you to read.  He starts out by packing quite the punch:

One of the best things about modular ritual templates is how versatile and effective they are for all different kinds of workings. If there’s a “magical secret” out there, how to put the various rituals and forms together into a coherent operation is probably it. Many published books on magick include instructions on how to do the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. Some include the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram. Some include the Middle Pillar. And so forth. But there’s little instruction on what to do with them aside from recommendations that you practice them daily. …

At any rate, what I found when I published Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy is that nobody else publishes that stuff, either. I was told time and again how useful my book was because it laid out the whole structure of a ceremonial operation including the basic components that go into actually getting stuff done. I’ve gone ahead and published the whole magical and mystical series here on Augoiedes for precisely that reason. We really don’t need any more occult books that teach the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and then don’t really even tell you what it’s for or what it’s supposed to do.

Stenwick talks a lot more about his operant field theory of magic over on his blog, which should be damn-near mandatory for anyone in a Thelemic or Golden Dawn system of magic to read.  Suffice it here to say that Stenwick puts into no uncertain terms that there are certain components for ritual magic—for any kind of magic within a coherent system—that plug into each other in a modular fashion, and by swapping out certain parts as needed according to a particular template of ritual, you can get anywhere you need to go.

The fact that he put this idea into such bald, direct terms shocked me, because it makes so much sense and I wish I had written about it sooner myself.  He’s absolutely right: every tradition of magic has its own kind of template, and builds rituals up according to that template from smaller actions and rituals.  No matter what it is you’re trying to do, no matter what system you’re using, every complete ritual is a machine built from parts that fit together in a more-or-less cohesive whole, and by swapping those parts out as needed, you get a different ritual as needed.  If it seems like there’s something missing, it’s because there is, and you’re not using all the parts you should.

Yes, rituals that are complete unto themselves from the PGM or any number of grimoires of your choosing are a dime a dozen, but consider: those are snapshots, isolated incidents from within a tradition.  If you actually study the tradition from which such an instance of ritual comes, you’d get a more complete view of the preliminary stuff that would be expected to happen before it, the concluding stuff that would be expected to happen after it, how that ritual can be used as a part of an even larger ritual, and (if you’re exceptionally skilled, and for particular rituals) how to break down a ritual into its constituent parts and repurposed for other rituals.

As an example, consider Rufus Opus‘ now-discontinued Red Work series of courses.  I used to half-joke that he was a one-trick pony and that the only proper ritual he taught in his courses was his version of the Trithemian conjuration ritual, because he did.  Heck, he even wrote a whole book on planetary magic, Seven Spheres, with that being the only real ritual.  It’s true, but that’s the whole point of the system of magic he teaches.  His angelic banishing ritual he teaches, the first actual ritual in the text that isn’t making holy water or learning how to meditate, is just a Trithemian conjuration ritual that substitutes a full charge of conjuration with a half-charge that invokes the angels only so far as they banish one’s sphere; his conjuration of a genius loci is a pared-down version of the Trithemian ritual with a charge of conjuration modified specifically for a spirit of the land; his conjuration of one’s natal genius is almost identical to any other angelic use of the Trithemian ritual with the exception of a heavily-modified charge of conjuration; all the conjurations of the elemental and planetary angels are virtually identical except for the time of conjuration, the name of God used in the charge of conjuration, and the name of the angel being conjured.  Rufus Opus got the modularization of the Trithemian ritual down to a science well beyond its original purpose for conjuring the seven planetary angels, even down to adapting parts of it for his own take on goetic conjurations of demons.  When viewed from a naive perspective, sure, Rufus Opus may only have taught one ritual, but what he was really teaching was a framework, a template, a process of ritual and how to adapt that process to any particular need, just not in explicit terms.

On the other end of the spectrum, consider a text like the Arbatel.  This is a text that teaches about a system of magic, including some of the major spirits and types thereof in the system and what they do, but the text gives you next to nothing in the way of a ritual template; while it provides some prayers and suggestions for working with the spirits it discusses in its aphorisms, the text largely assumes either that you already have a framework of ritual you’re comfortable with, or that you’re spiritually developed enough and suited to the work that one will be revealed unto you.  Those who can read between the lines can divine something resembling a framework, vague as it might be, like I have on this blog before, but it’s just as likely (and just as well) that an experienced magician can take the information of the Arbatel, look at a framework of ritual they already know works, and plug in the few parts that the Arbatel provides to get as much out of it as one can get out of a fully detailed text like the Key of Solomon or Grimoirium Verum.

Now take a look again at PGM IV.930—1114.  It’s apparent that this ritual is composed of parts that were, at some point by some author, cobbled together from earlier rituals written by earlier authors that just so happened to fill the needs of that later author for a coherent purpose, combining the prayers, tools, and processes from each into a single whole ritual.  That magician had a good grasp of what he needed, and tried to keep as true as he could to the parts of the ritual without sacrificing any one benefit for the whole thing.  He had a framework for ritual that would match with that of any Renaissance Solomonic conjurer, and he used whatever parts at his disposal to come up with a complete whole.  Can the ritual be augmented with other preliminary work, or concluded or continued with other rituals?  You bet!  The author even included a part for further extending one aspect of the ritual, which is unfortunately lost in the source material, but not only is the possibility there, it’s a certainty that it’s there.

This is why it’s important for magicians to study the small, routine stuff like simple energy work, basic prayers, attunement and banishing acts, and other simple rituals.  While they all have importance on their own for their own sake, it’s not always said how profoundly important they really are as framing rituals or other ritual components in a wider system of magic.  These small building blocks are used to build larger rituals, and without having a solid grasp of the small parts, it makes having a solid grasp of the larger whole all the more difficult.  It’s not just that the smaller stuff produces a firmer foundation than might otherwise be achieved for later works, but it’s that each part must be able to be carried out smoothly and powerfully so that when they’re incorporated as parts in a larger ritual, the whole shebang is smooth and powerful in a way that treating it as a single unit unto itself wouldn’t be able to achieve.  Every ritual isn’t a single note, it’s a harmonic symphony unto itself, and each part is a movement that must flow from one to the next.

Every tradition has its process and framework, from Russian Orthodox ceremonies to Cuban Orisha ceremonies, and if you pay attention, you can easily pick up on the structure of how things flow, what should come next, what can be changed, what should stay the same, what can be considered an indivisible part, what can be broken down into smaller parts, what can be modified or tweaked to come up with a whole new part, and how to put parts together.  Every system of ritual work has a template, and as Stenwick says, “the template works”.