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”.

On True Praying (also, a thank you!)

After my recent post about why simplicity in prayer is not only a good thing but the only real thing there is in praying, one of my oldest friends commented on my Facebook page about how it inspired her that she can pray in her own way and still be heard in her prayers.  She was worried that if she didn’t use anything obviously deep or meaningful or profound that was written centuries or millennia ago that she wasn’t doing it right, but the words of Hermes Trismegistus helped calm her worries and reminded her of the right path of prayer.  That’s an important realization that I know I’ve had to have multiple times, and I know many others are being reminded of it, some for the first time, some for the eleventy-first.

Prayer is, according to the Oxford Dictionary, “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or another deity”, and ultimately comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *prek meaning “to ask, request, or entreat”.  Throughout countless millennia, ever since humanity has been aware of the presence of divinity in our world or in any other, prayer has been the central vehicle for communion with the divine, with or without sacrifice.  It is this unique act that we, as humans, are capable of in a way unlike any other living entity on Earth that allows us to seek communication and communion with higher entities than us through the use of our own higher faculties.  Heck, even the Catechism of the Catholic Church (part IV, section 1) defines prayer as “the vital and personal relationship with the living and true God”, and that it is “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God”.  When all other things are taken out of the equation, all religious action we undertake all boils down to a single essence: prayer.

Due to its importance in all religious work we undertake, humanity has been compiling and transmitting their knowledge of prayers to any number of divinities and entities from one generation to the next, whether by word of mouth or by the written word.  In my own work, I use prayers that have been in use for literal centuries or millennia, either in its original language or in a faithful translation into my own, from such varied sources as the PGM, exoteric and esoteric early Judaism, Catholic and Orthodox Christian traditions, Hermetic wisdom texts, Hellenic religious cults, and even some of my own original writings; you can see a small selection of what I have written down in my personal prayerbook over in the Prayers section of pages.  I sing songs passed down to me through multiple generations of slaves and migrants in languages I can scarce understand, and I recite scriptures from lineages and faiths that are literally in my ancestral and living blood.  All these prayers serve to open doors both in my mind and in the world around me, and I would be much poorer off if I had no knowledge of them.

It goes without saying that there is power in all these ancient prayers that come from before my time.  After being recited time and again by thousands or millions of people across countless cultures, lands, and eras, the combined faith and spiritual force that has been put into many of these prayers is overwhelming.  Even those that I’ve written have been used regularly, sometimes even daily, for years, and hold great importance and power even for myself and others.  Of course, the ones I’ve written barely hold a candle to those that have been passed down from one generation to the next of priests, magicians, and other religious people, especially those prayers that have been composed by sages and mystics far wiser and holier than I am, and those who actually knew what they were doing.

Using these prayers that both look and feel Powerfully Old has value for its own sake.  In many cases, such prayers were devised for a purpose, the wording exactly and precisely chosen to cause certain effects in ourselves and the world around us because of what they seek, express, and ask for.  In such cases, these “purposeful” prayers are indistinguishable from spells or conjurations; indeed, many spells and conjurations I use are identical in form, structure, and diction to what you might find used in the Roman Ritual or in a modern church service.  Simply by reciting these prayers with a true need and a sincere heart, even just once and that quietly, can produce powerful and wondrous effects in your life, and it helps to have an index of them handy just in case for a variety of services or needs; this is one of the reason why I maintain and carry with me everywhere my own enchiridion, my own handbook of prayers and rituals, just in case I need something specific for a particular purpose.

Even still, all that being said, reciting prayers that have been recorded and presented to you isn’t all there is to prayer.  After a certain point, the same prayers recited over and over, even if it starts out meaningful, can sometimes become meaningless, soulless, and empty; some people, after settling into a routine for the sake of routine, end up praying the same empty words as a routine.  This drains the efficacy and power of prayer, because all you’re doing is saying the words for the sake of saying the words because you’re used to saying them.  Other people like to keep “enhancing” their prayers by introducing longer and more elaborate phrases, in an attempt to keep the air flowing and trying to reclaim some of that initial wonder through more of the same, but this often misses the entire point of prayer.  This is pointless; as Jesus said in Matthew 6 (despite the context-appropriate disdain for “pagans”), “when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words; do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him”. 

You don’t need to keep saying the same things over and over louder and louder to be heard.  Words alone are not the only part of the vehicle of prayer, no matter how old those words are, who said them first, or how many you use.  If your heart isn’t in the prayer, you’re just giving a soliloquy to be heard by yourself and nobody and nothing else; if you pray without heart, you’re not praying. 

In the end, all true prayer comes from the heart.  It’s that personal divine spark that sets off the holy fire that enflames us in prayer, within which we can become consumed and by which we can become refined into a holier state of being.  All these recorded prayers that we have at our disposal are meant to gather up the flames of the heart into a holy bonfire that reaches to Heaven and illumines our entire world; that’s why we have them, and why we use them.  We recite these old prayers with the intent that our hearts become a spiritual muscle, becoming stronger with each use, and which we use to elevate ourselves and our minds to the Divine; to recite them by rote without actually using the spiritual muscle of our heart is nothing more than going through the motions, which at best does nothing to make us stronger than we already are, and at worst leads us into the atrophy of despair, depression, and faithlessness.

So what are we to do, if the practice of reciting prayers eventually breaks down?  Simple: we don’t let it break down in the first place, because the intent of prayer should be fresh, pure, and strong each and every time you even reach for your cheatsheet or enchiridion of prayers.  Each word you say should be as if you’re saying it for the first time, each divine thought should be like fresh, clean, unused water splashed across your face and body.  Prayer is a vehicle, but our hearts and souls provide the fuel that keeps it going to our ultimate destination.  However, after a time, you’ll find that the vehicles you’re used to aren’t critical to the process; the fuel you provide through your heart and soul in prayer is the real power in the whole process that will eventually get you to where you need to be by virtue of themselves.  This fuel will self-ignite, and not only propel you further in your Work, but ends up consuming your entire self as fuel for the flames.  This is what I mean by “enflaming yourself in prayer”, and this is the true means of prayer, whether or not you recite something written down thousands of years ago or said anew for the very first time.  In the end, the two are indistinguishable.

The door to true communion with the Divine can only be opened by true, personal, intimate, private prayer, and the key to that door never looks the same twice.  The notion of spontaneous prayer here is key: it’s what simply comes out through the mouth from the heart, and is in many cases the seed from which all recorded prayers are grown. It is a genuine, in-the-moment expression of prayer that is not dictated by any rule or rhyme, but which simply happens.  It may be guided by frameworks of prayer instilled in the head through routine and habit, but it is intimately, completely personal how it comes out and becomes expressed.  If the old prayers handed down from time immemorial are elaborate carvings and breathtaking works of art made by the great masters of wordsmithing of ages past, this spontaneous prayer said in the moment is like a cluster of wildflowers bursting through the earth on the first morning of spring to bask in the Sun: it might look small and delicate, but it is a raw, unstoppable force of nature in its own right, and beautiful in its own pristine, unrestrained way.

Heck, at a certain point, even spoken or thought words stop being useful, and the real prayer starts becoming the rarefied, ideal thoughts behind any possible words of prayer that only the heart can wordlessly utter.  This is the idea behind the Hymns of Silence, which I describe as the highest kind of prayer humans can make.  These are the hymns and songs of prayer that even the angels sing unto God in praise, admiration, and gratitude, and which lie behind any and all prayer we can earnestly make.  Strip down true prayer to its core, and what you have are the Hymns of Silence: wordless, unspeakable, ineffable Love and Thanks for the Creator.

Of course, getting to the stage where knowing what the Hymns of Silence are, what they “sound” like, and how to “sing” them takes effort, just as any muscle requires training and time to develop.  I got a kickstart on that process through my planetary conjurations that culminated in the conjuration of the angel of the fixed stars, where even the usual physical tools and implements of magic stop being of use to us in a true astral realm.  However, whether you ascend through conjuration of the spheres or by climbing the ladder of prayer from Down Here to Up There, the result is the same: an outpouring from the heart of true communion with the Divine.  This is the real goal of true prayer, through which any desire can be effected, any hope expressed, any wish granted, any request made to the Divine.

Even for me, especially after being out of a prayer or spiritual routine for so long, recalling the ability to sing the Hymns of Silence and make true prayer is difficult.  Like I said, it’s like a muscle, and that muscle needs to constantly be used and strengthened in order to be of any use.  Still, I use the means at my disposal to open those doors again.  For myself in my own practice?  My own prayer routine looks like this:

  1. Wake up in the morning, and wash my face and hands in cold water (if I don’t take a full shower at this point).  Basically, a simplified form of ablution with khernips or other lustral water, and reminiscent of the process of wuḍū` for Muslims.
  2. Light a simple candle and recite a blessing over it.  I typically use the Trithemian Rite consecration of fire from this, but you can say whatever you like to consecrate the fire for the sake of holiness and divine presence and protection.
  3. Meditate for at least 10 minutes, if only to quiet the mind.
  4. Recite the Prayer of Hermes Trismegistus.
  5. Recite the Prayer of the Itinerant.
  6. Recite the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.
  7. Recite a personal Prayer of the Geomancer.
  8. At this point, my heart and mind are focused and empowered enough to say a spontaneous prayer, which can take any form: gratitude for the days I’ve been given, hope for the day I’m about to face, seeking help to power me through my fears, or whatever else rises from the flame of my heart in prayer.

Eventually, the flame of my heart takes over, and begins burning of its own accord without being ignited by spoken prayers; this flame rises to my mind and sets off a conflagration of looking upwards to Heaven and simply Being in Prayer; this is the beginning to the Hymns of Silence, which (if I have enough time to spend) can go on indefinitely until the flame weakens and I begin to look back down to Earth and myself.  I know it sounds corny or mysterious, but I don’t have a much better way of describing how it feels.  It’s almost a trance state, uplifting in the same automatic way that the heat from a fire sends purified white ash upwards through convection.

Over time, these muscles of the heart become stronger, and it becomes easier to start the fire of prayer, going from a rousing, raging, holy blaze into a still, silent, sacred Light.  I’m working on that process day by day, and I hope to keep working on it to get even farther than I ever was, even when I was in a regular dedicated routine.  Like in anything else, dedication and resilience make for the best guides in the Work, and it helps make prayer truly effective like it does anything and everything else.


Also, dear reader, you may have noticed that there’ve been more changes to this website recently.  Thanks to all your generous support through donations, purchasing my ebooks and materia magica, and obtaining my divination and consultation services, I was finally able to secure the funds for a professional WordPress account!  Not only does this mean I finally got a proper domain name for the blog (https://digitalambler.com/, but you don’t need to update your bookmarks to use it!), but I got an even nicer site layout, all those invasive ads are gone, and a few other cosmetic tweaks have been made throughout the site to make it easier to read and navigate.  One of the really nice things is that it’s allowed me to revamp my Services page to actually look and feel useful, too, so if you’re interested in commissioning me for divination, consultation, ritual work, or other needs, go on over and take a look!

Plus, with the recent blog redesign, I consolidated and changed some of the Occult and Prayer resources through the top menu.  In addition, I also added a whole new page on the Headless Rite, which is more fully fleshed out and offers a full Greek original text, as well as a whole section of prayers from the Corpus Hermeticum, condensed from other posts around this blog for ease of reference.  Putting these out is a pleasure of mine, since I hope to make these resources more easily accessible for all who visit my blog.

Of course, keeping this website as functional and clean as it is (to say nothing of keeping my projects active to continue providing new and awesome content for my readers) will continue to take money, so please help continue supporting the Digital Ambler!  You can do this through any number of ways: checking out my Etsy store for my ebooks and materia magica, checking out my Services page for my divination and ritual comissions, or just buying me a coffee through Ko-fi!  Also, don’t forget my 20% off sale on all my divination services through Etsy through the end of January 2018!  All your support will help me keep my website beautiful, awesome, and helpful to myself, you, and the occult community as a whole!

Do you have any suggestions for improving or augmenting my services, supply of goods, crafts, or ideas for posts?  Is there anything glaringly awful about this website you’d love for me to fix, or anything you’d wish me to include for reference and ease of access?  Do you just want to send me a note of encouragement to keep up the Work, or want to say how my own Work has helped you in yours?  Feel free to send me an email through the Contact page and let me know!

With all my heart, thank you!

Towards a Greek Kabbalah: Plotting Paths on the Tetractys

So now we have a basic map of creation based on the tetractys, using a combination of Pythagorean numerology, Neoplatonic cosmology, and Renaissance alchemy to describe how things come to be.  In the beginning, there is the undifferentiated, divinely simple Monad, from which all things ultimately come.  From this Monad comes a Dyad, the Differentiation between Light and Dark, or Heaven and Mundus.  From these two principles comes a Triad, the three Alchemical Reagents of Sulfur, Mercury, and Salt.  From these three reagents come the four Elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.  Collectively, they form the basic building blocks, processes, and guiding principles of all creation, starting from a simple and complete One to a myriad of forms through differentiation, change, and substance.  It’s through the unification of these substances by means of alchemical processes and knowledge, or better, gnosis of principles that we reverse the process of creation to reattain Union, to ascend back to the Monad and Source.  However, these units on the tetractys tell only half the story; they’re centers and ideas unto themselves, but on their own they can’t do much.  They’re cut off from each other and don’t describe how things actually become, just that they do.

This is where the other half of the Tetractys of Life comes from: we have the stages themselves, now we just need the processes that allow things to progress or regress from stage to stage.  These paths, much as the paths on the Tree of Life in Jewish kabbalah or Hermetic qabbalah, describe how power and essence flows from one stage to the next in order to produce creation or guide henosis, and this is where we combine our meditations on the Greek alphabet with those on the tetractys of emanations.  However, in order to make use of them, we first need to actually figure out what the paths themselves should be and what spheres they should connect on the tetractys.  Also, as a side note, let’s start calling the individual units of the tetractys, when using them as alchemical/planetary concepts, as spheres.  Just to make that clear.

So, we have our unconnected Tetractys of Life.  For simplicity, I’ll use the alchemical version:

Alchemical Tetractys

We know that all things are ultimately connected to and come from the Monad.  However, we run into a problem that’s similar to one on the Tree of Life in kabbalah; we can’t reach many of the spheres directly from the Monad since they’re blocked by other spheres.  For instance, although we might want to connect the sphere of Light with that of Fire, we must first travel through the sphere of Sulfur.  Thus, without trying to “skip” the spheres that block its way, the Monad can only connect to the two spheres immediately below it (Light and Darkness) as well as Mercury in the third row (since that way isn’t blocked by another sphere.

In fact, if we simply take an abstract tetractys and plot all possible paths on it, we end up with a set of paths like this:

Possible Paths on the Tetractys

While it looks nice and is as fully connected as we can get, it contains 33 paths, which is nine paths too many for our needs.  Remember, we need to aim for a set of 24, one for each of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet, which themselves encompass all number.  Honestly, I dwelled on this for a good few days, trying to figure out how to best create a set of paths with a coherent logic; some made sense in some ways but felt jarringly off, and others just couldn’t add up to 24 even though the logic was nice.  Eventually, I settled on a way that made sense and had the right number of paths, as well as feeling “right”.

So, let’s start with something simpler than a fully connected set of paths and trying to delete off the tetractys.  First, consider the tetractys itself:

Tetractys

We know that, in the process of generation, the Monad (the single dot in the first row) first produces a Dyad; from a divinely simple and undifferentiated Source comes a distinction, an observer and observed, a Mind and a Word, a Creator and Creature, an active and a passive, a positive and a negative.  This gives us our first two paths on the tetractys:

Tetractys_paths1Since all things contain the Monad within themselves and emulate the actions of the Monad in their own limited way, every point on the tetractys that has a lower level can be given the same two paths.  This is the same as in the generation of Plato’s Lambda (based on geometric series of 2 and 3 and their intermingled products), or Pascal’s Triangle (which is based on the addition of units).  This, then, gives us a set of 12 paths.  We’re halfway done!

Tetractys_paths2

Next, we assign horizontal paths between the units within the same row.  This connects the diversity into a whole order, a cosmos, within each row, reflecting the indivisibility of the Monad when differentiation and division are present in the world.  This gives us another six paths for a total of 18:

Tetractys_paths3

At this point, it’s hard to say what next needs to be connected.  Do we add in paths from the outermost points of the tetractys to the center?  Do we fully connect the points of the fourth row to the third?  Do we connect the second row to the fourth with vertical lines?  This is where we need to start thinking about the relationships between the things that the tetractys represents.  So, let’s take a look at what our alchemical tetractys looks like at this partially-connected stage:

alchemical_tetractys_paths_partial

One option for adding on a set of three paths would be to connect the spheres of the Monad, of Earth, and of Fire to the center sphere of Mercury.  After all, Mercury is common to all things and is present in all substance, right?  While it’s a convenient reason, it doesn’t actually hold up.  First, the Monad doesn’t actually have to connect to anything except the two spheres right below it; as an undifferentiated One, the only thing it can possibly do to become anything more complex is to become Two, after which Two can become Three.  So, the Monad shouldn’t connect to Mercury, although we might consider Mercury to be a “lower register” of the Monad in a more manifest way, being a hermaphroditic Reagent between the polarities of Salt and Sulfur.  For a similar reason, Earth and Fire shouldn’t connect to Mercury, either, since Mercury isn’t actually in them; Earth is the most passive of all the elements, being something like the caput mortuum, or the worthless remains or “dead head” without any Spirit left in them; likewise, Fire is already too hot for Mercury, and is what takes spirit out; there’s no volatile Mercury in Fire because Fire is the action of Spirit.

Another option to add a set of six paths, which would bring us up to 24, would be to connect the Monad to the fourth row to Water and Air, Earth to Light and Sulfur, and Fire to Darkness and Salt.  However, if anything, this is worse than the previous attempt, since all these forces are even more distantly connected and different from each other.  So it’d seem like the outermost points of the tetractys are too “extreme” to be connected any further than the two paths they each already have.  These nine possible paths, connecting each extreme point to the center point as well as to the two center points on far side of the tetractys, aren’t going to work for our purposes.

So, what do we know?  We know of 18 paths we should definitely have, and of nine we shouldn’t.  We have 18 + 9 = 27 paths we’ve considered so far, and 33 – 27 = 6 paths we haven’t yet.  What are those leftover six paths?

Tetractys_paths4a

Six paths revolving around the center from the median two points on each side of the tetractys, altogether forming a hexagram.  Cute, isn’t it?  These last six paths are going to serve us well, but they’re also going to take a much different role in future analyses of the Tetractys of Life.  So, if we fully connect our alchemical Tetractys of Life with these extra six paths, we get the following:

alchemical_tetractys_paths

Here, we have the median two spheres of every side of the tetractys connected to six other spheres, making these spheres all fully connected while leaving the extreme spheres connected only to their most closely associated concepts, both on their own row as well as to their neighbors.  This allows anything “middling” and not extreme (pure unmanifest, base passivity, base activity) to become anything else, including on a different level of manifestation.  For instance, Darkness is able to descend into the purely dark reagent Salt or the hermaphroditic reagent Mercury, but can also be involved in the creation of the dark (feminine) element Water as well as the active reagent Sulfur.  Darkness becoming Water makes sense, as does its corresponding opposite of Light becoming Air, since based on the structure of the tetractys we can claim that Water and Air are “lower registers” of Darkness and Light, much as Mercury is of the Monad itself.  Darkness becoming Sulfur, though?  It seems a little odd, but I claim that this works because the Three Reagents come from both the Two Principles, as a balance needs to be struck within each instead of solely by means of Mercury.  Similar reasons apply for Light being connected to Salt, Salt to Air, and Sulfur to Water.

So, with all of this done, we now have 24 paths on our Tetractys of Life.  Each path represents an ability to shift or change, a process between the stages or ingredients that the individual spheres on the Tetractys represents.  Some spheres cannot be connected to each other because of the need for intermediate stages (a path is interrupted by another sphere between the ultimate origin and destination spheres), or because a sphere is too extreme to be connected to another (a path cannot connect the outermost points of the Tetractys except to its two closest neighbors).  Now that we know of the possible means of transitioning between spheres on the Tetractys, we now have an even stronger tool at our disposal for meditation: the ability to meditatively or contemplatively explore the transitions themselves as processes of change between the stages indicated by the spheres.  While we haven’t gotten into the assignment of letters to the paths just yet, there’s still more analysis to be done on the different ways to divide the paths based on geometry and position, which will help to inform us on how to assign the letters to the paths as well as to guide us in meditation of divine concepts and divine names.

Oh, and if you’d like a more complete Tetractys of Life map that combines both alchemical and astrological symbols, here you go:

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths

Altar and Ritual Framework for Manifestation

After lots of talks with the angels and figuring out how exactly to accomplish something magically, I think I’ve finally settled into a pattern for a manifestation ritual using my magician’s altar, properly called a Table of Manifestation.  Because, you know, it manifests shit.  Fr. Rufus Opus has described the magician’s altar as their terminal to access the cosmos and put in requests or commands to it to magically alter it.  He put up his now well-known Altar Glyph to describe the schematics of such an altar:

Frater Rufus Opus' Altar Glyph

For background on why the altar is set up the way it is, I suggest reading up Cornelius Agrippa’s Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7).  The altar layout, representing our perception and vantage point outwards from the whole cosmos, is primarily designed according to the elements, the building blocks of the world we happen to find ourselves in.  Thus, the things that are fiery are placed in the East, airy in the West, watery in the North, and earthy in the South.  From the inside outwards, we have things under our direct control, things we choose to let loose or bind in the cosmos (this is represented by the four demon princes of the elements, which I hide wrapped up in black silk under my altar and left alone; the surface of the altar uses the central point as the ritual focus space).  Outside that we have the four archangelic kings and the legions of forces/forces themselves that the magician will call upon to bring something into manifestation.  Beyond that we have the four elemental tools, our means to work with both the terrestrial elements and the celestial planets, which allow us to work throughout the cosmos.  Beyond those we have representations of the seven planetary forces, each aligned according to their element, which act as pumps or sources for those forces to pull from.  Beyond that we have…well, really, anything else.  A consecrated candle or lamp is helpful to have, positioned to the East to represent the Infinite Light and Source of All.

Consecrating the Ring of Solomon

This picture illustrates my altar layout, set up for consecrating my magic ring of Solomon a while back.  In the middle is the ritual focus, which is here the ring to be consecrated put atop a Kamea of the Sun as given by Agrippa (book II, chapter 22).  Closest to the focus are four amethyst crystals, each a different Platonic solid, which I use as representations of the four archangelic kings and their forces (tetrahedron/d4 for Michael, octahedron/d8 for Raphael, icosahedron/d20 for Gabriel, cube/d6 for Auriel), each aligned to their proper elemental direction.  Just beyond those I have my four elemental weapons: the Wand of Fire in the East, the Sword of Air in the West, the Cup of Water in the North, and the Disc of Earth in the South.  Outside those I have the seven planetary talismans, again each aligned according to their elemental direction: Mars and the Sun in the East, Jupiter and Venus in the West, Saturn and Mercury in the North, and the Moon in the South.  At the edge of the altar I have my consecrated candle (set in the East) and incense burner, and nearby I have other tools and supplies as needed.

So, I had all these fancy tools lying around on this table I got from Ikea a while back, but…well, never really used them.  Sure, it serves as a display and storehouse for all the energy and forces I work with where I can use or draw on them as necessary, but mostly it sits there gathering dust.  Sure, I use it as a focus to charge stuff I consecrate, but I never really used it in ritual.  It took a lot of figuring out for me about what to use the elemental weapons for; perhaps it’s because of my lack of modern neopagan training or because the old grimoires never really used this set of tools, but I never really got into the habit of using them.  It’s only through continued talks with the angels who have instructed me in their symbolism as well as their ritual use that I got into the habit of using them in ritual, and I’ve finally pieced together how to use them all coherently in a ritual for manifestation.

I feel like this is about as basic and introductory a topic I can get to, but honestly, it (embarrassingly) took me a while to get to this point to even write about this much.  To help prevent other magicians and newbies to magic from getting stuck on how to use that fancy altar with all them tools, here’s a framework I ended up using to manifest or alter something using the magician’s altar.  Influences from this come mostly from the Trithemius ritual of conjuration, as well as elements from the Clavicula Solomonis and other rituals here and there.  Essentially, the ritual framework describes a kind of shortened conjuration but without a crystal, concentrating the force of some sphere or other onto a ritual focus to effect change instead of just a mere chat with an angel or other spirit.

Before even getting anything together, make sure you have an actual intent, goal, and method to accomplish something you want to change.  It’s all well and good to ask the angels for good shit, but it’s better to state clearly what exactly you want from the cosmos, for what purpose you want it, and in what way you plan to obtain or otherwise accomplish what you want.  As always in magic, the more specific you make your request, the more exact and refined your result will be.  It helps to do some prior divination or chatting with the angels or spirits you’ll be working with to make sure your magical plan of attack is solid, as well as making sure any physical activity or material means you want to back up with magic are going to work as well.  When you have that done, figure out the time in which to perform the ritual.  Figuring out the planetary hour and day best associated with the intent and goal is awesome, as is finding a suitable election, or you might just use the phase of the Moon (waxing or waning, full or new) or the direction in which the clock hands move (both up, both down, etc.).  Once you have the basics done, you’ve got a plan.

As with any ritual, start with preparation.  Make sure your altar’s in good order with all the supplies you need at hand (charcoal, lighter, holy water, incense, etc.).  Put on your magical garments and talismans, along with the requisite prayers if needed, as well as prepare yourself with aspersion or ablution with holy water.  You might also consider energetically linking the tools on the table to the central focus, a la Jarandhel’s notion of a crystal grid, to tie everything more closely in practice.  Do whatever energy work, quarter-calling, sevenths-calling, banishing and balancing ritual, or whatever you like to do to get yourself in the proper mindset.  Most importantly, pray.  Pray for guidance, pray for holiness, pray for strength, pray for protection, pray for wisdom, but pray.  You might also call on the help of your HGA, patron gods, supernatural assistants, or similar to empower yourself and make more effective the ritual you’re about to perform.  I generally do all the preparation just before the ritual begins, in the closing minutes of the planetary hour prior to when I want to do my ritual.  As for the actual intent or thing to manifest, the use of a sigil, talisman, figurine, or other stand-in is often helpful; I typically create a sigil with my desire or will and use that.

Once you’re sufficiently prepared and once the appointed time has come, light the candle and consecrate the flame to officially begin the ritual.  Take up the wand, sword, or whatever other tool of intent you prefer up to and including your dominant hand and trace out a circle around your working area, blessing and consecrating the area for the work.  This could be around the altar if it’s free-standing or around a Circle of Art if you’re working within one, with the tool pointed downward at the ground, or around the perimeter of the room if the altar’s not free-standing or if you’d like to use more space than allowed in a Circle, with the tool pointed upward towards the conjunction of the ceiling and walls.  Light the incense and consecrate it, waiting a few seconds to let the incense smoke rise up and fill the space a bit.  I generally wait until I can distinctly smell it for a few seconds before continuing unless I’m in a huge rush.

Now it’s time to call the spirits you’ll be working with.  If you have something specific to consecrate under a particular force, call up the spirits associated with that force; e.g., for solar spirits, you might choose Michael, Nakhiel, and Sorath, along with the aid or blessing of any solar patron deities, familiars, or allies you might have.  If you want to effect some significant change in the cosmos, you might do well to call up all seven planets and all four elements.  Agrippa lists several types of spirits for both the planets and elements and don’t appear to match up immediately, but after talking with both kinds of angels and with Rufus Opus a bit, here’s what I’ve figured out:

  1. Divine force, or the force in the qabbalistic world Atziluth, also associated with the divine Intellect or the element of Fire.  Among the planets, this is the aspect or emanation of God as represented by the godnames of the sephiroth.  Among the elements, however, which are all in the sephirah Malkuth, they’re all kinda lumped together; due to their distant, material nature, the four elements are part of the same divine force.
  2. Mental force, or the force in the qabbalistic world Briah, also associated with the mental abstractions and ideals and the element of Air.  Among the planets, these are the planetary angels.  There is no corollary between this and the elements, since the elements are too low in manifestation to reach this high up in the cosmos.
  3. Guiding force, or the force in the qabbalistic world Yetzirah, also associated with production, feeling, and desire and the element of Water.   These forces indicate how things should be directed and manifested in the world, the design that fulfills the requirements given to the mental force above.  Among the planets, these are the planetary intelligences; among the elements, they are the elemental archangelic kings.
  4. Active force, or the force in the qabbalistic world Assiah, also associated with the concrete force as controlled and effective as well as the element of Earth.  These are like the personified or belegioned forces themselves as opposed to the directing rules or guides; it’s like the charge in a battery instead of the wires that connect it to a radio, which indicate how that charge should flow.  Among the planets, these are the planetary spirits, and among the elements they are the elemental rulers.  Any familiar spirits, elemental or planetary allies, or angels from the forces’ respective choirs are also members of the active force.
  5. Manifesting force, or the force that actually pops up and does stuff in the material world.  These are spirits that actually do and create stuff on this plane with the four elements, the building blocks of this world that the other forces have to manifest through; because of this, there are no planetary forces that fulfill this role, since they’re too abstract and unformed to manifest directly in Malkuth.  Instead, these spirits are strictly elemental, specifically the elemental princes (Oriens, Paymon, etc.), who are close to goetic demons, but are so close to manifested reality that they can directly manifest things on behalf of the higher forces that guide them.  The demonic princes (Samael, Mahazael, etc.) do this too, but in ways that are shitfully terribad (ergo, don’t call on them).

Once you call up the relevant spirits for the forces you want to work with, thank them for their presence, since it always pays to be polite.  Once you get everyone together, the process is fairly straightforward:

  1. Declare your charge to the cosmos and to the spirits present.  Clearly, authoritatively, meaningfully, and wholeheartedly proclaim what you want the spirits gathered to help you achieve and attain in the cosmos, what needs changing or removing or adding to the cosmos, and how you want the manifested thing to take form and effect in your life and reality.  If you have an object, sigil, or figure that represents your intent, display it to the four corners, to the heavens, and to the earth, then place it in the focus of the altar.
  2. With the Wand, call on the divine forces present to turn your Will into cosmic Law.  Proclaim your intent and desired goal, establish your will as something the cosmos, universe, and world shall fulfill, and call on the blessing of the divine force and the assistance of the guiding forces to assist you.  Take up the Wand, point at the ritual focus, and have the Infinite Light begin to manifest around the focus and intent-object (if any).
  3. With the Sword, call on the mental forces present to turn your Reason into cosmic Design.  Straighten the path between divine intent and manifest reality, cut out all obstacles or impediments to manifestation, sharpen your stated will into implementable method, and call on the assistance of the mental force to reverberate the cosmos with your desire and plan.  Take up the Sword, cut the area around the ritual focus, and penetrate into the ritual focus area with the point to let the Light begin to fill the focus.
  4. With the Cup, call on the guiding forces present to turn your Emotion into cosmic Direction.  Pour out your need, fill the world with your desire, and guide the flow of forces you call upon to fill up and take form within the cosmos, calling on the assistance of the guiding forces to direct, guide, and flow the force called upon into manifested reality.  Take up the Cup, make a pouring gesture with it around in a clockwise pattern closing in on the ritual focus, filling the focus with the force you desire and taking form in the manner you desire.
  5. With the Disc, call on the active and manifesting forces present to turn your Reality into cosmic Manifestation.  Actualize your desire, manifest your goal, and have what you desire and will be made concrete, real, physical, material, and effective in all the stated ways, calling on the assistance of the active and manifesting forces to bring the desired goal into manifestation.  Take up the Disc and lower it down onto the ritual focus, pressing the form into concrete, hard shape and seeing it as real as the Disc itself.
  6. Finalize your charge to the cosmos and to the spirits present.  Reiterate your will, intent, desire, and goal to the spirits, proclaim it sealed and finished, and declare your work finished by the authority, power, strength, wisdom, and Light within you and within your manifested intent.  Charge the intent-object by suffumigating it in the incense while repeating any prayers, intoning any mantras or sacred sounds, or visualizing force flowing in and strengthening the intent and manifestation as you find necessary.  Focus the Light from the candle and the Light within yourself onto the ritual focus, supercharging it as bright as the Infinite Light itself, and sending it off as a discrete entity into the cosmos.  Declare the work done using a Great Amen, “So Mote It Be”, “Thus have I spoken/thus are the words”, or similar closing, final statement.

After this, you’re pretty much done.  Ask for any follow-up advice or directions, thank the spirits for their presence and aid, bid them farewell, and give them leave to depart.  Afterward, make any thanksgiving prayers to the Infinite Source, to your patrons or HGA or supernatural assistants, and to any spirits of the cosmos you may find helpful or meaningful.  Put out the candle, remove the ring and ritual garb, and clean up.  You’re done.  Let the intent-object stay in the altar focus for however long you desire, or keep it in a place that can be easily accessed or viewed until the intent is manifested according to your desire.

This is a framework for a ritual, not a ritual itself, since the ritual specification can change depending on what exactly needs to happen; e.g., for consecration of an object under a planetary force, you might do away with calling on the elemental spirits and the use of the Disc entirely, or any of the elemental tools, perhaps using the planetary talisman instead as your tool to channel the force of the planet desired.  The prayers and calls needed for the ritual can also change drastically, but the links I’ve provided above give good grimoire examples of what you might use.  All told, for manifesting things in the cosmos, the above framework is pretty solid, if I do say so myself.

The studious or observant magician will notice that, although I’ve included the forces of the elements and the planets, I haven’t mentioned the sphere of the fixed stars and their forces.  This isn’t because I don’t think they’re worthless, but it’s because I don’t have experience of working with them yet.  In the future, I may begin doing just that, perhaps including the angels of the zodiac signs or the lunar mansions as the guiding forces and Raziel/Iophiel (depending on which text you’re reading) as the mental force, but I haven’t gotten there yet.  Still, the use of the fixed stars isn’t absolutely necessary, though I’m sure it helps; calling on the aid of the planets or elements is quite enough, and enough pagans and more simple magicians than me get by fine with just the four elements, so YMMV.

First Florida Water

Having finally ran out of my Amazon-bought Florida water, I finally decided to make my own.  Florida water’s some good stuff; it’s originally a kind of citrusy perfume or toilet water, but it found its way into American-style magic as a good spiritual cleansing agent and offering to the dead.  It’s pretty Light-based, so dark-workers may not find the stuff particularly useful, but I love the stuff.  I got the basis of the following recipe from a friend, but I customized it and charged it differently than how they did it, so let me share my process with you guys.

Ingredients used:

  • A handle (750mL) of dustbunny-shelf cheap-ass paint thinner vodka (90 proof or above is suggested)
  • A lemon
  • A lime
  • Six cloves, crushed
  • A heaping tablespoon each of dried: vervain, bergamot, lavender, rose petals, hyssop

Process:

  1. On a Sunday in an hour of the Sun while the Moon is waxing, get all your crap together.
  2. Zest the lemon and lime.  Thoroughly juice the lemon and lime.  Slice up the remainder of the flesh and rinds finely.  Put all into a clean 1gal container with an airtight, fitted lid.
  3. Put all the dried ingredients in the container.
  4. Pour the vodka into the container.  You should have plenty of leftover space.
  5. Cap and seal the container.  Give it a good shake.
  6. For each day over the next complete lunation until the Moon returns to its phase when you began, shake the container (preferably in hours of the Sun) thoroughly while charging the mixture with Light and prayers.  (I use my Blessing of Light, the Trisagion six times, and the Song of the Serpent six times).
  7. When complete, separate out all the solid ingredients, strain out all possible liquid from them, and save the Florida water in appropriate bottles.

While the Florida water was stewing, it had about the right scent, but also smelled obnoxiously like salad dressing or dill-based vinaigrette.  It was a little annoying, but the smell went away once the plant matter was strained out well enough and once I added another half liter of distilled water (may as well dilute it ahead of time and get rid of some of the alcoholic kick).  It came out a light, murky brown-green, but for how it capital-L Looks ethereally, it’s pretty bright and solar for what I want.  Overall, a success!  I’m eager to use it, especially since it’s a whole handle of the stuff.

Florida Water, stewing

I like to use Florida water in cleansing mixtures (a spray bottle of holy water, 7-11 Holy Oil, and Florida water to cleanse all my magical tools, for instance), as well as putting a bit in my aftershave astringent.  I’ll also put a splash into liquid offerings I make to the local dead or nature spirits, since apparently a lot of things enjoy this stuff, though it might be kept away from dark or deathy entities or workers.

UPDATE (2/18/2013): After Andrew’s comment below, I went through and filtered the Florida water.  I had already used a fine-mesh strainer to get most of the gunk out, but after filtering it through cheesecloth and coffee filters, the color changed into a bright and smooth amber.  Very nice improvement.

Filtered Florida Water