Lighting the Shrine to Light the Way

Once again, I’ve found myself in the doldrums when it comes to regular practice, and once again, I periodically check in on my temple room and get a profound urge to organize, downsize, and redo so much of it.  Spirits that no longer serve, shrines I no longer tend to, tools I’ve collected but have long since forgotten what purpose they were supposed to get to—eventually, bit by bit, it all compounds upon itself, leading to a massive feeling of obligation and no means to resolve it, and thus also leading to a complete paralysis and inability to even want to do anything about it.  It is, of course, a familiar cycle, and it turns on again and again, as it ever has.

Part of the usual turning of this cycle, as it seems to turn out, is where I reconsider my main shrine, the point at which I do the bulk of all my Hermetic prayers.  I’ve had one ever since I started all this stuff back when I got into Rufus Opus’ Red Work Course way back when in 2011, and have kept it in some form or another ever since, ranging from a simple nightstand at the foot of my Ikea folding bed in my old apartment to a long sidetable in a temple room in my old place to a much wider and taller desk-type setup in the temple room where I live now.  Just as the shape and size of the surface itself has changed, so too has what’s gone on it, from a simple candle and corner for my HGA to a candle with the seven archangels and my HGA and Mary as Queen of Heaven, to a…well, much more elaborate setup I had involving the four progenitors of geomancy with the Sun and Moon, or alternatively angelic representations of the North and South Nodes of the Moon, etc.  That I’ve always had a shrine to do my Hermetic stuff at hasn’t changed, but the shape and format of my shrine has, reflecting different stages of my spiritual development, experimentation, and thinking about what it is I’m actually doing.

In addition to the various things I’ve already tried, I’ve also considered a bunch of other things, too, that I thought about as incorporating as devotional elements that might be nice for a Hermetic practice:

  • A natural tall-ish stone, or a brick/stone pyramid, situated and rising from a bowl of water to represent the Benben mound of Egyptian cosmogonic myth
  • An image (statue, scroll, painting, etc.) of Hermēs Trismegistos, either with or without accompanying (and perhaps smaller) images of his students Tat, Asklēpios, and Ammōn
  • An image of the Agathodaimōn or HGA
  • An image of the Divine Cosmos or of Divine Nature (much as one might find in Jeffrey Kupperman’s excellent Living Theurgy: A Course in Iamblichus’ Philosophy, Theology, and Theurgy)
  • A small abstract model of Adocentyn (or, as one might consider it, Hermopolis Theia) from the Picatrix
  • A pair of images to represent the Sun and Moon, or of the seven planets
  • Images or symbols of one’s general faith and religion, especially if one syncretizes Hermeticism with another religion or practices it as a mystical approach to another religion (e.g. a crucifix for Christian Hermeticists)
  • Calligraphy of sacred words, verses, or statements of faith

All of these are nice, I admit, and they all reflect different ideas, approaches, and meanings that can be used towards Hermeticism.  However, despite all of these things that one might feasibly use, I’ve always felt strongly about one thing that one must use in such a Hermetic shrine, and that’s a sacred light burning on the shrine: the shrine lamp itself.  All else is effectively up to the individual’s choice, but the shrine lamp must be present, I’d claim.  It’s something I’ve always had going for my own shrines, to be sure, in one form or another, whether a plain glass-encased white novena candle in the center and back of my shrine or a Moroccan tealight lantern hanging above my shrine.  More than that, it’s not just that it’s a habit of mine, but rather that it makes sense to have it.

So, why a shrine lamp at all?  In my view, this lantern or candle or whatever burning with a sacred flame represents the pure light and holy presence of God.  I mean, light as a thing is a hugely important notion in the classical texts of Hermeticism, like the elaborate revelation of Poimandrēs to Hermēs Trismegistos in book I of the Corpus Hermeticum, how all things were originally light and it is from this light that all creation came to be and that light is the origin of mind itself.  I’ve not just explored the sacred notion and use of light in my own home and life before, but also in how it can be used in a religious sense in geomancy with its Islamic origins, but there’s also an interesting notion at play that I really want to focus on today: that of the story of Hermēs Trismegistos and the Perfect Nature from the Picatrix (book III, chapter 6).  I wrote a five-part series of posts about it a ways back (The Spiritual Nature(s) of Perfect Nature, Analyzing the Vignette and the Names, Ritual Prep and Setting the Altar, Associations of the Four Powers, and The Ritual Itself, and Why Do It Anyway), and the story there is a really interesting one (using Warnock/Greer’s translation):

When I wished to understand and draw forth the secrets of the workings of the world and of its qualities, I put myself above a certain pit that was very deep and dark, from which a certain impetuous wind blew; nor was I able to see anything in the pit, on account of its obscurity.  If I put a lit candle in it, straightway it was extinguished by the wind.

Then there appeared to me in a dream a beautiful man of imperial authority, who spoke to me as follows: “Put that lit candle in a lantern of glass, and the impetuosity of the wind will not extinguish it. You should lower the lantern into the pit, in the middle of which you should dig; thence you may draw forth an image by which, when you have drawn it forth, the wind from the pit will be extinguished, and then you will be able to hold the light there. Then you should dig in the four corners of the pit, and from there you may draw out the secrets of the world and of Perfect Nature, and its qualities, and the generation of all things.”

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

In my second post on the series, I explored this little vignette, and tried to analyze it in the context of what I knew, seeing it as a mirrored version of Hermēs’ ascent into the heavens in classical pagan literature with here a chthonic descent into treasure realms in later Islamic literature.  However, what I was unaware of when I wrote that post series is that such an interpretation (which I still think has some merit as a symbolic reinterpretation) isn’t quite reasonable when one takes a broader view of the literature and myths available to the writer(s) of the Picatrix.  For instance, if we were to turn to, say, the Kitāb sirr al-ḫalīqa, or the Book of the Secret of Creation and the Art of Nature attributed to Balīnūs of Tuaya (aka Apollonius of Tyana), which the first text we know of that contains the short text of the Emerald Tablet, we see a super similar story, indeed.  Turning to Jason Colavito’s translation:

I was an orphan of the people of Tuaya, totally indigent and destitute of everything. There was in the place where I lived a statue of stone raised on a column of wood; on the column one could read these words: “I am Hermes, to whom knowledge has been given; I have made this wonderful work in public, but afterward I hid the secrets of my art, so that they can only be discovered by a man as learned as I am.” On the breast of the statue one could similarly read these words written in ancient language: “If anyone wishes to know the secret of the creation of beings, and in what way nature has been formed, he should look under my feet.” They came in crowds to see this statue, and everyone looked under its feet without seeing anything.

As for me, I was still a weak child; but when I was stronger, and I attained a more advanced age, having read the words that were on the chest of the statue, I understood the meaning, and I undertook to dig the ground under the foot of the column. I discovered a subterranean vault where a thick darkness reigned, and in which the light of the sun could not penetrate. If one wanted to carry in the light of a torch, it was immediately extinguished by the movement of the winds which blew ceaselessly. I found no way to follow the path I had discovered, because of the darkness that filled the underground; and the force of the winds which blew through it did not allow me to enter by the light of the torch. Unable to overcome these obstacles, I slipped into depression, and sleep took hold of my eyes.

While I slept an anxious and restless sleep, my mind occupied with the subject of my pain, an old man whose face resembled mine appeared before me and said to me: “Arise, Balīnūs, and enter into this underground path; it will lead you to knowledge of the secrets of creation, and you will come to know how nature was formed.” “The darkness,” I replied, “prevents me from discerning anything in this place, and no light can withstand the wind blowing there.” Then this old man said to me: “Balīnūs, place your light under a transparent vessel. It will thus be sheltered from the winds which will be able to put it out, and it will illuminate this dark place.” These words restored joy to my soul; I felt that I would finally enjoy the object of my desire, and I addressed the man with these words: “Who are you,” I said to him, “to whom I am indebted for such a great blessing?” “I am,” he replied, “your creator, the perfect being.”

At that moment I awoke, filled with joy, and placing a light under a transparent vessel, as I had been ordered to do, I descended underground. I saw an old man sitting on a throne of gold, holding in one hand a tablet of emerald, on which was written: “This is the formation of nature”; before him was a book on which this was written: “This is the secret of the creation of beings, and the science of the causes of all things”” I took this book boldly, and without fear, and I departed from this place. I learned what was written in this book of the Secret of the Creation of Beings; I understood how nature was formed, and I acquired knowledge of the causes of all things. My knowledge made my name famous; I knew the art of talismans, and marvelous things, and I penetrated the combinations of the four elementary principles, their different compositions, their antipathies, and their affinities.

The similarities here are beyond happenstance; to my mind, it’s clear that the Picatrix’s account of Hermēs coming in contact with Perfect Nature so as to enter a dark pit falls into the same lineage of myths and vignettes as this one of Apollonius coming in contact with Perfect Nature so as to enter the tomb of Hermēs himself.  In either case, note the crucial thing that this spirit suggests so as to enter the windy darkness and see what is within: a light encased within glass, the line to shine into the darkness and the glass to protect the light.  In my earlier analysis of the vignette from the Picatrix, I understood this to be a metaphor for protecting one’s own mind:

In a dream, Perfect Nature came and told Hermēs to protect the candle from the wind in a lamp so that the wind will not extinguish it.  Seeing how encased lamps are a truly ancient invention, I’m surprised that this had to be pointed out to Hermēs.  However, this is also symbolic…By using the candle as one’s awareness, Hermēs trying to ascend into the heavens without preparation and protection, shutting himself off from the violent passions of the world and the influences of fate produced by the planets.

I arrived at this interpretation with help from the Chronos Speaks blog on this very same topic:

This in mind, Hermes’ mysterious description of the method of contacting Perfect Nature starts to make a lot more sense. The “deep pit” is sleep itself which drags one down into the oblivion of unconsciousness if we are not successful in achieving lucidity, the “impetuous wind” is the mental noise that prevents both sleep and lucidity (and which seems to get much stronger at the critical point), the “candle” is the light of awareness itself, and the “glass lantern” that protects awareness from being blown out is the recitation of the names of the Perfect Nature itself.

Of course, this is all in addition to what I said before about the light itself being representative of God, and the use of a sacred fire to do this is far from uncommon.  There is, of course, the holy fires of Zoroastrian temples who see the ātar as the visible presence of Ahura Mazda, as well as the ner tamid of Jewish synagogues and the altar lamps of Christian churches, but even other early monotheistic movements in the early Roman Empire period had similar practices, like those of the Hypsistarians.  And, of course, from Islam, there’s the famous Āyat an-Nūr, the Verse of Light from the Qur’ān 24:35:

God is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth.
The image of his Light is that of a niche.  In it is a lamp.
The lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a brilliant star.
Lit from the oil of a blessed olive tree, neither of the East nor of the West,
whose oil would almost glow on its own even if fire had not touched it.
Light upon Light!
God guides to his Light whom he wills.
God gives images to follow for his people.
God is All-Knowing of all things.

This is a beautiful praise of Allah, and is a qur’anic verse that I myself like to contemplate and use in my own prayers, given the harmony it has with so much else I do.  If you can get past the formatting, this webpage from The Ideal Muslimah contains not just practice for learning it by heart, but also includes a bunch of exegetical commentary and interpretations of the verse, which I think are also super neat to expand on.  I mean, while I don’t think lamps are used in the same symbolic way in mosques as they are in synagogues or churches, there is a history of mosque lamps used for illumination in mosques generally, and it’s a tradition that such lamps are also themselves decorated with the Verse of Light.

All this to say that I think that the use of a shrine lamp for a Hermetic shrine/altar/temple/prayer-space/what-have-you is crucial, above and beyond anything else one might have, and—taking a cue from the Islamic Hermetic literature—we can give it a form: a flame in glass.  This can be as simple as a tealight in a glass votive holder or a glass-encased novena candle on its own, but I’d prefer to make it a proper enclosed lantern, like a Moroccan lantern or something, where the enclosure not only allows for the flame to be carried about but also offers it protection from wind, breath, splatters, and other environmental hazards (and, likewise, protects the environment from it).  Sure, a candle in such a lantern would work totally fine (it’s what I myself have been using for quite some time), but I think there’s something more potent in using an actual oil lamp, not least because candles can be expensive and hard to maintain a continuity of flame with, while oil lamps are easier to refill and keep going endlessly.  Oil-wise, olive oil would be great, and while I’m not opposed to the use of animal products for such a thing, I’d personally find value in sticking to plant-based oils, if at all possible.  Barring either candles or oil lamps, of course, an electric lamp would also suffice—it, too, is a burning of energy to provide light, and it’s not like it’s any less useful than other things while also being generally safer to maintain; however, I prefer the care and glow of an actual flame whenever possible, viewing its maintenance as a devotional and meditative gesture in and of itself.

As for the lamp itself, while a traditional kind of terracotta-handled low lamp we think of from the classical Mediterranean world would work (like as I’ve described before), a Hindu-style akhand diya, Buddhist-style butter lamps, or Chinese-style oil lamps of a cup of oil layered on top of water with a floating wick would all be great, since it can be more easily be refilled, and a plain glass hurricane chimney could be placed around it.  Of course, for those who would want a more modern approach, there are a variety of mineral oil/paraffin oil/kerosene oil lamps that were common sights prior to the mass spread of electricity, which would also work great (though require different handling than natural oil lamps that don’t flow as easily or quickly as kerosene), or even better, modern battery-operated/rechargable LED-powered butter lamps that do a decent job at simulating the feel and appearance of an actual lamp flame.   In any case, taking a symbolic cue from the Verse of Light and a practical one from the Picatrix/Book of the Secrets of Creation vignettes, whatever the source of light would be, the glass itself that surrounds it should be clear and clean, preferably uncolored and unpatterned so as to allow the pure light of the flame to shine out.

For me, the shrine lamp would need to be placed in a position of relative importance.  Right now, my shrine lamp (a Moroccan metal tealight lantern) is suspended above the surface of the shrine by about two feet or so, but with my earlier shrines from before, I’ve always had a tall candle or other lightsource burning on a stone trivet in the center and towards the back of the shrine.  I might end up going back to that older format, since I find having the lamp at a more convenient height to gaze upon to be a benefit to my practice, though I do like the notion of having some elevation for it, as well.  So long as it’s at a comfortable height at least above the heart’s position, based on how one would normally pray at such a shrine, that would be fine; keeping it at eye-level when standing may also be appropriate, depending on shrine (and temple) layout, but that might be too high if, for instance, one usually prays while kneeling without getting a crick in the neck.

And then, of course, there’s the actual lighting of the lamp.  For such a thing with such central importance to my devotional space and mystic work, the shrine lamp deserves a bit of extra thought and care when lighting it, as it’s no mere candle or anything.  There are plenty of ways one might go about consecrating a flame for some holy work or other; I’ve offered such prayers in my Preces Castri and Preces Templi ebooks, but one might also reasonably use a modified form of the consecration of the fire for incense from Drawing Spirits Into Crystals, an example of which I’ve already shared as part of my own candle consecration procedure on my website and which has similar parallels in other grimoiric texts like the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano.  Heck, if the Abrahamic and grimoiric stuff doesn’t cut it, there’s always my PGM framing rite approach, too.  If long prayers like that don’t feel right, there’s always the recitation of scripture, too; while the quranic Verse of Light is a great one, there’s a bunch from the Tanakh and the New Testament, too, like Psalms 119:105 (or the entire verse, Ps. 119:105—112, all given to the letter Nun, which is the same letter that starts of the word ner or Light) or Matthew 5:14—16.  Of course, all these things are great to say for lighting the lamp, but not everyone can (or feels comfortable to) leave a burning lamp untended or to let it burn out; in cases where the flame cannot be kept going, the lamp must be extinguished, and there are plenty of prayers one might also say when doing that, too.  Lots of options abound, as ever.

In the end, all of this is really just to say that I think that a shrine lamp is really the quintessential part of a Hermetic shrine, the sine qua non that not only represents the presence of God in our lives and which gives us a focus to which to pray as an aid for ourselves, but also which represents us in our own work.  Just as in CH I where it is written that mind comes from light and in CH VII where a holy place is described where “the light cleansed of darkness” shines, or even in CH X where Hermēs describes to Tat the holy light of the Good that shines forth without blinding or harming us, the presence of a sacred flame should be immediately understood to a Hermeticist in the context of a shrine.  Encasing it in glass, rendering a lamp or candle into a lantern, protects the flame, and so too should it be a reminder to protect ourselves in the quest for this selfsame light, while also serving to magnify and beautify the flame itself for all who can gaze upon it.

I suppose I have more cleaning to do of my temple room to get to that point, and a lot of reconsidering to do of what I really need to get there, but at least I won’t do so in darkness.

The Prayer of Refuge

Do you want a 3000-word-plus prayer for protection against all harm?  Of course you do.  The whole thing will fit comfortably on six pages, less if you use a small enough font size.

Okay, I admit that I’ve been super busy lately, and even though the Salem Folklore & Witchcraft Festival has come to an end (which you can still get the recordings through the end of 2020 for all the classes!), there’s just…so much going on, and it’s easy to get bogged down, run through, and torn up by everything.  To that end, while I have a whole bunch of nebulous ideas of things I want to write, I’m having to prioritize my time between those and the things that actually need doing around my house and job.  To that end, there’re a lot of drafts piling up in my blog box, but not a lot coming out of it.  One day, I’ll get to them.

In the meantime, one of the things I’m going through is working through my own prayerbook again, reorganizing it, taking out the things I don’t use (or don’t care to use), rewording the things I’m not yet comfortable with, and the like.  One of the prayers is…well, I did come up with it, sure.  It’s one I call, rather boringly enough, the “Prayer of Refuge”, written as a generally Abrahamic-ish monotheistic prayer appealing to God for protection from…well, just about everything.  Protection from all evil wrought upon oneself, and forgiveness for all the evil one has wrought; why not?  The prayer was inspired largely by the famous Lorica of Saint Patrick, but also was based in part on the Benedicite, the Doxology of the Seventh Firmament from the Sepher haRazim, the Sanctus prayer, and the books Al-Ikhlās., Al-Falaq, and An-Nās from the Noble Qur’ān, along with a bevy of other Islamic supplications against witchcraft and spiritual afflictions.  I…may have gotten a little carried away when enumerating everything to ward against, but hey, go big or go home, and since we’re all already home anyway…

What I ended up with is, frankly, a beast of a protective prayer.  It’s far from the worst sort, to be sure, and it’s definitely got some oomph in it.  Besides, it’s not like such lengthy charms of protection aren’t otherwise extant across any number of traditions, but even this one is pretty sizable, indeed.  However, given the other tricks up my sleeve, this is one I just don’t have a need to turn to anytime soon, except perhaps if someone needs it said for them who’s under a severe case of spiritual affliction from a wide number of sources.  To that end, because other people might need such a thing more than me—and since we all have a fair chunk of free time nowadays, for some definition of “free”—I figured I’d share this bit of my own prayerbook today.  I’ll also move it up to the Prayers menu, too, for easier reference in the future.

Although this prayer is presented below as being broken up into segments, they are all intended to be read in a single sitting in succession.  For best results, try doing this after a period of fasting and purification while also making charity for those who are oppressed.

Preliminary Invocation

In the name of God, with God, from God, unto God, and in the way of God,
for there is no strength and no power save with God,
for we come from God and return to God,
and all things are done only through God!

The Glorification of and Appeal to God

All glory, all praise, all reverence, all honor be to God,
the Lord of the Great Throne, the Father of Heaven, the Fountain of Light,
the King of all kings, the God of all gods, the Creator of all creation!
God is prior to all things, for God was when Heaven and Earth was not.
God wills, and what he wills happens, and what he does not will does not happen.
God searches hearts before they are formed, and knows thoughts before they are made.
God has power over all things, and encompasses all things in his knowledge!
God made the whole of the cosmos and all within it,
God made the Day and the Night to follow each other in turn,
God made the Sun and Moon and planets and stars subservient to his command,
God gave to Heaven its strength, to the Stars their brilliance,
to the Sun its light, to the Moon its radiance,
to the Fire its splendor, to the Water its sweetness,
to the Lightning its speed, to the Wind its swiftness,
to the Sea its depth, to the Earth its stability,
to the Mountain its height, to the Forest its lushness,
to the Rock its firmness, to the Soil its fertility,
to the Winter its cold, to the Summer its heat,
to the Angels their greatness, to the Prophets their prophecy.
God created all things and ordered all things,
God sustains all things and judges all things,
God commands all things and rules all things,
and by all that God has ordained,
I appeal to God for his mercy, his forgiveness his refuge, and his protection!

Taking Refuge from Evil

I take refuge in God, the One and Only, the First and Last, the Highest and Holiest,
He who creates all things that exist and is not created by anything created,
He who depends upon nothing yet upon whom all depend.
He who surpasses every power and excellence,
He who has neither equal nor comparison,
I take refuge in God, the Lord of Dawn, the Lord of Daybreak, the Lord of Light,
from the evil that lies waiting within creation,
from the evil of darkness when it settles,
from the evil of those who work ill upon me,
from the evil of those who wish ill upon me.
I take refuge in God, the Lord of Mankind, the King of Mankind, the God of Mankind,
from the evil of the whispering enemy and of the whispering devils,
from the evil of those who whisper in the hearts of mankind,
from the evil of those who whisper in the hearts of spirits,
from the evil of those who retreat upon the remembrance of God.
I take refuge in God!

Taking Refuge in the Glories of God

I take refuge in all the wondrous names of God!
I take refuge in the might and power of God,
I take refuge in the strength and pride of God,
I take refuge in the presence and sovereignty of God,
I take refuge in the justice and judgment of God,
I take refuge in the beginninglessness and endlessness of God,
I take refuge in the immanence and transcendence of God,
I take refuge in the assistance and security of God,
I take refuge in the protection and preservation of God,
I take refuge in the nourishment and restoration of God,
I take refuge in the resurrection and life of God,
I take refuge in the kindness and guidance of God,
I take refuge in the mercy and forgiveness of God,
I take refuge in the sight and hearing of God,
I take refuge in the awareness and knowing of God,
I take refuge in the wisdom and knowledge of God,
I take refuge in the nobility and highness of God,
I take refuge in the glory and greatness of God,
I take refuge in the beauty and majesty of God,
I take refuge in the grandeur and subtlety of God,
I take refuge in the peace and splendor of God,
I take refuge in the holiness and perfection of God,
I take refuge in the truth and light of God,
I take refuge in God!

Taking Refuge on All Sides and All Times

I take refuge in God throughout my life!
I take refuge in God on my right,
I take refuge in God on my left,
I take refuge in God above me,
I take refuge in God below me,
I take refuge in God before me,
I take refuge in God behind me,
I take refuge in God inside me,
I take refuge in God outside me,
I take refuge in God around me,
I take refuge in God when I sleep and when I awake,
I take refuge in God when I lie and when I sit,
I take refuge in God when I arise and when I stand,
I take refuge in God when I move and when I abide,
I take refuge in God when I speak and when I think,
I take refuge in God when I hear and when I see,
I take refuge in God when I eat and when I drink,
I take refuge in God at all times,
I take refuge in God on every day,
I take refuge in God in every place,
I take refuge in God with every act.
I take refuge in God!

Taking Refuge from Every Harm

I take refuge in God from all evils threatening me!
I take refuge in God from the evil of every devil and demon,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every archon and prince,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every influence and power,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every corruption and temptation,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every fear and terror,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every lie and deceit,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every delusion and hallucination,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every treason and espionage,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every snare and trap,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every gossip and smear,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every suffering and affliction,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every instability and infirmity,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every pain and plague,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every illness and injury,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every weakness and wound,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every chaos and tragedy,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every calamity and accident,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every fire and flood,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every earthquake and disaster,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every storm and gale,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every famine and drought,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every pursuit and war,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every accusation and imprisonment,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every abandonment and neglect,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every loss and impoverishment,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every creature and beast,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every spirit and ghost,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every witch and poisoner,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every smith and mage,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every alchemist and astrologer,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every priest and scholar,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every thief and brigand,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every killer and rapist,
I take refuge in God from the evil of every abuser and torturer,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that I am aware,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that I am unaware,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that I am frightened,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that I am unfrightened,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that was done to me intentionally,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that was done to me unintentionally,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that was done to my body,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that was done to my soul,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that was done to my spirit,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that was done to my mind,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that was done to my food,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that was done to my drink,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that was done to my possessions,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that was done to my land,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that was done to my home,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that was done to my household,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that was done to my work,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that was done to my roads,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that was done to my family,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that was done to my friends,
I take refuge in God from the evil of all that was done to my secrets,
I take refuge in God from the evil of the evil eye,
I take refuge in God from the evil of the untimely death,
I take refuge in God from the evil of the curse,
I take refuge in God from the evil of the cross,
I take refuge in God from the evil of the binding,
I take refuge in God from the evil of the whisper,
I take refuge in God from the evil of those who threaten me,
I take refuge in God from the evil of those who hate me,
I take refuge in God from the evil of those who despise me,
I take refuge in God from the evil of those who are envious of me,
I take refuge in God from the evil of those who are jealous of me,
I take refuge in God from the evil of those who are fearful of me,
I take refuge in God from the evil of those who are enraged towards me,
I take refuge in God from the evil of those who perform mischief and trickery,
I take refuge in God from the evil of those who perform witchcraft and rituals,
I take refuge in God from the evil of those who perform incantations and spells,
I take refuge in God from the evil of those who perform conjuration and inscription,
I take refuge in God from the evil of those who perform sacrifice and bloodletting,
I take refuge in God from the evil of those who perform false prophecy and false blessings,
I take refuge in God from the evil of those who inspire others to evil,
I take refuge in God from every evil, from all evil, from evil itself!
I take refuge in God!

The Breaking of Evil

In the name of God, with God, from God, unto God, and in the way of God,
for there is no strength and no power save with God,
for we come from God and return to God,
and all things are done only through God!
God the Most High, God the Most Holy,
God the Most Merciful, God the Most Compassionate,
God the Almighty, God the All-Aware, God the All-knowing, God the All-Seeing!
I entrust all I am and I all I have and all I do to God,
I am safe from the evils threatening me in the refuge of God!
God judges in truth, evening the scales of justice and speaking in righteousness!
God upholds those who uphold him!
God keeps faith with those who keep faith with him!
God keeps the pure close to him in his mercy and protection,
but drives the impure away in his unconquerable wrath!
In all the Heavens God is feared, and by all the angels God is revered,
For when God raises his voice the gods themselves tremble,
and when he roars the pillars of Heaven and Earth shake.
Nothing and no one can repel the might of God,
nothing and no one can annul the commands of God!
God seizes all events that would threaten me and blocks them from occurring!
God seizes all things that would threaten me and smashes them into nothing!
God seizes all magics that would threaten me and unravels them in an instant!
God seizes all people who would threaten me and casts them out now!
God seizes all spirits who would threaten me and banishes them utterly!
God seizes all enemies who would threaten me and vanquishes them easily!
Nothing and no one is as great as God is, nothing and no one is as mighty as God is!
All the evils that threaten me cannot reach me in the protection of God!
All the evils that threaten me cannot harm me in the protection of God!
All the evils that threaten me are cut off in the protection of God!
All the evils that threaten me are destroyed in the protection of God!
I take refuge, seeking protection from the evils threatening me, in God!
I am safe from the evils threatening me in the refuge of God!

The Appeal for Forgiveness from God

And as I take refuge in God for protection from the evils threatening me,
I implore God for his forgiveness and his mercy for the evil within myself that harms myself.
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil within me,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of what I have done that I should not have done,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of what I have not done that I should have done,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of my vice,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of my lust,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of my gluttony,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of my greed,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of my sloth,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of my wrath,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of my pride,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of my apathy,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of my attachment,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of my addiction,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of my intentions,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of my neglect,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of my ignorance,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of all that I have committed against God,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of all that I have committed against the angels,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of all that I have committed against the prophets,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of all that I have committed against Heaven,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of all that I have committed against Earth,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of all that I have committed against creation,
I seek the forgiveness of God for the evil of all that I have committed against mankind,
I seek the forgiveness of God.

The Thanksgiving for Forgiveness

God is abundant in his forgiveness and unsurpassed in his mercy,
whose forgiveness and mercy are immeasurable, everlasting, indefatigable,
in whose forgiveness and mercy I take refuge from my own evil!
I am safe from the evil within myself that harms myself in the refuge of God!
For all that he has forgiven me and all that he has given unto me,
do I give my thanks to God, do I bless God!
All glory, all praise, all reverence, all honor be to God,
the Lord of the Great Throne, the Father of Heaven, the Fountain of Light,
the King of all kings, the God of all gods, the Creator of all creation!
In God do I take refuge, and from God do I seek mercy!

The Song of Glory

Blessed be God in his refuge, and blessed in his forgiveness and mercy!
Blessed be God in the Heavens on high, and blessed in the lands of the Earth.
Blessed be God in his might, and blessed in the beauty of his power.
Blessed be God in his glory, and blessed in the beauty of his dignity.
Blessed be God in his splendor, and blessed in the beauty of his strength.
Blessed be God in his majesty, and blessed in the beauty of his throne.
Blessed be God in the mists of brilliance, and blessed in the clouds of glory.
Blessed be God in the storehouses of snow, and blessed in the rivers of flames.
Blessed be God in the chains of fire, and blessed in the ropes of flame.
Blessed be God in the peals of thunder, and blessed in the bolts of lightning.
Blessed be God amid all the deserts, and blessed amid the waves of the sea.
Blessed be God in each generation, and blessed in all the people of every land.
Blessed be God in the heights of the Earth, and blessed in the depths of the Earth.
Blessed be God in the mouths of all people, and blessed in the song of every creature.
Blessed be God for ages and ages, and blessed for an eternity of eternities.
Blessed be God, now and forever!
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts,
Heaven and Earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest!*
Blessed is he who comes, has come, and will come in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest!

The Concluding Invocation

In the name of God, with God, from God, unto God, and in the way of God,
for there is no strength and no power save with God,
for we come from God and return to God,
and all things are done only through God!

Three Prayers for Times of Illness and Disease

A prayer of my personal practice for the Archangel Raphael, the Healing of God, based on the Chaplet of Saint Raphael the Archangel and other Christian prayers, and which may be useful in these times.

In the name of God, the Holy, the Light, the All-Knowing, the All-Aware!
Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of Hosts, Heaven and Earth are full of your glory,
and your glory is known to us through your glorious angel Raphael.
Holy, mighty, and wondrous is your angel Raphael!
O Raphael the Healer, angel restoring us to health!
O Raphael the Guide, angel giving us Light on the way!
O Raphael the Companion, angel accompanying us to joy!
Divine physician, heavenly scientist, celestial traveler,
it is upon you we call, to you we lift our hands seeking succor!
When all hope is lost, Raphael, you give us hope.
When all health is lost, Raphael, you give us health.
When all love is lost, Raphael, you give us love.
When all life is lost, Raphael, you give us life.
When all seems lost, Raphael, you turn back the tide
of darkness, of sorrow, of misery and misfortune
and restore us to a whole, hale, happy and holy life.

In every trial, holy Raphael, stand for us!
Be our advocate in Heaven at the end of days!
Be our support in every problem we face!
Be our sight in every dark night we see!
Be our healer in every illness we suffer!
Be our leader in every journey we undertake!
Be our strength in every battle we join!
May God send upon you peace, holy Raphael,
and upon your wings, may you send peace upon us all.

Amen.

A tasbīḥ-styled set of prayers using the misbaḥa, the ring of Islamic prayer beads of three sets of 33 beads.  This prayer practice is largely original, but incorporates the Jewish blessing Birkhat haGomel.

  1. Recite once: “In the name of God who lives and reigns forever.”
  2. On each of the first set of 33 beads, recite: “O cure of all diseases, lead me to health.”
  3. On the first separator, recite: “God willing, o Raphael, come swiftly to my aid.”
  4. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite: “O terror of all demons, lead me to virtue.”
  5. On the second separator, recite: “God willing, o Raphael, come swiftly to my aid.”
  6. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite: “O guide of all paths, lead me to victory.”
  7. Recite once: “Blessed are you, o Lord of Creation, who bestows upon me every goodness.”

And one last prayer, this one for general healing from illness based on the Noble Qur’ān (verses 21:83-84) and several Islamic supplications attributed to the Prophet Muḥammad for healing diseases.  This may be prayed for oneself, for another person at the appropriate places, ideally using their matronym (e.g. “John son of Elizabeth”), or on behalf of all who are ill and suffering from illness.

O God, my God, hear me my prayers,
o you who preserve us through all our suffering,
o you who sustain us all the days of our lives,
o you who restore us to good health and living,
o you who keep us alive until the proper time of our return to you.

In my body abides illness; only you can remove it, o Lord.
Truly have I been seized by distress and torment in my body and my soul,
but you are most merciful among all the merciful,
and in you I take refuge from all the pain and fear I suffer.

In my body abides disease; only you can provide the cure for it, o Lord.
Truly are you the best healer and keeper of health,
for without you, we have nothing and are nothing,
and you provide solutions without problems, cures without illness.

Truly are you are the cure of all cures, the key to all salvation!
Free me, release me, save me, deliver me from this suffering!
O God, cure me of all illness.
O God, cure me of all sickness.
O God, cure me of all disease.
O God, cure me of all infection.
O God, cure me of all infestation.
O God, cure me of all plague.
O God, cure me of all affliction.
O God, cure me of all pollution.
Free me, release me, save me, deliver me from this suffering!

Restore me to my health, that I may continue to give my praise to you!
Sustain me in my health, that I may continue to give my glory to you!
Preserve me in my health, that I may continue to give my worship to you!
Protect me in my health, that I may continue to give my devotion to you!

Amen.

May all I, all those with me, all those who have gone before me, all those who come after me, and all people in all parts of the world of all ages, cultures, languages, origins, faiths, practices, and habits find respite in this time of trouble, health in this time of pandemic, comfort in this time of distress, and peace in this time of turmoil.

On Prayer Beads, Devotions to Gabriel, and a New Way of Doing Just That

I think that, as of this moment…god, how many sets of prayer beads do I have in my temple room? Seven chaplets for the archangels I made myself, one rosary each for Mary the Theotokos and for Saint Cyprian of Antioch and for my ancestor shrine, a chaplet of Saint Cyprian of Antioch I designed myself, an Orthodox Christian prayer rope, a set of tiger’s eye prayer beads I made for solar work (specifically for a variant of my Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios), a set of labradorite prayer beads I made for my Holy Guardian Angel, a chaplet for Hermēs based on the work of the good Dr. Jeffrey S. Kupperman (yes, that one, the one with the book! he put out a wonderful novena rule and chaplet for Hermēs not too long ago), and a set of Islamic prayer beads (misbaḥa) for my ancestor shrine for one of my spirit guides. All told, that makes 16 different sets of prayer beads scattered throughout my temple, though admittedly I don’t use all of them; sometimes they’re there more for the shrine’s sake or the use of the spirits rather than my own. I used to have a rosewood mala for my old Buddhist stuff, but I’ve since gifted that away to a friend who can put it to better use since there’s nothing more for me to do along those lines or practices.

What? I like the convenience, customizability, and attractiveness of prayer beads. They’re useful, they’re tangible, they let the body focus on one thing and allow the mind to focus on another in a semi-autonomous way.

Well, lately, as part of my burgeoning geomantic devotional practice, I’ve been getting more interested in Islamic prayer methods. Credit where it’s due: Islamic devotional practice, prayers, and supplication frameworks are amazing. There’s a massive body of beautiful, poetic, and wonderfully specific literature-cum-prayer rules of endless supplication after supplication after supplication, and it’s at once dazzling and daunting. Now, I’m not a Muslim, nor have I intention to convert given…all the other obligations I have and some theological differences, but I cannot deny the beauty and profundity of how they approach divinity through prayer. As you might have guessed, there’s also a method of prayer with Islam’s own kind of prayer beads: the misbaḥa, also known as tasbīḥ. The word has its origins in the word subḥa, meaning “glory”, as in the phrase Subḥāna-llāh, “Glory be to God” (the recitation of which is also called Tasbīḥ, just as the recitation of the phrase Allāhu ‘akbar, “God is Great”, is called Takbīr).

Misbaḥa are easy to understand: they’re made of 99 beads, with two separators that stand out in some way to break the counting beads up into three sets of 33 beads each. The “head” or “tail” (depending on how you look at it) typically has a long, cylindrical bead, plus some other number of beads for keeping track of iterations of going through the entire thing. Other misbaḥa are made with other numbers, some as few as 11 beads or sometimes 33 broken into three sets of 11, but others used in some religious orders can have as many as a thousand beads. Some misbaḥa have a slidable marker to further mark off particular sets of beads, such as for holding one’s place or when reaching a particular count desired (e.g. 40 is a common number found in Islamic devotional repetitions).

Probably the most popular way, or at least one of the most popular and acclaimed ways, of using misbaḥa is through the method known as the Tasbīḥ Fāṭimah, the method ascribed to Fāṭimah, the daughter of the Prophet Muḥammad. The method is simple:

  1. On each of the first set of 33 beads, recite the Tasbīḥ: Subḥāna-llah (“Glory be to God”).
  2. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite the Taḥmīd: Alḥamdu li-llāh (“Praise be to God”).
  3. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite the Takbīr: Allāhu ‘akbar (“God is Great”).

Unlike rosaries or chaplets in the Christian tradition, note how the separators don’t have associated prayers or anything said on them; they’re just used solely as markers to switch up prayers. There are variations of this method, too, of course; some say to recite the Takbīr first followed by the Taḥmīd and the Tasbīḥ in that order, some say to recite the Takbīr 34 times instead of 33 times, some say to conclude by reciting the first part of the Shahāda (Lā ‘ilāha ‘illā-llāh, “there is no god but God”), but the general method is fundamentally the same. It is recommended for the observant to perform this devotion immediately after every compulsory prayer, but the original story behind the Prophet giving it to his daughter also recommends saying it before one retires for sleep.

Discussing this with one of my Muslim colleagues online, this is just one method of using misbaḥa; there are countless ways to use them, such as for reciting individual attributes or names of God (of which there are, of course, a conventional set of 99 in Islam), reciting particular verses of the Qur’ān over and over, and the like. The possibilities are endless, apparently.

So, of course, this got me thinking: while I, too, can use the Tasbīḥ Fāṭimah devotion, is there a way I could use this venerable tool in a way specifically geared for my own needs? Of course there is. The Tasbīḥ Fāṭimah practice is wonderful on its own, and doesn’t require one to be a Muslim to use it; after all, the supplications involved in it are pretty basic and can work for anyone with an Abrahamic, Hermetic, or just plain deist bent, and it’s a clean and straightforward practice that doesn’t involve a lot of preliminary setup, education, or training. It’s effective, I’ll absolutely grant it that. But if there are other ways to use misbaḥa, why not also try something else as well for a more specific purpose than just worship, hesychasm, and henosis?

There being three sets of 33 beads reminded me of the Chaplet of Saint Gabriel the Archangel from Catholic devotions, which is constructed with a lead chain of three beads linked to a ring of 33 beads broken into three sets of 11 beads with one separator bead between each set.

  1. Lead bead 1: “Heavenly Father, through the salutation of the Archangel Gabriel, may we honor the incarnation of your divine Son.”
  2. Lead bead 2: “Mother of our Savior, may we strive always to imitate your holy virtues and respond to our Father, ‘be it done unto me according to thy Word’.”
  3. Lead bead 3: “Archangel Gabriel, please praise our Father for the gift of his Son praying, one day, by his grace, we may all be one.”
  4. On each of the beads in each set of 11: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”
  5. On each of the two separator beads: “Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus.”

Simple and straightforward. It wouldn’t be a stretch to simply expand the repetitions from three sets of 11 for a total of 33 to three sets of 33 for a total of 99 (33 being a sacred number for Christians, being the number of years Jesus was alive when he was crucified). I could definitely use misbaḥa for Gabriel-based devotions, which is good given the importance of Gabriel being the angel of revelation to the prophet Daniel as well as to Elizabeth, Mary, Muḥammad, Enoch, and so many others, and given the fact that Gabriel is the angel who taught the founders of geomancy their art. However, I didn’t feel like the Catholic approach here—although totally workable—felt appropriate for either my own devotional needs or for use with the misbaḥa.

So, I scoured some verses of Scripture in which Gabriel was either directly present by name or directly being referenced from the Tanakh, the Bible, and the Qur’ān, and in the end, I developed a new method of repetition-based devotions to God through his archangel, a method I’m tentatively calling the “Crown of Gabriel”, to be used on a standard misbaḥa of 99 beads:

  1. At the beginning, recite once: “In the name of God who created me.”
  2. On of the first set of 33 beads, recite: “May God fill me with his grace.”
  3. On the first separator, recite: “God willing, teach me, o Gabriel, mighty in power, revelations to be revealed.”
  4. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite: “May God be with me.”
  5. On the second separator, recite: “God willing, come forth, o Gabriel, to give me understanding and insight.”
  6. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite: “Do unto me according to his word.”
  7. At the end, recite once: “My Lord is the Most Generous.”

The specific supplications come from four verses of Abrahamic scripture, one from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, and two from the Qur’ān, all of which are associated with Gabriel in one way or another:

  • Daniel 9:22 (the clarification of the Prophecy of Seventy Weeks):

    And he [Gabriel] informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding.

  • Luke 1:28—38 (the Annunciation):

    And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured [full of grace], the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

  • Qur’ān, Sūrah An-Najm, 53:1—10 (which describes the appearance of Gabriel to the prophet, with connections to the star Sirius):

    By the star when it descends, your companion [Muhammad] has not strayed, nor has he erred, nor does he speak from [his own] inclination. It is not but a revelation revealed, taught to him by one intense in strength, one of soundness. And he rose to [his] true form while he was in the higher [part of the] horizon. Then he approached and descended and was at a distance of two bow lengths or nearer. And he revealed to His Servant what he revealed.

  • Qur’ān, Sūrah Al-`Alaq, 96:1—5 (the very first revelation to the Prophet by Gabriel):

    Recite in the name of your Lord who created, created man from a clinging substance. Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous, who taught by the pen, taught man that which he knew not.

For my own needs, I didn’t keep the exact wording from scripture as the Chaplet of Saint Gabriel does; rather, I tweaked them to be more specific to me, that God might teach, fill, and guide me through his angel in a personal way appropriate to me and me alone. Unlike the usual method of Tasbīḥ Fāṭimah and like the Chaplet of Saint Gabriel, I did include prayers for use on the separator beads; originally, I had those supplications for the separator beads and the supplications done at the first and last swapped (so that you’d start with “God willing, teach me…” and end with “God willing, come forth…”), but I felt like swapping them was better so that the whole thing could start off with an invocation of God of sorts—not the proper and usual Basmala (bi-smi-llāhi ar-raḥmāni ar-raḥīm, “in the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful”), but something that works as well and follows the same structure.

Also, what’s nice is that, even though the Crown of Gabriel is designed for a misbaḥa, it can still be used on a regular Chaplet of Saint Gabriel, reducing the number of repetitions of the main supplications from 33 to 11. As for what to recite on the three lead beads, one might add in generic prayers (the Sanctus, the Trisagion, etc.) for all three to be followed with the initial supplication of the Crown of Gabriel, or one could break out the initial supplication into three by incorporating the Basmala as well:

  1. “In the name of God, the Most Compassionate!”
  2. “In the name of God, the Most Merciful!”
  3. “In the name of God, who created me!”

And, on the joint of the chaplet and lead beads, recite the Our Father, just to keep things moving.

Up till now, my angelic devotions largely focused (and will still focus!) on the archangel Michael and my own holy guardian angel. However, I cannot deny the huge role Gabriel necessarily plays in the religions that recognize the archangels at all, as well as in the mythological origins and continued practices of geomancy. Granted that all the archangels work together in a synaxis (basically, where you call on one, you’re basically getting the whole set together no matter what), it’s clear I need to amp up my own devotional practices to Gabriel. I think the Crown of Gabriel method should suffice nicely for that, while also being a way to increase my own intuitive abilities as a diviner in the process. God willing, of course.