Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Putting The Table Together

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and right now, we’re in the middle of focusing on the Table of Practice and how DSIC instructs the table and pedestal to be made.  Last time, we continued our talk by figuring out the planetary stuff we needed to fill in around the edge of the table, but due to vague wording and phrasing, it’s not quite clear exactly what planetary stuff is needed, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a consensus on that front.  If you need a refresher, go read the last post!

Now that we have our choice of names, symbols, signs, and everything else out of the way, how do we actually put them all together?  DSIC tells us:

…Let them be all written within a double circle, with a triangle on a table; on which place the crystal on its pedestal: this being done, thy table is complete (as in the Fig. D,) and fit for the calling of the spirits…

The major thrust of this is describing something that surprises nobody: a triangle within a circle.  While I can’t actually cite anyone specifically that might say so (because this is something that I feel is pretty common at this point to say and think), the triangle and circle is pretty much the mainstay of the locus of conjuration.  We see, basically, the same thing in the Triangle of Art from the Lemegeton, just with the circle inside the triangle instead of outside it:

The general thinking on this is that the effectively circle binds the spirit (because the circle is a shape that has no end to its lines, or corners to slip through, but an infinite unbroken boundary), while the triangle (being the first possible polygon with the fewest possible points/lines) helps to give the spirit form.  But, there’s also the fact that the triangle, being a shape with three sides, is also qabbalistically connected by that number to the planet Saturn, which could also suggest making the spirit more obedient and susceptible to our threats and demands.  It’s reminiscent of what Agrippa says in his Fourth Book when dealing with “evil spirits” whose oaths or statements you doubt (book IV, chapter 12):

And after all the courses are finished, then cease a little; and if any Spirit shall appear, let the Invocant turn himself towards the Spirit, and courteously receive him, and earnestly entreating him, let him first require his name, and if he be called by any other name; and then proceeding further, let him ask him whatsoever he will: and if in any thing the Spirit shall shew himself obstinate or lying, let him be bound by convenient conjurations: and if you doubt of any lye, make without the Circle with the consecrated Sword, the figure of a triangle or pentagon, and compel the Spirit to enter into it; and if thou receivest any promise which thou wouldst have to be confirmed with an Oath, let him stretch the sword out of the Circle, and swear the Spirit, by laying his hand upon the Sword.

Here Agrippa uses either a triangle (figure of Saturn) or a pentagon (figure of Mars), though he might also mean “pentagram” instead (but which would suggest a pentagon in its center by virtue of its geometrical shape), and considering the context here, I’d be more inclined to think that the triangle isn’t used so much to help the spirit take physical form as much as it is constrain it, at least according to Agrippa.  Your mileage may vary.  It is interesting, however, that Agrippa describes no such device for working with “good spirits” earlier in the Fourth Book when he mentions how to call upon “good spirits” using either his prayer-based approach or his ecstasy approach (book IV, chapter 10).  (We’ll see more of this weirdness in future posts about the difference in approach between “good spirits” and “evil spirits”.)

All well and good, but there’s that phrase “double circle”.  It seems that everyone who’s worked with Drawing Spirits Into Crystals DSIC, whether or not they use the pedestal, interprets this to mean that there are two rings of names, one for the planets and angels (along with “their seals or characters”), and one for the four elemental kings inside that; this is the form of table that’s used by everyone that I’ve ever seen.  In this system, the four kings are placed evenly spaced on the inner ring aligned with the four elements, typically with Oriens (or Michael) aligned with the Sun towards the East.  For the sake of simplicity for now, let’s use a very basic table design that spells all the names out in the Latin script, uses the four kings instead of the four archangels, and uses only the glyphs of the seven planets along with the names of their corresponding angels:

And, of course, there’s at least one interpretation out there that puts the four kings on the outside, with the seven planets on the inside.  This is certainly a far more uncommon arrangement (most people would cosmologically place the planets “higher up” and the elemental/worldly “further down”), and I’ve only ever seen one such Table of Practice design made by Eryk Adish on Etsy:

But…on a closer reading of the phrasing being used here, and thinking back to other texts that use similar phrasing, I’m not entirely certain that this double-ring-of-names setup is what the text actually implies.  I mean, it makes graphical sense, but “double circle” may not mean two circles of names, but rather, two geometric circles between which the names are written. In this case, I think what DSIC is suggesting is that we have only one ring of names and seals, which is bounded on the outside and on the inside by a circle; these two circles would be the “double circle” within which would be all the things we’d be engraving.

In this case, we’d need to figure out an order for placing the names of the four kings into this, as well, since these things must be given “in order”.  I think we should tie this into the order of the planets we mentioned above, and seeing how the four kings (being representatives of the four elements) come after the planets, it suggests that there’s a notion of density at play here: the further we get along in the order, the denser we get.  This argues in favor of starting with Saturn, then proceeding to Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, and then to the Moon, and then the four kings.  What order for the kings?  Keep the order going in terms of density: Oriens (Fire), Paimon (Air), Egyn (Water), Amaymon (Earth).  This would use the elemental domains of the four kings rather than their directions; if we were to go clockwise starting with Oriens in the East (to befit a magician operating in the northern hemisphere to match the passage of the Sun), then we’d have the order of Oriens, Amaymon, Paimon, and Egyn; those in the southern hemisphere might use the reverse order.  Of course, if we were to just use the elemental density order, then it wouldn’t matter where we’d be on Earth.  Fitting the four kings into this descending order of the planets just ties it into a grander descending order of forces of the cosmos, as can be seen in the Cosmographia diagram above (look closely at the elemental patterns in the center of the diagram).

That said, even though that might be a strict interpretation of “let them be all written within a double circle”, that might be a little too strict and literal.  It kinda breaks with this notion we have that the four kings are a species apart from the planetary angels, that the elements of this world are of a different nature than the planets of the spheres above; while, yes, it can be reasoned out to make everything “fit” within one ring of names, it’s probably more graphically pleasing and cosmologically sound to use two rings of names, writing everything essentially “within a triple circle” instead of a double circle, with the planetary engravings on the outer ring and the four kings (or four archangels, if that’s your jam) on the inside.  However, the DSIC text says what it says.

In either case, using either two rings of names or one ring, in the inside of all the above would be the triangle.  Though DSIC doesn’t specify where or how it should be drawn, it makes sense to have the innermost circle circumscribe the triangle.  Given the description in DSIC, there’s nothing to be engraved inside the triangle, nor outside the triangle and inside the inner circle.  This is probably the easiest part to interpret from a lack of depiction and description of the entire DSIC introduction, and completes the construction of the table itself.

In that light, let’s compare the one ring design with the two ring design, with the planetary order of decreasing geocentric distance followed by increasing elemental density.  Let’s agree to use the four kings for this, and for the sake of a simple construction as above, we’ll limit ourselves to using the names of the four kings, the glyphs of the planets, and the names of the the planetary angels, all spelled out in Latin script, with nothing else.  Completed with the innermost triangle, we’d get ourselves two designs like the following:

The first one on the left has the planetary stuff and the four kings given in the conventional layout of, but that second one on the right with just one ring of names “all written within a double circle” follows from a strict and literal interpretation of DSIC, and…it works.  It makes sense.  We start at the bottom and, going clockwise, proceed through the four kings (in order of their corresponding element based on zodiacal direction), then the seven planets/angels, proceeding from the Moon/Gabriel and going up to Saturn/Cassiel.  This works, and is entirely a valid way to construct a table according to the instructions given in DSIC in the absence of any illustration.  Plus, it also reminds me of the conjuration circles used in texts like the Grimorium Verum, Grand Grimoire, and Grimoire of Pope Honorius, though admittedly those were intended for the conjurer to stand in, not for the basis of the conjuration area for the spirit.  Still, using this single-ring approach does make sense, it follows from the DSIC text, and is an entirely valid approach to creating the table.

But, despite its cleanliness and orderliness…it’s taking me a while to like it.  While it does appeal to me, it seems that literally nobody has ever used this interpretation of what “double circle” means.  Not that it’s unbalanced, but it does feel a bit mismatched to put the four kings in the same ring as the seven angels, on top of it probably feeling unfamiliar and with me not recognizing this as a proper table.  I think it would make more graphical sense to more people, at least, to interpret “double circle” as two circles of names, not one ring of names written between two circles, but that’s not a strict and contemporaneous interpretation of DSIC.  For the sake of keeping the conversation going, I’m going to stick to the two-circles-of-names and not one-ring-of-names-in-two-circles design, because that’s what makes the most immediate cosmological and aesthetic sense to me.  That said, if you were to take a single Table of Practice approach that uses the four archangels instead of the four kings…that could well be appropriate.  We said before last post that figuring out what “seals or characters” would be needed for the planetary parts of the table design was the most serious linguistic point of contention, but I stand corrected: it’s this, at least for the table (there are others which we’ll talk about when we get to that point of our DSIC discussion).  Despite putting the lid on the single-ring design, we’ll come back to it at a later time; for now, we’ll stick to the two-ring design, only for the sake of expediency and it’s what everyone already knows, likes, and wants.

But while we’re here, there is one plausible reason I can think of for putting the four kings on the same “level” as the seven planetary angels.  Given their nature, and considering their potentially old predecessors going back to Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian times, this is actually something to consider: the four kings could be considered survivals of the “four winds” from ancient Mesopotamian times, which were considered deities in their own right and on the same level as the planetary gods of those cultures.  If we consider the role of the four kings here and what they’re doing based on what we said before (and consider also Agrippa, book III, chapter 24, my emphasis in bold text: “every one of these Spirits is a great Prince, and hath much power and freedom in the dominion of his own planets, and signs, and in their times, years, months, days, and hours, and in their Elements, and parts of the world, and winds“), and if we consider the role of the seven planetary angels here to channel and distill their respective planetary forces in a way that the kings would the worldly, elemental forces, then it makes sense that the four kings here would be included with the seven planetary angels.  This would mean that the table isn’t necessarily a cosmogram or anything to show how everything is ideally arranged, but that the presence (and support) of the seven planetary angels and four kings of the world would collectively help to channel, focus, and materialize the spirit in the crystal as visibly and physically as possible, lending it a share of all the forces that combine to manifest everything in this world.  In other words, the presence of these spirits isn’t about the actual planetary and elemental forces, but about the spheres of heaven and four corners of the world, using distinctly worldly processes to bring something to manifest within the triangle; consider how the Circle of Art from the Lemegeton has the snake with all the divine names and attributes of the ten sephiroth of the Tree of Life curling inward towards the center.

On top of that, the “four winds” of back then were assigned to the four zodiac signs of Scorpio (or Aquila), Aquarius, Taurus, and Leo—the four fixed signs, which later became identified with the four archangels Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, and Michael.  In this light, this means that not only the four kings can (and arguably should) be arranged with the seven planetary angels, but that they would, reaching back to their shared origin, be essentially interchangeable with the four archangels.  Not a bad idea, and another point in favor of those who would use the four archangels instead of the four kings on their DSIC tables.

Anyway, let’s continue.  If we were to go with our earlier design choice of using the planetary glyphs, the planetary characters, the names of the angels, and the names of the kings, with the names written in Latin, we’d get the following for our one ring and two ring forms:

Forgive me for having to bunch up the (more numerous) characters for the Sun and Jupiter, but I didn’t want to rebalance all of the spacing for all this just yet.  The idea is there, though.  You can envision what it’d be like for incorporating the angelic seals, too, based on this; smaller font, smaller characters, and a lot more densely-packed use of space on the outer ring.  But, despite all the complexity here, I think this is closer to what DSIC is actually instructing us to do:

…the table on which the crystal stands the following names, characters, &c. must be drawn in order.  First, The names of the seven planets and angels ruling them, with their seals or characters. The names of the four kings of the four corners of the earth. Let them be all written within a double circle, with a triangle on a table…

But, in the end, there you have it.  More table designs for use with DSIC based on different yet equally strict and accurate interpretations of the rather terse instructions given by the text itself.

Whugh.  That took a lot more words, explanation, surveying, and arguing with Adobe Illustrator than I expected, to be sure.

Now, in light of everything above?  Given the lack of explanation of the table in DSIC, as well as the fact that there’s no visual depiction given, along with the level of specificity that is given to the pedestal itself, I want to make the claim that the specific design used for table itself probably doesn’t matter that much, honestly.  It seems like the real focus in DSIC is given to the pedestal supporting the crystal with the names and symbols to be engraved around it, with the table itself being described almost as an afterthought.  In that light, it’s not the table doing the bulk of the protective and spiritual work as far as providing for the right woogity in the ritual (besides the magician themselves, of course), but the pedestal itself.  If we were to actually give credence to the notion that Johannes Trithemius wrote DSIC (and, personally, I don’t), well…recall that he was an abbot, and thus would be more inclined towards religious magic of a higher and more theurgical nature rather than goetia or necromancy, and recall how we likened the pedestal to a monstrance.  In that light, the shape and purpose of the pedestal makes a lot of sense: it’s a monstrance not for displaying the Host or relics, but the presence of actual spirits themselves; the table should be decked out in the signs and symbols of the seven planets and four elements to facilitate the presence of spirits, sure, but beyond that, I don’t know whether DSIC really cares as much about the table as about the pedestal.  Honestly, if somehow you got the money and means to get one, my hunch is that even the use of an actual monstrance that once held a consecrated Host would alone be sufficient, with a crystal or some material held in the chamber, to perform DSIC with, even without a table or names of angels or kings or whatnot; if you can get such a mosntrance and use it on a table, all the better.

Note that I’m not saying that the table doesn’t matter at all; if it didn’t matter, DSIC would probably say as much, or even just decline to mention anything about the table at all.  But so long as the basic idea of the table is there—a triangle circumscribed by two circles, along with planetary names/angels/characters and names of elemental kings (or elemental angels if that’s the route you want to take)—then I think you’ve got enough of what you need to perform the DSIC ritual.  Heck, I’m not 100% convinced (more like 99%) that you need the planetary stuff and the names of the kings at all, honestly, so long as you’ve got the appropriate pedestal made in the appropriate way.  There’s nothing saying you shouldn’t use them, of course, and I’m not making that claim either, but I don’t think it’s as necessary or as important to the spirit of DSIC than having the pedestal.

So, then, why do we focus on the table, or as we like to call it, the Table of Practice?  Because so many of us like simplicity, and let’s be honest: it’s a lot simpler to have a single tool (one Table of Practice) than two tools (table and pedestal), and it’s a lot simpler to have a free-standing crystal ball than having to set it in something else, which requires some specialty crafting skills that not everyone has.  Heck, already not a lot of people have the crafting skills necessary to make even a rudimentary Table of Practice, despite that it’s not that hard to do.  Since DSIC-compatible Tables of Practice began being made about ten years ago, until the advent of Fr. AC’s reintroduction of the pedestal as a separate item, the general approach has largely been focused on combining the designs of the pedestal with the table into a single Table of Practice, and that approach is workable enough, simple enough, and effective enough to do what DSIC claims to do.

Those readers of mine who somehow maintained their mental acuity after all this time that I’m only just now using the phrase “Table of Practice”.  When it comes to the DSIC method on its own terms, of which Fr. AC tends to hit closest to the mark, DSIC says to use both a table and a pedestal; however, when the pedestal and table are combined into something like what Fr. RO (and Fr. Acher, and the Scribbler, and Satyr Magos, and myself, etc.) uses, then you get the Table of Practice.  I’m using the phrase “Table of Practice” to refer to the single-apparatus approach instead of the dual-apparatus approach of table and pedestal, and I think that might help clarify some of the language around all this stuff.

The three symbols of the hexagram with central Yod, the pentagram, and the cross are placed in the corners of the central table triangle, while the use of the name Tetragrammaton tends to get dropped out, though some magicians engrave circularly around the triangle in the gap between the triangle and the (inner) ring of names.  The names of the angels from the pedestal either get left out entirely or replace the names of the four kings, making those names left out; I’ve never seen a Table of Practice that has both the four angels and the four kings.  I’ve seen only one such example of this from Tye, and it puts the names of the angels in the same ring as that of the kings on tyetknot’s Tumblr but in a way that doesn’t follow much with the directions we should see (Raphael in the North?  Uriel in the West?), and though I get the logic behind it, that doesn’t seem to mesh well with me.

But what would it look like if a Table of Practice did have both sets of names that did agree with the nature of the tools that DSIC instructs us to use?  Given how we’re combining the inscriptions on the pedestal with the inscriptions on the table, and noting that we combined the three symbols inside the triangle, this would suggest we should have the four angels inside the triangle as well.  This doesn’t completely surprise me; I mean, we see something similar going on with the Triangle of Art from the Lemegeton Goetia (see the earlier pictures in this post), after all, with the name Michael being split into three—and note how it’s fundamentally a table unto itself, consisting of a circle and triangle and divine names including “Tetragrammaton”.

Further, note how, in the Lemegeton Goetia’s Triangle of Art, there’s a circle inside the triangle itself.  This leads me to a design choice where, just as we can have the names of the four kings on an inside ring within the ring of planetary angelic names, bounded by a circle above and below it, we can have the names of the four archangels on a ring within the triangle, bounded by another pair of circles above and below it.  If I were to make a final, let’s-get-it-all-in Table of Practice design, based on everything above, then we’d end up with this:

This design of the Table of Practice, using two rings as is conventional at this point, with all the names spelled out in Latin script, has all the elements from both the pedestal and the stand on a single surface, and even though foregoing the pedestal isn’t true to the instructions in DSIC or to Fr. AC’s grimoire-strict methodology, this does have all the symbols necessary and in roughly-equivalent positions, just presented in two dimensions horizontally rather than three dimensions horizontally and vertically.  As a result, this might be the most true-to-the-spirit Table of Practice for DSIC-type work, should one forego the pedestal, and it also resolves the debate between having either the names of the four kings or those of the four angels by including both sets of names in an appropriate location.

And, for kicks, let’s do one more design: a final complete Table of Practice that has all the above plus the twelve zodiacal angels in another ring outside that of the planets and their angels, with the planetary and zodiacal angel names written in Celestial Hebrew :

It is weird, I admit, to have the four archangels “underneath” the four kings, but I’m not trying to represent a vertical relationship anymore once we get under the four kings.  Remember that everything in and around the triangle comes from the design of the pedestal, which is supposed to be stand above the table; if we do away with the pedestal (and it’s not true to DSIC to do so), then we should still make an effort to keep the same symbols from it onto the table to make a combined Table of Practice.  It’s common enough to do this by putting the three symbols of the hexagram with central Yod, pentagram, and cross into the corners of the triangle, but those could just as easily go outside the triangle, too; the circumscribed “Tetragrammaton” is unheard of in the way depicted above, either, but I’ve never seen anyone include both the four kings as well as the four angels.  While one could restructure the Table of Practice to put planetary angels on the outside, the four archangels inside them, and the four kings inside them, I think putting the archangels closest to the center of the Table of Practice makes more sense because those are supposed to be closest near the crystal.

One more conjecture at this point, now that I’ve plowed through enough Illustrator work for one day.  Now that I think about it…well, remember what I pointed out about the Triangle of Art from the Lemegeton above?  It’s fundamentally the same thing as the table: a triangle and a circle with some divine names written around it.  If you had a properly-constructed pedestal—or a consecrated monstrance—you could probably just plop that on the Triangle of Art and it would work as well.  After all, nobody’s complained about the Triangle of Art lacking kings or angels or planets and it’s been used for goetic conjurations for quite some time, and they’ve gotten great results with that tool, despite the lack of planetary stuff or the four kings.  My hunch is that you could use just a regular, simple, boring Triangle of Art and a properly-made stand for the crystal and it would be sufficient for DSIC ritual use, omitting everything above about the specific needs of the table from DSIC despite what DSIC says about it.  That’s just a conjecture, but given some of the discussions above, I think there’s a good logic to it that could well be experimented with for those who have a pedestal or monstrance.

When I set out to write about this topic, I had no intention of making this a full survey of the various Tables of Practice that are currently in use by a variety of magicians, nor did I anticipate going into detail on the various versions of the names one might use, but I’m glad I did.  Still, this is just one aspect of the DSIC equipment; there’s still the lamen, circle, and wand to talk about.  We’ll pick up on some of those next, though given how DSIC actually gives examples of those, there’ll be a lot less to discuss, and we’ll have more fun with the Fourth Book of Cornelius Agrippa, besides!

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Four Kings or Four Angels?

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

Okay, so we have the crystal, and we’ve got the pedestal made with the engraved plate of gold that surrounds the crystal (or some variation on that, or none at all, depending on the approach you want to go with).  With that done, we can now get into the second half of the main apparatus of DSIC: the table upon which the pedestal itself sits.  What does this table look like?  We have this description:

…the table on which the crystal stands the following names, characters, &c. must be drawn in order.

First, The names of the seven planets and angels ruling them, with their seals or characters. The names of the four kings of the four corners of the earth. Let them be all written within a double circle, with a triangle on a table; on which place the crystal on its pedestal: this being done, thy table is complete (as in the Fig. D,) and fit for the calling of the spirits…

Let’s break this down:

  • The things that are mentioned must be drawn in order.
  • The things that are mentioned must be drawn within “a double circle”.
  • The things that are mentioned are: “the names of the seven planets and the angels ruling them with their seals or characters”, and “the names of the four kings of the four corners of the earth”.
  • A triangle is also on the table, in which the pedestal is placed.

When we talk about “the four kings of the four corners of the earth”, what names are these?  Although DSIC doesn’t explicitly say, the general consensus that nobody disagrees with is that these would be Oriens in the East, Paimon (or Paymon) in the West, Egyn in the North, and Amaymon in the South.  Joseph Peterson of the very Esoteric Archives itself gives a wonderful note on this topic:

There is considerable variation in identification of the four kings of the cardinal directions. Here are a few: Agrippa, OP2.7 has (E, W, N, S): “Oriens.Paymon.Egyn.Amaymon”, however in OP3.24 he says, “Urieus, King of the East; Amaymon, King of the South; Paymon, King of the West; Egin, King of the North, which the Hebrew Doctors perhaps call more rightly thus, Samuel, Azazel, Azael, Mahazuel,” (See Cichus In Sphaeram Mundi, f. 21 apud quem: Zoroa. Fragm. O104; cf. Salom. ff. 28v-29r; sed addict. K: Reuchl. Arte 3, sig. O7r) MC has: “Bael, Moymon, Poymon, Egyn” or “Asmodel in the East, Amaymon in the South, Paymon in the West, and Aegym in the North”; “Oriens, Paymon, Egyn, and Amaymon”; or “Amodeo [sic] (king of the East), Paymon (king of the West), Egion (king of the North), and Maimon.”

That said, many people use the four archangels Michael for Fire, Raphael for Air, Gabriel for Water, and Uriel for Earth instead of the four kings (as I myself have in the past).  What gives?  Such a table design that uses the four archangels instead of the four kings is mostly credited to Fr. Rufus Opus; even though Fr. RO isn’t the only one to have done it this way, he is the one who most people attribute this design to.  As a result, there’s periodically debate about whether to use the four archangels or the four kings.

Personally, my own work has never significantly involved these spirits beyond a token chat, and even to this day, they’re in this grey area of things that I’m aware are important, but I’m not entirely sure why.  Thankfully, Magister Omega of A Journey into Ceremonial Magick posted a wonderful summary of the four kings in the grimoire tradition, and there’s plenty to show how important the four kings can be, especially for goetic magicians, but also for us as far as DSIC is concerned.  While Omega does cite GTSC and Fr. AC’s own personal view as well as UPG from the angel Metatron, he also cites the good Dr. Stephen Skinner and a number of other authors (I can spot some of Jake Stratton-Kent’s words in there, too):

The four kings are spiritual creatures (and therefore winged) but they are demon kings not angels…

The Kings cannot be approached in the same way you might approach the Archangels.  Start with the lesser demons. Threaten them with the name of their King if necessary.  Only after you have bound a few of the hierarchy, then think about the Kings.  You can use the Kings name without having previously called him (that is just the way it works). …

The Kings open the Gates, not something anyone should do unless they really know what they are doing. Their names are useful to enforce discipline on the spirits belonging to their legions. But, as Frater AC mentioned, they are not the ones you would choose to personally grant the usual run of wishes.

It’s odd to me that we would need the use of the four kings, then, if we were going to use DSIC just for angelic conjuration, but that’s just it: the way DSIC is written (and, as we’ll see later, the sources that DSIC itself builds upon and pulls from) implies that it can be used for angelic/theurgic works as well as goetic/non-angelic works.  In that case, the four kings would be recommended, because it does enforce a sort of authority upon whatever’s being conjured—unless they’re not under the authority of such spirits at all.  But, as Fr. AC said, it may not be about authority at all:

As [the archangels and angels] are the vertical, they are the horizontal.  They are the morally neutral yet powerful governors between the planes of existence.

Still, it’s not like there aren’t multiple traditions of Western magic and cosmology at play here, nor can we ignore that there are different eras and developments in those lines.  It’s simply a fact that many (not all) people haven’t worked with these four kings, needed to work with them, or even had a cosmology that required their presence or their roles in ways that Skinner or JSK or others would describe them, both now and for centuries into the past.  Plus, there are also those who have different views on the roles and nature of these four kings and their relationships to the angels; one person’s UPG is another person’s dismissed rubbish, after all.  If you work with the four kings or recognize them as important in your cosmology, great!  If not, then that’s also fine.  After all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat: there’s no one way to consider the role or nature of the four kings, and no one way to do conjuration (even with DSIC, with all its extant variants).

Now, back to Fr. RO.  What does he say about his design that omits the four kings in favor of the four archangels?  He explains a bit from RWC, specifically in Lesson 6 of the Black Work class:

The Table of Practice is a symbol of the cosmos. It contains an outer circle with the names of the archangels of the spheres, and symbols of their planets. Within that is another circle, this with the names of the Four Angels* of the corners of the Earth. Within that is a triangle with a pentagram, the Star of David with a Yod, and a Maltese cross.

The outermost circle represents the Seven Heavens and the Intelligences therein. They are the governors of the spheres, and their presence helps ensure you get the spirit you’re looking for when you perform your conjuration. The Elemental Kings provide the gate to the material realm, so the spirits can influence your life materially, if necessary, but they also make sure that any spirit you call up of a terrestrial nature won’t go ballistic and eat your soul, leaving you dead by dawn.

These two circles together represent the meeting of the Heavens and the Earth in your temple space.

The triangle in the center of the circle is rather unique. Triangles are used in conjurations as the place the spirit manifests. In the Lemegeton’s Goetia, the magician stands within the center of an elaborate Magic Circle, and the Triangle is placed outside the Circle. The magician is theoretically safe from the evil of the demonic spirits he’s conjuring because the triangle constrains the spirit, and the circles provide further protection.

In The Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals, the source book for the Modern Angelic Grimoire, the magician sits or stands within a Magic Circle, but he’s got the Triangle of Art engraved on the Table of Manifestation inside the protective circle with him. The triangle is within another set of circles to protect him, but it’s different from most of the other approaches to conjuration I’ve seen.

I like it better with the spirit in the circle with you for purely practical purposes. It makes it easier to sit in front of the Table of Practice and do the scrying, the crystal can be right there in front of you instead of across the room.

It should be noted that in the Modern Angelic Grimoire, I adapted the Table of Practice from the original instructions. The circles and the triangle are on the Table that you use, but then you’re supposed to build a separate device to hold the crystal ball you conjure the spirits into.

Bryan Garner, also known as Fr. Ashen, has recently written a book on The Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals. He created the tools as specified in the instructions, and if you want to see how it’s supposed to look, you can see pictures of what he came up with in his interpretation on his blog. He added in some stuff from his experience in traditional Solomonic Magic, but it still remains completely in harmony with the original manuscript.

http://bryanashen.blogspot.com/2011/11/its-almost-there-i-promise.html

I tell you this because the things I do, the things I teach are my interpretation, my “Kabala” or “Revelation” of how the grimoires are to be used by magicians who want to use a system that’s proven really effective to me. I encourage you to go back to the sources. In this course, I’ve provided samples and excerpts, but in support of my approach, to make clear certain points that I have found to be really important.

But I’ve filtered it the way I think it should be filtered, and I’ve had good results, but you need to go back to the sources and read them for yourself, explore them with the aid of the spirits. Invest in Tyson’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, or read them for free on www.esotericarchives.com.

When I put the Table of Practice together, I merged the thing that’s supposed to hold the crystal with the Table of Practice image to accomplish the same functionality as the original design. I didn’t have the ebony and gold to follow the instructions myself, so I made do.

It should probably be noted that this was all done after I attained Knowledge and Conversation with my Holy Guardian Angel. The modifications and adaptations I made were made based on things he had revealed to me as I was studying that and the Scale of the Number 4, and some other things that were percolating in my sphere at the same time.

So it’s not totally made up, but it’s not “by the book” either.

Regardless, it works rather well.

So I put all the symbols where they belonged on the Table of Practice. The triangle is where the spirit appears, and that’s in the center of the Circles.

* Some people say to put the names of the Elemental Kings there, Oriens, Paimon, Amaimon, and Egyn. I prefer the angels, your mileage may vary.

He goes on more at length about the specific symbolism and role of the individual symbols used in the Table of Practice according to his own design, and he sums it up at the end:

Taken altogether, the Table of Practice represents our relationship with the Seven Governors, the Four Elemental Kings, and the Process of Manifestation. It is designed to provide the place where a spirit can manifest, and to give us a shared space between the Heavens and the Earth in which we can work together to accomplish the things we have to do.

Note how he says “Four Elemental Kings” here, even though he’s using the four archangels.  This is because of his interpretation of how Agrippa describes the four angels in his Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7) as the “four Angels ruling over the corners of the world”, in contrast to the “four rulers of the Elements” (Seraph, Cherub, Tharsis, and Ariel), the “four Princes of Devils, offensive in the elements” (Samael, Azazel, Azael, and Mahazael), and “the four Princes of spirits, upon the four angles of the world” (Oriens, Paymon, Egyn, and Amaymon).  On top of them being “rulers over the corners of the world” (which does match the DSIC phrasing), he might have gotten an explicit “king” notion, I presume, due to their correspondence in the Tarot as the Kings of the four suits: the King of Wands to Michael of Fire, the King of Swords to Raphael of Air, and so forth.  It’s not a conventional or historical understanding of the four kings, sure, but it’s not a wrong interpretation, either.

That said, Fr. RO does touch on the role of the four kings of the directions.  In his Lesson 4 of the Black Work course, he says:

Then there are the Four Princes. They aren’t nearly as good as the Angels. The astute student will recognize that at least two of them show up in the Lemegeton’s Goetia as Kings or otherwise as rulers of the Demons. Paimon has a seal and a description in the grimoire, indicating he is one of the rank and file of that system, while Amaymon shows up in a description of Ga’ap, who, among other things, can teach you to consecrate the things “under Amaymon.”

But these guys are not demons, at least, not of the type that will come to you and cause you illness and sickness in order to make you suffer and call out to god for salvation. They can do that, of course, just like the angels can, but they are not specifically designed for that.

These four Princes represent the “neutral” spirits of the elements, and they are as far as close as I get to working with demons these days. They are like the worker bees of the elements, in my experience. They, and their assigned legions, are the ones that oversee the manifestation of the elemental directives of the spirits higher up in the, uhm, hierarchy.

I call on these spirits when I’m doing a banishing ritual, when I’m conjuring up some Genius Loci, or when I’m looking for some instant physical manifestations of something in particular. The last type of conjuration, for instant relief of a desire, is where things get sketchy. It’s generally a bad idea to try to conjure on the fly, but having a good relationship with these four princes can be useful.

I also want to note that Fr. RO began using this design of the Table of Practice as least as early as the start of 2007, because he gives an image of a simple form of it in a post from January 2007, though he mentions beginning to write his Modern Angelic Grimoire back in October 2006, suggesting he was likely already using it around that time.  However, more recently, Fr. RO put out another version of the Table of Practice on his own Facebook page in a post dated May 31, 2015, pretty much identical (with one exception which we’ll get into next time) except using the four kings instead of the four archangels, with the following caption:

I’m preparing to give the Seven Spheres Live course, and going through the slides, I remembered that I corrected the Table of Practice in the courses, but never bothered to say anything publicly about it. The Table of Practice I put together for the Modern Angelic Grimoire used the names of the Four angels of the corners of the world from Agrippa’s Scale of the Number Four.

At the time I put that together, I didn’t know anything about Goetia, or the terrestrial Princes, and since they weren’t called out specifically by name in the Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals, and because I wasn’t sure about working with “demons” at the time, I went with the Angels. It was super effective so I didn’t think it mattered when I went on to other things, and even though I am now very comfortable working with Oriens, Amaymon, Paimon, and Egyn, I never bothered to update the graphics. 

Jake Stratton Kent mentioned it annoys him to no end to have the Angelic names on the Trithemian Table of Practice, cause it’s not technically right (even though it works fine in practice). So I promised I’d fix it in the course, and I did, but for those who haven’t seen the more accurate version, here it is.

Even by Fr. RO’s own admission, the use of the four kings is the correct set of names to use; it’s just that this version never made it into RWC or even SS due to his thinking and approach at the time.  Well, to use his exact words, it’s the “technically right” and “accurate” approach—which doesn’t mean he necessarily agrees with it or that he disavows using the four angels instead of the four kings.  He probably does, but as many people who use the four angels can attest, it’s still a workable method, and so it’s not fundamentally wrong in practice even if it doesn’t agree with the DSIC instructions.

However, remember how I said that Fr. RO wasn’t the only one who used this design choice of the four angels instead of the four kings?  So too did Fr. Acher of Theomagica, as he explains in his own post on the Trithemian Table of Practice, which he developed around 2009.  He explains his own design choices, too (emphasis mine):

On first reading it was clear we needed to amend this design to fit our budgets and purpose. In the original description the whole device is made up of four elements: the crystal, the gold plate, the ivory/ebony pedestal and the table. While we were committed to staying true to the essence of the original, we had to amend the design to match our limited crafting skills as neither of us is a goldsmith nor a carpenter.

After several weeks of study we landed on a design that brought all the carvings together on a horizontal wooden table onto which the actual crystal would be placed. As we had set out to design a table each, we decided to create one fit for a crystal and the other fit for a black mirror.

The actual elements of the carvings are given as follows:

  • These 3 symbols inside a circle around the crystal:
  • The Tetragrammaton next to or around the three symbols
  • Then the names of the 4 archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael
  • On the opposite side of the table the “names, characters, etc.” (sic!) of:
    • the seven planets with their seals,
    • the ruling angels with their seals and
    • the names of the four kings of the four corners of the earth

Of course at the end of the day the whole table had to fit on our altar in the middle of the circle of art. After measuring the maximum space we could give to the table it turned out it couldn’t measure more than 13 inch (30cm) in diameter. Secondly, we knew we wanted to create the whole table from wood and carve all seals, characters and names on it – rather than just painting or drawing them on. Thus we tested carving magical seals into wood with a standard Dremel device and the finest drill applicable. This allowed us to understand the maximum amount of elements in our design that would fit onto a wooden disc of 13 inch diameter.

After these practical considerations we went back to the drawing board and came up with the following design:

We clearly took artistic freedom here and e.g. brought together the seals of the front and back of the table as well as the table and the pedestal on one single surface. We also decided to drop the names of the four kings of the corner of the earth; it would have simply congested the design we had in mind. However, we still felt confident as this version created a full magical circle around the actual crystal. This was a desired effect as the crystal would be used as the locus of manifestation and would be placed inside our circle of art on the altar. Thus any spirit materializing in the crystal would be bound by the circle, names and seals on the Table of Practice.

Since Fr. Acher was doing his work with the Trithemian approach in “late 2009”, this design certainly postdates Fr. RO’s own, but the way Fr. Acher writes, it sounds like he may have come up with the design independently from Fr. RO.  He might have been influenced by Fr. RO for all I know—I’m pretty sure there was at least some back-and-forth between them over the years, especially as far as some of their Arbatel work was concerned, I believe—but I’m not sure that was the case.  And, by Fr. Acher’s own admission, he took “artistic freedom” in the design of the table, but I don’t think anyone would deny that Fr. Acher has gotten good results all the same with his design choices.

Either way, we have at least ten years of people using the four archangels instead of the four kings, and it’s been shown to be another effective approach regardless of how accurate it might be according to the instructions given in DSIC or how much goetic magicians might complain about it or chide others (Al).  It’s also important to remember that neither Fr. RO nor Fr. Acher made use of a separate pedestal for the crystal; if they had, then there wouldn’t be an issue, because the four archangels would go on the pedestal and the four kings on the table.  Because they dropped the pedestal in favor of convenience and expediency, they combined the design instructions for the pedestal and table.  And, importantly, their methods still work without breaking DSIC.

Still, this topic periodically comes up in talks with various magicians, especially as source of debate, as I said earlier.  There’s a fascinating discussion from December 2014 in one of the Facebook groups I’m in that went into the topic at length.  While I won’t quote specific people (Jake Stratton-Kent, Fr. RO, Jason Miller, Fr. AC, and others got all into the discussion along with many others in a ~150-comment thread), here’s the gist of some of the points that were discussed and brought up for the general consideration of my readers:

  • Using the four archangels instead of the four kings can be an unnecessary, unfortunate, and retrogressive sanitization of the grimoire, if not outright being “wussy”.
  • Using the four kings seems to have become more popular in modern general practice after Fr. AC put out GTSC, which has a more accurate rendition of the table from DSIC, yet people were still get results with it anyway.
  • Using the archangels and not the kings can be seen to (but doesn’t necessarily) erase the option of working with elementals, emphasize celestial entities instead of chthonic ones, and result in an imbalanced spiritual approach.
  • Using the archangels may be more appropriate for working strictly or mainly with celestial and angelic entities generally.
  • Using the kings can help “ground” heavenly or celestial entities into a more worldly form, which would be better for actually “drawing spirits into crystals” and, moreover, to a concrete or visible appearance.
  • Some who have used the four archangels at one time and others the four kings at other times get good results either way, so in some ways, the choice boils down to one’s preference and comfort levels working with either set of spirits, but this may also be dependent upon one’s worldview in terms of which is more useful or whether they’re equally useful.
  • Others report that using the four archangels gets results both with conjuring angelic entities as well as demonic, but demonic results always tend to fall short of angelic ones.
  • Others report that the general effect of the ritual is different.  Using the angelic names facilitate more “astral” experiences, being in the realm of the spirit rather than the spirit being in the crystal, while using the king names facilitate a more traditional conjuration experience with the spirits appearing visibly in the crystal.  This might be due to the angels encouraging spiritual elevation and ascension through the spheres, and the kings due to their expansion and facilitation of manifestation on material planes.
  • The four kings, from a grimoiric point of view (especially in light of the fact that many grimoires say that these four entities are not to be conjured directly), provide a necessary warden and converter for various entities to be communicated with from the many levels of reality, whether physical or astral or celestial or something else.  They are, essentially, neutral powers that moderate exchanges between different planes or spheres.
  • Using the four archangels can be seen as redundant or repetitive, considering how several of them overlap with the angels of the planets, leading to the same name engraved in multiple places on the Table.
  • If you consider the circle of names from the pedestal to “overlay” that of the names on the table, then the names of the angels would “cover” those of the kings.  This suggests a binding, controlling, or thwarting influence to the angels who would be seen in command over the kings.  In that light, the presence of the four angels would suggest or imply the presence of the four kings who would be literally and metaphorically “under” them in terms of power or rulership.
  • Even if one doesn’t much care about the specific distinction between the use of angel names and king names in this specific case, it can matter when one considers their overall approach to Neoplatonic cosmology as used in Hermetic or Solomonic ritual, as well as keeping in line with the extensive history and current of tradition that’s repeated time and again in grimoiric literature.

The fact is that DSIC (almost certainly) prescribes the use of the four kings Oriens, Paimon, Egyn, and Amaymon on the table itself, but because it doesn’t explicitly give those names, there is a DSIC style that arose with Fr. RO and (maybe) Fr. Acher of interpreting this to use the four archangels Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel for the same purpose with either exactly or approximately similar results.  Which DSIC approach you use is up to you—and it’s important to note that, for the most part, most people using either approach tend to omit the use of the pedestal and combined the inscriptions on the pedestal with that of the table, where you need the names of both the angels and the kings.  Using either set of names on the table works, but depending on your specific approach, need, and cosmology, one set might work better than the other, or it might not; there are a lot of variables and theories here, and it can be justified any which way.  However, if you want to take a strict approach to DSIC, then you’d want to use the four kings on the table and not the four angels, but having the four angels kept using the pedestal.  (Or, perhaps, placed somewhere else on the table to accommodate the lack of a pedestal.  We’ll talk about that option soon enough.)

The most common approach most people take when using DSIC-based conjuration is that they generally tend to omit the pedestal entirely and only use the table.  This means that, unless you’re going to use some sort of unusual combined approach that has both the four archangels and the four kings at the same time on the table, you’re going to miss out on one group or the other.  Depending on how you view the roles of either or both sets of entities, you might consider it a loss or you might not.  However, I think there’s one thing that we can rule out from the list of concerns raised in that discussion thread from above: that having the four archangels from the pedestal on the table itself is “redundant or repetitive”.  For one, the four archangels are not the planetary angels; Michael of the Sun is not Michael of Fire, and Uriel isn’t planetary at all (despite what DSIC might say about him being an angel of Venus).  The name might be the same, but DSIC (and a number of other texts) that a both a spirit’s name and office are significant, and the offices of these spirits are different, which effectively makes them different spirits.  If this was truly just a repetitive thing, then these four angels as a distinct, discrete set shouldn’t appear anywhere at all on either the pedestal or table, which are meant to operate together as a single overall apparatus.  But they do, which means they’re not unnecessary.

For myself?  Because I started with RWC, I’ve used the four angels approach, and that has gotten me to where I am today; I don’t think anyone can really say that it’s ineffective, because I’m quite the counterfactual anecdote that it’s not (along with Fr. RO, Fr. Acher, and many others).  That being said, if I were to start again knowing what I know now, doing what I do now, I’d probably use the four kings approach, and if or when I make myself another table, I would probably use them instead of the four angels, incorporating the four angels somewhere else, so long as both sets are present.  If nothing else, I’ll have another table to experiment with and can draw my own experiential conclusions from that, and perhaps use the two separate tables for different purposes.

So much for the kings versus angel debate.  Thing is, this is just one part of the contents of the table; we’ll get into the rest of the fun stuff next week when we talk about the planetary considerations.

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: The Pedestal in all its Churchy and Grimoiric Flavors

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

So we have this crystal ball, and according to the instructions in DSIC:

Procure of a lapidary good clear pellucid crystal, of the bigness of a small orange, i.e. about one inch and a half in diameter; let it be globular or round each way alike; then, when you have got this crystal, fair and clear, without any clouds or specks, get a small plate of pure gold to encompass the crystal round one half; let this be fitted on an ivory or ebony pedestal, as you may see more fully described in the drawing, [figure 1]. Let there be engraved a circle (A) round the crystal with these characters around inside the circle next the crystal:

afterwards the name “Tetragrammaton“. On the other side of the plate let there be engraven “Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael;” which are the four principal angels ruling over the Sun, Moon, Venus and Mercury;

This is backed up with the accompanying illustration from DSIC:

We have this crystal, we have a design for it, and we have a description for it, too.  We need to set it in a gold plate “round one half”, but that phrase is a little odd to read and interpret.  This may be interpreted to mean either to set the crystal ball halfway through the plate, such that it sticks out equally from both sides, or that the crystal must be put into a depression on the plate such that the crystal sticks out visibly from one half and is covered by gold on the other.  I’ve only ever seen this latter interpretation discussed twice, once by I forget by whom; doing so would make the crystal look completely gold from the front, and the pure gold backing (if polished and smooth enough) would turn the crystal into a spherical (almost parabolic) mirror of sorts.  This could certainly be the case, and it’s not like mirrors aren’t used in conjuration as a scrying medium, but I’ve only seen one person provide that sort of explanation, and I’ve never seen an example of anyone actually using it.  The other place is Fr. RO himself in his Modern Angelic Grimoire which forms part of RWC, where he describes this as (emphasis in my bold text):

The Crystal used in the Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals was a clear crystal ball an inch and a half in diameter, with a special gold plate covering the bottom half of it. On the gold plate, a Star of David with a Yod in it, a pentagram, a Maltese cross, and Tetragrammaton were engraved. On the other side of the plate, the names Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel were engraved. The side with the symbols was placed against the crystal, and then the gold plate was mounted to a pedestal of ebony or ivory. I’m assuming the plate was molded to the shape of the crystal.

However, that said, the more common (by far) interpretation, which makes more sense to me and which is more popular, is the former: use a thin plate of gold, make a hole in the plate, and set the crystal into the hole such that it’s visible from both sides.

Either way, we must set the plate into a pedestal made of either ivory or ebony; alternatively, from a practical point of view, we set the crystal directly into the pedestal, and then place one gold plate with a hole in the middle around the crystal on the front of the pedestal, and another on the reverse. Either works, so long as the final result looks the same; we want the gold to be visible from both sides of the pedestal, which necessitates it either a large circle cut out from the pedestal for the gold plate and crystal to fit into, or the crystal put into a hole in the wood on a recessed surface and gold being put on either side. The former would be ideal. Why do we need to have the plate, or at least some gold surface, visible from both sides? Because there are inscriptions to be made on the plate on both sides, and it doesn’t make sense for there to be just one plate tacked onto the wood with half the inscriptions visible and the other half hidden by the wood.

How big should the plate be? Based on the image given in DSIC, it doesn’t look all that big compared to the crystal. If the crystal is about 1.5″ in diameter, then using that very image from DSIC as a guide, the plate should be about 2.32″ in diameter, giving us a space of about 0.4″ to write within on the band produced by the plate with the crystal in the middle; this is not a big space. That would make the whole ebony/ivory board into which the plate itself is set something like 3.3″ wide total, and like 5″ tall or so.  Fr. AC’s pedestals, it would seem, are far bigger than what would be recommended according to DSIC; he also appears (just based on general photos without any clear frame of reference besides guessing) to use a larger-sized crystal (despite what he said about the benefits of it being small in the last post) with a bit more ebony wood on all sides of the plate.

On one side of the gold plate (or on the gold plate on one side of the pedestal, depending on how you interpret it) should be written the names of the four archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel; interestingly, although Uriel is almost never given to rule over planets, DSIC says that Uriel rules over Venus, though in the table of planetary hours and presiding angels at the end of DSIC, we see Anael instead. I think the ascription of Uriel to Venus, even if interesting, is almost certainly a mistake if not a once-off departure from the usual associations we see of either Uriel or of Venus.

Now, there’s already a problem here; the text says to engrave the names Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael (presumably in that order), while the image from DSIC gives the order (clockwise, starting from the top) Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel. I personally like the order given in the image better; this puts Raphael opposing Michael and Gabriel opposing Uriel, which makes elemental sense. If we start at the top of the ring and consider it to be East, then we have it arranged such that Michael of Fire associated with the East (cardinal sign of Fire Aries) and Raphael of Air with the West (Libra) make one axis, while Gabriel of Water with the North (Cancer) and Uriel of Earth with the South (Capricorn) make the other axis; this is shown as the first of three options in the next set of designs. The only issue with this is, if we write the names clockwise around the circle (as indicated by the image in DSIC), this puts Gabriel on the right and Uriel on the left, which makes the angelic directions go counterclockwise. I’m not pleased by that, honestly, but it’s what the image explicitly shows, and I’m willing to trust it for this. If we were to keep a clockwise motion here, we’d have Uriel on the right and Gabriel on the left. Either way, they’re on the same axis, so their elemental relationship is still preserved. Besides, if this plate is facing away from the conjurer, then the directions would still match what we’d expect, with Gabriel then aligned towards the North and Uriel to the South, so it’d still work. We’d just need to face this side away from us when it’s put on the table, and since there’s nothing actually saying how to align the pedestal, this should be fine.

Now, on the other hand, if we take the other order and start with Michael at the right point, then we get (starting from the top) Raphael at the top, Michael at the right, Gabriel at the bottom, and Uriel at the left, which gets us the East-Air Fire-South Water-West Earth-North attribution that’s so common in later occult works (option #2 below). Either works, I suppose, but I prefer the former choice, as it lines up better with the elemental-direction association I use based on cosmic directions of the signs of the Zodiac, and which is already used by Cornelius Agrippa in his Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7). GTSC, however, uses the latter choice of Michael-South, but keeping Michael at the top of the ring (option #3 below).

Personally, I don’t see that big an issue with choosing any one of these options, or another option, so long as you have the names of the four archangels on this side of the gold plate and have them arranged in a way that makes sense to you.

But what about the other side? Since no depiction is given in DSIC, we have to interpret what is specifically meant by:

Let there be engraved a circle round the crystal with these characters around inside the circle next the crystal:

afterwards the name “Tetragrammaton“.

I can see two possible interpretations of this, based on how one wants to interpret the meaning of the word “afterwards”:

  1. We inscribe the hexagram with central Yod, the pentagram, and the cross around the crystal in one “ring”, then the name “Tetragrammaton” around the symbols in a second “ring”.
  2. We inscribe the hexagram with central Yod, the pentagram, the cross, and the name “Tetragrammaton” around the symbols in the same ring.

First, note that the first symbol is one I’m describing as a “hexagram with a central Yod”, referring to the mark made in the center of the hexagram.  Following Fr. RO’s reading, I’m interpreting this as the Hebrew letter Yod, the tenth letter of the Hebrew script, which Agrippa explicitly states is the single-letter name of God (book II, chapter 4), and itself has the numerological value of 10.  This makes sense to me, although DSIC never clearly states what this mark actually is.  Fr. AC in GSTC interprets it as a Daleth, the fourth letter of the Hebrew script, which can represent the four-lettered name of God YHVH, as well as “door”, as in a gate by which spirits may traverse or communicate.  I personally don’t find Fr. AC’s interpretation convincing, but I can see why he might read this as a Daleth and not a Yod, given the lack of clarity in the DSIC illustrations.

What about the name Tetragrammaton? This is a commonly-encountered divine name of God used in plenty of occult works both past and present, and it literally means “[word of] four letters”, referring to the name of God in Judaism, YHVH. Personally, I don’t much like using “Tetragrammaton”, because it seems to me like a euphemism to be used instead of the actual name (like the Hebrew haShem, literally “the Name”, to refer to God and his name indirectly); I’d rather write outיהוה than “Tetragrammaton”. However, I can’t deny that the actual word “Tetragrammaton” is used in other occult texts, and its presence on the wand in DSIC suggests that, no, DSIC really means “Tetragrammaton”. Okay, I guess.

Option #1 seems unlikely, given that the specific phrasing of the design suggests an order, and moreover the narrowness of the ring doesn’t lend itself well to multiple rings. as a variant of option #2, we can split the word “Tetragrammaton” up into three parts (“Tetra”, “Gramma”, “Ton”) and intersperse these three parts between the three symbols: “Tetra” between the hexagram and pentagram, “Gramma” between the pentagram and cross, and “Ton” between the cross and hexagram. Splitting up the word “Tetragrammaton” is seen in other grimoires, after all, and the effect is rather pleasing.

Given the spatial appearance of the plate of gold from the DSIC illustration, we don’t have a lot of space between the crystal and the edge of the gold plate, and we probably don’t want to make the engraving too small, instead keeping it at the same size of font. This is probably the most reasonable case to be made for selecting option #2 as what was most likely meant by DSIC for this side of the gold plate—though, personally speaking, I like the variant of option #2 better, with “Tetragrammaton” interspersed between the symbols. Indeed, this is the very choice that Fr. Ashen Chassan takes in GTSC, though he puts “TETRA” on the left between the cross and hexgram with central Yod, “GRAMMA” on the right between the hexagram with central Yod and pentagram, and “TON” on the bottom between the pentagram and cross, as he showed in a detail on his Facebook page.

However, GTSC also brings up a different design choice altogether when it describes the gold plate: the book says that the two sides of the plate could (or should? it’s unclear from how Fr. Ashen Chassan phrases it) be one side, with the three symbols and Tetragrammaton on the inside closer to the crystal and the four angel names on the outside of the gold plate, as this would “feature the names ‘inside and outside’, not ‘forward and behind'”, which…doesn’t really follow from reading DSIC, which clearly states “on the other side of the plate”. From what this description implies, and using my options #2 and #3 from above for the symbol side as well as the Michael-East angel ring layout, we’d end up with these as potential designs for the single-sided gold plate, if we just wanted to engrave one side of it.

I don’t like either of these at all, to be honest, on top of the fact that I can’t imagine that this is what DSIC is actually suggesting we use, just how the symbol ring option #1 above doesn’t seem likely, and on top of the bit we discussed about the specific placement of angels on the disc to matches up with the direction when facing the reverse side of the pedestal.  But these could be considered options if you wanted to just go with a one-sided plate or if you were using some other kind of pedestal that, for some reason, didn’t have the option of engraving two sides.

As for the overall shape of the pedestal itself, which Fr. AC matches petty closely, the DSIC illustration just shows a…something like a schoolhouse-silhouette-like board, cut out with a little lozenge at the top. Getting the lozenge to be that fine of a point at its bottom while still being anchored to the rest of the board is perilous, so I don’t think it could be that narrow without it being too easily knocked off, but alright, whatever. Above the crystal and plate is engraved another hexagram with another Yod in it, at least on the side of the names of the four angels; there’s nothing showing us what, if anything, should be engraved on the other side.

I also want to point out that DSIC says that the pedestal may be made out of either ebony or ivory; the text treats them as functionally equivalent for this purpose.  Although Fr. AC mentions what DSIC says here about the choice, he only ever considers ebony in GTSC.  For all its difficulty to come by and its expensive nature, ivory is even harder and more difficult to come by, and at greater cost.  For ethical reasons, I can’t really recommend getting ivory to be used for such a pedestal.  However, if you have ethically-sourced ivory of enough stability and quality to use, you could use it if you want.  Ebony matches the use of the wand (which we’ll cover later), but ivory would work as well.

Interestingly, although Fr. AC makes these pedestal with a leg and foot for it to stand higher up (see the picture higher up in the post of one of his creations), that’s not actually depicted here; whether that was considered extra or just an oversight just isn’t known. A simple board doesn’t seem able to support itself very well, so it might be that something would be needed to properly support this pedestal on the table itself, whether some sort of anchor or support or weight; a leg does seem appropriate and necessary. Plus, if we do include a leg for the pedestal, as pointed out to me by my good bromancer Pallas Renatus a few years back, then the pedestal for the crystal and gold plate begins to bear a strong visual similarity to the ostensorium, also known as a monstrance, a vessel used in Catholic and Anglican churches to hold and display the consecrated Eucharistic Host or of other holy relics. In that light, having such a pedestal with a leg makes perfect sense, with the crystal taking the place of the Host, the gold plate taking the place of the sunburst so common in monstrances, and the lozenge at the top taking the place of the surmounting cross or crucifix.

Heck, some monstrances even take the shape of miniature churches or cathedrals themselves, which have the same rough outline as the schoolhouse-silhouette from DSIC:

GTSC mentions that there’s another text, Occult Spells: A Nineteenth Century Grimoire compiled by Frederick Hockley. This text describes a similar device to the DSIC pedestal, though which uses a consecrated beryl, “a kind of chrystal that hath a weak Tincture of red”, i.e. a red emerald, though other magicians may use “a chrystal sphere or mineral pearl for the purpose which is inspected by a boy or sometimes by the querent himself”. Hockley goes on to say that “[this] Beryll is a Perfect Sphere, the diameter I guess to be something more than an inch, it is set in a ring or circle of silver resembling the Meridian of a Globe, the stem of it is about 10 inches high all gilt at the 4 quarters of it and the names of the 4 angels viz, Uriel, Gabriel, Michael, Raphael on the top is a cross patee”. Though not identical to the DSIC apparatus, it is strikingly similar, and gives another idea for some to work with. This still retains the loose idea of a monstrance, too, just of the round sunburst style instead of the cathedral- or church-shaped style that’s implied by DSIC, and might even be closer given its simpler nature and the inclusion of the cross on top.  And remember how we pointed out last time that Agrippa considers both quartz crystal and beryl to be watery materials (book I, chapter 7)!

Since Hockley’s text postdates that of The Magus, I think that this form might well be a derivative or alternative form of what’s presented in DSIC.  As a result, we end up having two forms of the pedestal to play with: the church-shaped monstrance style from DSIC proper, and this sunburst-shaped monstrance style from Occult Spells; fundamentally, it’s the same thing, something to hold aloft the crystal above the table, and the only real difference is the general shape of the ebony or ivory material that supports the plate and crystal. I can’t, however, explain the presence of the hexagram with the central Yod inside from the DSIC image, however, and it’s not mentioned in the text itself. We do know that the DSIC images love to use hexagrams, though; they’re on the wand, circle, lamen, and in the ring of gold itself around the crystal, and DSIC does make repeated use of this hexagram-with-central-Yod design that I don’t really see elsewhere outside DSIC. GTSC uses this symbol on both the front and back of the pedestal, but there’s nothing saying anything about it being on either side, just the depiction of it on the side of the pedestal with the names of the angels (which, as I argued above, would probably be facing away from the magician).

I don’t particularly think much of this, honestly; include it if you want, if you have space on the pedestal above the crystal, at least on the side of the angel names, but if you don’t, I don’t think it’s that much of a loss if you were to omit it or didn’t have space for it. I assume that, if it was actually vital to the device, the text would have said something about it like it does the other symbols and the names. Plus, the symbol is already present on the ring with “Tetragrammaton” on it, so duplicating it again on the same object could just be unnecessary and used as a stylistic thing (and I see some authors like Donald Tyson and Fr. AC argue that duplication is probably a mistake in some of these contexts related to DSIC tool design).  I can’t say for certain, but I don’t think it’s that necessary for the apparatus as a whole to have this stylized hexagram present on the actual pedestal itself outside of the gold plate that holds the crystal.  To my eyes, it’s just an added mark of holiness, perhaps used to fill the otherwise empty space above the crystal so as to use more ebony and give it a more churchy-monstrance look, but I don’t think it’s much more than that.

However, let’s be honest: the construction of the pedestal is nontrivial, and not everyone can make the thing to DSIC spec.  Something Fr. AC notes in GTSC is that John Dee (of Elizabethan and Enochiana fame, of course) “utilized a similar crystal device with a gold band wrapping the stone with a gold cross on top”, and that if the pedestal option seems too difficult, this might well (but not necessarily) suffice.  We have a design from Dee’s original journals of such a design, with the crystal inside a band on some sort of four-footed stand:

Not only does the cross on top give this sort of depiction a monstrancy-kind of flavor, it also ties it visually with the crystal stand present in Hockley’s text above.  After all, whether the crystal is surrounded by a plate of gold or a band of gold, it’s still surrounded by gold, either way, and it’s still doing the same fundamental thing as the stand in DSIC!  This idea for using a band of fold was used by Fr. FC of the Faith From Causation blog for preparing the crystal for their DSIC implementation.  Though they originally started with no housing or encasement for the crystal, they realized that the pedestal or something of the like was important, but instead of the pedestal itself, opted for a gold band to go around the crystal (in their case, made of gold foil paper).  In their writeup of the Trithemian tools, they put the divine names and symbols on the inside of the ring and the four angels on the outside.

This is an appealing substitution, I have to admit, since as Fr. FC states, “some sort of housing can block glare from the candles”.  Personally, if I were to go this route, I’d put the angels on the inside (being “behind” the band) and the divine names and symbols on the outside to match what I described about the orientation of the pedestal above.  Plus, it’d put the angels literally on the crystal, and since the whole point of the ritual is to conjure angels into crystals, it seems like it makes more sense that way to me.  Of course, instead of taking this route, one might use another band like this to act as a stand itself; imagine a cardboard tube (like that used for toilet paper) stood up on its end, with “Tetragrammaton” and the three symbols written on the outside and the four angels written on the outside, and you could have another more-or-less viable substitution for the pedestal—though at the expense of having anything going “around” the crystal itself in space.  It’s another option to consider, at least.

And that’s if you want to have the pedestal at all.  After all, many people who use DSIC (especially in the Fr. RO RWC/SS method) don’t use any sort of pedestal, angelic names, or the like at all: they just plop the crystal right on the table.  Though doing so goes against DSIC’s instructions to use a pedestal with sacred names and symbols and the like, countless people have still gotten abundantly useful results (myself included).  Taking this approach, however, typically involves some changes in how the different bits of equipment are designed and constructed.  This includes making possible changes to the table, and we’ll begin getting into the design of that next time.

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Plenty to Say, so Let’s Start with the Crystal

I do take it as something of a badge of honor that Fr. Rufus Opus (or, to save keystrokes, of which there are many coming up, Fr. RO, and don’t worry, there are yet even more abbreviations to come here) claims that I’m one of the inheritors to his old Red Work courses, as he said recently on his Facebook page:

Sam Block is one of the few I’ve officially endorsed to carry on the Red Work series of Courses, one of my favorite people, and a presence in some of my favorite memories. Also introduced me to Hendrick’s. Good stuff.

I don’t talk a lot about the student-teacher thing, I think it’s pedantic. Literally patronizing, so yuck.

But I’ve learned so much from my so-called students over the years, and Sam is one of the ones at the top of the list of people who taught me as much or more than I ever showed them in my bumbling excitement.

Talk to the man some time. You come away richer.

I don’t mean to start off this post to puff myself up or to make myself seem like some grand poobah of high mucketymuck, but to remind myself that RWC is where I really began my formal studies into Hermeticism and Renaissance-style magic specifically and the occult generally. It’s been about four years since Fr. RO stopped teaching his Red Work courses (RWC), about the same time he released his Seven Spheres (SS) book and a little before he himself got formally into Thelema and the A∴A∴. I know his coursework pretty thoroughly—I’ve gone through it a number of times over the years, taking notes and charting my own progress and seeing where I and he differ—and given my recent quasi-ministry of occult and spiritual Q-and-A through Curious Cat, I’ve had plenty of reasons recently to go back even more, just to make sure I know what I’m saying versus what Fr. RO might have been saying through me all this time, even when he and I agree.

One of the things that a good number of people have asked me, both through Curious Cat and through email and through Facebook, involves the topic of the specific tools of conjuration that Fr. RO suggests to use in SS. He developed SS as a distillation of the Green Work section of RWC, and though it definitely brought an easy-to-use easily-accessible easily-applicable form of Hermetic planetary magic to the masses…well, I have my issues with it, sometimes in terms of quality (I’ve spotted a number of outright editorial errors that should have been caught with even a modicum of proofreading), but also in terms of content. While SS serves as a distillation of RWC, I think that he distilled it way too far, and a lot of really good information that was in RWC that would have been useful to the reader of SS just wasn’t there. As a result, I’ve had to take on students and consultees who want some mentorship on the SS approach to magic, correcting some things, clarifying others, and giving my own thoughts on yet other topics.

On top of what people are asking me about his SS approach, there’s also my own recent work involving me constructing this new Hermetic devotional practice based on the four archangels and four prophets of geomancy, which is so widely-encompassing I don’t know if I can even call it “focused on geomancy” anymore. I’ve been writing and compiling and editing and adjusting prayer after prayer after prayer after prayer into something that really is My Own Thing. I’m excited about it, but it’s also a source of no small amount of consternation. What, exactly, do I want to keep from before? What do I want to keep the same? What do I want to rewrite or adjust (of the things that I know back-to-front, up, down, and seven-ways-to-Sunday) to fit more cleanly in this new mode of working and contemplating? One of those things is how I do planetary work, and what’s next on the list is planetary conjurations themselves. I could keep the same script I’ve been using for years—originally the RWC script, then updated for my own less Christian and slightly more Hermetic ways—but why not adopt and adapt that, too, in ways that actually work?

For that, I need to really dig back into the technology and techniques of that conjuration ritual, and that ritual is, of course, The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC). Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. RO in either RWC or SS, or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan by means of his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively). And while it’s all fundamentally the same ritual, Fr. RO and Fr. AC have some differing approaches to the text, the former through a looser and more freewheeling style and the latter from a stricter, grimoirically accurate approach. These differences have produced no small amount of discussion and debate over the years online and in person, sometime just being aesthetic differences and sometimes getting into some really serious cosmological ones. Given that I want to update my own approach to this ritual, I figured I’d delve in a bit deeper than I otherwise might have and actually investigate what’s what instead of just sticking with the same-old same-old.

Just to warn you, this turned out to be, well…a considerably longer investigation than I anticipated. I figured I’d just write a single post and be done with it, but as these things turn out, there’s just too much to actually cover within a single reasonably-long post. There’s going to be several, put out over the next few days, and we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. What I want to focus on, specifically, is to actually review the specific implements and process that DSIC instructs us to use, what’s actually being used by real magicians out there, and figure out what misses the mark, what can be legitimate alternatives according to different interpretations of the text itself, what can be reasonable alternatives, and the like, and one of the easiest things to start with is the actual tools of DSIC itself.

First up? The Table of Practice. This is the most complicated part of the whole Trithemian method of conjuration given in DSIC for a number of reasons, and there’s several ways we can interpret what DSIC says about how to construct it, so we’ll tackle this beast of a topic first before getting into the rest of the tools and method given in DSIC.

Let’s start with what I’ve got, shall we? The Table of Practice is something that Fr. RO instructed us to develop in the Black Work part of his RWC, and I made my own back in early 2011 from a simple pine placard and woodburning kit from Michaels, and even documented how I did it for posterity’s sake as well as showing others how I did it. The design matches what Fr. RO taught in RWC:

  • Three concentric circles
  • An equilateral triangle circumscribed by the innermost circle
  • A Maltese cross, a hexagram with Hebrew letter Yod inside, and a pentagram in the corners of the triangle
  • Between the outermost and middle circle, the glyphs of the seven planets and the names of each planet’s angel
  • Between the middle and innermost circle, the names of the four elemental archangels

I used this table for a good number of years, before auctioning it off as part of a raffle I held one year as part of a fundraiser for St. Cyprian. By that point, however, I had already made an updated version for my own purposes, one that added another ring of names of the zodiacal angels around the outside, added the three holy names YHVH Elohim Tzabaoth in Hebrew around the triangle (based on research of back-translating the divine names from the Lemegeton Triangle of Art), and rewrote all the names in Hebrew instead of some being in Hebrew script and some being in Latin script. Treating myself, and getting used to a flexshaft and diamond-bit tips, I engraved the whole thing into a sweet score of a granite cheeseboard in excellent condition from a thrift store:

I’ve used this design for a good number of years now (since like 2013 or 2014), and I’ve gotten excellent work done by it ever since.

Now that I’ve introduced my background and my own version of the Table of Practice, let’s see what the original text says. But, first, what exactly is the original text? The text itself is begun with the title “Of the making of the Crystal and the Form of Preparation for a Vision”, from “The Magic and Philosophy of Trithemius of Spanheim; containing his Book of Secret Things, and Doctrine of Spirits”. This text appears as part IV of Francis Barret’s 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer. Although the title page for the Trithemian section (from pages 129 through 140) says that it was “translated from a valuable Latin manuscript by Francis Barrett” and “never yet published in the English Language”, such a provenance is specious at best. “Trithemius of Spanheim” refers to Johannes Trithemius, born Johann Heidenberg, who lived from early 1462 to late 1516, a Benedictine abbot who also specialized in cryptography as well as the occult, and was mentor to the famous Henrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, author of the “Three Books of Occult Philosophy” as well as the “Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy”, although a definite connection to the “Fourth Book” isn’t actually available, as evidence exists that it was spurious. Still, it is confirmed that Johannes Trithemius was a real person and a real occultist. However, the text we’re focusing on is…well, it doesn’t seem to appear anywhere before it appeared in the Magus. Unless Barrett had the only “valuable Latin manuscript” that contained it, I think it might be one of Barrett’s few original contributions to the occult.

So, onto the text itself. DSIC begins with the following instructions:

Procure of a lapidary good clear pellucid crystal, of the bigness of a small orange, i.e. about one inch and a half in diameter; let it be globular or round each way alike; then, when you have got this crystal, fair and clear, without any clouds or specks, get a small plate of pure gold to encompass the crystal round one half; let this be fitted on an ivory or ebony pedestal, as you may see more fully described in the drawing, [figure 1]. Let there be engraved a circle (A) round the crystal with these characters around inside the circle next the crystal:

afterwards the name “Tetragrammaton“. On the other side of the plate let there be engraven “Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael;” which are the four principal angels ruling over the Sun, Moon, Venus and Mercury; but on the table on which the crystal stands the following names, characters, &c. must be drawn in order.

First, The names of the seven planets and angels ruling them, with their seals or characters. The names of the four kings of the four corners of the earth. Let them be all written within a double circle, with a triangle on a table; on which place the crystal on its pedestal: this being done, thy table is complete (as in the Fig. D,) and fit for the calling of the spirits…

From this description, we know we need four things:

  • A small, pure, clear crystal
  • A small plate of gold, engraved on one side with the three signs as above and the divine name “Tetragrammaton” and on the other with the names of the four archangels, into which the crystal must be set
  • An ebony pedestal to hold the gold plate and crystal
  • A table to support the pedestal, on which is engraved everything else

Shortly before the text itself is a plate given with an illustration of some of the implements referenced:

The plate itself has depictions of the following, along with the following captions for each of the images:

  • The wand ­— “The Magic Wand to be used in Invocations by the Chrystal. Write or engrave on the other side ‘Ego Alpha et Omega’.”
  • The two candles — “Two Holy wax Lights to be used in the Invocation by the Chrystal.”
  • The pedestal for the crystal itself — “The true size and form of the Chrystal which must be sett in pure Gold, & the same names & characters as in the model here given.”
  • The magic circle for the magician to stand within — “The magic Circle of a simple construction in which the operator must stand or sit when he uses the Chrystal.”
  • The censer — “The Tripod on which the perfumes are put, & may be either held in the hand or sett in the earth.”
  • The lamen — “The Lamen, or Holy Table of the Archangel Michael”.

Since the pedestal was brought up first in DSIC, let’s start there. Unfortunately, the depiction of the pedestal is only given from one side, showing the side of the four angels and not that of the three symbols and the name “Tetragrammaton”, and there is no image of the table itself. All we have to go on is the description given at the start of DSIC.

While we’re here, let me make a small note about the crystal. To be true to the text, it must be a spherical crystal ball. Alright, no surprises there, nothing we didn’t expect! But, according to the text, it should be “about the size of a small orange”; when you see this, don’t think of the usual navel oranges you find in supermarkets, but think of mikan or Mandarin oranges. Like, we’re talking small in the sense of it being just a large marble. Happily, Trithemius gives an actual measurement, “i.e. about one inch and a half in diameter”. This isn’t big at all; for reference, here’s an image from an Etsy listing that sells just that very size:

Fr. AC says a bit about how small this actually is, but considers that the smallness of the crystal makes sense for the design of what DSIC is prescribing, and further, that “one needs to be able to gaze directly at the sphere without any peripheral distractions”, something more like single-pointed fixation-style gazing.  I mean, it’s not like we need a wide-screen TV to conjure and communicate with angels.

Likewise, although we might naturally jump at the conclusion that we should get quartz crystal (especially as lapidaries are mentioned, from whom we should get such a crystal), it doesn’t necessarily have to be quartz. Heck, the image of the crystal above is shows a lead crystal, and which was used across the Old World, especially to imitate precious and semiprecious gems and stones. Quartz may well be preferred, but finding pure quartz, even of that size, can be difficult. Personally, I don’t think the exact material of the scrying medium matters all that much; you could use quartz, calcite, or lead crystal, or plain glass, and probably get fine results any which way. However, I greatly prefer quartz, even if it’s not “pellucid” and “fair and clear, without any clouds or specks”; mine have plenty of inclusions in them, which I don’t think detract all that much from the final effect, but if you want to go with really clear, have at. You might do better to go with reconstituted, fused, or lab-grown quartz, in that case.  Fr. AC goes on a bit about the differences between them, and how they didn’t much matter in practice, even if they do in price and aesthetic.  Plus, consider that back in the day, they didn’t have such things as reconstituted or fused quartz; chances are that if you could get “pellucid”, perfectly clear quartz, you were almost necessarily bound to getting small pieces.  Nowadays we can get massive crystal balls that are perfectly clear without any inclusions or mars, but back then, if you wanted something perfectly clear all the way though, you shouldn’t hold your breath for more than a marble.  Getting such a perfectly clear natural crystal back then “about the size of a small orange” was probably pushing the bounds of feasibility and affordability for most people.

For that matter, though, let’s be honest: there are plenty of perfectly legitimate scrying materials and mediums one might use from the grimoiric tradition.  Now, to be fair, DSIC is called “Drawing Spirits Into Crystals” for a reason, not DSIM (mirrors), DSIW (water), DSIB (bowls), or whatever.  But we surely cannot deny the fact that there’s no one medium that’s truly best; heck, Fr. Acher of Theomagica uses a splendid black scrying mirror on top of his Table of Practice, and has gotten results that are just fine and splendid according to his writeups from e.g. his Arbatel operations, and Fr. AC himself describes how to prepare scrying mirrors in GTSC if one wants to go that route instead of using a crystal.  You could also take a hint from Asterion’s idea of modernizing water vessel divination instruments by using basically a large clear wine glass full of water, which would simulate the optics of crystal rather nicely and at an excellent affordable price.

But let’s say that we do, in fact, want to go with crystal; it is, after all, a useful material.  Agrippa mentions crystal (basically quartz) as being a waterish material since it’s considered “compacted of water” along with beryl and and pearl (book I, chapter 7), as well as lunary (book I, chapter 24), as well as being ruled over by the Pleiades (book I, chapter 32) and the sign Aquarius (book II, chapter 14).  However, beyond that, Agrippa doesn’t much talk about the substance in his Three Books, and not at all in his Fourth Book.  Honestly, that doesn’t surprise me all that much; while I don’t have any immediate sources to back this up, I feel like using crystals for divination and conjuration in this matter was a fairly late development in conjuration tech.  Rather, if anything, spirits were just supposed to just show up without necessarily appearing in anything, or instead used materials like one’s fingernail, vessels, candleflames, or smoke.

Anyway, back to DSIC.  The text says that the crystal should be “globular or round each way alike”, which is to say as perfect a sphere as possible.  When we talk about the pedestal that supports the crystal in the next post, this makes sense from an aesthetic point of view, and also since spheres have a long history dating back to Hellenistic times in Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophy as being the most perfect shape, especially for perfect beings.  And, to be fair, crystal balls have a long trope in our culture as being the method for scrying for all sorts of occultists and fortune-tellers.  Personally?  I don’t see much of a need that it has to be a sphere; if you’re sticking to the DSIC design, then there are good practical reasons for it to be, but if not, then I’d consider any decently- and appropriately-sized, unbroken crystal with a smooth surface would work.  I have a particularly nice quartz tetrahedron I got some years ago that I’ve used quite well for conjuring and scrying, which I find geometrically appropriate for use in triangles since the tetrahedron is just the projection of the two-dimensional triangle into three-dimensional space.  I show this off prominently on my Facebook page on this overdone, overwrought fancy altar photo I took a while ago:

But that’s just me.  I did start off, of course, using a natural quartz sphere, and I still occasionally use it, but I like using the quartz tetrahedron when I get the chance to do so.

In the end, you can probably use whatever scrying medium you want for DSIC operations, though a crystal fits the method and design best, especially if spherical, as we’ll see next time when we talk about the pedestal and how that ties into the design of the table upon which it’s to be placed.  Going forward, we’ll assume a spherical crystal ball to fit in with the rest of the DSIC design, but later down the line, we’ll talk about alternative approaches more firmly and how to finagle the whole system to accommodate such adjustments.