Where were we? We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer. Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively). I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and today we can move on to other topics Last time, we wrapped up the design of the lamen, noting how to fill in the circles and with what names or seals you might need. If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!
Okay, so now we’ve reviewed some of the biggest things we know we need: the crystal, the pedestal and the table (or, if you combine them, the Table of Practice) and the lamen. If only those were the only things we needed to discuss, but alas! There are still even more things! While we won’t get into all of them today, we can knock out a few of them in a single post, because there’s not that much to say about them—whether because they’re so straightforward or because whether there’s just not much written about them.
First, let’s talk about the wand. We know we need a wand, because DSIC says so:
…take your black ebony wand, with the gilt characters on it and trace the circle…
And that’s the only instance in the ritual text of DSIC for using the wand. There’s no description given in the text, but the illustration that accompanies DSIC gives us one:
The wand is the large stick on the left, a long thin cylindrical rod with the divine names “Agla On Tetragrammaton”, with a hexagram between “Agla” and “On”, a hexagram with a central Yod in it (like as depicted on the pedestal as well as described for the gold disc for the pedestal) between “On” and “Tetragrammaton”, and another cross after “Tetragrammaton”. This depiction is also accompanied by the caption:
The Magic Wand to be used in Invocations by the Chrystal. Write or engrave on the other side “Ego Alpha et Omega”.
So we know that there needs to be two sets of writings on the wand, which (as stated by the text) should be made of ebony with “gilt characters”, meaning that we need to use gold for all the inscriptions; you can just use gold ink or gold paint, or if you want to go the extra mile, engrave the ebony shaft and use actual gold leaf to gild it.
That’s basically it. Fr AC, as usual, sticks to the design of this pretty exactly: a simple, straight, unembellished ebony rod with the characters applied in gold paint. Nothing really that special to note, though I will note that the design of the wand he gives in GTSC omits the central Yod in the second hexagram, even if he includes it on the wands he makes and includes the mark in a separate diagram just before the completed wand design image. A graphical oversight, I assume; the wand clearly should have the Yod mark (or, as Fr. AC claims, the Daleth mark) in the middle hexagram, as he makes on his actual wands.
However, instead of writing the phrase “Ego Alpha et Omega” in Latin as DSIC indicates, Fr. AC writes “Εγο το Αλφα και το Ω”, since he “decided to use the phrase and alphabet used in the Greek language for ‘I am the Alpha and Omega,’ as it seemed to be appropriate and stayed within the original context”. Though he says that “end result turned out quite well”, there’s an unfortunate error in his design; as with the linguistic errors he made on on his version of the table, there’s a typo in the Greek here, too. This phrase is taken from Revelations 22:13, which in Greek starts “Εγω το Αλφα και το Ω” (“Ἐγὼ τὸ Ἄλφα καὶ τὸ Ὦ” using polytonic Greek), using an ōmega instead of omikron for the first word. Despite the minor though unfortunate typo (especially using such expensive materials as gold and ebony), I don’t disagree with using the original Greek phrase here, though some might find it weird to mix Greek script on one side and Latin script on the other.
Anyway, back to the wand design. Fr. RO basically takes this same design and approach, but in RWC, he omits the reverse side of the wand; he doesn’t include “Ego Alpha et Omega” on the wand, just the three divine names with the three symbols. He fixes this approach in SS, where he gives the three divine names with the three symbols on one side, and the phrase “Ego Sum Alpha et Omega” on the back; basically the same thing, with the word “sum” (“I am”) elided in the original statement. Fr. RO also makes a note in SS: “Note that you don’t have to use a wand; you can also use your index finger, the finger of Jupiter”. And that’s actually a really interesting point to make, because it taps into some of the symbolism of the wand: depending on your approach, it can be seen as a conductor’s baton, the caduceus of Hermēs/Mercurius, a drumstick to beat the sacred drum of the shaman, or a king’s scepter. Fr. RO typically has a very Jovian-minded approach to his style of Hermetic magic that focuses much on kingship and royalty, but I don’t disagree with it: the wand is our symbol of divinely-entrusted Power.
For myself? I originally used a simple version, made of no more than a carved pine dowel I got from Michael’s with just the front half of the inscriptions (since I was working from RWC at the time), which I then carved at the tip and stained and finished off with polyurethane, but I eventually made myself something much nicer from ebony, gold, silver, and quartz. I described my approach to my wand on the craft page I made for it, documenting how I made it and my own design. It’s not a close fit with DSIC, but it is based on it; I incorporated the symbols for the wand from the Key of Solomon, rewrote the divine names in Hebrew (אגלא, ון, יהוה), and replaced “Ego Alpha et Omega” with the word AZOTH. No, it’s not by-the-book DSIC, but it fulfills all the same requirements and needs, and throws in a bit of traditional Solomonica as well. (And, depending on your line of thinking, the symbols from the Key of Solomon can sometimes be read as highly distorted, devolved, and degraded Hebrew script for many of the same things we’d engrave anyway.)
However, looking at the three symbols on the wand, something does cross my mind. We know that the illustrator for DSIC loves hexagrams: they’re present on the lamen (which, to be fair, is according to Agrippa’s specifications), they’re present in the magic circle (which we’ll get to in a later post), they’re present on the gold disc for the pedestal, and they’re present on the pedestal stand itself. And now we see them on the wand, as well, but…I think it’s important to pick up on the fact that there are three separate symbols here on the wand, and the only time we see another set of three symbols is on the front side of the gold plate for the pedestal that has the pentagram, hexagram with central Yod, and cross with the name Tetragrammaton. It occurs to me that the first symbol on the wand, the hexagram between “Agla” and “On”, might have been intended to be a pentagram and not a hexagram to match with the same symbols on the gold disc that supports the crystal, and that it’s a hexagram could have been a mistake on the part of the illustrator for DSIC.
It’s not clear, and Agrippa’s Fourth Book doesn’t describe the use of a wand at all, and this is the only instance of a wand described or used in the entirety of The Magus, as well. It’s not clear where DSIC incorporated the wand from, and I’m not sure. The closest thing I can think of, if not texts like the Key of Solomon itself, is a small description from the Liber Juratus Honorii, the Sworn Book of Honorius (LHJ):
But the wand should have four sides. On one side should be written “Adonay”; on the second side “Sabaoth”; on the third, “Hiskiros”; on the fourth “Emanuel”. On the middle of the wand make the pentagonal figure of Solomon, and where the wand is held, a cross, and thus it will be prepared for sacred and wonderful works.
If you think about it, this is kinda sorta like what DSIC has, if you squint a bit and cross your eyes. But I do think that it’s significant to note the two symbols on the wand that LJH does describe: a pentagram “on the middle of the wand” and a cross “where the wand is held”. If you reckon “where the wand is held” to be the bottom end of the wand according to the DSIC illustration, then we get a match with where the cross is placed on the DSIC wand. The middle symbol of the DSIC wand is the hexagram with central Yod in it, but if you swap that with the blank hexagram and reinterpret the “figure of Solomon” to be a pentagram instead of a hexagram, then you’d end up with a modified form of the DSIC wand with a hexagram with central Yod in it, a pentagram, and a cross—the same set of symbols in the same order that DSIC gives for the gold plate inscription.
I dunno. I think there’s a semi-convincing argument to be made there, but it’s inconclusive either way. Looking at the Key of Solomon isn’t really helpful, as the wand described in that doesn’t match with any of this above, though Joseph H. Peterson of Esoteric Archives has the note for this section on their entry for the Key of Solomon:
The staff and wand seem to be interchangeable in book 2 chapter 7. See footnote 4. I believe these characters are nothing more than corrupted versions of the Hebrew characters “AGLA + VN + IHVH” found in Trithemius. Scot’s magical texts have “Tetragrammaton + Adonay + Agla + Craton” on the wand. The staff and wand are conspicuously absent from the list of instruments in the Hebrew Key of Solomon as well as Ad. 36674.
How long should the wand be? No description is given anywhere. My default preference is the length from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger, fully extended in a straight line. I find that to be a comfortable length, but it’s up to you. Joseph H. Peterson has an article up on grimoiric wand lore over at Esoteric Archives, but even then, there’s not much. Thesaurus Spirituum says one cubit (about 18″), Le Grand Grimoire says 19.5″, and some versions of the Key of Solomon say 24″. So, pick something in the 20″-ish range and you’ll be good; it just so happens that the average person’s elbow-to-middle-fingertip distance happens to be in that same range, depending on your body’s proportions, so that might be the best standard to measure by, especially if you’re exceptionally tall or exceptionally short. That said, I’ve seen some people use much shorter wands than this, sometimes even shorter than 12″, so there’s certainly room for variance. As for thickness, perhaps as thick as your index finger at the knuckle, something with substance but nothing too unwieldy.
Now, all that being said, this assumes that the wand is held by the end with the cross symbol on it, such that the DSIC image shows the wand “pointed up”. However, looking back through the old mailing list archives of Fr. RO’s RWC Yahoo! Groups, I find (almost seven years after the fact) that Fr. RO uses the wand with the cross-symbol end being the “point”; this is the original interpretation I used, as shown by my first wand. In other words, the base of the wand starts at the start of the text “Agla…” and finishes with “…Tetragrammaton ✠” at the “point”; when I went to Hebrew script for my ebony wand, I kept Agla close to the base and the Tetragrammaton closer to the tip. So, really, the DSIC illustration would seem to most conventionally be interpreted to have the wand shown “pointed down”; I think this makes the most sense, since we hold the wand where the text starts, and as the of the divine names text “continues” our reach, it shows the flow of both semantic meaning as well as power from our hands. Others, however, found that it doesn’t matter for them, since the wand as shown has no actual “point” to it, so it may be used either way as a general rod of power. Fr. AC doesn’t say which way the wand should be held, though the old promo video for GTSC at the 4:31 mark shows Fr. AC holding the wand in a similar way, with “Agla…” closer to the base and “…Tetragrammaton ✠” at the point. Based on all this, we should hold the wand from the “Agla…” side, regardless whether we write the names in Latin script or in Hebrew script.
So much for the wand, but I do want to make one more note here: though Agrippa in his Fourth Book doesn’t really describe the use of a wand, he does describe the use of a sword for use in conjurations, mostly when performing conjurations of evil spirits (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 lie, make without the Circle with the consecrated Sword, the figure of a triangle or Pentagram, and compel the Spirit to enter into it; and if thou receive any promise which thou would 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.
What Agrippa is describing here falls much more in line with classic Solomonic literature of using a sword to impel and threaten spirits, in this case using a consecrated sword to draw a triangle or pentagram into which the spirit is forced to enter so as to compel it to speak truth, making it swear oaths of loyalty and truth upon the sword. As an implement of iron, the classic material for the bane of spirits generally and evil spirits especially, this makes sense, and recalls similar uses for daggers and other blades in texts such as the Key of Solomon. However, DSIC doesn’t mention their use at all, suggesting a different origin or lineage of conjuration than the Key of Solomon or Lemegeton Goetia. Still, it can make sense to think of the wand the wand as a replacement for the Solomonic sword, especially given their similar uses in Agrippa and elsewhere. This, however, runs counter to what Fr. AC says about the wand in GTSC:
The wand is meant to be a representation of divine authority and command. As such, it should be treated with the upmost [sic] respect and dignity at all times. This is not and was never meant to be only a “director of the magician’s will.” This is also not a “blasting rod” in which to threaten and subdue spirits with either. It is wielded as an active symbol of holy diplomacy and ambassadorship. When you invoke holy Archangels with this wand, you are doing so with the assumption of divine inspiration and permission.
Now…do we really need a wand? Personally, in light of the absence of any other Solomonic-type tool of conjuration, I would say that we should. But, if not, as Fr. RO suggests, using the forefinger, the “finger of Jupiter”, can work in some cases. It won’t work for the proper Solomonic purpose of threatening impelling spirits (Mars, properly speaking, doesn’t have a finger associated to it, but the middle finger, given to Saturn, might work instead). Will a non-DSIC wand work? I think so, yes. It’d be best to make it according to spec here, but I don’t think that it’s that important in the long run; a wand with some sort of holy names, or imbued with holiness somehow, is sufficient.
However, an argument can be made that, if all you’re using DSIC for is “good spirits”, then you probably wouldn’t need a wand at all; after all, Agrippa doesn’t mention the use of any such tool or implement in either of his conjuration methods for “good spirits” (either his prayer-based theurgic method or his ecstatic trance method), and even in his conjuration of “evil spirits”, he only uses a sword in certain circumstances. If it weren’t for the single DSIC instruction of tracing the circle out with the wand (which is such a waste of an exquisite and exotic tool, made of ebony and gold as it is!), I would personally say that you wouldn’t need the wand unless you really wanted one. It’s not like you can exactly boss angels around, nor can you impress them as being an emissary of the power of God when that’s exactly their own role.
What about the ring? We can assume that this is basically a Ring of Solomon, but as far as DSIC is concerned, what exactly should we be looking for or aiming at? Like the wand, DSIC only mentions it once:
Then taking your ring and pentacle, put the ring on the little finger of your right hand…
But, unlike the wand, DSIC doesn’t give a description of what the ring should look like. Agrippa’s Fourth Book isn’t of much help here, either; there are only a handful of instances of the word. Here are the relevant passages, with the important parts in bold text:
It is to be known also, that Vows, Oblations, and Sacrifice, have the power of consecration, as much real as personal; and they are as it were certain covenants and conventions between those names with which they are made, and us who make them, strongly cleaving to our desire and wished effect: As, when we dedicate, offer, and sacrifice, with certain names or things; as, Fumigations, Unctions, Rings, Images, Looking-glasses; and things less material, as Deities, Sigils, Pentacles, Enchantments, Orations, Pictures, and Scriptures: of which we have largely spoken in our third book of Occult Philosophy. (book IV, chapter 8)
But he that is willing always and readily to receive the Oracles of a Dream, let him make unto himself a Ring of the Sun or of Saturn for this purpose. There is also an Image to be made, of excellent efficacy and power to work this effect; which being put under his head when he goes to sleep, doth effectually give true dreams of anything whatsoever the mine has before determined or consulted on. The Tables of Numbers do likewise confer to receive an Oracle, being duly formed under their own Constellations. And these things you may know in the third book of Occult Philosophy. … Now he that knows how to compose those things which we have now spoken of, he shall receive the most true Oracles of dreams. And this he shall do; observe those things which in the second book of Occult Philosophy are directed concerning this thing. He that is desirous therefore to receive an Oracle, let him abstain from supper and from drink, and be otherwise well disposed, his brain being free from turbulent vapors; let him also have his bed-chamber fair and clean, exorcised and consecrated if he will; then let him perfume the same with some convenient fumigation; and let him anoint his temples with some unguent efficacious hereunto, and put a ring upon his finger, of the things above spoken of: let him take either some image, or holy table, or holy paper, and place the same under his head: then having made a devout prayer, let him go unto his bed, and meditating upon that thing which he desires to know, let him so sleep; for so shall he receive a most certain and undoubted oracle by a dream, when the Moon goes through that sign which was in the ninth House of his nativity, and also when she goes through the sign of the ninth House of the Revolution of his nativity; and when she is in the ninth sign from the sign of perfection. And this is the way and means whereby we may obtain all Sciences and Arts whatsoever, suddenly and perfectly, with a true Illumination of our understanding; although all inferior familiar Spirits whatsoever do conduce to this effect; and sometimes also evil Spirits sensibly informing us Intrinsically or Extrinsically. (book IV, chapter 11)
But when we do intend to execute any effect by evil Spirits, when an Apparition is not needful; then that is to be done, by making and forming that thing which is to be unto us as an instrument, or subject of the experiment it self; as, whether it be an Image, or a Ring, or a Writing, or any Character, Candle, or Sacrifice, or any thing of the like sort; then the name of the Spirit is to be written therein, with his Character, according to the exigency of the experiment, either by writing it with some blood, or otherwise using a perfume agreeable to the Spirit. Oftentimes also making Prayers and Orations to God and the good Angels before we invoce the evil Spirit, conjuring him by the divine power. (book IV, chapter 14)
None of these really seem to apply to DSIC. The first passage kinda touches on the consecration of various things, but it’s nothing specific to conjuration, just of consecrated items in general. The second passage deals with oracles and divination through dreams, and though it specifies a ring to be made for the Sun or Saturn, there’s nothing specific about that. The third passage talks about dealing with evil spirits, but more in the case of working with them in a non-conjuration framework, such as through talismanic works. So Agrippa doesn’t seem to help us at all for matters about the ring. There’s exceedingly little in The Magus about it, too, and nothing specific for conjuration; there’s nothing in LHJ or other texts like the Heptameron, either, about rings.
My only guess is that the ring is an import from Solomonic literature like the Lemegeton Goetia (LG). From that, we get the following design (first from Esoteric Archive’s version, the second from Mather’s later redrawing):
The older version on Esoteric Archives gives a short description:
This Ring is to be held before the face of the Exorcist to preserve him from The stinking fumes of spirits &c.
Mathers gives a more fuller explanation for the ring that I like:
THIS is the Form of the Magic Ring, or rather Disc, of Solomon, the figure whereof is to be made in gold or silver. It is to be held before the face of the exorcist to preserve him from the stinking sulphurous fumes and flaming breath of the Evil Spirits.
I bring up both designs here to point out something interesting: both rings have the three names “Tetragrammaton”, “Anaphexeton”/”Anaphaxeton”, and “Michael” on them, though Mathers describes this more as a disc, while the older version seems a little…funkier. I think what the older version is showing is that “Anaphexeton” and “Michael” should be on the outside of the ring, and “Tetragrammaton” on the inside. (As for the word “Anaphaxeton”, Enoch Bowen of The Occult and Magick blog put up a post some years ago about this word, and how he describes it as related to the more common divine name “Tzabaoth”, related to the heavenly hosts, and this would make sense with the inclusion of the name “Michael”, being their prince and commander.) This design makes more sense than Mather’s design as a disc, but I suppose either would work.
As for the purpose of this ring? LG mentions the use of a ring when interacting with certain spirits (using Mathers’ much more readable version for these quotes):
- Beleth: “And thou must have always a Silver Ring on the middle finger of the left hand held against thy face, as they do yet before Amaymon. “
- Berith: “Thou must make use of a Ring in calling him forth, as is before spoken of regarding Beleth.”
- Astaroth: “Thou must in no wise let him approach too near unto thee, lest he do thee damage by his Noisome Breath. Wherefore the Magician must hold the Magical Ring near his face, and that will defend him.”
The one big difference in use between the ring of LG and the ring of DSIC, namely which finger and hand to wear it on (DSIC says the pinky/little finger of the right hand, LG the middle finger of left hand), but I think the basic idea here is clear: it’s for the protection of the magician from poison. Silver, after all, is well-known and has long been acclaimed to detect poisons by turning black, and is seen also as a way of nullifying poisons, hence why LG says to wear it before the face in order to preserve the magician from damage from the “noisome breath” (i.e. toxic, noxious, poisonous, deadly, or otherwise unpleasant fumes, smoke, gas, breath, or similar emission from the presence of the spirit). This would seem, however, to contradict Mathers’ description that the ring could be made of gold when silver is clearly being relied upon here.
Now, Fr. RO doesn’t describe the use of a ring in his RWC or SS, but he does use a lead (!) ring (which he says works as well as gold or silver) based on Mather’s version in the form of a disc. Moreover, he says that he uses this and other similar tools (the pentagram and hexagram seals of Solomon, basically other protective lamens from Solomonic literature) when conjuring one of the spirits for the first time, though he also says that he has “never had a spirit manifest in a stinking toxic cloud”.
In GTSC, Fr. AC does bring up the ring, but he makes the same conclusions I do: there’s nothing in DSIC to guide us except that we need to wear one on the little finger of our right hand. However, Fr. AC does bring up something to my attention I missed: The Magus does, in fact, give an illustration of a magic ring, just not where we expected! On page 106 (part II, chapter 18), there’s an illustration of a number of things: a few pentagrams and other geometric diagrams, an illustration of a sword, and, indeed, a magic ring! (I blame bad digitizations from Google Books on why I didn’t spot this earlier.)
The ring given in this image is pretty simple: a simple band, with a bevel/jewel that has upon it a hexagram with a single dot (perhaps a precursor to the hexagram with central Yod we see elsewhere?). This is a very, very simple form of the “seal of Solomon”, but it works for our needs, to be sure. Fr. AC describes his implementation, where he found just such a ring, and goes more into the materials and uses for it, though he also takes the approach of the old-style LG and engraves “Michael” and “Anaphexiton [sic]” on the outside and “Tetragrammaton” on the inside. This is basically my own approach, too, as I showed when I had my own ring of Solomon made for me some years back (using Hebrew instead of Latin, and replacing “Anaphaxeton” (or however you want to spell it) with “Tzabaoth” in Hebrew; there’s a hexagram with central dot engraved on the band underneath the sunstone.
To quote a bit of Fr. AC on the purpose of the ring:
The magical ring is a shield of protection and banner of obedience to all spiritual forces. The ring is a perfect symbol of divine unity and the impenetrable armor of God. To the spirit, there is no transgressing past this unified symbol of divine completeness. It is recommended that the ring you use be brand new and used only for this operation.
Also, one more note about that picture from The Magus: the sword in that image bears striking resemblance to the wand from DSIC, even though this is from Barrett’s version of the Heptameron. Barrett describes this specifically on page 110:
…and let the operator himself carry the sword, over which should be said a prayer of consecration: and on the middle of the sword on one side let there be engraven Agla †, and on the other side, † On † Tetragrammaton †.
Fr. AC mistakenly interprets this to be a wand and not a sword, despite the text clearly saying that it’s a sword as well as the caption saying so as well. Knowing that this is a sword and not a wand, we can pick up how closely Barrett (and the author of DSIC, if separate people) may have considered the DSIC wand to be to the sword here; in my mind, this weakens Fr. AC’s view that the wand is not a “blasting rod”, since it can and should be used as one should the need arise. After all, many of the tools in magical practice are not necessarily used for one thing and one thing only, nor do they act as symbols that mean one thing and one thing only. While that might be the case if you’re working from the Key of Solomon that has over a dozen separate implements, DSIC has so far fewer, and as we can see, the wand in DSIC is a distillation of both the Solomonic wand as well as the Solomonic sword, and thus can be used for either of the two in practice and in symbolism.
On that note, let’s call it a day for now. We’ll pick up next time on two more relatively minor (but still important) parts of the DSIC toolset: the candles and the incense brazier.