Swords and Scepters

As some of you may know, I’m a federal employee of the United States government, and as many of you know, the United States government is temporarily unfunded due to congressional incompetence.  Many federal employees, including me, are in a state of unpaid furlough, which is a fancy way of saying “you’re not allowed to work until we have a budget again”.  In the meantime, I’ve been relaxing, enjoying my recent birthday, and doing a heavy amount of Work and conjuration; after all, I need something to occupy myself.  (And if you’re interested in what exactly I’m working on, stay tuned on Sunday for a fancy thing you’ll all see.)  In the course of this week, I’ve conjured the angels Tzadqiel of Jupiter and Raphael of Air for general empowerment (which, as Fr. RO mentioned, is always a good thing), as well as to continue doing a semi-regular checkup of my own work, progress, and sphere.  In the process, I also got some interesting advice regarding two of the most visible and important tools many magi and magicians use: the wand and the dagger.

In the conjuration with Tzadqiel, he mentioned that the wand is not just a tool of power and will, but it’s indicative of another similar idea, that of the scepter.  While the wand (at least in my tradition) is the elemental weapon of Fire and is associated with the Will of the Magus, it’s used for not the magus’ will but the Magus’ Will, or the True Will.  The difference here is important, just as any distinction is regarding temporary will and True Will.  Tzadqiel motioned to my caduceus tattoo on my arm, indicating that the use of the caduceus and the magician’s wand are similar.  Hermes is always seen bearing the caduceus in his left hand, the submissive or receptive hand, and this coupled with his role as Zeus’ messenger indicates that Hermes receives his power and direction from Zeus.  In other words, although the caduceus is a symbol of power, it’s of power from a higher source than oneself.  Likewise, many monarchies across time are seen as being empowered and validated by divine right (cf. divine-right theory or Mandate of Heaven), and so the scepter is an indication that its bearer is carrying out the will of God.  This is seen to this day in the United Kingdom’s monarchy, which was established by God, but since God doesn’t like to micromanage things down here, he divests power to the Crown to manage things for him.

So too is the wand of the magician not used as a blasting rod or an offensive weapon, but it’s used as a mark of divine right and being rightly divine.  The wand should be used to remind the magician and guide them to their True Will, not used to enforce their temporary will onto others.  After all, if one is following their True Will, then pretty much all else will fall into place accordingly (except in dire or unusual circumstances when other work must be applied).  The image of control that the wand bestows is just that, an illusory image; it’s the obedience of entities to their proper stations in the cosmos that the wand reminds them of, and helps them fall into place when in the presence of one who is effectively sent from on high.  To use  the wand to simply force or bind something to the whimsy of the magician is to abuse the authority given to the magician, and when abused enough, the magician incurs punishment just as Chinese emperors might lose the Mandate of Heaven.

In the conjuration with Raphael, on the other hand, the angel indicated other uses of the wand that agreed with Tzadqiel, but expanded more on its relationship to the dagger or sword, the elemental weapon of Air.  Both are masculine, phallic, elementally hot weapons (and some traditions swap the elemental associations of the two), and are like semi-codependent brothers.  Wood must burn to produce fire to melt and shape metal into a blade, and blades must be used on wood to produce a wand.  However, wood is a living thing that grows, while metal is inorganic which can only be shaped.  These lead into the point Raphael was trying to make, and was chiding me since I don’t use the dagger enough in my work.  While the Pentacle is used to embody and materialize things, and the Chalice is used to receive and partake in grace and charismata, the Wand is used to “set things in motion” while the Dagger is used to “cut off and remove”.  Magically, the dagger is used to “cut through bullshit”, dividing problems, severing connections, removing influences, deciding on paths and choices, and offensive and defensive work.  Compared to this, the wand is used to progress, enforce decisions, and authorizes one to make choices as one can and ought.

Admittedly, the part about the fighting work that can be done with the dagger surprised me, since the dagger is associated with Air, and Air with Raphael, the healer of God; the comparatively benevolent wand is associated with Fire, and Fire with Michael, the commander of the heavenly host.  Raphael replied that not only are all angels soldiers in their own way, but that even in healing, some destruction is always needed, such as that of diseased limbs or infectious microorganisms.  In order to heal one of any assailing disease, the infectious organism must itself be destroyed or drastically cut back in order to allow the natural healing of the body to continue.  In this case, the dagger represents the ability to cut out the temporary misaligned will of those down below and the wand to encourage and direct those to follow the True Will of those above.  The whole notion of having to correct misaligned wills that are not in accordance with the True Will indicates other problems that may be cosmically systemic, and is often necessary to ensure the proper execution of one’s True Will.  In more magical terms, if I want to accomplish something through ritual, there may be other factors involved that I can’t easily deal with simply by praying really hard.  Battles are fought before declaring rulership, always because the ability to rule is predicated on the inability of others to contest it or stymie it.

Thus the Sword, to fight against the influences contrary to one’s Work, and the Scepter, to encourage devotion and progress in one’s Work.

Kings and Hands

No, this isn’t a post about Game of Thrones, though I’ve been addicted to the series and just finished the third book (vtec just kicked in, yo).  Martin, you better hurry up and finish that shit, son, because if you die before you finish this series and have your family turn this into another Frank Herbert’s Dune 6, imma be ANGRY.

So, I’ve been having chats with the four Kings of the Tarot recently in order to understand more about their respective elements.  I’ve so far chatted with the first two by contemplating their cards and symbols, kind of like pathworking with the Qabbalah.  I tried doing that with the King of Swords recently, but the first few times didn’t go so well and I had a hard time visualizing the environment around me; eventually, he said “we can’t stand to be still”, so I took that as a hint to move on and go on a walk instead.  Along the walk, I figured it’d be nice to have the image of the King of Swords from the card tag along, and we chatted just as successfully walking through a few local parks as we would have with me at his throne.  Plus, it gave me some much-needed visualization practice, so I can better tackle the card itself more.

I’m using a variant of the Rider-Waite deck (the Original Rider-Waite, which is softer on the eyes and is very subtly different from the standard Rider-Waite) as my keys to contemplation.  In trying to picture each of the four Kings, and as someone with their Venus in Virgo, I took especial notice of their hands and what each holds.  The Kings of Coins and Cups hold both a scepter of office and their suit’s symbol, but the Kings of Swords and Wands hold just their symbol.  They all hold their elemental weapons differently, and this alone carries significant meaning.

The King of Pentacles holds a large coin in his left hand and a scepter in his right.  The scepter is simple and is capped with a large sphere on the end; given the weight of this mace-like scepter, it shows the heavy force that earth can apply to a situation but only if controlled and directed, since his scepter is in his right (active and dominant) hand.  The scepter is also similar to that of the Empress (Trump III), who holds hers in her right hand as well, indicating the relationship between the pure element of earth and its bounty and generative ability.  He is the only king to hold his elemental weapon in his left hand, the side of reception and passivity.  This shows how the element of earth is set apart from the other three: indeed, this goes all the way back to Plato, where he claims that earth is the only element that comes out from any process as earth, while air, fire, and water can all transmute into each other.  Earth is the foundation and materia for all things, and can only ever be acted upon: earth can be shaped, molded, tilled, heated, broken, or carried, but it will always still be earth in one form or another.  Fire can cool into air, air can condense, water can evaporate, but earth will always be earth.

The King of Cups holds a large but simple cup in his right hand and a decorated flower-like scepter in his left.  The scepter is shaped like the top of a cup, much like the back of his throne, and indicates that his will as King does not direct, since the scepter doesn’t have a proper point to direct his orders; rather, it dissipates and spreads.  Much like how a hose directs a stream of water which splays out on contact, water does not force but spreads out over and covers its object.  He doesn’t hold rest the base of the cup on his throne’s arm like he does his scepter, but holds it out as if he were asking for it to be filled.  The cup, after all, is the ultimate symbol of reception, representing the female side of the universe and always takes in, but as a force of nature can also be poured out and give its essence back to the world in a new form.

The King of Swords holds a sword in his right hand and nothing in his left.  His sword points away from him towards his right, showing that air will always tend to the objective and detached and logical side of a situation.  His left hand is empty, but he wears a ring on his middle finger, the finger associated with the element of Air and with balance and judgment.  The King of Swords hinted to me that this is actually a signet ring, which bears his mark showing authenticity and truth of whatever he applies it to.  This, an abstract symbol, is his tool of office instead of a scepter, and is particularly well-suited for the element of logic and communication.  The scepters, then, would represent a force that needs material and weighted direction and can be held onto to be controlled; the Kings with scepters represent the heavy elements that form the material world, while those without represent lighter and more active forces which are more wily.  Plus, both the Kings of Cups and Swords hold their weapons in the air without support, while those of Pentacles and Wands support them by resting them on something.  Water and air are fluid and must always be in motion; earth and fire are fixed in one direction (downward for earth, upwards for fire).  Fire and earth have to have something to substantiate themselves on, while air and water can be freer and travel around as they wish.

The King of Wands holds a tall staff resting on the ground below his throne’s dais, with his left hand empty and resting on his lap.  His staff shows signs of life, with green leaves sprouting from it, and represents vitality and energy (surprise! it’s a penis).  However, the King here is pointing it slightly to himself, indicating that will and decision begin first with oneself and then directs it outwards; after all, the staff supports first and helps move around second.  Both his wand and the sword of the previous king have their business ends above their heads, while the weapons of the Kings of Pentacles and Cups are bounded or framed by their bodies.  This reflects that the elements of fire and air are active and extend beyond themselves, while those of water and earth are passive and receive forces from outside.  His left hand is clenched into a fist, thumb pressed down; his is the only King’s hand whose free hand’s thumb is closed and hidden.  This might imply that his will is absolute and will not receive any input from anyone; notice how he’s almost pulling his arm away from the world into himself.  (I haven’t had a chat with this King yet, so this is just what I’m making sense of.)

All this is just about their hands and what they hold.  I haven’t even touched on the layers of symbolism of their thrones, crowns, clothing, armor, or backgrounds.  The Tarot really is just dripping with meaning, and everything is in it for a purpose and with a point.  Why I’m not already a palmist is beyond me.