A Real Caduceus

Hey, guys, have you heard that I’m on something of a Hermes/Mercurial kick lately?  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it anywhere, but working with the dude is kinda awesome.

I mentioned before that I hastily made a wand (cane, more like) for use in my work with Hermes, especially in being a psychopomp.  It was a simple walnut dowel that I had rubbed in with spirit oil and a Mercurial balm I originally made for my caduceus tattoo (olive oil, beeswax, and eight herbs associated with the sphere of Mercury) with some minor woodburning.  It was a really simple thing, and though it helped out for my first venture out in the graveyards, it was still a little too…well, boring for my tastes.  Besides, with it being unshod on the bottom, the staff could easily be damaged or harmed, and it didn’t look like anything special for a distance.  While mulling over ideas for elaborating it, I came up with a plan  and made the simple wand into something much more resembling a real caduceus, just omitting the real snakes and wings.

  • I woodburned four rings around the top and bottom of the staff, leading to eight rings total.
  • I got four yards of decorative cord twisted with gold thread, two each of white cord and black cord.  I drilled a hole near the top of the staff, threaded them through so that each cord had equal parts on both sides leading to four cords “emanating” from the staff.   These would act as the two snakes of the caduceus, one white and one black, one front and one back.
  • To keep the cords from fraying, I used a Fransiscan monk’s knot at the end of each cord, looping the cord back on itself four times and tying each knot around a (fake) gold ring.  The rings give the staff a bit of a flare, as well as link it to the khakkhara or shakujo, the monk’s staff used in East Asian Buddhism, as well as to the bodhisattva Kṣitigarbha, who also plays a role as psychopomp and guide not unsimilar to Hermes.
  • I twisted the cords around the staff so that they each made four loops around in a double helix pattern, then “locked” them into place with four square knots.  This helped in keeping the cords managably short as well as giving the look of two snakes twisted around the staff, just as in the iconic caduceus.  And, just as in my tattoo, this leads to eight loops and eight knots total around the staff.
  • I took a small wooden sphere with a hole drilled out in the bottom to fit on the top of the staff to act as a knob handle as well as a finial for the caduceus.   Before I glued it on, I woodburned in a spherical form of a quadrupled Mercury symbol I had a brief insight of while thinking about the design, which on a 2D plane looks something like this:

    I adapted this to the sphere by connecting the crossbars on each of the legs from the circle and having the crescents meet up on the connected circle.  I also added four dots under the meeting tips of the crescents between the legs of the crosses, just for style.  If I were to draw it out on a 2D surface with the circle for the staff insert as the boundary circle for the symbol, it’d look like this:

    It looks pleasingly abstract, like something from Myst or Portal, which is appropriate in either case.
  • I got a brass cap, golden in color to match the cords and the rings, and put it on the butt of the staff to prevent damage to the wood.  Brass, being a mixture of metals, is perfect for mercurial work.
  • I rubbed in more of the Mercurial balm onto the light pine (?) handle after staining it a color closer to the walnut, as well as lightly rubbing in some oil I made specifically for Hermes himself (kinda like Alchemy Work’s Hermes Oil).  This was to help protect the wood as well as imbue the whole thing with magical force to help it better resonate with any Hermaic or Mercurial work I do.

Overall, I’m highly pleased with how this project turned out.  You’ll also notice that the number four keeps popping up, four being the divine number associated with Hermes, who was born on the fourth of the lunar month and also given the fourth day of the week, Wednesday.  This is half that of the magical number associated with the sphere of Mercury (8), but since this is more of a divine tool instead of a magical tool, it’s probably better to aim towards the smaller of the two numbers, even though they’re so closely intertwined anyway.

Now that the whole thing’s been finished, I plan on officially consecrating and dedicating it to Hermes and his service.   My idea is to present it to Hermes during his monthly devotion and officially dedicate it to him then, repeating the Homeric Hymns once and Orphic Hymns four times each day for four days.  After this, and if he’s amenable to it, I plan to conjure Raphael of Mercury and consecrate the staff under the powers of the sphere of Mercury for eight days as I would any other talisman or magical item.  This may not be needed, depending on how Hermes wants to work with the wand himself, but the magical consecration would help tie it in closer to Mercurial currents of power.

Liber Omnipotentis sum, merdas magnificas facio

I think I’m finally starting to get a hold of this Jovian energy and power from the Gate rite a few weeks back.  In a fit of creativity and energy this past weekend, I decided to spend all day Saturday woodburning and staining several projects, up to and including a Triangle of Art (using Hebrew names instead of the faux-Greek names from the Key of Solomon, check the Crafts page) and a plaque of Nyan Cat for a friend in New York.  I love my crackhead friends.

In addition to that, I perked my lovely astrologer and Tarot reader sister‘s interest in conjuration, since getting in contact with the beings who actually manage the stuff she reads on could be a valuable resource for her to get more information.  Plus, she’s had a long-term interest in qabbalah and other similar interests as mine (she’s the one who got me hooked on Alan Moore’s Promethea, which you should TOTALLY read).  Since she didn’t have the tools for conjuration, I decided to make for her a Table of Practice and wand as early Christmas gifts.  My skills have improved since I did my own Table of Practice and wand, so she’s got a nicer set than mine.  The wand I made for her is slightly more “to code” per Trithemius’ Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals in that it has “AGLA ✡ ON ✡ TETRAGRAMMATON ✠” as well as “EGO ALPHA ET OMEGA” engraved and inlaid with gold leaf; my own wand has the letters simply woodburned on and lacks the latter phrase entirely.  Of course, since I don’t have any ebony dowels handy, I had to do with a few light coats of ebony stain.  (Protip: stain first with several thick coats, THEN engrave and inlay.)  The Table of Practice is nearly the same as mine, but I engraved the signs of the Zodiac on the bevel since there was just so much empty space and, well, my sister is an astrologer, after all.  Like this, the Table is a complete model of the cosmos: the sphere of the fixed stars, the seven planets, the four elements, and the three modes of existence all neatly represented on an upside-down wooden plate.

Since I was making a wand for her, I decided to make a wand for myself that was similarly “to code”.  However, the dowel I was using looked and felt weird, and it took a bit before I realized that it was particlewood and dropped it mid-burn in disgust.  Besides, I had already made a wand earlier that day, and a fancy one at that.  While investigating the logistics of carrying a magical staff around with me (as part of a kind of magician monasticism), I thought it appropriate to make a cane: suitable but still innocuous enough to not draw too much attention to myself.  Its construction was simple: take a 3′ dowel and affix some fancy wooden bits as a handle and butt with wood glue and a steel nail (there’s a hole in either cap).  It’s got the “AGLA ✡ ON ✡ TETRAGRAMMATON ✠” on it, but instead of “EGO ET ALPHA ET OMEGA”, I tried something different.  I remembered the word Azoth, the essential spirit in alchemy, related to the Ain Soph and the divine spark within all things.  It’s composed of the first letter of the Hebrew, Greek, and Roman scripts (A/א) and the final letters of each of these alphabets (Roman zed, Greek omega, and Hebrew tav).  I inscribed the letters Z, Ω, and ת around the butt of the cane, and the Egyptian hieroglyph for ox (which eventually became Phoenician alp, thence Hebrew aleph, etc.) on the top of the handle.  Envisioning each letter as a point in space, they form a triangular pyramid, the Platonic solid associated with fire.  For a final touch, I engraved the Shema (trans. “The LORD is our God, the LORD is one”) around the handle.  It’s a nice cane, but a damned awesome occult tool and has plenty of connections to fire (pine wood, gold inlay, steel nails, triangular pyramid form).  I’m excited to try it out, even if it is a bit big for indoor use.

Now I only need to learn canne de combat, and I’m gold.

Anyway, crafting all this made me realize that the space in my room and closet is not, in fact, boundless, and eventually I’m going to have too much stuff.  I don’t see any intrinsic problem with selling or gifting what I need to get rid of when it comes to occult tools, though, so in the future I’ll be posting about goods you might be interested in.  For instance, this staff I found it upright in a forest and modified.  It’s about 5’6″, shaved and oiled, engraved with “AGLA + ON + IHVH” on one side, the symbols from the Key of Solomon for the staff engraved on the other, A and Ω engraved at the top, and has a quartz crystal point glued into the top of the staff.  I’ve never used it and probably won’t, at this rate, but if anyone wants it, shoot me an email; price is $50 plus S+H.

My Little Posse

Despite the title, no, I’m not into My Little Pony, nor am I a bro-ny.  For some reason that escapes me, the new MLP series is all the rage among men 20 to 35 years old.  I…I don’t even.

So I haven’t been completely idle these past few days, though I’m not as caught up as I wanted to be.  However, the next set of coursework for my Hermetic stuff came out, which goes over how to build a proper magician’s altar.  Now, keep in mind that I already have two altars, sorta: I have a devotional altar which I pray at and light candles and make offerings and stuff, and a small Ikea table which I use to perform miscellaneous rituals as the need arises.  The real altar, though, is going to be the Table of Manifestation, my sort of personal map of the macrocosm and microcosm as it relates to me, a supertalisman and focus for all my magical work.  It’ll have all my elemental weapons, symbols and talismans, and so on.  To that end, I’m getting together a rather large shopping list of metal ingots and weights to melt down to make talismans with and various other things (like some real frankincense resin incense and a proper charcoal incense burner).  Clearly, I’m putting my promotion and raise at work to good use.

As part of my altar setup, I’ll need talismans for each of the seven planets.  I got started last night on a Jupiter talisman, it being the day of Jupiter and all.  I took a wooden yo-yo from Michaels, split it apart, woodburned a few symbols into it, covered it in blue paint marker, then filled the woodburned inscription with silver ink.  There’s a hole in the bottom of the disc left from the yo-yo axle, which I’ll fill with molten tin (96% tin-4% silver solder from a hardware store).  Once that solidifies, I’ll apply a layer or two of glossy finish over the thing, then consecrate it under the auspices of Tzadqiel.  Lather, rinse, and repeat for the other six planets; the whole thing should be done by mid-September, if I’m dutiful.  For metal that can’t easily be melted, I might widen out the hole and just fit a piece of the planetary metal in there and glue or fasten it on somehow.  There’ll be pictures once I get all seven done, by which point the whole altar should have come together.

In other crafting news, I took an old staff of mine and made it all Solomonic.  The Key of Solomon has instructions to make a magical staff, which is virtually the same as the Solomonic wand and can be put towards the same use as other wands, such as the wand from Trithemius (I believe).  Unfortunately, I don’t have access to elderberry or cane wood, so I used an old staff I happened to find in a forest behind my last apartment (it was deliberately planted in the ground and already cut to a suitable height).  It’s not in the best of shape, but sanding it down and smoothing it off helped wonders.  I woodburned the symbols from the Key of Solomon into it as well as the Hebrew words AGLA + ON + IHVH, rubbed it with olive oil, and suffumigated it with incense.  Alas that no pictures show it properly since the oil turned the staff rather dark, but it looks pretty nifty.  Definitely an outdoorsy tool for a mage, and wielding a freaking staff feels pretty awesome.  I’ll be rubbing oil in it during hours of Mercury in the future just to make sure it gets waterproofed and treated properly.

Last but certainly not least, and related to the title of the post (of course there’d be a reason), I contacted Auriel and Raphael recently for a number of things, not the least of which to ask about obtaining elemental familiars.  You know, little helper spirits to call upon as I need.  I’m still kinda unsure about why I’d need them off the top of my head, but I figure it’s nice to call upon something already intimately familiar with the element in question as a need arises.  They’re pretty cool beings, I’ll admit, and are closer to humanity than the archangels.  That said, I didn’t expect the earth elemental Auriel to whom introduced me to have the high-pitched perky voice of a female Asian pop star, nor did I expect the air elemental to have fond memories of London and rhymes.

Don’t look at me.  I’m just writing this shit down.

Anyway, they’re pretty cool beings, and agreed to come when I called them.  They have pretty cool names, too, which just so happened to follow the rules of Hebrew theophoric names, which is interesting (ending in -iah or -el).  I’m starting to build myself up a whole circle of beings, apparently, to get things done.  Either I’m awesome or psychotic; after a certain point, I have a hard time telling.

Ooh, ooh!  Also, I splurged last week and got like eight new books for myself, including Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer’s Manual of the Fifteenth Century by Richard Kieckhefer, a modern reprint of the famous Munich Manual.  It’s got a lot of source material for the medieval, Christian, or Hermetic scholar, and has a fair bit of planetary and demonic magic.  I’m not too keen on the demonic aspects of the work, but it’s got a lot of interesting stuff, regardless.  I’ve already translated one ritual from the source in Latin, so expect some more stuff to be thrown up as well.