Search Term Shoot Back, December 2013

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of December 2013.  As most of you know, the 49 Days of Definitions project continued through and finished up in this month, forming the bulk of the posts, but there was time for other people to get to my blog through other terms.

“how does 2nd decan libra embrace their charm?” — Seeing as how I’m one of these myself, it’s hard to tell others how I can truly embrace my own devilishly awesome charm.  It has to do a lot with drinking diet cola and not giving a shit, generally.  Also being a magician.  Also being humble.

“fill me with your anointing lord” — Oh baby, I’ll fill you with my holy spirit, alright.  Get down on your knees and pray for it.  Jesus is coming; grab a towel.  (Sorry I’m not sorry.)

“favorable geomantic figures” — Personally, I dislike simply saying that a particular figure is always favorable or always unfavorable, but rather see how individual figures agree or disagree with a particular query or situation.  For instance, if one wants a quick escape out of a situation, the figure Fortuna Maior (which, although greatly useful) is terrible for this since it indicates having to overcome something and conquer it instead of simply sidestepping it.  That said, there are two systems I know of for determining favorable figures generally.  In Robert Fludd’s system, there are three types of figures: good, which are Fortuna Maior, Laetitia, Caput Draconis, Albus, Puella, and Acquisitio; moderate, which are Populus, Via, and Coniunctio; and bad, which are Fortuna MInor, Tristitia, Caput Draconis, Rubeus, Puer, Amissio, and Carcer.  An older Arabic system has good figures as Populus, Albus, and Laetitia; better figures as Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, and Laetitia; the best figures as Acquisitio and Fortuna Maior; bad figures as Puer, Coniunctio, and Via; worse figures as Cauda Draconis and Amissio; and the worst figures as Carcer, Tristitia, and Rubeus.  Generally speaking, I find Fortuna Maior, Acquisitio, Caput Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Puella, Laetitia, Albus, and Coniunctio to be favorable figures, from the most favorable to least favorable.

“mancy vs kinesis” — I can tell that some of the people who get to my blog are interested in comic book or RPG magic, that’s for sure.  Since both of these roots come from Greek, they’re used in some words to make “schools of magic” or whatnot seem that much more fantastical.  Briefly put, anything that ends in “mancy” means a divination system, and anything that ends in “kinesis” means a control or movement of something.  Thus, “pyromancy” is divination with fire, such as scrying or looking at burnt patterns in wood, while “pyrokinesis” is the supernatural harnessing of flames, fire, and heat according to one’s will.  In some arts, the line between divination and magic is blurred, such as in necromancy; though it ends in “mancy” and was originally and ultimately intended to gain information from the dead or by means of spirits of the dead, a lot of necromantic technique involves methods to raise the dead and commune with them in nonspecific ways, so a good deal of death magic was confused with the gaining of knowledge from the dead.  In video games and RPGs, however, a lot of “mancies” are actually “kineses”; anyone who moves earth with their mind is more properly a “geokineticist” and not a geomancer.

“meditation to obtain a kinesis” — Lots of meditation, sure.  I’m sure you’d eventually develop some awesome powers if you become a master of meditation in the meanwhile, but that shouldn’t be the point of meditation, in my opinion.

“orbs around my altar” — You might want to banish your shit or, like, use some disinfectant.  That, or stop taking crappy photos of your altars and dust your bedroom more.

“what spirit should I summon” — That’s like asking “what prayer should I pray” or “what food should I eat”.  It’s really up to you and what you feel appropriate and safe with.  I mean, I could just suggest Bael or Asmodeus or Yahweh, but I don’t feel like being that mean at the moment.

“beings that require bones for.conjuring summoning evocation -game” — I don’t know of any in the Western tradition that require bones, exactly, though they’re not exactly frowned upon, either.  Bones are a part of the body ruled by Saturn, being the densest part of the body as well as giving it structure.  Spirits of the dead as well as certain animals appreciate bones, especially if they’re the bones of the body of the spirit when it was still alive.  Bones are generally good for communing with gods of the dead, too, but they’re not required in terms of offerings or sacrifices, either.  Other traditions place a large importance on bones and their spiritual uses, but I’m not as familiar with them.  As far as summoning goes, very few spirits require bones to get their attention.  Candles, incense, and orations get you much farther and for a cheaper, cleaner cost.

“geomancy ifa” — Ah, the two great divinatory arts of Europe and Africa.  Geomancy, as I’m sure you’re well-aware, is a pretty old and well-developed form of European divination that has its roots in the Saharan Desert, going back about a thousand years.  It spread from there both to the east through the Middle East and Greece as well as to the west through Spain into the rest of Europe, where it was practiced virtually nonstop from then onward.  It went underground for a while in the past few centuries, but it’s starting to become more popular again.  However, the roots of geomancy also went south from the Sahara into the rest of Africa, where it was practiced in Madagascar as sikidy and by the Yoruban peoples as ifá and diloggun.  This was brought over with the slave trade into the Americas, where it’s practiced closely with the Santería religion and some other ATRs.  While geomancy and ifá share the same origin, they developed quite independently of each other, so it’s hard for me to claim any knowledge on ifá save that it’s pretty deep.  Only a select few people are meant to learn ifá (babalawos, generally), so unless you’re part of Santería communites, you’re better off sticking with geomancy.

“what is an aquarius/libra decanate land aries/leo decanate together like?” — Another decan/decanate question, woo!  I’m honestly going to ignore the part about romantic pairings because, really, it’s just about pointless to answer a question like that based on Sun signs alone.  Considering the importance of the other planets, the rising sign, house placements, and the like, Sun signs (though important) are only a fraction of the information a proper horoscope can give you.  As for the decans themselves, this query indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of them.  The decans of the signs are ruled by planets, not other signs!  There are different methods to assign the planets to the decans, however, with the Chaldaean ordering being traditional in Western astrology but the Vedic system (which is associated more closely with the signs than the planets alone) has been popular of late.

“where to buy consecrated chalk” — Regrettably, I haven’t found a supplier for this, and none of the local stores around me sell common items that have already been blessed.  To that end, I wrote up a short ritual for blessing your own chalk, which you’re free to use on whatever chalk you might get for yourself.  Alternatively, you could probably just buy a pack of chalk and ask a Catholic priest to bless it for you.  If you live near a botanica (Hispanic Santería/ATR magic store), I suggest getting a cake of cascarilla, or eggshell chalk, which is pretty good in its own right.

“how to make a real snowflake using magic without even chanting.anything” — I’m amused that this query assumes that all of magic requires chanting, but surprise, it doesn’t!  Just close your eyes, go to the kitchen, open the freezer, and knock off some of the ice from those leftovers you put in two months ago.  There you go, a real snowflake!  And yes, the magic of refrigeration is truly a miracle and allows otherwise inhospitable places to become endurable (e.g. the entire southern US).

“is anyone transalting munich manuel of demonic magic” — I have a few sections of the Munich Manual translated, though translating any more is currently on hold for the time being.  The Latin from Kieckhefer’s critical edition of the Munich Manual is pretty clear and well-organized, so anyone with even rudimentary skill in Latin and a good dictionary can get good progress on their own.  I have some other projects to translate in the meanwhile, but if there’s a particular section that you’re just absolutely dying to have translated ASAP, let me know and I’ll see what I can do about getting it put into English in the near future.

Also, Happy New Year!  Go get drunk, call on the stars and your ancestors, and bring in 2014 right!

Search Term Shoot Back, October 2013

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of October 2013.

“satanic pagan ritual altars instruction offerings halloween” — I’m kinda insulted by this query for a number of reasons, not least that it somehow directed someone to my blog.  I’m guessing that the person who searched for this was around 12 years old, to boot.  Just…ugh.

“satanic ritual to summon ghosts” — Again with the “satanism”. Lots of requests for this thing, or alternatives with “black magic rituals” or “for beginners”.  Seriously, guys?  I know that people growing up in a primarily anglophone evangelist protestant Christian culture have a hard time with this, but not everything that isn’t explicitly Christian is automatically Satanic, or “black magic”, or whatnot.   But if you want to go ahead with this, it’s really simple to summon a spirit like a ghost.  Light a candle and some good, heavy incense, make an oration to the spirit calling them there, and make an offering of wine or food or rum or pennies or candies or something.  Wait for the spirit to arrive, then chat with it.  Afterwards, dismiss it and leave the offerings.  (Yes, I know I’m omitting the protection and energy work and meditation and prayers, but whatever, most people aren’t that serious and probably need a good slap in the face to realize the importance of these things.)

“dismissing spirits after ritual” — Generally a good idea, though it pays to be respectful.  First, always thank the spirit: “I thank you for your presence, for you have come as I have called and aided me as I have asked”.  If it’s something like an angel or some other servant spirit, you might want to say something like “as you have come in peace, so now go in power; as you have come in the name of the Trinity, so now go in this same name”.  Demons should be treated similarly, especially the powerful ones, but you should always cover your ass and include some sort of binding for mutual peace and not leaving harm or malice behind them.  For ancestors, land spirits, and the like, which deserve respect as individual entities that do not serve, say something like “go if you will, stay if you will, but know that you have my honor”; ditto for gods and deities, though these should be given proper honor generally.

“wasn’t the sanctuary a bloody mess from all of the animal sacrifices” — Perhaps surprisingly, no.  Places of holiness, especially well-known and well-attended places like the Temple of the Jews, tend to have elaborate rituals and logistical setups to perform sacrifices, which often include cleaning up pretty well.  In Santeria, for instance, the orisha rooms and throne areas must be exquisitely and perfectly clean and hygienic, and given that animal sacrifice is pretty messy, it would seem like the two don’t mix.  That said, they’ll have a whole team of people cleaning things up as they go, carrying out the waste or corpse, and keep things under control.  Other traditions, like Palo Mayombe, may not have an emphasis on cleanliness, so sometimes sanctuaries can indeed be messy.  It depends on the tradition, I suppose.

“the angels that govern mars” — The Hebrew name I use is Kammael (kaph mem aleph lamed), which has also been Latinized as Camael and Samael.  This can lead to multiple ways to write the name in Hebrew, however, so it can get pretty confusing; I generally treat all these as the same entity.  From the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano, Mars has the following spirits: the angels Samael, Satael, and Amabiel; the angelic king Samax, and the angelic ministers Carmax, Ismoli, and Paffran; the eastern angels Friagne, Guael, Damael, Calzas, and Arragon; the western angels Lama, Astagna, Lobquin, Soncas, Jazel, Isiael, and Irel; the nothern angels Rahumel, Hyniel, Rayel, Seraphiel, Mathiel, and Fraciel; and the southern angels Sacriel, Janiel, Galdel, Osael, Vianuel, and Zaliel.  The Liber Runarum has Mamarayl as the angel, and the Picatrix has Raucahehil or Rubijai’il.

“archangel michael consecrated swords to sell” — My ritual sword, inscribed and consecrated according to the Key of Solomon with a few extra bits, was entirely a personal project.  However, I can probably make them as well for you; your choice of sword, all you need to do is give me the money to buy one you like plus $150 plus shipping and handling, and the whole thing will be consecrated to your liking.

“what are the ingredients in florida water” — Contrary to its name, water doesn’t actually take a part in this, though you can throw it in.  Generally, Florida water has citrus elements in it like lemon and bergamot, along with spices like clove.  It’s pretty simple, and you can expand on it in many ways.  Rosemary-based versions are intensely aromatic and amazing, in my experience.

“kybalion changed my life” — That makes one of us, at least.  It’s a pretty basic book, if you ask me.

“rituals where you defecate on an altar” — No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no.  This really should not be a thing.  I know of only one ritual where feces are needed, and that’s the consecration for the Mirror of the Seven Winds from the Picatrix, where they’re used as an ingredient in incense.  Directly shitting on an altar?  Unless you mean the throne of the porcelain god, this is terrible.  Don’t do this.

“how do i get oil blessed to cleanse my home” — Generally, go to your local priest and have them bless some olive oil for you, or ask if they have any chrism on hand.  Go throughout the house, preferably with the priest doing this, and pray in each room.  Anoint every door, threshold, window, and windowframe with the oil; once in the middle in a cross shape would work, or you might do a five-spot pattern (one in each corner and one in the middle).  You might also combine this with suffumigation with incense, lighting consecrated or purified candles in each room, and the like.

“using dice for yes/no” — You might do this in any number of ways, from rolling a die and inspecting the number or using several different colored dice and using the color itself.  For instance, you might decide that high numbers are “yes” and low numbers are “no”, or odd and even numbers for the same purpose.  You could expand this and add more categories, based on ranges of numbers.  I know that Balthazar Blacke uses a simple system involving a white die and a black die to get detailed answers, so you might consider that.  I use two ten-sided dice, one marked from 0 to 9 and the other from 00 to 90; for me, high numbers are “yes” and low numbers are “no”, and how high or low a number is increases the forcefulness of the answer.

“cloacina goddess symbol necklace” — Er…Cloacina was an aspect of the Roman goddess Venus, and Venus Cloacina was basically the goddess of the sewers of Rome and other cities.  This comes from the Roman word cloaca, meaning sewer, but is used biologically to indicate the excretory/genital area of birds, lizards, and similar animals.  Basically, it’s a shit-vagina.  And I’m unsure why one might have a symbol for that or want it on a pendant, but I’m sure you can find plenty of vagina pendants on Etsy, because it’s Etsy, and Etsy is horrifying.

“{searchterm}” — Yes, I do believe that that’s the point.

Proper Ritual Terminology

Recently, someone asked me about the differences between invoking, evoking, summoning, banishing, and all that jazz.  As a ceremonial magician, there’s a lot of different ritual I use depending on the need that can fall under different categories, each with a different label.  Then again, much of the ritual is fluid enough to defy categories or change between them with the use of a few different words.  So, let me clarify my stance (and only mine, I dunno how much others may agree with me on this) on the difference between the following words: invocation, evocation, conjuration, summoning, exorcism, banishment.  After all, I seem to be doing so well with clarifying my use of particular words, so why not?

Let me clarify first that much of the distinction drawn between these words is strictly a modern thing.  Traditional sources and grimoires from the medieval and Renaissance eras made no distinction between invoking and evoking, and used these terms interchangeably with conjuring and exorcising.  Because humanity likes to bin and classify everything endlessly, drawing the thickest lines between the smallest groups, and because we’ve inherited a knack for classification from our Platonic and Aristotelian philosophical forefathers, we insist on making these distinctions known.  In my practice, I tend to stick to the broadest, most applicable words used, mostly because these categories are strictly artificial and not always replicable in magical practice.  Ultimately, when working with the spirits, shit either gets done or it doesn’t.  This isn’t engineering where we can always follow the same procedures to obtain the same results, because magic doesn’t work like that, more often than not.

First, let’s talk about the high-level word “conjuration“.  It comes from Latin, literally meaning “swearing together”.  In a conjuration, one makes a pact, agreement, or oath with one or more spirits (or other brand of non-physical entity, that kind of classification can be talked about in a later post).  The oath taken can be just a simple request or a trade of services (you do/give X for me, I do/give Y for you), or something more complicated such as appearing physically in the name of some higher power.  In this sense, “conjuration” is the most general term to be used for any work with spirits.  A similar term is “adjuration“, or “swearing to”, often used to force a spirit to accomplish or do something.  This is a little more forceful and heavy-handed, and is often used in some of the more traditional Catholic or Solomonic rituals to really bind a spirit to the magician’s will.

Similar to conjuration, the word “exorcism” also means “binding by oath”.  It comes from Greek through Latin, originally meaning “to cause to swear”.  Even as late as the Renaissance period, this word was used in the same way as “conjuration” to refer to any ritual where one works with a spirit under some oath, pact, or agreement.  However, as most of these rituals were historically done to get rid of spirits, “exorcism” eventually picked up the meaning of “conjuration so as to banish”.  Since a lot of ritual texts from the Renaissance use “exorcism” and “conjuration” interchangeably, I also consider “exorcism” to be a very high-level broad term though with connotations or implications of getting rid of something.

Speaking of, let’s talk about what “banishment” is.  This is probably the most agreed-upon term of the bunch, and is also the only one of the bunch that has a Germanic origin instead of a Greek or Latin one.  “Banishment” is getting rid of spirits or other entities or energies, depending on your view of magic and models thereof.  Whether this is from one’s own personal sphere or internal world, or from one’s external surroundings and a given place, “banishment” gets rid of, clears out, and bars the entry of spirits into a particular area.  Simple enough, I think, though some people would align “exorcism” to be a kind of banishment; in these cases, “banishing” refers to cleansing one’s sphere and inner world, while “exorcism” is clean an external area or person.  This is certainly a modern meaning of the words, but are fairly interchangeable.

On the other hand, we have the words “summoning“, “invocation“, and “evocation” to refer to rituals that introduce or call up spirits in a particular area.  Of them, “summoning” is the broadest, and refers to calling on any spirit for a particular need; we summon them, they’re present, and then stuff gets done either with or without a charge or pact that would be signified with “conjuration”.  After that, we have “invocation” and “evocation” as two different kinds of summoning, or as synonyms for it.  Going by etymology, the former means “call in” while the latter means “call out”.  Still, more than any other set of terms, these were never seen as different in traditional texts.  I can’t stress this enough: any distinction that might be drawn between them is (as far as I’m aware) purely a modern thing.  Even if it’s a useful distinction for some people to make in theory, it’s ultimately not that big a deal or a difference in practice.

The difference lies in the use of the prefix “in-” versus “e(x)-“.  Some people might distinguish the difference in “invoke” versus “evoke”, especially in non-magical contexts, as a “calling upon a higher power for aid” versus a “calling forth or summoning”.  In magical settings, one might invoke a god for aid but evoke a spirit for a conjuration, perhaps invoking a god to swear by.  Alternatively, one might invoke a power to buff one’s sphere out or imbue oneself with the blessings of a particular spirit, but would evoke a spirit to accomplish things external to one’s sphere and body.  However, this isn’t always the case; the Roman notion of evocation was to call on the gods of an enemy city to abandon them and come to the side of the Romans for aid, which would normally fall under the notion of invoking enemy gods.  Similarly, the old myths have various instances of people invoking the gods for aid and then having the gods appear next to them or otherwise manifest for their external aid, which would often be considered evocation.  Depending on what one expects and one’s magical background, the same ritual might work to produce internal results, external results, or some combination of the two.  As a rule of thumb, one pulls power through an invocation and pulls out spirits through evocation, but this is still a very rough rule that has a lot of exceptions.

Like I mentioned, magical ritual can produce a wide variety of results; there is no laboratory setting or control group to measure effects against, and different people may perceive different effects resulting from the same act.  The old authors and magicians didn’t see much of a difference between many of the terms, and used yet others that we’ve largely forgotten or don’t like anymore (such as “karcist” from Fr.MC’s “Crossed Keys”, or to a lesser extent “exorcist” from any number of old grimoires that have a particularly strong Christian bent).  There are two primary ways of working with spirits: having them come to you in some way or having them leave you in some way.  The specific ritual in question might accomplish either of these aims in any number of ways, depending on tradition or philosophy, but that’s pretty much it.  These categories of ritual simply don’t hold up for any but the most rigidly defined and limited of magical practices, and don’t accomplish much on their own.  I feel like this is a debate for people who study magic more than practice it, anyway.

A Variation on the Trithemian Table of Practice

I was bored and decided to throw together a potential design for a customized Table of Practice, a kind of combined summoning circle and Solomonic triangle used to conjure spirits into.  This one is a bit more complex, and was based on ideas from using the Zodiac on a Table of Practice I made for my sister, a dream I had involving a more complex and circle-based form of the Solomonic Triangle of Art, as well as the three-ring arrangement from the Greek Sigil Wheel developed a few weeks back.  To me, it borders slightly on gaudy and cluttered, but since when have magicians ever had good taste?  There are a few blights in the design, but you’ll get the idea.


The Table of Practice as described by Trithemius is a triangle with an equal-armed cross in one corner, a pentagram in another, and a hexagram with a Hebrew letter yod in it in the last.  The triangle is circumscribed with a circle and the names of the four elemental kings; these names are circumscribed with another circle and the names of the seven planetary angels along with their planetary symbols.  All this is bound in one final circle.

This customized Table of Practice, however, has a few extra bits:

  • There’s another ring of names around those of the planetary angels.  These are the names of the twelve angels ruling over the Zodiac (Agrippa, book II chapter 14).  The signs of the Zodiac are also next to each angel name.  This helps incorporate the sphere of the fixed stars into the Table of Practice.  The Hebrew spellings of the names came from Tyson’s edition of Agrippa (note 13 on book III chapter 24).  I knew that there were angels ascribed to the signs of the Zodiac, but this is the first time I’ve ever come across or used their names; given their lack of attention in the grimoires I’ve found, I don’t know what they’d bring to the table (zing!).  Chances are one might normally talk to the angel Raziel of the entire sphere of the fixed stars (Chokmah) instead of the angels of the zodiac or the angels of the lunar mansions, but I don’t have experience of this yet.
  • The names of the elemental kings are written in Celestial and not Roman script, and also have the symbol for their ruling elements (Agrippa, book II chapter 7).  This reaffirms their nature as angels and clearly links them up to the four elements in no uncertain way.  Using the Roman or Hebrew scripts, though, might also be suggested since these are not, strictly speaking, celestial beings.  I went with Celestial for uniformity and angelicosity.
  • The three godnames Tetragrammaton, Elohim, and Tzabaoth are written around the central triangle in Hebrew.  This reflects one interpretation of the three godnames Tetragrammaton, Primeumaton, Anaphaxeton written around the Triangle of Art from the Goetia of the Lesser Key of Solomon.  This was done in Hebrew and not Celestial since, well, God is kinda higher and more-inclusive than any one sphere.  To that end, these could also be written in Paleo-Hebrew, Roman, or any other script.
  • The number of circles and bands drawn around the central triangle are now four and three, respectively, bumped up from three and two.  I like these numbers better, since they can now represent the four worlds of Creation and the three parts of the triune God.  A nifty side-effect of this kind of design.

I’m unsure about what changes in efficacy, strength, or style these changes would have on the Table, but it’d be interesting to try.  My current Table gets me decent results as it is, and I’d need to find an extra-large circular plaque of wood to fit everything on neatly, so I doubt I’ll be making one of these anytime soon.  If you ever wanted to experiment, though, have at and let me know how it turns out.  I also posted this under the Designs page for easy access; I’ll eventually go back and fix a few of the errors in the design and maybe change the design around for improvements.