Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: The Wand and the Ring

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 TrithemiusScot’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, † OnTetragrammaton †.

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.

The Nature of Trust of a Tool

One of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands, “Elissa” by the Crüxshadows, has a particularly poignant bridge towards the end:

Everyone has a purpose
Hidden within our lives
Something we were meant to do
Or feel before we die

It’s not particularly hard to interpret this in a Hermetic or other occult sense, if you know anything about True Will or, said another way, divine destiny.  Everyone is, in some sense, a tool of the Divine or of the Almighty.  Everyone has something that we Chose and Want to accomplish in this world we find ourselves born in, something that only we can properly accomplish.  It’s not just anything, but a particular something that is the only Thing, the only Point or Cause, of our being incarnated here.  Everything we do in our lives is either essential development and build-up to attaining and maintaining that Thing, or nonessential window-dressing that can add flavor (either sweetness or bitterness) to that goal.  So long as we Work towards that Thing, no matter how roundabout or directly, we’re doing what we need to do; we might make it easier or harder for ourselves in the process, and we may very well get waylaid or misled on our paths, but the point still stands that there is a Thing that we must Do, and all that we Work towards is in service of that Thing.

I’ve brought up the idea before that, if we envision the whole grand scheme of things, the Cosmos, as a giant machine, then everyone is a gear in that machine.  So long as we keep on doing what we need to do, every part works in harmony with every other part, and the machine works well.  If even one part, however, gets out of sync or decides to revolt, then much of the rest of the system we find ourselves in can malfunction or break down, and other parts have to accommodate the malfunction until things get into proper working order again.  (This is why life isn’t perfect, I suppose.)  Kalagni of Blue Flame Magick once described this to me (in a discussion on True Will) as how a solar system works: the planets don’t need to think or plan or consciously strive towards orbiting the Sun, they just do it naturally as an expression of their selves and their purpose.  But imagine, dear reader, if a rogue planet suddenly whipped itself into our solar system, or worse, imagine if one of our own planets suddenly got a wild hare up its axis of rotation and jumped out of its orbit.  What happens?  The other planets get knocked out of their own orbits, potentially colliding with other planets or celestial bodies, and the whole system gets out of whack until it finds a new equilibrium to settle down in.  There’s no guarantee that this equilibrium will be equivalent to the previous one, or that the solar system as a whole will survive such an accident, but hey, shit happens.  The Cosmos will do what it needs to do in order to work out its own problems, and its our job to make sure that we do our own Work accordingly to handle our Will, regardless of what the vicissitudes of fate throw at us.

Rather than just thinking of ourselves as gears in a machine, however, consider this from another perspective: that we are tools in the hands of God.  Same idea, just a slightly different expression, but now we pick up other and different concerns.  Every tool is built so as to fix a particular problem: a hammer pushes things in, a crowbar gets things out, tape holds things together quickly but temporarily, glue holds things together over time but more permanently, and so forth.  Every tool has one particular job that it does well; it’s rare to find a true multipurpose tool, since a tool that tries to do many things equally well doesn’t do any particularly thing exceptionally well, especially when compared to a true single-purpose tool.  We each have a particular purpose, and we are the tool built to Work towards that purpose.  Finding what that purpose is (specifically or generally) can not only tell us what we need to do, but also tell us more about ourselves, what we were meant to do, and why we came into the world to do it.  A sword does not hammer in nails, and trying to use a sword as a hammer can result in chipped blades, bent nails, and an overall terrible job of doing something that probably was meant for someone else.

But there’s more to this metaphor of us being made as cosmic tools.  Tools must be properly maintained in order to do their job, either well or even passably.  Consider the sword (and for this, I suggest taking a short detour and reading Meti’s Sword Manual, a text written in service of my new favorite webcomic, Kill Six Billion Demons, which I think every occultist today should read and follow because it’s wonderful).  A sword must be kept oiled so as to prevent rust, out of extreme heat so that it does not warp, and sharpened so that it can actually cut; a sword is made for cutting, and so everything the sword does must be in service of that purpose, and the sword must be kept in a good condition so as to be able to accomplish that purpose.  Further, even when a sword is used to cut, it must be used in a proper way: trying to cut a hardwood tree or a stone will often yield a nicked, chipped, or broken blade, leaving it in a worse condition than it was before due to improper use; another tool for cutting of that specific type, such as an axe or a chisel, would be better, even though they all “cut” in some sense.  It is a combination of knowing both how to maintain a tool before it is used and when to use a tool that preserves the tool for when it is truly needed to do its job well.

Moreover, all a sword does is cut; it is a tool for cutting, and it does so without thought, leaving thought to the wielder of the sword.  A sword does not second-guess itself, and a sword does not make half-cuts or mock-cuts.  A sword cuts, just as its wielder intends for it to.  In the hands of a skilled swordsman, a sword can cut God; in the hands of an untrained one, a sword will cut everything except the intended target, usually the wielder himself.  The sword does not particularly care, because the sword’s purpose is not to plan how to cut, just to cut.  Happily, when we talk about Divinity, we can generally assume that God and the gods are Platonically capital-G Good, and therefore know what is Good and True, and therefore, as tools in their hands, we can have faith that they will not use us when we are not meant to be used.  It’s when we try to act on our own that we need to either have trust in ourselves to do what is right when it is right, or to abandon the situation entirely and avoid what should be avoided.  It’s when we take matters into our own hands, or leave ourselves to be put into the hands of anything less than Divinity, that we risk putting ourselves in harm’s way more than is absolutely necessary, and risk coming out all the worse for it.

How much trust do you put in yourself to know what is proper for you to do?  How can you trust yourself to do what is right and proper for you when the moment is called for?

I’ve been mulling over these problems over the past few days, and…well, it hasn’t been the most pleasant of self-conversations.  I admit that I enjoy dealing in absolutes as much as the next ceremonial magician (or, for that matter, human being with a finite consciousness that likes using rubrics and models of reality qua reality), and I would like to say that I trust myself to do what is right in all circumstances, that I am trustworthy to all.  To do so, however, would be a lie, and I can feel it singeing my heart whenever I even try to complete the thought of saying it.  I, myself, have done a number of regrettable, unfortunate, downright shitty things that I would like to say that I’ve put behind me, that I’ve learned from, that I’ve become better than.  And…the truth is, I haven’t.  I still beat myself up for some of the things I’ve done and said, as much as I try to forgive myself.  I still worry about slipping up again, about making the same mistakes, about committing the same crimes in the future and hurting those whom I hold dear, or myself, or my opportunities and chances for making myself better.  I fear that I’m going to be no better than I always have been, making the same excuses for the same bullshit that I would pull over and over again even given half a chance at it, even though I know better from my own experience that I should never have done them even once.

So, no, I can’t say that I trust myself as a rule, or that I trust myself in all situations to do what’s right in all cases where it’s called for.  I don’t see myself as trustworthy, and honestly, considering why others might consider me trustworthy makes me feel like an awful liar who’s mislead anyone and everyone who’s even cast an eye towards me.  And yet, I know that I have no immediate reason or way to betray these people, nor do I want to.  With even a little introspection, I know what can mislead me into a bad course of action, and what my triggers and temptations are, and I know that within a certain set of parameters, there’s neither any reason nor way to betray them, so I can be trusted, at least a little bit.  I’ve come to appreciate the saying “I trust them as far as I can throw them” in a more nuanced light; within a certain range of expectations and situations, I can be trustworthy, and I can claim to properly and rightfully hold trust, even for myself without that heart-singe, up to a point.  It’s beyond that point that I worry, because I know that if I were to go beyond such a point where it’s not just possible but probable for me to slip up, it’d be more difficult (not impossible!) to come out the other end without erring.

I can’t say that I absolutely trust myself, but I can say that I trust myself up to a point.  For most people, with whom my interactions are limited to a particular sphere of life or action, the points at which I can’t be trusted fall so far out of that sphere that there’s no need to consider me to be anything but trustworthy.  For others, though, the story changes.  I can be trusted with qualifications, and though I’d like to say I’m trustworthy without them, I can’t honestly say that.

While I accept that—mostly, and without the burn of telling a lie to myself—I’m not satisfied with it.  Far from it; while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I hate myself for not being trustworthy across all cases and situations, I’m certainly not pleased with myself for it, and I want to make myself better.  I want to be able to do my Work without the distractions of regret, fear, worry, self-loathing, and that calls for either papering over the root cause and hoping it never rears its ugly head again (hah!), or actually doing the Work to improve myself to make my overall Work better without such distraction, as much as I am able.  As a sword, I must make sure that I am in the right condition to do my Work, and only limit myself to the range of Work that I am able to do in the form and condition I’m in; more than that, I must hone, tune, and strengthen myself to be able to push my limits, within which I am comfortable enough to work without distraction, and understand the areas into which I push my boundaries and limits.  If I am trustworthy only up to a point, by my own estimation, I need to push that point further so that I can become more trustworthy, and strive to not simply strut past it without care and end up wrecking myself or, worse, those around me.

Self-knowledge, either given to one by oracle or discovered through one’s own life, can hurt in the process of obtaining it.  But they who know more about themselves know how to live differently and better than if they had no such knowledge.  I know the situations in which I risk my own well-being, happiness, and success, and I stride into them at my own peril.  Dealing in absolutes as I do, the nebulous and unpredictable “being at risk of erring and not knowing how I would act” is tantamount to the definite “I will err”, and it’s safer to simply stay out of situations that I’ve been warned away from.  Should the case arise that I find myself in such a situation, it’d behoove me to find my way back out at my earliest convenience while keeping up my guard.  Still, I don’t want to be limited to this; even if the nature of my being is always to be temped by a particular set of things, there’s nothing saying I can’t strengthen myself to resist them all the more while also building myself up to avoid them at the same time.

A tool, in order to accomplish its purpose, must be in the right condition for it to be used; it must be built, maintained, and strengthened well, and having done so, it will serve a lifetime (or more) of wonders.  But a tool is only as useful as the skill of the one who wields it.  When we take ourselves into our own hands, regardless of whether that’s proper and right for us to do so, we must be sure to know how to condition the tool of our Selves as well as the limitations of use thereof, while always striving to increase our skill and reach of using the tool.  There may be upper limits to what we can accomplish, both as tool and wielder, but so long as we always strive to reach them, we’re doing all the Work we can in service of our Will.

Search Term Shoot Back, October 2014

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 2014.

“the ‘talisman’ used in the ritual. your name will be written 9x around the diagram using your own blood.” — I don’t know of any such talisman that requires instructions like this, though depending on the size of the talisman, I will say that that would appear to be a significant amount of blood.  When using blood in ink, especially your own, I suggest taking a few drops (maybe a certain number of drops depending on planetary hours, qabbalistic symbolism, or the like) and mixing it into dragon’s blood ink or some other sacred ink you have prepared.  That way, you don’t go dizzy from losing too much blood, and you can buff out the potency of blood with particular herbs.  Just be careful when you tap yourself for blood: be clean, use sterilized needles or blades (preferably non-reusable and disposed of in a sharps bin), be careful that you don’t cut on an artery,sanitize the area to bleed from first, clean up afterwards, use a fresh bandage, aim carefully with the blood, and the like.  And, given that the ink and the talisman has your own blood on it, be very careful that you don’t lose the stuff; you don’t want others to get ahold of your own bodily fluids, after all.

“things to ask a geomancer” — Putting my geomancer hat on for a second, well, what do you want to know?  Geomancy is a pretty awesome divination system that I’ve been practicing for years, and it’s helped me countless times in my work and spiritual development.  In my opinion, however, geomancy is best for queries that are clear (no confusion or ambiguity), concise (pared down to the fewest words needed), and concrete (about a single actionable topic that isn’t abstract), and ideally can be answered in a binary sense (yes/no, should/shouldn’t, etc.).  Beyond that, ask whatever you want.

“making natron for egypt project with baking soda and washing powder?” — I actually wrote about this waaaaay back when, when I was just starting to get involved with Hermetic magic.  If it’s any indication, this was when my blog was still hosted on Blogspot.  So, natron is this nifty powder that’s like supersalt and can be used for embalming, desiccation, and making protective circles, and it’s formed from a mixture of sodium chloride (salt), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and sodium carbonate (washing soda).  While salt and baking soda are easy to find, it can be a little more difficult to find washing soda in your local supermarket, and isn’t strictly necessary if you can’t find it.  I make natron (I’ve really only made the one batch, since I use so little of it) by crushing all the dry parts up into a fine powder and mix it well.  You could make a solution out of them in water and dry it out, but natron is so absorbent that you’d need to use an already spotless pan to hold it in and put it in the oven on high for a week; leaving it out in the open would just keep the natron moist since it’d absorb moisture from the ambient air, and in my humid house where we grow carnivorous plants, that ain’t gonna work.  I just suggest grinding it to a fine powder and storing it in an airtight jar.

“ghost rituals” — Yes, I’m sure there are occultist ghosts who have free time just like I do, and I’m sure they have their own rituals and ceremonies.  I don’t know what they are, however.  I might ask my ancestors to see what they’re up to in the afterlife, maybe get some advice from them in my own works.

“best planetary hours for working out” — It’s true, you can use planetary hours to time pretty much anything to get more out of it.  For working out, exercising, and physical training generally, I’d go with hours of Mars and hours of the Sun, which should get you three or four windows of 45 minutes to 2.5 hours a day, depending on where you live and what time of year it is.  However, some of these hours are at ungodly o’ clock in the morning or really late in the evening, so you may not be able to get to a gym or it may not be safe to go outside during some of these hours.  To be honest, the best time for working out is an hour you set each day every day and get into a routine of it.  You don’t need magic for physical goals like this, though it can certainly help.  Don’t let timing factors influence your goals for a healthier, fit life.

“is barachiel archangel recognized in the catholic church” — Alas, not anymore.  Back in 2002, the Vatican banned all veneration of any angel not named in the Bible, i.e. any angel that wasn’t Michael, Gabriel, or Raphael.  Any other named angel, they claim, could lead to deviation from Catholic doctrine and too permissive of “new age spiritual practices”.  This isn’t new for them; back in the eighth century, Pope Zachary banned the veneration of Uriel on the grounds that the angel did not exist, because he wasn’t mentioned in the Bible, either.  Now, this only applies to the Catholic church; the Orthodox church has a much more permissive view on angels, and in fact venerates seven archangels.  Of course, the names and functions of those archangels may not always coincide with those popularly known, but whatever.

“can we place organite and a crystal grid by each other” — I mean, you can, but given how I consider orgonite (note the proper spelling) to be worth less than a well-timed dump, I don’t think putting a chunk of the crap near a crystal grid would do much.  You can involve the orgonite into the crystal grid, sure, but at that point, why not just use a lump of peat coal or of simple quartz instead?  To be honest, if I knew that putting orgonite and crystal grids near each other could cause some sort of violently explosive reaction, I’d be hawking that shit all over the place in the hopes that nobody would be googling for orgonite ever again.

“petition an angel using his seal” — While the most recommended use of an angelic seal is to conjure the angel, you don’t need to straight-up call them down into a crystal and converse with them and charge them with an action if you don’t want to go that far.  You might adopt something like what the Queen of Pentacles does with “goetic conjurework”, by drawing out the seal of the angel on both sides of a piece of paper, writing the name of the angel on one side and your petition on the other, then lighting an appropriately-dressed candle on top of that.  Alternatively, you could use the seal of the angel as a focus for meditation to attune yourself to them and allow for a slow-growth, natural form of contact to eventually come to you.  Be aware that, in Hermetic theory, the symbol of a spirit is, in a sense, the presence of the spirit; the spirit is where the seal is, so wherever the angelic seal is drawn, so too will the angel be.

“pompeii penis sandals” — To be fair, if you look at any Roman archaeological site and especially Pompeii, you’ll note that the ancients loved them some good ol’ fashioned phalluses.  An erect penis, no less, was the standard shingle for any brothel back in the day; charms to ward off the evil eye were often in the form of flying penises (some with a penis of its own!); anything from oil lamps to gambling tokens to warning signs were ithyphallic in nature.  That said, I’ve never heard of “penis sandals” before from a Roman culture, much less one from Pompeii, and some googling of my own isn’t helping.  So, uh, sorry.

“the japanese alphabet that they use nowadays in English” — They don’t use Japanese writing in English.  We use the English writing system (a derivative of the Roman system) for English.  That’s why it’s, you know, called English.  Japanese, on the other hand, uses the Japanese writing system, and it’s used for a handful of other languages, such as Ainu and Ryukuan, all of which are Japonic in nature, but none of which are found outside the Japanese archipelago.  Now, if you’re wondering what Japanese writing is and how it works, first note that it’s not an alphabet, and that alphabets are not synonymous with writing systems generally.  Second, Omniglot is your friend when you have questions about writing systems.  Third, Japanese writing is actually composed of three separate systems: a syllabary used for native Japanese speech, a syllabary used for onomatopoeia and foreign words, and a system of Chinese and Chinese-derived characters.

“best florida water to bless my house” — Surprisingly enough, there are numerous different brands of Florida Water out there.  By far the most common and the most popular is Murray & Lanman, which you can usually find in any botanica, though botanicas will often have lesser-quality brandless or store-brand types available as well.  Oddly, Florida Water is also popular in China, and I’ve been able to find a few bottles of the stuff in some places in the DC Chinatown area, but ohmigawd they’re shitfully terribad and smell like baby powder and rotten fruit, specifically the Butterfly and Liushen brands (at least in my honest opinion).  Of course, my friends and I make our own Florida Water, and you can find my recipe on this older post of mine.  My other friend uses a bit of laundry blueing and more lemongrass, so his Florida Water smells like Fruit Loops and is delicious, and a tad closer to the Murray & Lanman stuff, though ours are still distinctly different from the brand name.  All the same, Florida Water is an amazing eau de cologne, though I would suggest you mix the stuff with holy water to bless a house properly, if not just use holy water.  Florida Water can help brighten a room or cleanse someone off, but for real blessing, you want real holiness.

“what can i engrave on a blade to be able to slay demons” — Happily enough, you can find out here on the page I made about my ritual sword.  Be aware, though, that slaying demons can be bad for your health, since demons do tend to fight back and are nontrivial to slay.  Besides, what did demons ever do to you?  Don’t be a douchebag.  Talk it out first, maybe share a drink or five over a Circle of Art.  Who knows, maybe some good demon sex could be just what you need!

“hga vs other gods” — Now this is a pretty interesting comparison to make.  Generally speaking, the Holy Guardian Angel (HGA) is not a deity in the traditional sense of the word.  The term itself was coined by Abraham of Worms in his Sacred Magic of Abramelin, although the concept of guardian angels generally goes back to late classical Mediterranean times in Abrahamic traditions, if not much earlier. In the Judeo-Christian scheme, the HGA is definitely not on the same level as God or the Trinity, and is under the ranks of the archangels and the four Holy Living Creatures, to be sure, though whether he belongs to a particular choir is up for debate (though the Ars Paulina would suggest that he’s of a choir no lower than the Powers or the angels of the fifth heaven).  The HGA has sometimes been linked to the Agathos Daimon of the ancient Greeks and the Genius of the Romans, though with a more cosmic or divine purpose than just watching over the well-being of the human they look after.  There is some similarity with the HGA and tutelary deities generally, and these tutelary deities are often called Zeus or Hera, or in Latin Jove and Juno (depending on the gender of the human), but I feel like these are different entities, personally.  To be extraordinarily brief on the subject, the HGA watches over a human and guides them to divinity and their divine purpose, helping them by clearing out obstacles and providing an impetus for action where needed.  Whether that intersects with other gods’ responsibilities is up to the other gods.

“ithyphallic devil” — I’m down to go down on one.

“chaplet of st. chamuel” — So, as I’ve mentioned before, there are lots of different sets of archangels.  The system of seven archangels I use is that of the Orthodox Church: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel (who are common to nearly all sets of seven archangels), as well as the lesser-known Barachiel, Jehudiel, and Sealtiel.  However, in Catholic and Hispanic countries, another set of seven archangels are known, which are described by the Christian author Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite: the same big four as before, but with Jofiel/Jophiel, Zadkiel, and Chamuel/Samuel.  It’s hard to map one set of archangels to another, since their roles tend to differ as well as their names.  However, I did find in one painting at a local botanica the names of the Orthodox angels mapped to those of Pseudo-Dionysus, and in it Chamuel was linked to Barachiel.  Whether this holds up in practice, I’m not sure, but if you’re interested, use my chaplet to Barachiel and see how the angel responds.  I don’t work with the angels of Pseudo-Dionysus, however, so this is up for experimentation.  According to at least one (not entirely) reputable resource, Chamuel is the angel presiding over relationships and all the love and trauma they bear.  This isn’t quite in line with the role of the angel Barachiel, who presides over blessings and bounties, so I’m not sure what a chaplet of St. Chamuel would look like.

“i want to know where you live, what your apartment? how much time do you devote a day of prayer? text” — …wow, creeper.  You don’t get to know that.  I do devote at least an hour a day to prayer and meditation, however, and would prefer to do more if it weren’t for commuting, martial arts practice, sleep, and my office job.  None of which you get to know when and where I do it.

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.

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.

Cleansing, Defending, and Blessing a House

A group of friends living together near me were going through some tough times recently, and I offered to help cleanse and bless their house, just to get rid of any lingering bad stuff and keep it out while inviting more and more good things in.  It’s a small thing I can do, and I offered since it was the least I could do for them.  I’ve only ever done this piecemeal on my own place, touching up the apartment as needed, so getting to work on someone else’s place was a new experience for me.

Being the engineer that I am, I decided to come up with a plan of attack, dividing up this working into four different stages: preparation, cleansing, defense, and blessing.  Preparation covers getting the supplies, making sure both myself, my friends, and their house are ready for the project, etc.  Cleansing involves getting rid of anything stuck in the house, any negative entity or force that’s causing any kind of harm to the tenants or property.  Defense involves setting up protections, shields, and wards to keep out any further negativity, letting in only positive or neutral things that help instead of harm.  Blessing helps make the house a home, and involves benedictions upon the place, using luck-, peace-, or prosperity-bringing oils and incenses, and the like.  I let my friends know in advance what I was going to do and got their permission for doing so, because being ethical rocks and so does having informed clients.

The supplies I needed were:

  • Holy water
  • Cleansing water (Uncrossing oil, Banish and Cleanse oil, Van Van oil, 7-11 Holy oil, lemon ammonia, Florida water, holy water)
  • Blessing water (peace water, holy water, rose water, Florida water, and champagne)
  • Fiery Wall of Protection oil
  • Abramelin Oil, or another suitable anointing oil
  • Cotton swabs
  • Banishing incense (dragon’s blood, star anise, crushed red pepper, and black peppercorns)
  • Blessing incense (frankincense, copal, cinnamon, and Power powder)
  • Blessed candles, one for each room of the house (I used white tealights anointed with 7-11 Holy oil and consecrated according to the Key of Solomon, book II, chapter 12), plus a few extra for thanksgiving and prosperity work
  • Large steel nails, one per corner of the property (iron railroad spikes are perfect for this)
  • Instrument of Will (wand, staff, sword, dagger, athame, &c.)
  • Instrument of Protection (amulet, Solomonic ring, &c.)
  • Offerings (large candles, sweet incenses, flowers, simple cakes, &c.)

Once I gathered all the supplies, I prepared myself by cleansing myself and doing a thorough banishing and cleansing including a hyssop bath and meditation, making sure I wasn’t going to track in any more filth into their place.  I also conjured the angel Kammael to charge up my instrument of Will and nails to act as defensive wards.  Before I arrived, I asked my friends to clean the house with the usual things: sweep, vacuum, dust, etc.  I went over to their house on a Sunday in an hour of the Sun during a waxing moon; the first words out of my mouth upon entering were “pax huic domui”, or “peace upon this house” (Luke 10:5).  I offered each of the tenants a bit of holy water to sprinkle themselves with and cleanse themselves as they saw best; since the household was largely Catholic, I suggested the usual Asperges Me that I use myself.  With everyone clean, I donned my Solomonic ring, said a few prayers for guidance and protection, and started my work.

I had a brief chat with the genius of the house (I didn’t do a formal conjuration for this, just reached out and had a quick discussion), letting him know what was up and what I was about to do.  I asked for permission for performing my work, and he gave me his permission to continue.  I also asked the genius for an image of what the house looked like to him, to compare with my own feelings of the place as well as what it’d result in once I did my working, and also asked about any problem areas that needed special attention.  With this information, the first thing was to demarcate the area of working, so I took my instrument of Will (my new ritual sword) and walked around the boundaries of the property clockwise, sealing off the area for the working.  Until I finished, I asked nobody to leave the boundaries of the property or to let anyone in.

To cleanse the house, I opened up every window and door in the house (good thing the weather was good for this, neither too hot nor too cold, not a terrible amount of pollen or dust or noise).  Although not necessary, I find it helpful to have a fresh breeze blow through the house, getting rid of some of the more natural pests naturally and literally as well as symbollically “airing out” the place.  I lit a candle in every room of the house and consecrated the flames, so that the light could shine throughout the entire place; these candles were left to burn completely, and the remaining tins were disposed of respectfully.  The light from the candles was to illuminate the place and bring the light of the Ain Soph Aur down into the house, as well as to watch over and empower all the rest of the working.

I went to the entrance of the house facing inside and gave a general license to depart for all the spirits that had taken residence up in the place (the genius was specifically excepted).  I went through each room and waved around a thurible of banishing incense in each room, repeating the Greek phrase “ΑΠΩ ΑΠΩ ΠΑΝΤΟΣ ΚΑΚΟΔΑΙΜΟΝΕΣ” as I did so.  I did the bottom level first, the top level second, and the ground level last, going from the back of the house to the front.  After reciting Psalm 6, I went over the house again by spraying the cleansing water, repeating the Latin phrase “ABI ABI OMNI PROFANI”.   The incense was used to smoke out any blatantly negative or harmful spirits, and the cleansing water was sprayed around to wipe up and out any harmful residue, malice, and other astrally icky junk that had built up around the place.  I then went around the house clockwise flinging holy water around the place (not the cleansing solution), repeating “BEGONE, BEGONE ALL EVIL SPIRITS”.  With this done, the house was cleansed to my satisfaction, and all the windows and doors were shut to begin building up the fortifications.

To defend the house, I returned to the front of the house and recited the Prayer to St. Michael, which I use before anointing things with Fiery Wall of Protection oil.  Again, bottom to top and back to front, I went through and dabbed the oil on every window and door in the house. I wanted to do a five-spot pattern (one on each corner, one on the center/handle) on every window and door, but the house was bigger than I anticipated and had a lot of windows; I used a single spot on every window, and a five-spot on the front and back doors as well as all the bedroom doors.  The anointing of every entry-point into the house with this oil forms a tight shield through which nothing harmful can even approach, much less break through.  Although I used my own fingers for my own house, I used cotton swabs this time for the oil so as to keep it from dripping or making a mess; besides, some people are sensitive to the oil, and it may burn their skin.  I then dabbed Abramelin oil on the front and back doors, charging them to let in only that which helps and keep out that which harms.  After this, I went to the four corners of the property clockwise and drove a large steel nail into each corner, calling on the angel Kammael of Mars for defense against all evil, harmful, malicious, wicked, or negative spirits, entities, bodies, or forms.  These serve as wards, and I dabbed each with Fiery Wall of Protection oil after I drove them into the ground and charged them to defend the property.

With the cleansing and defending done, the only thing left was to bless the house and make it livable again.  I returned to the front of the house and gave a benediction of the place, then went through the house and fumigated it with blessing incense while repeating the Trisagion, along with spritzing the blessing water through the house while repeating “blessed be, clean be, safe be, happy be, prosperous be”.  I also used a quick prosperity spell used from the Bible (light three candles and repeat Zechariah 8:12 three times over the candles) as an extra step.  I went to the “hearth” of the house (the kitchen) and made offerings to the goddess Hestia (to watch over and nurture the home), the god Zeus Ktesios (to defend the boundaries and walls of the home), and the genius of the house (to manage and coordinate the homeliness of the house), thanking them and asking for their help in protecting the home and keeping it hale, whole, and happy.  I returned to the front of the house, released the spirits back to their places if they were helpful and not harmful in any way, and offered a few prayers of thanksgiving and exaltation at the end.  I then went outside and untraced the circle I made with my instrument of Will, going counterclockwise this time, and let the house stand on its own again.  I finished the whole thing by making a few thanksgiving prayers to the Almighty, then enjoyed the rest of my day.  The only tenant of the household who was out during all this came back just as I untraced the circle, which was extremely fortuitous timing.

Not including the preparation, the working took about an hour and a half to walk through every room of the place multiple times (candle, banish, cleanse, anoint, bless), circumambulate the house four times (once to circle it, once to asperge it, once to nail in the spikes, and once to uncircle it), and perform offerings and prayers.   Not only is everything negative removed from the place, it’s kept entirely shut out.  The incenses, offerings, oils, and waters I used helped to brighten the house and make it inviting for peace, luck, prosperity, safety, and fortune.  Just like a place needs to be cleaned every so often, it’ll eventually need to be cleansed again; however, with all this work done at once and so powerfully, minor touchups will be all that’s needed anytime soon, and that I can take care of covertly or teach them how to do really easily.  So long as they don’t go deliberately trying to fuck shit up in their own place, the house will take care of itself and they’ll be fine.

Why am I sharing this?  Besides the fact that my blog is essentially a more fun version of my increasingly-neglected magical journal, I figured I’d share my methodology and experiences.  This is also a good chance to get feedback and opinions from other practitioners to see how they would do something like this.  This was a pretty heavy-duty working for a normal household; in all fairness and honesty, most people do not and never will need these levels of protection and blessing.  Most people are content with getting by on their own with no special help from higher or lower worlds, and most people don’t do anything to piss off spirits, magicians, or other powerful entities.  I’m not saying that most people don’t have hardships or fall on hard times, or don’t attract the attention of demons or nagas or the like, or couldn’t use a bit of magic to help out.  That, in fact, was the point: having the ability, means, and skill to do magic, I damn near feel obligated to use it for the benefit of those who need it, and in the process help make my friends’ lives and the world a little bit better and brighter.

Craftwork update!

Gotta love the feeling of being productive and actually making stuff again.  About damn time, too; crafting this stuff is at least a quarter of the fun of the Art.

Since I had all the supplies, and now that things in my life have calmed down enough to allow me enough time during the week and weekends to focus and set my mind to some projects again, I can proudly show off two of my latest crafting projects:

  • A ritual sword, partially Solomonic in design but with certain elements that give it a much more offensive nature against harmful spirits.  Yes, dear reader, I made myself a demonsbane-type sword.  I’m going to conjure Kammael and Michael in turn as this conjuration cycle continues and get their opinions on it and how to keep it in good shape, so there’ll be a post on that in the future.  In the meantime, I’m scared to even hold the thing; it feels like a firebomb in my hands.
  • A Circle of Art painted onto a large canvas tarp, based on a design I introduced before.  Simple, elegant, and portable, and awesome-looking, besides!  I made a few wooden pentagram placards to serve as bases for candles and the brazier, too, so the whole setup is pretty cool.  Walking into it feels like stepping into a fortress observatory, so I think I did it right.
  • Although not a craft, per se, I had a hard time finding a proper blessing of chalk that didn’t specifically mention the Three Wise Men or Epiphany, so I made one up.  Here you go, if you ever need a Hermetic or Abrahamic blessing of chalk.

Now that I have these two things, in combination with the tools and supplies I already have (wand, triangle, pentacles, ring), I’m finally ready to start working with goetia and other types of demons.  This opens up a whole new set of practices to experiment with, so I’m pretty excited about this.  Yes, I know that dealing with demons is a powerful practice and can fuck my own shit up if I’m not careful, but what’s life without living, and what is living without learning?  I want the experience, and I hear some demons are pretty neat guys to be acquainted with.  Based on a friend’s suggestion and my own inclinations, I think Orobas will be the first guy in line.

My brony friends would be proud if they knew about this guy.

Though, this does bring up a good question for myself.  I’m used to using the Trithemius ritual to conjure spirits, which I’ve used for angels and genii (two totally different ranks of spirits), but nothing besides (since I haven’t done any other kind of conjuration).  Fr. Rufus Opus has said he’s used it equally well for all kinds of spirits from different grimoires, traditions, and texts, so I’m eager to try and figure out experiments with this rite and how to conjure spirits that are less-than-sanguine about the holy Trinity, qabbalistic godnames, and so forth.  The Lemegeton and Key of Solomon have good starting points for me to jump off of; a Trithemius/Solomonic blended conjuration might be an interesting thing to write up, since the Trithemius rite has the basic framework I need and the Solomonic texts have all the godnames, conjurations, and calls.