Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: The Planetary Stuff on the Table

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 right now, we’re in the middle of focusing on the Table of Practice and how DSIC instructs the table and pedestal to be made.  Last time, we bit into one of the biggest debates about different approaches to the DSIC, namely whether to use the names of the Four Kings of the Earth (Oriens, Paimon, Egyn, Amaymon) or the names of the Four Archngels (Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel); many grimoire-purists and demon-workers argue for the former, while Fr. RO, Fr. Acher, and a number of others argue for the latter or for either or.  But we’re moving on now to keep the discussion moving; if you need a refresher, go read the last post!

Now that we have the debacle-debate about the four kings out of the way, let’s move on with the rest of the table.  We know from the description given in DSIC that the table needs to have the following on it:

…on the table on which the crystal stands the following names, characters, &c. must be drawn in order.

First, The names of the seven planets and angels ruling them, with their seals or characters. The names of the four kings of the four corners of the earth. Let them be all written within a double circle, with a triangle on a table; on which place the crystal on its pedestal: this being done, thy table is complete (as in the Fig. D,) and fit for the calling of the spirits…

With the four kings understood, and the debate about the pros and cons about using the four archangels instead of the four kings, what about the planetary stuff?  DSIC says to draw “the names of the seven planets and angels ruling them, with their seals or characters”.  That’s…quite a lot of stuff, actually.  According to the text, we need the name of the planet, the name of the angel ruling the planet, and then…well, what exactly do we mean by “their seals or characters”?  Do we mean the seals of the angels, the seals of the planet, or both?  The most common form of table that we see, as seen from Fr. RO’s versions above, use only the glyph for the planet (viz. the ones we most commonly see as a representation of them in astrological charts and texts) and the names of the planetary angels, with no other characters or names present.  We see this in the majority of Tables of Practice with some variants, such as the Magian-script one from the Scribbler, another version made by Fr. FC, and many that are commonly made and sold on Etsy

However, Fr. AC, as usual, goes a bit further.  GTSC gives the following for each planet:

  • the glyph of the planet
  • the name of the planet
  • the name of the angel
  • the seal of the angel

GTSC separates these four elements with middle dots (·), and separates groups of these elements with colons (:).  I like that design choice of separation, but I want to call into question his choice of characters here.  Though it’s a little hard to see, an image of how he sets up his table (along with the pedestal) is up on one of his old blog’s posts:

I find it incredibly odd that GTSC uses only the genitive forms of the Latin names instead of the nominative (e.g. Saturni instead of Saturnus, “of Saturn” instead of just “Saturn”).  Maybe this is due to a result of a poor understanding of Latin on Fr. AC’s part? I mean, it could be read as e.g. “Saturni Cassiel” translating to “Cassiel of Saturn”, but the use of the separator dot would seem to break that construction.  I think Fr. AC made a mistake here: he says he likes the “old spelling” of the planets, but that would properly imply using the nominative case here, just as we wouldn’t say “Michaelis” (genitive of Michael) or “Raphaelem” (accusative of Raphael), just “Michael” and “Raphael”.

However, Fr. AC interprets “their seals or characters” to only apply to the angels and not the planets, but there are indeed characters of the planets, too, which Fr. AC completely passes over in this case.  As noted above, Fr. Acher uses the sigils of the planets derived from their magic squares from Cornelius Agrippa (book II, chapter 22), but Satyr Magos over on his blog Journey Through The Obsidian Dream devised a nonce-based version that included only the planetary glyphs and characters (while omitting the angelic names) from earlier on in Cornelius Agrippa (book I, chapter 33).  Similarly, Erneus of Magia Pragmatica: Key to the Key of Solomon developed a Fr. RO-based design of the Table of Practice that includes the angelic names and seals as well as the planetary characters and images from the Magical Calendar, replacing the usual planetary glyphs with their corresponding images.  And, too, recall how Fr. Acher uses the number square-based planetary seals, too, on his table design.

Satyr Magos uses the planetary characters from Agrippa, but the table design made by Erneus uses the characters that were also used in the Ars Paulina.  The Ars Paulina, I should note, is likely the main inspiration or corroborating text that the Magical Calendar sourced its versions of the planetary characters from, and so it’s these that already have a good argument for using them instead of Agrippa’s planetary characters because they’re already part of a Table of Practice used for the same ends as the DSIC one, even if it’s of a fundamentally different design.  That is, there would be a good argument if only it weren’t for the fact that the Ars Paulina likely postdates Agrippa (given its likely Paracelsan origin), and the Magical Calendar definitely postdates Agrippa.  However, I think either set of characters would work, but I would favor the Agrippa set of characters that Satyr Magos uses.  However, Joseph Peterson mentions in his notes to the Lemegeton that the characters from the Ars Paulina, given the connections that the Ars Paulina also has with book II of the Steganographia of Johannes Trithemius (actually the real author instead of his spurious association to DSIC), may well give this latter set of characters a stronger argument.

While it’d be great to have the name, glyph, and character(s) of the planet as well as the name and seal of the angel, Fr. Acher pointed out in his design of his own table that it’s…just kinda too much.  Plus, it also raises the issue of the fact that the four kings have only names and neither characters nor seals (unless you want to go with the really intricate seals from the Clavis Inferni, as Asterion showed on his blog, which may not be necessarily recommend for this purpose); we could use the elemental glyphs, but that seems weird to me, as the four kings are more about the four corners of the Earth rather than the four elements.  If we wanted to make everything follow the same standard, we’d use only the names of the angels and planets and the names of the kings with no other glyphs or seals or characters, because that’s something they all have, but that certainly misses DSIC’s explicit instruction to engrave them with the “seals or characters” of the planets and/or the angels.  If we interpret the “seal or character” of the planet to just be that planet’s glyph, as GTSC appears to do, then that makes the process much easier and cleaner for us, and it avoids having to cram in several batches of things into a tight space, but I don’t like that approach; it seems to stretch what is normally meant by “seal or character”.  But, including the planetary characters, if we weren’t going to go with the seal/sigil like how Fr. Acher did (which is super detailed and can be hard to do on some surfaces with sufficient clarity) would mean we’d either need either a very large table or a very small font to get everything written in.

Thinking on this for myself, just to consider the planetary elements of the design of the table, I would include the glyphs for the planet, the strings of planetary characters from Agrippa, and the name of the angel; those would be my priorities.  The glyph of the planet basically stands in for and is synonymous with the name (and indeed is read as the name itself in many occult texts), and the planetary characters help to give the planetary power to the table as their “seals”, much as in the same way the names of the four kings lend their power to the table as well.  As for the angels, the angelic names are more important for me than their seals; after all, you don’t need a spirit’s seal to conjure them so long as you have their name, and so long as you have their name, you can develop any number of sigils for that name by which you can conjure them as effectively (or nearly so).  Plus, on the lamen itself (which we’ll discuss in the future), it’s the name that’s given the most prominence rather than the seal, which is comparatively hidden and nestled inside the hexagram.  It’s not that we want to bring the full presence of the angel to the table, either, but just their attention; I feel like this is more appropriate for just using their name rather than their fullness.  All this effectively interprets “the names of the seven planets and angels ruling them, with their seals or characters” as referring to the names, angels, and seals of the seven planets, not the names and characters of the angels and of the planets, nor the names and characters of the angels and also of the planets.  This final point really is up to just how specifically you want to interpret the DSIC description here, and is probably the most serious linguistic point of contention between how different people want to design the table.  However, in doing it this way, we also end up with something that’s on the same scale as the GTSC table combined with Satyr Magos’ design above, and yields a slightly cleaner and simpler design choice.

Moving on from that, what order do we put the planetary stuff in?  There’s no order given in DSIC for this, but given that the order of the Scale of Seven from Agrippa (book II, chapter 10) starts with Saturn and proceeds towards the Moon in descending geocentric distance order, I would think that order would be the most sensible to use.  Of course, you could go the other way, going from the Moon up to Saturn.  I don’t think it actually matters much, but as we’ll see in a bit, I think there’s a good argument to be made for the descending geocentric distance order, especially as we’ll see more about in a bit.  Fr. AC in GTSC agrees with this, that one should use the descending order of the planets, and Fr. RO uses this same order in his Modern Angelic Grimoire and RWC.  Both Fr. AC and Fr. RO use the same image in both their respective books to illustrate why this might be the case, the famous design of the geocentric celestial spheres according to Peter Apian’s 1539 work Cosmographia:

While we’re looking at this diagram, by the way, we also see why Fr. AC used the genitive forms of the names of the planets in his table design, because that’s what he most likely read according to this specific diagram.  Properly speaking, however?  Note the word “COELṼ” (read “coelum”, literally “heaven”) to the left of the glyph for Saturn; this should be read as “Coelum Saturni”, or literally “Heaven of Saturn”, and likewise “Coelum Iovis” as “Heaven of Jupiter”.  If we just wanted to use the planetary names on their own, we’d write the names in the nominative case instead: Saturnus, Iovis/Iup(p)iter, Mars, Sol, Venus, Mercurius, Luna.  I’m pretty sure the case-based linguistics of Latin tripped Fr. AC up, leading him to use the wrong form of the planetary names.

Anyway, back to orders.  Interestingly, Fr. RO uses another order instead for SS: going in the direction of the names of the angels (counterclockwise due to the right-to-left nature of Hebrew) he uses the order of Saturn, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Moon, Mars, Sun.  This doesn’t match the distance order, weekday order, or even weight order of the planets (according to their planetary metals, as I discussed once long ago, that of Saturn, Mars, Venus, Moon, Jupiter, Sun, Mercury).  First, compare the following two Tables of Practice he’s put out, the older one from RWC that uses the four archangels and the distance-based order, and the more recent one (posted on his own Facebook page) that uses the four kings and this new weird order.

I know where he got it from: it’s the association of the planets to the elements and directions according to Cornelius Agrippa’s Scale of Four.  Note how Mercury and Saturn, associated with Water, are placed by Egyn in the North, associated with Gabriel the angel of Water in his version of the table; Mars and the Sun, put by Oriens in the East, associated with Michael of Fire; Jupiter and Venus, put by Paymon in the West, associated with Raphael of Air; and the Moon, put by Amaymon in the North, associated with Uriel of Earth (along with the fixed stars according to the Scale of Four, but which aren’t associated with any planetary angel).  Though he never mentions it in SS, this is essentially Fr. RO’s hiding of his old Table of Manifestation layout from his earlier stuff; Fr. RO is organizing the planets according to their elemental associations, according to Agrippa’s Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7).  While I wouldn’t call this an order, it is an arrangement with its own internal logic.

This is classic Fr. RO stuff here.  Using this same organization for the Table of Manifestation as he uses for his Table of Practice is not an approach that I disagree with, given what Fr. RO uses his Table of Manifestation layout for, but it’s not one I particularly like for the table for DSIC.  I still prefer the descending distance order of the planets, myself, but Fr. RO’s arrangement is definitely a valid approach if you take a primarily elemental/directional approach to arranging things on the table from our perspective as incarnate human beings on the Earth—which we necessarily do.

But there’s also one more issue at play here: the specific names to be used.  Fr. RO and Fr. Acher use the Hebrew names as given in Cornelius Agrippa’s Scale of Four; this is simple enough.  However, this isn’t precisely in line with other sets of planetary angel names.  Granted, many of the names are similar, but not identical, and it shows.  GTSC, for instance, use the names as given in the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano, and Erneus put out another version of his table that uses a faithful Hebrew rendition of the same names rather than those used by Cornelius Agrippa (note the subtle differences in the Hebrew in the outer ring).

So there’s also some contention about the exact spelling of names.  To give a comparison between the different versions we’re looking at, here’s a table that shows the various spellings that are common for DSIC Tables of Practice from a variety of sources:

  • The Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano, which gives the names in Latin.  These are the same names given in DSIC itself, with the same spellings.
  • Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy.  He gives them in both Hebrew and Latin transcription.
  • Erneus’ version of the table above, which gives them in Hebrew.
  • GTSC itself, which gives the names both in Latin and Hebrew.  The Latin names are identical to that of the Heptameron.
  • SS itself, which gives the Latin names as given in the Heptameron, but frustratingly, two different Hebrew spellings: one for the Table of Practice (which agrees with Agrippa), and another set that appears to be closer to Erneus and GTSC, but with a number of differences, too.
    • There also appear to be some typos: the Hebrew spelling of Gabriel in the Table itself matches everything else, but the lamen omits the letter Yod (giving us “Gabrel”), and the Hebrew spelling of Haniel in the Table uses an initial Aleph instead of Heh (giving us “Aniel”).  I won’t mention these typos as specific spelling differences, however.
    • Annoyingly, RWC (the old Gates texts upon which SS was based) use a different set of spellings on some of the lamens themselves, but which agree with Agrippa’s Hebrew: the angel of Saturn is given as צדקיאל, that of Jupiter צפקיאל, and that of Mars כמאל.  Oddly, the typo of Gabriel as lacking the letter Yod in his lamen is still present.

This gets us the messy table below to compare a variety of all these angel spelling names:

Latin Hebrew
Heptameron Agrippa Agrippa Erneus GTSC  SS
Saturn Cassiel Zaphkiel*† צפקיאל קפציאל § כאססיאל ¶
Jupiter Sachiel Zadkiel* צדקיאל זכיאל סאחאל ¶
Mars Samael Camael כמאל סמאל סאמאל ¶
Sun Michael‡ מיכאל
Venus Anael Haniel האניאל ענאל ענאל or אנאל ‖ אנאל
Mercury Raphael‡ רפאל
Moon Gabriel גבריאל גבראל

* Agrippa renders Tzaddi as “Z” here according to the custom at the time of Hebrew transcription, so these should probably more accurately read “Tzaphkiel” and “Zadkiel”.  Likewise, he renders Qoph as “K”, which would give us an even more faithful rendition of these names as “Tzaphqiel” and “Tzadqiel”.
† Mistake in the text; Agrippa has “Zaphiel” (or, reading Z as Tzaddi, “Tzaphiel”).  “Zaphkiel” (or “Tzaphqiel”) is given in Agrippa’s Scale of Ten, as expected.
‡ Agrippa swaps Michael and Raphael such that Raphael becomes the angel of the Sun and Michael the angel of Mercury, which is definitely a thing seen in many grimoires of the time, which is also repeated in his Scale of Twelve when it comes to the corresponding sephiroth.  I swapped them back to fit in with modern/conventional practice.
§ This Hebrew spelling of the angel of Saturn in Erneus and GTSC would more faithfully be transliterated as “Qaptziel” and could arguably be transliterated into Latin as “Cassiel” (← Qassiel ← Qafsiel ← Qaptziel, account for the Hebrew combination of the /f/ and /p/ sounds).  While reasonable on its own, I can’t help but wonder if this is a case of propagated dyslexia, because swapping Qoph and Tzaddi here gets you the same spelling as in Agrippa.
‖ GTSC gives both spellings, one that starts with `ayin and one that starts with ‘aleph.
¶ Fr. RO seems to have naïvely transliterated the names from the Heptameron back into Hebrew, as some of these spellings seem really unlikely.

There’s a lot more variation in the Hebrew spellings because we don’t really have consistent or reliable Hebrew spellings for these angel names besides what’s given in Agrippa; the usual approach, it would seem, is to take the Latin names from the Heptameron and back-transliterate them into Hebrew, which gets us such varied results.  I don’t much care for this approach, honestly, but it’s not an unreasonable one, especially if you can trace back the root meanings of the theophoric names or use a bit of numerological magic to finagle them into shape.  I haven’t really seen a lot of reliable and historical Hebrew spellings for these angels besides Agrippa, but that might just be my own lack of literature and infamiliarity with texts that others might be more familiar with.

With all these variants above, what would I recommend?  Honestly, since I’m not sure where the Hebrew spellings of the angels came from in Agrippa, or whether they shared an origin with the Latin ones and one set or the other got corrupt, or one set formed the root for the other via transliteration.  While the spelling of the angel ought to matter, I think practice shows that all these names are, even if they are fundamentally different, just synonyms for the same spirit, so that Cassiel is Qaptziel is Tzaphqiel; heck, “Cassiel” itself is such a problematic name, as it was spelled in so many damn ways in the old grimoires, including Captiel, Caffriel, and Cafriel (cf. the Munich Manual entry on planetary conjurations, which has the same origin as the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano); this could be explained as misreading the lowercase “f” as a long s “ſ” (making the original spelling like Caffiel which was reinterpreted as Cassiel, as in Caſſiel) or the other way around.

My recommendation, at the end of the day, is to pick a set of names from a single source that you like and stick with it.  Experience and reports from many magicians the world over show that they all basically work.  That said, if you wanted to go with Hebrew, I don’t suggest Fr. RO’s Hebrew spellings from SS.  As much as I love the man, I wouldn’t trust these spellings here.  They don’t match the spelling pronunciation rules that are typically used for Hebrew, even for magical names; I’d recommend most going with either Agrippa or GTSC for the Hebrew spellings.

And, one more final note about writing the names themselves and in what script.  Given the late origin of DSIC and the fact that the four kings don’t have a readily agreed-upon spelling in Hebrew, it’s probably best for the sake of uniformity to use the Latin spellings of all the names on the table.  Consider, after all, that all the names and words for the wand, pedestal, and lamen are written in Latin; it follows that those on the table should be, too.  Again, this might have been an innovation by Fr. RO and/or Fr. Acher, who used Hebrew for the names of the angels and, in Fr. Acher’s case, the planets.   However, the lamen design from DSIC does have the name of “Michael” emblazoned on it in Hebrew as well as in Latin, so…I think it could go either way.

If, however, you choose to use Hebrew, at least for the angelic names, then there’s also the option of either using plain old square script that Hebrew is normally and conventionally written in, or the use of the Celestial Script as described by Agrippa (book III, chapter 30), which I personally like doing for planetary, stellar, and celestial angels generally (though I give the square script to the elemental angels as well as the honest-to-God truly-divine seven archangels, but that’s another topic for another day).  The Celestial Script is just another form of Hebrew, using more angular lines and ring-marks to imitate both constellation lines on star maps as well as the ring-mark characters on a variety of magical literature from the classical and medieval periods; this was either introduced or propagated later on by Agrippa with other magical scripts of the time.  While I like using Celestial for writing the names of the planetary angels, I seem to be an outlier in that (except for when I see people using my own designs); Fr. RO doesn’t advocate for this use in either SS or RWC explicitly for his Table of Practice, but I believe I got the idea from the discussion groups in his class (I think).  It made sense to me at the time, given that these entities are celestial beings, and Fr. RO does use the Celestial script for the names of the planetary angels on the lamens themselves.  I just followed suit and used the same font for the table, as well.

And then, related to this point about linguistics, there’s the Fr. AC’s decision in GTSC to spell the four kings out in Greek, which…honestly I don’t understand, and which he doesn’t explain.  I’d just use the Latin spellings, honestly, especially as we don’t know whether, for instance, Paimon should be spelled in Greek script with an ōmega or omikron (ΠΑΙΜΩΝ or ΠΑΙΜΟΝ).  Strangely, Fr. AC spells it ΠΑΥΜΟΝ, interpreting the Latin spelling of “Paymon” to use the equivalent Greek letters, but that’d interpret the Latin “y” as a Greek upsilon, which would give it a pronunciation more like “paow-mon” or “pav-mon”; ditto for Amaymon (“ah-maow-mon” or “ah-mahv-mon”).  I think these are both errors, to be honest; after all, Latin y is not the same letter with the same pronunciation as Greek upsilon.  Consider, further, that the name Amaymon comes from the Arabic jinn Maymūn (ميمون), meaning it should be an “i” sound (Greek iōta, Latin i or y) rather than a “u” sound (which Greek upsilon would imply).  It also ignores the fact that the name “Oriens” is literally just the Latin word for the direction East.  But, even more than that, it also goes against his own reasoning in GTSC for using the Latin names of the angels instead of Hebrew:

I debated for a time whether I wanted to use English, Hebrew, or angelic script for the names of the angels and the planets.  I believe any of these choices are valid and would be appropriate.  However, I eventually settled on the English versions, since this is the language I will be requiring the angels to speak in.

Honestly, to avoid any such confusion, I’d recommend spelling at least the names of the four kings in Latin, and neither guess at what their Greek or Hebrew counterparts would be.  The other names for the angels, both elemental and planetary, could be spelled in any such language or font, but there’s a strong argument to be made to just use the Latin versions of the names (using the English alphabet, which is functionally equivalent) for them all for the sake of standardization and to go along with Fr. AC’s reasoning.

Altar and Ritual Framework for Manifestation

After lots of talks with the angels and figuring out how exactly to accomplish something magically, I think I’ve finally settled into a pattern for a manifestation ritual using my magician’s altar, properly called a Table of Manifestation.  Because, you know, it manifests shit.  Fr. Rufus Opus has described the magician’s altar as their terminal to access the cosmos and put in requests or commands to it to magically alter it.  He put up his now well-known Altar Glyph to describe the schematics of such an altar:

Frater Rufus Opus' Altar Glyph

For background on why the altar is set up the way it is, I suggest reading up Cornelius Agrippa’s Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7).  The altar layout, representing our perception and vantage point outwards from the whole cosmos, is primarily designed according to the elements, the building blocks of the world we happen to find ourselves in.  Thus, the things that are fiery are placed in the East, airy in the West, watery in the North, and earthy in the South.  From the inside outwards, we have things under our direct control, things we choose to let loose or bind in the cosmos (this is represented by the four demon princes of the elements, which I hide wrapped up in black silk under my altar and left alone; the surface of the altar uses the central point as the ritual focus space).  Outside that we have the four archangelic kings and the legions of forces/forces themselves that the magician will call upon to bring something into manifestation.  Beyond that we have the four elemental tools, our means to work with both the terrestrial elements and the celestial planets, which allow us to work throughout the cosmos.  Beyond those we have representations of the seven planetary forces, each aligned according to their element, which act as pumps or sources for those forces to pull from.  Beyond that we have…well, really, anything else.  A consecrated candle or lamp is helpful to have, positioned to the East to represent the Infinite Light and Source of All.

Consecrating the Ring of Solomon

This picture illustrates my altar layout, set up for consecrating my magic ring of Solomon a while back.  In the middle is the ritual focus, which is here the ring to be consecrated put atop a Kamea of the Sun as given by Agrippa (book II, chapter 22).  Closest to the focus are four amethyst crystals, each a different Platonic solid, which I use as representations of the four archangelic kings and their forces (tetrahedron/d4 for Michael, octahedron/d8 for Raphael, icosahedron/d20 for Gabriel, cube/d6 for Auriel), each aligned to their proper elemental direction.  Just beyond those I have my four elemental weapons: the Wand of Fire in the East, the Sword of Air in the West, the Cup of Water in the North, and the Disc of Earth in the South.  Outside those I have the seven planetary talismans, again each aligned according to their elemental direction: Mars and the Sun in the East, Jupiter and Venus in the West, Saturn and Mercury in the North, and the Moon in the South.  At the edge of the altar I have my consecrated candle (set in the East) and incense burner, and nearby I have other tools and supplies as needed.

So, I had all these fancy tools lying around on this table I got from Ikea a while back, but…well, never really used them.  Sure, it serves as a display and storehouse for all the energy and forces I work with where I can use or draw on them as necessary, but mostly it sits there gathering dust.  Sure, I use it as a focus to charge stuff I consecrate, but I never really used it in ritual.  It took a lot of figuring out for me about what to use the elemental weapons for; perhaps it’s because of my lack of modern neopagan training or because the old grimoires never really used this set of tools, but I never really got into the habit of using them.  It’s only through continued talks with the angels who have instructed me in their symbolism as well as their ritual use that I got into the habit of using them in ritual, and I’ve finally pieced together how to use them all coherently in a ritual for manifestation.

I feel like this is about as basic and introductory a topic I can get to, but honestly, it (embarrassingly) took me a while to get to this point to even write about this much.  To help prevent other magicians and newbies to magic from getting stuck on how to use that fancy altar with all them tools, here’s a framework I ended up using to manifest or alter something using the magician’s altar.  Influences from this come mostly from the Trithemius ritual of conjuration, as well as elements from the Clavicula Solomonis and other rituals here and there.  Essentially, the ritual framework describes a kind of shortened conjuration but without a crystal, concentrating the force of some sphere or other onto a ritual focus to effect change instead of just a mere chat with an angel or other spirit.

Before even getting anything together, make sure you have an actual intent, goal, and method to accomplish something you want to change.  It’s all well and good to ask the angels for good shit, but it’s better to state clearly what exactly you want from the cosmos, for what purpose you want it, and in what way you plan to obtain or otherwise accomplish what you want.  As always in magic, the more specific you make your request, the more exact and refined your result will be.  It helps to do some prior divination or chatting with the angels or spirits you’ll be working with to make sure your magical plan of attack is solid, as well as making sure any physical activity or material means you want to back up with magic are going to work as well.  When you have that done, figure out the time in which to perform the ritual.  Figuring out the planetary hour and day best associated with the intent and goal is awesome, as is finding a suitable election, or you might just use the phase of the Moon (waxing or waning, full or new) or the direction in which the clock hands move (both up, both down, etc.).  Once you have the basics done, you’ve got a plan.

As with any ritual, start with preparation.  Make sure your altar’s in good order with all the supplies you need at hand (charcoal, lighter, holy water, incense, etc.).  Put on your magical garments and talismans, along with the requisite prayers if needed, as well as prepare yourself with aspersion or ablution with holy water.  You might also consider energetically linking the tools on the table to the central focus, a la Jarandhel’s notion of a crystal grid, to tie everything more closely in practice.  Do whatever energy work, quarter-calling, sevenths-calling, banishing and balancing ritual, or whatever you like to do to get yourself in the proper mindset.  Most importantly, pray.  Pray for guidance, pray for holiness, pray for strength, pray for protection, pray for wisdom, but pray.  You might also call on the help of your HGA, patron gods, supernatural assistants, or similar to empower yourself and make more effective the ritual you’re about to perform.  I generally do all the preparation just before the ritual begins, in the closing minutes of the planetary hour prior to when I want to do my ritual.  As for the actual intent or thing to manifest, the use of a sigil, talisman, figurine, or other stand-in is often helpful; I typically create a sigil with my desire or will and use that.

Once you’re sufficiently prepared and once the appointed time has come, light the candle and consecrate the flame to officially begin the ritual.  Take up the wand, sword, or whatever other tool of intent you prefer up to and including your dominant hand and trace out a circle around your working area, blessing and consecrating the area for the work.  This could be around the altar if it’s free-standing or around a Circle of Art if you’re working within one, with the tool pointed downward at the ground, or around the perimeter of the room if the altar’s not free-standing or if you’d like to use more space than allowed in a Circle, with the tool pointed upward towards the conjunction of the ceiling and walls.  Light the incense and consecrate it, waiting a few seconds to let the incense smoke rise up and fill the space a bit.  I generally wait until I can distinctly smell it for a few seconds before continuing unless I’m in a huge rush.

Now it’s time to call the spirits you’ll be working with.  If you have something specific to consecrate under a particular force, call up the spirits associated with that force; e.g., for solar spirits, you might choose Michael, Nakhiel, and Sorath, along with the aid or blessing of any solar patron deities, familiars, or allies you might have.  If you want to effect some significant change in the cosmos, you might do well to call up all seven planets and all four elements.  Agrippa lists several types of spirits for both the planets and elements and don’t appear to match up immediately, but after talking with both kinds of angels and with Rufus Opus a bit, here’s what I’ve figured out:

  1. Divine force, or the force in the qabbalistic world Atziluth, also associated with the divine Intellect or the element of Fire.  Among the planets, this is the aspect or emanation of God as represented by the godnames of the sephiroth.  Among the elements, however, which are all in the sephirah Malkuth, they’re all kinda lumped together; due to their distant, material nature, the four elements are part of the same divine force.
  2. Mental force, or the force in the qabbalistic world Briah, also associated with the mental abstractions and ideals and the element of Air.  Among the planets, these are the planetary angels.  There is no corollary between this and the elements, since the elements are too low in manifestation to reach this high up in the cosmos.
  3. Guiding force, or the force in the qabbalistic world Yetzirah, also associated with production, feeling, and desire and the element of Water.   These forces indicate how things should be directed and manifested in the world, the design that fulfills the requirements given to the mental force above.  Among the planets, these are the planetary intelligences; among the elements, they are the elemental archangelic kings.
  4. Active force, or the force in the qabbalistic world Assiah, also associated with the concrete force as controlled and effective as well as the element of Earth.  These are like the personified or belegioned forces themselves as opposed to the directing rules or guides; it’s like the charge in a battery instead of the wires that connect it to a radio, which indicate how that charge should flow.  Among the planets, these are the planetary spirits, and among the elements they are the elemental rulers.  Any familiar spirits, elemental or planetary allies, or angels from the forces’ respective choirs are also members of the active force.
  5. Manifesting force, or the force that actually pops up and does stuff in the material world.  These are spirits that actually do and create stuff on this plane with the four elements, the building blocks of this world that the other forces have to manifest through; because of this, there are no planetary forces that fulfill this role, since they’re too abstract and unformed to manifest directly in Malkuth.  Instead, these spirits are strictly elemental, specifically the elemental princes (Oriens, Paymon, etc.), who are close to goetic demons, but are so close to manifested reality that they can directly manifest things on behalf of the higher forces that guide them.  The demonic princes (Samael, Mahazael, etc.) do this too, but in ways that are shitfully terribad (ergo, don’t call on them).

Once you call up the relevant spirits for the forces you want to work with, thank them for their presence, since it always pays to be polite.  Once you get everyone together, the process is fairly straightforward:

  1. Declare your charge to the cosmos and to the spirits present.  Clearly, authoritatively, meaningfully, and wholeheartedly proclaim what you want the spirits gathered to help you achieve and attain in the cosmos, what needs changing or removing or adding to the cosmos, and how you want the manifested thing to take form and effect in your life and reality.  If you have an object, sigil, or figure that represents your intent, display it to the four corners, to the heavens, and to the earth, then place it in the focus of the altar.
  2. With the Wand, call on the divine forces present to turn your Will into cosmic Law.  Proclaim your intent and desired goal, establish your will as something the cosmos, universe, and world shall fulfill, and call on the blessing of the divine force and the assistance of the guiding forces to assist you.  Take up the Wand, point at the ritual focus, and have the Infinite Light begin to manifest around the focus and intent-object (if any).
  3. With the Sword, call on the mental forces present to turn your Reason into cosmic Design.  Straighten the path between divine intent and manifest reality, cut out all obstacles or impediments to manifestation, sharpen your stated will into implementable method, and call on the assistance of the mental force to reverberate the cosmos with your desire and plan.  Take up the Sword, cut the area around the ritual focus, and penetrate into the ritual focus area with the point to let the Light begin to fill the focus.
  4. With the Cup, call on the guiding forces present to turn your Emotion into cosmic Direction.  Pour out your need, fill the world with your desire, and guide the flow of forces you call upon to fill up and take form within the cosmos, calling on the assistance of the guiding forces to direct, guide, and flow the force called upon into manifested reality.  Take up the Cup, make a pouring gesture with it around in a clockwise pattern closing in on the ritual focus, filling the focus with the force you desire and taking form in the manner you desire.
  5. With the Disc, call on the active and manifesting forces present to turn your Reality into cosmic Manifestation.  Actualize your desire, manifest your goal, and have what you desire and will be made concrete, real, physical, material, and effective in all the stated ways, calling on the assistance of the active and manifesting forces to bring the desired goal into manifestation.  Take up the Disc and lower it down onto the ritual focus, pressing the form into concrete, hard shape and seeing it as real as the Disc itself.
  6. Finalize your charge to the cosmos and to the spirits present.  Reiterate your will, intent, desire, and goal to the spirits, proclaim it sealed and finished, and declare your work finished by the authority, power, strength, wisdom, and Light within you and within your manifested intent.  Charge the intent-object by suffumigating it in the incense while repeating any prayers, intoning any mantras or sacred sounds, or visualizing force flowing in and strengthening the intent and manifestation as you find necessary.  Focus the Light from the candle and the Light within yourself onto the ritual focus, supercharging it as bright as the Infinite Light itself, and sending it off as a discrete entity into the cosmos.  Declare the work done using a Great Amen, “So Mote It Be”, “Thus have I spoken/thus are the words”, or similar closing, final statement.

After this, you’re pretty much done.  Ask for any follow-up advice or directions, thank the spirits for their presence and aid, bid them farewell, and give them leave to depart.  Afterward, make any thanksgiving prayers to the Infinite Source, to your patrons or HGA or supernatural assistants, and to any spirits of the cosmos you may find helpful or meaningful.  Put out the candle, remove the ring and ritual garb, and clean up.  You’re done.  Let the intent-object stay in the altar focus for however long you desire, or keep it in a place that can be easily accessed or viewed until the intent is manifested according to your desire.

This is a framework for a ritual, not a ritual itself, since the ritual specification can change depending on what exactly needs to happen; e.g., for consecration of an object under a planetary force, you might do away with calling on the elemental spirits and the use of the Disc entirely, or any of the elemental tools, perhaps using the planetary talisman instead as your tool to channel the force of the planet desired.  The prayers and calls needed for the ritual can also change drastically, but the links I’ve provided above give good grimoire examples of what you might use.  All told, for manifesting things in the cosmos, the above framework is pretty solid, if I do say so myself.

The studious or observant magician will notice that, although I’ve included the forces of the elements and the planets, I haven’t mentioned the sphere of the fixed stars and their forces.  This isn’t because I don’t think they’re worthless, but it’s because I don’t have experience of working with them yet.  In the future, I may begin doing just that, perhaps including the angels of the zodiac signs or the lunar mansions as the guiding forces and Raziel/Iophiel (depending on which text you’re reading) as the mental force, but I haven’t gotten there yet.  Still, the use of the fixed stars isn’t absolutely necessary, though I’m sure it helps; calling on the aid of the planets or elements is quite enough, and enough pagans and more simple magicians than me get by fine with just the four elements, so YMMV.

Tools on the Table

So, I have this nifty Table of Manifestation as a result of my ceremonial magic work, specifically under the tutelage of Fr. Rufus Opus and his Red Work series of courses.  A recent photo of it shows the tools on the Table: the four elemental weapons (pentacle, chalice, sword, and wand), representatives of the four elemental angels (four amethyst crystals in the Platonic solid forms assigned to each element), and the seven planetary talismans (one for each of the seven traditional planets), with a space in the middle to act as a focus.  An incense burner and consecrated candle are also present.

However, neither RO nor any other source I could find showed how to actually use the tools.  It all seems to act as a general layout to form a ritual space incorporating the forces a Renaissance Neoplatonic Hermetic magician might work with, and it all seemed kinda mish-mashed and jumbled together.  Until now.

Based on reading my friend’s post about orgone generators and Babalon matrices, it turns out he incorporated a technology called a crystal grid.  Basically, it’s a set of crystals linked up to each other energetically to form a cohesive unit of magical power for a certain task.  The crystal grid was overlaid with the Babalon matrix to generate a more powerful field, but the crystal grid works well on its own.  Interestingly, he says that the components of the grid need not be crystals, or even stones; he says that any object that can hold a (magical?) charge can work, from crystals to ritual weapons to pieces of driveway gravel and twigs.  And, boy howdy, do these things on my Table of Manifestation ever have a charge.

So, my idea was to use the same technique for the crystal grid and Babalon matrix to link up the tools on my Table of Manifestation, to turn the many into one coherent unit.  However, this is a fairly advanced layout, with several “layers”: the elemental angels, the elements themselves, and the planets.  Further, the Babalon matrix or crystal grid relies on a focus stone or object; however, the focus here is simply the center of the altar, which is empty unless actively being used to charge or work on something.  Using the original altar layout designed by Fr. RO, I came up with the following scheme to link the layers up:

  1. If desired, put a focus stone or object of intent/Will in the center
  2. Trace: Center → Crystal of Auriel → Center→ Pentacle →Center
  3. Trace: Center → Crystal of Gabriel → Center→ Chalice →Center
  4. Trace: Center → Crystal of Raphael → Center→ Sword →Center
  5. Trace: Center → Crystal of Michael → Center→ Wand →Center
  6. Trace: Center → Talisman of the Moon → Center
  7. Trace: Center → Talisman of Mercury → Center
  8. Trace: Center → Talisman of Venus → Center
  9. Trace: Center → Talisman of the Sun → Center
  10. Trace: Center → Talisman of Mars → Center
  11. Trace: Center → Talisman of Jupiter → Center
  12. Trace: Center → Talisman of Saturn → Center
  13. Repeat steps 2 through 12 until a sufficient link is present between the tools
  14. Input of energy, drawing from the (lit) consecrated candle into the center

This setup, used in conjunction with the Alignment of Forces ritual (done before the linking?), will probably sate my need for a coherent setup and “fix” for the Table.  In this case, the Alignment ritual would give a good, solid charge with the individual tools, then to the set of tools as a whole; following this by setting up the grid between the tools would snap them all into place, as it were.  For inserting or charging something in the focus, I’d probably just forgo the Alignment ritual (unless it’s just time for that anyway) and link everything to the focus object.

Altar Maintenance

Living in an apartment in a fairly metropolitan suburb of DC has its benefits and its downsides, like anywhere else, not least of which is cleaning.  It gets mad dusty in here, yo, and being a neatfreak and cleanfreak as I am, I like things to look generally good.  (I may get lazy with the dishes, but that’s another story.)  It follows, then, that my altars as well get a distinct layer of dust.  So, when it gets to be too obnoxious for me to live with it, I’ll disassemble my altars and give them a good cleaning.  Besides, with the food offerings to the genii locorum I make, crumbs and stray drops of wine really do make a mess that tempts hordes of bugs that even my household genius and I can’t fend off.

Now, I only have two altars (my devotional altar where I pray and make offerings of candles, incense, food, etc., and my magician’s altar or Table of Manifestation), and this may not be the rule in the future, especially when I get my complete Hermaion set up, but for now, here’s what I’ll do:

Devotional altar:

  • Remove all food offerings (combine them and throw them out into the yard by some trees, giving the physical food to the physical world)
  • Wash all dishes, plates, stands, etc. with a cleansing solution (holy water, Florida water, 7-11 Holy oil)
  • Remove all ash and burnt offerings from the incense holders, wipe down with cleansing solution
  • Clear off the altar and wipe it down with cleansing solution, then reassemble everything as it was or update the arrangement
  • Spritz cleansing solution on each of the spirit placards, statues, etc.
  • Make a full offering of food, drink, light, incense, etc. to all spirits the same day

Magician’s altar:

  • Remove all tools, talismans, etc. from the altar
  • Spritz the altar with cleansing solution
  • Wipe off all tools, talismans, etc. with cleansing solution
  • Reassemble the altar
  • Perform an Alignment Ritual to resituate and empower the tools

This is just for my own practice, as it stands right now.  I don’t know about the rules for altar or oratory maintenance in other traditions, even within my own, but I feel that physical dust leads to spiritual gunk building up over time.  This is all in addition to regular spraying of banishing water and prosperity water solutions around my house, as well.

The cleaning or rearranging of altars is a minor technical detail of magical practice that isn’t often discussed in the literature I can find.  What do you do for your altars, if any?  Do you even have one spot you work or pay in?  Do you let the dust, wax, and feelings there accumulate over time, or do you keep it in a pristine state?