Reviewing and Renewing my Offering to All Spirits

Recently, a friend of mine asked if I could share with him one of my old documents, a digitization of my vademecum that I keep with me as my own personal prayer book and handbook for ritual and ceremony.  I had designs to digitize it and maintain a cleaner, more organized version of it, but I never really got that off the ground.  Still, it did serve as an excellent resource for all the stuff I didn’t want to copy by hand into my vademecum, and I’m glad I kept it up for as long as I did, because I apparently forgot about it sometime in, like, 2014.  It had honestly and completely skipped my mind entirely until my friend reminded me of it, so I dug through my Documents folder and, would you believe it, look at all this awesome stuff I was amassing.  (Including a bunch of recipes that I’m personally thrilled to remember again, thank God and the gods.)

One of the entries in my vademecum is an old prayer I was using at the time for a general offering to the spirits.  Not just for a specific spirit, not for a fill-in-the-blank template, but as an honest offering to all spirits of incense and water.  I wrote about it on my blog back in 2012, and gave my general framework for it then and the prayer as I had it then.  According to what I wrote (you’d be surprised what you forget over six years), at the time I was in the habit of generally making “this offering as the first offering I do after my prayers to the Almighty, so that any other spirit I call upon afterwards can also partake of the offering as they come into the area of the altar”.  I apparently stopped this practice at some point, and six years later, I can certainly recall why and why I might not recommend this practice as commonly or frequent as I once would have.

To start with, this prayer and offering practice was influenced by my friends taking Jason Miller’s Strategic Sorcery class, who shared some of their tech with me.  (If you noticed similarities between my phrasing of things and the phrasing of Strategic Sorcery offering prayers, well, now you know where it came from.)  Jason Miller talks about why we would make such offerings in a recent post of his on generating sorcerer’s luck, when he specifically talks about making daily and widespread offerings:

Not just to specific spirits, but widespread offerings. We use four classes in Strategic Sorcery, but it is good enough to just make an offering to the spirits of the air, land, and underworld where you live. Pour some libarion, light some incense. Do it every day.  Do. It. Every. Day. Not feeling receptive” today? Not feeling “into it”? Not “in the right headspace”? Do it anyway. It’s not about you.  Take care of the spirits and the spirits will take care of you. Shit will start to work out almost as if the universe is conspiring with you. 1000 unnamed helpers from the land in which you live often outweigh the influence of the Archdemon that you spent 3 hours conjuring.

In a general sense, I agree with Jason, because making offerings is a way to build a relationship with the spirits.  It’s like a quote I shared on my Facebook recently, attributed to the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry: “We offer sacrifices to the gods for three reasons: that we may venerate, that we may give thanks, and that we may implore from them things necessary and avert from ourselves things evil”.  By making offerings to the spirits—light, incense, libation, food, blood, song, art, prayer, energy, what have you—we build a relationship with the spirits we engage with, nourish them, strengthen them, and fortify our connection to them.  It’s a wonderful thing to do, whether you think of yourself as a mage or a priest or just as a spiritually thoughtful and considerate person, no matter where you live or what you do.  By showing respect and offering tribute to the higher entities of the cosmos and nourishment to the lower ones, we build up our spiritual networks that we can call upon for any number of ends.

And yet…well, I can’t help but feel anymore that such general offerings, without some limitation or focus or modification to one’s environments, can just as easily be deleterious to one’s safety and stability, or cause other problems that need to be resolved.  Case in point, in fact the very case that got me to scale back these sorts of offerings to begin with: one time I was making my normal prayers in my old apartment, and…something just felt off.  Not wrong, but like there was something there that shouldn’t be, something there that was stuck awkwardly.  It took me a bit to catch on, but there was a spirit stuck in my window.  Like, not trapped in the windowpane, but a spirit that was stuck half-in half-out through my window, like a big dog that tried to get through too small a pet door.  I was caught off-guard when I turned my gaze towards the poor spirit that got stuck there, and the conversation we had basically clarified what happened: it heard my offering prayer and wanted to partake, but something about the protections I had set up on my property had prevented its access inside, while at the same time it was drawn to partake in the offerings within that same property.  This ended up causing an inadvertent trap for the spirit, and it could neither fully enter nor leave as it had gotten so stuck within the property’s spiritual boundaries.  I ended up punching a hole in the protections to the place, gave it offerings of its own, and sent it on its way, but it got me thinking: in my generosity, I was making a banquet for all sorts of spirits, not all of which would normally be permitted entry to my property given my protections, and yet I wasn’t making the right allowances for them.  On top of that, I was also reminded that for those same spirits who were able to partake, how would I be able to keep my property clean and cleansed, and how could I get those spirits to mosey on out if they got too used to enjoying regular offerings to me, without providing any other benefit?

Consider: our resources, supplies, time, and energy are inherently limited.  We might have access to infinity through whatever choice and selection of divinity we work with and call upon, but our capacity to accept and disperse them is limited.  We only have so many hours in the day, we only have so many cups for offerings, we only have so many sticks of incense we can spare, we only have so much attention we can devote to our necessities and chores and obligations.  There’s also the classical notion that we should always give enough, but not too much, so that we might always have something to give, and indeed, my own practices have long since shifted to making offerings only when necessary, and even then, only making the necessary offerings.  This helps prevent certain spirits from getting spoiled and taking us for granted, and it also helps keep me in check so that I don’t get worn out or resentful from always giving so much for the mere sake of giving.  And even then, not all spirits are worth making offerings to; while all spirits are worthy of existence and respect, just like people are, not every spiritual person needs to truck with every spirit.  Some spirits are harmful for us to work with, and some spirits are just those that offerings shouldn’t be received by our hands; I know that, even despite my own good intentions, some spirits find my mere presence harmful, while they might find the presence of my friend more acceptable and so could more easily accept offerings from them.

I understand Jason’s point of view; after all, he’s very much a tantric sorcerer and Buddhist, and in that system, offerings should be widespread, general, and for all sentient beings in all levels of the world.  Really, the systems of offerings he teaches are a kind of very lite chöd, which is wonderful and easy enough for people to pick up and practice without too much danger, so long as they’re diligent about it (and isn’t that really the whole problem right there?).  But in my worldview and practice, that’s not the case; there are some spirits that we simply don’t have any business dealing with or making offerings to, there are some spirits that take us for granted, and there are some spirits that we’re simply not the best ones to make offerings from them even if they want/need them and even if we want to give it to them.  Rather, it’s generally better to at least have an idea of who it is you’re making offerings to, enter into some sort of relationship with them, and gradually build up to making offerings through completion and fulfillment of vows, making offerings for special occasions, and then if the relationship proves itself to be beneficial for the both of you, then making regular offerings.  But even then, there’s also the risk of attracting spirits that we don’t necessarily want around us after the fact; making general offerings can pick up nasty, unwelcome, or harmful spirits who see the offering as a good free meal and then might help themselves to more without you wanting them to, but hey, you’re the one who invited them to begin with.

By no means am I saying that you shouldn’t making offerings for the benefit of all sentient spirits, or for spirits generally, but what I am saying is that you need to be smart about it.  The way I was doing it was wrong, because it ended up being harmful for some spirits that wanted to partake but couldn’t break through the protections I had on my house properly for such a meal, and I know that others who make such offerings often also pick up unwanted spirits that linger around them and cause them more problems down the line that need to be taken care of through banishing and exorcisms that necessarily are harsher than they otherwise would have been.  You need to be careful when making offerings in such a general, widespread format: you need to make sure the door is open enough for them to enter, you need to make sure you keep yourself clean and your place cleansed, and you need to make sure your guests don’t overstay their welcome.  If you can manage all that, you’re set, but figuring out how to do that is part of the problem, isn’t it?  Truth be told, I can easily pick out what went wrong in my earlier practices, and my own mistakes and missteps.

To that end, I took another look at that old offering prayer of mine.  I like the idea, sentiment, and underlying purpose of it, but now that I’m a little older and a little more experienced and wary, there are some changes I’d make to the thing, including the wording of the prayer itself (my writing skills, I like to think, have improved with time).  So, I made the changes, and I’d like to present my updated prayer and methodology here.  One of the most important changes I made to the prayer was that I stopped beckoning the spirits to come to me, so no more “come, all you spirits” again and again; this prevented a need for spirits to try to come to me or enter into my property, because part of the prayer dedicates the offerings to specifically flow out from their place of offering into the rest of the cosmos, so that really, the offerings would come to them rather than the spirits having to come to the offerings.

For this ritual, you will need a simple cup of clean, fresh water and either one stick or three sticks of some generally-pleasing incense.  The water should be left unmixed with anything, though may be sweetened with a drop of honey or rosewater if truly desired; the cup itself is best one dedicated to spiritual work, and better dedicated solely for this specific kind of general offering, but this is not necessary so long as it’s been cleaned and cleansed after each use.  For incense, frankincense is always a good option, but scents like sandalwood, benzoin, sweet or mild musk, jasmine, rose, amber, and the like are also plenty fine; avoid anything too strong, potent, sharp, bitter, or sour.  Blended incenses are perfect, so long as they’re pleasantly fragrant enough without being overpowering.  You don’t need to use sticks, although I find them convenient; if you prefer to go with loose incense, feel free.  Although I like having a candle burning during all my prayers and spiritual work, with an exorcism and/or blessing said over it, it’s not necessary for this offering, as it’s not something being offered to the spirits themselves, although you may find it helpful just in case.  Other offerings, such as food, flowers, candles, and the like may also be set out, but those are entirely extra and unnecessary.  In this case, it’s better to keep the offering simple, short, and clean.

Ideally, this offering would take place in a neutral area, such as an outdoors place not on your own property, or in a place that is not otherwise bounded by spiritual protections belonging to some specific person or ruling entity.  Ideal places for this would be a park, field, crossroads, beach, or some other place that cannot be said to belong to anyone.  It is inadvisable to perform this offering in a place that is controlled by someone else, such as a sacred precinct, church, a place known to be claimed by a particular divinity or spirit, or someone else’s property.  Otherwise, it may be performed in your own home or on your own property, though you may need to ward and protect yourself accordingly to permit the offering to pass from the property without allowing anything baneful to enter in by the same way.  Depending on how you feel afterwards, you may want to follow up this offering with banishing to make sure nothing sticks around that shouldn’t.

When ready, wash your hands, set the cup of water and the incense out on a clean surface, whether on the ground or on a low table or other elevated surface.  Light the incense and let it begin rising through the air.  Hold your arms out, palms upward and out as in the orans gesture and recite the prayer aloud to the spirits:

Hear me, all you spirits, by whatever name you take, by whatever form you take!
Hear me, all you spirits, before, behind, beside, below, or above me who call you!
Hear me, all you spirits, of the north and the south, of the east and the west!
Hear me, all you spirits, within or above the Heavens, upon or under the Earth!
Hear me, all you spirits, with whom I hold favor or disfavor!
Hear me, all you spirits, who owe me debt or to whom I owe debt!
Here do I call to you, wherever you may be: partake of this my offering!
I dedicate to you now this water and this incense as offerings to you;
I give you these offerings freely and joyfully, and ask that you accept them in the same,
as symbols of my thanks, love, goodwill, honor, respect, trust, and joy for you
for your own benefit and peace, that I too might have benefit and peace.

Dip your fingers of your dominant hand (or the hand you prefer to use to give offerings with) into the water and scatter it around you to your front, back, and either side.  Visualize the water to rise up and flow out from the cup outwards as a constant fountain, especially through and beyond the spiritual boundaries of your own property if it is done there.  Resume the orans gesture, then recite the next part of the prayer:

Accept now this water, fresh, clean, and sweet,
that it may refresh you, cleanse you, and cheer you.
Let this water nourish you how it you need it best,
whether as golden rivers of nectar or as boiling seas of blood.
Let this water swell and surround you and the common ground we share,
that we may understand and console each other, comfort and soothe each other.
Let this water overflow this vessel and wash over all that exists,
reaching the uttermost shores of the cosmos in all directions,
that all spirits may partake of this my offering.

With the same hand as before, place it palm-down in the incense smoke, then lift your hand in one swift motion to draw the smoke upwards, then fan it away from you with the same hand seven times.  Visualize the incense to rise up and fill the entire cosmos with its plumes of pure fragrant smoke, especially through and beyond the spiritual boundaries of your own property if it is done there.  Resume the orans gesture, then recite the next part of the prayer:

Accept now this incense, sacred, whole, and pure,
that it may satisfy you, strengthen you, and fortify you.
Receive this incense as you how you need it best,
whether as abundant forests of fruits or as burning mountains of flesh.
Let this incense rise up and fill your beings, your hearts, and your minds,
that we may understand and know each other, hear and see each other.
Let this incense be compounded upon itself a myriad myriad times,
rising up and filling the entire cosmos with its sweet smoke,
that all spirits may partake of this my offering.

Maintain the orans gesture and conclude the prayer:

If I hold favor with you, then let this offering strengthen us and be a mark of alliance and friendship.
If I hold disfavor with you, then let this offering reconcile us and be an expression of apology to you.
If you owe me debt, then let this offering be a symbol of my faith and trust in you.
If I owe you debt, then let this offering be repayment towards its ultimate fulfillment.
Come and take your fill of these offerings, of this water and of this incense!
As you take your fill of these offerings, remember me who gives them to you!
Let this offering aid you in your work; let this offering sate you and please you!
Let this offering of goodwill be taken in goodwill, of peace in peace, of love in love
for your own benefit and peace, that I too might have benefit and peace.
If you came here to me in peace, so now return to your home in peace;
if you reside peacefully with me, so too abide peacefully with me.
Take your fill of this offering and continue in your work,
in the Holy Light of the Creator of us all.

Let the incense burn out completely; you can enter into a period of contemplation or chanting other prayers, if you want to be present for the rest of the offering, or you may take a brief leave and return later.  Once the incense burns out, the offering may be formally drawn to a close. If possible, scatter the incense ash into the wind and pour out the water onto the ground; if done indoors, these may be disposed of in a trash bin and a sink respectfully.  Resume the orans gesture, then recite the next part of the prayer:

The water I poured for you is drained, the incense I burned for you is spent.
The offering I made for you is given, the offering I made for you is complete.
May this offering be pleasing and fit for all spirits where they are,
that they may be at peace, and be at peace with me.
May no ill-will remain, may no malice remain,
but only peace and peace and peace and peace.
All you spirits who have come to me to partake in this offering,
as you have come in peace, so now go in peace.
Go now with my peace, go now with my blessing, and go now to your work,
in the Holy Light of the Creator of us all.

The offering is complete.

A New Model of Elemental Assignments to the Geomantic Figures

We all know the basic four elements of Western occult cosmology, don’t we?  Of course we do!  We know that there’s Fire, Air, Water, and Earth, in order from least dense to most dense, or from most subtle to least subtle, whichever you prefer.  They’re even described in the Divine Poemander, the opening chapter of the Corpus Hermeticum as being fundamental (even in this same order!) to the creation of the cosmos:

And I saw an infinite sight, all things were become light, both sweet and exceeding pleasant; and I was wonderfully delighted in the beholding it. But after a little while, there was a darkness made in part, coming down obliquely, fearful and hideous, which seemed unto me to be changed into a certain moist nature, unspeakably troubled, which yielded a smoke as from Fire; and from whence proceeded a voice unutterable, and very mournful, but inarticulate, inasmuch as it seemed to have come from the Light.  Then from that Light, a certain holy Word joined itself unto Nature, and outflew the pure and unmixed Fire from the moist nature upwards on high; it was exceeding Light, and sharp, and operative withal. And the Air, which was also light, followed the Spirit and mourned up to Fire from the Earth and the Water, insomuch that it seemed to hang and depend upon it.  And the Earth and the Water stayed by themselves so mingled together, that the Earth could not be seen for the Water, but they were moved because of the Spiritual word that was carried upon them.

According to long-standing doctrine, going back to the time of Aristotle and before him even unto Empedocles, the four elements are considered to be arranged according to the two qualities each element has.  One pair of qualities exists on a spectrum from Hot to Cold, and the other from Dry to Moist.  If you take both Hot and Dry, you end up with Fire; Hot and Moist, Air; Cold and Moist, Water; Cold and Dry, Earth.  In this way, each element pertains to two qualities:

Hot Cold
Dry Fire Earth
Moist Air Water

This sort of arrangement has classically been described graphically with a kind of diamond-square diagram, showing how the four elements arise from combinations of these two qualities.  In the below diagram, Fire is represented by the upwards-pointing triangle in the upper left positioned between Hot and Dry, Air by the upwards-pointing triangle with a horizontal bar in the upper right between Hot and Wet, and so forth.

The thing about the four elements is that, while they are combinations of two qualities, they’re not necessarily static combinations thereof.  Some philosophers have specified that the elements are primarily of one quality and secondarily of the other that allows them to change into each other or react with each other in a more fluid way.  Fire, for instance, is both hot and dry, but in this fluid system, is specifically considered to be primarily hot and secondarily dry.  In the diagram above, we can see this in that, going clockwise around the diagram, the primary quality of an element is clockwise from that element’s corner, and the secondary quality is counterclockwise; in this sense, the primary quality is what that element is headed into, and the secondary quality is what that element is leaving behind.  Thus:

  • Fire is primarily hot and secondarily dry.
  • Air is primarily wet and secondarily hot.
  • Water is primarily cold and secondarily wet.
  • Earth is primarily dry and secondarily cold.

From this, let’s say that the four qualities themselves—even if they’re proto-elemental—can be ascribed to the four elements themselves, such that Heat is basically the main characteristic of Fire, Moisture of Air, Cold of Water, and Dryness of Earth.  (This offshoot of the Empedoclean-Aristotelian system is in opposition to the Stoic system, which gives Heat and Coldness to Fire and Air, and Moisture and Dryness to Water and Earth, but that doesn’t matter for the purposes of this system which is effectively unrelated.)  So, although Heat is part of both Fire and Air, Heat is more aligned towards Fire than Air.

We also know that certain elements—more properly, certain qualities of the elements—cannot be together lest they cancel each other out because of their inherent opposition.  Heat and Cold cancel each other out, as do Moisture and Dryness.  Thus, when we say that Fire and Water cancel each other out, it’s really their elemental qualities that cancel each other out, leaving behind a mess.  What remains when different elements cancel each other out, or some combination of elements reinforcing each other in some ways or reducing each other in other ways, can be instructive in how to alchemically understand these elemental reactions from a basic principle.

Now consider the 16 geomantic figures.  Each figure, as we all know by now, is represented by four rows, each row having one or two dots.  Each row represents one of the four elements: from top to bottom, they’re Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.  A single dot in a row signifies the presence or activity of that element in the figure, while two dots in a row signifies its absence or passivity.  Thus, Laetitia (with only one dot in the topmost Fire row and two dots in the other rows) has only Fire active, and so forth.  We know that there are many different ways to assign the elements to the figures, some being more recent than others, and the way I like to assign them has the benefit of being one of the oldest used in Western geomancy…mostly, with the figures Laetitia and Rubeus swapped around so that Laetitia is ruled by Fire and Rubeus by Air.  Moreover, my way of assigning the elements also has a benefit of giving each figure both a primary and a secondary elemental ruler, which has come in use in various techniques more often than I had originally anticipated.

Still, what would happen if we used a different method beyond overall signification to assign the figures to the elements?  What would happen if we took the structure of the figures themselves as the sole key to understand their elemental affinities based on what’s present, what’s absent, what cancels out, and what reinforces each other?  Knowing that certain elemental qualities do just that when put together, what would happen if we took that structural approach to the elements active within a geomantic figure?  For instance, Puer has Fire, Air, and Earth active; we know that because of their opposing qualities, Air (Hot and Wet) and Earth (Cold and Dry) cancel each other out, leaving only Fire behind, giving Puer a basically fiery nature.  What if we took this approach to all the figures, seeing what came out of such elemental interactions amongst the elements present within a geomantic figure?

Fire First
Row
Second
Row
Third
Row
Fourth
Row
Remainder Result
Laetitia Hot
Dry
Hot
Dry
Fire
Fortuna
Minor
Hot
Dry
Hot
Wet
Hot ×2 Hot
Amissio Hot
Dry
Cold
Wet
Ø Null
Cauda
Draconis
Hot
Dry
Hot
Wet
Cold
Wet
Hot
Wet
Air
Puer Hot
Dry
Hot
Wet
Cold
Dry
Hot
Dry
Fire
Rubeus Hot
Wet
Hot
Wet
Air
Coniunctio Hot
Wet
Cold
Wet
Wet ×2 Wet
Acquisitio Hot
Wet
Cold
Dry
Ø Null
Puella Hot
Dry
Cold
Wet
Cold
Dry
Cold
Dry
Earth
Via Hot
Dry
Hot
Wet
Cold
Wet
Cold
Dry
Ø Null
Albus Cold
Wet
Cold
Wet
Water
Populus Ø Null
Carcer Hot
Dry
Cold

Dry

Dry ×2 Dry
Caput
Draconis
Hot
Wet
Cold

Wet

Cold

Dry

Cold
Wet
Water
Fortuna
Maior
Cold
Wet
Cold
Dry
Cold ×2 Cold
Tristitia Cold
Dry
Cold
Dry
Earth

Note the overall results we get:

  • Eight figures end up with an actual element that represents them, four being a result of that element being the only active one in that figure (e.g. Laetitia, being Fire, because only Fire is active), and four being a result of that element being active, its opposing element being inactive, and the other two elements that cancel out being active (e.g. Puer, being Fire, because Fire is active but so is Air and Earth, which cancel each other out).
  • Four figures end up with being not an actual element, but a single quality, because it contains the two elements active in that figure that have that quality, with the other qualities of those elements canceling out (e.g. Fortuna Minor is pure Heat, because Fire and Air are active within it, both elements of Heat, though the dryness of Fire and moisture of Air cancel each other out).
  • Four figures end up with being null and void of any element or quality.  One is trivial, Populus, because it just has nothing active in it to begin with, but the other three (Via, Amissio, and Acquisitio) are combinations of only opposing elements that all cancel each other out somehow.

If we separate out those eight figures that end up with an element into a “pure element” group (where the figure consists of only that single element itself) and a “muddled element” group (where the figure consists of that element plus two other elements that oppose each other and cancel out), we end up with a neat grouping of four groups of four figures.  Even nicer is that the Pure Element, Muddled Element, and Single Quality groups all have each figure representing one of the four elements (the Single Quality representing elements by means of their most closely associated quality, e.g. Fire by Heat, Water by Cold).  That leaves us with a convenient scheme for assigning the figures to the elements in a new way…

Fire Air Water Earth
Pure
Element
Laetitia Rubeus Albus Tristitia
Muddled
Element
Puer Cauda
Draconis
Caput
Draconis
Puella
Single
Quality
Fortuna
Minor
Coniunctio Fortuna
Maior
Carcer
Null
Quality
…?

…mostly.  The Null Quality group of figures (Via, Populus, Amissio, and Acquisitio) don’t fall into the same patterns as the rest because…well, they’re all null and void and empty of any single element or quality.  We’ll get to those later.

First, note that the Pure Element, Muddled Element, and Single Quality groups, we see a process of descension from one element to the next.  Descension is the process by which the elemental rows of a geomantic figure are “shifted” downwards such that the Fire line gets shifted down to the Air line, Air down to Water, Water down to Earth, and Earth cycles back up again to Air; I discussed this and the corresponding reverse technique, ascension, in an earlier post of mine from 2014.  Moreover, note that all these groups descend into the proper elements ruling that figure in lockstep, so that if we take the Fire figure from one group and descend it into the Air figure of that same group, the other Fire figures from the other groups also descend into the Air figures of those groups.  That’s actually a pretty neat reinforcing of this new system of assigning elements to the figures, and in a conveniently regular, structural way.

It’s with the Null Quality figures (Via, Populus, Amissio, and Acquisitio) that that pattern breaks down.  We know that Amissio and Acquisitio descend into each other in a two-stage cycle of descension, while Via and Albus descend into themselves without a change.  We can’t use the process of descension like we did before to make a cycle of elements within a quality group of figures, and because of their null quality, we can’t just look at the elements present in the figures themselves to determine what element they might be aligned with as a whole in this system.  So…what next?

Take a close look at the figures we already have charted, and follow along with my next bit of logic.  For one, we know that all the odd figures are either in the Pure Element or Muddled Element group, which means all the even figures must be in the Single Quality or Null Quality group.  On top of that, if we look at the figures that are already charted to the elements, we can note that Fire and Air figures are all mobile, and Water and Earth figures are all stable.  This suggests that Via and Amissio (the mobile Null Quality figures) should be given to Fire and Air somehow, and Populus and Acquisitio (the stable Null Quality figures) to Water and Earth somehow.  We’re getting somewhere!

The Null Quality figures share more similarities with the Single Quality figures because they’re both sets of even figures.  Even though the Single Quality figures follow a process of descension between one element and the next, we also see that figures that belong to opposing elements (Fire and Water, Air and Earth) are also inverses of each other (inversion being one of the structural transformations of geomantic figures, this one specifically replacing odd points with even points and vice versa).  This can be used as a pattern for the Null Quality figures, too, such that inverse Null Quality figures are given to opposing elements. This means that we have two possible solutions:

  1. Via to Fire, Amissio to Air, Populus to Water, Acquisitio to Earth
  2. Amissio to Fire, Via to Air, Acquisitio to Water, Populus to Earth

At this point, I don’t think there’s any structural argument that could be made for one choice over the other, so I shift to a symbolic one.  In many Hermetic and Platonic systems of thought, when it comes to pure activity or pure passivity (though there are many other alternatives to such terms!), Fire and Water are often thought of as perfect examplars, so much so that the Hexagram is literally interpreted as a divine union of masculine/ejective/active Fire (represented by the upwards-pointing triangle) and feminine/receptive/passive Water (represented by the downwards-pointing triangle).  Taking it a step further, in some interpretations of this mystical formation of the hexagram, this combination of Fire and Water produces the element of Air.  If we translate this into geomantic figures, we can consider “pure activity” (Fire) to best be represented by the figure Via (which could, I suppose, be taken as the simplest possible representation of the phallus, being a single erect line, or as the number 1 which is also historically considered to be masculine or active), and “pure passivity” (Water) as Populus (which, likewise, could be seen as the walls of the birth canal or vulva, as well as the number 2 which is considered feminine or passive).  If we give Via to Fire and Populus to Water, this means that we’d give Amissio to Air and Acquisitio to Earth.  Note how this actually works nicely for us, because the Null Quality figure we give to Air is itself composed of Fire and Water, matching with that mystical elemental interpretation of the Hexagram from before.

Now we can complete our table from before:

Fire Air Water Earth
Pure
Element
Laetitia Rubeus Albus Tristitia
Muddled
Element
Puer Cauda
Draconis
Caput
Draconis
Puella
Single
Quality
Fortuna
Minor
Coniunctio Fortuna
Maior
Carcer
Null
Quality
Via Amissio Populus Acquisitio

Next, can we impose an ordering onto the figures given these elemental assignments and quality groups?  Probably!  Not that orders matter much in Western geomancy as opposed to Arabic geomancy, but it could be something useful as well, inasmuch as any of this might be useful.  The order I would naturally think would be useful would be to have all sixteen figures grouped primarily by element—so all four Fire figures first, then the four Air figures, and so on—and then, within that group, the most representative of that element down to the least representative, which would suggest we start with the Pure Element figure and end with the Null Quality figure.  So, which comes second, the Muddled Element or the Single Quality?  I would suggest that the Single Quality figure is more like the element than the Muddled Element figure, because the Single Quality is representative of the…well, single quality that is representative of that element and, though it has some things canceling out within the figure, those things that cancel out based on their corresponding elements active within the figure are still harmonious and agreeable to the overall element itself.  Meanwhile, the Muddled Element is more removed due to the presence of other opposing elements that fight within itself, dragging it down further away from a pure expression of its overall element.  These rules would get us an order like the following:

  1. Laetitia
  2. Fortuna Minor
  3. Puer
  4. Via
  5. Rubeus
  6. Coniunctio
  7. Cauda Draconis
  8. Amissio
  9. Albus
  10. Fortuna Maior
  11. Caput Draconis
  12. Populus
  13. Tristitia
  14. Carcer
  15. Puella
  16. Acquisitio

So, what does this leave us with, and where does this leave us?  We have here a new way to associate the geomantic figures to the traditional elements in a way that’s substantially different from either the usual structural method that I prefer or a more zodiacal method that’s also in common use by authors like John Michael Greer and those immersed in Golden Dawn-like systems, though there is still a good amount of overlap between this kind of elemental assignment and the structural method with eight of the figures retaining their same element (all four Pure Element figures plus Fortuna Minor, Coniunctio, Carcer, and Populus).  This is not a method I’ve encountered before in any geomantic text I’m familiar with, and I’m inclined to say it’s pretty much a novel approach to assigning the elements to the figures, though considering how straightforward the process was, or at least how simple the idea behind it was, I’d be honestly surprised that such a thing hasn’t been thought of before now.

I don’t mean to supplant the major two existing systems of elemental assignments of the geomantic figures (the planetary-zodiacal method or the structural method) or their variations as found throughout the literature; personally, I’m still inclined to keep to my structural method of elemental assignments instead of this combinatoric method, as it’s what I’ve most closely worked with for years, and I’ve gotten exceedingly good mileage out of it.  To me, all the above is something like a curiosity, a “what if” experiment of potential.  Still, even as an experiment, this combinatoric method could have more interesting applications outside pure divination, and I’m thinking more along the lines of alchemy, magic, or other such applications where it’s truly the action, nonaction, interaction, and reaction of the elements themselves among the figures is what matters.  We can alchemically-geomantically view the cosmos as arising from:

  • 4 base substances
  • 16 base entities (the 16 = 4 × 4 different combinations of the elements to form the figures)
  • 256 base interactions (the 256 = 16 × 16 = 4 × 4 × 4 × 4 different addition-pairs of the figures)

So, consider: if you add pure Fire and pure Water, that’d be Laetitia + Albus = Amissio, which gets you a Null figure of balance that leads to an overall condition of Air.  (Fitting, given our explanation of why Amissio should be given to Air at all.)  If you add simple Heat to pure Air, that’d be Fortuna Minor + Rubeus = Laetitia, which also makes sense because, as a figure of Air, Rubeus is primarily wet and secondarily hot; if we reinforce the heat, it becomes primarily hot, and the wet condition gets dried out by the overabundance of heat, transforming Air into Fire.  If we add simple Cold and simple Heat, which would be weird to think about even in alchemical terms except unless we’d isolate those qualities from simpler bases (which we do in geomantic terms), that’d be Fortuna Maior + Fortuna Minor, which would become Via, a technically Null figure given to balanced, ideal, spiritual Fire; how odd!  But we wet the same result when we add any of the opposing Single Qualities, which to me would be like a geomantic division by zero.

I think that this combinatoric model of elemental assignments, what I’m going to call the “alchemical model” as opposed to my usual “structural model” or the Golden Dawn-style “zodiacal model”, could be useful for more mystical, philosophical, or magical meditations on the figures.  It’s not one I’ve completely fleshed out or can immediately agree with given how different it can be from the models I’m used to working with, but I think it does hold some promise and is worthy of exploration and testing, especially in a more magical and less divinatory context.

Fire and Water: A Tool for Steam-Powered Enchantment

Admittedly, it’s weird to see the WordPress write-post screen so frequently lately after so long without writing anything.  Quoth Alan Moore’s “Promethea” issue #19: “Man, this is like city transport.  You gonna wait forever for a beautiful woman, then three gonna show up at once.”  Then again, I suppose that’s the nature of inspiration: having the time, being at the right time, and having the resources available to present themselves.

Like everyone else on Facebook, my news feed (I remember back in the days when we just called them “walls”) is filled with videos, sometimes funny, sometimes stupid, sometimes educational.  One such video demonstrated a series of eight physics tricks, often involving magnets and batteries, but there was one in particular that caught my eye because it relied on water and fire.  While I couldn’t find the original video in a way to show here, I did find another video from Grand Illusions (whose channel is full of wonderful toys, tricks, gimmicks, and projects demonstrated by an amazing wizened Brit) that shows the exact same thing with a better description and demonstration:

The presenter isn’t sure what to call the thing, but it is similar to the kind of toys known as “pop-pop boats”, which use a tiny boiler to propel a tiny boat in water, making a continuous pop-pop sound.  This, however, isn’t quite the same.  Rather, it’s better described as a steam-powered top, constructed out of a bit of copper tubing extended through some corkboard, with its ends projecting out underneath and facing opposite directions.  The copper tubing is filled with water, then the “boat” is set on top of a bowl or container of water, and a candle is set on top of the platform under the coil.  The candle, once lit, heats the water inside the coil, turning it to steam and pushing it out, and then as the vapor cools in the coil not directly heated by the flame, sucks water back in, producing a top with sudden bursts of movement followed by slow periods of inertial spinning.  In a way, it’s a neat demonstration of the same principle underlying an aeolipile, but with a different setup and arrangement.

A neat little gimmick on its own, sure, but when it comes to matters combining fire and water, my mind starts thinking about possible occult applications.  And, for this, I think the occult applications are shockingly wonderful for how simple this would be as an extra tool in my kit.  Consider: it is not uncommon for us to bless, enchant, or otherwise bespooken liquids in our work, yes?  We normally achieve this by praying over the water, adding certain ingredients, setting it out in sunlight or moonlight, or extinguishing candles in them (either by setting a candle in the water and letting it burn out into it, or lighting a candle and quenching it in the water).  Separately, we often use candles in our work, which forms the entire field of candle magic unto itself in addition to being used as integral parts of other ceremonies.  We anoint, engrave, or dress candles, set them atop petitions, or use them as a means to empower other workings.  However, it’s not common to see an explicit merging of candle magic and water magic given the intrinsic opposition between fire and water, but the steam-powered top has a way of doing precisely just that using an almost-alchemical apparatus.

My idea for combining the two is, essentially, another technique to empower or enchant an amount of water by using the candle (dressed appropriately) to transfer its power directly into the water, but in a more prolonged and directed means than simply by extinguishing a candle in the water itself.  Assuming the copper tubing is clean and the corkboard itself doesn’t disintegrate (and it might be worth it to replace the corkboard with something more stable and hardy at some point), the water isn’t contaminated by any pollutants or additions, making it perfect for an innocuous substance that only the magician would be inclined to recognize as empowered.  Plus, instead of another method where one might heat a container of water directly using enchanted fuel (such as a cauldron heated by sacred woods and incenses), this can be done on a much smaller scale with a lot less overhead.  Additionally, the steam-powered top does its own job at keeping the water mixed through its constant spinning, though different videos show it spinning in different directions; the YouTube above shows a clockwise-spinning top, but other videos show it spinning in counterclockwise motion.  Either way, the tool seems to be useful in transferring the energy and intent of a candle directly to water, in a clean and full way that doesn’t leave residue or candle remnants.

Let’s give some examples of use, shall we?  Say that a friend has contracted a prolonged sickness, and some investigation shows a possible spiritual influence.  Dress a candle with the intent for health and shaking off spiritual gunk and set it atop a small name paper of your friend on the corkboard, then use the top in a bowl of clean water.  Administer the water to your friend in the form of baths and drinks to cleanse them internally and externally.  Being “nothing more” than clean water, perhaps with a faint metallic aftertaste, such a water could be used innocuously and without notice, or for those with sensitivities to particular herbs or oils.  Instead of giving it to them to drink or bathe with, you could also use the water in a humidifier, or set it in a pot to boil, so as to fill an entire area with the water, or use it in the washing machine for a load of laundry to do the same.  Alternatively, for a more malefic use, say you want to get rid of a troublesome coworker in the workplace, but the usual methods of doing so would draw too much undue attention, such as the laying of powders, dressing with oils, or other charms or tricks.  Dress a candle with hot-foot or get-fired oil and pray over the water to do the same, then once empowered, bring the water with you to work in an otherwise-normal water bottle (that you may not want to ever drink out of again).  “Accidentally” spill the water on your coworker’s uniform, shoes, or desk; it being water, most people would think no-harm no-foul, but you know better, don’t you?  Or, if they have a habit of leaving their desk or supplies unattended, put a few drops in their coffee mug on their desk or on their chair when they’re not looking.

If you’re comfortable with doing so, of course, there’s nothing saying you have to use plain old water for this sort of tool; most herbal infusions would likely work fine, though you’d do well to make sure they don’t corrode copper or corkboard too quickly, and that you thoroughly clean the tubing before and after each use to prevent both spiritual and material contamination.  Alternatively, the water could be used as an ingredient in other recipes, with the steam-powered top enchantment providing a kind of “pre-blessing” to prime the recipe as a whole.  I’d refrain from using this tool with anything with a high alcohol content, of course, given the obvious dangers of open flame around flammable liquids, though with a different construction of such a top in a fire-safe chamber, perhaps this wouldn’t be so much an issue.  The YouTube video above links to the Grand Illusions website where you can get your own pre-made steam-powered top for a not-unreasonable price, which I’ve already done and I’m excited to put to work when such an opportunity presents itself.  However, it wouldn’t be hard to make one of these yourself, though getting the copper tubing (or some other non-corroding heat-conducting metal) fixed in just the right direction may be a challenge for some.

A Correction on Terminology: On “Omieros”

In the last post, I described my method of a general spiritual bath for purification and the removal of spiritual impurities, and in the process used the term “omiero”, which has caused a minor stir online for some people.  Let me talk about this term here, and if you’ve used it or seen it used in the past and you’re not an initiate in Santeria, then please read this.

I first encountered the term “omiero” in a post by Aaron Leitch, one of the better-known ceremonial magicians of our time.  In that post of his, he described the method of making a blood substitute for Solomonic workings for those who are unwilling or unable to obtain blood from animals for the use in certain rituals, like the consecration of the black-handled knife which calls for the blood of a black cat.  Sometimes, getting blood from animals can be a problem for one reason or another, and many people (“especially those of American WASP heritage”) disprefer the use of blood generally in ritual.  I’m not one of those people, but I know of many who are.  To get around these problems and still continue on with Solomonic ritual as traditionally as possible, Leitch talks about making a substitute using water, herbs, and prayer.  He calls this a “Solomonic ‘omiero'”:

Omiero is a liquid used in Santerian traditions, whenever an Orisha (or  god) is born into a new vessel.  (These vessels are urns, filled with consecrated items, that become the center-pieces of altars to the Orishas.)  The Orisha will quite literally live inside the vessel, and offerings and sacrifices will be made to him or her upon the altar.  However, the Orisha’s very first meal is not blood at all – it is omiero.  Because of this, omiero can be considered even more potent (in its way) than blood.

Of course, the secrets of making true omiero are a closely guarded secret. I only know it involves the ripping and tearing of sacred herbs and plants beneath running water, so that a green-tinted water is collected. And there are mystical songs that must be sung during its preparation.

Meanwhile, the concept of herbally-infused holy water is not unheard of outside of these mystery religions. We can especially find it within the practice of Hoodoo – a folk practice that originated in the American south, and was itself heavily influenced by the ATRs. In this case, the process is much simplified – usually involving little more than steeping sacred herbs in water to produce a “tea” or extracting the scent of a plant and infusing it into water (such as the very popular Florida Water – which is named for its sweet floral scent, not for the US state).

He goes on to describe how one might make such a “Solomonic omiero” with the praying of psalms and the like, which is indeed a useful substitute for ritual magic.  After all, it’s basically the same thing I did for my rituals when I can’t get blood from a certain animal.  After getting involved with several African diasporic traditions, including Palo and Santeria, I’ve encountered the term “omiero” in a proper context, though I’ve also seen this same term used in ceremonial magic and other Western traditions since.  Since it seems to be part of the lingo, I used this term in my last post to describe an herbal wash one might use after or during the process of a spiritual bath.

I’ve since amended my post to remove the term “omiero” because, in short, I was wrong to use it.

The same Tata Quimbanda I mentioned is also a Santero, an initiate in Santeria, and I noticed shortly after my post that he started a discussion on Facebook about what an omiero really is.  After reading that discussion and talking with several other Santero friends of mine, I’ve since learned that what Aaron Leitch describes as an “omiero” is no such thing.  The term is strictly relegated to the practices of Santeria and Ocha, pretty much, and it is something far more than an herbal wash or herbal water.  Even with the praying of psalms or other incantations, it’s not an omiero unless it’s done in a Santeria manner.  To call something a “Solomonic omiero” is crossing the streams too much to be correct, and it’d be like saying something is a “Tibetan rosary” (the rosary being relegated to Catholic practices) or a “European shaman” (shaman being relegated to Central Asian religions).  Yeah, you might get your point across, but it’s not a proper use of the term.

What I was describing was an herbal wash or an herbal water: water with herbs crushed into it, perhaps with prayers said over it as one might do with many things in many traditions.  An omiero isn’t just that: the process of making an omiero and the precise nature and uses of it are oathbound knowledge kept by initiates in Santeria, but it’s made in a specific manner that isn’t found outside Santeria.  Plus, while an omiero can be used as a bath for some purposes, that’s not what it’s usually made for, and can be described as a type of “amniotic fluid” for the orisha in Santeria rituals.  If you’re not an initiate in Santeria, you’re pretty much guaranteed to not know how to make an omiero and are not supposed to use it on your own.

I admit I was wrong to use this term, and I’d like to correct the use of this term in the broader occult blogosphere, much as Kalagni over at Blue Flame Magick did with the term “tulpa” (if you think you know how this term works, think again and read Kalagni’s post).  It pays to be correct, guys.  Appropriating this term isn’t really doing yourself, your work, or the original tradition it came from any favors.

Making Lustral Water for Mathesis

I use holy water a lot.  Like, a lot.  I use a shotglass’ worth to cleanse off after taking a shower, I spritz myself with a spraybottle of the stuff (sometimes mixed with Florida water) first thing in the morning before meditation and before doing any ritual, I spray it around the house to do a quick cleansing of the airs, I wash off votary gifts for my altars before giving them to the gods, I mix it into omieros and other washes to give it a good kick of holiness, I pour some into the wash for laundry; you name the purpose and I probably already use holy water for it.  About the only thing I don’t do is drink it, and even then, I’ve been known to sprinkle holy water onto large batches of food for parties to bless people with without their explicit knowing (I mean, since it’s just salt water, it’s not like it leaves much of a taste).  As a ritual tool and supply, holy water is a must-have for magicians.  As for obtaining it, you could get it any number of ways: getting it from a Catholic or Orthodox church, taking some home from the local shul’s mikvah or temple, or even making it yourself.  I make my own using a combination of Catholic, Orthodox, and Solomonic techniques, based in part on Fr. Rufus Opus’ directions from his Red Work courses.  After a lot of experimentation, I make mine with plenty of sea salt so that it can keep for a good long while, even with a dash of hyssop or basil in it so that it doesn’t get all moldy inside.

Now, while I use my Christian-Solomonic holy water for pretty much everything, even filling small wearable containers to act as an amulet for protection, its main use is that of purification and spiritual cleansing.  In that regard, another name for it would be “lustral water”, or water used for lustration.  Lustration, in ancient Roman and Greek practice, was a purification ceremony, often to remove one of evil spirits, miasma, negative influences, and the like, and the term survives in any kind of purge or forceful removal of negative or detracting forces in a group or organization.  Lustral water, on the other hand, is any water specifically blessed or consecrated in some way to aid one in spiritual lustration, and its use can be seen in most of the world’s religions and practices.  Sometimes the lustral water was taken from a holy river or spring, and sometimes the water had to be prayed over or otherwise ritually consecrated.  And, yes, the ancient Greeks and Mediterranean peoples had their own holy water variants, which I want to talk about today.

In ancient Greece, lustral water was called khernips (χερνιψ), and the use of khernips for lustration was called khernimma (χερνιμμα).  There are several guides and tutorials to making khernips on your own, including a YouTube video by the author of the Hellenic reconstructionist blog Baring the Aegis (who has written about khernips several times on her blog, since apparently this is a source of confusion for people in Hellenismos).  The general idea is that you need to combine the elements in it which makes it able to purify a person or a place, and the process is fairly simple to produce:

  1. Procure an amount of clean water and fill a vessel, known as the χερνιβειον (khernibeion).  You might mix spring water with seawater, or just use clean tap water.
  2. Light dried herbs, a stick of incense, or a torch above the water and quench it in the water.  The herb can be verbena or laurel or something else, depending on the sources I’ve seen so far.
  3. Wash the hands with the water, then the face.  You might say “Χερνιπτομαι” (“Kherniptomai”), meaning “I wash with lustral water”.
  4. Sprinkle the area and all participants in the ritual with the khernips, saying “Εκας εκας εστε βεβηλοι” (“Hekas hekas este bebēloi”), or “begone, begone ye profane!”.  Alternatively, you could say “Απο απο κακοδαιμονες” (“Apo apo kakodaimones”), or “begone, begone evil spirits!”.

That’s basically it; the simplicity beats out my Solomonic holy water by far, though there is a trade off.  I’ve noticed that my Solomonic holy water definitely keeps its charge over a long period of time; I usually only need to make a large batch once every season, and I’m good to go even using liberal amounts of it every day.  Khernips, on the other hand, wouldn’t last as long, and it’s suggested to make it every day or before every ritual as part of the preparation and setup.  I can definitely see the argument for that, even if one produces a sufficiently large enough batch just for one day’s use, though it’s certainly different from what I’m accustomed to.

So, why wash off with khernips at all?  Given the simplicity of it, it’s not about physical hygiene; a brief rinse of the hands and face in a communal basin does not make you sanitary, nor anyone else for that matter.  There’re two major thoughts on the subject, and both relate to miasma, spiritual pollution.  Spiritual pollution happens; it’s part of being mortal and living a human life on this orb we call the Earth.  Birth, death, sex, masturbation, murder, lying, breaking vows, and the like are a matter of fact for everyone, often every day, and these wear on us and collect like dust on a mirror.  The gods despise and loathe miasma, being alien to it, and will not accept offerings from one tainted by miasma (at best) and could actively harm or curse the tainted one (at worst).  The two theories are that either the miasma is an internal, mental thing and khernimma relaxes us and frees us from the cares, concerns, and fears of the world and puts us in the right state of mind to counter the gods; the other is that miasma is an external thing and is on us whether we feel good about ourselves or not.  I contend that both are at play, but miasma is definitely (and especially according to the historical record) an external thing; we incur miasma by living, end of story.   We have a naturally pure state, but so does a freshly-made clean mirror; just as the mirror collects dust over time, we collect miasma just by being in the world.  It’s a thing.  We clean off with khernips and we’re good to go.  It helps to meditate briefly on being purified and collected and calm for the ritual, but that comes as a matter of course after one cleans off the miasma that’s already collected.

I’ve been thinking of making a mathesis-specific ritual for making holy or lustral water because…well, while my Solomonic holy water certainly works, it feels a little weird to use it when it comes to mathesis, like a bit of cognitive dissonance pulling on the mind.  It works, definitely, but I decided to try something simpler and more ancient-y than my Renaissance-European-Christian-Solomonic method, and if possible to develop a specific ritual that fits within the parameters of mathesis for my practice.  The simple method above, using laurel leaves (since laurel was a plant associated with Apollo, the god par excellence of ritual purity), works quite nicely, but why not be a little more original than that?  Besides, we can tie in the creation of khernips and ablution into our daily practice, too, and since I’ve been discussing the use of holy water or lustral water without explicitly describing a method for mathetai to make the stuff, I may as well do so now.

Taking a cue from Elani at Baring the Aegis, I’ve decided to work making khernips into my daily routine, making enough to last me for one day.  I make and use khernips as preparation for invoking and meditating on the Tetractys, as well as using it just before approaching Hermes Oneirodotes as I begin my process of winding down the night for bed.  However, I make a sufficient amount in the morning (you don’t need much) to allow for another lustration in case of a mathetic ritual at some point during the day, as well as to allow enough for others to lustrate themselves in case anyone else participates.  To create a simple style of khernips to carry out the khernimma, you will need:

  • One whole bay laurel leaf
  • A small amount of salt, preferably sea or rock salt
  • A measure of clean water (tap water works fine)
  • A wide, shallow bowl, preferably white
  • A lid or cover wide enough to cover the bowl
  • A clean dishtowel, preferably white

Pour out the measure of water into the bowl, then sprinkle in a pinch of the salt.  Light the tip of the bay leaf until it’s on fire, then quench it into the water.  As you do this, say:

For the sake of purity and becoming pure, be purified!

If you have a large or high-quality bay leaf, set the bay leaf aside; otherwise, you can just drop the whole leaf into the water.  If you save the leaves, they can be reused until they’ve burned down enough to be disposed of, preferably outside.

Scoop up some water with the right hand and pour it on the palm of the left, holding the left hand above the bowl so that the water drains into the bowl, then pour some more water onto the back of the left hand, wiping the hand off from the wrist down to the fingertips.  Repeat the same process with the right hand, pouring water onto the palm and then the back with the left hand.  Then scoop up water with both hands and gently wipe them off with the khernips, again from the wrist down to the fingertips.  Scoop up some more water and wash the face from the top of the forehead down to under the chin.  With hands and face still moist, say:

In purity, I cleanse myself and free myself from defilement.

Dry off with the cloth, wiping the hands downward from the wrist to the fingertips and the face downward from the forehead to the chin.  As you wipe off your hands and face with the water and the cloth, let go of your worldly concerns, your cares outside the work to be done, your fears, and all the like.  You’re now purified and fit to approach the gods and the mysteries.

If you need to use the khernips to purify the area, which I recommend before beginning any ritual in an area where ritual is not normally done or has not been done for some time, dip the fingers of the right hand into the water and sprinkle it around the ritual area in a counterclockwise fashion four times, saying:

Begone, begone, you profane spirits, you evil spirits, begone, begone!

Dry the hand off once more with the cloth.  At this point, if there are other ritual participants present, they should wash their hands and face in the same manner as you did after the area has been purified.  Cover the khernibeion with the lid and set it aside in a high place until it can be used later that day again to wash the hands and face and, if necessary, the ritual area, being sure to cover the khernibeion afterwards.  Fold the towel loosely, placing the bay leaves within a fold of the towel, and lay it across the khernibeion lid.  At the end of the day before retiring, uncover the khernibeion and empty it outside, preferably on a patch of earth or grass, but if this is not possible, dumping it in the sink respectfully will do.  The khernibeion and the towel for drying off should be washed at least once a month, preferably on unlettered days of the month.

To be fair, the use of bay leaves specifically isn’t something required here.  What makes khernips khernips is the use of three elements: salt, water, and fire, perhaps to represent the three realms of Earth, Sea, and Sky, or perhaps the three of the four elements (the fourth, Air, being represented by the actual words spoken in lustration).  If using up bay leaves isn’t to your taste, you might experiment using a cotton ball soaked in grain alcohol or wine, or better yet, a tincture made with purifying herbs.  Such a tincture (alcohol-based herbal solution) might be made from frankincense, bay laurel, hyssop, basil, and mint, all soaked in grain alcohol or high alcohol content rubbing alcohol; mine is made from basil, hyssop, and frankincense.  I take a cotton ball on some forceps or long tweezers, briefly touch it in the tincture, light it on fire,  gently waft ir above the surface of the water, quench it in the water, press all the remaining alcohol out against the bottom of the khernibeion, and boom.  The specific herbs used is icing on the cake at this point, I believe, so long as you have something on fire you can quench into the water.  If making such a tincture isn’t in your ability and you don’t like burning bay leaves, you might consecrate a batch of cotton balls and rubbing alcohol under Apollo just for this purpose and use those as a sort of sacred torch.

All told, even though I’ve made my khernips ritual a little more complicated than Elani’s or other Hellenists’, it’s still far simpler than my Solomonic holy water, and much more in tune with the general feel of mathesis.  I wouldn’t push the use of khernips for a heavy purification or cleansing ritual except as a preliminary to loosen what really needs to be scoured or blasted away; for that, I’d still rely on something stronger, like my Solomonic holy water.  Still, for basic meditation and approaching the mysteries, this mathesis-specific lustral water is definitely a tool I plan on using in the future.  Not to the extent of my Solomonic water, perhaps, but definitely for mathetic rituals.  Speaking of, if we tie in the use of khernips into our daily practice, then I expect it’d look something like this:

  1. Consecration of khernips and morning khernimma
  2. Invocation of the Tetractys and Tetractean meditation
  3. Meditation on the letter of the lunar date
  4. Daily grammatomantic divination
  5. Offering to the god of the lunar date
  6. Evening khernimma and disposal of khernips
  7. Invocation of Hermes for sleep and dreams
  8. Recollection of the day’s activities

However, given the simplicity and speed of making khernips (though it should be done thoughtfully and slowly enough for it to count whenever possible), then it’s not like one’s burdens are substantially added to.  I was already in the habit of purifying myself with a spritz of holy water perhaps mixed with Florida water, even just washing my hands and face in a similar way with khernips; I’ve noticed that some gods candles wouldn’t light until after I had cleansed myself accordingly.  Using khernips instead of my Solomonic holy water is a much better match for them, anyway, so I recommend its use for mathetic work.  Eventually, I may change the short prayers said over the khernips to using Greek or using barbarous words of power, but to start with, simple mystical commands work fine.

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Also, just one final note I’d like to tack on.  When I prepare a ritual bowl or vessel for something, like the khernibeion bowl for the khernipsI like to specially cleanse it out first.  It’s pretty simple, and it blasts everything out of it for use for pretty much anything, especially if it’s been used for another ritual and needs to be thoroughly “reset”:

  1. Take off all stickers, gunk, markings, etc. as much as possible.  Rubbing alcohol is your friend here, just make sure not to damage the vessel itself.
  2. Wipe it out with holy water (not khernips, but something stronger).
  3. If the vessel is sturdy and heatproof enough (i.e. metal, ceramic, etc.), pour in a small amount of 99% grain alcohol or denatured alcohol and set it alight.  If it’s not heatproof or sturdy for that, light a cotton ball soaked in the stuff and wave it around inside the container with a pair of pincers.
  4. Once the vessel cools down, turn it upside down and set a candle on top, then light it.  A tealight is fine, you don’t need anything bigger.
  5. Once the candle goes out, the vessel is ready for ritual use and further consecration if needed.

49 Days of Definitions: Part X, Definition 2

This post is part of a series, “49 Days of Definitions”, discussing and explaining my thoughts and meditations on a set of aphorisms explaining crucial parts of Hermetic philosophy. These aphorisms, collectively titled the “Definitions from Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius”, lay out the basics of Hermetic philosophy, the place of Man in the Cosmos, and all that stuff. It’s one of the first texts I studied as a Hermetic magician, and definitely what I would consider to be a foundational text. The Definitions consist of 49 short aphorisms broken down into ten sets, each of which is packed with knowledge both subtle and obvious, and each of which can be explained or expounded upon. While I don’t propose to offer the be-all end-all word on these Words, these might afford some people interested in the Definitions some food for thought, one aphorism per day.

Today, let’s discuss the forty-fourth definition, part X, number 2 of 7:

Nature in man is omniform, and (it is) an energy endowed with all qualities (whose) force (is) invisible and effects (are) conspicuous.  An energy is a movement.  Matter is a wet essence; a body is a agglomeration of matter.

In the last definition, we talked about four terms: good, evil, female, and male.  Of these, that which is Good is, basically, God; anything that is not God is within God, but not everything that is not God is evil.  That which hides the Good, which is knowledge, is evil, which is ignorance, and evil resides in the material world, since this is the world of nature.  Nature is a reflection of truth, but is not truth itself; nature generates within itself as God generates within itself, but that which is God stays God, while nature keeps to itself.  Nature generates within itself according to two principles, the female or passive principle which allows things to be changed, and the male or active principle which allows change to happen.  These are not elements, but forces present in all things; moreover, they are “fluidities”, implying constant change, motion, and mobility that constantly shifts every passing moment.

We know that everything that exists is within Man (IX.4), and that Man understands all of creation (VI.1), not least because Man is the sole creature capable of possessing Nous, but also because wherever Man is, so is God (IX.6).  Since God is literally everything that exists and does not exist and all that stuff (IX.1), God is greater than Man, but because God is Nous and Nous is within Man (or at least some of Man), Man has the capability and the understanding of all things.  How can this be, though?  God knows all things because God is all things.  If we follow that same logic, we can construct a parallel statement that also holds under what we’ve discussed so far: Man understands all nature because Man is all nature.  Indeed, this definition says as much: “nature in man is omniform”.  All natures and all of nature is within Man; after all, Man is a microcosm or “small world” (I.4).  Within Man (properly, the essence of Man), there are all qualities, all quantities, all good, all evil, all female, all male, and all other states of nature, including light, darkness, honesty, lies, ugliness, beauty, and everything else.  Every member of Man contains all natures, which allows every member of Man to be capable of experiencing and understanding all natures, much as how Man contains Nous and so is capable of receiving and understanding Nous.

Moreover, this omniform nature within Man is “an energy endowed with all qualities whose force is invisible and effects are conspicuous”.  We can see nature, since “nature is the mirror of truth” (VIII.5) and since truth is invisible, but the forces of nature are not necessarily visible.  We cannot see pure qualities or quantities; we cannot see maleness or femaleness, abstract number, or the like.  We understand them, though they may be invisible; we can certainly see their effects in the world where truth and nature are realized and materialized.  But note how these things are described: the force of nature is “invisible” and its effects are “conspicuous”.  These are the same words used to describe good and evil, respectively, in the previous definition.  Thus, the forces of nature can be likened to or are good and thus truths, while the effects of nature can be likened to or are evil.  Again, this leads us to say that the material world, being conspicuous and able to be seen, is evil, as opposed to the invisible and intelligible truths that are God.

But there’s one term in that statement that’s confusing, since we haven’t encountered it before and which carries a fair amount of baggage in modern parlance: “energy”.  Throw out all your notions of prana, qi/chi/ki, orgone, nuclear/quantum physics, or what have you; we’re not talking about those here.  According to this definition, energy “is a movement”.  Movement, as we know, is provided by soul (II.1), and which is seen by Nous and performed by breath (II.6).  Any motion, any movement, any act of nature is energy.  This is what allows plants, though they have no soul, to still yet move by breath/spirit (hypothesized from IV.2); movement is performed by breath, which plants have though they have no animating soul.  Thus, they can still experience forces of nature in a way that rocks and stones cannot, but cannot move around or act as animals, humans, or heavenly beings can.  Motions provided by nature are energies that work within nature, so long as there exists the forces of nature to provide them and matter to be moved by them.

Then again, what is matter?  All this talk about nature and bodies and elements and forces, and yet we’re not quite clear on what matter is.  This definition says that matter “is a wet essence”.  Looking back, we see that water is one of the qualities which is wetness (II.1), and that water is a “fecund essence, the support of earth, as a nutritive essence” (II.4).  Thus, matter is essentially watery, though no matter could exist materially without earth and vice versa.  The heavens are fire (II.5), the low world is earth (II.3), and air is the medium between heaven and earth (II.2), but water is what supports earth.  Water and earth are opposite qualities according to II.1, where water is wet and earth is dry; however, matter is primarily watery, which allows it to grow instead of just exist statically.  Fire can inhibit or remove growth, air can link growths together, and earth is that which is grown, but water provides the growth.  The world is essentially characterized by growth.  Moreover, the world is essentially characterized by life; not immortality or mortality, but life, bios, living.  All things that die provide life for other things, so life always continues in the world in some way.  A body may die by cancer, but cancer is merely the growth of something else that takes over an existing body; a body may die by being slaughtered, but provides food for other bodies to grow; life is death, death is life.  Both are wet.  Thus, material reality is wet.

So what about bodies in terms of matter?  A body is “an agglomeration of matter”, or matter piled on and stuck to matter.  Different matters combined form a body.  This is pretty straightfoward; every body is more than “a matter”, but which is why the phrase is so awkward to say when referring to physical objects.  Instead, we say that every body is “matter”, using a collective noun instead of a singular.  Even single atoms are compounds of smaller things, and a cloud of gas is a collection of, you guessed it, matter.  And, because matter is primarily wet, all bodies are primarily wet, too, unless they have a huge imbalance of one element or the other.  Dry sand, for instance, though it has some water in it, has an abundance of earth; pure water is mostly water with very little earth. While different bodies are composed of different elements (II.1), the basis for them is still matter, with the elements and fluidities of maleness and femaleness taking effect upon them.

And, because they’re material and worldly, they’re still evil.  Apparently.

49 Days of Definitions: Part III, Definition 2

This post is part of a series, “49 Days of Definitions”, discussing and explaining my thoughts and meditations on a set of aphorisms explaining crucial parts of Hermetic philosophy.  These aphorisms, collectively titled the “Definitions from Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius”, lay out the basics of Hermetic philosophy, the place of Man in the Cosmos, and all that stuff.  It’s one of the first texts I studied as a Hermetic magician, and definitely what I would consider to be a foundational text.  The Definitions consist of 49 short aphorisms broken down into ten sets, each of which is packed with knowledge both subtle and obvious, and each of which can be explained or expounded upon.  While I don’t propose to offer the be-all end-all word on these Words, these might afford some people interested in the Definitions some food for thought, one aphorism per day.

Today, let’s discuss the thirteenth definition, part III, number 2 of 4:

Many (places) are uninhabited by humans; for where the world is, the earth (is) too, but man is not on every earth.  The sea is large as well as the earth, but heaven by itself (is as much as) both the sea and the earth.  [And he wanted to say that, by its magnitude, heaven is (as much as) both the earth and the sea, so large as the two of them may be, since by taking everything into (itself), it encompassed it and it contains it enclosed within (itself).]

Now that we know that all things are within God and that God is in all things and beyond them, we have a more-or-less panentheistic notion of creation: God is both immanent (within creation) and transcendent (beyond creation).  Just to make this clear, this is distinct from pantheism, where God is in creation and creation is God; the two are synonymous in pantheism.  However, we have good evidence from earlier definitions that Hermetic philosophy is panentheistic, not pantheistic.  Panentheism is common in much of tribal, primal, or primitive religions, though it tends to be relegated to fringe or mystic movements in some of the more common religions known nowadays.  However, this definition helps build the case for a Hermetic panentheistic worldview.

We can kinda continue the definition from before by including mankind: wherever there is heaven, there is God; wherever there is the world, there is heaven, thus there is God; wherever there are humans, there is world, thus there is heaven, thus there is God.  However, this definition makes it clear that there are places that are in the world where no human lives: “many places are uninhabited by humans”.  Yes, it is true that humans live in the world, but there are places where there are no humans: either places too far out of reach for us, or places inhospitable to us.  After all, “where the world is, the earth is too, but man is not on every [all] earth”.  In other words, although there is the potential for human inhabitation in any given place where there is a foundation for it, such potential is not always realized for one reason or another. 

Thus, the world is strictly greater than the inhabited world; phrased another way, the world is greater than humanity.  Not only that, but heaven is greater than the world: “the sea is large as well as the earth, but heaven by itself is as much as both the sea and the earth”.  Thus, there are places where humanity (such as it is physically) cannot even possibly go that aren’t even of this world.  Thus, we now know that heaven is definitely greater than the world, and the world greater than humanity.  This is evidence for there being multiple levels of reality, multiple worlds that are nested in some way with some worlds inside other, bigger worlds.  However, this isn’t something necessarily strict, however; though we know that humanity is less than the world, we don’t have anything quite equating humanity with Man yet.  In other words, there may be more to Man than just what we know of as human beings, but that’s as yet undecided.

The next part is another probable gloss of the compiler, much as the “I think that…” sentence in III.1 was; in other words, somewhere at some point added a bit more commentary to the Definitions.  Here, the commentor seems to rephrase the rest of this definition: “by its magnitude, heaven is as much as both the earth and the sea, so large as the two of them may be, since by taking everything into itself, it encompassed it and it contains it enclosed within itself”.  In other words, this seems to be a conjecture that because “heaven by itself is as much as both the sea and the earth”, heaven is the same magnitude as the world in terms of size and location.  What this means in terms of magnitude for something without a body and cannot be measured in the same way, however, is unknown to me; trying to measure a body against something without a physical basis isn’t very helpful.  However, by comparing them in essence, we might say that the heavens are as varied, as multiformed, as complex as the world, while still being one whole as much as the world is one whole and is full of things.  Still knowing so little about the world and heaven yet, it’s hard to draw many comparisons between the two, much less equivalences while knowing they cannot be identical.

However, the addendum goes on a little further to say that “by taking everything into itself, [heaven] encompassed [the world] and [heaven] contains [the world] enclosed within itself”.  This is more evidence for the notion that the world is contained within heaven, not partially but entirely; there are no places in the world that are not also part of heaven, but there are places in heaven that are not part of the world.  The world is fully contained within heaven, since the world was “taken into” heaven.  This phrasing makes it sound like the heavens kinda absorbed another realm within God but not within heaven, as an amoeba might eat something else; I’m unsure.  I don’t think the verb “take” indicates quite this, but that heaven absorbed the influences given to it to form something inside itself; this is somewhat corroborated by the account of Hermes as given in the Corpus Hermeticum by Poemandres (chapter 1, part 8):

And I say: Whence then have Nature’s elements their being?

To this He answer gives: From Will of God.  [Nature] received the Word (Logos), and gazing on the Cosmos Beautiful did copy it, making herself into a cosmos, by means of her own elements and by the births of souls.