The Role of the Magician

Recently, I made a Table of Practice for a new magician; this isn’t that uncommon a thing, and I do enjoy making them (and for a pretty economical price, hint hint).  For this specific Table, he requested I add the symbols of the 12 signs of the Zodiac on the outside bevel, much as I made one for my sister a ways back.  For comparison, the one for my sister turned out like this:

Table of Practice

And for the dude who recently commissioned me, the Table turned out like this (his photo):

Table of Practice with Clockwise Zodiac

The two Tables are essentially identical (the one for the recent commission has Tetragrammaton around the triangle, but that’s basically it), but the big issue here is the orientation of the Zodiac signs.  For some bizarre reason, I unthinkingly drew the signs of the Zodiac onto this recently-commissioned Table clockwise instead of counterclockwise.  The counterclockwise depiction is the most common, since it represents the view of the ecliptical Zodiac constellations from our point of view down here on Earth; so, for instance, if you look up into the night sky when Aries is at the midheaven, Pisces will be on the right of Aries and Taurus will be on the left.  I’ve made several Tables with this pattern, but this recent commission is the only one I’ve goofed on.  It’s weird, and I’m both embarrassed and confused at how this happened.  That said, for some reason it also doesn’t strike me as “wrong”, despite the weird orientation of it.

Now, I don’t want the rest of this to sound like some justification for my design mistake, but the orientation of the Zodiac here led me to some thoughts on the role of the magician or conjurer in a conjuration.  Consider that if we as humans view the Zodiac as going in a counterclockwise direction around the celestial sphere, then having them situated clockwise indicates that we’re viewing the Zodiac from the other side.  The Zodiac is part of the eighth sphere, the sphere of the fixed stars, and the only thing higher than the eighth sphere is the ninth, the sphere of the Prime Mover, also referred to as Kether or God.  By using a Table where the Zodiac is present in a clockwise pattern, we’re essentially viewing the spirits positioned within the Table from the same viewpoint that God perceives the cosmos and all within it.  And that’s where this gets interesting.

What do we, as conjurers and magicians and magi, do?  We take our divine birthright as children of the Most High and join with him in the ever-continuing act of creation of the cosmos.  We ask for the blessing of God to do what is Right and to enact our True Wills, thereby rejoining God in his infinite Grace.  We step into the role as agents of the Divine, of the Most Divine, to work with the spirits who are our relatives, who are our brothers and sisters from the same Source, and who endeavor to aid us as they aid the Divine themselves.  We, essentially, become a consciously direct extension of God and join with God.  I’m going to stop this little poetic waxing short of saying “we become God”, because we already are essentially part of the Prime Mover down in this little ass-end of the cosmos, but we come closest to it consciously when we do our Work.

There are points when working with the spirits simply does not work; as Fr. Rufus Opus has said, the general idea is “move  this or move me”, where either a thing desired is changed or made in the world or where we ourselves are changed if nothing else can be changed.  God, clearly, can change everything, since that’s pretty much his thing; nothing disobeys God, since everything is a part of God and works as part of the One, the cohesive Whole.  But, that said, by moving ourselves, we partake in that same action, and bring ourselves closer to becoming what we need to Be and do what we need to Do; in these cases, we bring ourselves closer to attaining and carrying out our True Wills.  This is also the same in all other instances when working with the spirits gets us results in the external world.

Being a magician can be a scary thing.  It puts you in control, and therefore gives you responsibility, over your life, your station in life, and what happens in your life.  These all have their own caveats and asterisks and conditions, of course, but generally speaking, being a magician raises you to the point of Divinity.  In that sense, why shouldn’t we view the cosmos as the Divine would?  Isn’t that the whole point?  Isn’t attaining Kether and bringing more Light down here the objective of working with Hermetic Qabbalah?  Isn’t purifying and rarefying ourselves the end goal of the Great Work?  Isn’t understanding things as they are without human ignorance clouding them the result of fulfilling the Oath of the Abyss?  Isn’t attaining eventual power, reunion, unity with the Divine the point of all this crap we’re doing?

Maybe drawing on the Zodiac backwards wasn’t that bad an idea from a philosophical standpoint, after all.  I certainly didn’t have it, but then, where do all Ideas come from, anyway?

Crafts from Christmastime

This past Christmas was kinda fantastic, you guys.  I took off about two weeks from work in the office, started it off with a low-key party at my boyfriend’s, spent a week in my ancestral hometown at my parents’ house dogsitting for them while they went to Maine to see the rest of the family, then returned to Northern Virginia for a good number of ribald New Year’s ruckuses and riots.  A pretty nice, relaxing, and recharging time; I didn’t do much in the way of ritual or practice, but it was fun all the same.  Now that I’m all recharged and refreshed, especially after that two-week conjuration ordeal I did recently, I’ll get back on my five-week conjuration cycle (and see how long I can maintain that again).

However, just because I wasn’t doing much in the way of practice doesn’t mean I wasn’t busy.  I busted out the woodburner, woodstain and finish, and a bunch of wooden placards and got to work making a whole slew of goodies to sell, some as commissions and some at the local store in Fairfax, Sticks and Stones.  Coming up with names or descriptions for them to sell at the store, making them friendly enough for New Agey-types and small enough to fit on the back of a business card, was about as soul-wrenching and fun as making the things themselves, in my opinion, but here’s what I got done:

  • Tables of Practice.  You know, the summoning circles with the names of the elemental archangelic kings and planetary angelic governors around the triangle with the cross, pentagram, and hexagram.  I use one in my own conjuration work, based off the Trithemius ritual.  I made four of them: two basic ones, one with “Tetragrammaton” around the triangle, and one with the signs of the zodiac on the outside bevel.
  • Divination trays.  These were inspired by my friend Raven Orthaevelve, another occult crafter (whose skill and art far surpasses mine).  They’re large wooden plates to hold runes, stones, crystals, or other small objects used in divination, kinda like the trays used in Ifa (opon Ifa).  The outside could have an abecedarium or some arrangement of symbols, and the inside could be divided up to assist in divination or for art.  I made four of these, each with a different style and script:
    • Runic tray: the Elder Futhark on the outside, with a triquetra on the inside with the names of the three Norns (Nordic Fates), decorated with an eight-spoked wheel and little faces representing the Norns.
    • Greek tray: the Greek alphabet on the outside, with a quartered square and latticework on the inside with the symbols and names of the four traditional elements.
    • Theban tray: the Theban script, also called the Witches’ Runes or Runes of Honorious, on the outside with a pentagram, the five elements, and five holy weapons of the magician’s altar. Definitely my most neopagan-friendly one, ascribing Swords to Fire and Wands to Air instead of vice versa (you know, the ceremonial/correct way) and including the Triple Moon in the center.
    • Hebrew tray: the Celestial Hebrew script on the outside with the hexagram and seven planets on the inside, each with their names written in mundane Hebrew.
  • Sator Square.  An ancient Roman charm that can be read forwards, up, down, or backwards to reveal the same text: SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS, a perfect palindrome and magic square of rank 5.  Used across the Mediterranean and European world for centuries.
  • Wand of Trithemius.  A rod engraved with “AGLA ON TETRAGRAMMATON” with a hexagram, a hexagram with a yod inside, and a cross on one side, and “EGO ALPHA ET OMEGA” on the other.  The standard wand from the Trithemius ritual, except using oak instead of ebony (because I’m not that resourceful).   Nothing too spectacular here.
  • Wand of Homer.  This was fun, and I really liked how it turned out: a wand bearing the Golden Chain of Homer on one side (an alchemical symbol describing the process of manifestation from and reunion with the Divine Source that is the Great Work of the alchemists) and the symbols for salt, mercury, sulfur, and azoth (the four alchemical principles) on the other.  Made of oak as well, I stained it with ebony (though it didn’t take as well as I’d hoped), inlaid it with gold leaf, capped the ends with brass, and set a crystal point on top.  It’s got a different feel than my other wands, and I almost don’t want to get rid of it.
  • Sets of runes and geomantic figures (geomes).  These are small little things, sets of wooden tokens with the Elder Futhark or the geomantic figures on them, for use in divination.  The store’s had a dearth of divination supplies, and apparently runes are in high demand, so I made three sets of those and one of the geomantic figures.  I’m going to borrow Les Cross‘ term for the figures, “geomes”, since that works pretty well and gives it a cooler sound.

Check out the pictures below, also put up on the Crafts page, for closer looks.  If you’re friends with me on Twitter or Facebook (yes, I succumbed and got another account after two and a half years, mutter mutter), you probably saw pictures of the unfinished projects as I made them.  If you’re in the area, consider stopping by Sticks and Stones and making a purchase!  If not, be it known that I take commissions now, so if you’re interested in something like this or something original, send me an email (polyphanes at gmail) and let’s talk about it.  Once we get the details sorted out and the design finalized, I’ll make it, you pay me, I’ll ship it, and you get it.

And the crafting isn’t quite over yet, either; a friend of mine who attended one of my workshops is gifting me an actual Gabon ebony dowel to make into a wand.  I cannot express how grateful and omg excited I am over this thing, not to mention the ebony shavings and sawdust they saved to use in future crafting projects (waste not, want not).  Plus, another two crafts for friends for gifts are in the works, a special type of summoning circle/ritual focus connected to a well-known dreamworld and a special cane with alchemical symbols and a poem in ancient Chinese script (bronze script and oracle bone script).

Liber Omnipotentis sum, merdas magnificas facio

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

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

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

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

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

First ritual tools!

So, like a number of occultists, I have a need for specialized tools in order to do things. The Hermetic coursework I’m working through, early as it is in the lesson, has me needing a Table of Practice and a wand. The Table of Practice (or of Art, depending on which book you read) is sort of like a summoning circle that you summon things into to talk to them, often with some kind of scrying medium like a crystal. The wand, well, it’s a wand. I’m assuming it’s just the standard symbol of fire and will and can be used in other tasks besides communing with spirits, angels, and the like.

I had the basic template for the Table of Practice from my coursework, and knew it had to fulfill certain requirements. The original source for this part of the coursework, John Trithemius’ “Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals” lists more things to be drawn than what I used, but as I did it, it needed: the symbols for the planets, the names of the angels of the planets written in an outer ring, the names of the kings of the four elements written in an inner ring, an equilateral triangle inside the inner ring, and a Maltese-like cross, a Star of David with a yod in the middle, and a pentagram in each corner of the triangle. I’ve seen several variations, such as that of Rufus Opus whose model I based mine off of, of Frater Acher whose work is absolutely stunning, and this one I found through the Magian Rumination blog which uses the Alphabet of the Magi.

So, knowing what I needed, I got out my compass set and calligraphy markers and got to work. I got some good experience drawing out the things as I needed to, but since none of them were pattern-worthy, I sucked it up and got a copy of Illustrator. After fiddling with the application a bit, I ended up with the following:

Much better than anything I could freehand. I used the Celestial script for the angel names, a variant of the Hebrew script. I ended up doing away with the TETRAGRAMMATON in the end, because at this point less was probably more anyway.

The thing is that I wanted to make something more sturdy than writing this on cardboard or using paper Tables of Practice, so I got myself a woodburning kit off Amazon, got some pine circles from Michaels with carbon transfer paper, stain, finish, and brushes, and got to work. Over about three days, I ended up with the following:

For being my first woodburning project, complete with stain and finish, I’m very pleased. This may be something to be redone at a later stage, since I can spot a dozen errors due to bad kerning of the letters or just inexperienced woodburning, but for what it is, I’m proud of it.

While I was working on the Table, though, I knew I also needed a wand. Since I had also got a dowel from Michael’s when I got the other supplies, I decided, why not? I knew that the wand was supposed to have the words “AGLA ON TETRAGRAMMATON” inscribed on the wand, with a Star of David between the first two words, a Star of David with a yod in the middle between the second two, and a Maltese-ish cross after “TETRAGRAMMATON”. Knowing this, I tried to make a template, but I found out that the size of the dowel wouldn’t let me easily tape on this and carbon paper. So, I took my best shot at freehandedly writing out the words.

Before I did that, though, I decided to be a little fancy with the wand and turn the tip of the wand into something resembling a flame. Since I haven’t whittled anything since I was much younger, it’s not very good, but it gets the point across. I first completely burned the butt and the flame tip of the wand and carved a small channel to separate the shaft proper of the wand from the ends before working on the inscription itself.

For being a more spontaneous project, and freehanded at that, I’m very pleased. Also, I have a wand now. That’s awesome. Of course, after rereading John Trithemius, I found that he suggests to write “EGO ALPHA ET OMEGA” on the other side of the wand, which I didn’t read about before. Since I read this after I had already done the staining of the wand, it was too late to do this. If I do another wand, I’ll keep that in mind.

There are more pictures of the Table of Practice and the wand at my Flikr photo set, if you’re interested in seeing some closeups or intermediate stages of the tools.