Scholastic Image Magic or SIM was one of two main branches of magical practice in the Medieval Era and the Renaissance. It was heavily influenced by the science of the Arabic world, and incorporated astrology, optics, mathematics, and the philosophy of antiquity. The European version was an outgrowth of Medieval Scholasticism; a movement which attempted to reconcile Christianity with the works of Plato, Aristotle and the mystical Neoplatonists.
Scholastic Image Magic focuses primarily upon the creation of talismans; objects created or modified to become repositories of celestial light which alter the attributes and destinies and basic nature of anything in their proximity, including human beings.
It also includes celestial petitions, which are akin to highly ritualized prayers which facilitate the granting of expressed wishes. This is where Scholastic Image Magic and theurgy, the other main branch, cross over.
(The other branch is also sometimes called necromancy, depending on emphasis. It largely focuses on angel magic and spirit evocation, and use of Biblical charms and sometimes variants of Kabbalah. There is significant overlap, but the rationales for these traditions are different at heart.)
Both the creation of talismans and the making of petitions are endowed power largely through astrological timing. Some have asserted that Scholastic Image Magic is a subcategory of Electional Astrology, the choosing of fortunate times. It certainly is dependent upon it; but I and others believe in the importance of the materials used as well. There is no way to become minimally competent in this tradition of magic without being very skilled in Medieval or Renaissance Era Astrology.
Scholastic Image Magic may also include the creation of confections, suffumigations (incenses), and potions; though these are often considered to be alchemy.
Many of us who have experimented with Scholastic Image Magic believe it to be the most powerful (and sometimes dangerous) form of magic in Western history. The demands usually exceed those of other magical traditions in numerous ways, and the results are proportional. It is not for the dilettante. Many of us have studied under Christopher Warnock, whose RenaissanceAstrology.com is a great place to learn a major flavor of this from tabula rasa. Without having some background in the generalities of Traditional Astrology you’ll probably be very confused. John Michael Greer often describes this stuff as the rocket science of the Middle Ages. (And he should know, because he translated Picatrix with Christopher Warnock a few years back.)
Scholastic Image Magic has a body of literature which we refer to frequently. The most central text is the Picatrix, which has two popular editions at present. Another, harder to find text is the Treasure of Alexander. Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books on Occult Philosophy (especially the upcoming complete Eric Purdue translation) is an excellent source for Scholastic Image Magic and much else besides, and large portions of the somewhat derivative The Magus from Francis Barrett are appropriate. Though the available version of De Imaginibus is purged of suffumigation recipes and incantations, it is still of great value. I find the Liber Lunae to be very fascinating, and has had an influence on Kabbalah. The Mysterium Sigillorum and the Kyranides have content of interest. Many shorter texts such as the Quindecim Stellis and De Mineralibus, Seals & Stones of Solomon, Seals & Sigils of Chael, Talismans of Hermes, and the Seals of Thetel are also very important, and sections of the works of Giordano Bruno and even parts of the so-called Greater Key of Solomon merit study. But all of this is built upon a foundation of antique astrology and metaphysics, such as the essential writers Guido Bonatti, Johannes Sacrobosco, and Abu Yusuf Al-Kindi, which the authors expected the readers to have expertise in.
I have studied and practiced Scholastic Image Magic in a very focused way for over a decade, I have witnessed it cure incurable diseases, draw hundreds of thousands of dollars from nowhere, conjure storms, raise and banish spirits, repel dangerous animals, hypnotize and compel obedience, and make a subject fall hopelessly in love. In my own experience it is vastly closer to the kind of magic which appears in myths and Fantasy literature than anything else I’ve seen. (And I have expertise in many other traditions of magic, which have their own distinctive advantages.)
If this tickles your fancy and you’re considering putting in the effort, welcome aboard. SIM is one of my very favorite flavors of magic. If it isn’t your cup of tea, there’s a lot of additional material on my blog to inform and tantalize.
18 thoughts on “On Scholastic Image Magic”
Most interesting. What would you say the minimum required effort is to become competent in this area of magic? If one is already a fair hand at say Hoodoo or other types of magic? Time being limited.
It’s hard work. The reason why wizards were depicted as old men with long beards was that it took a lifetime to reach mastery of the older forms of magic. The absolute minimum would be to get a solid election from Chris Warnock, myself, or someone else in the field and make a few talismans and see if the results intrigue you. Or buy one– though I think making talismans is a type of initiation which is precious. Beyond that, I recommend taking Warnock’s courses– Astrological Magic Course if you can afford it, or one of the modular courses like the Decans or Mansions courses. And practice, practice, practice. You will have to make elections for a few years before you stop making rookie mistakes. It has to be internalized, like a martial art. SIM is one of the most demanding of traditions, but the results are disproportionate to the effort. Part of the appeal of this system is that it filters out the dabblers.
And to clarify I am asking about “minimum effort” not because I am lazy, but because I am a busy man with many thing already to attend to and am far down certain paths so beginning a new time consuming avenue of inquiry might not be as fruitful as sticking out any current plateaus I am currently experiencing and getting to the other side.
If the results are as spectacular as you say, it does sound intriguing. It took me a good solid 10 years of steady practice in my particular discipline to get to the point where I am now, and the additional last 7 years have all been just an exponential extrapolation on that foundation.
How many hours a week does the practice consume on average in your experience? For those of us who are self employed time is literally money.
And thank you for your insights, greatly enjoy your writing.
I think there’s a certain number of hours one needs to accumulate before reaching proficiency. If you’re only doing this an hour a week, that will be inefficient. If you at least devote 3-7 hours weekly, you can gain proficiency in a few years. This is not a hobby.
I don’t want to sugar-coat it. This system is for the connoisseur and the obsessive. It can do things like nothing else I’ve seen, but you are definitely going to have to work for it. When I want to do something quick n’ dirty, I will use Hoodoo or another modality– but if I want to shake the pillars of the universe, this is a big part of my “trade secrets.” Not all of it by a long shot, but it’s incredibly useful, marvelous and powerful.
I suppose I can reframe my question: How long did it take for you to see superior results practicing in your dedicated focused way?
Did it take 10 years? Or did the results come quicker than that?
I spent a variable amount of time daily for about two years before I was certain it was real, five before results were useful but unpredictable, seven before I felt proficient, ten before I felt I had achieved mastery, and fifteen before I actually was right about the mastery. 🙂
So, about 6000 hours or so. Good to know. I’ve spent that much time on mostly worthless pursuits, multiples of that many LOL.
Great blog! What is your advice of the optimal way to approach SIM? Or optimal way to approach SIM for initiatory purposes?
For example if you go to your local Golden Dawn or OTO group the broad agenda is master the astral (Yetzirah), next attain knowledge of conversation of your HGA (Briah), and next cross the Abyss (Atziluth). While working towards that broad agenda your probably start with the elemental rituals, then move to the planetary rituals, and then onto working with the spheres/paths/zodiac etc.
Does the SIM path look pretty much the same — ascending through the planetary spheres — just a difference in technique? For example create talismans for each of the planetary powers, then move onto the fixed stars?
SIM is not primarily an initiatory path, at least with an orderly degree system. It is functionally initiatory, however.
Picatrix contains instructions on the attainment of Perfect Nature. This is the vague equivalent of the HGA in Abramelin and some Victorian systems. The process links the spirit immediately superior to oneself in one’s natal planetary hierarchy for enhanced intelligence and magical potency. But it is not mandatory.
Beyond this, the process of becoming proficient in traditional astrology and creating talismans are initiations in the sense that they are transformatory. Working with a talisman spirit is a process of attunement with an entire celestial hierarchy of beings and finding one’s own rank therein.
Ficino advises, if I am not mistaken, to start with Solar talismans. Elections are available for those at least annually. They’re safe, strong, and improve many practical things in the user’s life that open the way to further creations of talismans and further study. It’s a reasonable choice, though I might urge some caution for those whose natal Sun is very afflicted.
Thank goodness that SIM is not initiatory. I find it hard to tolerate any form of mysticism that requires dogmatic and ridiculous rules (that hardly seem practical beyond the human need to control and order other humans). I also have a very difficult time spending time with, how shall I put this, New Age neopagans, especially Wiccans. Awful, right? Oh well. I have to admit that I am completely intimidated by the work that is involved in taking this path, as well as the danger. I suppose a healthy amount of caution is advisable, though, isn’t it? I will probably read and read and then read some more before I ever attempt any magic that has been deemed “darker”.
This tradition is more like engineering than faith. It can move mountains but your calculations have to be correct or you’ll get in trouble. Practice on small things.
It does not help that I lean toward Agnosticm, or does it? Actually, I think it does. I did enjoy a new post of yours that talked about contemporary gods/goddesses that are a result of cultural and societal phenomenon (you had mentioned the works Gaiman and Clive Barker, if I recall). To me, this makes perfect sense. I wonder if relevancy affects power? Thoughts? But then, would the older deities lost power if forgotten, or are they merely waiting in the shadows? Also, how does post-modernism play into this mix? Curious minds want to know…
The Romans seemed to believe that anything which could be defined would have a god that ruled over it. More manageably, areas of importance to human life — which varies according to era, surely have a governor. The rise and fall of gods ultimately is beyond human understanding.
One reason why planetary ascent is not used as a model for initiation in SIM is that elections for the fastest and slowest planets can take many years to find. One might have to wait a lifetime to achieve full sequential ascent.
Another relates to Perfect Nature. People do not have equal relationships with the planets and stars. One belongs to a natal planetary hierarchy, though one can attain some adoptive rank in others to work their magics. Working with the next planet up is not more advanced per se. Developing a deeper relationship with one’s natal planetary hierarchy may be, however.
Sometimes a natal planet is so afflicted that one cannot ever work with that hierarchy and it is advisable to shun all things associated with that hierarchy to the extent one can in life.
This makes sequential ascent perilous, undesirable or impossible.
It’s a good idea in theory but not in practice. The model of rank ascent is reminiscent of Catholic and Freemasonic structures, which don’t apply to SIM.
There is not one hierarchy to ascend but at least 90 parallel ones. 7 planets, 28 Mansions, 36 Faces, 2 Nodes, many Constellations, and at least 15 particular Fixed Stars.
I´m very much interested in SIM talismans, specially for wealth and health, although all areas attract my attention.
I took Warnock´s astrological magic course but didn´t really feel any clear effect regarding the talismans I made.
The procedure appears to be quite simple: pick an auspicious election (using the tropical horoscope) according to the talisman you want to make (planetary, mansion of the moon,etc), obtain the materials for the talisman and incense and on the election you etch the appropriate image, burn the adequate incense and make a ritualized prayer calling down the spiritual entity chosen into the metal/gemstone, thus enlivening it and transforming it into a living talisman.
Previous solomonic purification (fasting, sexual abstinence, baths, meditation, etc) supposedly helps the magic work.
That being said,how would your procedure differ from that taught by Warnock?
When you say many years of practice are necessary to achieve mastery, what exactly do you mean, bearing in mind the procedure is very straightforward and simple?
Thanks in advance for your attention.
I focus more on medieval astrology rather than Renaissance astrology, I focus more on Picatrix than De Imaginibus, and I focus on the herbs and gemstones vastly more than Chris Warnock does.
Internalizing the system took me about ten years and I’m also fast learner. To reach an level of mastery took fifteen. I focused on this full time. If it seems simple you really don’t understand how little you know.