Magic Rings of Procyon, the Lesser Dog Star

Talismans Which Endow Favor Over All, Enhance Magic and Health

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Background on Talismans of Procyon

Our primary source for the talismans of Procyon comes from the Quindecim Stellis, a ubiquitous British grimoire which dates back to at least the fourteenth century. Its first appearance is in an incomplete form as a chapter in John Gower’s Confessio Amantis, an extremely popular work written between 1386 and 1390, which describes the stones, herbs, and some of the properties of fifteen prominent fixed stars collectively known as the Behenian stars or the Behenii.

John Gower’s work is ostensibly for the moral education of a young king; a common genre of book in that period, but clearly directed to and received by a far wider audience. In the relevant passage, atop his tower the legendary wizard Nectanebus teaches young prince Alexander of Macedonia the nature of the heavenly bodies and the powers concealed therein. It is through the use of magic rings of this nature that medieval readers were informed through this and many other texts that Alexander the Great conquered the world. Though largely forgotten today, Gower was a contemporary and rival of Geoffrey Chaucer, whose Canterbury Tales has become literary canon. The Confessio Amantis with its magical lore was equally popular, and surprisingly was neither greatly controversial nor suppressed.

Many more explicitly magical versions of this text exist by a variety of names, including the Book of Enoch and Book of Hermes. The purported origin of the text clearly diverged somewhat over time. Each version includes instructions as to the election of these fifteen talismans and sigils to be engraved upon the corresponding gemstones. Two general variations of sigils have been identified; complex and presumably older versions, and simplified or degenerate forms. The herbs deviate somewhat from the Gower version, and the function of each talisman greatly expanded upon. The textual content is fairly consistent and begins “quindecim stellis,” so this is the name used for convenience among scholars and here.

Cornelius Agrippa includes the simplified sigils and descriptions in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy of approximately 1500 AD, along with corresponding pictorial images which do not generally appear in earlier versions of the Quindecim Stellis text. Alternate herbs and gemstones are given as well.

The pairing of sigils, gemstones and herbs in the Quindecim Stellis lead one to conclude that they are designed primarily for the construction of magical rings, though this is not stated explicitly in the text. This ambiguity permits the creation of loose gemstone talismans either washed in a tea of the herbs listed, or placed in a bag with small amounts of the dried herbs, if needed. My own experience suggests that the ring form of these rings is noticeably more potent, though the loose gemstone talismans are satisfactory.

Agrippa’s take on celestial talismans overall favors rings, as he says “When any star ascends fortunately, with the fortunate aspect or conjunction of the Moon, we must take a stone, and herb that is under that star, and make a ring of that metal that is suitable to this star and fasten the stone, putting the herb, or root under it; not omitting the inscriptions of images, names and characters, also the proper suffumigations…” Three Books of Occult Philosophy Bk. I, Chapter 47, (Tyson ed.) page 140.

Some aspects of this deviate from the instructions in the Quindecim Stellis, which only permits the Moon applying to conjoin the respective fifteen fixed stars rather than also permitting fortunate aspects. Experimentation by myself and Chris Warnock agrees with the Quindecim Stellis over Agrippa.

Because the Moon must apply fairly tightly to a conjunction of a fixed star, if one is on the Ascendant, the other is as well. Picatrix strongly disfavors placing the Moon on the Ascendant. “Never put the Moon on the ascendant of anything you wish to do, because she is the ascendant’s enemy…” Picatrix, Book II, Chapter 3, (Greer-Warnock trans.) My own experience is that talismans made with the Moon on the Ascendant function, but seem to pervert the intention of the user as if they were rebellious servants. Which is the implication of what Picatrix here says. I rule out all benevolent talismanic elections which have the Moon on the Ascendant or even the 1st House, and have for several years now.

My original take on the fixed stars has to be revised in a number of instances, since my Ancient Stellar Magic lecture. First, I no longer allow the Moon on the Ascendant; I came to this conclusion shortly after the lectures. Second, the evidence that the Behenian stars can be used as a substitute or a repair for natally afflicted planets of a similar nature is somewhat in doubt. Third, the popularity of the Quindecim Stellis is evidence against my notion that this was a toolkit primarily for itinerant magicians; it was simply too widely distributed for that presumably limited audience. Though of great value to itinerant magicians, the ubiquity suggests that this was magic for the masses; at least to the extent of the English-speaking literate classes.

The Lore and Materials of Procyon

The Lesser Dog Star is given the name Procyon because it rises before Sirius (the Greater Dog Star) on the ecliptic. Romans called it Antecanis, having the same meaning. Some English astronomers called it the Northern Sirius. It is the alpha star of the constellation of the Lesser Dog. It is said to represent Maera, the hound of Icarius who drowned himself from grief at the death of his master.

According to Manilius, the natal influence of Procyon is to endow the native an affinity with hounds of all kinds and skills at making the instruments of hunting, such as nets and spears. However, the natal influence of a fixed star has an unclear relationship with the talismans of the same; sometimes they are completely oppositional in function, unlike planets.

According to Ptolemy, the star is of the nature of Mercury and Mars.

This suggests that gold, bronze, silver, and iron are suitable metals for the rings of Procyon. Since the Moon has a prominent place in all fixed star talismanic elections, silver is always acceptable. The fixed stars are said to be the handmaidens of the Sun in Picatrix, which suggests gold is viable; this is my experience and preference. Gold is the most temperate of metals, and the Sun has a special role in the divisions of the Tropical ecliptic, so this may suggest that gold is proper for virtually all talismans to an extent. Bronze is an alloy, a mixture of metals; this makes it suitable as a metal for Mercury and things like Mercury. Iron or steel is the metal which has the greatest affinity for Mars, and things which are like Mars.

Though I mean this for the selection of metals in the bands of the rings of Procyon, this is probably applicable for talismans entirely composed of these metals, though I believe the absence of the gemstone will be weaker.

The gemstone listed for Procyon in the Quindecim Stellis is agate. Agate is a banded gemstone of chalcedony alternating with quartz. While it comes in an enormous array of colors, there is some indication that the classical form of agate was banded tawny or brown. Because of its banding, it is often associated with Mercury because of his governance over mixed colors and mixtures overall. This is not to suggest that one can substitute agate for another Mercurial stone for a Procyon talisman; this association is very particular.

The herbs given in the Quindecim Stellis for Procyon talismans are heliotrope flowers and pennyroyal flowers. Heliotrope is named such because it turns its flowers towards the rays of the Sun, and has very strong Solar associations. Pennyroyal was used in ancient times as a spice and as an abortifacient. It has also been used in various forms as a pesticide. The only obvious thing these two plants have in common is that their delicate flowers are a vivid purple.

When choosing agates for the rings of Procyon, I selected those of a lavender hue; as close as I could get to the color of the flowers.

The Talismans of Procyon, Sigils and Ymages

According to the Quindecim Stellis, a Procyon talisman “Grants the favor of God and man, gives men the favor of the spirits of the air, gives great power over magic, and keeps men healthy.” The meaning of nearly all but the last prompt some great debates.

Like the talisman of Alphecca from the same text, the Procyon talisman grants the favor of God. It is a very odd notion that a talisman might have any power over a Divine being, at least by modern conceptions of divinity. I have speculated that this might actually mean that it instills moral fiber in the wearer, or an affinity with pious persons and things.

The favor of man obviously suggests popularity, but the favor of spirits of the air is much more confounding. Who are the spirits of the air? In at least one other grimoire this phrase is used as a euphemism for demons; the malevolent fallen angels of the Christian tradition. It is not obvious this is the meaning here, as demons are mentioned elsewhere and the author chooses his words carefully. Angels are not mentioned in the Quindecim Stellis, but demons, the spirits of the dead, God, and the spirits of the air are the categories of spiritual beings mentioned. (The Peoples of the Earth are also mentioned, but this probably means human beings rather than the Peoples of the Mound; that is fairies.) My own take is that these are probably nature spirits, at least in this context. Spirits of the air would be invisible naturally, capable of transmitting messages, and raising and dispersing winds.

Giving great power over magic is more ambiguous than it appears. The implication in some translations suggests that this ring bestows a power to resist enchantments, while others suggest that it enhances the magical power of the bearer. Either is quite useful, but to a practicing magician the latter is superior.

It’s rare that a talisman can boast an improvement of health overall, but there’s one reason why this is particularly plausible with Procyon talismans. Currently the star is at 26 Cancer 01, which means that an applying Moon would by necessity be in the essential dignity known as Rulership or Domicile in any part of Cancer; the strongest essential dignity according to Renaissance sources and ranking a +5 in quantitative dignity tables. The Moon is always a cosignificator or secondary significator in talismanic elections and most elections overall. When a significator is essentially dignified, it improves the health, appearance, social station, and popularity of the subject; or at least greatly increases the chances of that improvement. This also explains the power of the favor of man too.

When multiple significators are essentially dignified, the chances of this wonderful power manifesting with ease greatly increase; this is why we attempt to make the Ascendant and Moon and if possible the Part of Fortune essentially and accidentally dignified and unafflicted to the greatest possible degree, as these are the three primary cosignificators in descending order of importance.  We can situate the star or planet on the Median Coeli rather than the Ascendant (as we should in fixed star elections), but I believe the Ascendant must at least be unafflicted and preferably be ruled by a planet which is dignified, unafflicted, and hopefully also not cadent.

Nevertheless, this is speculative to a degree. The position of Procyon in Cancer is temporary; precession is slow but real. Someday Procyon will exit Cancer and the Moon will not be essentially dignified during these elections. How that will impact their function will be for future magicians to discover, as I will surely be long gone by then. It may have great impact or none at all.

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa gives a somewhat different account of Procyon and its powers.

In addition to a sigil somewhat different than the one given in Quindecim Stellis, he provides two celestial ymages for Procyon; a rooster and “three little maids.” As the foremost dog star, the rooster may signify a herald as the bird crows at dawn. The double-threefold branching of the sigils may suggest flowers, but the Agrippa version especially seems to derive from a rooster’s clawprint. I often think the earlier version resembles the lotus blossom somewhat, but this is not relevant to Procyon by the time of the Quindecim Stellis if ever. The association with maidens perhaps suggests the special role of the Moon and her essential dignity in proximity to Procyon, but also strongly echo pictorial representations of the three Graces, Euphrosyne, Aglaia, and Thalia—the personifications of mirth, elegance, and youthful beauty.

The other variant is that Agrippa says Procyon grants power against witchcraft rather than power over magic. In this context, witchcraft is understood to be curses and malevolent fascination. However, this may be a quirk of translation; it is widely known that the James Freake translation from Latin to English is idiosyncratic and at times in clear error. Preference should probably be given to the translations of the older Quindecim Stellis texts for the time being. Certainly if Procyon talismans give power over magic, they will resist curses as well to at least some extent.

John Gower gives no description of the function of Procyon, but he says its nature is of Mercury and has a Martial tint. Rather than giving heliotrope and pennyroyal flowers as its herbs, he lists primrose.

Primary Electional Configuration for Procyon Rings

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The Moon tightly applies to a conjunction of Procyon. Procyon culminates. The Moon is fast and applying a tight aspect to a Benefic, though this is a square. The Moon is not cadent yet. The Ascendant is greatly fortunated by an applying conjunction with a Fortune; this is Jupiter, which is essentially dignified in Face. The Moon’s Sign Ruler is not cadent; it is itself. For the earlier part of the election, the Part of Fortune is applying to conjoin the North Node, also known as Caput Draconis or Rahu. This greatly strengthens the election by having a tertiary significator conjoined with celestial point similar in nature to a Fortune and generally increases power or benevolence, depending on the canonical source.

Students of Chris Warnock will be perplexed by my usage of the Moon squaring Jupiter in a benevolent election. This is not an error. One of the distinctions between the medieval electional rules of Picatrix and the later Renaissance electional rules is that the unchanging nature of the planets takes precedence over the aspects formed between them. So a planet applying to trine Saturn is a fortitude in Renaissance elections but is a great affliction to Picatrix because a Malefic is always a Malefic to some extent. Conversely, a planet applying to oppose Venus is an affliction in Renaissance elections but a fortitude in Picatrix, because a Fortune is always fortunate. Of course, it is better in benefic elections for significators making trines and sextiles to the Benefics, but even squares and oppositions strengthen the significator better than any aspect to Malefics. In many talismanic elections the configuration will agree with both systems, but not this one. I find Picatrix to be more effective with talismanic elections than other sources. Part of why I feel that Picatrix is justified with prioritizing the natural qualities of planets over aspects is the angular relationship of the Houses; placing Fortunes on the Ascendant and Midheaven surely must be seen as an exceptionally positive configuration, yet they are in a quartile relationship with one another. Picatrix favors Benefics on the Angular cusps, and asserts that Malefics there will ruin elections. Reason suggests that the basic nature of these planets and the strength they lend to these critical points should supersede the aspects between them. It is logical to suppose that the weakness supplied by Malefics on the angles is greater than the strength provided by the Fortunes, because combination of “hard aspects” are similar in nature to the Infortunes and increase their malice.

Nine rings with lavender agate were chosen. Four were made with gold wire wrapped around a gold-filled wire skeleton to enhance durability and structure for myself. Five were made with gold-filled wire for clients.

The suffumigation used was amber resin. Amber is Lunar, and it was selected from a list of alternatives by tarot divination.

No herbs were used because none were available.

When The Herbs Are Unavailable

It happens a lot when working with the Behenian star talismans; the herbs are quite specific and are often hard to obtain. Often these are dangerous herbs, but sometimes they are simply unpopular. Both appeared to be the case with regards to pennyroyal flowers and heliotrope flowers. Neither were available for purchase online. Pennyroyal is probably an abortifacient, but the complete unavailability of heliotrope was unaccountable except a lack of interest. Dried pennyroyal was available, but upon inspection of what was available, did not appear to have any identifiable petals in the mix. Dried heliotrope of any sort was unavailable.

But the election was too excellent to pass up; I decided to make the nine rings and shelve them until I could obtain the dried flowers. That took a long time.

Now, I have to confess something; I have a brown thumb. I’m terrible with plants. It’s not that I cause flowers to wilt and blacken by my presence; I just am absent-minded and neglectful of plants, or I overcompensate and drown them. I have graduate-level training in biology, but virtually none in botany. I can’t distinguish different types of trees in my neighborhood. Magical plants interest me for certain, but those are usually purchased dry rather than fresh. (Interestingly enough, it hasn’t greatly impacted my skill as a rootworker. But many such over the decades have been in urban environments like myself.)

I know that I should remedy this deficit of knowledge and interest, but I also know that I should eat more broccoli too. And I am these days, but you probably can’t make me enjoy it.

Enter the generous assistance of Harold Roth, proprietor of alchemy-works.com. He is the opposite of me; he is in love with the magical uses of plants and can grow just about anything. I asked him for help when my attempts to grow heliotrope and pennyroyal in my home produced stunted and listless sprouts which at any moment seemed about to turn brown.

With his help I purchased live plants from a seasonal vendor which did not appear on my online searches, repotted them twice, and set up a medium and eventually large grow tent with a massive grow light and automated waterer presumably designed for marijuana cultivation. To this I added the presence of an SIM talisman I had made years ago as an experiment, which increases the bounty of harvests among other things.

After several months of frustration, labor, a hefty financial investment, and an astronomical electric bill, I finally harvested a handful of heliotrope flowers and several pennyroyal flowers. Just enough to dry and add to the nine rings in a supplementary election which was suitable.

Supplementary Talismanic Elections

One of the most common questions asked by both beginning and intermediate students of Scholastic Image Magic is what to do when a talisman is incomplete at the end of an electional window. Do you just keep going, is it a failure, or can you finish up at a later time?

It is clear that any significant alteration of a talisman outside of a valid electional window diminishes or destroys its power. My own rule is that the petition, engraving, suffumigations, and addition of herbs must all be completed within the electional window, though I allow polishing, molding the glue and herbs under the rings, and repairing any spillage immediately after the electional window before that sets. The electional window represents the entry of the spirit of time of that hierarchy into the talisman, and as long as the ingredients are fundamentally in place, minor subsequent changes are like the cutting of the umbilical cord after an infant is born, removal of a caul, or even bathing it.

Nevertheless, there are numerous situations where cast talismans are not completed properly, the herbs required cannot be obtained, or other finishing touches are impossible to complete in time. Sometimes one will engrave a cabochon and later wish to set it in a ring or other piece of jewelry. Sometimes a ring or talisman will break and need minor repairs. This is why supplementary elections are necessary.

Chris Warnock’s take on supplementary elections (which are quite distinct from attunement elections) are that they should be avoided, but when absolutely necessary the goal is to match the configuration of the secondary election to that of the primary one. No two elections are identical, but for example in a Mercury talismanic election, both should be Mercury Hour and/or Day, and Mercury in as identical a state of essential dignity as can be managed. I would go perhaps a little further and require that Mercury be in the same Sign; to me, there’s a qualitative difference between Mercury in Gemini and Mercury in Virgo, and to complete a talisman begun in one in the other will diminish its power.

Either way, it’s really hard to do, which is why supplementary elections are best avoided. But there is a loophole, or at least there appears to be one. In one version of the grimoire called the Treasure of Alexander, at the very end of the first planetary ring recipe (for Saturn) it says “If you cannot finish it in the aforementioned configuration wait until the Moon again returns to the aforementioned aspects and signs or is in Cancer.” While this is not repeated again in the instructions for the remaining six planets, it suggests a peculiar relationship between Saturn and Cancer, or something about the Moon in Cancer which allows talismans in general to be completed.

The former is not entirely illogical; Saturn is in Detriment in Cancer, so this is a special relationship. It is, however, a very bad one. The alternative is to conclude that the Moon in Cancer is special somehow.

This is what I believe; since the Moon is cosignificator in most talismanic elections, placing it in rulership specifically allows the talisman to retain power even while being altered so long as the initial election is suitably strong. It is like hooking a surgical patient up to a life support system so that doctors can operate on major organs without killing him or her. My own experiments support this view, as I have performed supplementary elections of this sort several times on talismans which have proven quite powerful afterwards.

In any case, a supplementary election for Procyon often would have to be both kinds of supplementary election; the Moon applying to conjoin Procyon and also be in Cancer. Thus was the case here.

procyon-supplemenetary

Here we have the Moon applying to conjoin Procyon very loosely on the Midheaven, cadent but extremely fast. The Ascendant Ruler is quite unfortunate; combust and applying to conjoin the South Node. The Moon is unaspected but not void.

Clearly this would be a great cause for concern if this was a normal primary talismanic election, but it is not. Secondary elections only attempt to forge a link with the original celestial hierarchy and to the greatest possible extent any subgroups signified by similar configurations.

While it would be beneficial to have a strong Ascendant Ruler, the primary electional configuration always takes precedence over secondary ones unless the latter is carefully designed to do so. This is actually the logic of using talismans to remedy natal afflictions; these are functionally secondary elections designed to override the planetary influences within the native’s astral body, like a splint or an artificial limb. But they have to be elected rather precisely to have that kind of impact. This secondary election does not possess those characteristics. As a Venus talismanic election (which it would have to be), it’s a complete flop.

What it does succeed at is placing the Moon in Cancer and having her apply to a conjunction of Sirius on the Midheaven. That’s enough to allow a modification of the Procyon talismans without a loss of power.

Once again, I suffumigated with amber and applied the dried flowers and glue under the gemstones. I had some problems with the glue; I used too little and then too much, leading me to have to manage a lot of glue foam overflow and spillage long after the electional window had closed. But the result was clear; the nine Rings of Procyon radiated power and vitality.

In Conclusion

Magical rings in the Scholastic Image Magic tradition are one of my great loves, and my favorite text after Picatrix is the Quindecim Stellis. I began lecturing on this tradition using this grimoire as a platform from which to educate about the wider tradition, but also because I have a particular love and respect for the 8th Sphere, the realm of the fixed stars. The Quindecim Stellis is a beguilingly short grimoire, but full of secrets.

I consider the creation of astrological talismans in SIM to be a form of initiation. In a broader sense, the process of education, election, creation, experimentation, and mastery is a more general initiatory ladder, but each planetary hierarchy has its own initiations which one undertakes when creating the talismans and petitions of each respective planet. Yet these are only seven planetary initiatory processes plus the general one; I think there are many more. There are mysteries revealed upon the creation of each of the fifteen Behenian star talismans, each of the thirty-six Faces, and each of the twenty-eight Lunar Mansions. I also think the planets in aggregate have their own initiation, the Faces, the Lunar Mansions, and the Behenian stars when one has worked with them all. My hope is that I may be given the keys to each of these celestial courts within my time here on Earth.

Procyon is the thirteenth of the fifteen talismans of the Quidecim Stellis which I have made at this point. It’s taken over a decade to get here and it’s been a big adventure. Only two more to go for a complete set, and the full initiation of the 8th Sphere will be accomplished.

One comment on “Magic Rings of Procyon, the Lesser Dog Star

  1. EC says:

    Just a dazzlingly brilliant essay with so much great, practical information.

    I’ve been inspired by your blog to get Chris Warnock’s magic course and start working through it, making talismans whenever I can. While Chris provides great material and a great starting point, you add so much more information on how to use SIM in practice along with theory, context, stories, and just general inspiration. It’s been an invaluable resource for me. Thanks!

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