The Talismans of the Inescapable Prison

THE TALISMANS OF THE INESCAPABLE PRISON: Fast Moon culminating in the 25th Mansion perfecting a trine with the Greater Benefic, with a dignified and unafflicted Ascendant Ruler.


The 25th Mansion generally is for the protection of orchards and crops as per the Plinian Mansion section of Picatrix, but the “Foundational Mansions” early section in the same gives a number of other options for people with brown thumbs like myself.

In this Mansion make images to besiege cities and villages, to take enemies captive and do as much evil to them as you please, to make messengers convey their messages and quickly return, to separate wives from their husbands, to destroy harvests, to bind a man and wife or a woman and her husband so that they cannot copulate, to bind whichever part of the human body you wish so that it is not able to function, to strengthen the prison of captives; and it is good to secure buildings.

Of course, the majority of these options are for curse talismans and would require a completely different sort of election.

But this raises a different question: clearly the hastening of messengers and the securing of buildings are benevolent and require benefic electional configurations, but what about the strengthening the prison of captives? And what is it with so many of the listings in this section either for the securing of captives or the liberation of prisoners? It’s really conspicuous when you look at them as a whole.

The most obvious possibility is that magicians were often in danger of imprisonment in antiquity and having a memorized list of potential talismans for escape was a priority. Another is that magicians were often in the employ of nobles who had a strong interest in securing enemies and rivals in their personal dungeons to fortify their positions. However, I don’t think this explains it all.

Usually SIM texts are painfully literal at times regarding the function of talismanic recipes, but I suspect this may be an exception; I think it is also for strengthening the binding of spirits. The reason I believe this is that Picatrix does make references to spirit binding throughout the text suggesting that the method is quite important but is curiously evasive about specifics. To me that suggests the methods appear in coded language elsewhere in the text, and this is one of my favorite speculations– that the references to prisons and prisoners are applicable equally to human beings, spirits, and even perhaps animals.

In any case, that’s all speculation for now.

The next quandary is whether strengthening a prison is benevolent or malevolent?

My take is that it is benevolent, considering that the alternative is a jailbreak. Breaking out of a prison is a form of destruction, albeit a desirable one from the subjective viewpoint of the prisoner. This is especially clear in this case when Jupiter is prominent in the electional configuration, whose attributes prioritize the augmentation and strengthening of things. Strengthening a prison is similar to the securing of buildings which is another electional option, which is unambiguously benevolent.

This election was specifically for the strengthening the prison of captives, which is especially suitable considering that the 25th Mansion’s name translates (according to some) as “the star of the dungeons.”

I should note that this election does not bind or imprison; it only fortifies bindings and imprisonments which already are in place.

The Moon was quite fast, applying a perfected trine to Jupiter. However, it was also applying a sextile to Mercury which is the dignified and unafflicted Ascendant Ruler, therefore reinforcing the significators. The Moon is also applying a somewhat loose sextile to Saturn which is the ruler of the Moon’s Sign and a very strong consideration for success according to Picatrix electional rules — even though it is a Malefic.

There are possible negatives. The Ascendant Ruler is applying a trine to Saturn, which by Picatrix rules would weaken it. However, Mercury and Saturn have a natural amity and the trine should soften any weakening. Saturn is in a malefic Face and is in the 7th House but not on the Descendant, so I think that’s acceptable. The malevolence of Saturn might make the imprisonment particularly harsh, or it may not factor in in any way. A counterindication is the role of Jupiter, which may make the imprisonment pleasant. And while Jupiter is retrograde, I do not believe this has any pertinence to the election since the planet is in a supportive role rather than being a principal player.

Six quartz crystal cabochons were made into talismans. The suffumigation was gum mastic.

The top of the cabochon was inscribed with a crescent Moon, and below it a chain with five or seven links depending upon the size of the gem. Below it were three words: STRENGTHEN, CAPTIVES, PRISONS; each below the last. On the back was inscribed an X for ease of the Mansion spirit’s entry.

Normally I would have inscribed the name of the Mansion Ruler, but tarot advised against it. Perhaps the Ruler uses a different name for orchards and imprisonments.

The Secret Purpose of Magic

I’m going to spare you the labor of kneeling before a mystic guru for decades, joining secret societies and putting up with their drama, and quite possibly reincarnating a few thousand times in order to learn this nugget of wisdom.

I’m cheating slightly by letting you in on the secret, but I’ve been known to bend the rules before.

The process of attaining proficiency in magic is traumatic and shocking. For some, their brains came out wrong at birth and the psychic censor works horribly. Others take strange drugs. Some experience physical traumas, like being struck by lightning or being hit by speeding vehicles. A few have near-death experiences and come back changed. Others put themselves through exteme mental contortions that for variable periods render the initiate batshit insane.

You can’t think like a normal human being, a descendant of mutated apes, and do superhuman things. So under most circumstances your mind– and by extension your spirit– has to change. A lot.

It’s about plasticity. Spiritual plasticity mirroring the neuroplasticity; as above so below. Every time a magician alters their mental state past the breaking point, it’s like having a stroke. After the shock to the system subsides, the magician has to mend and rewire their consciousness like a person learning to walk after a brain injury. This happens over and over and in numerous ways. New abilities and strangeness are acquired along the road.

It’s also about strength. You need to damage muscles through strain in order to rebuild them stronger. The most basic lesson of athleticism.

That plasticity and strength are not for their own sakes, however.

It’s to prepare us for retaining our memories and personality through the death process. Brain death is almost exactly like having thousands of strokes all at once. Instead of oxygen being cut off from one part of the brain and killing a portion, oxygen is cut off from the entire. This is the most extreme trauma a person can experience without uncommon supernatural intervention.

Most people lose their internal coherence at some point after death. It’s no secret that ghostly spirits do not think or behave quite like living people, and some appear to have lost memories and attributes while whooshing about the eerie void. Yet they retain enough that when called up by various means, they have knowledge that only those particular people could possess. In many instances the contact is with an echo of a person or even a trickster spirit, but in others it appears to be a forgetful and confused version of a discarnate human being. (Though sometimes they’re just faking confusion– but that’s a whole different topic.)

When people transmigrate –and I suspect that is a real phenomenon if it doesn’t necessarily happen to everyone– the process of embedding spirit in flesh is similarly disorienting and traumatic. The result is that hardly anyone is born retaining clear memories of their former lives, of spiritual realms– and one’s personality also changes in various ways.

People who have trained themselves to recover from dramatic changes in consciousness, shock, and systemic injury eventually can break that cycle and retain a clear mind, memory, and a stable personality whether they choose to remain in the spiritual realms or return to corporeal existence.

Magic helps us solve problems in many ways. But many things exist which can solve most of those problems which don’t require such extreme and unusual activities. What makes magic unique is that it gradually (and often very uncomfortably) prepares us for a more advanced existence as a spirit.

Black Magic And Dark Paganism @ PantheaCon 2008

A reading covering the ethos and practices of black magic, a survey of curse methods, and dark paganism– a term which I coined in the early 1990s. This was my very first lecture, anywhere.