On Labor Day weekend, September 2nd & 3rd, I will be hosting the world’s first astrological magic conference, at a luxury hotel in New York City. Many of the greatest thinkers and practitioners alive will share with you new discoveries and marvels, along with much conversation and merriment with new and old friends. Mark your calendars and save some pennies, because it’s now my job to give you the time of your lives. Many more details, including the website, are forthcoming.
Creativity, Magic and the Genius at ConVocation 2020
Seeking inspiration? Use magic to enhance your creativity!
The very word “inspiration” is rooted in the belief that invention is a force that comes from outside the self—even from the spirit world.
To the Romans, the word “genius” once meant a guiding spirit.
Several important grimoires provide guides to unite the initiate with a higher, perfected self or powerful spirit being capable of endowing formidable skills, knowledge, and power.
More immediate methods include scrying, tarot, bibliomancy, dream incubation, and many others.
In this class we will survey how magicians have used the spirit world for creativity and brainstorming in these and many other ways. Delve into historical practices and learn effective modern methods for cultivating your creativity.
Solar Sapphires, Planetary Antipathies, and Substitutions
The Picatrix, De Radiis Stellarum, and Three Books of Occult Philosophy are closest to broad textbooks of this tradition of astrological magic, but they are not meant to be used entirely by themselves. Both canonical texts of astrological magic and their partners, the manuals of traditional astrology, repeatedly state that the student must go beyond a mere rote understanding of formulae and considerations. The following step is the internalization of celestial functions, then a series of flashes of insight revealing why things are as they arranged, and finally the integration of the practitioner into their proper spiritual hierarchy by the attainment of Perfect Nature and the maximization of their unique potential.
Authors are quite evasive about the aforementioned epiphanies for good reason; they allow teachers to recognize genuine insights arising from their better students that stand apart from the shallow mimicry that is the hallmark of pseudo-intellectualism, and they protect the secrets of the art from immature people who are at high risk of abusing it. The Science of Images has reputed power within it so vast that it can collapse entire civilizations if deployed with precision and ill intentions. Based on some of my experiences, I am certain that this is no idle boast. Some of the difficulty is deliberate in these texts, because of the gravity of that power falling into the wrong hands. It was the reasonable hope of the guardians and transmitters of this tradition that intellectual mastery developed roughly in tandem with emotional stability and personal responsibility.
Nevertheless, this has led to an incredibly steep learning curve for mastery of Scholastic Image Magic for modern students. Some of this is accidental and needs to be remedied, and some of this is very appropriate. As an example of the latter, it’s critically important that a student be fully immersed in the traditional worldview, and at least provisionally set aside the modern worldview, so they may navigate deeply within this paradigm. This commentary is, I hope, an additional guide through one of the more important winding passages deeper into the heart of this complex system of magic and mysticism.
Let us begin with something highly counterintuitive and use it as a pretext to dive into some of the more practical and mystical secrets of the operations of celestial magic.
Solar Sapphire Talismans
During the latter Solar talismanic election I covered in the preceding post, I alluded to a second set of talismans which were created at the same time. In addition to the bloodstones, I created two sapphire talismanic rings and a loose gemstone sapphire talisman. The herbs when applicable and suffumigations were identical. One of the rings is mine, and one ring and the loose gemstone will eventually be sold to clients or given to friends.
The inspiration for this talismanic project came from Eric Purdue’s masterful new translation of Cornelius Agrippa’s Book One of Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Agrippa frequently has long lists of gemstones, materials and animals which belong to the various celestial hierarchies but less frequently highlights the particular powers attributed to each within that particular hierarchy’s context. Agrippa gave very special attention to the gemstone he calls heliotrope that we believe is modern bloodstone, but also gave great attention to a gemstone called hyacinth in the J.F. translation. Eric Purdue, I believe correctly, provisionally identified hyacinth as modern sapphire. And with it come a list of powers which only apply in a Solar context; they are only activated when made into Solar talismans.
“Sapphires also have a solar virtue against poisons and pestilential vapors. When carried [the person] is rendered safe and acceptable, brings wealth and talent, and strengthens the heart. When held in the mouth, [sapphires] exceedingly cheer the mind.” –TBOC, Agrippa I:23, Eric Purdue trans.
Before I break down the rather long and fascinating list of powers attributed to Solar sapphire talismans, I must make mention of something of which most traditional (and Vedic) astrologers and readers of medieval lapidaries are quite aware. Sapphires have an extremely ancient and strong association with the planet Saturn, vastly more than the Sun. The association between sapphires and Saturn is so strong that due to what appears to be a confusion with lapis lazuli, the latter is associated with Saturn among other planets—sapphire appears to mean blue stone in Sanskrit and lapis lazuli means the same in Latin. Though the Sun and Saturn do rule a few things in common, such as the metal gold and kingship, they are in most other ways complete opposites. There’s nothing obviously Solar about sapphires; they are hard and usually dark stones—an obvious choice for the harsh, implacable, and dim Greater Malefic. Materials having multiple rulerships are not unusual, but this instance stands apart.
Lapis Lazuli with Pyrite Inclusions
The Secrets of Antipathy
So is it a mistake? I’m quite sure it isn’t. It’s a phenomenal example of celestial antipathy which is described in Picatrix in more general terms about talismans which attract and repel animals.
“The effects upon animals are twofold—that is, one is to gather them and increase their number, and the other is to disperse and repel them. These are appropriate for different times, as they involve different motions—that is, there is a time for gathering and growth, and a time for dispersing and repelling. This may be considered under the heading of the opposition of degrees. In stones a certain supreme secret is hidden, that is, when any animal—that is, if you want it to depart—is hot in its nature, the stone ought to be cold; if the animal is moist, the stone ought to be dry, and vice versa. From this it should be understood that if you wish vipers and wasps to flee, the work ought to be done in cornelian and diamond and the like; but if they are cold by nature, such as scorpions, beetles, flies, lice, and things similar to them, work with hot stones such as malachite and crystal, and in bronze and gold and the like.
“This is for the working to make them flee. Workings to draw and increase them ought to be done with things that are harmonious and pertinent to them, as in working with vipers, you should work with gold and bronze and similar things. All this happens because of the harmony of complexion, the direction of movement, and the diversity of conjunctions and substances. The figure and form ought to be in the form and figure of the animal for which it is made, as a figure for mice in the shape of a mouse, one for serpents in the shape of a serpent, or one for scorpions in the shape of a scorpion.” –Picatrix IV:4, Greer-Warnock trans.
When Picatrix uses phrases like “a supreme secret” it’s not just talking about talismans that act as mosquito repellant. It’s an attempt to draw the discerning reader to a very important general principle that can be applied to a much wider set of circumstances. Picatrix uses language like this in other sections, such as the chapter on the manufacture of the thirty-six talismans of the Faces, to hint at a fairly radical reinvention of Neoplatonic cosmology that I have lectured upon previously. It is a test, an attempt to challenge the reader to learn a deeper lesson that is both mystical and extremely useful.
One of the concepts Picatrix describes elsewhere is what it sometimes calls reception; the capacity of a material to absorb celestial rays of a particular type. Some materials are receptive to the rays of many hierarchies. Emerald is receptive to Spica, Jupiter, Mercury and Moon. Silver is highly receptive to nearly every hierarchy because of the virtually ubiquitous and special role of the Moon in talismanic elections. Others are mostly inert, like clay and to a lesser extent human flesh. (Clay talismans really do not work, and in spite of the obvious allure talismanic tattoos aren’t especially viable.)
Parallel to reception is temperament or temperateness; in modern expressions, the capacity for something to manifest normalcy in contrast with manifestations which are abnormal and disruptive. Jupiter is the most temperate planet and usually signifies positive normalcy and health, and Mars is probably the least temperate planet and usually signifies disruption and injury. Materials belonging to each of these hierarchies often share these attributes, but can increase or decrease them or channel them in a particular direction.
Related to the preceding are sympathy and antipathy; some materials attract and repel species based upon their inner natures. But what Picatrix is hinting at is that it isn’t just animals that can be attracted by gemstones of one type and repelled by another, but also types of people, and finally even types of events. That’s where it gets really interesting.
And that is how we return to sapphires.
Analyzing the Solar Virtues of Sapphires
Solar sapphire talismans have the following powers:
They neutralize poisons.
They protect against contagious diseases i.e. “pestilential vapors.”
They render the bearer safe from harm.
They render the bearer inoffensive and pleasant.
They attract riches.
They magnify skills.
They grant courage and health or “strengthen the heart.”
They act as antidepressants, especially if sucked upon.
Now you can tell why I prize these talismans at least as much as the bloodstone ones I created along with them. Fame, glory, constancy, invisibility, and restored youth are really great but the eight powers listed above are possibly even more valuable for the average person.
What’s even more interesting is what these powers tell us about sympathy and antipathy in celestial magic.
Generally speaking, the Sun is not the planet one would expect a cure for poisons from; that’s more often associated with Jupiter. The Sun is nearly as temperate as Jupiter and they both grant vigorous health and presumably a resistance to contagions. The Sun often can accomplish the works of Mars and vice versa, so the Sun can protect—especially from witchcraft and evil spirits. The Sun co-rules gold, which for most of history was currency and thus can attract riches. The increase of skills may make sense because the Sun is fiery and fire quickens as it illuminates. The Sun definitely can grant courage and often is associated with the heart. Finally, the Sun can certainly act as an antidepressant; St. John’s wort has been known to be ruled by the Sun since at least medieval times because of this property. However, in spite of a temperate planet endowing a quality of normalcy, the Sun is less associated with blending in than standing out; often in a highly aggressive manner. The Sun is the king, and the king likes to conquer.
I believe there’s something else at work here:
Saturn rules poisons
Saturn rules contagious diseases.
Saturn rules infirmity.
Saturn rules ugliness and things which are essentially unpleasant.
Saturn rules poverty and desperation, in spite of the co-rulership of gold.
Saturn rules senility and stupefaction.
Saturn rules fear and cowardice.
Saturn rather famously rules melancholia.
I think what makes far more sense is that the function of a Solar sapphire talisman is to ward against many of the negative attributes of Saturn, because of the fundamental disagreement of natures between the hierarchies of the Sun and Saturn. The Sun is hot; Saturn is cold. The Sun governs all that is light and bright; Saturn rules all that is dark and shadowy.
It’s a fantastic example of how one can use the materials of a dissimilar hierarchy to neutralize the negative effects of a planet or star. And it’s one of the greater secrets of this system of magic.
The seven traditional planets often have peculiar relationships with each other, as illustrated in the 45 aphorisms that are said to be derived from the Secretum Secretorum:
“38. The Sun abhors those things that pertain to Saturn, and the things that pertain to the Sun are abhorrent to Saturn.” –Picatrix IV:4
There’s a long list of substitutions and antipathies in this chapter that are less pertinent, but must be memorized to attain mastery in this art. There are no shortcuts on this one.
This system of planetary pairings appears in the passages on planetary petitions as well.
“If you find yourself in contemplation and sorrow, or in melancholy or grave illness, in anything just named, or in any thing that has already been mentioned as belonging to Saturn, and you ask for something that belongs to his nature, you may seek it from him in the manner we describe below, and you may also help yourself in your petition by means of Jupiter. The essence of all these petitions is that you should not seek anything from any planet unless it belongs to his dominion…
“Seek from Mars what is consistent with his nature, such as petitions against soldiers, officials, fighters, and those who busy themselves with warlike acts; and on behalf of friends of kings, and those who destroy homes and citizens, and do evil to humanity, killers, executioners, those who work with fire or in places such as stables, litigators, shepherds, thieves, companions on the road, liars, traitors, and the like. Similar, ask him concerning infirmities of the body from the groin downwards, and also for phlebotomy, accumulation of gas, and the like. In these latter petitions you may also help yourself with Venus, for the nature of Venus dissolves what is closed up by Mars, and repairs what he damages…
“Seek from Venus all things that pertain to her, such as petitions of women, boys, and girls, daughters, and generally everything pertaining to the love of women and carnal copulation with them, art, vocal and instrumental music, telling jokes, and all those who give themselves over to worldly pleasures, those who engage in vices, male and female servants, brides and grooms, mothers, friends, sisters, and all those similar to them, and in these petitions you may also help yourself with Mars.” –Picatrix III:7
It also should be observed at this point that Jupiter and Saturn are oppositional in nature but are (slightly counterintuitively) “friends” with each other. The same is true of the hierarchies of Mars and Venus. The cliché of opposites attracting is reflected in celestial symmetries or harmonies. I believe that this system of substitutions using planets of oppositional nature but mutual amity goes even further than what Picatrix states explicitly. It says that Jupiter can substitute for Saturn but not the reverse; it may be a somewhat reasonable assumption, however. To learn more about planetary substitution, we must look elsewhere.
For that, we turn our attention to the other Luminary: the Moon.
The Moon Serves the Sun
In Picatrix II:10 there’s a wonderful miscellany of planetary talismanic recipes, one of which I’ve made but never quite understood until fairly recently.
“If, under the influence of the Sun, you write the figures below in a sedina stone with the Sun rising in the first face of Leo, whoever carries this stone will be protected against the lunar illnesses that come from the combustion of the Moon.”
Combustion (a close conjunction of a planet with the Sun) is deemed to be the worst planetary affliction according to William Lilly and is generally accepted as such in traditional astrology, with some uncommon exceptions. The combustion of the Moon is especially dire; it often signifies death and destruction in elections, and a variety of challenging health concerns in natal charts.
The more conventional suggestion would be to use a talisman of an afflicted planet in a person’s natal chart as a remedy, but here we see something very different. Here the suggestion is to double-down on the influence of the Sun. It seems counterintuitive because the Sun is overwhelming the native’s Moon, but it is logical if the Sun and the Moon have a similar relationship as Jupiter and Saturn have, and Mars and Venus mutually share in the petitional instructions cited above.
Indications that this is the case between the Sun and Moon are scattered throughout Picatrix.
(As I am writing this, Echo & The Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon” just began to play on Pandora. Everything is connected.)
“The Nabatean sages have said that the power and works of the heavens and stars are from the Sun originally, and this is because they see and understand that the Moon helps him (that is, as much as is in her power), while the Sun does not need her effects, nor those of the other planets; and similarly, the five other planets follow the Sun in their effects and obey and are humbled by him, and proceed in their aforementioned effects according to the dispositions of the Sun. In the same way, according to their opinion, all their effects are primarily rooted in the Sun, and the other six planets help him by their effects. Similarly, the fixed stars are the Sun’s handmaidens, and serve, obey, and are humbled by him, and while they help him with their effects, this is not because of any need that he has of them.” –Picatrix III:8
“Our sages say likewise that the virtue of the fifth quality [the Moon in a perfected conjunction with the Sun] has a similar effect to the effect of the Sun, and this is a very great thing and a noble quality. They say that all composite bodies receive from this the virtues that they ought to have, nor should it be understood from the foregoing that the Moon causes virtues and workings differing from those of the Sun; rather, the Moon reveals the Sun’s influence and brings forth works accomplished by the Sun; nor do these appear until the Moon manifests those things that were previously concealed, and illuminates what had previously been in obscurity.” –Picatrix II:3
One of the ways Picatrix conceals secrets of talismanic magic is by describing electional considerations and the composition of talismans and suffumigations in what superficially appear to be abstract cosmological relationships. To a person immersed in the worldview espoused by the author, ultimately there is no difference between these things; or at least there is a profound sympathy.
What Picatrix is saying here is pretty radical.
While most talismanic and petitional elections depend strongly upon the condition of the Moon and to some extent the planet on or ruling the Ascendant, if a major significator in the election is the Sun the role of every other planet is greatly diminished. The manifestation might be subtler with a weak Moon, however. In theory, one could create a benevolent Solar talisman even if the Moon was afflicted catastrophically. I personally wouldn’t take that chance unless it were an emergency, but in the earlier of the two Sun in Aries elections I described in the last post the Moon was slightly afflicted. It is because of Picatrix that I felt this was inconsequential.
This is a special case regarding the Sun and the Sun only. Tropical astrology is not heliocentric; it is geocentric. But it is what I call heliophilic. It gives a very special significance to the role of the Sun, and it has powers unique among all the planets. It is not merely the strongest planet—something seldom stated in canonical texts because it really is taken for granted—but it has a central role in the cosmos as the bringer of order, the primary source of visible and astral light, the liminal mediator between the world of Forms and the Sublunar sphere, and of the four seasons that sustain all life. Thus, through the Sun, the equinoxes and solstices define the positions and properties of the Zodiacal Signs and the essential architecture of the universe and time itself.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this somewhat serpentine journey through the world of Scholastic Image Magic which started with Agrippa’s Solar sapphires, has taken us through the complex relationships of planetary pairings, and finally to the fundamental supremacy and centrality of the Sun. Traditional celestial magic conceals a lot of secrets of both a practical and spiritual nature, and as we solve the puzzles it sets before us in the canonical sources, the aspiration is that our own personal disjointedness is transformed into a more coherent spiritual being.
I’m cheating a little by letting you in on some of the glimpses of the treasures that I’ve uncovered. I’m hoping that you’ll forgive me for bending the rules a little; that you’ll return the favor someday to myself and others, and that you’ll use this knowledge wisely.
No one can perfect any of the works of traditional astrological magic without passing on some of the illumination that one receives, much like the Sun illuminates each of the planets and they transmit their light and fill all of their hierarchies with vitality and power. It’s more than a metaphor; it’s the essential connection between consciousness and cosmos that produces magic and our experience of reality itself.
Sun in Aries Talismans for Healing the Infirmities of the Head
Scholastic Image Magic Talismans in Medicine
Contemporary research into the distribution of texts on magic in medieval and Renaissance England suggests that theurgical and necromantic texts were concentrated in monasteries, but texts on Scholastic Image Magic were concentrated in the libraries of physicians. This does appear to indicate that physicians had a particular interest in astral magic and probably were also one of the few occupations which would have had the necessary background in astrology to make use of it. A survey of the breadth of the canonical literature of Scholastic Image Magic does suggest a preponderance of formulas for talismans which were used medicinally. While theurgical and necromantic rituals for longevity, relief of ailments, prevention and cures do exist, going back as far as the Testament of Solomon and ancient Mesopotamia, the additional emphasis is notable in SIM.
Part of this is simply that the boundary between medicine and magic has been quite blurry up until relatively recently in history, and both traditional medicine and Scholastic Image Magic have had an astrological basis. We may speculate, however, that astrological talismans may have had a special efficacy in an era not otherwise known for medical advancement.
This has been a significant interest of mine: the use of magic to prevent, treat and cure diseases, and extend animal and human longevity. The greatest successes in my experiments have been relatively recent, and involve Scholastic Image Magic talismans applied directly to patients or a variety of medicinal substances exposed to their proximity become secondary talismans and are then brought to the patient and ingested or otherwise applied.
In all cases I must note that these treatments were in the form of complementary therapies. I am not a physician and do not pretend to be one, traditional or modern. At no point during my experiments have I or would I ask a patient to alter their treatment from whatever their doctors require. Nevertheless, I do think that talismanic remedies have very special merits and are quite deserving of revival and extensive research.
Though many of these cases deserve their own separate blog post, I have used talismans to help patients with a variety of conditions which include metastatic brain cancer, ovarian cancer, stomach cancer, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), c. diff (clostridium difficile) infections, erectile dysfunction, fevers, migraine headaches, and even the common cold. In every instance the talismans seemed to improve outcomes; often quite dramatically. As someone who once was studying to become an M.D., I understand how bold these claims sound and I stand behind them.
The prevention of disease and resisting the aging process is a less glamorous side to this system of magic, but I wear talismans for these purposes at all times. When you are young and healthy, talismans which procure love and wealth and vengeance and knowledge and power are the most seductive. When your body doesn’t quite work the way it used to, those priorities shift very quickly. As a former caregiver that is comfortably in his middle age, the use of magic to improve vitality and extend life has been a front burner project for about a decade, and things grow more interesting and promising every year.
Another reason why medical magic fascinates me is that it is results-oriented and in many instances easy to validate. If a technique has a statistically significant rate of improving outcomes in diseases which are hard or impossible to treat, it is one step forward in making the case that magic is not quackery or delusion, but objectively real and of immense value.
The Mystery of Zodiacal Talismans
When I first immersed myself in the study of astrological talismans I was surprised by an unusual omission. Talismans of many sorts for the seven planets had their own recipes; over 70 for the Decans or Faces, well over 100 options for the Lunar Mansions, and many other varieties. But there was no mention of talismans which corresponded to the twelve Zodiacal Signs. I bitterly concluded that this was not accidental; that the Signs themselves had no power unique to them except when combined with a planet or point which activated it. That the Signs were simply too passive in their cosmic function to create viable talismans with unique properties. I was disappointed, but reconciled myself to this interpretation.
When John Michael Greer and Christopher Warnock translated the Picatrix and I began studying it, I finally came across Zodiacal talismans. They weren’t anything I was expecting, however. They were a series of medical talismans, which were designed to repair illnesses which affected different parts of the body: internal and external, by the somewhat shaky medieval understanding of medicine and anatomy. They were generally dependent on the position of the Sun as it passed through the Zodiac, but were otherwise profoundly complex electional recipes. Even more frustrating, most of them seemed to require being made of gold; a metal whose price was fairly high. Their application, however, was simple. One bound the talisman to the appropriate body part and the patient experienced immediate relief. Over an unspecified amount of time, they promised a permanent cure.
During the following years I made various attempts to secure affordable gold plates or foil upon which I could make the more expensive Zodiacal talismans to no avail. My eventual goal was to have a set of all twelve so I could treat the broadest possible range of ailments, but this project was postponed until I could obtain the materials. Every so often I would go back and skim the chapter on Zodiacal talismans, and eventually I made a small discovery.
While it was particularly difficult to distinguish the internal organs cited in Picatrix and their relation to modern understandings of anatomy, external features were far clearer. One which caught my eye was the Aries talisman to heal all infirmities of the head. Not only did this promise help for a wide variety of difficult to treat illnesses in modern medicine, but the recipe did not require pure gold but an alloy of gold and silver that would be far more affordable.
The lure and the problem with Picatrix’s assignment of infirmities of the head is that it’s not immediately obvious which diseases it would actually treat. In the medieval medical model, major clinical depression would be melancholia; a personality type resulting from an excess of black bile in the upper intestines, thus not in the brain at all. Many other diseases that today we identify as neurological would have been assigned to the blood, the liver, or the heart. A stroke which paralyzed a limb would be governed by the Zodiacal Sign of the limb and thus require a different talisman altogether.
Nevertheless, other types of strokes, brain tumors, concussions, migraines, dementia, probably epilepsy and the manic portion of bipolar disorder seem good candidates for being identified with the brain in the medieval model, and treatable using an Aries talisman. Many of these are diseases which are hard to treat, and in some cases quite terrifying.
As soon as I realized that this sort of talisman would be highly valuable and fascinating to create, I began looking for upcoming elections. As I will discuss shortly, the conditions for the election are very uncommon and difficult, but a viable electional window was evident less than a week from the search.
I then went on a frantic mission to find gold-silver alloy disks. I found gold-plated silver disks and ordered them, but they were delayed in transit and arrived a week late. As a backup I ordered several other types of gold disks for engraving, and just in the nick of time a selection of ten gold-plated bronze disks arrived. The materials were imperfect, and the size was much smaller than the formula seemed to require; yet there was no time to obtain better.
Initial experiments with these gold-plated Aries talismans are highly promising, and I am looking for volunteers in the vicinity of the New York City area with relevant ailments to validate their efficacy.
Aries Talismanic Elections
“Hermes Trismegistus explains in his book On Images how to calculate images for each and every part of the human body and under which face of the signs to make them. Take pure gold and make a seal and write on it the image of a lion… Bind the seal around the loins or kidneys. I have tested this, and found that one who does this will not suffer thereafter… This happens likewise for the sufferings of the other members of the body, according to their manner and form, and the appropriate symbolism of the planets…
“Aries. This figure is a ram with no tongue. Its properties are for all the infirmities of the head. While it may be made when the Sun is in the first or third or fifth degree of Aries, this figure will be of no benefit unless it is made when the Moon is waxing or full. These are the conditions of the figure. Saturn and Mars must be direct, Jupiter is not in Aquarius and Venus is not in Virgo, which is the sign of her fall, and Mercury is not in Taurus; make the figure between the first degree of Aries and the fifth degree of the first face, and do not make it in the second face (they have said elsewhere that the second face pertains to the eyes and the third to the ears, whence you must pay attention to the degrees), and when the Sun and Jupiter are completely above the earth; and make it in the hour of the Sun. Others say that it is good in the day and hour of Jupiter. And make it from gold and silver to the weight of 7 grains of common wheat. This is proven.” –Picatrix II:12
The Sun is only in those degrees three days a year. Requiring that the Moon be waxing or full cuts the opportunities roughly in half. Having both the Sun and Jupiter above the earth is less than half of the potential elections; furthermore, Jupiter is on a twelve year cycle through the Zodiac, so one can assume at least seven consecutive years when this election is entirely impossible. Requiring the planetary hour be that of the Sun divides the opportunities into a seventh. The other conditions reduce the chances of this election further, but by smaller amounts. The result of this level of complexity is that one will usually have to wait many years for a minimally viable election.
The Manufacture of Aries Talismans
In the election used, the Sun was Ascending in 4 Aries (the fifth degree) in the Hour and Day of the Sun. The Moon was waxing. Saturn and Mars were direct. Jupiter was Retrograde but not in Aquarius, and Venus was in Aries though not in Virgo, Mercury was Retrograde but not in Taurus and close to the Ascendant. The Sun and Jupiter were above the horizon. Though not cited as a condition, the Moon was in mixed conditions of hard and soft aspects to Benefics and neutral planets. The Moon was very fast, and Angular in the 4th House. The Moon is conjunct the Part of Fortune, albeit separating; I’m not sure how much of a factor this is.
The big problem is that the Sun is besieged by the Malefics. Nevertheless, I felt that with such challenging requirements it might be pardonable and worth a shot. Normally a significator besieged by the Malefics would be prohibitive, but so many other features of the election were positive that I felt that it would compensate. At the worst, the talisman will be less effectual or slow-acting; I do not believe the configuration capable of doing harm because the Moon is making no applying aspects to the Malefics.
There was a flurry of Solar-type talismanic elections recently, so I believe that I used cloves as a suffumigation but may need to revise that later as am no longer certain and my notes are ambiguous.
Ten talismans were made in gold-plated bronze. The image of a ram was inscribed on one side and the sigil of the Sun on the opposite. Inscribing on such a small surface was challenging but I practiced a bit and all of the rams are recognizable as such.
One has been claimed by me, and three have been sewn into Los Angeles Rams baseball caps for use by any number of patients. Aries is a ram, after all. Six remain in storage for different forms of application.
Because there might be concern about the safety of a talisman with a besieged significator I wore one of these talismans under a bandage on my head for about a month and suffered no ill effects. Conversely, it appeared to be effective for my relatively mild medical concerns.
This was an exotic, highly experimental talismanic election which really pushes the boundaries of what even I believed possible in this system of magic. Regardless of the results from these Aries medical talismans, I will continue to make more talismans to improve the health of the user, both of the Zodiacal variety and others which I will describe another time.
The Sun rises in the Second Face of Scorpio in the Hour of the Sun, the Moon is fast and applying to a square of the Sun and then the North Node of the Moon. The North Node is conjunct the Midheaven. The Moon is waning, but this is suitable for the purpose of the talismans. The Descendant is weak, potentially giving more relative power to the Sun on the Ascendant. Since putting fortunes or any dignified planets on the Ascendant and Midheaven require a quartile aspect, I consider this configuration beneficent; this is especially so with the aspects of the quarters of the Moon, with the exception of the combustion of the Moon. The Sun himself applies to a wide conjunction with a benefic, strengthening him a tiny bit. The Moon is applying an aspect to the Ruler of the Sign she is in; this would be better if it were a sextile or trine, but it does add power. It’s a good, solid configuration, if not absolutely perfect.
Picatrix on Face Talismans
For those of you who need a refresher, this is what Picatrix has to say about Faces, also known as Decans:
“Note that each of the twelve signs is divided into three equal parts, and these divisions are called faces. Each of these faces has its own images, forms and figures, as the sages of India have recounted, and to each of the faces is assigned one of the seven planets. These faces are divided and distributed according to the position and order of the planets, beginning at the highest and proceeding in order all the way to the lowest, and then returning to the highest as we will explain. Beginning with Aries, the first face is assigned to Mars, the second to the Sun which follows him in order, the third to Venus who follows the Sun, and the first face of Taurus to Mercury; it proceeds in this way through the order of the planets until the end of the signs. Each of these faces has a nature and image that is appropriate to its lord; and we will present each of the images that arise in each of the faces in the following pages.” –Picatrix II:11
At the end of the section, Picatrix details the somewhat unique requirements for the election of a Face talisman.
“When you make any of images of the faces described above, make them in a material appropriate to the planet that rules the face; then the work will be as we have said– that is, if you make the image when the corresponding planet is present in that face, then that work will be perfect and it will manifest in the world. If it happens that the Sun is rising in the hour of the planet or combines its force with it in a way that you desire, the work will be stable and strong. In what we have said above, beware that the quality of the planet be not overcome by the Sun. If, on the other hand, you understand the reasons for everything that has already been said, the images of the faces we have given will bring about the effects you wish powerfully and completely.” –Picatrix II:11
I have a particular love for Face talismans. I think the greatest secrets of Scholastic Image Magic are hidden within them, and have lectured about some of what I have discovered elsewhere. Although the Second Face of Scorpio is not one which most would leap at; I think it has hidden excellences and is worth another look.
Turmantis, the Second Face of Scorpio
“There rises in the second face of Scorpio a man riding a camel, holding a scorpion in his hand. This is a face of knowledge, modesty, settlement, and of speaking evil of one another. This is its form.” –Picatrix II:11
The ymages of the Faces are constructed by the planetary rulerships of the Signs, sometimes proximal Decans, and the activating planet. The scorpion in the ymage iconography represents the Sign of Scorpio. Camels in general are ruled by the Sun, and so the camel here is the representation of the Sun in the middle of Scorpio. The man may represent the user or may represent Mars, the ruler of Scorpio; this is why in my design I gave him a pointed helmet. The properties of the Face talisman rarely relate directly to the ymage, but instead the interactions of the properties of the activating planet, the Sign ruler, and even the triplicity of the Sign in parallel with the pictorial symbols. So is the case here.
The name Turmantis comes from the Liber Hermetis of the 1st Century. That text largely ascribes each of the 36 Faces to regions of the known world at the time and a series of ymages whose purpose is not described, though one may assume they are for the purpose of gaining benefits in each region. They are one of the few sources which give names to the Faces, and function as the name of the Face’s lord. The spirits of the Faces like it, and it’s more memorable and usually shorter than saying or inscribing or writing X Face of Y.
So, what does it do? Scorpio is probably the least pleasant of all the Decanic triads. The 1st Face is about suffering and anger, and the 3rd is for rape (and should never be used.) The 2nd Face is a mix of good and bad, but there’s definitely bad. Or at least dark.
Speaking evil against another
I chose this election largely because of the first attribute; knowledge. Scorpio often is associated with secrets and the presence of the Greater Luminary, the Sun is the revelation of hidden knowledge.
However, I admit that the fourth attribute is also intriguing. In this era of outrage and memetic warfare, an enhanced capacity for imprecation might not be unhelpful. Or maybe I’ll get some juicy gossip. Here the sting of the scorpion is set ablaze by the fire of the Sun, and a victim’s fame is poisoned into infamy.
Modesty is something we all could benefit from a little. I’m not yet sure why it is an attribute of this Face.
Settlement perhaps suggests peacemaking, or perhaps settling for less? Setting down roots? I’m not sure what that means in this context; Picatrix can sometimes be elusive in this context. It also appears in the attributes of the 1st Face of Scorpio, so perhaps this has more to do with the nature of Scorpio than the particular interaction with the Sun.
Nevertheless, when a Face talisman’s electional configuration is benevolent those qualities will predominate, and when it is malevolent the latter will.
Design of the Talismans of Turmantis
Two talismans were created using large and medium bloodstone cabochons. I placed one on my Sun altar and the other in a black flannel mojo-style bag along with the Solar herbs cinnamon, calamus, and lemongrass. The colors of Turmantis are black, yellow and tan; so I chose a black bag. I wore gold and black during the election; the former representing the Sun and something approximating the yellow for the Face’s second color. The suffumigation was frankincense resin.
Talismans don’t have to be pretty, especially their inscriptions which tend to be invisible if they are scratches on the surface of a gemstone; and this is perfectly functional, and often usefully sneaky. But I drew this using my iPad with my fingertip, an acceptable representation of the marks my stylus made on the slippery gemstone surface. I kind of feel sorry for the camel and the poor guy holding a giant mutant lobster too.
At the top is the name of the Face, Turmantis. At the bottom is the power I most desired, knowledge. It is fairly standard practice to inscribe the purpose of a talisman in this manner as noted in Picatrix if there is space, especially if some of the other powers are less desirable. In the center is a helmeted warrior riding a bactrian camel; he holds a scorpion in his right hand. On the back of the gemstone is an X, normally this is used when the ymage of a celestial hierarchy is unknown, but my goal was to use this to overcome any defects of design. There almost was one.
The sigil I intended to inscribe which appears in purple was intented to be the sigil of Turmantis, which is exactly like what I engraved except it has a third circle at the apex. The sigils of the Faces we derive from charakteres on a Syrian defixio from the 5th or 6th century. Instead, I inscribed the Latin Picatrix sigil of the Sun, which is very similar and easy to confuse at 6 am sans coffee. This might have been a problem in a different configuration, but fortunately placing the sigil of a Face activator on the talisman of a Face is quite appropriate, and even deemed mandatory by Renaissance writers such as Cornelius Agrippa. Close call, but still good. I’m glad I made these for myself.
In any case, let’s see how this project turns out.
THE RINGS OF MEMORY: Fast Moon in Domicile culminating, applying to both Benefics with fortunated Ascendant Benefic Ruler and Benefic in the 1st House.
Scholastic Image Magic arose in medieval monestaries but reached its greatest popularity among medieval and Renaissance physicians, according to contemporary research. It should be little surprise that a great deal of priority was placed on medicinal talismans as well as those which benefit study.
This is a talisman I’ve wanted to make for quite a while; it’s one of several configurations to enhance memory. As someone who optimally burns through about five hundred pages per day, it does me little good if I can’t recall it. Furthermore, I’m just about done wasting hours looking for that missing pen or sock or passage in Cervantes.
If, under the influence of the Moon, you make this sign in the hour of the Moon, with the Moon rising, in emerald, with this stone make a seal in incense and give it to a man for good memory, and to retain knowledge. –Picatrix Book II:10
Recently Chris Warnock was ruminating about the nebulous functions for standard Moon talismans, as opposed to Lunar Mansion talismans. He’s correct that the texts are a bit evasive, but I think it’s because the authors were assuming it was obvious and familiar to all readers. I’ve dug through the canonical literature at length, and I’ve come to some conclusions.
Improve memory, and in some configurations cause forgetfulness. The waxing and waning of the Moon signifies the transitory nature of memory. Other planets co-rule memory to a lesser degree, but it is primarily an attribute of the Moon. (One would be mistaken to assume waxing is always the retention of memory and waning is its loss, however.)
Cure the illnesses of infants, and sometimes older children. A very useful talisman if you’re a parent or a physician, but I’m neither so this is of limited interest to me.
Increase alertness and endurance, especially while traveling. The Moon signifies speed because it is the most rapid planet; it also signifies journeys. Before modernity, a Moon talisman would be used by a traveler to walk many miles without ever becoming tired. It would also be valuable for students who want to immerse themselves in lore deep into the night without forgetfulness.
Impart influence over mobs and riots, to gather and disperse them. The group consciousness of rioters is well known to be associated with the Moon; a social lunacy.
Improve likeability and influence over others, especially when the Moon is very essentially dignified. The Moon is always the cosignificator of the Self, and by adding essential dignity to any significator one gains influence, authority, and trust.
It’s very hard to find standard Lunar talisman elections because the rapidity of the Moon gives only one real chance daily for any configuration. Furthermore, Picatrix seems to indicate that the Moon should not be configured on the Ascendant, leaving only the Midheaven as the only reasonable alternative.
The difficulty of finding a valid Lunar election is why I was willing to produce these four rings during an extremely narrow eight minute electional window when the Moon was between 8 and 6 degrees of the Midheaven, never quite breaking into the 5 degrees that Ptolemy mentions before the arrival of Saturn Hour. I’ve already noticed its effects, so I know it’s working.
As noted before, the Moon was making loose aspects to the Benefics, the Ascendant Ruler was essentially dignified, and a benefic was in the 1st House. I particularly liked the high speed of the Moon, which I’ve come to believe is more impactful than Lunar phase in most instances. I believe this will contribute to the strength of the memory enhancement.
Four talismanic rings were ensouled, for the time window was short. The gemstones were emerald as required, and the band was silver—the metal of the Moon. I consulted with tarot for advice on the herb matrix under the gemstone and the suffumigation. The herb beneath the ring was black poppy seed—a Lunar herb—which has associations with the mind and mental states. The suffumigation was amber, which I believe signified the preservation of memory, like an insect preserved in amber.
Rather than use the primary talismans to create secondary talismans out of incense, as the instructions suggest, my goal was simply to make rings. This is partially because I was not casting in silver to make a negative talismanic mold for the incense, and because that seems to me a project best saved for when the Moon is within five degrees of the Midheaven. I may choose to make memory incense with these, but that is not my intention now.
There are many unusual talismanic recipes in Picatrix and other canonical texts of SIM. Some may puzzle you, but rather than dismiss them as aberrations I believe they have much to teach us about the nature of the spiritual universe. They also frequently have powers which you may think are irrelevant to your needs today, but will reveal their value tomorrow.
That’s advice you’ll definitely benefit from remembering.
TALISMANS OF TRUST: Extremely dignified Mercury Ascending in Virgo with the North Node, with the Moon applying to a conjunction of Jupiter.
This project was full of all kinds of surprises, great and slightly bad.
My lost emerald cabochon which popped out of its ring at ConVocation and I’d deemed lost forever was found right before the election taped to the side of a box with packing tape. I’ve observe that I often lose a talisman when the planet it’s based upon is in Fall, and I recover it when it is Exalted. That’s seemingly what happened here. My lost Mercury spirit came back home, right on schedule.
And then, about 4/5ths of the way through the electional window– after I’d engraved the ymages but right before I added the vegetal component– my street had an hour long blackout. So I had to finish the project by candlelight. I did end up adding the herbs to the rings after the planetary hour had ended, but thinking quickly I dipped the rings in a tea of the herb and finished the whole thing before Mercury was fully off the Ascendant. I think it should be fine. Other than that, this was a pretty great election.
Mercury was greatly essentially dignified. In Domicile, Exaltation, and Term. Mercury was making a loose sextile to a Benefic and moving reasonably fast. The Moon was slow but waxing and applying to conjoin with Jupiter (finally Direct and gaining speed.) For the early part of the election, the North Node was on the Ascendant, adding much good fortune. The Moon’s Sign Ruler was succedent, which is good. The Moon’s Mansion is suitable for works of love and friendship, which seems compatible as well. The electional window was about thirty minutes for engraving, cut off a bit by the end of the planetary hour.
For the larger talismans I chose the Picatrix frog acceptability talisman in Picatrix II:10.
If, under the influence of Mercury, you make the figure of a single frog on the hour of Mercury, with Mercury rising, in an emerald stone, whoever carries it will offend no one. To the contrary, everyone you meet will speak well of you and say good things about your works.
“MERCURY” was engraved across the middle of the frog, though in one instance the word was placed on the back.
For the smaller, I used the Latin Picatrix Mercury sigil, which resembles the standard Mercury symbol but has a stem between the “horns” and circle, and the lower cruciform portion is slightly squashed.
For the herb below the rings I used aniseed. For suffumigation I used gum arabic, cloves and myrtle. It did not burn terribly easily, but it worked after a few tries.
The incantation was the standard long version of the Picatrix Mercury petition.
Six emerald ring talismans in gold wire were made. One additional green agate ring talisman with gold-filled wire was made. One moss agate tie clip talisman was made. Two loose brown agate cabochon talismans were made– brown agates protect against injuries, especially if made into talismans. A pair of very unusual lodestone/magnetite talismanic cufflinks were made. And finally, one large emerald cabochon talisman was made.
Ultimately only the cufflinks got the sigil. The remainder all got the Mercury frog, even the brown agates.
THE RINGS OF THE FORTUNATE MYSTIC: Fortunated Moon applying to conjoin Alcyone culminating with the North Node Ascending in Perfection.
I’d long ago nearly given up on finding a good Pleiades talismanic election, but stumbled across this one so close to the date that I’m glad that I’d ordered a few quartz crystal rings for another project recently or I’d have missed a treasure!
This one was quite worth waiting for.
Alcyone culminates, the Moon is very fast and she applies to a fortunate aspect of a benefic, albeit out-of-Sign. The Ascendant Ruler is fast and likewise applying to a benefic. The aspect is sextile which is closely connected to Venus, the benefic in question. The Moon is separating from a conjunction with Algol, but I think that’s safe.
Finally, and most excellently, the North Node is exactly on the Ascendant. Ka-pow!
The petition was similar to what I posted recently for fortunate travel by air, with only a few lines yanked.
Now, the most extensive instructions on how to create a Pleiades talisman comes from the Quindecim Stellis, but there are similar details in Agrippa and in the Confessio Amantis.
“Fennel seed with frankincense and quicksilver placed under a crystal with the appropriate character [engraved on it], with the Moon conjunct the Pleiades rising or at midheaven, preserves the eyesight, summons demons and the spirits of the dead, calls the winds, and reveals secrets and things that are lost. “
The left sigil is from the Quindecim Stellis text and the right is from Agrippa. I tend to use the more complex Quindecim Stellis versions unless pressed for time. Most people seem to think the Agrippa sigils are degenerate and certainly date more recently.
Above the sigil I engraved the name of the angel of the Pleiades from the Greek Magical Papyri, ZIZAUBIO, and below it I engraved the common sigil of the North Node of the Moon.
Now, the big problem with Pleiades talismans is that quicksilver is a deadly poison. Tarot divination has led me to believe that a passable substitute for this talisman are poppy seeds, perhaps because of the fever dreams opium can produce. It works well enough as far as I can tell.
Four snow quartz cabochon gemstones set in sterling silver wire rings were used. I mixed the poppy seeds with glue along with fennel seeds and frankincense grains below the gemstones towards the end of the electional window. The suffumigation was predominately frankincense but fennel and poppy were included as well.
Eat Me: Magical Recipes in Medieval Astrological Magic
Though better known for the creation of talismans, medieval and Renaissance astrological magic texts contain further recipes and instructions. Many are intended to be consumed, buried, or burned, with numerous purposes and means of creation. Yet they all point towards a forgotten view of the universe and magic. From counting olive pips to cure illnesses to the creation of wax talismans or incense pills for evocation and influence, such mysteries depend on the philosophies of Al Kindi and his contemporaries. Explore how the outlook of the ancients can enhance our spiritual practices.
Astrological talismans from the Scholastic Image Magic tradition often seem as challenging to make as they are powerful. After electing the window of time in which a talisman can be created, one must confect incenses, select appropriate sigils, and obtain tools and materials for the talismans. We will discuss how to create a talismanic laboratory, the process of practical considerations including choosing the best combinations, knowing which substitutions do and don’t work, and time and money saving strategies. Take the theory of talismans into real life creations and applications.
On Friday, February 24th at 4:00pm–
About Time: Basic Chart Calculation
Invaluable to numerous systems of magic, the astrological horoscope is a Swiss army knife for divination, classical medicine, and much else. One of the most advanced achievements of the ancient world, the horoscope can often be perplexing for beginners. This class will focus on the basics of erecting a horoscope chart. We will attempt to demystify the process and render the math easy, while also explaining the essentials of its parts, some of history of its development, and the rationale of the chart from the traditional (pre-1750 AD) perspective.
On Saturday February 25th at 4:00pm–
Fearless Magical Protection
It’s a jungle out there. In most magical systems one of the first things you are taught is basic protection against spiritual attacks, and for good reason. A magical life is a perilous one at times. As you become more proficient, the need for protection grows and takes new forms. This class will survey practical methods of protection from a variety of spiritual systems and methodologies. Some of these techniques are unpublished anywhere and likely to be unfamiliar, but have proven very effective. Magical protection will help secure your success.
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