Secret Powers of the Sun in Astrological Magic

Solar Sapphires, Planetary Antipathies, and Substitutions

The Book of Secrets

Introduction

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.

Sunrise by the seashore

Ascent to the Sun of the Wise

Solar Sapphire Talismans

Horoscope of Sun Exalted Talismans on April 13th 2018

Horoscope of Sun Exalted Talismans on April 13th 2018

 

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.

Blue sapphire cabochon in a gold ring

Blue sapphire cabochon in a gold ring

“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.

 

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.

Liber Rubeus edition of the Greer-Warnock Picatrix

Liber Rubeus edition of the Greer-Warnock Picatrix

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.

Blue Sapphire Cabochons

Blue Sapphire Cabochons

Analyzing the Solar Virtues of Sapphires

Solar sapphire talismans have the following powers:

  1. They neutralize poisons.
  2. They protect against contagious diseases i.e. “pestilential vapors.”
  3. They render the bearer safe from harm.
  4. They render the bearer inoffensive and pleasant.
  5. They attract riches.
  6. They magnify skills.
  7. They grant courage and health or “strengthen the heart.”
  8. 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:

  1. Saturn rules poisons
  2. Saturn rules contagious diseases.
  3. Saturn rules infirmity.
  4. Saturn rules ugliness and things which are essentially unpleasant.
  5. Saturn rules poverty and desperation, in spite of the co-rulership of gold.
  6. Saturn rules senility and stupefaction.
  7. Saturn rules fear and cowardice.
  8. 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.

Black Sapphire Cabochon

Black Sapphire Cabochon

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.

Jupiter with Saturn

Jupiter with Saturn

“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

Venus with Mars

Venus with Mars

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

The Lunar Cycle

The Lunar Cycle

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.”

ig430()

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.

Echo and the Bunnymen: The Killing Moon

(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

And elsewhere:

“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.

aHR0cDovL3d3dy5zcGFjZS5jb20vaW1hZ2VzL2kvMDAwLzA1Ny8zNTcvb3JpZ2luYWwvQ3Jlc2NlbnQtTW9vbi1uZWxzb24uanBn

 

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.

A road leading to a sunrise

In Conclusion

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.

velas-luto.jpg

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Magic Ring

Sauron’s Ring

Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.

The One Ring

Introduction

The most famous magical ring in the past century is without a doubt a fictional one; Sauron’s ring in Tolkien’s popular Middle Earth series, starting with The Hobbit, and then The Lord of the Rings trilogy. If you haven’t read the books you’ve probably seen the movies, or at least the trailers.

Tolkien based this artifact and plot device on several legends of magical rings from different cultures, but there is some circumstantial evidence that a hitherto undiscovered influence comes from the canon of Scholastic Image Magic which Tolkien would have been familiar with; directly or indirectly, through close colleagues.

It has been an ambition of mine to create a series of rings using the formula that probably inspired Tolkien, and this is the first of a sequence of blog entries which will cover my creation of two sets of rings of this type and a third which is closely related and was created along with the second and arguably superior election.

One Ring To Rule Them All

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

Tolkien’s notion of The One Ring and similar magical artifacts evolved over time, so that Gollum’s lost “precious” ring of invisibility is portrayed differently than in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It evolved from a simple ring of invisibility to an intelligent shapeshifting talismanic repository of the spirit of the dark lord Sauron; capable of making the wearer mighty and swaying nations, extending life in a variety of unnatural manners, and revealing a shadow plane where monsters dwelt. It also had the power to command the wearers of lesser rings whose manufacture Sauron had perverted, most memorably those which belonged to the nine Nazgûl, or Ringwraiths. It is clear that he drew from numerous mythic and fictional sources for its powers and origins, two of which deserve some special attention.

Antecedents to Tolkien’s Ring

The ring of Gyges from an edition of Plato's Republic

The ring of Gyges from an edition of Plato’s Republic

The nigh-archetypical ring of invisibility appears in Plato’s Republic, where the story of an ancestor of Gyges, a Lydian shepherd, is recounted. In the midst of a discussion about justice and incentives, Plato’s brother Glaucon tells a story of how in the absence of accountability both normally good and bad people would choose to behave unjustly. While tending his flock, the anonymous shepherd discovered a tomb in a mountainside after a violent thunderstorm had opened a chasm. In it he found a bronze sarcophagus in the shape of a horse, which when opened revealed a body of a giant with a golden ring on its finger. He took the ring as a prize, and later discovered that when he turned the collet towards his palm he became unseen, and when facing it outward he became visible again. In short order, he exploited this power to seduce the queen and usurp the king and establish a great dynasty of his own. In this story we see for the first time a ring that endows invisibility and rulership; however, the rulership here is described as an unfolding of the abuse of the ring’s power rather than a power in and of itself. The ring has some kind of signet or gem, unlike Sauron’s ring.

A scene from Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

A scene from Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Another obvious influence comes from Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. In this cycle of music dramas, a villainous dwarf named Alberich steals gold from the Rhine maidens and crafts it into a magic ring with the power to rule the world. Gods, giants and heroes fight over the possession of the ring for the rest of the story leading to epic tragedies, until escalating mayhem finally leads to the destruction of Valhalla and the death of all of the gods. The conflict on a cosmic scale definitely echoes The Lord of the Rings. The ring itself does not have the power of invisibility, but the cycle is based somewhat loosely on the Middle High German text the Nibelungenleid where a cloak of great might and invisibility is a plot element and the fate of an (unenchanted) ring leads to the tragic death of many heroes. However, reminiscent of Sauron’s ring, the power of Alberich’s ring in Wagner comes from rune-magic or taufr, which is sometimes translated as talisman. When touched by flame, Sauron’s ring reveals a verse in the language of Mordor describing the powers of the ring. “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them; One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.” Though this verse does not endow the ring with power, it is conspicuous to its appearance. Certainly, the ring of power in Der Ring des Nibelungen looks a lot more like Tolkien’s ring than the one in Plato. Mystical inscriptions are important; in Plato they are absent.

There are surely additional sources which inspired the fictional ring which I do not know about or do not have the time to cover here.

Agrippa’s Solar Ring

Henry Cornelius Agrippa

Henry Cornelius Agrippa

An additional inspiration which I believe has been overlooked are the instructions for a magical ring suspiciously similar to Tolkien’s fictive talisman in one of the most influential books of magic in history; Three Books of Occult Philosophy of Henry Cornelius Agrippa, in a chapter on the things falling under the hierarchy of the Sun. One reason why it has been overlooked is that the widespread translation from Latin into English by the anonymous J.F. in 1651 is fairly bad, and uses antiquated English that is hard for modern readers to penetrate.

First, here is the passage in the popular translation:

“Also the Stone Heliotropion green like the Jasper, or Emrald, beset with red specks, makes a man constant, renowned, and famous, also it conduceth to long life: And the vertue of it indeed is most wonderfull upon the beams of the Sun, which it is said to turn into blood, to appear of the colour of blood, as if the Sun were eclypsed, viz. When it is joyned to the juice of a Hearb of the same name, and be put into a vessell of Water: There is also another vertue of it more wonderfull, and that is upon the eyes of men, whose sight it doth so dim, and dazel, that it doth not suffer him that carries it to see it, & this it doth not do without the help of the Hearb of the same name, which also is called Heliotropium, following the Sun. These vertues doth Albertus Magnus, and William of Paris confirm in their writings.”

A few years ago, my friend Eric Purdue completed a new translation of Agrippa from Latin to remedy the shortcomings of the J.F. translation and document all of its sources. Here is the new, clearer version of the relevant passage:

“Likewise the stone heliotrope, green in the manner of jasper or emerald with starry red drops, makes one constant, glorious and famous, and brings long life. It also has a wonderful virtue that if it is in the Sun’s rays, it is said to change into blood; that is, it appears to be like blood as if the Sun suffered an eclipse—evidently when it is anointed with the juice of the herb of the same name and is placed in a vessel of water filled with water. There is another more wonderful virtue in the eyes of men, which offends the sight and blinds the vision so that it will not permit men to see those who bear it; yet it doesn’t happen without the help of the herb of the same name, which is also called heliotrope, that is, following the Sun. These virtues are confirmed in the writings of Albertus Magnus and William of Auvergne.”

In the new translation of Agrippa, it is far clearer that this recipe for a talisman endows three powers which seldom coincide in any literature; the power of rulership, longevity, and invisibility.

Pliny the Elder

Pliny the Elder

Most of the properties listed originally come from Pliny the Elder’s The Natural History including its pairing with the herb of the same name. The associations with it preserving health and youth come from Damigeron in his De Virtutibus Lapidum. This stone’s power of invisibility is cited later in Boccaccio’s Decameron. It all comes together in Agrippa.

Within the context of Agrippa, it is strongly implied that the gemstone’s power is especially activated if made into an elected astrological talisman. If made into a magical ring, the band would naturally be made of gold; the metal with the greatest sympathy to the Sun.

In spite of featuring a gemstone, this magical ring would otherwise be such a close match for Sauron’s ring that it cannot be a coincidence.

 

The Inklings

The Inklings

 

The next question is whether J.R.R. Tolkien would have been familiar with the writings of Cornelius Agrippa. He probably was, but he may not have needed to. He was a member of a prestigious Oxford literary society called the Inklings, devoted to the popularization of fantasy literature. What made this group interesting in our context is that at least three of its prominent members were either practicing magicians or were deeply invested in the literature of Neoplatonic magic. Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis, and Evelyn Underhill would all have been familiar with Agrippa—possibly even the Latin version– and probably would have cited the passage to Tolkien if he had not already found it himself.

Creating Agrippa’s Ring

A bloodstone ring with a gold setting

A bloodstone ring with a gold setting

Now that we have established that the Solar talisman in Agrippa is a close match for Sauron’s ring, we have to dig into the details in order to discern how it might be created in real life.

It has been a long-standing fascination of mine to attempt to reconstruct magics from ancient times which have spectacular, even miraculous effects. I believe that there are many reasons why modern magic seldom produces radical transformations and manifestations, like turning lead into gold, flying carpets, monstrous apparitions, and changes of form. Generally, it is because a number of key elements in the practice of magic degenerated or were hastily purged from the practice of magic from the Renaissance on to the Industrial Revolution. One of the most conspicuous deletions was the usage of traditional electional astrology, and another was the emphasis on the occult properties of herbal, mineral and animal materials. This experiment attempts to restore two of these components in a harmonious and highly intriguing way.

Most scholars agree that the stone Agrippa refers to is modern bloodstone. It is a green jasper with red spots that resemble blood. What is more contentious is the herb; there is a variety of flower called heliotrope today, but Claude Lecouteax believes it corresponds to modern chicory in his Lapidary of Sacred Stones—without explaining his rationale in detail. In the Quindecim Stellis, heliotrope flowers are an ingredient in talismans of Procyon while chicory is an ingredient in talismans of Alkaid. They are distinct. This compact grimoire is roughly from the fifteenth century and is probably from England; it precedes Agrippa by at least a generation. It’s not absolutely clear what herb Pliny the Elder meant, but Agrippa probably believed it was modern heliotrope and not chicory.

Chicory flowers

Chicory flowers

Heliotrope flowers

Heliotrope flowers

That is fortunate for me, being that I recently grew and harvested a bag full of dried heliotrope flowers for my Procyon rings and had quite a bit left over. When reading this passage in Agrippa a few months ago, I realized that I could easily obtain the materials required for the creation of these talismanic rings, and set forth to seek viable elections. I found two.

First Sun in Aries Talismanic Election

Horoscope of Sun Exalted Talismans on April 4th 2018

Horoscope of Sun Exalted Talismans on April 4th 2018

 

Reference talismanic Image of a baron on a four-horse chariot holding a mirror in his right hand and a shield in his left.

Reference talismanic Image of a baron on a chariot from Picatrix.

 

The first election on April 4, 2018 featured the Sun in exaltation in Aries, which is the preferred configuration for fame and elevation into high honors according to Picatrix. There hasn’t been a good one in several years, and I’ve definitely been looking. The Sun was also in triplicity as this was a diurnal election.

The Sun was unafflicted and culminating in his planetary Hour. The Ascendant was Cancer so the Moon served as secondary and tertiary significators. The Moon was slow, but not prohibitively, and applying to a trine of Mercury and a far looser trine with the Sun. The Moon was also in the Fifth House, which is a very favorable House, adding accidental dignity. The Sign of the Moon is her own, so she cannot be cadent and thus render the long term outcome unfortunate.

Four bloodstone rings in gold bands were used, with marjoram and heliotrope flowers glued beneath the cabochon. An ymage of a baron in a chariot drawn by four horses, holding a mirror in the right hand a shield in the left, was selected from Picatrix. The suffumigation was cloves. The smallest ring provided too little surface area for the baronial ymage, so I used the sigils of the Sun, the word “SUN” and the sigil of the Intelligence of the Sun (Nakhiel) above the rest. One was claimed for myself and three are available for friends and clients.

Second Sun in Aries Talismanic Election

Horoscope of Sun Exalted Talismans on April 13th 2018

Horoscope of Sun Exalted Talismans on April 13th 2018

 

Reference image for the sigil of Nakhiel over the common sigil of the Sun.

Reference image for the sigil of Nakhiel over the common sigil of the Sun.

 

The second election on April 13, 2018 featured the Sun in exaltation again, but Ascending before dawn in the Hour of the Sun. The Sun again was unafflicted. The Moon was slow and cadent, but in a configuration that I call “triumphing” that is the reverse of besiegement by the Malefics. The Moon was separating from a sextile of Venus and applying to a trine of Jupiter, strengthening her greatly. Furthermore, the Moon was in Pisces while applying to perfect a trine with Jupiter. Picatrix says in Book II chapter 3: “Thus when the lord of the Moon’s house regards the Moon by a friendly aspect, even if it is an infortune, it will be favorable for petitions and in all that you wish to do.” Even though Jupiter was Retrograde, this configuration is very favorable. The Ruler of the Moon’s Sign was angular and not cadent, avoiding a bad outcome. Even though the Sun was not in Triplicity, I believe the Moon’s configuration in the second election makes it superior to the first.

It also happened to be my grandmother’s birthday, so I paid homage to her spirit before reciting the abbreviated petition to the Sun and engraving. Four bloodstone in gold rings were used. The suffumigation was ginger, and heliotrope flowers and gum mastic were glued underneath the cabochons. Three out of four bloodstone rings were claimed by myself; one will go to a friend or a client. The inscriptions were those of the Intelligence of the Sun Nakhiel over the common sigil of the Sun.

Three additional Solar talismans were made before the electional window closed; two rings and a loose gemstone cabochon. These will be covered in the next post as their composition is worth discussing separately.

I will also use the opportunity to discuss some additional insights related to the special properties of Solar talismanic elections, which are unique out of all the seven planets.

In Conclusion

Bloodstone cabochons

Bloodstone cabochons

So, at this point you’re probably wondering if I’ve tested out the rings and seen if they work. I have, at least a little. Merely having dried heliotrope flowers under the cabochon doesn’t seem to trigger that effect; chicory juice and rotating the collet have not yet been tested.

What has occurred is that I feel healthier and more vigorous than I have in years, and the analytics show that my online presence is undergoing an incredible spike in attention from all around the world. I don’t have an adequate explanation for it other than the ring.

I aspire to report further developments as my experiences with these talismans unfold in the months and years to come. I am very optimistic.

In the meantime, tune in next week and read about the other set of Solar talismans I created—which I find just as fascinating as these. I hope you will too.

See you later.

See you later.

Magic of the Lunar Mansions

Magic of the Lunar Mansions @ ConVocation 2018

 

 

The Arabic Mansions of the Moon are often described as a Lunar Zodiac; a division of the passage of the Moon into 28 zones, about one per day.

Each “Manzil” foretells the life of those born under it, but plays an important role in the creation of talismans in the tradition of Scholastic Image Magic.

Picatrix, Cornelius Agrippa and many other grimoires detail their astrologically timed creation for countless purposes.

These talismans are perhaps the simplest examples of this system, explaining their ubiquity. In this class we will discuss how to select and make basic Mansion talismans.

If you find this video useful, please subscribe to http://sorcerer.blog and http://www.youtube.com/GrimoireTV , give thumbs up and Like posts. Your feedback matters.

Spellbound: Love Magic Through the Ages

Spellbound: Love Magic Through the Ages @ ConVocation 2018

 

Love magic is arguably the most universally practiced form of practical magic. Different spiritual traditions approach love magic differently and reveal their worldview through the way they bring two (or more) people together.

It’s often said that all magic is love magic; that cosmic eros is the sacred principle which orders all reality. But taking the abstract and putting it into practice is often tricky, and ultimately none of that matters without results.

In this lecture we will survey the different goals and methods used in several traditions of magic and highlight those which have a reputation for strong results.

If you find this video useful, please subscribe to http://sorcerer.blog and http://www.youtube.com/GrimoireTV , give thumbs up and Like posts. Your feedback matters.

Magic Rings of Procyon, the Lesser Dog Star

Talismans Which Endow Favor Over All, Enhance Magic and Health

threemaidens

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

2017-09-15-procyon2

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.

The King Solomon Incident

Talismans, Pentacles, Contagions, and Other Hidden Things Revealed

A Trip to the Museum

A couple of months back I was at a local magic convention and an old friend of mine from days of yore lectured on ancient Egyptian mythology and magic in such a righteous way that the mummies themselves would have sat up and applauded if they could. Another friend drove down with me, and when we looked for things to do while she was in town we found out that the American Museum of Natural History in New York had an exhibition on mummies, both Egyptian and Peruvian. It seemed more than coincidental, and so we spent a free day at the museum.

juanita

As an adult, my favorite museum is certainly the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But as a kid, my second home was the AMNH. Going back there and revisiting all the old classics was truly a lot of fun. It’s a sprawling place, and easy to forget the sheer artistry of the aquatic fauna sculptures, the scale of the dinosaur bones, the occasional very badly-preserved stuffed animal, and the section on climate, ecology, and agriculture. I get something different out of every visit.

The Hall of Gems piqued my interest this time because of my interest in medieval lapidaries and talismans.  In particular, I  fell in love with the giant yellow sulfur crystals and the shimmering aquamarine jewelry. Not that interesting magically, but aesthetically nourishing. It’s a shame that they’re going to completely remodel it; it had a wonderful retro-futuristic feel.

In any case, we went to the mummy exhibition and it was a lot of fun. In addition to a variety of human Egyptian mummies were a few sacrificial animal mummies. My mother was an unrepentant Egyptophile, so I was immersed in much of this since birth—and once even took a cruise down the Nile.

Equal time was given to the Peruvian mummies and mummification techniques. I’ve been to Peru and Machu Picchu, and one of my favorite books remains Patrick Tierney’s The Highest Altaran exploration of human sacrifice in ancient and modern times, using Inca mummies as a fulcrum. The exhibit even gave me an idea for a magical project or two, now in the works. (They do not involve human remains. They may involve other remains.)

The Magic Gift Shoppe

bast-anubis

Somewhat predictably, the exit of the exhibit led directly to a gift shop brimming over with Egyptian mementoes. Knowing that the Bast plushie, the scarab refrigerator magnet, or Anubis pendant could all be fun décor but equally repurposed into genuine magical objects justified a spending spree. Our cradled arms were full when we went approached the cash register and put down the subjects of our inflamed avarice.

The cashier did not initially catch my attention, partially because we were distracted with our booty and because she was wearing work clothes and did not stand out. But I caught her attention it seemed.

She stared at the selection of purchases, and then her eyes shot to my hands on the counter, and then back and forth. Something was going on.

As some of you know, I wear gemstone rings on all of my fingers (and swap them out every so often). They sometimes attract attention, but they almost never are recognized for what they are: exceptionally powerful talismans, homes or bodies for celestial spirits which assist me in many things.

“You shouldn’t let people touch your rings,” she said sotto voce. “They will lose their power if other people touch them.” She spoke with great sincerity and urgency. She was right, of course. When I began wearing talismanic rings, I would refuse to shake people’s hands out of concern the rings would become inert and the spirits would leave. Chris Warnock urged me to never let anyone touch my talismanic pendants, but he never quite knew what to do about unique problem of magical rings; I was left to figure all that out for myself.

This isn’t an uncommon notion in ceremonial magic; the classic grimoires require that your blasting rod, black-handled knife, athanor, lamens, swords and so forth be made by your own hands from scratch, and that nobody ever touches them but yourself or they will cease to function. Victorian era lodge ceremonialism retains a less-strict version of this too. Mojo bags and jack balls in Hoodoo have similar prohibitions. Astrological talismans are not terribly different, but they do pose social problems in a culture where refusing an extended hand causes an immediate affront. And often an irreparable first impression.

Eventually I began wearing gloves at all times—replacing one horrible problem with a slightly lesser one—and after years of experimentation finally discovered that there was in fact a way to protect talismans from the perils foreign contact. (This turned out to be, somewhat arbitrarily, rings of the 13th Mansion of the Moon. Arcane secret revealed, right here right now).

I was in a state of partial disbelief that the cashier not only recognized my rings as magical, but that she knew magical rings would be imperiled by the touch of others. It is not common knowledge, nor uncontroversial.

I quickly surmised that she had profiled me from my selection of items—it’s even possible that she had scoped them out for herself at one point or other. They were virtually all replicas of magical tools which could easily be turned into the real things. Then again, ankhs and such aren’t actually that weird in this day and age.

That still didn’t explain her absolute confidence that my rings were special. The only way to explain that was that she was able to perceive that they were metaphysically active. She was very likely a practitioner, and a very capable one too.

Yet it was still somewhat possible that she was a New Ager who was fond of crystals, and was about to prescribe soaking them in salt water overnight to purge them of bad energy. Just because you can maybe sense something doesn’t mean you know what it truly is.

I attempted to reassure her that I knew the danger of contact with “things like these” and had found a solution, but I don’t think she quite processed that such a thing was possible. Her response was rather marvelous.

“I keep mine hidden.” She tapped her chest and I could hear the jangle of jewelry. “That way, nobody can touch.”

She leaned in. “King Solomon,” she said, with much gravity.

I gaped a little. I really needed to be sure.

“Do you mean like a pendant with King Solomon’s image on it, or do you mean the Pentacles of King Solomon?” I said.

“The latter” she replied, with a conspiratorial grin.

“I have those too!” I said, and tapped my own chest and jangled right back at her.

We laughed together.

All right, then.

The Pentacles of Solomon are either astrological talismans themselves, or something very similar to them, depending on whom you ask and how they are made.

At that point the people behind us in line were getting restless and I didn’t want to cause her to lose her job, so we quickly moved on. I really should have given her my card. She was capital C Cool.

The whole incident was intense but dreamlike. I was giddy to find a fellow practitioner in an wholly unexpected place. I was also a little startled that I could be spotted so easily.

Normally, even at magic conventions people don’t know what the heck my rings are unless they are explained in detail. They also don’t give off power that most practitioners can detect unless they’re very familiar with the tradition and know what to look for.

Apparently, if you’ve worked in some varieties of Solomonic practice, you can develop that faculty. Which is a good thing to know.

We are everywhere. Hiding in plain sight.

A very memorable encounter.

Pentacle_of_Jupiter_Talisman_Amulet_from_Key_of_Solomon_2__57243.1429732537.1280.1280

Magic Rings of Seduction

Creation of Powerful Carnelian and Gold Venus Talisman Rings

 

2017-10-14-venus-good

Electional Configuration

This was a particularly superb election for Venus; so excellent in fact, that I went through some extraordinary efforts and even a few personal sacrifices. What was so good about it to make me jump through flaming hoops?

First, we have Venus in her Rulership in Libra culminating. Not just in Libra, but the first degree of Libra—which is an accidental fortunation in the same way that the final two degrees of any Sign are unfortunate.

Second, the Moon is in a phenomenal state. She is fast, and applying a benevolent aspect to the Ruler of the Sign she is in; something Picatrix says is fantastic for any election. She is also applying to conjoin the North Node of the Moon. That’s spectacular.

Third, the Ruler of the Ascendant is Jupiter, who while peregrine is in the House of his Joy (the 11th) and in the 1st degree of a Sign. Great accidental dignifications!

There are a few negatives which deserve attention, but no election is perfect.

Venus is making no applying aspects.

Saturn is in the 1st House and in a malefic decan; but he’s not on the Ascendant and Lilly like most Renaissance astrologers deem Saturn to be acceptable in the 1st House generally. It is also Saturn’s day, which I feel pays the ferryman off, to an extent.

The Moon is also making a trine to Saturn, and she is waning; something Picatrix says reduces the afflictions of the Moon by Saturn. Any aspect to Saturn generally weakens a planet, however. At least Saturn is not retrograde!

The waning here is overall positive, because it diminishes the influences of Saturn; especially over time. Lunar phase alone never makes or breaks an election, in my estimation.

Jupiter is under the Sun’s Beams but not in combustion. I tend to think this is a moderate affliction.

The uncommon positives easily outweigh the less impressive negatives. This election is a juggernaut of sexy. Nothing’s gonna stop that lady!

The Powers of Venus

Picatrix describes the natural rulership of Venus in this way:

Venus is the source of the power of flavor. And she rules grammar and the art of measuring sound and song. Among languages she has Arabic; among the internal organs, the right nostril, and among internal organs, those that meet in sexual intercourse and project sperm, and the stomach, and those from which come the virtue and flavor in eating and drinking; among religion, Islam; among clothing, all painted clothing; and of professions, all professions of painting and shaping, selling things that smell good, playing instruments that are good to listen to, singing, dancing and making stringed instruments; among flavors, all sweet things that taste good; and of places, place of vice, places in which men seek healing, and in which men dance, and places of cheerfulness where there is singing and speech, and places of ladies and beautiful women, and also places of eating and drinking; and of precious stones, pearls, and of rocks, lapis lazuli and almartach; and of plants, all plants with a good odor like saffron and arhenda, roses and all flowers with a good odor and smell and are pleasant to look at; among medicines balsam and grains of julep, and those that emit a strong smell, such as nutmeg and amber; among animals, females, camels that are beautiful and all beautiful animals with symmetrical bodies such as gazelles, sheep, gazelles, hares, partridges, calandras and the like. Among small animals, she has those that are colorful and beautiful; among colors, sky blue and gold tending a little to green.

One of the emphases in Picatrix which is often less clear elsewhere is that Venus governs music and song in particular. This is why sometimes on talismanic ymages, Venus is depicted as having the head of a bird, because birds sing.

A similar but perhaps more interesting section appears elsewhere in the text:

Venus is cold and moist, and a fortune. She signifies cleanliness, splendor, preciousness, word games, delight in music, joy, adornments, laughter, pictures, beauty, loveliness, playing music by the voice or stringed instruments; delighting in marriage, desiring spices and things that have good odors; sending dreams; provoking games of chess and dice; desiring to lie with women and to fall in love with them and receiving promises from them; desiring to appear beautiful, loving liberty, magnanimity of heart, and joy. She abhors anger, brawling, vengeance, and lawsuits; she desires to serve the desires and wills of friends concerning the world’s opinion; tends toward false promises; is inclined to cupidity; desires to drink much; incessantly desires much copulation, and of shameful kinds, and to do it in inappropriate places, as women are accustomed to do with one another; delighting in animals and children and in making them good; making things equal; delighting in merchants and living with them and being loved by their women; and that they may be delighted by men. When she is well received, she plays a part in the making of crowns, building stables and working in stone, having sweet speech, disdaining the world and having no fear of it; sustaining people so that neither anger, strife, or discord can be felt by them; it designates a weak heart and a weak will in lawsuits and combat, and signifies desire for all beautiful combinations of things which may be in conformity with the will; making colors and laboring diligently in skills involving them; selling merchandise, spices, and prayers; those who observe the religious law; and those who adhere to sciences and philosophies of forbidden kinds.

One of the differences in the latter section is that it includes several negative attributes, or attributes which we today might considered not complimentary. This is at least partially because this is a description of Venus in general, and not solely when she is essentially dignified; the state which is a common requirement for the production of her talismans.

However, there is a distinction made between what a celestial hierarchy governs and what it is most suited for in talismans and petitions.

Picatrix on Venus Talismans

Picatrix gives a fairly wide range of recipes for Venus talismans, including one to make the wearer well-liked by all, one to be always cheerful and happy (basically magical Prozac), one which cures venomous snake bites, one to seduce young men, one which provides immunity from harm, one for general luck and profit, one to drive away mice, one to drive away flies, one to drive away leeches, one to attract the love of women, one to cure children of boils, and one to cure all stomach ailments; and that’s just in Book II chapter 10!

What we can derive from this is that Venus is one of the most versatile of planets, capable of bringing many of the pleasures of life and relieving many of the dangers and annoyances. Venus is always about pleasures and comforts. The only reason why she’s deemed the Lesser Benefic is that the Platonists tended toward Stoicism and favored intellectual joys over the worldly ones.

One of the reasons why we have so many recipes for Venus configurations is that they do help focus the power on particular goals, to the diminishment of other powers. But Picatrix does say that if one must choose between a generalized power or a particular power, the former is better. It can be used for many more things, and improve life overall. This is why in the end I used a talismanic design inspired more by Cornelius Agrippa’s work than that of Picatrix, though there is clear influence from the latter.

Picatrix says in Book III:7:

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.

I would identify these as the main properties of generalized Venus talismans, as well as guidelines for the optimal requests in Venus petitions.

Design of the Rings of Seduction

When indecisive about what to put on a talisman I often inquire with tarot.

Sometimes the size and shape of the material limit the choices, and sometimes time restricts options when you’re creating several talismans in a narrow electional window.

Since this project was a series of rings in varying band sizes and gemstone sizes, it would be necessary to use sigils for the smallest only because it is hard to engrave elaborate tableaus on a small cabochon.

There also needs to be enough time during the full electional window to recite at least an abbreviated petitional text, engrave, suffumigate repeatedly, and affix the herbs with glue on all talismans before the time window ends.

The gemstone chosen was carnelian. One of the more unexpected Venereal stones, the gem looks a little like raw meat and even the name is suggestive of carnality and carnivorous; it is not surprising that it is co-ruled by Mars. The band was gold wire wound around a core of gold-filled wire to strengthen it. Gold and bronze are both suitable metals for Venus.

The herbs under the ring were thyme and vervain—both Venereal. Thyme is a love herb, and vervain has associations with bewitchment and in particular the power of fascination.

All in all, it’s a material expression of sexual desire in the language of herbs and stones.

The suffumigation was storax. I almost went with balsam, which is also a good choice. I used that in another recent election. I really do love the sexy scent of storax. (I get mine from Alchemy Works .)

The ymage was as depicted; the sigil of the Intelligence of Venus, Hagiel, at the center. Below was the word Venus, and at the top was the Venus sigil variant from the Arabic Picatrix (the Ouroboros Press version). The Latin Picatrix sigil is taller and the triangle is smaller, but is otherwise the same. I like it because it’s a little mysterious and weird, and not recognizable to people who haven’t studied SIM.

The planetary Intelligence is often used in tandem with a planetary Spirit. Unfortunately, there is some ambiguity whether planetary Spirits are simply lower order daimones, or actual evil demons. Agrippa is a bit confusing on the matter. In any case, I do not work with demonic beings for any reason, and my Venus talismans seem to work fantastically without the sigil of Kedemel (the Venereal planetary Spirit).

I believe that the planetary Intelligences are a class of beings not from the planetary spheres, but who control the affairs of those realms from afar in the uppermost cosmic sphere (either the 9th or 10th, depending on the model you use). This gives them lofty power, but will behave in a somewhat fickle and arbitrary manner at times, because they are quite alien and godlike. There are many interesting things to be learned about them when you compare what Agrippa writes and their origins in the work of Pseudo-Dionysius the Aeropagite. If I am correct, planetary Intelligences are supercelestial and thus they can magnify the power of any elections which fall under their governance.

venus_carnelian

Seven rings were created, one of which has already been delivered to a client. I will surely keep at least a couple for myself. This was a great project to work on.

The Rings of the Diplomat

sirius

THE RINGS OF THE DIPLOMAT: Sirius culminating, with a tightly applying conjunction of the Moon; the very fast Moon applying to both Benefics, and the Greater Benefic on the Ascendant.

While Jupiter is somewhat afflicted, overall this is a superb election for Sirius. The speed of the Moon, the Benefic on the Ascendant, and the amazing tightness of the conjunction of the Moon with Sirius on the Midheaven were all great fortitudes that together provided an election that is quite powerful and proportionately rare.

For the time being I don’t believe the solar eclipse of August 21 will have had a significant impact upon these elections; they ought to be fully out of orb.

This is an election that I’ve been eager to try out for an exceptionally long time.

Under the Greater Dog Star, they made an image of a hound and a little virgin; it bestoweth honour and good will, and the favor of men, and aerial spirits, and giveth the power to pacify and reconcile kings, princes, and other men. –Cornelius Agrippa

And elsewhere:

sirius

One part savine juniper juice with wormwood and bistort and a little serpent’s tongue put under a golden beryl, etc., grants the favor of the spirits of the air and the peoples of the earth, and brings peace and concord between kings and other potentates, and between husbands and wives. –Qundecim Stellis

The oldest obtainable coverage is more general and possibly is confused with the listing for Procyon which follows it in the text, and has no listed powers:

And Canis Major in his like
The fifte sterre is of magique,
The whos kinde is Venerien,
As seith this astronomien.
His propre ston is seid berille,
Bot for to worche and to fulfille
Thing which to this science falleth,
Ther is an herbe which men calleth
Saveine, and that behoveth nede
To him that wole his pourpos spede.

–The Confessio Amantis of John Gower

All things being equal, I lean towards the Quindecim Stellis as canonical over Agrippa’s fixed star sections; particularly the sigils. The Confessio Amantis material is valuable too, but mostly to reduce ambiguities and illustrate the evolution of the text.

To clarify this, talismans of Sirius:

  • Make people like and obey the wearer.
  • Make spirits like and obey the wearer.
  • Allows the wearer to resolve disputes between lovers.
  • Allows the wearer to resolve disputes between people of leadership and renown.

I’ve long said that the Ring of the Pleiades is the most important in the Quindecim Stellis; the most fundamental in plying one’s trade as an itinerant magician in the Early Modern Period. The Rings of either the Greater or Lesser Dog Stars and the Ring of Alkaid would be the ones to follow it; but considering that Sirius is the brightest star of all, it probably takes the lead. A magician with a Sirius ring would be able to be a supreme counselor for his liege or patron, and assist him or her in the governance of their fiefdom or estate. In exchange for generous payment.

On a personal level, I’m close to finally completing the full set of fifteen Behenian talismans as described in the Quindecim Stellis. Though a few of these I no longer have in my possession, the process of creating thirteen of these over the past decade have been as powerful an initiation as anything I can imagine. It hasn’t been easy, and when the fifteenth is completed I’m going to enjoy a nice bottle of champagne to celebrate.

Four rings were ensouled. The gemstones were golden beryl (with heavy inclusions) in silver bands. I would have prepared more, but golden beryl is very hard to obtain right now. I was indecisive about the suffumigation, and tarot suggested pine resin—not an obvious choice, but there’s little canonical guidance on this matter.

Obtaining the wormwood was easy. Obtaining the savine juniper was slightly more challenging. Bistort was difficult, and the chunks were hard to secure under the ring.

But serpent’s tongue is not for the squeamish. I ordered preserved constrictors from a educational supply house and dissected half. The process of rooting for the tongue was disgusting, and finding it inside a dead snake challenging. I have done some graduate-level work in Biology, and I don’t envy anybody with less training doing something like this. Just nasty.

The serpent’s tongue, just to be clear, is not a euphemism for an herb. It’s an organ cut from the body of a dead snake. There are no substitutions on this one. And it’s arguably the most important of the ingredients after the beryl itself, because of the associations between the persuasiveness and deceptiveness of a serpent, and its mythical speech.

I haven’t seen any effects from the one I’m currently wearing, but it clearly emanates power. I can hardly wait to see what this one will do.

 

The Byzantium Flyers

IMG_0604s

Exotica Noir

I once ran a dance club event called Byzantium at NowBar on Fridays in the West Village of Manhattan. It was my third weekly event, and arguably the best. Unlike the two which preceded it, I used the event as an opportunity to perform magical experiments related to publicity and mental influence of benevolent kinds.

The venue helped define an eclectic but strangely coherent musical style. It had Moroccan lamps, leading me to think we could lean into the Arabian Nights imagery which cropped up in the Goth genre (which generally was one of our major ingredients.) It also had futuristic furniture, tiki torches, and an artificial waterfall. Trip hop, techno, medieval revival, ethereal, shoegazer, industrial, and world music entered the sonic tapestry. The upper level had a lounge and we had poetry readings there at first, then art installations and live bands. It was thoroughly weird and unlike anything that had come before.

Magic was a part of my thinking from the start. I had been ruminating on the Orientalist imagery in Victorian magic, particularly that of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Ordo Templi Orientis, the Theosophical Society, and the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. The artificiality of the usage of the exotic and the Other fascinated me; the forbidden and the liberational aspects as well. I saw strange parallels between this and the embrace of the Other in alternative cultures, and parallels between the remixing of cultural artifacts to alter consciousness and the blending of styles in contemporary World Dance and World Music. (I am entirely guilty in overthinking club promotion, but I really do think it is an unsung art form.)

yeats

A member of the Golden Dawn was William Butler Yeats, better remembered as a great poet than as a magician. He wrote two poems, “Byzantium” and “Sailing To Byzantium,” which helped inspire the naming of the event. Yeats’ notion of Byzantium was of a distant land of opulence and the exotic, where all cultures blended and anything was possible. It was a fantastic realm somewhat unlike the historic Eastern Roman Empire, yet vastly more alluring and powerful than the reality. I wanted to sail away to Yeats’ Byzantium and bring my friends along for the ride. Every Friday night we embarked upon adventures.

I could wax nostalgic all day about the event and never quite capture its essence, or list all of the amazing people who made it possible. That’s not my point here, though. What is relevant is that while we were doing something innovative, we had a lot going against us.

Friday nights had been a dead night for Goth scene events at the time for several years. The fact that we were not truly a Gothic event only protected us somewhat. Our venue was small and we were in a part of the city most of our patrons visited infrequently. When we debuted, we had only one competing event. A few months later, we had eleven. Twelve events all competing for the same attendees and dollars. It was a swarm hungry for limited resources. Some were actively unfriendly and unprofessional to us. And try as we did, we were losing ground. We had to fight for every single attendee.

My prior two events had also struggled to get traction, and eventually ended. I was an accomplished magician, but had rarely used any magic to give my projects a competitive edge. So when Byzantium debuted, one of the first things I did was enchant the heck out of our flyers. And how I did that requires a bit of personal history.

Rootwork and the Greater Key of Solomon

sun5thpentacle

Years prior, a magical colleague of mine returned from a trip to New Orleans and began to whisper about something called “rootwork.” It took me a while to realize this was an alternate term for Hoodoo, which I had been practicing in a somewhat bastardized form for many years. I recognized that my knowledge was fragmentary, and so was hungry for every legitimate scrap of knowledge that I could find.

One of the things she told me was that the pentacles of the Greater Key of Solomon could be incorporated into Hoodoo candle magic to great effect. I did not believe her. I knew the grimoire well and the pentacles it described had to be created very precisely, according to the instructions. She urged me to try it her way before dismissing the notion entirely. I respected her, so I suspended my judgment and decided to give it a whirl.

At the time I didn’t know anything about petition papers, but nearly all of the magic shops in Manhattan used pull out candles and dressed them and carved them up, often also adding glitter. Since I couldn’t afford that on a regular basis, I used plain pour-in novena candles bought at dollar stores and supermarkets and used paint markers (mostly gold and silver ones) to carefully replicate the pentacle designs on the glass. I dressed the candles with Hoodoo condition oils and stroked around the paint to prevent them from smearing.

After three or four candles like this, I was convinced and converted. It was impossible for me to ignore how effective the Solomonic pentacles on the candles were. It was so effective that for over a decade it became a quickie solution for magical work. The method certainly wasn’t as potent as full Solomonic pentacles, but it was a lot cheaper and easier, and could be made rapidly as the need arose.

paintmarker

I have made several conclusions from working this hybrid system of Hoodoo and GKOS pentacles. The pentacles of the Greater Key almost certainly precede the grimoire and its elaborate instructions, and are of the kind of power that even if created in imperfect conditions (like using paint markers on the side of a candle) they will still produce diminished but powerful marvels. I sometimes call them shadow effects.

Since then I have used this as a method of evaluating grimoires; if their pentacles or sigils activate a candle in a noticeable way, they’re probably really powerful when made with the full ritual requirements. If nothing happens after several attempts, the system is quite probably weak and ineffective. It saves me the effort of spending a year or two and thousands of dollars working through a grimoire to determine whether it’s magnificent and miraculous or merely a dusty hoax.

The Flyers

IMG_0605s

After working through this method for a number of years, I was introduced to the usage of petition papers in Hoodoo, and other grimoires more popular in Hoodoo such as The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses and The Long-Lost Friend. I was slow to make the transition from using paint markers on glass to petition papers of pentacles under candles because I was, frankly, concerned about fire safety. But when Byzantium launched I had an idea of how I could experiment with a variation of this.

One of my long-term goals had been to coax the Goth scene overall away from the centrality of dance clubs and towards a salon culture by way of the literary gothic. I knew that the dance clubs were dying a slow and painful death, and having poetry readings at the event—very much a novelty—inspired me to design the Byzantium flyers as bookmarks. At the top was the Byzantium logo, a scan of some mysterious looking byzantine jewelry edited heavily in Photoshop. The middle plugged the various DJs, bands and musical styles of the week. And at the bottom was my experiment: the Mathers Greater Key of Solomon’s Fifth Pentacle of the Sun. On every flyer.

5thSun

“The fifth pentacle of the Sun. It serveth to invoke those spirits who can transport thee from one place unto another, over a long distance and in short time.”

Mathers notes: “The versicle is from Psalm xci. 11, 12: ‘He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands.'”

So, why did I use that particular pentacle? I suppose I could have used one for gaining wealth, but I was impractical at the time and didn’t see that as a pressing issue. I also wasn’t sure whether this would make the bearer of the flyer wealthy or me. If some of those flyers were in the possession of my rivals, it might even work against me.

What I did want was to ensure that my flyers were distributed far and wide. Getting flyers to as many people as possible back then was key to the survival of an event, and some promoters had been known to track down and destroy flyers of their rivals in the music shops where they most often could be found. Flyer saturation was key to the survival of an event, particularly one in an unfamiliar venue with an odd theme, which Byzantium certainly was.

I also liked the design, I admit. It looked mysterious. I didn’t want people to realize the flyers were actually magical; I wanted people to think I was just being artsy. I didn’t want my competitors to copy my idea. Aesthetics can be important, but they also can conceal one’s methods or intentions in magic.

Magic was my biggest edge over the competition. I’m good at a lot of things, but magic is what I’ve always been best at. When I’ve forgotten this, I’ve always regretted it; when I’ve made mundane aspects of my life magical, they’ve soared.

Things Get Weird, Things Get Wonderful

tonybyz3

Around the time Byzantium began to get hit by the worst of the competition, the magic began to manifest in earnest.

There had been signs of something strange happening earlier on. NowBar was a trans bar on most nights of the week, and was across the street from Meow Mix, a famous lesbian bar. Whenever our financial situation seemed to be in peril, we would unexpectedly get flooded by the regular clientele, but the lesbian bar would also empty out and drink our bar dry. At first I just thought lesbians and transpeople loved our event, but it did seem a little excessive—albeit very welcome.

Then the ancient famous photographer turned up. He worked for a major NYC magazine and his wartime work was spoken of with reverence by many in his field. He was in awe of Byzantium and assured me repeatedly that he’d never seen anything else like it, and that it was something he wanted to preserve for all time. I asked him where he’d heard of my event, and he told me that everyone was talking about it. I inwardly wondered who everyone was, where they were, and what were they saying. Hopefully nice things, right?

They weren’t the only ones talking, however. Our competition multiplied over and over, eventually to utterly absurd levels. A few of them had it in for us– the scene was very cutthroat back then– but most promoters just assumed there was some hidden untapped market that they wanted a slice of. Everyone and their cousin seemed to be opening up a new Friday event. Our attendance started to take a hit, but then strange things started to happen.

byzim_14g

For example, this highly fashionable couple approached me one night at the event with expressions of delight and wonderment. They told me that they were from Switzerland and had flown to America just to come to Byzantium. They had to tell me this several times before I realized they were sincere. I asked where they had heard about Byzantium. They told me that everyone was talking about it, even in Switzerland. Wow. Really? Fascinating.

Then an Asian man approached me at the event and told me he’d picked up a Byzantium flyer in Tokyo. He’d just had to come; it sounded amazing. Someone else found a Byzantium flyer on an airplane, and he changed his vacation plans to get off in New York instead to check it out. Over and over I began to hear about people discovering my fairly small event with a modest budget all around the world, largely through the instrument of my enchanted flyers turning up in the most unexpected of places.

To this day I have no idea how the Byzantium flyers ended up scattered across the world. I have no idea how the buzz about my event went so strangely viral on the eve of the year 2000 AD. But I certainly have strong suspicions of a magical nature.

What I am quite sure of is that the somewhat inexplicable buzz about our event which had spread across the entire world ultimately fed back into local attendance. It kept our struggling event alive for months and months, when everything seemed to be going against our little passion project.

Night Work

The enchanted flyers weren’t the only magical work (by far) that I integrated into Byzantium, but I still use those today and think of them as trade secrets. The other ones weren’t focused on publicity but making the environment fun, uplifting, and sexy. Considering how many people got laid in the NowBar lavatory and how fondly Byzantium is still spoken of today—all over the world apparently—I think they were pretty darn effective too. If you’ve been to my Green Fairy Parties in California, you’ve seen some of that other sorcery at work.

In spite of my magical and mundane efforts, Byzantium did not last forever. It might have done better if I hadn’t been so keen on lowering the cover charge to allow more people to attend; that gave us very poor financial reserves. The management at the venue expected us to become profitable sooner than we realized. The competition remained somewhat fierce to the end. Perhaps if I had focused on the business end more than the creative end, things would have lasted longer. But they wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting.

It was a very successful event in creative terms and that’s what I really cared about. it was unforgettable and it injected some creativity into a scene which was stagnant. Our staff and regulars had also become a family. When management told us it was to be our final night, the head bartender– hired by the venue management– was so outraged that he quit on the spot. People really loved us, and I’m grateful for it.

Hopefully this little tale can inspire you to experiment magically, to improvise, and find new ways to make your life more magical and marvelous. Magic permeates everything and insinuates itself in the gaps between; this is where your hidden strength dwells.

 

Talismans of Trust

TALISMANS OF TRUST: Extremely dignified Mercury Ascending in Virgo with the North Node, with the Moon applying to a conjunction of Jupiter.

2017-07-28-mercury-rising2

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.