Since prehistoric times, magic has been used to heal the sick and revive the dying.
The historical line between enchantment and medicine is elusive at best. A mind-boggling array of methods and theories have been employed throughout the ages.
Grimoires which banish the demons of disease, enchanted poultices, wound talismans, amulets and mojos, baths and potions—all are based on the seductive premise that the spiritual can restore the corporeal.
In this class we will explore many of these systems, survey healing recipes, investigate eras when the doctor and witch doctor were one and the same, and discuss methods which may be used as complementary medicines today.
Magical Medicine at Morbid Anatomy’s Festival of Arcane Knowledge 2019
Magic has been used to heal the sick and revive the dying since prehistoric times. The line between enchantment and medicine has always been blurred, with a kaleidoscopic array of methods and theories employed throughout the ages.
Grimoires that banish the demons of disease, enchanted poultices, wound talismans, amulets, mojos, baths and potions—all are based on the seductive premise that the spiritual can restore the corporeal.
In this lecture we will explore these systems, survey healing recipes, revisit eras when the doctor and witch doctor were one and the same—and investigate corresponding fringe science that persists today.
I doubt that money is the root of all evil, but the lack of it can feel like hell.
Magic to manipulate prosperity precedes the invention of currency, and there’s no sign it’s going out of style any time soon.
As long as people wish for more than they have, practical wealth magic offers solutions.
This class is a broad survey of magical techniques and traditions that draw and keep money.
Whether you’ve wanted to conjure a spirit to find buried treasure, win a lottery, get a raise, inherit a fortune, invest like a pro, get an edge over your business rivals, enchant an ever-full purse, sustain your lifestyle, or even beat the house in Vegas, I have some amazing and effective spells to teach you that you won’t find anywhere else.
Solar Sapphires, Planetary Antipathies, and Substitutions
The Picatrix, De Radiis Stellarum, and Three Books of Occult Philosophy are closest to broad textbooks of this tradition of astrological magic, but they are not meant to be used entirely by themselves. Both canonical texts of astrological magic and their partners, the manuals of traditional astrology, repeatedly state that the student must go beyond a mere rote understanding of formulae and considerations. The following step is the internalization of celestial functions, then a series of flashes of insight revealing why things are as they arranged, and finally the integration of the practitioner into their proper spiritual hierarchy by the attainment of Perfect Nature and the maximization of their unique potential.
Authors are quite evasive about the aforementioned epiphanies for good reason; they allow teachers to recognize genuine insights arising from their better students that stand apart from the shallow mimicry that is the hallmark of pseudo-intellectualism, and they protect the secrets of the art from immature people who are at high risk of abusing it. The Science of Images has reputed power within it so vast that it can collapse entire civilizations if deployed with precision and ill intentions. Based on some of my experiences, I am certain that this is no idle boast. Some of the difficulty is deliberate in these texts, because of the gravity of that power falling into the wrong hands. It was the reasonable hope of the guardians and transmitters of this tradition that intellectual mastery developed roughly in tandem with emotional stability and personal responsibility.
Nevertheless, this has led to an incredibly steep learning curve for mastery of Scholastic Image Magic for modern students. Some of this is accidental and needs to be remedied, and some of this is very appropriate. As an example of the latter, it’s critically important that a student be fully immersed in the traditional worldview, and at least provisionally set aside the modern worldview, so they may navigate deeply within this paradigm. This commentary is, I hope, an additional guide through one of the more important winding passages deeper into the heart of this complex system of magic and mysticism.
Let us begin with something highly counterintuitive and use it as a pretext to dive into some of the more practical and mystical secrets of the operations of celestial magic.
Solar Sapphire Talismans
During the latter Solar talismanic election I covered in the preceding post, I alluded to a second set of talismans which were created at the same time. In addition to the bloodstones, I created two sapphire talismanic rings and a loose gemstone sapphire talisman. The herbs when applicable and suffumigations were identical. One of the rings is mine, and one ring and the loose gemstone will eventually be sold to clients or given to friends.
The inspiration for this talismanic project came from Eric Purdue’s masterful new translation of Cornelius Agrippa’s Book One of Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Agrippa frequently has long lists of gemstones, materials and animals which belong to the various celestial hierarchies but less frequently highlights the particular powers attributed to each within that particular hierarchy’s context. Agrippa gave very special attention to the gemstone he calls heliotrope that we believe is modern bloodstone, but also gave great attention to a gemstone called hyacinth in the J.F. translation. Eric Purdue, I believe correctly, provisionally identified hyacinth as modern sapphire. And with it come a list of powers which only apply in a Solar context; they are only activated when made into Solar talismans.
“Sapphires also have a solar virtue against poisons and pestilential vapors. When carried [the person] is rendered safe and acceptable, brings wealth and talent, and strengthens the heart. When held in the mouth, [sapphires] exceedingly cheer the mind.” –TBOC, Agrippa I:23, Eric Purdue trans.
Before I break down the rather long and fascinating list of powers attributed to Solar sapphire talismans, I must make mention of something of which most traditional (and Vedic) astrologers and readers of medieval lapidaries are quite aware. Sapphires have an extremely ancient and strong association with the planet Saturn, vastly more than the Sun. The association between sapphires and Saturn is so strong that due to what appears to be a confusion with lapis lazuli, the latter is associated with Saturn among other planets—sapphire appears to mean blue stone in Sanskrit and lapis lazuli means the same in Latin. Though the Sun and Saturn do rule a few things in common, such as the metal gold and kingship, they are in most other ways complete opposites. There’s nothing obviously Solar about sapphires; they are hard and usually dark stones—an obvious choice for the harsh, implacable, and dim Greater Malefic. Materials having multiple rulerships are not unusual, but this instance stands apart.
Lapis Lazuli with Pyrite Inclusions
The Secrets of Antipathy
So is it a mistake? I’m quite sure it isn’t. It’s a phenomenal example of celestial antipathy which is described in Picatrix in more general terms about talismans which attract and repel animals.
“The effects upon animals are twofold—that is, one is to gather them and increase their number, and the other is to disperse and repel them. These are appropriate for different times, as they involve different motions—that is, there is a time for gathering and growth, and a time for dispersing and repelling. This may be considered under the heading of the opposition of degrees. In stones a certain supreme secret is hidden, that is, when any animal—that is, if you want it to depart—is hot in its nature, the stone ought to be cold; if the animal is moist, the stone ought to be dry, and vice versa. From this it should be understood that if you wish vipers and wasps to flee, the work ought to be done in cornelian and diamond and the like; but if they are cold by nature, such as scorpions, beetles, flies, lice, and things similar to them, work with hot stones such as malachite and crystal, and in bronze and gold and the like.
“This is for the working to make them flee. Workings to draw and increase them ought to be done with things that are harmonious and pertinent to them, as in working with vipers, you should work with gold and bronze and similar things. All this happens because of the harmony of complexion, the direction of movement, and the diversity of conjunctions and substances. The figure and form ought to be in the form and figure of the animal for which it is made, as a figure for mice in the shape of a mouse, one for serpents in the shape of a serpent, or one for scorpions in the shape of a scorpion.” –Picatrix IV:4, Greer-Warnock trans.
When Picatrix uses phrases like “a supreme secret” it’s not just talking about talismans that act as mosquito repellant. It’s an attempt to draw the discerning reader to a very important general principle that can be applied to a much wider set of circumstances. Picatrix uses language like this in other sections, such as the chapter on the manufacture of the thirty-six talismans of the Faces, to hint at a fairly radical reinvention of Neoplatonic cosmology that I have lectured upon previously. It is a test, an attempt to challenge the reader to learn a deeper lesson that is both mystical and extremely useful.
One of the concepts Picatrix describes elsewhere is what it sometimes calls reception; the capacity of a material to absorb celestial rays of a particular type. Some materials are receptive to the rays of many hierarchies. Emerald is receptive to Spica, Jupiter, Mercury and Moon. Silver is highly receptive to nearly every hierarchy because of the virtually ubiquitous and special role of the Moon in talismanic elections. Others are mostly inert, like clay and to a lesser extent human flesh. (Clay talismans really do not work, and in spite of the obvious allure talismanic tattoos aren’t especially viable.)
Parallel to reception is temperament or temperateness; in modern expressions, the capacity for something to manifest normalcy in contrast with manifestations which are abnormal and disruptive. Jupiter is the most temperate planet and usually signifies positive normalcy and health, and Mars is probably the least temperate planet and usually signifies disruption and injury. Materials belonging to each of these hierarchies often share these attributes, but can increase or decrease them or channel them in a particular direction.
Related to the preceding are sympathy and antipathy; some materials attract and repel species based upon their inner natures. But what Picatrix is hinting at is that it isn’t just animals that can be attracted by gemstones of one type and repelled by another, but also types of people, and finally even types of events. That’s where it gets really interesting.
And that is how we return to sapphires.
Analyzing the Solar Virtues of Sapphires
Solar sapphire talismans have the following powers:
They neutralize poisons.
They protect against contagious diseases i.e. “pestilential vapors.”
They render the bearer safe from harm.
They render the bearer inoffensive and pleasant.
They attract riches.
They magnify skills.
They grant courage and health or “strengthen the heart.”
They act as antidepressants, especially if sucked upon.
Now you can tell why I prize these talismans at least as much as the bloodstone ones I created along with them. Fame, glory, constancy, invisibility, and restored youth are really great but the eight powers listed above are possibly even more valuable for the average person.
What’s even more interesting is what these powers tell us about sympathy and antipathy in celestial magic.
Generally speaking, the Sun is not the planet one would expect a cure for poisons from; that’s more often associated with Jupiter. The Sun is nearly as temperate as Jupiter and they both grant vigorous health and presumably a resistance to contagions. The Sun often can accomplish the works of Mars and vice versa, so the Sun can protect—especially from witchcraft and evil spirits. The Sun co-rules gold, which for most of history was currency and thus can attract riches. The increase of skills may make sense because the Sun is fiery and fire quickens as it illuminates. The Sun definitely can grant courage and often is associated with the heart. Finally, the Sun can certainly act as an antidepressant; St. John’s wort has been known to be ruled by the Sun since at least medieval times because of this property. However, in spite of a temperate planet endowing a quality of normalcy, the Sun is less associated with blending in than standing out; often in a highly aggressive manner. The Sun is the king, and the king likes to conquer.
I believe there’s something else at work here:
Saturn rules poisons
Saturn rules contagious diseases.
Saturn rules infirmity.
Saturn rules ugliness and things which are essentially unpleasant.
Saturn rules poverty and desperation, in spite of the co-rulership of gold.
Saturn rules senility and stupefaction.
Saturn rules fear and cowardice.
Saturn rather famously rules melancholia.
I think what makes far more sense is that the function of a Solar sapphire talisman is to ward against many of the negative attributes of Saturn, because of the fundamental disagreement of natures between the hierarchies of the Sun and Saturn. The Sun is hot; Saturn is cold. The Sun governs all that is light and bright; Saturn rules all that is dark and shadowy.
It’s a fantastic example of how one can use the materials of a dissimilar hierarchy to neutralize the negative effects of a planet or star. And it’s one of the greater secrets of this system of magic.
The seven traditional planets often have peculiar relationships with each other, as illustrated in the 45 aphorisms that are said to be derived from the Secretum Secretorum:
“38. The Sun abhors those things that pertain to Saturn, and the things that pertain to the Sun are abhorrent to Saturn.” –Picatrix IV:4
There’s a long list of substitutions and antipathies in this chapter that are less pertinent, but must be memorized to attain mastery in this art. There are no shortcuts on this one.
This system of planetary pairings appears in the passages on planetary petitions as well.
“If you find yourself in contemplation and sorrow, or in melancholy or grave illness, in anything just named, or in any thing that has already been mentioned as belonging to Saturn, and you ask for something that belongs to his nature, you may seek it from him in the manner we describe below, and you may also help yourself in your petition by means of Jupiter. The essence of all these petitions is that you should not seek anything from any planet unless it belongs to his dominion…
“Seek from Mars what is consistent with his nature, such as petitions against soldiers, officials, fighters, and those who busy themselves with warlike acts; and on behalf of friends of kings, and those who destroy homes and citizens, and do evil to humanity, killers, executioners, those who work with fire or in places such as stables, litigators, shepherds, thieves, companions on the road, liars, traitors, and the like. Similar, ask him concerning infirmities of the body from the groin downwards, and also for phlebotomy, accumulation of gas, and the like. In these latter petitions you may also help yourself with Venus, for the nature of Venus dissolves what is closed up by Mars, and repairs what he damages…
“Seek from Venus all things that pertain to her, such as petitions of women, boys, and girls, daughters, and generally everything pertaining to the love of women and carnal copulation with them, art, vocal and instrumental music, telling jokes, and all those who give themselves over to worldly pleasures, those who engage in vices, male and female servants, brides and grooms, mothers, friends, sisters, and all those similar to them, and in these petitions you may also help yourself with Mars.” –Picatrix III:7
It also should be observed at this point that Jupiter and Saturn are oppositional in nature but are (slightly counterintuitively) “friends” with each other. The same is true of the hierarchies of Mars and Venus. The cliché of opposites attracting is reflected in celestial symmetries or harmonies. I believe that this system of substitutions using planets of oppositional nature but mutual amity goes even further than what Picatrix states explicitly. It says that Jupiter can substitute for Saturn but not the reverse; it may be a somewhat reasonable assumption, however. To learn more about planetary substitution, we must look elsewhere.
For that, we turn our attention to the other Luminary: the Moon.
The Moon Serves the Sun
In Picatrix II:10 there’s a wonderful miscellany of planetary talismanic recipes, one of which I’ve made but never quite understood until fairly recently.
“If, under the influence of the Sun, you write the figures below in a sedina stone with the Sun rising in the first face of Leo, whoever carries this stone will be protected against the lunar illnesses that come from the combustion of the Moon.”
Combustion (a close conjunction of a planet with the Sun) is deemed to be the worst planetary affliction according to William Lilly and is generally accepted as such in traditional astrology, with some uncommon exceptions. The combustion of the Moon is especially dire; it often signifies death and destruction in elections, and a variety of challenging health concerns in natal charts.
The more conventional suggestion would be to use a talisman of an afflicted planet in a person’s natal chart as a remedy, but here we see something very different. Here the suggestion is to double-down on the influence of the Sun. It seems counterintuitive because the Sun is overwhelming the native’s Moon, but it is logical if the Sun and the Moon have a similar relationship as Jupiter and Saturn have, and Mars and Venus mutually share in the petitional instructions cited above.
Indications that this is the case between the Sun and Moon are scattered throughout Picatrix.
(As I am writing this, Echo & The Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon” just began to play on Pandora. Everything is connected.)
“The Nabatean sages have said that the power and works of the heavens and stars are from the Sun originally, and this is because they see and understand that the Moon helps him (that is, as much as is in her power), while the Sun does not need her effects, nor those of the other planets; and similarly, the five other planets follow the Sun in their effects and obey and are humbled by him, and proceed in their aforementioned effects according to the dispositions of the Sun. In the same way, according to their opinion, all their effects are primarily rooted in the Sun, and the other six planets help him by their effects. Similarly, the fixed stars are the Sun’s handmaidens, and serve, obey, and are humbled by him, and while they help him with their effects, this is not because of any need that he has of them.” –Picatrix III:8
“Our sages say likewise that the virtue of the fifth quality [the Moon in a perfected conjunction with the Sun] has a similar effect to the effect of the Sun, and this is a very great thing and a noble quality. They say that all composite bodies receive from this the virtues that they ought to have, nor should it be understood from the foregoing that the Moon causes virtues and workings differing from those of the Sun; rather, the Moon reveals the Sun’s influence and brings forth works accomplished by the Sun; nor do these appear until the Moon manifests those things that were previously concealed, and illuminates what had previously been in obscurity.” –Picatrix II:3
One of the ways Picatrix conceals secrets of talismanic magic is by describing electional considerations and the composition of talismans and suffumigations in what superficially appear to be abstract cosmological relationships. To a person immersed in the worldview espoused by the author, ultimately there is no difference between these things; or at least there is a profound sympathy.
What Picatrix is saying here is pretty radical.
While most talismanic and petitional elections depend strongly upon the condition of the Moon and to some extent the planet on or ruling the Ascendant, if a major significator in the election is the Sun the role of every other planet is greatly diminished. The manifestation might be subtler with a weak Moon, however. In theory, one could create a benevolent Solar talisman even if the Moon was afflicted catastrophically. I personally wouldn’t take that chance unless it were an emergency, but in the earlier of the two Sun in Aries elections I described in the last post the Moon was slightly afflicted. It is because of Picatrix that I felt this was inconsequential.
This is a special case regarding the Sun and the Sun only. Tropical astrology is not heliocentric; it is geocentric. But it is what I call heliophilic. It gives a very special significance to the role of the Sun, and it has powers unique among all the planets. It is not merely the strongest planet—something seldom stated in canonical texts because it really is taken for granted—but it has a central role in the cosmos as the bringer of order, the primary source of visible and astral light, the liminal mediator between the world of Forms and the Sublunar sphere, and of the four seasons that sustain all life. Thus, through the Sun, the equinoxes and solstices define the positions and properties of the Zodiacal Signs and the essential architecture of the universe and time itself.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this somewhat serpentine journey through the world of Scholastic Image Magic which started with Agrippa’s Solar sapphires, has taken us through the complex relationships of planetary pairings, and finally to the fundamental supremacy and centrality of the Sun. Traditional celestial magic conceals a lot of secrets of both a practical and spiritual nature, and as we solve the puzzles it sets before us in the canonical sources, the aspiration is that our own personal disjointedness is transformed into a more coherent spiritual being.
I’m cheating a little by letting you in on some of the glimpses of the treasures that I’ve uncovered. I’m hoping that you’ll forgive me for bending the rules a little; that you’ll return the favor someday to myself and others, and that you’ll use this knowledge wisely.
No one can perfect any of the works of traditional astrological magic without passing on some of the illumination that one receives, much like the Sun illuminates each of the planets and they transmit their light and fill all of their hierarchies with vitality and power. It’s more than a metaphor; it’s the essential connection between consciousness and cosmos that produces magic and our experience of reality itself.
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
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 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.
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
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.
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 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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Sun in Aries Talismans for Healing the Infirmities of the Head
Scholastic Image Magic Talismans in Medicine
Contemporary research into the distribution of texts on magic in medieval and Renaissance England suggests that theurgical and necromantic texts were concentrated in monasteries, but texts on Scholastic Image Magic were concentrated in the libraries of physicians. This does appear to indicate that physicians had a particular interest in astral magic and probably were also one of the few occupations which would have had the necessary background in astrology to make use of it. A survey of the breadth of the canonical literature of Scholastic Image Magic does suggest a preponderance of formulas for talismans which were used medicinally. While theurgical and necromantic rituals for longevity, relief of ailments, prevention and cures do exist, going back as far as the Testament of Solomon and ancient Mesopotamia, the additional emphasis is notable in SIM.
Part of this is simply that the boundary between medicine and magic has been quite blurry up until relatively recently in history, and both traditional medicine and Scholastic Image Magic have had an astrological basis. We may speculate, however, that astrological talismans may have had a special efficacy in an era not otherwise known for medical advancement.
This has been a significant interest of mine: the use of magic to prevent, treat and cure diseases, and extend animal and human longevity. The greatest successes in my experiments have been relatively recent, and involve Scholastic Image Magic talismans applied directly to patients or a variety of medicinal substances exposed to their proximity become secondary talismans and are then brought to the patient and ingested or otherwise applied.
In all cases I must note that these treatments were in the form of complementary therapies. I am not a physician and do not pretend to be one, traditional or modern. At no point during my experiments have I or would I ask a patient to alter their treatment from whatever their doctors require. Nevertheless, I do think that talismanic remedies have very special merits and are quite deserving of revival and extensive research.
Though many of these cases deserve their own separate blog post, I have used talismans to help patients with a variety of conditions which include metastatic brain cancer, ovarian cancer, stomach cancer, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), c. diff (clostridium difficile) infections, erectile dysfunction, fevers, migraine headaches, and even the common cold. In every instance the talismans seemed to improve outcomes; often quite dramatically. As someone who once was studying to become an M.D., I understand how bold these claims sound and I stand behind them.
The prevention of disease and resisting the aging process is a less glamorous side to this system of magic, but I wear talismans for these purposes at all times. When you are young and healthy, talismans which procure love and wealth and vengeance and knowledge and power are the most seductive. When your body doesn’t quite work the way it used to, those priorities shift very quickly. As a former caregiver that is comfortably in his middle age, the use of magic to improve vitality and extend life has been a front burner project for about a decade, and things grow more interesting and promising every year.
Another reason why medical magic fascinates me is that it is results-oriented and in many instances easy to validate. If a technique has a statistically significant rate of improving outcomes in diseases which are hard or impossible to treat, it is one step forward in making the case that magic is not quackery or delusion, but objectively real and of immense value.
The Mystery of Zodiacal Talismans
When I first immersed myself in the study of astrological talismans I was surprised by an unusual omission. Talismans of many sorts for the seven planets had their own recipes; over 70 for the Decans or Faces, well over 100 options for the Lunar Mansions, and many other varieties. But there was no mention of talismans which corresponded to the twelve Zodiacal Signs. I bitterly concluded that this was not accidental; that the Signs themselves had no power unique to them except when combined with a planet or point which activated it. That the Signs were simply too passive in their cosmic function to create viable talismans with unique properties. I was disappointed, but reconciled myself to this interpretation.
When John Michael Greer and Christopher Warnock translated the Picatrix and I began studying it, I finally came across Zodiacal talismans. They weren’t anything I was expecting, however. They were a series of medical talismans, which were designed to repair illnesses which affected different parts of the body: internal and external, by the somewhat shaky medieval understanding of medicine and anatomy. They were generally dependent on the position of the Sun as it passed through the Zodiac, but were otherwise profoundly complex electional recipes. Even more frustrating, most of them seemed to require being made of gold; a metal whose price was fairly high. Their application, however, was simple. One bound the talisman to the appropriate body part and the patient experienced immediate relief. Over an unspecified amount of time, they promised a permanent cure.
During the following years I made various attempts to secure affordable gold plates or foil upon which I could make the more expensive Zodiacal talismans to no avail. My eventual goal was to have a set of all twelve so I could treat the broadest possible range of ailments, but this project was postponed until I could obtain the materials. Every so often I would go back and skim the chapter on Zodiacal talismans, and eventually I made a small discovery.
While it was particularly difficult to distinguish the internal organs cited in Picatrix and their relation to modern understandings of anatomy, external features were far clearer. One which caught my eye was the Aries talisman to heal all infirmities of the head. Not only did this promise help for a wide variety of difficult to treat illnesses in modern medicine, but the recipe did not require pure gold but an alloy of gold and silver that would be far more affordable.
The lure and the problem with Picatrix’s assignment of infirmities of the head is that it’s not immediately obvious which diseases it would actually treat. In the medieval medical model, major clinical depression would be melancholia; a personality type resulting from an excess of black bile in the upper intestines, thus not in the brain at all. Many other diseases that today we identify as neurological would have been assigned to the blood, the liver, or the heart. A stroke which paralyzed a limb would be governed by the Zodiacal Sign of the limb and thus require a different talisman altogether.
Nevertheless, other types of strokes, brain tumors, concussions, migraines, dementia, probably epilepsy and the manic portion of bipolar disorder seem good candidates for being identified with the brain in the medieval model, and treatable using an Aries talisman. Many of these are diseases which are hard to treat, and in some cases quite terrifying.
As soon as I realized that this sort of talisman would be highly valuable and fascinating to create, I began looking for upcoming elections. As I will discuss shortly, the conditions for the election are very uncommon and difficult, but a viable electional window was evident less than a week from the search.
I then went on a frantic mission to find gold-silver alloy disks. I found gold-plated silver disks and ordered them, but they were delayed in transit and arrived a week late. As a backup I ordered several other types of gold disks for engraving, and just in the nick of time a selection of ten gold-plated bronze disks arrived. The materials were imperfect, and the size was much smaller than the formula seemed to require; yet there was no time to obtain better.
Initial experiments with these gold-plated Aries talismans are highly promising, and I am looking for volunteers in the vicinity of the New York City area with relevant ailments to validate their efficacy.
Aries Talismanic Elections
“Hermes Trismegistus explains in his book On Images how to calculate images for each and every part of the human body and under which face of the signs to make them. Take pure gold and make a seal and write on it the image of a lion… Bind the seal around the loins or kidneys. I have tested this, and found that one who does this will not suffer thereafter… This happens likewise for the sufferings of the other members of the body, according to their manner and form, and the appropriate symbolism of the planets…
“Aries. This figure is a ram with no tongue. Its properties are for all the infirmities of the head. While it may be made when the Sun is in the first or third or fifth degree of Aries, this figure will be of no benefit unless it is made when the Moon is waxing or full. These are the conditions of the figure. Saturn and Mars must be direct, Jupiter is not in Aquarius and Venus is not in Virgo, which is the sign of her fall, and Mercury is not in Taurus; make the figure between the first degree of Aries and the fifth degree of the first face, and do not make it in the second face (they have said elsewhere that the second face pertains to the eyes and the third to the ears, whence you must pay attention to the degrees), and when the Sun and Jupiter are completely above the earth; and make it in the hour of the Sun. Others say that it is good in the day and hour of Jupiter. And make it from gold and silver to the weight of 7 grains of common wheat. This is proven.” –Picatrix II:12
The Sun is only in those degrees three days a year. Requiring that the Moon be waxing or full cuts the opportunities roughly in half. Having both the Sun and Jupiter above the earth is less than half of the potential elections; furthermore, Jupiter is on a twelve year cycle through the Zodiac, so one can assume at least seven consecutive years when this election is entirely impossible. Requiring the planetary hour be that of the Sun divides the opportunities into a seventh. The other conditions reduce the chances of this election further, but by smaller amounts. The result of this level of complexity is that one will usually have to wait many years for a minimally viable election.
The Manufacture of Aries Talismans
In the election used, the Sun was Ascending in 4 Aries (the fifth degree) in the Hour and Day of the Sun. The Moon was waxing. Saturn and Mars were direct. Jupiter was Retrograde but not in Aquarius, and Venus was in Aries though not in Virgo, Mercury was Retrograde but not in Taurus and close to the Ascendant. The Sun and Jupiter were above the horizon. Though not cited as a condition, the Moon was in mixed conditions of hard and soft aspects to Benefics and neutral planets. The Moon was very fast, and Angular in the 4th House. The Moon is conjunct the Part of Fortune, albeit separating; I’m not sure how much of a factor this is.
The big problem is that the Sun is besieged by the Malefics. Nevertheless, I felt that with such challenging requirements it might be pardonable and worth a shot. Normally a significator besieged by the Malefics would be prohibitive, but so many other features of the election were positive that I felt that it would compensate. At the worst, the talisman will be less effectual or slow-acting; I do not believe the configuration capable of doing harm because the Moon is making no applying aspects to the Malefics.
There was a flurry of Solar-type talismanic elections recently, so I believe that I used cloves as a suffumigation but may need to revise that later as am no longer certain and my notes are ambiguous.
Ten talismans were made in gold-plated bronze. The image of a ram was inscribed on one side and the sigil of the Sun on the opposite. Inscribing on such a small surface was challenging but I practiced a bit and all of the rams are recognizable as such.
One has been claimed by me, and three have been sewn into Los Angeles Rams baseball caps for use by any number of patients. Aries is a ram, after all. Six remain in storage for different forms of application.
Because there might be concern about the safety of a talisman with a besieged significator I wore one of these talismans under a bandage on my head for about a month and suffered no ill effects. Conversely, it appeared to be effective for my relatively mild medical concerns.
This was an exotic, highly experimental talismanic election which really pushes the boundaries of what even I believed possible in this system of magic. Regardless of the results from these Aries medical talismans, I will continue to make more talismans to improve the health of the user, both of the Zodiacal variety and others which I will describe another time.
Astrological talismans from the Scholastic Image Magic tradition often seem as challenging to make as they are powerful.
After electing the window of time in which a talisman can be created, one must confect incenses, select appropriate sigils, and obtain tools and materials for the talismans.
We will discuss how to create a talismanic laboratory, the process of practical considerations including choosing the best combinations, knowing which substitutions do and don’t work, and time and money saving strategies.
Take the theory of talismans into real life creations and applications.
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.
No Trespassing: The Magic of Wards @ ConVocation 2018
Wards are magical defenses that prevent a designated space such as a room, home, or property from injury or trespass by inimical forces, spirits, or persons.
Typically focused upon enchanting liminal spaces such as thresholds, property boundaries, chimneys, weathervanes and foundations, wardings take the primal essence of territoriality and give it metaphysical heft, protecting oneself, family, and pets.
In this class we will explore the themes of the protection of spaces in several long standing magical traditions as well as some innovations, analyze their features, and help you create effective defenses for your personal space that are both powerful and uniquely your own.
(There is some drumming noticeable from a nearby musical performance nearby. My apologies for the distraction.)