Magic Rings of Procyon, the Lesser Dog Star

Talismans Which Endow Favor Over All, Enhance Magic and Health

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Background on Talismans of Procyon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lore and Materials of Procyon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Talismans of Procyon, Sigils and Ymages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Primary Electional Configuration for Procyon Rings

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

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

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

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

No herbs were used because none were available.

When The Herbs Are Unavailable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supplementary Talismanic Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Powerful Petition to Mars

Ascendant ruler applying to trine Mars, with elaborate garb and suffumigations

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What Celestial Petitions Are

A significant part of the tradition Scholastic Image Magic is based upon includes celestial petitions. These are not technically image magic, because talismans are usually not involved. Nor are they properly scholastic, because they go beyond the boundaries of natural magic and invoke spirits directly, albeit ones who govern aspects of the natural world. They are prominently featured in Picatrix, but belong to the tradition of theurgy going back to at least Iamblichus. The more unsavory variations of it can sometimes be classified as necromancy, by the medieval definitions of the term.

Nobody agrees what the nature of the spirits invoked are; some believe them to be angels, others djinn, others demons. Those informed by gnostic thought sometimes believe them to be archons. All agree that they are one of the principal origins of the legends of wish-granting spirits, such as in the story of Aladdin and the djinn. I believe them to be angels, in the sense that they are honorable servants of cosmic order; they are not always benevolent in action, but absolutely serve the greater good.

The celestial petition is a supplicatory appeal for aid in a sphere the hierarchy in question has authority over. The timing is elected, the petitional text is very formal in structure, the suffumigations are very complex, ritual postures are used, and ritualized garb or costume is required. Sacrifices were also traditionally made, though this is seldom practical today. Planetary dieting is of great benefit to petitions, in addition to regimens of meditation and abstinence preceding the ceremony.

Though the type of elections used in celestial petitions differ from those used in the creation of talismans, they have enough similarity that formalized petitional texts are often used in the process of talismanic creation (abbreviated versions may be used if the electional window is brief).

Making talismans is hard work, from the election to their initial usage. Petitions are harder. Active preparation for a petition can sometimes be longer than a week. That is why when I do petitions for clients I usually charge more. To my knowledge I am the only magician commercially offering celestial petitions in the manner described in Picatrix.

Asking a talisman for a wish is effective and can be done many times, but their function is usually passive. Asking powerful governors of large portions of the cosmos for a boon is more effective—if the ritual is performed correctly—and what is asked for is granted in a very active way. An imperfect talisman may work, sometimes with side effects. If sufficiently flawed, they may do nothing, or could even curse the user. However, an imperfect petition may insult the hierarchy and cause the magician’s prompt death. Petitions are high risk, and less forgiving of error.

For me, that makes it all the more exciting.

Electing A Petition to Mars

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To elect a planetary petition, the planet of the hierarchy one is petitioning must be dignified and unafflicted in a way similar familiar to those who make planetary talismans, with some additional requirements and preferences as specified in Picatrix. The planet ruling the Ascendant must make a benevolent applying aspect to the petitioned planet. When possible, the Moon should also be dignified, unafflicted and forming a meaningful connection between the planet of the Ascendant and that of the petitioned planet. Ideally, none of the relevant planetary bodies will be cadent.

In the above election, the ruler of the Ascendant is the Moon, which simplifies a lot. The Ascendant and Moon are significators of the petitioner, and when they are in agreement the working is stronger; when they are the same body there are fewer factors to weigh.

The Moon is slow, but not prohibitively. When the Moon is slow but above twelve degrees of diurnal motion it is ideal for curses and malevolence, and so it is in harmony with at least part of the petition– it is of a destructive or disruptive nature. The Moon has some dignity within Pisces, being of the watery triplicity. The Moon exactly culminates while making a very tight applying trine with Mars. Mars is in domicile towards the end of Scorpio; he is not in the final two degrees of the Sign which could have been a problem. Mars is succedent in the 5th House. Mars is unfortunate in this House, but the other factors supersede this. Saturn is safely past opposition to the Ascendant, but is in the 6th House. The ruler of the Moon’s Sign is itself the Moon, so it cannot be cadent; the beginning will be fulfilled and the end will be fulfilled. The Ascendant ruler is less essentially dignified than the Descendant ruler, but much more accidentally dignified. The largest shortcoming of the election is that Mars neither has the Hour or Day of the election; but Picatrix does not require this.

This is not a perfect election for a petition, but a solidly good one.

The Petition to Mars

When you wish to ask Mars for something, and speak to him and honor him, put him in a good condition as we have said… Dress yourself in red garments, and put a red linen or silk cloth on your head as well as a red skullcap, and hang a sword from your neck, and arm yourself with all the weapons you can carry; and dress yourself in the manner of a soldier or a fighter, and put a bronze ring on your finger. Take a bronze thurible with burning charcoal, in which you should put the following suffumigation. –Picatrix

One of my clients asked for a boon which was of a Martial nature, and so I sought a petitional election. After months of searching, this is the best one I found, and so I got to work.

I already had a cylindrical red chef cap for ritual purposes. It was neither a skullcap nor linen nor silk, but fulfilled the conditions acceptably.

My thurible was iron, which is a suitable substitute as the metal of Mars.

I could not figure out how to hang my sword comfortably from my neck; it’s pretty heavy. Instead I found a pendant online in the shape of a winged sword, in steel—especially appropriate for Mars.

Similarly, I found a bronze ring in the shape of a crow’s skull. Crows are birds of Mars according to both Lilly and Agrippa.

I purchased military-style camouflage print pants in red, and wore a rather spectacular polyester shirt with a flame print.

Finally, I slung a black bowie knife and sheath on a cord about my neck, tucked my hunting rifle under one arm, and held my Smith & Wesson revolver in my right hand. Both were loaded.

I probably looked completely terrifying, which is exactly what you should go for when petitioning the cruel lord of violence and dread.

Take wormwood, aloes, squill, spurge, long pepper, and watercress in equal amounts. Grind them up and mix them with human blood. Make pills of this, which you may set aside for use. When you wish to begin working, put one of them into the thurible, which you have brought with you to a remote place specially set aside for this working. When you have arrived there, stand upright on your feet and speak secretly, boldly, and without any fear, facing the south… As the smoke rises, say the following. –Picatrix

I obtained all of the ingredients, but somehow misplaced the long pepper. Rather than make pills, I mixed the wormwood, aloe, squill, spurge and watercress in a cup and drizzled human blood over them.

At the appointed time, I stood facing south and somberly and loudly intoned the petitional text, rising in volume to a crescendo.

O Mars, you who are an honored lord and are hot and dry, mighty, weighty, firm of heart, spiller of blood and giver of illnesses thereto! You are strong, hardy, acute, daring, shining, agile, and the lord of battles, pains, miseries, wounds, prisons, sorrows, and mixed and separated things, who has no fear or contemplation of anything, sole helper in all your effects and in investigations thereof, strong in calculation and will to conquer and to seek after fortune, cause of lawsuits and battles, doer of evil to the weak and the strong, lover of the sons of battle, vindicator of wicked people and those who do evil in the world. I ask of you and conjure you by your names and your qualities that exist in heaven, and by your slayings, and also by your petitions to the Lord God who placed power and strength in you, gathering them in you and separating them from other planets that you might have strength and power, victory over all and great vigor… –Picatrix

I can’t tell you what the boon was for the client; it’s confidential, and knowledge of the specifics may interfere with their outcomes.

I will say that Mars provides boons in many areas other than violence and misfortune; and while his hierarchy is Malefic, they often do great good. Challenging injustice, obliteration of disease, removing obstacles to love and sex, surgery, alchemy, and vanquishing pestilence are all within the sphere of Mars’ influence.

Mars is a mighty ally and a terrible foe.

Forget neither.

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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.

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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

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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

The Rings of the Diplomat

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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:

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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 Age of Black Magic: Step Fourteen

The Invocation of the Abomination in Crimson:

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This project of mine was © January 5th 2010, along with several “lighter” versions. It’s a malefic petition invoking the stellar hierarchy of Algol, with a viable talisman of Algol used as an initiatory token to call upon forces of wrath and punishment upon an enemy.

I wrote this a long time ago, and while my current relationship with the hierarchy of Algol is focused upon healing (and its virtues as a healing star co-ruled by Jupiter are wildly underestimated), I certainly think it is one of the most potent weapons in the SIM practitioner’s arsenal.

When it’s time to show no mercy, it’s time for The Abomination In Crimson.

“O mighty star Algol, I call to you by all your names: flickering Beta Persei, bloody Ras Al Ghul, blinking Rosh ha’Sautaun, terrible Gorgoneion, grisly Fifth Star of the Mausoleum, feared Tseih She: attune this talisman unto me and me unto it, so that I shall plumb all its mysteries, secrets, and wisdom, and master its full and perfect powers, wonders, and miracles, now and forever, whether I wear it or not, from now until the end of time.

“May your light and spirit dwell within it and dwell within me, for me to instantly command.

“Great and powerful star, make your angels, dæmons, and spirits of every kind subject unto me, obedient unto my every will, command and desire. You obediently and piously serve the One Most High, and by His command is your service invoked at this hour.

“So hear my words:

“I kneel before you and seek your favor and patronage; for the few in whom you find favor are saved, uplifted, preserved, and avenged; and all those in whom you find disfavor are swiftly devastated and punished.

“It is said that he who carries your talisman, your emblem of favor, vessel of your spirit and radiant light, is given the supreme power of protection and retaliation, so that all those who seek to harm him are thwarted perfectly; and their machinations, treachery, calumnies, theft, torments, incantations, sendings, witchcraft, bindings, curses, flame, poisons, blades, darts, stones, bludgeons or bullets will all alike turn back upon them and destroy them as they sought to destroy him. Savage star, grant unto me your succor and liberation.

“May their malice reflect upon them as excellently as the perfect mirror reflects light. ‘Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.’ I now ask that you magnify this power so that they are swiftly obliterated by their arrogant devices, and examples be made of them for all time. Seize them with your sharp teeth, and never let them go. Heap multitudes of tortures upon them, and smite them cruelly with a fatal stroke.

“Dismember and mutilate their corpses, and cause their remains to be polluted, desecrated, and shamed. Their dust and ash shall be blown to the four corners of the earth, until nothing of my foes remain but gruesome tales of warning.

“Multiply their spirits’ torments in the lands beneath, too. The wicked cannot escape your gaze; not even in death shall they be spared.

“You pitiless eye of revenge– stare ever deeply upon them.

“Mirror of enmity, I humbly beg that you grant me this power so that I shall be like the beautiful diamond; indestructible, reflective, luminous, and with edges ever sharp. Make me like the poisonous black hellebore; bringer of agony and death to those who would mistake it harmless. May I be more durable than mountain stone, yet supple as the deadly serpent.

“Leering visage, also grant me the virtues of invigorating mugwort; guarded against peril, secure in travel, vigilant, passionate, bold and quick.

“It is said that he who carries your talisman fears no injury to his members, for you keep them whole and safe from harm.

“Your talisman bestows success in petitions and requests made to princes, bosses, leaders, patrons, and any who have power over him; so that they shall quickly grant whatever it is that he asks.

“It bestows the wearer courage, vitality, and magnanimity.

“It grants victory in whatever contests or struggles to which he attempts, through war, gaming, sorcery, or any other thing. For with you, invincible star of destruction, your favored one is bold and mighty, and (subject to the will of the One Most High) nothing whatsoever beneath you can long obstruct his path.

“I beg that you also grant me all of these powers to their fullest perfection, and the wisdom to know how and when to use them.

“O slaughter star, eidolon of horror, eater of the dead, slayer of men, blinking eye of terror and blight, decapitator star, render of flesh, beacon of the tombs, depopulator of civilizations, ever-hungry star, savage patron of monsters, terrible light of doom, implacable bringer of ruin, father of devastation, flame of oblivion, lord of direst woe, luminous face of hate, gore-drinker, you whose gaze upon the waters turns it to poison, strangler star, mighty head of the adversary, hear my prayer and rend my enemies apart, moisten the earth with rivers of their spilt blood. Rejoice in the deaths of men.

“Grant me a portion of all your powers for I seek to be your [vassal, student, son/beloved/bridegroom, and] priest, and may I be a refraction of your invincible, terrible, and eternal light.

“Most supreme executioner in the celestial realms, you neck severer, invincible head taker, great hacker of limbs and seizer of life, man flayer, bone breaker, marrow sucker, gorger on entrails, corpse candle, heart gnawer, ruddy lamp of banes, you whose dripping blood sows vipers, blazing star of murder, torch of the piled up bodies, thirsty blade of vengeance, glint of annihilation, abomination in crimson, watchful dæmon of the void, ancient monster of monsters, you fierce exterminating angel, defender and avenger most puissant to your favored few, please find favor in me and accept my prayer, and go now and send forth your grisly throng and fatal glare to seek out my enemies wherever they may be found, and pierce their hearts with your terrible red rays and make them quake and fall, kill them wherever they may hide, set your gaze upon them in harsh judgement and spare them no pity whatsoever.

“May plagues like the ten of Egypt be at my ten fingertips to command and to curse them with every form of suffering and death, and may my hands throttle the throats of my enemies, and may I tear their heads off with these hands to demonstrate your power and fury, and cast their broken bodies down into cold and leaden death, and may I place their bloody heads on pikes at the gates of the cities in sacrifice and tribute to you, so that all may know of your power, and the consequences of incurring your terrible wrath.

“Burn thy seal upon my heart, upon my breast, upon my body, upon my soul, upon my spirit, upon my deeds, upon my destiny, upon my wrath, upon my fame, and upon my power.

“Grant unto to me the greatest secrets of lethal magics, the sorceries of the greatest and most terrible kind, irresistible and frightful, so I too shall be known as a light of annihilation, forevermore.

“Crown and adorn me with your majesty and gird me with your protection and arm me with your many instruments of obliteration, and all shall say throughout the ages that those who were set against me were destroyed by tortures most vile, and that I strode forth to victory upon their tattered corpses, and that I rejoiced amongst their bones. For you have made me so, potent and fearsome star Algol.

“Star of supreme misfortune, greatest malefic––

“Go forth as a fiend, but to me be an angel.”

The bracketed text regarding initiatory adoption, betrothal, or espousal by Algol and its hierarchy of spirits is only for persons compatible with this concept, and have been given permission by Algol through divination, dream or vision.

Though gender terminology throughout is male, it can be adjusted as appropriate.

Algol’s appetites are beyond all limitations.

The Age of Black Magic: Step Thirteen

Summoning Uncle Joe

In addition to the inclusion of blood relatives on a dedicated altar for ancestors, one may also provide offerings to the spirits of those who you admire or seek to call upon for aid. Saints are only one example of the Mighty Dead who one can call upon for help; calling upon the spirits of mighty magicians like Agrippa, Merlin, King Solomon, and Moses for wisdom and assistance is an ancient tradition.

Settings for Presidents such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are also well-established and useful. Roman emperors and Egyptian pharaohs were deified and venerated. Images of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy hang in many homes for reasons far beyond the sentimental. They are appeals for aid—usually for help in matters related to their authority, fame, tutelage, and skills.

But you can go further than this. And a lot darker.

e673870643faea6f1da05e399245cfde

Buy a Soviet-era memento of Josef Stalin from eBay, or a similar source. The older, the better; the more closely associated with Stalin or the Communist Party, the better. You want the strongest possible tether to him. A printout will just not cut it.

Place the personal concern in a shot glass on your ancestral altar and feed it curse materials like goofer dust, dead black widows, and other things of death and destruction. The rarer and the more dangerous, the better.

Make a spirit cocktail: any grain alcohol in which has been steeped thirteen cayenne peppers, thirteen guinea peppers and thirteen black peppers. Offer this every week until you are ready to make requests. Feed a dedicated shot glass with this to nourish and compel the spirit into fury and action.

I devised the following incantation for this purpose. You can alter it and improvise, but recite it at least once a week when you make offerings to the spirit of Josef Stalin.

Attend me at this hour of night! I [name] call into the open grave, into that silence profound, and draw forth the terrible and mighty spirit wherever he may be so that he may answer my prayer:

I call upon you, shade of Josef Stalin, by all the rights and privileges I possess. I speak for the humble and the broken that seek your intercession. The world above is in turmoil and only you can set things right. Not even death can temper your vast power. We all conjure you.

Awake in Spring! Awake in Summer! Awake in Fall! Awake in Winter! Awake by day! Awake by night! Rouse yourself from slumber, mighty Stalin, and forge the world anew by your power and your eternal name. The revolution is at hand! Awake, and slumber no more! Sentinel of dread, bringer of cold, hunter of men, seize every enemy of the cause and drag them down to deepest Hell in your iron teeth.

Mighty Stalin, supreme in wrath, arm yourself for war and cloak yourself in judgement; you slew the Nazis, and crushed the exploiters and the wealthy, and punished the many traitors. You tore out the tongues of those who spoke against you, and you made the greedy sup on ashes. Now is your time again.

In life you were an Angel of Death; in death may you live again. May all the lives you took give you power. Rise up from your grave and stretch the shadow of your mighty fist across the world; crush my enemies with your hammer, dismember them with your sickle, and fertilize the soil of the hopeless with red red blood!

I bind you to my command, hurting not me nor mine but diligently those whom we hate and will destroy! (Repeat the concluding binding thirteen times.)

It would be particularly appropriate to direct the wrath of the spirit of Josef Stalin at the Trump Administration and its supporters and enablers. That’s what I’ve been doing, in part.

If this is your goal, you may wish to be more specific about your desires in your incantation. I do advise that you not pull your punches. You don’t call up Uncle Joe for anything but the coldest, most brutal, most heartless of sorceries. Let his worldly acts inspire you. Impress him.

Nevertheless, regardless of your objectives or your personal political beliefs, having a working relationship with the spirit of the man who likely killed more people than any other in human history is highly beneficial to the work of a black magician and necromancer.

Gemstones and Metals in Picatrix and SIM

gemstones4

An array of cut and polished gemstones.

Scholastic Image Magic, or SIM for short, focuses somewhat upon the creation of talismans; that is, material objects in which a spirit of the heavens is ritually embedded in order to perform works of wonder. Picatrix, also known as Ghayat El-Hakim in its original Arabic title, is the largest and most detailed example of this tradition of magical texts. While Picatrix is a miscellany of magical and esoteric lore, the majority of it can be said to either provide recipes for the creation of astrological talismans or reference materials and theory which support this endeavor.

Picatrix was never intended to contain all the knowledge necessary for the reader to create talismans, evoke spirits, or the many other secrets it offers. The student of the work was expected to be educated in the system of advanced astrology prominent at that time, with a priority towards electional astrology, the choosing of fortunate or unfortunate times to commence an activity or construct or alter an object. Talismans were simply one way to use an astrological election; by embedding the spirit of a fortunate moment of a particular flavor in matter, the luck or power would emit from the talisman even during times which were mediocre or quite adverse.

The student was also expected to be quite versed in the sciences of the era, which depended heavily upon the works of Aristotle and Pliny and the studies of the alchemists. While astrological associations of metals and gemstones and other materials often differ from those the alchemists used, they overlapped sufficiently that in the absence of guidance from canonical texts of astrology and magic, the student would refer to alchemical teachings as a supplement.

Many of these supplemental texts have been lost or are not available in translation. What modern practitioners do is refer to texts which are compatible but later in history and thus more accessible. Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy is a great source for such information, and when herb lore becomes relevant so is Nicholas Culpeper’s Herbal.

Picatrix is often evasive about the diversity of talismanic implementations. There are hints that wooden talismans are possible, but it gives no details regarding their manufacture. Pigments are often associated with stellar configurations, but again there is little information on how they were to be used, since paper and parchment were not thought to be able to absorb power very well.

Venus

Talismanic Image of Venus based on recipes in Picatrix.

What is provided are instructions on how to cast talismans out of metals and colored waxes, and to engrave gemstones. When the proper picture or sigil was inscribed or cast on such an object at the elected time, a spirit of one of the seven planetary hierarchies or one of the many more exotic stellar hierarchies would empower the talisman and give it amazing powers. Incantations and burned incense would facilitate the process and strengthen the creation of the talisman, and compatible herbs would either be placed with it or glued to in some manner to magnify or focus the power towards a particular objective.

In recent centuries the concept of correspondence has eclipsed that of affinity, and to modern practitioners the return to the old way of thinking may be jarring. The alchemists had a one to one correspondence between the seven traditional planets and metals, with lead corresponding to Saturn, tin to Jupiter, iron to Mars, gold to Sun, copper to Venus, quicksilver to Mercury, and silver to the Moon. Even later in history, singular colors corresponded to the planets as well; black for Saturn, blue for Jupiter and so on. This is alien to the older and more complex astrological tradition.

In SIM, there are long lists of metals and minerals (not to mention herbs and animal ingredients) associated with each planetary hierarchy. Furthermore, many materials appear on two or more lists for different reasons. Each planetary hierarchy has multiple colors. Lastly, there is no singular material on each list which most associated with the planet any more than there is one which is the least. Each material has qualities which in some way resemble the function of one or more planetary hierarchy, which can include color, weight, attractiveness, medicinal usage, flavor, folkloric associations, hardness, translucency and much more. This complexity is often jarring to newcomers in this system.

gold

Metallic gold (and minerals like iron pyrite which resemble it) are prized in SIM.

An example of these complex associations is the metal gold. The yellowish hue and, when polished, its shininess associate it with the Sun. Its inability to tarnish is associated with the Sun’s regularity and mathematical associations with the four seasons. Gold is an excellent material for Sun talismans. However, gold is a very heavy material—almost as heavy as lead—and this is why it is associated with Saturn, the planetary hierarchy associated with weight, gravity and things drawn down into the earth. Saturn talismans can be made perfectly well in gold; in some ways it is superior to lead because it is more rigid and less likely to distort when worn or carried. Gold is highly attractive and desired, and so it gains associations with Venus and also is appropriate for her talismans. Gold is also expensive and thereby gains associations with Jupiter, the governor of riches. Gold is also suitable for Jupiter talismans. The only planets which can’t work with gold are Mars, Mercury and perhaps the Moon.

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Lapis lazuli with iron pyrite inclusions is particularly versatile and inexpensive for making talismans.

More overlap appears in one of the most commonly used gemstones, lapis lazuli. A soft, vividly blue gemstone that is frequently flecked with golden iron pyrite inclusions, it is relatively inexpensive and thus is quite popular among contemporary practitioners of SIM. Of greater importance, Marsilio Ficino (a Renaissance genius who practiced SIM among many other things) observed that softer materials produced talismans which had shorter lifespans but produced magical effects especially rapidly. Picatrix uses a slightly different rationale with the same conclusion. Nevertheless, lapis lazuli with pyrite inclusions gains association with Saturn by two routes; the golden appearance of the pyrite hearkens back to metallic gold and its own associations with Saturn, and because of a historical confusion between lapis lazuli and sapphire– both mean “blue stone” in different languages (Latin and Sanskrit) and the latter is more directly associated with Saturn due to its dark color and extreme hardness. (Saturn governs darkly pigmented things and durability.) Lapis lazuli with pyrite inclusions also has affinity with the Sun because of the golden appearance of the flecks of pyrite. Lapis gains association with Venus because of its oceanic blue color, and the Greek myth of Aphrodite emerging from the sea foam. The Moon arguably has the strongest associations with lapis lazuli because of this oceanic connection, and the dependency of the tides upon the Lunar cycles. Additionally, by way of lapidary lore, lapis lazuli has the property of diminishing melancholy and grief, and this quality is added to and magnified by the transformation of a lapis lazuli gemstone into a Saturn, Sun, Venus or Lunar talisman, regardless of its other powers.

These are two, slightly extreme examples of how the 1:1 system of correspondence fails in Scholastic Image Magic. In many instances a gemstone or other material will only have associations with one or two celestial hierarchies. But I illustrate this to make a point; materials such as gemstones, metals and herbs are not singular representatives of a celestial hierarchy in each kingdom of matter, but one of a host of materials which a particular astrological spirit hierarchy finds beautiful, interesting, useful, or more real. Everything in the world is ruled over by one or more planetary hierarchies; there’s a lot of redundancy down here. And an alternate way to express this if the notion of spirits is undesirable, is that just like different forms of electromagnetic radiation can penetrate metals and flesh and stone to varying degrees based on type, the rays of astral light (which are the spirits themselves) can irradiate all substances to differing degrees. Only those materials which can be fully irradiated by astral power of any particular variety are capable of becoming the vessels of power that are talismans.

There are an abundance of additional factors to consider when selecting gemstones for the purpose of making a particular sort of talisman. Some are metaphysical and some are practical.

Picatrix advises that one may use the system of humours or temperament to attract and repel animals and people of particular constitutions whose images have been engraved on gemstones. A gemstone which is believed to be hot and dry with the talismanic image of a fierce animal like a lion will attract and tame the animal. A gemstone whose constitution is believed to be cold and wet with the same image and stellar configuration would instead repel lions. The same might be applicable to types of people who might appear on a talisman, such as a king or a warrior. Sadly, lists of the elemental associations of gemstones from the era of Picatrix do not appear to be available in translation, and some guesswork is necessary.

Gemstones are believed to be the fruits of the Earth, and are natural phenomena. In the outlook of the scientists of the era, plants were a midpoint between the attributes of animals (both grow) and minerals (neither move about). One of the implications of the continuum between animal and mineral is that to an extent, minerals are parts of the living Earth and closer in nature to a living oak tree than a carcass. This explains why gemstones which are in various ways not natural do not make good talismans. Artificial diamonds and rubies, irradiated gems, dyed gems, and sometimes even heated minerals do not absorb the essence of the spirit beings adequately in order to turn them into talismans. Sometimes when they do work, they produce unpleasant side effects. Synthetic gemstones are akin to silk flowers and wax fruit; they may look like the real thing but often are inadequate replacements.

The color of gemstones is a complicated issue. Gemstones of particular colors are indeed associated with particular planetary hierarchies; pretty much any white stone can be used for Jupiter, for example. Nevertheless, this is an instance where an association is very superficial and often will produce an inferior talisman. Gems which have very particular associations with planets because of unique properties take precedence over something like color alone, which is far more general. Many gemstones which are powerfully associated with a particular planet are of extremely counterintuitive colors.

Another issue with color is that on a mineralogical level, several named gemstones are basically the same mineral and differ only by color. In this instance, the differences of color are the source of the identity rather than chemical composition or crystalline structure. One example is onyx, traditionally a black or brown stone with white banding. Onyx can be used for Saturn talismans, Moon talismans, and the fixed star Corvus. Sardonyx is a stone which is red or orange with white or yellow banding. Other than color, there is no difference between the two. However, sardonyx is used for the talismans of the fixed star Antares, and neither the Moon nor Saturn. Antares is a reddish star, whose appearance resembles that of the stone. It is an exception to the rule. A more well known pairing like this is that of sapphire and ruby; both are the mineral corundum, but the former is black or dark blue and the latter red. Their metaphysical associations are completely different. Seeming paradoxes sometimes occur. The emerald is suitable for Jupiter and Mercury talismans; planets which are otherwise completely opposite to each other in every way. It is not enough to understand which materials are associated with one or more planets. Whenever possible, one must understand why.

The last consideration for gemstone talismans I wish to make in this article is that of shape. The most important consideration is practical; you need a gemstone with a large flat surface—large enough to engrave a sigil or, far better, a pictorial image using a diamond stylus. Emerald cut and marquis cut gemstones can provide enough surface for a small sigil but little more. Cabochons, whether hemispherical or ovoid, are the better option. They provide maximal surface area and are portable. They work in ring settings and can even be secreted in a pocket or wallet.

They also have a harmonious shape. Aristotle believed that the cosmos was spherical as the macrocosm, and this was mirrored in all spiritual beings as a microcosm; the shape of all spirits (in spite of appearances) are spheres. Anything which approaches the shape of the sphere, including ovoid shapes, circles and hemispheres, are particularly suitable vessels for a spirit being such as a talismanic entity. So, though it is seldom practical, the optimal talisman is a mineral sphere of the largest manageable size.

The factors which must be taken into account in the selection and preparation of gemstones and other material objects for transformation into talismans in Scholastic Image Magic can be daunting at first. It requires a great deal of specialty knowledge, but the authors of the Picatrix, Agrippa and other masters of SIM tended to describe talismans made in an optimal way in order to minimize side effects and maximize their power—and massive power it can be indeed. However, the average experimenter (or master of this system in a bit of a hurry) can use inexpensive or even slightly inappropriate timing and materials to create talismans which provide sufficient and immediate results. This is an elite system of magic, but the basics are accessible to all with the drive and determination to ascend.

Massive Talismans and Chimerical Spirits

I say to you further that, if the quantity of stone of which an image is composed is large (that is, between an ounce and a pound), the virtue and power of it will be able to reach from the place where it is for a hundred leagues.

If it contains a combination of things in its figure, however, its nature will have no motion or effect except that which terminates in its own place, though its motion or effect will not be limited to those of its substance or the nature of the bodies that compose it, for spirits have a wider range than those bodies that contain little spirit.

–Picatrix IV:4, Greer-Warnock translation

Picatrix Analysis:

Talismans made from mineral spheres of even medium sizes will project power for 300 miles in all directions.

Talismans which attempt to draw upon the power of more than one celestial hierarchy will be crippled, like a chariot whose horses are running in different directions.

They will have some influence in their immediate environment because they are inhabited by a chimerical spirit, but less than a pure spirit and more than the natural virtues of whatever material the talisman is composed of.

On that note, I hereby coin the term chimerical spirit; a temporary union of astral spirits from dissimilar celestial hierarchies in a talisman, which being neither fish nor fowl operates with the virtues of neither.

This notion seemingly creates an inherent limitation upon House-based talismans. Which may explain why I have found them ineffective and frustrating.

The Talismans of the Inescapable Prison

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

2017-03-24-twenty-fifth-mansion-strengthen-captives-prisons2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Age of Black Magic: Step Eight

The Doorway To Hell Sigil

 

hermeschthonios

This is an important sigil to memorize and use for curses, and virtually any other attempt to access the netherworld of the dead and uncanny spirits.

It, and variations of it, appear on an extremely large number of katadesmoi and defixios. I’ve concluded that contextually it is the symbol of the “Terrestrial” Hermes of the Orphic Hymns, and more pertinently helps open a gateway into the realms of the dead.

It may also permit access to celestial realms as well, as variations of it appear on a sizable quantity of pentacles from the Greater Key of Solomon and other ritual objects in the Solomonic tradition. Many people believe the number 8 is associated with planetary Mercury, though this is debatable and not necessarily compatible with the pentacles. I speculate that it is a more general symbol for Divine Hermes, and assists in other forms of Divine communication. This is less well established, however.

In our context, it can be used to gain the attention of netherworld entities and a channel through which communication or miasma can flow. It is a wound you open into the darkest realms below.

So, let’s call it the Doorway To Hell Sigil.

It should be inscribed on all applicable objects used when attempting to constrain, harm and destroy the Trump Administration.