A Circle of Art
January 28, 2012 14 Comments
Almost every magician likes circles. It’s not really our fault; they’ve been used since before written records of magic for protection, isolation, containment, or just simply marking a boundary of working space in a magic ritual. They’re important, of course, but sometimes magicians can go overboard with them (see the Clavicula Solomonis, Trithemius rite, Munich Manual, or the Heptameron). It’s even gotten to the point where there are whole networks of artists in the video game, anime, DeviantArt or other communities who specialize in elaborate and intricately detailed magic circles. They are pretty cool-looking, admittedly, but we have to keep in mind that the circle is still a tool used for protection and containment of a consecrated space.
For all the hype, magic circles don’t need to be that complex. A simple ring around yourself, drawn in the dirt or carpet or sprinkled around with salt, will suffice for most intents and purposes. PGM or classical styles of Hermetic magic may use a few voces magicae (Ablanathanalba, Sesengenbarpharanges, Lerthexanax, etc.) and maybe a cross in the center. Wiccans might use a ring of candles, pinecones, or rope. Goetic magicians, especially those of the Lemegeton persuasion, might go full-out with the complete Solomonic circle. The effect could be stronger to include all those geometric designs and names of God, but the effect is the same at its core. Such a complex circle, though, might be preferred for permanent working spaces or for carpets/rugs/platforms that can be transported from place to place.
Well, I want a circle of my own. I don’t have the space for a full 9′ Solomonic circle, and I keep getting images from dreams or my astral temple of something simpler, anyway. After some doodling, thinking, and research, and struggling to keep this a clean design, I’ve come up with the following Circle of Art.
The construction of the circle is as follows: make two circles, one in the other. In the ring between the circles, write the godnames Agla towards the east, Adonai towards the south, Eheieh towards the west, and Eloah towards the north. These names of God represent the four elements in their quarters according to Agrippa, and I got them from Frater Osiris’ New Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, a revised version of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram that updates or cleans up some of the possible inconsistencies in its format (though I kept the older Agrippa-style elemental and directional attributions that I use for my altar and other work).
- Agla (אגלא), a contraction of Ateh Gibor Le-Olam Amen, is associated with Fire through the word Gibor, part of the godname of Mars and Geburah, Elohim Gibor.
- Adonai (אדני) is associated with the Earth through the godname of Malkuth, Adonai ha-Aretz.
- Eheieh (אהיה) is associated with Air since it is entirely breathed out without any hard or soft consonants, and also since it is associated with pure spirit through connection with the sephirah Kether.
- Eloah (אלוה) is associated with Water by its first two letters El (אל) which is the godname of Jupiter and Chesed which, although airy, is made passive by its last two letters of the word which it shares with the passive letters of the Tetragrammaton.
In this scheme, all the names of God on the outer circle have four letters and begin with the letter aleph (א), showing a harmony between them that links all the elements and directions together in a kind of spacial and spiritual unity. It helps to omit the use of the Tetragrammaton here, especially since use of the Tetragrammaton should (but hardly ever is) be used sparingly (never, as my orthodox Jewish brother would say), and since the Tetragrammaton already comprises all four elements. Plus, these godnames link up to the four sephiroth used in the Qabbalistic Cross, lending both an elemental/microcosmic and planetary/macrocosmic power to this part of the circle design. Major major props to Fr. Osiris for being so ingenious with this.
On the inside of the circle, there’s a diamond for the magician to stand, with a cross inside with a letter of the Tetragrammaton on each end of the cross. The corners of the diamond, the cross, and letters of the Tetragrammaton are aligned towards their proper directions and elements (yod for east and Fire, one Heh for south and Earth, the vav for west and Air, and the other Heh for north and Water). The inner ring can be considered the boundaries of the celestial world, and the diamond the boundaries of the terrestrial world. Outside the diamond and aligned with each of the four directions are four hexagrams, which are known to have a protective or banishing quality against harmful energies. However, unlike the Solomonic style of hexagrams that have the letters of the word ADONAI written around it and the Greek Tau cross in the middle, I came up with my own design, a figure I call the Star of Azoth.
The Star of Azoth is a hexagram or Star of David with the letters composing the word “Azoth” in it. This is a very powerful word, coming from alchemy to refer to the essential spirit of all things, the supreme reason, and the action that determines all things in all realms. Further, it can be formed from four letters of the three big scripts used in Western occultism:
- A from aleph (א), alpha, or ay, the first letter of all Phoenician-derived scripts
- Z from zed, the last letter of the Roman script
- O from omega (Ω), the last letter of the Greek script
- Th from tav (ת), the last letter of the Hebrew script
In this way, you have the beginning of everything and the end of all things combined into a single unit Azoth (אZΩת). It’s got a similar meaning, in this way, to the phrase “[EGO] ALPHA ET OMEGA”, but that phrase really bothers me. I mean, the names of Greek letters spelled out in Latin? Really? How gauche. Besides, I’ve used the same word on my fancy magical cane before, and I rather like this construction over the Alpha et Omega construction.
Anyway, the Star of Azoth combines the letters of the word in a hexagram, using aleph as the center of the star and the other letters outside, with each triangle holding the other three letters. The same letter shares the same axis, giving the star rotational symmetry. Using the hexagram as an image of the seven planets, as in the following image,
we can associate planets that share the same progression of Z-Ω-ת, the same letter, or the same triangle:
- Saturn, Mars, and Mercury share one progression of letters, starting at the top Z and going counterclockwise. These planets are all on the Pillar of Severity on the Qabbalah, and all show cold, logical, or harsh qualities.
- The Moon, Venus, and Jupiter share the other progression, starting counterclockwise from the bottom Z. Jupiter and Venus are both on the Pillar of Mercy, though the Moon is on the Pillar of Balance. However, these planets all share generative, kind, and generous qualities.
- Saturn, Mercury, and Venus share the upwards-pointing triangle, indicating the ascent to the Almighty through the cosmic boundaries (Saturn) through the use of magic and spirituality (Mercury and Venus).
- Mars, Jupiter, and the Moon share the downwards-pointing triangle, indicating the descent of spirit into the physical world, with Jupiter and Mars determining the quality and quantity of spirit allowed and the Moon giving birth into the physical world as the lowest part of the heavens.
- Moon and Saturn share the letter Z, which reveals their natures showing boundaries (Saturn as the boundary between the celestial and the divine, the Moon as the boundary between the celestial and the terrestrial) as well as their feminine and generative nature (Saturn being associated with Binah, the black Mother and God as Female, and the Moon representing the fertility of mother goddesses and generation through the feminine cycles).
- Mars and Venus share the letter Ω, and these too are associated with being the masculine and feminine poles of energies and forces. They both represent kinds of nonlogical drives, that of force and action by Mars and that of emotion and reaction by Venus.
- Jupiter and Mercury share the letter ת, and it’s been shown through Qabbalistic texts that Mercury and Jupiter, or Hod and Chesed, share a connection of their glory, which both sephirah names can translate to. Both are related to education and nobility, for one, and both rely on each other as a forest on its trees and trees on its forest. As the smallest and largest planets in the solar system, these share a kind of size extremity on opposite ends.
- In the center of the hexagram, we have the Sun associated with aleph. Aleph and alpha, in terms of gematria, both have the numerical value of unity, representing the Almighty, which has its representative in the solar system as the Sun. In addition, in terms of the Qabbalah, the sephirah Tiphareth is known as the Lesser Countenance of God, revealed to the world as the Son by whom all things can be done. You can’t exactly do much without eating a good meal, grown by the light of the sun, now, can you?
Putting it all together, we come up with this magic circle which combines representations of the elements (through the Tetragrammaton and the four four-letter names of God on the outer ring) and the planets (through the use of the hexagram figure and the Star of Azoth in the inner ring). With the magician standing in the center of it all, we complete the circle in a third dimension and add one final part to the whole setup, the operative force or the quintessence that binds the entire cosmos together, the magician himself. This looks promising as a circle design, and I hope soon enough to get a big enough piece of canvas to roll out, paint on, and use in my own work.