On Blessings

Lately, I’ve been thinking of things going on in my life, or that have happened in my life, and started to call the good ones (like, the really good ones) “blessings”.  It’s something that I’ve heard some of my older or elder friends say, too, about some of the nicer things in life, and…it’s weird.  Before initiation into Santeria, I would never really have used the word “blessing” to describe a good thing that happens.  Awesome, fantastic, or great, perhaps, but “blessing” was weird for me to think of it that way. Now, it seems a lot more natural; perhaps it’s just a shift in the crowd I run with and adopting the terminology, but seeing how I was already running with them before, something must have clicked into place for this sense of the word “blessing” to click for me.

Let’s recap, I suppose. From my Western religious or magical viewpoint that I’d assume is more-or-less common (but I could be wrong!), a blessing is a ritual act where something or someone is blessed.  For instance, a Catholic priest can bless a saint medallion (or any number of other things), and oftentimes perform a light or simple exorcism of a person which can also count as a blessing.  Other priests in other traditions and religions generally follow suit, with the overall goal to instill a force or presence of holiness or divinity in a material vessel, animate or not.  For many of the same reasons, many of the enchanting or consecrating acts magicians do can also be considered blessings; heck, the language we use is often identical to those used in the Church, if not taken directly from their liturgies and rituals, with much the same effect (though issues of apostolic succession and the lack thereof can subtly change or weaken the end result).

We can look at the word “blessing” in two etymological ways: the first, using the Germanic word family of bless, blood, and blót, and the second using the Latin word family of benedicere.  In the former, we have an original word coming from Germanic paganism of “marking with blood”, leading to the term blót, a sacrifice, and blót-hus, “house of worship” or “temple”.  By using the blood of sacrificed animals, the divine figures of worship, the place of worship, and the worshipers themselves would be instilled with the special powers contained within; there are conceptual parallels between this and the Old Testament use of sacrificed oxen and bulls in the Temple, as well as the literal bloodbath Moses gave to the Hebrews as he came down from the Mount.

In the second sense, we have the far more bland Latin term benedicere, literally meaning “to speak well” or “to say good things”.  However, in the Christian sense, consider that Jesus Christ is the Word of God, the Logos; to speak good things upon someone is to literally cast the power of God upon them for good ends and with good means.  This builds upon the more fundamental Abrahamic understanding of a blessing (all of which ultimately come from God) to the effect that to be blessed is to be favored and approved by God.  This ties into the otherwise unusual statement “Blessed are you, Lord our God” (how almost all Jewish blessings, or berakhot, begin); after all, how could God be blessed, if God gives all blessings?  It’s because being the source of blessings is indistinguishable from the quality of being blessed; both the blessing and the blessor are identical.

So much for etymologies and definitions.  When it comes to using the word, I’ve pretty much limited myself to using it in a ritual or prayerful context.  I would suppose that, as a technical matter, only priests (who have a valid and legitimate connection to their deity and who are licensed and authorized to do so by such a connection) can actually bless an object, person, event, or space.  Laity and other non-priestly clergy who lack that connection can pray for the blessing of something, while magicians can…well, I don’t want to say “consecrate” (literally “to make sacred”, which overlaps heavily with “blessing”), but perhaps “enchant” or (one of my more favorites, thanks Kalagni and Deb et al.) “enwoogify” or “bespooken”.  As a matter of technical correctness, only priests can bless; even if what magicians do is effectively the same thing in result, the mechanics and source of the result is sufficiently different to warrant another term.

But…well, consider what the laity do in this context: they pray for blessings upon someone else.  It’s what I never really put much consideration into before now, but when someone prays for your well-being, your happiness, your prosperity, your safety, your success…those are the blessings they pray for, which are their blessings to you.  Absent any other ritual, divine connection, or other woogity, that act is the lay equivalent of blessing someone, by appealing to the source of blessings to bestow its blessings.  That is their magic, their means of plying their connection, their gift to you.  Again, while them “blessing” you isn’t necessarily a proper use of the term, just as with a magician enchanting for some effect, the effect is ultimately equivalent.

That sort of realization is, in some sense (and in addition to being with people who use that term just as a thing), what led me to start widening my use of the term “blessing”, and why it finally made sense to call good things that happen “blessings”.  When we, as magicians, carry out a ritual for some end, do we not consider ourselves successful when that very thing comes to pass?  Of course we do; we might find ways to improve upon our results for future workings, but we consider the success a validation of our work, our connections to spirits, and ourselves.  Similarly, when we pray for something, do we not consider ourselves having been heard by God or the gods when what we pray for comes to pass?  Heck, we even say that they “answer our prayers”, just as they would a phone call or question.  Thus, if we pray for a blessing, and our prayers are answered, then we would then, logically, say that we have been blessed.

I’ve long held that magicians should pray just as much as anyone else, if not more so; in the types of magic I work, prayer is part and parcel of the whole shebang.  In my own prayers, besides those of adoration of divinity, I pray for guidance, enlightenment, fortitude, progress, compassion, companionship, wisdom, intelligence, understanding, protection, purpose, purity, and so much else.  For myself and for many other people, the most common things we pray for are good health, long life, prosperity, happiness, and peace.  There are hundreds of classifications and categories of blessings out there (just look up the endless kinds of berakhot that Jews are supposed to recite upon basically anything happening), but the big ones are things we all want in our lives, which are fundamental to a universal human notion of “a life well-lived”.

So, when something good happens that furthers me along in a way I’ve prayed for, or that someone else has prayed for me, or that just happen because *gestures vaguely upwards*  I should celebrate it and be grateful for it, just as I’d celebrate myself when something I’ve been magicking for comes to fruition.  Good things that happen (and I mean with a capital G, not just the little g good things) are blessings, whether or not I or anyone else has asked for them.  It’s such a simple concept, really; I’m kind of embarrassed that I never understood it before, but I get it now.  Maybe it’s preconceived notions that Good Things just happen coincidentally (which is otherwise a notion I’ve long since abandoned), or that Good Things happen so rarely (when so much that happens is actually Good, even if it’s not good on a microcosmic level), or something else that kept me from seeing…I dunno, a more profound awe in things.

Of course, recognizing that something is a blessing is only one part of the equation; being grateful for it and not taking it for granted are others to follow through with.  After all, when we get something we ask for from someone as a gift, we graciously and gratefully thank them, if not exchange a new gift for them; when we work with people or spirits whom we commission to do work for us, we pay them for their services.  To simply take without giving is selfish and greedy, and degrades the entity doing something for us into a slave, while taking without appreciation treats them as a machine.  For the Good Things that happen to us, we must be grateful that divinity either heard our prayers and saw fit to grant them, or that divinity for the sake of divinity favored us with the Good Things, but more than that, we must never take such blessings of Good Things for granted.  But then, how do you pay back a god?  In the ways that gods want, of course.  I would fain speak for divinities without them chiming in, but the general ways that I see acceptable across the board would be to make the most of the blessings given to you to further your own development, to help others with their own development, adoration of divinity for its own sake by means of your blessing, and to simply live a good/Good life for the sake of divinity, for the sake of the world, and for your own sake.

A blessing isn’t just a one-time good thing, like a slice of cake.  It’s more than a simple result of spiritual labor or material gift.  It’s a foundation, a building material to continue constructing and instructing our lives in the best ways we’re able to, and with which we can help others build theirs.  We just need the humility to ask for these materials, the knowledge of how to implement them, and the wisdom of when to use them, but even these we can inculcate in ourselves, both as practice we cultivate and blessing we seek.


Data, Information, Knowledge

As an initiate in La Regla de Ocha Lukumi (a.k.a. Santeria), I’m trying to wrap my head around all the different things we do and the proper way to do them.  The most straightforward method for this is to simply show up to ceremonies, watch what’s done, listen to what’s said or sung, and follow along; in this manner, I learn the things we do, how to do them, and why we do them.  I learn primarily from my godfather when I’m in a one-on-one situation, and under his watch and guidance more generally when I’m in the broader community.  This is the simplest way for me to learn, but even then, there are so many complications in this alone.  For one, since we’re all learning, there are things my elders will occasionally shift when they find a better or more proper way to do things, so occasionally the things they show or tell me can change over time, which isn’t even bringing up the matter of things that I can’t formally know yet, based on my own experience or initiations within the religion, without which I formally can’t know about certain things without having undergone the mysteries thereof.  For another, there’s the issue of different houses within a lineage with their small variances, and different lineages within the religion with their larger ones, which becomes more evident when we have people from other communities visiting and participating in our ceremonies or vice versa.  There’s also the issue of the “stuff out there”, books and blogs and personal notes of other people in the religion, which really should be vetted thoroughly before even being given an ounce of credence since some of it may not apply to us and some of which may just be outright wrong.

Trying to take all that in and form a useful body of knowledge that I can use is…daunting, to say the least.  Thank God and the gods for my godfather, but even by his own admission, it can be bewildering and confusing even at the best of times.

The situation is a little different in Western occulture, but many of the same issues still apply.  Consider all the grimoires we have available to us nowadays from the medieval and Renaissance Solomonic traditions; heck, just consider the books Gordon over at Rune Soup goes over in in his grimoire course.  Each book, while still belonging more-or-less to the same overall tradition of magical study, has its own variations of practice, theory, and internal logic; some things are clear inventions that start with one grimoire and continue forward form there, while other things that were present from the beginning slowly fade out over time.  Then, based on all those texts, consider our modern (largely derivative) texts and how those vary both in philosophy and praxis due to the time and location wherein they were written.  Then, for an additional twist, throw in everybody’s UPG that they love to make dogmatic Truth far more often than is good for them (or us).  If one were to study magic, then, how would you go about reconciling all these differences?  Between all the details and variations, between all the similarities and commonalities, where does one even begin to make coherence out of the mess?

Let’s talk about how we come across such facts and tidbits in the world we live in.  I like to draw a threefold distinction here: data, information, and knowledge.  All have their role to play, but all are slightly different in terms of delivery and scope:

  • Data is a Latin word literally meaning “things that are given” (where, yes, the singular of data is datum, but I won’t fault you for using data as a singular noun in English).  Literally anything that exists or that is said, witnessed, or perceived is data.  The world is full of data, but much of it doesn’t make sense or even matter.  Literally the entire world, if you’re receptive to it all, is full of data.  Data is, in many ways, boring and meaningless without some sort of structure or methodology to process it by.  If data is a set of raw materials, then the form of raw materials produces information.
  • Information is, in the words of one of my old computer science professors that stuck with me, “data that makes a difference”.  Differences can only be shown when you have some sort of rule, method, structure, or form to pit two pieces of data against each other with.  Information is another Latin derivative meaning “to educate”, but more literally meaning “to give form to”.  Information is a structure of data that literally informs (builds within) a body of knowledge.
  • Knowledge is synthesized, coherent structures of information.  When we “know” something, we have a context to put information within, and we can link it to other bodies of information to see even bigger trends that connect both within and outside a single system of information.

To use an organic metaphor, consider an animal body, which is composed of organs, which are composed of cells, which are composed of chemicals.  Those individual chemicals at the lowest level are data, and they can occur anywhere both within an animal body and outside them.  When arranged in certain structures (such as nucleotides in a strand of DNA), you start to get cells.  When the cells are organized together according to function and purpose, you get organs.  When your organs are put together in a coherent, symbiotic way, you get a complete animal.  Similarly, our minds are composed of different bodies of knowledge, which are themselves composed of structures of information, which are themselves composed of data.  The data are arranged in certain ways to form information; the information are arranged and structured in certain ways to form knowledge; different bodies of knowledge are linked together to form our intelligible minds.

To give a more concrete example, consider a school of students.  At testing time, each test score of each student gives us a single point of data.  We can point and say that we know that Tom’s score is 74 and Abby’s score is 95, which is nice and all, but individual points of data don’t really mean anything.  We can see that 95 is a higher score than 74, but more than that, we can’t say anything unless we start looking at a broader picture, a structure to fit these data points within.  Consider Tom’s trends of scores across the school year; while 74 may not seem like a particularly great score, if we see that that’s his highest score across the entire year, then we can say that Tom is getting better, while Abby might be having an off day with 95 being her lowest score across the whole year.  We can evaluate how well Tom and Abby are doing amongst their peers by taking the average or median scores of their class, or the whole school, to see whether Tom’s situation is common compared to his classmates or whether he’s underperforming.  We can split the types of test up by subject and see whether these scores are indicative of Tom or Abby excelling in certain subjects but not others.  All these methods to analyze data produce information, which is “data that makes a difference”.  Going one step further, we can take how this given school performs on tests to our bodies of information about education methods generally that we might’ve picked up from our own classes, the psychology of children and adults in learning and performing on evaluations, how obscure the material is on the tests compared to both what is commonly known and what is specialized expertise in a given field, and other things that we’re informed of to come up with a general, broad-view understanding of the performance of the school and the context in which it takes place.  From that knowledge, we can make further judgments that we might not be able to make reliably when we’re focused only on one system of information, because we lack sufficient context or experience in order to extrapolate.

We need to understand two things about data, the things we encounter in the world:

  1. Any given data point is a fact on its own terms.  This doesn’t mean that every bit of data we have is true, but it is a fact in and of itself.  Consider this book on Santeria I have before me; it is a fact that the book says such-and-such about a particular orisha.  That is a data point, and it is a fact that the book says so.  Whether such a fact is true depends on other factors that cannot be validated on its own terms; if I have other bits of data that say the opposite of what the book says (such as what other santeros say, what my godfather says, what my own experience has validated, etc.), then I can consider the data in the book to be false, but the book still says it all the same.
  2. Any given data point may or may not be meaningful.  Consider a generator that produces random numbers or words.  No matter how you pick them, any given item from that random set is just that: random.  Nothing in it makes a particularly big difference either way, since any comparison you use between one item and another will be meaningless.  It’s only when data are structured together and compared can a trend be (possibly) produced; the data that produce that trend are meaningful, and the data that don’t may or may not be meaningful, depending on whether it’s an “exception that proves the rule”, a once-off exception that can be explained contextually, or another random result that doesn’t have any bearing one way or another on the trend.  When we talk about people having “bullshit thresholds”, this is what we mean: it’s a boundary above which we can accept data as meaningful, and below which we can consider it to be no better than random noise.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to amass a large set of data, but it’s correlating that data into information that’s difficult.  In order to produce information, we need some sort of guidance to arrange, compare, and distinguish the data we have available to us.  For this, we use models, structures of data, sets of axioms or rules, and reliable methods of comparisons.  While this sounds numerical and mathematical, it doesn’t necessarily have to be.  For me in my education in Santeria, I have the religious, philosophical, and practical models imparted to my godfather which he’s expanded on in his own way, which he has passed down onto me.  For instance, if a particular santero says X and Y (two pieces of data), and the model my godfather has established allows for X and not Y, then I can accept X into my information model but not Y.  By understanding the model, I can often see why X is allowed and not Y, and if I can’t understand the model’s rules well enough to account for those, then there’s something my godfather hasn’t yet told me or there’s some other limitation that hasn’t yet been conceived of yet in the model, whether it’s arbitrary or not.  For a run-of-the-mill Solomonic magician, those models might be produced by a combination of analyzing the commonalities between grimoires over the centuries and the accounts of their uses from other magicians, forming a set of rules of “here’s what’s essential, here’s the expected results, here’s what can be added to good effect, here’s what can be removed without harming the overall results, etc.”; based on this understanding of the grimoires, one can perform a ritual and see how the methods of the ritual impacted the result, what the result was, whether the result can be trusted, and so forth.

Knowledge is a little more difficult to sift through, because it’s more abstract than a single structure of information.  Information structures, moreover, tend to be coherent and consistent within themselves; they each have their own sets of rules that permit some data but not others.  However, when you have more than one structure of information, it can happen that they each have a set of rules that can conflict with other systems of information.  One example I can pick out in my own experience is the role of the planets in my life.  In the system of information I have regarding astrology and Western magic, the planets (and the objects of the celestial world generally) are paramount in effecting certain things in this world.  In Santeria, on the other hand, so far as I can discern (and that’s a big disclaimer!), there’s no such corollary to that; I haven’t yet found any astrological component to the religion, besides some associations of the Sun and the Moon and a few star-based images, but there’s no role for the planets, aspects, houses, signs, and so forth.  Astrology, simply put, doesn’t matter or even have a place in Santeria.  So, then, if in one system of information I can say that Mercury retrograde is a poor time to do ritual, but in another it’s a moot point because “wtf even is Mercury or a retrograde”, what should I do?  This is an example of a conflict between different systems of information within an overall broader body of knowledge.

According to Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, you can have a system of understanding based on rules that can be either consistent (anything that is provable by the system is true) or complete (anything that is true is provable by the system), but not both.  If you’re consistent, then you must be incomplete, where whatever you can prove is true, but there are true things that cannot be proved by the system itself.  If, on the other hand, you’re complete, then you must therefore be inconsistent, where the system can prove everything that is true, but will also necessarily prove things that are not true.  I find this a useful model for understanding how things work.  Any given system of information, for us, is almost always going to be consistent, and therefore incomplete.  Thus, we rely on other systems of information that are likewise consistent and incomplete to fill in the gaps left by any one system.  By linking them together by means of context, comparison, metaphor, and allusion, we can have an overall more-or-less (we hope) complete system of knowledge that is based on multiple systems of information.  Just like we have to pick and choose the data we use to create information, we have to sometimes limit ourselves to what information we choose to link together in order to form knowledge.

Eventually, our end goal should be having knowledge.  Data is easy to get, and information is almost as easy, but neither are entirely usable by a complete being such as ourselves.  It is knowledge that declares and defines the contexts of information, but how do we go about getting knowledge?  It’s a lifelong process and largely automatic for human beings, and different traditions and philosophies have written endlessly about this, so it’s probably best for me to not wade into that set of eternal debates here.  Still, there are a few questions that you might want to consider:

  • What are my models for understanding data as information?
  • From where do my information models come from?
  • How do my experiences relate to what I already know, both as information and as knowledge?
  • How do I evaluate data as meaningful for a given system of information?
  • How can I explain data that do not fit a system of information?
  • How can I refine my models of information to weed out more untrue pieces of data while permitting more true pieces?
  • How can I link one system of information to another?
  • What sort of knowledge can I get by linking one system of information to another?
  • In what context should I analyze a system of information as a whole?
  • What system of information is best to take in new data to produce useful knowledge?

I’ve never been one for the whole “nothing is true, everything is permitted” thing.  There are indeed things that are true, if not generally for all people than specifically for individual people or contexts, and those are useful in and of themselves.  It’s the problem of determining the false chaff from the true wheat that’s the problem, and the rules for that can fluctuate at any given moment depending on what system of information is most useful at that moment.  Plus, when dealing with a number of occultists, it’s hard to keep track of who’s reliably honest and useful in their results, who’s good but crazy, and who just exaggerates for the sake of self-aggrandizement; I know I’ve had that problem in figuring out where to set my bullshit thresholds with certain people, and I’m pretty certain most of my readers have, as well.  We filter data through our bullshit thresholds all the time, but it’s always worthwhile to recalibrate that threshold once in a while and analyze why it’s set where it is for us, and whether it’s too high or too low for our own needs.

Arranging the Planets as the Geomantic Figures

A few weeks ago, the good Dr Al Cummins and I were talking about geomantic magic.  It’s a sorely understood and understudied aspect of the whole art of geomancy, and though we know geomantic sigils exist, they’re never really used much besides in addition to the usual planetary or talismanic methods of Western magic.  While I’ve been focusing much on the techniques of divination, exploring the use of geomancy and geomantic figures in magical workings is something of a long-term, slow-burn, back-burner thing for me.  Al, on the other hand, has been jumping headlong into experimenting with using geomancy magically (geomagy?), which fascinates me, and which gives us nigh-endless stuff to conjecture and experiment with.  After all, there’s technically nothing stopping us from seeing the geomantic figures as “units” in and of themselves, not just as extensions of planets projected downward or as combinations of elements projected upwards, so seeing how we could incorporate geomancy into a more fuller body of magic in its own right is something we’re both excited to do.

One of these talks involved my use of the geomantic gestures (mudras, or as I prefer to call them, “seals”).  I brought up one such example of using a geomantic seal from a few years ago: I was at the tattoo parlor with a magic-sensitive friend of mine in the winter, and it had just started to snow.  I had to run across the street to get cash, and I decided that it wasn’t that cold (or that I could bear the weather better) to put on my coat.  I was, as it turns out, incorrect, and by the time I got back, I was rather chilled to the bone.  So, in an attempt to kickstart the process of warming back up, I threw the seal for Laetitia and intoned my mathetic word for Fire (ΧΙΑΩΧ). My sensitive friend immediately turned and picked up on what I was doing without knowing how.  I hadn’t really tried that before, but since I associate Laetitia with being pure fire (according to the elemental rulers/subrulers of the figures), I decided to tap into the element of Fire to warm myself up.  Since that point, I use the seals for Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia as mudras for the elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth, respectively, like in my augmentation of the Calling the Sevenths ritual (e.g. in my Q.D.Sh. Ritual to precede other workings or as general energetic/spiritual maintenance).

Talking with Al about this, I came to the realization that I instinctively used the figures to access the elements; in other words, although we consider the figures being “constructed” out of the presence or absence of the elements, from a practical standpoint, it’s the opposite way around, where I use the figures as bases from which I reach the power of the elements.  That was interesting on its own, and something for another post and stream of thought, but Al also pointed out something cute: I use the figures of seven points as my seals for the elements.  This is mostly just coincidence, or rather a result of using the figures with one active point for representing one of the four elements in a pure expression, but it did trigger a conversation where we talked about arranging the seven planets among the points of the geomantic figures.  For instance, having a set of seven planetary talismans, I can use each individually on their own for a single planet, or I can arrange them on an altar for a combined effect.  If the seven-pointed figures can be used for the four elements, then it’d be possible to have elemental arrangements of the planets for use in blending planetary and elemental magic.

So, that got me thinking: if we were to see the geomantic figures not composed of the presence or absence of elements, but as compositions of the planets where each planet is one of the points within a figure, how might that be accomplished?  Obviously, we’d use fiery planets for the points in a figure’s Fire row, airy planets for the Air row, etc., but that’s too broad and vague a direction to follow.  How could such a method be constructed?

I thought about it a bit, and I recalled how I associated the planets (and other cosmic forces) with the elements according to the Tetractys of my mathesis work:


Note how the seven planets occupy the bottom two rungs on the Tetractys.  On the bottom rung, we have Mars in the sphaira of Fire, Jupiter in Air, Venus in Water, and Saturn in Earth; these are the four essentially elemental (ouranic) planets.  The other three planets (the Sun, the Moon, and Mercury) are on the third rung, with the Sun in the sphaira of Sulfur, the Moon in the sphaira of Salt, and the planet Mercury in the sphaira of the alchemical agent of Mercury.  Although we lack one force (Spirit) for a full empyrean set of mathetic forces for a neat one-to-one association between the empyrean forces and the four elements, note how these three planets are linked to the sphairai of the elements: the Sun is connected to both Fire and Air, Mercury to both Air and Water, and the Moon to both Water and Earth.

Since we want to map the seven planets onto the points of the figures, let’s start with the easiest ones that give us a one-to-one ratio of planets to points: the odd seven-pointed figures Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia.  Let us first establish that the four ouranic planets Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn are the most elementally-representative of the seven planets, and thus must be present in every figure; said another way, these four planets are the ones that most manifest the elements themselves, and should be reflected in their mandatory presence in the figures that represent the different manifestations of the cosmos in terms of the sixteen geomantic figures.  The Sun, the Moon, and Mercury are the three empyrean planets, and may or may not be present so as to mitigate the other elements accordingly.  A row with only one point must therefore have only one planet in that row, and should be the ouranic planet to fully realize that element’s presence and power; a row with two points will have the ouranic planet of that row’s element as well as one of the empyrean planets, where the empyrean planet mitigates the pure elemental expression of the ouranic planet through its more unmanifest, luminary presence.  While the ouranic planets will always appear in the row of its associated element, the empyrean planets will move and shift in a harmonious way wherever needed; thus, since the Sun (as the planetary expression of Sulfur) “descends” into both Mars/Fire and Jupiter/Air, the Sun can appear in either the Fire or Air rows when needed.  Similarly, Mercury can appear in either the Air or Water rows, and the Moon in either the Water or Earth rows (but more on the exceptions to this below).

As an example, consider the figure Laetitia: a single point in the Fire row, and double points in the Air, Water, and Earth rows, as below:

First, we put in the ouranic planets by default in their respective elemental rows:

Note how Mars takes the single point in the Fire row, while Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn occupy only one of the points in the other rows; these three empty points will be filled by the three empyrean planets according to the most harmonious element.  The Moon can appear in either the Earth or Water rows, and Mercury can appear in either the Water or Air rows, but in the case of the figure Laetitia, the Sun can only appear in the Air row, since the Fire row has only one point and is already associated with Mars; thus, in Laetitia, the Sun goes to Air, Mercury to Water, and the Moon to Earth.

Following this rule, we get Rubeus with Jupiter occupying the sole Air point and the Sun moving to the Fire row as the second point, Albus with Venus in the sole Water point and Mercury moving to the Air row, and Tristitia with Saturn in the sole Earth point and the Moon moving to the Water row.

With those done, it would then be easy to see what Via would look like as a collection of planets: just the four ouranic planets Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn in a straight vertical line, the four purely-elemental ouranic planets without any of the mitigating empyrean ones, since the empyrean planets don’t need to be present to mitigate any of the ouranic ones.

Leaving aside Populus for the moment, what about the five-pointed and six-pointed figures?  In the case of five-pointed figures (e.g. Puer), we have to leave out two of the empyrean planets, and only one in the case of the six-pointed figures (e.g. Fortuna Maior).  For these figures, we decided to break with the foregoing empyrean-to-element rule and institute two new ones for these figures.

For five-pointed figures, use Mercury as the sole empyrean planet for the row with two dots, regardless where it may appear:

For six-pointed figures, use the Sun and Moon as the empyrean planets for the two rows with two dots, regardless where they may appear, with the Sun on the upper double-pointed row and the Moon on the lower double-pointed row:

Note how these two rules give us four figures where the empyrean planets do not appear where we would otherwise have expected them:

  • Fortuna Maior (Sun in Water)
  • Fortuna Minor (Moon in Air)
  • Caput Draconis (Mercury in Fire)
  • Cauda Draconis (Mercury in Earth)

I figured that this departure from the original empyrean-to-elemental-row idea was useful here, since it allows us to emphasize the structure of the figures and respect the natural affinities of the empyrean planets to each other.  The Sun and Moon have always been considered a pair unto themselves as the two luminaries; without one, the other shouldn’t necessarily be present in such a planetary arrangement.  Thus, for the five-pointed figures that omit the Sun and Moon, we would then use only Mercury, as it’s the only empyrean planet available.  Likewise, if either the Sun or Moon is present, the other should also be present; for the six-pointed figures, this means that Mercury is the only empyrean planet omitted.  An alternative arrangement could be used where you keep following the prior rules, such that Fortuna Maior uses the Sun and Mercury, Fortuna Minor uses Mercury and the Moon, etc., but I rather like keeping the Sun and Moon both in or out together.  It suggests a certain…fixity, as it were, in the six-pointed figures and mutability in the five-pointed figures that fits well with their even/objective/external or odd/subjective/internal meanings.

For all the foregoing, I’m torn between seeing whether the order of planets within a row (if there are two) matters or not.  In one sense, it shouldn’t matter; I only assigned the ouranic planets to the right point and the empyreal planets to the left because of the right-to-left nature of geomancy, and coming from a set theory point of view, the order of things in a set doesn’t really matter since sets don’t have orders, just magnitude.  On the other hand, we typically consider the left-hand side of things to be weaker, more receptive, more distant, or more manifested from the right-hand stronger, emitting, near, or manifesting (due, of course, to handedness in humans with the usual connotations of “dexter” and “sinister”), but relying on that notion, I do feel comfortable putting the empyrean planets (if any) on the left-hand points of a figure, with the ouranic planets on the right-hand side, if not the middle.  It’s mostly a matter of arbitrary convention, but it does…I dunno, feel better that way.

So that takes care of the figures of four, five, six, and seven points.  We only have one figure left, the eight-pointed figure Populus.  As usual with this figure, things get weird.  We can’t simply slap the planets onto the points of Populus because we only have seven planets; we’d either need to bring in an extra force (Spirit? Fixed stars? the Earth?) which would necessitate an eighth force which simply isn’t available planetarily, or we’d have to duplicate one of the existing seven planets which isn’t a great idea (though, if that were to be the case, I’d probably volunteer Mercury for that).  However, consider what the figure of Populus represents: emptiness, inertia, void.  What if, instead of filling in the points of the figure Populus, we fill in the spaces left behind by those points?  After all, if Populus is empty of elements, then why bother trying to put planets where there’ll be nothing, anyway?  If it’s void, then put the planets in the voids.  I found it easiest to conceive of seven voids around and among the points of Populus in a hexagram pattern:

Rather than filling in the points of Populus, which would necessitate an eighth planet or the duplication of one of the seven planets, we can envision the seven planets being used to fill the gaps between the points of Populus; seen another way, the planets would be arranged in a harmonic way, and Populus would take “form”, so to speak, in the gaps between the planets themselves.  The above arrangement of suggested points to fill naturally suggests the planetary hexagram used elsewhere in Western magic (note that the greyed-out circles above and below aren’t actually “there” for anything, but represent the voids that truly represent Populus around which the planets are arranged):

Simple enough, but I would instead recommend a different arrangement of planets to represent Populus based on all the rules we have above.  Note how the center column has three “voids” to fill by planets, and there are four “voids” on either side of the figure proper.  Rather than using the standard planetary hexagram, I’d recommend putting the three empyrean planets in the middle, with the Sun on top, Mercury in the middle, and the Moon on the bottom; then, putting Mars and Jupiter on the upper two “voids” with Venus and Saturn on the bottom two “voids”:

Note the symmetry here of the planets in the voids of Populus.  Above Mercury are the three hot planets (the right-hand side of the Tetractys), and below are the three cold planets (the left-hand side of the Tetractys).  On the right side are Mars and Venus together, representing the masculine and feminine principles through Fire and Water; on the left, Jupiter and Saturn, representing the expansive and contracting principles through Air and Earth; above is the Sun, the purely hot unmanifest force among the planets; below is the Moon, the coldest unmanifest force but closest to manifestation and density; in the middle is Mercury, the mean between them all.  Around the planet Mercury in the middle can be formed three axes: the vertical axis for the luminaries, the Jupiter-Venus axis for the benefics, and the Saturn-Mars axis for the malefics.  Note how Mercury plays the role of mean as much as on the Tetractys as it does here, played out in two of the three axes (Sun-Moon on the third rung, and Venus-Jupiter by being the one of the third-rung “parents” of the two elemental sphairai on the fourth rung).  The Saturn-Mars axis represents a connection that isn’t explicitly present on the Tetractys, but just as the transformation between Air and Water (hot/moist to cold/moist) is mediated by Mercury, so too would Mercury have to mediate the transformation between Fire and Earth (hot/dry to cold/dry); this can be visualized by the Tetractys “looping back” onto itself, as if it were wrapped around a cylinder, where the sphairai of Mars/Fire and Saturn/Earth neighbored each other on opposite sides, linked together by an implicit “negative” Mercury.  Further, read counterclockwise, the hexagram here is also related to the notion of astrological sect: the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn belong to the diurnal sect, while the Moon, Venus, and Mars belong to the nocturnal sect; Saturn, though cold, is given to the diurnal sect of the Sun to mitigate its cold, and Mars, though hot, is given to the nocturnal sect of the Moon to mitigate its heat, with Mercury being adaptable, possesses no inherent sect of its own, but changes whether it rises before or after the Sun.

That done, I present the complete set of planetary arrangements for the sixteen geomantic figures, organized according to reverse binary order from Via down to Populus:

So, the real question then becomes, how might these be used?  It goes without saying that these can be used for scrying into, meditating upon, or generally pondering to more deeply explore the connections between the planets and the figures besides the mere correspondence of rulership.  Magically, you might consider creating and consecrating a set of seven planetary talismans.  Once made, they can be arranged into one of the sixteen geomantic figures according to the patterns above for specific workings; for instance, using the planetary arrangement of Acquisitio using the planetary talismans in a wealth working.  If you want to take the view that the figures are “constructed” from the planets much how we construct them from the elements, then this opens up new doors to, say, crafting invocations for the figures or combining the planets into an overall geomantic force.

However, there’s a snag we hit when we realize that most of the figures omit some of the planets; it’s only the case for five of the 16 figures that all seven planets are present, and of those five, one of them (Populus) is sufficiently weird to not fit any sort of pattern for the rest.  Thus, special handling would be needed for the leftover planetary talismans.  Consider:

  • The five-pointed figures omit the Sun and the Moon.  These are the two visible principles of activity/positivity and passivity/negativity, taking form in the luminaries of the day and night.  These could be set to the right and left, respectively, of the figure to confer the celestial blessing of light onto the figure and guide its power through and between the “posts” of the two luminaries.
  • The six-pointed figures omit the planet Mercury.  Magically, Mercury is the arbiter, messenger, and go-between of all things; though the planetary talisman of Mercury would not be needed for the six-pointed figures, his talisman should be set in a place of prominence at the top of the altar away from the figure-arrangement of the rest of the talismans to encourage and direct the flow of power as desired.
  • The only four-pointed figure, Via, omits all three of the empyrean planets.  As this figure is already about directed motion, we could arrange these three talismans around the four ouranic planetary talismans in the form of a triangle that contains Via, with the Sun beneath the figure to the right, the Moon beneath the figure to the left, and Mercury above the figure in the middle; alternatively, the figure could be transformed into an arrow, with the talisman of Mercury forming the “tip” and the Sun and Moon forming the “arms” of the arrowpoint, placed either on top of or beneath the figure of Via to direct the power either away or towards the magician.

The eight-pointed figure Populus, although containing all seven planets in its arrangement, does so in a “negative” way by having the planets fill the voids between the points proper.  Rather than using the planets directly, it’s the silent voids between them that should be the focus of the works using this arrangement.  As an example, if we would normally set candles on top of the planetary talismans for the other arrangements, here we would arrange the planetary talismans according to the arrangement for Populus, but set up the candles in the empty voids where the points of Populus would be rather than on top of the talismans themselves.

All told, this is definitely something I want to experiment with as I conduct my own experiments with geomantic magic.  Even if it’s strictly theoretical without any substantial ritual gains, it still affords some interesting insights that tie back into mathesis for me.  Though it probably doesn’t need to be said, I’ll say it here explicitly: this is all very theoretical and hypothetical, with (for now) everything here untested and nothing here used.  If you do choose to experiment with it, caveat magus, and YMMV.

On the Angels of the Hours

In my research on the Arbatel recently, I came up with a slightly more fleshed-out/thought-out approach to using what (little) we have in the actual text to come up with a conjuration ritual.  The skeleton is all there, and bears much resemblance to other conjuration rituals in the late Solomonic line, like the Heptameron or Trithemian rites.  Still, though, I threw in something that wasn’t part of the Arbatel proper: a prayer of invocation to one’s holy guardian angel adapted from the Ars Paulina as found in the Lemegeton (at the very end of the text).  To some, this might be an odd place to dig for extra material, considering how the text (at least in the form given by the Lemegeton from Sloane 3825) is technically dated later than the Arbatel, but there’s an important connection between the two: Paracelsus.  The Arbatel references Paracelsus or Paracelsan/Theophrastic forms of magic and philosophy, and would fit in quite well with the general Paracelsan school at the time of its writing in northern Italy or Germany; if not written by a student of Paracelsus, then definitely by someone in the general circles that the Paracelsans ran in.  The Ars Paulina, on the other hand, doesn’t have such explicit references, but the signs are all there.  Quoth Asterion on his old Solomonic Magic blog where he discusses the Table of Practice from the Ars Paulina (excerpt edited for clarity and formatting):

Upon researching the Archidoxes of Magic of Paracelsus, I came to study more closely it’s relation to the Pauline Art of the Lemegeton.  My guess is that not only it was heavily influenced by the Archidoxes, but composed by the very same man who translated it into English, that is, Robert Turner, or perhaps one of his close circle.  I have four reasons for this conclusion:

  1. The Seals of the Zodiac in the Ars Paulina are the same seals that Paracelsus prescribes in his Archidoexes, On Occult Philosophy.
  2. The recipes use to make these seals are of Paracelsian origin, but all the mistakes are also in the Turner translation. Joseph Peterson made up a comprehensive table, and we can see that all translation mistakes made by Turner turn up in the Ars Paulina. From there, every manuscript of Ars Paulina perpetuates Turner’s mistakes.
  3. The year 1641 is mentioned in the text, also gunpowder.
  4. The Table of Practice:
    In his diatribe against negromancy, Paracelsus rejects seals and signs of the spirits quite violently, but grants particular merit to two figures of astounding power:

    ‘Two triangular figures, cutting one another thorow with a cross, are so painted or engraven, that they do include and divide themselves into seven spaces within, and do make six corners outwardly, wherein are written six wonderful Letters of the great Name of God; to wit, Adonay, according to their true order. This is one of the Characters we have spoken.

    (Paracelsus, of Occult Philosophy, chap. III, page 41, Turner translation)

    We might be tempted to say that this is a quite simple pentacle, met all over. But I was not able to find one such seal, either in print or in manuscript, that dated before the publication of the Archidoxes.
    The author of the Pauline art was so much of a Paracelsian, that he even denied the spirits evoked the right to have a seal, making their lamens exclusively astrological. It is my guess that the table of practice had much to thank Paracelsus; its central figure is exactly what he describes.

Given the Paracelsan connections between the Arbatel and the Ars Paulina, and the fact that they’re not too far distanced in time and space, I found it okay enough to incorporate a prayer from the latter into a ritual of the former.

Of course, once I pulled the guardian angel invocation from the Ars Paulina, I wanted to know more about the context and rest of the practice of the Ars Paulina, if only to sate my own curiosity and make sure I’m not tapping into something I don’t want to be tapping into.  Plus, with an elaborate Table of Practice design like the one given in the Lemegeton, how could I resist busting out my Illustrator skills to make a modern set version?  It helps that Joseph Peterson of Esoteric Archives is so excellent with his scholarship and research, because he pointed out that the squiggly characters on the planetary circles in the Pauline Table of Practice are those given (in a much clearer, more regular form) in the Magical Calendar as the “7 planetarum sigilla”.  Using those versions, I made two variant designs of the Pauline Table of Practice:

As you can see, the first image is designed as close as possible to the original text itself.  The second image, however, is a variant I designed where I first swapped out the placements of the planetary circles to better match a more heliocentric sphere-based (or, as some might say, qabbalah-based) arrangement, rotated the planetary circles so that they “point” outwards away from the center of the Table, and use the divine name Elohim instead of IHVH, with one letter put between each pair of outer planetary circles for a more balanced arrangement.  Of course, were I to use these, I’d first use the by-the-book design and only later, if I felt comfortable enough doing so, would try variants.  Still, it was a fun little project.

So, how does one go about using this Table in the way the Ars Paulina prescribes?  It’s not for general angelic summoning, but for a specific type of angel: those of the hours.  Same sort of deal as the planetary hours, but you’re not calling the angel of the planet of the hour, but the angel of the hour itself.  The Ars Paulina, in its first book, lists 24 angels, each with a list of dukes under each angel:

Hour Angel Ministers
Day I Samuel Ameniel, Charpon, Darosiel, Monasiel, Brumiel, Nestoriel, Chremas, Meresyn
II Anael Menarchos, Archiel, Chardiel, Orphiel, Cursiel, Elmoym, Quosiel, Ermaziel, Granyel
III Vequaniel Asmiel, Persiel, Mursiel, Zoesiel; and Drelmech, Sadiniel, Parniel, Comadiel, Gemary, Xantiel, Serviel, Furiel
IV Vathmiel Armmyel, Larmich, Marfiel, Ormyel, Zardiel, Emarfiel, Permiel, Queriel, Strubiel, Diviel, Jermiel, Thuros, Vanesiel, Zasviel, Hermiel
V Sasquiel Damiel, Araniel, Maroch, Saraphiel, Putisiel; Jameriel, Futiniel, Rameriel, Amisiel, Uraniel, Omerach, Lameros, Zachiel, Fustiel, Camiel
VI Saniel Arnebiel, Charuch, Medusiel, Nathmiel, Pemiel, Gamyel, Jenotriel, Sameon, Trasiel, Xamyon, Nedabor, Permon, Brasiel, Camosiel, Evadar
VII Barquiel Abrasiel, Farmos, Nestorii, Manuel, Sagiel, Harmiel, Nastrus, Varmay, Tulmas, Crosiel, Pasriel, Venesiel, Evarym, Drufiel, Kathos
VIII Osmadiel Sarfiel, Amalym, Chroel, Mesial, Lantrhots, Demarot, Janofiel, Larfuty, Vemael, Thribiel, Mariel, Remasyn, Theoriel, Framion, Ermiel
IX Quabriel Astroniel, Charmy, Pamory, Damyel, Nadriel, Kranos, Menas, Brasiel, Nefarym, Zoymiel, Trubas, Xermiel, Lameson, Zasnor, Janediel
X Oriel Armosy, Drabiel, Penaly, Mesriel, Choreb, Lemur, Ormas, Charny, Zazyor, Naveron, Xantros, Basilion, Nameron, Kranoti, Alfrael
XI Bariel Almariziel, Prasiniel, Chadros, Turmiel, Lamiel, Menasiel, Demasor, Omary, Helmas, Zemoel, Almas, Perman, Comial, Temas, Lanifiel
XII Beratiel Camarom, Astrofiel, Penatiel, Demarae, Famaras, Plamiel, Nerastiel, Fimarson, Quirix, Sameron, Edriel, Choriel, Romiel, Fenosiel, Harmary
Night XIII Sabrathan Domoras, Amerany, Penoles, Mardiel, Nastul, Ramesiel, Omedriel, Franedac, Chrasiel, Dormason, Hayzoym, Emalon, Turtiel, Quenol, Rymaliel
XIV Tartys Almodar, Famoriel, Nedroz, Ormezyn, Chabriz, Praxiel, Permaz, Vameroz, Ematyel, Fromezyn, Ramaziel, Granozyn, Gabrinoz, Mercoph, Tameriel, Venomiel, Jenaziel, Xemyzin
XV Serquanich Menarym, Chrusiel, Penargos, Amriel, Demanoz, Nestoroz, Evanuel, Sarmozyn, Haylon, Quabriel, Thurmytz, Fronyzon, Vanosyr, Lemaron, Almonoyz, Janothyel, Melrotz, Xanthyozod
XVI Jefischa Armosiel, Nedruan, Maneyloz, Ormael, Phorsiel, Rimezyn, Rayziel, Gemezin, Fremiel, Hamayz, Japuriel, Jasphiel, Lamediel, Adroziel, Zodiel, Bramiel, Coreziel, Enatriel
XVII Abasdarhon Meniel, Charaby, Appiniel, Deinatz, Nechorym, Hameriel, Vulcaniel, Samelon, Gemary, Vanescor, Samerym, Xantropy, Herphatz, Chrymas, Patrozyn, Nameton, Barmos, Platiel, Neszomy, Quesdor, Caremaz, Umariel, Kralym, Habalon
XVIII Zaazenach Amonazy, Menoriel, Prenostix, Namedor, Cherasiel, Dramaz, Tuberiel, Humaziel, Lanoziel Lamerotzod, Xerphiel, Zeziel, Pammon, Dracon, Gematzod, Enariel, Rudefor, Sarmon
XIX Mendrion Ammiel, Choriel, Genarytz, Pandroz, Menesiel, Sameriel, Ventariel, Zachariel, Dubraz, Marchiel, Jonadriel, Pemoniel, Rayziel, Tarmytz, Anapion, Jmonyel, Framoth, Machmag
XX Narcoriel Cambriel, Nedarym, Astrocon, Marifiel, Dramozyn, Lustifion, Amelson, Lemozar, Xernifiel, Kanorsiel, Bufanotz, Jamedroz, Xanoriz, Jastrion, Themaz, Hobraiym, Zymeloz, Gamsiel
XXI Pamyel Demaor, Nameal, Adrapan, Chermel, Fenadros, Vemasiel, Camary, Matiel, Zenoroz, Brandiel, Evandiel, Tameriel, Befranzy, Jachoroz, Xanthir, Armapy, Druchas, Sardiel
XXII Iassuarim Lapheriel, Emarziel, Nameroyz, Chameray, Hazaniel, Uraniel
XXIII Dardariel Cardiel, Permon, Armiel, Nastoriel, Casmiroz, Dameriel, Furamiel, Mafriel, Hariaz, Damar, Alachuc, Emeriel, Naveroz, Alaphar, Nermas, Druchas, Carman, Elamyz, Jatroziel, Lamersy, Hamarytzod
XXIV Sarandiel Adoniel, Damasiel, Ambriel, Meriel, Denaryz, Emarion, Kabriel, Marachy, Chabrion, Nestoriel, Zachriel, Naveriel, Damery, Namael, Hardiel, Nefrias, Irmanotzod, Gerthiel, Dromiel, Ladrotzod, Melanas

It also lists numbers of servants, either under the angel or for each duke, and how many dukes there are both of the lesser or greater ranks, and also a name for the hour itself (except for the first hour), but these don’t appear to be used in the grimoire at all.

In this system, for instance, the first hour of any day, no matter what day of the week or sign of the year, is always ruled by the angel called Samael (likely no relation to that Samael; the text uses Samuel or Samael interchangeably for this angel).  Interestingly, unlike other grimoires that deal with angels, the lamens or seals used to conjure these angels do not make use of characters specific to that angel itself; none of the angels listed above have their own unique seals.  Instead, you construct a seal by making one circle inside another, the inner circle containing the symbol for the planet ruling the sign on the ascendant with the sign of the twelfth house at the time of the conjuration, and the outer circle containing all the planets except the one in the inner circle, starting with the Moon or Saturn (whichever is available) and going “up” through the spheres counterclockwise from there.  So, for instance, given the date and place of Wednesday, March 10, 1641 in London, England, at about 7am that day, falling within the first hour of the day (which is the example given in the text), we have Aries rising with Aquarius on the cusp of house XII (using Placidus, Koch, Regiomontanus, Porphyry, or similar space-based divisions of houses).  Thus, the seal to conjure the angel governing this hour in this time and place looks like the following:

Now we can see what Asterion meant when the author of the Ars Paulina “denied the spirits evoked the right to have a seal, making their lamens exclusively astrological”.  There’s a possibility of going with Arbatel aphorism III.17 where one can get a specific seal or character from the spirit to use in that specific hour, which would be good only for that particular magician for a given timeframe like 140 years according to the Arbatel’s reckoning, but I think you’ll see why I wouldn’t bother later on.

The manner of using these seals and these angels is fairly straightforward: make the seal (the material is not specified), put it on the planetary circle of the Table of Practice that matches the lord of the ascendant (Mars, in the case given above), lay your hand on the seal on the Table, burn some incense appropriate to the same planet, and recite the prayer of conjuration (bold text indicates the parts to be swapped out for different hours/angels) :

O you mighty, great, and potent angel Samael who rules in the first hour of the day, I, the servant of the Most High God, do conjure and entreat you in the name of the most omnipotent and immortal Lord God of Hosts, IHVH Tetragrammaton, and by the name of that God that you are obedient to, by the head of the Hierarchy, by the seal that you are known in power by, by the seven Angels that stand before the Throne of God, and by the seven planets and their seals and characters, by the angel that rules the sign of the twelfth house which now ascends in this first hour, that you would be graciously pleased to gird up and gather yourself together, and by divine permission to move and come from all parts of the world, wheresoever you may be, and show yourself visibly and plainly in this crystal stone to the sight of my eyes, speaking with a voice intelligible and to my understanding, and that you would be favorably pleased that I may have familiar friendship and constant society both now and at all times when I shall call you forth to visible appearance to inform and direct me in all things that I shall seem good and lawful unto the Creator and you.

O you great and powerful angel Samael, I invoke, adjure, command, and most powerfully call you forth from your orders and place of residence to visible apparition in and through these great, mighty, incomprehensible, extraordinary, and divine names of the great God who was and is and ever shall be: ADONAI, SABAOTH, ADONAI, AMIORAM, HAGIOS, AGLA, ON, TETRAGRAMMATON!  By and in the name PRIMEUMATON, which commands the whole host of heaven whose power and virtue is most effectual for calling you forth and ordering creation, and which commands you to transmit your visible rays perfectly into my sight, and your voice to my ears, in and through this crystal stone, that I may plainly see you and perfectly hear you; speak unto me!  Therefore, move, o mighty and blessed angel Samael, and in this potent name of the great God IHVH, and by the imperial dignity thereof, descend and show yourself visibly and perfectly in a pleasant and comely form before me in this crystal stone, to the sight of my eyes, speaking with a voice intelligible and to my apprehension, showing, declaring, and accomplishing all my desires that I shall ask or request of you both herein and in whatsoever truths or other things that are just and lawful before the presence of Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, unto whom I beg that He would be graciously pleased to bestow upon me.  O servant of mercy Samael, for all these, be friendly unto me, and act for me as for the servant of the Most High God, so far as God shall give you power in your office to perform, whereunto I move you in power and presence to appear that I may sing with his holy angels: O mappa la man, hallelujah!


Conjuration of the dukes under one of the angels of the hour begins with an invocation to the angel itself, then a variant of the conjuration (bold text indicates parts to be swapped out for different hours/angels/dukes, and italic text indicates where to pick up on the above conjuration, again changing names accordingly for the specific duke to be conjured):

O you mighty and potent angel Samael, who is by the decree of the most high King of Glory, ruler and governor of the first hour of the day, I, the servant of the Most High, do desire and entreat you by these three great and mighty names of God AGLA, ON, TETRAGRAMMATON, and by the power and virtue thereof to assist and help me in my affairs, and by your power and authority, to send and cause to come and appear to me all or any of these angels that I shall call by name that reside under your government, to instruct, help, aid, and assist me, in all such matters and things according to their office, as I shall desire and request of them that they may act for me as for the servant of the Most High Creator.

O you mighty and potent angel Ameniel, who rules by divine permission under the great and potent angel Samael, who is the great and potent angel ruling this first hour of the day, I, the servant of the Most High God, do conjure and entreat you in the name of the most omnipotent and immortal Lord God of Hosts

Beyond that, not much is specified in the way of ritual, though as can be seen, a crystal shewstone is mentioned in the invocation.  The text does say that, when the spirit comes, they should be welcomed, you should ask your desire of them, and when you’re finished, “dismiss him according to your orders of dismission” (i.e. whatever usual prayers or words you give to dismiss a spirit).

So why do I bring these angels up?  Well, once I understood the process of the Ars Paulina, it seemed pretty straightforward to me in all respects but one: why would I bother conjuring an angel of the hour, instead of the angel of the planet of the hour?  The text doesn’t elaborate on any differences between the angels besides their names, dukes, and how many legions of spirits they govern.  The angels of the hours have no intrinsic connection to the planets; even the introduction to the Ars Paulina states:

…The Nature of these 24 Angels of the day and night changeth every day, and their offices are to do all things that are attributed to the 7 planets. But that changeth every day also: as for example you may see in the following Treatise that Samuel the Angel ruleth the first hour of the day beginning at Sunrise, suppose it be on a Monday in the first hour of the (that hour is attributed to the Moon) that you call Samuel or any of his Dukes; their offices in that hour is to do all things that are attributed to the Moon. But if you call him or any of his subservient Dukes on Tuesday morning at Sunrise, being the first hour of the day: their offices are to do all things that are attributed to Mars.  And so the like is to be observed in the first hour of every day, and the like is to be observed of the Angels and their servants that rule any of the other hours, either in the day or night…

For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why I would bother with the method given in the Ars Paulina.  Like, it’s interesting, and it’s got my attention, but I honestly don’t know why I would go through the trouble of this, even for the sake of occult exploration.  It’s not a matter of “here’s a more efficient way of getting what you want”, but knowing that I already time my conjurations according to the planetary hours, why would I bother with remembering who’s who and when from a list of 24 angels, rather than working with one of the seven planetary angels, a much smaller list to memorize?  Plus, it seems more, yanno, direct to just work with the angels of the planets rather than the angel of an hour which is ruled by a planet.  If the Trithemian rite of conjuration as given by Francis Barrett was indeed developed later than the Ars Paulina as I suspect, then it seems to be a simplification for the sake of efficiency (to which I can successfully attest).

This is where I started asking questions and digging in deeper.  One helpful description of the Pauline working comes from Imperial Arts on their LJ (where they give a description of how they work the Pauline Table), notes that the method of creating the seals for the angels of the hours doesn’t tie you to them, but rather to the time and space of the conjuration (especially considering the implied use of specific space-based house systems as given by the example seals in the Ars Paulina).  This is unique, and such a simple observation surprises me.  In pretty much every ritual I’ve done, there’s always been the unstated assumption that I need to make some sort of ritual space separated out from the rest of the world; through the use of wards, circles, and spiritual boundaries, I insulate myself and my space so that I can work as undisturbed as possible from external influences in the space around me or my temple.  Separating myself from timing is impossible, and indeed the spiritual connections of the time of my rituals is something I incorporate fully, but the spiritual connections of the place (beyond genii loci or having to deal with physical disturbances) is something that never occurred to me to incorporate in a ritual framework.  Plus, since the hours of the day (in the old reckoning) are inherently tied to the place, I’m kind of embarrassed I never put two and two together like this.

But I kept digging.  Based on a friend’s advice, I signed up for Gordon White’s grimoire course, where I got to hear him talk about the history, development, and use of grimoire-based magic in the West.  This, combined with asking several friends about the use of angels of the hours, led me to learn and understand that the angels of the hours is actually a much older system than I would have realized, going back to the Hygromanteia of Solomon, at least!  Indeed, the Hygromanteia of Solomon even goes one step further, and gives unique angel-demon pairs for each hour of each day of the week, leading to a total of 2 × 24 × 7 = 336 total spirits for that system alone (due to which I’m going to refrain from including them in this post, especially given that Skinner in his edition of the Magical Treatise of Solomon gives five separate lists from different manuscripts, each with their own omissions or changes to the names).  Thus, for any given hour of any given day of the week, there’s a unique demon and its corresponding binding angel, which itself is a practice commonly found in the older Solomonic texts: the demon does something we consider awful according to its nature, but there is a specific angel that binds the demon and keeps it from doing its thing, and by calling upon the angel, we prevent the demon from hurting us.  It does indeed seem like this system got simplified as time went on; excepting the Ars Paulina, the only other relatively modern Solomonic text I can think of that incorporates any kind of hour-based magic apart from the planetary angels is the Heptameron, where each of the 24 hours has a specific name used in creating the elaborate Heptameron-style Circles of Art:

Hour Day Night
I Yayn Beron
II Ianor Barol
III Nasnia Thami
IV Salla Athir
V Sadedali Mathon
VI Thamur Rana
VII Ourer Netos
VIII Thamic Tafrac
IX Neron Sassur
X Iayon Aglo
XI Abai Calerva
XII Natalon Salam

Like the Ars Paulina, however, the Heptameron says that the hours themselves are given to whatever planet rules that given hour on that particular day:

It is also to be known, that the Angels do rule the hours in a successive order, according to the course of the heavens, and Planets unto which they are subject; so that that Spirit which governeth the day, ruleth also the first hour of the day; the second from this governeth the second hour; the third; the third hour, and so consequently: and when seven Planets and hours have made their revolution, it returneth again to the first which ruleth the day.

So what gives?  What’s with all the hour names and angels of the hours?  Besides the fact that using these in ritual ties you temporally and spatially to the ritual, especially in the Ars Paulina way of creating seals based on the actual horoscope of the ritual, why would we bother with using these annoyingly large lists of names as opposed to a simpler, more efficient, and no less effective set of seven planetary angels?

Turns out, that’s the wrong question to ask.  Technically, yes, you can call upon the angels of the hours for pretty much anything that you can call upon the angels of the planets for, at least in terms of getting stuff done down here.  In fact, according to the opinions and experiences of my friends and the reasons why these angels of the hours were developed in the first place, it actually might be more effective to call upon them instead of the planetary angels alone, specifically because of their limited scope and being tied temporally and spatially to a given context.  In some ways, they can be considered one of the most powerful set of spirits because they’re so immediately present in a spatial and temporal (or at least temporal) sense.  Just as you could work with some generic deity of the Earth, you could also work with the specific genius loci of your land, which is generally a more recommended practice because they’re so much more powerful within the limits of their own domain (for more info on this, check out Kalagni’s posts about genii loci on eir’s blog Blue Flame Magick).

For similar reasons, you could work with the angel ruling the planet that rules the hour, but now that I look at it, that could easily be seen as “skipping a step” in the chain of manifestation.  Looking at it from a classical Solomonic way, then, the most immediate and present power would, indeed, be the hour itself, which is ruled by a planet, which is ruled by an angel.  Even if you really just wanted to work with Michael of the Sun, there’s still the matter that he’s more distant than what’s staring you right in the face a foot away.  Plus, if the angels of the hours are given all the powers and offices of that planet, then it actually makes more sense to work with them than the planetary angels, because they’re equivalent in office (at least in regards to getting stuff done “down here”) but greater in effective force because they’re more immediately present in time and space.  Plus, we see that there are demonic allusions to the hours, as well; it’s odd to see an angel described as having “dukes” in the Ars Paulina like in the more well-known demon-focused books of the Solomonic genre, and while the Heptameron has kings and ministers of angels, they’re notably of the airs and winds on a given day, mundane and worldly instead of heavenly or planetary; in the Hygromanteia manuscripts, there are specific demons for the hours with their corresponding binding angels, which are called upon in tandem (MS Athonicus Dion. 282, trans. Skinner):

I conjure you, angel NN who rules this hour and who is appointed for the provision and service of mankind; angel NN, eager at all times, strong, brave, and sharp!  I conjure you by God who ordered you to guard this hour to be my collaborator, together with your submissive demon NN, who is appointed to be servant at this hour.  Cooperate with me, and make my work effective, good, and true.

If the angels (and demons) of the hours are more forceful in their works because of their spatial-temporal presence, then note one of the ramifications of this: any of their antics can cause problems for you both spatially and temporally in a way that planetary spirits wouldn’t be able to cause so quick or so hard because of their spatial-temporal distance.  Just as how any event where the genius loci is troubled can go awry because the spirits of that land are unsettled, how much more so would it be if the angels or demons presiding over the immediate time and space of your ritual were acting up?  Many magicians nowadays take pains to guard their temples and sacred spaces and ritual areas from physical, acoustic, and spiritual invaders, but I haven’t heard of anyone warding the time or the overall spatial-temporal context of the ritual.

In this sense, we have an exceedingly good case to make to bring back the angels of the hours, or at least reincorporate them into our work: to give us further protection in our rituals by warding not only the space of the ritual but also the time of the ritual, by focusing on the most immediately felt and known temporal effect, that of the hour itself, apart and before any planetary rulership even begins to come into play.  You can see this in how far the Heptameron goes to build its Circle of Art, by incorporating the names of the hour, the season, the spirits of the winds, the minor angels of the heavens, and the planetary angel(s) of the day itself.  While we don’t need to go so far to clear the airs, so to speak, I claim that by simply giving a token nod to the angel ruling the hour of the ritual, we can make our results much stronger and more direct.  We probably needn’t do much more than offer a sincere invocation to the angel of the hour with its dukes in the Pauline fashion, or to the angel with its demon of the hour and day in the Hygromantic way, simply to open the ways for our ritual to proceed as we desire and that all baneful, harmful influences be kept at bay by the strength and virtues bestowed upon the angel and its ministering spirits/serving demons.

This is definitely something I want to explore more, in addition to the Arbatel works, and see if I can’t augment my already-existing Trithemian rite with an invocation to the angel of the hours.  I’d need to get more supplies and tools for it, but I think a proper Pauline Table of Practice to experiment with wouldn’t hurt, either.