Fire and Water: A Tool for Steam-Powered Enchantment

Admittedly, it’s weird to see the WordPress write-post screen so frequently lately after so long without writing anything.  Quoth Alan Moore’s “Promethea” issue #19: “Man, this is like city transport.  You gonna wait forever for a beautiful woman, then three gonna show up at once.”  Then again, I suppose that’s the nature of inspiration: having the time, being at the right time, and having the resources available to present themselves.

Like everyone else on Facebook, my news feed (I remember back in the days when we just called them “walls”) is filled with videos, sometimes funny, sometimes stupid, sometimes educational.  One such video demonstrated a series of eight physics tricks, often involving magnets and batteries, but there was one in particular that caught my eye because it relied on water and fire.  While I couldn’t find the original video in a way to show here, I did find another video from Grand Illusions (whose channel is full of wonderful toys, tricks, gimmicks, and projects demonstrated by an amazing wizened Brit) that shows the exact same thing with a better description and demonstration:

The presenter isn’t sure what to call the thing, but it is similar to the kind of toys known as “pop-pop boats”, which use a tiny boiler to propel a tiny boat in water, making a continuous pop-pop sound.  This, however, isn’t quite the same.  Rather, it’s better described as a steam-powered top, constructed out of a bit of copper tubing extended through some corkboard, with its ends projecting out underneath and facing opposite directions.  The copper tubing is filled with water, then the “boat” is set on top of a bowl or container of water, and a candle is set on top of the platform under the coil.  The candle, once lit, heats the water inside the coil, turning it to steam and pushing it out, and then as the vapor cools in the coil not directly heated by the flame, sucks water back in, producing a top with sudden bursts of movement followed by slow periods of inertial spinning.  In a way, it’s a neat demonstration of the same principle underlying an aeolipile, but with a different setup and arrangement.

A neat little gimmick on its own, sure, but when it comes to matters combining fire and water, my mind starts thinking about possible occult applications.  And, for this, I think the occult applications are shockingly wonderful for how simple this would be as an extra tool in my kit.  Consider: it is not uncommon for us to bless, enchant, or otherwise bespooken liquids in our work, yes?  We normally achieve this by praying over the water, adding certain ingredients, setting it out in sunlight or moonlight, or extinguishing candles in them (either by setting a candle in the water and letting it burn out into it, or lighting a candle and quenching it in the water).  Separately, we often use candles in our work, which forms the entire field of candle magic unto itself in addition to being used as integral parts of other ceremonies.  We anoint, engrave, or dress candles, set them atop petitions, or use them as a means to empower other workings.  However, it’s not common to see an explicit merging of candle magic and water magic given the intrinsic opposition between fire and water, but the steam-powered top has a way of doing precisely just that using an almost-alchemical apparatus.

My idea for combining the two is, essentially, another technique to empower or enchant an amount of water by using the candle (dressed appropriately) to transfer its power directly into the water, but in a more prolonged and directed means than simply by extinguishing a candle in the water itself.  Assuming the copper tubing is clean and the corkboard itself doesn’t disintegrate (and it might be worth it to replace the corkboard with something more stable and hardy at some point), the water isn’t contaminated by any pollutants or additions, making it perfect for an innocuous substance that only the magician would be inclined to recognize as empowered.  Plus, instead of another method where one might heat a container of water directly using enchanted fuel (such as a cauldron heated by sacred woods and incenses), this can be done on a much smaller scale with a lot less overhead.  Additionally, the steam-powered top does its own job at keeping the water mixed through its constant spinning, though different videos show it spinning in different directions; the YouTube above shows a clockwise-spinning top, but other videos show it spinning in counterclockwise motion.  Either way, the tool seems to be useful in transferring the energy and intent of a candle directly to water, in a clean and full way that doesn’t leave residue or candle remnants.

Let’s give some examples of use, shall we?  Say that a friend has contracted a prolonged sickness, and some investigation shows a possible spiritual influence.  Dress a candle with the intent for health and shaking off spiritual gunk and set it atop a small name paper of your friend on the corkboard, then use the top in a bowl of clean water.  Administer the water to your friend in the form of baths and drinks to cleanse them internally and externally.  Being “nothing more” than clean water, perhaps with a faint metallic aftertaste, such a water could be used innocuously and without notice, or for those with sensitivities to particular herbs or oils.  Instead of giving it to them to drink or bathe with, you could also use the water in a humidifier, or set it in a pot to boil, so as to fill an entire area with the water, or use it in the washing machine for a load of laundry to do the same.  Alternatively, for a more malefic use, say you want to get rid of a troublesome coworker in the workplace, but the usual methods of doing so would draw too much undue attention, such as the laying of powders, dressing with oils, or other charms or tricks.  Dress a candle with hot-foot or get-fired oil and pray over the water to do the same, then once empowered, bring the water with you to work in an otherwise-normal water bottle (that you may not want to ever drink out of again).  “Accidentally” spill the water on your coworker’s uniform, shoes, or desk; it being water, most people would think no-harm no-foul, but you know better, don’t you?  Or, if they have a habit of leaving their desk or supplies unattended, put a few drops in their coffee mug on their desk or on their chair when they’re not looking.

If you’re comfortable with doing so, of course, there’s nothing saying you have to use plain old water for this sort of tool; most herbal infusions would likely work fine, though you’d do well to make sure they don’t corrode copper or corkboard too quickly, and that you thoroughly clean the tubing before and after each use to prevent both spiritual and material contamination.  Alternatively, the water could be used as an ingredient in other recipes, with the steam-powered top enchantment providing a kind of “pre-blessing” to prime the recipe as a whole.  I’d refrain from using this tool with anything with a high alcohol content, of course, given the obvious dangers of open flame around flammable liquids, though with a different construction of such a top in a fire-safe chamber, perhaps this wouldn’t be so much an issue.  The YouTube video above links to the Grand Illusions website where you can get your own pre-made steam-powered top for a not-unreasonable price, which I’ve already done and I’m excited to put to work when such an opportunity presents itself.  However, it wouldn’t be hard to make one of these yourself, though getting the copper tubing (or some other non-corroding heat-conducting metal) fixed in just the right direction may be a challenge for some.

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Blessing of the Vessel

In addition to Betz’s version of the Greek Magical Papyri, which is as indispensable to me as a good copy of Agrippa’s books, there’s another text I often reference when trying to find good source material from about the same time period of the early first millennium CE from the southeast Mediterranean.  Ancient Christian Magic: Coptic Texts of Ritual Power (1994) by Marvin Meyer and Richard Smith is an excellent text that uses more Coptic spells than Greek or Demotic, and although there’s some minor overlap between Meyer and Betz, there’s a hefty amount that’s only in this text.  I find that Fr. Michael Cecchetelli has also pulled or incorporated stuff into his Book of Abrasax from the same texts as are present in Meyer, so it’s a good text to read through.  It’s not formatted as nicely as Betz has done his version of the PGM, but it’s workable all the same.

One ritual from this text caught my eye recently as I was going through and rewriting my enchiridion, just to see if there was anything in it that I could use that I hadn’t already seen or glossed over.  Labeled as “Cairo, Egyptian Museum 49547”, it’s an ostracon (inscribed potsherd) described in Meyer as a “spell invoking Bathuriel and other heavenly powers”.  It’s got a distinct liturgical tone to it, and though it’s a manifestly Christian text, it also draws on Egyptian, Jewish, and Gnostic traditions.  It’s not particularly long and doesn’t seem to have any specific application, nor is there a ritual framework in which to apply it (because of course not), but it’s a good thing I’ve been experimenting with as of late.

I found another copy of the same text in an online publication, which you can find here; it’s far more academic and, accordingly, has far more footnotes and commentary to incorporate, and its author, the Mormon scholar Hugh Nibley, concludes that it’s far more than just a blessing of a cup.  Rather, he describes it as a Christian variant of the Egyptian Books of Breathing, funerary texts used to enable people to survive in the afterlife, similar to the Egyptian Book of the Dead.  Granted that Nibley translated and understood these texts with a Mormon agenda and interpreted this as an early Christian variant of the Mormon “prayer circle”, but he might be onto something interesting with that idea.

With that, here’s my interpretation and ritualization of the text.  Instead of going with Nibley’s rather stretched idea of the ritual as a thing of ennoblement or ascension of the dead in a prayer circle, I use the ritual as a more direct and obvious choice of blessing a vessel (like the Chalice) for holding the blessings of God and partaking of them in liquid form.  If you’re not doing anything else at sunrise, this is a good ritual to use first thing in the morning to prepare yourself for the day, or when preparing for some other holy act to confer blessing or initiation.

At sunrise, prepare a clean glass, chalice, or other vessel you can drink from.  Prepare an amount of either pure, clean water or holy water mixed with wine.  Use an amount that you can drink entirely in three, four, or five reasonably-sized gulps (three for the Trinity, four for the four directions, five for the five wounds of Christ), plus another dallop of water.  Set it in the middle of an altar or other clean surface, oriented towards the sunrise.  If desired, set on the altar a single white candle oriented to the East or four white candles, one for each of the four directions, as well as incense (preferably frankincense and/or myrrh) burning.

Begin by making the Sign of the Cross at each of the first six invocations:

+ Hail, El Bathuriel, who gives strength, who gives voice to the angels!
+ Hail, Adonai!
+ Hail, Eloi!
+ Hail, Abrasax!
+ Hail, Iothael!
+ Hail, Mizrael, who has looked upon the face of the Father in the power of ΙΑΩ!

Place both hands over the vessel.

I adjure you by the first seal, placed upon the body of Adam.
I adjure you by the second seal, placed upon the members of Adam.
I adjure you by the third seal, which marked the vitals and the breast of Adam when he was cast down to become dust, until Jesus Christ takes him by the hand in the embrace of his Father.

Raise both hands up to heaven.

The Father has raised him up!
He has breathed in his face, He has filled him with the breath of life!
Send to me your breath of life, unto this true and faithful vessel!
Amen, amen, amen!

Sousa, sousa, sousa!
I covenant with you by the three cries which the Son uttered on the cross: Eloi Eloi Sabaktani, “God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Holy, holy, holy!
Hail, David, the forefather of Christ, he who sings praises in the Church of the First-born of Heaven!
Hail, David, the forefather of the Lord, of the joyful ten-stringed lyre, the joyful one who sings within the the sanctuary!

Hail, Harmosiel, who sings within the veil of the Father!  They repeat after him, those who are at the entrances and those who are upon the towers.
When the Tribes of the Twelve Worlds hear what he says, they joyfully repeat after him:
Holy, holy, holy!  One holy Father!
Amen, amen, amen!

At this point, face inward and recite the Lord’s Prayer or some other exaltation of God in silence. Place the dominant hand above the cup, and raise the left one in adoration of heaven.

Hail Arebrais in Heaven and Earth!
Hail, o Sun!
Hail, you twelve little children who cover the body of the Sun!
Hail, you twelve vessels filled with water!  They have filled their hands; they have scattered abroad the rays of the Sun, that they may not burn up the fruits of the field.
Fill your hands, pronounce your blessing upon this vessel!

Pick up the cup.  In a clockwise motion, face the four directions and present the cup to the four directions with the cup up high in front of you.

Hail, you four winds of Heaven!

Again, face the four directions and present the cup to the four directions with the cup at chest level in front of you.

Hail, you four corners of the Earth!

Face the altar, holding the cup above your head in front of you.

Hail, you hosts of Heaven!

Hold the cup at chest level in front of you.

Hail, you Earth of the inheritance!

Raise the cup high above your head.

Hail, o Garden of the Saints of the Father!

Pour out just a small amount of water before you.  Drink the water from the cup in slow, measured gulps.  Holding the cup at your chest, take as many deep breaths as you had gulps of water, letting the water inside you fill your entire presence, turning into light that fills your spirit, becoming brighter with each breath.  Place the cup down on the altar.

One Holy Father +
One Holy Son +
One Holy Spirit +
Amen.

The ritual is complete.  If desired, follow up by singing hymns or psalms of praise, practice the Hymns of Silence, or perform some other empowerment ritual to build upon this.

Now, the ritual is designed above with one person in mind drinking from a single vessel.  If more people are present, a large bowl may be used, with all participants taking a cupful for themselves and practicing the ritual motions starting at “Hail Arebrais…”, drinking the liquid in unison at the end; I envision the ritual leader performing the initial few parts on their own, with everyone reciting the ritual once everyone has their own cup.

Alternatively, the use of the word “vessel” here is ambiguous; sure, it can refer to a drinking vessel like a cup or bowl, but it could also refer to a human being; instead of blessings from heaven filling a liquid, it could refer to the Holy Spirit filling a human.  This is, after all, the fundamental idea underlying both the idea of saints as well as of prophets, the word for which in Hebrew indicates hollowness or being hollowed out to hold the voice of God.  It bears experimentation to use this ritual without an actual cup, using oneself as the vessel to be reborn and filled with heavenly power and presence.

A few notes on the text itself:

  • The text begins with a Tau-Rho sign (not the usual Chi-Rho), similar to an ankh.  Meyer presents this as a cross, although Nibley says that this is supposed to be closer to an ankh than a cross.
  • The use of the name “Bathuriel” is odd; I wasn’t able to find particularly much online besides that it’s the moniker used for several gamers.  What I was able to find was that this is a name used in a few Gnostic texts to refer to God the Father, so when the text begins “Hail, El Bathuriel…”, it might be considered an epithet of God.  Nibley’s derivation of the name comes from Hebrew Bait-suri-el, or “the house of my strength is God”.  In other texts, this name is described as the “Great Power” or “Great True Name” of God.
  • Adonai and Eloi aren’t surprising appellations of God to find here, being Hebrew/Aramaic for “my Lord” and “my God”, respectively.  Abrasax, however, seems to be an appellation of God as well, not his own entity; this use of the name gives a distinct solar power to the God of this ritual, but also as divine mystagogue.
  • Mizrael (or Mistrael) may be considered an angel here, but as the embodiment of the divine authority of God, enabling him to see the true face of God behind the veil.
  • Sousa, sousa, sousa” isn’t translated from the original text, but given the context, it could be an ejaculatory cry for help, recalling the Greek σωζε or σωσαι, meaning “rescue”.
  • The use of Jesus’ cry “Eloi, eloi, elema sabaktani” (more canonically written “Eloi eloi lema sabachthani“) is a hugely popular phrase to use in many of the Coptic spells I’ve seen, including the translation of it into the language of the source text.  The original text had it in a very corrupt form on its own: “Eloi, eloi, ahlebaks atōnē“.
  • Harmosiel is another angelic entity, the one who sounds the trumpet of the presence of God and shares with Mizrael the privilege of beholding the face of God behind the veil.
  • In my view, the “Tribes of the Twelve Worlds” as well as the “twelve little children” and describe the twelve Zodiac signs and their embodiments as the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • The name “Arebrais” is lacking in full in Meyer (present as “Ab[…]ais”), but present in Nibley.  I instinctively filled the name as “Ablanais”, under the influence of the word ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, but to each his own, I suppose.
  •  The description of the “twelve vessels” with water that scatter the rays of the Sun to preserve vegetation is noted by Nibley has having a more mundane task than representing the high angels of the Zodiac; he describes them like the atmosphere and its moisture scattering the harmful rays of the Sun that would cause harm to living creatures.  This is a distinctly modern understanding, perhaps, but not a terrible way to see it.
  • “Garden of the Saints of the Father” could also be interpreted as “Authority of the Saints of the Father”, as the same word works for both.  Nibley notes that the garden is the sanctified inheritance of the saints, and the authority as that with which the saints have been invested.

Empowerment Candle Ritual with Psalm 119

Recently, I got back in touch with a good magical colleague of mine whom I hadn’t spoken to in a bit.  Not that anything was wrong, it was just that life got in the way of us having a good time.  Happily, our mutual absence from each other’s lives is now over, and we’re getting down to brainstorming some good ol’ fashioned powerworking, because we’re fancy like that.  My friend and I don’t exactly match much in what we do; I’m the fancy Hermetic quasi-Hellenic part-classical-part-Renaissance ritual magician, and my friend is basically a dirty, fabulous, conjuring, rootworking, Vodou-doing swamp witch.  We happily complement each other’s works, and although we’re kinda like night and day, there are a good number of places we overlap.

One night, we were discussing some traditional protection magic involving mirror boxes and representations made of ourselves to act as decoys in attracting maleficia. My friend brought up the idea of circling the representation in ash composed from burning copies of Psalm 23 and Psalm 91, both of which serve extremely well in spiritual protection and defense.  The notion of circling an image of oneself in ash struck me as peculiar, but also extraordinarily powerful.  The image of Tarot Trump XXII, the World, stuck in my head, and my mind made the leap to using Psalm 119 as the basis for such an ash as well.

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After all, Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm in the Bible, and itself is longer than a good number of books from both the Old and New Testament.  It’s an example of an acrostic hymn, where each section begins with a different letter of the alphabet (in this case, the Hebrew script).  Thus, there are 22 sections of 8 verses each, each verse extolling a different virtue or blessing ascribed to the Law.  Because of it’s all-encompassing nature, it’s one of the most powerful psalms used in psalmic magic, like in conjurework and American folk magic.  Sometimes just a small section of the Psalm is used, and sometimes the entire psalm.

Add to it, the connection of the different sections of Psalm 119 with the Hebrew letters struck me as powerful.  I think my readers are already familiar with my affinity for alphabet magic, especially when it comes to Greek, but that’s not to say I discount the use of Hebrew.  After all, qabbalah is still a thing.  With each Hebrew letter represented in Psalm 119, the psalm truly does have a universal power that can affect, well, everything.  Every force in the Hebrew tradition (12 signs of the Zodiac, 7 planets, and 3 elements because Earth and Spirit aren’t a thing rabbinically speaking) is represented here, and is heavily involved in the modern understanding of the paths of the Tree of Life.  If we combine the powers of the building blocks of the cosmos with the already notable power of Psalm 119 as used in traditional magic, we can get a truly powerful result upon ourselves.

Thus, this ritual makes an ash with Psalm 119 and circles a representation of ourselves with it; we effectively encircle, fortify, and bless ourselves with all of creation and all of the blessings and promises of the Lord, while also orienting ourselves to the Law of God and our duties within it.  My swamp witch friend heard me out on this and we promptly queened out over the prospects of using this in a separate ritual.  After some discussion, we decided to draw out a recitation of the entire Psalm 119 over the course of a lunar month for a general, but profound, empowerment ritual to strengthen, bless, and help us in all our needs in life.  A tentative working name for this ritual might be “Anointing of the World’s Blessing”, given a structural similarity with the World card and what it actually does.

The ritual takes place over a full lunar month (30 consecutive days), broken down into several stages.  The way we’ve planned it, the ritual requires about 15 minutes per day, but it can be augmented as necessary according to your own preferences.

  • Day 0 (New Moon, one day): preparation of supplies and altar
  • Days 1 through 3 (three days): initial prayers
  • Days 4 through 25 (22 days): Psalm prayers
  • Days 26 through 28 (three days): final prayers
  • Day 29 (Dark Moon, one day): thanksgiving and cleanup

The materia for this ritual are fairly simple and easily obtained:

  • Four white candles (tealights work fine)
  • Four seven-day candles (those 7-color glass-encased candles are perfect)
  • A recent picture of yourself
  • A printout of Psalm 119
  • A Bible (any decent translation in your native language is good, but you can’t go wrong with the King James Version)
  • A small glass jar or vial with airtight lid
  • Olive oil

On the day of the New Moon, prepare your representation of yourself.  If you’re just using a picture of yourself, write out your full birth name, followed by “son/daughter/child of” the name of your mother, and your birthday and birthtime (if you have it), perhaps writing your name on it seven times to make a proper name paper out of it.  Once this is done, take the printout of Psalm 119 and burn it to ash.  On an altar or surface that you’ve already ritually cleaned off for the working, set the representation of yourself down and make a complete circle around it in the Psalm ash, and set the four 7-day candles around the circle aligned to the four cardinal directions.

psalm119altar

Set one white candle on top of your representation (with at least some sort of protection between the candle base and your representation) and light it, letting it burn down completely, praying that the ritual to be used with them be purified and blessed with the grace and power of God.  Once the white candle has burned out later that day, dispose of it.

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On the sunrise after the New Moon (the start of the Noumenia), begin the first three days of the ritual.  Light the candle aligned towards the East and face the East as well if you can (not required).  On sunrise of each of these three days, recite the Pater Noster once and the Gloria Patri three times.  Recite an adaption of the prayer from the Heptameron (normally to be used instead of invocations of the angels of the airs when working above the fifth heaven):

O God, mighty and merciful!
O God, great, excellent, and honored through endless ages!
O God, powerful, strong, and without beginning!
O God, wise, illustrious, just, and divinely loving!

I ask you, most holy Father, that I should complete and completely realize my work, labor, and petition, You who live and reign, world without end.  Bless me in all times, in all days, in all places, in all ways.  Let boundless bounty and blessing come to me from the four corners of the world.  Help me, o Lord, in my life that I may come to be girded by the strength and aid of the world, subject only to You.  Amen.

On the sunrise of the fourth day, go to the altar and face East if you can (not required).  Recite the following prayer over the altar:

O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
O God, make speed to save me.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

On this day, pray the first section of verses (Psalm 119:1-8) corresponding to the Hebrew letter Aleph.  As is traditional, it’s important to actually read this from a hardcopy Bible, but that’s only if you care about being traditional.  After praying this section of Psalm 119, meditate briefly on the meaning and content of the section just recited, closing with a silent prayer for the blessing of the world to infuse your life, empower you, strengthen you, illumine you, and assist you in all undertakings.

Repeat this process for the next 21 days, reciting each of the sections of Psalm 119 in turn.  Thus, on the fifth day, recite the second section of Psalm 119 (Bet); on the sixth, the third section (Gimel); on the seventh, the fourth section (Dalet); and so on until the 25th day, reciting the 22nd section (Tav).  Eventually, the 7-day candle you lit earlier will burn out; on the next sunrise, light the next candle going in a clockwise direction (so East, South, West, then North).  The first three candles should have burned out by the 25th day, with more than half of the fourth and final candle having been consumed.  If they burn longer than expected, set alight the next candle on the expected day using the flame from the old candle; if they burn shorter than expected, set alight the next candle on the expected day rather than immediately.

On the 26th day, begin the process of closing the ritual for the final three days.  The process is the similar to the first three days: on sunrise of each of these three days, recite the Pater Noster once and the Gloria Patri three times. Finally, recite Matthew 7:7-8 from the Bible:

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Ideally, the candle-verse breakdown should go like this:

  1. Three days of preliminary prayer, Aleph, Bet, Gimel, Dalet
  2. Heh, Vav, Zayin, Chet, Tet, Yod, Kaph
  3. Lamed, Mem, Nun, Samekh, Ayin, Peh, Tzaddi
  4. Qoph, Resh, Shin, Tav, three days of final prayer

On the 29th day, the day before the New Moon (maybe two days depending on the specific month we’re in), all the candles should have burnt out entirely.  This is the final day of the ritual when all the other work has been done.  First, take your picture and burn it to an ash, then collect the rest of the ash from the Psalm 119 printout and mix it together.  If there’s any wax or soot residue from the four seven-day candles, take a small scraping from each candle and mix it with the ash.  Get a small vial of good olive oil and mix the ash in fully and well.  Dispose of the rest of the remains from the ritual, then set the vial of ash where your picture used to sit, and set three white candles close around the vial.  Light them and make an offering of praise in thanksgiving to God for his help and blessing in your life; I recommend the thanksgiving prayers I use, based on Draja Mickaharic’s prayer from the Old Testament.  Pray over the oil mixed with the ash that it may assist you henceforth in all your undertakings, both those you desire and those you ought to desire, in the things you do and the things you ought to do, that you may always receive the blessing and strength and courage of the Lord in all your life.  Let the candles burn down completely.  Once they’ve burned out, the ritual is complete and finished.

The oil mixed with the ash is to be kept safe as a special and private anointing oil for yourself.  It’s intrinsically tied to you and your life, and not to be used by others or on the tools of others, only on you and your tools in your workings.  Anoint yourself with this oil (perhaps using Psalm 23, perhaps using my own prayer of anointing that you might find useful) before any working or operation, even if it’s a mundane thing like going to an interview; heck, anoint yourself with it upon rising every day.  This oil is a blessing for you in addition to having received the blessings from praying Psalm 119 itself.

Some suggestions for alternatives or enhancements to the ritual:

  • Instead of using the preface prayer (O Lord, open thou my lips…) to the sections of Psalm 119, you might use Psalm 23 instead, which is also appropriate here.
  • A la my daily mathetic letter meditations, you may find it helpful to do a similar meditation ritual for the letter of the section of Psalm 119 being meditated upon, complete with a visualization of the Hebrew letter itself and projecting it and the sounds of the letter into the ash.
  • If you’d like to focus the entire ritual to a particular end rather than a general empowerment, dress the candles and your representation with an appropriate oil, as well as the Psalm printout before you burn it.  You could also write out the intention of the ritual on the back of your photo as well, writing it in a circle around your name and birth information.
  • Consider dedicating the four candles to the four archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel in their appropriate directions (using whatever associations you prefer for this), and invoke them on each day their specific candles are burning.  Going with the Tarot theme, you might place the Kings of the Tarot under each candle (King of Wands for Michael, King of Swords for Raphael, etc.) and place the World card under yourself.  In the picture of my working setup above, you can see that I did just this, with the World card hidden under the silver platter with my picture and the ashes.
  • I only clean off a ritual surface with a light wash of Florida water and holy water (obtained from a church is always a good choice, but you can make it on your own, too), but you might enhance the ritual area by drawing an empowerment sigil under your representation, lining the surface with crossroads dirt, writing sacred verses from the Bible around your representation to be covered with the Psalm ash, or the like.
  • The ritual above says only one section of Psalm 119 per day during the main part of the ritual month.  You might also consider saying the entire psalm each day, or building up to saying the entire psalm over the course of the month (saying the Aleph section on the first day of this part of the month, Aleph and Beta on the second, Aleph through Gimel on the third, until the final day when you say the entire Psalm 119).
  • I know that there are angels for each of the letters of the Greek alphabet, and I’m sure that a similar set of angels exist for the letters of the Hebrew script, though I don’t know (yet) of one.  You might consider doing an invocation of the letter-angel on each day corresponding to the particular section of Psalm 119 being said.  Alternatively, you might consider invoking the angel associated with the force that is associated with each Hebrew letter (e.g. Heh is associated with Aries, so invoke the angel of Aries, Malkhidael; Aleph is associated with Air, so invoke the angel of Air, Raphael).  You can find these names courtesy of Agrippa (book II, chapter 7 for the elements, chapter 10 for the planets, chapter 14 for the signs).
  • If you want to be more Jewish about this, instead of reciting the prayers at sunrise, try doing them at sunset when the Jews consider their days to start.
  • To be honest, I hadn’t originally considered saving the ash from the Psalm and mixing it with the photo to turn it into an anointing oil, but hey, “waste not, want not”.  Instead of doing that, you could save the ash with the picture (not burning it) and turning it into a mojo bag or other similar charm to keep with you.
  • You might consider using a lodestone or magnet lightly dusted with the Psalm 119 ash and placing it on top of your image so that it attracts all the blessings of the world to you.  This magnet would be placed into the vial of oil to continue drawing the blessings to it and to you over time.  I don’t prefer doing this, only because with the ritual, there’s no need to attract anything from the world that you’re already the center of; all of the cosmos revolves around you in this ritual layout.  There are arguments for and against this, and I can see benefits for doing both.  Experiment!
  • If you want to speed up the process, you might be able to condense the whole working into seven days.  The first day would be for setup and opening prayers (days 0 through 3) and the last day for closing prayers and thanksgiving (days 26 through 29).  The intermediate five days would go more-or-less as usual, except that you’d recite four sections of Psalm 119 a day: open with section Aleph, two of the sections of the psalm (Beth and Gimel, Dalet and Heh, Vav and Zayin, Cheth and Teth, etc.), then close with section Tav.  This maintains a coherency along the entire week, but in a faster manner.  Still, why rush it?  Why use the microwave when you can have a slow-cooked, higher-quality meal instead?
  • As with any prolonged ritual working, this may have some unintended side-effects.  Read through the entire psalm first before deciding whether you want to use this ritual.  I honestly didn’t expect this ritual to have as many effects as it did, not all of which were entirely pleasant to go through, but I’m glad it did.

Suitable Jewelry for Magic, Spirits, and Forces

As many of my readers and followers on Twitter and Facebook are aware, one of the most important things I craft for my personal practice are pieces of jewelry I wear in honor of the spirits or as talismans of particular forces.  This goes far beyond the lamens used in conjuration or Solomonic rings, but include what I’ve come to call carcanets, beaded necklaces and bracelets with colors, stones, and metals that resonate well with a particular spirit.  I started making them to have simple wearable talismans of planetary and elemental forces that wouldn’t attract too much attention or be too bulky to carry around, but I ended up making more for some of my gods and spirits, and then more for other people based on custom needs.  On Facebook, The Professor from the blog Traif Banquet noted that she’s seen me make many different types of carcanets and was interested in how I pick the colors and patterns for each, and how I consecrate them and use them in ritual work.  Of course, I was headed to a theme park that day to support the local LGBT community, so it wasn’t quite the time for such a discussion then and there, but I decided to oblige anyway and write a fuller explanation of what exactly I do.

So, what is a carcanet?  Physically speaking, a carcanet is ritual talismanic jewelry made from beads that sometimes incorporate precious and semi-precious stone or metal or wood or bone, sometimes religious items like saint medallions or crosses, and sometimes other items that is worn to derive the blessing, presence, and aid of a particular spiritual force or entity.  I make mine from artificial twine and seed beads and make them into necklaces and bracelets, though there’s nothing saying you have to use the same materials I do.  I use artificial twine because it’s sturdy and resistant to breaking, though elastic cord or leather can be useful too on occasion.  Each carcanet is attuned and consecrated to a particular force or spirit, and the colors, materials, and patterns on the carcanet indicate exactly what that attunement is and to whom or to what it’s consecrated by or under.

For instance, consider my Sash of Powers, something I made a while back for use in standard Western ceremonial work, which contains representations of all the forces used in Western ceremonial magic based on the Golden Dawn and Agrippan materia.  This is worn across one shoulder and drapes down to the opposite hip, since it’s far too long to wear as a necklace or bracelet.  Among other forces, the Sash of Powers contains the 24 forces that we use in mathesis and, for that matter, most of the Western mystery tradition, and the colors I use for this tend are those I tend to use in most of my work:

Sash of Powers

  • Four elements: I use the system of flashing colors that the Golden Dawn instituted.  Thus, I use red (primary) and green (secondary) for Fire, yellow and purple for Air, and blue and orange for Water.  They didn’t really have flashing colors for Earth that I can find, instead using the “muddled” colors associated with the sephirah Malkuth (black, citrine, olive, russet), so instead I use black (primary) and white (secondary).
  • Spirit: I’ve never really considered this an element proper (as my mathesis stuff shows), though it can be considered an element or a planet or any other force based on the need.  Because of this, it’s hard to give a color for pure Spirit; I tend to use pure white, clear, pearlescent, or rainbow for Spirit.  If we consider Spirit to be the realm of the fixed stars (i.e. Chokmah), then some combination of silver, clear grey, or light blue might work; if we consider it pure divinity (i.e. Kether), then white and clear would work.
  • Seven planets: I use the system of Queen and King scales of the Golden Dawn, so black and crimson for Saturn, blue and purple for Jupiter, red and orange for Mars, and so forth.
  • Twelve signs of the Zodiac: I never liked the scales of the Four Worlds the Golden Dawn uses for the paths of the Tree of Life, from which we can get  colors for the twelve Zodiac signs.  Instead, I use a combination of the Queen scale of the Golden Dawn for the ruling planet of the sign as well as the colors that Agrippa gives for the sign (book I, chapter 49).  Thus, as an example, consider Aries and Libra.  Agrippa gives white as the color for both these signs, while the corresponding Queen scale of the ruling planets are red for Aries ruled by Mars and green for Libra ruled by Venus.  Thus, Aries has red and white, and Libra has green and white as its colors.  I tend to differentiate the Agrippan zodiacal colors from the Queen scale planetary colors by using a slightly brighter, more reflective, or metallic variant (so a reflective clear red instead of a flat red), but it’s not necessary.

Of course, the Sash also has a few other things marked on it, including the 12 Banners of the Names of God and the 16 geomantic figures, but those aren’t forces, per se.  These are less colors to be used with forces and more representations of more complex things that can vary.  Geomantic figures, being ultimately related to the Earth, use white and black as the colors of the element of Earth (with a white bead noting an active line and a black bead a passive line in a geomantic figure); I used white, yellow-gold, black, and brown to represent the four letters of the Tetragrammaton put in their different permutations, but I’m not sure that it matters for this how or which colors to use.

Of course, I don’t make carcanets and the like for just pure forces.  The major focus of what I make nowadays is for individual spirits, gods, saints, and the like, and that’s where creativity and research really come into play.  Unfortunately, most of the Western tradition (especially books like the Lemegeton) focus on the use of certain kinds of metals or woods and less on colors than I’d like, so I have to branch out and be a little more innovative to figure out what colors go with what spirit.  However, the way I tend to settle on colors follows a pattern:

  1. Traditions of the spirits takes precedence; if there’s a body of lore or worship built up around something, I’ll likely start with those colors, if not just use those colors.  For instance, it’s tradition that Saint Cyprian of Antioch’s colors are generally perceived to be black, purple, white, and red, so nearly all my Saint Cyprian gear has black, purple, and white on it (red I tend to reserve for specific workings or subsume it into purple, perhaps settling on a compromise of wine or dark red).  The archangels of Christianity often have their own color symbolism, especially in icons from the Orthodox tradition, so I might use the colors most commonly seen on their robes or in their icons, like light blue and pink for Sealtiel.
  2. Association with the forces described above can play a role in deciding colors.  For instance, I work with Hephaistos, the blacksmith god of the Greeks, except there’s so little known about Hephaistos’ cult back in the day that I have no tradition to go on.  However, Agrippa in his scale of 12 (book II, chapter 15) helpfully gives an association between the 12 Olympian gods (including Hestia and excluding Dionysus) and the 12 signs of the Zodiac.  There, Hephaistos is associated with the zodiac sign of Libra, and my colors for Libra are white and green, so good colors to use for Hephaistos can include white and green, as well.
  3. Asking the spirit themselves for colors they like can also work well.  This generally requires being in tune and in good standing with the spirit to get that kind of information about, and it might require divination or light trancework to get a good set of colors that works well, but overall asking the spirit themselves for what colors they like can be hugely helpful.  However, no two people may arrive at the same colors for the same spirit, based on their relationship with them.  For instance, my Hermes altar uses orange as the primary color (since I started off conflating the god Hermes with the planet Mercury, which isn’t too hard a leap to make), but my ritual necklace I have for him uses bone-white, brown, light blue, and gold beads based on a color scheme he gave me.
  4. Syncretism of different traditions can be informative as well.  If it’s alright with the spirit, looking at other traditions not native to them can help me pick what colors to use.  Going back to Hephaistos, I asked if it was alright if I looked at another tradition with a huge repertoire of color symbolism: Santeria.  The elekes and collares of Santeria are color-coded necklaces that indicate which orisha one has received, and although the ATR I’m in (yes, I’m an initiate in one) doesn’t have colors of its own, our spirits in that ATR are happy with using the same colors as Santeria (since they’re basically cousins of each other, much as how Roman and Greek gods are mythological cousins).  In Santeria, the blacksmith god Ogun has the colors black and green, so with the permission of Hephaistos, I also use black and green for some of my works in conjunction with white and green derived from Hephaistos’ association with the zodiac sign of Libra.  This can be tricky, however, and you need people on both sides to agree that the use of another traditions’ colors is alright, especially if you happen to live in an area with a large number of that other tradition who might confuse you for one of them.

As a rule, I like to have at least two colors on the carcanet.  To be honest, this keeps the thing from being visually boring; I dislike having a single solid color unless it’s required for a spiritual purpose, kind of like the Santerian orisha Obatala having his eleke being pure white.  That said, most spirits tend to have a multitude of powers, fields, strengths, and things they rule over; the different colors I use reflect those different responsibilities and dominions.  Too many colors can be confusing, however; I usually stick between two and four colors per carcanet, but sometimes more if there’s a specific need for it or if the spirit itself is associated with having many colors.

Beyond the colors of beads themselves, most of my carcanets and the like often make use of precious and semi-precious stone and metal beads, and those are much better attested in the Western traditions generally.  Of course, color symbolism is important in picking these, too, as well as the specific resonances of the stones or metals or whatnot.  For instance, red stones tend to be ruled by Mars in general, though carnelian, ruby, and fire agate all have slightly different feels that may make them better for some forces or spirits instead of others.  The minerals and chemicals within the stones themselves, too, can be important, which can link them together with metals.  For instance, one of my favorite green stones is malachite, which contains a high amount of copper that gives it its bright green color.  Copper and green are both associated with Venus, which makes this an excellent Cytherean/Venereal stone suitable for the planetary force as well as the goddess Aphrodite.

Once I have the colors figured out, then it’s time to figure out the patterns.  The most straightforward and simple pattern, assuming two colors, is to alternate the colors of beads one by one (so red, black, red, black, red, black…).  Personally, I hate this system, and I try to stay away from it as much as I can.  I generally figure out patterns based on numbers sacred to the spirit.  For instance, Saint Cyprian’s sacred number is 9, so the patterns I use tend to involve 9 in some way; one such carcanet I made for him has nine black beads, three wine beads, one white bead, one clear bead, one white bead, and three more wine beads for a “set” of 18, or 2 × 9, and I’ll repeat this as many times as necessary to get a carcanet of suitable length.  My mathesis carcanet (yes, I even made one for that) has ten white beads followed by one gold bead, since 10 and 1 are sacred numbers in mathesis and Pythagoreanism.  My Venus carcanet has two sets of seven green beads separated by a tiger’s eye bead, two sets of seven gold beads separated by a green aventurine bead, and a set of 14 (2 × 7) beads that alternate green and gold.  Making the patterns can be tricky, but usually I have a good idea in my head before I launch into stringing the beads.  On occasion, I’ll decide a few sets into the carcanet that the pattern isn’t good and I’ll start over, but they’re generally close to what I had in mind.

Of course, crafting the carcanets and the like is only half the process; the other half is consecration.  Just like how the colors and patterns may change based on the purpose, the means of consecrating the carcanet will also change.  Generally speaking, however, consecration falls into two different methods.  Both methods first start off with ritually washing the carcanet off in holy water to cleanse and prepare it for future blessing, and both tend to involve anointing with oil and suffumigation in incense, but beyond that, they’re different:

  • Force carcanet consecration: A carcanet that’s a talisman of a force (e.g. Water, Mercury, or Taurus) is consecrated by conjuring the angel associated with the force (e.g. Gabriel, Raphael or Asmodel, respectively) at an appropriate time, generally during an appropriate planetary day and hour or when the zodiac sign in question is rising or culminating during the waxing moon.  I’ll charge the angel in the appropriate godname and office to consecrate, sanctify, dedicate, bless, and empower the carcanet to serve for me a powerful talisman and connection and link to the force in question, that it may radiate the same force into my sphere that I may call upon and direct it at will and in my need.  I’ll suffumigate it in the incense burning for the conjuration and anoint it with an appropriate oil if desired and if I have one.  You know, the usual.  After the conjuration, I’ll set the carcanet on top of the lamen of the angel wrapped around a candle to continue and complete the charge of the carcanet.  Once the candle burns out, I’ll often (but not always) conjure the angel again and thank them for helping me consecrate the carcanet, charging them to seal the power into the carcanet and make it a powerful tool and instrument for my work.  This completes (and, usually, overdoes) the consecration.
  • Spirit carcanet consecration: A carcanet that’s dedicated in the honor and blessing of a spirit, on the other hand, takes a slightly different route.  Instead of turning the carcanet into a simple talisman, it becomes more of a devotional offering to be worn in the honor and service of a particular spirit.  Yes, it still accomplishes the result of bringing the blessings of a particular force into my life, but this way it’s less that it’s being filled with a particular power or motion and more that it’s bringing the attention and blessings of a particular spirit.  In this way, I’ll go up to the spirit, make offerings to them at a time good or convenient for them, and formally dedicate the carcanet as an offering to them to be worn in their honor and devotion.  I’ll often anoint the carcanet in oil or their offering drink (wine or water, usually), drape the carcanet on the image or statue of the spirit or wrap it around a prepared candle, and I’ll ask that they consecrate, sanctify, dedicate, yada yada the carcanet to their own blessings and purpose.  After leaving the carcanet on their altar or shrine for a week, I’ll make another offering to them thanking them for the carcanet’s blessings and wear it during certain times to obtain their blessing and in their honor as a kind of votive action.

Now that I think about it, the methods for consecrating them for a force via an angelic conjuration and for a spirit by dedication aren’t that different; it’s just two variations of the same idea, really.  Plus, depending on the carcanet and spirit/force it’s consecrated under, I may maintain its power in different ways, sometimes by anointing it with oil or “feeding” it with other sundry liquids, sometimes by praying over it, sometimes by letting it sit out in sunlight or moonlight.  It all depends.  The carcanet is a general ritual tool that, even though the material basis looks the same being made out of twine and glass, its spiritual essence and use may vary wildly.

Speaking of, how are these things used?  It’s pretty simple: you wear them.  That’s it.  I’ll often say a short blessing or invocation of the spirit or force to which a carcanet is dedicated or consecrated under when I don one, and I’ll say a prayer of thanks and blessing when I remove one, but that’s about it.  Seed beads are often too small for my big fingers to manipulate, so I don’t bother with using them as prayer tools but rather as part of spiritual regalia, armor, and connection when I need it.  On occasion, I’ll make a chaplet or set of prayer beads large enough to be worn, and in those cases the carcanet doubles as a prayer instrument, but this is the exception and not the norm for me; such prayer carcanets tend to use stone and metal beads more than seed beads, so the way I make them tends to differ a little bit since my options are usually more limited.

And yes, if you’re interested, I do take custom commissions for carcanets and can make them to your specifications or based on my own interactions with the gods and spirits.  If you like, contact me or send me a message through my Etsy shop and we can hash something out.