On the Three Biblical Magi as Spiritual Allies

So, Christmas has come and gone, but it’s still the Christmas season, more traditionally called Christmastide.  Surely, dear reader, if you’ve grown up in the Anglophone world, you’re familiar with that old carol The Twelve Days of Christmas, yes?  Many non-Catholics or non-traditional Christians think that these are referring to the twelve days leading up to Christmas Day, but it’s actually just the reverse; Christmastide begins at sunset on December 24 and ends at sunset on January 5, the evening before Epiphany, spanning twelve days in the process.  So, even though Christmas was this past Sunday, there’s still so much going on over the next few days:

  • December 25: Christmas
  • December 26: Feast of St. Stephen
  • December 28: Childermass, or Day of the Holy Innocents
  • January 1: Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, Solemnity of Mary Mother of God

All this culminates on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, also known as the Theophany.  Many modern Catholic churches celebrate this mass on the Sunday closest to January 6 (between January 2 and January 8), but I prefer to keep to the day itself instead of the archdiocese’s schedule.  This day celebrates the revelation of God through the mortal Jesus to the world, and most famously remembers the visitation of three special people to the babe in the manger.  When you think of a Nativity scene, with Mary and Joseph in the manger with Jesus in the crib of hay, what else comes to mind?  Gabriel above, perhaps, maybe alongside a bright star, and a number of shabby-looking nomads and herders around.  Among the crowd coming to see the newborn King, however, there are often three special people who stand tall amongst the rest.

Usually decked in flowing and elaborate robes and accompanied by at least one camel, the Three Kings are among the gatherers to witness and praise the newborn Son of God.  Also known as the Wise Men or Magi, this bit of Bible lore comes from Matthew 2:1–12:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”  When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

In other words, at some point soon after the birth of Jesus (between 40 days and two years after the birth itself), several magi came from the East following a particularly interesting star that led them to Judaea so as to meet with the coming “king of the Jews”.  They met with Herod, the puppet king installed by the Romans who ruled Judea at the time, to ask him where the new ruler could be found; this promptly caused Herod and the other elite and aristocracy in Judea to freak out, due to the fragile balance of power and protection that Rome afforded Judea at the time (cf. later in Jesus’ life when he was being proclaimed to be king, which would have upset the power structure as a symbol of insurrection against Roman rule, and thus resulted in his crucifixion).  Herod, disguising his fear and plotting under a mask of reverence, tells the Magi what his advisers told him according to old Jewish prophecy: Bethlehem, the birthplace of the old King David.  Herod sent the Magi off to Bethlehem and told them to return and pass along where, specifically, the newborn ruler could be found so that Herod too could “go and worship him”, though he was going to have the God-child murdered instead.  The Magi left Herod’s, followed the Star of Bethlehem, and finally come to find Jesus with Mary (not necessarily in a manger at this point), and they presented their three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to him.  A dream was sent to them that warned them not to return to Herod, so they left Bethlehem and Judea generally by a different route entirely, declining to tell Herod where Jesus could be found; around this same time, Mary’s husband Joseph was similarly warned in a dream to flee to Egypt with his family.  And so the Magi went back to the East and Jesus et al. went to the West, as Herod realized that he had been duped by the Magi and ordered all boys in Bethlehem and the surrounding area under the age of two years old to be murdered.  Only once Herod died did Joseph receive another dream telling him to return to Israel, but we never hear of the Magi again in the Bible.  Traditions have surfaced since then that say that, due to their recognizing God in Jesus, they either professed a kind of proto-Christianity on the spot, or later willingly became full Christians after having encountered an apostle of Jesus; they were then martyred, possibly in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, and their remains were discovered by Saint Helena in Palestine and transported to the Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, and eventually (by way of Milan and the Holy Roman Empire) to the Shrine of the Three Kings in the High Cathedral of Saint Peter in Cologne, Germany.

Although technically the Bible doesn’t specify exactly how many of the magi came to see Jesus, the nativity scene in Matthew explicitly lists three gifts, so it has become tradition for there to be three of them, one king bearing one gift each.  These gifts are gold, myrrh, and frankincense, each of which were (and are!) precious goods of no small price themselves, but also have spiritual symbolism regarding the prophesied life of Jesus as Messiah:

  • Gold, as one of the most recognizable precious metals, has always stood as a symbol of wealth, status, and royalty to many people across the world.  It is rare, and it adorns the bodies and palaces of those who have money and power enough to obtain it; I don’t think much explanation here is necessary.  Hermetic magicians know gold as a metal representing the perfection of body and spirit, but also that of the Sun’s might as it rules the solar system.  In the Three Kings story, gold is a symbol of Jesus as King, come to bring rule and dominion to the world as he establishes the Kingdom of God on Earth.
  • Frankincense is a bright yellow to white resin most famously used as an incense and an ingredient in anointing oils, and has mild psychotropic uses as an antidepressant.  It has a bright and vaguely citrusy smell, and has been used in religious rituals for thousands of years across the world.  In Semitic languages, its name reflects its white or milky nature, and Judaism has frankincense as a symbol of the Divine Name and an emblem of prayer generally.  Frankincense, in other words, indicates the presence and worship of the Divine.  Hermetic magicians know this to be an especially good substance for Solar works, but many grimoires and traditions say that frankincense may be used as a general incense for any ritual or spirit.  In the Three Kings story, frankincense is a symbol of Jesus as God, worthy of our veneration and praise and prayer, with frankincense burnt as a sacrifice to adore and worship God as Man.
  • Myrrh is a dark brown or black resin used in incense, medicine, and embalming of dead bodies.  Its name comes from Semitic languages meaning “bitter”, given its metallic bitterwseet aroma and taste, and has been used in medicine both as an antiseptic and a painkiller.  In Egypt, myrrh was used for embalming of mummies, and has had long-standing associations with death and the tomb, though it was also used as an anointing oil generally.  Famously, at the crucifixion of Jesus, Mark 15:23 describes Jesus as being given a drink of wine mixed with myrrh.  Hermetic magicians recall the association of myrrh as one of the plants and incenses associated with Saturn and the sephirah Binah, the third emanation of God.  In the Three Kings story, myrrh is a symbol of Jesus as Mortal, born human and destined to die as human, with a life full of pain, bitterness, sorrow, and suffering, with myrrh there to help him numb the pain in life and to protect the body in death.

Most traditionally, the three high-and-powerful guys who come to visit Jesus are known as magi, a Greek word that should be familiar to all my readers: each one of them was a μαγος, a magician-priest or (euphemistically) a “wise man” who knew the workings of the cosmos and how things come to be and how things can be used in this world to affect everything else.  Note that each of the gifts they brought not only have monetary value but spiritual value, as well.  They are giving the tools and supplies of their own magical and priestly trade to Jesus, not just as a “gift”, but as tribute; after all, one does not give their ruler a “gift”, since the ruler could just take what they want from their subjects as their own regal right, but one gives tribute to their king, showing that they owe all they have and could produce to the blessing of their ruler.  The Three Magi recognized Jesus as their ruler, even bowing down, kneeling, and worshiping him; they thus recognized that Jesus is the source of their power and their protection and salvation in the future.

It is important to note that the word μαγος had slightly different connotations than it does now.  In ancient Persia, the μαγοι were a specific caste of astronomer-priests, the same one that the prophet Zoroaster belonged to; these priests paid specific attention to astrology, and since astrology was (and is) considered one of the foremost sciences of the world, the μαγοι were not only priests but scientists.  They kept track of the passage of the planets and stars, and had a role to play in determining the lives of people in Persia, though the term is not synonymous with “king”.  Rather, the idea of the Three Magi being kings is one adopted from Old Testament prophecy, where it is described that all the kings of the world shall fall down and worship the Messiah.  With these three roles coming together—scientist of the world, priest of the soul, king of the people—we have the three routes of understanding and working with the world, and three types of elders who rule the world and the affairs of its people.  Thus, according to the Three Kings story, no matter what path in life one turns to, all paths lead to the selfsame Divinity.

The most common names for the Three Kings are Melchior, Balthazar, and Caspar, sometimes with small variants in the spellings.  As for their origins, there are two major traditions about where each king comes from:

  • The most traditional set of origins for the Three Kings has Melchior coming from Persia, Balthazar from either Babylon or Arabia (the two, historically, were not considered too different as large areas), and Caspar from India.  These are all, generally, to the East of old Judea, and are each considered ancient places of wisdom and learning befitting their status as “wise men” or Magi, though technically only one of them could be a true μαγος, with Melchior being the only Persian among them.  Still, astrology and priestly religions filled these regions, so to Jewish eyes, they would all be equivalent as noble heathenry.
  • In the Americas, especially in Latin American spiritual communities where the Three Kings are one of the more popular religious icons, they represent the three religious, spiritual, and occult traditions that came together to form the modern spiritual life in the Western hemisphere: Melchior represents the European or “white” religions, Balthazar the African or “black” religions, and Caspar the religions indigenous to the native inhabitants of the Americas.

It’s generally agreed-upon that Melchior is the king bearing gold, Balthazar myrrh, and Caspar frankincense.  As traditional iconography is often wont to do, each king has a set of color associated with them to make them easier to pick out when one can’t necessarily see the gifts they bring.  Additionally, by correspondence with each gift, not only can they be seen as emblems of the life of Jesus, but also as spiritual strengths that humanity is to exercise.  Plus, befitting their status as magicians, each can be tied to one of the three Hermetic arts of alchemy, astrology, and theurgy as suggested by the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus:

King Origin Color Gift
Traditional New World Matter Symbol Strength Art
Melchior Persia Europe White
Gold
Gold Kingship Virtue Alchemy
Caspar India Indigenous Brown
Green
Frankincense Divinity Prayer Theurgy
Balthazar Babylon
Arabia
Africa Black
Purple
Myrrh Sacrifice Suffering Astrology

So why bring all this up?  Well, I have a small on-again-off-again practice with the Three Kings, and I figure, what with Epiphany coming up so soon, that perhaps it’s a good time to get the word out about them.  After all, much of modern Western occulture seems to either ignore or be ignorant of the Three Kings, when we have—literally hidden in plain sight—biblically attested and venerated magicians known the world over as purveyors of wisdom, power, grace, charity, and gifts.  Plus, with many of my colleagues working in various ATR, hoodoo, or other eclectic spiritual paths, I think many of us could benefit from this trio of eclectic magicians with a running work of two-thousand-plus years.

What can the Three Magi do for us?  Well, they’re magicians, scientists, priests, and kings.  Do you want to become any of these things?  Do you want to learn any of these disciplines?  Ask and ye shall receive!  If you consider the traditional origins of the Three Magi, you have a spiritual link to the old astrologers of Persia, the conjurers of Babylon, and the monks of India to learn from them, the ancient civilizations that even ancient Egypt considered to be wise; you have a mentor in each of the three Hermetic Arts of alchemy, astrology, and theurgy to guide and teach you as you want to grow and learn; these are masters of seeking what we are meant to find, our guides on the many paths up the mountain of Divinity.  If you’re involved in a diasporic ATR like Santeria or Umbanda, you have links to the three influences that culminate in your practice: European religion with Solomonic rituals, African gods and magic, and native or indigenous practices that still survive and breathe through these practices.  If you consider the role of the Three Kings as Santa-like dispensers of gifts and prosperity, then they become powerful friends who can help you obtain your desires and wishes.  As the first adorers of Christ, they represent pilgrims putting faith and working in their own disparate religions, coming together to uncover the One, the Source, the Whole that underlies all religions and practices.

How can we set up a space or shrine for the Three Magi?  Unfortunately, I haven’t found many resources in English on specific offerings, workings, or rituals one can do with them, but it’s not hard to guess for those who have worked with other saints or entities how to entreat and build a relationship with the Magi.  For setting up a shrine, you could do for the Three Magi what one might do for any Christian saint: get an image, such as statues or an icon, of the Three Kings, a candle, and a glass for liquid offerings, and set them up respectfully on a platform, shelf, or table.  I prefer to have a camel figurine with them, representing their own faithful steed who bears their burdens, and set out a smaller glass of water just for the camel, sometimes atop a bed of fresh cut grass as well.  For libations for the Three Kings, when not offering water, I suggest something very sweet: dessert wines, juice or fruit nectar with a bit of rum, maybe a fruity soda with some vodka.  Alternatively, one could offer three drinks together for each of the magi: one of water, one of juice, and one of wine.  You can burn a single candle for all Three Magi, and many botanicas or spiritual stores sell premade/dressed candles for this reason, but you can also set out three smaller candles as well, one for each.  Besides the images of the Three Kings and, perhaps, an image of a camel, I also incorporate a Star of Bethlehem into my shrine, hanging from above as the Three Kings look up adoringly at it.

So, what about prayers?  Again, being minor figures in Bible lore, there’s no wealth or treasure of prayers to the Three Magi like how there might be for, say, the Archangel Gabriel or Saint Cyprian of Antioch, but there are a few things I like to call on when working with the Three Magi.  Probably the most well known of all such texts is a common Christmastide carol that commemorates the Three Kings called, perhaps shockingly, We Three Kings, written by the Episcopalian rector John Henry Hopkins, Jr. in 1857.  It’s a lovely bit of minor-key music that recalls the quest, gifts, and symbolism of what the Three Kings brought to Jesus:

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

(Refrain)
O Star of wonder, star of night

Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign

(Refrain)

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

(Refrain)

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

(Refrain)

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Sounds through the Earth and Skies

(Refrain)

There are many renditions of this carol, some more beautiful or haunting than others, which you can find on YouTube or sung at your local church or whatever this time of year.  The song itself is one I use frequently as an introductory prayer when approaching the Three Magi, and a good way to get into the mindset of working with them.  Beyond that, many of the usual prayers used for Epiphany refer to the Three Kings, and while they have special potency when used on Epiphany itself, they can be used at any time of the year.

In addition to doing once-off things, since Epiphany is coming up, why not a novena?  As you’re probably already aware, dear reader, novenas are nine-day sets of prayers done leading up to and completing on the feast of some saint or holy figure, and the Three Kings have their own novena for Epiphany, as well.  This would mean, then, that for the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, novenas for Epiphany and the Three Kings should begin tomorrow, Thursday December 29.  The most common novena I can find is a fairly standard, easy Catholic one, with a short invocation to the Magi followed by a Gloria Patri, with the invocation for each day focusing on a different virtue of the Magi that the one performing the novena wishes to inculcate in themselves:

  1. Hope for the birth of the Messiah
  2. Speed and conviction to seek the Messiah
  3. Strength to persevere any difficulty for the sake of the Messiah
  4. Humility to seek help to find the Messiah
  5. Joy in the face of despair when lost finding the Messiah
  6. Faith in finding holiness amidst filth and poverty for the Messiah
  7. Charity, prayer, and penance as gifts for and tribute to the Messiah
  8. Protection from danger in staying true to the Messiah
  9. Attaining the beatific vision of the Divine as a result of one’s spiritual vows and believing in the Messiah

Instead of just that, however, since a novena takes place over nine days, since 9 = 3 × 3, and there are three gifts from Three Magi, I also figured that it might be good to explore the threefold symbolism of each gift of the Magi by means of a small meditation on each day, broken up into three groups of three:

  • Meditations of Melchior Bearing Gold
    • Day 1: Birth of Royalty in Squalor and Scorn.
    • Day 2: Crowning of Man in the World.
    • Day 3: Rulership over All.
  • Meditations of Caspar Bearing Frankincense
    • Day 4: Prayer of Man ascending to Heaven.
    • Day 5: Elevation of the Spirits of Mankind.
    • Day 6: Holiness of Divinity.
  • Meditations of Balthazar Bearing Myrrh
    • Day 7: Grief and Suffering in the Hearts of Mankind.
    • Day 8: Death and Entombing of Man in the World.
    • Day 9: Resurrection in the World into Heaven.

Also, it’s a tradition in some Catholic countries and communities to take a piece of chalk blessed on Epiphany and bless one’s house by it in a special formula.  Given the year XXYY (such that the year 2017 would have XX = 20 and YY = 17), one would write “XX + C + M + B + YY” (or, for this coming year, “20 + C + M + B + 17”) on the top threshold of the front door.  This calls on the three initials of the Magi and,  by it, asks them to bring gifts to the home for the new year just as they brought gifts to the new life of Jesus, but the letters also stand for the Latin phrase “Christus Mansionem Benedictat”, or “May Christ bless [this] home”.  Depending on the community, this is done sometimes by the local priest, sometimes by the head of the household, or sometimes by carolers specifically blessed and charged with playing out the role of the Three Kings for the community.  I do this for my own house, and leave up the chalk until the end of the year when I do my whole-house cleaning and cleansing, leaving the lintel bare until Epiphany.

While my own relationship with the Three Kings is still nascent, I plan on committing more time with them later on once my current spiritual projects and processes wind down, but I do like to give them focus this time of year regardless.  Perhaps later on, I’ll start compiling some of my ideas for workings, oils, and the like with the Three Kings for others to use, but right now, what I have is pretty bare.  What about you?  Do you work with the Three Kings?  If so, how do you work with them, and what are some of your experiences in working with them as spiritual saints?

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.

Miscellaneous Magical Methods

So, I’ve finally done it.  After noticing that my enchiridion, my personal handbook for ritual and prayer in my personal Work, was filled to the brim after four years of heavy use (not to mention beginning to fall apart), I went ahead and ordered another Moleskine of the same size and type, and proceeded to copy down everything of worth from my old enchiridion to the new.  As I’m writing this, the new one is comfortably snuggled into the leather case I have for it, while the old one is sitting calmly on my desk as I decide how to properly decommission it.  It has dog-eared pages and highlighter marks throughout now, and while it was never formally consecrated as a tool of the Art, it’s been with me through thick and thin and has picked up a bit of resonance on its own.  I’ll figure that out in the near future and, if it’s worth it, I’ll transfer the magical oomph from the old book to the new and keep the old in storage.

Going through the old enchiridion to see what was salvageable or worthy of being copied over was only part of the task, however, and I went back and forth on a lot of things before deciding one way or the other.  One significant part of this two-week effort of constant writing also involved a bit of planning and organization, because one of the big problems with the old enchiridion was that it wasted a lot of space; I’d use full pages for any particular single entry, which in some cases took up only a few lines on a single page.  I condensed a lot of the prayers and rituals so that I have two or even three entries per page, based on how related the entries were to each other, which saves plenty of space for further entries.  Another problem I had was that, since I was just adding entries to the enchiridion as I came across or needed them, it became increasingly chaotic and disorganized, and flipping back and forth to find related prayers scattered across the book was cause for embarrassment on occasion.  Now that I had an idea of the things I was copying over, I could at least impose some sort of organization in the entries that were being copied over wholesale.  I’ll have this problem again, surely, as I enter new things into my new enchiridion, but it won’t be as much a problem.

To that end, the new organization scheme looks like this:

  • Symbols, scripts, seals, sigils, schemata, and other mystical diagrams such as the Kircher Tree, Mathetic Tetractys, and the Orthodox Megaloschema
  • Prayers of Hermeticism (primarily from the Corpus Hermeticum, Nag Hammadi texts, and PGM)
  • Prayers of pagan traditions (Homeric and Orphic Hymns to the planetary and other Hellenic gods, a few other prayers from Babylonian and other traditions)
  • Prayers of Christianity
  • Prayers to Mary, Mother of God
  • Prayers to the seven archangels
  • Prayers to Saint Cyprian of Antioch
  • Prayers to other saints, e.g. the Prophet Samuel, Saint Expedite, Three Kings
  • Prayers of Judaism
  • Other religious entries, e.g. the Prajñāpāramitā Sutra
  • Offering prayers
  • Arbatel conjuration
  • Conjurations employing the Trithemian Rite
  • Other consecrations and rituals for use in conjuration and ceremonial magic
  • Picatrix invocations and orisons of the planets
  • Rituals from the Greek Magical Papyri and Demotic Magical Papyri, as well as associated ancient Coptic spells and prayers
  • Other prayers and rituals that do not otherwise belong to one of the aforementioned groups

As a bonus, it seems like my handwriting has much improved since my first entries.  It’s tighter, smaller, clearer, and more compact, even without my personal shorthand.  I use normal Roman (or Greek or Hebrew or Chinese, depending on the entry in question) script for parts to be spoken aloud, and my shorthand for ritual instructions or clarifications, but it’s nice to see that my penmanship has improved at least a little bit.  It’s far from elegant, but then, it doesn’t need to be for this.

Going through all these prayers, whether I copied them from the old enchiridion to the new or not, was honestly a pleasure and a good exercise.  In some cases, it was taking a stroll down memory lane: while copying the Trithemian Rite of conjuration, for instance, I was teleported back to the summer of 2011 when I was first copying it down into the book, and recalled what it was like to memorize the ritual line by line in the humid heat at the train station in DC.  In other cases, I had signs indicating that it was high time to put these prayers to use again; smells of frankincense and other incenses were palpably present, even though I was in my government office copying them at the time without any source that could possibly originate them, including the book itself.  Other pages, on the other hand, smelled richly of musk and oils that…honestly shouldn’t be coming from them, and gave me a charge when I was copying down the words.

I figured that, now that I know what’s in the book and what’s not, I’d like to share with you guys some of the more outstanding or remarkable things I’ve put in my enchiridion, just to give you a taste of some of the things I work with or plan to over time.  This is far from a complete list, and some of the entries are original compositions while others are 2000 years old.  Here’s what I think is nifty:

  • Several prayers to the Aiōn taken from the PGM.  There are several of these, and I’ve copied them down in the linked post of mine before, but the one from PGM IV.1115 is particularly fun to practice.
  • There’s one particular prayer known as The Secret Hymnody from Book XIII of the Corpus Hermeticum.  It’s especially useful in preparing oneself for contemplative prayer or singing the Hymns of Silence, in my experience.
  • It’s short and easy to memorize, but I found it good to preserve a quote from the Stoic philosopher Euripides.  It’s a short poem attributed to Cleanthes emphasizing willingness to follow God and Fate in order to lead a good life.
  • The Diviner’s Prayer to the Gods of Night is an old Babylonian incantation used by a diviner to ascertain the fortunes of the world when all the normal gods of divination and prophecy are shut in.  Not only does it feel vaguely subversive, trying to get knowledge in the dark when it’s otherwise unobtainable, but it’s a beautiful bit of writing that’s been preserved for thousands of years.
  • Phos Hilaron, or Hail Gladsome Light, is an ancient Christian hymn composed in Greek and still used in churches across the world.  It’s commonly sung at sunset, and is easily one of my most favorite Christian prayers.  The melody for it used in Orthodox monasteries is a bitch for me to get used to, but it’s composed according to a mode I’m not used to anyway.
  • I’ve taken the invocations said to the four corners of the world used on Thursday and Saturday from the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano and used it as a preliminary prayer before commencing a magical ritual to great effect.  It’s used in the Heptameron as a replacement for invoking the angels of the four corners of the worlds since, according to the text, “there are no Angels of the Air to be found above the fifth heaven”, but I find it a useful prayer all the same.
  • The Lorica of Saint Patrick is a fucking badass Christian prayer for protection that smacks of all the good qualities of a magic spell, if ever I’ve seen one.  Loricae, literally “armor”, are prayers recited for protection and safety in the Christian monastic tradition, such as those engraved on actual armor and shields of knights before they go off to battle.  This particular prayer is lengthy, but hot damn has it got some oomph.
  • The Seven Bow Beginning is an Orthodox Christian way of beginning any session or rule of prayer, and it’s short and to the point, combining short invocations for mercy and a quick physical motion to focus the mind and body together.
  • Also from the Orthodox Christian tradition come the songs of troparia and kontakia, short one-stanza hymns chanted to one of the eight tones used in the Eastern liturgical tradition.  Phos Hilaron qualifies as one such troparion, but the Orthodox Church has them for all kinds of holy persons, such as the archangels, Saint Cyprian of Antioch, and the Prophet Samuel (my own namesake).
  • One of my own prayer rules is the Chaplet to Saint Sealtiel the Archangel, one of the archangels in the Orthodox tradition whose name means “Prayer of God” and sometimes spelled Selaphiel.  It’s a long-winded chaplet for only being a niner, technically, but it’s absolutely worth it to focus on one’s prayer habits.
  • Similarly, the Litany of Saint Cyprian of Antioch, Saint Justina, and Saint Theocistus is another of my personal writings based on my Chaplet of Saint Cyprian.  Both are good for exploring your connection to the good patron of occultists and necromancers, but the litany is good for public recitation and focusing on the trinity of the Cyprianic story.
  • Yes, it’s a common Christmas carol, but We Three Kings is a good one for getting in touch with the Three Wise Men, who are saints in their own right for being the first Gentiles to worship Jesus Christ, not to mention hero-ancestors of magicians from all traditions and origins.
  • The Prajñāpāramitā Sutra, also known as the Heart Sutra (shortened from the English translation of Prajñāpāramitā, “Heart/Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom”), is a favorite text of mine coming from my Buddhist days and affinity for the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara.  I prefer the Japanese version for its rhythm and ease of pronunciation, but the text is essentially the same in most Sinitic or Sinosphere languages, as well as the classical Sanskrit or Tibetan versions.  Yes, there is a longer one, but the shorter one can be memorized, and usually is for daily recital.
  • Two prayers that I hadn’t written down but which I composed and shared on this blog are my Prayer of Anointing (used when anointing oneself with holy, consecrated or ritual oil) and the Prayer of the Ring (used when donning the Ring of Solomon or other magical talismanic ring).  I had them memorized for the longest time, but I forgot all about them during my recent hiatus.
  • Perhaps several years after I should have, I sat down with the Clavicula Solomonis, also known as the Key of Solomon, and went through and copied in all the consecration rituals, and seeing how they piece and fit themselves into the work as a whole.  I had never actually taken the time to fully construct a strictly Clavicula-based ritual, and while I’ve used the consecration of tools to great effect before, I’ve never done a Clavicula conjuration.  It’s…intense, and quite the arduous but worthy process.
  • The Picatrix invocations of the planets, taken from Book III, chapter 7, are verbal gold for magical rituals of the seven planets.  They’re a little long-winded, but absolutely worth the time to recite word-by-word.  Additionally, what I’ve termed the Orisons of the Planets given in the caboose of the text in Book IV, chapter 9, function excellent as Western “mantras” to invoke the spirit and spirits of the planets.
  • The Consecration to Helios of a Phylactery, taken from PGM IV.1596, is a lengthy but powerful consecration “for all purposes” of a stone, phylactery, ring, or other object under the twelve forms of the Sun throughout the twelve hours of the day.  It’s something I plan to experiment with in the near future and document my results, but it seems like an excellent thing to try on a day of the Sun with the Moon waxing.

Those are some of the cooler things I have in my handbook.  Dear reader, if you feel up to sharing, what do you have in yours that you think is cool or among your favorites to use?

Search Term Shoot Back, April 2015

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of April 2015.

“which demon spirit can grant the conjurer every kind of need” — Be careful with these guys.  Many demons are proud and prideful enough to claim that they can do anything anywhere anytime, and granted, they often have enough power to do so.  However, just because a single spirit can do something doesn’t mean it will do it well, or whether it should do it at all.  Consult books like the Lemegeton or the Munich Manual to get little snippets of information that can tell you what a given spirit excels at; alternatively, check in with your supernatural assistant or Holy Guardian Angel, or simply do a bit of divination, to check whether a particular spirit can help you and whether they should help you.  It’s unlikely you’ll find a demonic spirit to fulfill every single one of your desires on their own.  The supernatural assistant or HGA on the other hand…

“are summoned spirits following you?” — They might be, if you don’t send them away.  After all, once summoned, they tend to not leave unless given leave to do so (or are powerful enough to simply blow off the magician anyway).  In any summoning or conjuration ritual, it’s good practice to close it out with an offering of thanks and goodwill to the spirit along with a formal giving of leave to depart; if you prefer, and this isn’t always suggested, you can banish the area and cleanse yourself afterwards to get rid of any residual resonance with the spirit.

“what is the means of talisman use in the ritual your name will be written 9x around the diagram own blood in talisman” — I think you’d be better off than me to say how to use such a talisman.  I haven’t encountered anything that describes this sort of talisman outside fantasy works and tawdry modern occult manuals that I pay little attention and less credence to, but given the number 9 there, I’d say you might use it in visceral works involving the Moon or Saturn.

“ebony huge cocks” — Man, I had to search high and low for a suitable bit of ebony to make my Wand of Art before it was given to me by a good friend.  Trying to find a phallus made of ebony would be near impossible, as I doubt many woodworkers are willing to use such rare and expensive wood on so unusual a bit of art.  That said, I’m sure a few of my gods would appreciate such a statue.

“what magical element begins with the letter k” — I…I can’t say there is one.  Of the four elements, there’s Fire, Air, Water, Earth, and then there’s the fifth quasi-element sometimes called spirit, ether, or quintessence (the closest thing to a K I can come up with).  The seven planets don’t start with any such letter, either, so unless you’re referring to some other system of magic that recognizes other elements, or using the cop-out of using another language, then I think you’d be better off telling me the answer when you find one than me trying to make one up on my own.

“ακραμμαχαμαρει meaning” — One of my favorite barbarous words of power, commonly seen in Mediterranean classical magic like from the PGM.  The prevailing theory behind this word is that it’s a corruption of an Aramaic phrase meaning “cast off the nets”, or “remove all obstacles or blockages”.  I use this word when piercing through shields or protections, but also to free myself from things that entangle or trap me.  However, it canonically has no meaning on its own that humans can understand, being a divine word and name on its own.  I also use it to refer to the luminary of the heights, the protector of the space above us, whose image is that of an old man in grey robes holding a staff in his right hand and a ring of keys in his left, but that’s a personal innovation in my own practice that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

“is sun bad for labradorite” — No.  Labradorite is, beyond anything else, a rock.  Sunlight doesn’t degrade that, and leaving such a stone out in the Sun will not cause it to shatter or lose its labradorescence.  Energetically, there might be a bit of a conflict; labradorite is more resonant with the aurora borealis of the nighttime skies, and is more stellar than solar.  Still, it’s a silly thing to worry about unless you’re tuning the stone to a very specific need over time.

“communing with the spirit of your unborn child” — First of all, uh, ew.  I have no disrespect towards parents or parents-to-be, but I’m not one of them nor will I ever be.  I have no fathering instinct and I do not like being around children until they can start forming logical, coherent thoughts that are worthy of discussion.  Yes, I was a child once, too, but it was a phase and I grew out of it.  Anyway, as for the spirit of an unborn child, what do you hope to glean from that?  Speaking Hermetically, while the moment of conception is an important time, the moment of birth itself is more important, because at that point the child finally becomes separate from the mother and becomes an independent (strictly speaking) living being, as opposed to something that is still part of and inside the mother.  Before it becomes its own being, it’s still a part of the mother, and has no life of its own to speak of; heck, it doesn’t even have much of an existence because it hasn’t had experience of developing, growing, or interaction, and as such is like a spirit of a newly dead person; it’s unreliable, confused, and still nebulous enough to the point that it’s better to leave them alone for the time being.  While singing, treating yourself holistically well, and the like is a good idea, and while pregnant women are holy in and of their own selves, I don’t think there’s much of a spirit of the unborn fetus to communicate with.  Then again, I’m probably not the right person to ask about this; I have a bias against children anyway, and seeing how I’m a gay man who will never seed, bear, or give birth to a child, my opinions and pontification aren’t worth much, anyway.

“lemegeton cloth circle” — Large cloth and tarp sheets are excellent ideas for Solomonic work because they allow you to draw on the magic Circles of Art once and transport it anywhere, so long as the space is large enough to unfold the sheet.  Before, you might have had a stone or wooden floor with the same pattern inscribed or painted onto it permanently, but traditionally, you’d do it in the dirt.  If you read the instructions given in the Keys of Solomon to create the magic circle, it references using rope and knives to mark out the boundary of the circle, which can only really work if you’re doing it on an earthen floor that can have a knife stuck into it or scratching the surface of it.  The whole point of the Black-handled Knife or athame, after all, wasn’t just to act as the Weapon of Saturn and to threaten and intimidate spirits, but also mark out the Triangle of Art and other magical patterns into the ground.  Cloth is more convenient, but if you want to go cheap and old-school, use the knife for all it’s worth and draw the patterns out in the dirt.

“conjuration of spirit to see visions past present” — Many spirits can show you this, and there’s no one conjuration to do.  In fact, if you’re blessed with a spirit of prophecy, then you may not need to do anything besides calm your mind and get into the right headspace.  There are problems here, however: you have little assurance that you’re seeing the right thing (the past, present, or future itself as it actually occurs) nor that you’re seeing the thing right (actual physical happenings versus metaphors).  If you’re seeing through the eyes of a spirit, bear in mind that the spirit may see the world and cosmos from a radically different perspective than you’ll ever be able to attain, and trying to translate from spirit-sight to human-sight can be more difficult than it is worth it.  Spirits may focus on different things than humans do, and trying to make sense of spiritual descriptions of events may not make any sense to us.  Add to it, you have to trust the spirit that they saw exactly what you’re asking about, and not all spirits are able to traverse time nor ubiquitous; sometimes they’ll have to call on other spirits who were at the event both in time and space, or they’ll have to branch out themselves.  In other words, trying to use a spirit to gain clairvoyance through time and space is a risky business.

“orgonite octahedron with charged talismans inside” — You’re precious.  Go away.

“sick person determine the illness by geomancy divination” — Ah, medical queries!  This is a type of query where geomancy really shines, but there are some caveats.  First, unless you’re a licensed doctor giving a medical examination, you are not certified to give medical advice, so don’t do it.  Bear in mind that geomancy is not a certified method of practicing modern Western medicine, and as such you can get yourself into huge trouble if you misrepresent yourself as capable of doing so.  Once you’ve gotten that understood and out of the way between yourself and your querent, you want to inspect the figure in house VI, the house of illness, and see whether that figure passes anywhere else in the chart.  If it does, then the part of the body indicated by that house the figure passes to is the source or primary affliction of the illness (I’ll let you look those up on your own); if it doesn’t, then the illness is relegated to the stomach, GI tract, and overall humours.  Take into account the elemental and planetary association of the figure itself, and you start to get a good idea of what’s going on with the illness exactly.  For more information, house VII represents the doctor who can help the querent, house X represents the regimen or prescription or treatment of the illness, and house IV represents the overall outcome of the illness.  Noting perfection between these multiple houses indicates how well things can be affected by each.

“gods dick” — They pack a whallop, that’s for sure, and can be quite nice, besides.  Check out your own if you get the fancy; the phallus is a mystery in and of itself, though one more explicit and, thus, more easily misunderstood.

“occult epiphany chalk blessing is occult” — This refers to the practice where, on Epiphany, the Christian holy day that remembers the visitation of the Three Wise Men to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.  At Mass, the priest blesses chalk that the faithful take home and mark YY + C + M + B + XX, where YYXX is the year of the Ephiphany AD, and CMB stand for the names Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar (the Three Wise Men) or for the phrase Christus Mansionem Benedictat, “may Christ bless [this] house”.  I try to do this myself on Epiphany day, even though it’s not well-practiced in American Christianity (and even then, relegated to mostly traditional Catholics).  As for whether it’s occult, absolutely, in the sense that anything spiritual or actively religious is occult.  If you want to see it as merely a religious custom, you’re free to do so, but if you believe in the apotropaic and blessing power of the act, then it becomes closer to a miracle or magical act, and thus occult in the strictest sense of the word.