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?

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On the Nine Offices of Saint Cyprian

Recently, as part of my effort to get off my fat, lazy ass and get myself into gear again, I started off with a novena to Saint Cyprian of Antioch, the patron saint of magoi and sorcerers and necromancers and all kinds of occultists.  I pretty much winged it, and I wasn’t going off any particular novena rubric; I would say a few of his prayers I commonly use followed by his chaplet, but I did make it a contemplative novena.  To explain how I did it, it would help to back up and explain one of the short invocations I make for Saint Cyprian of Antioch, which goes like this:

Holy Saint Cyprian of Antioch!  Mage, martyr, and mystic; theurge, thaumaturge, and theophoros; saint, sorcerer, and sage!  Pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

It’s a short prayer, but it encapsulates a lot of Saint Cyprian’s presence and symbolism.  Besides, as one of the sacred symbols of Saint Cyprian is the number nine, I figured it would be a decent structure to use nine “offices” or “aspects” for the good saint, hence the threefold division of three offices, one for each letter.  Plus, with nine offices, I figured it would be good to meditate and contemplate on the mysteries of Saint Cyprian of Antioch by focusing on each one of his offices each day of the novena.

Well, on day five of the novena (halfway through), an annoying thing happened.  I wear a bracelet made of bone and precious stones dedicated to Saint Cyprian to keep his influence around me, and I took it off to take a shower in the evening before doing my novena (a little later than I had planned on doing because I was tired and engaged in conversation with other people).  The bracelet snapped and scattered beads all over my bedroom, and I had the hunch that it wasn’t a mere accident.  During my novena prayers that night, I did a bit of confirmation divination with the saint, and yes, it wasn’t just an accident; Saint Cyprian was miffed at me for being tardy with my prayers, and made the point that not only was I to shape up and act right in the future, but the bracelet could not be remade until an offering was made and the beads cleaned off.  Moreover, as part of my “punishment” (or education, same diff really), he instructed me to keep better track of what I had been meditating on and what he had been teaching me.

Hence this blog post.  I wanted to discuss some of my thoughts, in an abbreviated, short way, on the nine offices of Saint Cyprian of Antioch that make up his invocation I use.  These were some of the thoughts and conclusions, sometimes spontaneously said aloud or sometimes silently passed on, that I think would be good to keep for records as well as for others to learn from.  Yes, I’m aware that much of this is quite explicitly Christian or Gnostic in many aspects, but that makes sense, as Saint Cyprian is, well, a Christian bishop and hieromartyr.  Dear reader, if you don’t much care for that kind of talk, you have been warned ahead of time.

Mage
The word “magician” comes from Greek μαγος, from the ancient Persian astrologer-priests, who managed the celestial forces as they achieved contact with the Earth as well as our own powers and prayers that rose to the heavens.  A mage is an intermediary, in many ways, between the spiritual and physical, the celestial and terrestrial, the terrestrial and subterranean, the personal and impersonal, the internal and external.  However, just as the magoi were seen as “foreign” the Greeks compared to their own goes, or goetic sorcerers or “shamans” as some people make them out to be, mages are always “foreign” to wherever they may be found.  In some way, they do not fit: they are on the fringe, the outside, the external, always looking in and playing with things in a system that does not completely accept them.  Magicians, by definition, are in the world without being of the world, for some definition of “world”.  It is this stark differentness that is ostensibly a curse, but also its own blessing, when recognized for what it is: we must link being in the world without becoming part of it, and in doing so link what is with what is not.

Martyr
The word “matryr” is Greek for “witness”.  The good Rev. Dn. Strojan had this to say to me about the word:

…primarily is concerned with living in a manner consistent with Gospel teaching and nurturing a relationship with God. Martyrs are said to be witnesses of the faith by the fact that they are presumably killed for their beliefs.

The word is used based on what Paul said in Acts 22:15, that “you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard [of Christ]”.  Indeed, Cyprian the Mage had no idea what he was up against when he tried to seduce, enslave, and eventually slay the virtuous maiden Justina, who defeated every single thing that Cyprian threw at her.  Indeed, Cyprian saw firsthand the power of Christ and, even without being baptized or believing in Christ, made the sign of the Cross and drove back the Devil.  Cyprian, as a mage, knows power when he sees it, and he had never seen any power like Christ before; Cyprian truly witnessed the power, grace, and saving strength of Christ.  And, add to it, where there is such power, there is indomitable truth, and Cyprian could profess nothing but the truth he had seen, and he could never deny it, either, even in the face of certain death.  That is where the word “martyr” comes in: martyrs are those who witnessed the power of Christ and professed it, even when they knew it would lead to their death.  Cyprian would never budge from his position because of the true power he knew.  What would it take for me, I wonder, to do the same?  I am far weaker, and would naturally prefer to save my own neck than repeating truth, yet…truth is greater than I am, and Christ is greater than death.  It’s not that Cyprian gave everything up for Christ, but quite the opposite; in Christ, Cyprian had everything, so death could not take anything away from him.  A side effect of martyrdom: it truly is a crowning in its own holy way, a gifting of all power, that one may never be diminished after suffering the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Truth.

Mystic
A mystic is an initiate in the mysteries, and Saint Cyprian was initiated into them all, first to the god Apollo, then to the cult on Olympus, then the cabals in Argos, then the covens in Tauropolis, then the clans in Sparta, and on and on until he became a master of all gods, religions, and practices in his day, including ultimately the mysteries of Christ, greatest of them all.  But what is a mystery?  It is a truth, something true and mythic that lives on in the world outside us as well as the world inside us.  In all mysteries, there must also be a mystagogue, a “leader into the mystery”, and Saint Cyprian is both mystic and mystagogue.  He leads in a way not unlike Hermes, and in doing so, helps shine truth upon us; this was evident both when he was Cyprian the Mage as well as Cyprian the Saint.  I sought his aid in leading me into his mysteries, as well as to those in which I am fit and made for.

Theurge
The origin of the word “theurge” is from Greek, literally meaning “god-worker”.  Yes, work is part of this word, but it’s a special kind of work, as this is a special kind of magic.  Theurgy is magic that goes upwards, and I kept seeing an image of a double-sided Cyprian, one side facing me in his normal guise of old man in rags, but the other ennobled and enrobed facing away from me with arms outstretched towards the cosmos and all its stars and planets and lights.  A theurge is no normal magician, but a “priest to the gods”, as in one who acts not in service to the gods but who acts on behalf of and ministers to the gods.  In only approaching the gods as equals (God became man in Christ that man might become God in Christ), we help the gods and help ennoble and empower the gods above even their own rank, that all might approach the holy glory of the One.  However, this is difficult as mankind, because we’re so trapped down here that we cannot see the cosmos in all its infinite glory.  The body, especially, is something that is a tool, yet hinder us since we usually cannot use it well.  We treat the body too well, or too lazily, or too softly, and in effect the body traps us.  Yet, we cannot destroy the body, as it is our only tool in this world, and so we must treat it well enough that it lives well yet not so well that it becomes an obsession for us.  This is much akin to the Buddhist notion of the Middle Way, which to an outsider would seem incredibly ascetic yet from its own system makes perfect sense as moderation; it just goes to show how far obscenely extreme we are in our indulgences that the Middle Way seems extreme in and of itself!  In treating the body right, we can then, slowly, turn away and up from this world and engage in the right practice of the gods.

Thaumaturge
NB: this was the night that my bracelet broke, and I first asked Saint Cyprian about it.  I had been lying on the couch, delaying going to my temple room for my novena, and chatting with friends before deciding a shower would be nice before making my prayers, and then my bracelet broke.  Saint Cyprian firmly reminded me of our chat the previous night, about not overly treating the body well, which is exactly what I had been doing.  Thus, a bit of a wonder had to happen in order to catch my attention, and this is where the role of thaumaturge comes in, literally “wonder-worker”.  Little meditation was done tonight, instead to be replaced by an injunction to make my own wonders happen in the world.  Cyprian showed me an image of his cauldron, and taking power out of it to cast death on this person, healing on that person, wealth on this person, poverty on that person, and so on.  What is my cauldron?  What is inside it?  What is its fire?  What is my hook?  What is my spoon?

Theophoros
The office of “theophoros” was originally chosen on a whim, but it turns out to have been highly appropriate.  Coming from Greek meaning “bearer of God”, the word “theophoros” was originally applied to Ignatius, student of John the Apostle and the third Bishop of Antioch (!).  Saint Cyprian was not originally Christian, but born to pagan parents, dedicated to the god Apollo as a child, and initiated into countless mysteries before finally coming to Christ.  In all these things, God was still present, and Cyprian took on more and more paths of God, taking a very roundabout way to his eventual ultimate initiation.  In every work, every ritual, every spell, every tool, every initiation, and every step, Cyprian the Mage carried God around with him, though he did not know it; it was only during the climax of the Mage’s life and conversion into the Christian that Cyprian dug through all the detritus, muddled darkness, and clutter of practices that he found God at the center of each and every thing he had ever done.  When he cleared all that away, Cyprian no longer had any burdens to bear, as God was, crucially, weightless; indeed, instead of bearing God, once the Mage became the Christian, God bore Cyprian, turning him from the Bearer of God into the Borne of God.  God is in everything we do, from the smallest to the greatest, from the most mundane to the most spiritual, but we may have difficulty seeing him; that difficulty, that blind distance and rejection of grace, is our burden to bear.  It is meant for us to bear, and it is eventually meant for us to one day put down our burden, cut to the heart of it all, and not only find that we have little to truly carry, but also to become carried by that which once we carried.

Saint
A saint, according to Catholic doctrine, is anyone who has holiness and grace enough to be granted access to Heaven, whether in life or in death.  Saint Cyprian, obviously, is such a person, but it’s amazing that he could do so, given that almost for his entire life he was raised counter to everything in Christianity.  He was part of every pagan path, every mystery religion, every magical order of his day; he worked with, worshipped, and worked upon countless gods and all but fought God himself.  Yet, despite of and because of the spiritual darkness he lived in, he had grace and holiness enough to become a saint in his own, unpredictably magical way.  Yet, moreover, he was human, like you or me.  All of humanity possesses the ability to become saints, showing us that this is not something reserved for the elect or the blessed few, but that sainthood is open to all of us, each and every one of us.  How do we become saints?  It’s not that we stop sinning, for we can never really do that; even Saint Cyprian repented and shit and ate, although certainly his magical training gave him discipline enough to keep his sins at bay more than most.  We become saints by enjoying grace, and grace…really isn’t that hard a concept to grasp.  All we have to do is to keep looking at God and not look away.  Much how Cyprian had everything when he converted to Christ and thus couldn’t lose anything, we don’t become blind to other things if all we look at and look for is God, because God is all and all are in God.  It’s when we look at other things for their own sake that we lose sight of God, and that is when we turn our back on grace, but if we can just keep that Light in our eyes, it illuminates everything.

Sorcerer
The word “sorcerer” is largely interchangeable with the word “mage” or “magician”, though it’s usually had something more of a sinister connotation.  It ultimately comes from Latin sors meaning “lots” or “fates”, like the throws of a die or pulling of pieces of paper from a hat, by means of Medieval Latin sortarius “teller of fortunes by lot”.  In a sense, it could be seen that mages work with the forces of the cosmos at their disposal to attain particular fates, while sorcerers manipulate the fate of the cosmos itself.  This is kind of true, but also kind of not true; all sorcerers are magicians, but not all magicians are sorcerers.  In some sense, sorcery is more difficult, yet also more popular, than magic meant in its stricter senses.  While I thought that sorcery could be thought of as magic with a heavy bent on divination, given the emphasis on lots, it’s more that mages are the processors and implementors of the cosmos, while sorcerers are the engineers of the cosmos; we hack the systems at work themselves to change how they work, as opposed to putting them to work as they are.  As for fate, well, if you consider destiny a destination after a long road, while magicians can make certain parts of the road easier or more difficult, it’s when you change the path itself or even the ultimate destination that sorcery is involved.  Sorcery is the deception of the nature of reality itself.

Sage
Saint Cyprian showed me a vast city full of different types of buildings: some modern, some classically Greek, some Chinese, some simple mud-brick huts.  This is the City of God, he said, and he asked “who built it?” It is the work of not God, but man; mankind brought each brick about, and each brick was inscribed with Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”.  Respect of God, who gives life, who gives grace, who gives guidance, is the key to wisdom, as it is by respecting the the Creator that we respect and know Creation.  In recognizing our true power above, not a temporal or mundane power above us but a being that is actually greater than us in every way, we recognize the structure and harmony of the cosmos, and by respecting God, we inherently align ourselves with our purpose and plan in life.  The world is meant to be lived in and manipulated to our good ends, not for our selfish or mundane ends, since it is by harmony with the created universe around us and all its creatures that we show God in ourselves as creators, yes, but also as maintainers and stewards and caretakers and inhabitants of it all.  Why do we seek wisdom?  We all have that flame of Sophia in our hearts, after all, but why do we let it burn, why do we want it to burn greater?  There is no speakable answer; the only correct answer is by God, and it is by respecting God that we come to know God, and it is by knowing God that we come to knowledge of all.

Search Term Shoot Back, September 2014

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 September 2014.

Before I start with the actual search terms, I’d like to point out that September is generally the month of Virgo.  And yes, if you’ve kept up with the other Search Term Shoot Back posts, then you can probably guess that I’ve gotten a large number of queries involving the Greek god Hermes, the Zodiac sign Virgo, men, and huge dicks.  These search terms are a thing (though I can’t fathom why).  I can’t really speak to whether Virgo men generally have huge dicks; I have my reasonable sample size of them (that I’ve sampled in more than one way, ohhh my), of course, and I can’t draw any good conclusions one way or the other.  Hermes is a god, and generally speaking everything involving the gods is big, so, yeah.  Anyway, onto the more legitimate queries!

“how the moon affect the invocation of angels?” — In my experience, not much, but it depends on the angel you’re calling and for what purpose.  The only times astrological phenomena have negatively interfered with my conjurations of the angels is during periods of Mercury retrograde, when the voices of the angels tends to be more distant or unclear or I might get the wrong spirit in the crystal, but it’s a problem that’s easily worked around.  I’ve also noticed that the angels of the zodiac tend to like being conjured when their sign is rising or culminating, but that’s another issue.  Rather, the Moon affects the purpose of conjuration.  Generally, you want the waxing Moon to bring things into manifestation or achieve worldly ends (since the Moon is reflecting more of the Sun’s heavenly light to the Earth), and you want the waning Moon to take things away from the Earth or achieve spiritual initiations (since the Moon is reflecting more of the Sun’s light away into the heavens).  The Full Moon is good for opening up clear communication and all matters generally, while the Dark Moon is good for obscurity, binding, and hidden matters generally.  I haven’t noticed Void of Course Moon affecting conjurations themselves, but again, consider it as part of a larger project rather than in conjuration alone.

“crucible omnimancers” — The Omnimancers are good people who do good work, and I’m hanging out with them this coming weekend at Crucible Convention 2014 in Princeton, NJ.  More than that, I’m speaking there this year on my mathesis research!  You should totally come by if you’re anywhere in the mid-Atlantic US region during this weekend of October 4.  Not only will you get to meet me and the Omnimancers, but you’ll also get to meet a slew of other awesome people and magicians!

“the great book of saint cyprian pdf download” — You can do so for $10 off my Etsy!

“roman alphabet with english translation” — Technically, English already uses the Roman alphabet.  We use the same letters, generally speaking, as the Romans did for Latin, and have for at least 2500 years or so.  We’ve developed a few extra letters since then (J which is a variant of I, and U and W which are variants of V), and other languages written with the Roman script have developed others (like Nordic and Germanic languages, which use Æsh, Þorn, Eð, Ƿynn, among others).  Still, for a comparison between how the Romans used the alphabet and how we English-speakers use it, compare their corresponding pages on Omniglot.

“greek god sigils” — The Greeks didn’t use sigils for their gods; they may have used special characters to represent the language of the gods or the barbarous words of magic, but they didn’t have seals or sigils like how we developed them for the angels.  The more traditional way is to use isopsephy, or Greek gematria, to reduce their name to a number and use that as an esoteric symbol for them, or you might use my Greek Sigil Wheel to make a sigil for them much as how the Golden Dawn uses their Rose Cross wheel for Hebrew sigils.

“venus conjuration to bind someone to love you in angel magic” — So, while I understand what you’re trying to say, the way this is phrased irks me.  Technically, Venus is not an angel, so you can’t directly use Venus in angelic magic.  Venus is either a Roman goddess or an astrological planet, magically speaking.  Depending on your mythology and theology, you might consider the goddess Venus as an angel or deity subservient to the One, but this is somewhat rude and a little brusque when approaching her.  Instead, you’d want to contact the angel presiding over the sphere of Venus, whose name is Haniel (in Cornelius Agrippa) or Anael (in Pietro d’Abano’s Heptameron).  That’d be the spirit you’d be conjuring.  Second, binding someone to you in love magic does work, but logistically speaking, if you have to compel someone to stay with you, it’s probably not that great.  It’s like how the saying goes, “love is like a fart; if you have to force it, it’s probably shit”.  Rather, while Haniel (or Saint Cyprian, for that matter, since he’s known for love spells) can do love-bindings, you’d be better off smoothing things out so they’d willingly want to stay without the need for compulsion or impelling them, or using Venereal energies to put you in the right place where you’d find the truly right person for yourself.  But hey, if you know what you want, by all means, reach for it however you want.

“joseph lisiewski vs poke runyon” — I’d pay to see this cagematch.  If I recall correctly, Poke Runyon was in the Army, so if his radio show and magical lifestyle haven’t kept him too sedentary, I’d put my gold lamen on him (even if he can be delightfully crotchety).

“the greek way to bless your house from spirits” — So, an ancient Greek household would have three principle gods: Hestia (Lady of the Hearth), Zeus Ktesios (Zeus of the Property), and Hermes (protector from thieves).   What you’d do is have a small herm, a square pillar with a phallus on the shaft (heh) and a bust of the god on top and place it at the gate or entry to the property; this represents Hermes, and he’d watch out for thieves and robbers and keep them away; after all, he rules and leads them, so he can also lead them away from your house.  You’d have Hestia’s shrine set up at and as the hearth of the home, and a bit of every meal as well as a bit of every sacrifice made to any other god was always reserved for her both at the beginning and the last of the worship.  Zeus Ktesios watched over the property in general and its prosperity, but specifically over the pantry, and he’d have a special ktesios jar made as an offering to him as a matter of prosperity.  I really should get around to making a herm for my house and driveway one of these days, and I’ve already written about Hestia earlier this month; I haven’t gotten around to experimenting with Zeus Ktesios yet or ktesios jars, but I may in the future.  Beyond that, it helps to do a monthly cleansing ritual on the Noumenia or on the date of the new moon itself by sprinkling holy water around the house, lighting incense, and making offerings to one’s ancestors and household spirits besides Hermes, Hestia, and Zeus.  I keep thinking that there’s a ritual to get rid of unclean spirits by throwing beans and the like from the entry of the house outside into the street, but I may be conflating traditions here.  Generally speaking, if you have a good relationship with Hestia, Hermes, and Zeus, your house is basically going to be protected and blessed.

“isidore seville chaplet” — Chaplets, or a short prayer rule often done with a set of prayer beads, are an excellent devotion that the Catholic Christian tradition uses, and I’ve written up chaplets for the archangels Jehudiel, Barachiel, and Sealtiel as well as for Saint Cyprian of Antioch before.  However, not all saints and angels have their own chaplets, and there’s no set rule on how to pray them or make them; they’re basically personal devotions.  The most common form of chaplet is the “niner” chaplet, which consists of a medallion of the saint, three sets of three beads, and sometimes a crucifix; you pray the Lord’s Prayer, the Glory Be, and the Hail Mary on the three beads of each set in the honor of and seeking the intercession of whoever is on the medallion.  You can use this as a chaplet for Saint Isidore of Seville who, as far as I know, doesn’t have a specific chaplet form for himself.  I may get around to writing one up one of these days, however, since he’s the patron saint of the Internet and is pretty important in most of our modern lives.

“how big is the magical circle to be draw by trithemius” — Interestingly enough, Trithemius (really, Francis Barrett, since this ritual historically wasn’t likely to have been written by the pre-Agrippan Christian abbot) doesn’t specify how big the magic circle should be.  He specifies that the Liber Spirituum (Book of Spirits) must be about seven inches long, and that the crystal ball should be about an inch and a half in diameter, but those are the only concrete sizes he offers.  Presumably, the magic circle should be large enough to comfortably fit two people, one to conjure and one to scry, though I’ve only needed space enough for the altar and myself.  Thus, a circle about 6′ in diameter should be made at minimum if you’re including the altar in your circle, like I do under Fr. Rufus Opus’ instruction; alternatively, if you’re like Fr. Ashen, you might want the altar outside of the circle, in which case you don’t need as big a circle.  The most well-known size of circle is that from the Lemegeton Goetia, which specifies a circle 18′ in diameter, which is huge.  The rule of thumb I’d go by is, so long as you have enough space to expand your arms without breaking the circle and as long as you have enough space to hold all the gear you need, you have a big enough circle.

“big grids penis image” — …I don’t even.  Like, what, are you looking for low-resolution pictures of penis?  Do you have a video compression fetish?

“saint cyprian nine days novena” — Yes, there are novenas for this good saint (as I’m sure many of us are now aware, now that the season of Saint Cyprian is done), and you can find a collection of them in my Vademecum Cypriani ebook, which you can buy off Etsy for US$9.00.  Just a note, however: traditional practice says that, when you’re timing a novena to a saint’s feast day, you normally coincide the final day of the novena with the feast day itself.  The process is a little different for Saint Cyprian, since people culturally do his novenas on the nine days before and not including his feast day (the Days of the Cyprians, the nine days between the Feast of Saint Cyprian of Carthage and the Feast of Saint Cyprian of Antioch).  Generally, time the final day to the feast day itself.  However, both of these rules are superseded by the more important rule of novena timing: whenever you need to do one.

“st cipriani evil saint magic” — I detest the notion that the saints can do “evil magic”.  They’re saints; by definition, they’re holy, and what’s holy is not evil.  That said, depending on how you ask, they might be more lenient to granting certain favors.  I mean, some of the saints are morally flexible.  Some are so morally flexible as to be part of a philosophical Cirque du Soleil.  After all, when you have the power of God to intercede with, theodicy becomes less a problem to puzzle out and more a resource to exploit for profit/prophet.

“hours and days for conjuring oriens” — Oriens is commonly known as a demonic, daemonic, or hellish king of spirits in the East (his name means “East” in Latin), and Cornelius Agrippa mentions him in his Scale of Four as a prince of spirits associated with Fire under the archangelic king Michael (book II, chapter 7).  Since Oriens is a sublunar spirit, planetary days and hours don’t need to be used for him, though since he’s associated with Michael who also happens to be the angel of the Sun, you might consider days and hours of the Sun for him.  Beyond that, though, I don’t think there are any special times associated with this spirit beyond what you might need for other works involving him (cf. the moon/invocation query above).

“enochian angels seals, digital-ambler.com” — You won’t find any of those on this site, I’m afraid.  Partially it’s because I have my hands full with so much other stuff, angelic and otherwise, but mostly it’s because Enochiana freaks me the fuck out.  I honestly can’t say why; it’s not the stories that people have told about furniture getting upended by Enochian angels (that’d actually be kinda awesome), or how people go crazy (they probably already were), or whatever.  Something about Enochiana just wigs me out and makes me uncomfortable, and I’m not sure why that is, nor do I particularly care to explore the reasons.

“can i use solomon seal drawing to summon spirits” — Absolutely not.  The Seal of Solomon is used to bind, constrain, and constrict spirits, like keeping them trapped in a prison.  You do not use it to summon them.

Alright.  Now that September is done and the Season of Saint Cyprian with it (though of course there’s always more Work to do), now I get a few days of rest before heading to Crucible this weekend.  Hope to see you there!

New Ebook: Handbook of Saint Cyprian (and a lot of links!)

A while back, I was at my local botanica and looking through their baskets of prayer cards, pamphlets, and prayer books.  To my surprise, I found a small booklet written by Father Eliseo Porras Rojas of the Iglesia Ortodoxa de Latinoamerica in Bogota, Columbia; the name wasn’t important, nor was it even written in full in the booklet, but what caught my eye was that it was a novena to Saint Cyprian of Antioch along with Saint Justina.  I finally got around to translating it from Spanish, and I have to say that it’s certainly an odd novena.  Yes, it has prayers to be done over nine days, and there’s a place every day for you to make a request of the good Saints Cyprian and Justina, but it’s focused more on contemplation and meditation rather than on reciting prayers and making offerings.  It’s an unusual text, and I plan to try it out in the near future.

Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve translated something from Spanish for Saint Cyprian.  He’s widely renowned (famously or infamously, depending on whom you ask) in Central and South America, and is called on primarily for defense against demons and black magic, and secondarily for love.  There’s plenty of material written in Spanish in pamphlets, prayer cards, or whole books, and much of it is out of reach of many Anglophones.  To that end, I’ve decided to gather a bunch of prayers I’ve found from botanicas and online and translate them into English into a new ebook, the Vademecum Cypriani, or “Handbook of Cyprian”, including four novenas and several other prayers that have never been translated before (or, if they have, I certainly can’t find reference to them), as well another prayer and the Chaplet of Saint Cyprian written by yours truly all combined into one document.  You can get a PDF copy for US$9.00 off my Etsy page at this link.  Go on and get it; it’ll be a useful thing to get, what with the Feast of Saint Cyprian coming up on September 26!

liber_cypriani

Of course, there are plenty of other prayers you can find to the good saint across the internet, and while I have them all copied down in my personal notes, I didn’t want to include them in the ebook, since…well, why should you have to pay for something you can find for free, and why should I profit off the creation of others without reason?  So, since I like sharing knowledge, here’s a list of links with prayers and other resources for the good saint that I’ve collected over the months:

Besides that, I highly recommend getting copies of Conjureman Ali’s Saint Cyprian: Saint of Necromancers and Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold’s Saint Cyprian & the Sorcerous Transmutation, both of which are available from Hadean Press for UK£3.00 and are fantastic resources for working with this good saint; Conjureman Ali’s book is a good worker’s introduction to setting up an altar and performing work with the saint, and Frisvold’s excellent exposition of Saint Cyprian concludes with a Quimbandero’s litany-esque prayer to Saint Cyprian.  Don’t forget the more expensive books that came out on Saint Cyprian earlier this year, too: Jake Stratton Kent’s excellent Testament of Saint Cyprian and José Leitão’s translation of the Book of Saint Cyprian are nothing to scoff at, and only add to the awesome corpus of literature on this saint.