On the Arbatel’s Seal of Secrets

So as I work towards the end of a year of interesting spiritual obligations, I’m beginning to get back to some of my projects I had to put on hold about this time last year.  One of those projects is that of the works of the Arbatel, described in the eponymous text the Arbatel: of the Magic of the Ancients, a 16th century text that presents a body of very religious and devout occult wisdom and practice that famously introduce the seven Olympic spirits (Aratron, Bethor, Phaleg, Och, Hagith, Ophiel, and Phul).  However, while these spirits are fairly well-known, less understood and talked about is its Seal of Secrets and what the Arbatel actually preaches about wisdom that can be learned through occult means.  I’ve been mulling this particular diagram over the past few days, and it’s not the most straightfoward or clearly-explained thing in the text.

So, let’s start from the basics.  The Fourth Septenary of the Arbatel focuses on secrets, starting with aphorisms IV.22 and IV.23:

IV.22: We call that a secret, which no man can attain unto by humane industry without revelation; which Science lieth obscured, hidden by God in the creature; which nevertheless he doth permit to be revealed by Spirits, to a due use of the thing it self. And these secrets are either concerning things divine, natural or humane. But thou mayst examine a few, and the most select, which thou wilt commend with many more.

IV.23: Make a beginning of the nature of the secret, either by a Spirit in the form of a person, or by vertues separate, either in humane Organs, or by what manner soever the same may be effected; and this being known, require of a Spirit which knoweth that art, that he would briefly declare unto thee whatsoever that secret is: and pray unto God, that he would inspire thee with his grace, whereby thou maist bring the secret to the end thou desireth, for the praise and glory of God, and the profit of thy neighbour.

Aphorism IV.24 then lists three sets of seven secrets, classifying them into the greatest secrets, the medium secrets, and the lesser secrets, each focusing on a different kind of goal or aim ranging from the divinely sublime to the mundane and temporary.  Arbatel also says that the greatest secrets are those that “a man of an honest and constant minde may learn of the Spirits, without any offence unto God”, a qualifier not given to the other two, suggesting that the greatest secrets are the ones that are innately of God and for God and that the others are more easily inclined to lead away from truth and divine works.  In general, the secrets listed here fall more-or-less in line with the powers claimed by magicians in countless other texts: healing of all illnesses, knowing God and truth, longevity, the obedience of spirits, the transmutation of metals, excellence in all sorts of arts and sciences, and so forth.  By dividing them up into greater, middle, and lesser, however, we get a clear sense of priority from the Arbatel, encouraging us to focus more on the most beneficial, kind, and holy works and less so on the more mundane or “contemptible” ones.

Moving on to aphorism IV.27, the Arbatel then discusses a particular diagram that it calls the Seal of Secrets:

Make a Circle with a center A, which is framed by a square BCDE.  At the East let there be BC, at the North CD, at the West DE, and at the South EB. Divide the Several quadrants into seven parts, that there may be in the whole 28 parts: and let them be again divided into four parts, that there may be 112 parts of the Circle: and so many are the true secrets to be revealed. And this Circle in this manner divided, is the seal of the secrets of the world, which they draw from the onely center A, that is, from the invisible God, unto the whole creature.

This is a simple geometric construction telling us, basically, to make a circle bounded by a square, with the circle divided up into seven divisions, and each division divided further into four sections, for a total of 4 × 7 × 4 = 112 sections.  Some versions of the Arbatel include such a diagram, which I’ve reproduced below without the letters or labels but includes the division-level boundaries, but it could be technically written to be constructed in a more simple way as well with all the lines converging without inner boundary circles:

Continuing from the above, the Arbatel then begins describing the function of the divisions and sectors of the seal:

The Prince of the Oriental secrets is resident in the middle, and hath three Nobles on either side, every one whereof hath four under him, and the Prince himself hath four appertaining unto him. And in this manner the other Princes and Nobles have their quadrants of secrets, with their four secrets.

But the Oriental secret is the study of all wisdom; The West, of strength; The South, of tillage; The North, of more rigid life. So that the Eastern secrets are commended to be the best; the Meridian to be mean; and the West and North to be lesser.

(A note on the word “noble” here: Peterson in his modern translation of the Arbatel uses the word “governors” to describe these six subordinate spirits, while the original Latin uses the word “satrap”, a Persian term originally describing provincial governors but later adapted to refer to leaders who act as surrogates for larger world powers.  I adore the word “satrap”.)

The division of each direction into seven rulers, with one dominating Prince and six Governors under him, is fairly straightforward, and also that each ruler presides over four secrets unto himself.  What’s peculiar is that each direction is also given to have a quality of secret: the East for the greatest secrets, the South for the middle, and the West and North for the lesser.  Though not explicitly stated, it’s pretty much certain to me that the secrets here are meant to refer to the greater, medium, and lesser secrets given before in aphorism IV.24.  However, this seems to break the neat one-to-one regularity we would expect to see here, as we see elsewhere in the Arbatel; why should one set of secrets be given to two quadrants?  Peterson in the preface to his translation of the Arbatel says:

…[f]or symmetry, it is tempting to speculate that the seven lesser secrets listed—those of strength—are actually sought from the west, while the north secrets—those of harshness—are destructive and are not explicitly mentioned.

If Peterson is right, and I’m greatly inclined to think that he is, then that means that there are actually four sets of secrets: the greatest, the medium, the lesser, and a fourth unmentioned set of seven secrets that are focused on destruction, harm, and violence.  If the greatest secrets are those that can be learned “without any offence unto God”, while the medium and lesser secrets are more tempting to lead away from and offend God, then the unmentioned secrets are those that are most likely to veer too close or outright into what the Arbatel considers cacomagy or “evil magic”, which are doomed to offend God and should be avoided to the point where they are not even listed in the text.  The works of the lesser secrets would instead be recommended to replace those of this hypothetical unmentioned set, if only to direct the reader of the Arbatel to maintain a good life without temptation of evil.

Anyway, following this in the same aphorism, the Arbatel describes a twofold purpose of this diagram, one as a divine revelation and the other as a mere mnemonic device:

The use of this seal of secrets is, that thereby thou maist know whence the Spirits or Angels are produced, which may teach the secrets delivered unto them from God. But they have names taken from their offices and powers, according to the gift which God hath severally distributed to every one of them. One hath the power of the sword; another, of the pestilence; and another, of inflicting famine upon the people, as it is ordained by God. Some are destroyers of Cities, as those two were, who were sent to overthrow Sodom and Gomorrha, and the places adjacent, examples whereof the holy Scripture witnesseth. Some are the watch-men over Kingdoms; others the keepers of private persons; and from thence, anyone may easily form their names in his own language: so that he which will, may ask a physical Angel, mathematical, or philosophical, or an Angel of civil wisdom, or of supernatural or natural wisdom, or for any thing whatsoever; and let him ask seriously, with a great desire of his minde, and with faith and constancy and without doubt, that which he asketh he shall receive from the Father and God of all Spirits. This faith surmounteth all seals, and bringeth them into subjection to the will of man. The Characteristical maner of calling Angels succeedeth this faith, which dependeth onely on divine revelation; But without the said faith preceding it, it lieth in obscurity.

Nevertheless, if any one will use them for a memorial, and not otherwise, and as a thing simply created by God to his purpose, to which such a spiritual power or essence is bound; he may use them without any offence unto God. But let him beware, lest that he fall into idolatry, and the snares of the devil, who with his cunning sorceries, easily deceiveth the unwary. And he is not taken but onely by the finger of God, and is appointed to the service of man; so that they unwillingly serve the godly; but not without temptations and tribulations, because the commandment hath it, That he shall bruise the heel of Christ, the seed of the woman. We are therefore to exercise our selves about spiritual things, with fear and trembling, and with great reverence towards God, and to be conversant in spiritual essences with gravity and justice. And he which medleth with such things, let him beware of all levity, pride, covetousness, vanity, envy and ungodliness, unless he wil miserably perish.

In one way, the Seal of Secrets is a sort of divine cosmogram that shows how the spirits presiding over the secrets of the cosmos are produced and how they govern, with a ruling prince of spirits presiding in the center of each direction with three noble subordinate rulers on either side.  Though it has a divine purpose and origin, the Arbatel also concedes it may be used as a mnemonic device merely and only to remember how the spirits that exist apart and away from the Seal function and how they’re organized.  In either way, though, it seems that Arbatel suggests a distinct catalog of 196 secrets and their corresponding spirits.

With all that said, the Arbatel is lacking in actually explaining the deeper use or purpose of the Seal.  It’s likely because the Arbatel is essentially an incomplete work; of the nine books it describes, only the first is extant, which is what we actually call the Arbatel today, though it calls itself the Isagoge, “which in fourty and nine Aphorisms comprehendeth, the most general Precepts of the whole Art”.  To me, the Arbatel raises more questions about the Seal and the secrets it describes than it answers.  So, what’s the deal with dividing the Seal up in the way that it does?  What first came to my mind was to compare the 4 × 7 = 28 divisions of the circle in the Seal of Secrets to the 28 Mansions of the Moon that survive in Western magic, as given by the Picatrix and Agrippa:

However, despite the use of 28 divisions, I don’t think there’s actually a connection (though I’d like there to be).  The 28 Mansions start with Alnath at 0° Aries, which is exactly celestial east.  However, the eastern quadrant of the Seal doesn’t have a well-defined “start”, and given the lack of elaboration in the text as well as the construction of the Seal itself, it would seem that the corresponding eastern point would fall smack-dab in the middle of the central division of the eastern quadrant, the seat of the Prince of Wisdom in the East according to the Seal of Secrets.  That doesn’t seem to lend itself well to associating each ruler of secrets to a single Mansion of the Moon.

That said, we do know that each Mansion of the Moon is given to a particular set of talismans, works, and properties that are used in astrology and astrological magic, each with its own presiding angel.  If we can’t allocate the 4 × 7 = 28 rulers of secrets into the Mansions of the Moons, what about the 7 × 4 = 28 secrets they rule over themselves within a single quadrant?  It could be conceived that each of the secrets ruled over by a direction’s Prince and six Governors could be allocated to a single Mansion of the Moon, giving us more insight into what each of those secrets could be, recalibrated for each direction and its corresponding kind of secret: thus, the rightmost secret of the Prince of Wisdom in the East would be given to the same Mansion (13, Alhaire) as would the same secret of the other Princes, but with Alhaire directed to Wisdom in one instance or to Strength in another, depending on the Prince being worked with.

While this is reasonable, I also don’t find it likely.  While I’m no expert on Paracelsus (who was either a large influence on the Arbatel or who founded the overall school and body of work the Arbatel builds upon within Renaissance Hermeticism) and given that much of his work is lost, I don’t think the Mansions of the Moon would have figured prominently in his or derivative works, so any actual association between the Mansions of the Moon and the rulers of secrets or the secrets themselves based only on the fact that they share the number 28 is tenuous at best; indeed, Peterson doesn’t even mention it in his version of the Arbatel.  That said, I’m still investigating that with the help of friends who are more well-versed in Paracelsian stuff than I am.  However, given that the lunar mansions weren’t really that important a topic in Western astrology or astrological magic since their introduction in the 12th century, I’m not holding my breath for such a connection.

Still, there’s another way to consider how to understand what the multitude of secrets are and their nature.  Consider how the text associates the directions with the four types and four sets of secrets, including Peterson’s hypothetical “unmentioned” set for the North and “a more rigid life”:

Secret Set
East Wisdom Greatest
South Tillage Middle
West Strength Lesser
North Harshness Unmentioned

Something to note is that the strength of the secrets—greatest to lesser and then to unmentionable—follow the path and light of the Sun, which rises in the East, culminates in the South, and sets in the West (at least from the point of view of an observer in the Northern Hemisphere, which makes sense for a book published in Switzerland during the Renaissance).  We know, from aphorism III.21, that the first hour of the day (sunrise) is the most appropriate time to conjure the Olympic spirits, and would be considered the strongest time of day; thus, the East is given the greatest secrets, and the strength descends from there as the Sun’s light grows older.  However, the Sun only rises at (more or less, accounting for time of year) due east, though the eastern quadrant of the Seal of Secrets covers the area from the northeast to the southeast.  If we associate due east with proper sunrise, then this means the three governors to the north of the Prince in the East are about the dawn, the time of early morning when the sky begins to brighten but before the Sun rises.  Likewise, the Prince in the West would be given to sunset, and the governors to the north of that Prince are dusk, the time of evening after the Sun sets but while the sky still has some light in it.  This means that the Prince of the South would be given to high noon, and the Prince of the North to midnight.  Note how the three sets of secrets listed explicitly in the Arbatel are then associated with the times of day when it’s light outside; the dark period of the night, after dusk and before dawn, would then be given to the unmentioned set of secrets.  This spatial-temporal reckoning of daylight with the secrets makes sense, at least to me, such that the secrets that should be revealed are made so by the light of the Sun, and those that shouldn’t remain occluded by the dark of the night when the Sun’s light is gone from the sky, in addition to the usual connections between darkness, nighttime, evil, wickedness, and so on.

Even still, though, there’s much about this Seal that remains unexplained, especially when considered alongside the system of the seven Olympic spirits in the text.  For instance:

  1. Do the four quarters of the Seal have a connection to the four elements that we’d normally see based on their connections to the directions?  If so, can we make use of those connections within the system of secrets within the Arbatel?
  2. Do the seven rulers within a quarter have any connection to the seven planets, or do there just happen to be seven for an unrelated reason?  If there is a planetary connection, which of the seven planets would be the prince of the direction, and who would be the governors under him, and in what order?
  3. Should we consider the seven Olympic spirits to “have their place” among the spirits in the Seal of Secrets, or should we consider a distinct Seal of Secrets for each planet, such that each of the seven planets have their own set of greatest, medium, lesser, and unmentioned secrets?
  4. Are the spirits described in the Seal of Secrets to be conjured alongside or independently of the Olympic spirits?  If so, then what is the purpose of the Olympic spirits within the system of secrets described in the Arbatel?  If not, then again, what’s the connection between the prince/rulers within a direction (or across all four directions) with the planets and their Olympic spirits?
  5. Do the seven rulers each have their own take on the seven secrets associated with that direction, or is it one of the secrets within the set per ruler?  If the former, what distinguishes the specific rulers’ takes on each secret, and do they have other providences, perhaps by relating to the other systems of magic described at the beginning of the Arbatel?  Or, alternatively for the former, are the four secrets under each ruler unrelated and given in addition to the big secrets given within the set associated with the direction?  If the latter, does this actually mean that there are four approaches to each secret within a set given by the Arbatel?
  6. What does the Arbatel mean when it says that the secrets of the South are for “tillage” or “culture”, referring to agriculture or cultivation, and how does this actually relate to the middle secrets which are more associated with the results described in books like the Liber Juratus or Ars Notoria?
  7. What does the Arbatel mean when it says that the secrets of the West are for “strength”, when the lesser secrets are more associated with mundane affairs and success in worldly matters?
  8. If Peterson is right and there is a fourth unmentioned category of secrets, the unmentioned ones for the North, how do they relate to “a rigid life”, and what are they?  If he’s wrong and the lesser secrets really are allocated to both the West and the North, then what distinguishes their spirits and the secrets they rule over?

Some of these questions might have answers based on other hints elsewhere in the Arbatel.  For instance, at the end of aphorism III.17 which contains the information about the seven Olympic spirits, there are the “most general precepts of this secret”; the fourth precept here says that “in all the elements there are the seven Governours with their hosts”, suggesting that the Olympic spirits or the planets they preside over are present in each of the four elements, and thus in the four directions, and that that there is some connection between the seven rulers in each direction and the seven planets with their Olympic spirits.  Later, in the invocation of the Olympic spirits given in aphorism III.21, there’s the statement “…beseech thee that thou wouldst send thy Spirit N.N. of the solar order…”, which indicates that there are multiple spirits of the Sun that can be worked with, not just Och which is the only named solar spirit given in the Arbatel; otherwise, why make the name general but the order definite here as an example?  This may suggest that while Och presides over all works of the Sun, there could be four rulers of secrets set under Och (one for each direction and set of secrets).  As for the fourfold division of secrets under each ruler of secrets in the Seal, note that aphorism VII.49 lists four kinds of good sciences: knowledge of the word of God, knowledge of the government of God through his angels, knowledge of natural things, and wisdom in humane things; these might be hints as to the ways a secret may be known or effected, though since this doesn’t mirror exactly the corresponding evil sciences, this might not necessarily be the case (though a case could be made for this, since even though there are seven evil sciences given, three of these are more states of manners of practice rather than actual works of science, so there could be still four corresponding evil sciences to match the four for the good ones).

Of course, all the above must be understood knowing that I haven’t yet worked with the Olympic spirits themselves, but in the near future, I plan to make that one of my big project priorities.  Perhaps that will help shed some more light on the secrets hidden yet within the Arbatel.


Search Term Shoot Back, March 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 March 2015.

“yes and no divination” — Easily one of the easiest and most important forms of divination you can do.  Drawing one of two different stones from a bag, flipping four coins or four shells, rolling dice to get an odd or even answer, and any number of ways can be done to get a yes or no answer from a spirit.  Personally, I find the Chinese system of jiaobei particularly elegant.

“symbols that summon spirits” — Offhand, I don’t know of a symbol that by itself has the power to summon spirits generally, but the one symbol you need for best results is the symbol of the specific spirit itself that you’re trying to summon.  The idea goes that the symbol is a physical “form” or circuit for the spirit, a type of “body”, so wherever the symbol is drawn, the spirit is already there at least in some form.  The rest of the ritual uses that symbol as a basis to bring the spirit more into being for a proper summoning.

“greek sigil magick” — Sigils weren’t that big in ancient and classical Greek styles of magic as far as we can tell; according to extant magical texts, the celestial letters, sigils, seals, and the like came about from Alexandrian magic (think PGM), and weren’t native to Greece.  Rather, instead of combining letters together into a single glyph, Greeks used isopsephy (Greek gematria) to condense words into a single “symbol”, that symbol being a number.  This has the added benefit of linking any number of words together that share the same number through isopsephy; this would be akin to two different words or phrases turned into the same sigil, provided they were reduced to the same set of letters and arranged in the same way, but would be much harder to achieve in letter-based sigil magic.

“st cyprian and justina medal” — While prayer medals of St. Cyprian of Antioch can be found, they’re not that common, and it’s sometimes easy to mix up his medal with that of St. Cyprian of Carthage (though he doesn’t really mind and both work).  However, I’ve never heard or found a prayer medal to both St. Cyprian and St. Justina, or even to St. Justina.  I’d love to find one!

“geomantic representation of numbers and alphabet” — Ugh, this is one of the things that Western geomancy disappoints me with.  I have not yet found any good way to divine letters or numbers with the geomantic figures, and it’s not for lack of trying.  I’m working on another scheme to assign the geomantic figures to the letters of the Greek alphabet (which I find to be easiest to work with), but it’s still in development and hasn’t been tested yet.  Western geomancy has techniques to divine numbers and letters based on Robert Fludd, Christopher Cattan, and John Heydon, but I’ve used all these methods and found none of them to be worth the effort.  Either it can’t be done and people who say they do it are either lucky or liars, or it can be done and the systems we have from Fludd, Cattan, and Heydon simply aren’t the ones we should be using.  I have some theoretical and linguistic issues with the notion of assigning letters to the figures (which language? which dialect? what pronunciation?) that still should be figured out, too.

“what are the planetary hours of the 1-12a.m and p.m?” — That’s not how planetary hours work.  Planetary hours are divisions of daylight and nighttime and don’t follow clock hours.  They’re based on the time of sunrise and the day of the week you’re currently on, so there’s a bit of calculation that goes along with it.

“olympic arbatel enns occult” — I’m honestly not sure where the word “enn” comes from.  As I understand it, it’s like a mantra or an incantation used in conjuring a spirit, a sort of expanded name or verbal seal one can use to catch a spirit’s attention, and I’ve seen it used for the goetic spirits of the Lemegeton.  That said, I’m not aware of any such things for the Olympic spirits; the Arbatel has a pretty simple and clear format for conjuring the Olympic spirits, and they don’t involve enns or incantations or mantras of any sort beyond a short and direct prayer to God asking for the presence of the spirit.

“mix anoited oil.and.florida.water to banish.evil” — I suppose you could, though most oil I know of doesn’t dissolve in Florida water particularly well.  Rather, anointing oil doesn’t really banish evil as much as it does inculcate goodness; Florida water helps to dispel or loosen darkness on a thing and “brighten” it, but may not be enough on its own to properly banish or exorcise evil.  Try keeping them separate and used for separate stages of the process.

“christian rituals to summon angels” — You mean, like, prayer?  Or pretty much the entirety of the Western Hermetic tradition dating from the late classical period?

“why should amblers keep to the path?” — Good question!  Tell me where you’re going and how much fun you want to have, and I’ll tell you whether there’s a path to stick to.

“geomancy gpod days to pray ancestors in 2015” — Honestly, any and all days are good to call on your ancestors.  I can’t think of one that isn’t, generally speaking; any and every day you’re alive is a testament to what your ancestors have done for you—give you life through their own lives through the ages—and you don’t need any system of divination to tell you that.  Still, I suppose you could throw a chart to determine whether a particular day is especially good or ill for ancestor veneration, or use some sort of geomantic astrology to find when the Moon should be in a certain sign or mansion, but beyond that, just pray to them and you’ll be fine.

“can you use vegetable oil in oil lamps” — I mean, you can, but ew.  Vegetable oil doesn’t tend to burn very clean and leaves not only an oily smell but an oily feel in the air.  Stick to pure olive oil.

“which arcangel to pray for improvement in oratory skilks” — As far as the Christian archangels go, I would consider Gabriel to be helpful, since Gabriel is the famous herald and foremost messenger of God.  After all, he was the one who announced to Mary what was going to happen, and there’s the apocryphal horn of Gabriel to call everyone to attention on Judgment Day.  Raphael would be helpful in a more medical method, such as removing speech pathology issues, but Gabriel would probably be best for actually learning how to deliver a message clearly and communicatively.  Planetary magic would suggest Raphael of Mercury and Michael of the Sun, and their elemental counterparts Raphael of Air and Michael of Fire, though Gabriel of the Moon (or of Water) would be good for that human touch in speech that hooks everyone into believing what you have to say.

“orgone radiatior” — While I’ve heard of orgone accumulators (to gather and store orgone) and accelerators (to push and direct the flow of orgone), I’ve never really heard of an orgone radiator which, I assume, would emanate and radiate orgone.  I mean, I have, and those would be living bodies.  Orgone is an ambient, pervasive force that’s generated from living corporeal entities; in that sense, your own body is a radiator.  Thinking of this in terms of a machine you could build, I dunno; the thought’s never really occurred to me, and I don’t know whether there’s a need for this considering the ambient, pervasive sources of orgone already present in the environment literally everywhere.

“how to create talism of desease in geomantic figures” — Probably the same as any other talisman for disease, involving curses, conjuration of baneful spirits, using astrologically harmful times, and the like.  For incorporation of geomancy, I’d recommend applying the figures Cauda Draconis or Rubeus combined with the figures that govern the parts of the body you’d like to injure, then using the resulting talisman in a suitably earthy way: sneaking the item into their belongings, burying it where they frequently visit or walk over, somehow dissolving it and sneaking it into their food or drink, and the like.  Fun times!

“how do i locate my phone using geomancy” — (11 hits?  Really?) Lost item and recovery charts are one of the things I find geomancy to really excel at, and the process is simple.  Phones, being a possession you own, are ruled by house II.  See whether this figure moves around in the chart, and see what the figure itself is to determine its condition and for clues as to where it will be.  Be wary of the Judge, however, in case the phone is actually lost or destroyed for good.

Practical Arbatel: Conjuration of the Olympic Spirit

So, when do we conjure the Olympic Spirits?  I mentioned a while back about working with the Olympic Spirits in a slightly more Greekish framework, and I haven’t forgotten about it or my Arbatel aspirations generally.  The Arbatel makes it simple and says (III.21) that we’re to conjure them at the first hour of the day ruled by the same planet as the spirit itself; in other words, the first planetary hour of its planetary day.  Thus, Aratron, the Olympic Spirit of Saturn, is to be conjured at sunrise on Saturday, Bethor at sunrise on Thursday, and so forth.  The conjuration should not last longer than an hour, though it’s unclear whether the Arbatel means an hour of 60 minutes or when the planetary hour itself is over (which could be as short as 45 minutes in the winter or 75 minutes in the summer, give or take depending on where you live).

First, prepare yourself for the conjuration.  Starting one week before the conjuration, begin a progressive fast, giving up one thing every day culminating in a complete fast from everything but water for 24 hours before the ritual.  Each one of these days, say the general prayer (II.14) at sunrise and at sunset:

O Lord of heaven and earth, Creator and Maker of all things visible and invisible; I, though unworthy, by thy assistance call upon thee, through thy only begotten Son Jesus Christ our Lord, that thou wilt give unto me thy holy Spirit, to direct me in thy truth unto all good.  Amen.

Because I earnestly desire perfectly to know the Arts of this life and such things as are necessary for us, who are so overwhelmed in darkness, and polluted with infinite humane opinions, that I of my own power can attain to no knowledge in them, unless thou teach it me.  Grant me therefore one of thy spirits, who may teach me those things which thou wouldest have me to know and learn, to thy praise and glory, and the profit of our neighbour. Give me also an apt and teachable heart, that I may easily understand those things which thou shalt teach me, and may hide them in my understanding, that I may bring them forth as out of thy inexhaustible treasures, to all necessary uses. Give me grace, that I may use such thy gifts humbly, with fear and trembling, through our Lord Jesus Christ, with thy holy Spirit.  Amen.

Prepare the conjuration area at dawn just before sunrise on the day of the conjuration with the usual purification, cleansing, suffumigation, dressing up with the appropriate colors and scenery, and the like.  Strictly speaking, no conjuration supplies are needed for this operation, since this is a fairly high-magic religious way to do a conjuration, but I find it helpful to have the basics: a scrying medium e.g. crystal ball, incense appropriate to the planet of the Olympic Spirit, and the seal of the Olympic Spirit to be conjured (like those I mentioned last time).  The seal may be worn across the chest as a lamen, placed under the scrying medium, or both.  It’s also been suggested to prepare some votive offerings of clean water, wine, good oil, and the like befitting one’s tradition.  The direction one should face, and thus the direction of the conjuration altar setup, should be oriented to one of the four cardinal directions according to what it is that one wishes to learn from the Olympic Spirit (IV.24, 27):

  • East: “wisdom”, i.e. the “greater secrets” like curing of all diseases by magic, longevity, obedience of spirits, knowledge of God, living a proper life, etc.
  • South: “strength”, i.e. the “mean secrets” like alchemy, mathematics, engineering, medicine, writing, etc.
  • West: “cultivation”, i.e. the “lesser secrets” like increasing wealth, gaining honor, to excel in battle, to become learned, becoming fortunate in business, etc.
  • North: “a more rigid life”, which the text does not elaborate on but which Peterson says are matters of cursing, damage, and destruction, which the text did not see fit to publish

Generally, for initiations and coming to know the Olympic Spirit, I’d recommend facing the east for the conjuration, at least for the first conjuration.  Subsequent conjurations can be performed in other directions once this big first initiation into contact is accomplished.

For the altar, should you choose to set one up, set an empty table with your preferred scrying medium in the middle, one white candle on the far side of the scrying medium from you, and a censer or incense burner between you and the scrying medium.  Smaller candles may be set around the scrying medium, either colored appropriately or in a certain number appropriate to the planetary sphere, either in a qabbalistic framework or in some number associated with the Olympic Spirit themselves.  Any offerings you might wish to make can be placed off to the side at the start, but might be best placed to either side of the scrying medium once offered.

At sunrise, light the candle, or all the candles if you have smaller ones but starting with the one white candle.  Light the incense.  Begin with any preliminary prayers of your own choosing, as well as the general prayer from before.  When ready, recite the prayer of conjuration.  As an example, let’s say we’re conjuring Och, the Olympic Spirit associated with the Sun:

Omnipotent and eternal God, who hast ordained the whole creation for thy praise and glory, and for the salvation of man, I beseech thee that thou wouldst send thy Spirit Och of the solar order, who shall inform and teach me those things which I shall ask of him. Nevertheless not my will be done, but thine, through Jesus Christ thy only begotten Son, our Lord. Amen.

Let the spirit arrive, repeating the prayer as necessary until a presence is discerned.  Once the spirit is known to be the one called for, welcome the spirit both into your conjuration and into your life, and offer it what you have prepared.  Begin conversing with the spirit, asking them what you will.  However, keep a timer present to keep track of time that you do not go over into the next hour of the day.  When the conjuration ritual is finished, thank the spirit for its help.  Recite the prayer of dismissal:

Forasmuch as thou camest in peace, and quietly, and hast answered unto my petitions; I give thanks unto God, in whose Name thou camest: and now thou mayest depart in peace unto thy orders; and return to me again when I shall call thee by thy name, or by thy order, or by thy office, which is granted from the Creator.  Amen.

Close the ritual with meditation, note-taking, and other prayers as you see fit.  Extinguish the primary candle; if any others are burning, let them burn out as an offering to the spirit.  Remove all remains from the ritual (incense ash, tealight tins, wine or water poured out) once everything has been extinguished on its own.

After that, that’s it.  You did it!  In the future, you may wish to cut back on the offerings chosen and, if you’re so comfortable with the spirit and they with you, to extend the length of the conjuration session or to forego any scrying medium whatsoever, although the preparatory prayers should be kept.

Practical Arbatel: Names and Seals of the Olympic Spirits

So now that I’m getting seriously interested in the Arbatel, I suppose it’s time to start reviewing what I know and what, exactly, it is that I’ll be doing and conjuring.  Most of the Arbatel is focused on being, basically, a good magician, which for all intents and purposes is to be a good Christian.  The basic virtues of piety, faith, love and honor of God, helping out your fellow man, and the like are what’s really expounded in the text, with most of the aphorisms of the Arbatel written on these subjects and how to effect them in one’s life.  That said, the Arbatel contains an introduction on the conjuration of seven Olympic Spirits, each associated with one of the seven planets and each possessing a certain number of spiritual legions of their own, as well as particular secrets that they can reveal to a magician who lives properly and is worthy of those secrets.  So, yes, there will be conjuration involved in this project (yay!), but it’ll be of a different kind than I’m used to (ooh!).

As the text reads in the Third Septenary (III.16), the names of the seven Olympic Spirits are given in the Latin alphabet as Aratron, Bethor, Phaleg, Och, Hagith, and Phul.  While I’d normally be okay with using these names as they are, my penchant for using literally anything other than the Latin alphabet whenever possible has led me to attempt a Greek transliteration of these names.  After all, when using Greek, I can tweak my spelling of things and get a better understanding of the isopsephy and stoicheia behind the names, perhaps leading to something a little more appropriate than what might be naïvely spelled.  Add to it, by beginning to incorporate more Greek into my conjuration work, I can perhaps make inroads into developing a system of mathetic conjuration that would augment and build up the rest of mathesis.  Besides, with these Olympic Spirits being Olympic and with many references to the text suggesting a pseudo-Greek origin to the system, it might befit us to use Greek anyway instead of Roman or Hebrew.

Happily, such a Greek transliteration of the Arbatel names is already given by Stephen Skinner in his Complete Magician’s Tables (M.42 through M.50, particularly M.43).  There, he gives the names of the seven Olympic Spirits, as well as their isopsephic values, as Αραιθρον (341 = 11 × 31), Βεθορ (186 = 6 × 31), Φαλεκγ (558 = 18 × 31), Ευχ (465 = 15 × 31), Ηαγιθ (31 = 1 × 31), Οφιιλ (620 = 20 × 31), and Φυλ (930 = 30 × 31).  These spellings are a little odd for me, however, as is the isopsephy involved.  For this, Skinner explains:

Immediately a pattern becomes obvious, confirming the accuracy of the orthography.  All the names are based on 31 or αλ ‘AL’ in Greek, and are therefore a carefully constructed formula, not just random mediaeval names, as most people previously assumed.  Even the grand total of all the values comes to 3131.  The Greek names of the Olympic Spirits also form a key to Crowley’s Liber AL vel Legis, although one of which Crowley was perhaps not aware, a key that I do not believe has been published by anyone else to date.  I intend to postpone the explanation of that material to a later time.  Suffice it to say that they are a significant key to Liber AL vel Legis.

Furthermore, the multiples of 31 are in themselves significant.  Apart from the factors 15, 20, and 30, the remaining factors form a significant Middle Pillar formula:

1 + 6 + 11 = 18, can be interpreted as Kether + Tiphareth + Daath = ih (10 + 8) or Arrow (in Greek).  The path so traced out is indeed the Path of the Arrow.  The key numbers for these spirits are therefore:

  • Hagith = 1
  • Bethor = 6
  • Araithron = 11
  • Phaleg = 18
  • Och = 15
  • Ophiel = 20
  • Phul = 30

In all honesty, mixing Golden Dawn and Thelemic works into a text 300 years their senior is a dicey proposition, and I don’t think that there’s much to link the two, even if it had been in the Golden Dawn’s scope to do so.  Add to it, I haven’t seen these spellings or this reasoning anywhere else, and the spelling and pronunciation in Latin or in German (since we can claim that the Arbatel is definitely a German work of occult literature) are quite different from the pronunciation given in Skinner’s transliterated Greek, and his use of “Araithron” instead of “Aratron” is unusual, since the Arbatel clearly only gives Aratron.  Add to it, Skinner’s claim about the sum of 1 + 6 + 11 = 18 associated with arrows makes no sense to me; “arrow” in Greek is τοξευμα (common antique word), οιστος, βελος (preferred modern word), ιος, ατρακτος, πτερον, or γλθφιδες, the isopsephy of any which is anything but 18.  Likewise, the Hebrew word for “arrow” is חץ, which still doesn’t add up to 18.

Given that Skinner’s transliterations weird me out and that his reasoning is sketchy, even though they do have that oddly nice consistency with the number 31, I think it might be better to take another look and develop a new set of Greek names for the Olympic Spirits.  Of course, transliterating what are essentially barbarous names between Greek and Roman isn’t always easy, so we often have multiple alternatives available to us.  For transliteration, I’ll only use the names given in the Arbatel itself; other books, such as the Secret Grimoire of Turiel and the Complete Book of Magic Science seem to be much later inventions, and the Arbatel would appear to be the first published text with the names and seals of the Olympic Spirits.

  • Aratron: The “-on” ending here strikes me as being omicron-nu, since most second declension neuter nouns in Greek have this same ending.  Thus, a straightforward transliteration would be Αρατρον (622).  If we were to use a theta instead of tau in the name to get Arathron, courtesy of Skinner’s suggestion, we’d have Αραθρον (331), but this seems to be a stretch, since I find no reason why we should use a theta if it wasn’t indicated in the source text, although it is likely as a more German pronunciation of the name (a slightly harder “t” than tau in German would provide).  Thus, we’ll use Αρατρον.
  • Bethor: The “-or” ending in this name strikes me as being omega-rho, since only a very few words in Greek end in omicron-rho.  The real question then becomes whether we use epsilon or eta, giving us either Βεθωρ (916) or Βηθωρ (919).  For me, Βεθωρ seems more likely; 9 + 1 + 6 = 16, and 1 + 6 = 7.
  • Phaleg: The ending here should be a simple gamma, not kappa-gamma as Skinner suggests, since that was a comparatively modern innovation to represent a hard “g” sound.  Thus, we’d end up with either Φαλεγ (539) or Φαληγ (542), based on whether we use epsilon or eta, and of these, Φαλεγ seems the more likely spelling.
  • Och: Depending on how we transliterate “o” as either omicron or omega, we could get Οχ (670) or Ωχ (1400), or even Ωοχ (1470) as Skinner proposes as an alternative to his Ευχ (465), although Skinner mistakenly gives the isopsephy of Ωοχ as 930 and not 1470.  Of these four names, Ωχ appears to be the cleanest and most likely.
  • Hagith: Greek doesn’t represent aspiration, so we really should be transliterating “Agith”.  This is fairly straightforward to transliterate, Αγιθ (23), with no other options available to us unless we really change things up, like replacing iota with eta for Αγηθ (21).  Thus, Αγιθ it is.
  • Ophiel: This is the most Judeo-Christian “angelic” appearing of the names, and Judeo-Christian angelic and otherwise theophoric names ending in “-el” in Roman are typically written as “-ηλ” in Greek.  However, the initial “o” could be either omicron or omega, giving us either Οφιηλ (618) or Ωφιηλ (1348).  Alternatively, if we use epsilon instead of eta, we could get Οφιελ (615) or Ωφιελ (1345).  Of these, I find Οφιηλ to be the most likely; .
  • Phul: There are only two options here, depending on what kind of “u” we want, either the French “u” represented only by upsilon, or the long “u” represented by omicron-upsilon, giving us either Φυλ (930) or Φουλ (1000).  However, Φυλ appears to be the more straightforward and reasonable of these.

Thus, for our Greek names, we’ll use Αρατρον (622), Βεθωρ (916), Φαλεγ (539), Ωχ (1400), Αγιθ (23), Οφιηλ (618), and Φυλ (930).  Altogether, the sum of the names isopsephy yields 5048.  While these names don’t have the consistency of a repeated number as Skinner’s names do, I also find these far more likely spellings to use of the Olympic Spirits.

Now that we have our names settled, it remains to figure out the seals, and happily, there’s pretty much nothing to figure out.  The seals given in the Arbatel are clear and consistent, and there are excellent modern renditions given by Asterion on his art blog.  I plan on using his seals, which are essentially the same as those given in the grimoire itself, but a little more squared up and cleaned up.  Normally, in conjurations, I make a Trithemian-style lamen bearing the seal of the spirit in a central hexagram with six pentagrams around it, the name of the spirit around that, and thirteen names of God around that.  However, I didn’t want to use the Trithemian design for these conjurations, since I wouldn’t be using the Trithemian ritual and also because the lamen format is fairly overkill for the Arbatel-type of conjuration, which is essentially minimalistic.  I took into account other lamens that other magicians have made for the Arbatel, such as Fr. Acher’s lamens for his Arbatel operations, but decided against anything too fancy.  Instead of using a psalm, series of names of God, or parts of the prayer from the Arbatel, I decided upon the Greek phrase:

Την ημερα και την ωρα του XΧΧ καλω σε ω Δαιμων Ολυμπικε !
In the day and in the hour of XXX I call upon you, o Olympic Spirit!

Thus, if I were to call upon Aratron, I’d use Κρονου, “of Kronos (Saturn)” in the XXX spot; if Bethor, Διος; if Phaleg, Αρεως; and so forth.  Alternatively, I prefer to use the planetary titan names that I’ve mentioned before when first pondering a Greek kabbalah, so instead of Κρονου I’d use Φαινω, “of Phainon”, etc.  A note on this, however: the planet Venus was considered to be two stars, Eosphoros (Dawn-bringer, Venus when it rises before the Sun in the Morning) and Hesperos (Evening Star, Venus when it sets after the Sun in the evening); either of these names could be used, when the proper phase of Venus applies, or you could use the general name Phosphoros (Light-bringer, a general name of Venus).

And, yes, as someone pointed out on Facebook, the use of the word “δαιμων” may raise some eyebrows here.  The text itself, which is a German work originally written in Latin in the 1500s, used the Latin word “pneumatica” to refer to the spirits, and doesn’t use the word “daemon”.  However, lest people think I’m confusing the Olympic Spirits with the types of spirits found in the Lemegeton Goetia, the word δαιμων refers to any natural power, force, fate, or entity, not unlike what’s connoted by θεος.  It was only with the development of Christianity that the word δαιμων began to pick up distinctly negative connotations, leading to our modern word “demon”.  The Renaissance use of the word πνευμα plus the connotations of the Christian Πνευμα το Αγιον, then, picked up what δαιμων left behind, going from a meaning of breath-like life energy to a force of nature as a discrete nonphysical entity.  Now, when I developed this phrase, I found the word δαιμων to be a perfectly acceptable word to use here, especially considering what the Olympic Spirits are proposed to be, but if they themselves wish to use the word πνευμα, I have nothing against changing the phrasing here.

With all that in mind, I made the following set of lamens for my use in my upcoming Arbatel work.  Assuming the Olympic Spirits themselves don’t mind them, I don’t see why I shouldn’t use them, though it’s unclear how best I could use them, either as something to wear as I would in other rituals, or as something to place the scrying medium above, but that’s for another post.