On the Angels of the Hours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.