On the Three Biblical Magi as Spiritual Allies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Refrain)
O Star of wonder, star of night

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

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

(Refrain)

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

(Refrain)

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

(Refrain)

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

(Refrain)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Light in the Darkness of the Home

Winter is rough.  Sure, some people like it, but even for those who do, it’s not the easiest season to survive.  Full of short days and long nights and temperatures lower than high school students’ ages, it gets pretty bleak at the best of times, and downright deadly when it gets really bad.  I know of several people whose houses don’t have heat due to shoddy contractor work or slummy sleazy landlords, not to mention other friends who’ve gotten into accidents from driving on icy roads.  Historically, winter is the whole point of having a giant harvest season, because if you didn’t put in the work earlier in the year, you were setting yourself up for starvation and death.  Hell, even in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, the phrase “winter is coming” is famous and ominous at the same time, and for good reason.  All told, winter isn’t exactly the gentlest of times.

This isn’t just a mere weather-based inconvenience thing, either.  In the winter, the Sun is so weak so as to be close to death or is only freshly reborn, far from being king over all during his summer solstice height.  Plants in general die or go into stasis and animals hibernate, depriving the world of motion and activity to keep things flowing properly.  The cold itself saps life away, and buries everything in a locked-down sense of malaise.  Even sound loses its echo after a snowfall, leaving words themselves drained of any power you put into them.  The long nights induce depression in those who are seasonally affected, and can even bring down the brightest of moods in those normally manic.  The unseelie court wields power, for those who’re into faerie lore; the strict Holly King rules.  We’re having to build ourselves up from scratch while living on so little.

It’s during this season that having Light in the home is most important, moreso than any other time of the year.  I’m not just talking about the usual Solar work, either, but I mean real, actual fire that you burn.  Whether it’s a fire in the hearth or a simple candle by your bedside, I’d urge you to follow through.  Keep the Light going, and it’ll make your life easier.

When I do a thorough house cleansing, like if someone’s having issues in their home due to spiritual malignancy or moving into a new place, one of the first things I do is I set up Light throughout the house.  I take a large white candle, either a pillar candle or a novena candle, and a number of white tealights, as many as there are rooms in the house.  After gathering them all together in the center of the home (central hearth, stove of the kitchen, whatever), with the large candle in the middle and the tealights around it, I inscribe or write on the symbols from the Key of Solomon (book II, chapter 12):

Characters for Consecrating Candles from the Key of Solomon

After this, I anoint each candle with holy oil, starting first with the large candle and going clockwise with all the other tealights.  I then light the large candle, and use my normal candle benediction, a slight variation on that of the Trithemius conjuration:

I conjure thee, oh thou creature of fire! by him who created all things both in heaven and earth, and in the sea, and in every other place whatever, that forthwith thou cast away every phantasm from thee, that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing. Bless, oh Lord, this creature of fire, and sanctify it that it may be blessed, and that it may burn for your honor and glory; so neither the enemy, nor any false imagination, may enter into them; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

From this central candle, I light each of the other candles in turn.  Once all the candles have been lit, I energetically link the primary candle to the smaller ones, so that the same blessing is set upon all of them at once.  Then, with all the tealights lit, I move them and set them in all of the rooms in the house, such that no matter where you are, you’re always within eyesight of one of these little flames.  This includes bathrooms, walk-in closets, sheds, and the like, so that literally every part of the property has light burning inside.  I leave the primary pillar candle at the center of the house, and return to it after moving all the tealights everywhere; there, I pray over it, and from it radiate Light and warmth and blessing throughout the entire place.  Whether it’s my own prayer of lightbringing or another prayer more focused on a particular problem at hand, by means of this central focus candle, I fill the entire house with the same prayer and the same oomph.  After this, I go through the house doing my thing, and leave all the candles to burn out on their own.  The remains are then collected together and disposed of respectfully.

This is a little ritual I developed on my own as part of a thorough house-cleansing and -blessing, as one of the first things I do.  Think about it: if a house is filled with gunk and filth, or if you have crusty crap stuck on your stove or sinks, you want to get rid of it.  However, some of the tougher gunk tends to be harder to remove, so what do you do?  You soak it in cleaning agent for a few minutes before actually scrubbing it off.  The candles set up above do a similar thing; the Light weakens any darkness and any filth that may have accumulated, so that when I go through and actually banish the place by suffumigations or prayer, the groundwork has already been established to weaken the filth and to further empower me as I go about my work.  In addition, the candles in each room act as a kind of warning-canary; if the flame of a particular candle gets weak, flickers a lot, or goes out on its own, then it’s a signal that there’s something especially rough in the vicinity of that particular candle.  If such a candle goes out, I relight it and pray over it specifically before re-linking it back to the focus candle in the home’s center; I focus on that room specifically before continuing on elsewhere, making sure it’s sufficiently emptied of gunk and filth before going on to another room.

That said, I’m also in the habit of just having a candle burning in the center of the house anyway all the time.  For me, it’s partially related to the small work I do with Hestia as overseer and mistress of the home, and the goddess of the hearth herself; with a fire burning under this goddess, it helps ensure my house and home and family that we always have fire to warm ourselves, power to strengthen ourselves, purity to cleanse ourselves, and protection to keep ourselves safe under her watch over the most sacred of all places, the οικος-domus-home.  In point of fact, for myself and my housemates, I’ve noticed our mental health levels decrease and malaise increase over time the longer we don’t have at least one fire going in the house; we tend to slack off, leave more messes behind us, and generally feel crappy.  This is essentially us starting to lose our own inner heat without an external heat to empower us; if we get too cool or go cold, we start on a slippery slope to nowhere good.  When spiritually-inclined friends come over, if we don’t have a candle burning, they tend to sleep rougher and with more active or disturbing dreams; sure, myself as houseowner may be used to it and shrug it off, but for people who’re used to their own levels of protection in their own environments of familiarity, it can be a jarring experience.

Keeping at least one fire burning, whether under the watchful eyes of Hestia or the Virgin Mary or God himself, in the home for the sake of the home is always something I’d recommend to everyone.  Heck, this would go for people traveling, too.  Whenever I’m in a new room I’m unaccustomed to sleeping in, especially hotels, I always bring a candle with me and keep it lit when I’m asleep.  Sure, the hotel may not exactly approve, but it’s something I prefer to do to bring some of that extra protection with me (in addition to the normal wards and protections I set up).  Some people insist on having a candle burning by their bedside no matter where they sleep; if I’m doing a particular working that demands light at all times, I’ll do this, too, but normally that’s just overkill for me when I keep my own stuff up and running.

Of course, never forget the usual warnings about keeping fires burning, especially unattended.  Make sure pets or children don’t reach them, make sure they’re stable enough to resist being knocked over, keep them enclosed, &c.  Don’t burn down your house for want of warmth, even if you do have a generous insurance plan.

Miscellaneous Magical Methods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.