Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Rite of Perfect Nature, part 3

Thoughts on the Rite of Perfect Nature
 This is a photograph of a mixture of butter, brown sugar, honey, and olive oil. These are the (modified) ingredients that make up the confection that sits in the middle of the table of offerings for the spirits of Perfect Nature in the rite described in Book III, Chapter 6 of the Picatrix, in both the Latin and the Arabic versions. 

I have said before in this blog that I believe Perfect Nature to be a central concept to learning the ritual format of the Picatrix. I have also already described how I developed a repetitive rite that invokes the four names of Perfect Nature. But what I've never done is the actual Rite of Perfect Nature as it is described in the Picatrix. I really have no idea why I waited so long to try it. It is one of the most explicit things expanded upon in the text. It is almost like being a tourist in one's own town. It was so easy to get to I never bothered to. But let us put excuses aside and look critically at the Rite with an eye toward performing the Rite the next time the Moon enters the first degree of Aries in a few weeks. 

It is interesting to compare the Rite in the Latin Picatrix (Greer & Warnock translation) and the Arabic Ghayat Al-Hakim (Hashem Atallah translation). The passages are nearly identical but the differences in how the translators interpreted their respective sources helps to firm up some of the ambiguous details of actually performing the Rite. Let's look at it line by line. I'll designate the line from the Picatrix with P and the lines from the Ghayat Al-Hakim with G.

G: When the Moon comes down to the level of the Head of Aries at any time in either day or night.

P: When the Moon is in the first degree of Aries, be it by day or by night, whenever you wish, 

These lines are just about the same but they can certainly be interpreted differently. The Head of Aries could indicate the entire first Mansion of the Moon, Alnath. The Moon would be in the first Mansion somewhere between 16 and 25 hours or so, depending on the speed of the Moon at that time. That is certainly a much longer time than the Moon would take to enter and pass through the first degree of Aries, roughly two hours. I like the specificity of the two hour window so I think I'll stick with that. I am choosing to interpret "by day or by night" to mean that the Moon's position in the zodiac is the most important consideration when figuring out the timing of the ritual. And things like planetary hours or other astrological weather is much less important.

G: Enter a clean house and put a table at the eastern corner of the house on a step higher than the ground.

P: go into a house that is clean and splendid, in one corner of which you should put a raised table on the floor, toward the eastern side. 

A clean house, or a clean and splendid house, is one that is prepared. I am interpreting this to indicate that the ritual area should be formally cleaned, blessed, and consecrated. I find the detail of needing to be indoors a curious one. It is for this reason, among others, that suggest to me that this rite is best thought of as internal to the magician performing it. 

The table is a little more ambiguous and could open to interpretation. I suspect anything from a footed tray to a dining room table would be appropriate. It needs, however, to be raised from the ground. We could interpret this to mean it needs to be up off of the ground if you had a dirt floor, in which case most modern buildings would suffice, or it needs to be higher than the regular standing level of the floor, in which case one could put something under the feet of the ritual table similarly to how John Dee described his ritual table, using seals made of wax, paper, wood, or something else separating the table from the floor. 

G: Then take four cups; each cup has to be able to hold a whole pound. 

P: Take four pitchers (each of which should hold one pint). 

This is pretty straight forward. I would submit, however, that the volume may be open to adjustment. Just as the incense recipes have some incredible amounts listed (6 ounces of scorpion brains?) so too the amounts of offerings might be similarly adjustable. I suspect I will use vessels smaller than a pint. 

G: Then fill these cups with four different oils. Fill the first cup with almond oil, the second with butter, the third with walnut oil, and the last with vinegar oil.

P: Into one of them put cow's butter, into the second nut oil, into the third almond oil, and into the fourth sesame oil.

The lists are nearly the same and can be blended to give us almond oil, butter, walnut oil, and sesame oil. This is helpful since nut oil is ambiguous and I have no idea what vinegar oil is. Grape seed oil? 

Does the order matter much? Does there need to be a prep area in addition to the ritual area?

G: Then take another four cups the same size of the first ones and fill them with alcohol.

P: Then take four more pitcher of the same size , and pour wine into them.

Again, quite straight forward. And as my oil cups will be smaller than a pint I think it will be good that the wine cups are the same size. I'll keep that consistent.  

G: Then make a candy made of walnut oil, butter, and lots of sugar, it needs to be sweet and heavy on oil. 

P: Then make a composition of nut oil, butter, honey, and sugar.

This is the composition in the photo at the beginning of this post.  The consistency of it was creamy like the blended sugar and butter of a cookie recipe, definitely not a candy. Perhaps less butter and more sugar and then compressed like maple candy. I knew this would take experimentation so I'll need to try again. Another detail worth noting is that I chose brown sugar as opposed to refined white sugar. Turbinado or some other unrefined, raw sugar would also work. 

G: Then take these eight cups and the candy and a glass vessel. First put the glass vessel in the middle of the table and put the candies on top of it, then put the four cups of alcohol around it facing the cardinal points starting with the east, west, north, and south. 

P: Take the eight pitchers and the mixture you have made, and a glass vessel; put this latter in the center of the table, and put the composition you have made into it. Next put the four pitchers of wine at the four quarters of the table, arranging them in the following way: the first pitcher in the east, the second in the west, the third in the south, and the fourth in the north.

So we take everything from the prep area to the ritual table and start setting it up. The first thing is an empty glass vessel in the middle of the table. Then the candy or butter goo goes into it. Then the cups of wine are set on the table in a specific, cruciform order. The Latin and the Arabic versions differ in the order of directions. I think this is significant if one were to try to equate the names of Perfect Nature with each of the cardinal directions. I've been working from the Latin Picatrix order for several years so I will stick with that. 

As an aside I would like to mention that this cruciform, quincunx model is mentioned several times in the Latin Picatrix. In many cases it sets the magician performing the operation at the figurative center of the universe, approaching the divine. It has a similar function here, I think, and reinforces my belief in its central importance to understanding the magic of the Picatrix. 

G: Then you start with the oils first the almond oil to the east on the same pattern of the alcohol cup, then the walnut oil next to the west, the butter to the north and last the vinegar oil to the south.

P: Then take the other four pitchers; first put the one full of almond oil in the east, then the one full of nut oil in the west; the one full of butter goes in the south, and the one full of sesame oil to the north. 

I think it is significant that the position of the butter stays consistent in each of the systems. This reinforces my supposition that direct correspondences can be drawn between the names of Perfect Nature, the directions, and the offerings. 

G: Then take a candle and light it and put it in the middle of the vessel.

P: Then take a burning candle and put it in the midst of the table.

The candle goes to the table already lit. It is put either right in the middle of everything, which is symbolically interesting, or it simply goes on the table near the middle. If it isn't in the middle of the confection bowl then it should probably be toward the east. In my opinion the candle plays dual roles in this rite. On the one hand it represents consciousness, the divine consciousness of God, the consciousness of the magician, and the consciousness of the spirit of Perfect Nature, all at the same time. On the other hand it too is an offering to the spirits of Perfect Nature as a unity. The candle is for all of them and as all of them partake of it they are conjoined in the symbol of the flame.  

G: Then take two braziers full of coal, then burn in one of them Kandar a good smelling glue and in the other one burn aloe wood.

P: Then take two thuribles full of burning charcoal, into one of which you shall put frankincense and mastic, and into the other aloes wood.  

The use of two braziers raises more questions for me than answers them. Why are they separate? Are they on the table with the rest of the offerings or no? And, if so, where should they be placed in relation to everything else? 

And perhaps I am making too much of the little detail that the charcoal comes to the table already burning, just like the candle, but it tickles at the back of my mind as potentially significant. 

Kandar is a type of high quality frankincense and mastic could be a good smelling glue so the ingredients correspond between the two versions. 

So now everything is on the table. I think it might look a little something like this. 

G: Then stand and face the east and repeat seven times Tamaghees Baghdiswad Waghidas Nufanaghdees

P: When all this is done, stand upright on your feet facing east, and invoke the four afrementioned names seven times. [Meegius, Betzahuech, Vacdez, Nufeneguediz]

The instruction to stand in this part is what led me to suggest a low, tray-like table. I also wonder where the magician should be standing. Presumably one stands in the west since the table is just about against an eastern wall. 

I think it is appropriate to envision each of the spirits in their place at the table as their name is being invoked. 

G: Then say after that: "I call you, you High and Powerful Spirit of Spirits, the Wisest of all Wise, Intelligent of all Intelligence, Knowledgable with the World's Knowledge, answer me and come to me and get me close to your knowledge, make me as wise and powerful as you are, let me understand what I do not understand, let me see what I cannot see and protect me from ignorance, forgetfulness, and cruelty and make me like the Forefathers of Wisdom the ones that had intelligence, wisdom, attentive awareness and understanding in their hearts, let all that live in my heart and never depart from it."

P: When you have invoked them seven times, speak as follows: "I call to you, O strong, potent, and exalted spirit, because from you proceed the knowledge of the wise and the understanding of the intellect, and by your virtue the desires of the wise are accomplished, that you may respond to me, and be present with me, and unite with me your powers and the virtues that accompany you, and strengthen me with your knowledge so that I may understand that which I do not understand, and know that of which I am ignorant, and see that which I do not see; and remove from me all blindness, turpitude, forgetfulness, and infirmity; and lift me up to the degree of the ancient sages (those, indeed, whose hearts were filled with knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and cognition), and affix the aforesaid things in my heart, so that my heart might be like the hearts of the ancient sages."

And here is the petition the magician makes to the Spirit of Perfect Nature. 

There are two very important themes that I think bear mentioning about this petition. First, in both versions the spirit is addressed in the singular. It is tempting for me to think of Perfect Nature in terms of four individual intelligences but this is a reminder that the goal is to contact a singular spirit that is individual to the magician themselves. 

The second big thing I think is important is that the magician implores Perfect Nature to align them with the lineage of ancient magicians that came before. This is a request to learn directly from the spirits with Perfect Nature as the conduit or medium. In fact, both versions of the Picatrix mentions who is "the first to work with spirits" and would presumably be one of the ancient sages to contact and learn from. In the Latin Picatrix the name is given as Caraphzebiz, in the Arabic Kirfisayis; phonetically very similar. 

The petition could certainly be modified as the magician deems fit. 

G: Then the spirit said if you do that then you will see me.

P: And when you have done the foregoing working in the aforesaid way, you will see me.

This is the end of the detailed ritual procedure in both books. They each go on to suggest that the planet that rules a persons nativity will affect the manifestation of the teachings of Perfect Nature. I hesitate to put any kind of interpretation on this until I experience it myself. 

Both books then go into talking about seeing with a spiritual eye, contemplations, and looking within which I interpret to mean that a period of meditation and visualization is the next step. After that one would give thanks to God and to the Spirit of Perfect Nature and the Rite would be ended. The candle would be snuffed and the offerings left for some time, maybe a couple of days, and then ritually disposed of. 

The big outstanding question I have is if any of the offering should be consumed by the magician performing the Rite. I could see reasons for both yes and no. Perhaps this will be one of my first questions to the spirit. 

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