Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Verum Tool Update

Today is the first Wednesday after the New Moon which means it was time to move forward with my Verum practice and gain some ground on gathering and consecrating the tools. I find the Grimorium Verum to be a daunting work and I have vacillated back and forth about whether or not it is a system that is really for me. But, after a time of feeling little connection to the material, the desire to move forward on it came back with a vengeance.

At this point I have gathered most of the tools at the appropriate time. They have been sitting on a shelf, waiting for the next steps to proceed. Today I moved forward on the consecration of the tools.

During the first hour of Mercury this morning I put together the aspergillum. For some reason this step has slowed me for a while, like months. Not because it was particularly difficult or because the herbs were hard to find. It just hadn't seemed like the right time. Something always seemed to come up and get in the way. The aspergillum took me the entire hour to put together which is much longer than I thought it would. But it feels solid and smells nicely. And no, I didn't use thread spun by a virgin. All my searching has been fruitless in that endeavor. Instead I used a reddish orange silk thread my partner gave me. It is a color that I associate with Scirlin and mace.

In the time between the Mercury hours I gathered all the implements that I wanted to consecrate, and the implements used to consecrate them. I mixed my incense ingredients; mace blades, aloeswood, and frankincense. Then I wrote out my ritual including all the psalms, prayers, and instructions.

During the second hour of Mercury I did the ablutions, the orisons of the instruments, asperged, and  fumigated. By the time the planetary hour was finished I had done everything except inscribe the inkhorn and the consecration of the ink put therein. In thinking about it, it may be best to be selective in how I proceed with the ink.

In fact this step forward has imparted to me a feeling that there is no rush to get this done right away. Given the wands and parchment and all the rest that is left I'm still easily two or three months working on the tools. I think I'm ok with that. I've learned that there is a benefit to taking this process slowly.

At any rate, today's working felt really solid and went smoothly. Next, the wands, the parchment. Perhaps a hatchet of the art?

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Picatrix Table of Practice

A preliminary sketch for a Table of Practice based on the Picatrix Mirror of the Seven Winds. 

Picatrix: Faces Versus Decans

I've been thinking a bit lately about the Faces and the Decans. I have, in the past, used these terms interchangeably but they are not the same thing. The defining difference is the planetary attribution. The Faces use the Chaldean order, beginning with Mars in the first Face of Aries and descending on through the 36. Alternately the Decans use a system of triplicities in which the planetary attribution is assigned based on the ruler of the subsequent signs of the same elemental attribution, on around through the 36. This essay assumes an audience that is already familiar with this concept. If you are not, here is an article by Benjamin Dykes with some of the basics.  

As I said, I would use the terms interchangeably, as do many contemporary authors, but the Picatrix explicitly calls the 36 divisions based on the Chaldean order of planets as "Faces" [bk2, ch11] and the  36 divisions based on triplicity as "Decans" [bk2, ch12]. This is the definition of these terms we will use. 

In Chapter 11 each of the faces is given as an image or a character with an intention. For example, the  3rd face of Taurus, attributed to Saturn. 
There rises in the third face ofTaurus a man of reddish complexion with large white teeth exposed outside of his mouth, and a body like an elephant with long legs; and there ascends along with him one horse, one dog, and one calf. This is a face of sloth, poverty, misery, and dread. This is its form.
One for each of the 36 faces around the zodiac.  We are told that to make a talisman with this energy we must use an election when Saturn is in the 3rd face of Taurus on a Saturday at sunrise (Saturn hour). Curiously, despite an example of how to figure the planet for each face at the beginning of the chapter, the planets are not explicitly listed for each face. It is likely, however, that the information was considered a bit obvious to need to be written rather than an implication that the planetary attribution is somehow diminished.

Then, in Chapter 12 we have an alternate list, the Decans, credited to the Hindus, and following a triplicity order. Here a planet is listed for each decan as the first line in its description. Each decan description next has its intention listed. No images are given. Nor is there a procedure described to use the decans  magically.
The third face ofTaurus is of Saturn, in which you may make an image to cause hatred and to bind men so they are not able to have sex with women, and conversely to cause women to sicken, and to separate men and women.
Ok, so maybe the 3rd face and decan of Taurus was a poor choice for my example as they are both attributed to Saturn. It happens that 9 out of the 36 planetary attributions match. The other 27 are each ruled by two different planets.

So the question becomes when do we use one list as opposed to the other? Also, what is the likely procedure to use the decans?

 The Picatrix doesn't seem to favor one over the other except that the chapter of the faces comes before the decans. The two chapter headings suggest a difference. Chapter 11 is titled The Images of the Faces of the Signs and Their Effects. Chapter 12 is titled The Figures and Degrees of the Signs and Thier Effects According To The Opinion of the Hindus, and How They Proceed In The Contemplations of This Science, and In What Manner the Virtues of Superior Bodies Are Attracted According To The Opinions of the Same, With Notable Secrets. Quite a mouthful. Brevity would suggest honor. Essentially, however, one list is probably not stronger or better than the other in terms of practice. For each of the 36 divisions either (or both) planets are available for magical use.

Magical use. This is where we need to search for some clues and take some conceptual leaps.

Because the Picatrix doesn't explicitly tell us how to use the decans we need to figure out the most likely procedure. To use the decans we have a couple of choices that come to the top of my head. There are probably more but I can't think of what they might be. Our first option, as I see it, is to use the procedure listed for the faces (planet in the face, on the planet's day at sunrise). The other likely option is to treat the decan as a constellation or fixed star (at Ascendant or Midheaven on planetary day and hour, Moon unafflicted).

The difference between these two options is not so very great and they are easily combined to give us something like this. Planet in decan, at Midheaven, first planetary hour of planetary day, Moon unafflicted. Is this too specific?

It turns out yes. We can't have a Midheaven rule at sunrise because Mercury, Venus, and the Sun itself will never be at the Midheaven at sunrise. Therefore the Ascendant takes primacy. But watch out for combustion with the Sun.

It seems I need to think about this more.

Next up: specific decan elections using the above rules.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Personal Tarot Deck

So I am staring to create my own Tarot deck. This is my second attempt, the first attempt didn't work out so well. I lost it somewhere around the Tower (I was doing them in order). This time I am newly inspired and I'm using a whole different approach.

The Papesse

The Fool

I have yet to design a frame or a back but I like how these are looking so far.
Next, The Magician.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Perfect Nature, part 2

Let's continue analyzing the 6th chapter of book 3 of the Latin Picatrix. In part 1 we talked about the elements of the chapter up to and including the actual Ritual of Perfect Nature itself. Now we get into some philosophical territory and a description of one of the keys to working the magic of the Picatrix.
 Aristotle said furthermore that each sage had his proper virtue infused into him by exalted spirits, by whose powers their senses were closed, their intellects opened, and sciences were revealed to them. This virtue was conjoined with the virtue of the planet ruling the radix of the nativity, so that the virtue thus co-created in them strengthened them and gave intelligence to them. These same ancient sages and kings used to do this working and pray this prayer with the four names given above, by which they helped themselves in their knowledge and understanding, and the increase of their business and possessions, and guarded themselves from the plots of their enemies, and did many other things.
So now that we have just completed the Ritual of Perfect Nature, thereby putting our higher selves in order. Now the text goes into talking about the qualities and attributes of Perfect Nature. We are told that the magician has "his proper virtue infused in him by exalted spirits". What is this proper virtue? I contend that it is the magician's connection to their personal inner world, the spiritual realm, and by extension, God. It is through this connection to higher realms that makes a magician a magician. This connection works by closing the senses and opening the intellect. This sounds like a meditation technique in which the magician explores the inner realms.

We are then told that the virtue is "conjoined" and "co-created" by the planet ruling the nativity of the magician. Clearly then, the exalted spirits are independent of the planetary spirits. The exalted spirits are the four Spirits of Perfect Nature. They are strengthened by, and take on the flavor of, one of the seven planets. Does this mean that the planet is the entree to understanding the Spirits of Perfect Nature? How would a Mercurial Perfect Nature be different from a Jovial Perfect Nature? At any rate, it becomes apparent that Perfect Nature, as the unity, is different for each person and takes on the nature of the planet ruling the nativity of the magician.

 Aristotle said that the first who worked with images, and the one to whom spirits first appeared, was Caraphzebiz. He it was who first discovered the magical art, and spirits appeared first to him, performing wonders, and opening Perfect Nature to his knowledge, and made him understand that same secret nature and sciences. His familiar spirit said to him: I will remain with you, but do not reveal me to others or speak of me, and make sacrifices in my name. He became a sage by working with the spirits, and helped himself by their powers and by workings in which they took part.

 Caraphzebiz is presented as the father of the magic of the Picatrix. As of yet I have not been able to find any history or derivation of this name. We also have two clues as to the "maintenance" of a relationship of the magician and his familiar spirit of Perfect Nature: make sacrifices and tell no one. Interestingly elsewhere in the Picatrix we are told that another person's disbelief or derision diminishes the work. The keep silent rule seems a reiteration of this point.  
From that sage Caraphzebiz down to another sage named Amenus (who was the second to work with spirits and magical operations) 1260 years passed by. This sage, when he taught, used to offer this advice, that any sage who wanted to work magic, and preserve himself with the powers of the spirits, ought strictly to give up all cares and all other sciences beside this one, because when all the senses and the mind, and all contemplations about other things, are strictly turned to magic, it may be acquired with ease; and since many assiduous contemplations are appropriate to this science of magic, the magician must wrap himself in these, rather than being wrapped around any other things.

Here we have two ancient magicians named as the first to work with spirits in this way. In terms of evocation and spirit work these two names can be added to the list of entities available to the magician to call upon as teachers and exalted masters.  The interval of time between them seems oddly specific. It is tempting to try and equate this number with the rotation of fixed stars or the speed of Saturn or Jupiter, but I think this is erroneous. 1260 probably is derived from some other source.

Again we are told to concentrate on magic as the way to learn it. And while I am not in a position to be able to quit my day job in favor of magical work, I do devote energy every day to learning magic. From this passage we are told that distraction is anathema to the practice of this magic.

Tintinz the Greek said the same thing in the beginning of his book, that one who desires to perform this work ought to abandon all intention and contemplation concerning other things, because the root and foundation of all these workings consists of contemplations. Aristotle said that an image is called an image for this reason, that the powers of spirits are conjoined to it, for contemplation goes into anything in which the virtue consists of a hidden spirit. The powers of the spirits are fourfold: that is, the senses, which are said to be joined to the world; the spirit of things, to which spirit is attracted; the spirit of perfect, sane, and unbroken contemplation; and the spirit by which works are done by the hands. These three spirits in matter, which exist in intention and effect, are coadunated in perfect contemplation with the senses, which we have said are joined to the world.
From my perspective this is one of, if not the, most important paragraph in the whole book in terms of understanding the ritual procedure of the Picatrix.
The root and foundation of the work consists of contemplations. 
Contemplations, in this context, means concentration, meditation, visualization, and active imagination. In modern parlance, skrying and working on the Astral Plane. In fact, contemplation "goes into anything in which the virtue consists of a hidden spirit". It is the act of visualization that makes an object magical as opposed to mundane.

In addition to contemplation there are three other elements that make a magical image. Referred to as Spirits, the four are:
  1. The Spirit of the Senses. I interpret this to mean the trappings of ceremony; colors, scents, setting, astrological election time, words, libations, and so on.
  2.  The Spirit of Things. I interpret this to be the physical material from which the talisman is constructed, the image itself, and other additions used to strengthen the correspondences (stones, herbs, metals, dust, washes)
  3. The Spirit of Perfect, Sane, Unbroken Contemplation. In other words meditation, visualization, energy work, intent, belief, and spirit communication.
  4. The Spirit by Which Works Are Done With the Hands. This means the actual physical building or finishing of the talisman. 
Effective workings using the Picatrix must consist of all four of these elements.

The senses attract rays and bring them to those things toward which they are directed, like a mirror that is raised up into the light of the Sun, and reflects his rays into the shadows to either side; it receives the Sun's rays from his light, and projects them into shadowy places; and those shadowy places become bright and illuminated, nor is the Sun's light diminished thereby. This is how the three spirits named above work, when the spirits of motion and rest are joined to the superior world while in contact with the senses; they attract the powers of the spirits of the superior world, and pour them out upon matter. This is the foundation of images, and why they are given that name.
This paragraph goes into some detail about the previous one. Essentially it says that Senses, Things, and Work of the Hands all attract the influence of the spiritual world and it is Contemplation that directs it.

As an example, let's say you are working on a Saturn talisman. You have worked with the Spirit of the Senses by figuring out a correct  election time in which to make it, dressing in black wool, lighting black candles, writing out an appropriate invocation, and picking a rough secluded location for the working. You have worked with the Spirit of Things by choosing lead, Saturnine herbs, and Saturnine stones with which to construct the talisman (or perhaps you have chosen a Saturn image to render on paper). These were gathered using Saturn timing. You work with the Spirit of Contemplation by praying, fasting, and visualizing the power of Saturn flowing into your talisman by the smoke of its suffumigation. Finally, at the appropriate time, you are constructing, engraving, drawing, assembling, and/ or finishing the talisman by manipulating it with the hands. As election windows can be somewhat brief much of the talisman can be assembled before the election occurs as long as you save some work for the consecration ritual.

Socrates said that Perfect Nature is the Sun of the wise and its root is light. Certain people inquired of Hermes the sage, asking: "With what are science and philosophy joined?" He answered, "With Perfect Nature." They asked again, saying, "What is the root of science and philosophy?" He said, "Perfect Nature." Then they questioned him more closely: "What is the key by which science and philosophy are opened?" He answered, "Perfect Nature." They then asked of him, "What is Perfect Nature?" He answered, "Perfect Nature is the spirit of the philosopher or sage linked to the planet that governs him. This is that which opens the closed places of knowledge, and by which is understood that which cannot otherwise be understood at all, and from which workings proceed naturally both in sleep and in waking."
The first line of this paragraph is a puzzle to me. I have heard some contend that "its root is light" means that the talismans are empowered, in part by literal rays of light from celestial bodies. Doing a Saturn talisman? Make sure the light of Saturn falls upon the surface of your talisman. While this actually may be helpful I don't think that is what is meant in this line. I have also heard others saying that it means the best talismans are somehow shiny or luminescent. I think these two interpretations are a bit too simplistic. But I have no counterpoint. Somehow I suspect that "light" may have a shifting meaning and be more subtle than these other explanations.

The paragraph continues with Hermes answering every question with "Perfect Nature", indicating that Perfect Nature is the root of all science and philosophy and apparently the only way to understand them. Then it is reiterated that Perfect Nature is the spirit of the magician linked to the planet that rules his/ her nativity, as we noted at the beginning of this part 2 essay.

Thus it is clear from the foregoing that Perfect Nature acts in the sage or philosopher as a teacher toward a student, teaching the latter first in simple and easy matters, and then proceeding step by step to greater and more difficult ones, until the student is perfect in knowledge. When Perfect Nature works in this way, according to its own virtue and influence, the intellect of the philosopher is disposed according to his natural inclination. You should understand this, committing it to memory, because from the foregoing it may be concluded that it is impossible for anybody to attain this science except those who are naturally inclined to it, both by their own virtue and by the disposition of the planet ruling in their nativity.
The concluding paragraph of chapter 6 tells us that the ruling planet of the magician's birth chart influences the way in which Perfect Nature teaches the magician what they need to learn. I think it is also helpful to keep in mind the relationship between Perfect Nature and the magician, a teacher toward a student. Perfect Nature is not a spirit to be threatened or commanded but one that has the best interests of the magician at heart.

In conclusion I would like to suggest that this be one of the first things students of the Picatrix tackle. Making contact with the Spirit of Perfect Nature using the four names. By this other avenues are opened.