Libellus Veneri Nigro Sacer (Pt 5): The Practice

Since I initially wrote about my journey crafting the tools necessary to work the Tuba Veneris as my chosen ritual magic grimoire in 2019, I have regularly received e-mails, communication, and all manner of questions concerning what exactly happened since I completed my toolkit. Even in Discord servers and other chat groups that I’ve joined, as soon as I’ve noted my blog, the first question I receive privately tends to be about my experiences with this rarely-worked little grimoire, what my results so far have been, and what the nature of the spirits are, their offices, powers, manifestations, and deeds. It has been two years since that fateful Friday new moon when I consecrated all of my tools—including the second Horn I had mentioned procuring, thanks to a witch and friend in Germany who had convinced his neighbour in the farms to wait until a Friday Venus hour to dehorn his steer—and I have not publicly noted outside of my private circles of friends what exactly has transpired with the book since. An update is certainly well overdue.

Since the August of 2019, when I performed the consecration and burial of the tools by a riverbank once more, I have been working with the implements and conjuring the six spirits fairly regularly. I had mentioned in an earlier post that one of my goals was to test whether using either Horn made a difference. To reiterate: the first Horn was consecrated on a separate Friday new moon with my Seal and Book, and the second was carved, consecrated, and re-buried with all the original tools once more on the next Friday new moon the same year, in August. The only difference between them, besides the date of consecration, was that I knew that the first Horn had been severed during a Friday afternoon, but the person who had sold it to me could not recall precisely what time.

The second, however, was intentionally cut precisely during the necessary time according to the grimoire, and I wanted to check whether there was any difference between the two in terms of potency during the conjurations. It turns out that there was ultimately none, or at the very least none that I could detect. The spirits, when summoned, appeared readily regardless of which one I spoke the call through, and their manifestations were equally as potent. I concluded that the consecrations on both were sufficiently carried out, and have decided to save the first as a shrine piece on an area I have dedicated specifically to Venus and Anael as a result of all the work I have carried out with this text, and her continued patronage of the art. I use exclusively the second, not just because of its origin, but rather because its size is more pleasant to wield and the engravings I had made appear far more striking, bold, and pleasing to my eye. Below are the images of this Horn prior to consecration, shared with the permission of my spirits:

I’m really so thrilled with how it came out, and that I managed to fit all the seals of the six spirits on the one side without having to squish any of them, naturally growing in size as the horn itself expands in width. I tried to make haste with the engravings during that hour in order to have enough time to both consecrate the tools through the smoke, and run outside to the nearby forest by where I live to bury them at river that passes through it. I was working on a giant table where I had printed out Jeffrey S. Kupperman’s recreations of the seals (from Teresa Burns and Nancy Turner’s translation of the Tuba Veneris) in order to better copy them, already dressed in my outdoor clothes for the trek. I really did not want to have to wait for the Venus hour well past midnight for convenience’s sake (even witches and Quimbandeiras must sleep, allegedly), so I wanted to make sure I could do everything in the same planetary hour—a task thankfully made possible by my home’s convenient location by that forest and river.

There is actually an amusing story to go along with the second Horn’s consecration. That August afternoon, as I was sitting with my spirits in eager anticipation of the nighttime Venus hour, one of my familiars reminded me to once more read over the grimoire’s text. It suddenly dawned on me that the engraving tool one uses to for the Seal and Horn must be “a new and pure iron or steel instrument”, and my engraving pen was certainly not new or pure—I had used it for the first time on the prior round, and since then it has seen much use creating Salt’s astrologically elected talismans, Solomonic pentacles, and all manner of such instruments. As soon as I realized this, I sprinted out the door and grabbed the bus to the nearest hardware store to purchase a new one with only a few hours to go, and returned home victorious with a sufficiently virgin tool. This was certainly a humourous lesson for me in always double-checking my inventory before such important dates!

Needless to say, rolling out my beloved Circle, unwrapping my Book, Seal, and Horn from their linen coverings, lighting a healthy green taper and preparing a copper dish in which to scald the wax seal of the spirit (should it be disobedient) has become a fairly regular Friday evening activity over the past two years. I set out initially to work this text out of a curiosity, and later sincere magical intrigue, as I detailed in my first post [here]. It’s a fascinating text with many strange, almost pagan elements to its setup, with a ritual structure that is not only simple but uniquely short. The tools were attractive to me, and my spirits had given me the go-ahead to attempt it. Now, I can happily confirm that the entire process was deeply worth the effort. While an unpopular text in early modern magic and grimoire tradition circles, I hope that my reflection as someone who has worked the book to the letter, having crafted each tool precisely to its specifications, may encourage others to attempt the same work.

This text has become my primary grimoire of choice in its efficacy, power, and speed—when I have need of the assistance of its six spirits, or simply desire to work with them again instead of one of my allies in Balkan traditional witchcraft, Quimbanda, or any other system and initiation I keep more closely to my chest, I will await the Friday evening Venus hour of that week and call them forth with the Horn. In the past two years, I have never needed to recite the conjuration more than three times for the spirit to visibly appear—a record that has certainly shocked me, given that the calls are so short, consisting almost entirely of a few lines of barbarous words, bookended by the chosen spirit’s name. The manifestations of the six have varied with intensity, though their presence has always been entirely unmistakable. They have often paced the Circle’s edge, disturbing physically the objects in the room, causing apparitions and poltergeist phenomena in my ritual space, bringing with them changes of weather outside, shadows, streaks, haze, mist, pressures and alarming sensations in the body, deep trances and visions of their forms, and visible, physical manifestations of their beings in the air.

To this day, the six seals I made out of green wax and soot two years ago have remained undisturbed. Friends who have visited me and seen the space where I keep them have remarked that not a single one is blemished—this is because I have never had need to make use of the disciplinary procedure by which the spirits are reprimanded for being uncooperative, in which you heat the copper Seal around your neck in the candle flame and place it over the wax to melt and torment the being. Not a single conjuration have I experienced the spirits rebelling. I have consistently approached them politely, emphasizing amicable cooperation between the two of us in the name of Archangel Anael and the Holy Trinity, and have implored them to swear to speak the truth clearly and without any ambiguity by those same names, and have not been found wanting. Even the most sinister of the six, who speak in sly, envenomed tongues and slither about the perimeter of Circle, words dripping with lurid cunning, have kept to their oath, honoured my efforts as one who has carried out the work, and done good on their tasks I have set them out to accomplish. I suspect that one of the reasons I have never needed to take a more aggressive approach is because I speak every command, negotiation, and even mundane comment to them in our communications directly through the Horn. Another likely one is also that my guardian spirits and familiars are always ever-present with me, so even in the Circle itself I am never fully facing the daemons alone.

Ultimately, the results I have achieved with the grimoire have been superb. They have brought treasures, financial upheavals for family, assisted in business as well as domination, ruined enemies with curses, given accurate information as spies upon chosen targets and institutions, manipulated bureaucracies in the favour of friends, and assisted with all Venusian matters. They have revealed instructions for amulets, tools, and talismans (often favouring copper as the main medium—an old copper blade I’ve used for years as a witching knife has also come to serve a dual function now with the Tuba Veneris), assisted with other folk magic I have brought into the circle with them (including rootwork!) and further assisted with education, language acquisition, given details on the spirits of other grimoires and their uses, provided verified shortcuts to other such texts, and provided knowledge of “hidden” and “occult” virtues of various kinds.

While the grimoire itself does not differentiate between the offices and powers of the six spirits, only stating generally what the abilities of the work itself are for the magician, I have since filled my Book’s pages with notes in the same dove quill and ink on their individual characters, forms, special talents, preferred manifestations, and so on after much experimentation. I have also kept a log of their myriad successes within the pages as proof of their cooperation and further incentive to build on this working relationship between us. Many other familiars from across systems, as well as deceased magicians I have conjured for assistance and further education in better sorcery, have since lent their advice and nurtured my progress with the Tuba Veneris in how to better work with these six. It has certainly been nothing short of exhilarating, and I have been encouraging friends to give the grimoire a try when they are willing and able to dedicate the time to it, and naturally if their own spirits advise it. Perhaps by the following year, by the time the next Friday new moon rolls around, we will have some other testimonials and guest posts on here concerning the same!

Regarding the six spirits, I will be keeping the information I have learned about them to myself, sharing only with those who are also actively working the grimoire and can prove that they have made tools. They have on many occasions expressed to me that this entire work was one given to the text’s author by Anael, as a shortcut in and of itself into her arcana. Much as one might conjure one of the 72 demons of the Goetia, or from any other such spirit list, and once having successfully manifested them, implore the demon to reveal a secret name, seal, hand gesture, timing, or other such instruction to swiftly (and without all the lengthy conjurations and procedures!) manifest their powers again for the magician on account of their cemented pact, it appears that the procedure detailed in the Libellus Veneri Nigro Sacer is, at least according to the spirits as they’ve spoken to me, one such example of a “revealed” method of efficiently accessing the servants of Anael as the Black Venus. What exactly the “Black Venus” is apart from the planet at night is also a mystery I have explored, not only through this book but also in my own witchcraft. Needless to say, the six have often stressed that this very “little key” as they have called is not one that has been often worked, and that they have historically been rarely called by only a handful of sorcerers compared to other grimoiric spirits they are aware of, and whose hierarchies they have intimate knowledge of. As such, I think it is fitting to keep the book’s treasures among those who are actively engaged with it and can be counted as friends in magic.

As it is now among my main systems that I regularly go to, I am in the process of furnishing a shrine space dedicated to Anael and Venus, complete with the pentacles of Venus from the Key of Solomon, copper pots that house their seals among other materia and charms, various talismans and amulets I’ve made with the spirits’ instructions, my Book and tools, and other such items. I plan on painting a good kamea as well as a kind of “table of practice” for some of them to sit on as well, just because I think it would be fun, frankly. Much as with any grimoiric practice, once one makes the initial compacts with the spirits, the work will take on a new life of its own, merging with the organic elements of magic already present within the sorcerer’s life, receiving input and commentary from their spirits and allies, taking shape in their lives and in the heart of the needs to which they conjure the spirits forth to address.

What started out as a fun little side project has become a staple of my craft. It would be lovely to discuss the more intimate details of the work with those who come to attempt the grimoire in the future, and I sincerely hope that my testimony that this is indeed a worthwhile system to pursue may inspire others to do so as well, and to further shed light on this rarely-discussed text. The most difficult element is the Horn itself, given the manner in which it must be procured (severed from a live bull during the Friday Venus hour). My recommendation is to perform a road opening with one’s spirits to bring about the Horn more easily, whether by divining among a selection of horns for purchase which one was cut at the right time, or by meeting the right person who is preparing to dehorn a steer on their farm and paying them for the extra trouble of waiting for such an hour to do so.

All other elements are remarkably easy to procure and craft, and the conjuration itself is incredibly short and efficacious. Even the Seal is easy to make; one need only to buy a fresh pair of tin snips to cut the hexagonal shape from a copper stamping blank and affix a jump ring and chain for easier wearing during the appropriate times. I was especially careful to ensure that every step was carried out during the appropriate Venus hours, just to be absolutely certain, but I would encourage those interested in the text to always consult their own spirits for the process. After all, I went through an additional step with the Horn, washing it not only in the required “Vitriol dissolved in vinegar”, but also a bath made up of seven Venusian herbs, each prayed over in the Venus hour, in order to further empower the bull’s spirit and align it with the purpose of the work.

If anyone decides to embark on the journey and would like advice or feedback, I am an e-mail or DM away. Happy conjuring!

The Conjuration and Call of the Sea Spirit Quirumudai

It’s been a very busy year and a half for both myself and Salt. The complexities of the pandemic aside, we’ve both been hard at work with not only our day jobs but also our efforts in the myriad traditions of sorcery and witchcraft that we both individually and collectively celebrate our pacts in. We continue to honour and give gratitude to all the incredible spirits that support and empower our efforts, as well as our incredible friends and mentors in magic and life. Not only have the skies cleared significantly, but so many of the seeds we have both planted have really grown and bore fruit, allowing us the time to update this blog more regularly and soon, offer even more services through it. We are elated to keep sharing with you all! Expect more on traditional astrology and the grimoires soon from the ever-erudite Salt, and more on folk magic, saints, and Balkan witchcraft from yours truly. For now, please enjoy this guest post from one of our best friends and brothers, the incredibly talented witch B. Key.

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Two years ago, my brother Salt wrote a review of the Enodia Press’ Doctor Johannes Faust’s Mightiest Sea Spirit by Nicolás Álvarez. His glowing review is compelling, and one should give it a brief read to see what first drew my interest to various “Faustian” grimoires.

My own knowledge of the German language and fondness for the spirits of treasure—those that guard, bestow, or otherwise patron the hunt of—naturally lead me to undertake the operation presented in Darmstadt MS 831, or the “Conjuration and Call of the Sea Spirit Quirumudai”.

A note from Alvarez in the manuscript’s introduction further piqued my interest—the only known mention of the spirit Quirumudai, apart from this text, is a brief comment on a paper-strip in possession of the Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek. Upon reading his transcription, I was left wondering—What is this spirit? Why are we finding his name alongside the Archangels Anael and Uriel? What is the nature of this spirit that it can co-mingle in this way?

To address all of these questions, I decided to proceed with the operation at earliest convenience and ask the enigmatic Quirumandani myself, as is befitting of any sorcerer. The operation itself is neither particularly difficult nor particularly lengthy, spanning only four pages of text and requiring, it seems, no tools beyond the circles and sigils provided.

Before proceeding, I would like to highlight two points at which I disagree with Alvarez’s translation of the original text of Darmstadt MS 831, presented in the first edition of Mightiest Sea Spirit (Enodia Press). I am normally hesitant to do this, as the translation is mostly faithful to the text, and Alvarez is performing a great service in transcribing these texts in the first place—however, these two errors genuinely affect the successful completion of the ritual prescribed. I would like to add that I have not seen subsequent editions of Mightiest Sea Spirit (as mine is a first), so I hope that this post can call attention to these errors in the event they are not corrected in subsequent editions.

Alvarez’s translation reads as follows:

During the waning moon, one should begin to perform the operation, but in the following manner: You must undertake this operation on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, close to water, then you shall proceed the citation on Saturday morning at 3 o’clock in the following manner.

Doctor Johannes Faust’s Mightiest Sea-Spirit (Enodia Press), p. 80

I find this portion has two problematic adaptations that deviate from the text of Darmstadt MS 831: First, the German text specifies a “zunehmende Mond“, meaning waxing moon, not waning. Second, the source text specifies not that one must be in physical proximity to water those three days, but “…bei Wasser und Brodfasten…“, or, must fast by water and bread.

Because of these adjustments, I waited until the next new moon, and began my fast on bread and water alone for three days (not a particularly difficult feat, living and working near a bakery), reserving myself to study the text, consult my spirits, and fortify myself spiritually.

I set out to perform the ritual in the final nocturnal hour of Mars (I believe this to be the intended meaning of “on Saturday morning at 3 o’clock ” in the text) on Saturday, arrived at a tucked away ritual site along the bank of the Mississippi river, cleared away some debris, and drew the circle on the ground with the prescribed prayers.

I armed myself with a handful of Solomonic pentacles (namely, the 5th of Mars and the 4th of the Sun) and the black handled knife from the same tradition (a beautiful and treasured gift from Sfinga, having received her blessing under the light of a potent +11 Mars election discovered by Salt), then set foot into the circle with the prescribed prayers for this as well. I offered additional prayers for success to the Four Evangelists inscribed within, and to St. Christopher to preserve me from the dangers of the sea.

I placed the character under my left foot as dictated and began the conjuration. With each recitation of the conjuration, I felt a heavy, humid stillness press harder onto the edge of the circle, bearing down upon it with the force of the nearby rapids. Once this tension was built, I received a psychic impression to switch to the next oration: “The Call on Quirimundany”.

After a single recitation of this, the spirit appeared, pulling himself out of the water onto the bank. He appeared at first as a hazy, blue, semi-transparent mote of fog that distorted the color of the water behind it to a dark, bloody red. This mote of smoke shifted into the form of a man who had drowned, swollen and pallid in complexion, each of his four limbs broken and shattered to stand at unnatural angles from his body.

He pulled himself toward the edge of the circle a handful of times; each time he was rebuffed by the aforementioned instruments, being ultimately constrained into the “character” that is laid upon the ground before the circle. Because of this, I suspect this “character” to act analogously to the triangle of the Ars Goetia or the Crystal of Barrett’s The Magus, being an instrument in which spirits are constrained to manifest. This character began to glow blue with the same haze that the spirit first brought once he stood upon it.

I welcomed the spirit in the prescribed way, at which point he began to speak quickly and eloquently, like a mad professor who, in his age, only thinks aloud. Interestingly, the spirit spoke primarily in English, which surprised me, as the text states that the spirit will speak German (a language I am conversant in as well) in this hour.

I had written out a proposed pact on parchment before the evocation, so I now produced this, read it aloud, and held it to the edge of the circle for the spirit to either add additional clauses or sign. In response to components of this pact taken directly from from Darmstadt MS 831, among some other, more private clauses, he responded with something that continues to fascinate me at the time of writing, which is: “I have agreed to these terms before, I shall agree to them once more with the following addenda“, at which point we began negotiations.

At my request, he expounded upon how and when his results will manifest, and the nature of the seal to be engraved on the shell as described in the text. I believe that this shell would have been physically granted were I to have performed the operation at a more proper “sea” in which they are already found, however I was told to purchase a shell from a particular shop, and engrave the seal into it myself the following day. I returned the document to the edge of the circle, at which time the spirit embossed physically his seal upon the parchment, which I later traced in ink for my own reference.

The final terms seemed amicable to both the Sea Spirit and myself, as well as to the spirit allies in attendance, however, the cautionary tales of the good doctor Faust himself are not lost on me, so I remain ever vigilant.

At this point in our interaction, one such ally spirit informed me that the hour of Mars was coming to a close, and it was time to dismiss Quirumudai, so I repeated the prayer for that purpose three times, along with a litany of psalms for purification and spiritual fortification. I left the circle, inspected the area for any debris or other tokens left behind, and left without looking back.

The following day, I went forth to the shop referenced and purchased a shell that matched the image the spirit provided. I etched into the shell his revealed seal, and wrapped this tool in a cloth for safekeeping.

When the time dictated by our pact came, I produced the shell, set it upon a table, and spoke the phrase “Quirimundani Alam!” alongside another call he described for this purpose. This caused the shell to rattle back and forth physically, and a grey, astral mist to fly forth to form the spirit in the chair across from me. I had an impression that the bones in his limbs were still shattered, but set back into position, covered in the grey robes of thick morning fog that obscure the waters of the sea. We had a brief discussion, during which I delegated a handful of tasks to him, and asked for him to teach me a working or cantrip that can be performed with him. He spoke to me of a procedure reminiscent of a spell to produce rain in Joseph Peterson’s Secrets of Solomon for the same purpose, which I shall test at the next possible opportunity. Satisfied, I dismissed the spirit to set about his work.

In the final hours of the specified time frame for the first treasure-obtaining task, as I began to wonder if the spirit had been unable to fulfill his goal, I received a peculiar message from an acquaintance, offering freely to me that which I had specifically requested the sea spirit bring forth.

~ B. Key

Natal Astrology and Consultations

What is a Natal Reading?

An Astrological Natal Chart is essentially representative of the stars at the moment of your birth, and it is (if we follow the ideas of the Platonists) on account of them, that the soul is joined with the body. As this occurs, the powers of the relevant stars themselves come into play, and they participate in what is called the process of Generation and Corruption—a power they receive from the World Soul (Anima Mundi) which in turn receives the same power to do this from (the) God(s). This inevitably means that the things below the stars themselves (i.e. the terrestrial) are influenced by them, as these stars themselves are responsible for the bodies that they generate and administer.

Thus, when we look at the Astrological chart, we are considering the condition of the stars and the power they exerted when you, the Native, came into being. The place of the planets (wandering stars) in the heavens dictates their disposition and conduct and whether or not they will favor the Native, and help him/her in life, or even impede and obstruct certain things, presenting challenge and difficulties. Indeed, sometimes they might even be placed in charge of a given matter (or manage it, as we translate it today) and yet be unable to fulfill it, letting another more capable planet step up to the plate to tackle the issues.

The fact that the planets are so present in the affairs of living creatures and are themselves their own souls is also not to be neglected. Astrology is ultimately, through its connections with Platonism, animistic in nature and is arguably a practical application of ideas such as the Great Chain of Being. In this living universe, the whole of the world moves according to the order dictated by the stars and their dance across the heavens. This ultimately includes notions and ideals of fate, the attitudes of which vary greatly depending on the period. We can point to Renaissance Humanists arguing for free will to play a stronger role in Astrology (to account for the importance placed on the topic in Christian theology). However, the Stoics held a different view, which is not to be neglected either, and ultimately we find Astrology entangled with a variety of philosophical schools, such as Platonism, Aristotelianism, Ptolemaic cosmological ideas and Stoicism.

Furthermore, this art itself has been practiced since the Hellenistic period, a synthesis as multicultural as the city of Alexandria whence it is suspected to have originated. Drawing on Babylonian, Egyptian and Greek ideas and technical ability, Astrology ultimately became the gargantuan field that it is today, with schools of techniques dedicated to politics, magic, medicine, questions and, nativities, which we might call the Astrology of the Soul itself.

Thus, in summary, a Natal Consultation can essentially be considered as considering the Stars and how they influenced one in the moment of their birth. It provides an overview of them, their reach into ones soul and life, and how this will shape you and your experiences. If you believe in fate, you could also say it represents the promises that fate has made with you.

On the other hand, the Revolution consultations are a little more contemporary, up to date you might say. If the Root chart is essentially a seed placed in the earth, the Revolution is the perpetual motion of the stars that nourishes that seed and determines how it grows. Tomato seeds don’t become Potato seeds, they’re still Tomatoes. However the weather will still dictate how they grow. In this way, the Root is akin to a seed and the Revolutions, (and transits) akin to the environment and weather. Thus, we look to the condition of the stars at a particular time (the time of a revolution) and by comparing them with the Root of the chart, we get a general picture as to how the stars are moving things for you now today. After all, if the Stars in the sky influenced us the same way, then we would all be doing the same thing! But because of the Root chart we see that how the Stars conduct themselves at a prominent moment will vary, because how they interact with one’s own nativity or root, differs from how it interacts with the person besides you. Typically, the Revolution won’t betray the promise of the Root, but rather acts within its confines. Sometimes what is evil in the nativity is mitigated by the goodness of the revolution; and vice versa.

Ultimately then, we might call Natal Astrology the Science of the Soul. It is the spiritual art of knowing oneself, the world around you, and one’s place in the world. What one does with this information is down to the individual, but whether pursuit of material gain, or closeness to the Gods and theurgy, it is a most rewarding art.

How I Conduct my Natal Consultations

This brief summary will go over the general methods I use to conduct my readings. In particular, we’ll look at some of the sources I use and the core of my practice, as well as what a complete root consultation actually looks like. In the short future an example reading will be up on this page as well.

The Astrology I practice is mostly built around Persio-Arabic Astrological techniques. This school itself is drawing on earlier Hellenistic techniques but also provisioning its own skillset. Thus you’ll see that some of my favoured sources are Sahl bin Bishr, Masha’allah, and Abu Ma’shar. However, I also draw on a wide range of sources and don’t limit myself to this period alone. In particular, including Hellenists such as Dorotheus, Valens, Theophilus, Rhetorius, and even later Medieval Astrologers, such as Guido Bonatti, Al-Biruni, and Ibn Ezra.

I am also familiar with the Early Modern Astrology as per William Lilly, John Gadbury, Partridge and so on. In-fact it is where I first began my Astrological journey and some of my clients have even received consultations using their methods! I have since adjusted to focusing on the “Persian” techniques, and so returning clients will note these readings look considerably different than in the past. However these methods will always retain a very fond place in my heart.

The Consultation Process

I begin each reading by considering the chart and making some calculations by hand. In particular the Mean Longitude of the Planets, needs to be done by hand as there is no reliable software for them that I have access to. I’ll also calculate the 12th Parts (Dodecatamoria) in this way as well for certain points of the chart. This process can take quite some time and is mostly manual calculation, rather than anything interpretive.

The next step of the reading is to pray to the spirits and powers that assist me in my consultations, wearing a talisman that has been created to one of them, so that they may grant clarity to my interpretation and lighting a suitable fumigation of incense. From here, I begin to judge the chart. Typically, I will do this multiple times over a number of days. My readings are not one and done, rather each one takes a considerable amount of work, time, and effort. The topics I cover in a complete reading, are as follows:

Note: Due to the particulars of astrology and how far reaching the subjects we cover can be, clients are always given the option to request that I don’t cover a particular topic in their consultation. You may also, ask further questions on any other various topics.

Topical Considerations in Root Consultations

1. On the Conditions of the Planets and Calculations for Preleminary judgements

Included here is a long list of the planets and their astrological conditions, their temperament and quality in the chart as well as major aspects. A description and summary of the planet, as if it was its own character in a royal court is also given using non-technical terms to express the nature of the planet in an understandable way for those who aren’t themselves astrologers. Furthermore, two charts are also included here. The first hand drawn, showing the Planets, 12th Parts, and Antiscia. The second chart, is as shown in the software used.

2. On the Native themselves, their Soul, Bodily Health and Inclinations

Here, we judge the Temperament and complexion of the Native, the nature of the Soul (or Wit), the constancy of the Native’s bodily health, appearance and also natural inclinations and behaviour in social settings (“Manners”).

3. On the Family and Kinsmen

A judgement upon the family of the Native and any matters of note or major events that stand out in the root occur regarding them.

4. On the Wealth of the Native, and their profession or exaltation

A delineation of the fortune, happiness, wealth and general prosperity of the Native’s life, their reputation and honour, essentially here we judge the good things in life and the measure of the same, drawing on techniques from Dorotheus, Rhetorious, Sahl Bin Bishr, Al-Andrazagar and Valens.

5. On the Marriage and Friendships of the Native

A judgement upon the marriage[s] of the Native, their friendships and associations, and where difficulty or happiness may be found with both of them. Timing can be done on request, as regards Marriage.

6. Of Dangers, Wars, Crime, Imprisonment, Sicknesses, Violence and Injuries

Here, we cover in particular the difficult aspects of life. An emphasis is placed upon sickness and diseases as something every one will experience in their life however any stand out dangers in the chart that are yet to come will also be commented upon.

7. On the Religious life of the Native, and Occult Matters to be considered.

An analysis of the Spiritual Life of the Native, what forms of divination they might well find favourable indications of piety, religious faith and devotion.

8. Of the Home, Household and Country and Travels, whether the same is safe.

Judgement upon whether the Native will face difficulties in moving to another country, and if such is probable. Finally we consider the general safety of the Native whilst travelling.

You can find my services available [HERE].

Planetary Cycles and their Various Kinds I: Ascending in the Apogee of the Eccentric Circle

The following series of posts is intended to be a basic guide to the various cycles of the seven planets within Medieval Astrology, including both Persian-Arabic and Latin sources. In particular, throughout this we will be paying special attention to the motion of the planets, and the role this plays in their condition, which goes beyond just retrograde and direct! For this post, we’ll be observing what we call “ascending in the apogee of the eccentric” or the deferent circle.

So to begin with, we most often find the techniques relating to the apogee alongside a scattering of other techniques in medieval texts. We can find them in works such as Abū Maʿšar’s Great Introduction (Yamamoto and Burnett, 2019), Al-Qabisi’s Introduction to the science of Astrology (Dykes, 2010), Al-Biruni’s Book of instruction in the elements of the art of Astrology (Wright, 1934), and also Ibn Ezra’s work On Nativities (Sela, 2013). It is especially prominent in works of Medieval Perso-Islamic Astrology, however by the 1500’s in Europe, it seems to have considerably fallen out of favor and to have been ignored as a dignity or power of the planet.

What does ascending in the apogee mean? Essentially, it refers to the planet and its distance to the earth. The further away from the terrestrial earth a planet is, the more dignified it was considered. Conversely, a planet closer to us, becomes closer to the nature of the terrestrial, more corruptible and perishable. This technique then, aims to assess whether a planet is close to us, or distant from us, in order to judge its strength and quality. It is a laborious process, but alongside the Solar Phases and strength by Latitude (and planetary dragons, otherwise called nodes) they comprise some facets of Astrology that are often neglected today. Hence I have selected them to be the first in this series of posts.

Now, to understand this technique, we do need to know some Astronomical terms. Geocentric Astronomy, especially in this period, often draws on the Almagest of Ptolemy (usually accompanied by a lengthy commentary from its translator) and what we are engaging with here relies on the model presented by Ptolemy (Toomer, 1984). In particular we need to understand epicycles, and the deferential Circle. I am not going to present the entire theory of epicycles here, as it would distract from the main points. However, hopefully some explanation in the form of the following diagram will be sufficient.

As you can see, the circle of the deferent encircles the eccentric point in the centre. Conversely, the epicycle moves itself along the circle of the deferent. When a planet is “outside” the deferent circle (far from the earth) we call the planet direct. When a planet is “inside” the deferent circle via his epicycle, we call him retrograde; when he’s on the circle itself, we say he is in his stations. The deferent ring moves around the Ecliptic, which means each part of the deferent has its own “Zodiacal Longitude,” i.e: 0 degrees of Aries, 5 degrees of Cancer and so on, with the “Start” always beginning at the Vernal Equinox, or 0 Aries. The next part that is important for us to note is that the centre of this epicycle is called the mean longitude of a planet. This mean longitude, or the middle of the epicycle, moves across the deferent in its standard secondary motion, from east to west. Its motion is uniform, constant, unceasing and unchanging in Ptolemaic thought. It does not retrograde, there is no tangible body to be found here. It is an invisible axis point around which the planet circles, whilst the epicycle itself circles around the eccentric point. This uniformity of movement, is also the reason we use the mean longitude in considerations like the solar revolutions.

Now, in the above diagram, you’ll note that we also defined the apogee and perigee of the eccentric circle. But we also need to note that there is an apogee and perigee of the epicycle. They are depicted in our image, marked as PE and AE. These are based on the location relative to us on the earth. The pink line cutting through the middle of the epicycle, is known as the apsidial axis in modern Astronomical terms. The same term is applied to the one cutting through the deferent.

Thus, we have two apogees and two perigees. The first is the epicycle’s apogee; the second is the deferent’s apogee. We’re going to talk about the deferent’s apogee for now, saving the epicycle’s apogee for the future, as the calculations are considerably laborious and involve us having to find the verus locus of the planet using tables of anomalies if we want to make use of the technique itself via Ptolemy. Whilst I do intend on writing on this topic, it is more properly treated on its own once we have become acquainted with the calculation of mean longitude, which is a pre-requisite for the calculation of the “epicycles” anomalies and how we might consider this, in Modern Astronomy where there is no such thing as an epicycle.

I also want to add a brief note here. Judging from Al-Biruni’s work, it was common for contemporary astrologers to mainly emphasize the deferential motion. On the one hand, he criticizes this and seems to consider the epicycle’s apogee more important. On the other, it does show that the deferential apogee was thought to play an important role in the planetary motions regardless. When we look in these older texts and see the various terms “equation of centre” and “increasing in number,” these are referring to the tables of anomaly used to calculate a planets true position in the epicycle. Conversely, the tables of mean motion are relatively easy to understand with a little engagement, and so I have chosen to start with the deferential motion.

Finding the Degree of the Mean (Eccentric) Apogee

With this out of the way, how do we find the degree of the deferent’s apogee? In Islamic Astronomy, we find one method presented by Al-Biruni, building on Ptolemy’s theory and adjusting it for precession. The theory he puts forth in his The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology is that the planetary apogee (upon the deferent) moves according to precession. The rate of motion for the deferent is the rate of precession. According to Al-Biruni, that is 1˚ for every 66 Arabic years, or 64 years in the Gregorian calendar; Astrologers today typically use 1˚ per 72 years for precession of the fixed stars, we also have the modern Astronomical rates of procession which are as follows.

The Apsidial lines of the planet’s today follows the following key, according to Mohammed Mozzafari.

Saturn: 1˚ 50.8y,
Jupiter: 1˚ 61.2y,
Mars: 1˚ 54.1y,
Sun: 1˚ 58.2y,
Mercury: 1˚ 64.9y,
Venus: 1˚53.2y

Below is an example of Biruni’s calculations. The year in which he wrote this portion of his text was 1029AD, or 420AH. Thus we can surmise (sticking to his technique) the following longitudes for the apogee of the deferent. You can also find alternative values in Introductions to Traditional Astrology (Dykes, 2010).

Planets and their Deferent Apogee, a table according to Al-Biruni

Apogee Longitude in 420 AH;
According to Biruni


Apogee Longitude
Values adjusted for precession according to Al-Biruni

Year: 2020 Key: 1˚ per 64 Gregorian Years
Value added: 15˚29’
Perigees
(180˚ from the Apogee)
Saturn6˚48′ Sagittarius22˚17’ Sagittarius22˚17’ Gemini
Jupiter16˚43′ Virgo02˚12’ Libra02˚12′ Aries
Mars:08˚33’ Leo24˚02’ Leo24˚02’ Aquarius
Sun24˚32′ Gemini09˚01’ Cancer09˚01’ Capricorn
Venus24˚32′ Gemini09˚01’ Cancer09˚01’ Capricorn
Mercury23˚43′ Libra08˚12’ Scorpio08˚12’ Taurus

*Note, there may be some inaccuracy as pertaining to the precise minute ’ of the table. However, the degree itself should be fine.

A planet is considered to be in its eccentric apogee when its mean longitude (the middle of it’s epicycle) is within the eccentric apogee. The same, of course, applies for the perigee. Thus, we cannot for this technique apply the true longitude of the planet as we usually see it in our Astrological software, but instead must calculate this ourselves via the mean longitude of the planet.

Calculating the Mean Longitude of the planets

I will now present the following method, utilized by Ptolemy, in observing the mean longitude of the planets. Following it will be a modern table of the orbital cycles of the planets using modern astronomy, usable should you wish to adapt these values to more modern ones. I’d also note that mean longitude has other uses than simply the relationship of a planet with the apogee of the deferent, including a role in the mean conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter, often phrased as the “Great Conjunctions,” as Ben Dykes succinctly puts forth [here]. There is also the option of calculating these mean longitudes using Ptolemy’s values online, thankfully due to this excellent [tool].

Abbreviations used in calculation:

  • Difference in Time = DT
  • Difference Times Motion = DTM
  • Stored Value = SV; this is the number you add to the next calculation
  • Preserved Value = PV; this is the final value of that particular position.
  • DTMF = Difference Times Motion Final, i.e.: DTM + SV, (Do not calculate this for sixths, simply use the DTM)

Formula

Calculate difference in time, IE: How many days and hours between the two dates?

Consult the table below, starting from the far right hand side. Take the value on the far right there and times it by the DT. This is called the DTM, or difference times motion.

Then divide the value of DTM by 60, take the integer of this answer, and add it to the next calculation. We call this the SV, stored value. (an integer is a whole number, IE: You need to ignore decimal places and make sure not to round it up or down)

Then take the same DTM, and modulus 60, this gives us the remainder, or how much is left in this time.

Then move onto the next calculation (IE: From sixths to fifths) and repeat the process, making sure to add the SV from the previous before calculating the remainder.

The formula is as follows, and an example is provided also.

Date A – Date B = DT

DT x TableValue = DTM

DTM + SV = DTMF (Ignore this step the first time, IE: when calculating sixths)

DTMF / 60 = SVn (make sure only to use the Integer value, ignoring decimals)

DTMF % 60 = PV

The Example

For our example let’s say we are calculating the mean longitude of Jupiter. Let us say that the difference in time for our hypothetical motion to keep things simple, is measuring between 5 precise days. Thus, we observe the table of his daily motions as follows:

DegreesMinutesSecondsThirdsFourthsFifthsSixths
045914264631

The Example calculation with notae:

Sixths

5 x 31 = 155, thus we say that Jupiter moves 155 sixths in this time period.

Each time the number reaches 60, we add 1 to the next calculation. (IE: Fifths) and keep the remainder with the sixths. To see what we add to the 5ths, and what we keep in the sixths when we make our new table, consider the following calculations for the SV and the PV. If you wish, you may choose to ignore the PV until you begin to calculate the motion in seconds as we don’t typically consider them in the chart. But if you plan on observing new dates based on your new calculations as the starting date in the future, it might be wise to keep them.

Sixths, Calculating the Stored Value/SV

To see what you add to the next value, take the number obtained and divide it by sixty. Ignore decimals and use the actual integer or whole number given, (do not round it upwards, ever.)

155 / 60 = 2.58333333, so we will add 2 when we calculate the fifths.

Sixths, Preserved Value/PV

155 % 60 = 35, so our final value for sixths, if we were going to make a new table, is 35 Sixths.

Fifths

5 x 46 = 230 + 2 = 232

232 / 60 = 3.86666 (so SV = 3)

232 % 60 = 52 (So we keep 52 in our fifths position)

Fourths

5 x 26 = 130 + 3 = 133

133 / 60 = 2.216666666666667 (so SV = 2)

133 % 60 = 13

Thirds

5 x 14 = 70 + 2 = 72

72 / 60 = 1.2

72 % 60 = 12

Seconds

59 x 5 = 295 + 1 = 296

296 / 60 = 4.93333333333 (so SV = 4)

296 % 60 = 56

Minutes

4 x 5 = 20 + 4 = 24

24 / 60 = 0.4

We do not have any SV, so we do not need to calculate a PV. The total motion in minutes, is therefore 24

Degrees

0 x 5 = 0

Since there was no SV when we observed the Minutes, we do not add anything here and his motion in degrees remains zero. Thus, Jupiter, in the course of five days has not moved a full degree of mean longitude

With this, our final table for five days of motions, now looks something like this. You’ll note I haven’t included the thirds and fourths in his final position. However it is certainly valuable when they do, and are desirable when calculating over very long periods of time.

JupiterDegreesMinutesSecondsThirdsFourthsFifthsSixths
Starting Point 3˚2’3” Aries
—› Position now
32659
Amount of mean motion he has moved in 5 days:0245612135235

Adjusting to more precise values – Minutes & Julian Days

Now, most of the time when we consider two different dates, they will typically be more than five days apart, and also making use of hours, minutes, etc. When we want to consider the mean longitude over for a long period of time, to begin with, it is typically it is best if we use the smallest value we have (i.e. the hourly mean motions of the planets). Thus, you’ll note that what I described as difference in time does not necessarily equal to one day, but can also apply to hours, minutes, seconds and so on.

Ptolemy gives us hourly values, which is more than enough for most purposes. So, if we were to consider the above calculation for 5 days, rather than DT = 5, DT now = 120 (5 sets of 24 hours). But what if we need to calculate minutes? Well, a minute is a 1/60 fraction of an hour. Thus we just need to divide the hourly motion by 60 to get the result for one minute of mean motion.

Therefore, if we are considering a nativity, and the birth was at 5 hours and 20 minutes, we would calculate the first 5 Hours as was said above. For the remaining 20 minutes, we would calculate them separately, and then we would divide the result.

A quick way of calculating this formula would be to take the hourly mean motion and divide by 60. Then multiply the resulting answers based on how many minutes you had left, as per the following brief and easy formula.

Formula for Adjustments by minute

Mean motion per hour / 60 = Motion per minute.

Motion per minute x number of minutes desired = final result for the adjustment.

IE: We want to add on 15 minutes to our previous calculation.

Now, Jupiter’s hourly motion in seconds = 12”.

Therefore:

12 / 60 = 0.2

0.2 x 15 = 3

Therefore, we would need to add 3 more seconds to the calculation for Jupiter’s mean longitude. If we obtain a decimal number, but no integer (i.e. 0.35584484 as a random example) we can take the decimal number, multiply it by 60, and add the integer from that number to the next table, though this shouldn’t be a common occurrence for most planets.

Julian Days

The most precise way to calculate difference in time, when it is over a long period of time, is using Julian Days. This doesn’t refer to the Julian Calendar, but rather a system created in order to count days, with day 0 beginning from the date January 1, 4713 BC in the Julian Calendar. This topic has been spoken about at length by others elsewhere (see here) and so there isn’t much need for me to explain it, however if you are learning astrology I do advise at least attaining a cursory understanding of them, if not the formula as it is the preferred dating system in astronomical systems.

With that, here are the tables of mean motion, taken from G.J Toomer’s edition of Ptolemy’s Almagest.

Table of motion via mean longitudes for the seven planets taken from the Almagest (Toomer, 1984)

Note on the tables: Mercury and Venus in the Ptolemaic system are considered to share the same mean motion with the Sun, which is the centre of their epicycle. Hence Mercury never has more than 28 degrees of elongation from him, and Venus 48 degrees. Their difference with the Sun lies not in their mean longitude, but in the true and apparent longitude (that is, in motion along the epicycle). I would also note that when a planet moves over 360˚, Ptolemy keeps the remainder, much as we have done. Thus the Moon’s yearly motion in mean longitude is not the large number she actually travels, but her difference in location from the starting point from where we begin our measurement.

SaturnDegreesMinutesSecondsThirdsFourthsFifthsSixths
Yearly motion12132356303015
Monthly (30 day) motion101645442530
Daily Motion02033312851
Hourly Motion0051234842
JupiterDegreesMinutesSecondsThirdsFourthsFifthsSixths
Yearly motion30202252525835
Monthly (30 day) motion2293713231530
Daily Motion045914264631
Hourly Motion0012286656
MarsDegreesMinutesSecondsThirdsFourthsFifthsSixths
Yearly motion191165427383545
Monthly (30 day) motion15431826554630
Daily Motion0312636535133
Hourly Motion011836321439
Sun/Venus/MercuryDegreesMinutesSecondsThirdsFourthsFifthsSixths
Yearly motion35945244521835
Monthly (30 day) motion2934836361530
Daily Motion059817131231
Hourly Motion0227504331
MoonDegreesMinutesSecondsThirdsFourthsFifthsSixths
Yearly motion129224613503230
Monthly (30 day) motion3517291645150
Daily Motion13103458333030
Hourly Motion0325627262323

Mean Longitudes of the Planet’s from January 1st, 2020, 12pm, Greenwich, England (Ptolemy method)

Julian day: 2458850.0000000

(Starting from 0 Aries, the vernal equinox)

Sun: 271˚ 25’ 48”

Moon: 342˚03’20”

Saturn: 287˚14’42”

Jupiter: 275˚58’26”

Mars: 214˚59’33”

Venus: 271˚ 25’ 48”

Mercury: 271˚ 25’ 48”

You may use these to calculate the mean longitudes of the planets at your own desired date. Note that these are considered using Ptolemy’s values, and so there are certainly arguments one can put forth that they are outdated. On account of this I have calculated a corrected mean motion of the planets using better values from NASA. Note that they may still lack precision.

Modern tables of orbital periods

Here is a modern table of the planetary orbits, taken from NASA’s planetary fact sheets for those who’d prefer more precise values. Note that I have included the inferiors here, but we need to remember: their mean longitude were considered equal to the Sun in Geocentric astronomy/astrology and so those particular values aren’t all that useful for our purposes in this particular context.

PlanetDays to complete a revolution in the Tropical Zodiac
Saturn10,746.94
Jupiter4,330.595
Mars686.973
Sun365.24217
Venus224.695
Mercury87.968
Moon27.3217

The formula of correction and notes to the table

Here follows the formula I have used in order to calculate this corrected longitude; with thanks to my friend, B. Key for his help in determining the best way to go about these initial corrections.

I will also note, that where the table has said year, it refers to a solar or tropical year, and thus is 365.24217 days, rather than simply 365 days.

Terms used:

  • VT = Value of time (I began with the solar year, 365.24217, to calculate daily motion)
  • PO = Planetary orbit (in days) value, as above
  • FR = Fraction result
  • POS = Position
  • POSI = Position Integer (IE: The integer number preceding a decimal point in POS)
  • POSD = Position Decimal points. (IE: the numbers following the integer)
  • NTPOSI = Integer to place in next table (as as POSI)
  • NTPOSD = Decimals to round to get the next tables POSD.

Formula for year

Year (or time)/ PO = FR

FR x 360 = POS

POS % 360 (if the POS is over 360. IE: the Moon)

Place POSI within table (the whole number)

POSDx60 = NTPOSI and NTPOSD

Repeat process until yearly table is filled out.

Formula for time when under one year in length

1 unit = days

365.24217 / 365 for tabledays;

tabledays x30 for months;

tabledays / 24 for hours

Therefore, years values in table: time = 365.24217

Month values in table: time = 30.019904383561643835616438356164

Days values in table: time = 1.0006634794520547945205479452055

For hours: time = 0.04169431164383561643835616438356

Corrected Tables of Mean Motion in Longitude for the Seven Planets

SaturnDegreesMinutesSecondsThirdsFourthsFifthsSixths
Yearly Tropical motion1214527142517
Monthly (30 day) motion102010273035
Daily Motion0204020551
Hourly Motion0051405217
JupiterDegreesMinutesSecondsThirdsFourthsFifthsSixths
Yearly Tropical motion30214434351637
Monthly (30 day) motion22943561630
Daily Motion04592752326
Hourly Motion001228394120
MarsDegreesMinutesSecondsThirdsFourthsFifthsSixths
Yearly Tropical motion1912425237517
Monthly (30 day) motion154353394024
Daily Motion031274719204
Hourly Motion011839281820
Sun, Mercury, VenusDegreesMinutesSecondsThirdsFourthsFifthsSixths
Tropical year360000000
Monthly (30 day) motion2935203252369
Daily Motion059104154512
Hourly Motion022756424423
MoonDegreesMinutesSecondsThirdsFourthsFifthsSixths
Tropical year132331738183732
Monthly (30 day) motion353385049127
Daily Motion1311617413824
Hourly Motion03321193737

Corrected Mean Longitudes of the Planets for January 1, 2000, 12:00PM

Saturn: 49°33’50”
Jupiter: 34°24′ 15″
Mars: 355°27’11”
Sun, Mercury, Venus: 280°27’36”
Moon: 218°18’58”

Ascending in the Apogee of the Deferent

With this information in our hands, it’s time to actually see whether according to what we have calculated so far, if a planet is ascending in the apogee of its eccentric circle (that is, the deferent). This is a fairly easy process, as what we do in this consideration is observe the mean longitude of the planet, and whether it is ascending (moving towards the apogee) or descending (moving towards the perigee). The values for these have already been given (using historical, not corrected values). Thus, quadrants 1 and 2 represent a planet descending from its apogee. It is a place of weakness, with quadrant 2 weakest of all, and quadrant 1 more like one who is descending towards weakness. Quadrants 3 and 4 represent the climbing of the planet, that is to say, it is a place of strength, and quadrant 4 is stronger than 3, because 3 is more like a recovering from weakness. Thus we might decide to label them as follows, in the same manner we see the Solar Phases treated in Guido Bonatti’s Liber Astronomiae (Dykes, 2010):

Quadrant 1) Strength moving towards weakness;

Quadrant 2) Most Weak

Quadrant 3) Weakness moving towards Strength;

Quadrant 4) Most Strong.

The Effects of a planet ascending in its Apogee and its implications

Ibn Ezra in his Book of Reasons (Sela, 2007) says of a planet ascending in its eccentric circle (the deferent) that for the planet, it is the same to a horseman as having a horse with excellent legs. Further, a planet in its apogee is close to the zodiac, thus it resembles a soul; when it is low (besides its perigee) and close to the earth, it is more like a body instead. We see then that we have two conditions, one of strength and one of weakness. These two conditions are divided between moving towards strength, or being naturally strong and continuing in increase; likewise, we also see decrease in strength, followed by weakness.

This motion within the deferent here is essentially very much like the solar phases of the planets (their relationship in distance with the Sun), in that this cyclical and uniform motion reflects a period of motion and travel. From strength to weakness to strength once again. It is unceasing and unchanging, undisturbed. In much the same way, the motion of a planet by its latitude (southern or northern within the ecliptic belt) also follows the same pattern. A planet ascending to become northern is strong, especially when beside its ascending dragon (called the mean north node of the planet). A Planet descending is sapped of strength, especially when besides its descending dragon (called the mean south node of the planet). Indeed, the mean nodes are calculated from the apogee’s longitude! So we can see there is a correlation between these techniques.

Now, each of these two topics (both solar phases, and latitude/nodes) will receive more discussion in time, and I do also intend on writing on the calculation of a planet’s true position, so that we might consider its place in the epicycle and its relation to the epicycle’s apogee. However for now, hopefully this will suffice. Astrology is one of my most beloved passions, and I deeply enjoy discussing and teaching its mechanisms.


If you would like to purchase any astrological services from me, I offer long, in-depth, customizable and clear readings on this page. It would be my honour to be of service to you!


References:

Ptolemy, G.J. Toomer, The Almagest (1984).
Abū Maʿšar, Al-Qabisi, Benjamin Dykes, Introductions to Traditional Astrology (2010).
Abū Maʿšar, Keiji Yamamoto, Charles Burnett, The Great Introduction to Astrology (2019).
Al-Biruni, Ramsey Wright, The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology (1934).
Abraham Ibn Ezra, Schlomo Schea, On Nativities and Continuous Horoscopy (2013).
Abraham Ibn Ezra, Schlomo Schea, The Book of Reasons (2007).
NASA, Planetary Fact Sheets, https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/planetfact.html.

The Sea-Serpent’s Rib: The Devil Forneus

One of the recent demons I’ve been working more with is the Marquis Forneus. When he first manifested for me, he appeared in the form of a giant sea serpent, thrashing in the waves as lightning flashed and thunder broke the sky, breaking a thousand ships and devouring their cargo in a display of his power. When I bid him to take the form of a man, he appeared with wild, long hair and with blackened skin. In his serpent form, he seems to move about through underground lakes, slithering with and rattling with miasma. In all my experiences with him he has appeared quite obstinate and rebellious, and so it may perhaps be beneficial to approach him with the Second Pentacle of the Sun, which is known to suppress the pride of certain spirits. Other options for compelling him include the citation of his superior King, which was told to me to be Amaymon of the South.

His opinion of men is not one that is kind, in fact it seems that he loathes to serve the magician. Interestingly, this is actually a fact noted by the author of the Meergeist, in which he complains to Lucifer about relinquishing the infernal treasure obtained by the smashing of ships upon the waves. Upon appearing to me, he claimed proudly that it was the ribs of a Sea Serpent which Moses had used to cleave the sea in two. Although he appeared and with haste, Forneus did not swear the oath of my Book of Spirits easily—he only relented after a long and exhausting binding. Like Phaethon of Greek myth, with whom he is associated with in the Meergeist, he is a particularly proud and defiant spirit, yet it is not just raw power and pride which is his strength, for this spirit is also cunning—as serpents of all stripes are prone to be cunning and slippery like the eel, seeking to evade the traps of the magician and karcist.

When I conjured him he appeared within the crystal shewstone, showing me his webbed visage amidst a dreadful backdrop. Yet at the same time, it is easy once you have seen him to understand how he can obtain for the magician friendships and graces. He causes admiration in the hearts of the weak, and in strong men he instills a sense of kinship—working through shared prides and boasts which create bonds. Yet one must be cautious, for deceit is not unfamiliar to him. In my own conjuration, he asked me to grave his character and seal on my scourging rod (which I keep as a defensive measure against unruly demons). This was not intended to be a generous action, even though that is how he framed it. Instead, he wanted to make it so that he could never suffer its subjugation. No doubt, the power he promised would be gained by engraving his seal upon the rod would actually be a power that is lost, as sovereignty over the whip would be given to the demon instead. The shackles would be turned upon the master. Having rebuffed this offer, I then demanded from him a number of things which he agreed to, which is how our first encounter finished.

The next time I conjured him, I asked Forneus what could be done with the rib bone of a human man. This was because Sfinga had just gifted me such a rib bone a while back, and I was eager to use it. The demon appeared in the scrying implement promptly, and he gave the following short experiment which I shall share here. The ritual is brief, for it requires that the magician has already bound the spirit and caused him to swear an oath.


The Rib Bone of Forneus

Call the demon according to the method he has been sworn to appear by when he signed your book. Then, you should take a human rib bone engraved with the seal and name of Forneus down to the river at mid-day, during a clear and rainless afternoon. Wash it in the river, saying:

I wash this bone of the human spirit who dwelt within it, so that he goeth unto Forneus as a sacrifice to the insatiable sea beast, whose kind’s ribs parted the sea at the command of Moses. O Forneus, I conjure you by the oath thou hath made and by all the authority which is given to me by Christ who conquers the spirits of hell. So devour thou the spirit of this rib bone as he is released from his cage upon the condition that you put yourself within it in his place, so that it might be thine own rib bone now which is in my grasp and power; the rib bone of the gurt sea monster, and thus empowered to tear apart the sea and the sky as Moses did and as you have done for your own pleasure and malice, you dreadful breaker of ships. So enter into this bone, by means of these waters; for my coercion is upon you, by Gabriel, by Raphael, and by the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

And the demon shall enter into the bone through the river and he shall reside partly inside of it. So when you wish to use it, you should draw his seal in the earth with it (it need not be heavily indented) and say to him:

I command you to appear, Forneus, for I conjure you by the side of Christ, wounded by the spear of Longinus; may that same spear of Longinus pierce you until you appear before me with all haste and speed, so I command you to do [such and such] by the rib bone of yours I hold in my grasp.

And it shall be done.

You may do this upon some ground and command him to make it rain a great storm over the location and it will do so until his character is washed away. You may also draw his character upon the place where you wish to have men and women honour you and love you as a friend. Not only this, but you can even do it upon the graves of the dead so that they be moved to obey—the graves of sailors in particular can be compelled to move by this method. Alternatively, one can feed the devil within the rib bone with the ghosts dwelling beneath the ground. And when you have drawn the sigillium, his influence will be exerted over the place it has been drawn for a time and it will be under his power.

***

A second ritual I received recently is one I will probably never use, but is fascinating nonetheless to record. It is an experiment to destroy a particular ship and its crew, and similar to the previous ritual, it does require the magician already have bound Forneus and constrained him to swearing the oath. The experiment follows here.


The Experiment of Forneus to Break Ships Apart

Get a large snake or eel, and kill it, saying:

O thou serpent; by the serpent hung up in the wilderness I sacrifice thee unto the devil Forneus of the sea, just as surely as I sacrifice the ship [so and so]. O Forneus put yourself in this serpent, I command thee by he who is the Alpha and the Omega and by the never ending wrath of God which tamed the dreadful Leviathan thy father. So submit!

Put a single silver coin in the serpent’s mouth. Then you should take it to a tree, ideally one beside a beach, and you should write the name and information of the ship such as its location upon a branch of the tree with the snakes blood as ink. Then, you should wrap the serpent around the branch of the tree as if tying a knot with its body, saying:

I put the body of Forneus about the ship [such and such]. Forneus is upon the crew of that ship which is fated to die. Yea, the ship shall break upon the waves and a shall serpent be coiled about it, bringing it & its crew thus to ruin and drowning. Belzebuth shall feast on them, and they shall rest in the mouth of Leviathan.

You shall then pull on the snake from head and tail, so that the branch snaps under the leverage and pressure of the snake tightening. Thus it is wise to choose a thin or weak branch—as if the branch which is the significator of the ship in this work is weak, then so too shall the ship be weak.

Cosmology, Astrology, and Conjuring Spirits

Hello, all. We hope you’ve been well. Sfinga and I have been busy in the past few months with a number of new magical operations and workings, her with witchcraft, the Tuba Veneris, and Quimbanda, and myself with astrological magic and my own projects with the Goetia. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking lately about how astrology informs my practice as a ritual magician, and decided to write a short post expressing my thoughts on their relationship.

Before even delving into the practical virtues of astrology in terms of talismans and the like, I think that first and foremost we must discuss its cosmological scope. I think a lot of modern magicians as a whole have a tendency to forget the prime importance of cosmology and how it impacts our practice. In fact, this is one of the biggest boons one obtains through the practice of Astrological Image Magic (and astrology in general) in that it provides a solid cosmological grounding and foundation from which to conduct one’s workings. It’s true that today there are those who will call to the Four Kings or their equivalent spirits in their capacity as rulers of the cardinal airs (even if I think calling to them so casually and informally is a bizarre choice of action given their status and power – not to mention malicious bent), and you would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t experimented with some kind of practice based around the Heptameron (which of course, divides its spirits into planetary divisions). Yet overall there is a lack of cosmological awareness with respect to the unifying principles in which these spirits function within the western magical mindset. We know this planet is like this, and that star is like that—but the way in which they interact with each other, the web of interweaving relationships between them and the world view that emerges from these relations is all too neglected.

For a premodern magician, this was not a problem, as their very literal world was one and the same as this conception. It was the world they inhabited and worked within and it was also the world in which the spirits lived alongside them. On the other hand, the vast majority of us today (especially those raised in urban Anglo-Protestant backgrounds, in which I count myself) exist in a disenchanted, materialist world centered around mechanistic attitudes and principles. We fail to immerse ourselves in the world of spirits, claiming to be animists yet rarely behaving in any such way as one might find in other, even Christian cultures, especially the Catholic and Orthodox ones where indigenous animist attitudes have been far more preserved and inculcated. And for those of us for whom literate ritual magic (grimoires) makes up our predominant practice, or even only practice—this is where the problem begins.

During the early days of the occult revival, the previous dominant cosmology of (literate) magical practitioners in Western Europe (which can be defined in an overly simple way as a blend of Christian Platonism and astrology, in addition to regional “folk” beliefs) was upturned by three main factors. The first was that the scientific advances throughout the last few hundred years meant that, in the eyes of an increasingly materialist scholarly elite, the previous geocentric model and the “spheres” (among other things) were now scientifically redundant and moreover incorrect. Of course, while this is true for the physical descriptions of our solar system, these observations do not necessarily negate the spiritual principles upon which these ideas rested and were founded upon. After all, without a conception that the virtues of the planet are mirrored in us, and that we possess sparks or emanations of the light of these celestial bodies that resonate with their true forms, much of pagan theurgy we find in the PGM goes completely out the window.

The second was that at the time of the occult revival, we saw the overturning of the sophisticated belief systems of the early modern and medieval period. These world views came to be replaced by the Golden Dawn’s Hermetic Kabbalah, Theosophy, and even the materialistic, atheistic mindset that many people today still think is compatible with a healthy magical practice. Finally, the industrial revolution itself cemented the status of materialism in modern society.

The result of these three changes in combination meant that we “lost our roots” along the way; centuries of spiritual and intellectual research into the nature of the world and its spiritual make up were ultimately replaced by either the scientific model (whose influence we can see in myriad occult traditions in the latter half of the 20th century); Rosicrucian and Hermetic Kabbalah; or by the Theosophical model. None of these models really gave us the vibrant and living world populated by spirits that we once had. It has in a sense, created a distance between us and the spirits. Note that the context which I am speaking to of course is the Protestant, western, and indeed Anglo-American setting. The impact of Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, and the like in areas such South America is entirely different, given the presence of Catholicism and existing syncretic indigenous, African, and other spiritist cultures.

But how does this relate to the manner in which Astrological Image Magic and spirit trafficking operate? Well, all things occur within a framework. My issue is not over cosmology in the sense of having a preference for one over the other. After all, most magicians have multiple worldviews and cosmologies that they operate within depending on their initiations and core practices. Rather, it is the damage done to the practice of medieval and early modern ritual magic that I am attempting to highlight. To give an example: Stephen Skinner has mentioned that the reasoning behind the use of certain suffumigations in conjuring spirits is to enable them to take shape here in our world. This is far from a new idea; Paracelsus makes this point about the Elemental creatures, in that they exist in their “chaos” (that is to say, their proper element). Just as humans breathe air and walk about in the air as if it was empty space, so it is the same for the Gnomes with the earth, the Undines with water and so on. Thus when a human is entirely submerged in water, he drowns, meanwhile the same is true for the Elemental creatures—a nymph who predominantly lives in water would suffer in the air according to Paracelsus. Skinner has picked up on this, however if you were to ask many a Western practitioner who proudly boasts of his “spirit model” practice (as if the bare minimum is impressive), you’ll hear him tell you about it using terms he’s heard someone in an entirely different practice use to describe it, rather than drawing on the ideas that informed its original usage and technique.

So, what about Astrology? Well, when we conjure a planetary spirit directly, rather than tapping into the occult virtues of its planet itself first, we may indeed find that the spirit can do things for us. Yet there is an accompanying difficulty depending on the actual state of its planet. Let us say that the planet is in bad condition; it might be in its domicile, a fortune yet could also be besieged by Saturn and Mars, and even in the 12th House. This is a very serious affliction indeed. Imagine, if you will, a King in his castle—he is wealthy and his food supply is considerable. However, his castle is surrounded by a rebel army. In this situation, you definitely wouldn’t want to tap into the raw occult virtues of the planet itself, since it is negatively afflicted. Instead, you might want to call a spirit subordinate to that planet directly. (Speaking in terms of personal experience, I’ve found that you really don’t need to be astrologically perfect in your timing when working with subordinate spirits, as they are more used to navigating the distance between our world and theirs). However, this does not mean that it is the best possible situation, nor that it doesn’t have an impact on what it is we are trying to achieve. The planet is besieged, so the spirit might come down and agree to help us, but a number of things in the very chain of manifestation are going to be affected by the astrological and thus cosmological situation.

For starters, the condition of the planet itself means that the spirit is limited in what it can do—its home is currently competing with and being suppressed by the two malefics, which will inevitably influence how the spirit comes down and appears to us when it manifests. Similarly, with its home in disarray, the resources at the spirit’s disposal are also limited. In addition, many or even most spirits are easily influenced by the environment in which they dwell. They don’t live in a vacuum—the space around them is influencing them just as they influence it. Imagine approaching a military engineer (because if the planet is besieged then it is in effect in a state of war) who is in the middle of a firefight, and asking him to help you get a job or fix your car. The spirit is in poor condition to fulfill your request, not to mention it would likely manifest in a way that is less friendly than usual, as he is currently preoccupied. His home is in turmoil and he is in the midst of trying to defend it.

Does this mean we shouldn’t call on the planetary spirits at all when the stars are not aright? Not necessarily. The example I gave was an extreme and somewhat uncommon affliction, but as magicians we should be able to rectify problems like this. We aren’t just astrologers, after all, and we need to be equipped so that we can handle situations like these. For example, if we called the above spirit in order to rectify its problematic condition, we might begin by removing all the Saturnian and Martial influences in the room to prevent the occult virtues of the spirits from clashing; we can burn fumigations (even better if they were made on a good election!) that will explicitly pacify the spirit and calm it whilst also strengthening it, and so on. Even then, the condition will still not be ideal, but we as magicians should be able to navigate such situations, just as we ought to be able to make use of ideal ones when they arise (even if we only use them to consecrate and store the powers of a star or planet for use at a later date). This especially is why an understanding of cosmology is so important in early modern ritual magic; we need that understanding in order to navigate these affairs properly. The planetary spirits of the grimoires exist within this cosmology, and we need a map if we want to know our way around their world. If we don’t understand something then we can even ask the locals (i.e. the spirit themselves, so that they may teach us more about their world and their ways), but ultimately it’s always best to come conversant and prepared.

When we better understand our cosmological inheritance, we become more confident in our own systems, and do not need to run around begging for validation from other traditions. For whatever reason, there’s a common tendency among many western occultists in ever looking outside in order to prove our worth or correct ourselves. Pasting over the cosmology of another practice/tradition/belief over our own context, just because we do not understand our own, tends most often towards aimless syncretism—a polite word for colonialism. The divination practices, ritual techniques, and spirits of our systems do not need to be constantly compared to ATRs, for example, for them to be “valid”. This is not to say that no comparisons should ever be made, rather that they are best left in the hands of those with initiations and practices in both, so that they might arise organically and informed by the teachings of their lineages and traditions directly.

The difficulties faced by those who practice western ritual magic, such as the distance between the worldview of pre-modern practitioners and we contemporary ones, will not be solved by copy-pasting practices that are only tangentially, if at all, related. I’d argue correction is to be found through introspection followed by adjustment within the confines of the same tradition—we need to look inwards, at our own sources, and deal with the difficulties that accompany understanding them before anything else. We do this by practicing the grimoires themselves, reading our primary source exegetes, and engaging directly with the spirits, asking them questions and learning from them above all, whilst simultaneously researching the historical context from where our texts arose. We don’t need absolute precision with respect to historical accuracy; it is after all not only impossible but far from the point, for we are magicians and not historical re-enactors stuck in the past. We live in an occult Renaissance where books, translations, tools, candles, and all the rest have never been more easily accessible, with some of the rarest materia available at just the click of a button on the Internet. This is age is an exciting opportunity to refine our practice and improve it in light of our globalized, connected world, so let’s not let ease of access overwhelm our desires to know more and be ever more precise.

Jinn Sorcery, by Rain Al-Alim (Review)

Jinn Sorcery, a volume by Rain Al-Alim published by Scarlet Imprint, is a fascinating text, offering insights into the practice of Arabic ritual magic as it pertains jinn spirits. Don’t let its size fool you; even though it is a short book under 100 pages, virtually all of its contents are dedicated to experiments and practical material, from the conjuration and dream incubation to exorcism and scrying.

The binding of the standard edition is quite pretty; a regal gold certainly suits the aesthetics of the text. One major problem, however, is that the black hexagram on the front of my copy has slowly begun to flake away into gold. If you tend to be a little rougher with your books, I would advise you to be a bit more careful with this one, just to better preserve the quality of the cover.

Al-Alim opens the text by providing some insights into the traditions of Arabic jinn magic, charting various cultural attitudes towards the jinn, notions of their tribal belongings, their abilities and manifestations, typologies, methods of conjuration, and more. The entire preface is absolutely fascinating, both on its own as an introduction to a vital practice, as well as in its similarities and differences to the Western grimoires and traditions of ritual magic I am more familiar with. Al-Alim’s exploration of the various ways in which jinn are conceived was especially intriguing, especially in his consideration of hierarchy. The ways in which spirits organize themselves, whom they are loyal and subject to, and in whose name each can be called to answer by has always been something I’ve been deeply interested, especially as I continue to conjure and make pacts with various spirits myself.

Jinn are ranked by their magical strength and standing within their own society, with greater jinn being highly intelligent and extremely dangerous while lesser ones are more akin to mischief-makers. The social organization of the jinn community resembles that of a royal court, in which most of the jinn are offspring of the seven jinn kings, categorized as archdemons and leaders of the infernal hosts. These rulers are traditionally associated with the seven planets, with a colour and a day of the week attributed to each of them. They have many subjects and advisers drawn from the tribes under their rulership. The old Arabic grimoires refer to them as the seven terrestrial kings (mulūk al-arḍīya). They are governed in turn by the seven angels of the days.

Rain Al-Alim, Jinn Sorcery, xiv.

The first proper chapter covers dream incubation rituals, designed to facilitate contact between the magician and the spirits while asleep (the Invocation of Neli immediately comes to mind, along with the various experiments in the PGM). The various approaches used typically involve creating and burning a specific incense blend, reciting conjurations, numerous reputations of Voces Magicae, and other accompanying actions such as inscribing symbols and words on one’s hand and sleeping on paper talismans.

The next section covers the Al-Mandal (which is itself related to the Almadel) and scrying methods. Many of the techniques present can be found in the Solomonic tradition, such as the employment of mirrors, fingernails, and oil for scrying, the presence of an assistant child seer, and of course fasting to maintain purity. Writing seals on the palm of one’s own (or the child’s) hand is particularly intriguing; indeed it seems that scrying oil in the palm of the hand is the most common method described. One part which stuck out to me was the use of the “Verse of Revelation”, which is a brief paragraph of text attached to the seer’s forehead to aid him in obtaining spiritual vision.

After this we come upon the evocations of jinn spirits, and it is here that in my opinion the book truly shines. We see a vast variety of different experiments, intended to conjure a multitude of different jinn to visible appearance. These are elaborate procedures filled with prayer, retreat from society, purification, and eventually the creation of pacts. What was especially interesting to me were the numerous examples of rituals intended to conjure for the magician a wife from among the jinn tribes. These spirit marriages are accompanied with strict taboos, such as never being allowed to sleep with mortal women again, though they promise great rewards and powers in return. The jinn wives rituals actually make up a sizable part of this section, which is fascinating as it is not an aspect of Arabic magic I had really seen before this. Granted, had I not met Sfinga I likely would have never known how prominent spirit marriages involving zmaj dragons are in the Balkans, especially given the language and resource barrier.

The majority of the rituals are intended to summon specific jinn, most of which are multi-day affairs involving an ascetic retreat and the reciting of conjurations numerous times throughout the day during times of prayer. Some, like the invocation of the Seven Mayamin, can achieve a variety of different outcomes, whilst others are intended towards simply creating pacts with individual spirits and/or their courts. Many rituals involve conjurations of the seven terrestrial jinn kings, who share many commonalities with the planetary kings of the aerial spirits in the Sworn Book of Honorius and the Heptameron. These spirits evidently have not received their due attention in the West despite their influence on grimoire demonology (i.e. Maymun Abu-Nakh). One of the noteworthy elements of the rituals is the shorter length of the conjurations themselves. Rather than multiple page long recitations as we see in say, the Folger Manuscript, what we have instead are briefer conjurations intended to be repeated countless times. The conjurations are still authoritative, but tend to be somewhat less aggressive than Solomonic and Faustian techniques. This is not true of every conjuration, however; some such as the conjuration of the Jinn King of Tuesday include the typical threats of fire.

The next chapter was admittedly the one I was most excited for, as it deals with the methods of conjuring the personal Qarīn, which is the jinn companion that every person has by their side. The section itself is sparse, including only two rituals which follow a fairly standard formula. The first involves sitting in “a dark place” and reciting two names 100 times, after which you recite a brief conjuration 21 times at which point you will hear the qarīn’s voice—albeit without “seeing his figure”. The second method involves burning incense and a lotus while reciting the same two names 313 times, another conjuration 7 times, and an even shorter one 50 times. Finally, the spirit will answer you. Presumably, once the spirit is conjured one can establish further methods of ingress and communion.

The book closes with the “Seven Jinn Evictions” which are methods of exorcism. This is another short chapter; though crucial; exorcisms and proper spiritual defences are vital for any magician to have in the presence of aerial, infernal, and other such related spirits.

In conclusion, Jinn Sorcery is an excellent and intriguing book. The text reads like a miscellany of jinn magic, similar to a handful early modern grimoires like the Book of Oberon and The Cunning Man’s Grimoire in which various experiments are listed. Al-Alim’s translations and introductory commentary provide a deeply valuable window into Arabic jinn magic, and I’m very glad to see such an excellent text becoming available.

Kumalak

Kumalak is a divinatory form I’ve been learning for a little over two years. As soon as I picked it up on the advice of an ancestor, I quickly came to embrace it as a frank, accurate, and attractive oracle my spirits are able to express their messages through. The system, which a good friend of mine described as “the best geomantic oracle that nobody ever heard of”, is native to Central Asia, most popular in modern-day Kazakhstan, and employed by a variety of folk magicians and shamans for divining the future. Kumalak does have a presence in the Balkans, as well as in Russia (and I’m sure in many more countries in the general geographic region). I’ve personally seen healers and cunning folk from Eastern Serbia divine with Kumalak using corn brought to them by their clients. Like geomancy, it can provide advice both incredibly esoteric and utterly mundane, and is remarkably versatile despite being far less complicated than its more famous counterpart.

To read Kumalak, you need 41 beans of any kind (or pebbles, seeds, pieces of corn etc.) and, optionally, 3×3 square cell grid. You can paint one on cloth to have a permanent, ready-to-use surface (consecrated by the hands of the appropriate spirits), or you can redraw it each time on paper or in the sand. The grid is not necessary on its own, most readers I’ve met will either draw it temporarily with grain, chalk, or in the dirt, or the’ll omit it entirely and just arrange the beans evenly along visualized lines. I prefer to have the lines visible since I have a consecrated cloth I’ve baptized with the four elements, but it’s important to note that it’s not required.

As a quick aside, I wanted to note that I keep my beans in a leather container that I shake while intoning the Hygromanteia prayer of the day for whichever planet is ruling the question—though this is my own addition and not at all a necessary step. If you feel inclined, I do find that beginning with a prayer to an intelligence governing the general situation increases the accuracy of the reading. In other circumstances, I’ve also prayed directly to my spirits, performed breathing techniques and hand gestures for greater psychic vision that they’ve taught me over the beans, and then cast them. With that out of the way, here’s a brief outline of how a Kumalak reading works as I have learned to do them:

To begin, you first take the beans, whisper into them your question, and then shake them. When you are ready, cast them on the ground. Touch each bean to your forehead, one by one, until you have gone through all 41. A man I met from Eastern Serbia who reads Kumalak advised me to give a simple prayer, asking “God and his angels to help you see with your secret eye through the stones” over each bean. When you are finished, divide them into three piles as your intuition guides you. Beginning from the right, remove four beans at a time until there are a maximum of four left. These will go in the top right square on the grid. Do the same for the middle pile and the top middle square, and then again for the left and top left. Scoop the remaining beans into one pile, and then repeat the process for the middle row, dividing them into three piles, taking four away at a time, and filling out the squares. Once you’ve done the same for the last row, it’s time to interpret.

Here’s an example of a reading I did; all the squares have 1-4 beans, with the leftovers below. As with the witnesses and the judge in geomancy, you can verify whether or not you’ve done the division correctly with some simple math. The total of the beans in the first row when added together should be either five or nine; for the second, four, eight, or twelve; and for the third, also four, eight, or twelve.

Each square is, according to its row, assigned a symmetrical part of a greater picture. For the top, the squares are eye, head, and eye. For the middle, hand, heart, and hand. Lastly, the bottom row is foot, horse, and foot. Generally, the top row handles past influences as well as the thoughts, ambitions, and beliefs of the querent. The middle reveals the present as well as the emotions, doubts, and relationships entwined in the situation; it is also the row concerned with outside help and allies. The bottom row is concerned with the future and practical concerns, obstacles, helping forces, and the journey in general; should you be patient and wait for other circumstances to fall into place, or should you act immediately, and how?

If you know your elemental correspondences from geomancy, reading the beans should be no problem. One is fire, two water, three air, and four earth—and the associations and implications of each element can be reliably read in the usual geomantic way. Each possible row combination has its own name according to tradition, taken from the right-most square. In the reading above, for example, the top row is called “wind in the head, sand in the eyes”, because there are three beans (air) in the head, and four (earth) in the right eye. For the middle, it’s “fire in the heart, earth in the hands.” Lastly, at the bottom we have “horseman of wind on horse of water”.

These combinations for head, eyes, heart, hands, horseman, and horse all have their own interpretations which are relatively intuitive if you’re familiar with the active and passive roles of the elements and how they combine (again, if you’re familiar with geomancy, or even traditional elemental combinations and what they signify in divination, then this will come fairly naturally). There are, however, some special figures pertaining to particular row configurations, as well as column and diagonal combinations (all odd numbers in certain columns/diagonals, or all ones in the middle column, or the sum of the diagonals being equal, to name a few) which have to be memorized. One of the special figures figures that involves just the rows is “the three stars”: this is when wind is in every square of the top row. If this appears, the querent is considered to be so protected and blessed that reading further would be inappropriate; Kumalak is not needed to advise them when everything will turn out even better than imagined. Another is “the saddlebag”, which occurs when the first row is four, one, and four. The sand from each eye is weighing down the fire in the head so that it cannot express itself. When this figure is present, the client must rephrase the question and the reading must start anew, for their thoughts while asking were too muddled and imprecise.

The grid, when considered as an organic picture, is the steppe horseman; his journey determined by the weather, his mentality, resolve, courage, and physical strength, and his relationship with his horse, as well as their combined health. All of these factors play a role in the message conveyed to the querent, the news of whose question is embodied in the horseman, and it is the job of the diviner to read the individual parts as a unified whole. In the top row of the above reading, “wind in the head, sand in the eyes” tells the story of a sharp mind honed in on success (air) blinded by intrusive thoughts and fear of failure (sand). While wind in the head promises eventual mental success, sand in the eyes speaks of confusion not only for the querent (who may feel dragged down and fearful) but also in their friends who are paralyzed and unable to lend advice. This is a figure which speaks to trusting one’s intuition in the face of self-doubt, gossip, and deceit.

“Fire in the heart, earth in the hands” further confirms the omens of the first row. The passionate faculty of the heart is actualized in the concrete ability of the hands: this is the figure of someone who not only has keen foresight and creative talent, but also the practical savvy to realize their plans. In health, this signals a swift recovery, and likewise for work and love it recalls improvement in all aspects of ambition. As one of the very fortunate figures, when considered in light of the first row it becomes clear that the querent is someone who is dealing with impostor syndrome; someone bright but humble, who fears a failure that is not coming or is dealing with jealous individuals in their circles whose meddling will ultimately avail to nothing. While this figure can also indicate the presence of external allies pooling their resources for the querent, in this context it is specifically speaking to the querent’s own faculties and strength which overcomes the gossip and doubt of the previous row: these are the resources they have to draw upon.

Finally, “horseman of wind on horse of water” warns of obstacles: confrontation with superiors and colleagues, stubbornness in a lover, antagonism in clients, etc. The overly logical horseman is unable to move his timid and sensitive horse. There has been a transformation: where in the past, the querent experienced a transition from uncertainty to fortune, the future is marked with strife. The momentum of the earlier figures can carry them forward to success, but this cannot happen without directly and boldly confronting the conflict. The horseman would do well to listen to the anxieties of his mount; in the case of love or intimate friendships, the querent could be advised to allow the other party to fully air out their grievances and then work alongside them by reminding them of past stability, fortune, and passion. In business, however, suspicion may have to be countered with bravery; if the gossipers from the past have resurfaced and caused damage, then exposing them directly to the light and showing the horse that their illusions are just that—and that the path is clear—seems the best move. Ultimately, the reading is warning that while the querent has presently rekindled their resolve and moved past the deceits of the past, their shadows still lurk, and a confrontation is inevitable. The querent is reminded of their inner strength and the importance of asserting their needs and priorities, and advised to clear misunderstandings as quickly as they arise, to listen deeply where there are fractures, and to cultivate respect and influence among peers. To abandon all progress in the face of the inevitable conflicts of life would be to abandon the horse and the journey altogether.

Each of these figures need to be read together with each other, with the specific question in mind. Just as how in the Marseille tarot, the two women on either side of the man in the L’amoureux may be sisters, a wife and a daughter, a wife and a mother-in-law, a mother and a mother-in-law, or any other combination with differing attitudes towards the central figure (and relationships with the angelic archer above), so too is it the case here. The question is why the horseman has been generated, and so its essence is the breath of each limb. Where the first two rows explain the motivations, feelings, thoughts, fears, suspicions, and events which led to the situation in the future, they also are informed by the final row’s verdict. We can imagine each of the elements playing a role in the navigation of the journey, but ultimately it is the horse who undergoes it. I have provided basic thematic interpretations for the figures, but in the reading itself they each speak to the precise nuances of the client’s need, expanding on and clarifying the situation in which they find themselves. The warning of the horse and the resources of the heart and hands interplay in the ultimate verdict and the advice which was given.

If you are interested, your main guide for learning Kumalak will probably be the book and kit from Didier Blau. The French version is almost always in stock on Amazon and the English isn’t too hard to come by either. In addition to a short book which goes over the practice and all the possible row combinations and what they mean, the kit also comes with the 41 beans (be sure to count them yourself, mine had a few more, in case you lose some, I presume), the cloth in the picture, and a felt, green drawstring pouch you can assemble. However, you could always just use your own beans (including coffee) or small pebbles and paint/draw on board/cloth your own casting mat, and learn to read online. There are a number of websites and tutorials that rehash the information found in Blau’s book, including common grid layouts and the special figures, that are just a short Google search away.

It is important to note that different countries in which Kumalak is practiced have developed their own styles and folklore around the beans, with Kazakhstan being of course the most rich and developed in its approach. In my own practice, I have an ancestral spirit who presides over each Kumalak reading, and I have deepened my skills through their teachings as well as Balkan readers whom they have brought me into contact with. As such, my reading style will be informed by those who have passed their knowledge to me, and the cultural matrices in which they belong. I would, as always, highly recommend one to eventually consult with traditional readers to broaden their understandings of this living oracle. May the beans reveal to you stars, and the stars show you the ways.

Libellus Veneri Nigro Sacer (Pt 4): The Circle

I spent the last week of May in New York City with my godfather, assisting with a new round of initiations and training in Quimbanda. After I had returned and sufficiently rested, I decided that the following Friday I would endeavor to complete my Circle for the Tuba Veneris.

The grimoire states that the Circle can be made from many different materials, from being drawn on the ground with chalk, charcoal, and paint, scratched into the dirt with a sword or staff, to painted on parchment or virgin paper. My main goal with mine was durability. I wanted to be able to roll and carry it to wherever I choose to perform the ritual, be it an abandoned building or the same forest I had buried my tools in previously. That way, I also wouldn’t have to redraw it every time I wanted to conjure the demons. On the day I poured the six wax seals, I took a large sheet of canvas and, with the help of a trusted friend, cut it to a six foot diameter circle as per the grimoire’s instructions.

The chapter also states that the inner circles can be drawn “two or three fingers in from the first”, but my hands are definitely on the smaller side so I decided to go with four inches each. With my friend’s help we painted the three rings in black. The divine Names, however, have to be written in colour (elsewhere in the grimoire the colours of Venus are given to be green and red) in the days and hours of Venus. I chose to paint them all in green, so as soon as it was the afternoon Venus hour last Friday, I sprung to work. In order to keep the spacing of the letters even so that they would actually wrap all the way around, I used the crosses that divide the names as goal posts.

I had only just finished going over each of the letters again when the Venus hour ended, so I waited for the evening one to consecrate the Circle with the incense. Finally, I folded it up and placed it with my Seal, Book, the six wax seals of the demons, and my first Horn. I’m really quite pleased with how it turned out.

With the Circle complete, I am technically finished with all the preparations for the Tuba Veneris. What remains is the second bull’s horn which I had just received in the mail shortly after I returned from my flight. A friend and witch who tends to a farm had procured for me a bull’s horn that had been severed during the day and hour of Venus and graciously sold it to me. My previous horn had been severed on a Friday, but the person who sold it to me could not say what the exact time was—only that it was shortly after noon. Given that I can be completely certain about the second Horn, I intend to wait until the next Friday new moon (which is in August) to engrave and consecrate it, just to cover all my bases. Either way, I may well eventually perform the operation with both Horns to test if the spirits manifest equally, but for now I intend to follow the advice of my spirits and be patient. There is much magical work to be done in the meanwhile.

Sphere + Sundry: Hermanubis Series (Review)

I took notice and became interested in Sphere + Sundry’s offerings in the same year I began experimenting with astrological talismans. At the time, one of my best friends, who goes by Hex, had begun studying scholastic image magic. Whenever he found an appropriate election, he would also message our friend group of magicians with the times for their respective cities and the general instructions for making the talismans. A few months later, Salt himself signed up for Christopher Warnock’s astrological magic course and he too joined in the hunt for elections. Over the course of the last year we’ve made an assortment of planetary and fixed star talismans using the appropriate metals and gemstones. While I am not currently studying the same art, being more immersed in other projects relating to my traditions of witchcraft, the grimoires I am procuring tools for, and my Quimbanda lineage, I have come to deeply respect and enjoy the power of astrological talismans in my practice. Their magic feels so clean and elevated it sings; bending reality around them to flow with the tides of that particular celestial moment they capture and eternally embody.

Run by Kaitlin and Austin Coppock, Sphere + Sundry create more than just your standard talismans. Their range of products include oils, candles, inks, hydrosol sprays, incenses, collaborations with perfumers, jewelers, and blacksmiths, and a host of other elected tools and materia all having been crafted to the strictest standards within the time frames allotted. Even the very bottling and packaging is carefully done within the right times, and the bottles and jars themselves are never branded. You can read more about their philosophy and approach at their website [here]. Both Salt and I have had nothing but excellent experiences with their work—in fact, part of my Christmas gifts for him last year involved a few of their Exalted Mars offerings in addition to a set of the seven pentacles of Mars in iron. The results he’s had with them in conjunction have been nothing short of remarkably powerful. As for myself, their main line I work with is their Hermanubis collection, of which I have almost a complete set. Given that they see such regular use, I thought I would offer a review of the line here for those interested in both the set itself and their products more broadly.

Before I get into the review proper, I wanted to briefly comment on Hermanubis himself. I first began engaging with the god two years ago, shortly before I read Gordon White’s The Chaos Protocols in which he is famously recommended. I was led to him by a cynocephalic spirit familiar Hekate had bestowed me, who referred to Hermanubis as one of his masters. Intrigued by the syncretized Hermes-Anubis psychopomp deity, I printed out a picture of his statue in the Vatican museum and set him up with a tealight and a glass of water in the corner of one of my necromantic working altars. Since then, his guidance and erudition have been the catalyst of some of the most important breakthroughs in my witchcraft, spirit work, and general understanding of magic. There is a distinct elegance, a celestial current flowing within the sea of the dead he shepherds, a starry overtone to his shadowed approach; a mercurial swiftness embedded within his darksome guidance. While there is no shortage of psychopomps and death-beings in my life, from St. Cyprian of Antioch, Veles, and Hekate to the Exus of my Quimbanda court, Hermanubis has a distinct and deeply valued place among my spirits and my attempts to further ingress his mysteries have yielded important sorcerous fruit.

As my relationship with him grew, so too did his shrine. The framed picture of his statue was soon replaced with figures of Hermes, Yinepu/Anubis, and a little figurine of Hermanubis from the Hachette “Gods of Ancient Egypt” series. I created the APHEROU (“way opener”) brass bowl for scrying and conjuring the dead using the instructions in The Chaos Protocols and set aside the usual space for candles, water, and food.

In purchasing the Hermanubis series from Sphere + Sundry, I was specifically interested in further cultivating the god’s presence in my life as well as having properly-enchanted materia on hand to bring his essence and power into other domains of spellcraft, sorcery, and spirit work. I am reviewing everything available in the series except for the beeswax candle.

Here is what they look like together out of the box. Inside the package was a bottle of Oil of Hermanubis, a bottle of Ink of Amenti in a 1/8 oz glass vial, a vial of Natron, some Way Opening Dead-Drawing Elixir in a 1/2 oz glass bottle, a bottle of Hermanubis Self-Igniting Incense, a 5″ Hermanubis statue in white, and the accompanying Opening of the Mouth and Eyes Ritual. As with all Sphere + Sundry shipments, they came packed with a few chocolates which were promptly devoured. No pictures/traces of evidence for those.

Let’s begin with the most immediately striking: the figurine. Its presence in the collection is owed to Oliver Laric’s Three D Scans, a project involving copyright-free 3D models of statues from various museums. Unless you commission your own or buy one of the Hachette figurines like I did, this is one of the only few actual statues of Hermanubis available. It’s a lightweight, 5″, standard 3D-printed figure that looks just like the Vatican museum statue. You have a choice of white or black in the listing. I went with white to match the marble of the original.

Accompanying the statue is a ritual to perform a take on the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, to better enliven and consecrate it as an icon of the god. Performing the ritual was the first time I actually used most of the products; I received my package late on Halloween (auspicious!) and wanted to wait until it was the Mercury hour on the following Saturday to carry it out. Until then, I kept the vials wrapped in black silk in a black cauldron that sits on the Hermanubis shrine.

When it was time, I withdrew the oil, elixir spray, incense, and natron and procured a series of offerings to the god—breads, olives, alcohol, spring water, and so on. I cleaned the statue with purified water and natron, anointed its eyes and lips with the oil, “cut” them with a ritual knife bathed in the smoke, and sprayed the entire figure with the elixir. I did the same for my other statues and figurine as well and then sat in communion with the spirits as the offerings were presented. The combination of the incense, oil, and elixir truly emanate, enhance, and vivify that exact blend of Hermes Chthonius and Yinepu heka made manifest in the spirit of Hermanubis as I’ve come to know him. The sensation that fills the room when even one is used sings with the same power that builds after I’ve spent some time praying and invoking at the main shrine, having plunged deeper into the work—though elevated to an even stronger degree. I find that now, all it takes to stir the same level of attention, focus, and presence of the spirits at the shrine is to open with a prayer and mist the space with the elixir.

I tend save the incense for larger workings as the bottle is quite small. A myrrh resin blended with a herbal mixture aligned to Hermanubis along with some black dog hair, the powder is self-igniting. While it can be used as an offering to the dead and to Hermanubis himself, I’ve chosen to use it only in important chthonic rituals in which I really want to draw, wake, and gather the dead or other such spirits and facilitate their conjuration.

The elixir, along with the oil, are my favourite pieces. To quote the listing:

Dark red wine and high proof spiced rum were ritually infused with herbal attractants for drawing the dead, blessed by Hermanubis as the Sun set on the day of Mercury’s exalted direct cazimi 2018.

The bottle is similarly prepared with copper leaf, echoing the concept of paying pennies to traffic with the dead. While I have yet to use this at a cemetery (which can be done to wake particular graves), I have mostly employed it to great effect at my ancestor altar, at a boveda during seance, and to baptize particular necromantic tools. Before I use it, I always begin by delineating the appropriate boundaries, naming precisely which forces I am calling, and ensuring that several of my helping spirits and familiars are at my side to guard the gates, as it were. Similarly, as is advised, I banish, cleanse, and re-anoint the windows and thresholds of my working space with holy oil once I’ve finished. I also give offerings to my spirits in thanks for monitoring what flows through my walls. When sprayed, the atmospheric change is unmistakable. I find that my psychic senses are instantly elevated and attuned to the frequencies of the dead, that the spirits more easily manifest and take form in my compasses and circles, and that the clarity of their messages and warnings are distinctly improved. Extremely versatile and consistently potent in every circumstance I’ve used it in, I would highly recommend the elixir to any witch; whether you work with Hermanubis or not. As long as the chthonic have a place in your practice, you will benefit from this water.

The oil packs a similar punch, albeit in a far more earthy, concentrated form. The description given for its contents on the listing is:

As the Sun descended into the realm of the underworld on the day of Mercury’s exalted cazimi 2018, organic cold-pressed olive oil was combined with ritually harvested cemetery cypress, hops, barley, and other herbs and ingredients sacred to Hermes, Anubis, or favored by the dead, along with myrrh, hair from a black dog, and 24k gold leaf.

After opening the mouths of my statues, I used the oil to anoint the offering plates and gifts belonging to my dead, five-spot their working spaces to further anchor their presence as liminal hedges of communion, and further empower particular tools—such as a wand made from the oldest yew tree in a British churchyard. A few of my familiars have taken a particular liking to this oil and I’ve used a small dab of it to further solidify their grasp and influence over workings I’ve done with them. Again, I’ve noticed consistently their manifestations have only ever been enhanced through this oil’s use. I’ve actually found that carrying it with me in my bag of throwing bones has served as a kind of battery and beacon to spirits in general. I’ve also anointed myself with it prior to going on cemetery walks to open myself further to the whisperings of my allies there, as well as in seances and any such sessions involving channeling and divination. Alongside my own Hekate oil, made through Jason Miller’s recipe in his Sorcery of Hekate arcana, this is my go-to oil for necromancy now. One interesting use I’ve come to discover is that if I lightly dab a wrapped offering or a particular working fetish, doll, or bundle I am disposing of at crossroads or cemeteries, specifically while charging and praying over the oil as I’m shaking and using it, the spirits in these spaces are immediately provoked to action far more quickly. It’s a powerful way to “mark” something as theirs now, whether it is a gift like a meal or bottle of alcohol, or a working bundle that draws their intercession.

The Ink of Amenti has been used solely for my work with a particular black book I keep. I’ve poured a small amount of it out into a larger vial of plain ink, fumigated it with myrrh incense, and consecrated it as another batch of necromantic ink through dilution. I tend to treat the vessels in which my ritual inks and oils are housed as living entities, especially since I’ve begun to make my own oils during specified times and with ritually-harvested ingredients. My mother bottles all have personalities of their own and I treat their bottling and pouring with reverence. So while the original bottle my ink came in is paired with that black book, some of it was reincarnated into a new, diluted form and saved for future work. As for its effects, I’ve noticed that what I write with it glows hazily in my psychic vision, especially in the dark, and that it has cemented the influence of the spirits whose seals and pacts are within that book in an interesting way. Namely, when I use ink from the same bottle to write petitions, commands, sigils, etc. on other pieces of parchment, the spirits of my grimoire can be instantly stirred just by their writing prior to any formal conjuration. A proper link has been forged between the agreements in the book and whatever I write with the bottle, as overseen by the chief binding spirits who authorize the contracts. As such, I’ve been able to more quickly launch these spirits to action through its use.

As for the natron, I’ve found the most practical way for me to use the special properties of this vial is to divide it among other existing purifying salts I have. I’ve mixed some with a larger batch of natron I have that I use for purifying baths and another portion with a jar reserved only for drawing circles. Again, to better blend them, I fumigated these jars with incense to combine them as one. There is little left in the original vial as it is now. Much of it was used immediately in the purification and consecration of various different statues and figures of the gods and spirits I’ve adapted the accompanying ritual for.

I referred to the elixir as extremely versatile and consistently potent, but really this applies to the series in general. You don’t need to work with Hermanubis to benefit immensely from these tools as enriching way-openers for all magic concerning the dead and travel to and from their worlds. If you’re thinking of beginning a relationship with the deity, these offerings will draw the attention and focus of the right spirits easily. If you’re struggling which to choose, I would pick between the oil and elixir depending on how you envision working with these powers, whether you prefer to anchor and anoint specific points or permeate and uplift the air around. With both you’ll be set for a long time indeed. While there aren’t many left, if you’re willing to spend a little extra I think the Statue and Opening of the Mouth Ritual Set is ideal; it’s not only well-priced but you get a sample of the majority of the offerings including one of the replica figurines. And if this particular lineup isn’t your calling, do consider checking their other series for something undoubtedly equally potent but better tuned to your needs.