Kumalak and Favomancy

Over the past five years, my main form of divination that I most consistently consult, both for myself and on behalf of clients on Instagram, has been favomancy. A while back (and it has been a while, hasn’t it? Salt and I have been finding ourselves so busy with our schooling, magic, and work schedules over the pandemic, but we are looking to get back into writing on here more regularly) I wrote a brief article on Kumalak specifically, a form of favomancy (divination by beans) that is especially known from Kazakhstan to the Balkans. The chart or image that it produces is that of a steppe horseman, whose body, horse, and the conditions of his journey are analysed through the virtues of the elemental configurations of each square. Relaying past, present, and future, spirit-divined omens, and mathematical configurations with their own interpretations (be they certain numbers of beans in a row, the sum of both diagonals, notations on the vertical columns, or even more advanced shapes that can occur with practice), this chart is especially versatile for all manner of magical and mundane questions.

Yet with respect to favomancy as a genre of divination, speaking especially to the Balkans as it is my area of language access, there are a great many charts that are used depending on the region, the diviner’s preference or training, or the inherited tradition. Generally, regardless of chart style the actual layout of the divination will appear visually identical: a 3×3 grid with each square having between 1 to 4 beans. As I described in the Kumalak post, they are generated by whispering a bajalica or oral charm over the 41 white beans (or corn, coffee beans, pebbles, etc.) taken in the right hand, giving the question, then casting them onto a surface, usually a red cloth. The beans are then collected into a pile, after which they are pushed outwards to the sides such that three piles remain. The diviner subtracts four from each pile until a number equal to or less than four remains, and places these beans into each of the corresponding squares in the first row. The process then repeats until all nine squares are filled, pushing the leftover piles back into one group and separating them again each time guided by the spirits.

Regardless of chart style, the bajalica I learned to give can be translated from Serbian as: “Forty-one beans, forty-one brothers and sisters, as you know how to germinate, make green, and feed the world, likewise you know of the fate of (question)”. There are many other versions of this charm which replace, add to, subtract from, or rearrange the order of the verbs, but the basic framework of the bajalica can be found across Balkan languages, including in Bulgarian, Greek, and Romanian. This charm is repeated several times, with the individual words comprising it being continually emphasised and intoned rhythmically, until the required trance is obtained and the spirits flow through to command the beans to land firmly. The divining spirits then guide the hands to separate the piles and create the glyph of the chosen chart. Many other charms can also be found, including ones that are far more explicitly Christian, Muslim, and even those referring to the powers of Slavic polytheism.

Different diviners will have different means of dealing with the final leftover pile: some will subtract threes until one, two, or three remain as a kind of final verdict or judge; with one being fortune, two being misfortune, and three being middling fortune, or fortune but only after a long delay or hardship is resolved. Others might create a new layer to the chart, sometimes referred to as the “foundation”, out of every remaining group of four, and use these numbers to calculate how long it would take for the end result promised in the chart itself to manifest. Another technique involves taking three remaining beans (or having three beans set aside for this purpose on top of the necessary 41) to cast for quick yes/no checks. If the beans do not have any natural grooves on one side, these would be marked so that they can be differentiated depending on if they land marked side up or down. These extra “checks” to see if the rows have been interpreted correctly as they are worked through can be performed in myriad ways. A popular one I am also aware of involves casting one bean alongside a small piece of bread (an item few Balkan amulets and charms are made without, given that it represents fulfilment, joy, and prosperity/manifestation), a coffee bean, and a coin. Depending on which of the latter three the bean lands next to, the character of the question and the interpretation are further developed, with the bread symbolising health, vitality, and manifestation, the coffee bean symbolising misfortune and bitterness, and the coin symbolising wealth and trade. The distance between all four is also further interpreted throughout the session.

For the main chart’s construction, 41 beans specifically are always used. This is a number with a long history in our folk magic, with numerous stories behind its origin. One folktale states that the Devil poked 41 holes into Adam while God was away searching for (not creating!) a living spirit to place inside his clay body, and that upon his return, he stuffed 40 of those holes with medicinal herbs so that the spirit will not seep out. Yet, since there is still one hole that has not been patched, Adam (and man by extension) was made mortal, succumbing to ageing. Hence, healing spells and folk remedies should include at least 40 herbs, or an herb in 40 parts, stored in flasks of rakija or baked into slava bread. Another tale, recorded from Bosnia [here], depicts the daughter of the Prophet, Fatimah bint Muhammad, as a gifted diviner of favomancy, and that she knew of a style that used double the amount of beans: 82. In order to conceal her art from her father who was about to walk in on her performing a reading for a friend, she hid half the beans in her dress, and as such only 41 are remembered. For some, this means that the readings themselves can only ever tell “half the picture”. For others, this means that spirits must necessarily fill out the missing shadows of the beans, and speak from beneath the ground where they grow from and from the skies where they reach to in order to give the clearest picture.

As for the charts themselves, we saw in Kumalak that the generated image is a steppe horseman. Here are a few other variants I have used just in the past month during readings:

The Bed

Woman’s head / Pillow / Man’s head
Woman’s heart / Hearth / Man’s heart
Woman’s legs / Threshold / Man’s legs

While this style seems on the surface to be concerned with matters of love, it is actually exceptionally versatile. The gendered language of the chart is due to its image: that of a woman waiting for her husband to return home from a journey. In all manner of questions, the querent is represented in the left column as the “woman”, and the subject matter at hand as the “man” on the right. Each square tells us something about the thoughts, internal vs. external motivations, preconditions, influences, and spiritual makeup of the querent, the subject matter, their relationship, and the potential obstacles and aids on the path to the question’s resolution. As such, it can be used even to assess the likelihood of a magical working succeeding, with the right column telling us about the journey and ultimate conditions/obstacles of the ritual, the left column describing the sorcerer’s ambitions, efforts, and existing alliances, pacts and resources, and the middle column depicting the ways in which each row’s theme crosses over from one to another, and how successful the translation is. Mostly used for love and familial concerns, I’ve made use of it for all sorts of topics, including workplace relationships, matters of employment, applications, sorcery, spirit pacts, and more. The beans themselves are not read elementally as in Kumalak, but rather numerically with their own unique attributions for this style.

The House

Mother’s Inheritance / Chimney / Father’s Inheritance
Mother’s Debts / Hearth / Father’s Debts
Fortune Departing / Threshold / Fortune Returning

We can see that the core features of the above chart are preserved here. Here, gendered language can be taken seriously in an ancestral reading, regarding the mother and father’s sides literally. More commonly, the mother squares are taken as the ancestry itself, and the father squares as belonging to the social community the client is participating in. Naturally, these can easily be understood as spiritual ancestors and spiritual/initiatory communities. The fortune squares, linked to the threshold, tell us of how the blessings and negative omens actually manifest, and the chimney, hearth, and threshold vertically tell us of the health of the situation, the stability of the querent, and the innate gifts, abilities, and destiny or purpose. This chart is used to understand spirit allies, inherited gifts and curses, the will of local as well as ancestral spirits, and the talents and merits of the querent. The beans can be read numerically or elementally, depending on the reader and their spirits.

“Gazing into beans”

Income / Head / Hand
Affairs / Heart / Expenses
Departures / Foot / Returns

I’m never quite sure what to call this one. It is, at least in my experience, by far the most common chart used in Serbia where I’m from. Generally, this is not even referred to as a chart or style, but simply as the method of of divination by favomancy itself, just as how tarot or playing card readings may be called “gazing into cards”, and reading by tea leaves or coffee beans “gazing into tea” and “gazing into coffee” respectively. The beans themselves are not read elementally, rather numerically, with the odd numbers being positive (three being better than one) and the even numbers being negative (four being worse than two). One is generally representative of news, communication, movement, and beginnings; two referring to trouble, indecisiveness, imbalanced states, fortune undulating, and two-faced people and situations; three referring to fortune, luck, love, and happiness; and four referring to misfortune, sorrow, being overwhelmed, juggling too many responsibilities and projects, and being burdened.

Income and Affairs on the left specifically should be prefaced with “problems with…”, in that they refer to issues in the querent’s life in the material and social spheres (in spiritual questions, this is extrapolated to the matters of spirit in each). Head and Heart discuss the mental and emotional states respectively, and Departures and Returns tell us of the efforts and rewards on the progression of the matter at hand. The Foot represents not only the journey, but also how whatever leaves in Departures and whatever comes back in Returns actually manifests, and how it is integrated into the life of the querent. The Hand and Expenses are always read together as a pair, with the former signifying the resources capable of sating the latter. In the case of the Hand, this is the only square where the beans are treated even more numerically, with four in this case being a positive omen of plenty. That said, four still retains its relationship with being overwhelmed and burdened. If the number in the Hand outweighs that of the Expenses, then the querent has the resources necessary to tackle any debts they accumulate along their journey, with more dramatic differences being generally considered more fortunate, with the reverse being true as well. That said, a three in Expenses is a highly favourable omen, as is a three in the Hand; this does not mean they cancel each other out or that the querent has “just enough”, but rather that they do not struggle with their debts as it is, and they have sufficient resources for whatever they must tend to in the present. A four in the Hand and three in Expenses, for example, suggests someone with so many resources that it suffocates them; a rich man with so many duties to tend to and employees and investors to report to that he is unable to enjoy his wealth (save for that he can live comfortably in terms of debts). Meanwhile, a four in the Hand with four in Expenses shows us that the querent is able to meet their significant debts with their equally significant resources, but that the balance is always threatened, and that at any point their situation may come crashing down. This is especially indicative of high-stakes gamblers, traders, and those who are self-employed or take commissions.

As always, in matters of spirit these squares will be interpreted in the appropriate translations. Furthermore, each chart style has its own significant omens that supersede other interpretations, much like the “Three Stars” or a row of all threes that I mentioned in the Kumalak article, as well as various other configurations involving the sums of the diagonals, horizontal combinations, and so on.

Given that the primary physical materia used for this divination style is generally organic (beans or corn), it is understood that the tools will themselves take on the quality of the reading and capture its essence. As such, a positive reading for love can be seen as a physical testament on behalf of the spirits as to the luck of the situation. These beans may then be cooked and fed to the beloved. Similarly, for wealth, they may be planted and grown to be later harvested, such that all daughter beans from the original reading would carry the same money-drawing power. Those for healing can be placed in a flask of rakija and used to spray down the sick person, incorporated into baths, and used as tokens of reminders to the spirits petitioned to heal that they have sworn to lend their aid and must work hard for that end.

Beans which have read on the nature of a curse can trap a portion of the curse, and as such should be handled carefully, disposed of at crossroads and burnt at graveyards, with care being taken to not inhale any of their smoke. If the beans have absorbed too much negative fortune, they are likewise disposed of. A reader will often go through many sets over the year, and special attention is paid to those sets given and consecrated directly to specific spirits to be their mouthpieces in this world, so that they do not get tainted by the nature ignoble questions. In the case of one of my mentors, whenever she sees a client she insists that they pick corn from her farm and bring it to her, picking off the 41 grains themselves. This way, the spiritual essence of the client is already inside the corn as they pass it to her, given their effort in the harvest and selection.

These are only a sample of some of the more popular charts one can come across by speaking with professional diviners, as well as the general protocols for the actual beans themselves. Of course, what is most important in any matter of divination is the light trance, offerings, and communion with the spirits overseeing the reading themselves. In time, diviners will receive their own charts with their own meanings assigned to the number of beans unique to their spirits, and these are often the ones that those I know make the most use of directly, and as such are also not the kinds that can be shared publicly. In my own practice, I will read for clients using whichever style best suits the question (or whichever my divining spirits recommend), and over time this has become a natural and fluid process. Generally, most diviners will use only one or two styles that are known, keeping those received from their spirits to themselves for more private matters. In truth, each chart is equally capable of answering any question one can think of; the decision ultimately rests on what one’s own spiritual faculties prefer to read with, as well as the preferences of their spirits in weaving and expressing the client’s story to them. The central image that the chart generates should always be one which speaks to both reader and client alike in lending assistance to the decryption of the question, its future, and fortune.

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!

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.

Libellus Veneri Nigro Sacer (Pt 3): The Six Seals

My work with the Tuba Veneris continues to unravel in interesting ways. A few days ago, a friend who recently became aware that I was pursuing the operation messaged me, saying that he could procure for me a bull’s horn that fits the requirements of the grimoire exactly. Ecstatic, I agreed, and it should be in my hands within a few weeks. This will give me an opportunity to test how well the spirits manifest physically in different rituals. Before I engrave, consecrate, and bury it, I intend to once more bathe it in the seven Venusian herbs my Zmaj had recommended to stir the bull spirit, especially as it had such a potent effect with the last Horn. The next Friday new moon is in late August, so that is when I will be consecrating it. I will likely attempt the full operation before then once the Circle is complete, and then try again with the new Horn in September.

With that said, my next order of business was to create the six seals of the spirits. To borrow Teresa Burns and Nancy Turner’s translation, the grimoire states:


One takes green Wax, to which one mixes soot, makes from this round pieces and, with steel instruments, cuts into them the Seal of that Spirit one wishes to invoke. Let these Seals be consecrated with smoke in the same way as the others aforementioned in the time, by the day and in the hour of Venus, but do not bury them: rather, preserve them for the Work.

– “How to Make the Seals of the Spirits

As we can see, the consecration with smoke has to be carried out in the usual times of Venus, but there is no such recommendation for the actual construction of their physical forms. I decided I would make and carve them in the day and hour of Venus anyway, especially since I had the time. I filled a spare can with green candles and soot, placing it within a larger pot of water to double boil on the stove. As I waited for them to melt in the Venus hour, I set up my silicone molds in which I would pour the wax. Once the candles had turned into a dark green liquid, I fished out the wicks with a plastic fork and retrieved the can, carefully pouring the wax into the silicone. They fully dried and hardened in the Venus hour as well, and I gently carved them with a tiny steel pin.

I made sure that the seals would be on the thicker side, especially as the method by which the demons may be compelled if they are unruly involves stamping them with the heated copper Seal of Venus. They were consecrated at night in the Venus hour and are now waiting with the rest of my tools for their eventual use.

Since I will be consecrating the second horn on the next new moon, my next immediate goal with the Tuba Veneris is to construct the final piece of the ritual: the Circle. I have procured a large canvas cloth which I have already trimmed into a six foot diameter circle. On one of the following Fridays, I will paint the inner circles in black and write out the sacred names in green.

Libellus Veneri Nigro Sacer (Pt 2): The Primary Tools

In my first post, I gave a brief overview of the Libellus Veneri Nigro Sacer or Tuba Veneris, outlining my intentions to pursue the grimoire’s operation faithfully. This third of May was not only a Friday, but also fell within the range of the new moon; the combination specified for the consecration of the Seal of Venus, the Horn of Venus, and the Book of Venus. Needless to say, I was greatly looking forward to finally embarking on creating these three important instruments for the conjuration of the spirits.

I had previously acquired a brand new leather journal and two new inks (one black and one dove’s blood) to fashion my own “Consecrated Book of the Black Venus”. The Book must be written with the feather of a dove, which can be quite challenging as dove feathers tend to be so short. I made a very simple offering to the local land spirits the Friday before requesting to find a dove feather as I walked, and came across a longer one within half an hour. Satisfied, I took it home and cut it into a makeshift quill. Over the course of the Venus hours, I copied down the Tuba Veneris, including the additional titles in my red dove’s blood. For the first page, I reproduced a likeness of the female Venus standing with her own Horn and Seal, crowned with her symbol over her head. Despite the small feather, I did my best to keep my writing uniform and neat, and I am pleased to say that I’m quite happy with the end result now that it is complete. The rest of the pages will be used for writing down what the six spirits teach me, both about themselves and whatever I question them about in general, as well as the secret signs, hand gestures, and proof of our pacts they produce.

For the Seal of Venus, I cut a hexagram out of copper in the Venus hour using newly purchased tin snips. The grimoire instructs the magician to wear the seal around their neck during the evocation, so I drilled a very small hole into one of the vertices so that a copper jump ring may be affixed along with a chain. Engraving the characters came easily, especially as I’ve already had practice carving various gemstones and metals in the creation of astrological Picatrix talismans (whose elections Salt has been very adept at finding). I passed it through the smoke of verbena, myrtle, and musk and wrapped it in linen before heading to work on the Horn.

I went through great lengths to ensure that the Horn met the specifications laid out in the grimoire. Under the guidance of my Zmaj—my primary guardian and tutelary spirit—I went through a few extra steps in preparing the bull’s horn for the consecration. One of these included another wash in a bath made up of seven Venusian herbs, each prayed over in the Venus hour, in order to further stir the spirit of the bull within it. When I retrieved it from the water, the energetic change noted was immediate. I rinsed it with water and scrubbed any last bits of dirt, blood, and grime out with a toothbrush, and then similarly engraved it in the nighttime Venus hour on the Friday new moon. The engravings appear a little faint when photographed due to the hardness and colouration of the horn, but they can be easily seen in person and I’m very happy with how evenly spaced they ended up being, especially for the seals of the six demons.

Finally, after having passed the Horn through the smoke, I wrapped it in linen and moved on to consecrate the Book. Once baptized and prayed over, I suffumigated it and covered it in green cloth as per the grimoire’s instructions. Since time was of the essence, I made sure that I was already dressed to go outside while preparing the instruments. I’m quite fortunate in that I live a ten minute walk away from a large forest, so it didn’t take long to carry the three instruments inside, locate the nearest stream, and bury them right underneath the bridge which crossed it.

While the process may seem straightforward when written out, the whole day ended up being fraught with omens. Though I didn’t set an alarm for it, I woke up exactly at sunrise when the first Venus hour of the day began. I took the opportunity to pray and then returned to sleep. I would then wake six more times, each after a short but intense, highly-charged dream full of chthonic journeying and magical conflict. I won’t speculate on the natures of these dreams too much, especially as I’ll hopefully be able to confront the six demons of the Tuba Veneris face-to-face in the coming months, but needless to say I was quite taken by the visions. I found that I was physically exhausted upon waking, far more so than I recall being in a long time. The dreams felt like a peculiar combination of test and augury.

Later, as soon as I ascended up the path which led into the forest and its creek, having just buried the instruments, I was suddenly overcome with the exact opposite sensation from how I felt in the morning. Instead of tired, I experienced a prolonged feeling of ecstasy, marked by a surge of power and authority that accompanied me all the way home. I didn’t know quite what to make of it at the time—it was certainly unexpected given that the consecration of the instruments wasn’t even technically complete—but it was definitely empowering. It’s difficult to put precisely into words, but I couldn’t shake the visceral feeling of something “clicking”; that the procedures had been carried out correctly, and that the authority of Anael was being installed into my sphere through the carrying out of these rites. I cross-checked my intuition with divination and then returned to bed, sleeping peacefully in anticipation of their retrieval.

The next day, in the nighttime Venus hour, I returned once more under the cover of darkness to collect my tools. They now sit in my temple space next to the incense blend, inks, and dove’s quill, awaiting future use as I move on to prepare the seals of the demons and the circle itself.

Libellus Veneri Nigro Sacer (Pt 1): First Thoughts

“She is VENUS on High, a name given to me by the Stars.
Soon to be a Stygian sojourner, she appears when the HORN sounds.
The subjugated Dæmon groans under the strength of the SIGN.
Well done! As the victor, infused with glory, you return from the enemy.”

I’ve been fascinated with the Consecrated Little Book of Black Venus ever since I first came across it, but my interest shifted from a merely scholarly appreciation to a sorcerous desire to work it only recently. A confluence of events over the past several months continued to surface it to my attention. The first instance was during a conjuration of the archangel Anael using Trithemius’ Drawing Spirits into Crystals, in which the text was directly cited during my questioning of the spirit. Though I had not mentioned this experience to Salt, I later found out that he had been transcribing me a copy of the Libellus, or Tuba Veneris during Venus hours as a gift for when I last visited him in England.

Upon my return Toronto, I immediately set myself to work planning how I would undertake the operation. As a part of this blog, I intend to chronicle my journey with the Tuba Veneris in its various stages, focusing primarily on the preparation of the tools necessary for the ritual and then, if the operation is successful, providing further insights where possible given the necessary secrecy involved with all spirit conjuration.

Let us begin with the book itself. A short text, written by its own account in 1580, its authorship is attributed to John Dee; though there are many reasons to doubt this. The writing itself does not resemble any of his works, it does not contain his enduring Christian and scholastic undertones, its methodology is unlike that of his other magic, and its dating and place of writing do not align with Dee’s own diaries of where he was. Similarly, he never references the text at any point in the future. At the same time, its dating does place it within his lifetime, and especially during the years in which he was not so famous or remarkable as to warrant pseudepigraphal attribution in the manner of Solomon, Cyprian, or Faust. While Dee’s authorship of the text is neither conclusively proven nor disproven, the ambiguities are significant enough that the Tuba Veneris‘ author is usually referred to as Pseudo-Dee.

The grimoire details how to summon six demons ruled by the planet Venus, also referred to as Anael. Unlike grimoires like the Goetia, these spirits are not distinguished by their particular talents, abilities, and offices, rather they are addressed as a single unit who can accomplish a wide variety of tasks. Examples given include finding hidden treasures, navigating, trade, war. The reader is reminded that “practice and experience will teach a lot”, encouraging one to test the demons. Its magic, unlike Dee’s angelic practices, is “nigromantic” in the sense that it deals with the forceful compelling and binding of the demons. The names of the spirits are: Mogarip, Amabosar, Alkyzub, Belzazel, Falkaroth, and Mephgazub—and their seals, as noted by Teresa Burns, to a certain degree share elements of the Olympic spirits from the Arbatel.

Before one may undertake the operation, five main tools must first be constructed. These are:

  1. The Seal of Venus
  2. The Horn of Venus
  3. The Magical Circle
  4. The Book of Venus
  5. The Seals of the Spirits

The Seal is inscribed with virgin steel instruments on a double-sided copper hexagram during the day and hour of Venus on the new moon, after sundown. It is consecrated with the smoke of verbena, myrtle, and musk, and is then wrapped in linen and buried in the same hours next to a flowing body of water, from which it is recovered on the following night in the Venus hour.

The famous “Tuba Veneris” or Horn of Venus is made from the horn of a living bull, removed during the day and hour of Venus, which is then purified in Vitriol dissolved in vinegar. Once it is washed, the characters given are inscribed using the same steel instruments during the same times, consecrated in the same smoke, and then buried together with the Seal and recovered in the same fashion. The conjuration itself during the evocation of the demons is spoken entirely through the Horn.

A circle which protects the magician is also created during the hours of Venus. The exact materials can vary, with the text suggesting drawing it with a sword or staff in dirt, with a chalk on the floor, or with ink on parchment. I would prefer mine to be fairly durable, so I am likely going to be using a thicker cloth or canvas that can be rolled and stored away when not in use. This is especially as the text instructs to conjure the spirits in a “Safe place free from all human disturbances, either in a building, or better in a Forest or at an isolated and deserted crossroads”. I plan on performing the operation at a dirt crossroads in a forest whose land spirits I have been offering to for some time. The circle is also smoked in the incense and then stored away. It, along with the seals, are the only tools not buried.

The seals of the six demons are made in green wax, similarly consecrated in the smoke though not buried. In the operation, if the demon refuses to cooperate, the magician is told to heat the Seal of Venus (which you are normally wearing over your breast) in the coals of the censer or a candle and then place it over the wax seal so that it melts; this pains the spirit who will beg mercy and relent. Again, these are not buried, rather preserved until the summonings.

Lastly, the Book itself is created. Made from parchment, the text is reproduced (with a few modifications given in the instructions), and is christened the proper “Little Consecrated Book of the Black Venus”. The book is written with a dove feather and virgin ink, again only in the hours of Venus, and then consecrated with smoke, baptized in Vitriol water, and prayed over through the authority of Anael. It is finally wrapped in a green or red cloth and buried with the Seal and Horn in the same way.

Currently, my Book is completed though not yet consecrated. I plan on engraving and fully consecrating the Seal of Venus this coming new moon at a minimum; if I manage to do the same for the Horn, then I will bury them together by a nearby stream as per the text’s instructions.

———

Teresa Burns and Nancy Turner’s translation of the Tuba Veneris can be found at the following Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition page: [link]. The images in this post were sourced from Jeffrey S. Kupperman’s recreations also published in the same translation.

Hail and Welcome

Welcome to With Cunning & Command, a blog about magic, occultism, grimoires, spirit work, folk lore, and esoteric scholarship. We are magicians, karcists, necromancers, and diviners working with diverse Old and New World traditions, grimoires, and spirit courts joined by common goals, loves, and approaches to the hidden. Here, on our new website, we hope to host book reviews, snippets of ritual procedures, reflections on sorcerous practices, and a miscellany of other related writings. Our work is invested in ever furthering the transformation of the magician as a magical being herself, while concurrently deepening levels of spirit communion and mastery using the twin-forked prongs of knowledge and strength, insight and power—with sagacious cunning and authoritative command.

This blog is run by two authors, partners Sfinga and Salt:

Sfinga is a traditional witch, diviner, and spirit-worker from the Balkans. Born in Serbia, her magic is rooted in the oral traditions of zduhać and zmajevit lineages, especially surrounding ingress with dragon (zmaj) spirits. Fascinated with folk magic, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Old Slavic folklore and mythology, and various ways of working both devils and saints, she strives towards ever refining new cunning with old wisdom. An alumna of many of Jason Miller’s courses, including Strategic Sorcery, Sorcery of Hekate, and Black School of St. Cyprian, she is also trained in rootwork and is an initiate of Quimbanda through Tata Apokan of the Cabula Mavile Kitulu kia Njila. St. Cyprian of Antioch is one of the most significant spiritual allies in her court both within Quimbanda and in her other practices. She can be most easily reached through this blog or her Instagram.

Salt (also known as Khamaiyinepu) is a magician in the vein of early modern English folk and ritual magic practices, ever cultivating relationships with local land wights while contacting angelic and demonic powers through various grimoires. He also practices Faustian magic following the German ritual praxis of the Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis. Passionate about Ancient Egyptian religion and sorcery, he is a fervent reader of all things pertaining to Kemetic ritual practices. A geomancer and student of Traditional Astrology and Scholastic Image Magic, he has recently begun to delve into the various techniques of the Picatrix. He is the author of the Hadean Press pamphlet, The Devil’s Bestiary: The Magpie.

We thank you for stopping by our new corner of the web! We’ll be updating this space with plenty of new posts in the near future, and we hope that you stay with us as we continue to write about our wanderings along the crooked roads.