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.

To Conjure a “Horrible Great Dragon”: A Lunar Mansion Experiment from the Cunning Man’s Grimoire

Pre-Ritual Notes

One of the experiments I decided to perform from the Cunning Man’s Grimoire was the operation to conjure a “horrible great dragon to appeare in the ayre”. This ritual is to be performed when the Moon is in the 11th Mansion (though one of the authors of the text mentions it’s likely supposed to be the 12th due to the imagery of the that Mansion actually including a dragon) and is a fascinating example of a blending of ritual magic, folk magic and astrological image magic together into one single operation.

The ritual prescribes the creation of a small, red copper ring, with a hollow space inside that would allow one to place parchment with names of power written upon it. Unfortunately, the original text is unclear about the precise creation of the ring; if it needs to be made during an astrological election of its respective mansion, or if it is enough to simply perform the ritual during the appropriate time. One argument for the latter case is that the majority of the rings required in the Mansion rituals given in the text are hollow copper rings. This indicates perhaps that the original author of the text was only using one ring for multiple rituals, exchanging the parchments within. This is just a guess, of course, and as such one of the purposes of this experiment was also to see if the ritual works with a copper ring forged outside of the Lunar Mansion—as well as, of course, to see if it really would summon a dragon spirit in the air.

For the creation of the ring, I decided to go with a plain copper band with the names Qerminat, Baralama, Canempria, and Coriet engraved on it, instead of a hollow one with the same words on parchment inside. As for the ritual’s timing itself, I decided that to be less strict than I would require for a Talismanic one, and opted instead to have the Moon be on the Ascendant at the time of the 11th Mansion. The ceremony itself is relatively short; it simply involves a spoken prayer and a symbol to be etched on the ground using the ring.

Other additions to the experiment that were my own included bringing with me the Fifth Pentacle of Mars for protection, as well as the Scourging Rod from Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis with which I can quickly draw a circle about me in the dirt, should the spirit be malefic in nature. (This is, after all, a possibility, especially if it belongs to the 12th Mansion considering that the 12th shows a man and a dragon fighting).

I was quite excited to give this operation a try; past visions of dragons I’ve received through Sfinga in dreams have been utterly awe-inspiring, as has witnessing first-hand her Zmaj’s miraculous control over healing, destruction, and the weather. In light of the central role of Slavic zmaj lore and magic in her life, I was very eager to conjure this Lunar Mansion-derived dragon, especially as it might allow me to see a non-zmaj dragon by myself for the first time.

Post-Ritual Notes (First Attempt – 11th Mansion)

The first attempt at performing this ritual was done during the 11th Mansion. I prepared my tools and set out to a nearby dirt track along a large field. I drew the seal in the dirt and spoke the conjuration. Suddenly, I felt a surge of strength and vitality churn within me. With my spiritual sight, I saw a white serpent appear before me—on the ground, however, not in the air. Its spiritual form emerged physically in a translucent guise.

I greeted it, asking for its name, to which it first responded claimed to be Jazariel, the chief of the Tribal Spirits in the Faustian texts, and also the celestial ruler of the 13th Mansion (it is notable he also appears as a white serpent). However, after I pressed the spirit, it quickly confessed to another name instead to replace the first. I continued by inquiring as to the obtaining of wealth and also of the nature of local British dragon spirits. I did not receive satisfactory answers from him, with the conversation moving in circles for the most part. Eventually, I dismissed him, not sure what to make of the operation. That is, until I returned home and researched the second name he had given me. While I won’t mention what it was, it is safe to say that I had been had. This first spirit who appeared had likely been some sort of trickster. I found this more amusing than frustrating though, and looked forward to performing the operation again during the 12th Mansion the next day.

Post-Ritual Notes (Second attempt – 12th Mansion)

This second operation was performed while the moon was in the mid-heaven. The conjuration went well—the clouds immediately darkened from what had previously been a considerably bright and sunny day by English standards. Even the sky became dark, with the exception of the South Eastern corner along the horizon where the daytime moon sat overlooking the earth. Recognizing that, this being a Lunar Mansion experiment, the dragon would likely be related somehow to the moon, I decided to gaze at it for a little while. As I did so, clouds began to form where previously the sky had been entirely clear. They covered the moon in the shape of a claw, grabbing it as a pearl. When I took note of this, an all-white dove flew past me through the trees.

Suddenly, my spiritual sight perceived very clearly a large drake looming in the sky, its form two-headed and pure white. Like a wyvern, it had only feet and no arms. I greeted it, only to be ignored. I conjured it by the ring on my finger, by the names of my spirits, the Holy Trinity, and finally one of the names of Sfinga’s Zmaj guardian that I have been allowed to know, to which it finally paid me attention. Its demeanor, however, still seemed disinterested (after all, it is not like I had her Zmaj near me to bind it—she is back in Canada at this time!). I greeted him once more, asked for his name, and promptly received one. I inquired as to his nature, to which he replied:

“I move the wind, I shake the waves, I break ships with my tail and swallow them. I cause fleets to sink and storms to fall upon my enemies.”

It seemed that the way to get him to talk was to ask about himself! As I learned through our short conversation, he was a fairly boastful spirit—something Sfinga had told me to expect from certain kinds of dragons. Much to my delight, shortly after the ritual, I re-read the description of the 12th Lunar Mansion in various sources and saw that it has a malefic influence over ships and sea-men, confirming the spirit’s nature.

I received some advice from the spirit concerning how to further awaken the spiritual senses and utilize their discernment. Shortly afterwards, I thanked him and he departed. I was and remain greatly pleased that the experiment was not only successful, but that I was able to confirm for myself that the 12th Mansion is the most appropriate for the conjuration of its lunar dragon. Since I have his name, I definitely plan on calling this particular spirit in future 12th Mansions to ask further questions.

A Simple Conjuration of Oberon

Recently, I performed a conjuration of Oberon whose structure was based on three major manuscript sources. This ritual’s performance was timely, coming fresh off the back of Dan Harm’s new Llewellyn publication Of Angels, Demons & Spirits in which we find some fairy content I plan on reviewing soon.

Oberon is a fairly well known figure in early modern British occultism, especially from the 16th Century and onwards. We see him pop up in negromantic experiments from the Folger Manuscript/Book of Oberon, the Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet, and we even find mention of him in the publications of Robert-Cross-Smith. Rather than his appearance in numerous negromantic texts, he is better known to most people as the King of the Faeries from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

It is unclear how much of a relationship there is between the literary Oberon (who may also be drawn from preceding folklore) and the Oberon of magical manuscripts. Oberon in our magical texts is generally ambivalent at best in character, seemingly fitting into the infernal hierarchies given how often we find him mentioned in spirit lists of infernal and demonic beings. Similarly, in the Folger Manuscript, he is bound with conjurations similar to those used for other Demonic Kings. This is in stark contrast to other operations for faery spirits, such as the one contained in E.Mus 173 (published as Of Angels, Demons & Spirits) and Faust’s Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis‘ Operation of the Pygmies—wherein a Table is set for the spirits alongside offerings of fine breads, as well as sacrifices (such as a dove torn in half). With that being said, rituals for faery spirits are not always gentle in approach, and more aggressive examples are just as common, as we see in numerous workings to call the Queen of Faeries, Sybilia.

That being said, we do find some less baleful operations of Oberon, in particular the operation in Arthur Gauntlet and also from the French text Wellcome MS 4669 (published as A Collection of Magical Secrets by Paul Harry Baron). In the case of the latter, it is even explicitly stated that no circle is required for the operation. I’ve also found a form of this ceremony in Wellcome MS.110, as you can see in the image below, and it is these three variations of the same operation that I based my own experiment on.

The Character of Oberon, from Wellcome MS.110, (The Thesaurus Spirituum of Roger Bacon).

The ritual itself was relatively simple to perform. The method that I used diverged from the originals in some respects, though the chief elements were still present. The first step in all three variants is to draw the image of Oberon with his name and seal above his head on a silver or lead plate during the day and hour of the moon when she is waxing. You must then engrave the names and characters of the two (solar and lunar) thwarting angels of Oberon, Scorax and Carmelion, and utter a brief conjuration, bidding them to move the king and cause him to appear before you when you formally call him. I fumigated their seals and performed the conjuration of the two thwarting angels three times during the day, and once at night.

Once this is done, it is necessary to engrave the seals of Oberon’s two advisers—Kaberion, who partakes of the nature of Mars; and Severion, who partakes of the nature of Mercury—in their respective planetary day and hour. The conjuration for these spirits is relatively brief. The purpose is to bind them as you draw their seal, so that they will advise and council their lord Oberon to appear before you when you perform his own conjuration. These incantations are similarly carried out three times each day and once at night as was done before with the angels.

Each time I fumigated Kaberion, I felt a powerful, hot, and aggressive sensation stirring within me. Severion felt less intense in comparison, which I think is understandable given that Kaberion’s nature is Martial. Throughout these conjurations and their accompanying flashes of the spirits’ natures, I came to suspect that Kaberion is perhaps the military adviser of Oberon, his general and commander, whilst Severion acts more as a chancellor or diplomatic adviser.

Finally, the day of the operation came; or so I thought. Pre-ritual consultation with my own spirits indicated that it would be better to perform the operation on a Friday—the day of Venus—as it would be during this time that the King would be more amicable to work with. As such, I waited until the next available Friday to begin the conjuration.

I began the ritual with the standard lighting of candles and fumigations, consecrating them in the manner I am accustomed. I followed this up by calling on my personal spirits to assist me; in particular, my own Good Angel. I then placed my hand over a Pleiades talisman I had elected and consecrated, which is said to draw demons, spirits, and the dead to the conjurer—and also to improve the light in the eyes. I charged the talisman to draw Oberon to me, and then finally I began the ritual proper. I spoke the conjuration I had prepared over the figure of the spirit with its seals, appealing to Oberon, his thwarting angels, and his two councilors that he would appear before me within the crystal. While I was not using a circle, I had prepared a number of Solomonic Pentacles, a consecrated Orthodox cross (gifted to me by Sfinga), my scourging rod, and other protective items in case the spirit became hostile towards me (such an occurrence was recounted in a Robert-Cross-Smith publication, the astrologer of the 19th Century). As the conjuration proceeded, I felt a powerful and intimidating presence fill the room. I could feel an intense spiritual force emanating from the crystal sphere as he arrived, filling the air through the medium of the incense. I greeted him with the following:

“Hail, O King! I greet you with an offering of incense befitting your rulership. I have called you here today by means of your angels and the words of your advisers, that I may make my compact with you and be familiar with you. May you make yourself visible!”

Following this, the overwhelming sensation of intimidation and dread softened (while still lingering in a lesser form), and the spirit finally physically appeared within the shewstone. I asked him various questions, made certain agreements, and successfully obtained a familiar from within his court. This was a spirit who could act as an intermediary between myself and the faery spirits, while also possessing various other powers I had specifically requested. After obtaining his name and seal, I inquired if there were any other protocols I should abide by in order to call forth the spirit, and one requirement was given: that I must be standing on the earth with bare feet when I conjure him.

Once I finished with my petitions and requests, it was time to seal the compact. The way this was done was quite interesting, as the spirit beckoned to his seal and indicated I should “shake his hand” by placing my own over it. Upon doing so, I gave the license to depart and bade the spirits farewell, pleased with their manifestations. The day after the agreement was made, I checked on the figure of Oberon which I had prepared and saw that it had acquired a waxy, physical signature beneath it.

The British Book of Spells & Charms, by Graham King (Review)

Since we began seeing each other, Sfinga and I decided that one of our Valentine’s day traditions would be exchanging books. This last one, I got her a copy of Stephen Skinner and David Rankine’s A Cunning Man’s Grimoire, and she gifted me the special edition of Graham King’s The British Book of Spells and Charms. Today, I would like to briefly review this wonderful little book which, in addition to being a thoughtful gift I treasure, is genuinely an excellent addition to any folk magic library.

Sfinga’s picture of her paperback with True Black Magic.

Published by the always-impressive Troy Books, the special edition is really a feast for the eyes, bound in red cloth with bronze foil backing, the cover graced with a Mars talisman; my preferred planetary power of choice. The binding is tight and the paper quality superb. A quick flip-through reveals numerous illustrations and photographs from Cecil Williamson’s collection from the Museum of Witchcraft. Needless to say, I was in love with the little book as soon as I first laid eyes on it, and fortunately the material inside did not disappoint.

The text opens with the classic charm: “Rain rain, go away, come again another day”—which I can still to this day remember being taught in English Nursery school—flanking an upturned horseshoe. The introduction reflects on the fiercely syncretic and non-discriminatory nature of folk magic, which devours any source it finds and attunes them to the needs of the user. The analysis in this section was particularly thought provoking for me, especially when I began to mentally compare this fluidity within folk magic with the staunch conservatism of early modern ritual magic. As is the case for the entire book, the writing is littered with colourful illustrations and quality photographs from the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall.

The book moves on after the introduction to a collection of typical protection and good-luck charms. The one that struck me the most was the example of the more recent “Fums Up” charms, which you can see in the image above. These were apparently common during the First World War, carried by soldiers who were often gifted them by their lovers for luck. Sea urchin fossils/Faery Loaves, thunder-stones, hag stones, witch bottles, and all sorts of other artifacts are included in the chapter. I think it is perhaps this section of the book that most British people, including those who do not practice magic, would be familiar with, as we encounter the horseshoes and rowan crosses so closely tied to British folk-ways.

We also see a considerable number of verbal and written charms throughout the book, which are, alongside the illustrations, one of its biggest selling points as a reference text. Many of them were already fairly well-known to me, such as Isobel Gowdie’s “The Muckle maister Deil tak what’s atween dis twa hands!” and the numerous variations on the classic “three ladies” or “three angels” anti-burn charm, such as:

“There were three angels flying over the West
One cried Fire, the other cried Frost
The other was the Holy Ghost
Out fire, in Frost, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”

Other charms however were rarer, including some I have never seen before. In particular, the charms from Cecil Williamson’s personal collection include a number of very interesting exemplars; most notable perhaps being anti-Hitler sorceries from the 1940s. One fairly humerous example is that of a Hitler-themed pin cushion, used to afflict the dictator with all manner of ills. This fascinating example of effigy magic deployed for political purposes is quite evocative of the survival of the practical, folk magic mindset well into the Second World War, despite their otherwise widespread erosion.

The rest of the text is divided into a number of different sections, with examples of love divinations and spells, curses and healing techniques, and even magical folk-songs and dances. Each of these sections is filled with a considerable number of different charms, which are thankfully meticulously sourced in the footnotes. The sheer number of examples, in addition to their thorough cataloging, makes this work invaluable as a reference text for British folk magic, allowing us track down any that particularly catch our fancy. Another example that stuck out to me is that of a mole’s foot in a red bag, hung over the mantle. When a member of the household comes to suffer from a toothache, the bag is retrieved and worn around the neck until the pain is healed. In the final section, a “Magical Medley” of miscellaneous spells, there is even a short technique to ensure that your child will be a talented singer: all that is needed is to bury their first nail-parings under an ash tree and they will be granted the gift of song.

This little text is truly quite dear to me, both as a gift and as a reference work on one of my favourite topics of study. It is a fine collection of folk magic practices and techniques, full of historical curiosities and practical inspiration for my craft. I can’t pretend I’m not currently looking around for my own little “Fums Up!” figure as well! You can pick up your own copy in the numerous editions available on the Troy books website.

Doctor Faust’s Mightiest Sea Spirit (Review)

The Faustian genre of early modern literary ritual magic is a particular passion of mine, and has long been my preferred family of early modern magical texts. Staying true to the tradition of pseudonymous authors, these texts present a fascinating family of ritual magic approaches and methodologies, with surprising variety in technique. As such, I will be regularly reviewing texts relating to Faust, and the “Faustian Tradition”—whether those texts are translations of primary source material, academic monographs and studies on the figure of Faust, or analysis of the literary tradition and folklore that sprung from him. Today, I will be looking at the fascinating Doctor Faust’s Mightiest Sea Spirit, published by Enodia Press.

This book is a great example of what I love about the Faustian genre. Each of the selected texts that are translated within the book has about it a unique feel, and an explicit purpose that Nicolás Álvarez, the translator, brings together with impressive zeal.

Photo credits: Sfinga.

The binding of the book is excellent. I’m not a professional binder (though I’d love to learn the art one day) and I generally tend not to be too hung up on the editions of my texts. But there is something to be said about a beautiful production and this book certainly fulfills that criteria. The deep blue colour contrasts nicely with the silver lettering on the spine of the book, as well as the silver magic circle from one of the translations on the front cover. I’m not always keen on the choices Enodia makes when it comes to the images they affix to the front covers of their publications, however this particular one is beautiful and elegant. The design choices make for an attractive book, and the quality of the binding is more than satisfactory.

As for the contents of the book, we begin with Nicolás’ introduction in which he briefly details the history of the texts he has translated while also touching on the general history and character of the Faustian tradition. Where the introduction shines, however, is in its commentary regarding Sea Spirits and Early Modern German demonology, as well as their connection with spirits from other texts, particularly the devils of Weyer’s Pseudomonarchia Daemonum. Nicolás shows his broad knowledge of ritual magic texts here, carefully drawing connections and ties between shared literary lineages without being overzealous in doing so, as some modern authors are wont to do.

The next part of the introduction features an assessment of the ritual itself contained in the Meergeist. It begins by discussing the faculty of imagination in early modern magical practice, citing Dr. Elizabeth Butler (author of Ritual Magic and Fortunes of Faust) on the fascinating influence of the imagination as it pertains to our text. He then summarizes the theories of a number of early modern and medieval occult authors and natural philosophers on the role of imagination as a spiritual faculty. While I don’t necessarily fully agree with the conclusions that Nicolás reaches here as far as imagination being the chief faculty by which spirit contact occurs, he backs up his argument with primary source material and presents his perspective with erudition.

Once the “Inner Ritual” has been discussed the author moves on to the “Outer Ritual”, or the part of the procedure which would be more familiar to readers of early modern magical texts. The analysis of the ritual is concrete, referencing what about it is unique while also drawing parallels to other magical texts.

After the introduction, the main translation of the Meergeist is given, and it is here that the real bounty of the book begins. The text provides instructions for the conjuration of Lucifer and a number of his chief demonic vassals, in order that the magician may coerce him to bring treasure from out of the sea and into his hands. Where the ritual diverges from the standard procedures of its genres is in the literal dialogue between the magician and the spirit. This moment is somewhat reminiscent of the Greek Magical Papyri spells in which the God brings other spirits to feast and converse with the magician. In a similar manner, the magician converses with Lucifer and his Officers, making his demands. I won’t spoil the dialogue itself, but it was certainly a fascinating read. Not only that, but the descriptions of the vision evoke a sense of infernal beauty and terror. It reads almost like a horror novel, as a seven headed serpent is described to “arise to taste the constant demeanor of he who requests treasures,” while brimstone burns against the backdrop of a ghostly ship manifesting.

That being said, the practicality of the ritual itself makes it difficult to perform. Numerous magicians are required to be present, wearing different coloured clothing. While this may be simple enough, the materia can easily pose a challenge. The operation requires three gallows’ chains and the nails from a breaking wheel (a torture device) that have “sliced through the skin of someone broken [on it]”. I am not someone who balks at hunting for rare materia in the slightest, but this particular requirement makes performing the operation difficult to say the least. Naturally, I’m sure one would be able to ask their spirit allies to facilitate their acquisition of these nails, both monetarily as well as in the practical search.

After the Meergeist, we move on to the translation of Darmstadt MS 831, or the Conjuration and Call of the Sea Spirit Quirumandani. This is my personal favourite part of the text, and it has never before been previously published. There is, according to the author, no information on this text that has been published so far, with the only mention of the spirit Quirumandani being a brief comment on a paper-strip in possession of the Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek.

The actual ritual process of this text is fairly short and simplistic. A basic circle is given, and the ritual instructions are not overly complicated. Certainly it is a ritual that is more than doable, and I do intend to perform it at some point. The function of the operation is to obtain a Familiar Spirit who will protect and teach the magician. The nature of this spirit, or rather its attitude towards the conjurer, is never explicitly stated outside of the fact that it is a Spirit of the Sea who appears in the form of an old, grey man. But given that the spirit is told to protect the one who it pacts with, it seems at the very least ambivalent rather than outright malefic as many spirits of Faustian ritual magic texts tend to be.

There are many things which I love about this text, including the ritual techniques wherein the magician literally stands upon the spirits’ seals in order to subjugate him. The use of a sea shell, to which the spirit is bound, is also a fascinating technique and one I look forward to exploring in my own magical practice when I finally get to engage with this spirit. It also gives details of the particular method in which one makes the pact with the spirit, something that the Faustian genre of magical texts certainly does well. (Magia Naturalis also contains detailed descriptions of how the pacts are formed).

The next text that is translated for us is the Veritable Jesuit Coercion of Hell. This text is similar in nature to the Verus Jesuitarum Libellus (which may be found here on Esoteric Archives) in that it chiefly consists of a long conjuration to be performed in order to obtain treasure—in this case, from the sea. This relationship to the True Petition of the Jesuits is mentioned by Nicolás in the introduction to the translation. The author notes that the circle given in the English translation is his interpretation of a poorly drawn original; however the original circle is fortunately still given in Appendix II of the German version. It is a relatively straight-forward and brief text and feels somewhat out of place when compared with the unique elements of the others within the book. That said, I really am just so pleased that we are getting translations in the first place, and the simplicity of this ritual is an appeal in and of itself for those who prefer such ceremonies.

The final translation is the Arcanum Experientia Praetiosum. Due to the lack of connection to Sea Spirits or Sea Treasure this text is in the appendix rather than being its own chapter. However, its contents are a rare example of ritual magic dream incubation, much like the “Operation to bring three ladies” to your room in the Verum/Grimoire of Pope Honorious. As such, it is a welcome addition to the host of magical texts in the English language and an experiment I look forward to attempting.

There are two versions of this text, one with a specific spirit as the target and the other as a general operation. Both versions are thankfully provided, so as to give us a complete picture. The ritual method given is simple, and in the first the seal of the spirit is provided along with his number of legions and rank (prince) while the second is intended to be used with any spirit. The spirit is then conjured, and his seal hung from the window and lashed in order to subjugate him. The ritual implies, as Nicolás points out, that the spirits should then appear in the dreams of the magician following the successful operation.

The final part of the appendix is a transcript of the original German texts. This is valuable for those who can read the language (like a certain Sfinga can) though sadly I myself don’t speak it, so I cannot yet comment on this part of the book.

In conclusion, this text is an excellent addition to any magician’s bookshelf, and Enodia Press has done an outstanding job in bringing this to the wider occult community. This edition is limited to 500 copies and can be purchased on the Enodia Press website.