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.

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.

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.