Presenting part 6 of 8 of our series on Conjuration and Spirit magic for beginners. Today we'll talk about what most people think of when we think conjuration, the act of conjuring angels and demons. Last week we posted a series of book recommendations and information on setting up a devotional practice to develop support in the spirit world. Monday we introduced scrying, Tuesday conjuring the elementals, yesterday we talked about intermediary and crossroads spirits. So please like us on Facebook, and share the post with your friends so that can enjoy it as well.
Beginning Conjuration and Spirit Magic pt 6: Angels and Demons
We've discussed in the last few posts working with devotional relationships with spirits, intermediary and crossroads spirits, and elemental spirits. Most people when they think about conjuring spirits are expecting to conjure demons, maybe angels. The most famous text for summoning spirits in modern magic is probably the Goetia of Solomon which is largely a collection of demon descriptions and seals. If we look at medieval and renaissance books of magic however we find that that is a pretty incomplete picture. The Goetia of Solomon is part of the Lemegeton which through its various books treats subjects including demons, angels of the zodiac, angels of the hours of the day, and aerial spirits who are of a mixed nature...or...spirits who exist in the elemental world being neither angels nor demons. Dr. Rudd presents a variety of different types of spirits beyond angels and demons in his work, the Folger Manuscript, and Scott's Discovery of Witchcraft address conjuring faeries, Scott also discusses conjuring the dead. Various grimoires deal with an array of spirits, but we're going to start with angels and demons in this post and then look to the dead and then to faeries in the next two.
In the middle ages conjuration of angels was not always a form of necromancy or illicit magic. To be clear necromancy in medieval magic did not necessarily refer to conjuring the dead but to nigromancy or black magic. Any magic outside of the bounds of of legal activities for good church folks was interchangeably referred to as such. Natural magic was not necessarily against the rules because it dealt with features which were viewed as being within God's control, or his structuring of nature. Applying the magical faculties which God wrote into the plants, stones, and natural phenomena of the world, and the powers he gave to the creatures he made to tend to them, which possibly included faeries or angels depending upon the thoughts of the time. We often think of angels as expressly celestial but Dionysius the Areopagite in his Celestial Hierarchy divided the hierarchy of angels into two prior to dividing out the hierarchy of Seraphim, Cherubim, and the rest. There are angels who are purely celestial and serve at the throne of God exclusively, and angels which act in the world to perform the divine will.
So to work with angels whom God has set to act in the world could at times be viewed as a natural act, working within rather than subverting the natural order of the world as God has set it forth. With this in mind angels could be called through simple prayers without the need of seals and signs, protective circles and magical hours and the tools and trappings of the ceremonial magician. According to Kieckhefer in Forbidden Rites allowing magical trappings to creep into work with angels when otherwise simple prayers would do might lead to suspicion of necromancy.
We don't see a lot of magical books which treat angels in this fashion though. The Arbatel is probably the closest as it is essentially just a prayer that calls the Olympic spirits, but seals are still given and the angels are explained in a magical context. The Abramelin dispenses with a lot of the trappings of ceremonial magic and criticizes them thoroughly, instead insisting that prayer, reflection, and purifications are all that are needed to call an angel. Once you've called the angel you can use the angel to call demons and those demons can then be commanded by a series of magical squares. This is reminiscent of some early Jewish magical descriptions, but they're not quite in the realm of licit angel magic. The closest example that a modern person might see would be something like the prayers referencing the Guardian Angel, or St. Michael in things like the Roman Ritual or the Raccolta. We see something more practical and personal in prayer candles dealing with these same angels in the Catholic prayer candles.
These can be used with other various magical practices that we might associate with sorcery or hoodoo to draw the influence or added benefit of working with angels. But say we want something that is a little more directly in line with conjuration and ceremonial magic, or perhaps we want something that creates a more direct contact with the angels or spirits with whom we wish to work. The Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals which was presented by Francis Barrett in The Magus and credited to John of Trittenheim – the Abbot of Sponheim who possessed at one point one of the greatest libraries amongst the clerics of Europe and who wrote other works related to magic and is credited as an influence on Agrippa and Paracelsus (John Von T was pretty awesome if you can't tell); is an excellent and simple means of conjuring spirits which is basically a method of working with angels by way of prayer combined with a few simple tools, essentially a table and a scrying device.
The magician sets up his table, places upon it his scrying device, and during the appropriate planetary hour makes a few prayers. Once the angel arrives, he questions the angel to confirm its identity and learn whatever he needs to learn, and then perhaps asks for the angel to accomplish his task. The description in Trithemius gets more detailed around the specifics, but you could keep it pretty simple and still make the method work. Reginald Scott for instance gives instructions for drawing a spirit into a crystal with very minimal instruction. In fact in Scott's version there are two prayers and a crystal and nothing else. Otherwise in the text he notes some seals which must be used for all conjurations and one may assume they are involved. Ebeneezer Sibley notes the use of the same seals in his work which also involves crystallomancy. But that's not really a big coincidence, he would have likely been influenced by Scott and other texts of the same literary current. Further, texts referencing crystallomancy having overlap isn't a big deal because most spirit work involves crystallomancy traditionally. Even the Lemegeton treats it as if one should assume the use of a crystal or other scrying device. The ubiquity of this would, to me, suggest some special efficacy that crystals and glass and other similar scrying devices have which makes it easier for spirits to manifest. So the scrying tool is an important part of this system, but successes of contemporary practitioners demonstrates that while a crystal is recommended and a glass vessel is common, a bowl of water can work as well.
The magician's table is another significant part of Trithemius's system. The table has three concentric circles, with a triangle in the center. The outer ring is planetary and the inner ring is elemental. In the outer ring are the seven planetary angels and their seals in the inner ring are the four terrestrial kings we mentioned in yesterday's post. I tend to think of the table as being an array designed to focus the forces of manifestation which allows for the formation of the nexus space needed to interact with spirits. Circles are symbols of infinity, and triangles are symbols of manifestation and interaction. The seven angels rule the forces which orchestrate creation, the four kings rule the elements which form the world of creation and its substance. The kings specifically allow the influence of spiritual forces into the world.
The sphere itself sits in a holder which has the name of the four archangels who rule the directions. This again connects to manifesting forces into the world. Years ago Rufus Opus used to call his table of practice a “manifestation engine.” This nick-name wasn't inaccurate. The overall structure of the tools given in Trithemius are thoroughly arranged for the purpose of manifesting spiritual forces. Some magicians have noted that the use of the four kings on the table allows the table to be used for manifesting both angelic and demonic forces. This is a reasonable assertion since the four kings represent a central point in an axis of forces.
Again, even though Trithemius's system has tools designed to make the system work, I've worked with angels without the table using similar crystallomancy techniques and have had success. But I've also found that Trithemius's tools keep the visionary experience focused and centered spatially. I've known other magician's who've done it with an unmarked table and a bowl of water. Tools have power, tools create certain effect, but there are lots of ways to work. You can use different approaches and the results will differ, but that doesn't mean you won't get results just because you aren't using precisely the system.
I find the results I get when working with the Greater Key, or the results I get from the Heptameron, or when working with the Merkavah are different from those I get when working with Trithemius. Not that one type of result is better or worse for practical work, but rather that the way spirits interact differs based on the way they are called or the way we attempt to interact with them.
You could work with both angels and demons, and perhaps other kinds of spirits, using the method given in Trithemius's Arte of DrawingSpirits into Crystals. There are several spirits which illustrate that some elements of our categorizing spirits on one side of a line or another is a bit nebulous and not necessarily an absolute divide. Some methods in grimoires look like they're clearly designed for demons but people use them for angels, or for aerial spirits, and they still get results. So as a means for getting started I recommend working with Trithemius. You can use it regardless of the type of spirit. The books listed in part 1 of this series will provide you with detailed and more robust rituals structures for conjuring spirits. These books will also give you catalogues of spirits and their seals.
So, for conjuring angels and demons, while we don't need to get too thorough with dividing methods we should keep in mind which spirits we're dealing with and what roles their characteristics and personalities play in determining how we interact with them. For some spirits you might want a more controlled method with a little more space between you and the spirit. Working with a spirit through crystallomancy can be pretty intimate. Cordoning off the spirit in a triangle can make for an interaction which retains some more distinction and space between the conjurer and the spirit. Angels might not need to be bound and constricted by divine names, demons might need to be managed with the help of an angel. Your apprehension of these spirits and their natures will determine to some degree what measures you think are necessary or not necessary. Several skilled magicians who work with spirits, and recognize the spirits as real, have different perspectives on how we should treat and how we should understand the spirits.
In my experience, the difficulty people have with angels is that they want you to fix things in your life. They will help you but they want to position their aid in a way which propels you forward or they want you to take some of their advice along with their help. They are also good for conveying power, conveying information, and teaching things, and they can accomplish manifesting stuff in the world, but it's not necessarily always their main focus. Demons can get stuff done. They can create powerful manifest changes in the world, and they don't care much about fixing you. Sometimes they might want you to focus on enjoying yourself or what you want. When left unchecked though they can be chaotic and destructive, and will continue pushing at whatever task they're working on even if it pushes it too an extreme, particularly if that extreme breaks things down or serves other things the demon does. Some of this is also dependent upon the demon. Several spirit catalogues suggests that not all “infernal” demons come about in the same way, not all of them behave in the same way either. So you'll want to consider the individual spirit somewhat as well, where they call in the hierarchy, what their description tells you about them.
Angels can be a good place to start to get comfortable. The Olympic Spirits as described in the Arbatel in particular are a good place to start. Sometime in the next few months we'll be running a series in this blog focused on them in addition to releasing a pretty thorough examination of them in William Blake Lodge's publication Heaven and Hell. For now you can get the Arte of Drawing Spirits into Crystals and further descriptions of how to use the text at my site on grimoiric magic.
For comparison, here are the instructions for crystallomancy from Reginald Scott:
No instructions are given aside from the conjurations. But one can assume that a table is set with a scrying device. The device should be consecrated to its purpose. Preliminary prayers made to align you with the powers by which you will conjure the spirit. Your temple or altar should be set based on whatever structure is suited to your style of work. Personally I would set a candle for each element and one for the divine presence, perhaps also one for the spirit summoned, and I would set incense as well.
Scott gives these two prayers as his full description of how to summon a spirit into a crystal.
“I do conjure you N. by the Father, and the Son, and the Holy-Ghost, who is the beginning and the ending, the first and the last, and by the latter day of judgment, that you N. do appear, in this crystal stone, or any other instrument, at my pleasure, to me and to my fellow, gently and beautifully, in fair form of a boy of twelve years of age, without hurt or damage of any of our bodies or souls; and certainly to inform and to shew me, without any guile or craft, all that we do desire or demand of you to know, by the virtue of him, who shall come to judge the quick and the dead, and the world by fire, Amen.”
“Also I conjure and exorcise you N. by the sacrament of the altar, and by the substance thereof, by the wisdom of Christ, by the sea, and by his virtue, by the earth, & by all things that are above the earth, and by their virtues, by the and the by by and and by their virtues, by the apostles, martyrs, confessors, and the virgins and widows, and the chaste, and by all saints of men or of women, and innocents, and by their virtues, by all the angels and archangels, thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, virtues, cherubim, and seraphim, and by their virtues, & by the holy names of God, Tetragrammaton, El, Ousion, Agla, and by all the other holy names of God, and by their virtues, by the circumcision, passion, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the heavens of our lady the virgin, and by the joy which she had when she saw her son rise from death to life, that thou N. do appear in this crystal stone, or in any other instrument, at my pleasure, to me and to my fellow, gently, and beautifully, and visibly, in fair form of a child of twelve years of age, without hurt or damage of any of our bodies or souls, and truly to inform and show unto me & to my fellows, without fraud or guile, all things according to your oath and promise to me, whatsoever I shall demand or desire of you, without any hindrance or tarrying, and this conjuration be read of me three times, upon pain of eternal condemnation, to the last day of judgment: Fiat, fiat, fiat, Amen.”
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