Dinner for Two & the Grimoires

It’s easy to view the grimoires as being very staid, very dry, very mechanistic. I would say that, while my experience is admittedly quite limited compared to many folks, I have found that getting the goetic spirits’ attention isn’t hard per se. What is harder is noticing the spirits’ presence and perceiving them well enough that you can engage with them.

Along these lines, in their introduction to The Goetia of Dr. Rudd, Stephen Skinner and David Rankine observe that

time should be given to see if the atmosphere has changed or any signs of a presence has been vouchsafed. It is the job of the assistants to keep a watchful eye for indications like an apparent drop in temperature, a change in the light, changes in the incense stratification, unaccountable noises, or similar signs that something is attempting to arrive.[1]

In hindsight, I have observed such during conjuration, for Birto and for other spirits. With Birto, I observed the incense doing things that I hadn’t seen it do at any other time I’ve ever burned incense. I have also observed the “elastic band” effect after issuing a license to depart, for me often seeming like a whoosh as the spirit suddenly gets the fuck out of wherever I am.[2]

I have also had quite interesting dreams after evocation attempts that reflect advice about Solomonic evocation, wherein you will likely have dreaming about the spirits in question. With the first attempt to conjure Birto, I recall quite unique dreams about “horses” (which were really dragons with a pale blue glow about them) appearing to me in my dreams.

So, getting the attention of the spirits hasn’t been a problem. With some spirits—and indeed, with spirits who are rather highly placed in the hierarchies involved—I have had rather great responses. But for other spirits, like Birto but also other, less royal spirits, I have had a harder time getting them to agree to do the things I want them to do.

In the Solomonic tradition, the solution is to deploy the “Conjuration of Fire” against them. This conjuration runs as follows in the Lesser Key:

Now o thou spirit N. since thou art still pertonalius [pernicious] and disobedient and will not appeare unto me to answer to such things as I shoulde have desiered of you or would have been satisfied in &c, I doe in the name and by the power and dignity of the omnipotent Immortall Lord god of host Jehovah Tetragrammaton, The only creator of heaven Earth and hell and all that in them is who is the marvellious disposser of all things both visible and Invisible Curse you and deprive you from all your offices Joy and place and do bind the [thee] in the debtts [depths] of ye Bottomless Pitt, There to remaine untill the day of the last Judgement; I say into the lake of Fire & Brimstone which is prepared for all rebellious disobedient obstinate & pertinacious [pernicious] spirits, let all the Holy company of heaven curse thee, The , and starrs, the light and all ye hoste of heaven Curse thee, I curse thee into the fire unquenchable, & torments unspeakable, and as thy name and seal is contained in this box, chained and bound up and shal be choacked in sulphurous & stincking substance and burnt in this material fire, so I in the name Jehovah, and by the power and dignity of these three names Tetragrammaton, Anaphexeton, & Primeumaton, cast thee, o thou disobediant spirit N. into that lake of fire which is prepared for thee damned and cursed spirits and there to remain untill the day of doome and never more to be remembered of before the face of god wch shall come to Judge the quick and the dead and the world by fire.

Here the Exorcist must put the box into the fire and by and by he will come. But as soone as he is come quickly quench the fire that the Box is in and make a sweet perfume and give him a kind entertainment shewing him the pentacle that is at ye bottom of ye vesture covered with linnen cloath, saying…

The thing is, I don’t have a good threat to pull here. You see, the spirits will come, but it’s not like I can put their seals into the fire. Firstly, the seals I’m using are, well, paper. Secondly, I don’t want to set off the smoke detectors in the flat I live in. So, about all I can do is see what terms the spirit is willing to offer, but they know they can just sorta fuck off to a good degree. The Lesser Key and The Goetia of Dr. Rudd point to metallic seals, but I will tell you now that I’m not going to etch anyone’s seal into a disc of gold or silver or any other metal that I’m willing to set on fire.

If I had the money for a gold or silver disc to make a seal from, well, then I wouldn’t need to conjure up Bune, now would I?

So, I started pondering, what can I threaten instead? It’s easy to frame things in terms of “Oh you stupid woman, why are you trying to coerce these poor spirits into doing your dirty will?” Well, it’s because they won’t do it otherwise, and having to coerce the spirits is ancient as a conserved practice. It seems spirits are often lacking in fucks to give for people living on Earth. But, for many spirits, I need an alternative, and the alternative I considered also puts me in mind of seeing and noticing the spirits in the first place.

The Hygromanteia is an older grimoire, dating to before the Lesser Key and its variations. It comes at some intermediate point between the Greek Magical Papyrus and the Lesser Key. And rather than a Conjuration of Fire, it includes a couple of interesting alternatives. The Hygromanteia likes its visionary and feasting-based conjurations. For example:

…Let there be a public road inside [the magic mirror]. And let the lame horseman, the cook, come.

Cook, my magister commands you to send your servant up to the highest mountain, from wherever he may be, in order to bring three lambs.

Cook, my magister command you to slaughter them, flay them, collect their blood in a silver cup, drink it and rejoice.

Cook, I order you to bring golden seats, a table, a tablecloth, silver cups, fine bread, fine wine, and place them on the table to be ready.

Cook, my magister commands you to cut them in pieces, cook some of them and grill the others quickly. Let [the spirits in question the magister seeks] come together with her people. Let them take their seats, eat, drink and rejoice.[3]

In another operation, but a very much related operation, an actual feast is laid out for a spirit, and the spirit is given no chance to prove recalcitrant, for the magician does the following:

I conjure you, [spirit], do not defecate, do not urinate, until you tell me the whole truth in whatever I will ask you.

Do this three times with the knife, around the table. And when you finish the three circles, thrust the knife into the table and recite the following:

I nail you here, [spirit]…[4]

Now, several things occur to me. On the one hand, I see what appears to be a version of the Conjuration of Fire but based upon binding the bowels of a spirit. I can do that. (I immediately had the intuition of a red leather cord knotted thrice as the above is spoken thrice.) But I also note the Hygromanteia has a very visionary mode to its conjurations.

In general, the Hygromanteia’s “divinatory” or “scrying” operations rely upon a young male seer:

…take a virgin boy….Let the boy kneel…his head being uncovered. Cover his head with a red cloth.[5]

The use of a young virginal seer—often the magician’s apprentice—is well-attested in older traditions, and Jake Stratton-Kent points to similar practices in “The Art Armadel” chapter of The True Grimoire.[6] Indeed, John Dee relied on similarly-gifted scryers in his own spirit work, especially Edward Kelley in the end.

Now, what struck me as I considered the binding of the bowels as an alternative to the Conjuration of Fire was how the Hygromanteia reads very much like a guided meditation as the magician guides what the seer should be seeing:

…Let there be a public road inside [the magic mirror]. And let the lame horseman, the cook, come.

Now, as someone who’s done some amount of journeying and active imagination work of late that has yielded some very important results, this rather visionary method got my attention on a new reading. JSK points to this, as well:

The other form, known in the [Greek Magical] Papyri as direct vision, is performed alone; the magician being assumed to have the necessary skills to work as both seer and conjuror. Some ancient forms of the rite, while describing the former approach, stipulate that the direct vision approach can be used instead. There are parallels in the grimoires where one text describes the use of a seer, and another grimoire describes a variant of the same rite performed solo[7]

It occurred to me that what the Hygromanteia offers is a scene that the magician and seer imagine, project, and most importantly here, fashion, and they lure a spirit or spirits to participate in the vision. The feast in question is real within the imaginal realm that the spirit can access. Indeed, operant magicians should consider such “imaginal” “stuff” to be real enough, if they’re dealing with spirits in the first place.

So, I started imagining an adaptation of The Goetia of Dr. Rudd in which one works to summon the spirit in question into a scrying apparatus (I have an obsidian mirror), and what if one envisions/imagines a festal scene—in essence, an offering to the spirit in addition to whatever one offers in the material realm (frankincense is what I usually offer)? And what if this spirit, upon proving recalcitrant, were to have its bowels bound rather than being subject to the Conjuration of Fire:

I conjure you, N., do not defecate, do not urinate, until you submit to me in whatever I will ask you.

I knot you here, N.

I imagine tying a knot in a red leather cord thrice as this is said, only to be released upon the spirit’s acquiescence.

I also imagine, rather than a Conjuration of Fire, a Conjuration of Earth or Water; rather than casting the spirit’s seal into flame, casting it into a consecrated container of salt, of dragon’s blood resin, and of…something else? (One idea a colleague [ahem, “Delicious Brian,” by the way] proffered has been holy water, but I’m planning on using flashing colors and cardstock for seals because I can’t afford gold discs with seals on them for Kings—so…something dryer might work better. Perhaps rosemary or St. John’s Wort or something similarly unpleasant for these beings within the Solomonic frame.)

From one perspective, I’m talking about waterboarding (with holy water) or burying (with salt, etc.) goetic spirits/demons, rather than burning them. But, well, I definitely treat my friends better. And, as noted, coercing spirits is ancient and well conserved across the human timeline.

From another perspective, I also note that the Hygromanteia points to a rather visionary mode of working with spirits: you are literally imagining a scene in which the spirit is lured into. And the fact that the Hygromanteia is as visionary as it seems to be makes me wonder about the later Solomonic tradition, including the Lesser Key. If one must, as Julio Ody argues, conjure the spirits to appearance in order to bind them, then can I make that process easier by imag-ining the spirits—by calling their appearance to mind?

Alkistis Dimech pointed to this reality in a recent appearance on Rune Soup as she discussed Scarlet Imprint’s forthcoming Jinn Sorcery release, explicitly pointing to calling the spirits to “appearance” in the mind’s eye.

This has me ponder the “mechanics” of the Solomonic method and whether one should visualize the spirits forth—or at least keep the spirit’s images in mind as one works with their seals and their usual descriptions. After all, these seals are in many cases well conserved, as is their descriptions via the various iterations of the Offices of Spirits.[8]

That is, the Hygromanteiac method with its “guided” visionary approach may be a cue for working with the later grimoires. As you conjure your spirits, pay attention for the signs, but also imagine the spirit there. Imagine the spirit’s presence and appearance. Do so until the image in your “mind’s eye” takes on a life of its own, at which point you are probably dealing with some spirit. That’s when you interrogate it and determine its provenance.

In accomplishing this task, plant allies may be useful, but I also wonder about imagining spirits showing up at your site of working. Enter into a meditative and reflective, very much daydreaming state of mind, and imagine—What if Astaroth were standing right there in the doorway? What I would feel? What would her presence feel like? What would I smell? It’s a bit like trying to scare yourself by telling scary stories and imagining weird, uncanny events. What if Slender Man were here right now? How would I feel?

If you’re like me, that puts me into a rather advantageous mindset and entanglement with the imaginal for spirit contact.

At which point, other than “spamming” a conjuration over and over again until you attain a supposed full “appearance,” you work until the spirit is fucking there, and you can feel/see/experience the spirit. (Actually, that’s probably part of the point of repeating the conjuration over and over again—or one hopes.) And then you communicate with the spirit. And if necessary, you coerce the spirit.

“Set and setting” and creating a space “conducive” to the spirit also helps in this regard because it also helps you in this regard. And it’s probably one reason why conjuring in the wilderness was often prescribed: you’re far more likely to believe and accept a spirit has arrived away from civilization, when you’re by yourself and there might be a demon/daimon/spirit present in the middle of nowhere.

Featured Image: schuetz-mediendesign | Pixabay

[1] Stephen Skinner and David Rankine, editors, introduction to The Goetia of Dr. Rudd: Lemegeton Clavicular Salomonis including Ars Almandel, Ars Paulina, Theurgia-Goetia, Liber Malorum Spiritum seu (Singapore: Golden Hoard, 2017), 92.

[2] Ibid, 94.

[3] Ioannis Marathakis, translator and editor, The Magical Treatise of Solomon or Hygromanteia (Singapore: Golden Hoard, 2011), 128.

[4] Ibid, 119.

[5] Ibid, 117.

[6] Jake Stratton-Kent, “The Art Armadel” in The True Grimoire (Kindle location 413), Scarlet Imprint.

[7] Ibid, Kindle location 434-7.

[8] I can’t find the reference at the moment, but I believe Peter Grey has pointed to Vassago’s seal dating back to the Roman period at least—or, at least, that Grey saw a presentation at one conference that noted Vassago’s seal being so conserved in time. I welcome being corrected in this regard.

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