Sphere + Sundry: Hermanubis Series (Review)

I took notice and became interested in Sphere + Sundry’s offerings in the same year I began experimenting with astrological talismans. At the time, one of my best friends, who goes by Hex, had begun studying scholastic image magic. Whenever he found an appropriate election, he would also message our friend group of magicians with the times for their respective cities and the general instructions for making the talismans. A few months later, Salt himself signed up for Christopher Warnock’s astrological magic course and he too joined in the hunt for elections. Over the course of the last year we’ve made an assortment of planetary and fixed star talismans using the appropriate metals and gemstones. While I am not currently studying the same art, being more immersed in other projects relating to my traditions of witchcraft, the grimoires I am procuring tools for, and my Quimbanda lineage, I have come to deeply respect and enjoy the power of astrological talismans in my practice. Their magic feels so clean and elevated it sings; bending reality around them to flow with the tides of that particular celestial moment they capture and eternally embody.

Run by Kaitlin and Austin Coppock, Sphere + Sundry create more than just your standard talismans. Their range of products include oils, candles, inks, hydrosol sprays, incenses, collaborations with perfumers, jewelers, and blacksmiths, and a host of other elected tools and materia all having been crafted to the strictest standards within the time frames allotted. Even the very bottling and packaging is carefully done within the right times, and the bottles and jars themselves are never branded. You can read more about their philosophy and approach at their website [here]. Both Salt and I have had nothing but excellent experiences with their work—in fact, part of my Christmas gifts for him last year involved a few of their Exalted Mars offerings in addition to a set of the seven pentacles of Mars in iron. The results he’s had with them in conjunction have been nothing short of remarkably powerful. As for myself, their main line I work with is their Hermanubis collection, of which I have almost a complete set. Given that they see such regular use, I thought I would offer a review of the line here for those interested in both the set itself and their products more broadly.

Before I get into the review proper, I wanted to briefly comment on Hermanubis himself. I first began engaging with the god two years ago, shortly before I read Gordon White’s The Chaos Protocols in which he is famously recommended. I was led to him by a cynocephalic spirit familiar Hekate had bestowed me, who referred to Hermanubis as one of his masters. Intrigued by the syncretized Hermes-Anubis psychopomp deity, I printed out a picture of his statue in the Vatican museum and set him up with a tealight and a glass of water in the corner of one of my necromantic working altars. Since then, his guidance and erudition have been the catalyst of some of the most important breakthroughs in my witchcraft, spirit work, and general understanding of magic. There is a distinct elegance, a celestial current flowing within the sea of the dead he shepherds, a starry overtone to his shadowed approach; a mercurial swiftness embedded within his darksome guidance. While there is no shortage of psychopomps and death-beings in my life, from St. Cyprian of Antioch, Veles, and Hekate to the Exus of my Quimbanda court, Hermanubis has a distinct and deeply valued place among my spirits and my attempts to further ingress his mysteries have yielded important sorcerous fruit.

As my relationship with him grew, so too did his shrine. The framed picture of his statue was soon replaced with figures of Hermes, Yinepu/Anubis, and a little figurine of Hermanubis from the Hachette “Gods of Ancient Egypt” series. I created the APHEROU (“way opener”) brass bowl for scrying and conjuring the dead using the instructions in The Chaos Protocols and set aside the usual space for candles, water, and food.

In purchasing the Hermanubis series from Sphere + Sundry, I was specifically interested in further cultivating the god’s presence in my life as well as having properly-enchanted materia on hand to bring his essence and power into other domains of spellcraft, sorcery, and spirit work. I am reviewing everything available in the series except for the beeswax candle.

Here is what they look like together out of the box. Inside the package was a bottle of Oil of Hermanubis, a bottle of Ink of Amenti in a 1/8 oz glass vial, a vial of Natron, some Way Opening Dead-Drawing Elixir in a 1/2 oz glass bottle, a bottle of Hermanubis Self-Igniting Incense, a 5″ Hermanubis statue in white, and the accompanying Opening of the Mouth and Eyes Ritual. As with all Sphere + Sundry shipments, they came packed with a few chocolates which were promptly devoured. No pictures/traces of evidence for those.

Let’s begin with the most immediately striking: the figurine. Its presence in the collection is owed to Oliver Laric’s Three D Scans, a project involving copyright-free 3D models of statues from various museums. Unless you commission your own or buy one of the Hachette figurines like I did, this is one of the only few actual statues of Hermanubis available. It’s a lightweight, 5″, standard 3D-printed figure that looks just like the Vatican museum statue. You have a choice of white or black in the listing. I went with white to match the marble of the original.

Accompanying the statue is a ritual to perform a take on the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, to better enliven and consecrate it as an icon of the god. Performing the ritual was the first time I actually used most of the products; I received my package late on Halloween (auspicious!) and wanted to wait until it was the Mercury hour on the following Saturday to carry it out. Until then, I kept the vials wrapped in black silk in a black cauldron that sits on the Hermanubis shrine.

When it was time, I withdrew the oil, elixir spray, incense, and natron and procured a series of offerings to the god—breads, olives, alcohol, spring water, and so on. I cleaned the statue with purified water and natron, anointed its eyes and lips with the oil, “cut” them with a ritual knife bathed in the smoke, and sprayed the entire figure with the elixir. I did the same for my other statues and figurine as well and then sat in communion with the spirits as the offerings were presented. The combination of the incense, oil, and elixir truly emanate, enhance, and vivify that exact blend of Hermes Chthonius and Yinepu heka made manifest in the spirit of Hermanubis as I’ve come to know him. The sensation that fills the room when even one is used sings with the same power that builds after I’ve spent some time praying and invoking at the main shrine, having plunged deeper into the work—though elevated to an even stronger degree. I find that now, all it takes to stir the same level of attention, focus, and presence of the spirits at the shrine is to open with a prayer and mist the space with the elixir.

I tend save the incense for larger workings as the bottle is quite small. A myrrh resin blended with a herbal mixture aligned to Hermanubis along with some black dog hair, the powder is self-igniting. While it can be used as an offering to the dead and to Hermanubis himself, I’ve chosen to use it only in important chthonic rituals in which I really want to draw, wake, and gather the dead or other such spirits and facilitate their conjuration.

The elixir, along with the oil, are my favourite pieces. To quote the listing:

Dark red wine and high proof spiced rum were ritually infused with herbal attractants for drawing the dead, blessed by Hermanubis as the Sun set on the day of Mercury’s exalted direct cazimi 2018.

The bottle is similarly prepared with copper leaf, echoing the concept of paying pennies to traffic with the dead. While I have yet to use this at a cemetery (which can be done to wake particular graves), I have mostly employed it to great effect at my ancestor altar, at a boveda during seance, and to baptize particular necromantic tools. Before I use it, I always begin by delineating the appropriate boundaries, naming precisely which forces I am calling, and ensuring that several of my helping spirits and familiars are at my side to guard the gates, as it were. Similarly, as is advised, I banish, cleanse, and re-anoint the windows and thresholds of my working space with holy oil once I’ve finished. I also give offerings to my spirits in thanks for monitoring what flows through my walls. When sprayed, the atmospheric change is unmistakable. I find that my psychic senses are instantly elevated and attuned to the frequencies of the dead, that the spirits more easily manifest and take form in my compasses and circles, and that the clarity of their messages and warnings are distinctly improved. Extremely versatile and consistently potent in every circumstance I’ve used it in, I would highly recommend the elixir to any witch; whether you work with Hermanubis or not. As long as the chthonic have a place in your practice, you will benefit from this water.

The oil packs a similar punch, albeit in a far more earthy, concentrated form. The description given for its contents on the listing is:

As the Sun descended into the realm of the underworld on the day of Mercury’s exalted cazimi 2018, organic cold-pressed olive oil was combined with ritually harvested cemetery cypress, hops, barley, and other herbs and ingredients sacred to Hermes, Anubis, or favored by the dead, along with myrrh, hair from a black dog, and 24k gold leaf.

After opening the mouths of my statues, I used the oil to anoint the offering plates and gifts belonging to my dead, five-spot their working spaces to further anchor their presence as liminal hedges of communion, and further empower particular tools—such as a wand made from the oldest yew tree in a British churchyard. A few of my familiars have taken a particular liking to this oil and I’ve used a small dab of it to further solidify their grasp and influence over workings I’ve done with them. Again, I’ve noticed consistently their manifestations have only ever been enhanced through this oil’s use. I’ve actually found that carrying it with me in my bag of throwing bones has served as a kind of battery and beacon to spirits in general. I’ve also anointed myself with it prior to going on cemetery walks to open myself further to the whisperings of my allies there, as well as in seances and any such sessions involving channeling and divination. Alongside my own Hekate oil, made through Jason Miller’s recipe in his Sorcery of Hekate arcana, this is my go-to oil for necromancy now. One interesting use I’ve come to discover is that if I lightly dab a wrapped offering or a particular working fetish, doll, or bundle I am disposing of at crossroads or cemeteries, specifically while charging and praying over the oil as I’m shaking and using it, the spirits in these spaces are immediately provoked to action far more quickly. It’s a powerful way to “mark” something as theirs now, whether it is a gift like a meal or bottle of alcohol, or a working bundle that draws their intercession.

The Ink of Amenti has been used solely for my work with a particular black book I keep. I’ve poured a small amount of it out into a larger vial of plain ink, fumigated it with myrrh incense, and consecrated it as another batch of necromantic ink through dilution. I tend to treat the vessels in which my ritual inks and oils are housed as living entities, especially since I’ve begun to make my own oils during specified times and with ritually-harvested ingredients. My mother bottles all have personalities of their own and I treat their bottling and pouring with reverence. So while the original bottle my ink came in is paired with that black book, some of it was reincarnated into a new, diluted form and saved for future work. As for its effects, I’ve noticed that what I write with it glows hazily in my psychic vision, especially in the dark, and that it has cemented the influence of the spirits whose seals and pacts are within that book in an interesting way. Namely, when I use ink from the same bottle to write petitions, commands, sigils, etc. on other pieces of parchment, the spirits of my grimoire can be instantly stirred just by their writing prior to any formal conjuration. A proper link has been forged between the agreements in the book and whatever I write with the bottle, as overseen by the chief binding spirits who authorize the contracts. As such, I’ve been able to more quickly launch these spirits to action through its use.

As for the natron, I’ve found the most practical way for me to use the special properties of this vial is to divide it among other existing purifying salts I have. I’ve mixed some with a larger batch of natron I have that I use for purifying baths and another portion with a jar reserved only for drawing circles. Again, to better blend them, I fumigated these jars with incense to combine them as one. There is little left in the original vial as it is now. Much of it was used immediately in the purification and consecration of various different statues and figures of the gods and spirits I’ve adapted the accompanying ritual for.

I referred to the elixir as extremely versatile and consistently potent, but really this applies to the series in general. You don’t need to work with Hermanubis to benefit immensely from these tools as enriching way-openers for all magic concerning the dead and travel to and from their worlds. If you’re thinking of beginning a relationship with the deity, these offerings will draw the attention and focus of the right spirits easily. If you’re struggling which to choose, I would pick between the oil and elixir depending on how you envision working with these powers, whether you prefer to anchor and anoint specific points or permeate and uplift the air around. With both you’ll be set for a long time indeed. While there aren’t many left, if you’re willing to spend a little extra I think the Statue and Opening of the Mouth Ritual Set is ideal; it’s not only well-priced but you get a sample of the majority of the offerings including one of the replica figurines. And if this particular lineup isn’t your calling, do consider checking their other series for something undoubtedly equally potent but better tuned to your needs.

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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 Oberon 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.

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

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

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


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

– “How to Make the Seals of the Spirits

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.