|As one might expect in the era of the Renaissance, knowledge was more widely accessible. Accordingly things changed, standards were incorporated and old methods done away with. By practicing grimoires of the Renaissance or post-Renaissance one will find themselves often in contradiction with the very source that it evolved from.|
In this Practical Occult newsletter guest author and respected practitioner Adley Nichols addresses the topic of magical timing.
There is a constant debate about the importance of timing in magical operations. How does one consecrate a pentacle or candarii? How does one make a wand or consecrate a sword? How does one consider the best time for spirit evocation? Lots of accusations and presumptions have been made recently and I’d like to present an historical perspective which addresses all of these things. Through this analysis we can see why it would be unwise to assume any single period in time would represent the entirety of the Solomonic magical tradition.
First lets address what we know of the origin of magical consideration of Solomonic Magic. While magic has existed longer than the Solomonic tradition, we should note a suspected period of time where Solomonic Magic took shape. When speaking to this tradition we’re talking about various lineages which all hold a large degree of similarities such as the implementation of circles for spirit conjuration, the use of various tools such as knives and swords, candles and incense. If we take into consideration various references to figures of the past as mentioned in a multitude of grimoires, we find an established lineage of forefathers of the tradition. According to Summa Sacrae Magicae, we see reference to an historical figure who goes by the name “Solomon the magician” who was extremely well versed in a multitude of cultures and their influences ranging from Greek, Arabic, Judaic and Christian practice. Solomon had a student named Toz of Graecus who is referenced himself in a variety of surviving grimoires. Toz had a student named Honorius of Thebes credited by the work, Liber Juratus Honorii. By the dates referenced in the works noting these figures, we would place the forefathers of the Solomonic tradition somewhere around the 12th century. While influences of Solomonic magic existed prior to these figures, it is indisputable that the work they are attributed to was the primary influences of surviving traditions and practices of Solomonic Magic in the western world.
There are a couple historical landmarks we need to consider that presented substantial changes to magical practice throughout Solomonic
magic in its infancy. Firstly we need to note the efforts of King Alfonso X of Castile (1221 – 1284). He was making massive efforts translating the knowledge and wisdom of Arabic sciences in Spain. He’s credited for compiling works such as Sepher Razielis and translating manuscripts such as the Picatrix. He’s credited for his intellectual motivation often surrounding himself with a variety of Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars resulting in a surge of knowledge during his reign. A great deal of Arabic influence in the western world can be credited to his efforts. We have to note the new Arabic influences coming into Spain in the 13th century.
We also need to consider the massively successful work of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486 – 1535). Agrippa compiled a variety of magical practices into his encyclopedic ‘Three Books of Occult Philosophy’. This work was massively successful resulting in an historical standardization of western magic after its publication in 1533. The reason this is noteworthy in our analysis is because of its observed authority in magical practice. Prior to this work we see a lack of standardized practice resulting in contemporary grimoires contradicting each other as well as various modes of magical operations in conflict with each other. Essentially we can observe a larger variety of magical practice (not always compatible with each other) concluding that prior to the Three Book of Occult Philosophy universal standards were largely lacking in the period.
The 13th century ‘Speculum Astronomiae’ attributed to pseudo Albertus Magnus is crucial in understanding the cultural perspective of magicians and people of science in that time period. This work is a response to the condemnation of astrology. Ultimately condemned with 219 forbidden propositions, this work sought to justify Astrology even though the opposition or authority believed that the knowledge of the future negated mans ‘free will’. The importance of this work as it relates to our subject is that it offers a window into the distinction of astrological magic and the understanding of the subject by the people of the 13th century. The distinction made within astral magic is the focus of what is being used to bring about change. Those engaged in astrology were interested in advancing their knowledge by using what they already knew about the universe which results in intended change. For some, they start with the premise of the seven planets which have an affect on the sublunary world and more specifically mankind. For those who have this knowledge, the practice of it would be astrologically based.
Others (predominantly westerners) would be looking at the established idea that the universe is populated by angels and demons and throughout history there are a variety of texts which talk about using this knowledge to affect change. As this concept has angels and demons serving man, it is understood that the use of spirits is therefore approved by God.
The ‘Speculum Astronomiae’ attempted to create sub-categories based on these various perspectives of the working of the universe. Ultimately it approved the practice of manipulating the world (and mankind) through astral forces such as images and amulets. It subsequently condemned those same astral infused images and talismans that invoked ‘pagan deities’ (such as we see in the Picatrix).
This is an historical perspective of the understood boundaries of practitioners of the 13th century. It explains why we see astrological observation is used for the construction of magical rings, or construction of regelia or tools while also seeing disregard for astrological election for spirit evocation or candarii consecration. It provides a 13th century social understanding which distinguishes astrological election to be seperate from spirit work. As we move into the mid-renaissance however, we begin to see a combination of these methods which would not have been present in early Solomonic magic.
There are surviving hints of the consideration of magical timing. For example in the first chapter of the second book of the ‘Key of Solomon’ we have the following,
“So exact a preparation of days and hours is not necessary for those who are adepts in the art, but it is extremely necessary for apprentices and beginners, seeing that those who have been little or not at all instructed herein, and who only begin to apply themselves to this art, do not have as
much faith in the experiments as those who are adepts therein, and who have practiced them. But as regards beginners, they should always have the days and hours well disposed and appropriate unto the art. And the wise should only observe the precepts of the art which are necessary, and in observing the other solemnities necessary they will operate with a perfect assurance.”
This puts forth the idea that the observation of magical timing in the art may not be so important. A look through the rest of the chapter however reveals lots of suggestions for observation ranging from constellations, lunar phases and favorable days and hours. In an analysis of this we need to consider that while the Key of Solomon is referenced as early as 1301, all known English translations date to the late 17th century or even more recent. We know there have been some modification over time but we also know by comparing sources that a great deal of original content is still present. So how can we better understand what kind of magical observation is required?
Lets take a look at more contemporary sources to the earlier Keys. In the late medieval period we see some of the more complete grimoires of magic which contain full instructions to a complete system of magic. While the Key of Solomon is certainly among them, works such as Liber Juratus and Summa Sacrae Magicae (SSM) are filled with elaborations of the understanding in that period in time. We can glean from these writings an historical perspective much like we could of the ‘Speculum Astronomiae’. In the instructions of the conjuration of spirits is the blatant disregard of astrological consideration.
“In matters of science, you should not choose a constellation. Time or constellations is more dominantly only over the person who does not know how to posses himself. […] We exclude all constellations as necessary, except for the motion of the moon”. SSM L2, tr. 2, ch. 8
We also see the SSM disregard astrological election and consideration of the day and hour in the consecration of the candarii (pentacles). Instead you conjure the spirits which rule in the moment of the operation. This includes the angel which rules the hour of the working, day of the working, season of the working, etc… Those spirits are petitioned to empower the pentacle itself.
This however is not to say astrological observation is completely disregarded, it just is not used for certain things. For example much like the attitude reflected in the Speculum, observation of the sign and hour are observed in the construction of magical tools such as the wand. But what we don’t see is a mixture of these two methods which is in alignment with the established social understanding of the period.
Throughout the SSM however is the emphasis of the observation of timing. While we can rule out consideration of astrological election for spirit conjuration, we see references to observe proper timing such as good days for evocation on the waning moon as well as good days on the waxing moon. We see that the spirits which can be called through the Moon, Mercury, Venus and Saturn are universal and can conjure any spirit while spirits of the Sun, Mars and Jupiter are specific to certain causes. By calling the names of the day, hour, season, etc… you can conjure any spirit at any time, but by calling just the day and hour you limit yourself to just the spirits which are under that planet. According to the SSM, knowledge of these things can improve the result of spirit evocation and should be learned and observed properly. These types of observations are exactly what those little surviving gems as seen in the Key of Solomon are referencing.
Methods such as observation of time are demonstrated to be understood within the infancy of Solomonic magic. As we move into the world of the renaissance and the standardization of Solomonic magical practice we see many of these methods excluded and we even witness the death of the method of conjuration by the spirits of the moment of time by 1559 where we see a corrupted and partial version published in the Heptameron. After this date it appears the practice is lost. In this way we see the evolution of magic substantially changing in the Renaissance. We see the implementation of astrological election take prominence by the 17th and 18th century, we see the acceptable observation of magical timing change and even contradict the forms of the medieval period. We see substantial change as we move closer to the modern period.
In summary we have to consider the differences between Renaissance magic and Medieval magic. We have to do so because the two are different beasts. As one might expect in the era of the Renaissance, knowledge was more widely accessible. Accordingly things changed, standards were incorporated and old methods done away with. By practicing grimoires of the Renaissance or post-Renaissance one will find themselves often in contradiction with the very source that it evolved from. This is not to conclude that one method is better than the other, but rather to point out the methods cannot accurately be assumed to be the same. While we can lump these various practices under the umbrella of ‘Solomonic Magic’ there are indeed substantial differences between the various lineages of Solomonic magic that need to be considered and understood when refining the practice.
*thank you Andy Foster for presenting various translations.
Adley Nichols is a professional Solomonic magician specializing in the art of medieval necromancy. With emphasis on academic implementation into the practice of his historical magic, Adley Nichols brings a deep understanding into his art. His knowledge and skill set are showcased in his shop which has a variety of tools, candles, historical incenses, perfumes, as well as offering of a variety of magical services, consultations and classes. Visit his shop at AdleysMagic.com or visit his Facebook page at facebook.com/AdleysMagic/ to learn more.
This post was originally a Practical Occult newsletter dated October 20th, 2021 and written by guest author Adley Nichols.