Jailbreak: Two Liberatory Talismans

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Behold this handsome pentacle from Clavicula Salomonis Regis : ex idiomate Haebreo versa. This work is attributed to Abraham Colorni. c.a. 1750-1799. The manuscript image comes from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania. The work is also known as UPenn Ms. Codex 1673.

From Clavicula Salomonis Regis : ex idiomate Haebreo versa

The Kislak material summary aids in framing this manuscript. It reads:

“18th-century Latin copy of the Key of Solomon, a 16th-century magical handbook which includes instructions on subjects such as the conjuration of spirits (f. 11r), enchanting a piece of fruit with a love charm (f. 31v), extracting bat’s blood (f. 104v), the preparation of ink, paper or parchment for magical practices (f. 105r), and the use of knives, swords, and wands (f. 96v). The text is divided into two books and contains a complete list of contents for each book (f. iii recto, 113r).”

A fascinating provenance for the manuscript itself also exists, and is listed in the material record:

“Formerly owned by Charles Rainsford (British army officer, fellow of the Royal Society, and alchemist); bequeathed by Rainsford to Hugh Percy, Second Duke of Northumberland. Owned by the 2nd through 12th Dukes of Northumberland, ms. 584, Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, 1809-2014 (bookplate, inside upper cover; stamps throughout). Sold at auction at Sotheby’s (London), 15 July 2014, as part of Lot 411.”

According to Kislak, Colorni was a “Jewish Italian engineer, mathematician, inventor, and archaeologist born in Mantua. He served as an engineer at the courts of noblemen such as Alfonso D’Este, Duke of Ferrara and authored works on mathematics, ciphers, and translated the Key of Solomon from Hebrew into Italian.”

From Clavicula Salomonis Regis : ex idiomate Haebreo versa

As for the uses of this pentacle, conclusions were difficult at first glance – Latin is a massive and unfortunate blind spot for me. Luckily, a community of esoteric practice and scholarship exists. I recently drew upon these community resources in order to roughly translate. With the help of some friends (credited below), we are able to discern the use for this talisman. The latin text roughly reads:

“If one is unexpectedly detained by fierce bonds, present this pentacle made in gold on the day and hour of the sun, from hollowed out/ excavated metal.”

One volunteer translator says that, in this instance, the sense of the word excarceratus means freed or released from prison/bond. So it’s likely there is a figurative element to this phrasing, one denoting a freed metal. In other words, free up some metal, free oneself (excavate). This quality clearly reveals a correspondence between the state of metallic freedom and the nature of one’s own personal liberation.

A similar pentacle may be found in this talisman against slavery & prison. Wednesday under Mercury, or Talisman contra l’Esclavage & le Prison. Mercredi sous Mercure. This pentacle comes from from Vol. II. Les Clavicules de R.Salomon, translated from Hebrew into French by M. Pierre Morissoneau, a “Professor of Oriental Languages and follower of Kabbalism.” The manuscript is dated c.a. 1795, and it comes from the Wellcome Library.

From Clavicula Salomonis Regis : ex idiomate Haebreo versa

Wellcome’s translation of the manuscript description reads:

“The Key of Solomon… the whole enriched with a great number of mysterious figures of talismans, pentacles, circles, canderies and characters, with the method of composing them and a simple explanation of the principles of the occult science of the most famous necromancers who have lived from Solomon to the present enhanced with their most beautiful secrets. The talismans or characters of the twelve rings within which the Spirit is enclosed for all that one wants” Description via Wellcome library: “Illustrated with numerous pen-drawn magical figures, talismans, etc. in gold, silver and colours. In Vol. I the text is in red, black and green: in Vol. II the text is in similar colours, and facing the title-page is a folding figure of a magic Circle in red and green, the text in red. In both volumes there are historiated ornaments, vignettes, tail-pieces, etc., by the calligrapher who signs himself on the title-page of Vol. I ‘J. S. Fyot, ecrivain. 1796’.”

From Clavicula Salomonis Regis : ex idiomate Haebreo versa

The text encircling the talisman reads: Dirupisti, Dominae, vincula mea : tibi sacrificabo hostiam laudis; & Nomen Dominae invocabo. Roughly “O Lord, Thou hast broken my bonds: I will sacrifice to thee the sacrifice of praise, and I will call upon the name of the Lord.” The phrase is sourced from Psalm 116.

There are a few instances of liberatory talismans and pentacles throughout the various versions of the Key of Solomon. These pentacles were likely used for instances of physical bondage and enslavement. Surely, one can find use for them in regards to mental or spiritual bondage as well. I will be keeping them in mind as I free myself from the ignorance of the Latin language. First, let them find the anarchists, freedom-fighters, the disenfranchised, bonded, and imprisoned.



Bibliography:


Colorni, Abraham. Clavicula Salomonis Regis : ex idiomate Haebreo versa (UPenn Ms. Codex 1673). c.a. 1750-1799. University of Pennsylvania. Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.  http://hdl.library.upenn.edu/1017/d/medren/9962943583503681

Morissoneau, M. Pierre. From Clavicula Salomonis Regis : ex idiomate Haebreo versa. c.a. 1795. Wellcome Library. http://www.wellcome.ac.uk. @wellcomecollection. Unless otherwise stated, all content on the site is © The Wellcome Trust and is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK. (This work is 4.0 attribution).

Translation help via Instagram:

@ellipsisrarebooks
@deneget
@mothguts

Eidetic Flowerings: Ars Notoria and Heretical Memory

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The following diagrams from Ars notoria, sive Flores aurei are fascinating because they distantly resemble alchemical vessels or grimoiric circles. Rather, they are a diagrammatical series of names, tools, and incantations structured to solidify knowledge through eidetic memory — mnemonic devices. In particular, these devices aided students with the transmission of liberal arts knowledge. Scholar Stephen Skinner and Daniel Clark note the magical quality of “rapid” learning that was induced by these tools. In this sense, Ars notoria does not fall into the criteria which typically define a grimoire — no summoning of demons or planetary pentacles against enemies.

This manuscript of the Ars notoria is attributed to Apollonius of Tyana c.a. 1225. Apollonius of Tyana was a Greek philosopher from Tyana in Cappadocia, a region of what is now modern Turkey.

The work can be translated to the Notary Art, or The Art of Magic or Golden Flowers. The Ars notoria is the oldest piece of the Lemegeton, though some figures like A.E. Waite chose to omit it from their own inclusions. Waite neglects it wholeheartedly in his work The Book of Ceremonial Magic.

The French Benedictine monk John of Morigny further developed the structure of the Ars notoria in his Flowers of Heavenly Teaching (Liber florum celestis doctrine). Flowers included descriptions of John of Morigny’s own mystical experiences, various figurative devices for sharpening prayer and contemplation, devotional pieces, and even accounts of his own meetings with demonic entities. The central locus of these features is a text called the Book of Figures. John of Morigny ultimately re-wrote Flowers multiple times in accordance with the Virgin Mary’s approvals — her visions were revealed to Morigny at Chartres during the turn of the 14th century C.E.

Thus the book was altered in order to appease not only the Virgin, but also various “barking dogs” who lamented its figures as being too necromantic in their scope. Later versions of the work were famously burned in Paris, while surviving copies bear testament to their users personalized practice in the form of alterations and inscriptions.

In The Prologue to John of Morigny’s Liber Visionum: Text and Translation, Claire Fanger and Nicholas Watson provide a concise summary of this battle and its ensuing book burning:

“The Liber visionum or Liber florum celestis doctrine is an attempt to reconcile the goals of a condemned medieval ritual magic text, the Ars notoria, with late-medieval Catholic Christian orthodoxy. The text was written in stages between 1304 and 1317 by John, a Benedictine monk from the monastery of Morigny who spent his school years at Chartres and later studied briefly at Orléans. Despite its protestations of its own orthodoxy and attempt to position itself in a positive way among the “apocrypha fidei,” the text was condemned as heretical and sorcerous (according to an entry in the Grandes Chroniques de France), and a copy burned at Paris in 1323.”

There is a story to be told here about the transmission of esoteric tools & knowledge. An immense respect is owed to the adaptivity of these writings — works in continual existence to this day. Ars notoria‘s own iterations and attempts to ease heretical tensions show that such knowledge can survive the worse: book burnings, deadly accusations, and purges of the otherwise unorthodox. The continual presence of works like Ars notoria points to a world in which heretical and unorthodox tools can persist in the worst of times. Esoteric knowledge is resilient.

The images shown in this article are from Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, where Ars notoria can be found digitized. I’ve left a link below.



Bibliography:


• Apollonius (Tyanensis?), Ars Notoria, Sive Flores Aurei. General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. and Witten, Laurence C. and Pachella, Richard. Alchemy and the Occult: A Catalogue of Books and Manuscripts from the Collection of Paul and Mary Mellon. Volume Three: Manuscripts, Mellon MS 1.
https://collections.library.yale.edu/catalog/2037169

• Fanger, Claire & Watson, Nicholas. The Prologue to John of Morigny’s Liber Visionum: Text and Translation. Esoterica vol III, Pg. 108. http://esoteric.msu.edu/VolumeIII/pdf-folder/MorignyIntro.pdf. Accessed 10 Feb 2021.

• Fanger, Claire. Rewriting Magic. Penn State University Press. 2015. Ch. 4.

• Skinner, Stephen & Clark, Daniel. Ars Notoria: The Grimoire of Rapid Learning by Magic. Golden Hoard Press. 2019.

• Waite, Arthur Edward. The Book of Ceremonial Magic, Pt I, Chapter III, Sec 2: “The Lesser Key of Solomon.” London, 1913

The Göetic Circle Appears in Calendrier Magique

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This image shows the Göetic Circle of Black Evocations and Pacts as depicted in colorful detail from the January page of the Calendrier Magique. The Calendrier was created by Austin de Croze and Manuel Orazi in 1896. Only 777 original editions of this calendar were published.

The circle icon as it is depicted here may be originally found in Éliphas Lévi’s 1856 second volume of Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (Dogma and Ritual of High Magick). An A.E. Waite Translation was also published by Rider & Company in England, 1896. The book was published as Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual.

In the 2018 book, Magic Circles in the Grimoire Tradition, William Kiesel describes the details of the circle:

“Eliphas Levi’s version of the Circle of Pacts as it appears in his book Transcendental Magic and labeled as the ‘Goetic Circle of Black Evocations and pacts’. Levi’s very atmospheric description includes the use of the skin of a sacrificial victim as the physical basis of the circle pinned to the ground by four coffin nails. The head of a black cat, a human skull, a bat and goat horns are placed near the nail- heads all together forming the precincts of the circle. The vessel of fire, two candlesticks and a different monogram of Christ are evident here showing an emblematic relationship with the previous circles just mentioned. As an aside the monogram of Christ has been discussed as a class of axial symbol and thus reflects the theme of center and orientation already discussed.” (pg. 60)

Lévi’s original circle

In the 1856 second volume of Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, Éliphas Lévi himself says:

“All these hideous objects – though scarcely possible to obtain – having been collected, they must be arranged as follows: a perfect circle is traced by the sword, leaving, however, a break, or point of issue, on one side; a triangle is drawn in the circle, and the Pantacle thus formed is coloured with blood; a chafing-dish is placed at one of its angles, and this should have been included among the indispensable objects already enumerated. At the opposite base of the triangle three little circles are described for the sorcerer and his two assistants; behind that of the first the sign of the Labarum or monogram of Constantine is drawn, not with the blood of the victim, but with the operator’s own blood. He and his assistants must have bare feet and covered heads. The skin of the immolated victim must be brought also to the spot and, being cut into strips, must be placed within the circle, thus forming a second and inner circle, fixed at four corners by four nails from the coffin mentioned already. Hard by the nails but outside the circle, must be placed the head of the cat, the human or rather inhuman skull, the horns of the goat, and the bat. They must be sprinkled with a branch of birch dipped in the blood of the victim, and then a fire of cypress and alderwood must be lighted, the two magical candles being placed on the right and left of the operator, encircled with the wreaths of vervain. The formulae of evocation can be pronounced now, as they are found in the Magical Elements of Peter of Apono, or in the Grimoires, whether printed or manuscript. That of the “Grand Grimoire”, reproduced in the vulgar Red Dragon, has been altered wilfully and should be read as follows: “By Adonai Eloim, Adonai Jehova, Adonai Sabaoth, Metraton On Agla Adonai Mathon, the Pythonic word, the Mystery of the Salamander, the Assembly of Sylphs, the Grotto of Gnomes, the demons of the heaven of Gad, Almousin, Gibor, Jehosua, Evam, Zariatbatmik: Come, Come, Come !”‘ (pgs. 88-89)

Full view of the January page from Calendrier Magique

These images are commonly called the “Circle of Pacts,” and similar images can be found in the Grand Grimoire and the Black Pullet. The first image contains text detailing the situation of practitioners, and contains the Greek-derived Christogram “JHS.” On the other hand, Levi’s circle is much more demonic, and contains no descriptive text other than the names Berkaial, Amasarac, Asaradec, & Akibeec.

Kiesel also notes that:

“The circles in Fig. 43 and 44 [showing the circle from the “Grand Grimoire and “Black Pullet” respectively] share several characteristics such as the central triangle flanked by candlesticks and a fire at the apex of the triangle. There are also designated places for the ‘Karcist’ and two Assistants. A possible speculative etymology of the word Karcist; ‘kar’ = cirque, or in the Latin; circ-us: circus = circle. Thus karcist would be one who employs circles. The circle from the Grand Grimoire also features a ‘Route du T’ or way to the treasure as well as containing the letters JHS, the first three in the Greek word for Jesus, employed here as a divine name intended for protection. The letters JHS are to be written along the base of the triangle so that, according to the Grand Grimoire, ‘the spirits cannot do you any harm.’ The other circle from the Black Pullet lacks the path to the treasure and is surrounded by sigils, astrological symbols and possibly corrupted Hebrew. These two circles are also referred to as ‘the Circle of Pacts’. In one of the most popular scenes in grimoire magic, the pact with Lucifuge Rofocale, the magician demands that the Spirit provide him riches and even threatens him with the divine names when he initially refuses. Once the spirit agrees to the request of the magician he makes demands of his own which constitutes the pact between them” (pg. 58)

The image below, for example, comes from from “Pseudo-Solomon” (Wellcome MS.4666). c.a. mid 18th century. French.

As for the calendar itself, Gallica BnF remarks that:

“The calendar was commissioned in 1895 from Manuel Orazi and Austin de Croze by Siegfried Bing for his gallery “L’art nouveau”. – Illustrated black background covers and 32 pp. : title, justification, frontispiece, phases of the moon, poem of the witch, as well as 24 pages corresponding to the 12 months of the calendar with lithographed text and illustration opposite, 2 planets table pages.”

The full version of Calendrier Magique can be found here.

Bibliography:

• Kiesel, William. Magic Circles in the Grimoire Tradition. Ouroboros Press. 2018. Digital edition. Pgs. 60.

• Lévi, Éliphas. Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie. Rider & Company. 1856. pgs. 88-89. (Transcribed and converted to Adobe Acrobat format by Benjamin Rowe, January, 2002.)


Image credits:

• de Croze, Austin & Orazi, Manuel. Calendrier Magique. 1896. Via Gallica BnF digital collections. https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b10544640k/f5.item#.

• Kiesel, William. Magic Circles in the Grimoire Tradition. Ouroboros Press. 2018. pgs. 58 & 60.

Pseudo-Solomon (MS.4666). Via Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark (PDM) terms and conditions https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0

The Garden of Pomegranates in Pamela Colman Smith’s High Priestess Card

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Closely examine the imagery on Pamela Colman Smith’s High Preistess tarot card. It contains the proverbial Pardis Rimonim —a Garden of Pomegranates. Those familiar with 20th century esoteric literature will know this as the namesake of Israel Regardie’s legendary book on Qabalah. For context, page 9 of Regardie’s own Garden of Pomegranates reads:

“Based on the versicle in the Song of Songs, “Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates”, a book entitled Pardis Rimonim came to be written by Rabbi Moses Cordovero in the sixteenth century. By some authorities, this philosopher is considered as the greatest lamp in post-Zoharic days of that spiritual Menorah, the Qabalah, which, with so rare a grace and so profuse an irradiation of Supernal Light, illuminated the literature of the Jewish people as well as their immediate and subsequent neighbors in the diaspora…”

Here is a closeup from Pamela Colman Smith’s color lithograph of the High Priestess tarot card. Distributed by the Church of Light. c.a. 1937. Color lithography, surface polished, coarse stock. From the Cary Collection of Playing Cards via Yale University Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. 


Detail from Colman Smith’s High Priestess tarot card

Pardes Rimonim actually means Pardes-Orchard of Pomegranates. Pardes is both a form of textual exegesis, and a Kabbalistic legend of an orchard.

Moses Cordovero (משה קורדובירו‎), also called Moshe Kordovero, is a fascinating and vital figure in Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism. The Jewish Encyclopedia notes that Cordovero was,

“Rabbi of Safed and cabalist; born in 1522; died June 25, 1570. He belonged to a Spanish family, probably of Cordova, whence his name “Cordovero.” After having studied rabbinical literature under the guidance of Joseph Caro, Cordovero at the age of twenty was initiated by his brother-in-law Solomon Alḳabiẓ into the mysteries of the Cabala, in which he soon became a recognized authority. A profound thinker, and well versed in Judæo-Arabic philosophy, Cordovero devoted his activity to speculative, strictly metaphysical Cabala (and kept aloof from the wonder-working or practical Cabala which was just then being propagated at Safed by Isaac Luria, in whose, circle of followers he moved.”

So captivating was Cordovero’s notion of divinity, that the later elucidations of Baruch Spinoza likely reference Cordovero. The Encyclopedia continues:

“In a series of works…, the most important of which is that entitled “Pardes Rimmonim,” Cordovero endeavored to elucidate all the tenets of the Cabala, such as the doctrines of the sefirot, emanation, the divine names, the import and significance of the alphabet, etc. Quite original is Cordovero’s conception of the Deity set forth by him in his “Shi’ur Ḳomah.” It is surprisingly identical with that taught later by Spinoza and there can be no doubt that the Dutch philosopher alluded to Cordovero when, in answer to the question addressed to him by his friend Oldenburg on the origin of his theory, he referred to an old Jewish philosopher”

Full image of Pamela Colman Smith’s High Priestess tarot card

Of late, I’ve been closely examining the texture and detail on these original Colman Smith cards via Yale’s digital collections. There is a such a nuance and intentionality present. What else do you spot in the High Priestess card? The keen eye will note other symbols of Jewish mysticism and hermetic Qabalah like the twin pillars of Boaz and Jachin.



Bibliography:

• Jacobs, J. & Broydé REMAḲ (MOSES BEN JACOB CORDOVERO). Jewish Encyclopedia (The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia). 2002-2011.
https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/contribs/538

• Smith, Pamela Colman. II The High Priestess. [Playing Card]. Church of Light, 0AD. https://collections.library.yale.edu/catalog/2003230. Via Yale University Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
https://collections.library.yale.edu/catalog/2003230


Zine Feature: On the Animation of Statues

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I recently finished up one of Brian Cotnoir’s alchemical zines published by his own Khepri Press. “On the Animation of Statues” is a valuable trove of primary sources and secondary insights regarding a fascinating historical alchemical practice.

I ordered a few of Brian’s alchemical zines in May. Along with them, he sent me this entrancing 2018 print of Saturnal Dream “for the fun of it.” It’s number 31/130, so I hold it very dear and have a nice frame for it at home.

I don’t want to spoil the contents since the zine is detailed but compact. I will say it has an incredible, cut-up, pasted, and copied DIY aesthetic that reflects a serious and often frantic search into the esoteric ensoulment of seemingly inanimate figures.

Khepri Press, Cotnoir’s publishing house describes the zine:

“On the Animation of Statues – Is a collection of quotes, primary sources, notes and comments on the late-antiquity practice of “ensouling” statues in order to commune with the gods. Drawing from Iamblichus, Proclus, Greek Magical Papyri, Corpus Hermeticum, hymns, poetry and music, although the practice is never explicitly described, a hazy outline emerges. One thing, the composition of statues and talismans is, like alchemy, a hieratic art. Included is a translation Michal Psellos’ Epistle 187 a text on the animation of statues.”

Khepri Press also maintains a small biography about the enigmatic Cotnoir – not nearly as visible as many of his peers in the esoteric community:

“Brian Cotnoir is an alchemist, artist and award-winning filmmaker. Author of The Weiser Concise Guide to AlchemyThe Emerald Tablet, and Alchemical Meditations, he is currently writing his next book, Alchemy: The Poetry of Matter. He has presented seminars and workshops around the world on various aspects of the alchemy. Khepri Press was started in 2014 as a place to organize and distribute my work. It is a very small press dedicated to alchemical book arts. Some of this work is publishable and others may exist only in manuscript or object form – alchemical results or talismans.”

Cotnoir has an entire series of alchemical zines, with titles like Dream: The Lunar Realm of Alchemy, On the Homunculus, and a meta-work called On the Mystic, Magick, Talismanic, Alchemical Practice of Zine Making. They can be found through the link below



Link:

Khepri Press: https://khepripress.com/alchemy-zines/