Sunday, April 8, 2018

Using the Picatrix Decan Cards

tl:dr-

  1. astrological talismans
  2. spirit communication
  3. divination
  4. reference, contemplation 
  5. art collection


I completed the images for the Picatrix Decans in late November of 2017. As I was making the images I knew that one of the things I wanted to do with the collection was to publish them as a deck of cards. There are a few reasons I wanted to do this. First I wanted an affordable way for folks to be able to collect my artwork. But more importantly for the readers of this blog I wanted to produce a way for folks to use the images in magical work. The deck of the Picatrix Decan cards is ultimately a practical tool for the practicing magician. 

But what does this mean? How can any cards be used as a tool and in particular what are the uses of the Picatrix Decan cards? Let’s explore some of my ideas that may answer this question. Be aware, dear reader, that these are just my ideas and that you may come up with something completely different that suits you better. As the author of these images I feel no need to be strict about their use. 

Talismans
The initial use I had in mind as I made these images was that they would be used as talismans and magic charms. A description on the box of cards names it as “a collection of 36 talismans”. Incidentally this is the use for which they are presented in The Picatrix. In order to employ a card for this use one would choose a decan that represents an effect they desire. If one wanted wealth, for instance, one may choose to use the Second Face of Aries as their talisman. 



Then the magician would choose a time to “wake up” and charge the talisman with the energy of that particular decan based on the astrological conditions. Then they would perform a ceremony to imbue the image on the card with the power of the decan. This can be as simple as telling it to “wake up”, or as elaborate as one wishes with candles and incense and anointing with prepared oil or water. The card itself then becomes a magically charged item that works to bring wealth to itself. If one were to carry the charged card wealth would come to them, if the card were kept at a business wealth would come to the business, and so on. In The Picatrix these talismanic purposes are listed in Book 2, Chapter 11. For those of you who do not own a copy of Greer & Warnock’s The Picatrix, which is the reference I used to make the images, a small pamphlet is included with the deck that paraphrases the descriptions from the book. 

Once one is finished with the effects of the talisman another ceremony is enacted to discharge or put the image to sleep, so to speak. This is especially important for talismans that are used for destruction or bad luck. 

There are traditional ceremonies described in The Picatrix that go into detail about how this is done. We will revisit these in another blog post.

Spirit Communication
One of the underlying beliefs of the ancient authors of The Picatrix is that the planets and stars of astrology are populated with the intelligences and disembodied spirits that comprise the mythology and are more or less available to communication and interaction. In many ways the concepts of spirit communication and talisman empowerment have some overlapping themes and procedures but they can be kept quite separate. It is a somewhat advanced skill and might be available to a person in varying degrees. 

It is a notable fact that The Picatrix does not give names to the spirits of the decans. Other traditions do all the way back to the ancient Babylonians. The British Egyptologist E.A.W. Budge gives the names of the decan spirits in his book Gods of the Egyptians, and the 19th century magical lodge The Golden Dawn has its own list. I chose to follow The Picatrix as my guide and have not presented names for the decans. This should not, however, lessen the spiritual dimension to this work.  

There are many methods one might use to try to communicate with the spirits of the decans that have been passed down from antiquity. The curious reader will have no trouble finding a method that suits them. 

Divination
As a deck of cards the comparison to tarot will be a natural one. Indeed these cards can easily be used as an oracle deck, either in conjunction with or entirely separate from a traditional tarot deck. The diligent student of tarot will be aware that the two most popular decks on the market, the Rider Waite Smith deck and the Crowley Harris Thoth deck, associate the decans to 36 cards of the minor arcana (minus the Aces and the court cards). I did not use these tarot decks as reference in the designs of the images on my Picatrix Decan cards and more often than not the imagery and connotations are disparate. Again, this is due to using The Picatrix itself as the primary source. But this shouldn’t stop one from mixing and matching as one may. 

On its own the Picatrix Decan cards can be used as a divination tool using the talismanic purpose of the image as the interpretation. For instance, the Second Face of Sagittarius is paraphrased in the included pamphlet as “a man leading cows with a bear and ape in front of him. As a talisman- fear, impediments, blockages”. 



As an omen or divinatory result one may interpret it as facing one’s fears or that fear blocks their progress.

For all of the images I used my intuition in the composition of the pieces. It is my hope that some of these intuitive leaps on my part will add potential divinatory meaning to the cards and spark the intuition of those who read them. 

Reference and Contemplation
One of the benefits to me of doing this project was the deep contemplation and exploration of the images of the decans. It is my sincere hope that these may be used as a reference of sorts and that a student of The Picatrix may read it with my cards by their side. To my knowledge there are no other sets of images of the decans based primarily on The Picatrix, as opposed to Agrippa, Ibn Ezra, or other source. 

The Picatrix tells us many times in its pages that the passages of the book are written in codes, riddles, and obfuscations. It also tells us the way to discern the hidden messages is through meditation and deep thought. Indeed, I discovered a few philosophical gems in making the project. The most important to me was that I was able to match several of the images to characters from Greek, Hindu, and Arabic mythology. No doubt more secrets may be uncovered through further contemplation. 

Art Collection

On a personal level I am very proud of this work and its place in my art career. As collectors gather my work the Picatrix Decan cards stand as a novel way to acquire all 36 images at an affordable price. The large, fine art prints are sold in limited editions and soon these cards will be the only way to buy them. 

Decks are still available on Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/listing/601015785

Friday, March 16, 2018

Picatrix Decans Cards on Etsy

My Picatrix Decan cards are now listed on Etsy for your purchasing pleasure. Check it out here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/JSwoffordArtandPhoto.
I also have fine art prints for sale and I will have more to come.

Friday, March 9, 2018

A Review of Jinn Sorcery

Jinn Sorcery
by Rain Al-Alim
Published by Scarlet Imprint


I have recently finished reading Jinn Sorcery by Rain Al-Alim, a book published in February of 2018 by Scarlet Imprint. I would like to now give my thoughts and impressions. As is the case with these kinds of things there are things I like and things that I feel are less than ideal. 

I think it is probably important for me to give a brief accounting of the perspective with which I come to this task of writing a review for this book. Probably the biggest factor in my point of view is that I have had little exposure to the mythology of the jinn. Other than the representations in contemporary American culture, a reading of some of A Thousand and One Nights, and a study of the Latin Picatrix (which doesn’t really deal with jinn at all), I really know very little about the jinn. I have not read any of the contemporary treatments of the mythology nor any of the contemporary books that purport to teach jinn magic. My childhood had little exposure to peoples of the Middle East. You, dear reader, can make a judgement if this is a detriment or a benefit to my reading of Jinn Sorcery

So, why did I buy this book if its subject matter is outside my general purview? Curiosity mostly. I, of course, had heard of jinn but knowing little about them I hadn’t felt compelled to work with them. I have a lot of respect for Scarlet Imprint have have several of their volumes. I know they put out quality products and I decided this was a way to dip my toe into reading about jinn magic without worrying that I was reading some pulp drivel someone invented one day when there was nothing on the television. And this brings up a second reason I bought this book, that it is reported to have hand written manuscript sources written by practitioners presumably transmitted from traditions that may be generations old. And indeed two manuscripts are listed in the bibliography. Further, I trusted that Scarlet Imprint would research and vet the translations and the written Arabic script and ensure their accuracy, since I am unable to do so.  

As is the case with all of Scarlet Imprint’s publications, the book as a physical object is beautiful. My copy is number 269 of 1000 of the gold cover, standard hardback editions. The gold cover is glittering and shiny and I imagine that I would feel conspicuous reading this on the bus but it fits the Arabian themes very well. The paper stock that makes up the endpapers and pages are thick and excellent quality. I do, however, miss the letterpress embossing of the text that I fell in love with in my paperback copies of Geosophia and The True Grimoire. I also noticed that by the time I finished reading the book the gold cover retained some smudges where my fingers had rubbed against the gold. 

In terms of the contents of the book one thing is immediately apparent; this is not a book for beginners. The book is brief at only 88 pages and, in my opinion, this brevity is both good and bad. It lends credence to the idea that Jinn Sorcery may be mostly or entirely derived from the notes of hand written manuscripts. After a short preface in which the hierarchy of jinn is touched upon the book dives straight into workings and, in fact, the entire book is only workings of various kinds. Outside of the preface and the endnotes for each chapter there is no material that constitutes an examination of the mythology, its cultural contexts, or where there might be intersection between jinn workings and other workings familiar to the contemporary Western practitioner. Perhaps this information is considered common and readily available from other sources. 

Being a practitioner myself I saw several instances where the procedures and talismans in Jinn Sorcery had connections or similarities to workings in the Picatrix and to workings in the European grimoires. This made me question how much influence those sources had on the authors of Jinn Sorcery. If a jinn seal for scrying seems to me to resemble the seal of Scirlin in the True Grimoire are they from a common source? Did one influence the other or are they completely unrelated? I would have really appreciated more material in terms of comparing and contrasting this material with other sources. An examination of the roots of jinn magic and how they may be the same roots or not as other practices would have also been nice. 

The workings themselves follow a basic pattern; a talismanic seal is drawn, lines from the Qur’an are written (either on the body of the seer or on paper), incense is burned, and a conjuration is recited many times (I saw as little as 9 and as many as several thousand). Seclusion is often prescribed as is fasting for a week to a month. In many ways the workings for jinn conjuration resembled the Abramelin working (which I haven’t done) in that the magician is expected to fully concentrate for the week or month or more on prayers and conjurations while constantly observing ritual purity. These are workings of intense concentration and focus and is another reason I feel this book is not so much for beginners. It is probably wise that these workings be reserved for magicians with experience in spirit work. I don’t doubt that the workings are effective but I have yet to try any myself. 

A couple of things I found particularly interesting in Jinn Sorcery are, first, that the book tells the magician to greet the spirits in peace and/or that the spirit will greet the magician in peace. This is in striking contrast to the European grimoires that assume the spirits from their catalogs to be antithetical to the magician. This isn’t to say that there are no warnings or dangers in working the magic of Jinn Sorcery. One of the warnings comes from the workings that are the second thing I find particularly fascinating about this book, that is, marriage to a jinn. The book tells us that once one is married to a jinn they can never be with a human again lest the jinn get terribly jealous and injure the magician.  


All in all this is a great book and I am glad to have added it to my library. The greatest benefit for me personally is that it gives me a perspective on how magic in this region of the world is practiced. I can’t say that I am well versed enough to modify any of the workings but perhaps someone with more experience will be able to. Over the subsequent weeks and months I will probably try some of the workings. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Picatrix Decan Card Pre-Order Open

Friends and Neighbors, I am very excited to announce that the pre-order period is open for copies of the card deck of my 36 Picatrix Decan collage images. Each copy is $36 USD and comes with a little white book of descriptions. Email to moonlithermit@gmail.com to order your copy and to receive more information. Decks will ship on March 15th.




   



Thursday, January 4, 2018

Countering the Influence of a Planet




I was in an online discussion about Saturn when it came up that people were concerned about becoming depressed if they were to work with Saturn. While Saturn can be difficult to work with he should by no means be avoided.

Saturn gets a fearful reputation as the Greater Malific but all the planets have their positive and negative characteristics. What is required is a balance. Here I present something I shared with the group that I realize I have never included in this blog. I put it here for posterity if nothing else. I have not found this idea expressed anywhere else and I think it has some value.

In brief, the effects and influence of one planet can be nullified or reduced by accentuating the properties of the two planets on either side in the days of the week, the day before and the day after.
To counter Saturn, the magician needs the joyful beauty and hedonism of Venus as well as the warmth and vivifying power of the Sun.

To counter the Sun, the magician needs the cold restrictiveness of Saturn as well as the deep watery darkness of the Moon.

To counter the Moon, the magician needs the warmth and vivifying power of the Sun as well as the fiery assertiveness and strength of Mars.

To counter Mars, the magician needs the deep watery darkness of the Moon as well as the mutability and flexibility of Mercury.

To counter Mercury, the magician needs the fiery assertiveness and strength of Mars as well as the law-giving, empire expansiveness of Jupiter

To counter Jupiter, the magician needs the mutability and flexibility of Mercury as well as the joyful beauty and hedonism of Venus

To counter Venus, the magician needs the law-giving, empire expansiveness of Jupiter as well as the cold restrictiveness of Saturn.
I got the idea for this as I was looking at the glyph of the seven rayed star that represents the Chaldean order and the order of the planets in the week.




The influences of the planets are balanced as their influence ebbs and flows though the week. And as I wrote it out is made a lot of logical sense to me.

I think that there are many potential applications of this idea in ritual preparation and spirit work.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Thoughts on the Picatrix Decan Art Project

Now that I have finished the Picatrix Decan Art Project I'd like to share some insights.

The first big thing that struck me as I made this series was that several of the Decans, as I meditated on them and explored them more in depth, seemed to reference figures in Greek mythology. I was able to distinguish Silenus, Chiron the centaur, Persephone, and Apollo, among others. I strongly suspect that the Faces I didn't recognize are mythological figures with whose attribute I am less familiar. It wouldn't surprise me at all to find out they may be Hindu or Babylonian. I used the descriptions from Book 2, Chapter 11 of the Latin Picatrix for this project. The first line of the first description says "the first face of Aries is Mars..." This always bugged me grammatically and I wondered why the translators wrote it this way but I now think it is a clue that points to each Face representing a familiar character.

The second thing notable to me that wouldn't mean much to anyone else was that I really didn't feel influenced or even pay attention to the astrological weather at the time of the making of each piece. I didn't make the pieces in order nor did I take my queues on which one to work on depending on what was happening in the sky. It was all intuitive from the very beginning and I went with it. My solipsism would suggest that this means the Decans are somewhat separate from the minutia of astrological conditions but perhaps this is reaching too far.

After compiling these pieces I am now under the impression that the colors for each Decan described in Book 3, Chapter 3 of the Latin Picatrix have a deeper meaning than a simple attribution of color. What that is I have yet to divine.

Besides the Latin Picatrix itself I made extensive use of Austin Coppock's 36 Faces. His insights into the Decans are inspired and there were many times I tried to incorporate his ideas into my art. There were times when Master Coppock's ideas seemed to go counter to what I perceived to be the Picatrix's and in such cases I stuck to Picatrix but more often than not there was the opportunity for his writing to supplement and add depth to my work.

For those of you wanting to get copies of these images for yourself I am currently selling them as fine art prints. Currently the images are being printed on Hahnemuhle paper at 8x10", 16x20", and 32x40". Contact me at moonlithermit@gmail.com to learn more about sizes and pricing. If you are a curator I am especially keen on exhibiting these images in your gallery. I am also in communication with a publisher who would be familiar to most of the readers of this blog about getting this series printed as a chapbook. There is nothing definite yet so I can't say too much more on that. One way or another I will make affordable published sets of this project available for sale either as an inexpensive book, cards, or both. If you are interested in purchasing one let me know.

To see the entire set of The Picatrix Decan Art Project check out the album on my Flikr.com page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/abnormalimage/albums/72157685982224425

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Picatrix Decan Art Project: The Second Face of Pisces

I am working on an art project depicting the decans as described in the Picatrix. These are photographic prints of collages, signed and numbered and available in 8x10, 16x20, or 32x40 inch prints.

Here is the Second Face of Pisces:

There rises in the second face of Pisces a man upside down with his head below and his feet raised up, and in his hand is a tray from which the food has been eaten. This is a face of great reward, and of strong will in things that are high, serious, and thoughtful. This is its form.