Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Multiple Visages of Spirits

When Jason brought up intelligences attracted to a working and assuming shapes, and traditional evocation, I thought of something that I keep coming back to.

Years ago, and earlier today (thank you, my friend), R.O. was discussing evocation with me and presented me with a fragment of Agrippa's Third Book of Occult Philosophy (chapter 27) which has remained in my mind ever since:
But here it is objected by many, that it falls out, that in these tables men of a differing nature, and Fortune, do oftentimes by reason of the sameness of name obtain the same Genius of the same name. We must know therefore that it must not be thought absurd that the same Demon may he separated from any one soul, and the same be set over more. Besides, as divers men have many times the same name, so also spirits of divers offices and natures may be noted or marked by one name, by one and the same seal, or Character, yet in a divers respect: for as the serpent doth sometimes typifie Christ, and sometimes the devill; so the same names, and the same seals may be applied sometimes to the order of a good Demon, sometimes of a bad. Lastly, the very ardent intension [intention] of the invocator, by which our intellect is joyned to the separated intelligencies, causeth that we have sometimes one spirit, sometimes another, although called upon under the same name, made obsequious to us.*

Later, in the 32nd chapter of the same book he notes a chance encounter of Apollonius that has an equally interesting aspect to it: “when Apollonius and his companions were travelling in a bright Moon-shining night, that the Phantasme of a Hagge met them, and some times changed it self into this shape, & some times into that, and some times vanished out of their sight.”

I see these as twin issues with the discussion of evocation: first, that the same sign or seal may be used to call upon multiple spirits, and second that the spirits themselves can and will change shape. (Which is, obviously, why most evocations involve requesting that the spirit a “Fair and Pleasing Form,” rather than one which will make you shit bricks while they also 'counter-fumigate' the area with the stench of sulfur...) The shape-shifting or multiple visages also extends to work with deities, which I'll get into in a bit.

In determining the planetary significance and virtue or dignity of the spirit conjured, the psuedonomous Fourth Book (chapter five) also includes aspects to watch out for which reveal the nature of the spirit as it appears, such as for Saturn:
  • An Old man with a beard.
  • An Old woman leaning on a staffe.
  • A Hog. 
  • A Dragon.
  • An Owl.
  • A black Garment.
  • A Hooke or Sickle.
  • A Juniper-tree. 

Earlier in the chapter the author notes some major factors that can signify what one has on their hands: 
We may also attain to the knowledge of the dignities of the evil Spirits, by the same Tables of Characters and Images: for upon what spirit soever there falleth any excellent signe ir instrument out of the Table of Characters, he possesseth that dignity; if a Crest or Plume, a Dukedome; if a Horn, a County; if without these there be a Scepter, Sword, or forked Instrument, it sheweth Rule and Authority. Likewise out of the Table of Images you shall finde them which bear the chief Kingly dignity: from the Crown judge dignity; and from the Instruments, Rule and Authority. Lastly, they which bear an humane shape and figure, have greater dignity then those which appear under the Forms and Images of Beasts; they also who ride, do excel them which appear on foot. And thus according to all their commixtures, you may judge the dignity and excellency of Spirits, one before another. Moreover, you must understand, that the Spirits of the inferiour order, of what dignity soever they be, are alwaies subject to the Spirits of the superiour order: so also, that it is not incongruent for their Kings and Dukes to be Subject and Minister to the presidents of the superiour order.”

It would add some implements not mentioned in either books, but which can distinguish Cthonic spirits: the torch, for instance, can be encountered being wielded by a number of the Greek Cthonic Gods (Hekate comes to mind immediately). Almost any spirit I have met bearing her authority has either had a torch, or a satchel of plants displayed upon their form.**

Generally, I've found that a lot of information can be gleaned prior to further work from the presentation of the spirit. For whatever reason, spirits bearing significant authority tend to seem enjoy presenting these aspects of themselves to the evocator; a means of saying, I think, “this is what I am, and I wish to be treated according to the manner of my presentation.” Spirits who are enormously pissed, for example, by the evocation tend to take on “fearsome visages,” on the other end of the spectrum. They wish their anger to be known, and part of that communication can be with words (such as if they shout at you, which is distinctly unpleasant), or the form itself will be “aggressive.” It can be easy to confuse what I mean by this with imagining a more animal countenance, such as spirits with what Agrippa might call a “lesser dignity” (they are more attuned to animal nature). The difference in this case is between the face of a lion as it roars, versus when it is sitting placidly and simply relaxing after a hard hunt. Lunar and sublunar spirits may also play with one's perceptions of shadows; malevolent ones seeming to give off a different, more infernal vibe to the shadow than one might otherwise encounter. I know of only two ways of fixing the problem of an angered spirit: emploring a higher spirit, such as the Headless God, and requesting that they aid in solving the problem... And using terrifying and horrifying Holy Names, which may vary depending on the situation. If I am at the crossroads, I am obviously calling upon on Hekate... Whereas with an evocation in a more private setting, following along the lines of the Grimoires, I will resort to the exorcisms and exortations/abjurations that I am aware of. I have found, over time, that angered lunar and sublunar spirits can be kept from being overly aggressive by calling upon Hekate as “Brimo.”*** I strongly suspect this is because Hekate as Brimo is far more terrifying than the spirit itself. Which is rather amusing, since I once expected it to bolster offended spirits. You live and learn, I guess.

The capacity of spirits to shapeshifted is much compounded, too, when we talk about calling upon Gods through the various means that magicians and Pagans have on hand. Deities are perceived by each participant radically differently, and that perception can also change over time. When I first encountered Hermes, he very much seemed to me to have the 'Thoth' head that we see in Graeco-Egyptian syncretic art. I was, however, holding a piece of the Great Pyramid in my hands at the time and I strongly suspect this bolstered the hybrid and fluid form that I met. None the less, it was very much the 'same' Hermes that I still encounter. Since then, my perception of him has become more like a speedy human youth, unless I'm also riding the astral planetary waves of
Mercury... In which case I might not perceive anything at all remotely human, but something more akin to living patterns that are speaking and singing and dancing all at once. My perception of Hermes through the planet of Mercury is far less vital in the human sense, and far more about the components of mobility and agency.

Years ago, Mr. VI suggested that whenever I get an image of a God, I internally say: “No, you are not that.” He noted that the image would then change, which is something I've discovered to be true in my own work. You can then see a sequences of images which represent the deity, but are not the deity. This ends at a certain point at which a very specific, and charged, symbol comes into play to represent what is being dealt with. For Dionysos, for example, this has always been the Mask for me. The mask which speaks is the last and final image of the deity – which is not that, but can be represented by that – which comes into my mind.

I strongly suspect something akin to this may also be in play with spirits during the evocation process. This is probably because we don't “see” spirits with our eyes, but with our minds... And the visuals which we process are simply the only way our mind can deal with being presented with something that we can't entirely comprehend, but we can catch – at best – glimpses of. Shining moments of brilliance that shatter conceptions, at times, and fill the mind with the raw glory of that which has come upon the practitioner. Fuck, suddenly I wish I was a poet so that I could write poems about the forms and beauty and sound...


There is one last thing that keeps coming back into my mind, about the multiple spirits and evocation which is not quite on topic but dovetails with it nicely. When we talk about the spirits of the
Psuedomonarchia, they are presented in a very medieval and feudal fashion for very obvious reasons. And almost all of them are given a specific allotment of “legions of spirits” which serve them. Is it possible, I wonder, that occasionally when one feels the same evocation has raised different spirits, that one has encountered one of the members of those legions, bearing the authority of the ruling spirit? While this has nothing to do with classical evocation: during my first attempt to better know and understand Hekate, I met a spirit bearing the image of a Priestess that was clearly a root digger, who indicated she was not Hekate but bore the authority of the Goddess. When I requested that she indicate the signs of that authority to me, she did so quite willing (the torch and satchel amongst them), and then proceeded to provide me with an oracle regarding what would come to pass before I should attempt to return to the astral form of Esquiline Hill that I had visited. These events, as odd as they seemed to me at the time, did come to pass. Although I do not visit the Hill nearly enough, these days...

[EDIT]:  I realize that when Agrippa is speaking, he's distinguishing between occasions when a good spirit or an 'infernal' spirit both have the same names and seals and can be called on, and that in no way implies they send their lessers around. However, that odd experience with the servant of Hekate makes me wonder if it happens more often than people realize. Just to clarify.

Feel free to shut down what anyone feels is undo conjecture, but I figured some of these thoughts were worth putting out there.

Be seeing you,

* Italix mine. I have also supplied the entire paragraph, since it is enlightening to read in the whole.
** I could also just be crazy. Buyer beware.
*** Other deities can also be called upon by that title, particularly Persephone and Demeter.

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