Monday, October 31, 2016

Reinventing the Almadel --A Tool to Evoke the Angels that Turn the Wheels of Time and Space



To everything there is a time and season for every purpose under heaven. –Ecclestiastes 3.1

By way of reading up on a 17th century magical book called the Grimoire Armadel, I stumbled upon images related to another text called the Ars Almadel (or Almandel), which is Part 4 of the Lesser Key of Solomon (also known as the Legemeton, compiled in the 17th century). The Almadel, which may be related to a medieval text called the Alrnandel,[1] describes the construction of 4 wax tablets, measuring 6 x 6 inches. They are used to evoke solar angels in their appointed times and seasons. See these blog posts on the Almadel Experiment by Frater Ashen Chassan for a more true-to-form information and imagery related to reconstruction of the Almadel:


The Almadel that appears in the Legemeton is a modified version of an earlier German text, which may be a version of an earlier Latin text that, in turn, may reflect earlier Judaic and Persian influences.[1] Although the earlier versions were meant to be tools to contact angels of the 12 “heights of Heaven” (that is angels corresponding with the zodiac or celestial houses associated with the solar year), the 17th century text mainly focuses on angels associated with the 4 quarters of space.[1]

In any case, in my life as an artist, mystic monger, and person fascinated with the history of magic in European culture, I woke up one morning feeling compelled to make an adaption of the Almadel. I had been making low, 24 x 24 inch tables, the tops of which are giclee canvas prints of my digital art.  I decided to fit all of the Almadel tablets into 1 digital 24 x 24 inch image. In doing so, I also had to make some decisions about how I wanted to adapt and modify the material I was working with.


Angel for Every Time and Season

Ancient Romans and other polytheistic cultures believed that all things were governed by spiritual principles, which they generally referred to as deities. This pantheistic idea of governance was somewhat maintained in the early Christian era, but the deific governors were reframed as angels and demons. This seemingly was a way to maintain a familiar paradigm but side-step forbidden concepts about polytheism and pantheism. Instead of a deity-driven world; the world was driven by angels and infested with demons all under God’s heaven and subject to God’s will, which the magician could invoke.

One of the higher aims of medieval high magic was to be in perfect alignment with the energies of the universe, and so we find magical books, such as the Picatrix, that are loaded with tables, mnemonic wheels, and instructions about what spirts are in charge of every aspect of time and space. Thus, at any given moment in any moon phase in any season, a mage may know the most auspicious actions to take, what actions to avoid, and which spirits to align with and which are most active and reachable at that very moment.

The Almadel tablets are one example of magic tables that are used to contact these spirits. These and other types of medieval magical and alchemical mandalas may be the Western equivalent of Eastern mandalas and yantras. In both traditions, the product is an assemblage of shapes, patterns, symbols, and magical words that have mystical or magical significance to the initiated, and the construction and use of the product is ritualistic.

My Image – My Process

I completed my version of an Almadel table early on a Sunday morning on this October’s new moon. That is, I added the god names to the image, created in PhotoShop Elements, on a Sunday before dawn, as instructed by the text of the Ars Almadel.

Earlier in the week, I layered images of the angels of the compass points and the zodiacal ecliptic with a tawny green-blue background. The inclusion of the zodiac is an acknowledgement that the table is meant to evoke the associated angels.

I also decided to add the Pythagoric anacrostic of the 72 names of God to the vertices of the 4 corners of the table top. This flourish was inspired by a passage I read in an article by Prof. Julien Véronèse in the scholarly journal Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft[2] in which Véronèse describes a table mentioned in the 4th book of the 13th century Kabbalist text the Liber Razielis Archangeli. It describes a rectangular table on which “76” names of God are to be written and the table “brandish[ed] toward the sky and the cardinal points for seven nights while reciting a prayer to the Lord.” Yes, I intend to try this as a consecration/”charging” of the table once the actual table itself is made.

Another element of my image consists of 3 concentric circles of words. The innermost rung consists of the names of the 12 angels assigned to the solar mansions (the zodiac). The middle rung contains the names of the 28 angels associated with the lunar mansions (as given by Agrippa), as the revolutions of the sun and moon are inextricably linked The outer circle is a passage from a canto called Omnia Sol Temperat from a medieval book of poetry called the Carmina Burana. The poem is about human love and the foibles of romantic devotion, but these lines here become a statement of spiritual devotion. I was inspired to include the poetic passage in the image after reading that earlier versions of the Amadel say that the evoked angels will become devoted to the mage and vice versa, securing the spiritual redemption of the mage.[1]

Omnia sol temperat purus et subtilis   
Ama me fideliter
Fidem meam nota;
De corde totaliter et ex mente tota

The sun warms all, pure and gentle
Love me faithfully!
Mark my loyalty;
Completely, in my heart and in my whole mind


The squares themselves all measure 6 x 6 inch, in accordance with instructions within the Ars Almadel. They appear in their appropriate colors; white for spring/east, rose for summer/south, green for autumn/west, and black for winter/north. The god names and designs of the Almadel differ somewhat in different historical copies of the text. Those within my image are mostly aligned with copies of the Almadel housed in the library of the University of Freiburg and the National Library of France.[1]

The stars in that version are supposed to be hexagrams, per instructions about placing the “pentacle of Solomon” in the 4 corners of the square. (The word “pentacle” could refer to a seal, not necessarily a 5-sided shape, in magical texts). Other versions of the Almadel show pentagrams instead of hexagrams. I decided to add pentagrams instead of hexagrams to remind of the 5 angels associated with each square that are named in the Ars Almadel.

As for the god names and terms written on the squares in my table top, the words on each square are identical but some words have been modified from what appears in the original template used. Namely, I chose to use corrected spellings (eg, Primeumaton [Prime mover] instead of Primeuiuaton and Henotheon [One God] instead of Henoytheon) and used more standard spellings of names or switched out some names for others found in other versions of the Almadel. I also replaced the term Selem with “Salem” (Peace) and the term Jatha with Yasha (Deliverance). Why? 1. It is important for the ritual tool to make sense to me as I basically self-initiate myself into its use and 2. Numerous scholars who conduct research on god names and voces magicae note that magical terms can sometimes be garble of what was once an intelligible word or phrase. The garbled term can then becomes standardized with repeated use--and so we find grimoire with the same seemingly unintelligible terms, meant to have magical efficacy, used again and again.

When I complete the Table, I intend to do evocation work with it as I had done with the Arbatel some years ago. In building decorative tables, I have plans to also build tables for ritual and magical use, like this Almadel table. The next to be featured will be an adaptation of the famous 12th plate of the Azoth the Philosophers (and yes, I take commissions and sell them). I’ll keep you posted.


References

1. Jan R.Veenstra.  The Holy Almandal. Angels and the Intellectual Aims of Magic. In Jan M. Bremmer, Jan R. Veenstra, eds. The Metamorphosis of Magic from Late Antiquity to the Early Modern Period. Louvain: Peeters. 2002:189-229


2. Julien Véronèse. God's Names and Their Uses in the Books of Magic Attributed to King Solomon Magic. Ritual, and Witchcraft. 2010;5(1):30-50 



4 comments:

  1. I am in the southern hemisphere, so our seasons differ. Isn't the location of the sun in the astronimic zodiac a more reliable way of determining which colour to make the almadel?

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  2. Good question. As noted, my work described here is 1. adaptive but 2. based on instructions from the grimoire who author was quite Eurocentric. When working with medieval and Early and Mid Modern Era (ie, 13th-17th century or so) grimoire, I think it is important to understand how the work was meaningful to the people in that time and place and then consider how to make the work and process meaningful and relevant to you right here and now. That means adaptation, experimentation, and reconfiguration play into the mix. It seems intuitive to me that a person from the Southern Hemisphere who decided to construct the Almadel tables would need to configure them in a way different from as described in the text. The tables themselves are supposed to be made out of wax with holes placed in them where incense, placed beneath the table rises up. East table is supposed to be made it is respective season. There are traditional mages out there--namely Frater Ashen Chassen, who have done the construction and evocation work exactly in alignment with the grimoire text. I take a more artistic and adaptive approach.

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