Goetia made easy! (1.1)
By Phil Legard (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A second part to this essay is due soon!
The evocation of spirits is one of the most exciting aspects of magic, but many people find it difficult and give up with little or no success. This essay is an expansion upon a previous ‘how to’ on Goetia, which I wrote in early 1998. The aim of this text is to give easy, no nonsense instruction in the technique of evocation according to the Goetia of Solomon The King. There have been similar attempts, notably Lon Milo DuQuette’s "Aleister Crowley’s Illustrated Goetia", which was (obviously) influenced by Crowley’s Thelemic practices, something I am not the biggest fan of. Therefore, the essay will be geared more toward the eclectic magicians out there, who want to use the techniques of Goetia, which are relatively simple and quite dynamic, within their own magic. Note though, that before performing a Goetic working you should have decent abilities in invocation and visualisation/scrying. To some extents, evocation is a skill. Some people would seem to have a knack for the art, while others may work at it for years without success. From personal experience, I would say that the keys to evocation (and to almost every discipline) are practice and experimentation.
Choosing A Spirit
So, before we begin our action of Goetia we need to decide which spirit we want to evoke - you should have strong enough motivation or emotion to evoke the spirit and a belief in your powers of conjuration is essential - half-hearted evocations for the sake of it rarely work. So, which spirit should you choose? I’d advise you to look through the descriptions in the Goetia, and to make note of the powers and observances of the spirits you would like to evoke. A good spirit for those beginning Goetic work would be Buer, who appears (to me at least) to be rather friendly and helpful. He can give the conjuror a familiar, which usually manifests as a personal spirit. A quick word about the spirits, or demons, mentioned in the Goetia: The text of the Goetia insists that the 72 spirits are ‘evil’ and serve under Lucifer. Even a cursory investigation into the origins of many of the names, or the descriptions of many of the spirits, will reveal that many of them are not necessarily ‘evil demons’. Many of the spirits of the Goetia derive from the gods or angels of other cultures, for example, the name Astaroth is a bastardised form of Astarte and it is possible that Amon was derived from the Egyptian Amoun (the Egyptian features of this entity would perhaps back this theory up too). Therefore it shouldn’t be thought that all the spirits are ‘evil’, rather that they are a varied and mixed bunch of gods, spirits, Nephilim, angels and demons.
Having decided the upon the spirit to evoke, the ritual equipment needs to be prepared and the temple needs to be set up. The ritual equipment is detailed in the Goetia, and is nice to have around, even if it is just made of paper and not gold, silver and Jabberwocky scales. The equipment is as follows:
The Hexagram - Basically the Goetia states that when a spirit is shown the hexagram then it will obey the conjuror. The Hexagram should be kept covered until the spirit is evoked, then it is uncovered. The Goetia tells you to wear it on the skirt of your robes and to cover it in cloth. Alternatively it can be mounted to that it stands up and covered with a cloth, which can be taken off when needed (especially useful if you are standing behind an altar). Obviously, the Hexagram doesn’t have to be made of calf skin, paper or card will suffice.
The Pentagram - The Pentagram is to defend the conjuror and give him power over the spirit. The spirit’s seal should be written on the back of the pentagram, which is worn on your breast or as a medallion. If you’re feeling flashy, visit an art shop and get some card which has a metallic finish in the appropriate metal for the spirit. Or even better - small discs of metal can usually be found for a rather cheap price. I usually make a new pentagram for each operation.
The Ring of Solomon - Something for emergency situations. There are some cases in which the operation may get out of hand - the ring should be kept handy to protect from the spirit. I have never needed to use it, but all the same I keep it with me during the operation.
The Brazen Vessel and Secret Seal (optional) - Apparently, the spirit can be conjured into a bronze vessel, or ordered into it by the "Secret Seal of Solomon" as punishment.
The Seal (recommended) - The spirit’s seal should be drawn on a circle of paper or parchment, big enough to fill the triangle’s centre. This serves two main purposes. Firstly I find that it assists in the self hypnosis and scrying central to Goetia and secondly the seal is the ‘life force’ of a spirit and will be ‘activated’ (similar to a sigil) through the operation. As we shall see later, this seal can be ‘tortured’ to make the spirit carry out our will - or destroyed if the spirit is disobedient.
Incense (optional) - Some people claim that the incense gives the spirit a medium to use in materialisation and should be placed within the triangle. I would say that in many cases the incense has no effect - to me at least. If you’re feeling bold then you may like to consider mixing an incense consisting of mugwort and wormwood. This should be kindled when damp and, when used in the right quantity, has a mild hallucinogenic effect thus improving scrying and ‘seeing’ skills.
Next, we’ll tackle the layout of the temple. The temple can be any room which will be undisturbed during the time of the evocation and which can accommodate the circle and the triangle.
The Circle - It is said that the circle should be nine feet across. Many people do not have this much room, and as we all know, size doesn’t matter… basically there should be enough room to move about and to keep your implements in. The designs for circles given in the Goetia are very complex and are designed to be drawn or painted onto the ground. Crowley further complicated matters by providing instruction on the colours which the circle should be. None of this is necessary. The circle can easily be made of string or masking tape. If you wish to protect the circle further then appealing holy or protective names and words can be written on the tape or placed around the circle on pieces of card.
The Triangle - It is said the triangle should be three feet long each side and placed two feet away from the circle. As with the circle the triangle can be made from string or tape and adorned with holy names. If you are not using a spirit’s seal in the triangle then the inside of the triangle should be of a dark colour, to aid the ‘seeing’ process. Personally I use a large sheet of thick black card painted with gold names for my triangle. The Goetia also says that the triangle should point to the quarter which the spirit belongs to, but most people point the triangle to the East. More recently people have been mounting the triangle on an easel and using a ‘black mirror’ (or magic mirror) and hypnosis techniques to call the spirit to visible appearance. This is an approach I have yet to try.
Other optional stuff - You may like to put on some atmospheric backing music. This should suit the rite and should add to the atmosphere. Also, you may like to decorate the temple in a style that you think the spirit would like, for example you could use Egyptian decoration for those spirits which seem to have been derived from Egyptian mythology.
Now we shall discuss the procedure of the operation. Firstly, make sure the phone’s unplugged and the dishes have been washed up - we want no disturbances or distractions during the operation. Start by putting the seal in the triangle (if applicable), and then enter the circle. You should now banish, so that there are no forces interfering with the operation or possibly masquerading as the desired spirit. This step is optional, but most people prefer to banish and banishing also acts as a ritual intensifier - to put it vulgarly it puts the magician 'in the mood'. Any means of banishing may be used, I usually use the standard LBRP ritual. All steps of whatever ritual you choose should be visualised and performed to the best of your ability (some may like to ground or meditate a while before banishing, to help attain ‘magical consciousness’).
You may also like to further open the gateways, by requesting guardians, elemental or otherwise, to come to the quarters of the circle, the LBRP does this to some extent, but it is good practice to bring further help and protection to the circle. This stage is incorporated into the "Bornless Invocation" as included in Crowley’s Goetia and you may also like to incorporate it into the invocation.
The invocation usually follows opening the gateways, but as stated above, these two steps can be combined. Basically the purpose of the invocation is to call a higher spirit into yourself so that one (believes he) has the power to call the spirit to the triangle. It is probably best for the conjuror to write his or her own invocation to his or her personal god(s), if any. Crowley’s "Bornless Invocation" is a good example, but I feel it has been somewhat butchered by his ‘restoration’ of the barbaric names. Basically the invocation should inspire you and at least make you feel identity with the power you are calling on. As with all stages of the operation, maximum effort should be given to it’s delivery. In some cases when performing an invocation I start ‘buzzing’ with power (mainly in my hands). An effect like this is what you should make some attempt to produce - the invocation should cause some kind of change either physically or mentally.
Having invoked the higher force, the conjuration can now take place. The text of the Goetia is filled with primary conjurations, secondary conjurations, curses, invocations of kings, exorcisms etc. None of this is really necessary and is really there just to give the magician more and more instructions to follow in the hope that the spirit will eventually appear. All that we really need to do is to focus our will into calling the spirit and deliver the conjuration or similar calls until the spirit manifests. The conjuration can be very simple, for example "Hear me, O spirit n., I command thee to appear within the triangle forthwith. Come in peaceably and fair shape, I command thee!" Or, you may actually find it desirable to use the conjurations from the Goetia. The repeating of the conjuration or calling of the spirits name should continue until a presence is felt. I remember reading somewhere that an attentive spirit should come on the eleventh call. However, if you have trouble you may like to threaten the spirit into appearing. This can be done by threatening to burn it’s sigil or threatening to torture it (more on this later).
Once the spirit’s presence is felt, then it can be given it’s orders, or ‘charge’. If you desire to ‘see’ the spirit you may like to command it to appear visibly. I should say that by ‘visible appearance’ I mean that the spirit will somehow show itself to you. This may be a shadow or mist, a flickering image or suggestion of an image within the triangle, or something more psychic, like an image in the mind’s eye. As I have said, there is a certain amount of ‘scrying’ and self hypnosis involved in Goetic work, especially when viewing the spirit is concerned. The spirit should be given clear orders, some people have observed that the spirits are not necessarily evil, in that they will carry out the actions, but they care not for the effects that may take place because of these actions. Therefore you should deliver an order which includes restrictions of not hurting friends or family and so on. You may like to read W. W. Jacob’s classic horror story "The Monkey’s Paw", or the lazier of you may like to watch The Simpson’s Hallowe’en Special II, which has a half baked parody of the aforementioned story. As motivation for the spirit to do it’s job, you may like to offer a reward. You should state it’s reward, but if you ‘hear’ the spirit trying to persuade you for more do not bend to it - or eventually you may find yourself selling your ‘soul’, bodily fluids or something worse. A good way to reward a spirit is to create a new copy of it’s sigil, possibly in a metal, in a work of art, or in graffiti (!), thus spreading it’s ‘life force’. Try to be flexible, but don’t let the spirit have the upper hand.
Once the charge has been delivered the spirit is given licence to depart. That is to say that after binding him to the circle you are now letting him go. Once more, the licence can be short and to the point, or you may like to use the version in the Goetia. The license should be delivered until the spirit’s presence is no longer felt.
Finally another banishing ritual should be performed and the temple closed. The ritual items should be stored away and if you used a seal, which is now ‘activated’, this should be kept in a safe place all the time.
Now just sit back and wait for the spirit to carry out it’s job. Hopefully. Should the spirit fail to carry out it’s task within an allotted time (detailed in the charge), then there are several approaches which may be taken. You may choose to forget about it and get on with life, on the other hand, you may like to consider ultimatums, torture and destruction.
To give the spirit an ultimatum, one simply conjures the spirit once more and demand that it complete it’s task within a certain amount of days, otherwise it will be tortured or destroyed. Hopefully this will encourage the spirit to go about his duty. If this approach fails then you may turn to torturing the spirit. The instructions for torturing the spirit are detailed in The Goetia and basically consist of putting the spirit’s seal into a box with various foul smelling ingredients and heating the box over a fire (alternatively, you may like to put the seal in a pot on the stove!). Once this has been done, the spirit may be more obliged to carry out your will. The technique of torturing was originally used for coercing a spirit to appear, but works just as well to motivate the spirit. Finally, if all attempts fail then the spirit’s seal can be destroyed, destroying the spirit with it, or at least lessening the spirit’s ‘life force’. This may seem a little rash, but The Goetia states that "If you are not for me then you are against me," so it would seem that some spirits will never aid certain people - however this does not mean you should go about destroying all seventy-two spirits just because you are a pathetic magician!
If the spirit does carry out it’s charge, then all that is left for you to do is to formally thank it by conjuring it again and then fulfilling your side of the bargain, whatever that may be.
And that is the basics of modern Goetic practice! I will close with a few notes about the practice. Some people have observed that the Goetic spirits are to some extent parts of our own subconscious. Someone, possibly Poke Runyon, said "Like it or not, we all come with twelve six packs of Goetic spirits wired into our brains." I have found this to be true, to some extent. For example, I have found that forgetting the particulars of the charge which you delivered to the spirit is to some extent important. Thinking too much about the orders you have given may lead to one becoming unsure if it’s what one really wants, also resulting in failure. However, many people who have studied magic have probably spent long hours trying to explain why certain things happen, only for something else to happen and throw their theories into the dustbin. I think it is naïve to say that the spirits of The Goetia and the actions they produce are solely products of ones mind. But it is similarly naïve to say that the spirits are really independent entities who, with their legions, run about making things happen. I have come to the conclusion that the truth lies somewhere in between the two, but should not try to be explained - basically, Goetia works. In many ways and on many levels.