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Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Christian grimoire


- fresco of Uriel from The St. Ferapont Belozero Monastery

Speaking of David Bentley Hart, I found it really interesting when he wrote ....

[...] magic is essentially a species of materialism; if it invokes any agencies beyond the visible sphere, they are not supernatural -- in the theological sense of "transcendent" -- but at most preternatural: they are merely, that is to say, subtler, more potent aspects of the physical cosmos. Hermetic magic and modern science (in its most Baconian form at least) are both concerned with hidden forces within the material order, forces that are largely impersonal and morally neutral, which one can learn to manipulate, and which may be turned to ends fair or foul; both, that is to say, are concerned with domination of the physical cosmos ....... Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, p. 82

He seems to almost be saying that magic works, though he does appear to divorce it from theology. I was reminded of what he'd written by a book I just got from the library - Deryni Magic by Katherine Kurtz - that discusses fictitious rituals of Christian magic in the Deryni novels. Here's a bit from that book about the Archangels .......

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Summoning the Archangels begins in the East .... The Archangel of the East is Raphael, who rules the element of Air. He (though angels truly have no gender) is usually depicted in flowing, air-stirred robes of pale, golden yellow. Traditional Judeo-Christian symbolism associates Raphael with the mercy of healing and identifies him as the angel who stirred the waters of the well in Tobit -- whence comes his common depiction holding a fish. In classic esoteric thought, the element of Air is associated with thought, intellect, and healing. Its symbol is the sword, which perhaps was an arrow originally -- an obvious Air attribute. In a working circle, the most common symbol of Air is incense smoke.

Second in the Archangelic pantheon is Saint Michael, Commander of the Heavenly Hosts, who rules the element of Fire in the South. Red is Michael's primary color and he is usually depicted in armor, wielding a fiery sword -- or sometimes a lance. In some traditions, it is he who guards the gates of Eden after the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. It is he who will wield the scales at the final Judgement .... The element of Fire is associated with intuition and sight, but its weapon is not Saint Michael's sword but the wand -- once a fire-hardened stick or staff, used in control of Fire, such as pokers or torches. Lighted candles are the symbols of Fire in the ritual circle, as well as the fire that burns the incense.

The third Archangel is Gabriel, Guardian of the West and Water, usually depicted in blues and aquamarines. By very solid tradition, Gabriel is the Angel of the Annunciation, who carried the tidings of Jesus' impending birth to the Blessed Virgin with the immortal salutation "Hail Mary, full of grace ..." Gabriel also is the angel of the Last Judgement, who will blow his heavenly trumpet to raise the blessed dead. By association, then, Gabriel is the Heavenly Herald as well, and perhaps chief servitor of the Queen of Heaven ..... Water is associated with feeling, love, and taste/smell, and its symbol is the Cup -- originally the cauldron of immortality ... the Holy Grail. The holy water used in aspersing the circle is the ritual symbol of Water.

Finally, the Archangel in the North is Uriel (Auriel, by some reckonings), who rules the element of Earth. In one of Uriel's aspects, he is the Angel of Death, though not in a morbid sense but as the agent of the natural cycle of birth, death, and rebirth .... Uriel alone has truly feathered wings, usually likened to the green-black of ravens of magpies or the iridescent green of a mallard. The element of Earth is associated with learning, sensation, and touch. Its symbol is the Shield or the Pentacle, originally an early spade for scraping earth and planting seed, and thereby a link with sacred stones. The salt in the holy water used to asperse the circle provides the ritual symbol for Earth ......

Saint Raphael, Healer, Guardian of Wind and Tempest, may we guarded and healed in mind and soul and body this night ... Saint Michael, Defender, Guardian of Eden, protect us in our hour of need ... Saint Gabriel, Heavenly Herald, carry our supplications to Our Lady ... Saint Uriel, Dark Angel, come gently, if you must, and let all fear die here within this place.

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