Thursday, January 15, 2009
From time to time, I get inquiries from people about the "Joseph Smith" Jupiter talisman. Apparently Joseph Smith the founder of the LDS Church, ie Mormons, was wearing a Jupiter talisman, straight out of Barrett's the Magus when he was killed. See, e.g., Joseph Smith Jupiter Talisman
Now, I had been kicking myself that I didn't make a few Jupiter talismans in 2007 exactly like Barrett's design, because what happens when people call about them is that they ask if I have that EXACT design. I explain I don't and that Jupiter talismans made in 2008 were likely to backfire because Jupiter was in fall throughout 2008. I do however, have some very powerful Jupiter talismans, albeit with a different design from Picatrix Jupiter in Sagittarius Talisman and we will have the "Joseph Smith Jupiter Talismans" available at the end of February 2009.
Still my explanations fall flat almost 100% of the time! With the people that ask about the "Joseph Smith Jupiter Talisman" if they can't get the EXACT "Joseph Smith" design (being completely unaware of its true provenance) they decide either to buy a mass produced factory stamped pewter talisman or go without a Jupiter talisman at all, in essence the same, depriving themselves of the actual power of Jupiter talisman in either case.
This is not unusual. Many customers have a pre-set fixed idea that they want a particular design or a particular material and if this is not available, their rigidity means they simply deprive themselves of the magical benefit they are seeking altogether.
The problem is an over emphasis on the materials and design with which a talisman is made.
Let me say at the outset that I certainly do not think that all materials and all designs are suitable for all talismans, however, a much wider range of materials and designs can be effective and the importance of material and design has been far over emphasized as opposed to electional timing and ritual consecration.
The "Joseph Smith" Jupiter talisman is a good example. Barrett got his designs from Agrippa, but made his own changes. These designs are predominately based on planetary tables. We have used both the traditional planetary intelligences sigils and newer versions based more carefully on the planetary tables and both sets seemed to work. We have used planetary images from Picatrix and these work well. So while not all designs can be used for all planets, fixed stars, Mansions, etc., a fairly wide range of designs is effective.
Similarly with materials, I have used gold, silver, copper, gemstones and paper for talismans. I know people that have used wood, Sculpy and various ceramic materials. All seem effective, though gemstones and precious metals last longer, as Ficino notes in Three Books on Life Bk III, ch. 13.
Now even if we use metals for the planets we have lots of variation. One, fairly standard list is lead for Saturn, tin for Jupiter, iron for Mars, gold for the Sun, copper for Venus, confusion for Mercury and silver for the Moon. I say confusion for Mercury because there is widespread confusion about what to do for Mercury talismans.
Now Agrippa in Three Books of Occult Philosophy Bk II, ch. 22 says lead for Saturn, silver for Jupiter, with specialized Jupiter uses for red coral, Mars has iron and for specialized uses, cornelian and red brass, Sun, gold, Venus has silver again and for specialized uses, brass, Mercury has silver, tin, yellow brass, virgin parchment and Moon, silver.
Picatrix Bk II, ch. 10 has Saturn with iron and gold, Jupiter, lead (!!!), Mars, ruby, Venus, red brass, Mercury, mercury, tin, and Moon silver.
So lots and lots of variation in the assigned metals! This points up another perennial favorite, the "let's make talismans from toxic mercury" problem. Despite the wide variation in traditional sources, the modern standard list of planetary metals is on the short list of easy astrological info for everyone who "may not know much, but I sure do know X!" along with Mercury retrograde and the void of course Moon being apocalyptic. The Mercury = metallic mercury is especially tenacious, my theory being that the fact that the word Mercury for the planet is the same as the word mercury for the metal. Two major practical problems with using mercury for talismans. First, it is liquid at room temperature and therefore useless for casting or inscribing an image on. Secondly, it is toxic, particularly for the maker of the talisman.
Yet I get endless "helpful" suggestions about using mercury oxide (even more poisonous!) or sealing mercury, or mercury alloys, etc., etc. Because lord knows, you gotta make your Mercury talisman out of mercury, by gosh! As we can see from our traditional sources, there are plenty of other materials to use for Mercury talismans.
Let's go even further with this. Ficino says after listing off various metals and gems, that "metals, apart from gold and silver, have scarcely any power for images." Three Books on Life Bk III, ch 16. Following this currently we make most of our talismans in silver, though we do add in some of the metal of the planet, ie tin for Jupiter, iron for Mars, copper for Venus, gold for the Sun.
In De Imaginibus, Thabit Ibn Qurra, talking of making a scorpion image, says, "make the image of iron or tin or lead or silver or gold." Chapter 1. Later, when speaking of a wealth talisman he says to make the image of gold or silver or [iron?] or whatever is agreeable." Chapter 3.
Whatever is agreeable! What Thabit isn't flexible about, however, is the necessity of the proper election for the creation of astrological talismans.
This, it seems to me is the crux of the matter. If we are coming out of the modern, materialistic atheistic world view our focus has to be on matter, which in the case of talismans is the materials and design. This is what we see, this is what seems important and this is what we know. Thus the material and design become all important.
I get a slightly different focus from ceremonial magicians. They know ritual and see it as paramount. "What difference does it make if Jupiter is in Capricorn?"
The focus of our traditional sources, however, is clear! When speaking of talismans they are flexible on materials and design providing a range of alternatives, but they are strict on electional timing.
My view is that timing and ritual are the key components, where as materials and design play a lesser, though still important role.
Ultimately, I would seek to combine timing, materials and ritual to maximize the effectiveness of the talisman. Knowing when to flexible and when to be strict takes time, study and experience!