On Sex Demons! Succubi and Incubi (An Edited Excerpt from my Upcoming Book: 7 Spirits)

In Chinese folklore, there exist certain beings that possess a peculiar set of abilities that are mostly utilized to seduce men into an early grave. A quick example is the Chinese fox spirit the Huli jing, or literally, the 9 tailed fox.

This spirit was said to possess the ability to take on the form of a beautiful man or women and through its perceived feminine or masculine wiles, would lure humans into sexual congress only to brutally remove their souls and take possession of their bodies.

Stories abound throughout the Asian continent of such beings causing all sorts of mischief and havoc wherever they went. The famous Taoist Chinese Mystic Guo Pu, described the spirit as such,

“When a fox is fifty years old, it can transform itself into a woman; when a hundred years old, it becomes a beautiful female, or a spirit medium, or an adult male who has sexual intercourse with women…and when a fox is thousand years old, it ascends to heaven and becomes a celestial fox.”[1]

Striking about the passage itself, other than how evocative the term “celestial fox” is; is the suggestion that these spirits attain their power after a progression of aging. The powers themselves aren’t innate so much as they are bestowed resultant from the attainment of a particular degree of life experience

Also illustrated by this passage, is the fact that not all of these fox spirits were of an evil nature. Just because they can do these things doesn’t mean that they are bound to repeat a pattern of destruction. There are more than a few stories of such beings actually facilitating the growth and success of human societies.

The ancient Chinese historian, Guo Pu, penned a book some time in the third century entitled shanghaiing. The book itself covers quite an expansive period of time but in one instance it details an example when a time of peace spread across the kingdom. In this particular event, 9 tailed foxes (Kyubi) appeared as a sign of harmony and, indeed, were taken as auspicious omens.[2]

In Japan as well, the notion of foxes as seductresses and mischief causers was seemingly introduced by the infusion of traditional Chinese stories as well as by the injection of Chan Buddhism into Japanese culture. Before this introduction, the Kitsune (Japanese for Fox) had a surrounding mythos portraying them as friends and lovers, not as tricksters and villains.

Even still, for the most part in common folklore, these spirits seemed to be at the very least viewed with reverence and even fear.

Something to draw your attention to is the distinctive sexual element these spirits possess. The utilization of powers of transformation to seduce men (and sometimes women) into sexual congress only to relieve them of their souls is a standard, almost universal description.

In the western world, particularly in southern Europe, there are a few examples of similar beings, the most recognizable of which are probably the sirens of the Greek myths. These strange sea bird/women hybrids were known to seduce sailors to the bottom of the sea with their beautiful voices. Certain myths surrounding mermaids tell of similar functions, luring the unwary to early graves.

These creatures, be they sirens, the Huli jing, or other entities that seduce those who would cross them into intercourse for the purposes of sapping their vital energy and eventually causing their death, are classified under a category of being that has generally been termed succubi or incubi depending on their apparition to the individual.

The words themselves are plurals of the terms Succubus and Incubus respectively. Succubus stems from the late Latin ‘succubare’. This meant something like “to lie underneath” generally implying the preferred position of such a being when it came to sexual congress. Succubi are always of the female variety

Incubi, conversely, are depicted as being male. The word stems from the latin ‘incubari’ meaning to ‘lie on top’, again indicating the preferred position of the spirit in sexual congress.

Where exactly the concept originated is, as it is with fairies, somewhat contested, though there seem to be two main schools of thinking.

The first of which has its origins in an ancient Jewish text called the Zohar. The idea was basically that Adam had a wife before Eve who was named Lilith. Unwilling to lay with Adam, Lilith fled Eden and found sanctuary with the angel Samael (or Satan for the Christian minded among us).

After a short time, Lilith and Samael wound up engaging in intercourse and producing a litany of children. These demonic babies then, at the command of their demonic parents, would enter into the world of humans in order to steal away the vital life essences at the time that men were at their weakest. This was generally while the victim slept or had sex with their spouses.[3] The theory goes that we would come to know these demonic offspring as succubi/incubi.

This model would eventually find its way into the Christian tradition and its view found favor much later in the wildly popular book written by the Catholic clergyman Heinrich Kramer in 1486, The Malleus Maleficarum, better known as, The Hammer of the Witches. Despite being roundly condemned by the authorities in the church, this book was a tremendous bestseller, outselling every book but the Bible for nearly 200 years.

Its author fomented his readers with wild and somewhat horrifying assertions that demons would actually steal the semen of dead men in order to impregnate women.[4] This, he argued, was the only way that demons and their kind could reproduce. His literal interpretation represented one of the clearest cases for a strict literal theological understanding of the succubi phenomena.

Another prevailing theory of the time was less rooted in strict literalist theology and can be seen through modern eyes as a sort of proto-psychological explanation, indeed this phenomenon was viewed by some as a sort of upwelling of inherent weakness and sinfulness by unguarded minds. This was actually the track taken by theologians and scholars both before and after the Mallus was published. As we mentioned, members of the Inquisition and the church at large roundly condemned the Mallus for both contradicting Catholic theology as well as promoting ethically questionable procedures without considering other points of view but they did not completely dismiss the phenomenon of witchcraft and succubi as unreal.

Rather, the main line of argument emanating from those conducting the inquisition from the Church’s point of view, was that the practice of witchcraft and the apparition of entities like succubi and incubi were in actuality delusions brought on, not by demonic possession, but rather by visits from the devil in the dreams of those afflicted, coaxing them to engage in sinful thoughts and actions. Of course, it was considered that only the weak in faith and those lacking in virtue would be afflicted by such conditions.

If we consider these occurrences now, through modern psychological terms, we could easily posit that the focus on the ideals of sexual purity and chastity which were so prevalent in the minds of those in the early medieval period were cause for tremendous repression of what some would call inherent lustful desire.

This repression in waking life seems to lead to an attempted expression by the psyche when the conscious mind of the affected was left unguarded during sleep. What the medieval theologians chalked up to visits from the devil, more modern psychologists understand to be the emergence of repressed aspects of the mind.

Outside of mainline Catholic theology there arose other explanations for the phenomena. In 1599, the future King James the first of England penned his book Daemonologie (Demonology) in which he argued that succubi and incubi were actually the same entity that manifested differently depending on the afflicted persons.[5]

This rationale represented a marriage between protestant Christian theology and the proto-psychological explanation. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that King James was onto the notion that repressed desires have no real “gender” as we understand humans to express, and that their form of manifestation and conceptualization is dependent on the individual undergoing the experience.

The sheer force of such repression, so our modern theory goes, would lead to the unconscious creation of a sort of thought-form whose appearance would greatly depend on the individual experiencing the condition (see section 2) which after a time would take on an autonomous element and become independent of the mind that created it.

It should be noted that the opposite has been proposed as well, indeed some mystical thinkers along with psychologists have posited that overindulgence in sexual thinking can also lead to the creation of this type of thought-form. Much as we reinforce addictions through repeated behavior, if we continually feed these beings, we become more likely to continue doing so.

Regardless of how this particularly lustful thought-form was created, once it had been formed it would then take up residence in the aura of the creator and continually feed on the sexual energies and thoughts of that person. This, in turn, would create a sort of feedback loop where the harder the individual attempted to repress or fulfill such sexual thoughts, the more power was delivered to the entity during sleep when the mind is unchecked and allowed to crave such things of an animalistic nature.

Regardless, be they creations of the demon queen Lilith and her consort Satan, or delusions brought upon weak minds by the devil himself, or constructs of the mind that have taken on lives of their own, or some combination of the three, the appearance of such beings and their corresponding experiences to the uninitiated, and even to fairly advanced adepts, can be something of a bother.

Considering that we live in an age where access to sexually explicit material is available on demand for anyone with a half-decent internet connection, the prevalence of these entities and indeed their ability to drain the life out of some has expanded quite considerably. This reality coupled with the fact that the minds of a great many people focused on the attainment of sexual gratification has led to an explosion in the number of succubi and incubi currently cohabitating this reality with us.

I can’t yet say if this is yet a positive or a negative trend, though I have my biases, permit me to say that the resurgence in these energies does seem to be a trend with no real sign of stopping or even meaningfully slowing down any time in the near future. If we look at the numbers surrounding pornography and sexual addiction, as well as myriad surveys on loneliness, social isolation and lack of general purpose all indicating more and more people swept up into isolated and auto-hedonistic lifestyles, we see over the past 50 years an absolute explosion in those afflicted with such conditions and are thus led to believe that the energies of the succubi and incubi are perhaps more at play today than they have ever been throughout human history.

This somewhat worrying trend has met some pushback from the great religions of the day as every single spiritual tradition I have ever come across (with the exception of some strains of Satanism and chaos magick) extol the virtues of retaining one’s sexual energy in order to channel it into productive, charitable, mentally stimulating and creative tasks. Of course, with the number of individuals proclaiming a religious identification falling like a stone through water with each passing day, the traditional bastion of faith and community, what may have once provided a sense of meaning and remedy to the situation, has been weakened like never before.

I make no defense of the great religions as they have only themselves to blame for such failings and I rejoice in the destruction of certain hateful doctrines among them, but I admit, I lament that the positive aspects of these faiths have are being cast aside as well. In this I can only say that it seems that we as a society have been unknowingly throwing the baby, along with the soap, the towels and the rubber ducky, out with the bathwater.

Returning to the point, the real detriment of interaction with incubi and succubi is that the individual is locked into a cycle of expending their sexual energy and thus is left impotent to complete the tasks in life that require higher energetic levels and focus. As with any addiction, constant focus on the gratification of a desire overrides the impulse to do, quite literally, almost anything else. Resulting from this environment and the general response to it is the diffusion of one’s vital energy into the ether rendering one further incapable to aspire to higher goals, leading to feelings of inadequacy and sorrow, which only reinforces a desire to feel good, in any way possible, resulting in further gratification of base desires and a further descent into the mire.

In contrast to what I admit is a decidedly pessimistic view, some authors would have you believe that succubi and incubi are in fact harmless and worthy of establishing relationships with. This is where I take a particular stand and where I may get into a bit of trouble with some practitioners in the wider community. I make no apologies for this. These people are either…

1. Delusional,

2. Woefully ignorant,

3. Mistaken in their assertion that they are dealing with a succubus (Purposefully created Tulpas, that is to say, sentient thought forms, are a common entity often mistaken to be succubi though they can have similar effects on the individual)

4. Sex and pornography addicts

5. Afflicted with a succubus or incubus themselves (misery loves company) or,

6. Role playing.

If there’s one thing to take away from this chapter it is the fact that such beings who ask for the life force of the individual in order to do nothing more than gratify their basest physical impulses are probably not to be considered one’s friends.

The newfound popularity of such books urging the practitioner to respect succubi and incubi, and even to treat them as friends or companions presents quite a worrisome trend in normalizing practices that can be very much to the individuals detriment. As best I can tell these authors are suffering from one of the above-listed conditions or are simply playing an edgy role to incite interest and prop up book sales. Their cunning would be laudable if it weren’t so destructive.

Part of the reason I am so irked by this rise in popularity amongst such subjects is simply because these beings are extremely difficult to banish once they worm their way into any given individual’s auric field. There have been myriad documented cases throughout the middle ages of monks and priests attempting to rid those afflicted through exorcisms and all manner of holy prayer. In a little more than half of the cases I have studied, these mechanisms were completely ineffective.

In a small but equally noteworthy number of cases, the attempts to banish such entities ended up actually exacerbating the problem.

The only bulletproof way I have encountered to rid oneself of a succubus is to fortify oneself with patterns and habits that effectively starve the beast out. If one is spending their days engaging in positive tasks, bettering oneself or their environment through prayer, or work, or creative expression, or ceremonial magick, or establishing healthy relationships, or engaging with family, or meditation, or jogging, or any real dedicated spiritual pursuit in order to make their lives and the lives of those around them just a little bit better, they are channeling their energy into considerably healthy objectives. Thusly, there is very little energy left over for such entities to feed on.

Neurologically speaking, this technique is basically light neuro-programming. The term “use it or lose it” comes to mind. If you consistently reinforce neural pathways that trigger sexual desire (through masturbation or casual sex or pornography or what have you) then the impulse becomes part of something called your default mode network. Basically, this network is what your brain defaults to when met with any new situation. It becomes your auto-pilot function. To return to the phone metaphor we used in the last chapter, these practices are effectively taking the succubi off of one’s “speed dial” function.

“Welcome to Divinity Inc. Please press 1 to engage in a meaningful expression of the soul.”

Likewise, if you set your default mode network to respond to new situations with prayer, hard work, fasting, compassion for self and others, meditation, etc. The patterns you develop will overcome your previous neuronal pathways, allowing those past patterns and networks to shrivel away and eventually recede into the dustbin of your neurological history.

As the Dutch philosopher Erasmus said, “A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit.”[6]

Of course, some habits are better than others in overcoming the conditions that succubi and incubi bring on. For example, a dedicated practice of theurgy (invocation of the divine) will set the practitioner’s mind on their most positive ideal and will thus reinforce their commitment to overcoming their limitations. This might prove a more effective method than simply attempting to go exercise each time the urge to give up one’s sexual energies emerges. This is so for the reason that not only is the practitioner establishing a new habit (in the case of theurgy) but they are establishing a new conception of self. Whereas in the case of simply exercising, they are only relying on habit to overcome habit, but in the case of theurgy, they are relying on habit and a redefinition of self to overcome habit. This, as I have seen in several examples in my own life, is doubly effective.

That said, a combination of exercising the body, the mind, and the spirit never hurt anyone and by all accounts generally proves more effective than any single practice performed in isolation. When one, through an act of tremendous Will, can work in concert with all parts of themselves, unimaginable power may be obtained.

In closing this section, I want to make it clear that I am in no way denigrating the sexual experience. Sexual action is a demonstrably healthy thing when expressed in the appropriate situations. It is only when these elements get out of hand that things are likely to go awry. I think it’s safe to bring up that old phrase, everything in moderation; especially moderation.


[1] Xiaofei Kang. The cult of the fox: Power, gender, and popular religion in late imperial and modern China. (New York. Columbia University Press. 2006.) 276–324

[2] Richard E. Strassberg. A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas. (Berkeley, CA. University of California press. 2002.) Chapter 14, Verse 16-17.

[3] The Zohar. Trans. Rav Michael Laitman. (Toronto, ON, Canada. Laitman Kabbalah Publishers. 2009) 459.

[4] Heinrich kramer, “Whether Children can be Generated by Incubi and Succubi, Part 1, Question 3” in Malleus Maleficarum. Edited by Reverend Montague Summers. (Windhaven Netword. 1999.) Retrieved from http://www.magicgatebg.com/Books/MalleusAcrobat.pdf

[5] King James I. Demonology of King James I. (Edited by Tarl Warwict. 2016.) 54-55, 62.

[6] Desiderius Erasmus. AZQuotes.com, Wind and Fly LTD, 2021. https://www.azquotes.com/quote/90473, accessed March 11, 2021.

On Elemental Spirits (Excerpt From my Upcoming Book: 7 Spirits)

As I had previously written about thoughtforms in an earlier chapter, it would behoove us to discuss an entity known as an elemental.

As opposed to a thought form, an elemental is a decidedly different class of being. Like thoughtforms though, they can be beneficent or malevolent; however unlike thought forms, elementals are inherent to the earth and nature Herself. Indeed, in classical magical literature they are thought to exist nearly completely independently of human conditions. To illustrate this point, let’s use water elementals, or as their classically called, Undines, as an example.

Take for instance the feeling of awe humans experience when standing near or under a waterfall or a big river. The experience exists whether or not we consciously evoke it. It is as though the experience is compelled simply by the spirit of the natural environment in which a human traffics. It is not a constructed or willed experience; it simply happens resultant from proximity to these beings.

To use a different example, let’s consider the spirits of fire. When we stand or sit around a campfire late at night and all goes quiet, say for the crackling blaze, that feeling of peace and tranquility is brought on by the elemental of fire, or as they are classically called, Salamanders. Conversely, conjure up, if you will, the terror of a forest or house fire. In such situations, elementals abound interacting with human consciousness sparking fear. These are of the more destructive kind, but none the less the elementals impact on the human consciousness, simply through proximity, is noteworthy. It is of note, that proximity to an elemental does not necessarily indicate that it is directly interacting with you. Salamanders in particular are not particularly fond of humans and if the classical literature is to be believed, take great pains to conceal themselves from the vast majority of us.

Naturally, this is only the view of the classical literature, but students and practitioners of the magical realm can lean on the work of thinkers like Ralph Abraham, Terrence Mckenna and Rupert Sheldrake, particularly in their book, Chaos, Creativity and Cosmic Consciousness, to flesh out the three basic ways the aspirant conceptualize entities. The first of these potential conceptualizations would be something akin to crypto zoology, in such a view these entities are actually physical beings, very much like bigfoot or the loch ness monster. This seems to be the most unlikely, or perhaps the least interesting of possibilities when it comes to the classification of such beings.

The second way to conceptualize these creatures is effectively a Jungian proposition. As Terrence Mckenna put it, Jung considered entities like elementals as, “autonomous fragments of psychic energy that have temporarily escaped from the controlling power of the ego.”[1] Effectively a psychological approach, and while limited in that respect, its utility is immediately useful for those who wish to understand their role in the larger psycho-social environment in which they exist. While it effectively explains the existence of such entities as dependent on our capacity to conceive of them, indeed as objects and impulses beneath the conscious mind, it is a far more likely proposition than the crypto-zoological approach. That said, it is certainly not the only way to explain the phenomena.

The third, to conceptualize these entities is that they are both nonphysical and completely independent of being perceived by human beings. This, McKenna posits, tends to be the position taken by shamans and magicians outside of the chaos magickal paradigms. Indeed, this is the position taken by many of us who have had the most contact with such beings. Somewhat needless to point out, this position tends to rail against the very foundations of the modern scientific enterprise which has been actively seeking to eradicate any notion of spirit from the physical world. If we are brash enough to consider that we may have been sharing this planet with a communicating, intelligent, autonomous set of disincarnate beings, we have to assume that science as a tool to explain the “true” nature of things, has failed in a very serious way. Either that, or worse, we admit the limits of rationalism in terms of its usefulness as a thought model for explaining the world around us.

There is a fourth way to conceptualize these entities and for my money it is the most interesting, and perhaps most immediately useful way to do so. This conceptualization would consist of assuming that these entities are both nonphysical and autonomous while simultaneously positing that they inhabit spheres of mind and are brought into a sort of existence through the interaction with human beings. This is a sort of marriage of the psychological and shamanic approach.

As we move forward, I will be writing in agreement with this view, that these beings are simultaneously aspects of the human mental experience as well as autonomous, non-physical or semi-physical, and capable of intelligent communication. I’m hesitant to say that they are “part” of the mind as to insulate myself from a reductionist point of view, however there is tremendous utility in examining such phenomena as we are about to discuss from the vantage of psychology.

Alternatively, considering these entities as truly incorporeal and autonomous spirits is an intensely valuable point of view, one on par with that of the psychological approach. I submit that it doesn’t really matter if this lens of reality is true or not, because this way of conceptualization covers all of our bases.

By assuming such entities are psychological constructs, we can better understand the foundational aspects of our minds and subjective experiences.

Conversely, by assuming such entities are “real”, in the sense that they exist totally apart from our mental landscape, we can still rely on the wisdom such beings can present us, thereby growing and developing the self. This process of discovery and growth moves us closer to, what the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung might call, individuation. In assuming the autonomy of these entities, however, we insulate ourselves from any possible oversights and dangers that may present themselves if we were to simply construe these beings as simply mental states. This helps us to keep our wits about us as we interact with fundamentally foreign beings and states of mind. One would do well to respect their angels as well as their demons.

In reference to spiritual phenomena in general, one of the most famous mystics of the past 200 years, Aleister Crowley said in his book Gems From the Equinox, “It is immaterial whether these exist or not. By doing certain things certain results will follow. Students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them.”[2] It is in that spirit that we take the lens that these beings should be treated as real, not only because that lens is interesting, but also because it is mechanically and practically convenient to conceptualize them as being so.

Returning to the topic at hand, if we look at the classical literature, the best resource to understand elementals in a western context is probably the 16th-century alchemist Paracelsus. By combining his training in medicine with his interest in theology and alchemy, Paracelsus became a giant of the early Renaissance. While he wrote extensively on medical issues, he is most well known in the occult scene for his books on spirits, theology and the entities known today as elementals.

The idea he expounded upon proposed that there have existed beings all throughout history which are constructed of one particular nature. He ascribed these natures to the varying elements of the classical world.

In his writings, Paracelsus lists 4 major categories of these beings; undines, sylphs, gnomes, and salamanders. These were beings of water, air, earth, and fire respectively.[3] These entities were thought to exist somewhere between creatures and spirits. They were not quite angels but also not quite human. We might think of them as akin to fairies, as their habits are similar (Don’t worry, we’ll get to fairies in the next chapter). Good examples of similar spirits include the land spirits of Tibetan Buddhism and the Ekendriya Jiva of the Jains.

In fact, it might not be too far of a stretch to say that this concept actually originated in the eastern world as Paracelsus himself reportedly garnered his information from eastern mystics.

To reiterate, as far as classical literature is concerned, elementals are independent actors that have an existence of their own regardless of human interaction with them. Magicians generally had to perform operations of evocation, invocation, or travel into the places of earth that elementals frequent in order to get in touch with them.

In general, elementals don’t mix with other elementals of differing natures. In simple terms, that is to say that undines do not play well with salamanders. The rule of thumb is that each independent class of elemental entity tends to stick to its own kind. As best I can tell, this is not due to an inherent animosity between such creatures, rather, it seems that they simply find their brethren of differing natures to be incompatible.

Much akin to a human attempting to visit Mars without a space suit and good supply of oxygen, it would be extraordinarily difficult for a sylph, a being of air, to visit the salamanders, a being of fire. As the environmental experience would simply prove to be overwhelming for the constitution of any human on Mars, so too should it be understood that beings of air cannot exist in the realms of fire. The same rationale can be applied to all other elemental beings.

This having been said, it would be a mistake to think that the elementals themselves live in the gross elements present in the physical plane. The Salamanders, for instance, do not live within the actual flame. Rather they live in what classical occultists call the ether of fire. The ether is not the physical directly, but nor is it the astral or spiritual. It is another sort of in-between place. It is a mixture of the gross flame itself and the associations that flame inherently possesses.

To use Jungian psychology speak, the salamander elemental would appear to us much like a personified Archetype of fire. The psychic pattern of being that fire represents and has correspondence to, including: passion, love, willpower, action and so on.

At the behest of a competent magician, elementals may come out of their etheric realms into contact with one another on the gross material plane as they are not strictly speaking “spirits”, but semi-incarnate beings who can pass between the worlds as they see fit. This particular phenomenon is perhaps most dramatically illustrated by the famed Jack Parsons, luminary of American rocket science and an occultist following in the footsteps of the European tradition.

In a story that only gets stranger the more you look into it, Parsons hatched a plan with the future founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, to use the magickal techniques of Aleister Crowley combined with an arcane form of angelic magic known as Enochian to summon an air elemental in order to assist with the conception and birth of a magical child. Parsons and Hubbard believed that this child would then usher in a new age for humanity. This undertaking would later be dubbed the infamous ‘Babalon working’.

Parsons would go on to meet a woman by the name of Marjorie Cameron and he became convinced that Ms. Cameron was the elemental he had endeavored to summon. 

Whether Marjorie Cameron thought of herself as an elemental is suspect, but Parsons seemed certainly convinced. In a letter to Aleister Crowley Parsons wrote, “One thing I seem to have my elemental. She turned up one night after the conclusion of the operation and has been with me since, though she goes back to New York next week. She has red hair and slant green eyes as specified.”[4]

Aleister Crowley was also a proponent of utilizing the term “familiar spirits” in describing actors the magician would pull into their lives to fill a given role in a magical operation. This seems to track fairly closely to what Parsons decided to deem an elemental. The example that comes to mind is Crowley’s description of summoning spirits of protection to assist in the recovery of a stolen watch. By an act of will (willing his watch to be recovered) and a ritual summoning (picking up the phone and ringing the cops) an elemental was summoned to assist the magician in the recovery of the precious watch.[5]

It is fairly certain he used this rather mundane example to illustrate a mechanical point, none the less, in my estimation it covers the topic fairly succinctly.

That said, it is fairly unusual for elementals to manifest in such ways in the classical literature. In fact, by all accounts, elementals have a tendency to have what we might think of as a physical body of their own, not needing a human vessel to manifest. The bodies of elementals are not so physical as the bodies of our fellow humans, in that we can touch them, but rather they are physical in a more subtle way. The best way to think about this might be to consider the smell of a sweet flower. It is not as though we can reach out and grab the smell from the air. Likewise, the smell is not completely inaccessible to us. It is instead somewhere in-between physical and nonphysical.

“Nay!” I hear you protest. “A smell is but the brains interpretation of the physical apprehension of gross material as it passes through our nostrils.” And in saying so you would be correct. None the less, the smell itself arises resultant from a mixture between the physical carrier of the smell and a function of consciousness interacting with it. Elementals are generally understood to be much the same; not quite physical but not quite metaphysical. In classical literature anyway, they somehow seem to be able to occupy both spaces, as they see fit.

As their nature is somewhere between physical and spiritual, they therefore cannot be said to be human or animal, but likewise they are not of the class of angels or thought forms. They exist in an in-between kind of state.

Perhaps as a result of this semi-physical existence, such creatures seemingly have a need to arrange themselves into what we might think of as hierarchies of power. Though the organization of elemental societies is substantially different from what we humans might recognize as hierarchies of power, there are nonetheless levels of power that are recognized within the levels of each sub grouping. One might consider the way honey bees or ants have a queen and defined roles within their individual collectives as a similar state of affairs. Consider that one’s hunger might outweigh one’s need for comfort thus prompting the afflicted to get out of bed and make breakfast.

To get a better grasp on the nature of such entities, we’ll break each major category down one by one to draw out a better understanding of the individual nature of such beings. Simply to reiterate the elemental classifications are Gnomes, Undines, Salamanders, and Sylphs. For our explanatory purposes we shall start with the grossest of classes, the gnomes, and finish with the most ethereal, the Sylphs.

Beginning our exploration, it is of value for us to first consider the particular elemental of Gnomes. Most probably the closest to humans in constitution for they are the nearest to the physical in their appearance. The natural habitat of the Gnome tends to be the ether of earth, the terreous ether, itself. Moving amongst the energies of the soil and stones of our planet, Gnomes are said to have the shortest lifespan of any elementals although they can live in various ranges from anything to 300 to over a thousand years.

 This was the view of one of the giants of occultism, the Canadian mystic Manly P. Hall.[6] Hall, for his part, was a prolific lecturer and writer on all things mystical and magical. His writings included a legendary book, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, which was published in 1928. The book itself is an absolutely enormous encyclopedia of magical and mystical phenomena. It was truly a triumph, but I digress.

Like the other classes of elementals, the Gnomes have several subclasses, ranging from what we might consider to be Pygmies (Creatures who have an affinity for gems and stones), to tree and forest Sprites who are quite devoted to the flowers and plants in their surrounding areas. The classical view of Elves falls into this class of forest sprites and can be considered Gnomes in their own right although the term may seem strange to the modern reader.

The personalities of such creatures tend to be disputed amongst varying authorities, but one pivotal note of agreement is on these creature’s propensity for loyalty. It is said to be hard won, but once earned, Gnomes of all types are purported to be loyal to a fault. Though authorities like Hall warn that this loyalty is not all-encompassing. Attempting to trick the Earthen elementals or to utilize their assistance for selfish means can backfire horrifically. To quote The Secret Teachings of All Ages,

“The magi were always warned, however, never to betray the trust of the elementals, for if they did, the invisible creatures, working through the subjective nature of man, could cause them endless sorrow and probably ultimate destruction… if he sought to use their aid selfishly to gain temporal power they would turn on him with unrelenting fury.”[7]

Fortunately, though, for the selfless magician, these difficulties are easily sidestepped when operations are undertaken with a pure heart and a desire for good. This goes double when applying the psychological interpretation and undertaking operations of health and healing. A clear heart and cheerful disposition are essential for maximum wellness. Even modern medical science shows us that happy people have stronger immune and healing responses than those of us who are distressed, depressed, stressed or angry.

Each subset of elemental is restricted to working on the human or animal body by dealing with its own etheric substance. For gnomes in particular, this area of specialty is the bones. It is said (though I cannot confirm this through personal experience) that broken bones are aided greatly by the assistance from the energy of gnomes as they have a propensity to repair the mineral damage caused by traumatic injury.

As evident, the elemental concentration of gnomes is primarily earth, which makes such creatures marvelous to work with when one requires a bit of physical stability. Whether that is working with the body to attain health or with the material of the physical world to manifest prosperity (for self and others), these little creatures called gnomes can alert us to our bodies’ general situation and prove to be invaluable allies.

It is said that the appearance of Gnomes varies greatly but those who proclaim themselves to have the sight, describe such creatures as short and spindly beings who wear a strange mixture of what we might consider clothes. These garments sometimes are said to grow with the being as it ages, much like the fur of animals. Having only interacted with such beings through my own astral ventures, I cannot personally confirm this description so I would advise the reader to take any and all descriptions relating to physical traits with a hefty dose of salt.

Unlike gnomes, Undines or Nymphs (the elementals of water) are said to be much more similar in stature to humans, though there is noted variance in size depending on the dwelling place of each individual elemental; This variety in size of the undines varying greatly from the types that inhabit tiny ponds and creek beds, to those who flow amongst the great rivers and wild oceans of our esteemed little planet.

Like the Gnomes, Undines share a great love for flowers and natural plants. This seems to stem, pardon the pun, from the fact that plants make use of both the terreous ether (in their rooting) and liquid ether (for their nutrients) and as such both classes of elementals are fond of them in their own way.

Remarkably, there is a tremendous deal of similarity among the descriptions of such beings left to us by cultures long since faded into antiquity namely that undines have a capacity to appear human-like and to walk among men and women as in the Selkies of the Scots and the Mermaids of the Greeks. Naturally though, these jaunts outside of the Liquid Ether are short lived and it is often reported that these excursions do not last for very long intervals before such beings depart back to their natural realms.

Undines themselves are generally described as possessing great beauty as well as being quite energetic and generally helpful in disposition towards humans and other animals. If we hastily apply the psychological model, we might consider that the Undines represent our capacity for emotive experience as well as our ability to apprehend beauty in its myriad forms.

It would do us well to note that this disposition stands in contrast to a similar though a markedly different class of beings known as Sirens. Where undines tend to be benevolent in disposition, sirens have of a much more malevolent tilt. In mythology Sirens are often depicted as having a tendency to seduce and ultimately drown sailors by capitalizing on the lust of the seafaring men. The etymological roots of the word actually come from a Greek word meaning something like “grave ornament”, hinting that Sirens, while strikingly captivating, conceal immanent death with their beauty.[8]

Undines on the other hand have been known to aid those lost at sea and play alongside human ships, generally tending to be of a much more beneficent nature.

Further, Undines are generally thought to be ruled by a king or queen. When writers assume the ruler of Undines to be a Queen, she is generally described as a sort of mermaid goddess as depicted in the work of authors like Franz Bardon. She is called the spirit Istiphul.

In other books and essays, the ruler of the undines is listed as a sort of merman king figure called Necksa. Whichever entity is listed as the leader of the Undines is largely dependent on who one is reading

It does one well to consider that elementals are like honeybees in terms of their organization on larger scales. If the lesser undines have discrete personalities dependent on environmental consideration (like how river nymphs are quite distinct from ocean undines) the Queen/King/Ruler represents a totality of personalities. A “pure” personality if you will, the Queen/King encompasses the traits of all the varying classes of undines and as such may prove extremely beneficial to work with in a ceremonial setting.

Insofar as their classification goes, undines are particularly useful to evoke for work concerning emotional fortitude and evolution. Their watery nature as well corresponds to the mystical application of water, that is to say, clear seeing. Water’s mythological role is generally one of a purifying nature so undines can prove immensely helpful in wiping the dross from one’s eyes to attain both mental and emotional clarity in order to behold the emotional depth and beauty of our everyday experiences.

Somewhat more difficult to work with in a ceremonial setting are the salamanders, the elementals of fire. Humans are very able to walk on the earth and swim in the water, but fire is an element that is simply inaccessible for our constitutions.

Magicians through the ages have found quite a few ingenious workarounds for this issue of inaccessibility by choosing to evoke such beings in the presence of heavy smoke from incense. As the smoke is the closest thing to fire the human body can interact with without being harmed, this work-around provides a comfortable middle ground for both salamanders and humans.

Physical safety aside, if Paracelsus is to be believed, such beings are perhaps the most dangerous of all the elementals and he earnestly warned his students against studying and interacting with them. The reason being largely that any potential benefits gained in mastering such volatile beings is simply not worth the risk of being burned, metaphorically as well as literally.

As the salamanders personify the element of fire, they tend to be correlated to the aspects of Man that deal primarily with the willpower of the individual, perhaps the most difficult of all the aspects of psychology to truly tame. As far as use in ceremony goes, attempted mastery of salamanders tends to lead either to melancholia (as the will is rendered impotent by improper application) or mania (as fiery passions overwhelm the will of the practitioner and take on lives of their own). In either event, both outcomes are decidedly unsatisfactory for those who would rule over themselves as true magicians or alchemists.

The physical descriptions surrounding the salamanders themselves vary somewhat considerably, though in medieval literature they are often referred to as looking very much like actual salamanders. Manly P. Hall notes that in Paracelsus’s work, Philosophia Occulta, he speaks of their varying forms including as balls of flame or lines of fire, rolling over fields and valleys at their pleasure.[9] 

Paracelsus and Hall spoke as well of other classes of Salamanders, namely the Acthnici, who’s appearance is something like an orb of light or flame that floats over water in the evenings. Hall in particular speaks of other groups that conceptualize such beings as literal giants, draped in sheets of flaming armor.

He goes on to say that salamanders are best evoked by friction (as in the striking of a match or tinder) and the sparks that derive from such an action behave as a doorway between our realm and theirs. Consider as well the metaphorical friction of applying oneself to a project worth completing.

Subtler still than the friction evoked salamanders or the beings of the aqueous or terreous ethers are the beings of air, the sylphs.

In one of the last discourses of the legend of philosophy, Socrates, as recorded by Plato, it is written of the Sylphs that, “…the air is used by them as the water and sea are by us, and the ether is to them what the air is to us…Also they have temples and sacred places in which the gods really dwell, and they hear their voices and receive their answers, and are conscious of them… and they see the sun, moon, and stars as they really are…”[10]

Perhaps the highest and most regal of all the elemental beings, Sylphs are thought to have much to do with the oracles of peoples long passed, delivering wisdom from on high. Hall notes that though Sylphs were thought to dwell in the airy ether, Plato and Socrates seemed to think that their true home was atop the tallest mountains. He goes on in his work to speculate that the Muses of the Greeks were considered to be sylphs, as they tended to gather about the minds of poets and artists, inspiring them with divine knowledge of the workings of nature.

Occasionally said to occupy a human form, but only for very short periods of time, the physical descriptions of the sylphs vary though not much has been written on the subject of their physical appearance when humans have been lucky enough to chance an encounter with them. Of general agreement is that Sylphs tend to be considerably smaller than the average framed human male and only take physical form for limited periods of time.

Somewhat remarkably, unlike other classes of elementals, Hall goes out of his way to note how Paracelsus recalled an incident where a human being was permitted to live alongside a Sylph community for a “considerable period” of time. What he means by this is unclear though it stirs the imagination.[11]

In temperament, sylphs are said to be somewhat eccentric and quite changeable. It has been speculated that similar temperament of eccentric energy, found in men and women of genius is resultant from cooperation and close contact with the sylphs. This might correspond to the flickering nature of the untamed mind, jumping from one object of intellectual interest to the next. A sylph contact might prove beneficial in stabilizing the currents of thought that course through our experience and perhaps even aid the aspirant in making new inquires into hitherto unconsidered subjects.

The practical application of summoning sylphs in magickal theory relates to both the thinking ability of humanity (as sylphs are said to aid this when summoned) as well as patterns of weather and gasses related to the human body. For weather magick, there is perhaps no better elemental to call upon for aid, particularly when sylphs are sought out in concert with undines. Rain, storms and oceanic forces are best affected by the aid of such beings.

It is worth noting that Sylphs have some rather striking similarities to what we might think of as fairies.

In an effort to provide commentary on one of the stranger books on medicine of the 19th century, entitled Philosophy of Magic Prodigies and Apparent Miracles, the Scottish doctor of medicine and translator Anthony Thomson attempted an etymological exploration of the term “fairy”. He wrote that fairies were “supposed to be diminutive aerial beings, beautiful, lively and beneficent in their intercourse with mortals…”[12]

Said to live in an otherworldly realm and only appearing for short intervals, they seem to have much in common with the classical conceptualizations of the sylphs. This notwithstanding, the two classes of beings differ in substantial ways, primarily in the fact that while elementals are mostly of a general sort, fairie tend to be more specialized beings, as we shall see in the next chapter.

Practitioners Note:

Things get a bit trickier to understand when a magician creates a thought form/servitor and imbues it with an elemental essence. One first creates the astral shell of the thought-form via sigil work as discussed in the last chapter, then one invokes an elemental essence into it to act as a pilot. Alternatively, the magician could create a thought form and imbue some of his/her own essence into it to give it a sense of autonomy. A good example of similar phenomena is the idea of Tulpamancy which is very much like creating a golem as discussed in the Hebrew text The Sefer Yetzirah. The key idea to note is a slight operational difference where, instead of putting an elemental essence into the thought form, the magician uses an aspect of their own essence. This is in general ill-advised and we will discuss it when we get to the section on Tulpas.


[1] Rupert Sheldrake, Terence Mckenna and Ralph Abraham. Chaos Creativity and Cosmic Consciousness, (Rochester, VT. Park Street Press. 2001.)9395

[2] Aleister Crowley, Gems From the Equinox. (San Francisco, CA. 2007.) 277

[3] Carole Silver, Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousness. (New York, NY. Oxford University Press, 1999), 38.

[4] Henrik Bogdan, “The Babalon Working 1946”. Numen. Special Issue: Religious Studies Approaches to Scientology Vol. 63 No. 1. (2016.) 23. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24644838

[5] Aleister Crowley. Magick: Book 4 and Liber ABA Second Revised Edition. (York Beach, ME. Samuel Weiser). 186.

[6] Manly P. Hall. The Secret Teachings of All Ages. Los Angeles, CA. (The Philosophical Research Society, 1988) 107

[7] Manly P. Hall. Secret Teachings of All Ages. 106

[8] Liddell, Henry George, Robert Scott, Henry Stuart Jones, and Roderick McKenzie. 1940. A Greek-English lexicon. Oxford: Clarendon Press. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0057:entry=*seirh/n

[9] Manly P. Hall. Secret Teachings of All Ages. 108-109

[10] Plato. The Dialogues of Plato. Trans. B. Jowett. (London. Oxford University Press, 1924). 258-259.

[11] Hall, Secret Teachings of All Ages. 108

[12] Anne Joseph Eusebe and Eusebe, Baconniere-Salverte, Philosophy of Magic Prodigies and Apparent Miracles. Trans, Anthony Thomson. (London. Schulse and Co. 1846). 124

A Bit About Fairies (Excerpt From my Upcoming Book: 7 Spirits)

Fairies are of an interesting sort largely because even the most well-read and well-practiced among us don’t really know exactly what they are or indeed where exactly they come from. It doesn’t help us much that the term ‘Fairy’ has been used at one time or another to describe any and all types of magical creatures. For our purposes, we’re going to take a look the Western European Varieties of the Fae as they will be most accessible and familiar to the American reader.

Some scholars have suggested that the origin of the Fae in the western world of Ireland and Britain is actually a result of the syncretism between Scandinavian and Norse mythology after the Danish invasions of Britain. In this case, scholars like Anthony Thomson have made arguments that the Danes effectively brought the fairy folk along with them in myth and spirit when they sailed into English harbors sometime around 800 CE.[1]

That said, the Fenian cycle of Irish writings seem to directly contradict this theory. The texts of the Fenian cycle, compiled in writing around 1200 CE from an older longstanding oral tradition, seem to indicate that tales and stories of the Fae, known as the aes sidhe or “people of the mound” (Called such as the fae were thought to have been literally pushed underground by later invaders, explaining their ability to pop up just about anywhere at any time) were quite common in Ireland more than half a millennia before the Danish invasion.

The Interrogation of the Old Men, a classic text in this milieu, states quite clearly the exploits of the Irish Legend, Finn MacCumhaill (MacCool), among others in their interactions with the Fae around 300 CE.[2]

Other scholars have previously put forth the idea that fairies are no more than what Paracelsus understood to be elementals only under a different guise. Though their underground abode does draw some comparisons to the habitat of gnomes, this theory, too, seems not to stack up as the early myths of Irish folklore describe the fairy folk as decedents of the first people who come from an altogether different sort of world; a world which is beyond what we would consider elemental ethers of nature.

In modern parlance, we might refer to this world as the “Astral” plane. In Arthurian Legend it is a place called “Avalon”. It’s worth mentioning that in English folklore Queen Mab of the fairies is understood as the Queen of Dreams; dreams and the dreamscape having much to do with our popular conceptions of the Astral plane.

Just as a quick aside, the notion that fairies were pushed underground or into a sort of dreamscape by invading humans could be seen, rather easily, to be a metaphor for the burying of our more base instincts and actions under the guise of civilized personhood. This “underground” could well be taken to mean the recesses of the unconscious mind where we banish our more primal desires and urges. When you consider that Fae in common folklore are generally thought of as mischevious partygoers, this starts to make more and more sense.

Thomson, as we mentioned in the last chapter, notes that the Fae themselves tend to live in a type of pocket dimension of the astral realm sometimes called Fairy land, or Alf-heinner as it was known among Germanic peoples. Of interest is his note that the Fae have a tendency to depart what we would consider their homes and appear on earth at regular intervals to have nights filled with magick and merriment.

The fairies themselves seem to have a disposition for manifestation in concordance with temporal conditions, that is to say, they are most likely to cavort in the hours of night and dusk in alignment with the lunar cycles. These conditions under which the Fae are known to manifest to human vision are a common and recurring theme across the British, Irish and Scottish Isles as well as upon mainland Europe.

As far as intervals of time go, there are conflicting contentions which claim that fairies have particular days in which they are most active in the human realm. After compiling several sources however, it quickly became apparent that each source conflicted with at least one other source, often many other sources. When I put the sources side by side, the days which fairies were thought to be most active included literally every day of the week.

Further, nowhere in classical literature have I found references to fairies being bound to a particular realm without these previous conditions of night being met. It seems that the Fae themselves enjoy a relative level of freedom to explore any and all realms as they see fit at any time they desire, regardless of day or time.

If this is truly the case, then without further writings pointing to the contrary it stands to reason that fairies are free to travel about between the lower spheres and realms as they please; traversing nature as humans might traverse the local park. Further, the veil between worlds, while ultimately penetrable on any day, at any time, and among any set of prevailing conditions, seems to be traversed most readily by such creatures at dusk or during the night.

Another way in which the Fae differ from elementals is that fairies are not necessarily comprised of one basic element. If elementals are comprised of, and indeed live primarily in the etheric world of the natural elements, fairies might be thought to be more like moths that hover around a light source than the light itself. They are not comprised of the etheric elements themselves, as the elementals seem to be, and thus are not sequestered to their respective elemental abodes.

That being said, the Fae are much closer to Humans in terms of complexity of composition than the elementals are. Elementals inhabit particular ethers related to their elemental makeup, fairies, and their human adept counterparts, are not seemingly bound to one type of ether and tend to move through the differing realms with relative ease.

Support for this view is offered by what are referred to by scholars of Irish and Celtic history as the ‘mythological cycle of writings’, first in a series of 4 cycles of Irish history, in which the forerunners of the Fae literally invade Ireland with all the engines of war (swords, shields and the like) that one would expect to accompany a human army.[3]

It is important to note that while the elemental ethers may make up at least part of what we refer to as the astral plane, indeed the etheric realms can easily be thought of as a lower, that is to say closer to physical manifestation, aspect of the astral, Fairies seem to emerge from and retreat to an altogether different location in this mysterious realm and seem to manifest physically whenever they please for as long as they please. Where exactly that place is, and whether its name is actually Avalon or Fairy land or the Land of Adorable/Terrifying and Possibly Winged Mischief Makers (I made that one up), I will leave to more competent magicians to discover.

Additionally, we have discussed the fact that elementals are considered to be somewhat specialized, given their elemental makeup, but fairies are considered to be even more so. Take for instance the “bean sidhe” (Banshee) or “Woman of the mound”. This is a particular type of fairy that would scream and wail to forewarn of a coming death. Another example: The leanan sidhe had a penchant for seducing and eventually marrying men. Nowhere in the classical literature do we find anything amounting to such specialized roles for varying elementals, outside of the rulers of the elemental hierarchies, leaving us with yet another piece of evidence in the written record that fairies and elementals are in fact two distinct classes of beings.

That all said fairies are definitely closer in makeup to elementals than they are to thought forms given their autonomous nature, and they are nonetheless still planted squarely in what Qabalistic magicians would call “the lower spheres”. Meaning, unlike thought-forms, faeries seem to be somewhat independent of human creation; In contrast to angels or demons however, fairies are akin to elementals in that they are still very much connected to the realms of nature and the astral, though not strictly bound to either realm.

In more modern writings on the topic of the Fae, some strains of theosophical literature posit that fairies have a tendency to be tied to a particular location, what they might call their “earthen home”. This phenomenon seems to be simply the choice of the individual fairy, contrary to what certain theosophists stipulate, not a result of any particular cosmic principle binding them to a given area.

Much in the same fashion that humans are molded by their environment, the elemental makeup of any given location will determine the temperament of the fairies in question who chose to inhabit it. In this way they are much more of an amalgamation of elements then purely constructed out of one aspect of experience, as in the case of a Gnome for example. It is best to think of fairies then as composite beings, more complex than elementals or thought forms, but less so than angels or demonic spirits.

Take for example a Gnome which is more or less made up of the pure element of animated Earth. Fairies who call the mountains their home might contain energies that would be rightly called partly earth, partly air, and partly water on top of the energies that they bring with them from Fairy Land, immediately marking them as much more complex beings. If one is willing to take some linguistic liberty, certain fairies might be thought of as composite elementals.

To draw a contrast between these beings on the lower spheres of existence like elementals and Fae, it would do us well to briefly examine entities such as Angels.

Angels themselves are exceedingly complex as they are thought to govern a complete body of influence. For example, the biblical archangel Michael is of a spiritual nature and would begin in the realm of what Theosophists understand to be the Causal body. To explain what that actually means, we have to borrow a theosophical model (Which in turn was borrowed from the philosophies of certain Hindu religious schools, predominantly Vedanta and Classical Yoga) sometimes referred to as the “Chain of Vehicles”. There’s quite a bit to be written on the nuances of this notion, but that is for another time.

For our purposes, the key to understanding this general function behind the concept of the ‘chain of vehicles’ is illustrated by the notion that an angelic being like Michael possesses a series of different vessels/bodies/vehicles to manifest his actions. As angels tend to originate in what certain Theosophists call the causal body, their celestial vibrations cascade downward into what we consider to be “lower” bodies of existence and eventually in the astral mental and physical bodies of humans and other beings.

To further understand the principle, we’ll use a human being as a simple example.

  1. Causal: The Human being conceives of a higher principle in the abstract (Ex. Compassion)
  2. Emotional: That principle filters down to emotions (Ex. It feels good to help. It feels bad to harm)
  3. Mental: That emotional response filters down into images (Ex. Images of assisting the less fortunate)
  4. Etheric: The emotions filter down into thoughts (Ex. It would be good to do this good thing I have conceived of!)
  5. Physical: These thoughts finally culminate in action in the Etheric body which compels the physical body to action in the world. (Ex. Volunteering at a charity, etc.)

Chain of Vehicles (As Understood in Theosophy):

Spirit body->Soul Body->Causal Body->Emotional Body->Mental Body->Etheric Body->Physical Body

Fairies as we already mentioned are also composite beings, but their chain of vehicles by which they express that nature is limited in comparison to their angelic brethren. As best I can tell, the genesis of the Fae chain starts either in the emotional or mental bodies of the universe, generally reacting to the higher vibrations of other beings and influences. This makes them much closer to undeveloped humans than it does to Angels or other orders of transcendental beings. Elementals on the other hand are confined strictly to the etheric and physical bodies (depending on your reference).

Fairies in this way have substantially less to do with such cosmic, dare I say, archetypal, energies of creation and instead are much more specialized and restricted in their exhibition of phenomena. (i.e., Wailing to forewarn of a death, etc.)

What all this means in a practical sense for the magician is that if one is to summon an elemental to perform some tasks, say for instance one summons a gnome to assist in the fortification of the body (as the physical body corresponds to gnomes which in turn correspond to the element earth in systems of Hermetic Qabalah), that particular gnome’s assistance will not be of much use in regulating emotional or thought currents within the individual.

Conversely, if one were to summon an Archangel to assist in the fortification of the body, a complete overhaul of the summoner and their personality may result due to the angels’ wide reach of vehicles by which to express itself. This has to do largely with the correspondences derived from working with angelic beings and, frankly, may or may not be a good thing depending on the operation at hand. Keep in mind that it is exceedingly difficult to perform a precise surgery with Michaels’ flaming sword.

With those two examples in mind, if we were instead to call upon the assistance of a fairy whose makeup is, shall we say, partly water and partly earth, one will find themselves much more able to affect both the body and the emotional content of the practitioner without subjecting the rest of the personality to the disruptively powerful vibrations present among angels or other celestials.

This makes the assistance of fairies invaluable in performing certain, often short term, tasks that require a level of finesse that elementals or indeed angels may simply not be capable of providing. Even better if there is a hyper-specialized task to perform and the practitioner happens to be acquainted with a fairy perfectly suited to doing it! (Seducing a man, warning of a death, etc.)

Something else unique to fairies is the lore surrounding the strange natural phenomenon that has come to be known as “fairy rings”. These naturally occurring circles of mycelium or deadened grass have come to occupy a particular part in fairy lore. Legends abound of the dangers they introduce to humans who are foolish enough to enter the circle without proper protection.

It is said that those who enter fairy rings are forced into a sort of madness that compels the occupant to dance until they quite literally drop dead. Other stories understand such rings as portals to the fairy world itself, beckoning unsuspecting humans to enter and become trapped in an alternative realm.

Stories abound through the literature often giving mention of humans crossing back and forth between the worlds, sometimes spending a substantial amount of time away from earth. The Scottish Ballad of Tam Lin tells of such a journey where Tam Lin winds up trapped in the Fae realm, unable to touch the ground, lest he be stuck outside of the human world… (Dramatic music intensifies) Forever! Other versions of the tale seem to indicate that Tam Lin is actually going to be sacrificed to the netherworld because the fairy queen apparently needs to pay off a debt to unknown dark forces.[4]

He was only rescued when his true love quite literally scooped him up and carried him out of the Fairy realm in her arms. During the process, he tells his love that the fairy magic will transform him into all manner of beasts in order to force her to drop him, but he assures her that no harm will befall her so long as she trusts in herself. Eventually, the fated couple is successful and the two manage to escape.

The story itself is one deeply woven with fairy magic as most fairy stories are. Curiously enough, many of the tales surrounding fairy magic have a distinct element that tends to involve acts of transformation and shape shifting.  This aspect of transformation is by no means unique to stories of the Fae, but it is somewhat unique (outside the myriad tales of Native American Shamans and spirit helpers) in the fact that in the British and Irish tales the Fae share this ability with human witches and wizards.

This sort of shared ability speaks to a level of interconnectedness between those who knew how to wield magic and the denizens of the fairy realms. The recurrence of these incidents in the folklore and literature indicates a strange similarity with humanity; as indeed the stories seem to imply a sort of shared heritage among Fae and humans which other beings like elementals and thought forms, simply do not possess.

Now of course, there are no shortages of stories that incorporate shape shifting across the span of human history. In popular fiction the most prominent example of this phenomena will be known by most as the werewolf, but it should be noted that this is most often portrayed as a sort of curse, not an act of will.

It is the act of will that differentiates the Stories of Celtic Witches and Wizards from werewolves of the popular imagination. The magi of Celtic, Druid and Irish lore are not at the mercy of anything, with the occasional exceptions being made for various Gods, occasionally the monotheistic God of the Christians, and of course their own power.

Take the stories of Merlin for instance. Time and time again Merlin shifts his form into such delightful animals as turtles, rabbits, crabs, goats and even a talking stag.[5] He also has the ability to turn humans into other humans,[6] as well as various creatures, as demonstrated in modern telling of the tale of Arthur when he turns one of his apprentices into a fish and later into a squirrel.[7] These transformations of both himself and his apprentice are undertaken with ease and are seen to come almost naturally. In this case, Merlin seems to wield the same magic that the fairies utilized to change Tam Lin into all sorts of hideous beasts during his escape.

Other stories of willedtransformations outside of traditional fairy stories are mostly made up of Gods doing God-related things. They include stories like that of the Greek God Zeus, who enjoyed changing into animals to get laid as well as avoiding the scorn of his human lovers. Another Greek Goddess, Athena, is fabled to have turned poor Arachne into a spider.

In the Norse myths, the Gods Loki, Freyja, and Odin all have been known at one time or another to transform into animals or other strange monstrous beings.

In the Eastern world, particularly China, Korea, and Japan, there are myriad mentions of shapeshifters that aren’t necessarily categorized as Gods, but that’s effectively where their similarity to the Fae end. The most common of these beings is known in China as the ‘Huli Jing’, a sort of fox spirit which appears most often as a beautiful woman in the attempt to seduce men and steal their essence for magickal power.

This being is closer to what we in the western occult traditions would know as a succubus, precluding it from our discussion of fairies. (It is of curious note that some authors of the later writings of the Arthurian legend ascribe Merlin’s powers to the fact that he was potentially the offspring of a human and a female succubus, called an incubus.) We will discuss such beings as these in the next chapter.

We mention these mythologies to illustrate the point that the beings doing the shifting are either very clearly made out to be either Gods, or otherwise they are very specific beings known primarily for their transformations like the Somali ‘Hyena-Man’ or Qori ismaris, literally, “Man who rubs himself with a stick [to turn into a hyena]”.

It is of note that these beings mostly seem to lack the greater command of magic that the Fae of the British Isles possess. It is also striking that the humans in these stories are most often at the mercy of these seemingly otherworldly powers.

Only the Celts of Ireland and England, and as mentioned some forms of indigenous spirituality, particularly among tribes of Native Americans, have widespread lore that demonstrates an ability of human adepts, be they witches, wizards or shamans, to change form into animals.

Similarly striking is that of the magical beings present across folklores which are not Gods, only the Fae seem to possess both the capacity to change shape at will, as well as utilize varying forms of magic. It is this that they have in common with humans and begs a question of, why?

What makes fairy magic special when compared to the abilities of other spirits or beings? What connects the human adepts to the powers of the Fae?

The short answer is something we touched on earlier; the shared utilization of the Astral plane. Call it Avalon, call it Alf-Heinner, call it what you will, but the linking characteristic between humans like Merlin, Morgan Le Fay and the Lady of the Lake, Nimue with the Fae is that both groups, human adepts and the fairies, have a connection to this otherworldly plane that somehow simultaneously includes and transcends the lower elemental spheres.

There is a word in Old Anglo-Saxon, ‘Haegtesse’. The etymology of the term itself is fuzzy (as are the origins of most ancient things) but it is generally thought to mean something like “hedge rider”. Through the ages, the meaning has gradually been transformed to be “hedgewitch.” Today the term is generally used in occult circles to denote those who sit on the border of places, perhaps on the border of our world and the astral; perhaps on the edge of Avalon.

The same phenomenon pops up in other languages as well. Old Norse had it’s ‘tunrida’ and Old High German had it’s ‘zunritha’, both words meaning literally “hedge rider”. Something that gets more curious is that the Norse word ‘tunrida’ seems to be linked to the Norwegian ‘tysja’ meaning fairy.

But all that aside, I mention this only to demonstrate that the knowledge of human witches or magical folks being somehow connected with the otherworld is old news. It is only in our modern age that we have seemingly forgotten our shared roots that stretch out into unknown places. Places that, to be sure are filled with magic and wonder, but by the same token are certainly not realms consisting purely of love and light. 

In that vein, the last thing we will mention on the Fae is their curious propensity in folklore, particularly after the introduction of Christianity to Europe, to substitute human children with their own. As legends go, one night you will be resting peacefully in your home with your newborn, but by morning, something has changed about them. It might be subtle, it might be decidedly less than subtle, but you can be sure that your child has been stolen, ferried away to Avalon, and left in its stead sits a fairy baby.

These new children, left for men and women alike by the fairies, are most often known as changelings. Why exactly fairies seemingly felt the need to substitute human children with their own is anyone’s guess, although if Ralph of Coggeshall (the monk of the Cistercian abbey at Coggeshall in Essex) is to be believed, the beginning of this idea was resultant from the fact that those within the church believed infants and un-baptized babies were most susceptible to demonic possession. Given this understanding, during the more devout Christian periods many believed that the fairies would steal children to deliver them to the devil. Others considered that the children might be taken to strengthen the fairy’s bloodlines and allow them a closer connection to the powers of humanity, still others still believed that the fairies just thought it a good bit of fun to make such mischief.

In any event, considering that it was generally considered to be somewhat unpleasant to have your child stolen by fairies, methods were devised to facilitate the return of the child. These ranged from the adorable suggestions of making the changeling laugh, thus signaling the fairies to come and swap out the changeling again with your original baby, to the somewhat less adorable suggestions of torturing the changeling which would apparently elicit the same effect. As absurd as it sounds, historically speaking this was a bummer of a suggestion as it led to several real-world examples of fairly egregious child abuse.

Taking a step back from the lore for a moment, it’s worth mentioning Jung again and those aspects of the psyche that, on occasion, can temporarily escape from the control of the conscious self. If there ever was an apt psychological description for how children can change on a dime, it is this. It is no wonder that in a time filled with horrendous trauma, famine, plague and suffering, children had little breaks in their persona from time to time (given that children do not have a fully developed ego to begin with) leading to personality shifts, indeed what priests might call “possession” or what the stories of the changelings are hinting at. Clearly, some children undoubtedly did change by virtue of their circumstances, their ego may have been consumed by different aspects of the psyche, but not necessarily by the Fae.

It would then make sense, if we adhere to the psychological view, that one could be rescued from an autonomous fragment of the psyche running amok, by a good strong laugh as in certain disciplines of Lila Yoga. Each chuckle sets one’s awareness back to the primacy of their nervous system, short-circuiting thought patterns and returning to the immediate reality of things. Likewise, torturing the body, as Yogis have done for centuries via austerities and Christian monks have done via flagellation, will often have the same effect of refocusing on the nervous system.

If you are sympathetic to the Jungian psychic model, it neatly and nearly perfectly describes the phenomena of the changeling. If you are not and choose to believe that these beings are autonomous entities, the end result in your interaction with them is the same. Respect yourself and your psychic space by respecting your environment and remembering to return to the nervous system, the fairies will leave you well enough alone. Both viewpoints are actionable; in this case conceptualizations of truth seemingly matter less than practical undertakings. 


[1] Anne Joseph Eusebe and Eusebe, Baconniere-Salverte, Philosophy of Magic Prodigies and Apparent Miracles. Trans, Anthony Thomson. (London. Schulse and Co. 1846). 124

[2] Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “The Interrogation of the Old Men.” Encyclopedia Britannica, November 24, 1999. https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Interrogation-of-the-Old-Men.

[3] Macalister, Robert Alexander Stewart, and Pádraig Ó Riain. Lebor gabála Érenn: the book of the taking of Ireland. Dublin: Published for the Irish Texts Society by the Educational Co. of Ireland, 1938.

[4] Kathleen Ragan, Fearless Girls, Wise Women and Beloved Sisters. (New York. Norton and Company. 1998). 40-42

[5]Miranda Griffin, The space of Transformation: Merlin Between Two Deaths. (Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature. MediumAevum. Vol.80. 2011.) 85-100

[6] Thomas Malory, “How Uther Pendragon made war on the duke of Cornwall, and how by the mean of Merlin he lay by the duchess and gat Arthur.” in Le Morte D’Arthur Vol 1. Edited by William Caxton. (Project Gutenberg. November 6, 2009) Retrieved from https://www.heroofcamelot.com/docs/Le-Morte-dArthur.pdf  34-35

                [7] T.H. White, The Once and Future King. (London. Collins. March, 1959) Chapter 5

Angelology: The Study of Angels and Their Influence

The past few days I’ve been on quite an angel kick. Not because I work with them in magick (though I do) and not because any real particular event influenced me to consider it. No, for some strange reason I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to the application of Angels to Magickal Theory and practice. Specifically I’ve been considering how a magician might utilize the structures of various angelic hierarchies as sort of map to link other correspondences to, whether in the mundane world or the celestial realms.

I suppose this has come to mind, been born really, out of a curious desire to understand how the Hebrews and other folks from late antiquity broke down the universe around them into understandable, bite-sized chunks. These chunks, being much easier to digest for the theologian and secular scholar alike, seem to me to represent a sort of proto-psychology.  

If we are to believe one of the more well known mystics of the past century, Aleister Crowley, at his word (and in this particular case I do) we understand that the art and science of working with spirits has to do directly with dealing with the human brain. As Uncle Al brought to our attention somewhat succinctly in his opening essay “The Initiated Interpretation of Ceremonial Magick” to the Ars Goetia, “The spirits of the Goetia are portions of the human brain.” (17) He goes on to explain how each aspect of ceremonial magick targets specific parts of the brain for alteration. Of course, the subject matter of the Ars Goetia is directly to do with the control and summoning of “demons” or other spirits oft considered “infernal” by occultists, religious folk, and theologians alike. Their title of infernal is undeserved but I will expand on why in the follow up piece to this one which I will link to upon completion.              

If we accept the presupposition that working with spirits, be they demons or angels, is causing us to access and fine-tune various parts of the human brain, then we are left with a somewhat startling revelation that the Hebrews, hermetic kabbalists and other such occultists have developed an incredibly comprehensive map of human psychology and brain physiology. Indeed it even seems they went so far as to develop a system of self-induced brain change via the examination and interaction with the Angelic forms and hierarchies. It is by exploring these hierarchies and their significance that we can come to an understanding about how these early magicians directed neuro-plasticity (self-induced brain change) hundreds, if not thousands, of years before the western world came to grips with the implications brought by the discoveries of modern psychology. Long before Freud, long before Jung, before neurophysiology and before our understanding of neuroplasticity, the ancients had, at least in part, figured it out.              

Of course, the Jews, Christians and Muslims certainly don’t have a monopoly on cosmological hierarchies. Scholars of Shamanism and various Indigenous practices, like Sandra Ingerman, Michael Harner and Mircea Eliade have done excellent work outlining shamanic cosmologies from around the world and the Eastern world has equally complex hierarchies of beings and entities. But for our purposes, and for the purposes for understanding these systems within their original context, we will limit our discussion to the angelology of the Occidental traditions. Correspondences to other traditions may be drawn at a later date at the reader’s liberty, but to do so prematurely may have much the same effect as trying to fit an oblong peg into a round hole. It looks like it could fit, but it may take a fair amount of brute force and academic dishonesty to fit the metaphorical peg into our hole of choice. Even within the occidental traditions, there is quite a lot of variation within the hierarchies, correspondences and symbol structures themselves.            

Just as a brief example, Henry Agrippa, legendary German occultist, legal scholar, soldier and unwitting revivalist of the Western Magickal tradition, relates the Angel Gabriel to the element water. That said, in the third section of the Book of Enoch (considered Canonical by the Eritrean Orthodox Church as well as the Ethiopian Orthodox Church) the element attributed to the Angel Gabriel is fire. Of course this has massive implications when dealing with this particular spirit and given the differences could, in the practice of working with Gabriel, manifest either as an incredible act of firey willpower or a splendid emotionally fulfilling repose. I point this out simply to remind any would be categorizer not to be too hasty when setting definitive correspondences about symbol structures, even within the bounds of contextual safety.              

Of course, this points to the notion that any sense of a possible “objective” categorization based on correspondence falls apart completely when one takes into consideration the regional and scriptural differences of any given region. The “truth” of these correspondences is, in this way, somewhat mutable. This is both a relief and somewhat frustrating for those who would prefer to have a clear, well-organized understanding of “how things are”. As always, we are reminded of the wise words of the founder of General Semantics, Alfred Korzybski that “the Map is Not the Territory”. No matter how good the map looks.              

More than a few psychologists and anthropologists have fallen into this trap as Jungian analyst Marie Louis Von Franz has so delightfully pointed out. “If you choose (anything) as a motif, then you can pile up comparative material forever, but you have completely lost your Archimedean standpoint from which to interpret it.” (10)  It is a danger that academics and hopeful armchair anthropologists of all stripes should be ever vigilant of. Nothing presented here is concrete.              

This is not to say that the ideas underlying Angelology do not exist. Of course willpower and emotions and other subjective experiences exist, if only experientially. I’m saying that the symbols that we use to represent these states seem to be quite flexible. This was perhaps one of the greatest gifts given to us by the founder of Depth Psychology Carl Jung. His approach to the interpretation of dreams relies heavily on the subjective experience of the patient. In this way, he isolated the individual’s symbol structure from the cultural symbol structure and could then better see the similarities and differences between the two. This approach gives weight to both the subjective experience of the symbol, but also the role of the larger ineffable archetypes of the collective unconscious that clothe themselves in the symbol structure of the individual to make themselves palatable for understanding by the patient. Whether the associations of water or fire clothe themselves in Gabriel or some other angel, the messenger is not the thing. The map is not the territory. It is only a model.                

So I digress. So given that these symbols are somewhat mutable for the individual experiencing them, the angelology of the western world gives a fantastic ground layer of symbols. The whole practice of categorizing angels provides a sort of filing cabinet to file psychological attributes in. If we think of each Angel like a “drawer” in our filing cabinet, the angelic hierarchies developed by Hebrew, Christian and Muslim scholars and theologians offer quite an impressive filing cabinet for correspondences, if not 100% comprehensive. Take for instance the Archangel Michael. Often thought of as the defender of Israel due to the inclusion of the vision in Daniel 10:13-21 where an angel directly denotes Michael as the protector of Israel, (curiously Israel coming from the Hebrew name Yisrael which translates to something like “God Wrestler” after it was bestowed on Jacob for literally wrestling an angel and having one of his limbs broken as a result). So the defender of Israel could be taken to mean the defender of he/she who deals/interacts with God.                

The Hygromanteia, the Greek Grimoire of spirits that some scholars think would later become the foundation for the Keys of Solomon, notes that Michael also has associations with the Sun and fire as a result. The Book of Enoch again lists Michael as one of the Sarim or Angel-Princes recording him as the “Chief Angel of the Lord” and denotes him as the deliverer of the faithful. So already, with those correspondences alone, we have an entity who is associated with the life-giving (and also, for desert dwellers, the occasionally oppressive and blinding) sun, a defender of the faith and protector of the faithful, a powerful chief angel of God and an association to the Southern Direction (if you live in the Northern Hemisphere) for that is the “direction” of the sun. Who doesn’t love a south facing window?                

So those correspondences are to do with Michael alone and are by no means exhaustive. The same methodology could be applied to any other angel or spirit. Thus invoking or evoking this being, we are dealing with the parts of our mind that recognize and access these correspondences and thus fine tuning those aspects within ourselves.            

This is where things get more interesting. Even though we are aware that the map is decidedly not the territory, we are still left with the task of at least trying to get a good enough map of things so that our inner (Via brain change) and outer (via capitalizing on that self-directed brain change in the physical world) work can be effective. Thankfully, and somewhat frustratingly again for those who prefer one “correct” approach, we are met with quite a few maps of how these beings, these parts, and functions of the brain, might be categorized.              

The first major undertaking of this task in a Christian context was by a Syrian monk sometime in the 4th or 5th century called Dionysius the Areopagite, though there are no records of what the author’s actual name was. His notion, put forth in De Coelesti Hierarchia (on the Celestial Hierarchy), was effectively that there were a series of hierarchies within the angelic ranks. These hierarchies are what medieval theologians would term “Angelic Choirs”. Dionysius work, later built upon by Thomas Aquinas in “Summa Theologiae”, developed a schema of three hierarchies, sometimes called spheres, of angels. Each Sphere then contained three orders, or Choirs, of angels. Though Dionysius and Aquinas affirmed the doctrine of the communion of saints, that is to say they accepted the notion that in paradise all souls are equal, and unified in their contemplation of the perfection of God; they put forth the notion that in the incarnated portion of existence there are different degrees of beings each with different powers in respect to communication and interaction with God as well as human life. We will briefly discuss each sphere and those incarnated orders of Angels contained within below.            

According to Dionysius, The first sphere consists of the Seraphim, the Cherubim, and the Thrones. These guys are thought of as the servants of God the Son incarnated.  

Seraphim, Singular “Seraph”, literally translates to “Burning ones”. Ranked highest in the hierarchy due to their closeness to God, the Seraphim are met by the prophet Isaiah in 6:1-7. They are described as having 6 wings, utilizing 2 to fly and utilizing the other four to block their faces and feet from God, lest they offend God by their feet (which were considered unclean at the time) and shield themselves by blocking their eyes from presumably be obliterated by the vision of the Almighty. They’ve clearly got an association with fire, purification and enlightenment as in the same part of Isaiah one of the Seraphim touches Isaiah’s lips with a lump of burning coal noting that, “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”

Cherubim, unlike how we might imagine, are angels who have four faces that look out in different directions. Each face was different as there was one of a lion, one an eagle, one a man and one an ox, symbolically relating to the symbols of the four OG evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Its curious to note as well that each face has elemental and astrological attributions. These guys have 4 wings each which are literally covered with eyes. They were tasked with guarding the way to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden as well as the throne of God as mentioned in Ezekiel 28:14-16. They are to be on the look out for transgressors. Their four faces, one for each direction, along with wings covered with eyes tends to help with that.  

Thrones, from the Greek thronos meaning “elders” also have lots of eyes. That’s a common theme among angels actually. As best I can tell the eye motif is something to do with the supremacy of foresight; a trait humans might consider attempting to emulate. Sometimes related to the Ophanim (literally meaning wheels) though this is not uncontested, they are often depicted as wheels within wheels with the outer rims of those wheels covered in eyeballs. The thrones are a bit hard to categorize as their relation to the Cherubim isn’t exactly clear. Ezekiel 10:17 suggests that “…The spirit of the living creatures [the Cherubim] was in the wheels.” Which muddles things somewhat in drawing distinctions. Somewhat more curiously, I’ve read in some places that other Christian theologians point to the 24 Elders in the Book of Revelation, who present prayers to God, as being members of the Thrones order.  Despite this, the Thrones are apparently utilized by the Cherubim to move the throne of God around, hence their seemingly wheel like appearance. The movers of God might be an appropriate notion. Whether moving God to respond to Prayers or just for whatever other reason the Cherubim might have for moving God about.          

The second sphere contains beings that work as sort of the governors of creation in that they guide and rule the spirits beneath them. They can be thought of sort of like the middle managers of the celestial bureaucracy. Contained within are the Dominions (sometimes called Lordships), Virtues (sometimes called Strongholds) and Powers (sometimes called Authorities).  

Dominions/Lordships, are presented as sort of the Bosses of all lower Angels. We might think of them like celestial generals. In De Coelesti Hierarchia their whole purpose is to regulate the duties of the angels below them, only very rarely, if ever, presenting themselves to humans. As a result not a whole lot is known about these folks.  

Virtues/Strongholds, are described by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in De Coelesti Hierarchia as, “The name of the holy Virtues signifies a certain powerful and unshakable virility welling forth into all their Godlike energies; not being weak and feeble for any reception of the divine Illuminations granted to it; mounting upwards in fullness of power to an assimilation with God; never falling away from the Divine Life through its own weakness, but ascending unwaveringly to the super essential Virtue which is the Source of virtue: fashioning itself, as far as it may, in virtue; perfectly turned towards the Source of virtue, and flowing forth providentially to those below it, abundantly filling them with virtue.”(171)        

They can be thought of as the workers of Miracles as they manifest in the world. To stick with the military metaphor, they receive direction from the dominions, and through their absurd virtuousness, they emanate those good vibes into the spheres and worlds below them. They can be thought of as the captains of the divine army. They deliver instructions to the next group the…  

Powers/Authorities. These guys basically hold everything together. Considered warrior angels by the Catholic church, they maintain order throughout the cosmos by fighting evil spirits who attempt to wreak chaos. Having received orders from the virtues, it’s their task to basically make sure everything keeps spinning smoothly on a universal scale. They might be thought of as the celestial infantry in the cosmic war. The important part is the “cosmic” part here, because they are not quite interacting with humans, rather they are frying larger fish. Thus we are brought to our third and last sphere, consisting of protectors and guides to human beings.  

Principalities/Rulers, are the angels specifically tasked with protecting groups of people, whether that be a nation, a state, an ethnic group, or an institution. Decidedly less cosmic than the previous classifications, these angels are specifically in charge of the realm of earth, though they do take orders from on high.  

Archangels, comes from the greek word “Archangelos” meaning something like chief messenger. Curiously, though only Archangel Michael is the only one mentioned by name in the New Testament, somehow along the way we wound up with a classification of 7 archangels.  This probably has to do with the Book of Tobit which is considered Deuterocanonical by Roman Catholics (meaning that it is accepted as canon by the Catholics but not by protestant denominations) where the angel Raphael notes that he was “one of seven who stand below the Lord”. The other 6 then it would be assumed qualify. Of course without clear indications of who these folks are, the symbols and their correspondences are very much up for grabs for the astute student.        

It should be mentioned that in the book of Enoch, as well as in the book of revelation, there is mention of the 7 spirits of God that hang out by the throne. But regardless of where this comes from, the Archangel class of beings is primarily responsible for being the chief messengers of God to humans. If we mash the 7 classical astrological planets with the 7 archangels, we have done a good job of understanding the aspects of each of these beings and how each one holds a “piece” of Gods message to deliver to us.  

Angels, last but not least, are the very most concerned with the individual affairs of men. Personal guardian angels generally fall into this category as well. These guys are basically the folks who’s job it is to listen to prayers, and ferry them up the line of command until they get to the top and then let us know what to do. We might think of them, in modern terms, as agents of our own intuition, and thus should be respected greatly.           

Ok, phew. You still with me? Good. So last thing, fairly quickly. There’s a book called the Sefer Raziel, which is basically an account of how this angel, Raziel, came to Adam and taught him the secrets of the cosmos. Aside from that being totally badass, (and incredibly patriarchal as he only does this when Adam blames Eve full tilt and apologizes for her, but that’s for another essay) it is incredibly useful when dealing with the core aspects of angelology. Raziel presents the 72 names of the angels as extracted from a part of exodus when read boustrophedonically (That is, read forwards for one name, then backwards for another), one for each angel, who run the cosmos. Given this, we each order of angel, within each sphere, consists of some of these angels and 72/9 comes out to 8.          

Thus, if one were so inclined, they could study each of these 72 angels, 8 angels in each choir, their relation to their station/order within the spheres, and their correspondences, religious, elemental, astrological and psychological, giving one a ridiculously large filing cabinet with subsections to pin attributions of the cosmos too. Such is the work of the angelologist. For more, check out Stephen Skinners “Complete Magicians Tables, 5th edition.”          

Works Referenced:
Skinners Complete Magicians Tables, 5th edition – Stephen Skinner
The Book of Enoch the Prophet – Enoch
The Goetia: The Lesser Key of Solomon the king – Translated by MacGregor Mathers with intro from Aleister Crowley
The Holy Bible – A Bunch of Folks
The Celestial Hierarchy – Dionysius the Areopagite
The Summa Theologica – St. Thomas Aquinas
The Interpretation of Fairy Tales – Marie Louis Von Franz  

Demonology: Or, How to Summon Demons in your Mom’s Basement

            I’ve been studying magick and witchcraft for more than a few years now, and just graduated with my BA in Religious Studies, so I tend to muck about in the spiritual realm with some frequency. As a not too surprising result of this, I tend to bump shoulders with folks on the darker parts of the astral plane more often than most. I figure if we’re going to talk about Angels from the context of magickal work, as I have in videos on Banishing, I would be remiss to leave out our friends from the infernal realms as well!  And so we find ourselves studying demons.
            It should be noted that demonology is not “The study of summoning demons in your moms basement.” What demonology is is simply the study of the aspects of demons. And just like in my past post, if we hold the thesis of Crowley as true, that spirits correspond to an act of the brain, demonology is really about studying ourselves and our psyches.
            If we look at A Greek-English Lexicon, originally published in 1843 and now on its ninth revised edition, we find that the word Demon actually comes from the Greek word first used by Plato, Daimon, which means something similar to “Fate” or Destiny”.[1] As time went on it got morphed to mean a “Deity” a “Genius,” or a “tutelary spirit”. One might think of a Daimon as one’s highest, truest potential. It’s easy to see how it could be used as a word for a God.
            This is far cry from the modern understanding of the word as something nefarious, evil, and out to destroy the light from the world. Never the less, the word evolved at the advent of Christianity to mean something more sinister.
            This actually probably transpired as a result of the Greek Bible. Take for instance Deuteronomy 32:17, a passage that talks about why the heathen Gods were inferior to the OG God Yahweh.  It reads, “They sacrificed to demons [the word used is δαιμονίοις referring to the definition of the demon as a “God”] and not to God- to gods in whom they did not known: new and newly made gods have come, in whom knew not their fathers.”[2]
            There are also about 74 other uses of the word throughout the New Testament, depending on what edition you’re reading.[3] Thus, all Gods who were not God, became demons (which is later sometimes translated as Devils, as in the King James Bible), and the word Daimon, which had meant spiritual teachers, ones higher genius, or Gods themselves, became restricted to some evil, lesser thing. But the advent of the word is certainly not the first time we interact with these sorts of entities considered evil.
            In fact, demons were causing mischief long before the advent of Christianity. There are tons of pre-Christian texts that detail incantations, spells and amulet construction recipes for warding off negative spirits. In Jewish folklore alone there is a pantheon of modern-day demon-like beings that run amok all the time. We can look to the well known Lilith the first wife of Adam, as well as her children the Lillin, who apparently kill babies in their cribs by draining their life force and doing other unpleasant things. The Dybbuk as well, who in traditional Jewish folklore are not technically demons in the sense that they are a God or from some plane other than our own; rather, they are the dislocated souls of the dead who as sinners cling to life afraid of the Truth. This being said, they can still stick to you (the word Dybbuk has been translated as, “stick” or”cling”) and possess your body which can result in strange and unpleasant experiences like bouts of hysteria, and symptoms that look like psychosis.[4]
            Curiously in the Babylonian Talmud noted in a section attributed to Abba Benjamin, “If the eye would be granted permission to see, no creature would be able to stand in the face of the demons that surround it.” There are tons of other references to demons, as well as references to potions and things one could take by which to see demons incarnate. So clearly the early Jewish folks put some serious stock into the proposition of Demons.[5]
            Weirdly though, there’s actually not a lot in the Old Testament or in the Babylonian Talmud about what to do with these beings or where they come from. There’s some mention about how God is actually in charge of all spirits in the book of Job (Job 1-2) so even if a “lying spirit” goes out and screws everything up, it’s only with divine consent, but other than that, things are surprisingly sparse.
            But I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that demons have been around in some form or another for quite a while, but demonology doesn’t get hot on the scene until we skip forward a few hundred years to the 15th and 16th centuries which heralded a massive occult revival based on Hellenistic pagan, cabbalistic Jewish and Christian thought. Folks like Marsilio Ficino and Cornelius Agrippa began to publish their works on magic throughout Europe and the study of demons. 300 or so years after Aquinas had published the Summa Theologiae and outlined how he understood the celestial hierarchy, so naturally, there had to come onto the scene a boatload of writings detailing the infernal hierarchies.
            The reason this took so long seems to be that this time facillitated a growth in the view that pagan Gods and spirits, as well as Christian demons, could impact the world outside of the purview of God. If, like previous Christian theologians had thoughtm it was all God’s creation, there was no room for such entities to be mucking about. But by the time Aquinas had introduced the concept of natural law and the study of it through natural philosophy, the doors had come open for a study of phenomena including, types of spiritual energy, levels of the soul and, drum roll please….The pagan Gods; the same Gods which the Christian theologians had hitherto denied the validity of.
            Hierarchies then became a really big thing.
            One of particular note in these infernal hierarchies is The Testament of Solomon, a pseudepigraphical work purportedly penned by King Solomon himself.[6] The text describes how there are these 72 demons but King Solomons incredible magical knowledge and a Holy ring he acquired by building a wicked awesome temple; employed the powers of the heavens to routinely route demons and force them into servitude to more holy aims. This text, and the later Keys of Solomon, which details how to summon and control those same spirits, heavily factored into the magical revival of the time and demons were back on the scene in a big way.[7] We’ll actually come back to this later, but I want to give a bit of a fuller history first.
            All the sudden, the 16th century was here and the world came alive with demons. Classification systems and other publications were found all throughout Europe
            Henry Cornelius Agrippa, arguably one of the most important folks in the occult revival, published his De occulta Philosophia in 1509, which detailed quite a few systems of demonic classification, but they would take too long to list here.
            G.F. Pico Published Examen Vaniotatis Doctrinae Gentium in 1573 where he attacked all forms of magic and superstition as demonic because they recalled the pagan Gods. The Gods that were not God. The demons. He particularly focuses on the works of the prisci theologia (The Ancient Theology), which asserted more less that one current could express itself in different forms, ie God could be expressing through other Gods. Pico disagreed vehemently and saw consorting with these energies the Prisca magi saw as expressions of God, as expressly evil.
            Peter Binsfelds published The Princes of Hell in 1589 and gave a classification of demonic hierarchies based on the 7 Deadly sins.
            King James published Daemonologie in 1591, (Bet you didn’t see that coming!) which actually classified demons not based on their rank or names but rather based on the method by which that particular demon caused you harm.[8]
            Sometime around 1609 The Book of Abramelin was published in German which gave extensive lists of spirits, Angels and Demons by means of merging Hellenistic thought with the Jewish cabala.
            In 1613, Sebastien Michaels, a vice-inquisitor in more than one witch trial, wrote a book, Admirable History in which he classifies demons on a Pseudo-Dionysian Hierarchy.[9] Remember Pseudo Dionysius the Areopagite from my Angelology post? He’s back! Sorta, but this time, Demon edition! The Hierarchies are the same, the first including Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones with delightful names like Beelzebub being a prince of the Seraphim just beneath Lucifer, Berith being a prince of the Cherubim, and Astaroth being a prince of the Thrones.
            Then there’s the second hierarchy of the Powers, which included names like Carreau the tempter of men with a hardness of heart and Carnival, the tempter of men with shamelessness. The dominions have Rosier, who tempts you to be promiscuous, and others. Then there were folks like Belias, the prince of Virtues, who tempts men with arrogance.
            Then the last hierarchy of principalities, Archangels, and Angels with other just fantastic names and attributes I’ll leave to you to look up. (You can see why summoning these things in magickal practice to stand against them and understand how their functions play through the mind might be useful work.)
            And so on and so on. Magick began to fade out again in the 18th and 19th centuries as the enlightenment and rational, materialistic empiricism began to take its toll.
            It’s also important to take a second here to remember that at the time we’re talking about, from roughly 1500 to 1630 there was a serious case of witch phobia; similar to the witch hunts in the United States that would come a bit later, but much more widespread. It is estimated that some estimated 50,000 to 60,000 people were burned at the stake for practicing witchcraft.[10] To add even more fuel to the fire, this was all going down during the period of the counter-reformation right after the Christian Church had just shaken itself apart, roughly taking place from the Council of Trent in 1545 to the close of the Thirty Years war in 1648 as well as the multitude of other religious and territorial wars that had broken out all over Europe. The knight’s revolt in the Holy Roman Empire, the Nine years war the German peasant’s war, the Kildare rebellion, the Wars of Kappel in the Old Swiss Confederacy, the Tudors conquest of Ireland, and many, many others.
            So Europe is at war with itself. The great religions of the day were split and were also at war, magical writers were reviving the pagan Gods whom the Christians of all sects called Demons (Though Catholics were more likely to be Magi, as in the case of Agrippa and Giovanni Pico) and basically Europe is going through major changes.
            You’ve got to understand that all of this stuff is coming out of an atmosphere where a lot of these writers can’t even say what they’re talking about for fear of persecution by The Church or the state. I mean it was absolute madness what was going on.
            People like Ficcino and Pomponazzi (another mage at the time) saw this coming and were incredibly hesitant to include any mention of actual practicing magick with the aid angels or demons in their major publications based on the correct assumption that this would lead to a headache down the road, but others didn’t and were unfortunately killed or imprisoned as a result.[11]
            Ficcino is actually strange in this regard and in a way that is worth mentioning. He clearly believed in demons. Or at least he said he did, having professed to two exorcisms in his lifetime as well as writing lesser works about the entities of the celestial realms. Also expressed in his earlier writings are notions that Angels and Demons were planetary beings that could, in fact, impact the soul, even above the spirit. This was an affront to Catholic Orthodoxy. He clearly practiced a form of Neoplatonic Magick by invoking the power of the planets, and the magick he performed, as described by his disciple Diacetto was clearly demonic.[11]
            This attitude stands in contrast to his major published piece, De Triplici Vita during this time where he makes no mention of Angels or Demons, preferring to reference a sort of spiritus mundi, a world spirit, that flows through all things. He argued a fascinating notion that got around the censures of the time where he understood that the planets, the Gods they represented, and their associations could be called up to access that particular part of the spiritus mundi and affect the individuals spirit, (as distinct from the anima mundi, the world soul, and the soul of the individual, which he argued that nothing could control but the one God.) Of course, his detractors thought he was just doing demonic stuff anyway, that his explanation was just a veil for resurrecting old world pagan Theurgy and unifying with energies that were not of God, consorting with demons, etc. Maybe it was, maybe not.
            With all this fun stuff out of the way and understood as the genesis of modern Demonology, we fast-forward a few more centuries to now. Now, after the age of enlightenment, the understanding of the mind brought on by Freud and Jung and Wilson and Wilbur, the innovations of modern magickal practitioners, like Pete Carol, and those in the past 150 or so years, like Crowley and Mathers we are brought back to our understanding of correspondence and how each spirit, Daimon, Demon, or anything else, is reflected in a part of the brain. Thus, working with these spirits can facilitate functionality in that area of the brain. If we work with a demon who’s thing happens to be poetry, we’re going to stimulate that part of the brian. If we work with a demon who’s thing is lusty bedroom time, we’re going to work with that part of the brain. etc. I won’t rehash the whole idea here but if you want to jump back and read the first part of my angelology post to get an idea of what I’m on about.
           This, curiously enough, brings us back to The Testament of Solomon and as a result, the Keys of Solomon sometimes called the Legemeton. The section of import to us is entitled The Goetia.
            Translated into English for the first time by Mathers, founder of the Golden Dawn and Occult scholar, the text deals with the rituals and methods by which Demons may be summoned for particular workings. All in all there are 72 Demons, the number of which seems to be inspired as a reflection of the Sefer Raziels system of Angels.
            It’s worth mentioning that in Crowley’s introduction to the Key of Solomon, in the section, the initiated interpretation of ceremonial Magick, he notes,
“Our ceremonial Magick fines down, then, to a series of minute though of course empirical, physiological experiments, and whoso will carry them through intelligently need not fear the result. I have all the health, and treasure, and logic that I need; I have no time to waste. ‘There is a lion in the way.’ For me, these practices are useless; but for the benefit of others less fortunate I give them to the world…”
            What he’s saying, on a concrete level, that if you follow the rules, you’re just playing small games with your physiology and need not worry about becoming possessed by parts of the spiritus mundi or any Demon or creature or any other thing. But that’s if you follow the rules.  So if you want to start working with these archetypes, to understand what makes them tick, and by virtue what makes you tick, or just want to fully understand what you’re capable of, I highly advocate picking up a copy of The Goetia by M.M. and A.C. It’s one of the finest handbooks on the conjuration of Demons available and an invaluable tool for the armchair magician and the practitioner alike. if you want to stay consistent between Angels and Demons, you could mash the demons of the Goetia with the Angels of the Sefer Raziel and reveal an ENORMOUS mental map of what the human being is capable of experiencing.
            An alternative option is to study the work of Sebastian Michaels and how it relates to the Celestial Hierarchy of Pseudo-Dyonisis and the Summa Theologiae of Aquinas.
            Or you could go light candles and worship Satan in your mom’s basement. Up to you.
-N
Works Referenced:

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[2] Deut 32:17
[7] Crowley, Aleister. The Book of the Goetia of Solomon the King. Boleskin, Foyers, Inverness: Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth, 1904.
[8] King James. Daemonologie. A Critical Edition. In Modern English. 2016. pp. 59–90.
[11]Walker, D.P. Spiritual & Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella. University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003.