By Frater S.C.F.V
Crafting a Solomonic Circle : Introduction
After an astounding, and very enjoyable, three weeks of work, I have finally finished crafting my version of a Solomonic Circle based on a combination of the Consecration Circle from the Clavicula Salomonis (16th c.) and the Circle from the Goetia of the Lemegeton Clavicula Salomonis (17th c.). My source materials for this project included the critical editions of both texts from Joseph H. Peterson, Renaissance manuscripts of the texts (Sloane MSS. 3091, Sloane MSS. 3548, Kings MSS. 288, and Harley MSS. 3981) and ideas from my respected colleagues in Aaron Leitch’s Solomonic group.
In this article, I would like to share how I approached the process of crafting of this Circle, why I made the decisions I did in terms of its design, and the stages through which the project unfolded from its conception to its creation. My hope is that the information shared here will be helpful to those who are wondering how to get started with a project of this magnitude and are looking for some useful tips and assistance. For example, I will endeavour to offer some clear tables and ideas for faithfully rendering the Hebrew letters in the Mathers-Crowley edition of the Goetia Circle, which can be very hard to read in many of the manuscripts.
The Devotion of the Art: A Philosophical Approach
When I decided to take on this project, which I intended to use for practical work with the grimoires, it was clear to me that I had to do so in the right spirit and proper frame of mind. Anyone who has worked with the Solomonic grimoires knows that they are extremely devotional in nature. They make extensive use of prayers, glorification and devotional proclamations to the Divine, and, like the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, encourage the Magician or “Exorcist” to inflame themselves in prayer. Indeed, this devotional and ecstatic aspect is key to the Solomonic approach, as Aaron Leitch explains in his excellent Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires.
Therefore, I approached the creation of this Circle, as the Solomonic grimoires recommend, not as preparation for magical work, but as an act of magic in itself. Indeed, my approach to the work was that I would offer up my energy, my time, and the very best work I could possibly do for the greater glory of the Divine and as an offering to the Divine and to the Angelic spirits that the Circle itself calls upon for protection and empowerment. My entire approach, therefore, was one of devotion and of a spirit of offering. I believe this is very important, because if approached in this way, the Magician infuses that devotional spirit and fervent energy of prayer and the ecstatic “phrenzy of Love”–to quote Agrippa– into the Circle itself. This, in effect, adds an additional layer of power and consecration to the Circle as a greater tool for work.
As a result, I incorporated a series of devotional and ceremonial aspects into the very creation of the Circle itself. First, I performed ritual bathing before every session of work on the Circle to ensure I was in a state of ritual purity. I recommend Key of Solomon, Book II, Chapter IV for instructions on the bathing or using the Islamic ghusl method).
Second, on some of my work days on the Circle, I fasted (see Key of Solomon Book II, Chapter IV for guidance on fasting as well as Aaron’s Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires).
Third, I consecrated the markers I used for drawing the characters and figures on the Circle and used acrylic paint following the method for the exorcism and consecration of the Ink of the Art given in Book II, Chapter XIV of the Key of Solomon.
Fourth, I burned Frankincense during the painting sessions, which was consecrated according to Book II, Chapter X of the Key of Solomon in the appropriate Planetary Hours.
Fifth, during my work on the Circle, I listened to devotional hymns, songs, Gregorian chanting, and Biblical Hebrew chanting of Psalms. I also chanted and prayed as constantly as I could.
In short, the entire process of creating the Circle, which took many hours over a three-week period, was a rite of devotion, prayer, purification, meditative absorption, and consecration. This is the state of mind and attitude in which I approach the creation of any magical tool, but particularly projects of the scale of a Circle of this kind.
Approach to the Lettering and Symbolism Used
In order to craft a Circle of this type, it is very important for the Magician to first study the symbolism used in great detail in order to understand its function and the Forces that the ritual implements call upon for empowerment, exorcism, and consecration.
Therefore, I studied the symbols and rationales behind all aspects of the Circle in great detail through the secondary and primary sources and in consultation with other Solomonic practitioners. Dr. Stephen Skinner recommended that if I were to use the serpent motif, as present in the Crowley-Mathers take on the Goetia Circle, then I should place its tail in its mouth to complete the ouroboros symbolism which links it back to the Papyri Graecae Magicae (PGM) via the Hygromanteia. I took his advice and did exactly this. Frater Ashen Chassan’s own amazing work on his Goetia Circle inspired me to push myself to produce the most beautiful Circle I could as an act of devotion to the Divine and Offering to the Spirits.
As I studied the Hebrew words–written in Latin characters in the original manuscripts–it soon became clear to me that the letters in the outer circle of the Goetia Circle had originated in Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy (1531). As a side note, this very fact tells us that the Lemegeton text cannot, therefore, be older than 1531, and is probably considerably younger.
More specifically, the Hebrew words around the ring of the Circle come from Chapter 13 of Agrippa’s Second Book of Occult Philosophy, a Chapter which is entitled “Of the Number Ten and the Scale Thereof.” In this Scale, Agrippa provides a Table with 10 Columns devoted to the 10 Sephirot of the Qabalistic Tree of Life. These Columns supply the Hebrew Names of God, the Sephirot, the Angelic Choirs, the Archangels, and the names of the “Spheres of the Celestial World” which were transliterated into English characters in the ring of Names around the Goetia Circle.
Realizing that these were originally Hebrew names, Mathers and Crowley restored them to their original Hebrew. I agree with this decision and decided to go along with it in my own Circle. In the Goetia Circle, however, only 9 out of the 10 columns were included; the Malkut column was omitted. Some Magicians have argued that the reason for this was that the Circle itself represented the Sphere of Malkuth, and therefore the names were not needed. This is a fair argument, although one with which I humbly and respectfully disagree.
It seems to me that the Malkuth column contains key Names of God, Sephirot, Angelic Choir Names, and Archangelic Names, which if omitted, deprive the Circle of additional protection and talismanic power; conversely, if added, they add an additional layer of talismanic and protective power to the Circle as well as a greater sense of holistic and unified completeness.
Through this addition, the physical Circle then becomes a potent and complete mandala of all of the Powers in the Four Qabalistic Worlds mapped around the Magician; in effect, it becomes a completed microcosmic mandalaic representation of the macrocosmic forces that Agrippa lays out in his Ten Scale. Therefore, I transliterated the Names from the Malkut column in Agrippa back into Hebrew and followed the same symbolic conventions as Mathers-Crowley edition (e.g. using the astrological sigil of the associated Planet, in this case Earth).
An additional issue that anyone who wishes to construct a version of the Lemegeton’s Goetia Circle must face is the issue of the Hebrew. Unfortunately, there are many errors in the Hebrew both in the original manuscripts in the Mathers-Crowley Hebrew as well. Mr. Gilberto Strapazon has done some excellent work in meticulously correcting these errors in his own take on the Goetic Circle. When you add together my work with Mr. Strapazon’s, the result is the following list of Names for the 10 Columns of Agrippa’s Ten Scale, all in their original Hebrew, which are to be written in the outer Circle.
Here are the corrected Names for the original 9 columns used in the original Lemegeton’s Goetia Circle as transliterated back into Hebrew by Mathers-Crowley, with credit to Mr. Strapazon:
In addition to the above, my restored version of the 10th column Earth/Malkut Names, which are to be written after the Luna Names, is as follows:
To write the Names around the Circle, if you use the serpent motif from the Crowley-Mathers Circle–as I did–I suggest to begin with the Names in the S.P.M. (Sphere of Primum Mobile) row starting from the snake’s head, and working your way to the left along the serpent’s body. Recall that Hebrew is written from right to left, so you would not start with the letters S.P.M., but rather with the Aleph on the right-most side of the column that starts the name Eheieh in Hebrew (אהיה). Then you would work from right to left until you reach “S.P.M.,” start at the rightmost letter in the row under that (the S.S.F. row), and work your way to the left towards the letters “S.S.F.” and so on through the rest of the Names.
In my own version of the Circle, I decided to make some additional augmentations because I wanted this Circle to double as a Pentacle consecration Circle for Key of Solomon work. As a result, I opted to add the Four Names from the Key‘s Pentacle Consecration Circle into their respective cardinal quarters, as shown in the original diagram from the text:
As shall be seen in the images below, I placed these four Names above the Hexagrams in the central circle in each Quarter. In this way, a single Circle can be used both to consecrate Pentacles and to do evocations and invocation work.
In addition, as I explained in a previous post, in Book 2, Chapter 9 of Mathers’ Key of Solomon, Mathers’ diagram of the Circle shows the Hebrew text of “Who is like unto thee, oh YHVH?” from Exodus 15:11 added in the second band of the Circle. However, in almost every source I’ve seen, there are many mistakes in the Hebrew given for this verse, including both Mathers’ original presentation and Mr. Donald Tyson’s presentation thereof in Serpent of Wisdom, where it is erroneously transliterated as “MI KMIK BALIM IHVH.”
After consulting the passage in the original Hebrew Tanakh to verify it, here is the correct Hebrew as it should be written, shown in the context of the full verse from the Tanakh:
In my Circle, these words were included towards the end of the Serpent’s body where it weaves back towards its head to complete the ouroboros as per Dr. Stephen Skinner’s instructions.
Moreover, attentive readers will also notice that I followed Frater Ashen Chassan’s example of using Medieval and Renaissance calligraphy in the English or Latin characters used in the circle (e.g. “ALPHA,” “OMEGA,” and “TETRAGRAMMATON”). This is not required by the original manuscripts or even by the Crowley-Mathers edition, but it adds a great deal of beauty to the final result. The practical magical benefit of aiming to maximally beautify our magical tools is that, as Neoplatonic Theurgy explains, the more beautiful our magical tools, the more they participate in the ‘nature of the Beautiful,’ which sympathetically helps them to resonate more strongly with the Divine forces we use them to invoke.
Finally, it will be noted that I made some subtle changes to the Hexagrams and the Pentagrams used in the Circle. For the large central Hexagrams in the inner circle, I used the general structure of “Solomon’s Hexagonal figure” from the Goetia to add additional power to the Circle as shown in the following image. I also added smaller forms of the Pentagram and Hexagram of Solomon near the Consecration Circle Names in each quarter for aesthetic balance and additional empowerment.
It is worth noting, as I was surprised to recently discover, that at the time of crafting this Circle, I had not encountered the idea of including smaller Pentagonal Figures of Solomon in the four Quarters of the Circle in any existing manuscript of the Clavicula Salomonis. I had been nudged to do it by the Spirits overseeing my work in crafting the Circle. Over a year later, I discovered BNF or Bibliothèque Nationale de France Italien 1524, which happens to be our earliest published manuscript of the Key of Solomon proper and dates to 1456. Amazingly, the version of the Circle in BNF Italien 1524 includes Pentagonal figures of Solomon, albeit with different lettering, in each quarter of the Circle just as I had intuitively been nudged by the Spirits to do in my own Circle! Note the four Pentagonal Figures in each Quarter of the diagram of the Circle in BNF Ital 1524:
As for the four Pentagrams, which surround the Circle, I kept the “TETRAGRAMMATON” text, but added crosses at the vertices and Alpha and Omega signs to align them with the symbolism in the Hexagram of Solomon. I also felt an intuitive nudge from the Spirits overseeing my Circle work to include the name “EL” (Aleph-Lamed or God in Hebrew) twice and the Name “YAH” (Yod-Heh) once, with the following final design for each Pentagram:
When I investigated the resulting Gematria, I was struck by the esoteric implications of these additions. In Gematria, each Hebrew letter is assigned a numerical value. Therefore, each word also has a numerical value, which is equal to the sum of the values of its letters. Words with the same numerical value are taken to share occult or hidden connections with one another. For example, the word “El” (God) in Hebrew (Aleph-Lamed) has a value of 31, the same value as the Hebrew words for “Love of Yah,” “Seer,” “Holds” (as in an embrace of love or protection), and “Brother of Union.” Similarly, the word “Yah” (Yod-Heh) has a value of 15, the same value as the Hebrew words for “He is,” “To utter, to confess, to praise,” “to speak, to breathe” (recall that ‘spirit’ comes from the word for breath in Latin), “to be hidden,” “projection,” “flow, flux,” “splendor,” “exaltation,” “majesty,” and “to love excessively” (“God is love” – 1 John 4:8).
As it turns out, the two Els and one Yah give the Names around a single Pentagram, as shown above, a value of 77 (31+31+15 = 77). This is the same value of the Hebrew words for being “bound together,” “vault,” “bubbling or welling up,” “longing for,” “to pray,” Gichon (the name of a River in Eden), “Yah Builds,” “Yah is Bountiful,” “a strong, raised place, castle or fortress” (fitting for a protective Circle), “Planet” (fitting for Planetary Names used in the Circle and Planetary Talismans consecrated therein), “Fullness, bounty,” “to wrap up, cover” (appropriate for the ‘cover’ provided by the Circle and Pentagrams), and “strong, mighty, fierce, firmness, stability,” which all resonate with the Circle’s function and symbolism.
Moreover, if we add the values of the Names around all four Pentagrams, we get a value of 308 (77 x 4 = 308). 308 is the same value as the Hebrew words for “God is Helper,” “God’s Help,” “Shepherd” (a name for Christ), “To turn white” (which resonates with the phrase “cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” in Psalm 51, which is used in Key of Solomon rituals and evokes the use of hyssop in the ritual cleansing bath), “innermost, deepest part” (Resh-Qoph-Chet), and “an enclosure, a Home” (Resh-Yod-Tzaddi-Chet), which are also fitting for a Circle.
The Stages of Making the Circle
The actual crafting of the Circle proceeded through a series of stages. Each time I worked on the Circle, as mentioned above, I proceeded with great devotion and purified myself with ritual bathing, burned consecrated incense, prayed, and listened to chanting, devotional songs, hymns, and Psalms. Indeed, there were times, after multiple hours of praising and painting simultaneously, when I would enter states of ecstatic love, and offer up all of the energy to the Divine and the Angelic beings invoked in the Circle. I also learned to draw each letter one at a time, focusing on one line at a time, and making each line as perfect as I could make it, offering it up as an offering unto itself within the larger mandala of the Circle.
I began with laying down newspapers on the ground of my workspace to protect my carpet from the paint going through the white sheet on which I would be painting:
I then lay down my white sheet and used weight plates to stretch it out as tautly as possible:
I then placed a standing fan in the center of the sheet and attached a rope to it. To that rope, I attached a consecrated marker, and then traced first a larger Circle (for the outer circle) by walking around the circle pulling the marker attached to the base of the fan with me to form a circle. I then reeled in some of the rope by winding it around the fan to make it shorter and traced a smaller circle (for the inner circle) within the larger one. I traced over each circle multiple times to make them bolder. The result was the following:
With the base circles complete, I drew the central diamond and the four central Hexagrams and the crosses at the vertex of each around it in free-hand. If you have a large ruler, I would recommend using that instead more equally-sized figures than my rather idiosyncratic ones:
Once this was done, I proceeded with filling in the letters and Tau crosses within the central figures using my consecrated permanent marker. I also added the four Key of Solomon Consecration Circle Names along with smaller versions of the Pentagram and Hexagram of Solomon above each larger Hexagram and around the Consecration Circle Names. After I drew the three coils of the Serpent and placed his tail in his mouth to complete the ouroboros as per Dr. Stephen Skinner’s recommendation, the result was the following:
I then began to write the Hebrew Names around the serpent, starting from his head–in which I placed an ‘eye’ composed of an equal-armed cross–and winding towards the left around the Circle, writing the names as given in the lists above. I also painted in the Eastern Hexagram just to test my golden acrylic paint and began to paint the area around the serpent in the outer circle as well, with the following result:
Notice that I first painted in the full points of each Hexagram in gold, allowed it to dry, and only then added the letters of “ADONAI” over the painted points, as will be seen in the picture below. I followed the same approach with the Pentagrams in the corners, painting them in gold first, allowing it to dry, and then drawing the calligraphic “TETRAGRAMMATON” over them with consecrated markers.
As a useful Tip for fellow Circle-crafters, I discovered that the easiest way to write the Hebrew words is to first outline them and then fill them in, as shown in this image. I recommend practicing drawing the outlines of the letters on some scrap paper first until you feel more comfortable to write them on the Circle as they can’t be erased, only painted over! I took the same approach with the calligraphy, of first outlining the letters, and then filling them in:
I staggered painting in the gold parts of the hexagrams and area around the Circles with working on the Hebrew letters. I found that the easiest way to draw the Hebrew letters was to lie on my stomach on the ground and rotate my body around so that I was always facing the letters, which made them easier to write. As the letters neared their completion, the Circle looked like this:
I then painted in the central diamond or square in red and finished the letters, with the following result:
The next step was to paint the insides of the Hexagrams, or rather the central hexagons with the Greek letter Tau’s within them. I did this in blue, as shown below:
With this done, I was able to focus on painting the gold around the serpent in the rest of the outer Circle. Once complete, and after writing “MAGISTER,” Latin for “Master,” in Renaissance calligraphy as well as the Hebrew letters Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh in the central red diamond, the result was the following:
All that remained at this point was to draw the four Pentagrams in the corners surrounding the Circle. This posed a challenge since I was working in a very small space. What I decided to do was to bunch up the circle part of the sheet and use weights to stretch out the corners of the sheet in which I would draw the Pentagrams. It is key for the surface on which we are writing or painting to be taut to make the process of inscribing the symbols as easy as possible. This bunching up technique gave the following result once I had drawn the Pentagrams and crosses at their vertices free-hand and painted in the central pentagons in red:
I then filled in the points of the Pentagrams in gold to match the Hexagrams:
Once dry, I painted the “TETRAGRAMMATON” text in calligraphy in each Star using this image I crafted on the computer as a guide:
I drew the letters into the corners of the Pentagrams using the original manuscripts as a guide for which letters to put in which. Having added the calligraphy, all that remained was to paint the outer crosses blue as per my own design. It should be noticed that no such crosses are present in the original manuscripts or in the Crowley-Mathers edition, but I believe they add to the overall aesthetic impact as well as additional talismanic and protective power through the cross emblems themselves.
With the Pentagrams done, the Circle was complete. The end result had taken me countless hours over the span of a full three weeks. But once I saw the finished product, I was filled with awe and it all felt worthwhile. Here are some detailed pictures of the final result to show some of the lettering more closely as well as the final appearance with the completed Hexagrams:
Close-up on the central Hexagrams, calligraphy, and diamond/square:
Close-up on the “OMEGA” calligraphy:
Close-up on the “PHA” part of “ALPHA” in the calligraphy:
Close-up on the Eastern Quarter of the inner circle (“AGYEL – Agiel – Intelligence of Saturn, Tau cross, symbol from the Pentagram of Solomon, and miniature Pentagrams and Hexagrams of Solomon). Please note that my friend Andy Foster would want me to point out here that there is a great deal of debate in the Solomonic community over whether this name was meant to be “Agiel,” “Aniel,” “Anael” or some other variant since the original manuscripts are unclear. I stuck with the most commonly agreed-upon use–Agiel, the beneficent Intelligence of Saturn–with the rationale that his name is used to protect from malefic Saturnian influences, facilitate the ‘binding’ or ‘constriction’ of Planetary energies into the Planetary Pentacles:
Close-up on the Southern Quarter of the inner circle (“TzBAVT” – Tzabaoth, with miniature Hexagrams and Pentagrams of Solomon):
Close-up on the Western Quarter of the inner circle (“YHVH” and miniature Pentagrams and Hexagrams of Solomon):
Close-up on the Northern Quarter of the Circle (“ADNI” – Adonai and miniature Hexagrams and Pentagrams of Solomon):
Lessons Learned from Creating the Circle
I learned a great deal by working on this Circle. For those considering this work, here are some of my take-home lessons from completing this massive project:
- The process of crafting a magical tool is not an act of preparing for magic, but an act of magic in itself. As such, it is best approached with ritual purity, consecrated incense, a devotional attitude, and a great deal of care, patience, and focus. The love, devotion, and energy poured into the work during the crafting of the tool–or in this case, Circle–strengthens our personal and spiritual connection to it. It also classically conditions us to feel a sense of that love, devotion, and power each time we use the tool, or step into the Circle.
- If you don’t feel very comfortable writing Hebrew letters by the time you start writing the Names in the Goetia Circle, you certainly will by the end! This project forces you to write very, very carefully–since mistakes cannot be erased–and to put a great deal of loving and concentrated attention into each line of every letter. This process is very conducive to improving our Hebrew writing ability.
- As mentioned before, the easiest way to write the Hebrew letters and calligraphy on this scale is to first outline them and then fill each outline in. I learned this trick from my friend Curtis Estes who draws his Hebrew letters by outlining them first as well (thank you, Curtis!).
- The Circle is a microcosmic image of the macrocosmic universe; in this sense, it is exactly like a Tibetan Buddhist Mandala. When the Master stands in the center of the Circle, s/he places him/herself at the symbolic center of the universe, surrounded by all of the Angelic Choirs, Archangels, Sephirotic Names, and Divine Names. The result is both a powerful sense of protection and as if one were standing in a giant talisman that draws power to itself. When I stand in the middle of the completed Circle, I can almost feel it humming with power and feel completely safe.
- Time spent checking original manuscripts can allow us to catch mistakes so that we don’t replicate them and provide a much deeper understanding of the structure of the tool and the magical formulae by which it works. All of this research pays tremendous dividends in our practice and magical growth. I learned a great deal about Hebrew, calligraphy, Agrippa, the roots and structure of the Grimoires, painting and drawing techniques, how to use various artistic materials, and many other topics while working on this project. For instance, keeping a sheet unwrinkled and taut is no easy task! A canvas would be a much easier drawing surface.
- Although a large project like this can seem intimidating when considered as a whole, in reality, all it ever involves is drawing a single line or doing a single brush stroke at a time. And if approached in that way, with the mindfulness of a Zen monk sweeping a path in a monastery, what seems impossible quickly becomes possible. Although it seems hard at the outset, since all you are ever doing is one brush stroke or drawing one line, in practice, it becomes amazingly easy.
- Because I ended up spending so many hours in prayer and worship while working on this, my heart ended up feeling like it ‘cracked open’ at one point and the sense of Divine Love and Presence grew incredibly stronger. That feeling lingers to this day and ended up moving me to do more prayers and add more worship into my daily practices.
- An optimal time to consecrate a Circle of this nature is during a waxing Moon on the Day and Hour of Mercury when the Moon is in Cancer. Thank you to my friend Frater YShY for this fine pearl of occult wisdom.
- When I work with Angels and Archangels, I have found it appropriate to invoke them into a consecrated Crystal placed on an Altar at the center of a consecrated Circle. I would not, however, use that method for Jinn, Elementals or chthonic spirits more generally. Those, I would evoke into a spiritus loci placed outside the Circle. As I see it, the Circle is at once a protective barrier, a set-apart sacred space (much like the Garden of Eden symbolically, a walled sacred space, also analogous to the Tent of Meeting), a beacon to attract the spirits, a liminal space that offers a kind of nexus/interface for interaction between us and our distinct ‘worlds’ so-to-speak, and a kind of giant talisman in which the Magician stands to concentrate the forces with which we work.This is particularly true for the Circle from the Lemegeton’s Goetia described in this article. Although it is usually used to evoke chthonic entities outside of the Circle, its outer ring of Names is entirely composed of Divine, Angelic, and Archangelic Names. As a result, I have found that it works just as well for invoking Angelic and Archangelic entities into the Circle. This makes sense given some careful reflection. If such a Circle can protect the Magician through ensconcing us in a concentrated ‘bubble’ of Angelic, Archangelic and Divine energy, then it also stands to reason that it provides a highly consecrated and purified Divine/Angelic environment in which these celestial entities can manifest. This can be justified under Agrippan grounds since such a space is in sympathetic harmony with the natures or ‘occult vertues’ of the Angels themselves.
This fertile space in sympathetic harmony with the nature of the Angels can be further augmented through other ceremonial means: through the invocations and conjurations themselves, through ringing a consecrated Bell of Art within the Circle (as I explained in my Solomonic Bells Article), through tracing over the Circle with a consecrated Sword or Knife to demarcate the sacred space as Dr. Skinner recommends, through using incenses appropriate to their nature, through using candles offered to them in appropriate colours, through playing music in harmony with their nature or Psalm recitations in the background, and many other means.
- Finally, this project can be a great deal of fun and if you feel called to it, you can do it! Simply deciding to go forward with it, and give it your absolute best effort, however long it ends up taking, makes the whole process easier. Pray for guidance and you will receive it. Numerous times along the way, I was nudged forward by insight and guidance from beyond myself. If you open yourself to inspiration, it will come. Believe in yourself and go for it. You are way more powerful and capable than you know!