By Adam J. Pearson
Introduction: Ancient Origins of Horns, Trumpets, and Bells
The roots of ceremonial bells, horns, and trumpets stretch far into the distant reaches of prehistory. According to Hyunjong (2009, p.27), the world’s oldest known musical instrument is a bone flute that was found at a Neanderthal habitation site in Slovenia. This early flute was fashioned between 82,000 and 43,000 years ago from the bone of a cave bear (Hyunjong, 2009). Like the bone flute, the first blowing horns and ‘trumpets’ were also crafted from parts of hunted animals, such as animal horns (Warner et al., 2013). Paralleling the horn and trumpet traditions, the earliest archaeological evidence of bells uncovered thus far dates to the 3rd millennium B.C.E. in the Yangshao culture of Neolithic China; these most ancient of all human bells were fashioned from clay pottery before bronze bells emerged with the advances of the Bronze Age (Reinhart, 2015).
Although contemporary bells and trumpets may seem vastly different from one another in both sound and structure, their earliest forms were strikingly similar. Not only were they both musical instruments of staggering antiquity, but they were shared structural similarities; both bells and trumpets featured flared-out bottoms that amplified sounds produced either by striking, in the case of bells, or blowing vibrations, for trumpets, through their resonant cavities. Scholars of archaeoacoustics and music archaeology have identified independent traditions surrounding the crafting and uses of bells and trumpets in cultures on nearly every continent (Reinhart, 2015). From the Bronze Age onward, however, these traditions largely developed in parallel, although sometimes intercepting and inter-influencing streams, whose unfoldings were shaped by the cultural contexts of the early artisans who drove their development (Montagu, 2014).
This article explores a fascinating case of dovetailing bell and trumpet traditions in the ritual history of musical instruments, namely, the interwoven traditions of Bells and Trumpets of Art within Western ceremonial magic. The article’s first foray into the realm of sonorous Solomonic tools begins by describing the materials, crafting procedures, ritual uses, and potential mythic origins of the Trumpet of Art that is employed in the Key of Solomon grimoire (Latin: Clavicula Salomonis). It then juxtaposes the Claviculan Trumpet of Art with the Bell of Art from the Key of Solomon‘s central source text, the Byzantine Greek Hygromanteia (Greek: Ὑγρομαντεία). In the process, I will attempt to demonstrate that although the Trumpet of Art is able to perform the functions previously served by the evocatory Bell of the Greek Hygromanteia, it also reflects the influence of a distinct and separate tradition that traces its roots back to the Ancient Hebrew trumpet or ḥatzotzrah (חצוצרה) and blowing horn or shofar (שופר) used in the Hebrew Tanach.
Thereafter, the article broadens its focus to examine the resonant connections between the Bell or Trumpet of Art and some of the reflections on ritual bells and trumpets that are contained in the writings of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, John Dee, the pseudo-“Dee” of the Tuba Veneris, and Girardius, the mysterious author of the 18th century grimoire, Parvi Lucii Libellus de Mirabilibus Naturae Arcanis, 1730. Finally, I close with a brief discussion of the use and fashioning of my own personal Solomonic Bell of Art, which integrates the Hygromanteian Bell with the characters and Names of the Trumpet of Art and consecration methods from the Key.
A Yemenite Jew blows a Hebrew blowing horn or shofar (שופר) near the Old City Western Wall in Jerusalem. Photography by David Silverman.
Convoking the Spirits with Sonorous Blasts: The Key of Solomon’s Trumpet of Art
To begin, the connection between trumpets and the original King Solomon mythos that would exert a striking difference on the much later Key of Solomon grimoire has foundations in the Hebrew Tanach that are as strong as those of the Temple of Solomon itself. Indeed, verses 31 to 35 in 1 Kings 1 describe how David required a trumpet to be sounded to announce the successorship and ritual crowning of his son, the great Solomon himself. As the text explains,
32 King David said, “Call in Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah son of Jehoiada.” When they came before the king, 33 he said to them: “Take your lord’s servants with you and have Solomon my son mount my own mule and take him down to Gihon. 34 There have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ 35 Then you are to go up with him, and he is to come and sit on my throne and reign in my place. I have appointed him ruler over Israel and Judah” (NIV, 1 Kings 1:31-35)
Thus, the blast of a trumpet was linked, from its earliest days, to the rich mythos that developed around King Solomon from its earliest Tanachic roots and the reverberations of this original trumpet blast would much later be felt throughout text of the Clavicula Salomonis or Key of Solomon the King. In Chapter VII of the second Book of the Clavicula Salomonis, the Master of the Art is instructed to construct a “Trumpet of Art,” with which to “convoke” spirits to the ceremonial Circle in which the Master stands, and prepare them “to obey” the Operator’s commands (Peterson, 2004).
Fascinatingly, as Joseph H. Peterson (2004) explains, the Key‘s Trumpet was to be fashioned from “new wood.” The choice of wood as a material for the body of the Trumpet is itself interesting since it deviates from the preferred materials for similar instruments in the period. Unlike the Key‘s wooden Trumpet, the majority of blowing horns and trumpets from Antiquity through the Medieval and Renaissance periods were fashioned from animal horns (e.g. Ram or Ox), shells (such as conch as in the Maltan bronja), or metals (e.g. the bronze Roman cornu or buccina or the Scandinavian lurer) (Warner et al., 2013).
In addition, the use of “new” seems to suggest that the wood from which the Trumpet is made should be drawn from a “virgin” branch that never bore fruit, berries, or nuts, that is, wood under a single year’s growth, as in the case of the Key‘s instructions for the Wand of Art in Book II, Chapter 8 (Peterson, 2004). Unlike in the case of the Wand, no instructions are given for astrologically timing the cutting of the wood for the Trumpet. In all likelihood, however, assuming a parallel ritual rationale to that of the Wand, the wood for the Trumpet would likely be “cut from the tree at a single stroke, on the day of Mercury, at sunrise,” with the characters and Names written during the Hour of Mercury, following the method for the construction of the Solomonic Wand (Peterson, 2004).
On one side of the Trumpet, the Key instructs the ceremonial Operator to use the consecrated “Pen and Ink of the Art” to write “these Names of God, ELOHIM GIBOR” (אלהים גבור) and “ELOHIM TZABAOTH” (אלהים צבאות) (Peterson, 2004). On the other side, specific “Characters” are to be inscribed, which Joseph H. Peterson (2004) presents as follows based on folio 120r of the Additional 10862 manuscript:
Happily for contemporary Solomonic practitioners, the Divine Names that the Key requires to be inscribed on the Trumpet are fairly consistent across manuscripts. As Peterson (2004) notes, Aubrey 24 calls for the Latin “Deus Exercituum” (God of Armies), which approximates the Hebrew “Elohim Tzabaoth” (אלהים צבאות), while the French manuscript Lansdown 1202 requires “ces noms de Dieu Elohim Gibor, Dieu des Armées,” and the Italian Kings 288 manuscript has the Magician write “Elohyn Gibor.” Interestingly, while most of the manuscripts only designate between a few lines to the construction, use, and significance of the Trumpet, Aubrey 24 devotes an entire chapter to the subject.
In addition, the practical instructions for the ceremonial use of the the Trumpet of Art are clearly delineated in the text. In Book II, Chapter VII, the Key of Solomon explains that:
“Having entered into the circle to perform the experiment, he should sound his trumpet towards the four quarters of the Universe, first towards the East, then towards the South, then towards the West, and lastly towards the North. Then let him say:—
“Hear ye, O spirit N, I command you. Hear ye, and be ye ready, in whatever part of the Universe ye may be, to obey the voice of God, the Mighty One, and the names of the Creator. We let you know by this signal and sound that ye will be convoked hither, wherefore hold ye yourselves in readiness to obey our commands.”
This being done let the master complete his work, renew the circle, and make the incensements and fumigations” (Peterson, 2004, Bk. II, Chap. 7).
Thus, the purpose of the Key of Solomon‘s Trumpet of Art is at once to prepare the spirits to be convoked and commanded and to ceremonially position the Master of Art within the Solomonic Circle in the center of the four cardinal directions. This directional centering of the Magician at the symbolic hub of the universe is not only demarcated by the structure of the Circle itself, which is aligned to the four cardinal directions, but also ritually reinforced by sequentially sounding the Trumpet of Art towards each of these same directions. In this process, the Operator begins in the East in the direction of the rise of light from the dawning Sun and proceeds clockwise–or, prior to the invention of clocks, deisial (Gaelic) or dexter (Latin) both meaning “towards the right” or “South” from the East–through the other directions from South to West to North.
As researchers and practitioners of the Key of Solomon such as Aaron Leitch (2009) have long noted, many of the Key of Solomon‘s grimoiric methods are modeled after the instructions given to Moses and Aaron in the Tanachic Books of Leviticus, Exodus, and Numbers as well as the Psalms or Tehillim. For instance, the use of hyssop in the ritual bath in the Key of Solomon has its roots in the Biblical symbolism of hyssop as a purifying and consecrating herb within Hebrews 9:19, Leviticus 14:4-7, and most significantly, Numbers 19:6, where it is used to prepare the “water of purification” itself.
Similarly, the modus operandi of the Key‘s Solomonic Trumpet of Art can also be traced to a very specific passage in the Hebrew Tanach, namely, Numbers 10:1-7. In these verses, God tells Moses to “make two trumpets of hammered silver, and use them for calling the community together and for having the camps set out” (NIV, Numbers 10:1). These trumpets or ḥatzotzrah (חצוצרה)–which are not to be confused with shofar (שופר), another word used in the Tanach, which means ‘horn’ and refers to a distinct instrument–are to be sounded to call and assemble the Hebrew Tribes camped in each of the four cardinal directions of the Israelites’ camp. As the text explains,
“5 When a trumpet blast is sounded, the tribes camping on the East are to set out. 6 At the sounding of a second blast, the camps on the South are to set out. The blast will be the signal for setting out. 7 To gather the assembly, blow the trumpets, but not with the signal for setting out” (Numbers 10:5-7)
Thus, when blowing the Trumpet of Art, the Key of Solomon‘s Operator follows in the footsteps of Moses, by calling to the spirits to attend to his commands in each of the directions proceeding clockwise/deisial/dexter from East to South as Moses did with his silver trumpet. Similarly, just as Moses was told to use his trumpet to “gather the assembly” or convoke the Hebrew Tribes or prepare them to “set out,” so does the Solomonic Magician use the Trumpet of Art to prepare the spirits to “set out” and then convoke or assemble around the Circle. Thus, the Trumpet of Art has ancient Tanachic roots that long precede the much later date of the composition of the Key of Solomon.
Moreover, the Clavis Salomonis’ Trumpet is contextually grounded in a much broader series of Biblical traditions beyond those already mentioned. Aside from the aforementioned uses of the ḥatzotzrah (חצוצרה) and shofar (שופר) to proclaim the crowning of King Solomon (1 Kings 1:31-35), and call, assemble, and mobilize individuals (Numbers 10:5-7), the Biblical texts also describe these tools as instruments used to signal the presence of the Divine as God does to Moses with “a thick cloud over [Sinai], and a very loud trumpet blast” (Exodus 19:16), declare the commencement of festivals (Leviticus 23:23), topple the walls of Jericho when played by “seven priests” in “front of the Ark of the Covenant” (Joshua 6:4-5 and see also Agrippa’s (2000) Second Book of Occult Philosophy, Chapter 10), announce different phases of the Apocalypse when Seven Trumpets are sequentially sounded by the “Seven Angels who stand before God” (Revelation 8:2 and also referred to by Agrippa (2000) in Book II, Chapter 10), and praise God within the Temple orchestra itself as described in Psalm 150:3 (“Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet!”).
Very interestingly for the present study, this same Psalm 150, which describes the use of ḥatzotzrah (חצוצרה) and shofar (שופר) to praise YHVH (יהוה) also describes the use of cymbals to the same end, enjoining Israel to “praise Him with the clash of resounding cymbals” (Psalm 150:3-5). Cymbals, of course, are round metallic instruments that are sounded by striking, and, in these ways, are very closely related to bells (Braun & Braun, 2002).
Furthermore, it is very appropriate for the discussion of bells to come that bell-like cymbals are played alongside trumpets on many different occasions in the Tanach. We read, for instance, that “David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets” (1 Chronicles 13:8), that both instruments were used to dedicate the Wall of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 12:27), that “Heman and Jeduthun were responsible for the sounding of the trumpets and cymbals and for the playing of the other instruments for sacred song” (1 Chronicles 16:42), and that “when the builders laid the foundation of the Temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David” (Ezra 3:10).
Thus, within the Tanachic lore of the Israelites to which the Key of Solomon would later mythically hearken back and symbolically align itself, bell-like cymbals and trumpets were repeatedly sounded in unison and the traditions that evolved around these ritual tools largely dovetailed together. How appropriate it is, therefore, that the Greek Byzantine Hygromanteia–which is, as Dr. Stephen Skinner (2013) demonstrated, the primary source text of the Key of Solomon itself–should provide a parallel tradition to that of the Trumpet of Art, in the form of a mysterious evocatory Bell.
Ringing Open the Gateway: The Hygromanteian Bell of Art
Those who approach the Greek Byzantine Hygromanteia after first studying the Key of Solomon and learning to work its system using the Solomonic Trumpet may be surprised to discover that there is no Trumpet of Art in the Clavicula’s older source text. Indeed, in the entirety of the Hygromanteia, there are only two occurrences of the word “Trumpet.” Moreover, in both cases, the word is used, not to refer to a tool to be made by the Magician, but rather to reference the Angelic Trumpet “that shall be sounded” on the Day of Judgment (Marathakis, 2011, p. 335).
The first of these twin trumpet references occurs in the Conjuration of “Asmodaes,” in which the Magician addresses the spirit by telling it that
“I conjure you by the Trumpet that shall be sounded, calling for the Second Coming” (Marathakis, 2011, p. 335).
In a similar fashion, the second and final trumpet reference in the Hygromanteia occurs in yet another conjuration, in which the Master is instructed to command the spirit
“by the trumpet that the Angel of Resurrection shall sound” (Marathakis. 2011, p. 173).
Therefore, while references to trumpets in the Hygromanteia are purely symbolic in nature and are used to add power to the conjurations, the Hygromanteian magical arsenal does not include a physical Trumpet of Art in the style of the Clavicula. Where the absence of one kind of one kind of sonorous Solomonic tool in the text is glaringly evident, however, the presence of another is equally so. This second resounding tool of Solomon is the Hygromanteian Bell of Art.
Interestingly enough, this author’s first indication that there might be a Solomonic Bell tradition with a historical precedent in the Hygromanteia came, not from the Hygromanteia itself, but from Joseph H. Peterson’s (2004) insightful notes on manuscript variations in the later Key of Solomon. In Chapter IX, “Of the formation of the Circle,” in his edition of the Clavicula’ Salomonis, the Magician is instructed to
“enter within the circle and carefully close the openings left in the same, and let him again warn his disciples, and take the Trumpet13 of Art prepared as is said in the chapter concerning the same, and let him incense the Circle towards the four quarters of the Universe.
After this let the magus commence his incantations, having placed the Knife14 upright in the ground at his feet. Having sounded the Trumpet15 towards the East as before taught let him invoke the spirits, and if need he conjure them, as is said in the first book, and having attained his desired effect, let him license them to depart.”
In form and content, this section seems reminiscent of the prior passages concerning the Trumpet of Art which have already been discussed. However, examining Peterson’s (2004) footnotes 13 and 15, reveals a fascinating point. Although other manuscripts of the Key of Solomon such as Kings 288 and Aubrey 24 read “Trumpet” here, Sloane 3847 does not. In place of “Trumpet,” and very interestingly for the purposes of this study, the Sloane 3847 version, which is entitled The Worke of Salomon the Wise Called His Clavicle Revealed by King Ptolomeus Ye Grecian reads “Bell” and instructs the Master to “let the Bell be [rung] toward the East” (“Ptolomeus,” 1999).
In addition, the same manuscript later tells the Operator to ring the Bell in the four cardinal directions from within the Circle. As the text reads, the Master shall have a bell, and ring it “4 times toward the 4 partes of the world, with 4 pater nosters” (Peterson, 1999). These instructions clearly place the ringing of the Bell “towards the 4 partes of the world” in harmony with the sounding of the Trumpet of Art to the four cardinal directions in Kings 288 and Aubrey 24, which suggests some parallelism between the Trumpets and Bells of Art within the Solomonic tradition.
This Bell-Trumpet homology is significant because, with its dating to 1572, Sloane 3847 is one of the oldest extant versions of the Key of Solomon, which places it chronologically closer to its Hygromanteian source text than many of the later manuscripts (Peterson, 2004). In contrast, the British library catalogue describes Mathers’ earliest source, the Additional 10862 manuscript, which includes the Trumpet of Art rather than the Bell, as dating to the 17th century.
Medieval depiction of bells used in worship, suggesting the connection between bells and the sacred in the Medieval mind, a tradition with Ancient roots.
Thus, Sloane 3847 offers an example of a version of the Clavicula Salomonis in which a ritual Bell is used in place of the Trumpet called for in most other manuscripts and in the same manner as the Trumpet, to alert the spirits and prepare them to obey. While the Trumpet of Art seems to suggest an attempt to integrate the Tanachic lore around the ḥatzotzrah (חצוצרה) and shofar (שופר) into the Key of Solomon‘s magical system, the presence of the “Bell” in Sloane 3847 may reflect a continuation of the Hygromanteia‘s use of a Bell of Art in much the same way. Thus, just as bell-like cymbals and trumpets were often used together for similar purposes in the Tanach, the grimoires reveal similar dovetailing traditions of consecrated ritual bells and trumpets being similarly employed by the Solomonic Master.
Moreover, juxtaposing the Key of Solomon‘s instructions for the creation and use of the Trumpet / Bell of Art with the Hygromanteia‘s instructions for the construction of its own Bell reveals some interesting and highly revealing similarities and differences. On page 352 of Marathakis’ (2014) Hygromanteia, the Apprentice of the Master of Art is commanded to
“ring a Bell inside the Circle. He must have a Bell with the following names written around it in the blood of a Bat. Behold the names:
Peth, Glia, Peres, Mpethiel, Mepithiele, Thsos, Mparous, Mparon, Mpimaon, Mpapirion, Khae, Rhoam.”
Thus, while the Key of Solomon instructs the Magician to write Hebrew Divine Names on the Trumpet/Bell, the Hygromanteia‘s Bell is emblazoned with nomina barbara or barbarous names. In addition, while the Key specifies sigils or “characters” to be included, the Hygromanteia limits itself to Names of Power and does not include additional sigils (Marathakis, 2011).
Interestingly, however, while either text could have reasonably asked the Operator to engrave the Names and ‘Characters of Art’ into the tools, both texts prescribe the use of magical inks instead. In both cases, the inks are specially consecrated, as in Book II, Chapter 18 of the Key of Solomon, which provides a specific consecration method for the Ink of Art. Similarly, as Dr. Stephen Skinner (2013, p. 348) explains in Magical Techniques and Implements Present in Graeco-Egyptian Magical Papyri, Byzantine Greek Solomonic Manuscripts and European Grimoires, the ‘Bat Blood’ to be used for the Bell would also be carefully prepared for the purpose, by being extracted from an animal that was “sacrificed in order to drain its blood.” This sacrifice unto the Divine itself would consecrate the blood for magical use.
Notably, bat blood is also called for in the Key of Solomon. However, in the Clavicula, the Operator is required to perform the “Exorcism of the Bat” given in Book II, Chapter 16 over it after extracting it from the vein in the right wing of the animal as well (Peterson, 2004). Thereafter, the Master blesses and consecrates the blood for use in the Ink of Art by various Divine Names as described in the text (Peterson, 2004).
As to the appearance of the Hygromanteian Bell, manuscript Harleianus 5596, f. 34v provides two crude drawings of the Bell of Art in the margins of the Circle diagram, which are highlighted here for clarity. As Marathakis’s (2011) edition indicates, the topmost image bears the label “Bell” in Greek:
Moreover, the Hygromanteia also specifies the type of bell to be used for the Bell of Art with terminological precision when it invites the Apprentice to “hold a small Bell that some call kampanon and ring it for a little while before you enter the Circle” (Marathakis 2014, p. 169). The kampanon or “small bell” referred to in this passage seems to have been a small hand-bell (Marathakis, 2011). As Alexandra Villing (2002, p. 223) reveals in her fascinating article “For Whom Did the Bell Toll in Ancient Greece? Archaic and Classical Greek Bells at Sparta and Beyond,”
“Ancient Greeks were not familiar with large bells of the kind that ring in our churches today. Smaller, portable bells, usually not much taller than about 10 cm [3.93 inches — My Note] were, however, a very widespread feature of Ancient Greek life.”
Koudounia (Greek: κουδουνια) are bell-like instruments, which produce a ringing sound when struck and were seen by many Ancient Greeks as having the apotropaic power to ward off evil Spirits.
In addition, in the same article, Villing (2002, p. 225-226) explains that in Ancient Greece,
“Archaeological, iconographical and literary sources attest to [the use of bells] as votive offerings in ritual and funerary contexts, as signalling instruments for town-guards, as amulets for children and women as well as, in South Italy, in a Dionysiac context.
The bells’ origins lie in the Ancient Near East and Caucasus area, from where they found their way especially to Archaic Samos and Cyprus and later to mainland Greece. Here, the largest known find complex of bronze and terracotta bells, mostly of Classical date, comes from the old British excavations in the sanctuary of Athena on the Spartan acropolis and is published here for the first time.
Spartan bells are distinctive in shape yet related particularly to other Lakonian and Boiotian bells as well as earlier bells from Samos. At Sparta, as elsewhere, the connotation of the bells’ bronze sound as magical, protective, purificatory and apotropaic was central to their use, although specific functions varied according to place, time, and occasion.”
The Bell of Art as described in the Hygromanteia is consistent with the Ancient Greek view of bells as “magical, protective, purificatory, and apotropaic,” a view also shared by the Romans who similarly employed tintinnabulum bells, the ancestors of modern wind chimes, to ward off evil spirits (Villing 2002, p. 226; Eckardt & Williams, 2018). In like manner, in the Japanese Shinto tradition, bells have long been used both to attract the attention of kindly and holy Spirits and banish evil Spirits from the shrines at which they were rung; for the same reason, bells are still used to this day on Japanese protective charms or omamori (Mendes, 2015). In short, like the Ancient Greek kampana, which could be both attractive and apotropaic, the Hygromanteian bell also serves the dual function of banishing hostile spirits and attracting cooperative and benefic spirits to the Operator’s call (Villing, 2002; Marathakis, 2011).
An omamori or Japanese amulet with an apotropaic golden bell (Mendes, 2015).
In addition, the Greek ritual bells’ use as signalling instruments further connects them both to the Ancient Hebrew understandings of trumpets described in the aforementioned Tanachic verses and to the Israelites’ own uses of ceremonial bells. In Exodus 28: 31 to 35, for example, Aaron is told to wear a special robe adorned with “gold bells” to protect him “when he enters the Holy Place before the Lord” so “that he will not die.” God tells him to
“31 “make the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth, 32 with an opening for the head in its center. There shall be a woven edge like a collar[c]around this opening, so that it will not tear. 33 Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. 34 The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe. 35 Aaron must wear it when he ministers. The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the Lord and when he comes out, so that he will not die.” (NIV, Exodus 28:31-35).
Much like the Trumpet of Art and the Tanachic bells of Aaron, then, the Hygromanteia’s Bell of Art can be seen as both sanctifying and apotropaic, embedded as it is in the contexts of older traditions around the ritual use of bells as spiritually powerful tools in the aforementioned Greek and Tanachic traditions, and Byzantine Christian uses of bells to ‘convoke’ parishioners to Church, to name just a few streams of cultural influences that fed into its conceptualization within the Hygromanteia (Sachs, 2012).
It is worth noting, however, that unlike the Clavicula‘s Trumpet, the Hygromanteian Bell is sounded both before and after entering the Circle to designate it to the spirits as a sacred and protected space. This is a subtle but important point that is often overlooked, but warrants careful consideration as it bears hidden significance. As Dr. Stephen Skinner pointed out to this author in his comments on an earlier draft of this article, many cultures use ritual bells to announce the entering of spiritual space. Hindu temples, for instance, often feature ghanta bells that devotees are expected to ring before entering the Gharbagriha (sanctum sanctorum) to announce their arrival to the Gods and Goddesses and prepare themselves to receive darshan (the sight of Holy Images of Divinity) (Brown, 2013). In the same way, the Hygromanteian Apprentice rings the Bell of Art to announce the Apprentice and Master’s entrances into the Circle, the sacred meeting place between the spirit world and the human world. After this preliminary sounding, they proceed to sound the Bell again from within the Circle in order to alert the spirits to be ready to appear and obey in the style of the later Claviculan Trumpet.
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa as depicted by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528).
Resonant Grimoiric Connections: Ritual Bells and Trumpets in Agrippa, Dee, pseudo-“Dee,” and Girardius
The precise origins of the Hygromanteian Bell of Art tradition are shrouded in mystery. Although Old Testament style bell-cymbals, Christian Church and altar bells, Ancient Greek kampana and koudounia (Greek: κουδουνια), Ancient Egyptian ritual bells–perhaps through their impact on the development of Ancient Greek music–and Mesopotamian bells all may have influenced the Hygromanteian Bell, another candidate for a historical precedent might be the Chaldaean and Neoplatonic Iynx (Braun & Braun, 2002; Sachs, 2012; Montagu, 2014; Muñoz, 2017).
In Greek literature, the Iynx (Greek: Ιυγξ) was originally a reference to the wryneck bird, which was originally bound to a Sorceror’s wheel and then spun around to attract an unfaithful lover (Majercik, 2013). The word Iynx then came to be used to mean a kind of love charm, a semantic valence that Plato expanded to express a kind of Erosian ‘binding force’ between humankind and Divinity. By the time of the Chaldeaen Oracles, which cannot be any younger than the 2nd century C.E. since Iamblichus refers to them, Iynges had come to be understood as magical Names (voces mysticae) that were sent forth as ‘couriers’ from the Divine to communicate with the Theurgist (Majercik, 2013; de Garay, 2017).
The original wryneck bird-bound wheel Iynx gradually evolved into a bell-like metal disc that was inscribed with Divine Names and symbols, much like the Hygromanteian Bell (Johnston, 1990). This bell-like instrument would, however, be attached to a twisted leather thong, which would be rapidly spun to produce a whirring sound. Theurgists believed that the sound of the Iynx would attract daimons and inspire them to reveal their Magic Names, through which Magicians aimed to acquire magical powers (Johnston, 1990; Majercik, 2013). In the iynx tradition, therefore, we find a magical bell-like tool inscribed with Divine Names and characters that may very well have been one of the influences, alongside those of the other aforementioned traditions, that helped give rise to the Hygromanteian Bell of Art.
What is certain, however, is that the Hygromanteia is not the only text from the later grimoiric period that employs consecrated ritual bells in its repertoire of recommended magical tools. Indeed, in his Third Book of Occult Philosophy, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (2000) writes that:
“there are also sacred rites and holy observations, which are made for the reverencing of the Gods, and religion, viz. devout gestures, genuflections, uncoverings of the head, washings, sprinklings of Holy water, perfumes, exterior expiations, humble processions, and exterior Ornaments for divine praises, as musical Harmony, burning of wax candles and lights, ringing of bells, the adorning of Temples, Altars and Images, in all which there is required a supreme and special reverence and comeliness; wherefore there are used for these things, the most excellent, most beautiful and precious things, as gold, silver, precious stores, and such like.”
In this list, many classically Solomonic practices that are familiar to any practitioner of the Clavicula Salomonis system can be discerned. These practices range from sprinkling “sprinklings of Holy Water” to the suffumigations of “perfumes”and “washings” or ritual baths (Agrippa, 2000). Trumpets are notably absent from this list, although “the ringings of bells” are mentioned.
While the Hygromanteia does not specify the material from which its Bell was to be created, Agrippa offers practitioners some guidance in regards to selecting materials from which to construct magical Bells. To this end, Agrippa (2000) suggests that such bells are best made from “beautiful and precious things, as gold, silver, precious stones and such like.” He grounds his suggestion in his conception of beautiful objects as more sympathetically resonant with the Divine’s intimate participation in the Form of hte Beautiful; on this point, Agrippa follows a Neoplatonic line of philosophico-magical theory that is traceable back to Iamblichus, Porphyry, Plotinus and earlier still, to Plato (de Garay 2017). Of course, in order to emit a resonant ringing sound, a Bell of Art must be made from an appropriate material with the acoustic ability to produce such a sound when struck. Gold, brass, bronze, or silver are all appropriate choices that are consistent with Agrippa’s notes in this passage; fittingly Ancient Greek bells were often fashioned from bronze (Villing 2002).
It is not sufficient for ceremonial magical practice to simply make a bell in an appropriate metal, however. The Bell of Art must also be consecrated in order to en-spirit it and empower it, as Aaron Leitch (2009) suggests in his Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires. To this point, in his Third Book of Occult Philosophy, Agrippa (2000) adds that such consecrations can have potent protective and apotropaic results when he explains that
“Bells by consecration and benediction receive virtue that they drive away and restrain lightnings, and tempests, that they hurt not in those places where their sounds are heard; in like manner Salt and Water, by their benedictions and exorcisms, receive power to chase and drive away evil spirits” (Agrippa, 2000).
The exorcisms and benedictions by consecrated Water and Salt of Art to which Agrippa alludes here are well-known to Solomonic Magicians; indeed instructions for both are presented in Chapters 5 and 11 of Book II of Peterson’s (2004) Clavicula Salomonis. However, the commensurate power of bells themselves to exorcise and bless sacred spaces within the Solomonic tradition is often neglected. It is no accident that Agrippa lists bells, water, and salt together; for him, as for many other writers in his own time and long before, these ritual items were often considered together and used in complementary ways (Agrippa, 2000).
Similarly, this key passage of the Third Book reinforces the protective power of consecrated bells to ensure that “they hurt not in those places where their sounds are heard,” a potential carryover from the Ancient traditions that may lie in the background of the Hygromanteian Bell (Agrippa, 2000). For Agrippa, in short, as perhaps for the Hygromanteian Master of Art, the ringing of a consecrated Bell can be as protective to the Magician as it is evocative to the spirit.
Moreover, the connections between bells, the Divine, and directionality that have been described in relation to the Trumpet of Art and the Tanachic use of trumpets in Numbers 10:1-7 are also echoed in John Dee’s (2003) True and Faithful Relation of What Passed For Many Years Between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits, in which the Elizabethan Magician reports that the Angel Madini prayed before Kelly and Dee that:
“Miraculous is thy care, O God, upon those that are Thy chosen, and wonderful are the ways that Thou hast prepared for them. Thou shalt take them from the fields, and harbour them at Home. Thou art merciful unto thy faithful and hard to the heavy-hearted. Thou shalt cover their legs with Boots, and brambles shall not prick them: their hands shall be covered with the skins of Beasts that they may break their way through the hedges. Thy Bell shall go before them as a watch and sure Direction: The Moon shall be clear that they may go on boldly. Peace be amongst you!”
Thus, in much the same way as in Madini’s prayer, the ringing of the Bell of Art “goes before” the entrance of the Magician into the Circle in the Hygromanteia, as a “watch and sure direction” (Dee, 2003).
Interestingly, while this passage suggests some of the spiritual ideas surrounding Bells that have already been explored, Dee is also connected to the trumpet strand of the sonorous Solomonic tool traditions. Indeed, John Dee is purported to be the author of a fascinating work entitled the Libellus Veneri Nigro Sacer or The Consecrated Little Book of Black Venus (1580), which centers on a magical Trumpet entitled the Tuba Veneris or Trumpet of Venus, which is shown here as rendered in Teresa Burns and Nancy Turner’s 2007 translation of the Libellus:
It is worth noting, however, that Michael Putnam (2010), a translator of an excellent edition of this underappreciated grimoire, has cast doubt on Dee’s authorship of the text for a number of reasons. These include, for instance, that the script reveals authorship on the Continent, not in London as the text claims; that Dee’s autograph in the earliest surviving Warburg manuscript (MS. FBH 510) is not recognizably his; that there are no references to the “Tuba Veneris” in any of Dee’s journals or other books; that the text gives “June 4, 1580” as its date of composition when Dee’s journal entries reveal he was in Mortlake between June 3 and 7 and not in London; and that the text uses a forcible and binding-based necromantic approach that is very different from the supplicatory prayer-based Angelic work that Dee was doing in the 1580s (Putnam, 2010).
Whatever its origins, the Tuba Veneris is remarkable as one of the few Trumpets of Art in the Solomonic tradition, and it has four interesting differences that distinguish it from its Key of Solomon counterpart. First, while the Clavicula‘s Trumpet of Art is fashioned from “new wood,” the Trumpet of Venus is made from an animal horn, much like the shofar (שופר) (Peterson, 2004). In addition, as the text explains, the horn for the Tuba Veneris is to be removed from a living bull. More precisely, in order to craft this Venusian Trumpet,
“one takes the Horn of a living Bull, then one takes Vitriol dissolved in vinegar, with which one should wash and purify the Horn, after which one carves the Characters as they are represented in the following sketch, into either side of the horn with the aforementioned Steel Instruments. One must make sure that the entire preparation of the Horn, including the time it is torn off from the bull, must also be in the times, days and hours of , just as was done in preparing the Seal. Afterwards, one envelops it in smoke, wraps it in linen, and buries it together with the Seal of , then unburies it again and preserves it for later use” (“Dee,” 2010).
Second, while the Tuba Veneris’ characters are carved into its surface during the Day and Hour of Venus, the Clavicula‘s characters are painted onto it in the consecrated Ink of Art, presumably in the Day and Hour of Mercury as in the case of the Key of Solomon‘s Wand (Peterson, 2004).
Third, the Tuba Veneris and Trumpet of Art are consecrated in very different ways. The Trumpet of Venus’ mode of consecration via burial is very consistent with the consecration methods for Ancient necromantic and Goetic tools, which were to be buried in the ground so that the spirits could operate upon and bond with them in a chthonic environment, a precedent found in the Papyri Graecae Magicae (Stratton-Kent, 2010). Importantly, the Tuba Veneris is used in conjunction with a Liber Spirituum, which is also buried underground as part of its consecration process, like the Liber Spiritua used in necromantic operations in other texts such as the Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy (Stratton-Kent, 2010). In contrast, the Key‘s Trumpet of Art is not buried, but rather consecrated entirely above-ground.
Finally, while the Clavicula‘s Trumpet of Art is sounded to the four directions, the Trumpet of Venus is used in a very different manner to amplify the Operator’s voice; instead of sounding the Trumpet, the Magician speaks the Calls to the spirits through it. As “Dee” explains, the Master should “speak the entire Call through the Horn of Venus, and he should summon the Spirit by naming it once at the beginning and again at the end, but always with distinct pauses” (“Dee,” 2010).
A final resounding instrument is worth considering in this overview of the grimoiric literature, and that is the Necromantic Bell of Girardius, which appears in the 18th century grimoire, Parvi Lucii Libellus de Mirabilibus Naturae Arcanis, 1730. This intriguing text can be found in l’Arsenal manuscripts 2350 and 3009 in the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal in Paris (Girardius, 1730). The consecration method of the Bell of Girardius and its necromantic associations beautifully parallel the Trumpet of Venus in a way that suggests another meeting point between the Solomonic bell and trumpet traditions that this article has been considering.
The Bell of Girardius features the name Tetragrammaton on its bottom followed by the astrological symbols of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury and the Moon, the Name Adonai, and finally, the name Jesus on the ringed handle. Girardius’ Bell is cast from what Jake Stratton-Kent (2010) calls a kind of “magical electrum,” which consists of alloyed gold, copper, fixed mercury, iron, tin and silver, and lead, although some manuscripts omit the lead (Girardius, 1730; Masello, 1996). In terms of astrological timing, the Bell is to be made either “at the day and hour of birth of the person who wishes to be in confluence and harmony with the mysterious Bell” or, in other manuscripts, at a time when the Planetary aspects favour the Operator by progression or transit to the natal chart (Masello, 1996; Stratton-Kent, 2010).
According to the text, the Necromancer must then engrave the date of his or her birthday or otherwise the date of the casting of the Bell directly into the Bell itself–a practice nearly unique among all of the grimoires–as well as the names of the Seven Olympic spirits, that is, Aratron for Saturn, Bethor for Jupiter, Phaleg for Mars, Och for the Sun, Hagith for Venus, and Phul for the Moon (Girardius, 1730).
Thereafter, the Bell must be wrapped in green consecrated cloth, which different authors interpret as linen or taffeta, and buried under cover of darkness in a grave for 7 days, which correspond to the 7 Ancient Planets (Girardius, 1730; Masello, 1996; Stratton-Kent, 2010). This goetic consecration process is notably similar to that used for the Trumpet of Venus and places the Necromantic Bell, like the Tuba Veneris, in the aforementioned tradition of grave-based chthonic consecrations with roots in the Papyri Graecae Magicae (Stratton-Kent, 2010). Naturally, this is a method grounded, pun intended, in classical sympathetic theoria; indeed, the grimoire makes this point clear when it states that during its time in the grave, the Bell absorbs from the neighbouring corpse or the Underworld-like environment “emanations and confluent vibrations” which “give it the perpetual quality and efficacy requisite when you shall ring it for your ends” (Girardius, 1730).
When the Bell is used to summon the spirits of the dead, the Master is required to don sandals and a toga-like vestment clasped at the shoulder as well as a tunic, and hold the Bell in his or her left hand and a parchment scroll bearing the sigils of the Planets in the right (Stratton-Kent, 2010). Thus, the Bell of Girardius is engraved rather than drawn on with its Names of Power like the Trumpet of Venus and is consecrated in a similar manner, but is used for entirely different purposes, namely to evoke the spirits of the dead. Surprisingly, however, neither text mentions sounding their instruments to the four cardinal directions, a notable point of departure from the Clavicula’s Trumpet of Art and the Hygromanteia‘s Bell.
The Necromantic Bell of Girardius from the 18th century grimoire, Parvi Lucii Libellus de Mirabilibus Naturae Arcanis, 1730.
Integrating Theory and Practice: My Solomonic Bell of Art
How does a contemporary practitioner make sense of the sometimes diverging, sometimes converging Bell and Trumpet traditions found in the grimoires? How does one put such a labyrinth of instructions into concrete practice?
There are at least three ways to tackle this challenge. First, one can make the tools specific to the grimoires with which one is working and as exactly as described in the texts. This approach is likely the best for grimoire purists and for those who wish to experiment using the precise constraints and instructions of a particular system. This method is reasonable and ideal in most cases, particular in the case of highly idiosyncratic texts like the Tuba Veneris or the Necromantic Horn of Girardius.
Second, one can combine methods from different texts to create a tool that is adapted to one’s particular way of working by synthesizing what seem the wisest and most applicable instructions from different grimoires. This method is sure to alarm traditionalists, but may be applicable when working in a tradition with internal continuity between the two texts to be synthesized, such as within an integrative Hygromanteia-Key of Solomon practice, for example.
Third, one can use a combination of the previous two methods, using synthesized tools in some cases and classical tools made to the letter of the grimoiric instructions when appropriate.
My overall approach is the third one given here, which seems to be the one that most contemporary practitioners take. For most tools, I closely follow the grimoire instructions in the style of Frater Ashen Chassan, Dr. Stephen Skinner and Mr. Aaron Leitch in much of his work.
In other cases, when it is more appropriate to the work at hand, however, I apply a synergistic or integrative methodology to integrate instructions from texts in continuous traditions. Aaron Leitch took a similar approach and brilliantly resolved the dilemma of whether to side with the Bell or Trumpet traditions in his own Solomonic work by using a Trumpet of Art made to the exact specifications of the Key of Solomon to which he attached 7 bells by 7 ribbons in the seven Planetary colours. In this way, he was able to fashion a Trumpet that benefits from the magical and physical properties laid out by both the Bell and Trumpet traditions.
In my own case, for Hygromanteia-Key of Solomon work, I opted to follow the Hygromanteia and Sloane 3847 of the Key of Solomon and simply use of Bell of Art. However, I chose to integrate the Divine Names and Sigils given for the Trumpet/Bell in the Clavicula Salomonis manuscripts with the Hygromanteia‘s Bell format and consecration and creation methods leaning more towards the Key tradition. Therefore, drawing on Agrippa’s (2000) recommendation to fashion ritual bells out of “beautiful and precious things, as gold, silver, precious stores, and such like,” I opted to use a beautiful antique golden bell for the purpose. This is a small bell as described in the Hygromanteia (Marathakis, 2011).
Following the usual Key of Solomon methods, I exorcised the metal and performed benedictions and Psalm readings over the Bell during the Hour and Day of Mercury under a waxing Moon. This process included sprinkling Holy Water over the Bell with a consecrated Aspergillum of Art, anointing it with Solomonic Holy Oil, and suffumigating it with Solomonic “odoriferous spices” (Peterson, 2004). All of these procedures were completed within a consecrated Solomonic Circle of Art.
Also during the Day and Hour of Mercury beneath a waxing Moon, I wrote the Divine Names and drew the characters given below on the Bell as recommended by Joseph H. Peterson’s (2004) edition of the Clavicula for the Trumpet/Bell of Art. This work was completed with a consecrated Pen and Ink of the Art, which were also prepared to the letter of the Key of Solomon instructions.
Finally, to protect the consecrated Ink from fading during use, I varnished the Bell with a consecrated lacquer that was blended with consecrated Solomonic Holy Oil and prayed additional Psalms over it to complete the consecration. The completed Bell of Art, which I store in a properly prepared Solomonic linen as shown below the Bell in the image below, appears as follows:
In my own humble experience, the resulting tool is both beautiful and powerful. Following the Hygromanteia, I ring the Bell before stepping into the Circle, to announce my entrance into consecrated sacred space. Then, following the Key, at the commencement of each Operation of Art, I ring the Bell in the four cardinal directions, starting in the East and moving clockwise around the Circle back to the East.
In my experience, all of the classical functions of the Bell or Trumpet of Art are well-accomplished by this Bell, from protection to apotropaia, formation of a sacred space, excitation of what Dr. Stephen Skinner calls “magical tension,” and “exciting the senses” as suggested by the Papyri Graecae Magicae into what Agrippa would later call a productive “phrenzy” (Betz, 1996).
“Lion” by Formisano Francisco.
Resonating Through History: Concluding Reflections on the Bells and Trumpets of Solomon
In conclusion, this article has attempted to trace the winding twin threads of the Solomonic Bells and Trumpets of Art and demonstrate that, although the Clavicula Salomonis’ Trumpet of Art is able to perform the functions previously served by the evocatory Bell of the Greek Hygromanteia, it also reflects the influence of a distinct and separate tradition that traces its roots back to the Tanchic trumpet or ḥatzotzrah (חצוצרה) and winding horn or shofar (שופר). This article has also striven to illuminate the natures, ritual functions, and physical materials of the Claviculan Trumpet and Hygromanteian Bell by placing them in the larger grimoiric contexts of the writings of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, John Dee, the pseudo-“Dee” of the Tuba Veneris, and Girardius, the author of the 18th century grimoire, Parvi Lucii Libellus de Mirabilibus Naturae Arcanis, 1730.
Before the Trumpet blasts and Bell ringings of this article fade into silence, however, an etymological point about the English word “bell” is worth mentioning for the light it sheds on the Bell/Trumpet connection. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary (2018), the modern English word “bell” derives from roots that signify
“a hollow metallic instrument which rings when struck,” from the Old English belle, which has cognates in Middle Dutch belle and Middle Low German belle, but is not found elsewhere in Germanic except as a borrowing; apparently from PIE root *bhel- (4) “to sound, roar” (compare Old English bellan “to roar,” and the later English word “bellow”).”
Thus, both bells and trumpets are linked to a sense of “roaring” that symbolically and sympathetically connects them to metaphors of kingship, dominion, and authority in the roaring of lions. Just as the roaring of a lion can strike fear into a human heart, the roaring of the Trumpet or a Bell of Art is intended to strike fear into the hearts of evil spirits and thus ward them off apotropaically; indeed, this is likely the reason why the Sloane 3847 manuscript of the Key of Solomon states that
“by the vertue of these names [written on the Bell], the voice of the Bell shall enter into their hearts, to cause them to feare and obay” (“Ptolomeus,” 1999).
The “voice” of a Bell is its ‘roar’ and the magical association between the two is profoundly ancient, as is the apotropaic power of loud droning sounds like the booming of a horn, the roaring of a lion, and, just as significantly, the bellowing of the human voice. In Papyri Graecae Magicae IV: 475- 829, for instance, the Magician is instructed to “look intently, and make a long bellowing sound, like a horn, releasing all your breath and straining your sides; and kiss the phylacteries and say, first toward the right: “Protect me, prosymeri!” (Betz, 1996). Thereafter, the Master is told to “make a long bellowing sound, straining your belly, that you may excite the five senses; bellow long until out of breath, and again kiss the phylacteries” (Betz, 1996, 705).
This latter verse offers some additional insight into the magical value of bellowing noises like those produced by the human body or trumpet; such resounding sounds hold the power to “excite the senses” and make the Magician alertly attentive in a way that can facilitate spirit communication. This enlivening quality of bellowing, droning, and ringing sounds is entirely consistent with the use of the Hygromanteian Bell of Art or Claviculan Trumpet to “alert” the spirits to be prepared to come to the call of the Master (Peterson, 2004; Marathakis, 2011).
Finally and in closing, it is this author’s contention that the droning sound of vibrating Divine Names that was employed by 19th and early 20th century Victorian lodge magicians may very well be a later Hermetic application of the old Papyri Graecae Magicae bellowing formula. Just like the primal method of the PGM, the Hermetic vibratory formula at once calls the desired powers, banishes the undesired ones, and “excites the senses” of the Magician to an enlivened state of sensitivity (Betz, 1996).
In this way, the ancient power of droning vibratory sounds that echoed from the Neolithic horns, clay bells, and bone flutes through the bellies of bellowing Greek papyri magicians and the grimoiric Bells and Trumpets of Art continued to resonate within the 19th century Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn Temples in much the same way. Whatever the exact historical lineages may be that trace these ancient practices and tools from the shrouded mists of prehistory to the living experiences of 21st century Mages, however, their reverberating power and enduring value remain with us to this day. And if we continue to vibrate Divine Names, sound Trumpets, boom Horns, and ring Bells of Art, to paraphrase the great physicist and alchemist Sir Isaac Newton, we do so while standing on the shoulders of the giants who came before us (Lines, 2017).
I am very grateful to Mr. Joseph H. Peterson for his insightful notes on the manuscripts and his tireless work for the grimoire community, to Dr. Stephen Skinner and Mr. Aaron Leitch, whose helpful comments on the first draft of this text inspired the section on the shofar and led to a more nuanced central thesis, to Mr. Jake Stratton-Kent for his valuable insights into the Bell of Girardius and necromantic consecration methods within the Papyri Graecae Magicae, to Mr. João Pedro Feliciano for his interesting information on the Chaldeaen and Neoplatonic Iynx traditions, which inspired the section on the topic, to Mr. Andy Foster for his helpful reflections on the original manuscripts, to Magister Omega for his insights into the practical points of the Tuba Veneris system, to Frater Abd Al-Wali for sharing photographs of his own Bell of Art, and to Mr. Nick Farrell, for his kind patience during my writing and revisions and for helping inspire this much-expanded version of the original draft. This article would not have been possible in its current form without all of your helpful and supportive feedback and useful ideas for which I remain sincerely thankful.
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