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The Quality and Efficacy of a Talisman

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The Quality and Efficacy of a Talisman

PostTue Feb 17, 2015 6:42 am

In Marsilio Ficino’s Three Books of Life, Book Three, Chapter 1, it is stated that:

“If there were only these two things in the universe --on one side the Intellect, on the other the Body-- but no Soul, then neither would the Intellect be attracted to the Body (for Intellect is absolutely motionless, without affect, which is the principle of motion, and very far away from the Body), nor would the Body be drawn to the Intellect (for Body is in itself powerless, unsuited for motion, and far removed from the Intellect).
But if a Soul which conforms to both were placed between them, an attraction will easily occur to each one on either side. In the first place, Soul is led most easily of all, since she is the Primum Mobile and movable of herself, of her own accord. Moreover, since, as I have said, she is the mean of things, in her own fashion she contains all things and is proportionally [Intellect: Soul: : Soul: Body] near to both.
Therefore she is equally connected with everything, even with those things which are at a distance from one other, because they are not at a distance from her. For besides the fact that on the one side she conforms to the divine and on the other side to the transient, and even turns to each by desire, at the same time she is wholly and simultaneously everywhere.”

The universe is thus constituted in a three-fold manner consisting of a Universal Spirit, World Soul and the Physical World. So too is man, who is a miniature representation of the universe or microcosm, with his human spirit, human soul and human body. The dictates and commands issued from the human spirit incite a series of desires in the human soul that finally leads to a commensurate act of the body towards the direction of that which is desired. This also applies to the relative motion of the planets mediated by the World Soul according to the will of the Universal Spirit.

This being the case, one cannot fail to wonder how a planetary spirit can actually be ensouled in a talisman without the aid of a suitable soul as a mediator. One cannot also fail to wonder how the planetary spirit would be the cause of any effect in the physical world without the mediation of the soul. It’s as if the magician has only succeeded in summoning the planetary spirit by way of imagery, invocation and suffumigation, but technically has failed to persuade the spirit to reside in the talisman as its permanent abode due to the absence of the necessary soul-matter conforming with the nature of the spirit with which the spirit can use as a sheath for attaching itself to the talisman.

A look back at some old sources on this matter highlights the importance and indeed necessity for the presence of a soul during the summoning of and communion with spirits in general. Homer, in his Odyssey, gives us a pithy description of the role and relationship between freshly-slaughtered carcases and spirits of the dead.

“When I had finished my prayers and invocations to the communities of the dead, I took the sheep and cut their throats over the trench so that the dark blood poured in. And now the souls of the dead who had gone below came swarming up from Erebus—fresh brides, unmarried youths, old men with life’s long suffering behind them, tender young girls........” –The Odyssey by Homer, translated by E.V. Rieu, Penguin Books (1946), p.172

The spirits seem to be aroused by the dead carcass and its blood that the lure and attraction becomes so unbearable as not to assure their presence in the midst of the sacrificed animal. Furthermore, some of the spirits express their wish to partake of the blood oozing from sacrificed animal.

“And the soul of the Theban prophet now came up, with a gold rod in his hand, saw who I was, and saluted me. ‘Royal son of Laertes, Odysseus of the nimble wits.....Step back now from the trench and hold your sword aside, so that I can drink the blood and prophesy the truth to you.’ ”—ibid, p.173

The same association of animal sacrifice and the communion with spirits, this time planetary, is made in the Picatrix, Book III, chp. 7, pp. 159-175.

“When you want to speak with Saturn and ask him for whatever you wish...Behead a black goat, and collect and save its blood; extract its liver and burn the liver to ashes in fire, and keep the blood.....When you wish to ask Mars for something, and speak to him....behead one of the beasts of Mars mentioned above and burn it in the fire and do with it as is done with the others....When you want to pray to the Sun and ask anything from him....behead the rooster and eat its liver. Do everything as we have said elsewhere, and you will have your desire...When you want to pray to Venues and ask her something among those things that pertain to her...behead a pigeon and a turtle-dove, and eat their livers....”

Surely there’s must have been something important about sacrificing an animal and communicating with planetary spirits and spirits in general. And if we are to go by Marsilio Ficino’s above-cited passage, it soon becomes apparent that animal sacrifice was the means by which the magician introduced and fused the requisite soul into the operation, thereby ensuring that the spirit actually becomes incited and attracted towards the physical world. It also implied, in the case of consecrating a talisman, that the spirit literally became ensouled in the physical object since the soul, in its role as mediator, acts like some sort of ‘gel’ or bonding factor between spirit and matter. And finally, the presence of the soul provided the matter/body appropriate for the spirit to manifest in the physical realm and actually be the cause of some effect.

To demonstrate, let us suppose a magician wishes to create a Jupiter talisman and upon finishing engraving an appropriate image on a material associated with Jupiter, the magician now prepares to consecrate the talisman by beseeching the Jupiter spirit(s) to enter the object. Since the planetary spirit of Jupiter is of an airy disposition, i.e. hot and moist (Christian Astrology, William Lilly p.62) a similarly airy animal such as a small bird would be the appropriate animal for supplying the required airy soul to be used by the Jupiter spirit. Thus when the bird is sacrificed the object is subjected above the fresh carcass for several minutes to allow the soul of the animal to be used and absorbed by the Jupiter spirit(s) as a means for entering the object. Only then can the talisman truly be deemed to be ensouled by a planetary spirit and ready to cause effect.

In contrast to the above view, others have posited the irrelevance of the soul-factor in the creation of talismans; that only a planetary spirit, appropriate object with image, auspicious astrological factors and consecration are sufficient and necessary for the creation of a properly functioning talisman. Be that as it may, one still cannot fail but to ask if the two methods have been subjected to a control experiment for determining the extent of the efficacy and efficiency of the two sets of talismans. For according to above premise of the soul-factor presented by Marsilio Ficino, it would seem that greater wonders of a higher quality would only be expected from an operation that includes an appropriate soul-substance than from one which doesn’t.

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