Monthly Archives: August 2011


Angelolatry: “worship of angels,” 1847, from angel + -latry. 

Belief in angels is an accepted and, perhaps, expected accident of monotheism in the post-classical world. According to a recent poll according to a survey of 1,648 adults, who were asked 350 questions on their religious practices released in 2008 by Baylor University and subsequently reprinted in the Washington times, as many as 50% of Americans believe in angels:

“Mystical experiences are widespread,” said Rodney Stark, co-director of Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion… I’d have guessed 15 percent instead of 55,” he added, referring to the 55 percent who claimed angelic protection. “This is the taboo subject in American religion. No one studies it, but there is a lot of it out there. ”Julie Duin. Half of Americans believe in angels, Washington Times. 09/19/2008

Interestingly, despite the widespread belief in angels, the three monotheisms represented by Judaism, Christianity and Islam have, at varying points struggled with the roles of angels as represented within the context of their religions ranging from wholly endorsed petitioning to these celestial messengers to outright prohibition of and condemnation for those seeking angelic intercession.

Without going too much into the messy theological disputes, I confess that I am an angelolater. While some may take alarm at this, it provides me a pragmatic and practical connection in the vast webs of spiritual bureaucracies posited by conventional and occult belief systems and, I’ve found, gives me a particular edge in my personal practice. In my youth and through college, my family’s connection to Catholicism instilled in me a deep interest in the symbolism and reality of angels which is something that I carried over with me in my journey into occultism. In recent years, there appears to be a resurgence of similar practices to the ones I carry out among more high-profile occultists and co-practitioners which has been fascinating to read about and exchange knowledge and experiences.

The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, the foundation ritual of post-Enlightenment ceremonial occultism promoted by the Golden Dawn and its related magical organizations, is perhaps the first ritual many encounter in modern magic and contains within it a very explicit process of petitioning the angels Raphael, Michael, Gabriel and Uriel to protect the magician during their magical undertaking and create an environment free from external (and internal) psychic interference. Even the diabolical Aleister Crowley held the ritualized invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel in highest esteem, so much so that he made it a mandatory part of initiation in his A∴.A∴ system to gauge the development of initiates. Yet, for all this, angels are treated as some otherworldly other at best, mental construct at worst, that are unable to relate to the everyday needs of practitioners except through formal invocation.

In my personal practice, I’ve developed a sort of “Angelic Psalter” that I use in my daily devotional work to help me connect to these messengers using elements orthodox Christian angelology combined with elements from Solomonic [1] magical practice. As an example, I’ll provide my Wednesday ritual to Michael the Archangel as a template for others who wish to do similar:

Angelic Psalter

I first sprinkle the four corners of my altar with a sprig of rosemary or a combination of vervain , fennel, lavender, sage (S. officinalis or S. apiana), valerian, mint, garden-basil , rosemary, and hyssop  and Holy Water I get from a local Catholic parish while saying:

“Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, O Lord, and I shall be clean: Thou shalt wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow.”

Next, I bless my general altar incense[2], saying:

“The God of Abraham, God of Issac, God of Jacob, + bless here the creatures of these kinds that they may fill up the power and virtue of their odors; so that neither the enemy, nor any false imagination, may be able to enter into them. Amen.”

Then I exorcise the charcoal, saying:

Bless +, O Lord, this creature of fire, and sanctify + it that it may be blessed to set forth the praise of thy holy name, that no hurt may come to the exorcist or spectators: through our Lord Jesus Christ +,

Then I bless myself with Holy Water upon my brow and perform the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. After completing the LBRP, I then pray to the four directions:

“O angels spoken of before, be my helpers in these petitions, and come speedily to my assistance[3]. I adjure and call you all forth, by the seat of ADONAY, and by HAGIOS, O THEOS, ISCHUROS, ATHANATOS; PARACLETOS, ALPHA & OMEGA, and by these three secret names: AGLA, ON, TETRAGRAMMATON that you at once fulfill what I desire.”

I then return to my altar and uncover my talisman to Michael and recite his invocation[4] eight times:

“I invoke and conjure thee, O Archangel MICHAEL, in the name of the most ineffable name ELOHIM TZABAOTH, the Lord of Hosts. O Michael, Prince of the Heavenly Hosts and the Sons and Daughters of God, ruler over the sphere of Kokab, ruler of this Day, I call your name to offer you praise and thanksgiving for this day over which you rule that I may be preserved by your presence and guided by your wisdom. Preserve me in the course of my daily activities and pray to the Lord of Hosts that we may thrust the Evil Urge[5] under our feet, so far conquered that it may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm them. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly conciliate the mercies of the Lord; and beating it down that it may no longer hold power over my life. AMEN.”

When I feel the angel’s presence I offer him a glass of water and a candle, saying:

“O Michael the Archangel, accept this offering of sacrifice and praise to the greater glory of your name. AMEN .”

I then spend time in quiet conversation or contemplation. And recite the license to depart:

“In the name of the Father +, and of the Son +, and of the Holy Ghost +, go in peace unto your places; peace be between us and you; be ye ready to come when you are called.”

I repeat the LBRP and extinguish the altar candle, leaving the offering candle to burn out on its own.

While it may seem like a fairly involved service, the overall length of time from beginning to end is rarely longer than an hour – roughly the same amount of time spent by particularly devout Christians who practice the Liturgy of the Hours. I personally find a great benefit to communicating with the angels in this more devotional method since it helps to solidify my link on earth to the greater schema of the Macrocosm. Even if one doesn’t practice it on a weekly basis year round, it can be beneficial for those who are preparing for longer magical operations that require a number of days’ worth of preparation.

Coptic Icon of Michael the Archangel

Coptic Icon of Michael the Archangel

[1] In this particular case, drawing from The Heptameron, or Magical Elements attributed to Pietro de Abano and a good chunk of inspiration from Aaron Leitch (if you’re reading this I owe you a lot).
[2] Dominican brand incense is a good universal incense, however I use a variation of the Abramelin recipe consisting of equal parts frankincense, benzoin, aloes and rose.
[3] Personal edit. “O angels spoken of before, be my helpers in these petitions, and help me in my affairs and petitions.”
[4] Personal composition.
[5] Yetzer Hara, refers to the inclination to do evil, by violating the will of God. The term is drawn from the phrase “the imagination of the heart of man [is] evil” (Hebrew: יֵצֶר לֵב הָאָדָם רַע,yetzer lev-ha-adam ra), which occurs twice in the Hebrew Bible, at Genesis 6:5 and 8:21. Anything that distracts one from following their “True Will” – Thelemites may compare this to the concept of Chronzon.

The Philokalia and Prayerful Experimentation

A number of years ago I happened upon an abridged version of the Philokalia and, after reading it, entirely forgot that I owned the thing and thought for sure in the many moves that I’ve had since my initial purchase that I had possibly sold it or gave it away to a friend. Being perfectly honest, at the time, I was certainly not ready for it and in all reality was confounded by the demands that some of the voices demand of those seeking to live a more prayerful life – I simply wasn’t ready for it. As fate would have it, I found my copy again about a month and a half ago and in sincerely putting myself to task to read it, have found my spiritual path taking on a whole new light and my prayer practice becoming even more enriched by the wisdom that it contains.

The Philokalia, at its root, is a collection of texts written between the 4th and 15th centuries by spiritual masters of the Eastern Orthodox hesychast tradition for the purpose of guiding and instructing monks in their spiritual lives.  The collection was compiled in the eighteenth-century by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain and St.Makarios of Corinth and plays a pivotal role in the 19th Century Russian spiritual narrative, The Way of a Pilgrim recounting the narrator’s experiences with the Prayer of the Heart (the Jesus Prayer) throughout the Orthodox world of his day. The popularity of the latter probably spurred an interest in the Philokalia among lay readers in the West and, since 1979, academic and spiritual athletes, Bishop Kallistos Ware, G.E.H. Palmer, and Philip Sherrard; have labored hard to make the Philokalia available to English-speaking audiences.

In my initial rereading of my text, edited with commentary by Allyne Smith and Bishop Ware, I immediately became attracted to the writings of Mark the Ascetic, one of the great spiritual masters  whose writings are recorded in the Philokalia. Not having regular recourse to internet except via my iPhone, I embarked on a small journey to learn more about the man and his teachings in the effort to enrich my own spiritual practice. According to OrthodoxWiki:

“Mark the Ascetic was born in Athens in the fifth century, and lived in the Egyptian desert as a monk… St. Mark was an ascetic and miracle-worker, sometimes known as Mark the Faster. In his 40th year he was tonsured a monk by his teacher, St. John Chrysostom. Mark then spent 60 more years in the wilderness of Nitria (a desert in Lower Egypt) in fasting and prayer, and in writing many spiritual works concerning the salvation of souls. He knew all the Holy Scriptures by heart. He was very merciful and kind, and wept much for the misfortunes that had befallen all of God’s creation.

On one occasion, when weeping over a hyena’s blind whelp, he prayed to God and the whelp received its sight. In thanksgiving the mother hyena brought him a sheepskin. The saint forbade the hyena in the future to kill any more sheep belonging to poor people. He received Communion at the hands of angels. His homilies concerned such topics as the spiritual law, repentance, sobriety, and are ranked among the preeminent literature of the Church. These works were praised by the Patriarch Photius the Great himself.”

What drew me to his writings, in particular, was the imagery contained a brief snippet of his discourse A Letter to Nicholas regarding the passions:

“If then you wish to conquer these three passions and easily to put to flight the hordes of the demonic Philistines, enter within yourself through prayer and with the help of God. Descend into the depths of the heart, and search out these three powerful giants of the devil -forgetfulness, laziness and ignorance, the support of the demonic Philistines – which enable the rest of the evil passions to infiltrate and be active, to live and prevail in the hearts of the self- indulgent and in the souls of the uninstructed. Then through strict attention and control of the intellect, together with help from above, you will track down these evil passions, about which most men are ignorant, not even suspecting their existence, but which are more destructive than all the rest. Take up the weapons of righteousness that are directly opposed to them: mindfulness of God, for this is the cause of all blessings; the light of spiritual knowledge, through which the soul awakens from its slumber and drives out of itself the darkness of ignorance; and true ardor, which makes the soul eager for salvation.”

Perhaps it was from my previous readings of the various available translations of the Book of Abramelin and other texts on spiritual athleticism; this image came to life in my head as a very simple, yet profound method of keeping self-awareness and inspired me to personally take the words to heart and experiment with them as a way to supplement my daily examination of conscience.

David and Goliath icon
Coptic Icon of David slaying the Philistine, Goliath