Magick Without Tears

By Aleister Crowley

Chapter XX: Talismans: The Lamen: The Pantacle

Cara Soror,

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Really you comfort me when you turn from those abstruse and exalted themes with which you have belaboured me so often of late to dear cuddlesome little questions like this in our letter received this morning: "Do please, dear Master, give me some hints about how to make Talismans (that's the same as Telesmata, isn't it? Yes, 666) and the Pantacle. The official instructions are quite clear, of course;1 but somehow I find them just a little frightening."

Well, I think I know pretty well what you mean; so I will try to imitate the style of Aunt Tabitha in "The Flapper's Fireside."

For one thing, you forgot to mention the Lamen. Now what are these things when they are at home? That's easy enough.

The Lamen is a sort of Coat of Arms. It expresses the character and powers of the wearer.

A talisman is a storehouse of some particular kind of energy, the kind that is needed to accomplish the task for which you have constructed it.

The Pantacle is often confused with both the others; accurately, it is a "Minutum Mundum", "the Universe in Little"; it is a map of all that exists, arranged in the Order of Nature. There is a chapter in Book 4, Part II, devoted to it (pp. 117 - 129); I cannot make up my mind whether I like it. At the best it is very far from being practical instruction. (The chapter on the Lamen, pp. 159 - 161, is even worse.)

An analogy, not too silly, for these three; the Chess-player, the Openings, and the Game itself.

But—you will object—why be silly at all? Why not say simply that the Lamen, stating as it does the Character and Powers of he wearer, is a dynamic portrait of the individual, while the Pantacle, his Universe, is a static portrait of him? And that, you pursue flattering, is why you preferred to call the Weapon of Earth (in the Tarot) the Disk, emphasizing its continual whirling movement rather than the Pantacle of Coin, as is more usual. Once again, exquisite child of our Father the Archer of Light and of seaborn Aphrodite, your well-known acumen has "nicked the ninety and nine and one over" as Browning says when he (he too!) alludes to the Tarot.

As you will have gathered from the above, a Talisman is a much more restricted idea; it is no more than one of the objects in his Pantacle, one of the arrows in the quiver of his Lamen. As, then, you would expect, it is very little trouble to design. All that you need is to "make considerations" about your proposed operation, decide which planet, sign, element or sub-element or what not you need to accomplish your miracle.

As you know, a very great many desirable objects can be attained by the use of the talismans in the Greater and Lesser Keys of Solomon the King; also in Pietro di Abano2 and the dubious Fourth Book of Cornelius Agrippa.3

You must on no account attempt to use the squares given in the Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage until you have succeeded in the Operation. More, unless you mean to perform it, and are prepared to go to any length to do so, you are a fool to have the book in your possession at all. Those squares are liable to get loose and do things on their own initiative; and you won't like it.

The late Philip Haseltine, a young composer of genius, used one of these squares to get his wife to return to him. He engraved it neatly on his arm. I don't know how he proceeded to set to work; but his wife came back all right, and a very short time afterwards he killed himself.

Then there are the Elemental Tablets of Sir Edward Kelly and Dr. John Dee.  From these you can extract a square to perform almost any conceivable operation, if you understand the virtue of the various symbols which they manifest. They are actually an expansion of the Tarot. (Obviously, the Tarot itself as a whole is a universal Pantacle—forgive the pleonasm!  Each card, especially is this true of the Trumps, is a talisman; and the whole may also be considered as the Lamen of Mercury. It is evidently an Idea far too vast for any human mind to comprehend in its entirety. For it is "the Wisdom whereby He created the worlds.")

The decisive advantage of this system is not that its variety makes it so adaptable to our needs, but that we already posses the Invocations necessary to call forth the Energies required. What is perhaps still more to the point, they work without putting the Magician to such severe toil and exertion as is needed when he has to write them out from his own ingenium. Yes! This is weakness on my part, and I am very naughty to encourage you to shirk the hardest path.

I used often to make the background of my Talismans of four concentric circles, painting then, the first (inmost) in the King (or Knight) scale, the second in the Queen, the third in the Prince, and the outermost in the Princess scale, of the Sign, Planet, or Element to which I was devoting it. On this, preferably in the "flashing" colours, I would paint the appropriate Names and Figures.

Lastly, the Talisman may be surrounded with a band inscribed with a suit- able "versicle" chosen from some Holy book, or devised by the Magician to suit the case.

In the British Museum (and I suppose elsewhere) you may see the medal struck to commemorate the victory over the Armada. This is a reproduction, perhaps modified, of the Talisman used by Dee to raise the storm which scattered the enemy fleet.

You must lay most closely to your heart the theory of the Magical Link (see Magick pp. 107 - 122) and see well to it that it rings true; for without this your talisman is worse than useless. It is dangerous; for all that Energy is bound to expend itself somehow; it will make its own links with anything handy that takes its fancy; and you can get into any sort of the most serious kind of trouble.

There is a great deal of useful stuff in Magick; pp. 92 - 100, and pp. 179 - 189. I could go on all night doing nothing but indicating sources of information.

Then comes the question of how to "charge" the Talisman, of how to evoke or to invoke the Beings concerned, and of—oh! of so much that you need a lifetime merely to master the theory.

Remember, too, please, what I have pointed out elsewhere, that the greatest Masters have quite often not been Magicians at all, technically; they have used such devices as Secret Societies, Slogans and Books. If you are so frivolous as to try to exclude these from our discourse, it is merely evidence that you have not understood a single word of what I have been trying to tell you these last few hundred years!

May I close with a stray example or so? Equinox III, 1, has the Neophyte's Pantacle of Frater O.I.V.V.I.O.4 The Frontispiece of the original (4 volume) edition of Magick, the colors vilely reproduced, is a Lamen of my own Magick, or a Pantacle of the Science, I'm sure I'm not sure which!5

Most of my Talismans, like my Invocations, have been poems.6 This letter must be like the Iliad in at least one respect: it does not end; it stops.

Love is the law, love under will.

Yours fraternally,

666

 

1: The official instruction on the Pantacle (in Liber A vel Armorum) states, inter alia, that it should bear "a symbol to represent the Universe." The Pantacle and Lamen are both, as Crowley notes, discussed in Book 4 part II. I am not aware of any official A∴A∴ instruction dealing directly with Talismans – T.S.

2: The reference is unlikely to be to the Heptameron, a 16th century Grimoire spuriously attributed to Abano, as this does not deal with talismans at all, rather it is a ritual for the evocation of planetary spirits. According to writers such as Frances Yates and D.P. Walker, some of the undisputed works of Pietro d'Abano deal with astrological images and the talismanic use of the same, although I have been unable to consult these directly – T.S.

3: "The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, or of Magical Ceremonies" was a short work on magical practice which first came to public attention in the 1550s, some twenty years after the death of its alleged author. It purports to be a "complement and key" to Agrippa's De Occulta Philosophia libri tres. The author credit is generally regarded as spurious. It does however treat at length of the composition of "pentacles" (pentacula; as described by pseudo-Agrippa they belong more under the head of "talismans" in Crowley's classification), giving a few examples – T.S.

4: C.S. Jones (Frater Achad). Achad's Lamen design also appeared in that issue – T.S.

5: The design was reproduced as a colour painting by Steffi Grant in her essay on Crowley published as Carfax Monograph #3 (reprinted in Hidden Lore by Kenneth and Steffi Grant, London: Skoob, 1989), as a black and white line drawing by the same artist in the 1973 RKP edition of Crowley's Magick, and as a colour graphic redrawn by an unidentified illustrator on the dust-jacket of the 1994 "Blue Brick" Weiser edition of Magick – T.S.

6: See also The Books of the Beast by Timothy d'Arche Smith for Crowley's use of "talismanic" principles in book design – T.S.