Using Substitutions

It should be noted that any receptive substance can be charged by the personal Will power of a magician by intelligently directing words, actions, emotions and desires. However, certain substances, such as species of herbs and kinds of metals, happen to have greater affinities with the desired ends of ritual objects and operations. These affinities are real and should be brought into consideration when choosing a substitute for an ingredient or item.

It is my personal belief that the authors and practitioners of the old manuscripts used the “technology” of their time. There is little doubt in my mind that the same magicians would employ better tools to create their implements if available. As an example I believe the instructions for "plucking the third feather from the right wing of a male gosling" to create the magickal pen could very well have been for practical purposes rather than spiritual. 

From the Wikipedia entry on the Quill we read: Quills were the primary writing instrument in the Western World from the 6th to the 19th century. The best quills were usually made from goose, swan, and later turkey feathers.1

And also: Quills are denominated from the order in which they are fixed in the wing; the first is favored by the expert calligrapher, the second and third quills being very satisfactory also, plus the pinion feather. No other feather on the wing would be considered suitable by a professional scribe.1

It seems reasonable to assume that the reason for plucking the third feather from the right wing of a male gosling may not have been entirely for spiritual reasons but to ensure that you have a quality writing instrument for writing sacred figures. If purity was the intention behind the male gosling then perhaps a dove would have been listed instead, I don't believe there is any spiritual significance of a male goose. This is one instance when I consider using a substitute such as a fountain pen not to be detrimental to the work.

Ordinary people might come to this conclusion without any hesitation but we as magicians can almost have a compulsive need to find symbolism and significance in every detail and often extend this to instructions in sacred writings and grimiores but I'm not convinced this was the universal thinking at the time. Certainly anything used in the ritual should be purified and consecrated but I don't believe there is any major advantage to recreating each item as it would have been created at the time of writing unless you are demonstrating for historical purposes.

On the other hand I do believe that if you employ substitutions out of laziness your operations will suffer accordingly. I believe the spiritual hierarchies do appreciate your hard work, perhaps some more than others, and you will be rewarded for going the extra mile but I also believe it should be done within reason.

Parchment vs. Paper & Metals

I have created talismans on peices of parchment, which is stretched and dried animal skin, and on regular paper and so far have seen no difference in their effectiveness. Parchment is rather difficult to work with as it does not soak up ink the way paper does and is prone to run, especially if sprinkled with water, and it's just not very maniable. My opinion is that if magicians in the medieval times had better options for writing surfaces they would have used them instead. Although paper was around it was uncommon and more expensive to get than parchment, you couldn't go buy some from a local shop. Paper would only really show up in a bound book and it had to be manufactured, a relatively new and rare process for medieval times, and something most people could not afford.

In Medieval & Renaissance times the common writing medium was still animal skin (parchment), in Egypt (where the original techniques probably originated) papyrus was commonly used for making talismans and other magical paraphernalia which was later replaced by parchment when the techniques migrated to Europe. Papyrus wasn't replaced by parchment because parchment was superior for spiritual work but because it was not only the common writing medium of the region and was easier to work with than papyrus. Again the magicians worked using the best tools and materials available to them and so should we.

One major problem (aside from the cruelty to animals aspect) with using parchment today is that you are needlessly killing an animal to harvest it's skin to use as a writing surface and this energy is literally imprinted into the parchment. They had no choice in medieval times, but we do have choices today, and we can even easily go back to the original papyrus option, so I personally don't see the need to use real parchment. I see no spiritual symbolism associated with drawing characters or talismans on animal skins unless you are trying to directly associate your magic with that particular animal and/or it's death, and indeed you will whether you intend to or not if you use parchment.

Even some of the Solomonic manuscripts discourage the use of parchment because of it being prone to getting dirty and having blemishes and recommend metals due to the affinities with different planets. If parchment was used then strict instructions for creating the parchment to make it suitable were to be used. Sadly parchment will always have an affinity with the pain and death of the animal it came from - and just for this reason alone it should be avoided.

Usage of Blood and Animal Parts 

One of the more disturbing aspects of Solomonic Magic is the common ingredient of using blood from a bat or dove, or even your own blood, to consecrate items or create inks. These manuscripts come from a time when society was more barbaric, unsanitary, cruel, superstitious, and ignorant than it is today (or at least I like to think so). If I didn't experience the validity of Solomonic Magic first hand I would chalk this whole business up to superstitions and ignorance but I cannot ignore the real world repeatable results and effectiveness of Magical experimentation so I have to reconcile this rather disturbing part of the work.

Blood has been used as an ingredient in ink in ancient times so at the time it may not have been so deplorable to include it as an ingredient, just as instructions for killing and skinning a young calf for parchment would not have been out of the ordinary. I personally wouldn't use blood or other animal parts in any kind of ritual or incense for fear of attracting negative spiritual entities into my space. I do not want to harm any living creature, and I do not believe it is morally right or ethical unless it's in self defense or self preservation. 

Having said that, if it is really necessary to procure the "blood of a bat" for an operation to be effective then perhaps a veterinarian could humanely draw some blood from a live bat for you however I doubt you could find such a vet willing to endanger themselves or others with deadly diseases to help you, again you would probably only end up with a visit from the police or animal rights activists. The sane method is to employ an adequate substitution and rely on your persistent Will to make up for any lost potency.

There is some speculation that many of the ingredients may have been a sort of code for different herbs but there are differing opinions on this. There is a list in the Greek Magical Papyri of animal parts that are similar to ingredients in Solomonic manuscripts and their corresponding herbs but sadly any such code book with proper ingredients, if it ever existed, is lost today. We have to use our own judgment and research to come up with a good substitute for what should be used.


 "Quill." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. 27 September 2016.

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