Friday, August 31, 2012

Vendredi: Chthonian Histories

Alchemists of old would call upon the protection of angels when stepping into unknown territory. Believing that their art had a certain chthonian element to it, these men and women would often draw elaborate circles on the floors of their workrooms, place candles around the circle and call upon the Archangels of the Cardinal Directions to be with them and protect them as they strove to learn the mysteries of the Other World.

The overriding school of thought which has come down to us regarding which angel rules which direction is as follows:

Uriel in the North for Earth
Michael in the South for Fire
Gabriel in the West for Water
Raphael in the East for Air

Though there are other combinations and match-ups floating around out there, this makes the most sense given the Gabriel is most probably the only female Archangel. She was also the original "Angel of Death" and many early cultures believed that the Land of the Dead was somewhere "to the west."

Of course, those who dabbled in darker magicks picked up on this handy protection formula fairly quickly. Necromancers and other less savory types, not wanting to scare off the demon hoards they were trying to call up and manipulate, began utilizing a similar formula with devils in the place of angels. Thus we have a canon not only for protective angels but, almost counter intuitively, for protective demons as well.

Not surprisingly, however, there has never been any agreement on which demons rule which cardinal points. Those who practice the blacker arts appear to be much like politicians; they can't seem to agree on anything. That said, the two main schools of thought seem to jibe, at least somewhat.

In her book Dictionary of the Damned, Michelle Belanger gives some examples from Medieval and Renaissance Europe. Two seem almost matched. The Abramelin, for instance, gives the following list:

Ariton in the North
Amaimon in the South
Paimon in the West
Oriens in the East

Meanwhile, Agrippa tweaks this slightly with:

Egin in the North
Amaymon in the South
Paymon in the West
Urieus in the East

It is easy to make the argument that Paimon and Paymon, for instance, are probably the same demon to begin with. But who can say for certain? None of this sort of thing ever did men like Faust much good, after all.

Personally, I like the idea of protective angels at the four corners of my life. In fact, when things get bad - and they are truly bad indeed right now - I like to remember the lines of the Kate Bush song "Lily". Even if the positions of the angels are a little wonky in the song, it's an easy way to remind one's self to stay protected with the Divine, salt and fire. Vendredi heureux ~

Header: Three Archangels and Young Tobias by Filippino Lippi c 1485 via Wikimedia


Timmy! said...

Funny, this post made me think of Danzig songs, Pauline...

But I like where you ended up with Kate Bush. That was a nice touch.

Pauline said...

Well sure, although he does know what he's talking about, all those names tend to run together when you're "singing" them. The Kate Bush song is a little more pertinent. And the title reminds one of Gabriel, and Lilith, as well.