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The Magician’s Work Tools

October 21, 2012

School for Magicians

Learning the Occult rituals in Ancient Egypt

by Madeline Montalban

The ancient temples of occult lore and magical tuition believed firmly in the value of rituals, which were elaborate and complicated magical exercises to develop the neophyte’s will, concentration and memory. The neophyte-initiate began to learn ritual as soon as he (or she) had been accepted for the ancient priesthood. It was after the successful conclusion of his first magical ritual or “exercise” that the neophyte ceased to be represented as the Fool, or 0-0 grade; he was no longer the man who knew nothing, but the being who knew a little more than the average person, and was therefore now regarded as 0-1 grade, or Student Magician. (No. 1 in the Tarot.)

Now it must be firmly remembered that magical prowess and ability are relative things. The tyro who knows even a smattering of occult lore weighs heavier in the occult scale than the person who knows nothing at all. Any “knower”, in fact, is a Magician compared to the completely ignorant, who is the Fool; for knowledge is power. And power is a double-edged sword that can turn dangerously in the wielder’s hand until the use of the weapon has been mastered, as too enthusiastic neophytes have often found to their cost.

The Magician, or spell-binder of the ancient temples, was one who had mastered some or all of the occult laws and powers, discovered how they could be applied effectively to worldly matters, and also learned to use them wisely. In acquiring such knowledge ritual plays a very great part, for it is by its use that the neophyte, in time, learns to differentiate between black and white magic . . . better described as that which has a lastingly beneficial effect (white) as against that which merely secures a temporary advantage (black).

Black magic can be just as effective as the other kind, but it has a snag to it. The initial successes achieved often lead to sudden and unexpected disaster. Though a qualified magician can bend the occult powers to his own purposes for a while, they can never be permanently perverted. They may be compared to finely-tempered steel flying back to its original shape after pressure has been relaxed. I have never felt the usual horror or fear that the black magician seems to inspire in so many people; possibly because after a study of the uses of black and white magic I came to the conclusion that both had a part to play in magical knowledge – a conclusion that was borne out by researches into the teaching methods of ancient, initiating temples. For make no mistake about it, a high degree of intelligence is necessary to the practice of all ritual magic, and a successful practitioner is too intelligent to stoop to the highly coloured practices ascribed to black magicians in popular fiction. As this series unfolds the student will understand why this is so.

The Magician in the Tarot is depicted with Wand, Sword, Cup and Platter on an altar before him. These are the fundamental magical weapons; though perhaps “instruments” might be a better word; for these are merely the tools which he employs to shape the powers to the ritualistic occasion, and, if you follow the teachings of the ancient occult schools, should be regarded as instruments by which the occult powers and laws are manipulated.

The ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic for both water and occult power was a dual, wavy line; also used at times to signify moving air. By this they conveyed that though power, like water, flows to earth from heaven, that power is malleable. Like fluid, it is capable of being moulded into any shape, just as water adjusts itself to the shape of the vessel which holds it. That is the basic meaning of the Cup, or chalice. It symbolizes a vessel, or a person, who holds flowing power. Water running wild can be devastating; so can uncontrolled air. But whether power is regarded as a fluid or airy element, it is obvious that, being in itself formless, it must be directed into useful “cups” and channels, just as a medium must prevent the wrong forces from using her body – the Cup.

To direct elemental forces implies the use of force or coercion on the part of the Magician, and it is mental and spiritual rather than physical force that is required. It is a basic occult law that there must always be an outward (exoteric) symbol of an inner intent (esoteric), so an actual Sword or Weapon of Force became an essential part of a practising Mage’s equipment, for the ritualist uses the Sword to command or direct forces. He wielded the Sword when he used words of command; the Sword’s point represented the apex of his fixed will. He pointed the Sword either at the representation of the power he wished to control (devil or elemental) or in the direction he desired the power should be impelled.

And just as the Sword was used to direct and command invoked force, so it was the Wand that was used for “conjuring up “or invoking the powers in the first place. As a Magician’s wand is a highly personal thing, it was usually created either by the neophyte himself or under his guidance by dedicated craftsmen during the correct astrological hours.

Wands were usually made of wood, ivory, gold or silver, according to the neophyte’s taste or purse, and in the case of our imaginary neophyte, we will assume that he has decided on a wooden wand. His High Priest sends him off to the Temple of Thoth for tuition in magical wand-making (for wands are “airy” weapons and Thoth was said to have the powers of air under his control), and there the neophyte learned that making a magical wand involved months of preliminary study.

Being a weapon of air, it had to be selected, cut and fashioned during the hours when the planet of air occupied the positive sign of Air, and was at the same time in good aspect with the neophyte’s ruling planet. The neophyte had to find all this out for himself, so before he even cut his wand from the tree he had to study and master Astrology!  Months or years later, when the neophyte thought he knew enough, he went in the Hour of Air and cut his wand from a growing tree (often acacia wood), and solemnly dedicated it to the god Thoth, his own occult purposes and the furtherance of knowledge.

Setting it to season in an hour when the Planet of Air traversed the sign of Air, the Wand was eventually fashioned into the correct shape in other correct astrological hours; pains being taken that the last stroke of ornamentation should be performed when the planet of air was in elevation. Next it was “identified” with the now wiser and more learned neophyte by being sprinkled with his own blood. (“Life-Blood-Power!” was the ancient Egyptian Pharaonic salute.) Then, and then only, was the Wand considered ritually pure; suitable for evocation, and part of the neophyte’s own being.

It should be firmly borne in mind that the student magician of ancient Egypt was basically devout, and that he dedicated himself and the powers he had (and those to which he hoped to attain) to the gods of Egypt, so that, in obeying their laws and spreading their teachings, the world might become a better place. The high degree of civilization to which Egypt attained under her priest hierarchy is proof enough of their lasting good intent, and many of the arts and sciences that benefit us now first saw the light of day in ancient Khemu. Like their architecture, their Occultism was designed to endure.

The Platter was the symbol of the offering of themselves, their powers, and the earthly dominion and empire to which they might attain by the use of magical knowledge and power to mankind and the gods. They dedicated themselves, these priests and priestesses of old, to the study of the occult laws which they believed governed the universe, and they assumed that the ultimate aim of man, powers and gods was to the benefit of the universe as a whole.

[Madeline Montalban’s magickal system differs from that of the Golden Dawn. For the Golden Dawn initiate, the Wand is associated with Fire. To Miss Montalban, it is the implement of Air – and so it is described in many ancient grimoires of magick. It is from those grimoires that Miss Montalban has extracted the formula for the creation and consecration of the magician’s wand. The Tarot deck used to illustrate her articles follows the Golden Dawn correspondences – Wands to Fire, Swords to Air, Cups to Water, Pentacles to Earth. Because of this Miss Montalban converts later in the series to Golden Dawn terminology when she speaks of the minor arcana. One should not expect consistency from Miss Montalban. She will use the contents of an illustration to ram home a point. If the illustration is defective in some way, no matter; it can be coopted into useful service nevertheless. Getting the lesson dinned into the student’s head was the primary objective.

Miss Montalban doesn’t quite tie up all the ends when describing the functions of the four magickal implements. She recounts the uses of the Wand and the Sword well enough: the Wand is used to invoke, or call up, occult force; the Sword is used to direct the forces once they are invoked. She is less definite when it comes to the use of the Cup and sidesteps the issue when dealing with the Platter. The Cup is a receptacle for occult force – but what goes into the Cup is changed in some way. As Miss Montalban indicates, what goes into the Cup may be forced to alter its shape to fit the form it now inhabits, just as water is moulded by the shape of the receptacle into which it is poured.  But a Cup can act like a cauldron, or cooking pot, too, transforming the potatoes, carrots, bits of meat and water that are put into it into a tasty stew. The Platter is also a receptacle. In this case, whatever the Platter receives it preserves. An apple placed on the platter remains an apple, a pebble remains a pebble, a pearl remains a pearl, for Earth is the Element of preservation and conservation. T.W.]

[Published in Prediction, June, 1956]


From → tarot

  1. Auntie,

    I want to make my own wand. I don’t subscribe to Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn beliefs. Air sounds right for the suit of Wands to me. But Miss M. holds back some of the instructions. What does she mean by the planet of Air and the sign of Air? There are three Air signs.

    Jupiter rules the sanguin temperament which equates with the Air element. I guess Jupiter can be in any of the Air signs because if not, and there is only one Sign of Air he’s permtted to be in, it will take him 12 years to get back to it. And that wouldn’t be practical.

    Help me out, please. Can you let me have full details of how to make a magic wand under the correct astrological auspices?

    Thanking you in advance,


    • Hi Walt,

      You are not the only person to have asked about this. I posted something today that should answer your questions and assuage the curiosity of others who have expressed an interest in knowing how a magic wand of the type described in this article might be made.

      Best wishes,

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