ABN + ASh (Flaming Stone) pronounced "ah-ven esh"
President Commanding 36 Legions
The spirit sought in this conjuration is described foremost as one who can provide knowledge of astrology. The spirit has several other powers, but this one is given special note and was my initial inspiration for this ceremony. I have always held a divided opinion on astrology, having no faith in its predictive capacity whatsoever yet recognizing its importance to human culture, though this is an opinion I admittedly hold with relative ignorance as it has never been a subject I gave serious attention.
Contemporary society regards astrology as a curiosity of the bygone era, a discipline eradicated by Christendom and all but abandoned in the industrialized world. The grim retainers of this ancient practice, with few exceptions, keep far from the spotlight. This is sharply in contrast with the ancient empires, wherein the astrologer was a central figure in society and the art was widespread.
Astrology may be regarded as the foundations of mysticism in pagan cultures, and marks the dividing line between the domains of theology and magic. It is a step away from dependence upon the gods through ritual and doctrine, and a step toward human-controlled acquisition and application of spiritual knowledge. By the craft and teachings of astrology, a person begins to form his or her own interpretations of the universe and its underlying spiritual mechanisms and in turn loosens his or her ties to organized faiths. Astrology is generally fixed upon the individual rather than the needs of society as a whole, and has played a significant role in the empowerment of those who religion had failed to reach.
It was originally my intention to establish an independent business for the sake of hiring astrologers. Far too often I have heard grumbles from the novices that they have boundless enthusiasm for the occult but must submit to menial jobs in banal fields of work. I have recommended in the past that these individuals join a diviner's network, taking a small wage for telephone tarot readings and similar services. In these services, the astrologers are by far the most successful on account of three things. First, bonus pay is usually dependent upon getting home addresses and memberships, and an astrologer can get these easily by sending natal charts and regular updates. Second, astrology tends to be time-consuming and allows for full discussions which also lead to better pay. Third, and most significantly, an astrologer can act as a long-term personal counselor and gain repeat business thereby.
I rented an office space for this purpose, and filed the DBA paperwork, but there was an additional ream of paperwork to be completed and other projects took precedence. While I still would heartily recommend these services as a way novice occultists can support themselves, I will not be providing this service. All the same, I wished to know more about the subject, and asked this spirit.
The spirit is described in the grimoire as having the appearance of a "great flaming fire." Perhaps this was once the case, but instead I was visited by a most unwholesome apparition resembling a charred and smouldering body. It appeared to have fallen on its knees, reclining backward at an impossibly harsh angle, with its head propped and staring vaguely upward. What remained of its blackened fleshy jaw moved slightly, and the sound was one of the most pleasant voices I have ever heard. It was calm, courteous, and bore the marks of aristocracy.
The spirit bid me to "sit" and began to engage in what would in other circumstances be considered small-talk. After a few minutes of listening to its introduction, of how it was "not often known by men" and so forth, I asked about its teaching in astrology. The spirit asked after my own interest. I was perfectly frank with the spirit: my knowledge of astrological lore (the attributions of signs and planets, for example) is passable, but my understanding of the mathematical and astronomical processes was lacking, as well as the significance of those terms specific to astrology like the significance of the houses, the Lunar nodes, the various aspects, etc.
The spirit listened patiently and then began to correct my method of calculation. I have never been a fan of astrological software, always wary of bias and negligence in the programming. For example, certain aspects are given by some programs and not with others, owing to the differences in acceptable range of "orb" measurements, and there are convenient liberties taken with the placement of the Ascendant and so forth. I would very much prefer to have a systematic (if somewhat more complicated) approach to the arrangement of an astrological chart. The spirit was very sympathetic to my needs and provided a few simple solutions to my missteps in the working of those equations, particularly in the division of longitude and adjustments of the houses for considerations of latitude.
I asked the spirit about preparing charts for persons who do not know their birth times and/or places. I was given three options. First, "cast for each location," which was described as the least reliable and serving only to satisfy a demand placed on the astrologer. In this scenario, the "natal" chart is drawn for the location of the astrologer, on the spot. Second, one can "make an approximate time and place" and cast for that, disregarding the house divisions. This is ineffective when the location of birth is totally unknown. Finally, one can "cast for the time in question and regress by years" to arrive at what in my estimate is the least relevant result of all but which the spirit assured was worth constructing.
I asked about the method of progressing the chart, or regressing it according to its own advice, using the popular day-for-year method in which one day in an ephemeris represents one year of change in the charts. This seemed totally arbitrary to me and I had never understood the logic of such a thing despite hearing it discussed among astrologers on several occasions. The spirit replied that the Sun moves through the houses in a day as it moves through the signs in a year, and thus the comparison. I was instructed to disregard the Moon in this process except as a means of identifying the days signified within the year.
It should be mentioned that during the "lecture" I became exhausted. This has happened before during the conjurations, and I cannot determine the source of it, but I am absolutely certain it has nothing to do with exertion on my part or any lack of ventilation. This strange side-effect could best be described as extreme desire to sleep, and persisted only during the ceremony. I have previously been overcome by immense hunger, but with the use of the belt of names that had gone away and I wonder if this is similar in character or some minor material defect with no relevance to the ceremony.
I asked about the significance of the houses and the Ascendant, and was instructed that the Ascendant is the key to interpretations and the thing about which people will want to hear. On the contrary I have seen more enthusiasm for Sun and Moon signs, but nonetheless that is what was said. The spirit described the system of houses as divisions in the course of a single day, judging as irrelevant the popular and convenient notion of "equal" houses as is commonly represented in astrological charts. The divisions of the houses ought to match the course of the Sun and reflect its position in relation to the horizon throughout the day, rather than merely at the moment in consideration for the chart. These ought to be made differently depending on the location used as the basis of the chart, owing to differences in the solar positions. For example, the houses at extreme northern latitudes would be configured differently than those in charts constructed for equatorial events.
The spirit went further to dismiss the bulk of astrology as fictitious statements distinct from the phenomena it seeks to interpret. "Use the stars by name, each in its place as a guide," it spoke. "Each has a virtue which is the planet within the sign moving toward or away." There have been numerous criticisms of astrology centered around the idea that the zodiac is not the neat 30-degree-per-sign division used in drawing birth charts, and here is the apparent alternative although it appears to be a major over-haul in the basic design of astrological work. The spirit instructed to make special note of conjunctions, but to disregard the relative positions of the planets and the stars through which they appear to move. The planets themselves are to be measured in relation to one another, but not to other stars where there is no planet in conjunction.
All of this makes astrology several degrees more complicated than the norm as practiced by the majority of professionals I've encountered. Even if one were to decide to use "traditional" astrology without computer programs, there are half a dozen difficult computations one must perform before ever arriving at anything that could be interpreted. I have been experimenting with this system over the past few weeks, and have compared it casually to a few other modern systems of calculation and to one cheap computer program, and I must say it certainly takes a long time to get anything done correctly. Add to that the fact that a small mistake at the beginning produces a big mistake toward the end that can be difficult to detect, and one is left wondering if all the effort is worth the result.
Having come this far in the instructions, scribbled carefully but quickly on my small stack of paper, I demanded to know if it would be of any use. Is there some value in all of this lore, or is it merely an abyss of knowledge into which one can pour all of life and never see the surface rise, and from which it is perilous to drink?
"Hold the ring to your lips," and here the spirit laughed, with some difficulty. It is only just now, a few weeks later at the time of this writing, that I wonder if it was somehow intending to preserve me from my exhaustion. Was this a side-effect the ring could prevent? I have no way of knowing at present. Whatever the case, the spirit went on to say that in such a manner I should say the name and Sun-sign of the person under inspection with their drawn chart, and its servitors would dispense the information required for perfect astrological interpretations.
The question of the utility of astrology remains, then, unanswered. The spirit merely employs astrology as its method of disseminating information. One must devote himself to the bald facts of nature, to understanding them by intellect rather than by imagination and supplication, and then the spirit will submit. As one might pray or enact the role of a deity for the purpose of invocation against a spirit, in following the complicated and esoteric principles of trigonometry one must trace the celestial pattern and represent it faithfully as a declaration of the universal law, whereupon the legions will deliver their answer.
But mark well, and beware, especially all who would invoke these spirits! Even when they are called according to the conjuration, the spirits profess nothing more than to deliver true answers by means of lies, for there is nothing signified by the supposed virtues of stars and planets. An astrologer may say truly that there is a gain or an obstacle bespoken in the chart, and this may be judged correct by all concerned, but the sight of such a thing in the distribution of the planets is merely metaphor and any astrologer will remind his client that the answer is given by interpretation of traditional attributions. When the servants of the spirit thus conjured make their judgment of the charted figures, it is not the astrologer who answers from careful study, but the spirits themselves who answer in the language of astrology. The direct truth of any matter is unavailable by their word, and from them one must be content with what can be accurately told through false points of reference.
On the very edge of sleep, I bid the spirit License to Depart.