Extracts from De Arcana

by "Orides" (Levi ben Isaac of Carthage, writing as ben 'Or, "Son of Light"), 11th-century Kerdean
with commentary by Ivan O'Shaunessey ("Professor Keje") of the Kerdeans, 1987

The Nine Uncanny Artifacts

There are nine works of the hand of man which are specially apt to arcane matters. These are fire, the book, the bell, the mask, the mirror, the wheel, the timepiece, the cup, and the door.

Fire

This element is home to powerful elementals and is attractive to daimons. Many arcane creatures, both bodily and spiritual, draw on fire for sustenance [i.e. for chi – Keje].

Books

By means of books, knowledge, both worldly and arcane, is passed from one generation to another. Also, books of arcane knowledge are often themselves enchanted. All who deal in arcana, whether they are mortal or not, deal respectfully with books.

Bells

Jews and Christians sanctify bells as weapons against evil. A bell is naught, unless its sanctification is honored by Heaven, but the superstitions concerning them have credit among both spirits and men, so they can be used in daunting, and they produce the most farflung form of music, which touches on all forms of musical magic.

Masks

Masks have ever generated doubt and confusion among men, and so are often favored as objects of enchantment, particularly glamour, since part of the work, as it were, is already done for the enchanter.

Mirrors

Mirrors confuse the mind and relax its grip on worldly things, making them apt tools for both glamour (as with masks) and divination (since the mind becomes freer to go abroad). Also, many mirrors are haunted by potent and curious chimerae, fortunately with no interest in men. [Taotie – Keje] This makes mirrors fearsome to creatures that would otherwise use them as powerful tools, including striges and lamiae [vampires – Keje], so that they will not cast their reflections in them, and so can be discovered. Mirrors are also good homes for vitridae.

Wheels

Wheels are earthly images of the heavenly spheres. Because of this, or because they themselves spin, wheels fascinate some lesser daimons. This makes it easier to enchant wheels for diverse purposes. [Elsewhere, Orides gives specific uses of magic wheels, chiefly making vehicles safe, or fast, or hard to get lost in. The enchantment binds the daimon to the vehicle. – Keje]

Timepieces

Hourglasses, sundials, horologs, and the like are great aids to the astrologer and give a visible form to Time. As the latter, they inspire anxiety in all who behold them, focusing the mind on the mystery of movement and the passage of potentiality into act. It is so seldom useful to enchant them that they may be said to resist arcane operations, but they must often be consulted to gauge propitious hours. [The "horolog," or clock, is the most recent of Orides' Uncanny Artifacts. After his time, clockwork ceased to connote something inexorable and immutable, but came to connote hidden and subtle machinations. This feeling, working in the operator's own mind, made it common and worthwhile to create enchanted clockworks. – Keje]

Cups and Other Vessels

These are the universal instruments of joining and separation ["recombination," in modern terms – Keje]. Most are passive, being only the location of significant action, but these still derive significance for themselves from this role. Some, however, have powers of their own, most notably the vessel attributed by Christians to the Nazarene [i.e., the Grail – Keje].

Doors and Gates

All portals are the haunts of jani [pl. of "janus" – Keje]. Portals both mark the boundaries between domains and provide the transitions between them. If one is engaged on arcane matters, one is likely to face an enchanted door before long.

[Orides is perhaps implying that enchantments on doors, gates, and other portals are made by the use of the portal's janus. While no known grade of spirit has a preference for ordinary thresholds, thresholds between different akashic states are important to daimons and other arcanes as well as to mortals, and so are often guarded. – Keje]

The Seven Elements

The ancients are in error when they distinguish only four elements on Earth. Those who observe with the spiritual eye and examine the elementals can distinguish seven.

Elementals, which are the instruments of so much magic, vary greatly in size, form, power, and intelligence. The operator must take care to summon the appropriate degree of elemental for the task at hand. The operator must also take care in his treatment of elementals and commerce with them, for what one discovers all the others soon know, and this includes secrets and ill treatment; they resent tasks that pit them against their own kind or are certain of defeat.

[Orides was unaware of later Kerdean opinion that elementals have no permanent identity; after the summoning or manifestation is over, they relapse and are absorbed into the general vitality that attends their element. What you tell a phoenix is soon known to Fire. A skill learned by a talos is then known to Metal. But there is a process of association at work: elementals summoned or encountered by you are likelier to remember past dealings with you than with anyone else; and elementals summoned after a lapse of time – and, even more, in a foreign place – are less likely to remember events or skills learned in the previous haunts. – Keje]

These are the seven forms of elementals:

Aithonoi or Phoenixoi – Elementals of fire.

[Sing. aithon or phoenix – Keje]

Aithonoi are skilled in all the worldly uses of fire and in using their powers in combat against adversaries both worldly and spiritual. They are the only elementals that do not resent being set against their own kind, for they view the conflict as a game.

Anemoi – Elementals of air.

[Sing. anemos – Keje]

Anemoi can be used to move persons and objects through the air at great speed, and come to know geography quite well. They are also adept at creating music, at false voices and silences, and at conveying voices from a distance.

Haliae – Elementals of water.

[Sing. halia – Keje]

Haliae govern all liquid, not merely common water, and are thus useful and skilled for alchemy, much medicine (though not so much as the nisi), and cookery. More importantly, they can create reflections of distant events.

Most important of all, for travel by sea, they can bear up the shipwrecked and prevent drowning. Together with anemoi, they can spare ships or avert storms.

Taloi – Elementals of crystal and metal.

[Sing. talos – Keje]

Taloi are skilled in mining, metallurgy, and smith-work. Alone among elementals, they have an understanding of human affairs, because all gold, silver, and gems are under their governance, so that, for many ages, men have consulted them and commanded them concerning money. New-trained alchemists hope the taloi can reveal the Stone to them, but they are disappointed.

Vitridae or Gyalidae – Elementals of glass.

[Sing. vitrid or gyalid – Keje]

Vitridae govern some stones, such as obsidian, as well as glass. Most stone falls to the taloi. It is curious that there should be a form of elementals for so rare a thing as glass, but it is convenient for the operator, for vitridae have dominion over mirrors and, through this, come to have dominion over seers' glasses of all kinds and over glamour.

Beware of the False Vitrid, which haunts mirrors. But if the operator does not provoke it, he has nothing to fear, if he is not a striga or lamia [vampire – Keje], which the False Vitrid attacks. [Orides is referring to the taotie. – Keje]

Nephelai – Elementals of clouds, dust, and mixtures.

[Sing. nephele, elementals of colloids, in modern terms – Keje]

Nephelai are the factota of the elementals, having dominion of many kinds of common matter, such as clouds of dust, clouds of mist, mud, and wet clay. They can be set to shaping and moving such material, and so great labors of building can be done quickly.

Nisi – Elementals of flesh, bone, wood, and leaf.

[Sing. nisus – Keje]

Nisi have an affinity for the vegetal soul and are best used for bringing health, healing, and fertility. Wicked and foolish operators use them for the reverse operations. A nisus can also transform a living thing, but the work is long and the nisus must be highly skilled.

Nisi still have dominion over the bodies of living things even when they no longer live, and so they can be used to animate things of wood such as dolls, furniture, carts, and wagons. [They can also animate the bodies of the dead, though Orides is careful not to mention that here. – Keje]

[Exotic phases – Since Orides' time, many exotic forms of matter have been discovered, such as superfluids, degenerate matter, Bose-Einstein condensates, diasolids, and polarized gases. There is evidence that these, too, have elementals, as we would expect, but no contact with them or use of them has been made. – Keje]

Spiritual Forms

[Orides here calls "spiritual forms" what modern Kerdeans would call "akashic forms." – Keje]

Spiritual forms are not visible to bodily eyes, but they are nonetheless visible to the fortunately gifted or the properly instructed.

Angels

When not taking on an earthly shape, an angel, obedient or rebellious, may take on any of these forms:

A beam of light
A sphere [or spheroid – Keje]
A torus [or toroid – Keje]
A cylinder [fading out of visibility at the ends, not clearly distinct from the "beam of light" – Keje]
A multitude of wheels [interlinked toroids – Keje]
A shining serpent [a curving cylinder – Keje]

[Current Kerdean opinion is that celestial spirits have a multidimensional default form, and the above forms are largely three-dimensional cross-sections of this form. – Keje]

This appearance varies so greatly in size, it is impossible to name a natural one.

Gods

[By "gods," Orides here means djinn or ifrits who have assumed the ka of a celestial spirit. He does not include divinized human ghosts or other forms of god. – Keje]

A god appears in his own nature as seven concentric spheres of crystalline transparency. The god can vary his size at will, but something the bigness of a great house is the natural one. The spacing between spheres is characteristic of the individual god. Each sphere is inscribed with arcs of brilliant color, which change from moment to moment. By these inscriptions, it can be seen that the spheres spin rapidly about changing axes.

But there is that in the countenance of a god that overthrows a mortal mind. The patterns and their dance both fascinate and horrify. And the colors include many that the eye cannot name, but can never forget. Above this, there is that in the mere presence which overthrows us. The result can be madness.

[The old gods were long gone by Orides' time, so his description, like those of other Kerdeans, must depend on records from earlier ages or testimony of ancient akashic beings, but Orides gives no indication of his sources. – Keje]

Divine Emanations

[Peripheral Manifestations, or divine ka'u – Keje]

These resemble the gods themselves, but have fewer spheres, the number varying from one to six.

Daimons

["Daimons" = djinn. – Keje]

A daimon in his own form consists of seven concentric egg-shaped translucent shells of light, in brilliant colors according to the individual. The proportions of the egg shape are also according to the individual. There are mouths or openings at one end of these egg shapes, so that even the inmost is open to the outside. Close observation shows these shells spin furiously, and the outermost readily puts forth arms and streamers and filaments of all shapes. All is about twice the bigness of a man, but varies readily and greatly in size.

[Orides was unaware of later observations: That the seven shells of a daimon spin in alternating directions, and that the population of daimons is divided in two ways – into male and female, and into opposite rotational senses, variously called spin-up/spin-down, clockwise/counterclockwise, north/south, deasil/widdershins. He did know that diamons have the ionosphere as their native habitat, which he calls the "sphere of fire." – Keje]

Daimonic Emanations

[Daimonic Manifestations, or daimonic ka'u – Keje]

These resemble the daimons themselves, but lack the inmost shell.

Chimerae

Chimerae come in a great variety of sizes and forms, resembling fiery flowers, or the flower-like slimes of the sea [jellyfish? – Keje]. Many resemble wheels or rings. All have a hole bored through the heart, signifying their subjection to daimons. [!]

[Orides' observations are accurate, but he lacks modern technical vocabulary. In our terms, chimeras are usually based on a toroidal form, with radial symmetry, just as daimons are based on the plan of seven concentric spheroids with open poles. There is great and rapidly shifting variation within this toroidal plan. Some tori are superficially spherical or pear-shaped. Some are elongated into tubes, or gathered into tubular colonies. Other colonies are stacks or chains of tori, or concentric, bull's-eye arrangements. Further obscuring the basic body plan, chimerae, like daimons, can have pseudopods of any form, fins, spines, plates, intricately sculpted shells, ribbons, tentacles, branches, and so on. The general impression, to a modern mind, resembles protozoa more than jellyfish. – Keje]

Elementals

Elementals are distinguished by texture of their surfaces more than by size, form or color.

Phoenixoi have no surface and are but restless swarms of sparks.

Anemoi have indistinct and misty surfaces, and change size readily.

Haliae have smooth, shiny surfaces, readily changing.

Taloi appear to be composed of many geometrical shapes of various sizes.

Vitridae have shining surfaces like haliae, but change shape little.

Nephelai have grainy surfaces, or resemble anemoi.

Nisi are woven masses of braids and coils. [The "braids" are generally double-helices. – Keje]

Mortal Souls

The souls of mortals are subject to many mutilations after death, but Physics tells us we should consider first and primarily undamaged specimens. If a mortal's soul does not suffer unduly from the pains of death, and is left unharmed by necromancy, and does not disguise itself with glamourous appearances of itself in life, then, when beheld spiritually, it appears as a pale blue outline or shadow of its form in life. Pale golden light plays about its head and a larger aureole surrounds the figure about an arm's length, of shifting colors varying with the mood and character of the person. Between the eyes, in the depths of the head, is a small pale light.

The same may be seen of people who venture forth from their bodies while alive, and, mutatis mutandis, of the souls of mortal beasts.

Mortal Emanations, or Bilocations

[Dopplegangers, or mortal ka'u – Keje]

Most often, these consist of the pale outline only, when not visible to bodily eyes. If they show the golden light about the head, they are capable of thought. If they show the larger aureole, they are capable of magical operation and are, in all likelihood, the emanations of such operators. They never show the small light in the head.


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