A Hermetic Approach To Talismans And Amulets


This is another great guest post from Phillip Harris Smith on the Hermetic approach to Talismans and Amulets. If you would like to read his other posts you can see them below:

Phillip Harris-Smith on Magickal After-Effects and the Material World
Interview with British Occultist: Phillip Harris-Smith
The Problem of Group Work using Franz Bardon
Oversimplifying the complex: How the Grimoire Tradition Misuses Occam’s Razor
Alchemical Vegetable Menstruum & Evocation

Both talismans and amulets have varied images, formulae, sigils and writing inscribed and written on them. This can lead to the view that the only difference between a talisman and an amulet is that a talisman is written on paper or parchment of some kind whilst an amulet tends to be a 3d object, a piece of jewellery perhaps. In hermetic terms there is a fundamental difference between a talisman and an amulet. My purpose here is to show how an amulet differs from a talisman from a magical or hermetic perspective. It is important to mention that there are a vast number of wonderful academic works on amulets and talismans. These academic works incisively study how amulets and talismans were and are manufactured, what needs and purposes would be met by making them, they identify differences and similarities of various amulets and talismans found across differing cultures and thousands of years. I will be paying little or no attention to any of these considerations even though these works are often very interesting and make for fascinating reading.

To identify the essential hermetic difference between an amulet and a talisman I will be drawing upon some historical material from my own country (UK). Personally I think that the same basic hermetic principals that are historically present in amulets and talismans of the British Isles are probably also present in talismans and amulets from other cultures and societies. My view is that fragments of the hermetic wisdom are to be found all over the world and these fragments would naturally be expressed in accordance with specific the culture and language of any part of the globe. So it is I think true that for talismans and amulets from other parts of the world the language and religious imagery may differ but the same basic hermetic principals may be found. It is only in the current day thanks to Franz Bardon writing his three books on Hermetics that we can now properly understand the correct manufacture and activation of amulets and talismans. The hermeticist who has progressed with Bardon’s training given in his 1st volume; Initiation into Hermetics and has completed step 9 can generate the electric and magnetic fluids to produce powerful amulets. Those at earlier steps may employ the universal light or a specific element (for an elemental talisman) and gain good effect. The proficient sphere magician who has progressed with Franz Bardon’s 2nd volume; The Practice Of Magical Evocation, has explored the 7 classical planets, they may make extremely powerful planetary talismans. A hermeticist who has not yet visited the planetary spheres and evoked genii from these can still produce reasonable effect from planetary talismans they construct and activate. Often amulets will have magical formulae inscribed on them and talismans will similarly have magic formulae written on them. The formula magician who has completed the work laid out by Franz Bardon in his 3rd volume; The Key To The True Quabbalah will already fully appreciate the essential difference between an amulet and a talisman. Naturally a formula magician by employing the creative word can activate amulets and talismans quickly and easily if they so choose.

Talisman’s and Amulets Shown in Francis Barrett’s The Magus

The Magus was first published for one pound and seventeen shillings in July 1801. Francis Barrett derived a lot of material for The Magus from various documents and manuscripts now to be found in the British library. It must be assumed that Barrett had access to the collection of books donated by King George II, Sir Hans Sloane, Sir Robert Cotton et al, these collections comprised part of what was the Old Royal Library. These manuscripts, documents and grimoires are I think now to be found in the British Library on Euston road London…unless those specific manuscripts have been moved to the Boston Spa branch of the British Library in Wetherby, West Yorkshire. Facsimile copies of Barrett’s The Magus are generally available, whether or not the source manuscripts are available on-line from The British Library I haven’t checked because I was schooled at the local comprehensive and do not have Latin, Greek or Hebrew so no purpose would be served in me searching for these original manuscripts. I take Barrett’s work on trust. Personally I feel grateful to both scholars and scholarly magicians who have painstakingly translated, organised, interpreted and then published; important magical works over the centuries.

Virtually all of the information on planetary talisman’s and the kabbalah of 9 chambers provided by The Hermetic Order of The Golden Dawn is to be found In Barrett’s The Magus. In terms of Amulets Barrett briefly discusses the importance of sacred/magical speech and the true virtue of the blood of Christ for curative amulets(Natural Magic Chapter 3).

More Recent Approaches to Amulets and Talisman’s

Perhaps one of the earliest modern paperback introductions to ritual magic was The Techniques of High Magic by Francis King and Stephen Skinner first published in 1976. Franz Bardon’s Initiation Into Hermetics is found in the bibliography and a basic Franz Bardon style hermetic technique is given as one option for consecrating or activating an amulet or talisman in the chapter; How To Make Talismans for Yourself.

The reason I consider Techniques of High Magic notable is that it an excellent introduction to ritual magic and the first high quality example of these kinds of intro to magic type publications. Also it makes a clear distinction with respect to magical principals and techniques between amulets and talismans.

“….In fact the talisman works rather like a storage battery. It also has the benefit of being self-re-charging if the consecration has been carried out correctly….”

..Amulets on the other hand have been defined as having ‘the more negative function of neutralizing certain causes before they can promote an undesired effect’ and are more like a ‘safety precaution’ than an active battery.”

Pp79 3rd & 4th paragraph Techniques of High Magic A Manual of Self-Initiation by Francis King and Stephen Skinner First printed 1976 ISBN 1 901571 009

The Hermetic Approach

Looking at the techniques outlined in Franz Bardon’s Initiation into Hermetics The loading of any object and establishing a permanent tension such that this effect will continually draw further energy to the object. The universal light, the elements, the electric and magnetic fluids can all be utilized to bring this about. The effect could be to promote specific events or prevent an unwanted thing from happening. The hermetic techniques to achieve either are the same so there is no real distinction between talisman’s and amulets from a Franz Bardon Initiation into Hermetics perspective. Bardon does not comment in any of his books on any of the planetary kamea or magic squares & sigils that Francis Barrett obtained from various Hebrew, Greek, Latin manuscripts and grimoires and then published in The Magus. There is only a brief mention in Bardons 2nd book The Practice of Magical Evocation where Bardon identifies various lesser beings of the Saturn Sphere whom he identifies as only having subordinated ranges of competence. Bardon does not give the general sigils for the 49 Saturnian genii (Rah Omir Quintscher did publish these however). Bardon suggests that to obtain any of the sigils of the primary genii of the Saturn sphere these lesser Saturnian beings may be contacted and they will provide any of the Sigils of the 49 primary genii of Saturn to the sphere magician. It is the planetary seals and magic squares for each planet which Barrett compiled that are important for producing powerful planetary talismans. What these planetary kamea and magic squares embody and how the hermeticist may utilise them is what differentiates a general amulet from a planetary talisman.

Magic Squares

Looking online there are several good examples of magic squares for the 7 classical planets various interesting websites. I must admit at the time of writing I haven’t had time to read all of the material I find online, just thought this was a really good image. All of this kind of stuff can be found in Barrett’s The Magus but if you cannot obtain a copy there are numerous online sources with the essential information. Is is one such example.

Magical squares and planetary sigils | Pagans & Witches Amino (aminoapps.com)

Magic squares are distinctive in that if you total up the numbers of any horizontal, vertical or full length diagonal line, these numbers total up to the same amount. These various squares are ascribed to particular planets for example the square of Saturn is a 3X3 square and in magic, Saturn generally has the number 3 ascribed to it. Similarly the magic square for the moon is a 9X9 square and the number 9 is usually attributed to Luna. The size of each magic square is directly matched to the magical ‘number’ for each planet.

Before I continue to outline the hermetic application of magic squares for planetary talismans I invite you to have a look at how specific frequencies of sound can form patterns in a medium of loose fine solid particles (e.g. sand).

Sand and sound waves: How certain frequencies can vibrate sand into intricate patterns [VIDEO]. (slate.com)

Sometimes video quick links disappear….. A simple search for example YouTube: ‘sound in sand’ should get plenty of interesting hits. In my view if I either look in Barrett’s The Magus or online at images when I type in a search e.g.; ‘Francis Barrett’s planetary kamea’. I think I see very similar patterns to those shown in various sand and sound waves experiments. The resonance patterns shown by the sand in these experiments seem to me to have some similarity to the planetary kamea Barrett researched from private manuscript collections and then published in The Magus 1801. These kamea glyphs are mathematically derived from the planetary magic squares and Barrett tabulates these together.

In electronics the cathode ray oscilloscope is a commonly used piece of equipment though perhaps most people see its adaptation as a heartbeat monitor in television medical drama’s. Using the same frequencies that were employed in the sand in sound experiments a pattern will form in the cathode ray oscilloscope, this is sometimes called a standing wave. This standing waveform can be mapped onto the pattern from the sound in sand experiment, if you crouch down and look at the edge of the plate on which the sand particles are forming a pattern; the ridges made by the sand granules will match the peaks of the standing wave shown in the oscilloscope. The troughs in the standing wave shown in the cathode ray oscilloscope will be areas empty of sand in the pattern on the plate. So if you were to take a frozen slice of the pattern the sand makes, put it on its side, it would match with the standing waveform shown in the cathode ray oscilloscope for the same frequency of sound.

Here is a fairly technical outline.

Sound as a Standing Wave – IB Physics (youtube.com)

Obviously Physicists are concerned with measurable empirical phenomena, the notion of subtle immaterial realms is generally dismissed by them. As a hermeticist my view is that there are also standing waves in these subtle immaterial realms.

All this is to say that sound forms patterns, the magic squares found in Francis Barrett’s The Magus can be expressed as patterns of sound. The distinctive occult energy of a planet is mathematically expressed by these magic squares.

To re-iterate. We hear a sound and thanks to modern day equipment and experiments we see it also has form though normally invisible to our eyes. When different sounds occur at the same time they can also form a pattern, these can be observed as resonant, standing waveforms of sound. I hope I have shown that the magic squares found in Barrett’s The Magus can be expressed as standing waveforms of sound. From a hermetic point of view each of these standing waves is an expression of planetary energy. The standing wave of sound that can be generated from the magic square for each planet is literally the music of the spheres. In my view the expression of planetary energy provided by one of these magic squares is an occult ‘standing wave’ that exists in the subtle realms as well as the physical. These standing waves of planetary energy that exist in the subtle realms as well as the physical world existed before there were human beings and should we in our folly destroy ourselves they would still exist. So then….these magic squares provide the hermeticist with a ready point of access to planetary energies. They are so effective that even people Franz Bardon would have referred to as sorcerers, folks who have not done any hermetic training, can make use of these various magic squares, kamea, sigils etc and obtain good effect.

The Kabbalah Of Nine Chambers (Aiq Beker)

This is a method of numerical reduction which can be readily adapted to other alphabets, you simply match the corresponding letters. For example the Hebrew letter Aleph is the English letter A. Each letter has a numerical value and you reduce until it can match a number on one of the magic squares. So for the square of Saturn you reduce until the number value for each letter is single digit because the Saturn square is only 3 X 3. Larger squares for other planets you don’t need to reduce down so much. What you are doing is expressing a thing in terms of a planetary energy. So for example my first name Philip can be spelt out on various planetary squares and will give a different shape or sigil for each planet. The late Israel Regardie wrote an excellent book; How To Make And Use Talismans which gives more detail on various methods of generating sigils and applying them to talismanic magic.

There are various examples online showing how the kabbalah of 9 chambers can be used to trace out sigils from words or names on magic squares.

For example the search internet browser search for Barrett Magic Squares got me this:

Magic Squares – Carolina Conjure

It seems to me that Carolina Conjure (whomever they may be) fully understands the method of how to generate sigils from planetary magic squares and how the specific planet selected informs the kind of magical results the talisman may provide. Also despite the fact that none of the hermetic techniques Bardon provides are mentioned in Carolina Conjure’s website the method given for producing talismans would still have some effect in my personal view. However when we also implement the methods and techniques given to us by Franz Bardon the effectiveness of a talisman is greatly amplified.

For both amulets and talismans even the basic early exercises with the universal light that Bardon gives in Initiation Into Hermetics can be readily applied to these for good effect. The planetary talismans may be of especial interest because Bardon’s first volume Initiation into Hermetics focuses mainly on the elements and the underlying principals of these. Also those sphere magicians who have made good progress with Bardon’s 2nd volume The Practice Of Magical Evocation will quickly appreciate the usefulness of these long established planetary squares. Outside of talismanic magic if the sphere magician plans to load the triangle with elemental energy prior to visible appearance of a genii the appropriate planetary magical square placed in the triangle; I have does facilitate and improve the concentration of that particular planetary vibration which then serves to improve the evocation.

For planetary talismans at least the use of these magic squares in various ways is what differentiates a talisman from an amulet. I suppose the question might be if a 3d jewellery item has sigils derived from a planetary magic square inscribed on it, is it a talisman and also an amulet?

Gematria and legality applied to the magic squares

Talismans often include a statement or phrase directly relevant to the intended effect, this statement of phrase is often derived from a religious text. For example a Mars talisman to strike fear in those that might wish a person harm could have the biblical phrase: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that he shall also reap” (Galatians VQ KJV)

Using such phrases expresses the notion of a precedent or ‘legality’. Because the Divine has made this assertion in the past we may make it now as part of our talisman. There is Divine precedent in what we do.

Using number values for letters this sentence can be reduced down into a simple sigil and in this case it would be inscribed on the planetary square of Mars.

The Mars planetary square is 5X5 and the highest number on it is 25 so using the 9 chambers method again we must find a way to reduce the total value of each word to 25 or less. For brevity I will just do this some of the words.

Whatsoever = 6+5+1+9+60+70+(0)+6+(0)+200= 357

The magic square of Mars only goes as high as 25 so we total the numbers again.


So we will start our sigil at the number 15 on the mars planetary square. The next word in the phrase is:

a = 1

so now we trace a line from the 15 to the 1.

man=600+1+50=651 …again too large

6+5+1= 12

So now the line starts at 15 goes to 1 then to 12…..and so on until all the words have been plotted on the magic square of mars. In this way we have expressed a biblical phrase at the energy level of mars by using the planetary square of mars and kabbalah of 9 chambers on the biblical phrase. Obviously the sacred phrase must have relevance to the planet attributions and the talismans purpose. Personally I find this approach is aesthetic and reduces clutter on talismans.

Instead of paper a talisman may be inscribed on flat disc of the appropriate planetary metal and the various sigils etched…if you drill a small hole and thread through a necklace chain of the same metal or simply use gold and then wear the talisman …..is it now an amulet?


Hopefully I have given sufficient pointers for hermeticists unfamiliar with talismans and magic squares found in the Western Magical Tradition to easily adopt personal preferred methods and produce powerful and effective amulets and talismans. The hermeticist now readily appreciates the basic principles underpinning planetary magic squares and how a planetary talisman differs from a general amulet only in terms of hermetic technique. Furthermore even students of Franz Bardon in the early stages of training may make practical use of the painstaking research of Francis Barrett who was probably born 1770-1780 and died around after 1802 actual year unknown. Whilst the historical details of Barrett’s life are patchy the legacy of his painstaking magical research continues to benefit us.

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