Tag Archives: Hermes

The Square of Mercury, Distilled

I haven’t worked much with the Square of Mercury (bad witch … no cookie).  But the other day I got het up about using the Square as a possible vehicle for a deeper contact with Hermes, upon whom I call before any form of divination.  I suspect Hermes and Mercury may be the same god known by two different names (something I don’t assume is the case, when looking at gods of similar attributes from different cultures).

Before I launch into talking about it, I guess I’d better explain that the Square of Mercury looks like this:



A square of 8 lines of 8, with each row (vertical, horizontal and diagonal) adding up to 260.  Agrippa wrote about it in the second of his three volunes, Of Occult Philosophy.   One of the many popular ways to use the Square is to ritually prepare one as a magical tool, and before any work requiring Mercury’s aid, let your eyes rest on each of the numbers in sequential order from 1 to 64.

Inspiration struck, and I thought I’d chalk out a Square of Mercury on the pavement at a crossroads and and try walking the numbers.  (Which would make a great public altar, but that’s a post for another time …)

Sounds mighty powerful, right?

Unfortunately, in practice it’s quite cumbersome.  Standing in the Square of Mercury, time dragged as I tried to locate the next number, and then the next, craning my head and turning about at each attempt.  So I stepped off of the Square, and tried walking the pattern on the unmarked pavement, using the Square in front of me as a guide.  That was better, but still pretty awkward.

Then I had a notion — perhaps I could distill a pattern from the movements, and turn it into a dance.  Back home and armed with pen, paper and a Square of Mercury, I began to unravel the sequence.

I was both surprised and delighted by what I found.

The same figure — perhaps a sigil? — repeats 8 times in the Square of 8 — four times in what I think of as an upright position, and four times facing downwards.  Superimposed over the figures in the course of their being made are three crosses, each formed differently.

I won’t include the shape of the figure here, in case some of you would rather not see the sigil hidden within the Square.  If any of you would like to see it sketched out, email me, and I’ll send it to you.

The crosses intrigue me.  I keep bumping up against the practice of signing three crosses over something to magically seal it.  It always felt like a Christian overlay to me, but I see now how the practice may be much older.

The crosses in the Square of Mercury are formed like this:




The picture includes the numbers used in making the crosses, so you can see that two of the horizontal lines are at slight angles —

For the first cross — up to down, then right to left.
For the second cross — down to up, then left to right.
For the third cross — down to up, then right to left


Knowing that they may have pagan roots, my snobbish self will use the crossings more often.  Especially when calling upon Hermes before reading the cards:

Hermes, Lord of the Crossroads,
In Thy Name I take up these cards.
From a word to a word, let me be led to a word.
From a sign to another sign.*



*Adapted by a friend of mine from Paul Huson’s divination rhyme in Mastering Witchcraft.


©Trothwy 2011
Creative Commons License
Sigil of Mercury by Trothwy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.  
Based on a work at https://usedkey.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/the-square-of-mercury-distilled/.


Filed under Crooks and Straights, To divine with cards

How do you know?

I was playing around on Etymonline this morning, and ran across something interesting.

While English uses a single word for the concept “know,” many languages use two or more verbs to cover the same concept.  So when you say “I know” in French or German or Latin, the word you choose says something about *how* you know what you know.

For instance, Old English had two words:  witan (to know something because you’ve seen it, or have personal experience of it), and cnawan (to have a
perception or understanding of something).

In Latin, the words are cognoscere (to become acquainted with) and scire (to know, to see).

All this because I wanted to share with you a simple but powerful divinatory technique I’ve seen my dear friend the amazing Mrs. Drinkwalter uses on occasion.  I’m not sure whether she thought it up herself, or got it from someone else.  Quite possibly lots of folks have thought it up on their own; it’s just the sort of thing that makes you thump your head and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”   Mrs. Drinkwalter works it with runes, but really you could use anything.  Possibly even partially-sucked jello shots …  it’s just that good.

It’s based on the principles “To know, to dare, to will, and to keep silent,” which Eliphas Lévi writes of in The Key of the Mysteries:  “To undertake, one must know; to accomplish, one must will; to will really, one must dare; and in order to gather in peace the fruits of one’s audacity, one must keep silent.”

I use cards (no surprise) or a home-made set of weirden for this spread.   If it’s cards, I shuffle them, and as I separate them into halves, but before I bridge them, I tap each half of the deck, one on top of the other, right side onto the left, and left side onto the right, to form a crossroads.  As I do this,  I say Evn’s adaptation of a piece out of Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft:

Hermes, Lord of the Crossroads
In Thy Name, I take up the Cards.
From a word to a word, let me be led to a word.
From a sign to another sign.

Then I fan the cards out and pick four — one for each of To Know, To Dare, To Will and To Keep Silent.  Here’s how I interpret them:

To Know:  an important aspect; sometimes one that’s hidden from me, and sometimes an aspect that I’m not giving enough attention to.

To Dare: something that I need to do in a mundane, roll-up-my-sleeves kind of way.

To Will:  something that I need to act upon magically.

To Keep Silent:  something that I need to avoid doing.

This is my preferred method of divination before any magical working, because it’s quick and thorough.  Just the thing!


Filed under To divine with cards

To Hermes

Clever Hermes, Son of Maia,
Quick as silver and as fair.
To You the crafting of these words.
To You the spill of coins found
   and the turn of my cards.


Come to me, O Light of Foot
   and Sharp of Wit.
Give me joyful passion to create.
Give me bright wit and deep wisdom.
   and strong communion with my gods.


©2009 Trothwy

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Filed under To the Old Ones