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Last update 4/16/2010
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Nowadays, thanks to the wonders of modern science, it’s fun and easy to make magical implements in the comfort of your own home, with common, everyday items, and tools you probably already have lying about the house.
For the purpose of this demonstration, I will be making an amulet from The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage (15th Century), Book Three, chapter 9, which deals with transformations. According to Abramelin, this particular amulet will transform a man into a wild boar. My wife thinks this should be fairly simple because, she says, “Men are three quarters pig anyway. Mostly.” (I love the way she added in “mostly” at the end. It was kindda cute…)
Warning! According to occult lore, those who follow the teaching of Abramelin tend to come to a bad end. I think people are just being overly critical, but I thought I should mention it.
A. A piece of copper, or copper alloy to etch. This technique only works with copper or copper alloys. It will not work on silver, gold, iron, steel, tin, aluminum, cheese, or cats. It will work on brass, bronze, the imitation golds (nu-gold, Merlin’s gold, etc.), imitation silver (German silver, nickel silver), and, of course, plain old copper. You’ll also need a piece of scrap copper or copper alloy of roughly the same size.
You can get metal stock from many different sources. Here are two I've dealt with:
http://www.onlinemetals.com/ - On Line Metals isn't the cheapest source, but they do sell copper and brass in small quantities.
http://www.sfjssantafe.com/metalstoc.php?DepId=metals - Santa Fe Jewelry Suppies sells copper, brass, and other copper aloys. There is a minimum you have to buy, but these metals are inexpensive, so the cost isn't too bad.
For this demonstration, I will be using a little piece of brass, mostly because I have a juvenile sense of humor and get a chuckle out of typing “a little piece of brass.”
B. A box of plain salt. Don’t be fooled by imitations! Unless the box clearly states that nothing is added, something has been added. You don’t want iodine. You don’t want sea salt (it’s full of fish urine). You don’t want anti-caking agents (really, who doesn’t like cake?). Kosher salt is good, but canning/pickling salt is just as good, and cheaper, therefore, it is better (unless you plan to eat the amulet, in which case you may need it to be kosher). Check the label. It should say “Plain salt. Nothing added,” or something to that effect.
You can get his at the grocery store, in the baking and spice section.
C. Water. When The Seven Majestic Masters of the Secret Scarlet Flame taught me this technique while I was traveling through the orient, they instructed me to use only distilled water. However, so far I have used only plain tap water and never had a problem. If you use tap water and encounter weird results, it may be that The Seven Majestic etc. are displeased with your tap water, and you should try distilled water.
D. A D-cell battery.
E. Two pieces of copper wire. You can use electrical wire.
F. A glass or plastic container to use as an etching tank. A mason jar will work fine for small pieces.
G. Some tape to hold the wires on the battery. I used masking tape for the demonstration, but any tape will work. If you think you may want to do a lot of this, get a battery holder from Radio Shack (about $1) and some gator clips (another dollar) to make hooking everything up easier.
H. Duct tape to mask out the areas of the amulet you do not want to etch (like the back). If you decide to use etching ground (see I), you can just paint the ground on with a brush, although it is really much easier to use the tape.
I. A fine point, red, permanent marker (Sharpie). I’ve tried both black and red. Both work, but red is definitely better. I'm trying to keep the materials you need to a bare minimum - and permanent marker works OK, but it doesn't hold up for a long etching period (it will limit how deeply you can etch the metal). You can also use nail polish, cut shapes out of duct tape, or use a material designed specifically for etching called etching ground. Dick Blick sells this:
J. Misc. tools - tin snips to cut the metal to shape (a jeweler’s saw works better, if you have one), fine cut file (optional, but useful for smoothing the cut metal’s edges), assorted sandpaper (for smoothing the metal’s edges and for polishing the surface of the metal), steel wool (to clean and polish the metal. You can get away with fine sandpaper - 400 or 600 grit, but steel wool gives a finer finish), a drill and small drill bit, and needle nose pliers.