In traditional treatises of talismanic magic, the concept of creating an “image” is ubiquitous. Here’s an example from Agrippa.
From the operations of Mars they made an Image in the hour of Mars, Mars being in the second face of Aries, in a Martial stone, especially in a Diamond; The form of which was a man armed, riding upon a Lyon, having in his right hand a naked sword erected, carrying in his left hand the head of a man; they report, that an Image of this kind rendreth a man powerfull in good and evill, so that he shall be feared of all; and whosoever carryeth it they give him the power of enchantment, so that he shall terrifie men by his looks when he is angry, and stupifie them;
–“Of the Images of the Planets”. In: Cornelius Agrippa, Three Books of Occult Philosophy
But what does it mean to “make an image“? As most things in occult literature, there are multiple layers of meaning to unravel. The most simple meaning is drawing or painting an image on paper, which is probably also the most literal interpretation. It is also reinforced by instructions to bury such images in special places, to join them facing each other and to carry them around.
As a magician progresses in exploring the natural laws, however, another meaning becomes apparent.
Let’s take a step back and look at the fundamentals of magic.
Magic effects changes in the outer and inner worlds by changes in the state of consciousness of the magician. What a practitioner of the Art thinks and feels lies at the root of all magic. From the void state of Akasha, the fiery will creates airy thoughts on the mental plane, in turn giving birth to watery emotions on the astral plane, culminating in creation on the physical plane of Earth. You *are* before you intend. You intend, before you think. You think, before you feel. Finally, strong emotions cause you to take tangible action, moving your limbs and those of others for example.
Now, if we take this into consideration, talismanic magic becomes just another vehicle to support our change in consciousness. At the time of creation of a talisman, we focus our consciousness on a motive and then funnel it into whatever talismanic vessel we chose, e.g. a paper talisman, a precious stone or some other material piece that can be worn, carried or looked at. This process loads the vessel with our intent.
Coming back to the original question, what does it truly mean to “make an image in the likeness of…” on that level? Here can be found the true gold nuggets in this ancient literature, gleaming and glittering in the darkness where only the light of wisdom will illuminate them. Because the images described are highly suitable for evoking a certain state of consciousness. They are astra-mental molds that help you form and focus your consciousness before loading your talisman. They work in harmony with the surrounding system, which is usually an astrological system based on planets and signs. Images are given for planets as well as for the 36 Decans of the Zodiac.
Using the example given above, we would, after our initial preparations, visualize the man as described in our mind’s eye, i.e. a strong and fierce man riding on a lion’s back, with a sword in the right hand and a severed head in the other. Then we would conjure emotions of watching and, even stronger, being that man. Just imagine how people would treat you if you would go riding around on a lion, shamelessly displaying the head of a slain enemy, and brandishing a sword to show that you’re willing to do more of such violent work. Sufficiently anchored in your consciousness, properly fashioned and “carried”, that image will provide without fail the effects described, that is, producing awe in others and gaining their respect.
It takes practice to create talismans using this technique, but the results will be well worth it.
Oh, and the literal images or drawings? They can still be very helpful in the visualization (and preparatory meditations), and of course also as talismanic vessels themselves.