Golden Dawn Zodiacal Attribute: Taurus (Cadent Decan)
Solomonic Rank: Duke
Planetary Ruler by Rank: Venus
Planetary Ruler by Decan: Saturn
Tarot Card: 7 of Pentacles
Holy Days: May 10 – 20
Traditional Appearance: A lion with the head of an ass
Traditional Powers & Authorities: Is “a good familiar”; “tempteth men to steal”
Valefor is one of the few Goetic Demons whose Natures generally align with Their classical planetary associations. He is, of course, a Duke—according to the planetary rulership of this rank, this dictates that His allocation is to the influence of the planet, Venus. In addition to this association, He is also assigned to the third Decan of Taurus, the fixed earth sign also under the rulership of Venus. Because of His Venusian Nature, it is little wonder that Valefor is spoken of as being “a good familiar” and quite amiable, even amongst many Ceremonial Magicians. Most of the time, when Demons are spoken of as being or giving familiars, what is being said is one of two things. Firstly the familiar in question may be an actual spiritual entity or assistant, not unlike the old “Witch’s familiar”—in some cases, as in Valefor’s and many of the other Goetia, the Demon Itself will often assist the practitioner in his or her magickal endeavours and thus serve as a familiar. Alternatively It may have at its disposal or in Its service subservient spirits which It may lend or give to the practitioner as a gift, repayment or token of trust. Secondly the familiar, in the case of the Goetia, may allude to favours or magickal alliances with other entities. Whatever the case may be, Valefor’s is a reputation of good standing.
Like so many of the Goetia, Valefor’s Magickal Image is perplexing and seemingly random—here we have the depiction of a very unlikely combination of animals, the lion and the ass. In some texts, this image is found to vary slightly and the head of the ass is replaced by the head of a human—namely, a thief. Of course, the connection between the head of a thief and Valefor’s inclination towards thievery is obvious. I have included both depictions of the head of the Magickal Image for the sake of completeness.
The strange melding of creatures in Valefor’s depictions quite readily bring to mind several fantastic beasts from mythology such as the griffin, chimera, the Lion-Man aspect of Vishnu, the manticore, the Middle-Eastern urmahlullu and, of course, the Sphinx. The Sphinx, though such a charming image, was historically regarded as being representative of violence, destruction, death and initiation. In many ways, Valefor’s lessons are ultimately bound to the concept of initiation as we will discuss. The significance in the image of the thief’s head seated upon the lion’s body suggests a tendency towards presenting oneself as the epitome of strength, but retaining the human propensity for taking the path of least resistance. Thievery, in and of itself, is a desperate, habitual or sometimes compulsive act, symbolising the reluctance or inability to attain things through hard work or inconvenience. However, the symbolism of the lion and the ass are, separately, indicative themselves of His Nature.
The proud male lion, with his long flowing mane and regal swagger, is an awesome image and one which dominates most of our collective imagination when we think of the King of Beasts. However, the females of the lion pride are truly the breadwinners—they are the huntresses, protectors and strength of lion society. As a symbol of strength, the imagery of Valefor’s lion-like body suggests a focus on the physical—the body is our source of sustenance and survival. Without bodily strength, we would be unable to provide for ourselves and for our families.
As a Demon aligned with the Zodiac sign of Taurus, this attribution of strength in the context of the earthly body to Valefor’s Nature and lessons is quite valid. In the image of Taurus, we have the bull—stubborn and incredibly strong in both will and body, connected to the Earth through its biological need to consume rooted flora and through its employment, by Man, as the force behind the plough and an instrument of the harvest. Both the lion and the bull symbolise physical might, but the lion balances its might with its capacity as a parent and guardian. As tempting as it may be to equate the entirety of lion symbolism with the Magickal Image of Valefor, we must remember that only His body is manifested in this likeness. This simply reinforces the understanding that one of Valefor’s lessons ascertains that one’s body is one’s temple, but that physical strength is only part of the equation.
Like the bull, the ass conjures in the imagination a stubborn yet loyal beast; and, like the lion, the ass is also a courageous and resourceful protector. This Taurean imagery seems a fitting representation of Valefor’s lessons in the value of tenacity, good health, the importance of one’s family and in taking things slowly. However, with these Taurean virtues also come the traditional Taurean vices and Valefor’s lessons also speak to us of the dangers in sloth, tunnel vision and too much work as well as of the need for discretion. Because His Magickal Image is the body of a lion with the head of an ass, Valefor may be regarded as being illustrative of the need for us to be aware of the impressions we make upon those around us. The ass is a creature renowned for its loud and often obnoxious bellowing—the head of the ass all too well embodies the stereotypical “loud mouth” and those people whose crudeness undermines their ability to effectively communicate. Valefor inspires us to turn away from the overcompensation of posturing and histrionics—instead we are urged to turn our dialogues inward and bolster our confidence through recognising the strengths and talents which we possess.
According to the system of the Golden Dawn, Valefor is aligned not only with Taurus and its ruling planet of Venus, but also with Saturn—the planet most closely associated with the Archetypal imagery of death and destruction, returning us to the association of His Magickal Image with that of the Sphinx. In Greek mythology, the Theban Sphinx guarded the road which led into the city of Thebes. There, she posited a riddle to passers-by, killing those who did not solve it correctly. The Sphinx’s riddle continued to cost the lives of many until she encountered Oedipus who correctly solved the riddle, ending her reign of terror. In this depiction of the Sphinx, we are encountered with what may be considered the Dark Mother—the consuming destroyer who is capable of both great love and great cruelty. Like the lioness which devours her young, Valefor’s tutelage is caring and strong, but His guidance demands sacrifice. As a Demon of temptation, one of His lessons, like that of the Sphinx, encompasses the idea of initiation through tests, trials and temptations.
Because of the influence of Saturn, Valefor lulls us into a false sense of security. He is very much aware of His reputation as an all-around “nice guy”—what must always be kept in mind is that He is the Tempter, presenting us with situations in which we may be inclined to do the wrong thing. When we face such challenges, we are often vividly aware of the fact that what we are tempted to do is wrong—because of this, most of us feel a sense of pride when we find the strength to resist. Valefor insists that we push ourselves to the limits—discovering just how far we are willing to go and what it is that we would or would not be willing to do for the sake of personal pleasure. Through experimentation and allowing ourselves the freedom to explore our darkest fantasies, we have the opportunity to not only discover new ways in which to enjoy our existences, but to recognise and address any flaws or corruptions within ourselves. Once we have acknowledged and dispersed the skeletons in our closets, we have reached the point of initiation—growing through the resolution and subsequent death of unneeded defences, boundaries and internal conflict. Thus Valefor’s wisdom is that of being responsible for our own happiness or unhappiness in life.
Valefor’s wisdom is also embodied by the Tarot Card, the 7 of Pentacles. This card speaks to us of learning from our mistakes—another indication of Valefor’s affinity with lessons learned through struggle and toil. In relationship to the 7 of Pentacles, Valefor’s suggestion that we eliminate those unhealthy traits which repeatedly hinder us time and time again is also alluded to in the card’s own lessons surrounding the culling of dead weight and obstacles. Valefor is also connected to the Qabbalistic Sephirah of Netzach, the Sphere of Victory—itself aligned with Venus, again insinuating that Valefor’s Nature is quite heavily influenced by this planet. Thus, through His guidance, we are asked to recognise within ourselves a being worthy of unconditional love and to acknowledge that we are the masters of our own vessels. We are encouraged not to run from those things within ourselves which we fear the most, but to seek them out—to test ourselves and to force their hands, to render them powerless to hold sway over our lives. By destroying that which binds us, we may cultivate that which inspires us.
Valefor’s Lessons – Summary
- Companionship. Trust. Camaraderie. Unconditional love. Favours. Lending a helping hand.
- Theft. The path of least resistance. Dishonesty. Stubbornness.
- Personas and facades. Bravado, bullying and posturing. Crudeness. Overcompensation for perceived shortcomings. Histrionics and melodrama.
- Temptation. The taboo. Secret desires. Lust and sex.
- Challenging ourselves. Pushing things to the limit. Challenging boundaries and pre-conceived notions. Taking responsibility.
- Introspection. Self-love and admiration. Inner and physical strength.
- Initiation, especially through hardship. Tests. The mysteries. Reaping the fruits of our labour. Moving up to the next level. Destruction of bad habits and old ways of thinking.
- Feminine strength and leadership. Coming full circle. Protection and leadership. Courage. Physical health.
- Laziness. Tunnel vision. Narrow-mindedness. Set in our ways. Misdirected efforts. Disappointment.
- Overworking ourselves. Need for relaxation. Taking things slowly.
Prompts for Exploration
1. What are your expectations of others where issues of trust are concerned? What does it take for you to give someone your absolute trust? Likewise, do you consider yourself to be trustworthy? Why or why not?
2. Have you ever stolen anything? How did it make you feel and would you ever consider doing it again? Why?
3. Do you have any “nervous habits”—things you do to conceal the fact that you feel nervous or inadequate? What is it about certain situations that makes you nervous in the first place?
4. In your own personal code of ethics, what do you consider to be strictly taboo? How could you challenge yourself to explore this forbidden concept?
5. What was the most difficult challenge you have ever faced? How did you get through it?
6. What kinds of initiations have you participated in? Have you ever completed a task or phase of your life and came out of it a different person? Are you experiencing this presently?
7. Have you ever been disappointed that something did not work out only to later realise that it may not have been in your best interest? How do you deal with disappointments and setbacks?
Meditation – The Sphinx’s Mystery
In a quiet room, focus on the seal of Valefor. Allow your eyes to wander over its curves and delicate spheres—holding it in your hand, close your eyes and bring yourself into meditative consciousness. Visualise yourself standing at one end of a magnificent temple, its ornately embellished dome roof supported by immense stone pillars. Before you stretches a long black carpet, on either side stand robed figures, their faces concealed beneath their hoods. Suddenly you become aware that this is a religious ceremony and you are the guest of honour. At the other end of the temple, upon a large marble pedestal, sits a Sphinx—with a gesture of its graceful paw it beckons you to come forward. Taking a deep breath you slowly begin to walk across the floor, feeling the cool velvety fabric of the carpet beneath your bare feet.
As you draw nearer to the Sphinx, you can see that there is a large altar table arranged before Him. Upon it there are arranged a number of religious items—a silver chalice, black candles, a ritual blade and a large black box. Finally, you arrive before the Sphinx as He looks down at you with large golden eyes. Glancing down at the altar, you wish to look into the box, but cannot as it is too deep and dark inside. The Sphinx tells you that you have passed many tests and asks you if you are ready to move forward to the next level in your training. You think of all of your accomplishments to date—replaying episodes in your mind when you performed at your best, did everything right and received praise and commendations for your efforts. You are suddenly grasped by the feelings of elation and self-satisfaction which come from such victories and you confidently tell the Sphinx that you are ready.
He tells you that in order for you to move forward, you must complete two further tasks. He begins by explaining to you the first task. In the box, He informs you, are the cherished belongings of people with whom you are very close. The first test requires that you close your eyes and reach into the box, taking one item and keeping it for yourself. However, these people have no idea that their prized possessions are missing and you will have no way of knowing from whom they have been stolen until you have the item in your hand—at that point, it will be too late to give it back to them. You have the choice of either taking nothing, ensuring that your loved ones are returned their precious items, or taking one item, which can never be returned, and moving forward with the initiation.
You contemplate this for a long time, imagining the reactions and sadness of your loved one when they discover that their valuable belonging is gone forever. You also imagine the disappointment you will feel at never knowing what path you may have taken if you had gone forward with the initiation. Finally, you decide to reach into the box—you pick up an item and open your eyes, realising immediately what it is and who it belongs to. Take a moment to experience the emotions and thoughts you have and how they make you feel as a person.
The Sphinx then asks you if you are ready to move on to the next task. You tell Him that you are and He climbs down from his pedestal. Looking deep into your eyes, He studies you for a moment and then climbs back onto his perch. He then tells you that He has looked into your thoughts and knows all of your secrets. He informs you that your second and final task is to choose one of your own fears or taboos to confront—in doing this, you will subject yourself to experiencing that fear through being directly exposed to it or to participate in an activity which you consider to be taboo. Knowing that you cannot lie as the Sphinx now knows what all of your fears and taboos are, you must decide if you will confront them and complete your initiation or if you will decline and return to your old life.
Take the remainder of the time to carefully consider your options. Imagine all of the things you fear, detest and condemn. Do not be afraid to allow yourself to fully experience any feelings or images associated with these fears. Ask yourself how you would feel if you had to confront these fears and taboos directly. Decide which things you would be willing to compromise on and which things you consider to be unnegotiable. Make your decision and tell the Sphinx. Let your subconscious take control and record any events, thoughts or feelings you may have in your journal or Grimoire.
1. Research the concept of “initiation”—visit your local library or use the Internet and learn as much as you can about different forms of initiation either religious or symbolic. Find an initiation in your area open to the public and attend. This could be anything from a baptism to a groundbreaking ceremony. Imagine what the people involved in the ceremony are feeling as events unfold by visualising yourself in their place. As an observer, as well, be aware of any feelings you have or any thoughts which come to mind. Record your experience in your journal or Grimoire.
2. Imagine a scenario in which you are, for whatever reason, unable to speak at length about anything and that your body and face must be completely covered wherever you go. Try to think of ways in which you could adequately communicate with people whom you encounter with such restrictions. How would you appear to them? How could you express your talents or charms? Think about the way in which you presently communicate with people and what would happen if you were somehow robbed of your everyday means of self-expression.
What, for instance, would your life be like if you lost your voice? How would you interact with people if you were unable to move any part of your body from the neck down? Write down your thoughts on this issue and contemplate the function of facades. Think about which behaviours, styles of communication and social characteristics which you may rely too heavily upon or with which you overcompensate for a possible lack of self-esteem. Record your thoughts in your journal or Grimoire and entertain the thought of going for an entire day without speaking, using only your facial expressions or actions to communicate your feelings and intentions.