I think it’s been too long since I mentioned everyone’s favorite ancient grimoire, the Greek Magical Papyri, isn’t it? Yes, it has been too long, especially when there are some real gems in there (and in the related Demotic Magical Papyri) that can help us out to this day, especially since I was reminded not too long ago of one particular selection from the PGM that can help us out in our mathesis work.
Although the majority of the well-preserved PGM spells are at the beginning of the collection, some of the later ones are pretty awesome, even if they’re fragmented. PGM CI.1-53 contains a full binding ritual, a καταδεσμος or defixio, using the spirits of the dead to bring a woman in love to the magician. The magician in question threatened the gods of the world with upsetting the cosmic order and constrained the spirits to carry out his will, and in the process used a series of barbarous words of power to constrain the forces of the cosmos to do his bidding. That series of magical words is rather special, since we see almost nothing like it elsewhere: a list of 24 magical words, each starting with a different letter of the Greek alphabet.
|Letter||Word of Power|
With the exception of the words for Alpha and Omega, each word starts and ends with the same letter of the alphabet, and based on the structure of the words, it’d appear as if some of them were originally meant to be palindromes, words running the same in both directions. Regardless of whether the words are supposed to be palindromes, they pack some power, and can be seen in echoes across the PGM. Consider the words ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ, ΘΩΘΟΥΘΩΘ, and ΩΡΙΩΝ: the first is a well-known voces magicae meaning “cast off the nets” and can be used to dispel protections or wards; the second is a triple name of the Egyptian god Thoth, and the last is the hero from Greek mythology and one of the most well-known constellations in the sky.
Although these words can be used as magical names of the letters and, by extension, the world of correspondences to each letter (such that ΤΑΥΡΟΠΟΛΙΤ encompasses both the zodiacal world of Pisces as well as the divine realm of Poseidon, and more) and likely have many magical uses, the first one that came to my mind was in meditation and contemplation of these worlds. After all, it’s part of my daily mathesis ritual that I do a meditation on the letter of the day of the lunar month, so when I have the time during the day, I’ll spend a bit longer after doing my letter chants and enter into a more contemplative state of mind. In a way, this is basically scrying the letter, but it’s a little different from how I’ve done it in the past.
So, when I sit down to do my daily mathesis rituals, I start with some basic breathing exercises to calm down the mind and body; it helps that I usually do at least 15 minutes of awareness meditation before this, too, but you don’t strictly need that. Then I recite the Invocation of the Tetractys, and I do my Tetractyean meditation and visualization. Once I finish that, I’ll then begin what I call my letter chants, or (as I tentatively call it in Greek) γραμματωδαι (grammatōdai, sing. grammatōdē). I’m still settling into the pattern I want to use for them, but I’ve broken it into several styles based on what type of letter it is. Once I finish the grammatōdai, I’ll do some visualization to open up a doorway into the world of the letter using the mystical word associated with it, and see what comes out of that.
First, let’s split up the 24 Greek letters into four groups: vowels, stop consonants, continuing consonants, and complex consonants.
- The seven vowels (letters that produce a clear vocal sound) are pretty straightforward: Α, Ε, Η, Ι, Ο, Υ, Ω
- Stop consonants are those which are produced from one action in the mouth and stop the airflow completely: Β, Γ, Δ, Κ, Π, Τ
- Continuing consonants are those which are produced from one action in the mouth but can be vocally continued: Ζ, Λ, Μ, Ν, Ρ
- Complex consonants are those which are produced from two actions in the mouth: Θ, Ξ, Φ, Χ, Ψ
The first part of the meditation is to intone the name of the letter. I’ll slowly and powerfully say the name of the letter (alpha, beta, etc.) at least once and no more than nine times, depending on the pythmenic value of the letter, but once usually suffices. While doing this, I’ll picture the written form of the letter clearly in my mind. I repeat this step until I get the “feel” and image of the letter solidly situated in my mind and body.
After this, I’ll start repeating the “simple” sound of the letter repeatedly at a quick pace. For consonants, this just involves making the sound over and over again. Thus, for Beta, I’ll go “buh buh buh buh buh buh buh”, for Kappa “kh kh kh kh kh kh kh kh”, for Theta “th th th th th th th”, and so forth. Vowels are a little different, where instead of just intoning the vowel constantly I’ll separate out “repetitions” of the vowel with aspirations. Thus, for Alpha, I’ll go “a ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha”, and so forth. I’ll continue this for four or so full breaths, completely exhausting my lungs with each series of repetitions while maintaining my focus on the sound of the letter and the feeling it makes within me, making a note of any observation that arises from doing so.
This is followed by another set of repetitions, but much slower than the first. Thus, for consonants, instead of going “buh buh buh buh buh” in a single breath, I’ll go “buhhhhhhh” and exhale completely, repeating again with a new breath. For vowels, I’ll simply intone the vowel until my lungs are emptied, e.g. “ahhhhhhhhhh”. I try to do at least four times as many slow repetition breaths as I do the fast repetition breaths, this time letting myself get completely absorbed in the simple sounds themselves.
The next step depends on whether I’m meditating on a consonant or a vowel, but the point here is to begin to vocalize the letter with vowels:
- For consonants, I’ll take the consonant and go through each of the seven vowels, mixing each with the letter in different ways. Using the notation where C indicates the consonant and V indicates the vowel, I’ll intone the CV, VC, VCV, and CVC combinations with the consonant and every vowel, starting first with Alpha through Omega and then starting again with Omega and going through Alpha. So, with Beta, I’ll intone: ΒΑ ΒΕ ΒΗ ΒΙ ΒΟ ΒΥ ΒΩ, ΒΩ ΒΥ ΒΟ ΒΙ ΒΗ ΒΕ ΒΑ; ΑΒ ΕΒ ΗΒ ΙΒ ΟΒ ΥΒ ΩΒ, ΩΒ ΥΒ ΟΒ ΙΒ ΗΒ ΕΒ ΑΒ; ΑΒΑ ΕΒΕ ΗΒΗ ΙΒΙ ΟΒΟ ΥΒΥ ΩΒΩ, ΩΒΩ ΥΒΥ ΟΒΟ ΙΒΙ ΗΒΗ ΕΒΕ ΑΒΑ; ΒΑΒ ΒΕΒ ΒΗΒ ΒΙΒ ΒΟΒ ΒΥΒ ΒΩΒ, ΒΩΒ ΒΥΒ ΒΟΒ ΒΙΒ ΒΗΒ ΒΕΒ ΒΑΒ. Thus, for every consonant, there are 4 × 7 × 2 = 56 different words to intone.
- For vowels, I’ll intone different pairs of vowels, always focusing on the vowel of the day. In this case, using X for the vowel of the day and Y for the other vowel, I’ll go through all different combinations of XY, YX, XYX, YXY. Thus, for Alpha, I’ll intone: ΑΑ ΑΕ ΑΗ ΑΙ ΑΟ ΑΥ ΑΩ, ΑΩ ΑΥ ΑΟ ΑΙ ΑΗ ΑΕ ΑΑ; ΑΑ ΕΑ ΗΑ ΙΑ ΟΑ ΥΑ ΩΑ, ΩΑ ΥΑ ΟΑ ΙΑ ΗΑ ΕΑ ΑΑ; ΑΑΑ ΑΕΑ ΑΗΑ ΑΙΑ ΑΟΑ ΑΥΑ ΑΩΑ; ΑΩΑ ΑΥΑ ΑΟΑ ΑΙΑ ΑΗΑ ΑΕΑ ΑΑΑ; ΑΑΑ ΕΑΕ ΗΑΗ ΙΑΙ ΟΑΟ ΥΑΥ ΩΑΩ, ΩΑΩ ΥΑΥ ΟΑΟ ΙΑΙ ΗΑΗ ΕΑΕ ΑΑΑ. Thus, for every vowel, there are another 56 words to intone. I don’t have a glottal stop or an aspiration between vowels, so the sound changes smoothly between each vowel.
I’ll usually do the vocalizations once, but if they don’t seem to have kicked in yet and settled into my body and mind, I’ll start it over again another time. After this, I’ll do another set of quick simple repetitions followed by long simple repetitions of the pure sound, followed by another set of repetitions of the name of the letter. Note that, throughout this whole time, I’ll be holding the image of the letter itself in my mind, usually without color but occasionally fluctuating depending on the vowel being intoned.
Once I finish intoning the name of the letter for the last time, by this point I’m already in a good headspace for going into a trance session into scrying the letter. To begin this, I continue visualizing the letter in my mind, but then I picture it being placed on top of a veil split down the middle, supported by a stone threshold. Both the color of the cloth and the style of the threshold will differ based on the letter itself and the feelings it’s given me; some are simple linen supported by a few sticks, some are black velvet with gold threading supported in a temple entryway, and others are yet different. All the same, the veil hangs down flat, and I approach the veil in my mind. I then intone, both mentally and physically, the full magical word for the letter, into the visualization of the letter on the cloth. At this point, the veil tends to fly apart like it’s being blasted by a gust of wind from behind, and I enter into the veil.
This scrying method is a variation of a common technique to scry or contemplate symbols using a door with the symbol emblazoned on the door itself. However, with other symbols, I’ve been able to explore full worlds of rich imagery and sensation and people. The letters, on the other hand, are different: I see nothing. It’s mostly visceral sensation and sounds, which, to be honest, make sense given what these symbols are: letters, graphical representations of human articulation made from the body. If I try to conjure any sort of mental image, I usually get a close up of a particular sound and how it might be realized in my mind as an image, e.g. a sticky wet cool sensation as blood on grass. Usually, however, there are no mental images, only sound and sensation. I’ll perceive motion, weight, pressure, sound, acceleration, charge, and emotion; pretty much the whole gamut except for sight, and for that matter smell and taste, too. I’m sure that, with deeper levels of meditation, I could eventually get those, but if I’m meditating on the letters qua letters, then my perceptions will be in the same ways letters make: through physical vibration and all the effects that entails.
At some point, once I’ve had my fill of the scrying session, I’ll “back out” of the world, though it’s hard to describe how do that without an image-based perception of the place to maneuver around. At some point, I’ll exit out back through the gate of the veil, and I’ll intone the magical word of the letter once more to shut the veil and to calm the winds that blow it open. Once the veil is closed, I’ll focus my attention on the letter itself until just that letter exists. I close the meditation out by breathing in the letter into my body, dissolving it entirely within me, and intoning the name of the letter on the exhale.
If you’re interested, give the letter meditation and grammatodai a try. How does the letter feel when you pronounce it? How does it play with the vowels? What kinds of emotions or sensations or objects does the sound of the letter call up? What kind of veil and threshold do you see when you visualize it for the letter? What kinds of sensations, feelings, and perceptions do you get while scrying the letter? How does the magical word feel compared to the magical world its linked to?