Another Look at the Heptagram Rite

So, in going over my notes and prayers lately, I’ve been thinking of shaking up my regular practices and trying out new formats for prayers, devotions, rituals, and the like.  Rituals that are whole unto themselves, like the Trithemian conjuration ritual, don’t need any further framing or whatever done before or after them except for, say, meditation and purification, but other things could certainly benefit from restructuring or being placed into a structure.  One of the things that could benefit from that is my Invocation of the Solar Guardians, specifically the fuller version of them; I mean, as a simple homage unto itself to the guardian gods of the four stations of the Sun, it works fine unto itself, but it can also be used as part of a grander ritual, such as part of warding or cosmos-building.  One application I’d like to experiment with it is to use the Invocations as a form of sun-worship to recognize the seasonal changes of the equinoxes and solstices, but for a proper and full ritual to mark the turning of the Sun, I’d personally want more than just a few words to say.  Hence, framing rituals.

I didn’t expect to start with much, honestly, but after even a brief look through my notes and collected rituals, I found plenty of things to combine that include lustration, temple/circle warding, consecration of a candle, dismissal of spirits, thanksgiving offering of incense, and so forth, mostly pulled from or based on sources across the PGM.  I want to give it a few tries and refinements before sharing it publicly, but one of the things I wanted to include was, of course, the Heptagram Rite or, as is sometimes known, Calling the Sevenths to Induce Equilibrium which is a much more modern appellation.  Essentially, this is a method of attuning to the forces of the cosmos (specifically the planetary or celestial forces) by means of intoning the seven vowels of the Greek alphabet while facing certain directions and making certain motions.  In short:

  1. Face east.  Extend both hands to the left.  Intone Α.
  2. Face north.  Extend only the right fist forward.  Intone Ε.
  3. Face west.  Extend both hands outward as if in embrace.  Intone Η.
  4. Face south.  Place both hands on the belly.  Intone Ι.
  5. Face down.  Bend over and touch the ends of the toes.  Intone Ο.
  6. Face forward.  Place the right hand on the heart.  Intone Υ.
  7. Face up.  Place both hands on top of the head.  Intone Ω.

Simple enough!  I’ve used this as a quick act of attuning myself or of energy work in preparation for a larger ritual as well as part of a daily practice of energy work.  It’s nothing special, but it is highly effective.

Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, this ritual comes from the PGM, as part of a much larger text, PGM XIII.734—1077, a large, mostly well-preserved section in the Greek Magical Papyri entitled “Tenth Hidden Book of Moses” (which is mostly, but not entirely, complete).  The ritual, named “the spell to which God gives attention”, is an invocation of God by means of the seven planets and their seven letters to obtain a vision or achieve some request.  It is intended to be done at dawn, though no specific day or other circumstance is given.  Unlike the common Heptagram Rite, which is a modern adaptation of part of this ritual taken from lines 824—841, the larger invocation which I call the Grand Heptagram Rite is not intended to be used as a framing ritual to prepare or attune oneself before another working, but rather on its own as its own complete ritual.  I’ve written about it before on my blog, and have a whole page up for it under Rituals, which I direct you to look at for more information.

Well, I took a look at my notes again, and then went back to the PGM to do some more research, and I came up with a few more observations.  To my horror, it seems that I left off the final lines of the final invocation from the text, either to my oversight or confusion.  I had it mostly complete, up through line 886.  I’ve added the “seven auspicious names” to the final invocation to the page on my blog, and I apologize for the confusion and error on my part.  However, the text does not end at this point, either; in fact, it goes on quite a bit longer, though I’m unsure how much to actually include as part of what I’d call the Grand Heptagram Rite proper.  Starting on line 889 of the text:

This initiation is performed to the suns of the thirteenth day of the month, when the gold lamella is locked off and one says over it: ΙΑΙΑ ΙΥ ΟΗ ΙΕΥΟΩ ΗΩΙ ΕΟ Η ΩΥ ΕΗ ΥΩΗ ΩΩΟ ΩΩΙ ΩΑΩ ΕΩ ΟΗ ΥΩ.  Then more completely, ΑΩΕΥΗ ΟΑΙ ΙΟ ΗΥΕΩΑ ΟΥΩ ΩΟ ΕΙ ΟΥ ΗΟ ΟΙΥΥ ΩΥΥ ΩΙ Α ΕΕ ΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ ΑΩ ΕΟΗ ΕΩΗ ΙΑΑ ΗΩΙ ΗΙΩ.  In [the] initiation these things are said six times with all [the rest?], and the seven vowels are written on the gold lamella to be licked off, and on the silver lamella the seven vowels for the phylactery ΟΗΩ ΑΩ ΟΟΟ ΥΟΙΗ ΟΥ ΥΗΙ ΣΟΡΡΑ ΘΩΩΜ ΧΡΑΛΑΜΠΗΑΨ ΑΤΟΥΗΓΙ.  The following series of vowels [are written as] “wings”; and on the gold lamella write ΑΩΕΥΗΟΙ and on the silver ΙΟΗΥΕΩΑ…

Betz has a footnote here that says that “something, probably directions from another rite, seems to have fallen out of the text.  It resumes near the end of another spell”; indeed, several diagrams of vowels written in slanting rows follows, with another footnote: “this has no clear connection to the proceeding words, so Preisendanz conjectures a lacuna.  However, this may be the continuation of the lost spell in which the vowels stood.”  Based on the text that continues from this point, though there are a series of barbarous words with a start that bears high similarity to the last string in the above section, I’m inclined to agree; the final part of this “initiation” involving the lamellas and phylacteries seems to be incomplete.  Additionally, there’s no mention of any use of lamellas before this point.  The rest of the Tenth Book of Moses has mostly different sets of barbarous words attributed to various sources and a handful of charms.

So, on its own, what does the Grand Heptagram Rite (more originally “the instruction for the recitation of the heptagram and the spell to which the god gives attention”) do?  The introduction to this section of the PGM says that this text is “for this personal vision”, and that it is to work with and call upon Ogdoas, “the god who commands and directs all things” (though the Ogdoad is, more properly, a combination of eight Egyptian gods considered as a whole unit who created the universe and who represent the masculine and feminine aspects of the primeval world, and which were heavily worshiped in Hermopolis).  The rest of the text after the initial explanation is simply the ritual to be spoken, followed by the incomplete initiation above (which also doesn’t seem to match well with the rest of the text as it is, suggesting that it really is a separate ritual).  In context within the broader PGM, the Tenth Book of Moses takes place before the Eighth Hidden Book of Moses (PGM XIII.343—646 and 646—734), which itself is before another Eighth Book of Moses (PGM XIII.1—343).  This is an interesting batch of texts, and Betz has quite a bit to say about how this is essentially a compilation of several versions of the same text along with other information from other texts, especially “Mosaic” ones.  These books being called the “Eighth” and “Tenth” Books of Moses, when nothing is said of a ninth, seventh, sixth, or so on can be attributed to the prestige given to the numbers 8 (for the Ogdoad of Egyptian belief) and 10 (for the Decad of Pythagorean belief).  PGM XIII in its entirety can be considered, in many ways, a grimoire compiled out of several sub-grimoires in the same tradition, much as one might find several versions of the Key of Solomon bound together as a complete text.  It’s a fascinating section of the PGM, and I’m sure much more can be said about it than what is appropriate here.

Back to the Grand Heptagram Rite in the Tenth Book of Moses.  Unlike an exorcism ritual like that of the Headless Rite (which can be bent to a sort of empowerment ritual according to the tweaks of Crowley and Mathers), this seems to be more of a ritual to call upon and bring forth the presence of the Divine, either for a divinatory vision or for initiation into that god’s power (especially since the Grand Heptagram Rite is followed by what seems to be an introduction to an initiation), though part of the prayer establishes a connection then and there in the ritual:

Your name and your spirit rest upon the good.  Come into my mind and my understanding for all the time of my life and accomplish for me the desires of my soul.  For you are I, and I you.  Whatever I say must happen, for I have your name as a unique phylactery in my heart, and no flesh, although moved, will overpower me; no spirit will stand against me, neither daimon nor visitation nor any other of the evil beings of Hades because of your name, which I have in my soul and which I invoke.

However, if we were to include the beginning part of the subsequent initiation (PGM XIII.889ff) as part of the text, then we’d adopt the following procedure:

  1. Remain pure from the start of the lunar month through the thirteenth day of the lunar month, upon which the ritual is to be performed.
  2. Between the first and twelfth days of the lunar month counting from the first visibility of the new Moon, prepare two small tablets, one of gold and one of silver, the silver tablet able to be worn around the neck as a pendant.
    On the silver tablet, engrave or write in permanent ink the following:


  3. Before sunrise on the thirteenth day of the lunar month, just as the Moon approaches fullness but has not yet become full, prepare yourself in white clothing, wear the silver tablet around your neck, saying the following:


  4. Οn the gold tablet, write in water-soluble ink the following:


  5. At sunrise, go outside and face the Sun, say the following over the gold tablet:


  6. Lick the writing off the gold tablet, then say over the gold tablet:


  7. Recite the Grand Heptagram Rite in its entirety.
  8. Perform the preceding four steps (writing on the gold tablet, facing the Sun, praying over the gold tablet, licking the gold tablet, praying over the gold tablet a second time, and performing the Grand Heptagram Rite) again at midday and a third time at sunset.

In my estimation, I don’t think that whole procedure involving performing the ritual three times on the thirteenth day of the lunar month with the gold and silver tablets is called for, since I don’t think the initiation described starting on line 889 is necessarily about the Grand Heptagram Rite (though I don’t think it would hurt, either).  Though the barbarous words here can get messy, especially the strings of vowels, I find that the Grand Heptagram Rite is a wonderful ritual on its own accord for inducing cosmic visions and approaching the sense of divinity, when done on its own for its own sake.  That the Heptagram Rite itself, the simple seven-vowels-seven-gestures-seven-directions that became known more recently as the Calling the Sevenths is so powerful is a testament to the overarching power of the Grand Heptagram Rite.

Which brings me back, rather circuitously, to the use of it in a general sense as part of a daily practice or framing ritual.  The Grand Heptagram Rite is, in my view, far too large and unwieldy to include as part of a ritual process or framing ritual, especially given its strings of barbarous names that can be hard to rattle off or memorize.  On the other hand, the Heptagram Rite can often be too short and quick to allow things to settle in; it’s great as part of broader work, but it may not be suitable when dealing with heavier forces, nor would it be good if someone’s out of shape and needs something stronger to bend them back into shape.  There’s a wide gap between the entirety of the Grand Heptagram Rite and the Heptagram Rite, and I wanted something of a halfway point between the two in length, something that could be a little more empowering than the shorter of the two and a little more generic than the longer of the two.  What follows is my attempt to bridge that gap

  1. Recite the first invocation to Aiōn (PGM XIII.843—848):

    I call on you, eternal and unbegotten Aiōn, who are One, who alone hold together the whole creation of all things, whom none understands, whom the gods worship, whose name not even the gods can utter.  Inspire from your breath, ruler of the Pole, him who is under you!  I call on you as the gods call you!  I call on you as the goddesses call you!  I call on you as the winds call you!

  2. Salute each direction with the vowels (PGM XIII.849—870)
    1. Face east, extend both hands to the left, and say:

      I call on you as the east: Α ΕΕ ΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ

    2. Face north, extend only the right fist forward, and say.

      I call on you as the north: Ε ΗΗ ΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩΩ ΑΑΑΑΑΑΑ

    3. Face west, extend both hands outward as if in embrace, and say:

      I call on you as the west: Η ΙΙ ΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩ ΑΑΑΑΑΑ ΕΕΕΕΕΕΕ

    4. Face south, place both hands on the belly, and say:

      I call on you as the south: Ι ΟΟ ΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩ ΑΑΑΑΑ ΕΕΕΕΕΕ ΗΗΗΗΗΗΗ

    5. Face down, bend over and touch the ends of the toes, and say:

      I call on you as the earth: Ο ΥΥ ΩΩΩ ΑΑΑΑ ΕΕΕΕΕ ΗΗΗΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙΙΙΙ

    6. Face forward, place the right hand on the heart, and say:

      I call on you as the sky: Υ ΩΩ ΑΑΑ ΕΕΕΕ ΗΗΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟΟΟΟ

    7. Face up, place both hands on top of the head, and say:

      I call on you as the cosmos: Ω ΑΑ ΕΕΕ ΗΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥΥΥΥ

  3. Recite the second invocation to Aiōn, based on the first version of the Eighth Book of Moses (PGM XIII.64—71ff) and the Headless Rite (PGM V.140 and 141):

    I call on you, who are greater than all, the creator of all, the self-begotten who see all and are not seen, who hear all and are not heard!  For you gave to Hēlios glory and all power, and to Selēnē the privilege to wax and wane and have fixed courses, yet you took nothing from the earlier-born darkness, but apportioned all things so that they should be equal!  For when you appeared, both Order and Light arose!  All things are subject to you, whose true form none of the gods can see, who change into all forms!  You are invisible, o Aiōn of Aiōns, and through you arose the celestial pole from the earth!  Hear me and help me, o lord, faultless and unflawed, who pollute no place, for I bear witness to your glory! Lord, King, Master, Helper, empower my soul!

(Note: I talk about why I changed the original order of the invocations here, going counterclockwise in agreement with the vowels, on the main ritual page.)

Essentially, what this shortened form of the ritual does is call upon the same attunement and cosmos-building that the Heptagram Rite does, itself framed by invocations to Aiōn, while allowing things to settle in more comprehensively and from all ways.  The main thing I wanted to accomplish here, however, was to avoid using barbarous names or vowel permutations where possible, hence why I’ve avoided including them in the “I call on you as by the voice of the [male] gods” and “…as the voice of the [female] goddesses”.  However, instead of continuing with the invocation to Aiōn from the Tenth Book of Moses (lines 871ff., starting “I call on your name, the greatest among gods…”), I opted for another invocation to Aiōn pulled from the Eighth Book of Moses, also because it doesn’t involve barbarous words, but also because the focus shifts here from a specific request for the divine apparition of Aiōn (as in the Tenth Book) to a general invocation (as in the Eighth Book), augmented by a single line from the Headless Rite (line 140 and 141, “Lord, King, Master, Helper, save the soul”).

(I’d also like to note that the first invocation to Aiōn from PGM XIII.843—848 is the origin of Jason Miller’s prayer to Aeon that he gives in his Advanced Planetary Magic ebook.  In that text, he describes the “Heptasphere” ritual, which is the Calling of the Sevenths followed by the prayer to Aeon, though without the usual motions from the PGM.  It is effectively the same thing as I’m trying to do, just not as long or as involved as I’m describing here.)

Though I’m comfortable with this middle-path ritual as it is, one of the things I don’t yet know about is any visualizations to be performed.  Normally, when doing the usual Heptagram rite, I just visualize the pure color of the planet coming from the direction I’m facing: purple from the East, orange from the North, and so forth.  For this, however, a visualization would need to take into account something more complex…probably?  I’d still want to keep the seven colors visualization as a base, but augment it with…not sure.  Visualizing seven sets of the seven vowels in each direction, or a seven-pointed star with each ray in a different planetary color for each direction?  Perhaps I could repurpose a line from further in the Tenth Book, line 880:

…Become for me lynx, eagle, snake, phoenix, life, power, necessity, images of God!…

I could feasibly read this as here are four animals and three ideas, all of which are images of God.  And, since there are four cardinal directions, plus below, center, and above, each of these images could be given to each direction we face in the ritual.  This could further be augmented by the final “seven of the auspicious names” at the very end of the Grand Heptagram Rite:

Direction Vowel Planet Image Name
East Α Moon Lynx ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ
North Ε Mercury Eagle ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ
West Η Venus Snake ΕΗΙΟΥ
South Ι Sun Phoenix ΙΗΕΑ
Down Ο Mars Life ΩΟΗΟΕ
Center Υ Jupiter Power ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ
Up Ω Saturn Necessity ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ

Of course, all of this is incredibly hypothetical at this point, and it doesn’t seem to match up entirely nicely; after all, why should the Eagle be given to the North for Mercury, or Lynx to the East for the Moon?  If there’s any merit to linking up the directions/vowels/planets to the images in this way, and the images aren’t just given in a random order, then the answer might lie in Egyptian mythology and cosmology; after all, the Eighth Books and Tenth Book of Moses definitely have distinct Egyptian influences, and in Egyptian cosmology, the Lynx was said to be the enemy of the Serpent (Mafdet vs. Apep), while the Phoenix…well, doesn’t really have much of a connection with Eagles, though its solar nature cannot be denied, especially as it was considered the animal avatar of the Sun god Re.  Eagle, on the other hand, is more confusing; it wasn’t a traditional animal in Egyptian cosmology, though it could be equated with the falcon, the animal of Horus, and thus an equivalent to Jupiter or Zeus or to Helios.  Which, again, doesn’t necessarily match; we’d expect Thoth, an ibis or baboon, as an equivalent for Mercury/Hermes.  It could be argued either way, I suppose; it’s something for me to experiment with, all the same.

All that leaves me with one last thing: what to call this?  I don’t want to have to rename the Heptagram and Grand Heptagram Rites to different names to accommodate this middle-path version, though to be honest, that might be best.  For my own reference from this point on, I’ll use these terms:

  • Calling the Sevenths: the simple seven-directions, seven-vowels, seven-motions attunement ritual (previously “Heptagram Rite” or “Heptasphere Rite”)
  • Minor Heptagram Rite: the shortened ritual procedure as described above in this post
  • Major Heptagram Rite: the full ritual procedure from PGM XIII 763—887 (previously “Grand Heptagram Rite”)

So, fine.  The page on the Heptagram Rite has been updated with corrections and additions, and these are the terms I’ll use from now on to refer to these rituals.  And, better than that, I have a new attunement ritual and invocation to use, try out, and tweak for improvements.  In addition to offering a slightly fuller form of Calling the Sevenths, it also adds in useful invocations for power, assistance, and divine aid, which (in my own routines) can simplify my ritual process and make other things obsolete or redundant, which makes things even more efficient for me, whether in daily practices or in framing rituals.

What about you, dear reader?  Do you have any experience with the Heptagram Rite in any of its forms, whether the shorter Calling the Sevenths or the whole process of PGM XIII.734ff?  Do you have your own PGM-style framing rituals that make use of the directions or vowels?  Feel free to share your experiences in the comments!

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