Thoughts on PGM I.195—222 and Invocations to Hēlios

There are always surprises to be found in the wonderful treasure trove of the Greek Magical Papyri, as I think we’re all familiar with by now.  It’s a fantastic, if not sometimes hard-to-piece-together, resource of various approaches to magic both theurgic and thaumaturgic from Hellenic Egypt around the early centuries of the Roman Empire, giving us a blessed and bounteous buffet of works, notes, prayers, and rituals from a variety of magicians, priests, and occultists from back in the day.  Although it’s folly to treat the PGM as one single work, given that its various papyri were written and collected from various parts of Egypt across several centuries, there are sometimes neat connections you can make between different texts within the PGM that show a thread of common practice or other commonalities in how the different magicians back then worked for their desired and necessary ends—beyond just “add the usual”, of course.

I was flipping through my loved copy of Betz recently, this time on something of a mission.  I was looking for a relatively short invocation of the Sun to use as part of other works related to the decans and other solar-focused projects, and I wanted to focus this time on the papyri given earlier in the collection, which I don’t often turn to (even though they’re among the longest and most well-preserved of them all).  This time, I had taken note of a section from PGM I, also known as Papyrus 5025 housed in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin, Germany, and I found PGM I.195—222, “the prayer of deliverance for the first-begotten and first-born god”.  It’s a relatively short prayer with only two reasonably-sized strings of barbarous words, and the text of it is pretty par-for-the-course as far as invocations to an almighty god for divine aid go, and is explicitly associated with Hēlios at the end of the text.

Below is my own version of the prayer in English, a slightly modified translation based on Betz:

I call upon you, o Lord!
Hear me, o holy god who rests among the holy ones,
at whose side the glorious angels stand forever!
I call upon you, o Forefather, and I beseech you, o Aiōn of Aiōns,
o unmoved ruler, eternal ruler of the celestial pole,
you who are established upon the seven-part heavens!
ΧΑΩ ΧΑΩ ΧΑ ΟΥΦ ΧΘΕΘΩΝΙΜΕΕΘΗΧΡΙΝΙΑ ΜΕΡΟΥΜ Ι ΑΛΔΑ ΖΑΩ ΒΛΑΘΑΜΜΑΧΩΘ ΦΡΙΞΑ ΗΚΕΩΦΥΗΙΔΡΥΜΗΩ ΦΕΡΦΡΙΘΩ ΙΑΧΘΩ ΨΥΧΕΩ ΦΙΡΙΘΜΕΩ ΡΩΣΕΡΩΘ ΘΑΜΑΣΤΡΑ ΦΑΤΙΡΙ ΤΑΩΧ ΙΑΛΘΕΜΕΑΧΕ
Υou who hold fast to the root of the cosmos!
you who possess the powerful name hallowed by all the angels!
Hear me, you who have established the mighty decans and archangels,
beside whom stands untold myriads of angels!
You have been exalted to Heaven by the Lord,
having borne witness to your wisdom and having praised your power,
having declared that your strength is as his in every way in this world.

I call upon you, o Lord of the All, in my hour of need;
hear me, for my soul is distressed, and I am troubled and in want of everything.
Come to me, who you are lord over all the angels;
shield me against all excess of power of the aerial Daimōn and of Fate.
O Lord, hear me, for I call upon you by your secret name
that reaches from the heights of Heaven to the depths of the Abyss:
ΑΘΗΖΟΦΩΙΜ ΖΑΔΗΑΓΗΩΒΗΦΙΑΘΕΑΑ ΑΜΒΡΑΜΙ ΑΒΡΑΑΜ
ΘΑΛΧΙΛΘΟΕ ΕΛΚΩΘΩΩΗΗ ΑΧΘΩΝΩΝ ΣΑ ΙΣΑΚ
ΧΩΗΙΟΡΘΑΣΙΩ ΙΩΣΙΑ ΙΧΗΜΕΩΩΩΩ ΑΩΑΕΙ
Rescue me in an hour of need!

The two sets of barbarous words, transliterated into Roman text (and with my own aspirations of <h> thrown in for good measure where I find them to be appropriate):

  1. KHAŌ KHAŌ KHA ŪPH KHTHETHŌNIMEHETHĒKHRINIA MERŪMI I ALDA ZAŌ BLATHAMMAKHŌTH PHRIKSA ĒKETHEPHYĒIDRUMĒŌ PHERPHRITHŌ IAKHTHŌ PSUKHEŌ PHIRITHMEŌ RŌSERŌTH THAMASTRA PHATIRI TAŌKH IALTHEMEAKHE
  2. ATHĒZOPHŌIM ZADĒAGĒŌBĒFIATHEAHA AMBRAMI ABRAHAM THALKHILTHOE ALKŌTHŌŌHĒĒ AKHTHŌNŌN SA ISAK KHŌĒIŪRTHASIŌ IŌSIA IKHĒMEHŌŌŌŌ AŌAEI

In the above prayer, which is more-or-less readable from the papyrus (though with plenty of emendations from Preisendanz since the papyrus isn’t in the best state), there’s only one real lacuna, in the first string of words in the name ΗΚΕΩΦΥΗΙΔΡΥΜΗΩ.  Based on where the papyrus has degraded, Preisendanz identifies this as being two characters (ΗΚΕ__ΦΥΗΙΔΡΘΜΗΩ), which I initially guessed would be filled in with ΘΕ.  My choice of this here is really more of a guess than anything else, since there’s no real way of telling given the condition of the papyrus and the ink, but from what remains and based on the handwriting, ΘΕ seems to fit here, though I’m sure there are other possibilities.  ΣΑ would be another choice, but given how rarely sigma appears in this section’s barbarous words, and given how often thēta appears, I’d be more inclined with that.  Looking at the papyrus itself, we start PGM I.195ff at the line just above the centered single-word line on the first column in the digitized scan from the Staatliche Museen:

Upon checking out Preisendanz’ footnotes, he mentions that the word ΡΩΣΕΡΩΘ also appears in PGM IV, specifically in PGM IV.1167—1226 “the stele that is useful for all things”, which I myself call the Stele of Aiōn.  There are several parallels between PGM I.195ff and PGM IV.1167ff, including that both are fundamentally addressed to Aiōn-qua-Hēlios, both have connotations of being used in emergency situations to free one from death or extreme danger, both have a number of phraseological similarities throughout.  Most interestingly, however, we see a string of barbarous words there that are extremely similar to the one given in PGM I.195ff here:

  • PGM I.195ff: …Ι ΑΛΔΑ ΖΑΩ ΒΛΑΘΑΜΜΑΧΩΘ ΦΡΙΞΑ ΗΚΕΩΦΥΗΙΔΡΥΜΗΩ ΦΕΡΦΡΙΘΩ ΙΑΧΘΩ ΨΥΧΕΩ ΦΙΡΙΘΜΕΩ ΡΩΣΕΡΩΘ ΘΑΜΑΣΤΡΑ ΦΑΤΙΡΙ ΤΑΩΧ ΙΑΛΘΕΜΕΑΧΕ
  • PGM IV.1167ff: …ΙΑΛΔΑΧΑΩ ΒΛΑΘΑΜ ΜΑΡΧΩΡ ΦΡΙΧ ΑΝ ΚΕΩΦ ΕΝΑΔΥΜΕΩ ΦΕΡΦΡΙΘΩ ΙΑΧΘΩ ΨΥΧΕΩ ΦΙΡΙΘΜΕΩ ΡΩΣΕΡΩΘ ΘΑΜΑΣΤΡΑΦΑΤΙ ΡΙΜΨΑΩΧ ΙΑΛΘΕ ΜΕΑΧΙ…

In this light, and given the extreme similarity between these two strings, I went with the PGM IV.1167ff suggestion of ΗΚΕΩΦΥΗΙΔΡΥΜΗΩ (noting that an ōmega here would be about two characters wide and of roughly similar shape as ΘΕ).  In fact, given the number of emendations and suggestions Preisendanz had to make for PGM I given its condition, it might not be a bad idea to replace the whole string of barbarous words here in PGM I.195ff with that of PGM IV.1167ff.

Also, we should make a note here of the use of the names of Abraham, Isaac, and Josiah (not Jacob? weird) in the barbarous words, along with a number of other noted parallels to Psalms and a number of other books of the Bible.  Though, what’s interesting here is that, when we compare this part of PGM I.195ff to the Stele of Aiōn from PGM IV.1167ff again, we notice all the biblical names vanish (along with some of the biblical language, though other Judaizing elements are introduced).  Even with the changes to the barbarous words, the overall structure and spelling is still highly similar.

  • PGM I.195ff: ΑΘΗΖΟΦΩΙΜ ΖΑΔΗΑΓΗΩΒΗΦΙΑΘΕΑΑ ΑΜΒΡΑΜΙ ΑΒΡΑΑΜ ΘΑΛΧΙΛΘΟΕ ΕΛΚΩΘΩΩΗΗ ΑΧΘΩΝΩΝ ΣΑ ΙΣΑΚ ΧΩΗΙΟΡΘΑΣΙΩ ΙΩΣΙΑ ΙΧΗΜΕΩΩΩΩ ΑΩΑΕΙ
  • PGM IV.1167ff: ΑΘΗΖΕ ΦΩΙ ΑΑΑ ΔΑΙΑΓΘΙ ΘΗΟΒΙΣ ΦΙΑΘ ΘΑΜΒΡΑΜΙ ΑΒΡΑΩΘ ΧΘΟΛΧΙΛ ΘΟΕ ΟΕΛΧΩΘ ΘΙΟΩΗΜΧ ΧΟΟΜΧ ΣΑΗΣΙ ΙΣΑΧΧΟΗ ΙΕΡΟΥΘΡΑ ΟΟΟΟΟ ΑΙΩΑΙ

Notably, that string of barbarous names in PGM IV.1167ff is specifically labeled as a hundred-letter name, and the same quality holds in PGM I, as well, even accounting for the variations and differences in spelling and vocalization.  Whoever wrote these prayers and based one on the other or as variants of the same source knew what they were doing in keeping to that quality.

In any case, what PGM I.195ff gives us is indeed a “prayer of deliverance”, and it ends with the sole instruction of “say this to Hēlios or whenever you are forced to do so” (though Betz notes that the translation is tentative at this point), and although the purpose of this prayer is not exactly given explicitly except as “deliverance”, the phrasing given towards the end of the prayer (“shield me against all excess of power of the aerial Daimōn and of Fate”) and in this sole instruction suggest that it is deliverance from the onslaught of a demonic attack.  However, I’d like to propose a slightly different translation for “you are forced to do so”, given the Greek καταληφθῇς used here.  If we take out the aspiration, we end up with καταληπτῇς, which more has connotations of being seized or arrested.  This, again, has parallels with PGM IV.1167ff, which “is useful for all things; it even delivers from death”.  Again, that notion of deliverance, and in PGM IV.1167ff, it asks for protection “from every excess of power and from every violent act”.  While both of these prayers can certainly be used and interpreted as asking for deliverance from demonic/spiritual attack, I think that the crux of it is really more specifically about demonic obsession or possession, to be recited by someone who is being so accosted by spirits that they threaten to take over the body, or alternatively, an actual plea to divinity for help in being restrained, abducted, arrested, or detained by worldly authorities (which is just a material and potentially more archonic parallel of demonic possession).  What leads me to think that this is also to be used for worldly restraints is that notion of being saved “from every excess of power of the aerial Daimōn or of Fate“.  It’s that “or of Fate” bit that suggests that there’s more going on here than spiritual attack, but the actual workings of the cosmos that happen to be working against you at that moment in whatever form they might take.

What I was looking for was a general prayer to Hēlios, but PGM I.195ff doesn’t seem to cut it for me; although potent, to be sure, it seems too tailored for a specific (dire) situation to be used more generally as an invocation.  Although the parallels between this and PGM IV.1167ff are strong, and although that latter is a prayer “useful for all things”, I think the usefulness there is for extreme cases of need of deliverance, saving, and protection from actual harm rather than for use as an invocation or simple praise.  I could be simply limiting myself out of an excess of caution, but something about reciting either of these prayers too freely seems to cheapen their power a bit.  After all, an alternative reading of that last line from PGM I.195ff, λέγε Ἡλίῳ ἣ ὄποθ ἑὰν καταληφθῇς, instead of being “say this to Hēlios or whenever you are seized/forced to do so”, could also be “say this to Hēlios if you are truly seized”.  There are other prayers in PGM I, II, III, and others that give invocations to Hēlios in one form or another, I suppose, that could be investigated besides, and I know that some other PGM-minded magicians use PGM IV.1167ff as a prayer to Hēlios along these lines, though I’m not sure I agree with the use of it in this way for the reasons noted above.

On top of that, there’s another thing that nags me about this prayer.  I was originally looking for a prayer to Hēlios, and sure enough, this “prayer of deliverance” is meant to be said to Hēlios, but…well, it’s not all that solar of a prayer.  I mean, sure, Betz has the initial invocation directed to the “eternal ruler of the sun’s rays”, but Preisendanz translates this instead as berharrender Herrscher “persistent ruler”, and the original Greek has it as ἀκινοκράτωρ which I translate as “unmoved ruler”; I’m not really sure where Betz got “eternal ruler of the sun’s rays” from.  It’s really not all that solar of a prayer at all, and when we also consider the notion of “eternal ruler of the pole” (αἰωνοπολοκράτωρ which, again, Betz weirdly translates as “eternal ruler of the celestial orb”), that ties it more into the much bigger divinity of Aiōn a la the Heptagram Rite from PGM XIII or other high-cosmic deities that go well above and beyond the Sun’s station.  True, PGM IV.1167ff does explicitly address that prayer to Hēlios, but I’d be more inclined to interpret that as Hēlios as an attribute of Aiōn rather than Hēlios as Aiōn.  Instead of interpreting that final line of PGM I.195ff as addressing the prayer to Hēlios the deity, I think it’d be at least as appropriate to interpret it as meaning that the prayer is to be said facing the Sun, a literal direction instead of a metaphorical one, and using the physical Sun (wherever it might be placed in the sky, though presumably only at daytime) as a focal point for the higher deity of Aiōn.

Oh well, I guess the search continues.  In the meantime, however, I’d like to share a small invocation that I use for the Sun in the mornings after my usual daily prayers and routine.  This is a mix of Julian’s Prayer to Hēlios, the invocation from Orphic gold mystery tablets, several divine names associated with the Sun from the PGM, and my own invocations.

Hail to you, Lord Hēlios, Lord of the All!
O Spirit of the Cosmos, Power of the Cosmos, Light of the Cosmos,
be kind to us, be gracious to us, be propitious to us all!
Shine upon us, your children, the children of starry Heaven and fertile Earth:
you whose light is unconquerable, you whose light is for ever,
as you rise from the darkness under the Earth into the brightness of the heavens!
Bless us, your children, the children of starry Heaven and fertile Earth:
grant us your Spirit that we might live,
your Power that we might work,
your Light that we might see,
and your Fire to fuel and temper the flames of want and will in our own hearts!

ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ ΑΧΕΒΥΚΡΩΜ
ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ
ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ  ΣΕΜΕΣΕΙΛΑΜ
ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ ΨΟΙ ΦΝΟΥΘΙ ΝΙΝΘΗΡ
ΧΑΙΡΕ ΗΛΙΕ ΠΑΝΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡ

The bit in Greek text at the bottom is a combination of several things:

  • ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ from PGM XII.270—350 as an exclamatory invocation corresponding to the Egyptian i iꜣw, “o hail”.
  • ΑΧΕΒΥΚΡΩΜ from PGM XIII.1—343 (the Heptagram Rite), an explicit name of Hēlios, specifically “the flame and radiance of the [solar] disc”.
  • ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ is Abrasax, whose solar connections are obvious and replete through the PGM.
  • ΣΕΜΕΣΕΙΛΑΜ from various parts of the PGM, a Hellenization of Hebrew shemesh `olam, “eternal Sun”.
  • ΨΟΙ ΦΝΟΥΘΙ ΝΙΝΘΗΡ from PGM IV.1596—1715 (the Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios) as a name of the Sun, but which in Egyptian corresponds to “the Agathodaimōn, the god of gods”.
  • ΧΑΙΡΕ ΗΛΙΕ ΠΑΝΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡ is just Greek for “Hail, Sun, All-Ruler”.

The line “as you rise from the darkness under the Earth into the brightness of the heavens” was written with the intent that this salutation and invocation of the Sun would be done in the morning around sunrise, but it could be modified or replaced for any of the four solar points of the day, Liber Resh style if one so chooses:

  • Sunrise: …as you rise from the darkness under the Earth into the brightness of the heavens!
  • Noon: …as you culminate in the highest heights of the bright summit of the heavens!
  • Sunset: …as you descend from the brightness of the heavens into the darkness of the Earth!
  • Midnight: …as you settle in the deepest depths of the dark womb of the Earth!

I hope this short invocation can be of some use to others, now that spring is here in the northern hemisphere and as the Sun has moved into its own exaltation of Aries.

Leave a Note

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: