Looking through the PGM recently, I came across a delightful little entry from PGM VII.429—458, “A restraining [rite] for anything”. The description of the effects of this binding ritual is impressive: “works even on chariots…causes enmity and sickness, cuts down, destroys, and overturns for whatever you wish…the spell, when said, conjures daimons and makes them enter [objects or people]”. Impressive, indeed. I figured we might talk about this ritual today, even if only because it has a bit of interesting description about the powers of the Moon and how it relates to the efficacy of long-term magical items buried underground. Why am I deciding to share this one today? Eh, why not? Seems like we can always use good ritual tech, after all. Sometimes it’s good to get back to your roots, and this type of restraining spell is a classic, an example of malefica we’d otherwise call defixio or katadesmos a.k.a. “curse tablets”, but this time containing some interesting Egyptian elements. Why are we bringing this up today? Well, why not?
The thing about this ritual, however, is that it’s not one binding, but two, each one operating in different ways using the same apparatus. We’ll break down this ritual into several parts.
Creating the Binding Plate
The main implement of both of these binding rituals is that of a lead plate, ideally “from a cold-water channel”; in our modern day and age, any old lead pipe that was used for plumbing and carrying unheated water would be ideal. You’d take such a bit of lead, hammer and roll it out thin, and there you go, but do what you can; you can also get pre-rolled sheets of lead just fine, or if you’re worried about toxicity, a soda can or beer can you drain out and cut up into a large rectangle will work, too, especially if you pour out the drink as an offering to the spirits of the underworld who’ll do the work.
On the plate, engrave with a “headless bronze needle” (i.e. a needle that does not have a hammer-flat “head” on it, like how railroad spikes do, or any sort of ornamentation) the following:
I conjure you, Lord Osiris, by your holy names: ΟΥΧΙΩΧ ΟΥΣΕΝΑΡΑΝΑΘ ΟΥΣΙΡΕΙ ΟΥΣΕΡΡΑΝΝΟΥΦΘΙ ΟΣΟΡΝΟΥΦΗ ΟΥΣΕΡ ΜΝΕΥΕ ΟΥΣΕΡΣΕΤΕΜΕΝΘ ΑΜΑΡΑ ΜΑΧΙ ΧΩΜΑΣΩ ΕΜ ΜΑΙ ΣΕΡΒΩΝΙ ΕΜΕΡ ΙΣΙ ΑΡΑΤΩΦΙ ΕΡΑΧΑΞ ΕΣΕΟΙΩΘ ΑΡΒΙΩΘΙ ΑΜΕΝΧΟΥΜ ΜΟΝΜΟΝΤ ΟΥΖΑΘΙ ΠΗΡ ΟΥΝΝΕΦΕΡ ΕΝ ΩΩΩ
I give over to you, Lord Osiris, and I deposit with you this matter: …
“Add the usual” at this point; write down what you wish to happen. Transliterated into Roman script, the barbarous words are:
ŪKHIŌKH ŪSENARANTH ŪSIREI ŪSERRANNŪPHTHI OSORNŪPHĒ ŪSER MNEUE ŪSERSETEMENTH AMARA MAKHI KHŌMASŌ EM MAI SERBŌNI EMER ISI ARATŌPHI ERAKHAKS ESEOIŌTH ARBIŌTHI AMENKHŪM MONMONT ŪZATHI PĒR ŪNNEPHER EN Ō Ō Ō
Betz in his translation makes several notes about the barbarous words above and how much Egyptian can be spotted in them:
- ΟΥΣΕΡΣΕΤΕΜΕΝΘ: wsir nfr, “Osiris the Good”
- ΕΜ ΜΑΙ: “in truth”
- ΕΜΕΡ ΙΣΙ: “whom Isis loves”
- ΟΥΝΝΕΦΕΡ: either ḥwn-nfr “beautiful youth” or wn-nfr “Onnophris”
Anyway, with the lead plate engraved, it’s time to consecrate it. It should be consecrated with bitter aromatics, such as myrrh, bdellum, styrax, aloes, and thyme, and with “river mud”; I would interpret this, personally, to mean that the plate should be suffumigated in an incense composed of herbs like the foregoing, washing it and smearing it with mud from a river in the process. This is to be done “late in the evening or in the middle of the night”—midnight would be ideal.
At this point, we have one of two choices in how we want to go about this binding.
Approach #1: The Drowned Binding
All the foregoing would ideally be done at the place where the lead plate is to be deposited, but if not, do it in private and then take it to its place of deposition, into a stream or drain that leads away, preferably into a larger body of water. The plate is to be tied to a sturdy cord or string and anchored or tied to where the person casting the binding can reach it; punching a hole in a corner and tying the thread through the hole would be good. The plate is then thrown into the stream, reciting the above incantation that was written on the plate seven times. Be sure the plate does not drift away, become untied, or otherwise unreachable; be sure this is done in a place where others will not interfere with the plate or string.
When you want to undo the binding, pull the plate out from the water using the string and untie the plate from the string.
Approach #2: The Buried Binding
Instead of throwing the plate into a river or stream, the plate may also be buried or left in a hole, well, coffin, or larger body of water. In addition to writing the above, also write the Ephesian words (which this PGM entry says are “Orphic”):
ΑΣΚΙ ΚΑΤΑΣΚΙ ΛΙΞ ΤΕΤΡΑΞ ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ ΑΙΣΙΑ
Transliterated into Roman script:
ASKI KATASKI LIKS TETRAKS DAMNAMENEUS AISIA
Take the plate and tie and bind it all around on the outside with a black thread using 365 knots. How to do this? You could make 365 holes around the edge of the plate and tie the thread continuously through each hole and knotting each one, or make one hole in the plate to anchor the thread, tie the thread through that, then loop the thread all over and cocoon it in the thread, knotting it each time for a total of 365 times. While doing this, recite over and over the Ephesian words (or at least ΑΣΚΙ ΚΑΤΑΣΚΙ) followed by your charge of binding (e.g. “Keep him held”, etc.). This done, the plate may be deposited wherever you wish.
However, this should be done at a place where you have access to, ideally being able to stand directly over the place of deposition. The reason for this is that PGM VII.429ff claims that “Selēnē, when she goes through the underworld, breaks whatever [spell] she finds”. To circumvent this and keep her from breaking the binding, the above formula of the Ephesian words with the charge of binding should be recited at least once daily on the spot where the plate is buried. In this case, the binding is considered to be in effect for as long as one maintains this daily practice.
Close of the Binding
Whenever you’re done with the ritual, whether binding or unbinding your target, leave the place of deposition. Do not turn back and do not look backwards; do not speak a word to anyone for any reason until you get home. Once you do get home, wash yourself thoroughly, making sure you can immerse every part of your body in water, then go to sleep. Maintain a vegetarian diet for at least seven days in this process to maintain purity and holiness, and to ensure that your work will continue strong.
Technically, this close is only mentioned for the first method of binding, not the second. However, it would also be a good practice to engage in it for the second option as well to increase both the general purity and the protection of the practitioner. After all, when engaging with chthonic and underworld powers, it helps to be respectful. I’d even take the extra step of taking a different route back to my home than the one I used to take to the place of deposition, but that’s just me.
ΟΥΣΕΡΣΕΤΕΜΕΝΘ as wsir nfr sounds off to me. Maybe some epithet of Osiris ending in imn.ti, the Western/”Hidden” Land, Amenti? Just off the top of my head.
I was just going off the footnotes in Betz for that (I’m far from an Egyptologist), but as I’ve noted elsewhere, the Betz group can…sometimes be off the mark. Your suggestion sounds reasonable to my untrained ears, though perhaps there’s a th/f thing going on at the end and it might end in “f” instead?
I’m not aware that one gets th for f. It’s generally for ti, I think. I’m very curious as to why Betz would read nfr here, it seems to ignore most of the structure, and there’s ΟΥΝΝΕΦΕΡ in the same text with the expected morphology.
Would anyone mind pointing me to a document that helps with the phonetics of the greek alphabet? I can’t read these. Thanks so much.
I’ll eventually get around to writing my own post on this, but TL;DR: this is actually a debated topic among magicians, since there are multiple pronunciation systems in use for Greek depending on your preference, upbringing, or agenda. Your options are:
– Classical Greek
– Koiné Greek (contemporary to PGM)
– Modern Greek
– Coptic (basically reading the Greek letters using Coptic conventions, which at least for the Sahidic and pre-modern Bohairic dialects is in many ways similar to Classical Greek)
The Wikipedia articles on these languages will help you through.