The Osirian Bindings

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.

A Reconstructed Hymn to Hermēs-Thoth from the Greek Magical Papyri

Looking through the various hymns of the Greek Magical Papyri so helpfully listed by Preisendanz is a good boon for devotional work; to be sure, the PGM is full of magical spells for all sorts of ends, both for weal and for woe, but there’s a good bit in there that’s definitely more priestly than magely and more devout than spooky.  After all, so much of these rituals are still calling on the gods themselves, and although a good number of the hymns (usually the ones to female and chthonic deities, as Bortolani noticed) do seek to constrain, slander, or bind the gods, others exalt them and praise them for their own sake in the course of a magician seeking their succor.  One of these hymns—technically three—is a hymn to Hermēs, which is found in three separate locations throughout the PGM.  Although they all have similarities with each other, there are also some interesting differences between them, as well; it’s hard to tell which would be older or the original form of the hymn, but in comparing them, it’s also possible to merge them together into one.  That’s what I’ve done to increase my prayer arsenal a bit by coming up with a…well, I guess a “reconstruction” of sorts, and I’d like to show it off today and point out some interesting bits about this varying hymn.

First, let’s take a look at the version of the hymn from PGM V.400—420.  The broader section of the PGM here is PGM V.370—446, an elaborate dream oracle involving 28 olive leaves, ibis eggs, and other ingredients to make a statue of Hermēs in his Greek form “holding a herald’s staff”, charged with a roll of papyrus or the windpipe of a goose that has a spell written on it along with the hair of the supplicant, enshrined within a box of lime wood.  This shrine is to be put by the head before going to sleep to incubate a dream revelation.  Although there are barbarous words used in this ritual, they’re more for the papyrus than to be spoken, although there is a (seemingly unrelated) spell of compulsion and a conjuration of a lamp present as well.  As for the hymn, which is to be recited “both at sunrise and moonrise”:

Hermēs, Lord of the World, who’re in the heart,
o circle of Selene, spherical
and square, the founder of the words of speech,
Pleader of justice’s cause, garbed in a mantle
With winged sandals, turning airy course
Beneath earth’s depths, who hold the spirit’s reins,
O eye of Helios, o mighty one,
Founder of full-voiced speech, who with your lamps
Give joy to those beneath earth’s depths, to mortals
Who’ve finished life. The prophet of events
And Dream divine you’re said to be, who send
Forth oracles by day and night; you cure
All pains of mortals with your healing cares.
Hither, o blessed one, o mighty son
Of Memory, I who brings full mental powers,
In your own form both graciously appear
And graciously render the task for me,
A pious man, and render your form gracious
To me, NN,
That I may comprehend you by your skills
Of prophecy, by your own wond’rous deeds.
I ask you, lord, be gracious to me and
Without deceit appear and prophesy to me.

Then the hymn from PGM VII.668—680 (broader section PGM VII.664—685).  Again, this is another ritual for a dream oracle, this time writing your request on linen in myrrh ink wrapped around an olive branch and put beside the head before one goes to bed.  This hymn is to be said seven times to an otherwise unspecified lamp, presumably left burning while one goes to sleep.  The hymn is followed with barbarous words similar to the inscription of the papyrus/goose windpipe from the PGM V procedure, also to be recited with the hymn proper:

Hermes, lord of the world, who’re in the heart,
O circle of Selene, spherical
And square, I the founder of the words of speech,
Pleader of Justice’s cause, garbed in a mantle,
With golden sandals, turning airy course
Beneath earth’s depths, who hold the spirit’s reins,
The sun’s and who with lamps of gods immortal
Give joy to those beneath earth’s depths, to mortals
Who’ve finished life. The Moirai’s fatal thread
And Dream divine you’re said to be, who send
Forth oracles by day and night; you cure
Pains of all mortals with your healing cares.
Hither, o blessed one, o mighty son
Of the goddess who brings full mental powers,
By your own form and gracious mind. And to
An uncorrupted youth reveal a sign
And send him your true skill of prophecy.

And then the hymn from PGM XVII.b, which is the entire papyrus.  There’s no procedure here, just a prayer given, no barbarous words, and the condition of this entry is poor given the number of lacunae.  However, based on the text in the prayer, it also appears to be used for another dream incubation/oracle/revelation ritual:

[Hermes, lord of the world], who’re in the heart,
[O orbit of Selene, spherical]
[And] square, the founder of the words [of speech]
[Pleader of justice’s cause,] garbed in a mantle,
[With winged sandals,] who rule [expressive] speech
[Prophet to mortals] . . .
For he inspires . . .
. . . within a short time . . .
[Whene’er] the fateful [day arrives] again
. . . [who send] some [oracle] that’s sure, you’re said
To be [the Moirai’s thread] and [Dream divine],
[The all-subduer, Unsub]dued, just as
. . . may you judge . . .
You offer good things to the good, [but grief]
[To those who’re worthless.] Dawn comes up for you,
For you swift [night draws] near. I You lord it o’er
The elements: fire, air, [water, and earth]
When you became helmsman of [all the] world;
And you escort the souls of those you wish,
But some you rouse again. For you’ve become
The order of the world, for you [cure], too,
Man’s [every] ailment, [who send oracles]
By day and night; [send] me, I pray your [form],
For I’m a man, a pious suppliant,
And your [soldier]; and so, [while I’m asleep],
[Send to me your unerring] mantic skill.

We can see that, although all three prayers start the same and sorta end the same, the PGM V and PGM VII hymns are much closer in form and structure than the one from PGM XVIIb, which seems to have more praise and description of Hermēs than the other two, but even that does still sync up with the other two hymns at times.  In that light, seeing the connection between certain phrases (even if worded slightly differently or in a different order), I compared and contrasted the three versions of the hymns and developed my own “reconstructed” hymn.  Perhaps “reconstruction” is too strong a word; what I really did was weave these three variants of the hymn together into one.  To do so, I largely used the basis of PGM XVIIb and added in the content from PGM V and PGM VII as necessary and where possible; I didn’t delve too deeply into the Greek here, and I did change some of the wording to be both more literal and more descriptive as far as the translation goes based on Betz, but in the end, this is what I came up with.

O Hermēs, Lord of All the Cosmos,
o you who are in the heart,
o wheel of the Moon
both circular and square,
first author of the words of speech,
o you who persuade for Justice’s sake,
o mantle-garbed, wearing winged golden sandals,
driver of spirit riding ’round the airy course below Earth’s abyss,
o eye of Hēlios,
first founder of full-voiced speech!
With your immortal lamps,
give joy to those beneath Earth’s abyss,
to mortals who have finished life.
Prophet to mortals,
you’re the one said to be the thread of the Moirai and Dream divine!

O All-Subduer and Unsubdued!
To the good you offer good things,
but to the craven you give grief.
Dawn rises up for you,
and for you swift Night draws near.
You became master over the elements,
over Fire and Air and Water and Earth,
when you became the steersman of all the cosmos.
You escort away the souls of those whom you wish,
but of some you rouse back up again!

For you have become the order of the world,
emissary of oracles both by day and by night.
You cure all pains of all mortals with your healing attendance.
Come to me, I pray, o blessed one,
o great son of mind-perfecting divine Memory,
in gracious form and gracious mind!
For I am one who is a pious supplicant, I am one who is your soldier.
Render your form graciously and reveal yourself to me,
that I may fathom you by your mantic arts and by your virtues;
I ask you, o Lord, be gracious to me,
without deceit appear to me,
send forth your sacred sight to me!

You can tell that I didn’t bother keeping with the original line-based structure or dactylic hexameter meter of the original hymn; that’s a job for a poet better than me, while I focused more on the content and meaning of the hymn.  I broke out the lines more or less into individual phrases that made sense to me, which also explains the relatively long line length of the hymn compared to the originals, and reworded a few things to be clearer based on my own understanding of the Greek diction and grammar used here. I did try to keep this a more literal translation than what’s given in Betz, though the end of the hymn is a bit weird; all three variants of this hymn are all focused strictly on a dream divination, so it constantly references “oracle” or “art of divination” or “mantic skill”, which I rendered more obliquely as “sacred sight” in the final line.  A bit of a twist on my part, to be sure, but this is a twist that encapsulates both a theophany of the god as well the oracular power of the god at the same time, in my view.

I also broke up the hymn into three sections, with the first and last containing text (almost entirely) common to at least two out of three variants of the hymn, and the middle section containing content from PGM XVIIb.  There’s one line from PGM XVIIb that is in the first section given how it flows (“Prophet to mortals…”), and likewise two lines in the last section (“For you’ve become the order of the world” and “…and your soldier”); I keep these here, even if they’re not part of PGM V and PGM VII, given the flow and grammar of the hymn, but they’re minor additions that fit well all the same.  My reasoning is that, because PGM XVIIb is the weirdest variant but still contains some of the content of the other two variants in PGM V and PGM VII, I use that as the skeleton of the whole structure and fill in the rest as necessary; this basically assumes that the variants in PGM V and PGM VII had the content from PGM XVIIb fall out at some point, and that these are condensed or shortened versions of the hymn.  It’s a pretty big assumption to make, to be absolutely fair, but it also allows us to make the most out of all these variants together at once in the cleanest way.

While all of the content of the hymns from PGM V and PGM VII are accounted for, there are a few lines from PGM XVIIb that I couldn’t do anything with on account of their incompleteness (“For you inspire…”, “…within a short time…”, “whenever the fateful day arrives again”, “…who send some oracle that’s true”, “just as…may you judge…”).  Betz notes that some of these bear similarity to Homeric verses, but the context isn’t clear enough to offer a firm reconstruction of these missing parts of the hymn.  It’s likely, given these parallels to Homeric verses that describe going down to the underworld (which PGM XVIIb seems to elaborate on heavily in Hermēs’ role as psychopomp), that these lines describe something similar.  This is just an outright guess, but something appropriate might go something like this (with boldface text being what survives and can be reconstructed by Betz/Preisendanz):

Prophet to mortals in life, guide to mortals in death,
for you inspire quickness in the mind and daring in the heart
and takes mortals below within a short time before taking them up and
whenever the fateful day arrives again
you return them to Hadēs, you who send some message that’s true

This conjecture references the descent of great heroes like Odysseus into the underworld to progress on their quests while alive though they’ll go back down once more for good at their proper time, and also recalls the processes of ancient Hellenic necromancy through dream incubation by sleeping upon or by the tombs of the dead to receive revelation from them, which would be facilitated by Hermēs leading the dead from the underworld up again to our world briefly before taking them back down.  Again, this is all just purely a conjecture on my part, and I’ve got no clue what sort of language could be used to fit the dactylic hexameter of the hymn here.  Still, something along those lines could be considered appropriate, but we just don’t have the means to know definitively one way or another without finding another variant of this hymn that mentions these.  Because of that, I’ve omitted them from my “reconstructed” hymn.

There are a few interesting things to note about this hymn and the phrasing of it.  To be sure, there are definite Hellenic influences and symbols in this hymn, and an interesting thing to note is the description of Hermēs as “garbed in a mantle” (χλαμυδηφόρε).  It’s not all that weird to think of Hermēs wearing a cape or cloak while traveling on the road, and we certainly see Hermēs wearing it in many old depictions, but we should note that, by the time of the writing of the PGM, the chlamys was cemented firmly in the minds of people as being Greek military attire.  In that light, the supplicant referring to themselves as Hermēs’ “soldier” (στρατιώτῃ) in PGM XVIIb solidifies this militaristic view of Hermēs, along with shifting notions at this time of the chlamys being worn by not just soldiers but officials (especially rulers and emperors) in charge of soldiers.  Betz notes that a supplication referring to oneself as a soldier is found in PGM IV.154—285 in a hymn to Typhōn (Preisendanz reconstructed hymn 6, note boldface text):

I’m he who closed in heaven’s double gates and put
To sleep the serpent which must not be seen,
Who stopped the seas, the streams, the river currents
Where’er you rule this realm. And as your soldier
I have been conquered by the gods, I have
Been thrown face down because of empty wrath.

Perhaps in a particular milieu in Roman Empire-period Theban Egypt, being considered a soldier of some god was more esteemed or noble (or had more means accessible to them) than just being considered a servant or devotee of the god.

Up at the start of the hymn, all three hymns refer to Hermēs as the “orbit of Selēnē, spherical and square”.  We might also translate this phrase (κύκλε Σελήνη, στρογγύλε καὶ τετράγωνε) as “circle of the Moon, round and four-sided”, but the sentiment is basically the same.  This would appear to be a reference to Hermēs in his Egyptian form as Thoth, a god of the Moon and the cycles of the lunar month.  While I’ve seen one or two passing references to an identification of Hermēs with the Moon in non-Egyptian contexts or influences, I can’t really find anything along those lines concretely, so I’m pretty sure this is an Egyptian influence in this hymn.  “Spherical and square” (I prefer “circular and square”, personally) seems paradoxical, but each of these words could be interpreted in several ways.  “Spherical” most likely refers to the “wheel of the Moon”, but it could also refer to the actual planetary star of Hermēs himself (or, likewise, of the Moon).  “Square” could refer to Hermēs’ traditional presence as hermai, the four-sided posts at crossroads in Greece., but interpreted as “four-sided”, could refer to the four weeks of a lunar month, reckoned by the New, First Quarter, Full, and Last Quarter Moons.  It’s an interesting appellation of the god, either way.

There’s also the explicit association of Hermēs with “the thread of the Moirai and Dream divine” (Μοιρῶν τε κλωστὴρ…καὶ θεῖος ὄνειρος).  Sure, all the gods fulfill and carry out Fate, but to describe Hermēs explicitly as the “thread of the Moirai” is something stark, indeed.  Likewise, although Hermēs is certainly one to send dreams by means of sending sleep (cf. Orphic Hymn LVI to Hermēs Chthonios, “thine is the wand which causes sleep to fly, or lulls to slumb’rous rest the weary eye”), but to identify him explicitly as Dream itself is not altogether common.  But, by the same token of Hermēs being the “thread of the Moirai” in two of the hymns, he’s also the “prophet of events” in the other (Μοιρῶν προγνώστης); sure, we might interpret this as just a general divinatory allusion, but the Greek here might be more accurately translated as “prognosticator”, which has medical overtones, as this was also a term used for medical specialists and physicians. 

This, coupled with Hermēs being described as the one who “cure[s] all pains of all mortals with your healing attendance”,  gives him a bigger role than just a diviner, but also one who heals the fatal problems of fate itself.  “Healing attendance” here is “healing cares” in the other hymns translated in Betz, but this is just a single word in Greek: θεραπείαις, origin of our word “therapy”.  In this, we might even consider Hermēs to take on a presence closer to what we might expect of Asklēpios, the son of Apollōn, hero of physicians and medical workers, whose temples were also famous places for dream oracles and prognostication for and through dreams.  It’s hard to avoid this, too, given that Hermēs is described here as the “eye of Hēlios”, which works equally well in the sense of Thoth being born from the eye of Horus and Asklēpios being the son of Apollōn, as well as Asklēpios’ later identification in Hermetic literature with the 27th century bce Egyptian chancellor Imhotep, who was also a high priest of Ra.  But, as Asklēpios, he then becomes Hermēs pupil, making a complete circuit of associations.  Interesting loops we can weave between all these things, huh?  Still, even given all these solar allusions, Hermēs here is not being described as the Sun, but as a derivative and relative of it, and it’s this that is something distinctly Thothian in nature.

Perhaps not as surprising, but definitely as stark, is the description of Hermēs here as a cosmic all-ruler.  This is a definite Egyptian influence from Thoth being considered as such, giving Hermēs a much grander, more powerful role than what we might otherwise find in a purely Hellenic context.  From “offering good things to the good but grief to those who’re worthless”, we see Hermēs elevated from being merely a psychopomp of the dead to being a judge of the dead, much as we’d find Thoth weighing the heart of the deceased against the feather of Ma’at; from seeing him becoming “master over the elements…when [he] became helmsman of all the cosmos” and becoming “the order of the world”, we see him being a truly powerful organizing principle and organizer of the powers of Nature itself; even the cycles of day and night serve Hermēs in this prayer.  Hermēs as “all-subduer, unsubdued” positions Hermēs truly as “lord of the cosmos”; even the Hellenic notions of Hermēs being a god of communication and language are strengthened here by the same attributes of Thoth being called out and given to Hermēs. 

At the end of the day, the PGM Hymn to Hermēs is definitely a hymn to praise and call on the god, but in its three variants we have surviving to us, it seems that it (along with many other hymns in the PGM, especially those focused on male or masculine deities) was always centered on the revelation of oracles through dreams and sleep.  Sure, there’s enough prayer and praise in there to tweak it slightly to make it more general purpose, but the very description of Hermēs as being “Dream divine” and the repeated requests for sending prophesy and dreams, especially with a confirmed use of this hymn related to putting sacred objects by one’s head while asleep to receive information in dreams, makes this a fine-tuned hymn for receiving revelation from the god.  Even if one were to make it slightly more general-purpose by tweaking the requests at the end, we still are left with a powerful prayer invoking and praising the power of a truly syncretic Hermēs-Thoth, all-powerful in his way in ordering the world and not just guide to the dead but their judge, too.  While there are still a few mysteries left with this prayer, especially given the poor quality of one of the hymn variants that also seems to have the most in store for us, what we have left is still beautiful and still potent.  This hymn, as written, does ask for the prophecy and appearance of the god, but I think it’s still general-purpose (or generalizable) enough to be used as an all-around invocation of the god, whether Hermēs or Thoth, but especially Hermēs-Thoth the Thrice Great.

“The Adocentyn Temple Almanac” Preferences Questionnaire

This is just a quick update for tonight, but for once, I’d like some input from you, my amazing and darling readers.

As some of you might recall or have seen me go on about on Twitter, I’ve been working on a bit of a fun project lately, an automated almanac project that I call “The Adocentyn Temple Almanac” (or TATA for short, because I’m cute like that).  This is a project where, using the well-loved Swiss Ephemeris codebase and typesetting the output with LaTeX into something nice, I can produce a customizable almanac document for (almost) any populated latitude, longitude, and altitude on Earth.  It’s my hope that this becomes a truly useful thing for people: after all, can you imagine having a customized astrological/astronomical almanac for your very own temple room in your house or communal space, specific for where you might actually stand and see the stars?  My plan is, in exchange for a modest fee, to produce this almanac (made custom for each person, with a preliminary check to see what information they’d like) as a high-quality PDF, which you can have on your mobile device or laptop as needed, or which you can send off to a printer to have a hardcopy for on-hand off-line reference in your own temple space.

I’ve been working on TATA on and off for a bit now, and I’ve gotten a lot of features built into it already (all of which can be turned on or off as a user might desire):

  • Sun ingress Zodiac signs and decans
  • Sun transit seasons and season midpoints
  • Moon ingress Zodiac signs and lunar mansions
  • Moon phases
  • First and last sightings of the Moon
  • Solar and lunar eclipse times
  • Lunar month day numbers
  • Decan day numbers (using my “rebalanced true degree method” I mentioned in an earlier post)
  • Rising sign and culminating sign windows
  • Rising, setting, culminating, and settling times for the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars
  • Planetary hours
  • Simple ritual windows

Even so, however, because I have a perfectionist streak and because I want this to be the best, most useful, and most flexible bit of software that I can make it, I need your help to figure out what else I should build into this!  After all, there are some things that I just don’t know whether they’d be popular or some things I just don’t know about in general, and there are other things that I do know about and haven’t yet developed because I don’t know how desirable they’d be.  For that, I need to turn to you—yes, you!—to let me know what you think.

If you’re interested in helping me out with, please fill out this questionnaire on Google Forms.  You’ll need a Google account to take it, but this way you can change your responses afterwards if you have a wit-of-the-stair moment and need to add in something later.  It should only take about ten to thirty minutes, depending on your speed of answering and thinking about possibilities, but do feel free to suggest in the questionnaire whatever you might like!  After you’ve taken it, please also share this post (or my post on Facebook or tweet on Twitter) to your magical, astrological, priestly, occult, or spooky friends to also get their input.  I’ll keep everyone updated, to be sure, as this is a project I hope to bring to light and made accessible for anyone interested before the end of 2020, so please be sure to get your answers in soon to help guide my continuing effort on TATA!

The Invocations of the Seven Temples

In my quest to further develop and refine my own spiritual practices, especially when it comes to prayers, I often turn to the practices of the great religions and disciplines that have gone before me, even if I myself don’t belong to them.  Not that this is an uncommon thing, whether for myself or for any other number of mages or spiritual people, of course, but there is a level of finesse that has to go along with this to avoid outright appropriation of practices or the misleading of myself into particular theological issues that I would rather happily avoid.  Sometimes it’s a simple matter of just tweaking the words slightly, and sometimes a more challenging matter of closely inspecting the actual theological, cosmological, or philosophical underpinnings that allow the prayer to manifest and blossom into sincere spiritual working.

There are three main influences going on here with these prayers:

  1. The `ad’iyah of the Seven Haykal.
  2. The `ad’iyah of Ṭawaf, the seven circumambulations around the Ka’bah at Hajj.
  3. Names of Allah associated with the seven planetary spheres from the Shams al-Ma`arif and similar resources.

It’s from that first influence, that of the Seven Haykal, that this prayer practice of mine takes its name; haykal (هيكل‎) means “temple” or “sanctuary”, from Hebrew hekhal (היכל‎) meaning “temple”, and originally referred to the main building of the Holy Temple of Solomon, but could also be taken to refer to palaces in other contexts.  In Arabic, the term can also refer to the body or form of something, especially when it comes to the human body; in similar senses, Bahá’í uses this word to refer to the body of the Manifestations (messengers) of God.  For our contexts and purposes, though, we’ll interpret haykal as the seven directions relative to oneself, all of which culminate in creating one grand manifestation of holiness and sanctuary.  Each of the seven “temples”, in this context, has its own separate invocation.

The First Invocation:

O God, you who are the Propitious One! Nothing can happen, o Lord, except according to your Word; all things happen, o Lord, according to your Word. I call on you by your name, by which all the seas and all the lands have been created! I call on you by your name, by which all of the Heavens shake! I call on you by your name, by which all your angels tremble! I call on you by your name, by which the prayers of holier men than me have been accepted and to whom you have given your love and mercy! I call on you by your name, by which your prophets have been purified and ennobled, by which you send your blessings and peace upon them, and by which all those who follow them may learn to follow in their ways to you! Hear me and all my prayers, for you are the Most Generous.

The Second Invocation:

O God, you who are the Forbearing One! It is you, o Lord, who created the Heavens and all within them; it is you, o Lord, who created the Earth and all upon it. I commit endless errors and bear endless faults, but with you are endless blessing and endless relief. Help me, o Lord, that I might bring an end to my error; help me, o Lord, that I might lighten the burden of my faults. You have heard and granted the pleas of your most despised creatures for relief and peace; so too, o Lord, even if I am no better than them, grant my pleas for relief and peace. Bless me, o Lord, with what you give me, and make my heart content with it. Hear me and all my prayers, for you are the All-Knowing.

The Third Invocation:

O God, you who are the Vigilant One! Whatever evil hurts us, o Lord, none but you can remove it; whatever good helps us, o Lord, none but you can repel it. I am your servant, utterly dependent on you, fearful for my soul, who takes refuge in you; grant me fortitude in my body and assurance in myself. I am your ward, a poor seeker of succor at your gate; grant me, o Merciful God, entry into your kingdom! Yours is a holy house and an eternal sanctuary, into which those who turn to you might enter for refuge. Save me, o Lord, and take me into your house, that I and all those before me, after me, and with me might be saved from the torments that I risk with every breath and every step. Hear me and all my prayers, for you are the Most Holy.

The Fourth Invocation:

O God, you who are the Truthful One! Whatever you bestow, o Lord, none can take away; whatever you take away, o Lord, none can bestow. Lord, guide your people to you, and keep all evil away from those who turn to you. Lord, grant us your blessing on Earth and in Heaven, and save us from the torments we face. Yours is a holy house and an eternal sanctuary, and it is here that I seek to stay and take refuge from the torments that chase me and the torments I bring upon myself. All blessing, relief, and well-being come from you; grant it upon me and all those before me, after me, and with me! Hear me and all my prayers, for you are the Most Exalted.

The Fifth Invocation:

O God, you who are the Powerful One! There is nothing and no one on Earth or in Heaven, o Lord, that you do not know; all things that exist and live on Earth or in Heaven, o Lord, are known to you. Grant me life, light, and goodness by your mercy; grant me refuge from my torment by your mercy; grant me healing from disease by your mercy; grant me protection from harm by your mercy! By your mercy, unending and eternal, enlarge my bounty and blessings for me, and keep me safe from the evil of corrupt men and corrupting spirits. Lord, I know that my work is meager; multiply it and help me multiply it. Help me so that all that I am, all that I have, and all that I do might be made worthy to you and be accepted as an offering before your Throne. Hear me and all my prayers, for you are the Almighty.

The Sixth Invocation:

O God, you who are the Reckoning One! There is nothing on Earth or in Heaven, o Lord, that does not depend on you; all things on Earth and in Heaven, o Lord, utterly depends on you. Praise be to you, from this one who gives this prayer to you! Praise be to you, from all those who have ever honored and exalted you! Praise be to you, who has sent forth the angels to teach the prophets! Praise be to you, who has sent forth the prophets to teach all humanity! Lord, I know that my work is meager; multiply it and help me multiply it. Help me that whatever crimes I conceal be forgiven, whatever errors I make be corrected, and whatever flaws I possess be repaired. Hear me and all my prayers, for you are the Most Merciful.

The Seventh Invocation:

O God, you who are the Unique One! There is no might nor power except in you, o Lord; all my trust and faith is put in you, o Lord. Owner of well-being, creator of well-being, keeper of well-being, granter of well-being! You who give well-being to me and all your creatures! You, merciful on Earth and in Heaven, compassionate of all who turn to you! Send your peace and blessing upon all those who have gone before me, and send your peace and blessing upon me and all who walk with me, that we might have well-being now and always, that we might give thanks for well-being, and that we might always praise and glorify you and your mercy. Hear me and all my prayers, for you are the All-Aware.

All seven invocations are to be used as one overall prayer done in succession, interspersed by a physical gesture of blowing breath in a particular direction.  Based on the instructions for reciting the Seven Haykals supplication, I follow the following process:

  1. Open up with my customary invocations and prayer to the Divine.
  2. Recite the first invocation.
  3. Cup your hands together in front of your face, then breathe out into them, extending your hands forward and extending your breath mentally forward into the distance.
  4. Recite the second invocation.
  5. Cup your hands together in front of your face, then breathe out into them, moving your hands behind your head and extending your breath mentally behind you into the distance.
  6. Recite the third invocation.
  7. Look upwards, cup your hands together in front of your face, breathe out into them, moving your hands upward and extending your breath mentally above you into the skies.  Return your posture to face forward.
  8. Recite the fourth invocation.
  9. Look downwards, cup your hands together in front of your face, then breathe out into them, moving your hands downward and extending your breath mentally down into the Earth.  Return your posture to face forward.
  10. Recite the fifth invocation.
  11. Look to your right, cup your hands together in front of your face, then breathe out into them, moving your hands to your right (extending your left hand across your chest to the right and your right hand out fully) and extending your breath mentally behind you into the distance.  Return your posture to face forward.
  12. Recite the sixth invocation.
  13. Look to your left, cup your hands together in front of your face, then breathe out into them, moving your hands to your left (extending your right hand across your chest to the left and your left hand out fully) and extending your breath mentally behind you into the distance.  Return your posture to face forward.
  14. Recite the seventh invocation.
  15. Cup your hands together in front of your face, then breathe out into them, passing your breath over your body from your head down to your feet, filling your own sphere with your breath mentally.
  16. Prostrate, and recite “Amen”.

In the course of this prayer, what I end up doing is filling each of the seven relative directions (the six directions of before, behind, above, below, left, right, and and the seventh direction of within) with holy breath, letting my breath carry my prayers to each of the directions so that each direction I face is a sanctuary of its own, all culminating in myself becoming the final sanctuary.  The overall effect of this prayer practice, I find, is that it relatively quickly, quietly, and simply produces an atmosphere of holiness and peace.  This has a number of benefits, to be sure, but in this light, using this as a way to quickly sanctify an area for spiritual works or to prepare such a space for more profound spiritual works is something I’ve settled on, almost as a framing ritual unto itself, in addition to when I myself feel that I need that extra bit of holy peace.  Even without such a purpose in mind, this prayer practice is a beautiful series of meditations and supplications to the Divine to seek and establish peace, well-being, and holiness in the lives we lead.

Although I based these prayers on those of the original two sets of Islamic supplications noted above, I did shuffle, mix, and reorder them.  There’s a subtle order present in the original invocations, but I decided to use a different order for these, and changed the order and presence of particular bits of prayer accordingly.   The first six invocations can be thought of instead as three pairs, with the first and second prayer sharing a similarity of structure and context, as well as the third and fourth, as well as the fifth and sixth.  This ties into the mirrored effect of the breaths one takes to sanctify that direction; as a result, the seventh and final invocation stands alone, as the Divine Center has no opposite once all the other directions have been taken into account.  Because these are all relative prayers, no direction needs be used as an orientation or anchoring point; you can face East or North or another direction of sacred import for you as you might like or prefer, and if you have such a direction to face then you certainly should, but the practice given above will produce a power of holiness in each of the directions around you anyway.  In this way, the names and attributes of God that are here given, based on the Islamic tradition, are arranged in a way that echoes a planetary structure not unlike that of my Geomancer’s Cross:

  1. Fore: Sun
  2. Rear: Moon
  3. Above: Jupiter
  4. Below: Saturn
  5. Right: Mars
  6. Left: Venus
  7. Center: Mercury

Of course, even with this, this is more of a hint of planetary flavor without being anything too blatant or stiff.  It’s a useful framework, but those who would prefer to use a different arrangement of the planets for the seven directions (e.g. the Calling of the Sevenths from the Heptagram Rite) can simply shuffle the initial and final names and attributes of God accordingly for the seven directions, such that the first one (Moon in East) is given the names “Forbearing One” and “All-Knowing”, the second one (Mercury in North) is given the names “Unique One” and “All-Aware”, and so forth.  However, given that this series of invocations seeks to establish holiness and sanctuary right where one is, I figure a more microcosmic than macrocosmic approach is needed here, hence the Geomancer’s Cross framework for arranging the planets to these ways.

It’s true that my current prayer practices are diverging more from an Abrahamic background and more into a theistic Hermetic one, but there’s so much fantastic and powerful ritual tech in the various Abrahamic traditions, especially those that have mystical or devout expressions of single-pointed holiness that isn’t limited to any one use case, really.  Besides, the beauty in such practices alone attests to their value, as beauty is truth and truth is power—even the Corpus Hermeticum agrees on that.  Although some might find the echoes of Islam and Abrahamism in the above to be still too clear and thus dissuading, I find that the beauty that rings in them is a powerful and clarion bell calling my heart to prayer, and just as the clear tone of a clear bell clears the airs, so too do these seven invocations with holy, intentful breath clear a place for even holier works to ensue.  Give it a shot sometime, dear reader; you might find this is a beautiful practice of power for yourself.

And yes, the prayer is already up in the menu for ease of reference: Prayers → The Invocations of the Seven Temples