New divination tools of Hermēs available up on my Etsy!

If you want something done, give it to a busy person.  And boy, between my usual stuff going on, a new shrine project that came together WAY too quickly for it to have been mere chance, and all the 2019 yearly forecast readings going on (have you gotten yours yet? special ends next Wednesday!), it’s a true blessing that I’ve been snowed in for the past few days and have had the time to actually do everything I need and get some sleep on top of that.

I’ve had it in my mind to make some divination tools for the public to have for a while now, based on some of the tools and methods I use.  I’ve written about a bunch on this blog from time to time over the year—granted, most of it is geomancy, which is pretty tool-independent when you get right down to it—and some of them require some specialized tools.  In general, most forms of divination, especially practiced in a modern way, don’t really require consecration or blessing, though it never hurts to do so.  Tarot readers can just pick up a pack of cards and get to work, but it can often help to cleanse them and spiritually prepare them for the work they’re doing.

However, not all the forms of divination I do are so free-wheeling or powered by my own spiritual sense, but are tied directly to the spirits and gods, a true divinization of divination as it were.  To that end, I like to have some of my tools properly prepared, blessed, consecrated, and linked up to the voices of those spirits and gods so that I can read what they say as much as I hear them.  For some time now, I’ve been working on how, exactly, to go about doing that for others, but I kept putting it on the back burner.  Well, no more of that; a bunch of supplies came in, and I promptly got myself read, got into the right headspace, made the right offerings, and got to Work with the Hellenic god of guides and guide of gods, men, spirits, souls, and heroes, Hermēs.

Long-time readers might remember two forms of divination I use with him:

Guess what?  You can now buy sets of four coins and sets of five astragaloi on my Etsy page, all consecrated, blessed, and ready to go.

Making these was a pleasure and an honor, and they’re specially made for those who work with Hermēs as the messenger of gods and men to communicate to them, and to any to approach them, the best advice in the time they need and the way they need, so that anyone who comes to the gods with sincerity, honor, and reverence may have the proper guidance to go where they must go, know what they must know, do what they must do, and become what they must be.  Not only are these tools for you, but they may be used through your service for any who come to you.  Just call on Hermēs, and he will answer.

I’ve prepared a bunch of these sets in a batch, which was easy enough for me, but supplies are still limited.  I may make more in the future, or I may make more only as special requests and commissions, I haven’t yet decided.  If you’re interested, head on over to my Etsy while supplies still last:

I include with the coin sets a short guide on how to use them along with a special prayer, but the bones contain no such guide due to the amount of information they can provide.  For that, I would strongly recommend getting one of the following texts:

Of course, there are other ways you can use the astragaloi, too; one such way is to use them for grammatomancy, the Greek alphabet oracle, which I just so happen to have written about and have a highly useful reference text on, too, also coincidentally available on my Etsy.  However, you might also consider getting John Opsopaus’ book, Oracles of Apollo (Llewellyn Publications, 2017), which has that and other divination methods included in it, as well.

So what are you waiting for?  Who can deny the blessings of the gods, and who would ignore their guidance?  Learn how to communicate with Hermēs and, through him, with the rest of the gods today; get in on these tools while they’re still there to get!

An Origin for the Letter Rules of Western Geomancy

Yes, yes, I am still working on my geomancy textbook!  As I’ve said before, it’s a long project, and by necessity it’s not the number one priority in my life; between a full-time job, heavy involvement in my religious community, managing several kinds of online presence, and my own routines and practices, working on my book is definitely a priority but not the priority.  If I had days empty of all other tasks, it’d be a different story, but here we are.  Besides, the book has been in progress since 2013, back at a point where I now think I was wholly unqualified to write such a book.  (I still think I am unqualified to write such a book, not least because I’ve made a number of discoveries, innovations, and corrections to what I knew earlier, but here we are.)

One of the fun parts of the book for me to write is the postscript.  It’s an appendix that, rather than focusing on the meat-and-bones of geomantic techniques and practices, I talk a small bit about my own thoughts, views, and opinions on certain techniques and how my own practice prioritizes certain techniques over others, or my value-estimates of certain techniques.  After all, though there are hundreds of different techniques that one can use in geomantic divination, in any given chart I might only use a handful of them, some I use generally for every reading and others I bust out for particular situations.  Almost all the techniques have some value, but some have more value than others.  I talk a bit about what I think of such things in the postscript as a kind of final letting-my-hair-down moment, where I get to drop a little of the academic and technical style I use throughout the book and get a little personal in my practice.

The postscript really isn’t a place for me to introduce or talk about any particular techniques at length, though—except one: methods to determine names or letters with geomancy.  As I’ve mentioned before on my blog, the methods to determine names is something that would be sorely useful for geomancers, and a number of historical authors mention methods to do so, most of all Christopher Cattan who introduces several “rules” for associating the figures with letters and a number of methods to use them.  John Heydon, likewise, introduces several such sets of associations for different scripts, but largely references the same methods Cattan uses.  John Michael Greer, continuing the vein of carrying on such information especially as it was republished over and over again in the late Renaissance, gives a similar set of attributions in his “Art and Practice of Geomancy”.

It’s all a shame, though, because I’ve never gotten these methods to work.  In my past experiments with them, I kept getting garbage answers with chance results.  Quoth my earlier article:

Alas, however, I have to consign a geomantic technique to the failure pile, and it’s not for lack of trying: determining names.  While it would make sense conceptually that one could determine names with geomancy, I have never been able to get such name charts to work right, from the first time I ran a name chart years ago up until the present day.  Add to it, I’ve found several methods to determine names with geomancy, and several ways to associate the letters to the figures, and I’ve tried them all, none of them giving anything remotely resembling an accurate answer.  This frustrates me to no end, because why the hell would this one technique not work when nearly every other technique I’ve tried has given me useful results?  This is especially frustrating, since being able to predict names would be exceptionally useful in the world, from determining the names of cities one might be successful in to determining the names of future spouses. …

But even using any of the techniques with any set of correspondences, I kept coming up with wrong answers.  If I were lucky, some of the letters in the actual name I was trying to find might appear at random places in the chart, but this was by no means guaranteed.  I did notice a slight tendency for some of the letters to appear in houses II, V, and VIII, but there was no pattern for which letters (start, medial, end) appeared within them.  I even tried using the values of the Greek, Hebrew, and Celestial Hebrew associations that Heydon gives (untrustworthy as his stuff tends to be) to see if it would get me anything closer than the Roman script association; nada.  Plus, many of the techniques assumes there to be at least four letters or syllables in a name; many names I ended up asking about after I did a reading on them had one or two syllables, or had even just three letters, and these techniques don’t specify what to do in the case of really short names.

It seems, also, that I’m not the first person to complain about these methods, not by far.  In addition to my own colleagues and contacts in the present day who largely give the same conclusions I have, the French geomancer Henri de Pisis gives in his 17th century book Opus Geomantiae Completum in libros tres divisum (reproduced as part of Fludd’s later work Fasciculus Geomanticus) gives the following complaint when he introduces these methods (translation mine from Latin):

So as to know someone’s name. I might have put this and another table of the same from Cattan, yet given how useless and hollow it is, I freely suppress it, lest it impose onto this very art which usually predicts with certainty. By this understanding, I would have omitted it and the following chapter, as with things uncertain and generally wrong, if not for that we would see what even a single author maintains …

In truth, it has always escaped me as to the use they make of these numbers here, for nobody thus far has been able to discover their reasoning; neither Gerard of Cremona, nor Geber, nor Pietro d’Abano, nor myself, nor any others besides Cocles and Cattan have discerned the reasoning of the numbers or of the letters of names. It can essentially be seen that Cattan and Cocles would have relaxed this art to such a freewheeling extent into the form of some game, such as the casting of dice or dominoes, for the troublesome cheating of long nights or for the future coaxing of a droll joke, and a good many use it for this and will have had nothing certain placed in the art. In other words, since they are unaware of that which is superfluous to the art, they are unestablished in the foundations of this very art, and are only outsiders into contempt of it. I suggest that these methods be rejected.

It’s frustrating, especially for someone like de Pisis to have written so bluntly about this in a way he doesn’t elsewhere in Opus Geomantiae; he only includes these methods because others have written about them, and that only bitterly and begrudgingly.  This is all the more frustrating because Arabic geomancers make claims to predict names and letters as a matter of course, though because I speak neither Arabic nor Urdu nor Farsi, it’s hard for me to find what methods they use to validate it and see whether they can walk the talk or if they’re just full of hot air.

Now, skip ahead a few years.  The Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook is thriving with over a thousand members, including a good number from Arabic-speaking countries who are, God bless them, actually willing to share and discuss Arabic methods of geomancy.  One of them even goes so far as to include a list of those fancy apparati of Arabic geomancy, taskins, though I prefer an alternate term for them now, dā`ira (plural dawā`ir), which is commonly found in Urdu and Farsi texts, and which literally mean “cycle”.  These things are fascinating for Western geomancers to look at, because we have no parallel for them; they’re a combination of correspondence as well as technique unto themselves, enforcing particular orders of figures for different needs.  Depending on the tradition of Arabic geomancy you’re looking at, some geomancers claim that there are 16 cycles, others 28, or even as many as 400 or more, some kept secret for mystical and magical ends.  Some dawā`ir are clearly organized along mathematical or otherwise clearly understood principles, such as the dā`ira-e-abdaḥ which organizes the figures according to their binary numeral meanings (reading Laetitia as 1000 as 1, Rubeus as 0100 as 2, Fortuna Minor as 1100 as 3, and so forth); others are far more obscure as to why certain figures are arranged in certain ways.

So this list of dawā`ir is shared in the group, and happily the poster who shared it cited a particular academic: Dr. Matthew Melvin-Koushki, currently of the University of South Carolina, one of whose research interests is the occult sciences in Islam.  In his paper “Persianate Geomancy from Ṭūsī to the Millennium: A Preliminary Survey” (in Nader El-Bizri and EvaOrthmann, eds., Occult Sciences in Pre-modern Islamic Cultures, Beirut: Orient-Institut Beirut, 2018, pp. 151-99), Melvin-Koushki lists seven such cycles:

The various regional schools of geomantic thought are therefore to be distinguished by the ‘cycles’ (sg. dāʾira) they prefer to employ. A cycle, Hidāyat Allāh explains, is simply a specific sequence (tartīb) of the 16 geomantic figures, with each sequence featuring different types of correspondences — elemental, humoral, temporal, astrological, lettrist, etc. And the four cycles he identifies above are far from the only ones in common use. The geomancer has at his disposal a rather larger number of cycles; which he employs in any given reading depends on the nature of the information being sought and the degree of detail required. Hidāyat Allāh lists seven by way of example:

  1. The Occupation (sakan) cycle is the most basic; it begins with Laetitia and ends with Via.
  2. The Constitution (mizāj) cycle tells the querent what day he can expect to realize his desire; it begins with Acquisitio and ends with Cauda Draconis.
  3. The BZDḤ cycle, aka the Number (ʿadad) cycle, is used to tell periods of time; it begins with Puer and ends with Populus.
  4. The Letter (ḥarf) cycle is used to reveal names (a very popular application of the science); it too begins with Laetitia and ends with Via, with the first twelve figures being assigned two letters each and the last four figures only one.
  5. The Arabic Alphabet (abjad-i ʿarabī) cycle, aka the Element (ʿunṣur) or Interior (dākhil) cycle; it begins with Laetitia and ends with Populus.
  6. The ABDḤ cycle, aka the Element (ʿunṣur) or Arabic Alphabet (abjad-i ʿarabī) cycle, which is also popular; it too begins with Laetitia and ends with Populus.
  7. The Most Complete (aṣaḥḥ) cycle, which has a different organizing principle and procedure; it begins with Laetitia and ends with Via.

Note that fourth cycle Melvin-Koushki lists: the ḥarf cycle, the word literally meaning “letter” (as in characters of an alphabet).  This cycle goes in the following order:

  1. Laetitia
  2. Tristitia
  3. Rubeus
  4. Albus
  5. Fortuna Maior
  6. Fortuna Minor
  7. Caput Draconis
  8. Cauda Draconis
  9. Puer
  10. Puella
  11. Acquisitio
  12. Amissio
  13. Populus
  14. Carcer
  15. Coniunctio
  16. Via

Melvin-Koushki says that the first twelve figures (Laetitia through Amissio) get two letters each, and the final four (Populus through Via) get one letter each.  Looking through contemporary texts on Arabic geomancy (despite my lack of knowledge of Arabic/Farsi/Urdu, I can still pick out patterns and particular words well enough to find them!), we get the following correspondences of figures to letters:

Figure Letter
Laetitia أ
Tristitia ب
Rubeus ج
Albus د
Fortuna Maior ه
Fortuna Minor و
Caput Draconis ز
Cauda Draconis ح
Puer ط
Puella ي
Acquisitio ك
Amissio ل
Populus م
Carcer ن
Coniunctio س
Via ع

Note the order of how the letters go, first down the left column then down the right: this is the traditional abjadī order of the Arabic script, the same one in use for all other Phoenician-derived scripts like Greek and Hebrew.  The fact that the last four figures in the ḥarf cycle have only one letter each are also the liminal figures that are neither entering nor exiting might be because these four figures are special.  More realistically, though, it’s because there are 28 letters in the Arabic script, which means that some figures would get two letters and others only one; because there are 16 figures, 16 × 2 = 32, and 32 – 28 = 4.  If you just start assigning the letters one by one to the figures, you’d run out for the last four.  This raises the question, which came first, the order of the figures, or the ordering of the letters to which the figures were then mapped?  It’s unclear which came first to me, but we can pick out some interesting structural notes about the ḥarf cycle:

  • The first 12 figures are given in reversion pairs: Laetitia/Tristitia, Rubeus/Albus, etc.
  • The first four figures are the “pure elemental” figures, each with seven points.
  • The last four figures are all liminal figures, each of which is their own reversion; the first two are considered the stable liminal figures, the latter two the mobile liminal figures, progressively going from the most stable to the most mobile.

I also want to note that the source Melvin-Koushki is referencing came from the late 16th century, and his sources likely came from much older ones; by that point, geomancy was already around 600 or 700 years old.  Regardless, this cycle is still found in many works even today as a means to predict names.  (I have also seen the ABDḤ/binary-numeral cycle used for this same purpose, but it seems like that’s less popular of a choice than using this specific cycle, though the mechanism is the same.  I don’t know how common using the ABDḤ cycle is for this purpose, or where it might be centralized.)  Although I haven’t yet found much in English or another language I know yet about how to specifically use this cycle for divining names, at least I know how they associate the figures with letters, which is pretty neat unto itself.

I bring this up because, while going over my draft for my postscript in my book, I returned to that section about how Western geomancy has methods for determining names.  I originally wrote the seed for that section in the aforementioned blog post of mine back in 2014, and I basically copied the same tables (in a more intelligible way and broken down by author or source) into my book.  While I was revising that particular section, something about the order of how Cattan, Heydon, and Case associated the figures to the letters…something about it struck me as familiar.  I normally use the planetary order of the figures in my posts and tables (lunar figures, Mercurial figures, Venereal figures, …, nodal figures), but it struck me that several Western authors all had it that Laetitia was given to A, Tristitia to B, Rubeus to C, and so on.  They don’t all agree with each other in some of the associations, and Cattan and Heydon have other rules that give other letters to the figures, but it’s clear they were all drawing on the same source in one form or another, and…hm.  Neither the similarities between them nor that same order could be given to chance.

Digging out my ancient binder of geomancy notes from when I was in college, I got out my transcript of one of the earliest Western works on geomancy, Martin of Spain’s work “De Geomancia”, written sometime in the 1200s.  Dr. Laurel Means has a version of it in Popular and Practical Science of Medieval England (Lister M. Matheson, ed., Michigan State University Press, 1994), and I was able to get a text transcript of it while in college, though I’ve since lost the original source and the transcript file I was working on, though I did save a copy.  I remembered this because it has an early association of the figures with letters from well before Cattan or the others, and I wanted to see how it’d match up.  Surprise: it did, more than I expected, even if I’m missing associations for two of the figures.  Though Martin of Spain gives anywhere from one to five letters to the figures, the first of them typically matches with the expected one and seems to be the “primary” letter.  All these Western sources all seemed to share the same basic order of the figures, starting with Laetitia and Tristitia and continuing from there.  There are some variations, but it’s all fundamentally the same thing.

To compare what I’m seeing, here’s a table that associates the letters of the alphabet with the figures from Christopher Cattan (specifically his First Rule), John Heydon (the “First Rule” for English, with annotations), John Case, and Martin of Spain (more below because this is weird):

Letter Martin of Spain Cattan Heydon Case
A Laetitia Laetitia Laetitia Laetitia
B Tristitia Tristitia Tristitia Tristitia
C Rubeus Rubeus Caput Draconis Caput Draconis
D Albus Albus Albus Albus
E Fortuna Minor Fortuna Minor Fortuna Minor Fortuna Minor
F Fortuna Maior Fortuna Maior Fortuna Maior Fortuna Maior
G Caput Draconis Caput Draconis Rubeus Rubeus
H Cauda Draconis Cauda Draconis Puella Puella
I J Puella Puella Acquisitio Acquisitio
K Puer Puer Cauda Draconis Cauda Draconis
L Acquisitio Puer Puer
M Acquisitio
N Via Amissio Amissio Amissio
P Carcer Via Via Via
R Carcer Carcer Carcer
T Populus Populus Populus Populus
X Coniunctio Coniunctio Coniunctio Coniunctio
Y Via

Admittedly, Martin of Spain’s attributions are a little weird; he gives a set of letters for each figure, roughly in alphabetical order per figure, so a bit of sussing needs figuring out; additionally, the letters “l” and “y” are not allocated anywhere, but there is an allocation for the obsolete letter yogh (ʒ), which I interpreted as “y” above.  The full set of associations from Martin of Spain are:

Figure Numbers Letters
Fortuna Maior 12 ff
Fortuna Minor 8 or 1 e
Caput Draconis 13 g t
Acquisitio 31 h m
Laetitia 50 a d
Puer 9 k j
Tristitia 12 b d n
Puella 1 j c e
Rubeus 14 a c s
Albus 14 a d e
Amissio 15 j t s
Cauda Draconis 14 or 12 h j c d
Populus 2 n o t u
Coniunctio 13 or 17 r s t x
Via 8 n o t a ʒ
Carcer 10 o p q r s

Anyway, none of the associations we have in Martin of Spain, Cattan, Heydon, or Case give a figure for the letter Z, and the letters I/J and U/V/W weren’t classified as separate letters until recently, anyway.  As always, Case agrees with Heydon, as I’m pretty sure Case’s Angelical Guide was based on Heydon’s Theomagia, and both differ from Cattan in some minor ways.  Martin of Spain’s order starts off clear, but the order gets really mixed up and unclear towards the end.  Cattan’s order seems to be the most orderly, and preserves almost but frustratingly not quite the same order as the ḥarf cycle from before, with the following changes:

  • Cattan has Fortuna Minor and Fortuna Maior in positions 5 and 6; the ḥarf cycle switches these
  • Cattan has Puella and Puer in positions 9 and 10; the ḥarf cycle switches these
  • Cattan has Via, Carcer, Populus, and Coniunctio as the final four figures; the ḥarf cycle has Populus, Carcer, Coniunctio, and Via

What we’re arriving at is that the Western rules for assigning letters to the figures is clearly a continuation of the same cycle associations that began in the Arabic tradition, even from a very early period in Western geomancy, which indicates that the ḥarf cycle definitely dates back to the late 1200s, probably earlier, making it a very early arrangement of figures, indeed.  At least in the western part of Europe (i.e. Spain as opposed to Greece), this was likely brought in at an early point along with the rest of geomantic technique, and held on in some form or another by a handful of geomancers.  It’s unclear to me exactly how popular this method or association was, since I haven’t found more than a handful of resources that give such an association and most of them tend to be the larger works on geomancy that date from Cattan and onwards, but it may well be that this system was held onto, perhaps with some corruptions or changes, which would explain the small changes in Cattan’s order versus the ḥarf cycle.

The other major difference is how the letters get assigned to the figures in their cycle.  Rather than how the Arabic method goes through the cycle of figures and gives each figure one letter in turn, which results in a bunch of figures at the start with two letters and a few at the end with only one, the European method seems to almost be reverse: double up the letters at the end of the cycle and work forward until the rest of the figures at the start have only one letter each.  Given how straightforward the association method would be, I’m not sure how the method changed so drastically; either several corruptions happened along the way, or someone innovated a variation on the system.  I can’t seem to trace sources back past Cattan, or at least find any in an accessible form, so it’s unclear whether Cattan or his predecessors carried on the same tradition that Martin of Spain wrote about, whether his method came from another variant closely related to it, or whether he reimported an Arabic method and customized it for European needs.

What would it look like if we were to use the ḥarf cycle order of the figures and the same method, but applied it to the Roman script?  Considering that the Roman script that we use nowadays has shifted a bit from Renaissance usage, notably with the introduction of a few more letters (J from I, V and W from U, and Z), we can envision two versions of this, a “Renaissance Roman” ḥarf association of the figures with the letters as it was done in the days of Cattan et al. with 23 letters, and a “Modern English” association that uses all 26 letters of the modern English alphabet but done in the same way.  Below is what we would get from using those methods, alongside Cattan’s association for comparison (with the mis-ordered letters, e.g. Fortuna Maior and Fortuna Minor, in bold italic).  Heck, we can even come up with a Cattan-style association of the letters, using the ḥarf ordering (to fix the irregularities we might have seen from before) but using the same Western-style doubling-up of successive letters at the end:

Figure Cattan Ḥarf-Style
Modern English
Modern English
Laetitia A A R A Q A
Tristitia B B S B R B
Rubeus C C T C S C
Albus D D U/V/W D T D
Fortuna Maior F E X E U E
Fortuna Minor E F Y F V F
Caput Draconis G G G W G H
Cauda Draconis H H H X I J
Puer K I/J I Y K L
Puella I/J K J Z M N
Acquisitio L M L K O P
Amissio N O M L Q R
Populus T U/V/W N M S T
Carcer R S O N U V
Coniunctio X Y P O W X
Via P Q Q P Y Z

In this light, let’s point out two things about Cattan’s original style (which I’m taking as the default Western letter association rule, which was an earlier version of what Heydon and Case later used):

  • Really, why is there no Z in the Renaissance Roman scheme, or even Cattan’s original scheme?  As I mentioned earlier, Z was barely considered a letter in English until comparatively recently, so it’s not completely surprising that medieval, Renaissance, and even early modern texts on geomancy would omit it from such an association scheme.  Yet, French (for that matter, many forms of Romance languages) definitely uses the letter Z in its language regularly, so it’s odd that French or Italian would omit this letter.  Note how it would fall in the ḥarf-style Renaissance Roman scheme, as a letter corresponding to Caput Draconis.  This, however, would give its reverse figure Cauda Draconis no corresponding double letter, because the Roman script including Z would have 23 letters, and an odd number would mean one of these reversion-pairs would go unassigned.  So, this letter would have to be omitted to keep the system clean, and would probably logically be merged with S (as part of Carcer).
  • Even then, why does the Cattan scheme double up successive letters at the end, rather than allocate sequential letters cyclicly through the alphabet?  It might be more for a superficial resemblance or mirroring of how the ḥarf cycle associations work for Arabic, where the final positions are given to the liminal figures which were seen as “breaking the pattern” in some special way.  Because 22 letters get nowhere near those final four figures (as the ḥarf-style Renaissance Roman scheme shows) and because we might still want to make those final figures special in some way, the doubling-up of successive letters at the end could be seen as a compromise to keep the final few figures special while still allocating the letters to the figures in an orderly way.  It’s a major departure from the logic of the ḥarf cycle method, but it’s a method all the same.

So, let’s say that we have our pick now of these four systems.  Which would I recommend to use?  Given what the original ḥarf cycle logic was, I would throw my hat in for the ḥarf-style modern English associations above, but that’s also because I use the English language, and though the Renaissance Roman script is just an earlier version of the English alphabet, I see no reason to use an outdated orthography that omits several important letters that have not been considered allographs or variants of others for several hundred years now.  The same method of straightforwardly allocating the letters of one’s writing system in order to the geomantic figures in the ḥarf cycle can be used for any alphabetic or abjadic script.

Even with this, there are still several important questions that are still left unanswered:

  • It’s clear that alphabets or abjads that have an even number of letters would be favored, because it keeps the reversal pairs intact, so that each figure in the pair has the same number of letters.  What about scripts with an odd number of letters?  Does it really matter that much to keep reversal pairs intact?
  • Why are the figures in the ḥarf cycle placed in this order at all?  Is there an organizing principle behind it, or was it more inspired than devised?
  • Did the ḥarf cycle come first and then the association with the letters, or did the idea of divvying up the 28 letters of the Arabic script come first and the figures associated with those letters afterwards?  If the latter, it could explain why the four liminal figures just so happen to be at the end of the cycle where they get one figure each.  But even then, why would the pure element figures Laetitia, Tristitia, etc. be at the front in that order?  Reading the figures as elements, they could be read as Fire-Earth-Air-Water (my modern system or just using the points of those elemental lines) or as Air-Earth-Fire-Water (the older system that swaps Rubeus for Fire and Laetitia for Air), but this would be odd considering their pure elemental representations.
  • Can other cycles be used instead of the ḥarf cycle?  I know that at least some geomancers use the ABDḤ cycle using the same method of allocating letters to figures, just in a different order of the figures, though it seems the ḥarf cycle is more popular, at least in Africa and the Near East.
  • Where did Cattan get his Second and Third Rules of assigning the letters to the figures come from?  I haven’t been able to figure out a pattern there, either, especially with the varied and numerous associations he gives that don’t match anything else.  He even includes the letter Z in the Third Rule!

  • Did the methods of determining names as given by Cattan, Heydon, etc. also originally come from Arabic geomancy, or were they developed purely in a Western setting?  If they came from Arabic geomancy, did they come in at an early date and get passed down (and potentially corrupted) as time went by, or were they reimported at a later date?  Given their wording, it seems they were unclear and obscure even in Renaissance times.
  • What even are the methods in use for Arabic geomancy for using the ḥarf cycle?  I haven’t been able to read or research much about that, either.  How do Arabic geomancers determine names, and how similar are these methods using the ḥarf cycle (or other cycles with letters associated to the figures!) to those in Western geomancy?
  • What can be done about non-alphabetic or non-abjadic scripts?  Syllabaries can feasibly be assigned, syllable by syllable, to the geomantic figures, though that would quickly get out of hand depending on the number of syllables a language has.  How about abugidas, like any of the Brahmic-derived scripts?  How would vowels be handled in that system, if at all?  What about logographic scripts?

Still, even with these unanswered questions, I feel like I have enough at this point to convince me that that whole section in my book’s postscript about how trash these methods of determining names and letters are probably deserves a rewrite.  In fact, what’s astounding about the Western methods is that we have a fossil of Arabic dawā`ir embedded in our own practice, when otherwise there we don’t use any dā`ira-based technique.  It really emphasizes to me that, truly, geomancy is still an art that reaches deep into the sands of north African and Arabic culture, and perhaps there are more things that we can learn from or even merge with from our eastern siblings in this art.

In the meantime, I’m going to get back to more research and writing.  I want to take another look at those rules and try applying them again; now that I have a better understanding of why the letters get allocated to some figures in certain patterns, maybe using the ḥarf cycle in a more pure way than what Cattan or Heydon have could improve those chances of determining names.

Never a dull moment

So, I realize that I haven’t made a post since, yikes, mid-October?  Has it really been so long so quick?  According to my posting records and how many notifications Facebook gives me about updating my Digital Ambler page, apparently!

Normally, when I go into these slow periods when I don’t post much, it’s because I’m usually not doing much, since a lot of my writing is based on what I’m actually doing, studying, debating, researching, ritualing, and the like.  And yet, this time, that’s not as much the case.  While I haven’t been up to much proper ritual stuff, that’s not to say I haven’t been busy.  Besides the usual stuff like keeping an orderly household or keeping up with my full-time software engineering day job and visiting family and whatnot, there’s been a lot of stuff going on, too, not least of which I received several major further ceremonies in La Regla de Ocha Lukumí (a.k.a. Santería) to further my own abilities, license, and spiritual fortitude as a priest of Ogun.  (That, frankly, knocked me on my ass for a good month or so.)  Besides that, I’ve been doing plenty of research and reading and other legwork for a whole bunch of things:

  • Continuing to learn, study, and practice further elements of La Regla de Ocha Lukumí
  • The Akkadian/Babylonian anti-witchcraft ritual Maqlû, which I want to analyze and redevelop using a similar framework into a Hermetic or PGM-style curse-breaking and witchcraft-warding ritual
  • Investigating the origin of the letter- and name-divination techniques using Western geomantic rules (which I’ve previously written off before but may have a good lead to figure out where they came from and how to improve upon them)
  • Continuing to edit, improve, and add on to my geomancy textbook “Principia Geomantica” (yes, it’s still in the works! no, I don’t know when it’ll be ready!)
  • Preparing new tools for a Delphic Maxim oracle for my own use with Apollōn and Hermēs
  • Preparing consecrations of astragaloi sets and four coin sets for Hermaic divination
  • Preparing for a Mars consecration of carnelian bracelets as wearable talismans
  • Spending more money than I’m strictly comfortable with on academic books on various topics for niche and specialized research
  • The usual bullshit on Twitter

I also note that today happens to be Christmas Eve, which is also the feast of Adam and Eve.  Since I consider Adam to be the Earthy Forebear of geomantic practitioners (along with Daniel as the Fiery, Enoch as the Airy, and Hermes Trismegistus as the Watery Forebears), I wanted to share a prayer or invocation of Adam, but I don’t have one in a presentable format yet.  In the meantime, go read Dr. Cummins’ post about Adam and Eve and how they relate to magical praxis and theory and history; it’s a lovely read, especially for so fitting a day.  Perhaps by April 4th, the feast I give to Hermes Trismegistus, or March 24th, the feast for Gabriel the Archangel, I’ll have a set of prayers ready to share for geomancers with a more devotional bent to their practice.

And that’s all on top of the client work I do, fielding questions for guidance and doing readings for those who need it.  Speaking of, I’m also getting ready for 2019 yearly geomantic forecasts; stay tuned!  I’ll be doing a several-week special, to be announced later this week once Christmas itself has passed.

I’ve also been drawing up ideas to start a kind of subscription service; something small in exchange for a collective forecast every New Moon, plus communal discussions or impromptu teaching sessions on Discord every month or something.  It’s an idea I’d like to explore and see how it’d be received; if you’d like to give me your thoughts on that, feel free to comment below!  It wouldn’t affect the blog posts or pages any, at least not that I can think of, but if you’d like that little extra push from my end, it might be useful and worth your time and mine.

I’m not in the habit of apologizing for not posting; after all, it’s my blog, and it’s up to me and me alone to update it when I feel like it, however I feel like it.  That said, I do know that a good number of people are wondering where I’ve been, so I just wanted to let you know that between everything going on, everything I’m gearing up for, and a good deal of indecision about what to write about next (seriously my drafts folder is filling up with ideas, none of which are immediately appetizing for me to write about), I haven’t forgotten about you or the blog, nor have I fallen off the face of the earth!

Never a dull moment, indeed, but at least I’m doing well.  (Though I would like to go to the gym again at some point, had I enough time to do that on top of everything else plus commuting plus working plus sleeping etc.)  I hope the end of this interminable year is treating you all well, dear readers, and that the dawn of 2019 looks brighter than anything you’ve seen lately.

Another Look at the Circle of Petosiris

Again with the same damn text as before, I suppose.  Lately I’ve been polishing up some of my own notes and personal texts that I don’t publicly share, one of which is my personal binder of divination texts I use for the Greek stuff I do, namely grammatomancy, astragalomancy, and some references to the Delphic Maxims that I like.  In the section I have on grammatomancy—much pared down from my De Grammatomanteia ebook, but refined to have more information and correspondences that I personally find useful—I’ve been trying to reorganize some of the information in a better way that reduces my reliance on external resources.  Of course, it’s mostly a “just in case” thing, and some of the stuff I don’t really use…but it doesn’t hurt to have.

One of the things I’ve been wrestling with is how much numerology stuff I want to include.  After all, numerology was considered pretty useful in classical times, and if nothing else, it’s informative and instructive to consider.  I’ve written about it before, specifically onomatomancy, literally “divination by names” (previously I called it “onomancy”, which isn’t wrong but isn’t as correct a term as I should be using).  I wrote three posts about it: one that overlaps numerology with stoicheia, one about using pythmēnes to determine winners, and one that uses particular numerological devices to determine the outcomes of events.  I’ve been debating whether to include summaries of these methods and their charts or rules in my divination binder for my temple, and it’s not a bad idea to, I suppose, though I’m unconvinced I really need to.  Still, it wouldn’t be bad to have, and having the stoicheia-based rules thrown in could be useful, so I’m leaning towards doing it anyway.  That’s what got me looking, once again, at the Circle of Petosiris, a particularly fun numerological tool to determine whether one will recover and live or succumb and die to an illness based on the numerological interactions between a person’s name and the lunar date on which they fall ill.

Get a drink and buckle up, dear reader.  This post got a bit longer than I had anticipated.

For some background on my resources for this, the first reference I found that discussed this particular device was Hugo Magnus’ Superstition in Medicine (1905).  Magnus touches on the topic briefly giving an outline of the topic, but he refers to two other texts: Marcellin Berthelot’s Introduction a l’étude de la chimie des anciens et du moyen age (1889) and a truly wondrous work, Auguste Bouché-Leclerq’s L’astrologie grecque (1899).  Indeed, it’s from Bouché-Leclercq that I ultimately got my images for the Circle of Petosiris, which he’s modified slightly to fix what he believes is an error in the original diagram.  Both of these Circles, however, ultimately come from MS Grec 2419 from the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which is a beast of a 15th century Greek manuscript that contains all sorts of magical, astrological, Solomonic, and other divinatory texts in Greek that I wish someone would translate at some point into English.

With that, let’s look at Bouché-Leclercq’s versions of the two Circles of Petosiris from MS Grec 2419.  Both of these Circles are found in MS Grec 2419, though I could only find them after looking hard; the way the BnF digitized the damn thing screwed up all the folio numbers.  All the same, let’s go with Bouché-Leclercq’s nicely-redone versions of the Circles, because the originals are rather messier and harder to read:

For comparison, take a look at what the Circles look like from the original text.  The two tables on either side of the Circle are, according to Bouché-Leclercq, computations of the days of the lunar month, though I’m not really sure what that means.  In either case, Bouché-Leclercq omits the tables, while Berthelot includes them in his own (faithfully reproduced) image.


If you take a closer look at both of these Circles (at least in Bouché-Leclercq’s versions), they have the same basic structure: a circle divided into four quadrants each filled with numbers, with a central middle column divided into an upper half and lower half also filled with numbers.  Thus, each circle contains six zones, and each of them are labeled with a particular outcome based on numbers; going clockwise from the 9 o’ clock position, these are Great Life (upper left), Average Life (upper central), Small Life (upper right), Small Death (lower right), Average Death (lower central), and Great Death (lower left).  Interestingly, the middle sections of the fancier Circle of Petosiris on the right aren’t labeled, but given the similarities and positioning between the Great and Small outcomes on either side, it can be inferred that the middle refers to Average.  In either case, the upper zones reflect outcomes of Life, and the lower zones the outcomes of Death.

Just to make sure the Circles are fully understood, let’s take a closer look at the Greek script in each.  On the left, simple Circle, the central line says Πετοσίρου κύκλος, literally “circle of Petosiros” (spelling intentional on this one).  Around the edge, starting at the 9 o’ clock position and going clockwise, we get the

  1. ἡ μεγάλη ζωή (“the great life”)
  2. μέση ζωή (“middle life”)
  3. ἡ μικρά ζωή (“the small life”)
  4. μικρός θάνατος (“small death”)
  5. μέσος θάνατος (“middle death”)
  6. ὁ μέγας θάνατος (“the great death”)

The fancier Circle has a lot more going on inside it. Above the diagram, there’s the phrase κύκλος Πετοσίρεως, or “circle of Petosiris”.  On the horizontal, we have ὅροι ζωῆς καὶ θανάτου, literally “the borders of life and death”, a pleasant label for such a device, I suppose.  The “lobes” around the edge of the fancier Circle, starting at the 9 o’ clock position and going clockwise, indicate both the course of the Sun around the Earth in a single day as well as the four elements:

  1. ἀρκτικός μεσόγειος (“Arctic [star] over the earth”, i.e. midnight)
  2. πῦρ (“fire”)
  3. ἀνατολή ὑπέργειος (“rising above the earth”, i.e. sunrise)
  4. ἀήρ (“air”)
  5. μεσημβρία μεσόγειος (“midday over the earth”, i.e. noon)
  6. ὕδωρ (“water”)
  7. δύσις ὑπόγειος (“setting under the earth”, i.e. sunset)
  8. γῆ (“earth”)

In other words, if the fancier Circle of Petosiris were to be considered as a compass, north would be to the left, east at the top, south to the right, and west to the bottom.  The use of the elements here is interesting, as it might be thought to allocate certain elemental qualities to certain times of the day.  Continuing on, going around the outermost circle quadrant by quadrant, there are the following four messages:

  1. οὗτοι ταχέως σώζουσιν (“these save from death quickly”)
  2. οὗτοι ἐντός ἑπτά ἡμερῶν σώζουσιν  (“these save from death within seven days”, i.e. slowly)
  3. οὗτοι ἐντός ἑπτά ἡμερῶν ἀναιροῦσιν (“these kill within seven days”, i.e. slowly)
  4. οὗτοι ταχέως ἀναιροῦσιν (“these kill quickly”)

These line up with the text outside the circle and past the lobes, respectively μεγάλη ζωή (“great life”), μικρά ζωή (“small life”), μικρός θάνατος (“small death”), and μέγας θάνατος (“great death”).  It might be inferred, then, that the Average Life and Average Death zones would take effect in a span of three days or less, to use the same week-based timeframe for the Small Life and Small Death, while the Great Life and Great Death zones would take effect within a day.  It’s an odd timing system to use, I suppose, but it does offer a relative sense of scale.

Each quadrant also has a longer message in the innermost circle, though it’s repeated twice within each quadrant, once within each eighth-part of the circle:

  1. ἀρκτικά ὑπέργεια του βοῥῥᾶ (“Arctic [stars] above the earth [in the region] of Boreas [i.e. the north]”)
  2. μεσημβρία ὑπέργειος του βοῥῥᾶ (“midday [stars] above the earth [in the region] of Boreas [i.e. the north]”)
  3. μεσημβρία ὑπόγειος του νότου (“midday [stars] under the earth [in the region] of Notos [i.e. the south]”)
  4. ἀρκτικά ὑπόγεια του νότου (“Arctic [stars] under the earth of the [in the region] of Notos [i.e. the south]”)

These latter messages are probably supposed to represent the four parts of the day—viz. late night between midnight and sunrise, early day between sunrise and noon, late day between noon and sunset, early night between sunset and midnight—but these are given using kind of unusual astronomical phrases that I’m not fully certain I have right.  However, Berthelot doesn’t describe why these additions of times of day, positions of stars, or elements to the fancier Circle of Petosiris might be here, and they don’t seem to actually be used for numerological or onomatomantic divination; Bouché-Leclercq brings this up, and says that their inclusion is a “strange whim” and unknown how it might have been used.  However, based on some of the text (great life, small death, three zones of numbers per hemisphere, etc.), we have an almost identical setup of the basic arrangement of numbers, though Bouché-Leclercq says that the order is mysterious, i.e. it’s unknown why or how the numbers are arranged the way that they are.

The only real difference in how these two Circles of Petosiris are used is by what number one divides by to obtain a remainder; when using the simple Circle, one divides by 29, while with the fancy Circle, one divides by 30.  This matches how the simple Circle only contains numbers from 1 to 29 (αʹ to κθʹ) while the fancier Circle goes from 1 to 30 (αʹ to λʹ).  We know that lunar months have either 29 days (a hollow month) or 30 days (a full month), so it struck me that the simple Circle should be used when one falls ill during a hollow month, and the fancier Circle during a full month; neither Berthelot nor Bouché-Leclercq suggest this, but this makes so much more sense, in that these two Circles can be used alongside each other, just not at the same time!  After all, both of these Circles appear in the same overall text (though perhaps not by the same actual author), so using one for one kind month and the other for the other kind of month makes some sense so that nothing is missed.  Using this idea, the simple Circle can be called the Hollow Circle of Petosiris for use with hollow months of 29 days, and the fancier one the Full Circle of Petosiris for use with full months of 29 days.

In this light, we can compare how the outcomes match between the two Circles:

Quality Outcome Hollow Month
(29 days)
Full Month
(30 days)
Bright Great Life 2, 3, 7, 9, 11 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11
Average Life 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20
Small Life 22, 23, 26, 28 22, 23, 26, 28
Dark Small Death 1, 25, 27, 29 1, 25, 27, 30
Average Death 4, 10, 15, 18, 21, 24 4, 15, 18, 21, 24, 29
Great Death 5, 6, 8, 12 5, 6, 8, 12

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the outcomes of the hollow Circle and the full Circle are almost exactly the same!  There are only three differences between how the days are arranged between the two circles:

  • Day 30 (which doesn’t exist in hollow months) is given to Small Death in full months
  • Day 29 is given to Average Death in full months and to Small Death in hollow months
  • Day 10 is given to Great Life in full months and to Average Death in hollow months

This further reinforces the notion that one circle really is meant for hollow months and the other for full months, and that the two Circles really belong to the same overall system, using one or the other based on the specific month of the illness.  In that sense, we can rearrange this table slightly to show how similar both systems really are:

Quality Outcome Hollow Month
(29 Days)
Common Full Month
(30 Days)
Bright Great Life 2, 3, 7, 9, 11 10
Average Life 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20
Small Life 22, 23, 26, 28
Dark Small Death 29 1, 25, 27 30
Average Death 10 4, 15, 18, 21, 24 29
Great Death 5, 6, 8, 12

Note that the regions above the horizon in the full Circle, marked as above the Earth according to the time of day, are labeled in the table above as “Bright”, while the lower regions marked as below the earth are labeled as “Dark”.  This gives an interesting binary quality to each day of the month, which can also help predict how things overall turn out in addition to simple illnesses:

  1. Take the name of the person, find the isopsephic value of the name, divide by the total number of days in the month, and find out whether the remainder is Bright or Dark according to the proper Circle of Petosiris for the type of month.
  2. Find whether the given day of the lunar month on which one initiates a new project, task, or journey is Bright or Dark, according to the proper Circle of Petosiris for the type of month.
  3. If both numbers are Bright, the whole of the project, task, or journey will be fortunate and good.
  4. If both numbers are Dark, the whole of the project, task, or journey will be unfortunate and bad.
  5. If the number of the person is Bright and the number of the day is Dark, the person will be in danger, but they will escape the danger.  More generally, fortune will occur under the appearance of misfortune.
  6. If the number of the person is Dark and the number of the day is Bright, misfortunes will occur under the appearance of fortune, and although things appear to go well, hidden dangers and traps lie about.

In either case, it should be noted that there are slightly more Bright days than there are Dark days; there are always 14 Dark days every month, with 15 Bright days in hollow months and 16 Bright days in full months.  At least there’s a greater chance of success or survival than not, I suppose.

Yet another way that the Circles can be used is to determine which of two parties in a contest, fight, or battle will win.  Take the isopsehic values of each of their names, divide by 30, and find the remainder using the Full Circle of Petosiris to compare their respective results; the value with the better quality will determine the winner.  For instance, in the ever-popular onomatomantic example, Achilles (Αχιλλευς) has the isopsephic value of 1267, which gives a remainder of 7, landing in “Great Life”, while Hector (Εκτωρ) has a value of 1225, which gives a remainder of 25, landing in “Small Death”.  Though not as much is said about this method, several other

  • Bright outcomes automatically become victorious over Dark outcomes.
  • Especially in fatal conflicts, Dark outcomes indicate actual death, whether immediately or after a long-sustained injury or infection.
  • If both parties end up in Dark outcomes, the one with the least bad result will survive the longest but both will lose.
  • If both parties end up in Bright outcomes, the contest may be brought about to an amicable end, with the party with the better outcome having the upper hand.
  • If both parties end up in the same outcome, the contest may be conceived of as equal and coming to a truce or stalemate, or we can resort to other numerological and onomatomantic methods instead (such as the pythmēnes method), though we could also use a simpler rule of just looking at the outcome numbers themselves and comparing directly with them, unless those two numbers are also the same.

In general, it seems like the Circle of Petosiris is actually a multipurpose numerological and onomatomantic tool of divination that can be used to not just determine the outcome of illnesses but of any general event, battle, or project.  What’s interests me and which can be another useful diagnostic tool, however, is the attribution of Brightness or Darkness to particular days.  After all, I already have a lunar calendar (well, really, lunisolar calendar), the Grammatēmerologion, which gives individual days of the lunar months to the letters of the Greek alphabet for prognostication and ritual planning.  If Bright and Dark days can be thought of as naturally tending to fortune or misfortune, respectively, especially for particular people based on their names, then it wouldn’t be hard to conceive of this as further enhancing the Grammatēmerologion system:

Hollow Month
(29 days)
Full Month
(30 days)
1 Α Dark
2 Β Bright
3 Γ Bright
4 Δ Dark
5 Ε Dark
6 Ϝ Dark
7 Ζ Bright
8 Η Dark
9 Θ Bright
10 Dark Bright
11 Ι Bright
12 Κ Dark
13 Λ Bright
14 Μ Bright
15 Ν Dark
16 Ξ Bright
17 Ο Bright
18 Π Dark
19 Ϙ Bright
20 Bright
21 Ρ Dark
22 Σ Bright
23 Τ Bright
24 Υ Dark
25 Φ Dark
26 Χ Bright
27 Ψ Dark
28 Ω Bright
29 ϡ Dark
30 Dark

This is kind of weird, though, when you look at it.  Some days that are given to really beneficial or naturally “bright” letters (like Alpha, “the god says that you will do everything well”, or Ēta, “the bright Sun who watches all watches you”) are given to be Dark, and vice versa (like Ōmega, given to Saturn, also has the comparatively awful oracle “you will have a worthless harvest, not a useful one”).  Additionally, the days that are given to obsolete letters (6, 19, and 29) or to unlettered days (10, 20, and 30) don’t really have much of a pattern as to which are Bright or Dark, even though it’s considered in the base Grammatēmerologion system that unlettered days are naturally considered unlucky or ill-favored for ritual or work.  I mean, I’m not really that surprised, considering how the Circle of Petosiris and the Grammatēmerologion system have no connection or shared logic behind them besides both relying on the use of a lunar month, and the fact that the Greek manuscript dates to the 1400s CE, but still.  Perhaps there is a logic behind how the Circle of Petosiris arranges days as Bright or Dark, or amongst the Great/Average/Small Life and Death categories, and I just don’t see it yet. At least I’m in good company of earlier scholars, I suppose.

It’s trying to figure out that order that reminded me of one of the first reasons why I ever learned about the Circle of Petosiris, namely the Sphere of Dēmokritos from PGM XII.351—364, something I mentioned in the original post about this stuff.  It’s a much simpler system, but the underlying method is the same: take the value of the person who has fallen ill, add to it the number of the day of the lunar month, divide by thirty, and take the remainder.

Unlike the more complex Circle of Petosiris with its threefold division of either life or death, the Sphere of Dēmokritos gives only two outcomes: if the result falls in the upper part of the table from PGM XII.351—364, the person will live, and if in the lower section, they will die.

  • Live: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 25, 26, 27
  • Die: 5, 6, 8, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 22, 28, 29, 30

On a whim, if we redefine “live” as Bright and “die” as Dark, I decided to compare how the Sphere of Dēmokritos matches up with our Circle of Petosiris scheme:

Day Letter Hollow
Sphere of
1 Α Dark Dark Bright
2 Β Bright
3 Γ Bright
4 Δ Dark Dark Bright
5 Ε Dark
6 Ϝ Dark
7 Ζ Bright
8 Η Dark
9 Θ Bright
10 Dark Bright Bright
11 Ι Bright
12 Κ Dark
13 Λ Bright
14 Μ Bright
15 Ν Dark
16 Ξ Bright
17 Ο Bright
18 Π Dark
19 Ϙ Bright
20 Bright
21 Ρ Dark
22 Σ Bright Dark Dark
23 Τ Bright
24 Υ Dark
25 Φ Dark Dark Bright
26 Χ Bright
27 Ψ Dark Dark Bright
28 Ω Bright Dark Dark
29 ϡ Dark
30 Dark Dark

The overlap here is, frankly, astounding; in general, of the thirty days of the Sphere of Dēmokritos, eight are different from either the Hollow or Full Circles of Petosiris (days 1, 4, 10, 22, 25, 27, 28, and 30), and if we just limit ourselves to the Full Circle of Petosiris, the overlap is even greater where only four days are different (days 1, 4, 25, and 27).  For one text that dates back to the fourth century and another that’s dated to the fifteenth, that’s incredible.  The striking similarities between these systems shows that either they were developed independently using a similar method that happened upon similar results, or (perhaps and hopefully) more likely, that the Sphere of Dēmokritos is an earlier form of the Circle of Petosiris, or closely-related to one of the Circle’s forebears, with only a few changes/copyist errors slipping in along the way and the Circle developing a finer gradation of results from a simple “live” or “die” outcome.

In fact, if you think about it, consider how the numbers are arranged in the Sphere of Dēmokritos: an upper and a lower half, with the upper half indicating life and a lower half indicating death, with three groups of numbers in each half: one on the left, one on the right, and one in the middle.  Consider where the overlaps apply even in how these numbers are arranged: in the Great Life section in the upper left of the Circle of Petosiris, you have 2, 3, 7, 9, and 11; in the Sphere of Dēmokritos, the upper left column has 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, and 9, with 1 and 4 being known as flipped in brightness and with 11 being found in the middle column of the Sphere.  If you plot not only what the overlaps are but where they occur, you have essentially same system, just represented in a more rectangular format!

It’s at this point that I’m getting really hooked now, because now I want to know what the logic is behind why the numbers of the lunar month are arranged the way they are on the Circle of Petosiris.  After a bit, it seems like one of the few (maybe the only?) text that discusses this topic is Otto Neugebauer and George Saliba’s 1989 paper On Greek Numerology (Centaurus, vol. 31, pp. 189—206).  Neugebauer and Saliba document a number of instances of the Circle of Petosiris that are extant in a variety of texts, including the Sphere of Dēmokritos, and even claim that the list of lucky and unlucky days of the Egyptian calendar given in PGM VII.272—283 is a highly corrupted version of this same system.  Neugebauer and Saliba go over about a dozen manuscripts, but they don’t go into depth on how significantly different the Circles of Petosiris of each might differ.  My idea of using one such Circle for hollow months and another for full months makes sense (though I could just as easily use the Hollow Circle for both and just add on day 30 where we’d expect in the Full Circle and make no other changes), but who’s to say whether such a combined approach might ever have been used, especially if there were so many other variations available?  That Bouché-Leclerq inter alia share two such Circles, one based on the number 29 and another based on the number 30, might just be a coincidence of fate and philology.

What’s interesting from Neugebauer and Salida’s paper is something that I glossed over as unimportant at the beginning of this post.  Recall those tables by the Hollow Circle of Petosiris from MS Grec 2419?  Bouché-Leclercq says that those are “computations of the days of the lunar month”.  Neugebauer and Saliba, based on a hint from some of Paul Tannery’s chapter on fragments of similar numerological devices in from Notices et extraits des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque nationale et autres bibliothèques (1886, vol. 31, part 2, pp.231—260), figured out that the large numbers are the numerological equivalents of the actual names of the dates of the lunar month plus an extra word or phrase.  For instance, in the first row of the left table, there’s the number ͵αφπθ = 1589.  Neugebauer and Salida reckon this to be the equivalent of the words ΠΡΩΤΗ (1288) and ΣΕΛΗΝΗ (301), which together add to be 1589.  Indeed, they find that the numerical values of each row are equivalent to the spelled-out name of the date plus the word for Moon in Greek, as the text itself indicates: “reckon also the name of the Moon if it falls from conjunction to full-moon”.  Likewise, the values in the right table all have the number 138 added as a constant, which is explained as “the number of the waning-moon”, literally the word “hollow” (ΚΟΙΛΗ).   Thus, the top row of the right table, day 16, we would expect then to be “sixteen hollow” or ΕΞ ΚΑΙ ΔΕΚΑΤΗ and ΚΟΙΛΗ: 5 + 60 + 20 + 1 + 10 + 4 + 5 + 20 + 1 + 300 + 5 = 431, then 431 + 138 = 569.  Indeed, we find the number φμθʹ, which is 569.

If we were to develop a complete reproduction of this kind of table, then we’d end up with the following.  Where there is more than one set of values for a given day, this shows that there were different ways to write out the name of the day based on the given source of the specific Circle method, e.g. day 16 could be written as ΔΕΚΑΤΗ ΕΚΤΗ or it could be written as ΕΞ ΚΑΙ ΔΕΚΑΤΗ.  I know some of these aren’t necessarily what’s used in modern Greek, but they are attested in the literature Neugebauer and Saliba reference as well as other classical sources.

Day Name Modifier Sum
Word Value Word Value
1 ΠΡΩΤΗ 1288 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 1589
2 ΔΕΥΤΕΡΗ 822 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 1123
3 ΤΡΙΤΗ 718 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 1019
4 ΤΕΤΑΡΤΗ 1014 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 1315
5 ΠΕΜΠΤΗ 513 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 814
6 ΕΚΤΗ 333 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 634
7 ΕΒΔΟΜΗ 129 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 430
8 ΟΓΔΟΗ 155 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 456
9 ΕΝΑΤΗ 364 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 665
ΕΝΝΑΤΗ 414 715
10 ΔΕΚΑΤΗ 338 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 639
11 ΕΝΔΕΚΑΤΗ 393 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 694
12 ΔΩΔΕΚΑΤΗ 1142 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 1443
13 ΔΕΚΑΤΗ ΤΡΙΤΗ 1056 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 1357
14 ΔΕΚΑΤΗ ΤΕΤΑΡΤΗ 1352 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 1653
15 ΔΕΚΑΤΗ ΠΕΜΠΤΗ 851 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 1152
16 ΔΕΚΑΤΗ ΕΚΤΗ 671 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 809
17 ΔΕΚΑΤΗ ΕΒΔΟΜΗ 447 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 585
18 ΔΕΚΑΤΗ ΟΓΔΟΗ 453 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 591
19 ΔΕΚΑΤΗ ΕΝΑΤΗ 702 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 840
20 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ 613 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 751
21 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ ΠΡΩΤΗ 1901 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 2039
22 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ ΔΕΥΤΕΡΗ 1435 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 1573
23 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ ΤΡΙΤΗ 1331 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 1469
24 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ ΤΕΤΑΡΤΗ 1627 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 1765
25 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ ΠΕΜΠΤΗ 1126 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 1264
26 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ ΕΚΤΗ 946 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 1084
28 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ ΟΓΔΟΗ 768 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 906
29 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ ΕΝΑΤΗ 977 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 1115
30 ΤΡΙΑΚΟΣΤΗ 1009 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 1147

The reason why these tables are given in MS Grec 2419 and other texts is due to a particular way of using the Circle of Petosiris that I wasn’t taking into account earlier.  The method I thought would be used—perhaps biased by my first encounter with this sort of technique from the Sphere of Dēmokritos from PGM XII.351—364—would be to take the value of the person’s name and the actual number of the lunar date, sum them together, divide by the number of days in the lunar month, and use the remainder.  Rather, it seems that instead of using the raw number (perhaps as a later development, or as an alternative technique?) one would use the value of the actual name of the lunar date instead, and in most cases (there’s at least one manuscript that doesn’t do this) modified by whether the date was during the waxing or waning moon.  The benefit to using the numbers in the table above, whether of the name itself or the name plus a modifier, has the benefit of making more erratic the results of dividing and taking the remainder in a discontinuous, semi-unpredictable way (1589, 1123, 1019, 1315, …), as compared to the sequential order of the actual numbers of the days of the lunar month (1, 2, 3, 4, …).

That means we have several methods to use now for the Circle of Petosiris, although several of them can be ignored because they confuse adding pure numbers with names of numbers.  In any case, we’d take the same approach: come up with a sum, divide by the number of days in the lunar month, and find the remainder among the zones of the proper Circle of Petosiris:

  1. Add the value of the name of the person to the number of the lunar day.
  2. Add the value of the name of the person to the number of the lunar day plus the number of the day of the week.
  3. Add the value of the name of the person to the number of the lunar day plus the value of the name of the day of the week.
  4. Add the value of the name of the person to the value of the name of the lunar day.
  5. Add the value of the name of the person to the value of the name of the lunar day plus the number of the day of the week.
  6. Add the value of the name of the person to the value of the name of the lunar day plus the value of the name of the day of the week.
  7. Add the value of the name of the person to the value of the name of the lunar day plus a modifier.
  8. Add the value of the name of the person to the value of the name of the lunar day plus a modifier and the number of the day of the week.
  9. Add the value of the name of the person to the value of the name of the lunar day plus a modifier and the value of the name of the day of the week.

The same could likewise be done by comparing the value of the name of the person against the number of the lunar date or the value of the name of the date, after dividing and taking the remainder of each by the number of days in the lunar month, and seeing where each remainder falls to compare them.

This is all well and good, and Neugebauer and Saliba have done some pretty intense work to correlate and investigate all the variations in these weird sums and modifiers found where there are such tables with Circles of Petosiris.  However, in an incredibly disappointing conclusion, they finish their paper by saying that “obviously one should now explain how these numbers were classified into strong, medium, and weak ones…our attempts in this direction did not lead to any convincing result.”  As the mathematician and historian Joel Kalvesmaki says on this specific point, they “solved many important problems but left many more outstanding”.  What we’re likely relying on is a fundamentally old tradition of lucky and unlucky numbers within the context of lunar dates, and it doesn’t seem to be clear to anyone why the Circle of Petosiris or the Sphere of Dēmokritos or other such techniques arrange the numbers the way they do.  Neugebauer and Saliba suggest that “since these numbers represent lunar dates, it is plausible to search for astrological motivations”, although Kalvesmaki makes a good point that such a kind of system of days can have any number of mutually-nonexclusive origins: making observations from experience and experiment, informative myths, zodiacal considerations, and the like.

It seems that, unfortunately, I’m at a dead end with this sort of investigation.  Unless I get access to a wide number of manuscripts dating back some two millennia and somehow pick up classical and medieval Greek, I doubt I can get much further along this line of thinking.  I suppose the only thing left is to experimentation.  One easy way would be to use the comparison method: take the value of my name and compare it to any of the combinations above: the number of the lunar day as reckoned from the Noumēnia in my Grammatēmerologion with or without the number of the day of the week added, or the value of the name of the day according to the table with or without the modifier value with or without the value of the name of the number of the day of the week.  I suppose it wouldn’t be hard to write a simple program to do just that, then keep a running log of how good or bad a given day is.  It’s not as satisfying as discovering some long-lost ancient logic or system, but picking out patterns can be just as sweet once you sift through the salt.

Michaelmas Present: Litany of the Holy Archangels

One of the reasons why the second half of September is always so chaotic for me is that, not only is it in the few weeks leading up to my birthday both in flesh and in Santería, but it’s also a cluster of feast days: Our Lady of Mercy and the Days of the Cyprians and the Feast of Saint Cyprian of Antioch, Saint Justina, and Saint Theocistus are definitely important, but today is yet another feast day I hold dear to my heart: Michaelmas, more properly called the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel and All Angels.  Today is the day when we especially revere and honor the bodiless and immaterial Hosts of Heaven, with Saint Michael the Archangel, their divine commander and our divine protector, at the helm and forefront of both God’s armies and our own hearts.  And, of course, to honor the other archangels: Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Sealtiel, Jehudiel, and Barachiel (or whichever set of seven archangels you prefer to use).

I’d also like to share a new(ish) page with you all: a new prayer, the Litany of the Holy Archangels.  This is, for once, not something I wrote, nor could I have written something so beautiful.  Rather, it’s a prayer I’ve been using for years now, courteously and generously shared with me by good colleague and friend Michael Lux of Nigromantic Matters.  Originally written for Johannite Christian spiritual practice, Michael has generously let me share the prayer on my own website for all to use and refer to.  I find it incredibly devout, and can be used in both solitary practice as well as in a community.  I had intended on sharing this page more publicly earlier in the year when I was going to propose a new project and craft for myself, but said project never got off the ground due to logistical issues, so I never really announced the page.  However, today’s a perfect day for just that, so I hope you enjoy and find it a useful blessing in your own practices and prayers!

With that, I hope you all have a blessed end of September, with all the Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Virtues, Powers, Dominions, Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim, and the seven commanders of all the hosts of Heaven blessing you and guiding you every moment of every day!

Blessed Angels, watch over us at all times during this perilous life.
Holy Archangels, be our guides on the way to Heaven.
Heavenly Principalities, govern us in soul and body.
Celestial Virtues, preserve us against the wiles of demons.
Mighty Powers, give us strength and courage in the battle of life.
Powerful Dominions, obtain for us domination over the rebellion of our flesh.
Sacred Thrones, grant us peace with God and Man.
Brilliant Cherubim, illuminate our minds with heavenly Knowledge.
Burning Seraphim, enkindle in our hearts the fire of Charity.

Seven angels around my head, guide us safely where we’re led.
Michael, defend us from all our foes; Raphael, heal us from all our woes.
Gabriel, give us peace on wings; Uriel, release us our attachments to worldly things.
Jehudiel, fill our mouths with praise to God; Sealtiel, open our hearts to prayer of God.
Barachiel, bless us in all our ways; Guardians, guide us through all our days.


Happy Days of the Cyprians 2018!

For those who keep track, today marks the beginning of the Days of the Cyprians 2018, with yesterday having been the feast of Saint Cyprian of Carthage, and with September 26 being the feast of Saint Cyprian of Antioch with Saint Justina and Saint Theocistus, the three holy martyrs who watch over all those who make and break magic, those who wield it and those who wish it, those who wage it and those who suffer it!  At this turning of the year, as the Sun sinks lower and lower into the southern skies, I hope you all have a blessed Cyprianic season, that your left hand be as wise as your right, that your right hand be as cunning as your left, and that both your hands be strong and capable of attaining all your works and ends!

I’m going to use this period to get back on the ball with magical routine, which I’ve been sorely lacking for…quite some time now, and to lay some foundations for actual Work again.  I’ve been feeling like like all I do anymore, outside of religious ceremonies I help work with my godfamily, is divination and writing.  Satisfying and fulfilling as it is, and bearing in mind how much writing I still have to do for my own projects, I haven’t forgotten my origins, and I haven’t forgotten my goals, either.  Research and study only gets one so far.

Need a good resource for some prayers, orisons, and novenas for the good sorcerous saint?  Consider getting a copy of my ebook, the Vademecum Cypriani from my Etsy today for US$9!

Original Greek and faithful transcriptions up for two ancient Hermetic prayers!

As many of my readers know, I have my Etsy shop set up for the things I make.  I tend to stick to beadwork nowadays, bracelets and necklaces and chaplets and rosaries and that sort of thing as well as my ebooks (which you can also find directly on my website on the Books page), but in the past, I’ve taken commissions for wands, Tables of Practice, and other woodworking things.  I don’t do the woodworking thing as much anymore; there are several others I would recommend on Etsy, instead, for things along those lines, who have better setups and tools and skill than I do.  Still, depending on the need and the medium, I’m certainly not opposed to taking on commissions.

Recently, I received an interesting request for a commission.  Rather than it being a physical thing, it was a digital item; sure, I can do those, too, and I’ve made designs and the like for others by special request.  After all, art is art, and craft is craft.  This, though, was also unusual; I suppose it could be said to that I was contracted rather than commissioned.  I was contacted by one Soror MNA to help her with some of her own research and work.  She took a heavy interest in two of the things I’ve shared previously on my website, the Hermetic prayers from the Greek Magical Papyri known as the Hymn of the Hidden Stele (PGM IV.1115—1166) and the Stele of Aiōn (PGM.1167—1226).  These are beautiful hymns indeed, and I’ve used them to powerful effects in the past for serious and heavily theurgical purposes.  However, I’ve only basically given my (minor) variants of them in English, with the Greek barbarous words of power rewritten in the Greek script for ease of analysis and preservation of nuances in pronunciation.

What the good Soror MNA wanted me to do was to get her copies written in Greek of these two prayers.  After all, it’s not hard to find Preisendanz’s transcriptions of the PGM online (volume 1 for PGM I through PGM VI, volume 2 for PGM VII and after); all she needed was these prayers in their original Greek as well as transliterated into Roman script for study and use in her own rituals.  So, since this was a pretty clear-cut job of typing and transcribing, I gladly took the job.

All of this is simple and straightforward and otherwise unmentionable and not worthy of note if it weren’t for the fact that, at the end, I requested a change to the terms we had agreed to that would be in both our favor.  As it was, I was just going to give her a document with the transliterations she requested, but for the same reasons she found it valuable to have these prayers in their original Greek and transliterated into Roman script, I figured it would be good for the broader occult community, especially those interested in PGM-style Hermetic work, to have access to the same.  She agreed, and to that end, graciously permitted me to share the fruits of my labors on my website.

To that end, the Hymn of the Hidden Stele and the Stele of Aiōn pages on this website have been updated and augmented with the orignal Greek and their transliterations.  All of this is thanks to the gracious and generous support and sponsorship of Soror MNA, who has my thanks for helping me and funding improvements to my website!  If it’s been a while since you last checked these hymns out, or if you’re unfamiliar with them and have any interest in some pretty potent prayers, go and take a look!  The transliteration scheme I use is custom to my own work, which I feel preserves the pronunciation and accenture of the original Greek slightly better than other texts; most of the accenture is unnecessary unless you’re intimately familiar with the byzantine Byzantine use of polytonic Greek, but in order to keep it as faithful as possible, I included it all the same.  Thank you again, Soror MNA, for your generous support!

Just to remind all my wonderful readers: if you’d like to support the Digital Ambler in my projects, writing, and other work, remember that you can do so through Ko-fi!  Every little bit counts, and you’ll have my unending, undying thanks and appreciation.  Heck, if you wanted to sponsor a post or something big for my website like what Soror MNA said, suggest something in the comment when you donate and I’ll see what I can do!

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