A PGM-Style Framing Rite for Pretty Much Any Purpose

This past quarter, the splendid Gordon White of Rune Soup held another of his classes, this time on the Greek Magical Papyri, otherwise known famously as the PGM.  It was a great course; rather than being focused on simply presenting rituals and implementations thereof, Gordon went all out on giving the context, development, influences, cosmology, and theory that really fleshes out the PGM.  No, the PGM cannot be considered a single body of texts, because they’re inherently not: they’re a jumble of papyri from multiple authors across multiple centuries.  However, Gordon’s class really pulls so much of it together into something that could, honestly, feel like it could be presented as part of a single text, or at least a single tradition with more-or-less a single mindset.  It’s a tall order, but it’s a great thing to take if you’re a member of his class stuff.  That said, and to be candid about it, I’m kinda left a little hungry by the course: knowing that Gordon’s been doing PGM magic for…quite some time (probably longer than I’ve been a magician at all), I’d’ve liked to see more implementations and descriptions of ritual rather than just the cosmological backgrounds behind what we have in the PGM.  Still, I also know that I’m often left a little (or a lot) disappointed by other books on PGM-style magic that mostly or only list rituals with only a smattering of cosmology behind them; some of them are worthwhile, at least for a while, but I tire of them easily, probably because I’m a spoiled brat and like to chew on things myself rather than simply have them presented to me, so perhaps it’s really for the best that Gordon focused on the background and theory of the PGM rather than the contents themselves.  Of the other well-known books about the PGM, Stephen Skinner’s Techniques of Graeco-Egyptian Magic is a great analysis of the content of the PGM, and is a helpful index and guide to looking at and investigating parts of the PGM (though I differ with him on some accounts as well).

Flatteringly, Gordon referenced me and my work on my blog and website several times throughout his course.  (I admit, I was caught off-guard each time he did so, and it felt like I was being called out in the middle of a college lecture hall each time I listened into his class, and so promptly spat out my wine and/or energy drink of choice at that moment.)  To my credit, I have done quite a bit of PGM work; not as much as I’d like, but I do write about it quite a bit, and have whole groups of pages up both for PGM and PGM-like rituals as well as prayers from the Hermetic and PGM traditions, and about a tenth of the posts and pages on this website reference the PGM in one way or another.  For other splendid websites and bloggers on PGM stuff, I might also recommend Voces Magicae as well as Sublunar Space, who both appear to do quite excellent stuff on their own.

One of the most hilariously common things one might see in the PGM texts is the phrase “add the usual” (even to the point where Gordon was considering naming parts of his course that phrase).  Bear in mind that the PGM is basically a collection of the notes of working, jobbing magicians who kept track of their observations, rituals, recipes, and the like.  Just like how someone wouldn’t write down something in their journal that they did each and every time they got themselves ready in the morning but merely obliquely referenced it, so too did the PGM authors do the same for their own texts; if they had a particular MO, they wouldn’t waste the ink and papyrus on it, but simply said “add the usual”.  What that “usual” might have been, we don’t often know or have the means to find out, but it does indicate that certain rituals took place within a broader framework or ceremonial practice.  A modern term for this is a “framing rite”, where a particular ritual procedure is established to attune, protect, and generally set things up for a magician to do something specific within the overall ritual.  Examples of framing rites abound in modern systems of magic, and for those who have a daily magical practice, those same rituals can often be used both generally each day as well as immediately before/after a ritual to prepare or wind down the magician for the ritual.  With all the instances of “add the usual”, we have evidence that similar practices were done in the era of the PGM authors, as well.

With that in mind, and bringing my own Mathēsis practices and my other temple procedures into the mix, I was wondering if I could codify and establish a PGM-style framing rite for myself.  I adore the PGM stuff, after all, and I definitely incorporate many of its techniques in much that I do, whether it’s whole rituals or just parts I pick and extrapolate from.  Plus, given all the PGM resources I’ve put out on my blog, including implementations of rituals for which we only have the bare bones from the original source, it’s not like I lack for sources of inspiration.  So, I decided to pluck bits and pieces from a variety of PGM, Hermetic, Neoplatonic, and similar sources of magical praxis and slap them together into an overall procedure that works as a framing ritual for…well, anything, honestly, but with a focus on PGM-style magic (though not necessarily the PGM rituals themselves, especially those that provided inspiration for this framing ritual).  Between the lists of names of spirits, invocations for a variety of purposes, implementations of ritual designs, and the other practices I’ve developed in the meantime, it wasn’t hard to form a synthesis of PGM-inspired ritual.  Is it a mish-mash?  Absolutely, and I make no denial or complaint against that!  Is it effective?  As far as I’ve noted, it definitely is, which is why I have no complaints about it (besides my own quibbles in refining it over time).  I don’t mean to say that the PGM can be treated as a single, coherent text, because it’s absolutely not; that said, it’s not hard to pick the individual techniques that can be separated from particular parts of the PGM and synthesize them together into its own more-or-less coherent whole.

What follows is my attempt at such a generalized magical procedure.  Admittedly, this is still an experimental framework, and I’m still in the process of making minor tweaks and edits to it; however, the bulk of it is stable, and any further changes to be made would be minor indeed.  The framing rite, as the ritual proper itself, will benefit from being done in a previously established or consecrated space, but the framing rite itself suffices to establish a working temple in any space or location.  Further, with minor modifications, anything before the ritual proper according to the framing rite schema given here may also be used as a format for a regimen for daily magical practice.  Not all parts are required, but may be done at the magician’s discretion; when something is optional, I’ve said as much.  The general outline of the framing ritual, in full, is as follows:

  1. Send out any non-initiates.  (optional)
  2. Ablute with lustral water.
  3. Illumine the temple and call on the Lord of the Hour.
  4. Call on the Lord of the Day.  (optional)
  5. Call on the Lord of the Stars.  (optional)
  6. Consecrate the Light.
  7. Call on the Guardians of the Directions.
  8. Opening prayer.  (optional)
  9. Cast the circle.  (optional)
  10. Empowerment and fortification.
  11. Initial offering of incense to the spirits. (optional)
  12. The ritual proper.
  13. Closing prayer.  (optional)
  14. Dismissal offering to the spirits.
  15. Uncasting the circle.  (only if a circle was previously cast)
  16. Extinguishing the Light.

The following materials are required for the framing rite itself, in addition to whatever other materials the ritual proper calls for:

  • A head covering, such as a shawl or scarf
  • A clean basin or bowl
  • A clean towel (optional, if desired)
  • Fresh water
  • Salt or natron
  • Bay leaves, or cotton balls along with a tincture of bay laurel and frankincense
  • A lamp or candle, not colored red or black
  • Incendiary tool, such as matches or a lighter
  • Incense, most preferably frankincense
  • White chalk, a wand, or a knife to draw a circle (optional, only if desired)

In the future, once I make any further refinements and hammer out any other inconsistencies in the framing rite, I’ll eventually add it to the Rituals section of pages on my website.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy, and if you’re interested, give it a whirl and see how you feel applying the following framing rite, both around a ritual itself as well as a basis for daily practice!

Note that in the following ritual text, except for the few short Greek phrases used and the names of spirits listed in the tables below, I’ve left what few barbarous words of power are used in the framing rite in Greek.  I tried to use selected portions of the PGM that didn’t rely too heavily on barbarous words of power, but their use is still essential to PGM-style magic in general.  None of what are used below are particularly long or complicated strings of words of power as some parts of the PGM are known for, but are rather some of the shorter and most common ones; I’ve left them in Greek to prevent formatting clutter.  If you’re unsure on how to read them, consult the listed PGM sections in the Betz translation or learn how to read basic Greek.  I might also recommend to check out this page on the phonetic and esoteric associations of the Greek.alphabet as well as this post on a primer on how to meditate on them to get used to their sound and power.


If desired, especially if this is done in a group setting, recite Porphyry’s command from On Images to give a general call to dismiss all unwanted or uninitiated entities, incarnate and otherwise, to leave the space in which the ritual is to be performed:

I speak only to those who lawfully may hear:
Depart all ye profane, and close the doors.

If there is a door to the space in which the ritual is performed, now is the time to close it, unless safety concerns mandate it being open; some sort of barrier should be used instead, such as a bar, board, or stone put across or symbolically blocking the entry to the space.

Prepare the lustral water and ablute with it so as to purify yourself and the temple space. This is essentially the process of making khernips for khernimma:

  1. Fill a basin with clean, fresh water.
  2. Pour or sprinkle a small amount of sea salt or natron into the water.  I recommend doing this in a cross formation above the basin.
  3. Light a whole dried bay leaf or a cotton ball soaked in a tincture of frankincense and bay laurel. Hold it above the basin, and say:

    For the sake of purity and becoming pure…

    Quench the fire into the water, and say:

    …be purified!

  4. Mix the water thoroughly with the right hand.
  5. Wash the left hand with the right, then the right hand with the left, then the face with both hands, reciting:

    Χερνίπτομαι (Kherníptomai)! In purity, I cleanse myself and free myself from defilement.

  6. With the right hand or a bundle of bay leaves, sprinkle the khernips around you in a counterclockwise direction, reciting:

    Begone, begone, you polluting spirits, you evil spirits, begone, begone!
    May all that is profane be cast out, that only holiness may here remain.

  7. If desired, pat the face and hands dry with a clean towel or cloth.
  8. Cover your head with a loose-fitting shawl, scarf, stole, hood, or other headcovering.

If more than one person is present, the lead magician prepares the khernips, washes themselves, and asperges the temple space first.  After that, the other ritual participants wash themselves only (reciting only the “Χερνίπτομαι! In purity…” part).

Illumine the temple with sacred fire that shines forth with the light of Divinity. This is a combination of both a conjuration of the flame of the lamp or candle to be used in the ritual as well as an invocation to the temporal Lord of the Hour.  This lamp or candle should not be colored red or black, given the general proscriptions against it in the PGM for most types of work, and should be kept separate from other lights used in the ritual proper unless it’s a lamp divination or theophany that uses such a light.  Light the lamp or candle, ideally while standing to the west of the lamp and facing east towards it, and recite the following conjuration of the flame based on the spell for fires to continue from PGM XIII.1—343 (the Eighth Book of Moses) and the invocation to the lamp of PDM xiv.1—92 and PDM xiv.489—515, depending on whether the ritual is done during the daytime or the nighttime.

  • Diurnal conjuration of the flame:

    I conjure you, Fire, o daimon of holy Love, the invisible and manifold, the one and everywhere, to remain in this light at this time, shining and not dying out, by the command of Aiōn!
    Be great, o light!  Come forth, o light!  Rise up, o light!  Be high, o light!
    Come forth, o light of God!
    O bright face of Hēlios, …,  servant of God, you whose hand is this moment, who belongs to this Xth hour of the day, bring your light to me!

  • Nocturnal conjuration of the flame:

    I conjure you, Fire, o daimon of holy Love, the invisible and manifold, the one and everywhere, to remain in this light at this time, shining and not dying out, by the command of Aiōn!
    Be great, o light!  Come forth, o light!  Rise up, o light!  Be high, o light!
    Come forth, o light of God!
    O bright angel of Selēnē, …, servant of God, you whose hand is this moment, who belongs to this Xth hour of the night, bring your light to me!

The rulers of the unequal hours of the day and the night, taken from PGM IV.1596—1715 (Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios) and PGM VII.862—918 (Lunar Spell of Klaudianos):

Hour Diurnal
(PGM IV.1596—1715)
Nocturnal
(PGM VII.862—918)
I ΦΑΡΑΚΟΥΝΗΘ
PHARAKŪNĒTH
ΜΕΝΕΒΑΙΝ
MENEBAIN
II ΣΟΥΦΙ
SŪPHI
ΝΕΒΟΥΝ
NEBŪN
III ΑΜΕΚΡΑΝΕΒΕΧΕΟ ΘΩΥΘ
AMEKRANEBEKHEO THŌUTH
ΛΗΜΝΕΙ
LĒMNEI
IV ΣΕΝΘΕΝΙΨ
SENTHENIPS
ΜΟΡΜΟΘ
MORMOTH
V ΕΝΦΑΝΧΟΥΦ
ENPHANKHŪPH
ΝΟΥΦΙΗΡ
NŪPHIĒR
VI ΒΑΙ ΣΟΛΒΑΙ
BAI SOLBAI
ΧΟΡΒΟΡΒΑΘ
KHORBORBATH
VII ΟΥΜΕΣΘΩΘ
ŪMESTHŌTH
ΟΡΒΕΗΘ
ORBEĒTH
VIII ΔΙΑΤΙΦΗ
DIATIPHĒ
ΠΑΝΜΩΘ
PANMŌTH
IX ΦΗΟΥΣ ΦΩΟΥΘ
PHĒŪS PHŌŪTH
ΘΥΜΕΝΦΡΙ
THYMENPHRI
X ΒΕΣΒΥΚΙ
BESBYKI
ΣΑΡΝΟΧΟΙΒΑΛ
SARNOKHOIBAL
XI ΜΟΥ ΡΩΦ
MŪ RŌPH
ΒΑΘΙΑΒΗΛ
BATHIABĒL
XII ΑΕΡΘΟΗ
AERTHOĒ
ΑΡΒΡΑΘΙΑΒΡΙ
ARBRATHIABRI

Similarly, though not necessarily required, an invocation to the ruling god of the day may also be made at this time.  This may be done in one of two ways: either by the ruler of the day according to the planet, or according to the ruler of the Pole using the Seven-Zoned method from PGM XIII.1—343/XIII.646—734.

Using the same section from PDM xiv.489—515 as before, invoke the planetary ruler:

  • Using the day ruler method:

    O blessed god, …, servant of God, you whose hand is this moment, who rules over this day, bring your light to me!

  • Using the Seven-Zoned (Pole ruler) method:

    O blessed god, …, servant of God, you whose hand is this moment, who rules over the Pole on this day, bring your light to me!

Alternatively, another invocation to the appropriate planet may also be used, such as praying the Orphic Hymn to that planet.

Weekday Ruling Planet
By Day Pole Ruler
Sunday Hēlios Selēnē
Monday Selēnē Hermēs
Tuesday Arēs Aphroditē
Wednesday Hermēs Hēlios
Thursday Zeus Arēs
Friday Aphroditē Zeus
Saturday Kronos Kronos

If further desired, though again not required, an invocation may be made to the Zodiac sign that rules the present time, based on PGM VII.795—845 (Pythagoras’ request for a dream oracle and Demokritos’ dream divination).  Given the lunar and nighttime connections of that ritual, it may be best to call upon the sign of the Zodiac in which the Moon is currently found; however, for more solar-oriented rituals, using the Zodiac sign in which the Sun is currently found may be used instead.  A combined method, which I would recommend, calls upon the two signs of both the Sun and the Moon together:

O blessed heavens, solar … and lunar …, you two asterisms that watch over all the works of the world, bring your light to me!

If, however, the Sun and Moon are in the same sign:

O blessed heaven, …, you great asterism who watches over all the works of the world, bring your light to me!

Zodiac Sign Name
Aries ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧΕ
HARMONTHARTHŌKHE
Taurus ΝΕΟΦΟΞΩΘΑ ΘΟΨ
NEOPHOKSŌTHA THOPS
Gemini ΑΡΙΣΤΑΝΑΒΑ ΖΑΩ
ARISTANABA ZAŌ
Cancer ΠΧΟΡΒΑΖΑΝΑΧΟΥ
PKHORBAZANAKHŪ
Leo ΖΑΛΑΜΟΙΡΛΑΛΙΘ
ZALAMOIRLALITH
Virgo ΕΙΛΕΣΙΛΑΡΜΟΥ ΦΑΙ
EILESILARMŪ PHAI
Libra ΤΑΝΤΙΝΟΥΡΑΧΘ
TANTINŪRAKHTH
Scorpio ΧΟΡΧΟΡΝΑΘΙ
KHORKHORNATHI
Sagittarius ΦΑΝΘΕΝΦΥΦΛΙΑ ΞΥΥ
PHANTHENPHYPHLIA KSUHU
Capricorn ΑΖΑΖΑΕΙΣΘΑΙΛΙΧ
AZAZAEISTHAILIKH
Aquarius ΜΕΝΝΥΘΥΘ ΙΑΩ
MENNYTHYTH IAŌ
Pisces ΣΕΡΥΧΑΡΡΑΛΜΙΩ
SERYKHARRALMIŌ

With the sacred light lit and the appropriate powers of the present time invoked, uncover your head and recite the Light-Retaining Charm based on PGM IV.930—1114 (Conjuration of Light under Darkness):

I conjure you, holy Light, breadth, depth, length, height, brightness,
by ΙΑΩ ΣΑΒΑΩΘ ΑΡΒΑΘΙΑΩ ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ ΑΙ ΑΙ ΙΑΩ ΑΞ ΑΞ ΙΝΑΞ
remain by me in the present hour, until I have accomplished all I have set out to do!
Now, now, immediately, immediately, quickly, quickly!

Call upon the Guardians of the Directions.  This is essentially using my Invocation of the Solar Guardians, based on PGM II.64—183 and PGM.XII.14—95, to recognize the four spiritual entities who stand guard of the stations of the Sun at sunrise, noon, sunset, and midnight, as well as the realms and rulers of the heights and the depths, so as to orient and protect both the temple and the magician.  The first guardian to be invoked is the one who controls the quarter of the sky where the Sun currently is: between sunrise and noon, the Guardian of the East should begin the invocations; between noon and sunset, the Guardian of the South; and so forth.

  1. First, face the East or, if preferred, whatever quarter of the sky the Sun happens to be in at the moment of the invocation.
  2. Take a half-step forward with the right foot, raise the right hand forward and out, and raise the hand up and out towards that direction.  Give the salutation to the guardian, lower the hand, bring the right foot back, then turn 90° clockwise to salute the next guardian.  The four salutations for these guardians are, with the order to be changed according to the direction first started with:

    ΙΩ ΕΡΒΗΘ, take thy place in the East!
    ΙΩ ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ, take thy place in the South!
    ΙΩ ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, take thy place in the West!
    ΙΩ ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ, take thy place in the North!

  3. Once all four guardians of the cardinal directions have been saluted, return to the original direction, and stand with both feet together.
  4. Look directly up and extend the right palm outwards and upwards to salute the guardian of the heights:

    ΙΩ ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ, take thy place in the Heights!

  5. Look directly down, and extend the right palm outwards and downwards to salute the guardian of the depths:

    ΙΩ ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ, take thy place in the Depths!

  6. Extend both arms outward with the right hand turned up and the left hand turned down, and give the concluding call:

    For I am ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ standing in the midst of the All!

At this point, if desired, the magician may enter into a phase of prayer before any further work.  This is not required, but those who take a more liturgical or Hermetic priestly approach may consider reciting such prayers as the Prayer of Hermes Trismegistus from the Corpus Hermeticum, the Stele of Aiōn from PGM IV.1167—1226, the Hymn of the Hidden Stele from PVM IV.1115—1166, or other such prayers.  This would be to focus the mind of the magician as well as to further sanctify the temple, but these are not strictly required to be performed.

Before further work, some magicians may feel more comfortable working within a cast circle.  Given the purification, illumination, and warding of the temple in the previous steps, a circle may be deemed superfluous and unnecessary, and though researchers like Stephen Skinner suggest that circle-working could have been a common aspect of PGM-style magic, very few rituals in the PGM and similar works explicitly call for a circle, and most have no need for one.  However, should a circle be desired for further working, one may be cast at this point.  Starting from the same direction that the Guardians of the Directions began and proceeding clockwise, trace a circle on the ground (either drawn out in white chalk or natron, or traced with the fingertips of the dominant hand, a wand, or a knife) while reciting the following (adapted from my older preparatory/framing rite the Q.D.Sh. Ritual).  As there are four lines in the chant that follows, draw the circle slowly and thoughtfully enough such that each line can be recited within the tracing of one quarter of the circle.

In the name of the Nous, this circle is consecrated for our defense.
By the power of the Logos, this circle is defended for our perfection.
For the sake of the Sophia, this circle is perfected for our work.
Through the might of the Aiōn, may all that is baneful be cast out, that only Good may here remain.

Empower yourself.  This is a three-step process, combined from one popularly-known modern one and two adapted from the PGM.  The first part is what I call the “Ray of Heaven and Earth”, which is a variant of the first part of Jason Miller’s “Pillar and Spheres” energy work method from The Sorcerer’s Secrets; the visualization is largely the same, but I’ve replaced the chants from Latin/English with appropriate Greek ones.  The second part is a shorter form of the Heptagram Rite from PGM XIII.734—1077; it’s more involved than a simple Calling the Sevenths (which is fine on its own and may be substituted here instead for time), but it’s also not the entire Heptagram Rite, either; this middle-form is what I call the Minor Heptagram Rite.  This is finished with the final declaration of power and protection from the Headless Rite from PGM V.96—172, using the Crowley form of the ritual (though substitutes may be made here as well).

  1. Perform the Ray of Heaven and Earth.
    1. Stand upright with the back straight. Center yourself.
    2. Visualize an infinite, infinitely white light shining directly above you, infinitely distant in the highest heavens.
    3. Intone: Κατάβαινε, ὦ πέλεια! (Katábaine, ō péleia! or, in English, “Descend, o Dove!”) As you intone this, inhale deeply and visualize a ray of white light shining down from the heavens directly into the crown of the head, down through the spine, through the sacrum, and downwards infinitely below you. Exhale slowly, feeling purifying, soothing, straightening power radiate from the ray into the rest of your body.
    4. Maintain the above visualization. In addition to that, Visualize an infinite, infinitely red light shining directly below you, infinitely distant in the lowest reaches of the earth.
    5. Intone: Ἀνάβαινε, ὦ ὄφϊ! (Anábaine, ō óphï! or, in English, “Ascend, o Serpent!”). As you intone this, inhale deeply and visualize a ray of red light shining up from the earth directly into the sacrum, up through the spine, through the crown, and upwards infinitely above you. Exhale slowly, feeling vivifying, heating, hardening power radiate from the ray into the rest of your body.
    6. Visualize both rays, the white descending from heaven though you into the earth and the red ascending from earth through you into heaven, and mixing in your body, connecting it with all the heavens and all the earth with you in the direct center channel between them.
    7. Intone: Ἅφθητι, ὦ πυρ! (Háphthēti, ō pur! or, in English, “Be kindled, o Fire!”) As you intone this, inhale deeply and let both powers suffuse your body in an infinitely bright light, feeling all the powers of heaven and earth connect within you. Exhale slowly, letting the power radiate through you and from you, having connected with heaven and hell equally.
  2. Perform the Minor Heptagram Rite.  If desired, the shorter Calling the Sevenths may be done instead, but for full rituals, the Minor Heptagram Rite is preferred.
    1. Recite the invocation to Aiōn:

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

    2. Face the sunrise in the east with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

    3. Face north with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

    4. Face west with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

    5. Face south with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

    6. Face down with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

    7. Face forward with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

    8. Face up with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

    9. Recite the second invocation to Aiōn, based on the Eighth Book of Moses (PGM XIII.1—343) and the Headless Rite (PGM V.96—172):

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

  3. Recite the final empowerment of the Headless Rite:

    ΑΩΘ ΑΒΡΑΩΘ ΒΑΣΥΜ ΙΣΑΚ ΣΑΒΑΩΘ ΙΑΩ
    Come forth and follow, so that every spirit, whether heavenly or ethereal, upon the earth or under the earth, on dry land or in the water, of whirling air or rushing fire, and every spell and scourge of God may be obedient unto me.

    Alternatively or additionally, if another phylactery is to be used for a given ritual, this is the proper time to don it and recite any accompanying prayers or invocations that go along with it.  These include rings, pendants, headwear, anointing with oils, or the use of other charms, spoken or otherwise.

Now, complete the empowerment and establishment of the temple by reciting the following, again from the Crowley version of the Headless Rite:

Thus have I spoken; thus are the words!
ΙΑΩ ΣΑΒΑΩΘ

At this point, the temple has been prepared and established as a sacred space, and you as the magician have become empowered and placed yourself under the powers of the cosmos and of those who watch over the temple.  If desired, incense may now be lit for its own sake as a means to further purify the temple, as well as an offering for the powers that watch over and already inhabit it, though it is not necessary to do so at this time and is better reserved for the ritual proper that follows.

With all the above done, the ritual proper may then begin in earnest.  Whatever happens here depends on the magician and the ritual itself.

After the ritual proper, prayers of thanksgiving and communion (such as the Prayer of Thanksgiving of Hermes Trismegistus from the Corpus Hermeticum) may be made at this point, especially after purely theurgic or truly divine rituals, but are not required.

Once the ritual proper has come to a close, the temple must also be closed with a general dismissal of spirits and a formal extinguishing of the light:

  1. Light a small amount of incense as a final thanks, general dismissal, and banishing, reciting the following based on the final prayers from PGM I.262—347, PGM IV.154—285, and PGM VII.930—1114.  Frankincense is the best general choice for this, but other types of incense may also be offered based on the nature of the ritual done before.

    I have been attached to your holy form;
    I have been given power by your holy name;
    I have been blessed with your holy emanation of the Good;
    Be gracious unto me, Lord, god of gods, master, daimōn, primal, elder-born one!

    I give thanks to you, o great gods, elder-born, mighty powers!
    Depart, lords, depart into your heavens, into your places, into your courses.
    I adjure by the fire which first shone in the void,
    I adjure by the power which is greatest over all,
    I adjure by him who destroys even in Hadēs
    That all now depart from this place, returning to your abodes,
    And harm me not, but be forever kind.
    Keep me healthy, unharmed, untroubled by ghosts, free from calamity, and without terror.
    Hear me for all the days of my life!

    Thus have I spoken; thus are the words!
    ΙΑΩ ΣΑΒΑΩΘ

  2. If the optional circle was cast earlier, it should be traced counterclockwise starting at the same direction from which it was drawn prior to such prayers.  If the circle was merely traced, e.g. with the fingertips or a wand, trace it in reverse using the same means; if it was drawn in e.g. chalk or natron, make four openings in the circle aligned to the four directions as the circle is otherwise traced with the fingertips.  No invocation or chant is required for this, but a short thanksgiving prayer may be said, such as the following from my own simple thanksgiving practice:

    Nous, Logos, Sophia, Aiōn,
    Thank you very much for everything.
    I have no complaints whatsoever.

  3. Extinguish the light.  With the eyes closed, recite the following over the flame of the lamp or candle using the Dismissal of Light from PGM VII.930—1114 as well as a short form of the method for quenching fire from PGM XIII.1—343, the first to send away the holiness in the flame and the second to put out the physical flame itself:

    ΧΩΩ ΧΩΩ ΩΧΩΩΧ, holy brightness!
    Depart, holy brightness!
    Depart, beautiful and holy light of the highest God Aiōn!

    Hear, o Fire, o work of the works of God, o glory of the Sun!
    Be quenched, become cold, and let your flame be scattered that it may touch no one and nothing!

    Cover your head once more, open your eyes, then put out the fire in one swift motion.

The temple space has now been closed, and the ritual has now come to a complete end.  Follow-up meditation or prayers may be made or a meal may be served, and any clean-up of the temple may now be done.

On the Zodiacal Names and Characters of PGM VII.795—845

On the Zodiacal Names and Characters of PGM VII.795—845

Man, going through the PGM has been productive lately.  One of the reasons is because I finally picked up a copy of Stephen Skinner’s Techniques of Graeco-Egyptian Magic, finally, after way too long.  Though I take issue with some parts of his analysis and contextualization of the material in the PGM, it’s still another solid resource for me to tap into, especially given how thorough he is with categorizing all the different rituals and parts of the PGM in a readable reference.  There are things I wish I could have seen more of in the book, but on the whole, it was still a solid purchase to make.  And, plus, relying on his organization helps point me into new directions to explore, or old roads to go down further than I have before.

I’m also realizing how big PGM VII, specifically, is.  This part of the PGM is huge, if not the hugest, and includes so much material, including (most of) the Homeromanteion, the Twenty-Eight Faces of Mēnē, some of the invocations to the Northern Stars and the Full Moon I make, lists of dates and signs for recommended magical or divinatory actions, and that recent Lunar Spell of Klaudianos I shared the other day.  Lots of good stuff in there, amongst many other things to look at and try out.  (It’s also the source for that ancient PGM meme of “grind up a pepper with some honey and coat your ‘thing'”.)  Well, one of the things in this text is PGM VII.795—845, titled “Pythagoras’ request for a dream oracle and Demokritos’ dream divination”; the attributions here are likely spurious, but then, so are most attributions to mythical or famous mathematicians or prophets in this sort of literature.  This specific ritual is much like others: it’s a particular way to obtain divinatory or prophetical knowledge through ritualized dreaming by means of the angel Zizaubiō who hails from the Pleiades.

What sets this ritual apart from so many other dream oracle rituals in the PGM is that this one relies on the use of a particular apparatus of a branch of laurel with leaves on it, on which you write a mystical name of each sign of the Zodiac as well as a magical character for each sign, one sign per leaf.  This attribution of magical names and characters to the Zodiac signs is unlike anything else in the PGM; if there are references to the Zodiac, they’re usually direct and unmagical about it.  To have a magical approach to these signs with barbarous words and characters would be a massive boon for deploying other kinds of zodiacal invocations or conjurations in the style of the PGM, but unfortunately, the list of characters didn’t…make sense at all.  Some signs seemed to have several characters, others none, and some seemed to be clustered together in weird ways.

I don’t like clutter or confusion, so I decided to sit myself down with whatever PGM source materials I could find, and do a bit of forensics and research to see if I couldn’t suss this out.  Get a drink and strap in, because this is going to be a bigger post than even I’m accustomed to making; if you just want to see my results, skip ahead to the end.  Otherwise, you get to learn how some of the words and characters from the original PGM documents got changed slightly from version to version through academia; I hope you enjoy!

So, what does Betz give us for this part of the ritual?  I’m just going to post a quick scanned excerpt, because I want to show exactly how Betz gives the characters for this section:

The two footnotes in this section, just for reference:

  1. “In this list most of the numerical designations 1 — 12 can be recognized in the far right column of the papyrus manuscript, numbering downward from Aries to Pisces.  These numbers were erroneously included in the magical symbols by Preisendanz.”
  2. “Har-Month is Horus-Montu.  Montu is the Egyptian god of war and therefore the proper counterpart of Ares, the ruler of the zodiacal sign Aries.  Horus is also associated with this sign, for “Horus the Red” was the name of Mars which governs Aries. [R.K.R.]”

For kicks, here’s the corresponding entry in Preisendanz (broken down into two images because they were on different pages):

We can see that the Betz version of the characters pretty closely matches the Preisendanz version, except that the characters that suspiciously look like Greek letter-numerals to the right are instead interpreted, rightly so, as numbers.  Fair enough; plus, we can kinda get a slightly better resolution idea of what these characters actually are.   Note also the weirdness for Libra and Scorpio, how instead of there being two characters in two horizontal lines, one for each sign, there are two characters together, and it’s not clear how to distinguish which sign gets which character.  Also note that Aries gets no character in either Betz or Preisendanz, which is odd.

Now, to throw things for a bit of a loop for the sake of being better informed, let’s take a look at the Kenyon transcription of the same text:

Now things are getting interesting!  Between the Kenyon and Preisendanz versions, there are quite a few differences.  In Kenyon:

  • Most of the zodiac sign names are abbreviated, terminating with an upwards hyphen.  Only Aries, Taurus, Scorpio, and Sagittarius are unabbreviated; Libra is there in full, but is marked as abbreviated.  Capricorn gets a full slash rather than an upwards-hyphen, and Pisces gets a weird spelling and grammatical form (might just be a typo or mistranscription).
  • A number of the characters, though similar, have subtle differences.
  • There’s an extra character above the list at the end of the preceding paragraph (line 808).
  • The second glyph for the Libra-Scorpio pair (with the upright sheaf-like character) does not have a Z shape under it; instead, it has a Zēta to the side, which is properly the Greek numeral for 7, with lowercase stigma above it for the numeral 6.  Still, though, we have these two characters side by side again.
  • The character for Sagittarius is radically different.  Even noting Kenyon’s reuse of similar-looking letters for characters based on graphical similarity, we can’t help but be caught off-guard, especially with the separator of spacing and a middle dot in there, too.
  • The Greek numeral 4 (represented by the letter Delta) is clear in Kenyon, but look at how deformed it is in Preisendanz as the rightmost character (line 813).
  • The Greek numeral 5 (represented by the letter Epsilon) is joined into the rightmost character for Virgo (line 815); note how it’s also conjoined in Preisendanz, but not in Betz.  However, Virgo should be the sixth sign, not the fifth, which is Leo.  Yet, Leo (line 814) doesn’t have an Epsilon, but a funny-looking squiggly-b letter both in Kenyon and Preisendanz.  Something got mixed up here.
  • The numbers for the signs are clearly labeled on the right as separate letters, though oddly  Ēta (8, for Scorpio) and Iōta (10, for Capricorn) seem to have been skipped.  Alpha (1, for Aries) is actually present, just put on the end of the mystical name for Aries (line 810); Preisendanz makes this clear.
  • The esoteric names for Aries (line 810) and Aquarius (line 820) do not have spaces in them.

As for the footnotes Kenyon has for the transcription, only one is pertinent to this excerpt, line 819: “αιγογερ- : so, for αιγοκερ” (referring to the abbreviation for Capricorn, Aigokerōs (Αἰγόκερως).

Now, we can clearly see some solutions to some of the problems presented by Betz and Preisendanz:

  • The long arrow-like symbol on Kenyon’s line 808 could be the character for Aries, though its placement in Kenyon is weird.
  • The weird squiggly-b symbol to the right of the character for Leo on Kenyon’s line 814 should be interpreted as a Greek numeral Epsilon, because this is the fifth row/sign/character we get.  This means that the “conjoined-epsilon” on the right character for Virgo on line 815 is actually part of the character, because it doesn’t make sense for Virgo to be given the numeral 5 when it’s the sixth sign; instead, the stigma (Greek numeral 6) put to the upper side of the sheaf-like character on the next line down should be considered Virgo’s numeral.
  • The positioning of the last three characters for Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces in Kenyon is a little weird, but the numerals for ΙΑ (11, for Aquarius) and ΙΒ (12, for Pisces) help significantly.  It’s weird that we don’t see a single Iōta for the character for Capricorn, however, but given its vertical placement above the latter two characters, it’s safe to assign this character to Capricorn.
  • We still have the issue of not knowing which character to give to Libra and which to Scorpio.  However, given Zēta’s proximity to the upright sheaf-like character, especially seeing how it was conjoined with it in Preisendanz and Betz, and given that Zēta is the numeral for 7, and given that it’s positioned slightly higher than the left Labmda-like character, I would give this character to Libra (the seventh sign) and the left lambda-like character to Scorpio (the eighth sign)
  • If that’s the case, however, then we would expect to see an Ēta somewhere to clearly delineate that the left Lambda-like character goes to Scorpio, but instead, it appears to be entirely missing from the diagram.  We should look for something that resembles an uppercase H, maybe with a loop connecting the right end of the horizontal bar and the top end of the right vertical bar.

The biggest issue we’ve got, then, is the weirdness for the characters for Sagittarius and whether it might be hiding any letters that would act as an Ēta (to distinguish the sign for Scorpio) and Iōta (to distinguish the sign for Capricorn).  As given in either Betz, Preisendanz, or Kenyon, the character (or characters) for Sagittarius are the most complex and confusing, and something here isn’t what it seems.

Unfortunately, all I have to go on are these three “critical editions” of the PGM, none of which actually translate faithfulness from the original papyrus.  If I had a scan of PGM VII.795—845, that’d make this easier to see what’s precisely going on, especially to see what the original format of the characters would have looked like without resorting to Greek letter lookalikes.  Happily, after scouring the Internet (and, of course, right as soon as I contact an actual professor for help), I found them!  Thus, here are the relevant scans from PGM VII, also known as Papyrus 121 in the London collection, courtesy of the British Library:

Now we can get some more answers!  The character for Capricorn is slightly less embellished in the scan than in Kenyon: note the lack of ring-marks on the vertical bottom end and horizontal left end.  However, there is still no Iōta present to mark the character, breaking with the rest of the pattern.  Besides that, however, the characters for Aquarius and Pisces are, indeed, made clear by positioning.  At least some of our questions can be cleared up at a glance.

For comparison to get a better idea of how the same author in the same document writes his numerals, compare PGM VII.765—778, looking at the leftmost column of two or three letters from just the previous column in the papyrus.  (Coincidentally, this is the list of the fourteen signs of Mēnē from the Twenty-Eight Faces of Mēnē ritual I mentioned not too long ago.)

Okay, so, with the information we now have at our disposal, let’s go down our problems one at a time.  What we need to do is try to decipher not only the text here, but we need to figure out the intent and mind of the original author of the papyrus.

The Mystical Name of Aquarius

This is a minor issue, but an issue nonetheless for me.  How the name for Aquarius should be spelled is a little complicated; Preisendanz and Betz give it as ΜΕΝΝΥ ΘΥΘ ΙΑΩ, while Kenyon gives it as MENNYΘΥΘ ΙΑΩ.  The scan is clear that there is definitely no space between ΜΕΝΝΥ and ΘΥΘ, so those two should be a single name (though I understand Preisendanz’s reason for splitting ΘΥΘ off under the influence of the god Thoth).  However, whether the final ΙΑΩ should be separate is debatable.  ΙΑΩ is definitely a common name in the PGM, that can’t be denied, and there is a pattern of other names that have two parts (Taurus, Gemini, Virgo) to have a second part composed of only three letters.  However, unlike those other names, there isn’t a huge space between MENNYΘΥΘ and ΙΑΩ.  The only indication that there should be a space read here is that the final Thēta of MENNYΘΥΘ doesn’t connect with the Iōta of ΙΑΩ, and the handwriting of the author always (as far as I can tell) connects the horizontal bar of Thēta with the following letter in a non-final position.  Given that, it can certainly be argued that this name should have two parts, but it can go either way.  So, the name would be MENNYΘΥΘ ΙΑΩ (two parts) or MENNYΘΥΘΙΑΩ (one part).

The Delta-Epsilon-Stigma Numerals

Going down the list, we would expect one numeral per line-sign-character: Alpha for Aries, Bēta for Taurus, Gamma for Gemini, and so forth.  Largely, this is true, but we have a bit of an issue when we look at Cancer, Leo, and Virgo.  We would expect, in order, Delta for Cancer, Epsilon for Leo, and Stigma (which was commonly used in lieu of Digamma for the number 6) for Virgo, and indeed, all these numerals appear, but not exactly where we see them.  The line for Cancer has two characters, a Thēta-like character with a long horizontal bar that swishes from the lower left to the upper right and a sort of wide Delta-like character with an upwards slash going through it, followed by a normal Delta though with a weird angular bracket between the slashed-Delta character and the Delta-numeral.  This might indicate that the bracket is part of the characters for Cancer, but let’s keep looking.  As far as that Thēta goes, it’s spaced out far enough from the rest of the name that I’m pretty sure it’s not part of the name, and it forms a character unto itself.

Leo posits more of an issue, however.  We see two glyphs to the right of the name for Leo: what looks like a plain old Delta (though it also looks like a Roman cursive lowercase “a”), and a sort of 6-like glyph.  We would expect to find an Epsilon at the end of this row to act as the numeral 5, but we don’t.  Instead, we find an Epsilon glyph at the end of the second character on the following line, and based on how the horizontal bar of the Epsilon doesn’t match up with the horizontal bar of the character, it seems like this truly is a separate glyph, indicating that that character is marked as for the fifth row.  That said, it occurs right to the side of the other character within the same row for Virgo, which should get the numeral for 6 (which would be Stigma), and we find Stigma immediately under and centered beneath it.

I’m pretty sure the vertical-sheaf character is the seventh character for the seventh sign, Libra, and we see the numeral for 7, the Greek letter Zēta, placed immediately under and centered beneath it.  Additionally, almost all the signs have exactly one glyph that acts as its given character; the only exceptions are Aries and Cancer, and both of those are still debatable at this point, and whatever is going on with Sagittarius. Given that, I would say that the cross-loopy-Z character is the proper (and only) character for Virgo, while the arrow-hourglass character is the proper (and only) character for Leo.

However, if that’s the case, then we end up with a problem: what to make of Cancer’s Delta-numeral?  We find two Delta-numerals, one to the right of the characters and one under them; there’s also the slashed-Delta which might or might not be part of the characters for Cancer along with maybe the angle bracket, and we still have that weird 6-like glyph on the line for Leo.  Given that the Delta on the line for Leo is definitely and clearly a Delta (compare its form to the “εστιν δε” above the list), I’m inclined to think it’s just a numeral to refer to the characters for Cancer on the line above.  This would make the Delta above extraneous, however, and I’m inclined to think that the author slipped up several times here: the slashed-Delta was originally going to be the numerical reference for this line, but it didn’t line up with the numerals Bēta and Gamma from the prior two lines, and it got crossed out and replaced with another Delta to the side, but then that made it messier, so he added another Delta underneath the Thēta-like character to make it clearer what the actual character for Cancer was.  The 6-glyph, then, would be a typographic mark to indicate something amiss here, either to link the Delta-numeral on the line for Leo to its proper, original placement on the prior line, or to “negate” that line’s space and direct the author/reader to look on the next line for the expected character.  I’m pretty sure that the 6-glyph isn’t a character for any of the signs, because it also doesn’t fit in with either the style of the characters, any of the letters, or any of the numerals.

The Characters for Libra and Scorpio

The vertical length of the sheaf-like character makes it difficult to squeeze into the tight rows of the text.  However, given its height and positioning, it seems like it should be given clearly to Libra, especially since it has the Greek letter Zēta immediately beneath it for the number 7.  However, I have one issue with how it’s drawn in Kenyon and Preisendanz/Betz: the four inverted chevrons are connected down the middle with a vertical line, but how far that vertical line should extend seems debatable.  Kenyon has the vertical line extending past the top chevron and below the bottom chevron, and all unconnected to its Zēta numeral; Preisendanz has the line stop at the vertex of the topmost chevron, extending past the bottom one, and in contact with the Zēta numeral; Betz has the line extend past the bottom and top chevrons and coming in contact with the Zēta numeral.  The scan is pretty clear that the vertical line should not extend past the vertex of the top chevron, but there’s a crack/crease that makes the rest of the character hard to read.  It doesn’t seem like the character should come in contact with the Zēta numeral; not only does it seem like there’s an absence of ink that would connect the two, but no other characters are graphically connected to their numerals.  Looking closely, however, there is a faint vertical line that connects the chevrons together by their vertices, but it doesn’t seem to extend past the top or bottom chevron.  So we have a good idea of what this character should actually look like.

This leaves the Lambda-like character to its left; given its smaller size, it seemed easier to slap it right next to the name for Scorpio, and the graphical placement really does make it clear that it’s this that’s the proper character for Scorpio, indeed.  Taking a closer look at the scan, it looks like a proper capital Alpha with two ring marks on the terminals of the legs, and a large ring mark at the apex that seems blurrily filled in.  Kenyon preserves the horizontal bar of this character and shows a larger-than-usual apex ring mark with a cross inside, while Preisendanz/Betz do away with the horizontal bar and leave the apex ring mark small and empty.  It seems clear to me that the horizontal bar really should have stayed in, but it’s hard to make out what exactly is going on with the apex ring mark.

However, we’re still missing an Ēta somewhere here, which is what we expect since this would be the eighth sign and every other character-sign so far has a numeral attached to it.  It’s not present here, in teh previous line, or in the next line, so this leaves us with two options: the apex ring mark has something to do with it, or the author simply left it out.  The former seems unlikely to me; though it does look messy, there’s nothing there that resembles an Ēta the way the author writes them, either in the middle of text or as a numeral.  The latter seems more likely to me, since the context here makes it clear that this character belongs, and can only belong, to Scorpio.

If we rule out that the mess with the apex ring mark has anything to do with a missing numeral, then it looks like the author made another mistake here and tried to fix it by going over the glyph again in more ink.  Looking closely, it seems like there’s a smaller ring mark within the larger one, right at the actual apex of the Alpha-shape of the character.  To me, this would indicate that the author originally drew the ring mark too big, and then tried to draw the smaller one inside in bolder ink to indicate that, no really, it should have been made the same size as the other two ring marks at the terminals of the Alpha-shape.

What the Hell is Going On With Sagittarius

So we have a bit of a mess with Sagittarius.  The end of the line has a Thēta for the numeral 9, which is what we expect, and the glyph immediately to its left is definitely a character.  Then we have the wide-bottomed Ksi glyph and the two Upsilon letters.  Kenyon has that extra dot between the Ksi glyph and the Upsilon glyphs, but that looks like it belongs more to the Zēta directly above as punctuation more than anything else, and Preisendanz and Betz don’t accurately capture how these glyphs aren’t actually connected with each other.  One thought is that these aren’t characters, but actual letters that should continue the name of the sign, so instead of it being ΦΑΝΘΕΝΦΥΦΛΙΑ, we could read it as ΦΑΝΘΕΝΦΥΦΛΙΑΞΥΥ.  However, I don’t think that’s the case, because the Ksi here is written on a different baseline than the name itself with the upper-left terminal of the letter at the base height of the line for the name, and it’s way too angular for the author to write as a normal Ksi when compared with the rest of the text, where it’s a lot more squiggly and starts up at a higher point than x-height, as in the examples below (PGM VII.386, “ΠΟΘΗΞΑΣ ΕΡΑΤΕΥΝ” and PGM VII.504, “δοξασον μοι ως εδοξασα το”).

So, if this angular-Ksi is indeed a character, as I think it could be, then the two Upsilon-chevrons to its right must also be part of it, as well.  This seems weird to me, though, because this, when combined with the definite character at the end of the line before the Thēta numeral, would make Sagittarius the only multi-glyph character, and definitely the largest and most complex of them all.  At the same time, looking through the rest of this author’s writings, the author rarely uses Ksi as a letter in his barbarous words, and it seems to be a phoneme that’s not comfortable in his own magical practice, especially when compared with the other parts of the PGM.  Indeed, this author seems to have a much stronger Egyptian bent to his work than other authors elsewhere, so I suppose it would make sense that we probably wouldn’t see a more Greek-type of phoneme.  Additionally, for a barbarous word of this length and style to end in a double Upsilon also seems unlikely to me.

There is another possibility, however, that these three glyphs form a second part of the name unto itself.  So, instead of reading it as ΦΑΝΘΕΝΦΥΦΛΙΑ followed by several characters or as ΦΑΝΘΕΝΦΥΦΛΙΑΞΥΥ followed by the one definite character, we could read it as ΦΑΝΘΕΝΦΥΦΛΙΑ ΞΥΥ followed by the one definite character.  We already have three names for sure that are two parts, Taurus (ΝΕΦΟΒΩΘΑ ΘΟΨ) and Gemini (ΑΡΙΣΤΑΝΑΒΑ ΖΑΩ) and Virgo (ΕΙΛΕΣΙΛΑΡΜΟΥ ΦΑΙ), with Aquarius maybe having two parts as stated above (MENNYΘΥΘ ΙΑΩ).  The extra long length of the bottom line of the Ksi could be to accommodate the spacing for the two Upsilon letters to its right as well as the Zēta numeral and the character for Scorpio directly above it, since getting all this to fit on one row would be overly cramped at this point.  The angularity of the Ksi here is still a little weird, but then, the author has a tendency to make sharper/more defined the letters at the beginning of words or sentences (basically, capital letters), although it doesn’t seem like any of the names here are capitalized in the same way, and I can’t easily find an example of a Ksi starting a word in the text.  So, for the name of Sagittarius to be a two-parter like Taurus, Gemini, et. al. is plausible, and would also allow us to maintain only a single character for Sagittarius like all the other signs.

To be honest, I’m not comfortable with either choice, that there’s only one barbarous name for Sagittarius and it having several characters, or having two barbarous names, the second of which is pretty unusual for this author, with one character.  However, of the two, the second seems more likely to me, because it fits in better with the pattern set by the other signs in this list with a mystical name that’s either one long part or one long part plus a shorter, three-letter part, and with each sign getting one character.  If I were to bet on one place I’d make a mistake in this analysis, it’d be here, but I’m still comfortable with my choice of analysis, or at least relatively so when compared to the alternative.

The Missing Character for Aries

Though it’s the first sign in the list, I’m saving it for last because this is probably the most perplexing of the issues, even beyond the deal with Sagittarius.  We know that the author of the papyrus tries gives the letter-numeral corresponding to the zodiac sign after the character for the same zodiac sign, either to its right if it can fit on the same line or underneath if there are space issues, with the sole exception of Scorpio with its character due to space constraints.  The line for Aries doesn’t have a noticeable character, but it does end in an Alpha, which Preisendanz/Betz understands to be the numeral, but which Kenyon has as part of the name of the sign.  However, the name here is already pretty long, and is broken down into several units by Preisendanz/Betz.  There’s a crack in the papyrus in the middle of the final…glyphs of this line, between the (possibly) larger than usual Khi and the final Alpha, and Preisendanz and Kenyon are both in agreement that this cracked glyph should be a lowercase Epsilon.  I would claim, then, that either the last one two glyphs before the final Alpha are not part of the name, but rather the character for Aries.  So, we’d end up with the name ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩ with both the Khi and the Epsilon as the character, or ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧ if the Epsilon itself is the character.

It can probably be established that my earlier theory was wrong, that the long horizontal arrow before the list was the missing character for Aries; it seems to be a sort of fanciful colon or continuation mark of the author rather than a character of a sign (and which is misrepresented in Kenyon, anyhow, as being three reversed “c” glyphs followed by a long horizontal line), especially given that we see similar signs elsewhere in PGM VII.  This leaves us with the question: where does the mystical name for Aries end and the character (or characters) for Aries begin?  There is a space between ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩ and the following Khi, but it’s nowhere like the other spaces for the other multipart names where there’s a very wide space, like for Taurus, Gemini, and Virgo.  Moreover, the second part of those names always have three characters, while this one wouldn’t; we couldn’t separate the final Ōmega from ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩ because it’s visibly connected to the preceding Thēta.  I’m also not confident that the Khi here is actually part of a separate word, because there doesn’t seem to be that big of a space between it and the preceding Ōmega; elsewhere in barbarous names and in regular text, the author doesn’t usually join Ōmega to its following letter, so the name here should be at least ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧ.

However, the more I look at it, the less I’m sure that the final Alpha here actually marks a numeral rather than a plain letter.  Note the long tail at the end of the Alpha; we see long tails in the text parts of the list of lunar symbols from the Twenty-Eight Faces of Mēnē text, and elsewhere where the letter can form a tail at all (like a final Sigma or final Epsilon), while the numeral use of Alpha doesn’t use a tail, there or elsewhere in the text.  Between that and how…lax the letter is written, especially with the hypercorrect numeral-letters elsewhere in sign list, it seems like this Alpha should be part of the text and not marking a character, which would make Aries have the name ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧΕΑ.  If the footnote from Betz is correct here, that ΑΡΜΟΝΘ is a rendition of Har-Montu, then we could explain ΑΡΘΩΧΕΑ as Har-Thōkhea, which…doesn’t seem to match anything I can find.  However, there could be a metathesis of letters going on here; if we switch the Theta and Khi, we would get Har-Khōthea.  It’s a stretch, but this could be a way to write Har-[em]-Akhet, better known as Harmachis, or “Horus in the Horizon”.  Harmachis has appeared before (PGM IV.475—829, “Mithras Liturgy”) under the rendition ΑΡΑΜΑΧΗΣ, but there’s no way to explain the drop of the M sound in the name, so I’m not confident that that’s what this name is really getting at.  There is the possibility that the author simply dropped the sound due to dialect or preference, but that’s a questionable assumption I’m not prepared to make.

Either way, to read this name in any way like this would leave it with no character at all, making Aries the one sign without a character, which seems absurd here!  Even if we were to read this name as something like Harmachis, we wouldn’t be able to explain the final Alpha anyway, so it really should be a numeral, though it’s not entirely clear what the character ought to be.  There is the chance that the text simply never included a character for Aries, and I’m finding it hard to escape that conclusion, reluctant though I am to accept it.  The only other alternative is that some of the letters in this name are the character for the sign; the author, elsewhere in this papyrus, has a habit of using Greek letters as characters, and it’s not always clear how to distinguish them, like in PGM VII.411—416.

In the present text, though, it doesn’t even seem like the letters are spaced or delineated in any way that would suggest that they’re supposed to be used as characters instead of letters.  That said, we do have a Thēta as the character for Cancer, and the long crossbar across it isn’t exactly unusual for the author when writing his Thētas elsewhere.  If we leave the name of Aries here as ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧ, then we have the final ΕΑ to deal with.  If we read the Alpha here as a numeral, ignoring the lack of spacing and how it looks like the middle bar of the Epsilon is conjoined with the Alpha in a way that looks pretty fluid and standard for the author, then we would use the Epsilon as our character.  But…it still doesn’t seem like that’s the case, precisely because of those very aspects of the way this is written.  It seems like ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧΕ or ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧΕΑ should be the full name of Aries, and even if the final Α seems weirdly written as a numeral, it still seems like it should be one all the same, giving us ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧΕ as the name for Aries.

The only other alternative we have, then, if Aries is to have a character at all, is that weird triple-backwards-C with the horizontal mark from two lines before.  It might be punctuation or “filler” for the rest of this column of text, but it doesn’t really seem like the author uses such filler when ending a column with extra space in the line, nor are these actual letters, and can’t be explained as such.  The fact that it’s not present in the same line as the sign and mystical name for Aries is hard to reconcile, but assuming that the author wrote down a complete set of mystical names and characters for each sign of the Zodiac without any of them missing, then this is the only other thing I can think of that might fill that void.  It being the first character drawn could explain its odd position before the author settled on an actual format when writing them down in an orderly way, but that’s a leap for me to make.  Still, I see no other way to get around this without admitting a missing or forgotten character.

The only argument I have that this set of backwards-C-with-the-line characters are the characters we’re looking for is in that scan from PGM VII.411—416 above; note the backwards-C characters and the horizontal lines, which follow “ος αν βουλε” (“add the usual, as much as you want”) for writing on a scroll.  This could be a kind of ellipsis, but I’m not confident that it is, and again, I’m pretty sure this isn’t line filler because the author doesn’t make a habit of that.  Betz and Preisendanz don’t mention it in their versions of the text, but Kenyon does.  For PGM VII.411—416, this would indicate that you’d write the string of characters first, then your request, then the terminal backwards-C-with-the-line characters.  If these are indeed characters, then it would stand that we see a similar enough set of characters for Aries here, just in a slightly unusual place.  That’s the only thing I can think of for this problem of Aries otherwise being character-less, but it would also make this sign of the Zodiac have a name and character that are disjoint, and there’s also the fact that this set of symbols does appear elsewhere in the text in unrelated parts, so I can’t say that this would be the actual character for Aries.

Of course, there is one other argument which makes so much of the rest of this moot, which makes sense and actually works given the context yet which makes me incredibly frustrated: there is no true distinction between what we’d view as letters versus what we’d view as characters.  The original text here doesn’t use the word χαρακτερ to refer to the things written at all, but rather ζωδιον, which we’d translate as “sign”.  The difference here is nuanced and subtle, but bear in mind that none of these things are part of the spoken ritual, but are all intended to be written down on the leaves of laurel for the ritual.  In other words, all that which is written is part of the zōdia, and is not necessarily meant to be decomposed into a speakable name and a writable character.  In that sense, it’s not that Aries is missing a character, but it simply doesn’t have a non-letter part of its zōdion.  I…I can’t deny that this makes sense, and does make the entire thing simple, but it also has its own weirdness (why doesn’t Aries have a character as part of its zōdion?), and it frustrates me because it would still be great to have something that could be spoken and also could be written.  The intent of the original author may be lost here, but it could be back-hacked to give us what we want, all the same.  While this last argument doesn’t get us anywhere, I wanted to bring it up just in case someone wanted to take this idea further.

Results and Refinements

Based on all the above, here’s what I would end up with as the mystical names for the signs of the Zodiac:

Sign Name
Aries ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧΕ HARMONTHARTHŌKHE
Taurus ΝΕΟΦΟΞΩΘΑ ΘΟΨ NEOPHOKSŌTHA THOPS
Gemini ΑΡΙΣΤΑΝΑΒΑ ΖΑΩ ARISTANABA ZAŌ
Cancer ΠΧΟΡΒΑΖΑΝΑΧΟΥ PKHORBAZANAKHŪ
Leo ΖΑΛΑΜΟΙΡΛΑΛΙΘ ZALAMOIRLALITH
Virgo ΕΙΛΕΣΙΛΑΡΜΟΥ ΦΑΙ EILESILARMŪ PHAI
Libra ΤΑΝΤΙΝΟΥΡΑΧΘ TANTINŪRAKHTH
Scorpio ΧΟΡΧΟΡΝΑΘΙ KHORKHORNATHI
Sagittarius ΦΑΝΘΕΝΦΥΦΛΙΑ ΞΥΥ PHANTHENPHYPHLIA KSUHU
Capricorn ΑΖΑΖΑΕΙΣΘΑΙΛΙΧ AZAZAEISTHAILIKH
Aquarius ΜΕΝΝΥΘΥΘ ΙΑΩ MENNYTHYTH IAŌ
Pisces ΣΕΡΥΧΑΡΡΑΛΜΙΩ SERYKHARRALMIŌ

And, based on my analysis of the the original scans, plus clarifications and guidance from Betz, Preisendanz, and Kenyon, and assuming that the zōdia for the signs of the Zodiac can indeed be broken down into separate spoken parts (names) and written parts (characters), here are my renditions of the characters for each of the signs of the Zodiac, with alternatives where possible:

 

Notes:

  • The character for Gemini is unclear from the original PGM, and all subsequent authors have their own interpretation of how exactly to replicate this glyph.  I’ve given several versions based on Betz, Kenyon, Preisendanz, and the original PGM (from what I can ascertain from it).
  • The character for Libra has two versions: one with the vertical line descending beneath the last chevron, and one where it terminates at the vertex of the last chevron.  Either may be used here.
  • The characters for all the signs of the Zodiac are essentially the same as in the text, with the exception of Aries, which does not appear in the text.  By interpreting the name of Aries ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧΕ as a corruption of Har-Montu Hor-em-Akhet or Montu-Harmachis, I decided to take the hieroglyphic spelling of the name and combining/corrupting them into something that resembles a character in its own right.  Totally an invention of my own, I admit, but it seems like a good path to follow, until someone else smarter and wiser than me can resolve the issue of the missing Aries character in this part of the PGM.

And, in case anyone wants them, I’ve also made versions of the line-fill glyph used just before this text and from other parts of PGM VII, both in a shallow-C and deep-C form, in case others want to use them as the character for Aries or for other uses.

And there you have it!  A set, largely intact and preserved from antiquity, of magical names and characters for the signs of the Zodiac based on PGM VII.795—845, with refinements from later transcriptions and critical editions of the original papyrus.  I hope this lengthy analysis, with my own mixed-in conclusions and innovations, can be of some use to those who seek to extend the names and characters from this ritual into other uses.

I would also like to give my deepest thanks to Dr. Kirsten Dzwiza of Universität Heidelberg and her excellent resource Charaktêres.com, an online database and series of publications that detail the location, use, function, and types of characters in the PGM and other texts, inscriptions, stones, and other works from the classical period for her insight and assistance in clarifying some of the sources to be used for this particular post.

Well, now, that was a rather busy month of posts; with this, May comes to a close, the summer season informally begins, and I’ve rounded out this month with 13 posts, not a bad number, and it feels good to get back to the research and to the Work.  That said, I really need to focus more on editing and refining my textbook on geomancy so that it’ll come out at some point during the next eon, so for the foreseeable future (a month or three), the number of posts is going to be scaled back to once a week, except and unless anything important pops up that needs to be known or shared with celerity.  I’m still writing for the blog, of course, I’m just throttling back my output so that there’ll always be something to output.  And yes, I’m still going to be around, so if you need me for anything in the meanwhile, feel free to leave comments on my blog or send me an email.  Thank you, dear reader, for sticking around!

Compilation Paralysis

I’ve been on a compilation kick lately.  I mentioned in a recent post of mine about the Orphic Hymns that I’m compiling a personal temple text from a variety of sources because I don’t like having books in my temple room if I can avoid it; for instance, I have a copy of Dervenis’ Oracle Bones Divination that, up until quite recently, I’ve been using as my reference for astragalomancy, and have kept it with my shrines for the Greek gods.  This…makes me uncomfortable, so I transcribed all the necessary information from that into a personal ebook for me to keep a printout of instead.  Not only do I get to finally put the damn book back on the bookshelf after way too long, but I also get to reformat it, reorganize it, and include other information I want to reference, as well as tweak some of the translations for my own tastes.

Of course, one thing led to another.  I also included a few pages for grammatomancy, which also references a good chunk of my Mathesis correspondences to the letter, and because Opsopaus included the Delphic Maxims in his Oracles of Apollo book, I decided to include those, too.  Again, nothing too elaborate or in-depth; I have enough experience with these systems and the backgrounds and contexts in which they were written to not have to have all the extra information in a temple reference.  The final result is something I could be content with…except, of course, I wasn’t.  Given all the references to the other gods between grammatomantic correspondences to the zodiac signs and, by those, to the Greek gods (cf. Agrippa’s Orphic Scale of Twelve, book II chapter 14), I wanted to also have a section for the Orphic Hymns.  This is reasonable; after all, my personal vademecum-enchiridion-prayerbook has a number of them already transcribed, and while I won’t use all the Orphic Hymns in my practice, why not have a complete set for reference, just in case?  It wasn’t hard to find a copy of the Greek texts as well as the Taylor translations that I could simply copy, paste, and format for LaTeX’s customary needs.

But, of course, why stop there?  I also ended up adding Gemisthus Plethon’s hymns as well as those of Proclus, which I find useful for my Neoplatonic uses as well as my devotional ones.  And, if we’re going with devotions, I decided to also include a few prayers attributed to Hermes Trismegistus from the Corpus Hermeticum, the Asclepius, and so on, and because of those, I also wanted to bring in a few things from the PGM, which then became more than a few things from the PGM, and then I added in the planetary invocations from the Picatrix because those would be useful, too…

The ebook I was preparing ballooned from a simple reference for divination to a compendium of devotional and oracular texts.  Whoops.

But, yanno, I was hooked!  I wanted to bring in what I could, because it might be useful, whether in a devotion to the theoi or in divination or needing something to reference for meditation.  And, so, my penchant for completionism and perfectionism kicked in—hard—and I’ve been looking through my other references and books, trying to pick out useful prayers, invocations, rituals, and the like for my temple.  In effect, I was essentially making a typed-up version of my vademecum, with a different focus and with plenty more texts that I’m not accustomed to using.

This is all well and good, of course, assuming I could actually use the thing.  And in the form it was in, even in the form it had been in, it was quite plenty useful, and definitely satisfied my original needs of having a handy divination reference in my temple.  But since I brought in all these other things, I knew I wanted more, and because I wanted more, I also knew that it was incomplete.  And how would I tolerate having something be incomplete?  The idea is as distasteful as unnecessarily having books in my temple room.  Because it was incomplete, I didn’t want to print it out prematurely, especially with having to deal with page numbers or section enumeration, because if I wanted to add or fix something, I’d have to go back and reprint the damn thing for consistency, and even though I can get by by using the office printers once in a while for personal ends, I didn’t want to waste that much paper and ink.  Editing a text is one thing—I’m not opposed to using interim texts with scratched-in notes—but putting something on paper, especially printing something out, gives me a hard-to-achieve and yet so-satisfactory feeling of something being “fixed”, even if it is for my eyes only.  So, in order to make printing this thing meaningful, I wanted to make sure it was worthy and proper for printing.

It’s been over a month since I had the original problem of “I need a quick reference for divination”.  It’s also been over a month since I’ve had a workable, totally satisfactory solution for this problem, too, and yet I still haven’t fulfilled my needs.  Instead, I got caught up in a problem I call “compilation paralysis”: not wanting to proceed in some matter due to a fear of not having enough resources, options, or sources.

Some authors, especially those in academia or in teaching-types of writing, might know the feeling well, of not feeling like you have adequate source material to publish.  I have that same sensation, too, for my geomancy book-in-progress, knowing that there’s still so much more that might be included but…well, the benefits diminish after a certain point, and well before that, it’s probably better to cut out stuff that’s truly extraneous and unnecessary before adding anything more.  It does, in fact, help to start off with too much and cut down rather than having the opposite problem, and this is a habit I picked up in college for my research papers (getting down to the ten-page mark was a lot easier than trying to BSing and subtle-formatting my way up to it).  But, at the same time, consider the context: what these authors are dealing with is a single book on a single topic that is published for a single need.  Once that need is met, the book is (in theory, at least) publishable; further books can be written or new editions made with further appendices, but those aren’t strictly needed.  My problem, in this case, is dealing with something for me and me alone that needs to satisfy my sometimes-nebulous needs.

One of the reasons why I support people having a notebook or, perhaps even better from a utilitarian standpoint, a binder with written pages for their vademecum-enchiridion-prayerbooks or records of their prayers and rituals is because these are essentially living documents; as we grow in practice, they grow, too.  As we find new prayers, rituals, and correspondences, we add them in, organization be damned.  We can reevaluate the real use of these things we add, and reorganize what makes the cut, when we fill the first notebook and move onto the second one, as I did not too long ago.  These aren’t things that need to be polished, edited, or fixed in any way except what serves our needs in prayer and ritual, and as such, don’t need to be fancy, embellished, typeset, illumined, or otherwise made particularly fancy.  In fact, I have a personal fear of using those beautifully handcrafted, leatherbound, embossed, etc. journals I see floating across the internet and bookstores because I tremble at the thought of messing up such a beautiful work with errors or wasted paper; not only is my calligraphy not up to par to match the beauty of these books, but I find these things to be more appropriate to true works of devotion and love that are complete and refined unto themselves.  (I only speak for myself, of course.)

So, like, with my personal enchiridion, I don’t particularly care about making errors; there are scratchmarks, crossouts, and addenda all over the damn thing.  The important thing for me is not to waste space, so I try to be as efficient as possible cramming in as much information and references as possible into as few pages and lines as possible.  This is fine; after all, it’s my own personal thing, and nobody else needs to see or use it; besides, Moleskines can be expensive for such a notebook, even if they’re the perfect size to carry around (and fit in a Hyundai car manual leather case, I might add, which gives it extra padding and some extra utility, in case you wanted to try that out as a Moleskine bookcover).  The things I add to my enchiridion are a testimony to my growth and directions and shifts in focus I take in my practice, which I find is informative on its own.  The only important criterion I have for adding stuff to it, truly the only one, is whether something is going to be useful to me; if not, I’m not gonna waste the time writing it in or the ink to write it.

That’s what reminded me to get out of my compilation paralysis.  There’s no need to be scared or anxious about not having enough sources; if I need something later, I can just add it it.  It’s not like I didn’t already have these sources and there’s a threat of losing them; I’ve never needed a copy of the Homeric Hymns or the Nabataean prayers to the Sun or Saturn on hand when I didn’t already have my enchiridion or my copy of the Picatrix at hand, after all, so why should I be so worried about not having them in this temple reference?  I can always add new things into the overall document, print out the necessary pages, and just add them into the binder where appropriate.  It’s not that big a deal.  I know for a fact that I can always get this information should I need it, and if I haven’t needed it yet, there’s no harm to start off with that which I know I need right now and add stuff later.  I’ve got more than enough source material for what I need, anyway, and it’s more manageable to deal with two small binders than one massive one.

It’s a bitter pill for me to swallow, but even I have to admit it: none of us needs to know everything about our practices right out of the gate.  It might be nice, to be sure, but that’s also kind of the beauty of it, to let growth happen organically, especially if you’re in a practice that you’re developing on your own, as so many magicians and pagans are.  You don’t need full copies of the Homeric Hymns or Orphic Hymns in both Greek and English the moment you decide to build a shrine to one of the gods; you don’t need to know all the specific proportions of all the ingredients for the obscure incenses needed for all the planets from the Picatrix when you’re not even going to bother with a planet you’re going to interact with tonight once and probably not again for a few years more.  Part of the practice is just that: practice.  We do things, and then we do both more things and we do those same things more.  We learn, we accumulate, and we incorporate what we do into what eventually becomes our whole practice.  Part of that is necessarily finding more things to add and adding them at the proper time, as well as changing the things we do as we need to change them so as to keep doing them better or, at least, keep doing things better for our own sakes.  If we need to make emendations, do so at the proper time; you don’t know what would need them until you do or until they’re pointed out to you, and so much of that is based upon trial and error, experimentation and evaluation.  It’s not that big a deal.

There’s no need to worry, and there’s no cause for paralysis.  All you need to do is, simply, do.  Amend, fix, and add when you need to.  Don’t worry about trying to have everything ready for everything, especially when you don’t know what “everything” consists of.  Relax, then Work.

On Orphic Hymns and Multiple Aspects of Gods

After making public my recent text on the Grammatēmerologion, the lunisolar calendar system I use for my Mathesis work, I’ve decided to go ahead and make another text for myself.  This latter text is something I don’t plan on making available, since it’s little more than a compilation of oracular verses, wisdom texts, and hymns; due to the copyrighted nature of some of the translations (even if I’m changing them heavily to reflect something I find more fitting based on alternative translations from the original Greek), I don’t think I can or should make this public, as it’d probably put me on uncomfortably thin ice that I don’t care to skate on.  If you’re interested in some of these original texts, here are some references for you to check out:

The reason for my compiling this new text is that…well, basically, I don’t like having books in my temple space.  It’s a personal quirk of mine, but if I can avoid it, I prefer to have my books on my bookshelves where the rest of them are, so that if I need to reference them, I can just reach out and grab one rather than have to enter my temple space unnecessarily.  For instance, I’ve had Dervenis’ Oracle Bones Divination stashed with my Greek stuff because it’s the text I use for astragalomancy, or Greek knucklebone divination; it’s been down there for quite some time, so it’s ended up picking up that faint incense smell common to books gotten from New Age stores.  I haven’t removed it from the Greek shrine area because I keep using it there, though at the cost of when I want to reference it, I typically put it off because I don’t like fiddling with my shrines if I’m not actually going to work with the shrines or, at least, not in a state of purity.  Now, by compiling my own text, I can print out a copy of what I need, store it in a binder, keep the binder in the temple, and move the book to its proper place back on the bookshelf.  I plan on also keeping a binder-copy of the Grammatēmerologion for much the same purpose, too.

It makes sense to me, at least.

One of the things I plan on including in this new binder-text are a selection of the Orphic hymns (Ὀρφικοί Ὕμνοι)—you remember those, right?  They’re the hymns that were commonly associated with the religious sect of Orphism in the classical age, and were further attributed to their mythological founder Orpheus.  Though they have mythological origins dating back to prehistory, it’s more likely that they were written anywhere from the 6th century BCE to the 4th century CE.  Among many other esoteric, ritual, magical, and religious texts, the Orphic Hymns have withstood the test of time as an inventory of some 90-ish (depending on how you count them) prayers that invoke the various gods, goddesses, and spirits of the Greek spiritual cosmos.  I’ve used them countless times both in my magical works as well as my religious offerings, and even Agrippa has great things to say about them when he discusses the power and virtues of prayers and hymns used as incantations both for religion and for magic (book I, chapter 71, emphasis mine):

Besides the vertues of words and names, there is also a greater vertue found in sentences, from the truth contained in them, which hath a very great power of impressing, changing, binding, and establishing, so that being used it doth shine the more, and being resisted is more confirmed, and consolidated; which vertue is not in simple words, but in sentences, by which any thing is affirmed, or denyed; of which sort are verses, enchantments, imprecations, deprecations, orations, invocations, obtestations, adjurations, conjurations, and such like. Therefore in composing verses, and orations, for attracting the vertue of any Star, or Deity, you must diligently consider what vertues any Star contains, as also what effects, and operations, and to infer them in verses, by praising, extolling, amplifying, and setting forth those things which such a kind of Star is wont to cause by way of its influence, and by vilifying, and dispraising those things which it is wont to destroy, and hinder, and by supplicating, and begging for that which we desire to get, and by condemning, and detesting that which we would have destroyed, & hindered: and after the same manner to make an elegant oration, and duly distinct by Articles, with competent numbers, and proportions.

Moreover Magicians command that we call upon, and pray by the names of the same Star, or name, to them to whom such a verse belongs, by their wonderfull things, or miracles, by their courses, and waies in their sphear, by their light, by the dignity of their Kingdome, by the beauty, and brightness that is in it, by their strong, and powerfull vertues, and by such like as these. As Psyche in Apuleius prayes to Ceres; saying, I beseech thee by thy fruitfull right hand, I intreat thee by the joyfull Ceremonies of harvests, by the quiet silence of thy chests, by the winged Chariots of Dragons thy servants, by the furrows of the Sicilian earth, the devouring Wagon, the clammy earth, by the place of going down into cellars at the light Nuptials of Proserpina, and returns at the light inventions of her daughter, and other things which are concealed in her temple in the City Eleusis in Attica. Besides, with the divers sorts of the names of the Stars, they command us to call upon them by the names of the Intelligencies, ruling over the Stars themselves, of which we shall speak more at large in their proper place.  They that desire further examples of these, let them search into the hymns of Orpheus, then which nothing is more efficatious in naturall Magick, if they together with their circumstances, which wise men know, be used according to a due harmony, with all attention.

But to return to our purpose. Such like verses being aptly, and duly made according to the rule of the Stars, and being full of signification, & meaning, and opportunely pronounced with vehement affection, as according to the number, proportion of their Articles, so according to the form resulting from the Articles, and by the violence of imagination, do confer a very great power in the inchanter, and sometimes transfers it upon the thing inchanted, to bind, and direct it to the same purpose for which the affections, and speeches of the inchanter are intended. Now the instrument of inchanters is a most pure harmoniacall spirit, warm, breathing, living, bringing with it motion, affection, and signification, composed of its parts, endued with sence, and conceived by reason. By the quality therefore of this spirit, and by the Celestiall similitude thereof, besides those things which have already been spoken of, verses also from the opportunity of time, receive from above most excellent vertues, and indeed more sublime, and efficatious then spirits, & vapors exhaling out of the Vegetable life, out of hearbs, roots, gums, aromaticall things, and fumes, and such like. And therefore Magicians inchanting things, are wont to blow, and breath upon them the words of the verse, or to breath in the vertue with the spirit, that so the whole vertue of the soul be directed to the thing inchanted, being disposed for the receiving the said vertue. And here it is to he noted, that every oration, writting, and words, as they induce accustomed motions by their accustomed numbers, and proportions, and form, so also besides their usuall order, being pronounced, or wrote backwards, more unto unusuall effects.

In my work, I typically use Thomas Taylor’s 1792 English translation, which are arguably among the most well-known and are useful in magic for their rhyming and well-metered format, though Apostolos Athanassakis put out a new translation in 2013 which is arguably more literal and faithful to the original Greek.  I’ll also take the opportunity to point out that Sara Mastros of Mastros & Zealot: Witches for Hire is making a new set of translations, as well, which you can check out on her Facebook page.  HellenicGods.org has the original polytonic Greek texts for the hymns as well, which are useful in their own times and needs.  All the same, regardless what translation or style you use, the Orphic Hymns have power that truly have withstood the test of time; I highly encourage you to use them, if you’re not yet doing so, or at least give them a read-over a few times, as they give period-appropriate descriptions of the gods the Hellenes and other Mediterranean peoples worshiped and invoked.

One of the things about the Orphic Hymns might confuse people is that there are sometimes multiple hymns for the same god; for instance, Zeus has three, Dionysos has four, Hermes has two, and so forth.  Each hymn, however, is clearly labeled as being distinct; Taylor gives the ones for Zeus as To Jupiter, To Thundering Jove, and To Jove the Author of Lightning, or in their respective traditional Greek appellations, Zeus, Zeus Keraunios, and Zeus Astrapaios.  Though these are all Zeus, what gives with the different prayers?  The idea lies in something called epithets and aspects of the gods, which was easily understood in Hellenic times but may not be as easily understood to us modern folk.  Basically, a single deity could reveal themselves in any number of ways, or take on special offices and patronage in certain circumstances that they wouldn’t necessarily take on otherwise, and each of these aspects had a different epithet to distinguish that specific instance of the god, and often had different temples as well.  For instance, Poseidōn is the lord of the seas, to be sure, but there’s also Poseidōn Sōter (who keeps people at sea safe), Poseidōn Asphaleios (the averter of earthquakes), and Poseidōn Hippios (creator and tamer of horses).  Poseidōn is Poseidōn is Poseidōn, but you wouldn’t go to Poseidōn Hippios to ask for no earthquakes in the coming year.  You can kind of think of it like how Mary mother of God is also Our Lady of Good Counsel, Our Lady of Navigators, Our Lady Undoer of Knots, or any other number of titles based on specific miracles she works or in particular places where she’s appeared; another modern parallel is the notion of caminos or “roads” of the orisha in Yoruba or Yoruba-derived religions like Lukumí.

For me, the idea of having multiple aspects of a god that can be approached separately isn’t hard to understand, but what does bring up an interesting problem is how to make use of some of these approaches in a modern system.  For instance, in my Mathesis work, I associate each of the letters of the Greek alphabet to an element, a planet, or a sign of the zodiac according to the rules of stoicheia.  It would be great, then, to have a deity presiding over each letter to approach that deity specifically for the blessings and wisdom of that specific letter.  However, there are overlaps between some of these sets of attributions.  For instance, Zeus is the god of the planet Jupiter as well as (according to Agrippa’s Orphical Scale of 12 in book II, chapter 14) the zodiacal sign Leo.  Moreover, using Empedoclēs as a guide for associating the gods to the elements (clarified by the ever-wonderful help of John Opsopaus), Zeus is also given rulership over the element of Air.  In this case, we have three separate patronages under one god, which could be considered three mathetic aspects of Zeus.  Not all the gods have this quality of having multiple stoicheic patronages, but a few of them do:

  • Aphroditē: ruler of the planet Venus and the zodiacal sign Taurus
  • Hermēs: ruler of the planet Mercury and the zodiacal sign Cancer
  • Hēra: ruler of the zodiacal sign Aquarius and the element Earth (according to Empedoclēs)
  • Zeus: ruler of the planet Jupiter, the zodiac sign Leo, and the element Air (according to Empedoclēs)
  • Arēs: ruler of the planet Mars and the zodiacal sign Scorpio

Unfortunately, of these gods, only Zeus has three separate Orphic hymns, and Hermēs only has two (one of which is for Hermēs Khthonios, or Underworld Hermēs, which I find most apt astrologically to represent Mercury retrograde).  This is also complicated by the fact that some stoicheic forces are associated with multiple entities I recognize that could be approached by, some of which have Orphic hymns and some don’t (those that do are linked in the list below):

  • Earth: Hēra,
  • Mercury: Stilbōn, Hermēs (when Mercury is direct), Hermēs Khthonios (when Mercury is retrograde)
  • Venus: Eōsphoros (when Venus sets before the Sun), Hesperos (when Venus sets after the Sun), Aphroditē
  • Mars: Pyroeis, Arēs
  • Jupiter: Phaethōn
  • Kronos: Phainōn

All this is made more complicated by the fact that the footnotes from Taylor can be both helpful (in understanding the writing of the Hymns) as well as confusing (for us outside a strictly Orphic system), such as in a footnote from the hymn for :

According to Orpheus, as related by Proclus, in Tim. p. 292. Earth is the mother of every thing, of which Heaven is the father. And the reader will please to observe, that, in the Orphic theology, Rhea, the mother of the Gods, the Earth, and Vesta, are all one and the same divinity, considered according to her essential peculiarities.

From that particular footnote, I glean two things:

  1. That the notion of aspects of gods is indeed something we should respect and understand in our modern practice, and even might be considered to apply at higher levels where individual un-epitheted deities may be aspects of a yet higher one (such as Rhea, Hestia, etc. of the Earth-Mother).
  2. That my attribution of the Sphairai of the Dyad according to my Mathetic Tetractys of Life to Heaven and the Earth is a solid one.

There’s also the issue of how far I want to go in associating some of the other entities of the Hellenic cosmos to the stoicheic forces based on what’s present in the Orphic Hymns.  For instance, there’s a hymn To Fire, but this is more accurately “To Aithēr”, and aithēr is a whole lot more than just fire, both cosmically and religiously; do I want to equate the two for the purposes of stoicheic associations?  What about Water with Okeanos, or Air with the hymns to the North, South, and West Winds?  Do I want to give Pan to Spirit, along with Dionysus, or should I give that slot (or both) to Nature instead?

So what does this all mean, and where does this all leave us?  For one, I doubt that any Orphics of the classical period managed to pass on their cult to the modern day, so I don’t think we have any living experts on the tradition to clarify some of the specific purposes of the Orphic Hymns to us, especially where one deity is given multiple hymns, sometimes according to multiple epithets and sometimes not, and even where epithets are given, they’re often exceedingly obscure (but if there are any, please feel free to hit me up, I’d love to ask you some questions).  For another, I’m reminded that my ideas for associating the letters of the Greek alphabet to the Hellenic theoi and daimones still need some refining, either so that I end up with only one entity per letter, find a single epithet or aspect of an entity that has multiple letters for each letter, or a neat system that can accommodate multiple entities per letter.    For yet another, given Taylor’s footnotes, I have quite a bit to read of Proclus and some of the other Neoplatonists so as to fortify my knowledge and make better-informed decisions about some of these associations.  This isn’t to say I’m looking to set the map in stone from the get-go without deeply exploring the terrain first, but that I’m trying to plan my best first attempt at exploration based on the knowledge and resources available to me.