On Timing Daily Prayers to the Degrees of the Decans

I’ve had this idea in my head for prayer practice that revolves around the notion of cycles.  For instance, as part of my daily prayer practice, I’ve written a set of seven prayers, one for each of the seven days of the week, which I recite on an ongoing cycle.  They’re not necessarily planetary prayers, like you might find in the Hygromanteia or Heptameron, but they do have some planetary allusions and hints thrown into them.  The seven-day week, which is fundamentally a Mesopotamian invention, makes for a simple cycle of prayers, but I’ve been thinking about ways I could incorporate more cycles into my prayers.  For instance, a simple and short invocation for each of the days of a lunar month—with my Grammatēmerologion, my oracular Greek letter lunisolar calendar—based around the powers and potencies of each of the letters of the Greek alphabet, along with their spirits or gods, could be something fun to toy around with.  There’s lots of opportunities for this sort of practice:

  • the four turns of the Sun each day, a la Liber Resh (sunrise, noon, sunset, midnight)
  • the seven days of the week
  • the 24 planetary hours of a given day
  • the four (or eight) phases of the Moon (new, crescent, first quarter, gibbous, full, disseminating, third quarter, balsamic)
  • the 29/30 days of a synodic lunar month
  • the 28 days of a sidereal lunar month (a la the 28 lunar mansions)
  • the 30/31 days of a solar month (a la the 12 signs of the Zodiac)
  • the four seasons (solstices and equinoxes), perhaps also with the four cross-quarter days (midpoints between the solstices and equinoxes)
  • the 10 days of a decan
  • when a planet stations retrograde or direct
  • when eclipses occur
  • when a planet or star is seen at its heliacal rising or setting

There are lots of opportunities to engage in prayers linked to or with the natural cycles of the cosmos, many of which are fundamentally astrological in nature.  The idea of coming up with a large-scale overarching prayer practice that engages in such cycles, to me, would be a fantastic way to recognize these natural cycles, bring oneself into alignment with them, and tap ever more greatly into the power of these cycles, especially when certain cycles interact or sync up with each other.  By aligning ourselves with these cycles, we can not just make use of χρονος khronos “time” generally, but also καιρος kairos “the moment”, the fleeting opening of opportunity itself that allows us to do the best thing possible.  There’s this Hermetic notion—it’s hard to find the note I was referencing for it, but I’m pretty sure it’s in Copenhaver’s Hermetica or Litwa’s Hermetica II—that we rely on kairos in order to fully carry out the process of rebirth in the Hermetic mystical sense, and that would be determined by the processes of Providence, Necessity, and Fate along with the very will of God.

Along these lines, I wanted to come up with a new cycle of prayers for myself, one specifically for the decans.  Some might know these as faces, the 36 10° segments of the ecliptic, three to a sign of the Zodiac.  The decans are old, as in ancient Egyptian old, and play a part in the astrological prognosticatory and magical literature of the Egyptians, Arabs, Brahmins, and Hermeticists the world over.  We see them referenced in magical-medical texts going back to the classical period, and they also appear in such texts as the Picatrix as well as Cornelius Agrippa (book II, chapter 37).  Though they come up time and time again, they also take so many wildly different forms between traditions and texts, which is fascinating on its own merits.  We even see Hermēs Trismegistus himself talk about the decans and their importance in the Sixth Stobaean Fragment.  In that part of the Hermetic cannon, Hermēs explains to Tat that the decans belong to a celestial sphere between the eighth sphere of the fixed stars and the higher sphere of the All, being a backdrop to the very stars themselves, and thus higher than the constellations and signs of the Zodiac.  These decans exert “the greatest energy” on us and the world, and they drive “all general events on the earth: overthrows of kings, uprisings in cities, famines, plagues, tsunamis, and earthquakes”.  In other Hermetic texts, like the Sacred Book of Hermēs to Asclepius, the decans also rule over specific parts of the body and the injuries and illnesses that afflict them (which is a very Egyptian concept indeed that we see in purer forms of Egyptian religion and spiritual practice).

You can probably guess where I’m going with this: more prayers and a ritual practice dedicated to the decans.  This would consist of two parts:

  • An invocation of the powers of the decan itself, according to its specific form and name and virtues, to be done when the Sun enters that decan.
  • One prayer per each day the Sun is in a given decan, a set of ten prayers to be recited over a ten day decanal “week”.  Since the Sun spends about one day per degree, this means that each degree of a decan can be considered a separate day, and each day with its own prayer.

After some thinking, I was able to come up with a relatively straightforward set of prayers for the decans themselves at the moment (or the first sunrise following) the Sun’s ingress into them, but it’s the latter part I’m still struggling with.  I have ideas about what to base them on—the ten Hermetic virtues from the Corpus Hermeticum, the Pythagorean symbolism of the first ten numbers, and so forth—but coming up with those prayers is a slow process, indeed.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on a bit of a programming project, something to plan ahead and help me figure out what such a prayer practice would look like scheduled out.  This is basically what I was doing with my Grammatēmerologion project, coding up a variety of astronomical functions to calculate the various positions and attributes of celestial bodies for any given moment, and courtesy of SUBLUNAR.SPACE (whose online customizable almanac is an invaluable and deeply treasured tool for any magician nowadays), I was tipped off to a much easier and faster way to develop such astronomical programs: the Swiss Ephemeris codebase, of which I found a Python extension for even more flexibility.

And that’s when the problems started.  (Beyond the usual mishaps that come along with any nontrivial programming project.)

See, as it turns out, there are more days in a year than there are degrees in a circle—which means that while the Sun moves roughly one degree per day, it actually moves slightly less than one degree per day.  This is why we have 365 days (or 366 days, in leap years) in a year.  To the ancient Egyptians, they considered the civil solar year to only have 12 months of 30 days each, each month consisting of three decans, with a leftover set of five days at the end of the year, considered to be the birthdays of the gods Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis, and Nephthys.  These intercalary (or epagomenal) days were considered a spiritually dangerous and liminal time, but once those days were over, the calendar was brought back into sync with its proper cycle.  However, what I wanted to do is to come up with a 10-day cycle linked to the degrees of the Sun, which means I would have to deal with these epagomenal days throughout the year instead of bundled up all at the end.  My logic was simple:

  • Start counting decan day assignments (decan day-numbers) starting from the first sunrise after the March equinox (which is when the Sun enters 0° Aries as well as the first decan).
  • Judge the degree of the ecliptical position of the Sun based on sunrise of any given day.
  • Take the whole degree of the Sun (e.g. if 9.459°, then 9), divide by 10, take the remainder, and that’s your day in the cycle.  Thus, if o°, then this is our first day; if 1°, the second day; if 2°, the third day;…if 9°, the tenth day.  Thus, when we hit the next o° day, we start the cycle over.
  • If the whole degree of the Sun is the same as the previous day (e.g. 7.998° for today and 7.014° for yesterday), then this is an epagomenal day, and we say either no prayer at all or an eleventh special prayer not otherwise used except for epagomenal days.

A relatively simple method, all told.  Or so I thought.  When I actually ran the program, I noticed that there were not five epagomenal days (e.g. 1-2-3-4-5-X-6-7-8-9-10, where X is the epagomenal day) in the final count, but seven, which was…weird.  This would mean that there were 367 days, which would be wrong, except that there were 365 outputs.  It turns out that there were two skipped days (e.g. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-9-10, but no 8), one in early December and one in mid-February.  On top of that, although I expected the epagomenal days to be spaced out more-or-less equally throughout the year, they were all between early April and mid-September.  After looking into this, and making sure my code was correct (it was), what’s going on is this:

  • I made the mistake of assuming that the Sun moves at a constant speed each and every day of the year.  It doesn’t, for a variety of astronomical factors.
  • The Sun spends more time in the northern celestial hemisphere (about 185 days) than in the southern celestial hemisphere (about 180 days).
  • The Sun moves slower in winter around perihelion than in the summer around aphelion.
  • From winter through summer, the sunrise gets earlier and earlier, pushing the judgment-time of each day earlier and earlier, while in summer through winter, the reverse happens.

Talk about vexation: I had here what I thought was a perfectly reasonable method—and to a large extent, it is—yet which results in the cycle just skipping days, which I intensely dislike, since it breaks the cycle.  Without doubling up prayers on the skipped days, which I’d really rather like to avoid, it means that I couldn’t use this otherwise simple method to figure out a decanal 10-prayer schedule that would be in sync with the Sun.

After thinking about it some, I considered five different ways to associate the days to the degrees of the decans:

  1. The “Egyptian” method.  This is the most old-school and traditional, and mimics the behavior of the actual ancient Egyptian calendar: starting from the New Year, assign an unbroken cycle of days from day one to day ten 36 times.  This gradually becomes more and more unsynced as time goes on, but we throw in five or six epagomenal days at the very end to catch up all at once before the next New Year.  Simple, traditional, clean, but it’s really the worst of the bunch with the accumulating degree differences that get resolved all at once at the end of the year instead of periodically throughout the year.
  2. The “plan-ahead” method. Like the Egyptian”method, this is a pretty artificial way to allocate the days, but elegant in its own way, and spreads out the epagomenal days across the year more-or-less regularly.  We know that, at least for the foreseeable future, we’re going to deal with either normal years of 365 days or leap years of 366 days.  For normal years, we need to have five epagomenal days, so we insert an epagomenal day after the 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th, and 36th decans (or, in other words, every seventh decan not including the first).  For leap years, we need six epagomenal days, which we insert after the 6th, 12th, 18th, 24th, 30th, and 36th decan (i.e. every sixth decan).  Note that we judge a year to be a normal year or a leap year based on the Gregorian calendar year prior to a given March equinox; thus, for this method, we start assigning days from the March 2020 equinxo using the normal method because the prior calendar year, 2019, was not a leap year; we use the leap year method starting from the March 2021 equinox because the prior calendar year, 2020, was a leap year.
  3. The “true degree” method.  This is the method mentioned before: starting with the New Year at the March equinox, when the true degree of the Sun is exactly 0° and using sunrise at one’s location as the reference time, take the degree of the Sun and compare it to the degree at the previous day’s reference time.  If the degree is in the next whole number (e.g. 23.005° and 22.025°), the day proceeds to the next whole number; if the degree is in the same whole number (e.g. 23.985° and 23.005°), then it’s an epagomenal days.  The problem, as stated earlier, is that due to the varying speed of the Sun as the Earth travels between perihelion and aphelion (which also has the effect of the Sun spending more time in the northern celestial hemisphere than in the southern celestial hemisphere), we end up with more epagomenal days than expected around aphelion, and with days that are outright skipped around perihelion.  While the exact match of day to degree is appealing, it’s the skipped days that breaks cycles and which ruins the whole prayer system I was trying to devise.
  4. The “average degree” method.  This is a variation on the true degree method, only instead of using the Sun’s true position at the reference time on each day, we take a theoretical position of the Sun based on its average daily motion of 360.0°/365.2421897 days = 0.98564735989°/day.  Starting with the New Year at the March equinox, when both the true degree and average degree of the Sun is exactly 0°, using sunrise at one’s location as the reference time, take the theoretical average degree of the Sun (advancing it by the Sun’s average daily motion day by day at the reference time) and compare it to the degree at the previous day’s reference time, with the same epagomenal rule as before.  The benefit to this method is that it gets us the expected number of epagomenal days which are evenly distributed throughout the year without skipping any other days; the downside is that, as we get closer to the September equinox, the theoretical average position of the Sun drifts further away from the true position by as much as 3.780°, putting us three or four days out of sync with the true position.
  5. The “rebalanced true degree” method.  This is an extension of the true degree method above.  We start with the assignments of days to degrees as before, extra epagomenal days and skipped days and all, but we “rebalance” the days by removing some epagomenal days and reinserting them where we were earlier skipping days.  For every skipped day, we alternate between choosing the first and last of the epagomenal days.  So, if we have seven epagomenal days on year days 24, 59, 83, 105, 127, 151, and 182, and we have two skipped days on days 274 and 333, then we first remove the first epagomenal day from day 24 and reinsert it on day 274, and then the last epagomenal day from day 181 (was 182 before we removed the other one) and insert it on day 333.

So, five different methods of assigning days a decan day-number, one of which (the Egyptian method) being the most regular and artificial with the worst drift, one of which (the true degree method) being the most accurate and realistic yet which skips days entirely, and three other methods (plan-ahead, average degree, rebalanced true degree) that vary in terms of computational complexity and accuracy.  We know that the true degree method is the most accurate, so we can plot the various other methods against it to visually see how bad the drift is between it and the other methods.  In the following graphs, the true degree method is given in red, with the other method being compared to it in blue.  Epagomenal days are marked as having a decan day-count number of -1, hence the severe dips at times.  Where the blue and red lines are more in sync, the method is better; where the lines depart, the method gets worse.  The true degree method gives an epagomenal day in decans 3, 6, 8, 11, 13, 15, and 18, and if you look close enough, you can see the skip in the days towards the end of decans 27 and 33.

Just visually looking at these methods, we can see that all four methods start off the same for a little more than the first two decans, but after that, most of them begin to diverge.  The Egyptian method is worse in how often and by how much it diverges, with that nasty flatline of epagomenal days at the end, and the plan-ahead method doesn’t fare much better, either; note also how both of these methods end with epagomenal days for at least the final day of the year.  The average degree method doesn’t look too bad, though it does get worse around the September-October area of the year before it gets better again, eventually getting back in sync for the final three decans of the year.  By far the most pleasing and in-sync graph we see is with the rebalanced true degree method, which does vary a little bit but by no means as bad or as irregularly as the other methods; we have about five decans where they’re in sync, 22 where they’re one day off, and nine when they’re off by two days.

But, besides just looking at them with my eyeballs, how should I best compare the accuracy of all these methods?  What I settled on was a ratio between the day’s decan day-number according to a particular method and the true degree expected for the Sun for that day:

  1. If a given day is an epagomenal day, throw out the value entirely, and don’t factor it into calculations.
  2. For a given day reckoned at the reference time (sunrise on the March equinox for a given location), find the Sun’s true ecliptic position.
  3. Take the whole degree of the Sun (e.g. if 9.227°, 9).
  4. Divide the number from the previous step by 10 and take the remainder.
  5. Add one to the previous step.
  6. Divide a given day’s decan day-number by the previous step.

The shortcut to this method would basically be to divide the method’s decan day-number for a given day against the true degree method’s decan day-number, but I wanted to be sure I was getting the Sun’s true position here for mathematical rigor.  This ratio indicates the general percentage difference we expect; if the ratio is 1, then the given method’s decan day-number is what we’d expect; if more than 1, it’s ahead of what we expect; if less than 1, behind what we expect.

Doing some simple math on these ratios for these given methods gets us the following statistics (omitting the epagomenal days entirely), judged against the year from the March 2020 equinox through the March 2021 equinox (considered a normal year).  I calculated these results based on a prototype decanal calendar starting on March 20, 2020 at 11:12 UTC (the first sunrise after the spring equinox for my town’s given longitude) for 365 days.

Method Mean Median Min Max STD Variance
Egyptian 1.71222574 1 0.1 8 1.856253825 3.445678262
Plan-ahead 1.467144864 1.333333333 0.1 6 1.09989769 1.209774928
True degree 1 1 1 1 0 0
Average degree 1.351345416 1.166666667 0.1 5 0.9200161032 0.8464296301
Rebalanced true degree 1.211630551 1.2 0.1 3 0.5348857385 0.2861027532

In the 2020/2021 year, we can see that it’s the rebalanced true degree method that has the lowest standard deviation and variance, with the mean closest to 1.  This means that the rebalanced true degree method gets us the closest decan day-numbers to what the Sun’s actual position is on the whole, being at worst three days ahead (compared to the potential of being five, six, or eight days ahead with the other non-true degree methods).

For another look, we can also consider the leap year (according to our rule above) for the March 2021 equinox through the March 2022 equinox.  I calculated these results based on a prototype decanal calendar starting on March 20, 2021 at 11:13 UTC for 366 days.

Method Mean Median Min Max STD Variance
Egyptian 1.704857316 0.85 0.1 8 1.89868141 3.604991096
Plan-ahead 1.432609127 1.333333333 0.1 6 1.044951208 1.091923027
True degree 1 1 1 1 0 0
Average degree 1.338694885 1.2 0.1 5 0.8991436886 0.8084593728
Rebalanced true degree 1.142828483 1.142857143 1 2 0.3982472329 0.1586008585

We get even better results during leap years, it’d seem, at least based on this example alone; we’re only a max of two days ahead of the Sun’s true position, and we have even less variance and deviation than before.

If I were to go with any system of assigning a 10-day repeating cycle of prayers to the days to keep more-or-less in sync with the position of the Sun as it goes through the decans, I’d go with the rebalanced true degree method.  Still, even if it’s the most in sync, it’s not truly in sync, as there really isn’t such a system possible without skipping days due to the inconvenient misalignment of physical phenomena with discrete human systems of calendrics.  As SUBLUNAR.SPACE commiserated with me about on Facebook, as he found out when he was coding his own almanac program, the decans “do not like to be pushed into human patterns”, and that we really have to choose degrees or days, because we can’t have both.  In his almanac, he settled with marking things by the actual ingress, which was the common practice in the decan calendars of Ptolemaic times.  On top of that, as far as calculation goes, it’s among the more complicated, requiring manual rebalancing after figuring out the true degree day equivalences first for the whole year until the next March equinox; easy enough to do by a computer program, but tedious or outright difficult to do by hand.

For now, I’m going to content myself with marking the Sun’s ingress into the decans, and leave it at that.  For one, though I’d like to engage in a 10-day cycle of prayers aligned with the decans, and even though I have some sort of system in place to explore that, I still don’t have those damn ten (or eleven) prayers written up for them.  But, at least knowing what the schedule looks like is a start.

On Hermetic Tormentors and Egyptian Sins

It’s weird how research can lead you in a direction, and land you in a place, completely different from what you anticipated.

I’ve been on something of a Coptic kick for a while now, courtesy of Tobias’ post regarding Helleno-Kemetic practice over at Sublunar Space, when he brought up the very good observation that the hymns and songs used in the Coptic Christian Church are a direct descendant of otherwise ancient Egyptian musical practices.  As a result, I started listening in to a variety of Coptic hymns, and beyond the sheer beauty of it, it got me thinking about the use of Coptic as another language for Hermetic magical and religious practice.  (As if I really needed yet another language to learn.)  This led me to look into the different dialects of Coptic.  The modern Coptic church and modern Coptic speakers, such as they are, use the Bohairic dialect, based in Lower (northern) Egypt, though classically speaking, it was the Sahidic dialect that was more common as the lingua franca of Coptic, based in Upper (southern) Egypt.  Being a popular dialect common for writing texts in, is well-attributed and attested enough to study as a religious language for Hermetic stuff.

Sahidic Coptic’s area would include Hermopolis, aka Khemenu in ancient Egyptian, aka Shmun in Coptic, aka El Ashmunein in Arabic.  The placement of Hermopolis in this dialect area is important, as this was practically the city for Thoth worship as well as the worship of the  eight primordial creator deities of the Ogdoad (hence Hermopolis “city of Hermes” and Khemenu “City of Eight”), and according to some modern researchers, is a natural locus for the development of Hermetic practice and texts as well as some PGM texts (especially PGM XIII).  This is a natural draw for my attention, so I began to look up the history of this city in ancient Egypt and some of its religious practices.  This led me to begin researching the system of nomes, administrative divisions used in ancient Egypt.  I suppose it’s good to know that Hermopolis was found in the Hare Nome, Nome XV of Upper Egypt, but that’s not all that important on its own.

It was when a separate line of research of mine, diving into Egyptian texts for material to write new prayers with, combined with this information about nomes that I hit on something fascinating.  Many people are familiar with the Egyptian Book of the Dead (aka “The Book of Coming Forth by Day”) and the various scenes and trials of the afterlife, including the famous scene of the Weighing of the Heart.  For those who don’t know, the story goes like this: upon dying, the soul of the deceased is lead from its body and set on a perilous path through the Duat, the Egyptian underworld, culminating in being led by Anubis into the presence of Osiris to be judged.  The judgment would consist mostly of having the heart of the deceased weighed on a scale against the Feather of Ma`at, the goddess of truth itself: if the heart is at least as light as the feather, then the soul was judged to be pure and was admitted into the afterlife of the righteous.  If, however, the heart was heavier than the feather, then the heart of the deceased would be devoured by the fearsome beast Ammit, condemning the dead to “die a second time” and never being permitted to the true afterlife and instead forever being a restless and wandering spirit.

Leading up to this judgment of the scale, the deceased is to recite the 42 Negative Confessions (or the “42 Declarations of Purity”), oaths that describe how the deceased refrained from committing particular sins, crimes, or errors while in life.  That there are 42 such confessions here is important: each sin that was denied (e.g. “I have not stolen”, “I have not uttered curses”, etc.) was linked explicitly to one of the 42 nomes of ancient Egypt, each with its own assessor (or the Ma`aty gods) who watched over the judgment of Osiris, Anubis, and Ma`at as a sort of witness or court.  In this, there was a sort of moral code that the whole of ancient Egypt upheld in unity, and which could be seen to exemplify what morality and goodness looked like to the Egyptians.  Of course, as might be expected, different funerary texts and different versions of the Book of the Dead describe somewhat different sets of sins, but there’s massive overlap between them all.  There is some unclarity, too, in our knowledge of which assessor is linked to which nome, but we do know the names of at least a good few of them.

The number 42 caught my eye: it’s a pleasing number, to be sure, and yes, it is the number of nomes in ancient Egypt.  It is also, however, the product of 6 × 7, and since there are seven sets of six sins, this naturally made the leap in my mind to the seven planets.  No, it’s not the case that all things that come in sets of seven can be linked to the seven planets, I’m not saying that, but the description of some of these sins did bring to mind the irrational tormentors from the Corpus Hermeticum like we discussed a few months ago.  Between Book I and Book XIII of the Corpus Hermeticum, we have a good idea of what the classical Hermeticists would decry as bad, immoral, or unethical behavior that results in our being tortured and hindered from achieving our true end.

My thought was this: what if we could look at the various sins of the Negative Confessions and organize them according to the tormentors associated with the seven planets?  So, I plotted out the various sins, and came up with my own little association of different crimes or sins of the Egyptians and mapped them to the seven planets based on where they fall along the tormentors described by Book I and Book XIII of the Corpus Hermeticum.  Because there are multiple sets of sins from different funerary texts, there’s no simple one-to-one matching, and there’s no clean division in some cases into seven groups of six (e.g. there are lots more crimes relating to temple observance as well as good conduct in speech compared to sexual missteps), so I tried to combine and collate them where possible, and filled in the gaps where necessary with equally viable entries in the sin-list of the Egyptians.

To that end, this is the list I came up with.  Note that each planet is described in a joint fashion as “The Sin of X with the Tormentor of Y”, with X being provided from the list of irrational tormentors from Book XIII of the Corpus Hermeticum and Y from Book I.  It’s kinda clumsy, as Book I and Book XIII aren’t precisely talking about the same thing, though it’s tantalizingly close.  In the cases of sins in quotes, e.g. “wading in water”, those are phrases from original Egyptian texts that I wasn’t really able to fully piece together, but had to either figure out contextually or give my own interpretation of such a sin.

  1. Moon ­— The Sin of Increase and Decrease with the Tormentor of Ignorance
    1. Causing pain in general through misbehavior generally or through unknown missteps
    2. Neglect of property, both in the carelessness of one’s own property and the lack of respect for the property of others
    3. Making ungainly distinctions for oneself, i.e. polluting oneself by hubris and having one’s name submitted to the authorities for good or evil out of hubris and self-acclamation
    4. “Destroying food”, i.e. the causing of affliction, tears, grief, and hunger through wanton destruction
    5. Taking more food for oneself than what one needs, including general indulgence and the stealing of food
    6. Depriving the needy, whether of food specifically or sustenance generally, including children, orphans, and the poor
  2. Mercury — The Sin of Evil Machination with the Tormentor of Sorrow
    1. Eavesdropping and prying into matters
    2. Sullenness, i.e. grieving uselessly or feeling needless remorse
    3. Transgression of human and mundane law
    4. Quarreling, i.e. violence by words or thoughts
    5. Crookedness, e.g. tampering with scales or other instruments used for measuring
    6. Disputing, attacking people for one’s own ends with words or law without care
  3. Venus ­— The Sin of Covetous Deceit with the Tormentor of Intemperance
    1. Babbling and needlessly multiplying words in speech
    2. Slighting others through through words, especially someone of a lower rank to someone of a higher rank
    3. Debauching another in any non-sexual way
    4. Disturbing the peace and stirring up strife
    5. Debauching another in any sexual way
    6. Adultery, i.e. deceitful or objectionable sex outside the bounds of what is agreed to within relationships
  4. Sun — The Sin of the Arrogance of Rulers with the Tormentor of Lust
    1. Damaging a god’s image or otherwise defacing or damaging the property of the gods
    2. Transgressing divine and cosmic law
    3. “Wading in water”, i.e. defiling the sacred springs, rivers, and other bodies of water of the gods, or otherwise messing with the natural world to defile and corrupt it
    4. “Conjuration against the king”, cursing or blaspheming against a ruler or leader acting with the divine license and power of the gods or otherwise acting appropriately and respectfully of the law both mundane and divine
    5. Killing the sacred animals of the gods, including the irreverent slaughter of sacred bulls as well as otherwise hunting, trapping, or catching animals from the sacred precincts of the gods
    6. Reviling the gods, e.g. cursing the gods or treating them with contempt, including blocking their processions
  5. Mars — The Sin of Impious Daring and Reckless Audacity with the Tormentor of Injustice
    1. Impatience, i.e. acting or judging with undue haste
    2. Terrorizing, including physical violence and threats of abuse to others
    3. “Being unduly active”, i.e. acting out of passion rather than reason, especially rage
    4. “Being loud-voiced”, i.e. speaking arrogantly or in anger
    5. “Being hot-tempered”, i.e. being angry without just cause
    6. Murder, i.e. the desired and intentional killing of those who do not deserve it
  6. Jupiter — The Sin of Evil Impulse for Wealth with the Tormentor of Greed
    1. Rapaciousness
    2. Wrongdoing, i.e. the general practice of evil against others for one’s own gain
    3. Stealing the property of other humans
    4. Stealing the property and offerings of the gods, the dead, and other spirits
    5. Robbery with violence
    6. Dishonest wealth, including the use of malefica against another for one’s own gain
  7. Saturn — The Sin of Ensnaring Falsehood with the Tormentor of Deceit
    1. “Being unhearing of truth”, i.e. being unwilling to know the truth or or willfully ignoring or remaining ignorant of it
    2. Falsehood, i.e. to not tell the truth to others (including exaggeration, depreciation, or omission) to mislead others for one’s own ends
    3. Lying, i.e. uttering untrue statements, including slander or libel of others
    4. Blasphemy, i.e. lying about divinity
    5. Hoodwinking, i.e. leading others into wrongdoing
    6. Perjury, i.e. to not tell the whole truth in a court of law whether mundane or divine

It’d be even cooler if there were 49 sins; this would give us a sort of primary-secondary planetary pair to arrange the sins by, such that we could say “such-and-such a sin is the sin of the Sun of Saturn”.  Alas, there’s just 42, for the reasons already described above.  But, if we consider the tormentor of the planet as a sin unto itself as a sort of primary, overarching, or root sin, then that would fulfill the same need: the tormentor-sin would be the root of all the other sins associated with the planet.  Thus, the list of sins above follow a more-or-less planetary order: the first sin of the Moon is given to Mercury (skipping over the Moon itself), the second to Venus, the third to the Sun, etc., and the first sin of Mercury to the Moon, the second to Venus (skipping over Mercury itself), the third to the Sun, etc.  It’s a loose scheme, honestly, and I’m not 100% sold on some of them, but it’s an idea to toy around with in the future.

Now, I’m not saying that these things are really Hermetic; there’s no real list of crimes or sins in Hermetic texts, nor have I found anything resembling a code of conduct for Hermetists/Hermeticists.  Still, it is nice to consider how to flesh out the things that trigger the various tormentors along Hermetic lines, and it’s also good to tie in Egyptian practices and beliefs back into Hermetic stuff given Hermeticism’s Egyptian origin and context, no matter how much Hellenic and Mediterranean philosophy gets mixed into it.  Besides, I’m not trying to rewrite or cop the Book of the Dead or other afterlife practices or beliefs here, but rather proposing a set of prohibitions for those who might consider taking their Hermetic philosophy to the next level through changes in their daily behavior.

One way we might apply this list of planetary sins, beyond simply observing the prohibitions regarding them of course, would be to take one sin from a given set each day, or each set as a whole day by day, and meditating on them.  I recall Arnemancy bringing up the practice of Mussar, using Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues as an example, but we could expand on that in this way.  For instance, we could dedicate a particular Wednesday, the day of Mercury, to one of the sins or to all six sins as a whole, contemplating it in the morning and dedicating oneself to observing that prohibition, and then contemplating and reviewing the day in the evening before bed to see how well one stuck to it and how one could improve on observing it.  Taking each sin day by day would take place across six weeks, or across seven weeks if we also include the arch-sin/tormentor of a given planet itself to bring up the total number of sins from 42 to 49.

If one were to use a whole set of sins for a given day, one could take a slightly more ritual approach to this by announcing a dedication to each of the six directions, e.g. saying “I will not engage in eavesdropping” to the East, “I will not engage in sullenness” to the South, “I will not transgress the law of this world” to the West, “I will not engage in quarreling” to the North, “I will not engage in crookedness” downwards to the Earth, and “I will not engage in disputing” upwards to Heaven.  This could be preceded and/or followed with the declaration of “I will not engage in evil machination” (the arch-sin/tormentor of Mercury) taking the place of the divine center, or this could be included in each of the six declarations said to the directions, e.g. “I will not engage in evil machination through sullenness”.  It’s an idea, at any rate, and could be good for a stricter spiritual practice that focuses on purity through abstinence of wrong behavior.

Something that struck me late in writing this post, I admit, is the lack of mention of drunkenness.  I did throw this in under the fifth (Jupiter) sin of the Moon, “taking more food for oneself than what one needs” as a form of indulgence, but that’s really more about stealing food than overindulgence in it.  Moderation is certainly a virtue, but this got me thinking a bit: overindulgence in a way that shifts the state of the mind doesn’t do much on its own, but it’s works that impact the well-being of other people and the world that matter.  Thus, being drunk isn’t a sin, but committing violence or adultery while drunk is—but it’d be as much a sin anyway even if you weren’t drunk.  After all, as Hermēs Trismegistus preaches in Book I of the Corpus Hermeticum, everyone is in a state of sloth and drunken stupor in their mindlessness as they are; what more could booze really do when we’re already at the bottom of the barrel?  Despite the noetic focus of much of Hermetic work, when it comes to day-to-day living, it’s generally the action that counts instead of the thought.  After all, without Nous, what true thinking could you have anyway that animals themselves wouldn’t already have?  And with Nous, why would you engage in wrong behavior to begin with?

As magicians and spiritual workers, obviously we have a variety of things to study as far as the practice, technology, and technique goes for our various disciplines and types of Work, but it’s equally as important to study the philosophy, theology, and cosmology behind the practice.  This goes hand-in-hand with living life in the proper way as a way to indirectly implement the philosophical components of our Work and as a way to assist and ground the practical components of it, as well.  Merely adopting a set of purity rules or fasting is good, don’t get me wrong, but considering broader notions of morality and good/right behavior should play a bigger role in this as well.  While I won’t ascribe cosmic importance to these rules above beyond a basic planetary correspondence, and while I’m certainly not saying that this is a good stand-in for what to deny while standing before Osiris, I think it’s a good set of rules to live by for a good number of people who want to lead a good life respectful of other human beings, the cosmos, and the gods themselves irrespective of the specifics of one’s religious tradition.

I have an article published in this next year’s issue of the Witches’ Almanac!

For those of us who love, use, and collect almanacs and who also do magic, you could do worse than getting yourself into the habit of picking up a copy of the Witches’ Almanac, a wonderful compendium of the usual almanac stuff—sunsets and sunrises, moon phases and stations, eclipses and retrogrades, planting times and suggestions, etc.—all with a magical, spiritual, and witchy bent to it all, but that’s not all!  Each issue of the Witches’ Almanac also has a fantastic array of articles, and each issue has a particular theme.  For instance, this past year’s almanac (Issue 38, Spring 2019—2020) was themed around animals, them being our friends and familiars, and had a bunch of articles in it along those lines.

In this coming year’s almanac (Issue 39, Spring 2020—2021, coming in at 208pp. for the price of US$12.95), the theme is “Stones: the Foundation of Earth”, and has a good number of articles from such authors as Lon Milo DuQuette, Sorita d’Este, John Michael Greer, Oberon Zell, and others—including me!  I was asked to submit an article to this year’s issue, and after wondering what on earth I could contribute, I settled on an old standby of mine: grammatomancy, also known as the Greek Alphabet Oracle, the method of divination that uses the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet.  How would this tie in, you might wonder?  Because one of the oldest and most common ways of performing this kind of divination was with the use of ψηφοι, psēphoi, little pebbles which were inscribed with a different letter of the alphabet on each.  I thought it was a nice tie-in to this year’s theme, and it’s a lovely system besides, so why not?

The amazing and handsome publisher-friend I have at the Witches’ Almanac also thought it was a great idea, too, so in went my article, Stone Spelling: Delving Deeply into the Greek Alphabet Oracle, where I talk about the origins of this oracle and all the different ways it can be of use beyond getting mere advice from the gods.  Heck, it’s even the first feature article in the almanac this coming year, and you can even check out an excerpt of it online on their website!

(Also, John Michael Greer himself published an article in it on, of all possible things, domino divination.  Yanno, that thing that I’ve been obsessed with learning about all summer long and have suddenly started writing one of the most complete books on the topic ever written since one of my spirit guides kicked me in the side of the head with it.  If that’s not a goddamn sign, then I don’t know what is.  Hmph.)

What are you waiting for?  Get yourself a copy and get ready for the coming year with this little treasure trove of wisdom and information that’ll be sure to make your practice smoother and easier!

The Twelve Irrational Tormentors and the Ten (or Seven) Rational Powers

Lately I’ve been reviewing some of my first real spiritual texts as part of my practice that I first began to familiarize myself with years ago: the Corpus Hermeticum.  These books, being a homegrown Egyptian manifestation of what could be considered Hellenic theurgic philosophy (either as Stoicizing Neoplatonism or Neoplatonizing Stoicism), are some of my favorite texts, amounting to my own “bible” as it were.  Granted, it’s been some time since I’ve last seriously sat down with them, and since I’ve been discussing parts of it with a colleague of mine, I figured it was high time to get back into chewing on them so I’m not just talking out of my ass when it comes to classical Hermetic philosophy and theurgy.  It’s a deeply rewarding practice, after all, and study is something that we can never truly finish; it always helps to review, reread, and rethink things from time to time.

There are essentially four versions of the Corpus Hermeticum that I consult:

  1. Clement Salaman, The Way of Hermes: New Translations of the Corpus Hermeticum and the Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius.  Inner Traditions, 2004.  This is the most readable and accessible version of the Corpus Hermeticum, in my opinion, and also includes the Definitions of Hermēs Trismegistus, which was the focus of that massive blog project I did back in late 2013 that inspected all 49 definitions.  (I should probably review some of those one of these days.)
  2. Brian Copenhaver, Hermetica: The Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius in a New English Translation, with Notes and Introduction.  Cambridge University Press, 1995.  This is the version of the Corpus Hermeticum I started with, and though it’s not as accessible as Salaman’s translation, it’s still a very good translation all the same, and gives a slightly more critical and academic approach.
  3. G. R. S. Mead, The Corpus Hermeticum.  Thrice Greatest Hermes, vol. 2.  London, 1906.  Available in the public domain on Gnosis.org.  This is the most popular one that most people know and have used for over a hundred years, and though it has some Theosophical biases, it’s still a surprisingly good translation, even if the prose is overwrought.
  4. Walter Scott, Hermetica: The ancient Greek and Latin Writings which contain religious or philosophic teachings ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus, vol. 1.  Clarendon Press, 1924.  Though the translation isn’t considered good, Scott includes critical editions of the actual Greek text of the Corpus Hermeticum as well as the Latin of the Asclepius, so this is pretty useful for that reason alone.

If you want to read something better than the Kybalion, which would basically be anything and everything, I’d recommend the Corpus Hermeticum.  (NB: Kybalion delendum est.)

Anyway, I was flipping through the Corpus, refreshing some of the things I knew and being reminded of the things I’ve forgotten.  It was in book XIII, where Tat asks Hermēs Trismegistus for help in attaining divinity and, eventually reaches it, that I found something fascinating that I must have skipped over before.  Whether it’s due to my engineering training or my love of Buddhist text, it’s when things appear in lists that I snap to attention, and Hermēs describes a list of twelve “Hermetic sins of the body” that keep us ensnared in darkness and ignorance, as well as ten “Hermetic virtues of the soul” that free us from darkness and ignorance.  Fascinated by these lists, I dug in, and I started matching them up to a few other parts of the Corpus Hermeticum I know, the results of mulling over which I wanted to share.  I’ll let you, dear reader, pick your own preferred version of the Corpus Hermeticum and read (at minimum) books I and XIII on your own, which I recommend you do so before continuing with this post.

Ready?  Good.  So, as Hermēs states in book XIII, we have these twelve “irrational tormentors of the body” (ἄλογα τιμωρία τῆς ὕλης, áloga timōría tês húlēs).  The specific word being used here is technically τιμωρία, timōría, literally “retribution” or “vengeance” or even “punishment”, but usually translated here as “tormentor” or “torturer”.  Collectively, they all arise fundamentally from irrationality, the true lack of reason (which is emphasized in the Corpus Hermeticum as being divine, as it is truly Λόγος, Lógos, “the Word”).  Hermēs lists these tormentors as below; I give both the Greek term used in Scott along with the various translations that Salaman, Copenhaver, et al. have provided for these terms.

# Greek Salaman Copenhaver Mead Scott
1 ἄγνοια Ignorance Ignorance Not-knowing Ignorance
2 λύτη Sorrow Grief Grief Grief
3 ἀκρασία Intemperance Incontinence Incontinence Incontinence
4 ἐπιθυμία Lust Lust Concupiscence Desire
5 ἀδικία Injustice Injustice Unrighteousness Injustice
6 πλεονεξία Greed Greed Avarice Covetousness
7 ἀπάτη Deceit Deceit Error Deceitfulness
(or being deceived,
i.e. error)
8 φθόνος Envy Envy Envy Envy
9 δόλος Treachery Treachery Guile Fraud
10 ὀργή Anger Anger Anger Anger
11 προπέτεια Recklessness Recklessness Rashness Rashness
12 κακία Malice Malice Malice Vice
(or malice)

Of course, though these are the main tormentors of the body that we have to deal with, Hermēs notes that “besides these there are many others”, but these seem to be the major ones that either rule lesser tormentors or which themselves are the causes or predecessors of others.  Together, they “compel the inner man who dwells in the prison of his body to suffer through his senses”.  Hemēs is explicit, too in giving each of these a zodiacal association, even if he doesn’t say which belongs to which sign: “this tent of the body through which we have passed…is composed from the zodiac and this consists of signs, twelve in number; the body is of one nature and appears in every form; it exists to lead man astray”.  I think a simple association could be drawn up such that the first tormentor listed, “ignorance”, be given to the first sign Aries, the second “sorrow” to Taurus, the third “intemperance” to Gemini, and so forth.  It’s not exactly clear to see how each of these might be matched up with their corresponding sign, like why Aquarius should be linked to Recklessness in this way, but we’ll just accept it for granted for now.

But all hope is not lost for us!  Though these tormentors of the body plague us and trap us, “these tormentors depart one by one from the man who receives God’s mercy”, which manifests itself as ten “powers of God” (δυνάμεις θεοῦ, dunámeis theoû) that cleanse the body and soul of the twelve (and more) irrational tormentors:

# Greek Salaman Copenhaver Mead Scott
1 γνῶσις θεοῦ Knowledge of God Knowledge of God Gnosis of God Knowledge of God
2 χαρα Experience of Joy Knowledge of Joy Joy Joy
3 ἐγκράτεια Self-control Continence Continence Continence
4 καρτερία Steadfastness Perseverance Steadfastness Endurance
5 δικαιοσύνη Justice Justice Righteousness Justice
6 κοινωνία Generosity Liberality Sharing-with-all Unselfishness
7 ἀλήθεια Truth Truth Truth Truth
8 ἀγαθός Supreme Good the Good the Good Good
9 ζωή Life Life Life Life
10 φώς Light Light Light Light

Moreover, each of the powers (or at least most of them) correspond to a specific tormentor that it specifically chases out or conquers.  Using the Salaman translations of the tormentors and powers:

Tormentor Power
Ignorance Knowledge of God
Sorrow Experience of Joy
Intemperance Self-control
Lust Steadfastness
Injustice Justice
Greed Generosity
Deceit Truth
Envy Good, Life, Light
Treachery
Anger
Recklessness
Malice

Note that the last three powers, the Good with Life and Light, seem to act as a triune force, because once Truth arrives, “the Supreme Good arises”, and Life and Light come together with it, and together they chase out the “torments of darkness” (τιμωρία τοῦ σκότος, timōría toû skótos).  Hermēs says that Life and Light are specifically united together, and “this unity is born from spirit”; this echoes what Poimandrēs told Hermēs back in book I of the Corpus Hermeticum: “the truth is: light and life is God and Father, whence Man is begotten”.

With all ten powers present, “spiritual birth is complete…and by this birth we have become divine”.  These are all given by the mercy of God, which quells the torments of the bodily senses, and one who has these powers “knows himself and rejoices”; these ten powers “beget the soul”.  There’s some Pythagorean influence here in how these are described: Life and Light together form a unit, a henad (the number One), and the henad is the source of the decad (the number Ten), and “the Henad contains the Decad” while at the same time “the Decad [contains] the Henad”.  If we consider “spirit” here to be fundamentally the spirit of God, then we can consider this to be equivalent or identified with the power of the Good itself, from which come Life and Light, and from those two all the other powers derive.  This dimly kinda recalls how I plotted out the ten spheres onto the Tetractys as part of my Mathēsis stuff, with “the Supreme Good” being simply the Monad at the top, Light being the right-hand sphaira of the Dyad (the sphere of the fixed stars, the active power) and Life being the left-hand sphaira (the sphere of the Earth, the passive power):

At the same time, note that we have two systems going on here: a system of twelve (the tormentors) and a system of ten (the powers).  We start off by specifically linking one tormentor to one power, but after the first seven pairs, the last five seem to get jumbled together.  Hermēs says that “among the signs…there are pairs united in activity”, and notes that recklessness is inseparable with and indistinguishable from anger.  Copenhaver notes that, in this light, four of the twelve tormentors can be considered as two pairs broken up; if this is so and they are reduced into units, such as anger and recklessness into a combined tormentor, then we go from twelve tormentors to ten, but we don’t know what the other pair is (perhaps envy and treachery?).  If that were the case, and if we consider the sequence of introducing Good and Life and Light to be reversed given a descent of the Dyad from the Henad, then we might come up with the following scheme:

Tormentor Power
Ignorance Knowledge of God
Sorrow Experience of Joy
Intemperance Self-control
Lust Steadfastness
Injustice Justice
Greed Generosity
Deceit Truth
Envy and Treachery Light
Anger and Recklessness Life
Malice Good

That being said, I don’t know if I trust that specific scheme; Copenhaver notes that such an understanding of some of the tormentors isn’t agreed upon.  After all, though it’s definitely not contemporaneous with this, we can bring in a bit of Qabbalah here to justify keeping the systems of twelve tormentors and ten powers separate rather than forcing them onto the same scheme of ten.  Recall that the lower seven sefirot of the Tree of Life are considered underneath the Veil of the Abyss that separate the upper three sephiroth (Keter, Ḥokmah, Binah) from the lower seven (Ḥesed, Geburah, Tiferet, Neṣaḥ, Hod, Yesod, Malkut).  The upper three sefirot, then, are considered a trinity unto themselves that, from the perspective of everything below it, act as a unity.  Not to equate the sefirot of the Tree of Life here with what Hermēs is talking about, but it does offer an interesting possible parallel to how we might consider how these powers function and upon what.

By that same token, however, this means that the last five tormentors of the body (envy, treachery, anger, recklessness, and malice) seem to function differently than the first seven, in that the first seven have a distinct power of God that chases them out while the latter five are only chased out by the highest attainments of powers of God themselves, and that indistinctly.  In a way, this brings to mind part of book I of the Corpus Hermeticum, when Hermēs is communing with Poimandrēs, who tells Hermēs about “how the way back [to Nous, i.e. the Divinity of the Mind] is found”.  In this part of book I, there’s this notion of heavenly ascent through the seven planetary spheres, where one gives up a particular force (vice? tormentor?) associated with each of the planets.  Using Salaman’s translation of this section as a base, and giving the alternative translations of Copenhaver, Mead, and Scott for each of those forces:

First, in the dissolution of the material body, one gives the body itself up to change.  The form you had becomes unseen, and you surrender to the divine power your habitual character, now inactive.  The bodily senses return to their own sources.  Then they become parts again and rise for action, while the seat of emotions and desire go to mechanical nature.

Thus a man starts to rise up through the harmony of the cosmos:

  1. To the first plain [of the Moon], he surrenders the activity of growth and diminution;
    1. Copenhaver: “increase and decrease”
    2. Mead: “growth and waning”
    3. Scott: “the force which works increase and the force that works decrease”
  2. To the second [of Mercury], the means of evil, trickery now being inactive;
    1. Copenhaver: “evil machination”
    2. Mead: “device of evils”
    3. Scott: “machinations of evil cunning”
  3. To the third [of Venus], covetous deceit, now inactive;
    1. Copenhaver: “illusion of longing”
    2. Mead: “guile of desires”
    3. Scott: “lust whereby men are deceived”
  4. To the fourth [of the Sun], the eminence pertaining to a ruler, being now without avarice;
    1. Copenhaver: “arrogance of rulers”
    2. Mead: “domineering arrogance”
    3. Scott: “domineering arrogance”
  5. To the fifth [of Mars], impious daring and reckless audacity;
    1. Copenhaver: “unholy presumption and daring recklessness”
    2. Mead: “unholy daring and rashness of audacity”
    3. Scott: “unholy daring and rash audacity”
  6. To the sixth [of Jupiter], evil impulses for wealth, all of these being now inactive;
    1. Copenhaver: “evil impulses that come from wealth”
    2. Mead: “striving for wealth by evil means”
    3. Scott: “evil strivings after wealth”
  7. And to the seventh plain [of Saturn], the falsehood which waits in ambush.
    1. Copenhaver: “deceit that lies in ambush”
    2. Mead: “ensnaring falsehood”
    3. Scott: “falsehood which lies in wait to work harm”

Then, stripped of the activities of the cosmos, he enters the substance of the eighth plain with his own power, and he sings praises to the Father with those who are present; those who are near rejoice at his coming.  Being made like to those who are there together, he also hears certain powers which are above the eighth sphere, singing praises to God with sweet voice.  Then in due order, they ascend to the Father and they surrender themselves to the powers, and becoming the powers they are merged in God.  This is the end, the Supreme Good, for those who have had the higher knowledge: to become God.

This final part of what Poimandrēs tells Hermēs in book I touches on what Hermēs and Tat discuss in book XIII once Tat receives the ten powers and attains divinity:

T:  Then, o Father, I wish to hear the hymn of praise which you said was there to be heard from the powers, on my birth into the eighth sphere.

H: I will recite it, o son; just as Poimandrēs revealed the eighth sphere to me.  You do well to make haste to free yourself from the tent of the body, for you have been purified.  Poimandrēs, the Nous of the Supreme, gave me no more than what has been written, being aware that I should be able to know all things by myself and to hear what I wanted to hear, and to see all, and he charged me to create works of beauty.  Wherefore the powers in me sing also in all things.

This follows with the Secret Hymn, or what I call the Initiatory Hymn of Silence.  Though some aspects of what Poimandrēs told Hermēs differs from what Hermēs is telling Tat, the fundamental process is the same: we either give up or chase off the irrational forces of matter and flesh that ensnare us and shroud us in ignorant darkness, and what remains after that (or what we replace with them) are the divine powers that enable us to return to a truly divine state.  This is what Hermēs tells Tat earlier on in book IV:

T: I also wish to be immersed in Nous, o father.

H: If you don’t hate your body, son, you cannot love your Self.  If you love your Self, you will have Nous, and having Nous you will partake of knowledge.

T: Why do you say that, father?

H: For, son, it is impossible to be governed by both, by the mortal and by the divine.  There are two kinds of beings, the embodied and the unembodied, in whom there is the mortal and the divine spirit.  Man is left to choose one or the other, if he so wishes.  For one cannot choose both at once; when one is diminished, it reveals the power of the other.

There’s this notion in the Corpus Hermeticum of a spiritual (re)birth that happens when we reject the irrational powers of the body and seek (or, as a result of rejecting the tormentors, are given) the rational powers of God, a process of spiritual ascension through forsaking the material, which we can perform while still embodied so long as we retract our awareness away from the senses and perceptions of the body.  In other words, by letting go of the body (even while still possessing it, or rather, being possessed by it), we grasp onto the Good.  This shouldn’t be interpreted as some sort of banally gnostic, simplistically dualistic world-hating, but as a simple understanding that focusing on the body keeps us in the body and away from God.  (There’s a lovely essay, Agrippa’s Dilemma: Hermetic ‘Rebirth’ and the Ambivalences of De Vanitate and De occulta philosophia by Michael Keefer, that I recommend for reading on this point, especially regarding Cornelius Agrippa’s own Christian interpretation of this Hermetic approach to salvation.)

And what of the torments?  How do they actually torment us?  Consider what Poimandrēs tells Hermēs when they discuss those who do not have Nous:

As for those without Nous—the evil, the worthless, the envious, the greedy, murderers, the ungodly—I am very far from them, having given way to the avenging spirit, who assaults each of them through the senses, throwing fiery darts at them.  He also moves them to greater acts of lawlessness so that such a man suffers greater retribution, yet he does not cease from having limitless appetite for his lust nor from fighting in the dark without respite.  The avenging spirit then puts him to torture and increase the fire upon him to its utmost.

It’s not that the Hermetic deity is a jealous or vengeful god that those without Nous should be deprived from people, since the lack of Nous isn’t really much more than being immersed in the darkness of matter and not living a life that focuses on the light of spirit.  As material beings that are born, we must also die, and so long as we focus on being material, we must and deserve to die, but once we strive for immaterial immortality, we begin to attain Nous.  By identifying with the material, we suffer material conditions, but by identifying with the spiritual, we enjoy spiritual ones; in a cosmic sense, “you are what you eat”.  In this sense, it’s not that Poimandrēs actively wants us to suffer, but that suffering is part and parcel of being material; for as long as we strive to be material, we suffer, and the more we try to be material, the more we suffer.  The “avenging spirit”, in this case, isn’t really a distinct devil or demon, but the torments of the body itself; the phrase used here is τιμωρῷ δαίμονι (timōrôy daímoni), with “avenging” (τιμωρός, timōrós) being fundamentally the same word as “torturer” (τιμωρία) from above.

What’s interesting now, at this point, is how we now have two models of irrational forces: a set of seven that are associated with the planets according to Poimandes, and a set of twelve that are associated with the zodiac signs from Hermēs, and there isn’t a clean match between them for us to link one set to the other.  There are some similarities, sure; the seventh zodiacal torment of Deceit (or, perhaps better, Error) is much like the seventh planetary force of falsehood; the sixth zodiacal torment of Greed is basically the sixth planetary force of evil striving for wealth, and so forth.  But there are also differences; it’s hard to see how the second zodiacal torment of Sorrow is at all like the second planetary force of evil machination.  Except that the word translated as “sorrow” for the second zodiacal torment is λύπη lúpē, which technically refers to pain of body or mind and is also related to the Greek verb λυπέω lupéō, with meanings including “grieve”, “vex”, “distress”, “feel pain”.  In this, if we consider this to be a mental anguish, we might bring to mind the temperament of melancholy, which can lead to states of mind including depression, fear, anxiety, mistrust, suspicion, and deeper cogitations; all these can definitely be linked to “evil machinations”, which was classically considered a symptom of being too melancholic.  Likewise, it’s not easy to immediately link the first zodiacal torment of Ignorance with the first planetary force of increase and decrease, but as Tat complains to Hermēs in book XIII:

T: I am dumbstruck and bereft of my wits, O father, for I see that your size and features remain the same.

H: In this you are deceived.  The mortal form changes day by day, with the turning of time it grows and decays, its reality is a deception.

T: What then is true, Trismegistus?

H: The untroubled, unlimited, colorless, formless, unmoving, naked, shining, self-knowing; the unchanging Good without a body.

So, maybe the seven planetary forces described by Poimandrēs really are the first seven of the zodiacal torments of Hermēs, just phrased in another way for another audience.  This lends some credence to the notion from above that the last five of the zodiacal torments really are of a different set or nature; after all, if Hermēs admits to Tat that there are far more torments than just the twelve he named, maybe Hermēs was just naming more than strictly necessary to show that the way is long and hard, beset by so many torments.  Yet, once we chase out the first seven, the others follow suit, because “upon the arrival of Truth, the Supreme Good arises…the Supreme Good, together with Life and Light, has followed upon Truth, and the torments of darkness no longer fall upon us, but conquered; they all fly off with a rush of wings”.  In this, the final five zodiacal torments could simply be called “darkness”, all chased off by Light (which is unified with Life and the Good).  And, fundamentally, regardless whether we take a planetary approach (being ruled by the wandering stars) or a zodiacal approach (being ruled by the fixed stars), the world of matter is governed by celestial forces that we need to break free of or give back what they force upon us.

Also, note that there are interesting differences in how Hermēs describes the attainment of the various powers of God: Hermēs says that knowledge of God and experience of Joy “come to us”, while he summons self-control, steadfastness, justice, generosity, and truth, and once truth “arrives”, the triune powers of Good-Life-Light “arise”.  Given that truth “arrives” after Hermēs summons it, and that the knowledge of God and experience of joy similarly arrive, it stands to reason that Hermēs also calls on those first two powers as well.  In effect, we have the first seven powers of God which we call or summon, and the last three which arise on their own without being summoned, instead following the summoning of truth.  In this, it seems like we only truly need to work to call forth (or reach towards) the first seven powers of God; once we have those seven, you attain the last three as a natural result.  This is effectively like breaking past the Veil of the Abyss in a Qabbalistic sense; sure, there’s always more work to be done (after all, “before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water”), but once you’ve made that jump, there’s truly nothing left stopping you.  Once you break into the eighth sphere from the seventh, it’s just a matter of time (“in due order”, according to Poimandrēs) of further elevation and ascension.

And, true enough, this isn’t the last we see of these powers that chase off the torments.  At the end of Book XIII, Hermēs passes onto Tat the Secret Hymn, what I call the Initiatory Hymn of Silence.  After Tat has been reborn through the ten divine powers that Hermēs describes and becomes one in Nous, Tat requests Hermēs to sing the “hymn of praise” that is sung by the holy entities of the eighth sphere to God.  Hermēs does so, though he “had not thought to impart [it] so easily”.  Hermēs instructs that it should be said outdoors “under the clear sky” facing the south at sunset, and east at sunrise.  After Hermēs begins the hymn proper, the hymn follows more-or-less the same format of the powers that Hermēs earlier referred to that themselves sing to God:

O powers within me, sing to the One and All!
All you powers, sing praise together at my bidding.
Divine Knowledge, illumined by you, I sing through you of the spiritual light and I rejoice in the joy of Nous.
Sing praise with me, all you powers!
Temperance, sing with me!
Justice, through me praise what is just!
Generosity, through me praise the All!
Truth, sing of the truth!
Good, praise the Good!
Life and Light, from you comes the praise and to you it returns.
I give thanks to you, Father, the strength of all my powers.
I give thanks to you, God, power of all my strength.
Your Word through me sings to you.
Receive all back through me by the Word, a spoken sacrifice.

Though it might have passed as high-brow yet pop spiritual philosophy back in the day, the Corpus Hermeticum really is a fundamental work for Western spiritual practices, and is fundamentally useful and instructive in matters of theurgy.  What we see above is a sort of plan or map for attaining divinity through theurgic practices, by means of purifying the senses and purging the soul of material influences so as to become a freer, truly immortal power of God ourselves.  By taking the accounts of Hermēs into consideration, we can figure out how we stand in terms of our bodies and souls, what we need to focus on to continue along our spiritual paths, and how we can maintain ourselves in a matter of right and proper living through right and divine reason.

EDIT (2019-07-30): So it turns out the excellent Reverend Erik put up his own post touching on this same topic, tying it into other practices and parallels in other traditions, back in September last year.  Go check it out for more information on this wonderful topic!

Correspondence of Spirits to the Greek Alphabet

Judging from my recent blog post history, you’d be forgiven if you thought that this whole damn blog, and my whole damn practice, was just about geomancy.  Technically, that’d be wrong, but I do, indeed, talk about geomancy a lot.  There’s just a lot to talk about when it comes to that topic.  One of the things I still keep up with, albeit not as much as I’d like or as much as I’d otherwise have time for, is my old Mathēsis practice, that whole system of Greek letter mystiticsm, a kind of neo-Pythagorean quasi-Hermetic system of theurgy and meditation that works closely with the Greek gods.  I’ve made some good innovations when it comes to developing this practice, from coming up with a Tetractys-based “map” of the cosmos, as well as various other meditative and purificatory practices that, even when I’m not working in a mathētic framework, still help out one way or another.  This whole thing came about through my interest and development of grammatomancy, the Greek alphabet oracle, which I’ve found to be an excellent system of divination that I also specialize in along with geomancy.  One of my finest innovations, I think, is the Grammatēmerologion, a lunisolar calendar that maps the days, months, and years themselves to different letters of the Greek alphabet for tracking feasts, holidays, rituals, and meditations, whether according to the days purely or overlaps between the letters of the days along with astrological and astronomical phenomena.  I’ve found it incredibly helpful, and I hope that others can, as well.

One of the things I find it especially useful for is arranging the days of the lunar month, from New Moon to New Moon, to the different gods of the Hellenic pantheon and other aspects of ancient Greek and Mediterranean mythos.  However, in a naïve or simple way, the Greek letters don’t really have very many associations to the various deities, divinities, and spirits, but I wanted to see how far I could take things.  For instance, it makes sense to honor Asklēpios along with Apollōn, his father, and by extension the goddesses of health like Panakeia or Hygieia or Iasō.  But what about the more obscure divinities, like Triptolemos or Amphitritē or Themis?  I began to expand the associations I was working with to associate the Greek letters to the gods, and I ended up with…well, quite a large set, especially because I wanted to be pretty darn complete or at least reasonably so.  Yanno, just in case.

That ended up in making a table so big even I wasn’t comfortable with it, so I ended up making four tables of correspondences of the various deities and spirits of a Hellenic, Pythagorean, or generally Greek pagan practice to the letters of the Greek alphabet.  I tried to make the associations as reasonably as I could, and despite the overwhelming number of entities present in Greek myth, I tried to focus on those that tended to receive cult in classical times.  Below are those tables, as reasonably complete as I could make them.  When gaps exist in the tables, that indicates that I couldn’t find anything to fit there, but that doesn’t mean that there can’t be; perhaps this table could be expanded upon over time, and I’d look forward to it.  Heck, even for the cells that are populated, I’m sure there can be additions or changes made.

What’s also nice is that these tables can also play well with the use of the Kyranides, a famous proto-grimoire “index” of the various minerals, animals, and plants of the world according to their initial letter by their Greek names; connections between those sorts of associations according to the Greek alphabet and how they might play well with the associations given by other authors and sources would be a great thing for me to (eventually) research.

Before we begin, let me share a few resources that were helpful, instrumental, or otherwise important in helping me devise these tables of divine correspondences to the Greek alphabet:

Table I: The Table of the Whole.  This table gives the high-level associations of the letters of the Greek alphabet, both the 24 letters in use from ancient times to modern times as well as the three obsolete letters Digamma, Qoppa, and Sampi, to their various associations: those of the various forces of the cosmos of the elements, planets, and signs of the Zodiac based on Cornelius Agrippa’s associations (book I, chapter 74); the singlemost important deity for that letter of the alphabet based on its corresponding force; a sacred word of power taken from PGM CI.1-53, a holy angel for each letter taken from the Coptic magical manuscript Berlin 11346, and a general part of the body commonly associated with the letters of the Greek alphabet apart from other zodiacal associations.  Note that the three obsolete letters Digamma, Qoppa, and Sampi lack most associations, and are instead given to three classes of spirits of the dead: Digamma has Ancestors of Kin (one’s own blood- and name-related family), Qoppa has Ancestors of Work (ancestors, founders, and forebears of one’s mundane and spiritual professions and lineages), and Sampi has Ancestors of the Great (culture heroes, legendary founders of cities and civilizations, as well as forgotten and wandering dead).  Other oddities, such as the presence of Eōsphoros and Hesperos for Ēta or Zeus Euēnemos for Phi are discussed below in tables for that specific class of letters.

Letter Force Deity Word Angel Body
Α
Alpha
Moon Selēnē ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ
Akrammakhamarei
ΑΧΑΗΛ
Akhaēl
Head
Β

Bēta

Aries Athēna ΒΟΥΛΟΜΕΝΤΟΡΕΒ
Būlomentoreb
ΒΑΝΟΥΗΛ
Banūēl
Neck
Γ
Gamma
Taurus Aphroditē ΓΕΝΙΟΜΟΥΘΙΓ
Geniomūthig
ΓΑΝΟΥΗΛ
Ganūēl
Arms
Δ
Delta
Gemini Apollōn ΔΗΜΟΓΕΝΗΔ
Dēmogenēd
ΔΕΔΑΗΛ
Dedaēl
Breast
Ε
Epsilon
Mercury Stilbōn ΕΝΚΥΚΛΙΕ
Enkuklie
ΕΠΤΙΗΛ
Eptiēl
Chest
Ϝ
Digamma
Ancestors
of Kin
Ζ
Zēta
Cancer Hermēs ΖΗΝΟΒΙΩΘΙΖ
Zēnobiōthiz
ΖΑΡΤΙΗΛ
Zartiēl
Back
Η
Ēta
Venus Eōsphoros and
Hesperos
ΗΣΚΩΘΩΡΗ
Ēskōthōrē
ΗΘΑΗΛ
Ēthaēl
Belly
Θ
Thēta
Earth Hēra Geēros ΘΩΘΟΥΘΩΘ
Thōthūthōth
ΘΑΘΙΗΛ
Thathiēl
Thighs
Ι
Iōta
Sun Hēlios ΙΑΕΟΥΩΙ
Iaeouōi
ΙΩΧΑΗΛ
Iōkhaēl
Knees
Κ
Kappa
Leo Zeus ΚΟΡΚΟΟΥΝΟΩΚ
Korkoūnoōk
ΚΑΡΔΙΗΛ
Kardiēl
Legs
Λ
Lambda
Virgo Dēmētēr ΛΟΥΛΟΕΝΗΛ
Lūloenēl
ΛΑΒΤΙΗΛ
Labtiēl
Ankles
Μ
Mu
Libra Hēphaistos ΜΟΡΟΘΟΗΠΝΑΜ
Morothoēpnam
ΜΗΡΑΗΛ
Mēraēl
Feet
Ν

Nu

Scorpio Arēs ΝΕΡΞΙΑΡΞΙΝ
Nerksiarksin
ΝΗΡΑΗΛ
Nēraēl
Feet
Ξ

Ksi

Water Persephonē ΞΟΝΟΦΟΗΝΑΞ
Ksonophoēnaks
ΞΙΦΙΗΛ
Ksiphiēl
Ankles
Ο
Omikron
Mars Pyroeis ΟΡΝΕΟΦΑΟ
Orneophao
ΟΥΠΙΗΛ
Oupiēl
Legs
Π
Pi
Sagittarius Artemis ΠΥΡΟΒΑΡΥΠ
Pyrobaryp
ΠΙΡΑΗΛ
Piraēl
Knees
Ϙ
Qoppa
Ancestors of
Work
Ρ
Rhō
Capricorn Hestia ΡΕΡΟΥΤΟΗΡ
Rerūtoēr
ΡΑΗΛ
Raēl
Thighs
Σ
Sigma
Aquarius Hēra ΣΕΣΕΝΜΕΝΟΥΡΕΣ
Sesenmenūres
ΣΕΡΩΑΗΛ
Serōaēl
Belly
Τ
Tau
Pisces Poseidōn ΤΑΥΡΟΠΟΛΙΤ
Tauropolit
ΤΑΥΡΙΗΛ
Tauriēl
Back
Υ
Upsilon
Jupiter Phaethōn ΥΠΕΦΕΝΟΥΡΥ
Upephenūru
ΥΜΝΟΥΗΛ
Hymnūēl
Chest
Φ
Phi
Air Zeus
Euēnemos
ΦΙΜΕΜΑΜΕΦ
Phimemameph
ΦΙΛΟΠΑΗΛ
Philopaēl
Breast
Χ
Khi
Fire Hadēs ΧΕΝΝΕΟΦΕΟΧ
Khenneopheokh
ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥΗΛ
Khristūel
Arms
Ψ
Psi
Spirit Dionysos ΨΥΧΟΜΠΟΛΑΨ
Psykhompolaps
ΨΙΛΑΦΑΗΛ
Psilaphaēl
Neck
Ω
Ōmega
Saturn Phainōn ΩΡΙΩΝ
Ōriōn
ΩΛΙΘΙΗΛ
Ōlithiēl
Head
ϡ
Sampi
Ancestors of
the Great

Table II: the Table of the Seven Vowels.  This table expands on the seven vowels of the Greek alphabet, which are given most strongly to the seven traditional planets.  Each planet has its own specific astral titan associated with it, such as Selēnē for the Moon or Hēlios for the Sun, but note that Venus has two astral titans for it, Eōsphoros and Hesperos, because historically this planet was reckoned as two separate entities, Eōsphoros as the Morning Star when Venus rose before the Sun and visible in the dawn hours before sunrise, and Hesperos as the Western Star when Venus set after the Sun and visible in the dusk hours after sunset.  Based on the directions associated with these letters as given in the Heptagram Rite of PGM XIII.734—1077, each of these planets may also be given to the four Elder Titans along with their mother Gaia and their father Ouranos.  Other deities may also be assigned to the planets, such as Artemis for the Moon, along with clusters of lesser deities and other spirits associated with those deities.

Letter Planet Star Titan Deities Cluster
Α Moon Selēnē Hyperiōn Hekatē,
Artemis
Mēnai,
Hōrai
Ε Mercury Stilbōn Koios Hermēs Dioskouroi
Η Venus Eōsphoros,
Hesperos
Iapetos Aphroditē Hesperides
Ι Sun Hēlios Kriōs Apollōn, Dionysos,
Eōs, Theia
Hēliades
Ο Mars Pyroeis Gaia Arēs, Hēphaistos,
Hēraklēs
Υ Jupiter Phaethōn Kronos Zeus,
Ouranos
Ω Saturn Phainōn Ouranos Kronos, Adrasteia,
Khronos
Erinyes,
Moirai

Table III: the Table of the Five Complex Consonants. This table expands on the five complex or double consonants of the Greek alphabet, which are given to the four elements plus the quintessence, the meta-element of Spirit.  Each of these is presided over by one of five gods, with the four classical elements associated with Zeus, Hēra, Hadēs, and Persephonē according to the Greek philosopher Empedocles.  To distinguish this specific Zeus and Hēra from their other forms, the titles “Zeus Euēnomos” (Zeus of the Good Winds) and “Hēra Geēros” (Hera of the Earth) are given specifically to them.  Along with these major divinities, other minor divinities who often received cult and are associated with these elements are given, along with important clusters of (often-named individual) spirits and lesser gods as well as general classes of various spirits.

Letter Element Major
Deity
Minor
Deities
Cluster Spirits
Θ Earth Hēra Geēros Gaia, Rhea, Kybelē,
Mēter Theōn
Kourētes,
Korybantes
Karpoi,
Panes
Ξ Water Persephonē Aphroditē, Ōkeanos,
Tēthys, Hekatē
Seirenēs Naiades,
Potamoi
Φ Air Zeus Euēnemos Aiolos,
Hēra
Anemoi,
Harpyiai
Aurai,
Nephelai
Χ Fire Hadēs Hēphaistos, Hestia,
Hekatē
Erinyes,
Nekrotagoi
Lampades
Ψ Spirit Dionysos Promētheus, Iakkhos,
Priapos
Mainades,
Satyroi

Table IV: the Table of the Twelve Simple Consonants.  This table expands on the twelve simple or single consonants of the Greek alphabet, which are given to the twelve signs of the Zodiac.  Each of these zodiac signs are assigned to one of the twelve Olympian gods according to the Orphic Scale of Twelve as given by Cornelius Agrippa (book II, chapter 14) as their prime divinity, along with lesser or alternate divinities who are closely associated with the functions, roles, and ideals of those gods.  Along with these, other sacred figures are given according to the specific body of the zodiac sign, such as the divine twins Dioskouroi to the sign of the twins of Gemini, as well as important clusters of (often-named individual) spirits and lesser gods as well as general classes of various spirits that are also associated with the major divinities of these letters.

Letter Zodiac
Sign
Maior
Deity
Minor
Deities
Zodiac
Deity
Cluster Spirits
Β Aries Athēna Nikē, Mētis, Pronoia,
Hēphaistos, Erikhthonios
Γ Taurus Aphroditē Erōs, Adonis, Harmonia,
Peithō, Parēgoros
Kharites,
Erōtes
Naiades
Δ Gemini Apollōn Aristaios, Lētō,
Hymenaios, Asklēpios,
Hygeia, Panakeia, Iasō
Dioskouroi Mousai
Ζ Cancer Hermēs Pan, Morpheus,
Maia, Hērakles
Pleiades Panes, Oneiroi,
Oreiades
Κ Leo Zeus Tykhē, Nemesis, Themis,
Ganymēdēs, Hēraklēs,
Bia, Nikē, Kratos, Zēlos
Moirai,
Hōrai
Λ Virgo Dēmētēr Persephonē, Triptolemos,
Hekatē, Ploutos, Iakkhos
Asteria Hōrai
Μ Libra Hēphaistos Athēna, Kēladiōn Dikē Kyklōpes,
Kabeiroi,
Palikoi
Kēlēdones,
Kourai
Ν Scorpio Arēs Phobos, Deimos,
Eris, Enyō
Graiai,
Gorgones
Π Sagittarius Artemis Lētō, Hekatē Kheirōn Nymphai,
Dryades
Ρ Capricorn Hestia Pan
Σ Aquarius Hēra Hēbē, Eileithyia, Iris Ganymēdēs Hesperides,
Kharites
Τ Pisces Poseidōn Prōteus, Amphitritē,
Tritōn, Nēreus,
Palaimon, Leukotheua
Tritones,
Nēreides

One of the fascinating things I find about this Table IV is that there’s a subtle logic in how the major divinities are assigned to the signs of the Zodiac based on the opposing sign.  Consider that Pan is the god most commonly associated with the actual form of the sign Capricorn, but Pan is also often associated with Hermēs in mythos, sometimes even being Hermēs’ own son; there’s an interesting dichotomy here between these two signs, with Hestia essentially being the goddess of what happens inside the home while Hermēs is the god of what happens outside the home.  Likewise, note how the famous centaur Kheiron (or Chiron in modern spelling) is the god of the form of the sign Sagittarius, the opposite sign of Gemini, which itself is associated with Apollōn, his adoptive father and also the father of Asklēpios, whom Kheiron later teaches as his pupil.  Ganymēdēs, too, was the famous cup-bearer taken up by Zeus and placed into the sky as the sign Aquarius, yet this sign itself is given to Hēra, who disapproved of Ganymēdēs, while the sign opposite of both Hēra and Ganymēdēs is none other than Leo, given to Zeus himself.  It’s kinda fascinating to see the logic and polarities going on with how the gods are given to the signs and how they play off each other in a coherent whole of reinforcing-oppositions.

And there you have it!  My system of correspondences I use to categorize and organize the various gods, demigods, daimones, and spirits of the classical and mythic Hellenic world according to the letters of the Greek alphabets.  I’ve personally gotten good mileage out of it, and I hope others can, too, inasmuch as a letter-based system of mysticism might be helpful, but also to just pick out associations and links between the different entities of Hellenic mythos.

On Ritual Days in the Grammatēmerologion

Lately I’ve been going over my Grammatēmerologion text again—you know, that gigantic calendar ebook I put out that goes from March 2015 to March 2053.  It’s essentially my exploration into a lunisolar calendar that maps the letters of the Greek alphabet to the days of the lunar month as well as to the months of the lunar (really, lunisolar) year.  It’s up on my Books page for free download, if you’re interested.  It’s a beast of a PDF, and it’s roughly broken down into three parts: a description of how the Grammatēmerologion is constructed as well as how it can be used, an “almanac” that lists certain types of days as they occur in the 2015—2053 period, and the actual calendar of months.  A preview of October 2018 can be seen below giving you an idea of what it looks like:

Well, I’ve been taking another look at it.  Since printing out a copy for my own temple use, I’ve noticed that there are a few typos in it, a few things that need correcting, and just general improvements to formatting that can be made.  The content is largely the same, but I’ve been mulling lately how to better ply the Grammatēmerologion for calendar-specific ways to organize and arrange my rituals.  As I see it, there are three ways the Grammatēmerologion can be used for this specific purpose:

  1. Use the correspondences of the letters to the Greek, Hellenic, and other gods according to the letter-days.  For instance, given Agrippa’s Orphic Scale of Twelve (book II, chapter 14), we know that the zodiac sign of Cancer is associated with Hermēs.  Because the letter for the sign of Cancer is Zēta (book I, chapter 74), we can give the letter Zēta to Hermēs.  Thus, the fifth day of the lunar month, given to Zēta, can be used for worship and ritual of Hermēs.
  2. Use the interlocking cycles of letter-days and letter-months.  Because most (not every) month is also given a letter of the Greek alphabet, every lettered month will have one lettered day where the letters of the day and month match up; these are termed the Megalēmerai, the Great Days of the Grammatēmerologion.  Thus, the Gregorian calendar month of October 2018, which starts in the grammatēmerologic month of Sigma, October 1 has the letter of Sigma associated with it.  Thus, October 1, 2018 is the Megalēmera of Sigma, because it’s the day of Sigma in the month of Sigma.  Sigma is associated with Aquarius, and further to Hēra.
  3. Use the interlocking cycles of letter-days, letter-months, and letter-years.  Just as the days and months are associated with letters, so are most of the years of a single 38-year grammatēmerologic cycle (composed of two modified 19-year Metonic cycles).  Just as Megalēmerai are days when the letters of the day and month line up, there are also days when the letters of the day, month, and year line up as well; these are the Megistēmerai, or the Greatest Days of the Grammatēmerologion.  Unlike Megalēmerai, which occur for every letter and which happen for all but maybe one month a year, Megistēmerai are significantly rarer; only twelve Megistēmerai are possible across an entire 38-year cycle, and those only for the letters of Γ, Δ, Η, Θ, Ι, Μ, Ο, Π, Τ, Υ, Φ, and Ω.  Megistēmerai are essentially superpowered Megalēmerai, though I’m investigating to see if there’s any reasonable pattern or thread that can be used to connect those letters given above to see if something special can be done with them above and beyond their usual significations.

These days can be plied so that you could do monthly rituals of a god that’s important to you—for instance, celebrating Hermēs every month on the day of Zēta—or you could tone it back to just monthly ceremonies for the gods, one each on their own proper Megalēmera across a two-year period.  Megistēmerai would be big festivals, as I’m thinking of them, since they’re so uncommon, and any given Megistēmera would be a once- or twice-in-a-lifetime event.  For the record, the Megistēmerai of the current cycle according to the Grammatēmerologion are:

  1. Gamma: June 6, 2019
  2. Deltla: July 13, 2021
  3. Ēta: September 30, 2025
  4. Thēta: November 9, 2027
  5. Iōta: December 17, 2029
  6. Mu: March 4, 2034
  7. Omikron: June 20, 2038
  8. Pi: July 27, 2040
  9. Tau: October 15, 2044
  10. Upsilon: November 24, 2046
  11. Phi: December 31, 2048 (happy New Years, indeed!)
  12. Ōmega: March 18, 2053

The next one after that, another Megistēmera of Gamma, would occur in June 2057.  Never let it be said that I don’t enjoy long-term planning.

These are all useful ways to consider ritual according to the Grammatēmerologion, but there are other ways to ply special dates out of it, too, based on the interaction of the seven-day week.  Even though I don’t make use of such a cycle as part of the Grammatēmerologion proper, as there’s no way to get a seven-day week to fit neatly with any of the cycles already in place, I still make use of it in tandem with the Grammatēmerologion, and based on the intermeshing of these two cycles, there are other nifty days we can recognize.  I go over this in the ebook about it, but to summarize:

  • Planētēmerai or “Days of the Planets” are days when a day with a letter associated with a planet falls on the weekday ruled by that same planet.  For instance, if Alpha is associated with the planet of the Moon, then the Planētēmera of the Moon occurs when the day of Alpha falls on a Monday, which is also ruled by the Moon.
  • Astrēmerai or “Days of the Stars” are days when a day with a letter associated with a zodiac sign falls on the weekday ruled by the planet of that sign’s domicile.  Thus, if Mu is associated with the zodiac sign of Libra, and if Venus has its domicile in Libra, then the day of Mu falling on a Friday would be an Astrēmera.  Because Venus also has domicile in Taurus, itself associated with the Greek letter Gamma, then the day of Gamma falling on a Friday would also be an Astrēmera; any planet that rules two zodiac signs would also have two Astrēmerai.
  • Doksēmerai or “Days of Glory” are days when a day with a letter associated with a zodiac sign falls on the weekday ruled by the planet of that sign’s exaltation.  Thus, if Mu is associated with the zodiac sign of Libra, and if Saturn has its exaltation in Libra, then the day of Mu falling on a Saturday would be a Doksēmera.
  • Phthorēmerai or “Days of Ruin” are days when a day with a letter associated with a zodiac sign falls on the weekday ruled by the planet of that sign’s fall.  Thus, if Mu is associated with the zodiac sign of Libra, and if the Sun has its fall in Libra, then the day of Mu falling on a Sunday would be a Phthorēmera.
  • Phugēmerai or “Days of Flight” are days when a day with a letter associated with a zodiac sign falls on the weekday ruled by the planet of that sign’s exile.  Thus, if Mu is associated with the zodiac sign of Libra, and if Mars has its exile in Libra, then the day of Mu falling on a Tuesday would be a Phugēmera.  As with the Astrēmerai, planets with two domiciles also have two exiles, so the Phūgemera of Mars would also occur when the day of Gamma, associated with Mars’ other exile Taurus, falls on a Tuesday.

As I reckon it, the strictly Grammatēmerologion letter-based days above (the monthly rituals for the gods, the Megalēmerai, and the Megistēmerai) are good mostly for days of worship for the gods, though the Megalēmerai and Megistēmerai can be used for astrological and stellar rituals as well.  However, these five types of days that work with both the Grammatēmerologion and the seven-day week are excellent for planetary rituals, and can offer some insight into how strong a given day might be based on how the Grammatēmerologic lunar day of the month plays with the seven-day week and planetary rulerships—or, conversely, how strong or weak a given planet’s influence can be on its day of the week based on where it falls in a lunar month according to the Grammatēmerologion.

Of course, all of these are divested from any properly astrological phenomena, save for the phase of the Moon itself; this is an alternate system of reckoning fortuitous or appropriate days for ritual instead of using electional astrology, which (of course) is an entirely different field, and I don’t mean to supplant electional astrology nor claim that the Grammatēmerologion system used for this type of thing is as powerful or as good as it.  It’s just another alternative system for those who don’t bother or don’t know about it, and for that purpose, is fine for most non-astrologically-minded magicians.  Still, of these five latter types of days can be useful if you want to, for instance, plan a particular ritual of Venus and want its domicile quality of being in Libra or Taurus instead of its exaltation quality of being in Pisces.  That said, in all honesty, I’d probably just use the Planētēmerai before any of the other such days given here, because it’s such a strong connection that overlaps these two cycles.

Still, I feel like the Grammatēmerologion can be used for more that just playing with cycles of letters or how those cycles play with the seven-day week.  It’s this that I’m trying to expand on most now for the Grammatēmerologion ebook, but also for my own practice.  How can I better ply “days of power” out of this system?  Consider my Mathēsis system that uses a Great Tetractys with its Gnosis Schema, a set of twelve paths that traverse the ten sphairai on the Tetractys, paths which I liken to the twelve signs of the Zodiac as the Sun travels in its course through the ecliptic every year:

One of the reasons why I want to develop the Grammatēmerologion is to develop ways to time certain rituals, such as my Ingress Rituals (which I still need to work on fleshing out more).  So, let’s say I wanted to perform a Path Ritual of Aries, which connects the sphaira of Mercury to the sphaira of Jupiter (or of Air).  Aries is associated with the letter Bēta, so I’d want to pick a time associated with Bēta.  But, here’s the thing: how?  Do I want to use any old day of Bēta?  I could, but why not a Megalēmera of Bēta?  This makes sense, to use a Bēta-day in a Bēta-month, but the month of Bēta occurs only once every two years, which would be unfortunate if I miss it.  More than that, though, performing a ritual of Aries seems odd if there’s no connection going on with Aries, so why not a time when the Sun is actually, yanno, in Aries, especially if the whole idea of traversing the Gnosis Schema is to mimic the passage of the Sun through the signs of the Zodiac.  So, the obvious solution would be to pick a day of Bēta—essentially the day of Aries—when the Sun is in Aries.

This idea led me to a new kind of ritual day, the Kōmastēmerai or “Days of Revel”.  The term comes from Greek κωμαστηριον, literally “processional way” originally referring to a meeting-place of Bacchic celebrants, but which is used in the Greek Magical Papyri to refer to the Sun’s or other stellar passages through heaven along the ecliptic or other celestial routes.  Thus, “Days of Revel” could also be called “Processional Days”, days with a letter associated with a zodiac sign that fall while the Sun is in that same sign.  In this way, every month of the year, regardless whether any given month has a letter at all or what it might be, has at least one Kōmastēmera, and every sign of the Zodiac can be celebrated every year as opposed to once every two years using the Megalēmera-based method.  Interestingly, some signs have two Komastēmerai, if the letter-day falls on the day of or just after the ingress of the Sun into that sign, which means that some calendar years can have as many as 16 Komastēmerai, though most years just have one per month.

As an example, consider October 2018 again.  In October 2018 (as in every other October every year), the Sun is first in Libra (associated with the Greek letter Mu), then it passes to Scorpio (which is associated with the letter Nu).  The Sun passes into Scorpio at 11:22 UTC on Wednesday, October 23, 2018, which happens to be a day of Mu.  Where I live, the Sun enters into Scorpio just before sunrise, and because days in the Grammatēmerologion are reckoned from sunrise, this means that by the time the day of Mu starts at sunrise, the Sun will already be in Scorpio.  This means that the next day, October 24, which happens to be a day of Nu which is associated with Scorpio, is the Kōmastēmera of Scorpio.  This makes Thursday, October 24, 2018 an excellent day to perform a Mathētic Ritual of the Sun’s Ingress into Scorpio.

Like how there can be weekday-influenced days of power and days of weakness, as with the Astrēmerai and Phugēmerai or the Doksēmerai and Phthorēmerai, why not make similar corollaries to the Kōmastēmerai?  If these days occur when the letter-day of the month lines up with the sign the Sun is currently in, why not make days when the letter-day of the month lines up with the sign opposite the Sun?  Thus, we can also envision Kruphēmerai, “Days of Hiding”, days with a letter associated with a zodiac sign that fall while the Sun is in its opposing sign.  Recall that the next Kōmastēmera is that of Scorpio, falling on the day of Nu on October 24; the opposite sign of Scorpio is Taurus, which is associated with the letter Gamma, so the corresponding Kruphēmera of Scorpio would be the day of Gamma, which happens to fall on November 10, 2018.  While the purpose of the Kōmastēmerai seem pretty obvious to me, it’s not clear what purpose Kruphēmerai would serve.  What comes to mind are days of danger, harm, or otherwise ill omen due to the mismatch of ebbs and flows of power between the zodiac signs of the current time of the lunar month versus those in power of the Sun.  Again, something to be experimented with.

One could expand this system a bit more, too, by not just recognizing the solar Kōmastēmerai and Kruphēmerai but also their lunar equivalents of Epainēmerai, “Days of Praise”, and Aiskhēmerai“Days of Shame”, which would be the same idea but for the Moon.  Interestingly, because of how the Grammatēmerologion works, I don’t think there can reasonably be a day that is both Kōmastēmera and Epainēmera at the same time; this would require the Sun and Moon to be in the same sign or conjunct and on a day given to a letter associated with a sign of the Zodiac.  A day when the Sun and Moon are so close only happens around the New Moon, but the last few days of a Grammatēmerologic month aren’t associated with signs of the Zodiac, and the first day of the lunar month is given to Alpha, which is associated with the Moon.  I haven’t done the calculations, but this means that such a day probably couldn’t occur, except extraordinarily rarely and then only for the sign of Aries (the second day of the lunar month).  I’d need to check to see whether this is a thing.  Even then, though, I don’t think such days could be that common anyway, given how the synodic lunar months don’t really match up well with the Zodiac, given the variable start date from month to month.  For instance, consider that the Kōmastēmera of Scorpio on October 24, the day of Nu, falls on the Full Moon, which means the Moon is in Taurus opposite the Sun in Scorpio, and the next time the day of Nu comes about, the Moon will again be approaching fullness in late Taurus.  I’d need to do the calculations on this, but I don’t think Epainēmerai are really that common, or if they are, whether they can equally happen for all of the zodiac signs.  Thinking about it more, though, if you end up with one Epainēmera, then you might end up with two in a row, if the Moon changes sign at some point between those two days, though that might be even rarer.  All that above is ditto for Aiskhēmerai.  Still, given the solar focus of so much of Mathēsis ritual work and timing, I’m not sure Epainēmerai and Aiskhēmerai would have much of a place, especially given how rare or odd they might be.

What if we were to bring the seven-day week into this mix?  Now we’re getting into some really unusual or rare alignments of conditions, and I’m really not sure how many of these there might be.  Some ideas of possible things to recognize would be:

  • Sigēmerai, or “Days of Silence”, days when a day with a letter associated with a planet falls on the weekday ruled by that same planet but only while that planet is retrograde.  For instance, if Epsilon is associated with the planet of Mercury, then the Sigēmerai of the Mercury occurs when the day of Epsilon falls on a Wednesday while Mercury is retrograde.  In other words, Sigēmerai can only occur on their corresponding Planētēmerai while that given planet is retrograde.  Sigēmerai cannot occur for the Sun and the Moon, because they cannot be retrograde.  A real example of this is the Sigēmera of Jupiter coming up on June 27, 2019; this is a day of Upsilon on a Thursday, and so would normally be a Planētēmera of Jupiter if it weren’t for the fact that Jupiter is retrograde from April 10 to August 11 in 2019.
  • Khrusēmerai, or “Days of Gold”, days when a day with a letter associated with a planet falls during the sign in which the Sun is currently to be found and which that planet has domicile.  For instance, if the Sun is in Scorpio, then the planetary ruler of Scorpio is Mars, which is associated with the letter Omikron.  So, the day of Omikron while the Sun is in Scorpio (or in Aries!) becomes a Khrusēmera.  Just such a day is coming up on Friday, October 26, 2018, the day of Omikron (Mars) while the Sun is in Scorpio.
  • Argurēmerai, or “Days of Silver”.  Given the whole parallel structure I’ve previously set up with the Sun and the Moon, this could be used to refer to days when a day with a letter associated with a planet fall during the sign in which the Moon is currently to be found and which that planet has domicile.  However, given how rare and unlikely this seems, I’d rather give this instead to days when a day with a letter associated with a planet falls during the sign in which the Sun is currently to be found and which that planet has exaltation.  Thus, consider September 14, 2018; this was a day of Epsilon, and thus associated with Mercury, that occurred while the Sun was in Virgo, the exaltation of Mercury.  (Also note that this would also be a Khrusēmera, too, because Mercury has both exaltation and domicile in Virgo.)
  • Rupēmerai and Aukhmēmerai, “Days of Filth” and “Days of Tarnish”, respectively, which are basically like Khrusēmerai and Argurēmerai except, instead of relating to the current Sun sign’s domicile and exaltation, the current Sun sign’s exile (Rupēmerai) or fall (Aukhmēmerai).  So, if the Sun is currently in Libra, the corresponding Rupēmera would be the day of Omikron (associated with Mars, which has exile in Libra) and the day of Iōta (associated with the Sun, which has fall in Libra).
  • What if a Khrusēmera, Argurēmera, etc. happens while the planet in question is retrograde?  In this case, if the planet is the current Sun sign’s exaltation or fall or exile (but not domicile), then they cancel out and the day becomes just another ordinary day, but if it’s the current Sun sign’s domicile planet, then it becomes Arrhētēmera, or “Unspeakable Day”.
  • What if a Khrusēmera, Argurēmera, etc. happens on the proper weekday of that planet itself?  In other words, what happens if a Khrusēmera is also a Planētēmera?  At this point, why not just recognize them separately?  No special term needed for this; the day of Alpha (of the Moon) while the Sun is in Cancer falling on a Monday can be a Khrusēmera and Planētēmera, though the terms can be combined: Khrusoplanētēmera, or “Golden Day of the Planet”.  Likewise, we could have a Arguroplanētēmera or Rupoplanētēmera or Aukhmoplanētēmera, depending on what the type of day is, though if the planet is retrograde, it would simply be Sigēmera or Arrhētēmera, as above.
  • The prefixes Mega- and Megist- can be applied to any of the above terms if they also happen to be a Megalēmera or Megistēmera, respectively.  For example, April 7, 2020 is a Tuesday, and is also the day of Nu in the month of Nu.  Because the day and the month share the same letter, this is a Megalēmera; because the letter Nu is associated with Scorpio and this day falls on a Tuesday, which is ruled by Mars as the domicile-ruler of Scorpio, this is also an Astrēmera.  Thus, because this day is both Megalēmera and Astrēmera, it can be called a Megalastrēmera.  Similarly, March 4, 2034, is the day of Mu in the month of Mu in the year of Mu (Megistēmera), which also happens to fall on a Saturday (day of Libra on the day of Saturn, the exaltation of Libra).  Thus, this would be a Megistodoksēmera.  (And a Full Moon, no less, so plan early and mark your calendars!)

I’m sure I could come up with other terms to mix the weekday cycle, the Grammatēmerologic cycle, and the actual astrological phenomena of the skies, but I’m not sure all such possible combinations of interactions would need terms.  Heck, in this post alone, I’ve introduced over twenty types of “special days”, and I’m starting to feel like a bad fantasy author who’s badly trying to incorporate some kind of elvish or alien conlang.  Even if I were to come up with names, that doesn’t mean that they’re all equally valuable.  Honestly, I think the most important regularly (or semi-regularly) occurring special days to keep track of are:

  • Noumēniai, the celebration of a new month just after the New Moon
  • Megalēmerai and their rarer version Megistēmerai, the celebration of matching cycles of days
  • Planētēmerai and their retrograde version Sigēmerai to mark especially potent days (if the former) or days to be utterly avoided (if the latter) for planetary works
  • Kōmastēmerai to mark the passage of the Sun through the signs of the Zodiac
  • Khrusēmerai and their retrograde version Arrhētēmerai to mark the ruling planetary power of the current Sun sign, whether direct (if the former) or retrograde (if the latter) and how to approach that planet’s power

It’s good that we’re developing a technical vocabulary for specific workings, but let’s be honest, not all of these need to be known or marked, especially given how obscure or rare some of them might be.  When it comes to writing and developing (and redeveloping and refining) this Grammatēmerologion ebook, it also becomes a question of what really needs to get accounted for in the calendar and almanac itself, and how easy it is to calculate certain things.  Megalēmerai and Megistēmerai are near trivial to calculate, and figuring out the weekday special days (Planētēmerai, Astrēmerai, etc.) are easy enough as well.  It’s when we get into the astrological bits that I start having to bust out the algorithms and programming, and I haven’t yet gotten around to coding the relevant parts of Jean Meeus’ Astronomical Algorithms to determine whether any given planet on any given day is retrograde is not.

Even then, with this small selection of eight (really five if you don’t count the variations) special days, we’re coming up with a regular and notable ritual schedule that arises from the use of the Grammatēmerologion apart from simply using it to order rituals of worship and sacrifice to the gods, and a sort of regular theurgic and spiritual practice begins to take form.  This is precisely just what the Grammatēmerologion is designed to help with: a temporal tool and aide to structure and organize rituals in a lunisolar calendar based on the letters of the Greek alphabet.  The current Grammatēmerologion ebook suffices for this, but I am working on getting a better version out that incorporates some of these other special days in.

Mathētic Order of Offerings to the Theoi

One of the longest spiritual practices I’ve maintained more-or-less continually, or at least kept around in one form or another, is that to the Greek gods.  I have a shrine to a few of them in my temple, and though the form and shape of it has waxed and waned over the years, I’ve kept venerating and offering to them since I got started, pretty much.  From my apartment after college where I had Hermēs in one corner of my bedroom and Asklepios against the wall, and after with Dionysos joining Asklepios; then moving into a house with my boyfriend and having an entire room for my spiritual stuff, with an elaborate set of glass shelves for the theoi, with separate spaces for Zeus and Aphroditē and Apollo and Hephaistos and even Hadēs at one point; now into the house I moved in with my now-husband and having another room set up with different qualities and things got downsized a bit.  Hestia, of course, has been around in every house in one form or another, and Dionysos has gone from having an entire shrine dedicated and decorated to him to being…reduced in size but not in presence to a special contraption I set up just for him.  All the same, throughout all these changes, I’ve still kept up my worship of the theoi.

My practices have changed somewhat between moves from house to house and temple to temple; for instance, in the last place where I lived, my temple room was across from the hallway bathroom and had a window outside, so it was trivial to dump offerings out or get water anytime I needed.  Now, however, my temple is in a basement room with no easy access to either external ventilation or a sink or drain of any sort.  This makes disposing of old offerings and libations a little different, and given the lack of ventilation and general light, it’s easy for libations set out to evaporate really quickly or get mold faster than I would’ve thought otherwise.  That makes, for instance, the use of many small libation vessels for each theos I have enshrined a pain, because they all have to be hauled up the stairs to the kitchen to be emptied and washed then all hauled back downstairs, and so forth.  Besides that, I used to open the window during ritual as a symbolic act as a means to “let the god in” and for incense offerings to reach the heavens, but I can’t do that at this point, so I have to adjust my processes for that.

As I’m getting back to my daily practice (and struggling to find out how to make things more efficient and effective while still making things count), I’ve also been digging through my notes to see what insights I had before, what my proposed methodologies or practices were, and how I managed to get by before and how I did things.  I suppose that’s one benefit of blogging so much, because I found two such posts on my method of offering to the theoi, specifically within the context of Mathēsis, one post on general daily mathētic practices, the other on a specifically mathētic procedure to make offerings to the gods.  The former is good for me to review anyway, because it’s something I need to get back on as well, either by reworking it to be less-than-daily or by incorporating it into my general daily practices, and because it recommends a regular, daily offering or invocation of the god of the day according to my Grammatēmerologion calendar.  The latter is actually useful, because it documents one such way that an invocation and offering to a god might be done, whether associated with a particular day or otherwise, and whether it’s a grand offering or just a small quick invocation.

However, as I look back on this procedure, there are things that I really would feel more comfortable changing than keeping the same.  (That’s one good benefit of writing my own blog; I get to make the claim that anything I write can be improved on later!)  Between my own experiences and interactions with the theoi on their own terms and by bringing in other ideas that I’m comfortable with applying across the board, there are some things I’m getting into the habit of that I wouldn’t’ve considered before.  For instance, while in the past I would often (but not always) make a perfunctory and preliminary offering to Hestia while also saying that it’s not strictly necessary, nowadays I’m definitely on the side of always making an offering to her to start with before any others, though I’m not entirely convinced that every offering must also conclude with another one to her, as well.  Rather, I’m now in the habit of honoring Zeus in every offering, regardless whether he’s the focus of my prayers or not, due to his role as divine cosmic king who rules over the three realms; at first I had his name praised and made a perfunctory offering to him before any other god (besides Hestia), but after some conversation, I make him last.  Or second-to-last, if Hestia gets a final offering as well.

So, let me draw out my process and my thinking.  It is true that many of the theoi operate independently in some respects, but it is also true that they are all part of the same pantheon and part of the same cosmic schema.  Just as you can’t remove a single number from the Decad and have it still remain the Decad, you can’t really remove a single theos from the theoi and have it remain the pantheon.  However, not every individual theos needs to be worshipped at all times, but a few key ones that allow for worship to happen at all makes more sense.  For that, the general order of invocation and offering that I use nowadays goes like this:

  1. Perfunctory initial offering to Hestia.  Hestia should always get the first offering, because she’s the goddess of the hearth and home itself.  Without her, we would have nowhere to live, build, or establish shrines; it is only by her support that we can make such offerings in our own homes, dwellings, and temples.  If one is living in the wild and makes offerings in a pristine place untouched by civilization with offerings that are not the products of agriculture or animal husbandry, then I would make an argument that an offering to Hestia is not needed, but it would still be appreciated as she is still rightly the eldest of the first generation of the Olympian Theoi.
  2. Perfunctory offering of wine to Dionysos.  This step is sometimes skipped depending on what I’m offering.  If I’m offering wine in this ceremony, and I’m either going to run out of an existing bottle or if I’m opening a new bottle of wine for any reason, I open it up here and pour a small amount for Dionysos, giving him thanks for his own sacrifices and allowing us to partake in his sacrifice of flesh and the grape which allows us to perform our own sacrifices.  In many ways, Dionysos is the god of wine as well as the god in wine; by opening a new bottle and giving him the first pour, we recognize his presence and dedicate our sacrifices to his own.
  3. Perfunctory offering to Hermes.  Hermēs is important to always recognize, and by calling on him, we ensure that our prayers can be heard by any and all the gods.  Hermēs is the messenger of the gods, to be sure, but he’s also the messenger between gods and mankind; it’s by him that we come to know the will and desires of the gods, but it’s also by him that they come to know our prayers and supplications.  Hermēs is, indeed, the god of prayer and ritual in general, just as Hestia can be said to be the goddess of shrines in general and Dionysos the god of sacrificing wine in general.  Plus, this helps with the notion of “bringing the god in” for when I call upon the presence of a particular deity; before, I’d open the window as a formal “opening of the gate”, but since I don’t have a window anymore, this seems to suffice as well.  It’d still be great to have a window or some other aperture, but I simply don’t have that option available to me.
  4. Main offering.  This is where the actual invocation to the god begins.  All their prayers and invocations and offerings and whatnot take place after all the initial offerings are made.
  5. Perfunctory concluding offering to Zeus.  At the end of the ceremony, once the other offerings are made, Zeus should also always be honored, as the divine ruler of the cosmos, the father of gods and men, and the supreme king of all.  In honoring Zeus who rules over the three domains of sky, sea, and land, we also honor all those who live within them, both mortal and immortal.  This suffices not only to render tribute to the god of gods, but also to recognize the divinity of all the other gods who fall under Zeus’ domain.
  6. Other perfunctory concluding offerings.  As Hestia is the first-born of Rhea and Kronos, she is also their last-born; she was born first from Rhea’s womb, and torn out last from Kronos’ belly.  The Homeric Hymn to Hestia (#24) says that “without you mortals hold no banquet, where one does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last”.  However, I don’t think that this sort of concluding offering is strictly needed after that of Zeus, but it can certainly be done; if it were, I think it would also be appropriate to honor both Hermēs and Hestia both for both their roles as divinities of prayer-speaking as well as that of shrine-keeping.  In other words, after the main offering and offering to Zeus, we work backwards: if we start with Hestia and Hermēs, we end with Hermēs and Hestia.  It’s something I’m still working out, admittedly.

This idea of a ritual process, going through multiple divinities in order to sacrifice to one, may seem needlessly complicated; I know I thought that at one point, and before, I’d just go to my Apollo shrine and do my thing and be done with it.  That said, I think of my other traditions where there is absolutely an order to worship, where certain divinities must be honored before others; this idea works for the Greek gods, too.  Plus, there are other examples of having such an order; consider the Hellenist reconstruction group Elaion and their ritual templates shared by Elani Temperance over at Baring the Aegis, where every ritual begins with a libation to Hestia, to Gaia, and to Themis before proceeding with the main event, and all of which conclude with a final offering to Hestia.  This also makes sense: just as we honor Hestia for being the goddess of hearth and home and shrine, so too do we honor the Earth for supporting all that happens and to divine Law and Order for that which is proper that all might continue to be proper.  Sure, it might seem easier to just make offerings to one god (and a lot less use of wine and oil and incense), but the more I think about it and the more I practice it, the more sense it makes to really go in for the process and proper sequencing of things in a formal offering.

Of course, all that above is just the general template, and templates change in certain circumstances.  For instance, if I were to just make an offering to Hestia for Hestia’s own sake, I wouldn’t really bother with Hermēs or the other gods, because Hestia is already right there present in my home, so Hestia is one of the very few (perhaps the only) divinity I could just sacrifice directly to and not get the rest of the gang involved and not feel bad about it.  In general, however, there’s always going to be a process, and there are certain rules to how that process might change in certain examples.  Let’s consider a few examples, with the main event in bold text and anything unexpected in italics:

  1. Hestia
    1. Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hestia, Zeus
    2. Because Hestia is always first no matter what, she still comes first.  However, as she’s immediately present and we’re already making an offering to her, we don’t need the messenger/interpreter presence of Hermēs.  If a new bottle of wine is to be opened, a perfunctory offering to Dionysos should come first before Hestia, though this is really more a respect gesture than anything else.  Likewise, Zeus can still be honored afterwards, but beyond Hestia and honoring the hearth itself that even the gods honor, there’s not too much that needs to be done.
  2. Dionysos
    1. Hestia, Hermēs, Dionysos, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. Normally, we’d have a perfunctory offering to Dionysos before Hermēs if we’re opening a new bottle of wine.  However, if I’m offering to Dionysos himself, I’d skip that stage and celebrate him entirely in his own part of the ceremony.  Instead of being given just a token, perfunctory offering, he gets his own full thing going on.  After Dionysos is honored, then we’d give a perfunctory offering to Zeus, and if desired, any other concluding offerings to e.g. Hermēs and Hestia.
  3. Hermēs
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. Pretty straightforward here; Hermēs takes his usual place after Dionysos (if needed) and before Zeus, but as there are no other gods to be worshiped, Hermēs himself becomes the focus.  Instead of giving Hermēs a perfunctory offering, he gets a full offering here.
  4. Zeus
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Zeus, libation to all the gods, other conclusions
    2. Like with Hermēs, instead of just getting a perfunctory offering, Zeus himself is celebrated in full.
    3. However, remember that Zeus is normally celebrated in every ceremony to remind ourselves of his divine and cosmic importance, and by him, we can honor all the other gods and goddesses of the cosmos.  However, if we’re worshiping and offering to Zeus as Zeus alone, then we’d need something to step in to formally recognize all the other entities of the cosmos, hence a separate step for the “libation to all the gods” after Zeus.  This would be perfunctory, as the offering to Zeus any other time would be.
  5. Apollo
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Apollo, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. This is the basic template, using Apollo as the main offering.  Nothing unexpected here.
  6. Asklepios
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Apollo, Asklepios, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. This is essentially the basic template, with Asklepios as the main offering, but note how we’re also honoring Apollo immediately before him.  This is because, as I reckon it, Asklepios is not sufficiently independent or major of a god in his own right.  Sure, he can be offered to independently and on his own, but I find it more proper to recognize his father Apollo first.  In other words, to use a royal metaphor, Asklepios is a noble in the royal court ruled by Apollo; as Apollo is the ruler of that court, he gets first honors, and then any
    3. A similar case would go for any other minor god that is clearly part of another god’s “court”, such as Hēbē under Hēra, Eros under Aphroditē, Tykhē under Zeus, Nikē under Athena, and so forth.   Recognize the primary god of that court first with a perfunctory offering, then the minor god as the main offering.

Although the Greeks may not have conceived of their gods as belonging to “courts” per se, I think it’s still a useful classification of the minor gods and goddesses around central rulers who were more well-known.  For instance, I would consider all the thalassic deities Triton, Nereus, and the Nereides and Naiadēs including Thetis to all belong to the court of Poseidon, who either is the father, husband, brother, or conquering usurper of the other gods.  In sacrifice and myth, this may not really be true, but it’s a really useful way to organize “groups” of the theoi for the purposes of my Grammatēmerologion calendar, which assigns the letters of the Greek alphabet to the days of the lunar month, and by the letters, to individual signs of the Zodiac or other powers, which are associated the major gods of the Hellenic pantheon.  For instance, in the Grammatēmerologion, the twenty-third day of the lunar month is given to the letter Tau.  Tau is given to the zodiacal sign of Pisces, which is associated with the theos Poseidon; thus, it makes sense to cluster the worship of all the oceanic deities onto the day of Tau, just as all the deities associated with Hēra like Hēbē and Eileithyia are given to Hēra’s day of Sigma and so forth.  If nothing else, honoring the “court ruler” of a minor god also counts as honoring the primary god of the same day that minor god would be worshiped on, which fulfills part of my daily mathētic practices.

So, when I say “perfunctory offering”, what exactly do I mean?  Basically, a token offering, a nod, something I give just enough to recognize the divinity I’m making such an offering to.  It’s really little more than a very quick pour of wine or clean water, no more than an ounce or a few drops, accompanied by a few words of honor and veneration, calling upon their aid.  If I feel like it, I’ll recite the entire Orphic Hymn or one of the shorter Homeric Hymns to them, but in general, what I’ll say is something short, like:

Hestia, as you were first born of Rhea and last born of Kronos, so too do you receive the first offering and the last!  Queen goddess of the hearth, without you we could not live nor could we offer to the gods.  Right and proper it is to honor you first in all such rites.

Dionysos, roaring lord of reborn life, yours is the blood of the vine which we cut and rend that we might live and live well.  As you spilled your blood that we might partake in it, I give you the first offering of this bottle that you might always be honored in every pour and spill.

Hermēs, you are the messenger of gods and men, to whom we all turn in all our rites.  Hear my prayers, take these sacrifices, and carry them aloft to divine ears and immortal hands!  May all the righteous ways of worship be opened for me and for the gods!

With that, I’ll pour out a bit of wine and olive oil out—not a lot, because it’s better to give a little so that we always have something to give, and if we’re going through the process, then we’ve already got a lot to give.  From what I’ve been doing, it seems that a standard set of offerings will take around half a normal 750ml bottle of wine and maybe an ounce or two of olive oil.  While before I was pouring straight from the wine bottle into individual vessels for each individual divinity, which was fine when I could more easily wash them or empty them without having to schlep them up and down stairs, I’m now in the habit of using a large white bowl I set before my entire Greek shrine, and pouring in libations into that from a smaller white bowl.  That way, I can partake of the libation and give a toast to each of the gods as I offer, and I replicate the old practice of pouring a libation out on the ground itself.  The bowl, of course, keeps it all contained instead of splashing everywhere, and is easier to carry up instead of four or six silver or glass chalices full of wine and oil.

Of course, all of the above—the process, the order, the perfunctory offerings versus the main offerings, the courts, etc.—only really count if I’m making an actual offering to the theoi.  On days when I don’t, either because I don’t want to or don’t need to, there’s no need to go through all of that.  Instead, a simple invocation will suffice.  For instance, say that it’s the day of Gamma; Gamma is associated with Taurus, and thus with Aphroditē.  If I’m going to make a full offering to Aphroditē that day, then yes, I’ll go through the process of Hestia, Dionysos, Hermēs, Aphroditē, Zeus, &c.  However, if I’m not, whether because I’m too tired or don’t plan on doing an offering to Aphroditē that day, then I’d just call on her and give her a simple prayer; rather than giving her a main offering in the midst of a bunch of perfunctory offerings, I’d just give her a perfunctory (or bigger) invocation with no other process involved.  In other words, if all I’m doing is verbally honoring and recognizing the god of the day, then there’s no sacrifice or offering, so the whole process of offering doesn’t apply.  Easy, indeed, and if it’s all I need to get by for a daily practice, then all the better.

I’m sure, given enough time, this proposed method will continue to change.  What is becoming clear to me is that it’s easier for me to bundle my already-existing Hellenic/Greek practices into my overall Mathēsis work, which is fine by me; the less I have to arrange as separate “practices”, especially when one directly comes from the other and is going to subsume it anyway, the better.  By refocusing my Hellenic work into my Mathēsis work, I can better focus both together and synthesize them in a way that reduces stress and conflict while still being able to expand and expound on both.  Plus, if this Mathēsis stuff is actually going to head in the direction I want it, having processes for this sort of thing are definitely a needed and beneficial organizing principle.