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.

Pole Lords and Northern Stars: The Names and Roles of the Planets, Pole Lords, and Fates of Heaven

We’ve been discussing lately this interesting thing from PGM XIII, the Eighth and Tenth Hidden Books of Moses, known as the Rulers of the Pole, a system of determining which planet rules over the celestial pole on any given day of the week, which is different from how we would consider planets to rule the days of the week.  At first, it didn’t seem like it was used much, but after seeing parallels in what we’re talking about throughout the rest of the PGM, we realized that we’re not just talking about the celestial pole, but the northern constellations of Ursa Minor and Ursa Maior, and specifically Polaris the North Star.  More than that, we also found out that there is an entirely separate but absolutely equivalent group of seven Pole Lords from the Mithras Liturgy of PGM IV.  With a little bit of innovation and star-mapping, we were able to link the seven Pole Lords and their paired Fates of Heaven to the seven stars of Ursa Minor and Ursa Maior, respectively, and each pair of such stars to each of the seven planets.  We’re really getting somewhere now, guys!

So, now we know how to attribute the seven bull-faced Pole Lords of Heaven to the stars of Ursa Minor and the seven snake-faced Fates of Heaven to the stars of Ursa Maior, and we know how to associate each to one of the seven planets.  This is all well and good, but what does it mean to approach them in this way?  Well, recall from the first post I made about this topic that we’ve got two systems of understanding an “order” to the planets: the weekday arrangement (Sun, Moon, Mars…Saturn) and the heavenly arrangement or the “Seven-Zoned” (Moon, Mercury, Venus…Saturn).  One of the things that I thought of was how PGM XIII might be treating each arrangement differently for different purposes, the weekday arrangement for a microcosmic or worldly purpose and the heavenly arrangement for macrocosmic or theurgic purposes.  This struck me as similar to the Earlier Heaven and Later Heaven sequences of the Ba Gua, where one sequence refers to a primordial state of archetypes, the other a manifested state of change and volatility.

Not to keep bringing up Taoist or Chinese practices like this, because we’re not talking about the same exact thing, but the notion of ascending through the individual stars of Ursa Maior or Ursa Minor in a theurgic process of elevation and henosis brings to mind the Steps of Yu dance of Taoist practices.  In this practice. priests and shamans ritually “dance” in the pattern of the stars of the Big Dipper to “step through” each star and obtain the power of the entire constellation, which is hugely revered in traditional Chinese religion.  Going back to the PGM, perhaps the closest parallel we’d find to a sort of “Steps of Yu” would be the Calling of the Sevenths from the Heptagram Ritual, PGM XIII.734—1077 specifically lines 824ff:

The instruction: speaking to the rising sun, stretching out your right to the left and your left hand likewise to the left, say Α.  To the north, putting forward only your right fist, say Ε.  Then to the west, extending both hands in front [of you], say Η.  To the south, [holding] both [hands] on your stomach, say Ι.  To the earth, bending over, touching the ends of your toes, say Ο.  Looking into the air, having your hand on your heart, say Υ.  Looking into the sky, having both hands on your head, say Ω.

[Then invoke:] “I call on you, eternal and unbegotten, who are one, who alone hold together the whole creation of all things, whom none understand, whom the gods worship, whose name not even the gods can utter.  Inspire from your breath, ruler of the pole, him who is under you; accomplish for me the NN. thing.  I call on you as by the voice of the male gods…”

The text gives a crude diagram that tries to illustrate the general layout of the vowels, which I’ve included from Betz along with my own rendition, and with Stephen Flower’s diagram from Hermetic Magic: The Postmodern Magical Papyrus of Abaris (1995):

Consider what we’re doing here: we’re first facing the four directions in a square, then going from down to up.  We can think of this as standing in the middle of the “ladle” of Ursa Minor as Little Dipper to face the four stars at the corners of the most distant part of Ursa Minor, finishing with the Sun; the three stars on the “handle” of the Little Dipper reflect the vertical ascension represented by Mars and culminating with Saturn, appropriately looking directly up into the sky.  The use of the counterclockwise motion (facing east, north, south, and west for the first four planets) is odd, as usually we’d be accustomed to doing things clockwise; this would also be expected if we look at the stars of Ursa Minor, where going from Kochab to Pherkad etc. is also done in a clockwise way.  But, that’s from our point of view “down here”; if we were to consider the perspective of Aiōn who is above the stars, then looking down from that super-celestial perspective, it’d be from a counterclockwise perspective.  Plus, there’s also the notion that while the stars appear to revolve around the Earth in a clockwise motion, the planets themselves pass through the skies in a counterclockwise motion (which is why the Zodiac is always drawn in that way).  What we’re doing, then, is starting out with the assumption that we’re already celestial, and acting in this world accordingly; it’s the same logic as to why we’d use the macrocosmic Seven-Zoned heavenly-arrangement order of the planets to determine the Pole Lord of the day instead of the microcosmic weekday-arrangement order of the planets.

Backing me up, however, Leonardo of Voces Magicae wrote this excellent post some years ago on the nature of counterclockwise motion in the PGM, indeed referencing this very same ritual and the very same things as the celestial pole and why counterclockwise motion mimics the actual motion of things in the skies from a heavenly perspective, backing it up with evidence from the Corpus Hermeticum itself:

In the spatial-spiritual landscape of the Hermetic magicians,  the celestial pole would be seen as nothing less than a direct portal to celestial divinity. As such,  it is fitting that in the Heptagram Opening Rite – a ritual concerned with orientation – the polar divinity is invoked directly…

Perhaps, this was the intent of countermovement in the ritual practices of the PGM. Not necessarily a specific manifestation of a single countermovement cycle, the universe is resplendent with such examples; but rather orienting the practitioner towards the equilibrium and unity of the celestial pole as a source of stability and power by which to approach the deeper mysteries of our cosmos.

Admittedly, this is a bit of a stretch; it’s one thing to understand this tiny Heptagram rite, this dinky Calling of the Sevenths that so many who are familiar with PGM-style magic are aware of, as a planetary attunement ritual to balance and fix planetary powers within ourselves.  It’s something else entirely to say that it’s an act of theurgic elevation unto itself by imitating the arrangement of the stars of Ursa Minor.  That said, it’s the performance of the Calling of the Sevenths immediately before an invocation of Aiōn, where we call on Aiōn as the gods, as the goddesses, as the winds, as the four directions and as the Earth, Sky, and Cosmos itself that makes me think that we’re essentially “stepping” our way through the seven heavens, gaining the power of the seven Pole Lords all at once so that we can finally approach and address Aiōn as the true Ruler of the Pole above the Pole Lords themselves.

This can further help out what we’re doing towards the end of that same invocation, where we see an interesting thing:

I call on your name, the greatest among gods!  If I say it complete, the earth will quake, the sun will stop, the moon will be afraid, the rocks and the mountains and the sea and the rivers and every liquid will be petrified, the whole cosmos will be thrown into confusion!  I call on you, ΙΥΕΥΟ ΩΑΕΗ ΙΑΩ ΑΕΗ ΑΙ ΕΗ ΑΗ ΙΟΥΩ ΕΥΗ ΙΕΟΥ ΑΗΩ ΗΙ ΩΗΙ ΙΑΗ ΙΩΟΥΗ ΑΥΗ ΥΗΑ ΙΩ ΙΩΑΙ ΙΩΑΙ ΩΗ ΕΕ ΟΥ ΙΩ ΙΑΩ, the Great Name!

Become for me Lynx, Eagle, Snake, Phoenix, Life, Power, Necessity, images of God!  ΑΙΩ ΙΩΥ ΙΑΩ ΗΙΩ ΑΑ ΟΥΙ ΑΑΑΑ Ε ΙΥ ΙΩ ΩΗ ΙΑΩ ΑΙ ΑΩΗ ΟΥΕΩ ΑΙΕΗ ΙΟΥΕ ΥΕΙΑ ΕΙΩ ΗΙΙ ΥΥ ΕΕ ΗΗ ΩΑΟΗ ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ ΕΗΙΟΥ ΙΗΕΑ ΩΟΗΟΕ ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ ΑΙΩ Η ΙΙ ΥΥ ΗΗ ΟΑΟΗ ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ ΕΗΙΟΥ ΙΗΕΑ ΩΟΗΟΕ ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ

There’s a fun little note in the text, that ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ ΕΗΙΟΥ ΙΗΕΑ ΩΟΗΟΕ ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ are “seven of the auspicious ones”, probably names, and I’ve hypothesized before that these names relate to the seven “images” given immediately before, which can also be given to the seven planets themselves:

Direction Vowel Planet Image Name
East Α Moon Lynx ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ
KHEKHAMPSIMM
North Ε Mercury Eagle ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ
KHANGALAS
West Η Venus Snake ΕΗΙΟΥ
EĒIOU
South Ι Sun Phoenix ΙΗΕΑ
IĒEA
Down Ο Mars Life ΩΟΗΟΕ
ŌOĒOE
Center Υ Jupiter Power ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ
ZŌIŌIĒR
Up Ω Saturn Necessity ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ
ŌMURUROMROMOS

There’s no explanation, whether in the text itself or in footnotes by Betz, as to the origin of these names or images, and I’m associating them to the planets because it does seem appropriate to the context.  How might we reconcile these names and images?  Though I’ve already made an attempt to explain this before, now that I’m thinking about stars, there are four constellations that would match these images verbatim: Lynx, Aquila, Serpens, and Phoenix.  Of these four, Serpens and Aquila kinda match with their corresponding directions, though Lynx is way too far in the south, and Phoenix is way too far in the southern hemisphere to likely have been used as a constellation; Phoenix, after all, doesn’t show up in Ptolemy’s list of constellations, and its first official documentation in the West comes from the early 1600s.  There could be an association with a specific fixed star, but I’m unsure.

However, traditional accounts of the Phoenix also describe it as eagle-like, but neither eagles nor phoenixes played a role in Egyptian mythology.  If we broaden the semantic notion of “eagle” to mean raptor or predatory birds, then we’d also include hawks and falcons, which would lead us sensibly to the solar gods Horus and Ra.  Horus could reasonably be considered more northern in concept, as one of Horus’ forms is Harpocrates, which I associate with the north according to a variety of PGM selections and which is also generally considered to be the Sun’s renewing strength at the winter solstice.  Ra, being Ra, could be considered the more purely solar, and thus southern, of the pair, and has associations with the Bennu, a type of supernatural heron which was likely the inspiration for the original Phoenix myth in Hellenic cultures, and which was connected to Ra.  So…maybe this is less of a solar thing and more of a mythological one.  If we keep going down that road, then there’s also a mythological connection between the Lynx and the Snake in Egyptian belief: Mafdet, the goddess of the execution of judgment and protector against snakes, was sometimes depicted as a lynx, and the lynx fought existential evil embodied by Apophis, the eternal serpent.

Then we have the issue of the images of Life, Power, and Necessity, which seem more Neoplatonic or even gnostic and less Egyptian in essence to me.  I’m not going to explain those here, but I leave it for consideration how Life could be naturally associated with the Earth and those that live upon it, Power with the power of the gods who live in the sky—which is the association given to the “direction” of Jupiter—and Necessity (i.e. Anankē or Adrasteia) with the primordial, hypercosmic forces that determine the fate and role of all that exists below which is fitting for Saturn, the cosmos, and the notions of Pole Lords and the Ruler of the Pole from above.  A simplistic association, but at least it makes sense in a straightforward manner.

So, let’s assess what we have at this point.  We have:

  • Seven snake-faced virgins, associated with the stars of Ursa Maior, the “seven Fates of Heaven” who “wield golden wands” (PGM IV.662—674)
  • Seven bull-faced youths, associated with the stars of Ursa Minor, the “seven Pole Lords of Heaven” who “are in possession of seven golden diadems” (PGM IV.674—692)
  • Seven “images of God” (PGM XIII.880—887)

Each member of each of these groups of seven can be associated with the same order of planets:

Order Planet Fate
of Heaven
Pole Lord
of Heaven
Image of
God
1 Moon ΧΡΕΨΕΝΘΑΗΣ
KHREPSENTHAĒS
ΑΙΕΡΩΝΘΙ
AIERŌNTHI
ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ
KHEKHAMPSIMM
2 Mercury ΜΕΝΕΣΧΕΗΣ
MENESKHEĒS
ΜΕΡΧΕΙΜΕΡΟΣ
MERKHEIMEROS
ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ
KHANGALAS
3 Venus ΜΕΗΡΑΝ
MEĒRAN
ΑΧΡΙΧΙΟΥΡ
AKHRIKHIŪR
ΕΗΙΟΥ
EĒIOU
4 Sun ΑΡΑΡΜΑΧΗΣ
ARAMAKHĒS
ΜΕΣΑΡΓΙΛΤΩ
MESARGILTŌ
ΙΗΕΑ
IĒEA
5 Mars ΕΧΟΜΜΙΗ
EKHOMMIĒ
ΧΙΧΡΩΑΛΙΘΩ
KHIKHRŌALITHŌ
ΩΟΗΟΕ
ŌOĒOE
6 Jupiter ΤΙΧΝΟΝΔΑΗΣ
TIKHNONDAĒS
ΕΡΜΙΧΘΑΘΩΨ
ERMIKHTHATHŌPS
ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ
ZŌIŌIĒR
7 Saturn ΕΡΟΥ ΡΟΜΒΡΙΗΣ
ERŪ ROMBRIĒS
ΕΟΡΑΣΙΧΗ
EORASIKHĒ
ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ
ŌMURUROMROMOS

Great, okay.  Knowing that the associations of these names (and their corresponding images) are based on highly circumstantial evidence from both PGM IV and PGM XIII as well as other Mithraic and astrological/astronomical connections, let’s talk about what we might be able to ply these names and associations for.  First, let’s summarize some of our findings:

  • Roger Beck (“Interpreting the Ponza Zodiac: II”, Journal of Mithraic Studies, vol. 2, no. 2) says that the Fates of Heaven and the Pole Lords of Heaven are associated with not only moving and controlling the actions and motions of the cosmos, but are also associated with Fate, punishment, and reward.  Moreover, given their role as the stars of the Bear constellations, they are not just symbols of such power and control, but they are agents of it.  Because they have exactly parallel structures, they may also be considered to be seven pairs of deities, one snake-faced virgin and one bull-faced youth, each pair related to one of the seven planets.
  • As indicated from all those Bear charms from before, and based on some of the invocations of PGM XIII, the Pole Lords are not the highest power in the cosmos; they may rule the Pole, and their rulership of the Pole amongst themselves changes from day to day, but they rule the Pole in the name of and under the supervision of a true Ruler of the Pole, which is Aiōn, and in a more properly Mithraic context, Mithras himself, the god of revelation in the Mithras Liturgy.
  • There’s a subtle distinction being implied in PGM XIII that there are planetary rulers and then there are planetary Lords: the ruler of the day “in the Greek reckoning” is not the true Lord, which follows a different method of reckoning.  This recalls the notion of the Greek versus Phoenician method of navigating according to the northern stars: the Greeks originally used Ursa Maior as a general indicator of north, but this gave them varying and vague and wandering results.  The Phoenicians, however, used Ursa Minor and Polaris, which doesn’t wander or vary as much, and so obtained a truer and more steady path north.  What we’re arriving at is an understanding that one can approach the planets “down here” in a microcosmic way or “up there” in a macrocosmic way that is more true and real than the microcosmic.
  • By approaching the macrocosmic (or even hypercosmic) planetary Pole Lords “up there” through imitating their motions and calls upon the true highest, hypercosmiciest Divinity, we can break past the “images” and into a truly higher state of being in communion with the highest divinity, Aiōn, who has power over all fate and happenings.  This is done not through the usual planetary motions, but through the planetary harmonies and rulership of the celestial pole and the stars found there, Ursa Minor.
  • By identifying with the Sun, we start off as “a star wandering about with you and shining forth out of the deep” (PGM IV.574ff), but eventually we come to identify with Aiōn itself in a process not unlike that of the magician in the Headless Rite, where one begins addressing Akephalos but eventually becomes Akephalos.  By becoming the only one who can say the full name of Aiōn, a name “not even the gods can utter”, one takes on the full power of Aiōn, which can only be done through working through, assimilating, and being accepted by the various Pole Lords to become the true Ruler of the Pole.

Not too shabby a result, I suppose.

Now, I’m not in a position to carry out the entire Mithras Liturgy from PGM IV or the entirety of the Eighth and Tenth Hidden Books of Moses from PGM XIII; those are endeavors I’m not willing to commit myself to at the present time.  However, we’ve wheedled enough information out of them to apply some of the cosmological bits from them more generally in PGM-style practice.  Here’s what I would suggest based on my current understanding:

  • The names and images of God from PGM XIII can be used as microcosmic presences of seven planets; thus, an “esoteric” name for the Moon can be KHEKHAMPSIMM, which may be used in PGM rituals to refer to the Moon instead of just saying “the Moon” or Selēnē.
  • The Fates of Heaven from PGM IV are the macrocosmic presences of the seven planets, subservient to the Pole Lords but which are higher than the names and images of the microcosmic planets.  It is these stellar entities that determine what is permissible in the world we live in, and wield authority (their “golden wands”) over the world.  They determine order and structure of things.
  • The Pole Lords of Heaven from PGM IV are the hypercosmic presences of the seven planets, subservient only to Aiōn.  These entities permit powers and ideas to pass in and out of the world under them which they rule (their “golden diadems”) but whose orders the Fates execute in their name.

In other words, it is through the seven Pole Lords that blessings, curses, creations, and destructions are ordered in the world we live in.  Once they give the order, the corresponding Fate executes the will of her Pole Lord through the work of the seven images of God, not just the one specifically granted to the same ruling planet of that Fate and Pole Lord.  Even then, amongst all the planets, it is still the Moon that is most important; knowing that its image is the Lynx, associated with the divinity Madfet, it is the Moon that truly opens up the light and presence of all the Pole Lords and Fates of Heaven, because it is the Moon that is closest to the heart and presence of the constellations of the Pole.  We must always start with the Moon, and through the Moon honor the entirety of the Pole Stars; through the passage of and through the Moon, we can ascend through the other planetary heavens and achieve the blessing and acceptance of the other Fates and Pole Lords of Heaven until we reach the final pair, the last stars of Alkaid and Polaris.  Once we reach them, we have finished our approach to the Pole and then may surmount it, leaving behind this world under their power and entering into the presence and power of Aiōn.

I’m tempted to draw a parallel between the later notions of planets having spirits and intelligences, or to how all the different spirits of the planets in the Picatrix may be thought to have particular roles in the governance and execution of the powers and presence of a planet.  However, that’s not quite the same feeling I get from the Pole Lords and Fates of Heaven.  I’m content with considering the names and images of God from PGM XIII to be esoteric associations of the planets, and I look forward to applying them in rituals that call on them (e.g. “o blessed light of Selēnē shining forth from the East, you who are KHEKHAMPSIMM…”), but it’s calling upon the Pole Lords and Fates that I want to figure out.  Honoring the Pole Lord of the day makes sense, sure, but it also makes sense to honor the Pole Lord with its corresponding Fate, almost as a supercelestial King and Queen, or divinity with its consort.  It makes for a beautiful theurgic mystery, at any rate, and I’d like to take that into meditation and consideration in future works.

I suppose it can make sense to call on the Pole Lord and Fate as PGM-style “planetary intelligences” to guide and direct the powers of the planets “down here”, much as we’d call on Michael and Nakhiel to guide the activities of Sorath, but something about that nags at me.  Still, it’s probably not a bad idea to do just that, especially if what we’re trying to do is plug into a true source of Divinity and bring down immortal power from the immortal heavens.  If nothing else, we’ve figured out a little more about the Pole Lords and the Seven-Zoned of PGM XIII, and now I’m content.

Time to share my findings back on that Facebook post in the PGM group and see if it can’t start more conversation.

Pole Lords and Northern Stars: The Seven Pairs of Divinities from the Mithras Liturgy

Okay, let’s continue.  In the last post, we introduced a funny thing from PGM XIII, the Eighth and Tenth Hidden Books of Moses that I’ve brought up before on this blog now and again.  This thing is the notion of Rulers of the Pole, a type of planetary rulership of a given day that doesn’t follow the normal weekday rulership we’re accustomed to.  There’s not a lot in PGM XIII that describes their use, but similar language is present throughout the PGM when we talk about things involving the Bear-related spells, i.e. the rituals and incantations associated with the northern constellations of Ursa Maior and Ursa Minor, which generally have lunar or Artemisian-type qualities.

This is all well and good, but it’s not really helping us with the whole Pole Ruler thing except giving us interesting detours, especially with the whole serpent thing; serpents are mentioned already in the doxology and cosmogony in the PGM XIII texts and don’t have a relationship to what we’re investigating here.  However, while I was looking through the PGM for other references to serpents and dragons, of course I’d also stumble upon the Mithras Liturgy, PGM IV.475—829.  There’s one particular section in it that definitely caught my eye, lines 264ff:

There also come forth another seven gods, who have the faces of black bulls, in linen loincloths, and in possession of seven golden diadems.  They are the so-called Pole Lords of Heaven, whom you must greet in the same manner, each of them with his own name:

“Hail, of guardiants of the Pivot, o sacred and brave youths, who turn at one command the revolving axis of the Vault of Heaven, who send out thunder and lightning and jolts of earthquakes and thunderbolts against the nations of impious people, but to me, who am pious and god-fearing, you send health and soundness of body and acuteness of hearing and seeing, and calmness in the present good hours of this day, o my lords and powerfully ruling gods!
Hail to you, the first, ΑΙΕΡΩΝΘΙ!
Hail to you, the second, ΜΕΡΧΕΙΜΕΡΟΣ!
Hail to you, the third, ΑΧΡΙΧΙΟΥΡ!
Hail to you, the fourth, ΜΕΣΑΡΓΙΛΤΩ!
Hail to you, the fifth, ΧΙΧΡΩΑΛΙΘΩ!
Hail to you, the sixth, ΕΡΜΙΧΘΑΘΩΨ!
Hail to you, the seventh, ΕΟΡΑΣΙΧΗ!”

Now when they take their place, here and there, in order, look in the air and you will see lightning bolts going down, and lights flashing, and the Earth shaking, and a god descending, a god immensely great, having a bright appearance, youthful, golden-haired, with a white tunic and a golden crown and trousers, and holding in his right hand a golden shoulder of a young bull: this is the Bear which moves and turns heaven around, moving upward and downward in accordance with the hour.  Then you will see lightning bolts leaping from his eyes and stars from his body.

Seven bull-faced youths.  Seven bulls, septem tritones.  We’re getting somewhere, and getting somewhere good!  Interestingly, Betz has a footnote that says: “in the Mithras mysteries, the seven grades of initiates were each under the tutelage of a planetary deity”, and refers to a chapter in Albrect Dieterich’s Mithrasliturgie (1910).  The relevant portion of that text where Dieterich describes these seven youths is as follows (in a crappy translation from the German into English):

Das wahrscheinlichste ist mir, daß bei Einführung der sieben Jünglinge mit Stierköpfen die Repräsentanten der sieben Sterne des großen oder des kleinen Bären mitgewirkt haben; denn die Ägypter dachten sich jedenfalls den großen Bären als Stier oder als Teil eines Stieres. Darüber habe ich gleich weiter zu handeln; wenn Mithras selbst, wie wir sehen werden, mit seiner Hand die Stierschulter, d. i. das Bärengestirn lenkt, so ist es sicher, daß die sieben stierköpfigen Gestalten, die die Achse des Himmels drehen, die sieben Sterne des kleinen Bären sind. Wie es zusammenhängt, daß für unsere Kenntnis gerade der große Bär als Stier oder Stierschenkel oder Schulterblatt eines Stieres gedacht war, kann ich nicht mehr erkennen… Sicher ist auf jeden Fall, daß die Πολοκράτορες die sieben Sterne des kleinen Bären sind.

The most probable thing is that when the seven youngsters with bull heads are introduced, the representatives of the seven stars of Ursa Maior or Ursa Minor are involved; because the Egyptians thought in any case Ursa Maior as a bull or as part of a bull. I have to act on it immediately; if Mithras himself, as we shall see, with his hand the bull’s shoulder, i.e. the Bear Star steers, so it is certain that the seven bull-headed figures, which turn the axis of the sky, are the seven stars of Ursa Minor.  As it is related, that for our knowledge just Ursa Maior was intended as a bull, thigh of a bull, or shoulder blade of a bull, I can no longer recognize… In any case, it is certain that the Polokratores are the seven stars of Ursa minor.

Now we’re getting somewhere, indeed!  Though precious little is known of the ancient Mithras cult, and though the Mithras Liturgy doesn’t really have an official connection with the Mithras cult, it’s folly to deny a connection between the two.  Manfred Clauss describes in The Roman Cult of Mithras: The God and His Mysteries (2001) the seven grades and their most likely planetary associations, from what is likely the lowest rank to highest:

  1. Corax (Raven): Mercury
  2. Nymphus (Bridegroom): Venus
  3. Miles (Soldier): Mars
  4. Leo (Lion): Jupiter
  5. Perses (Persian): Moon
  6. Heliodromus (Sun-runner): Sun
  7. Pater (Father): Saturn

These can be seen and guessed at by the floor mosaic of the Mithraeum of Felicissimus in Ostia, where each grade is symbolically described through its attributes on the way to the focal devotional point of the temple: the Raven with the caduceus of Mercury, the Bridegroom with the circlet of Venus, the Soldier with the weapons of Mars, the Lion with the wreath and sistrum of the King and Queen of the Gods, the Persian with the Crescent and crescent sickle of the Moon, the Sun-runner with the torch and sun-crown and chariot-whip, and the Father with the shepherd’s staff, robes, and other implements of the leader of the cult.  It’s certainly compelling.

However, despite this floorplan of a sacred initiate-only space, it’s unclear whether the order given above really is the order to be considered official, especially given its apparent strangeness; there’s no way to draw a heptagram, for instance between these planets in this order that can get us anything we’ve seen before unless we were to swap a few things around.  That feels like bending things way too much for my comfort level, so let’s just set this initiation order aside.  What’s important is that we have a definite connection between the seven planets and the seven stars of Ursa Minor, each of which can be seen to be representative of one of the planets in an elevated state, each of which rules over the axial pole of rotation of the Earth itself from day to day.  Betz refers to the scholar Roger Beck on a particular zodiacal depiction at the Mithraeum at Ponza (first paper here, second paper here) which also give interesting insight on the role of Ursa Minor (and Ursa Maior) and the pole stars generally.  To summarize Beck’s findings and theories, it really does seem like the depiction of the stars of Ursa Minor really are about an “upwards and inwards” motion of theurgy, as “we pass from the planetary world of the zodiac to the realm of the Sun…and finally to the supreme god at the polar centre”, and that “in both it is a journey of refinement to orders of a higher spirituality”.  If we were looking for a reason to work with the Ruler of the Pole, this is a strong confirmation that our hunch earlier about the parallel with the Earlier Heaven/Later Heaven Sequence of the Ba Gua was on the right track.

At this point, it’s tempting to make that one final leap: linking the seven stars of Ursa Minor to the seven planets, giving the Pole Lords of PGM XIII the names of the seven bull-headed youths from PGM IV.  We’re so close, but we’re missing a definite connection of which youth (and name) is supposed to go with which planet.  Do we use Clauss’ hypothetical ranking of grades, from Mercury to Saturn?  Or do we use the heavenly order of the planets from the lowest heaven of the Moon to the highest heaven of Saturn?  Personally, I’m inclined to use the heavenly order, such that the name of the Moon when she is the Pole Lord is the name of the first bull-headed youth AIERŌNTHI, the name of Mercury as Pole Lord is MERKHEIMEROS, and so forth, but…something about this seems hollow, and I don’t get a confirmation gut-feeling like I normally (recklessly, haphazardly) do.  I’m not willing to bet on it, though I love the simplicity and convenience; something seems missing, even if it’s just confirmation.

If we know that the Pole Lords are the seven stars of Ursa Minor—and we do—is there another way we can consider an “order” to them?  There are two options I can think of: one going by distance out from the end of Ursa Minor and going inwards with the most polar of the stars at the end, or going by brightness by starting from the dimmest and going to the brightest of them.  If we go by distance along the constellation, we get:

  1. β Ursae Minoris, Kochab
  2. γ Ursae Minoris, Pherkad
  3. η Ursae Minoris, Alasco
  4. ζ Ursae Minoris, Ahfa al Farkadain
  5. ε Ursae Minoris
  6. δ Ursae Minoris, Yildun
  7. α Ursae Minoris, Polaris

If, instead, we were to go by the brightness of the stars:

  1. η Ursae Minoris, Alasco
  2. ζ Ursae Minoris, Ahfa al Farkadain
  3. ε Ursae Minoris
  4. δ Ursae Minoris, Yildun
  5. γ Ursae Minoris, Pherkad
  6. β Ursae Minoris, Kochab
  7. α Ursae Minoris, Polaris

Personally, I’m most inclined to think that Polaris itself is given to the quality of Saturn; note how Saturn is the ultimate grade in the Mithraic Mysteries given above, and Saturn is also the only planet that rules both the pole and the day on the same given weekday, as well as it being the highest and most distant of the planetary heavens.  Giving Polaris the final position of honor, I would be comfortable giving it the name of the seventh bull-faced youth, EORASIKHĒ.  That just leaves the remaining six.   It doesn’t seem like we can use traditional stare-lore here; there’s not much in the way about the planetary natures of this set of fixed stars, and many such fixed stars share in multiple planetary similarities.  It’s good to know that Ptolemy gives bright stars to Saturn with a hint of Venus mixed in (especially for Polaris), but that’s about it.

I’m reminded that Kochab and Pherkad are considered even by ancient Egyptians as “guardians of the pole star”, which makes sense as they’re the next two brightest stars in the constellation of Ursa Minor, but they also stand furthest away on the “dipper” part of the Little Dipper while Polaris stands at the tip of the handle.  I’m tempted to give these to the Sun and the Moon, respectively, as representative of their corresponding brightness in the planets; this would also mean that the corresponding planetary Greek vowels for the three brightest stars would be the same three vowels in that almighty name of divinity, ΙΑΩ.  That would mean Kochab gets the Sun, and Pherkad gets the Moon.  These two planets given to these two stars with Polaris given to Saturn collectively set up a pattern where we use the distance-along-the-constellation-lines method along with the weekday ordering of the planets, which gets us the following order and correspondence of names, such that Kochab gets the Sun, Pherkad the Moon, Alasco Mars, and so forth.

Heck, why stop there?  Just before the Mithras Liturgy introduces the seven bull-faced youths, it also introduces seven serpent-faced (!) virgin ladies:

After saying this, you will see the doors thrown open, and seven virgins coming from deep within, dressed in linen garments, and with the face of asps.  They are called the Fates of Heaven, and wield golden wands.  When you see them, greet them in this manner:

“Hail, o seven Fates of Heaven, o noble and good virgins, o sacred ones and companions of ΜΙΝΙΜΙΡΡΟΦΟΡ, o most holy Guardians of the four pillars!
Hail to you, the first, ΧΡΕΨΕΝΘΑΗΣ!
Hail to you, the second, ΜΕΝΕΣΧΕΗΣ!
Hail to you, the third, ΜΕΗΡΑΝ!
Hail to you, the fourth, ΑΡΑΜΑΧΗΣ!
Hail to you, the fifth, ΕΧΟΜΜΙΗ!
Hail to you, the sixth, ΤΙΧΝΟΝΔΑΗΣ!
Hail to you, the seventh, ΕΡΟΥ ΡΟΜΒΡΙΗΣ!”

With this, we have seven snake-headed women and seven bull-headed men.  The men represent the stars of Ursa Minor, and the women represent the stars of Ursa Maior.  We can use the same system, starting at the end of the cup of the Dipper and headed towards the tip of the handle, to associate planets and names to the stars of Ursa Maior.

However, there’s one thing that bugs me about this method being used for this: the name of the fourth lady of Fate, ΑΡΑΡΜΑΧΗΣ or ARARMAKHĒS, which Betz clarifies as being a likely corruption of Harmachis, or Horemakhet, “Horus on the horizon”.  Horus, as we all know, is one of the solar gods of the Egyptian pantheon, and Harmachis specifically represented the dawn and early morning sun.  If we give ARARMAKHĒS to the fourth planet in the weekday system, we’d give it to Mercury, but if we give it to the fourth planet in the heavenly arrangement, we’d give it to the Sun.  So, which do we follow?  Do we keep the same system we built up from before that leads us to the weekday order of the planets, or do we go with a possible etymological connection that can’t be verified to fall in line with the heavenly order?  Given the parallel nature of the snake-headed women of Ursa Maior and the bull-headed men of Ursa Minor and how they mirror each other (“now when they take their place, here [for the women] and there [for the men], in order”), they probably ought to use the same ordering system.  To be honest, the use of the name ARARMAKHĒS is a clue that tilts the system now in favor of the heavenly arrangement of planets, i.e. the “Seven-Zoned”.  This means that we’d give the following stars of Ursa Maior the planets and names of the seven snake-headed women as:

Number Star Planet Mithraic Name
1 α Ursae Maioris
Dubhe
Moon ΧΡΕΨΕΝΘΑΗΣ
KHREPSENTHAĒS
2 β Ursae Maioris
Mirak
Mercury ΜΕΝΕΣΧΕΗΣ
MENESKHEĒS
3 γ Ursae Maioris
Phecda
Venus ΜΕΗΡΑΝ
MEĒRAN
4 δ Ursae Maioris
Megrez
Sun ΑΡΑΡΜΑΧΗΣ
ARAMAKHĒS
5 ε Ursae Maioris
Alioth
Mars ΕΧΟΜΜΙΗ
EKHOMMIĒ
6 ζ Ursae Maioris
Mizar
Jupiter ΤΙΧΝΟΝΔΑΗΣ
TIKHNONDAĒS
7 η Ursae Maioris
Alkaid
Saturn ΕΡΟΥ ΡΟΜΒΡΙΗΣ
ERŪ ROMBRIĒS

Further, because we’d want to use the same system for both the stars of Ursa Maior and of Ursa Maior, that means we’d scrap our weekday order of the planets as discussed above and use the heavenly arrangement of the stars, starting with Kochab as the Moon and Pherkad as Mercury to end with Polaris as Saturn.  This has the nice, pleasing benefit of being that oh-so-special Seven-Zoned arrangement PGM XIII loves so much, but also has a nice geometric arrangement: the closer you get to the pole along the constellated “path” of Ursa Minor from star to star, the higher the heaven you access according to its corresponding planet.

Number Star Planet Mithraic Name
1 β Ursae Minoris
Kochab
Moon ΑΙΕΡΩΝΘΙ
AIERŌNTHI
2 γ Ursae Minoris
Pherkad
Mercury ΜΕΡΧΕΙΜΕΡΟΣ
MERKHEIMEROS
3 η Ursae Minoris
Alasco
Venus ΑΧΡΙΧΙΟΥΡ
AKHRIKHIŪR
4 ζ Ursae Minoris
Ahfa al Farkadain
Sun ΜΕΣΑΡΓΙΛΤΩ
MESARGILTŌ
5 ε Ursae Minoris Mars ΧΙΧΡΩΑΛΙΘΩ
KHIKHRŌALITHŌ
6 δ Ursae Minoris
Yildun
Jupiter ΕΡΜΙΧΘΑΘΩΨ
ERMIKHTHATHŌPS
7 α Ursae Minoris
Polaris
Saturn ΕΟΡΑΣΙΧΗ
EORASIKHĒ

I guess the association of the seven bull-faced youths in order to the seven planets according to the heavenly arrangement would work out well enough in the end, but it was good to actually use the map of the stars of Ursa Minor themselves to make a stronger argument for why that should be so.  I still like the idea of Kochab and Pherkad going to the Sun and the Moon, but on the whole, this system works nicer and cleaner, especially with the connections to the seven snake-faced virgins.  Plus, with the second brightest star being given to the Moon in this scheme, this gives a pleasant balance and return to how important the Moon is when talking about the northern, artic, Bear stars: the Moon represents the initial approach towards sensible divinity, and Saturn the final escape to intelligible Divinity.

This is making huge progress, but we’re not done yet.  Stay tuned, and we’ll talk more about how we might understand the nature, form, and function of these entities, especially when we pair it back to certain things back in PGM XIII.

Pole Lords and Northern Stars: The Ruler of the Pole and the Charms of the Bear

As it turns out, I do belong to other groups on Facebook than just the geomancy one I admin, and just like in that group, many of the discussions in other groups to which I belong are equally as fascinating and helpful.  One such group, the PGM Study & Practice Group, is focused on (mirabile dictu!) the study and practice of rituals and texts from the Greek Magical Papyri (or PGM, as many of my readers know).  I’ve shared some of my works and joined in some conversations there from time to time, and I find it a helpful resource to belong to.

Recently, I made a bit of a post myself, asking for help and experience from others in the group about a particularly interesting and particularly obscure point from PGM XIII, which is a truly fascinating bundle of texts that I’ve discussed before on my blog.  The post I made specifically discussed the nature, purpose, and function of the Ruler of the Pole from these texts:

PGM XIII, the Eighth and Tenth Hidden Books of Moses, uses an interesting device. Before the various spells of PGM XIII.1—343 and at the end of PGM 646—734, we’re given “the technique of determining which god is ruler of the celestial pole” using “The Seven-Zoned” method.

If the day is Sunday (day of Hēlios), the ruler is Selēnē.
If the day is Monday (day of Selēnē), the ruler is Hermēs.
If the day is Tuesday (day of Arēs), the ruler is Aphroditē.
If the day is Wednesday (day of Hermēs), the ruler is Hēlios.
If the day is Thursday (day of Zeus), the ruler is Arēs.
If the day is Friday (day of Aphroditē), the ruler is Zeus.
If the day is Saturday (day of Kronos), the ruler is Kronos.

In other words, however many days have elapsed in the week since Sunday, the further up in the celestial spheres you go. As Sunday marks the beginning of the week, so too does Selēne mark the first celestial sphere; as Saturday marks the end of the week, so too does Kronos mark the last celestial sphere.

My question is: what is this for?

The “celestial pole” is, almost certainly, the pole around which the Earth and all its heavens whirl around, commonly recognized to be Polaris, the North Star, and tail of Ursa Maior. However, PGM XIII doesn’t refer to a way of invoking or referring to the ruler of the pole, just that there apparently is one. In fact, nowhere else in the PGM is the word “pole” used in conjunction with planetary rulers; the only such thing I might be able to even tangentially relate to it is in PGM IV.930—1114, where it calls upon a form of Horus Harpocratēs in a conjuration of sorts by calling upon “you who are seated within the seven poles ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ”, but this seems unrelated and more about the seven supports of the heavens (cf. PGM V.213—303, “The pole [of the sky] will be brought down…”). PGM XIII.1—343 does mention that the student should “learn who is the ruler of that day” along with the “[names of the] gods of the hours, then those set over the weeks”, but this again appears to be something different, like a different god for each day of the year.

So what are we actually recognizing by this “ruler of the pole” method? Are we saying that the North Star, and thus the immortal gate of heaven itself through which we ascend and address the gods, has a planetary affinity that shifts from day to day in a way separate from the planetary rulers of the day? Are we saying that the usual weekday reckoning of the planetary ruler of the day is a blind for a more magical, more woogity kind of planetary rulership of the days? Or is this referring to something we just don’t have extant in the texts anymore? Would you attach any significance to the fact that Saturn is the ruler of the pole as well as of the day on Saturday?

Unfortunately, my attempt at starting a discussion just garnered a lot of likes and not a lot of comments.  So, let me explain what little I understand and think of this particular aspect of this particular segment of the PGM.

Basically, PGM XIII gives us a table like the following that compares the ruler of any day of the week as we’d normally consider it to the ruler of the Pole on that given day.  No matter what the planetary ruler of the day is “in the Greek reckoning”, which is the system we’re most commonly used to in the West based on the planet that rules the first hour of the day starting at sunrise, PGM XIII says instead to recognize the planet that rules over the Pole according to the “Seven-Zoned” (also called “The Monad of Moses” in PGM XIII.646—734).

Weekday Planetary Ruler
Day Ruler
(“Greek reckoning”)
Pole Ruler
(“Seven-Zoned”)
Sunday Hēlios Selēnē
Monday Selēnē Hermēs
Tuesday Arēs Aphroditē
Wednesday Hermēs Hēlios
Thursday Zeus Arēs
Friday Aphroditē Zeus
Saturday Kronos Kronos

The idea behind this organization appears to be that, as the week gets “older” and later, starting from Sunday all the way to Saturday, the Ruler of the Pole on that day gets “older” and higher in the heavens, starting with the Moon and going all the way until Saturn.  Thus, on the first day of the week (Sunday), the Ruler of the Pole is the first closest heaven (the Moon); on the second day (Moon), the second heaven (Mercury); and so forth.  It’s not a matter of picking, like, the midnight planetary hour on each day, as the order of the planets in the Seven-Zoned method doesn’t fit that result.  Plus, it might be significant that the only planet that overlaps its Pole Ruler day with its own weekday is Saturn.

There is a relationship that can be drawn between these too, however.  Recall the Planetary Heptagram that’s used to determine the order of the week by tracing the planets both in a circle as well as in an acute heptagram.  There are different ways we can draw it that end up with the same result, but this is the basic and traditional order:

If we start with the Moon at the top and work counterclockwise around in a simple circle outside the heptagram, we get the order of the planets ascending through the heavens (Moon, Mercury, Venus, &c.).  If we follow the heptagram around clockwise starting from the Moon, we get the order of the planets for the days of the week (Moon, Mars, Mercury, &c.).  Instead of using that heptagram, consider the following obtuse heptagram:

Here, if we start with Moon at the top and go around the circle clockwise, we get the order of the planets in the days of the week (Moon, Mars, Mercury, &c.), and if we follow the heptagram clockwise around starting from the Moon, we get the order of the planets ascending through the heavens (Moon, Mercury, Venus, &c.).  What we basically end up with is the exact inverse arrangement as before, we’re just flipping the arrangement around.  It might be argued that the author of PGM XIII considered the arrangement of planets for the days of the week to be a blind or corruption of a true order, that of the heavens, and by applying the same function that transformed the heavenly arrangement into the weekday arrangement just in reverse, we end up with a corrected, ideal, true order of the planets (kind of like the difference between the Earlier Heaven and Later Heaven sequences of the Ba Gua).

In fact, that comparison to the Earlier Heaven and Later Heaven sequences of the Ba Gua might not be a bad parallel.  If we consider the usual modus operandi of a magician of the PGM, if they’re not outright apotheotizing themselves into God, then they’re often initiating themselves to be their equals as, indeed, we’re doing in the rituals of PGM XIII.  Aiōn, which is basically the divinity being appealed to in this part of the PGM, is considered an eternal god of time, but who’s to say what “time” looks like to such an entity?  Our methods of reckoning time down here on Earth may not really apply “up there”, where another system entirely might be used.  In other words, the different arrangements of the planets apply on different scales of the cosmos: the weekday arrangement of planetary rulers of the day functions on a microcosmic, human level, while the celestial arrangement of the planets functions on a macrocosmic, divine level.  If (and this is a huge “if”) the author of PGM XIII was thinking in this way, then we’d want to appeal, entreat, and approach the gods on their own temporal terms rather than using our own human and worldly systems of planetary time-keeping.  It’s an idea, I suppose, but I have nothing to back it up.

So much for the method and a potential argument as to its function, I suppose.  Even assuming we understand its function, what about its purpose?  Why is it a thing?  Despite the importance of this table and method of determining the planet that rules over the Pole on any given day of the week, it’s not really that apparent why the Ruler of the Pole is supposed to be called upon.  There are exceedingly few references to such a pole in the PGM, and it doesn’t make much sense to interpret them on the same level as what we might find in PGM XIII.  There are a few such mentions, some of which are explicit and some of which are debatable:

  1. The invocation of Aiōn from PGM XIII.1—343, specifically lines PGM XIII.64ff, and again in a minor variant of wording and barbarous names from PGM XIII.570ff:

    I call on you, who are greater than all, the creator of all, you, the self-begotten, who see all and are not seen.  For you gave Hēlios the glory and all the power, Selēnē the privilege to wax and wane and have fixed courses, yet you took nothing from the earlier-born darkness, but apportioned all things that they should be equal. For when you appeared, both Order arose and Light appeared.  All things are subject to you, whose true form none of the gods can see, who change into all forms.  You are invisible, Aiōn of Aiōns.

    I call on you, lord, to appear to me in a good form, for under your order I serve your angel, ΒΙΑΘΙΑΡΒΑΡ ΒΕΡΒΙΡ ΣΧΙΛΑΤΟΥΡ ΒΟΥΦΡΟΥΜΤΡΩΜ, and your fear, ΔΑΝΟΥΦ ΧΡΑΤΟΡ ΒΕΛΒΑΛΙ ΒΑΛΒΙΘ ΙΑΩ. Through you arose the celestial pole and the earth. …

    I call on you, the creator of all, who are greater than all, you, the self-begotten god, who see all hear all and and are not seen.  For you gave Hēlios the glory and the power, Selēnē the privilege to wax and wane and have fixed courses, yet you took nothing from the earlier-born darkness, but assigned them equality [with it]. For when you appeared, both Order arose and Light appeared, and all things were arranged by you.  Therefore all things are also subject to you, whose true form none of the gods can see, who take different forms in [different] visions, Aiōn of Aiōns.

    I call on you, lord, that you may show me your true form. For under your order I serve your angel, ΑΝΟΓ ΒΙΑΘΙΑΒΑΡ ΒΕΡΒΙ ΣΧΙΛΑΤΟΥΡ ΒΟΥΦΡΟΥΜΤΩΡΜ, and your fear ΔΑΝΟΥΠ ΧΡΑΝΤΩΡ ΒΕΛΒΑΛΙ ΒΑΛΒΙΘ ΙΑΩ. Through you arose the [celestial] pole and the earth. …

  2. Ritual practice from lines PGM XIII.114ff and again from PGM XIII.671ff. Though the use of a god of a day in this context might refer to one of the gods of the individual 365 days of the year, the specific phrasing leads me to believe it’s discussing the Ruler of the Pole of the day.

    Accordingly, as I said before, when you have purified yourself in advance [through the last seven days] while the Moon is waning, at the dark of the Moon begin sleeping on the ground on a pallet of rushes.  Rising at dawn, greet Hēlios through seven days, each day saying first the [names of the] gods of the hours, then those set over the weeks.  Also [each day], learning who is the ruler of that day, keep after him, saying “Lord, on such-and-such a day, I am calling the god to the sacred sacrifices”—doing so until the eighth day.

    Accordingly, as I have said before, when you have purified yourself in advance [through the last] seven days while the Moon is waning, at the dark of the Moon begin sleeping on the ground. Rising at dawn, greet the Sun through seven days, each day saying first the [names of the] gods of the hours, then those set over the weeks. Also [each day], learning who is the ruler of that day, keep after him, saying “Lord, on such-and-such a day I am calling the god to the sacred sacrifices”—doing so until the eighth day.

  3. Sacrifice protocol from PGM XIII.376ff.  However, despite being a “ruler of the day in some sense”, what’s being referred to here probably refers instead to a ruler of one of the 365 days of the year, especially given its use along with gods of the hours, each with their own compulsive or restraining formula that we see traces of later in the Hygromanteia tradition.  This is different than the juxtaposition of the “ruler of that day” from the above section, because it’s separated from the gods of the hours which are bundled with the gods of the weeks.

    The tasting of the victims is done [in] this way: When you are ready to taste them, sacrifice the rooster, so that [the god] may receive lots of spirit, and at the point of tasting, call on the god of the hour and him of the day, so that you may have sponsorship from them.  For if you do not invoke them, they will not hear you, as being uninitiated.  Now you will find [the names of] the gods of the hours and those of the days, and the compulsive formula for each of them in the Key of Moses, for he set them out one by one.

  4. Invocation of Aiōn from PGM XIII.844ff:

    I call on you, eternal and unbegotten, who are one, who alone hold together the whole creation of all things, whom none understand, whom the gods worship, whose name not even the gods can utter.  Inspire from your breath, ruler of the pole, him who is under you; accomplish for me the NN. thing. …

This is basically all I can find in PGM XIII about the Ruler of the Pole, so as important as it might be for the text to point out how to determine the Ruler of the Pole, it’s apparently not that important except in how to address maybe one or two prayers and how to consider the temporal qualities of Aiōn on a day-to-day basis.  None of these few uses, most of which are limited to just references to Aiōn as being a generic ruler (or a sort of hyperstasis of the individual planets, a sort of planet-behind-the-planets or the very Platonic Idea of Planet itself?), give much of a hint of what we’re doing by invoking the Ruler of the Pole.

Let’s back up a bit, I suppose.  What, exactly, is the “Pole” being ruled over?  There are two possible candidates for this: the ecliptic pole (the pole of the planet of the ecliptic, the orbital path of the Sun as viewed from the Earth) and the axial pole (the pole around which the Earth itself rotates on a daily basis).  Though these two poles are similar, they are not identical; after all, the ecliptic is tilted slightly to the rotation of the Earth, which is why we have seasons.  The axial pole of the Earth is basically the North Star, Polaris, which is the tail of Ursa Minor, or the Litte Dipper.  On the other hand, the ecliptic pole of the Earth, along with all the other planets in the Solar System, lies further off in the nearby constellation of Draco.

This was the point of the only small conversation that my post in the Facebook group started, mostly by my good colleague Freeman Presson.  Freeman had the idea that, in a sense, every planet is conjunct the Pole by longitude in the same sense that, if you yourself are standing at the North Pole on Earth, any direction you face or travel will be south.  Because of this, every planet could be seen as being eternally in communion with the Pole, even if they’re separated by latitude.  However, someone else popped in to say that that’s not quite right, and that the pole of the ecliptic is not the same as the pole of the axial rotation of the Earth, and the two don’t really line up that well here.  It was something to consider at least, but it doesn’t really get us much of anywhere.

To be honest, I think it’s far more likely that it really is the axial pole of the Earth (the one that points to Polaris and Ursa Minor) it the one being referred to.  While I’m sure the ecliptic pole was known, there’s far more emphasis in the PGM on the use of the pole stars Polaris, Ursa Minor, and Ursa Maior, with many “bear charms” and other works with the northern stars.  Plus, it does help that both Ursa Minor and Ursa Maior both have seven stars each; indeed, the old Latin word for “north” is “septentrio”, from “septem triones” meaning “seven oxen” or “seven bulls”.  When we look at the Bear-related spells from the PGM, we get a better understanding of some of the power of this figure, or at least the station of this figure (bold text emphasizes similarities with the description of the Ruler of the Pole in PGM XIII):

  1. PGM IV.1275—1322 (“Bear charm which accomplishes everything”): I call upon you, the greatest power in heaven, in the Bear, appointed by the Lord God to turn with a strong hand the holy Pole, ΝΙΚΑΡΠΟΛΗΞ!  Listen to me, Hēlios, Phre!  Hear the holy prayer, you who hold together the universe and bring to life the whole world…ΘΩΖΟΠΙΘΗ, Bear, greatest goddess, ruling heaven, reigning over the Pole of the stars, highest, beautiful-shining goddess, incorruptible element, composite of the all, all-illuminating, bond of the universe ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ ΕΗΙΟΥΩΑ ΗΙΟΥΩΑΕ ΙΟΥΩΑΕΗ ΟΥΩΑΕΗΙ ΥΩΑΕΗΙΟ ΩΑΕΗΙΟΥ, you who stand on the pole, you whom the Lord God appointed to turn the holy Pole with a strong hand
  2. PGM IV.1323—1330 (“Another [Bear charm]”): ΚΟΜΦΘΟ ΚΟΜΑΣΙΘ ΚΟΜΝΟΥΝ, you who shook and shake the world, you who have swallowed the ever-living serpent and daily raise the disk of the Sun and of the Moon, you whose name is ΙΘΙΟΩ ΗΙ ΑΡΒΑΘΙΑΩ Η, send up to me, NN., at night the daimon of this night to reveal to me concerning the NN. matter.
  3.  PGM VII.686—702 (“Bear charm”): Bear, Bear, you who rule the heaven, the stars, and the whole world; you who make the axis turn and control the whole cosmic system by force and compulsion, I appeal to you, imploring and supplicating that you may do the NN. thing, because I call upon you with your holy names at which your deity rejoices, names which you are not able to ignore…

The thing about many of these Bear charms is that they bear (heh) some semantic similarities and connections to the Hellenic goddess Artemis, due to the myth of her companion Callisto transformed into the constellation of Ursa Maior and the view that Callisto was seen to be an aspect or manifestation of Artemis herself.  From Artemis, connections can be drawn to Selēnē, the Moon, and from the Moon to the Egyptian god Thoth.  Yes, Thoth, who was considered by the Egyptians themselves to be a lunar deity (consider the fact that he is often depicted as wearing a lunar crown and that the crescent shape of the beak of the ibis recalls the shape of the crescent Moon).  Though epithets and praise names of this god are many, some of the more relevant ones are:

  • Who fashioned all things
  • Who made all that exists
  • Bull among the stars (remember the “seven bulls” of the northern stars!)
  • Who determines fate
  • Who glorifies the two eyes (yes, the eyes of Horus, but remember “you gave Hēlios the glory and the power, Selēnē the privilege to wax and wane and have fixed courses…”)
  • Governor of Ma’at (i.e. Truth or Fate) in heaven and Earth
  • Lord of heaven
  • According to whose word the Ennead acts

There are even some texts that give Thoth descriptions and praises in similar patterns and wordings to Akephalos, the Headless One of the Headless Rite.  While I’m not suggesting that Thoth is the Ruler of the Pole or the North Star here, I am suggesting that many of the same qualities of a pantokrator/cosmocrator/all-ruler god transfer over based on similar ideas and notions.  In other words, I’m definitely freestyling my correspondences and connections here, but rather than saying “X is Y”, I’m saying that “X is like Y”.

Anyway.  It’s also fascinating to see mentioned in PGM IV.1323—1330 that reference to “you who have swallowed the ever-living serpent”, which could, if we were to take a staunchly pro-stellar view, refer to the constellation Draco, which might be viewed as a sort of conquering of the ecliptical pole by the axial pole.  It could also relate, as Betz notes in a footnote to PGM IV.930—1114, to the serpent Apophis who daily attempts to devour the bark of Re.  Other references to serpents yields PGM VII.300, another lunar spell that also includes an ibis (!) and a reference to the explicitly lunar god Khonsu, has a particular “circled-ibis” phylactery:

ΣΑΧΜΟΥ ΟΖΟΖΟ, you the one who thunders, the one who shakes the heaven and the earth, the one who has swallowed the Serpent, hour by hour raising the disk of the Sun and surrounding the Moon, ΧΩΝΣΟΥ ΟΧΧΑ ΕΝΣΟΥ Ο ΒΙΒΕΡΟΗΣΟΣ.  Write on your left hand with myrrh ink these things surrounding the ibis.

Similar incantations also exist in PGM VII.359—369 (“Request for a dream oracle”).  PGM VIII.1—63, however, includes a neat little tidbit: an aspect of Hermēs called upon for a binding love spell, but the aspect of which is given the description “in the north you have the form of a serpent”.  Betz notes that this refers to the deity Uto or Wadjet, who is often found associated with the north.  This whole “conquering” or “swallowing of the serpent” could also refer, historically, to the slow shift of the North Star to Polaris in Ursa Minor from Thuban, α Draconis, from some two- to three-thousand years prior.  It’s an idea, I suppose.

This is fascinating, but we’re not where we need just yet to figure out what the Rulers of the Pole are or what they do.  We know that the Pole being ruled over has something to do with Polaris and the constellations of Ursa Maior and Ursa Minor, but that’s about it; we’re not seeing anything in PGM XIII or the Bear charms that are giving us a hint about these specific “rulers of the pole”.  But there are other hints in the PGM and from the classical world that can tip us off in the right direction; we’ll handle that in the next post.

Another Look at the Circle of Petosiris

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day Name Modifier Sum
Word Value Word Value
1 ΠΡΩΤΗ 1288 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 1589
2 ΔΕΥΤΕΡΗ 822 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 1123
3 ΤΡΙΤΗ 718 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 1019
4 ΤΕΤΑΡΤΗ 1014 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 1315
5 ΠΕΜΠΤΗ 513 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 814
6 ΕΚΤΗ 333 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 634
7 ΕΒΔΟΜΗ 129 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 430
8 ΟΓΔΟΗ 155 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 456
9 ΕΝΑΤΗ 364 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 665
ΕΝΝΑΤΗ 414 715
10 ΔΕΚΑΤΗ 338 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 639
11 ΕΝΔΕΚΑΤΗ 393 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 694
12 ΔΩΔΕΚΑΤΗ 1142 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 1443
13 ΔΕΚΑΤΗ ΤΡΙΤΗ 1056 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 1357
14 ΔΕΚΑΤΗ ΤΕΤΑΡΤΗ 1352 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 1653
15 ΔΕΚΑΤΗ ΠΕΜΠΤΗ 851 ΣΕΛΗΝΗ 301 1152
ΠΕΝΤΕ ΚΑΙ ΔΕΚΑΤΗ 809 1110
16 ΔΕΚΑΤΗ ΕΚΤΗ 671 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 809
ΕΞ ΚΑΙ ΔΕΚΑΤΗ 434 572
17 ΔΕΚΑΤΗ ΕΒΔΟΜΗ 447 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 585
ΕΠΤΑ ΚΑΙ ΔΕΚΑΤΗ 755 893
18 ΔΕΚΑΤΗ ΟΓΔΟΗ 453 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 591
ΟΚΤΩ ΚΑΙ ΔΕΚΑΤΗ 1539 1677
19 ΔΕΚΑΤΗ ΕΝΑΤΗ 702 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 840
ΕΝΝΕΑ ΚΑΙ ΔΕΚΑΤΗ 480 618
20 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ 613 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 751
21 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ ΠΡΩΤΗ 1901 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 2039
22 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ ΔΕΥΤΕΡΗ 1435 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 1573
23 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ ΤΡΙΤΗ 1331 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 1469
24 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ ΤΕΤΑΡΤΗ 1627 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 1765
25 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ ΠΕΜΠΤΗ 1126 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 1264
26 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ ΕΚΤΗ 946 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 1084
27 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ ΕΒΔΟΜΗ 742 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 880
28 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ ΟΓΔΟΗ 768 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 906
29 ΕΙΚΟΣΤΗ ΕΝΑΤΗ 977 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 1115
30 ΤΡΙΑΚΟΣΤΗ 1009 ΚΟΙΛΗ 138 1147

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michaelmas Present: Litany of the Holy Archangels

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

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.