On Hermetic Tormentors and Egyptian Sins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Abbreviated Barbarous Name in a Solar Vision Spell from PGM Va

As part of a little research project of mine, I’ve been trying to come up with magical formulas that consist of five or six words or simple phrases.  We’ll talk more about why later on once I get to that point in my research and have a post to share about it, but for now, suffice it to say that I was flipping through the PGM again recently, and came across a short little entry, PGM Va.1—3.  There’s no title or heading for this, though Betz classifies it as a “spell for direct vision”:

O Hēlios ΒΕΡΒΕΛΩΧ ΧΘΩΘΩΜΙ ΑΧ ΣΑΝΔΟΥΜ ΕΧΝΙΝ ΖΑΓΟΥΗΛ, bring me into union with you!
(Add the usual, then anoint yourself, and you will have a direct vision).

(Transliteration of the barbarous words: BERBELŌKH KHTHŌTHŌMI AKH SANDŪM EKHNIN ZAGŪĒL)

Short and simple, I guess.  But something is weird about this already, given its unusual PGM index number of Va, seemingly belonging neither to PGM V nor PGM VI.  Sure enough, Betz indicates that this papyrus doesn’t belong to PGM V, the famous Papyrus 46 from the British Library, nor to PGM VI, which is Papyrus 121 from the same collection.  Rather, PGM Va belongs to the Stockholm Papyrus, aka the Papyrus Graecus Holmiensis, a collection of chemical and alchemical formulae and recipes largely focusing on gems, pearls, and textile dyeing.  It’s only at the very end of this papyrus on a separate folio that we find the following (the whole scan of which is up on the World Digital Library):

Preisendanz gives the transcription of this as:

Ἥλιε ΒΕΡΒΕΛΩΧ ΧΘΩΘΩΜΙ Α̅Χ̅ ΣΑΝΔΟΥΜ
ΕΧΝΙΝ ΖΑΓΟΥΗΛ, ἔχε με συνιστάμενον.
Κοινά, καὶ τότε ἐγχρίου, καὶ αὐτοπτήσεις.

The way Preisendanz includes this papyrus is such that it comes between PGM V and PGM VI, and thus immediately follows the final two parts of PGM V, PGM V.447—458 and PGM V.459—489.  It’s these segments that give us the Divine Illumination of Dreams ritual and the Invocation to the Supreme Nous that I discussed not too long ago, which share some similar barbarous words as this one (ΧΘΕΘΩΝΙ similar to ΧΘΩΘΩΜΙ, ΖΑΓΟΥΡΗ similar to ΖΑΓΟΥΗΛ).

Importantly, note something in the original manuscript and in Preisendanz that’s not in Betz: the overline over ΑΧ.  This indicates one of two things: that it’s either a number (which is incredibly unlikely in this case, but if it were, it’d be 601), or it’s an abbreviation for another word.  The author of the Stockholm Papyrus uses abbreviations regularly, like Η̅Μ̅ for ἡμέρα “day”, but Α̅Χ̅ is likely an abbreviation for another barbarous word.  The question then becomes: which barbarous word would Α̅Χ̅ stand for?

Without other context, I’m not 100% sure what this abbreviation would refer to.  The word that immediately comes to mind would be ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ (AKRAMMAKHAMAREI), but I’m sure there are other candidates for this, too, like ΑΧΑΧ (“AKHAKH”, PGM1.42ff, PGM III.410ff) or ΑΧΒΑ (“AKHBA” as a name for Aiōn from the Mithras Liturgy in PGM IV.475ff).  ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ also appears in the short victory charm in PGM VII.1017ff, which directly starts off hailing Hēlios, and also in PGM XII.153ff, a spell for divine revelation, which also includes a name, ΒΑΡΒΑΡΒΕΛΩΧΑ ΒΑΡΒΑΙΑΩΧ (“BARBARBELŌKHA BARBARIAŌKH”), tantalizingly similar to ΒΕΡΒΕΛΩΧ in PGM Va.

However, given the similarity of ΖΑΓΟΥΗΛ to the name ΖΑΓΟΥΡΗ (“ZAGŪRĒ”) which is in PGM V.447—489 as well as in (amongst other parts of the PGM as a whole) PGM XIII, we can also pick up on the name ΑΧΕΒΥΚΡΩΜ (“AKHEBUKRŌM”), which later on in PGM XIII is explicitly called “the name of Hēlios” and “signifies the flame and radiance of the disk”.  However, unlike ΖΑΓΟΥΡΗ or ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ, both of which are fairly common throughout the PGM, the name ΑΧΕΒΥΚΡΩΜ only appears in PGM XIII.  I suppose it helps that this papyrus is contemporaneous with PGM Va and has the same Theban provenance, but perhaps more importantly, it has been noted before that PGM Va and the first 21 folios of PGM XIII are written in the same hand, giving more weight that ΑΧΕΒΥΚΡΩΜ is the real name here.

It’s also more convenient that ΑΧΕΒΥΚΡΩΜ actually starts with “ΑΧ” unlike ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ, which would have to be broken into ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑ and ΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ in order for the abbreviation Α̅Χ̅ to make sense.  Breaking up a name like this based on syllables isn’t that uncommon (like Μ̅Ρ̅ for Μαρια), but seeing that this divine name likely has its origins with Aramaic עקר מכמרי‬ `aqar makhmarei (“uproot the nets”, i.e. a magical command to dispel the magical powers and protections upon someone), dividing it along the lines of ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑ and ΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ seems unlikely.

So, depending on how you want to reckon it, Α̅Χ̅ is most likely an abbreviation for either ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ or ΑΧΕΒΥΚΡΩΜ.  This means that we’d repair our solar invocation of PGM Va.1—3 as either:

  1. ΒΕΡΒΕΛΩΧ ΧΘΩΘΩΜΙ ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ ΣΑΝΔΟΥΜ ΕΧΝΙΝ ΖΑΓΟΥΗΛ
    (“BERBELŌKH KHTHŌTHŌMI AKRAMMAKHAMAREI SANDŪM EKHNIN ZAGŪĒL”)
  2. ΒΕΡΒΕΛΩΧ ΧΘΩΘΩΜΙ ΑΧΕΒΥΚΡΩΜ ΣΑΝΔΟΥΜ ΕΧΝΙΝ ΖΑΓΟΥΗΛ
    (“BERBELŌKH KHTHŌTHŌMI AKHEBUKRŌM SANDŪM EKHNIN ZAGŪĒL”)

Personally, the more I think about it, the more ΑΧΕΒΥΚΡΩΜ makes sense, given that PGM Va is about a solar divine revelation and that ΑΧΕΒΥΚΡΩΜ is explicitly identified as a solar word/name—although some scholars have contended that ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ is still a solar word in its own right along with other famous barbarous words like ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, so I guess it could go either way depending on how you look at the evidence.  However, given all the historical, linguistic, and symbolic evidence here, I lean towards ΑΧΕΒΥΚΡΩΜ, but without seeing any other examples of either of these barbarous words abbreviated, I suppose it’s up to experimentation and divination to clarify the way forward.

As for actually using this invocation, well…there’s not a lot to really help us out, besides the ever-delightful “add the usual”, though the instruction to “anoint yourself, and you will have a direct vision” does help.  I suppose we could preface this (or follow it up) by reciting the Invocation to the Supreme Nous from PGM V.459ff, though the use of the name “Zeus” and lack of any overt solar symbolism seems to make this a less-than-ideal candidate.  PGM XIII.1ff has a good couple of candidates, such as the invocations from lines 255—261 and 335—341 that are explicitly for making Hēlios appear, to be said facing the east and to be used to “perform the acts of thanksgiving to Hēlios, rites to fetch lovers, send dreams, ask for dreams, make Hēlios appear, attain goals, win victories, and in short, everything”:

I am he on the two cherubim at the middle of the cosmos,
between Heaven and Earth, Light and Darkness, Night and Day, Rivers and Sea!
Appear to me, o archangel of God, set in authority by the One and Only Himself!

Using this method, however, there is a chance that Hēlios could appear “glowering”, i.e. upset or angry at you for having called him at an inopportune time.  According to the practice given in PGM XIII.1ff, follow the above with this to ask for another suitable time for the operation:

Specify an hour, a day, a month, a year, o Lord of Life!

Alternatively, the whole of the Preliminary Invocation of the Heptagram Rite from PGM XIII.734ff, to be used before the actual Calling of the Sevenths, may also work well, or this could be incorporated into the Heptagram Rite generally specifically for a solar and divine revelation.  Or you could just, well, “add the usual” according to your own usual practices.

As for the ointment with which you are to anoint yourself, this could be something as simple as pure olive oil or an oil composed of solar ingredients and prayed over, but there are plenty of other options we could pick, too, from other PGM sections:

  • PGM IV.475ff (the Mithras Liturgy): the oil of the mystery composed of a sacred sun scarab, lotus fruit pulp, honey, and rose oil
  • PGM V.54ff (another short direct vision spell): anoint the right eye with water from a shipreck or sunken skiff, and the left eye with kohl (“Coptic eyepaint”) with the same water
  • PGM V.213ff (Hermes’ ring to be used for revelation): salve of lilies, myrrh, or cinnamon
  • PGM XXXVI.221ff (a prayer to Hēlios for victory and restraining anger): just plain oil

Going back to the original topic of the post, on what barbarous name Α̅Χ̅ stands for, I should point out that I would never have noticed that this is actually an abbreviation for a name and not the word ΑΧ itself if I hadn’t looked past Betz and inquired about the origins and earlier versions of this text.  As I’ve seen discussed a number of times on Facebook PGM groups and by other amazing occult authors and writers, the more we take a deeper look at the PGM in Betz, the more we find simple mistakes or omissions that weren’t there in either the original manuscript or in Preisendanz’ critical Greek version of the PGM.  It behooves many of us to do this sort of deeper digging and diving, not only because it can lead to newer and surprising revelations and approaches to this sort of magic, but also because we have the technology, resources, and community collaboration to do this that wasn’t available even a few years ago.

Colors of the Planets

The core components of much of the ritual I do is simple: a candle lit for God and prayer.  Everything else is, strictly speaking, optional.  Yes, even incense, especially when simply performing prayer and adoration of the Divine, as Hermēs tells his students towards the end of the Perfect Sermon:

[Asclepius said:] “Let us suggest to father, Tat,—what he did bid us do,—that we should say our prayer to God with added incense and with unguents.”

Whom when Thrice-greatest heard, he grew distressed and said: “Nay, nay, Asclepius; speak more propitious words! For this is like to profanation of [our] sacred rites, when thou dost pray to God, to offer incense and the rest. For naught is there of which He stands in need, in that He is all things, or all are in Him. But let us worship, pouring forth our thanks. For this is the best incense in God’s sight, when thanks are given to Him by men.”

So, really, even perhaps my candle lit for God, a sacred flame I have burning at my main shrine whenever I do any sort of temple work, could be considered extraneous; I prefer, following usual ancient practices, to always have a sacred lamp lit with a sacred fire, so that I never pray or work in darkness.  But, when performing pure theurgy, Hermēs suggests that prayer is the only required element—indeed, the only element that should be used.

But that’s really only applicable for God and the highest-of-the-high practices I engage in.  And there are a lot of other gods and practices I engage in, and other components, like incense, are pretty damn useful.

I don’t think I’m making a controversial claim for when I say that everything present in a ritual should be present to further that ritual’s application and efficacy; having extra elements or components there that either aren’t used or aren’t related to the ritual shouldn’t be there in the ritual itself.  This is far from encouraging minimalism, of course; with this maxim, you can get as complex and as complicated, as embellished and exaggerated as you like, by throwing in element after component or tool after supply into a ritual.  Sometimes, that can be extremely helpful; other times, not so much.  But this goes far beyond simply the choice or variety of incense and libation; everything in a ritual, down to the thread used to hem your robes (or sweatpants), can be engineered towards a particular ritual.  After all, if you want to take a more psychological or semantic approach to ritual, everything in a ritual is a symbol, and all symbols have meaning.  And color symbolism is huge in many kinds of occult and spiritual work.

With my renewed Hermetic practice I’ve been working on since the beginning of the year, I’ve been mulling over how I would want to make a new set of planetary talismans.  I have an old set from when I was doing Fr. Rufus Opus’ Red Work course, which I’ve used ever since, and have been solid tools in their own right.  Materially, they’re just halves of wooden craft yo-yos that I took apart; taking them apart left a hole in the underside of them, which I filled with the appropriate planetary metal, and after I did that, I woodburned the name and seal of the planetary angel and used the planetary characters from the Magical Calendar (originally(?) used for the Table of Practice from the Ars Paulina of the Lemegeton) around the sides.  The effect was pretty nifty, if I do say so myself.

For these talismans, I painted each talisman in an appropriate planetary color: purple for the Moon, orange for Mercury, green for VEnus, yellow for the Sun, red for Mars, blue for Jupiter, and black for Saturn.  Of course, “appropriate” here could be debated; the source for these colors is largely taken from Golden Dawn practice using their Queen scale of colors for the sephiroth of the Hermetic Tree of Life.  Of course, the Queen scale—perhaps the most commonly known and used—is just one of four scales; there’s also the King scale (indigo, violet purple, amber, clear pink rose, orange, deep violet, crimson), the Prince scale (very dark purple, russet red, bright yellowish green, rich salmon, bright scarlet, deep purple, dark brown), and the Princess scale (citrine flecked azure, yellowish brown flecked gold, olive flecked gold, golden amber, red flecked black, deep azure flecked yellow, grey flecked pink).  The link above gives an appreciable examples of all these colors (which, rather than being vague suggestions, were actually meant to be quite exact and specific), as well as for the other sephiroth and each of the paths on the Tree of Life.  Complicated, to be sure, but if nothing else, the Golden Dawn takes complication and turns it into an art form.  Plus, those who have ever read Alan Moore’s comic series Promethea (still a great primer on popular modern Western Hermetic mystery cosmology from a Golden Dawn/Thelemic standpoint) will find these colors for the planets incredibly familiar, as the artist specifically used these color scales for the sephiroth as Sophie Bangs (and Promethea) ascends through them from Earth/Malkuth to God/Kether.

But…well, I’m not a Golden Dawn magician.  Like, I’ve never done the LBRP, or any [LG][IB]R[PH] type of ritual, or a Middle Pillar, or whatever.  While these colors (or at least the Queen scale colors) are incredibly common, and incredibly useful, this surely can’t be the only magical color system for the planets, and while I don’t want to fix what’s not broken, I do want to try distancing myself from Golden Dawn stuff and see if other systems work, hopefully as well if not better.  To that end, I’ve been looking into what other options there might be in the usual magical literature we typically consult from the pre-Golden Dawn days, like Agrippa et al., and seeing what such color symbolism might already have been present in classical or antique times.

For the usual grimoires we might turn to, we can find color lists in the following texts:

Plotting them out and comparing them, we can get a color table like the following:

Planet Key of Solomon Key of Knowledge Agrippa

Colors

Agrippa Planets Agrippa Clothes
Saturn black black black, earthy,
leaden, brown
dull blue black
Jupiter celestial blue green sapphire, “airy colors”,
green, clear, purple, darkish, golden,
mixed with silver
pale citrine blue
Mars red red (“vermilion”) red, burning/fiery/flaming colors,
violet, purple, bloody/iron colors
fiery red red
Sun gold, yellow, citron rich yellow (“saffron”),
green
gold, saffron, purple, bright colors yellow or
glittering red
yellow, gold
Venus green azure, violet white, pale colors,
eye-catching colors,
ruddy between saffron and purple
white and shining,
or red
white, green
Mercury mixed colors yellow-orange
(“eggyolk”)
glittering mixed and changing
Moon silver or argentine earth white
(“white lead”)
“fair” (pale white) green, silver

I’m sure there are plenty of other Western Renaissance and medieval sources for attributing magical colors to the planets, but this is already lining up to be kinda uniform, and we can see how such a color system informed the Golden Dawn set—at least as far as the Queen scale is confirmed.  But the use of color symbolism for the planets is much older than this; it’s not like colors are a new thing for magicians or people generally.  As many of my readers know, using rituals and information from the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM) is one of my favorite things to do, so I thought about looking back to classical and pre-modern sources in the West for more information.  Happily and fortuitously, Tony Mierzwicki in his Graeco-Egyptian Magick has basically already done the work for us there.  I’ll summarize his findings and sources:

  • PGM CX.1—12, some sort of astrological divination that uses mineral or metallic objects: Sun, gold; Moon, silver; Saturn, obsidian; Mars, yellow-green onyx; Venus, lapis lazuli streaked with “gold” (pyrite); Mercury, turquoise (καλλάϊνος, literally “like a precious stone of a greenish blue”, turquoise or chrysolite, or even the famous blue-green Egyptian faïence); Jupiter, “a dark blue stone, but underneath of crystal” (“ὁ δὲ Ζεὺς ᾔτῳ κυάνου λίθου ὑπὸ δὲ κρυστάλλου”, possibly amethyst).  Mierzwicki gives the “apparent colors” for these planets then as: Sun, gold; Moon, silver; Saturn, black; Mars, yellow-green; Venus, blue; Mercury, blue-green; Jupiter, dark blue and clear (or indigo/dark puple and white).
  • Mierzwicki also matches PGM CX.1—12 with evidence from the seven-stepped zigurrats of Ecbatana and Khorsabad, according to Herodotus and archaeological evidence, respectively: gold/gold, silver/silver-grey, orange/orange, blue/blue, red/reddish-purple, black/black, white/white.  Mierzwicki gives these the planets Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter, respectively.

It’s important to note that red is generally a taboo color in PGM and Egyptian stuff generally, as it’s considered to be a color associated with Set, and thus Typhōn.  This is why so many PGM rituals call for “lamps that are not colored red”, and might explain the lack of red in the above PGM text, which appears to be currently the only one known that links particular colors (well, stones and minerals) to the planets.  However, scanning through the rest of the PGM for bits and pieces that are color-related, we can also get the following:

  • PGM XII.270ff:  heliotrope (green chalcedony with small spots of red jasper) for the Sun
  • PGM V.213ff: “costly green stone” (“σμάραγδον πολυτελῆ”, “expensive emerald”) for a scarab ring to speak with the Sun
  • PGM VI.2622ff: purple used to color a skin that encloses a phylactery for calling upon the Moon
  • PGM V.370ff: purple used for a cord to wrap up hair as a sacrifice to the Moon (well, really, Hermēs, but here meaning Thoth as a lunar god)
  • PGM IV.2891ff: white used for a dove as an offering to Venus
  • PGM IV.3209ff: white used for a saucer and wax for a saucer divination under Venus
  • PGM VII.478ff: white used for a dove, the droppings of which are used in a ritual to Eros, connected to Venus
  • PDM xiv.920ff and 933ff: white is the color of a stone called “foam of the moon”, like galbanum or glass

So, not a lot, as it turns out.  But at least we have something we can plot out in another table:

Planet PGM CX.1—12 Babylonian Other PGM
Saturn black black
Jupiter dark blue/purple and white white
Mars yellow green (or red) red
Sun yellow, gold yellow, gold green
Venus rich blue blue white
Mercury light blue-green orange
Moon white, grey, silver silver purple, white

Funnily enough, in the process of writing this post, one of my mutual followers on Astrology Twitter, @jaysunkei, posted a surprised tweet about planetary colors, especially that for the planet Mercury, which started off a whole bunch of conversations about different texts and traditions of colors, including those listed above:

The stuff posted in that Twitter thread gives us even more options to work with based on a variety of astrological sources as well as cultural ones (cf. David McCann’s article The Astrology of Color on Skyscript.co.uk and this article about colors and planets through different cultures and time periods):

Planet Picatrix Al-Biruni Ibn Ezra Lilly Sepharial
Saturn black, dark black, dark black, dark white, pale, ashy, black, dark black, dark
Jupiter green brown, white green purple
Mars red red red red red
Sun yellow orange red yellow, red, purple orange
Venus light blue, light green white, yellow light green light blue, light green, white light blue, light green
Mercury blue purple, mixed colors blue, grey, mixed colors blue, grey, pink, yellow
Moon orange, yellow blue, orange, yellow green, white green, orange, yellow, white green, orange, yellow, white

In the end, it looks like we have a lot of options to pick from, all based on different authors and time periods and cultures and styles of working, some more astrological than magical, others more magical than astrological, some more grounded in the Earth and some more grounded in Heaven.  There are a few commonalities, sure, and if I were to summarize some of the most common colors to make a “general” color scheme for the seven planets, I’d go with the following:

  • Saturn: black.  Everyone seems to be in agreement with this one, although this could be expanded to any super dark, dull color, more like a hue.
  • Jupiter: blue or purple.  Blue seems to be more common than purple, but both are considered “royal” colors, which fits in nicely with Jupiter’s significations.  Still, blue seems to be more common.
  • Mars: red.  This is pretty common across everyone, shockingly enough.
  • Sun: gold or yellow.  Gold, of course, is ideal for the Sun, but that’s more a metal rather than a color; a rich yellow, tending slightly more towards orange than green, would be better if a simple color is preferred.
  • Venus: primarily green, secondarily white.  Green seems to be more common than white (though “green” here is probably best described as a “light blue-green”, like teal, aquamarine, spring green, cyan, Persian green, jade green, or turquoise), though white is also a common option.  However, white can also be used for the Moon, so be careful here (more on this below).
  • Mercury: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  Mercury’s colors are all over the map, and I think the best way to describe Mercury’s color is “plaid”, meaning any set of mixed, changeable, shifting, or interwoven colors.  Barring that, however, orange seems to not be a bad choice, as this is sometimes considered to be a “muddled” or “mixed” color itself, compared to the more pure yellow or red.
  • Moon: silver or white.  Silver is preferred, but this is more a metal than a color, so the best way to describe this in terms of simple colors is just white.  However, white is also an option for Venus; if white is chosen for Venus, use silver for the Moon, and if white is used for the Moon, use green for Venus.

Lots of options, indeed, and of course the above isn’t exhaustive; there’re also Mesoamerican and Native American traditions, Chinese and Indian/Vedic systems, and other systems of astrology and magic out there that have their own color associations with the planets and stars, too.  But, even with this much, at least we can make things look nice for ourselves and our works.

A Simple PGM Invocation to the Supreme Intelligence

Recently on my Curious Cat (which has been an ongoing thing that delights me endlessly, some 3300 questions later!), I was asked a simple question: “Do you know if in PGM there’s some sort of invocation of the Nous?”  Off the top of my head, I couldn’t recall any, given that the Nous is something more of a Hermetic and Platonic entity than anything typically common in the PGM, so I got out my copy and started searching through it for anything resembling it.  As it turns out, there is actually a short invocation along these lines to the Nous in the PGM that I wanted to explore a bit, especially in the slightly expanded context of where it appears.

Let’s look at PGM V.459ff, a short prayer found in see British Museum Papyrus 46, folio 7, both recto and verso.  This is my rendition of the prayer, using Betz’s version of the PGM as a base and transliterating the barbarous words back into Greek:

I call upon you who created earth and bones and all flesh and all spirit and who established the sea and suspended the heavens,
who separated the light from the darkness,
the Supreme Intelligence who lawfully administers all things!
Eternal Eye, Daimon of Daimons, God of Gods, the Lord of the Spirits,
ΑΙΩΝ ΙΑΩ ΟΥΗΙ who cannot go astray!
Hear my voice!

I call upon you, Master of the Gods, high-thundering Zeus, sovereign Zeus: ΑΔΩΝΑΙ
Lord: ΙΑΩ ΟΥΗΕ
I am he who calls upon you, great god, in Syrian: ΖΑΑΛΑΗΡ ΙΦΦΟΥ
You must not ignore my voice in Hebrew: ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ ΑΒΡΑΣΙΛΩΑ
For I am ΣΙΛΘΑΧΩΟΥΧ ΛΑΙΛΑΜ ΒΛΑΣΑΛΩΘ ΙΑΩ ΙΕΩ ΝΕΒΟΥΘ ΣΑΒΙΟΘ ΑΡΒΩΘ ΑΡΒΑΘΙΑΩ ΙΑΩΘ ΣΑΒΑΩΘ
ΠΑΤΟΥΡΗ ΖΑΓΟΥΡΗ
ΒΑΡΟΥΧ ΑΔΩΝΑΙ ΕΛΩΑΙ ΙΑΒΡΑΑΜ
ΒΑΡΒΑΡΑΥΩ ΝΑΥΣΙΦ

High-minded one, immortal one, who possess the crown of the whole world!
ΣΙΕΠΗ ΣΑΚΤΙΕΤΗ ΒΙΟΥ ΒΙΟΥ ΣΦΗ ΣΦΗ ΝΟΥΣΙ ΝΟΥΣΙ ΣΙΕΘΟ ΣΙΕΘΟ ΧΘΕΘΩΝΙ ΡΙΓΧ
ΩΗΑ Η ΗΩΑ ΑΩΗ ΙΑΩ
ΑΣΙΑΛ ΣΑΡΑΠΗΟΛΣΩ ΕΘΜΟΥΡΗΣΙΝΙ ΣΕΜ ΛΑΥ ΛΟΥ ΛΟΥΡΙΓΧ

The same, but with the barbarous words in my transcription:

I call upon you who created earth and bones and all flesh and all spirit and who established the sea and suspended the heavens,
who separated the light from the darkness,
the Supreme Intelligence who lawfully administers all things!
Eternal Eye, Daimon of Daimons, God of Gods, the Lord of the Spirits,
AIŌN IAŌ ŪĒI who cannot go astray!
Hear my voice!

I call upon you, Master of the Gods, high-thundering Zeus, sovereign Zeus: ADŌNAI
Lord: IAŌ ŪĒE
I am he who calls upon you, great god, in Syrian: ZAHALAĒR IPH-PHŪ
You must not ignore my voice in Hebrew: ABLANATHANALBA ABRASILŌA
For I am SILTHAKHŪKH LAILAM BLASALŌTH IAŌ IEŌ NEBŪTH SABIOTH ARBŌTH ARBATHIAŌ IAŌTH SABAŌTH
PATŪRĒ ZAGŪRĒ
BARŪKH ADŌNAI ELŌAI I-ABRAHAM
BARBARAUŌ NAUSIPH

High-minded one, immortal one, who possess the crown of the whole world!
SIEPĒ SAKTIETĒ BIŪ BIŪ SPHĒ SPHĒ NŪSI NŪSI SIETHO SIETHO KHTHETHŌNI RINKH
ŌĒA Ē ĒŌA AŌĒ IAŌ
ASIAL SARAPĒOLSŌ ETHMŪRĒSINI SEM LAU LOU LOURINKH

There’s a short note at the end in the usual PGM style referring to the use of the above invocation: “it loosens shackles, makes invisible, sends dreams; a spell for gaining favor.  Add the usual for what you want.”  The prayer has no other information associated with it, though it is prefixed with the label “Another way”; however, the preceding entry (PGM V.447ff) gives a ritual for a talismanic ring of Serapis for dream divination, so it doesn’t seem to be related to that, though given that the previous ritual is to Serapis (originally spelled “Sarapis”) and given the barbarious word ΣΑΡΑΠΗΟΛΣΩ (SARAPĒOLSŌ, as in Serapis; Betz and Preisendanz give this as two separate words, ΣΑΡΑΠΙ ΟΛΣΩ, but the scan of Papyrus 46 shows it as one word as given above) in the final line of this invocation, I may be mistaken, and that this invocation could also be used for dream divination.  For reference, the preceding ritual in PGM V.447ff prescribes the following:

  • Procure a “jasperlike agate” stone for setting into a ring.
  • Engrave on the front of the stone an image of Serapis seated and facing forwards holding an Egyptian royal scepter (a was scepter?) with an ibis atop the scepter, and on the reverse of the stone the name Serapis.
  • Set the stone into a ring (perhaps even have it so that the stone itself is completely encased and hidden within the ring?) and keep it secret and hidden away from anyone and everyone until you need to use the ring.
  • When you need to perform dream divination:
    • Wear the ring on the index finger of your left hand; in your right hand, hold a spray of olive and laurel twigs.
    • Wave the twigs towards “the lamp” while saying “the spell” seven times.
    • Without speaking to anyone, go to sleep, holding the ring to your left ear (perhaps most easily achieved by sleeping on your left side).

Oddly, PGM V.447ff doesn’t introduce “the lamp” or “the spell”, and this ritual seems well and truly disconnected from the preceding PGM V.370ff, which also doesn’t have a lamp, and the invocations there have nothing to do with this.  This makes me think that PGM V.447ff and V.459ff are actually part of the same ritual; the only thing that distinguishes them is the “Another way” that precedes the invocation from the latter, which is only present in the original PGM manuscript by a little squiggle on the left margin.  This same symbol, with the same “translation”, is present elsewhere in PGM V (like immediately before PGM V.172ff which follows the famous Headless Rite, folio 3 recto); granted, I’m no expert in Koiné Greek manuscript deciphering, but I’m a little doubtful of this meaning here.  I think it’s proper, rather, to read PGM V.447ff and V.459ff as one single ritual entirely, which would then mean that these two separate PGM entries are related, and that Serapis is a common factor in both; after all, the description of the invocation at the end does say that it “sends dreams”, which is exactly what the previous PGM entry aims to accomplish.

So, let’s think about both of these PGM entries, and combine them together a little more concretely.  If the whole ritual is designed to send prophetic dreams, then this is the process I would recommend.

  1. Procure a “jasperlike agate” stone, an oil lamp with a clean wick and pure oil, and a spray of olive and laurel twigs or branches.
  2. Engrave on the front of the stone an image of Serapis seated and facing forwards holding a royal scepter with an ibis atop the scepter, and on the reverse of the stone the name “Serapis” (ΣΕΡΑΠΙΣ).
  3. Either set the stone into a ring (preferably gold) or wrap it in a long band of clean, white linen.
  4. In the evening after sunset, light the lamp, and face east.
  5. With the ring on your left index finger, or with the stone bound to your left index finger with the linen wrap, hold the olive and laurel sticks in your right, and wave them in a clockwise circle towards the lamp.  While doing so, recite the invocation above seven times.
  6. Go to bed with the lamp lit, saying nothing more to anyone or for any purpose, and sleep on your left side facing the east and head pointed to the north with the ring/stone by your left ear.

In the above, a “jasperlike agate” is a little weird, since both jasper and agate are the same material (chalcedony), with the only difference being how translucent (agate) or opaque (jasper) they are.  In this case, “jasperlike agate” to me would be a chalcedony stone that is only barely translucent and mostly opaque, perhaps with only the barest of striations or bands in it.  Likewise, the scepter with an ibis on it could be a little difficult to understand; it could be the famous was-scepter, or the heka-scepter, i.e. the crook from the crook-and-flail combination.  Alternatively, given that the was-scepter itself is a rod with a stylized animal’s head on top of it, one could simply make an “ibis-scepter”, with the head of an ibis on a rod being held…though, with the long curve of the ibis beak, this would make it look awfully like a crook unto itself.

So that’s all well and good, I suppose, but what I really wanted to talk about is the invocation itself.  The whole reason why it came to my attention was the phrase “Supreme Mind” (ὁ μέγας Νοῦς, ho mégas Noûs), which is what the original anon on Curious Cat was after; the only other instances of this entity being present in the PGM are in PGM XIII (aka “the Eighth and Tenth Hidden Books of Moses”, the origin of the Heptagram Rite), but it’s more in a cosmogony/narrative sense than any invocation or ritual.  In Betz’s version, “Supreme Mind” is tagged with a footnote, that “[t]he concept of the divine Nus (Mind) is an influence from Greek philosophy”, followed by a list of citations where Nous is found in a philosophical-religious sense, including PGM XIII as well as the Corpus Hermeticum.  And it is most certainly true that Nous in the Corpus Hermeticum is a divine entity, sometimes being something divine that divine humans can attain and sometimes being the Divine Itself, so it’s tempting to view this particular entry of the PGM as being explicitly Hermetic in the Corpus Hermeticum sense.  The issue with that conclusion, however, is that I’m not sure the timeline matches up.  Historically speaking, I’m a fan of the theory that Hermeticism in the sense of the Corpus Hermeticum and related “Hermetic” texts came about as a philosophical-religious movement in the early days (or, really, centuries) of the Roman Empire, so the PGM may be roughly contemporaneous as the Corpus Hermeticum; it could be that this text was influenced by Hermeticism, sure, but it could be equally as likely that it was simply influenced by Platonism and was written either before or concurrently with Hermeticism.

Plus, there’s some other interesting stuff in this prayer I want to consider.  Do you recall our earlier talk about PGM XXIIb.1ff, the “Prayer of Jacob”, which I later redid and rewrote and augmented into a fuller Prayer of the Patriarchs?  That was an interesting bit of work, and certainly has some Hermetic (or close enough) influence, but is also surprisingly Jewish in its approach to divinity.  There’s a bit of that here, too.  There is the explicit call to the Divine (I guess the Nous, equivalent to Zeus as well as Serapis) in Hebrew (ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ ΑΒΡΑΣΙΛΩΑ, ABLANATHANALBA ABRASILŌA), but there’s also the string of barbarous words ΒΑΡΟΥΧ ΑΔΩΝΑΙ ΕΛΩΑΙ ΙΑΒΡΑΑΜ, BARŪKH ADŌNAI ELŌAI IABRAAM.  (Betz and Preisendanz just give ΑΒΡΑΑΜ, but the scan from Papyrus 46 shows ΙABRAAM.)  It’s clear, even to Betz, that this is just a Greek rendition of the Hebrew barukh [atah] Adonai, “blessed [are you], my Lord” and eloah-i Avraham, “my god of Abraham”, though “it is not clear whether or not the magician understood these words”, especially since ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ ΑΒΡΑΣΙΛΩΑ are most likely not Hebrew at all.  I mean, much of the Jewish content in the PGM is probably just aped from Jewish tradition and practices, without it being necessarily or properly Jewish in any sense, but the fact that it has a presence at all speaks to the influence of monotheistic and Abrahamic practices, even if just because of a general perception of their power.

As might be expected, many of the other barbarous words have other presences in the PGM, especially ΖΑΓΟΥΡΗ (sometimes along ΠΑΤΟΥΡΗ or ΠΑΓΟΥΡΗ, notably PGM LXXXVIII.1ff), ΛΑΙΛΑΜ, and others.  ΝΕΒΟΥΘ is unusual, in that it’s super close to ΝΕΒΟΥΤ, which starts the barbarous word ΝΕΒΟΥΤΟΣΟΥΑΛΗΘ, which is often found in contexts related to Set or Hekatē.  The first bit of the final set of barbarous words (ΣΙΕΠΗ ΣΑΚΤΙΕΤΗ ΒΙΟΥ ΒΙΟΥ ΣΦΗ ΣΦΗ ΝΟΥΣΙ ΝΟΥΣΙ ΣΙΕΘΟ ΣΙΕΘΟ…) is almost found identically in PGM XIII.734ff as well as in PGM I.232ff, PGM II.64ff, and PGM XII.96ff; there seems to be a regularly reoccuring formula consisted of duplicated words like these.  The “Syrian” name ΖΑΑΛΑΗΡ ΙΦΦΟΥ (Betz and Preisendanz give it as one word, but Papyrus 46 seems to show a space in it) is a weird one, and I can’t find anything resembling it in the rest of the PGM; while I don’t think it’s Aramaic or “Syrian” at all, I think it’d be interesting to see if there is an actual origin for this word, or if there is something close to it in the rest of the PGM, perhaps with some variation of spelling (though I couldn’t find any from the likely variations I came up with).

Given the various types of barbarous words in this invocation, the lack of asking for anything specific within the prayer itself, and how it’s described as a general-purpose invocation, this short little prayer seems to be a good PGM-style approach to invoking the Supreme Intelligence—whether as Zeus, Serapis, Nous, or even the Abrahamic God.  It’s something I want to try incorporating into some of my practices, and maybe even give it a whirl for dream divination itself.

Also, for ease of reference and for those who are interested, I already made a formal ritual page for this: the Divine Illumination of Dreams, accessible through the site menu (Rituals → Classical Hermetic Rituals → Divine Illumination of Dreams).

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: Dechristianizing DSIC

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and today we can move on to other topics  Last time, we discussed how we might tackle certain problems that could come up in conjuration when things go sideways.  If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

As we’ve shown at many points during our review, survey, and discussion over the past number of weeks, it’s clear that DSIC is very much a relatively late product of Western Renaissance Hermetic, Solomonic, and qabbalistic literature, relying especially on Agrippa’s Fourth Book and the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano but also referencing many other texts in those same lines, which were universally written with either pseudo-Jewish language, Christian language, or both.  I mean, heck, DSIC itself is attributed to a Christian abbot, Johannes Trithemius of Spanheim, so it should come as little surprise that we’d find Christian phrases and reliance on the power of Jesus Christ in our prayers—even if the real authorship of DSIC lies either with Barrett himself or one of his contemporaries or near-predecessors.

It really shouldn’t catch anyone off-guard that every tool, implement, and prayer in DSIC is accompanied with or emblazoned by names of God or references to Jesus; after all, that pretty much is the whole of the grimoire tradition from a pretty early period onwards up into the modern era.  After all, the majority of Europeans have (for better or worse) been various kinds of Christian for at least the past 1000 years, if not 1500 or even longer more; for the past thirty or so generations of European-centric culture, people were born Christian, lived Christian, and died Christian.  It was heresy, apostasy, and blasphemy to do otherwise—though, of course, the exact limits of what could be considered “Christian” would certainly vary from place to place and people to people, especially once you account for even longer-lived traditions that carried on under Christian masques.

It’s only within relatively recent history that people born within a largely European or Western culture are willingly and openly choosing to live in non-Christian ways again, and though some of those people do so in a way that’s respectful and understanding of their Christian heritage (which of course they have), many people just outright leave it all behind and want nothing to do with it anymore.  And I don’t blame them!  It’s not like Christianity, beautiful religion that it can be when you get into the theologies and eschatologies and salvific elements, has earned itself a good reputation when you factor in the institutionalization, politics, war crimes, sexual abuse epidemics, colonization, and all the other horrific problems that come about when you become an imperialist power of the shit-filled world we live in.  As the Indian philosopher Bara Dada once said, “Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians, you are not like him”.

To get to the point: we have a modern, thriving occulture and occult scene being played out on worldwide platforms that has dozens, hundreds of spiritual lineages, traditions, and practices being shared, applied, experimented with, adjusted, and adapted by a hundred times as many people each and every day.  The problem that arises, as far as DSIC (and this post) is concerned, is when people are presented with a ritual text and want to (or are directed or suggested to) apply it but are yet unwilling to do so due to its Christian tone and approach because they themselves are uncomfortable with Christianity.  What can be done?

In all honesty, the easiest choice is to just use the text as written: despite any hangups, chips on your shoulder, or hesitation when it comes to Christian language and theology, the honest-to-God most straightforward approach here is to just suck it up, shelve your hesitations or chips or blocks, and use DSIC.  It’s already a complete (well…mostly, sorta) text that works, and has been shown to work by Christians and non-Christians alike (I’m proof of just that).  You don’t need to be Jewish to use Psalms in magic, you don’t need to be Hindu to make pūjā for the devas, you don’t need to be Buddhist to use mantras for the bodhisattvas, and you don’t need to be Christian to use DSIC.  If the only thing that prevents you from using DSIC (by all accounts an easy, straightforward method to Western-style conjuration, if not an introduction to even heavier and more laborious and intense texts than that) is you, then either you should sit with yourself and try to resolve your hangups that has nothing directly to do with them (it’s not like Christian authorities would exactly approve of what DSIC does!), or perhaps find a different approach to magic and conjuration entirely that doesn’t cause you such problems.

But that’s not a great answer, and can come across as pretty insensitive.  Plus, with the title of the post as it is, you can guess I’m not gonna accept that answer myself.

Yes, there are ways we can modify the ritual text to avoid references to Christ; that’s not that difficult at all, and is actually pretty trivial if you know a few non-Christian set phrases here and there to replace Christian set phrases.  For instance, the divine name Agla is, in reality, an acronym for the Hebrew phrase Atah Gibor Le-olam Adonai, “You are mighty forever, my Lord”, and we see echoes of this in some of the older prayers used in Christianity, such as “mighty unto the ages of ages” or “whose mercy endures forever and ever” or “world without end”.  So, for instance, whenever we see a conclusion to the prayer that ends in “through Jesus Christ our Lord” or any variation thereof, we can replace it with “for the honor and glory of God Almighty” or “for your honor and glory” (depending on whether God is being addressed or not in that specific prayer).  Instead of “in the name of the blessed Trinity”, we can simply say “in the name of God Almighty”—or, if you wanted to replace this with a more Islamic flavor, “in the name of God the Most Gracious and Most Merciful”.  Changes like this are pretty easy and straightforward to make.

For instance, below is a copy of the DSIC ritual script that contains just the prayers from DSIC, but with all references to Christ and the Trinity removed and substituted with fairly appropriate changes in bold text:

O God, you who are the author of all good things!  I beseech you, strengthen this your poor servant, that he may stand fast without fear through this dealing and work.  I beseech you, o Lord, enlighten the dark understanding of your creature, that his spiritual eye may be opened to see and know your angelic spirits descending here into this crystal.

O inanimate creature of God, be sanctified and consecrated and blessed to this purpose: that no evil phantasy may appear in you, or, if one should gain ingress into you, that they be constrained to speak intelligibly, truly, and without the least ambiguity, for the honor and glory of God Most High.  Amen.

As your servant standing here before you, o Lord, who desires neither evil treasures, nor injury to his neighbor, nor hurt to any living creature; grant him the power of descrying those celestial spirits and intelligences that may appear in this crystal, and whatever good gifts—whether the power of healing infirmities, or of imbibing wisdom, or discovering any evil likely to afflict any person or family, or any other good gift—you might be pleased to bestow on me.  Enable me, by your wisdom and mercy, to use whatever I may receive to the honor of your holy name. Grant that all this may come to pass for your honor and glory.  Amen.

In the name of God Most High and Most Holy do I consecrate this piece of ground for our defense, so that no evil spirit may have power to break these bounds prescribed here, by the everlasting power of God.  Amen.

I conjure you, o creature of fire, by Him who created all things, both in Heaven and Earth and the Sea and in every other place whatsoever, that you cast away every phantasm from you, so that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing.

Bless, o Lord, this creature of fire, and sanctify it that it may be blessed, and that your blessing may fill up the power and virtue of its odors, so that neither the enemy nor any false imagination may enter into them, that all things may serve towards your honor and glory.  Amen.

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful!  I desire you, o strong mighty angel NN., that if it be the divine will of him who is called Tetragrammaton … the Holy God, the Father, that you take upon yourself some shape as best becomes your celestial nature, and appear to me visibly here in this crystal, and answer my demands in as far as I shall not transgress the bounds of divine mercy and grace by requesting unlawful knowledge, but that you graciously show me what things are most profitable for me to know and do, to the glory and honor of his divine majesty, he who lives and reigns, world without end.  Amen.

Lord, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Make clean my heart within me, and take not your holy spirit from me.

O Lord, by your name have I called NN.; suffer him to administer unto me, and that all things may work together for your honor and glory, that to you, o Lord, be ascribed all might, majesty, and dominion.  Amen.

O Lord!  I give to you my hearty and sincere thanks for the hearing of my prayer, and I thank you for having permitted your spirit NN. to appear unto me, whom I, by your grace, will interrogate to my further instruction, in your holy Light.  Amen.

Do you swear by and within the True Light of God that reveals all secrets and obliterates all darkness that you are truly the spirit as you say you are and that you come to help me as I have called you?

O great and mighty spirit NN, inasmuch as you came in peace and in the name of the ever-blessed and righteous Trinity, so too in this name you may depart, and return to me when I call you in His name to whom every knee bows down.  Farewell, o NN.!  May peace be between us for the eternal honor and glory of God Almighty.  Amen.

To God, the Father, the eternal Spirit, the fountain of Light, the Creator of all creation, and the Sustainer of all life be all honor and glory, world without end.  Amen.

Like, I did all that in about five minutes, copy-pasting and all.  It wasn’t hard.  And, moreover, it ties in just fine with the use of the DSIC tools that similarly don’t involve Christian language; the few divine names that are used have no relationship to Christ (which is another argument in favor of their ultimate Solomonic origins, I might add).  All the things I replaced were only in the prayers to be made, and were replaced with pretty bland and basically-equivalent things that maintained the same sense of what I wanted to use to begin with.  Heck, based on some of Fr. RO’s writings before on using more classically Hermetic stuff, I’ve got my own version of drawing out the circle specifically with a more Hermetic-Gnostic bent, which departs more from the DSIC phrasing but does exactly the same thing:

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

But there are those who would still take issue with this dechristianized version of DSIC because to them it’d still read as “too Christian”.  Despite this not being Christian at all anymore, it is still theistic in the Abrahamic sense, and that’s much harder to avoid because the prayers of DSIC are fundamentally Solomonic, and Solomonic texts are absolutely Abrahamic coming from a long tradition of Jewish magic, whether or not Hellenistic, Babylonian, Neoplatonic, or qabbalistic elements are involved or not.  To remove God from DSIC would mean completely detaching DSIC not only from its Solomonic tradition, but from the entirety of the Solomonic hierarchial worldview with God at the top of it and all things being accomplished by it under the authority and with the license of God.  And that’s very difficult to accomplish, because doing so means we need to rethink the entire cosmological underpinnings of DSIC that allows it to work at all.

It’s a lot like petitioning Christian saints, like (especially) St. Cyprian of Antioch, without being Christian: sure, you can do so, and it’s not like the saints themselves will (typically) spurn you, because they recognize that the same divinity that made them holy is within you, too.  But you can’t petition the saints or approach them without recognizing that it’s quite literally Jesus Christ that made them a saint to begin with.  If you accept the validity of the power and presence of Christian saints but deny the fundamental divinity that gives them that power and presence, then you’re basically trying to ascribe power to the saints themselves apart and away from Jesus, which isn’t how it works at all.  Not only that, but you also end up insulting the saints by disparaging and denying the God and savior they themselves worship.  It doesn’t end prettily.  You don’t have to be Christian to work with the saints (even if it does help immensely to be so), but you do need to recognize and honor Jesus Christ in your work with them because that’s the fundamental source of their own power.

Likewise, I know (and have personally encountered) some people who want to work with angels but who don’t like the idea of God and end up ignoring God entirely in their works.  That’s honestly a contradiction, because no matter how you cut it, the angels are the functionaries, emissaries, and servants of God; it’s right in their names (Michael ← “Who is like God?”, Raphael ← “Healing of God”, Gabriel ← “Strength of God”, etc.).  To take entities like this and completely remove them from their cosmological, theological, and mythological origins really doesn’t leave you with a lot to work with, because accepting the power of the angels necessitates accepting the power of God.  God and the angels come together as part of a package deal; you can’t really take one and leave the other without leaving yourself in the dust.  You don’t have to be Christian or Jewish or Muslim or partake in any kind of Abrahamic faith, but you do have to recognize the power and sovereignty of God in order to enter into the hierarchy that allows the angels themselves to work as well as to allow DSIC, as a ritual that’s fundamentally based on the angels and Solomonic hierarchies, to function.

So is that it, then?  If you don’t believe in God, you’re screwed as far as DSIC is concerned?  Well…yes and no.  “Yes” because DSIC fundamentally relies on a notion of a Divine Sovereign at the top of a cosmological hierarchy to which all things in the cosmos must necessarily obey when presented by an authority licensed by that Sovereign, to whom we can petition that we receive such authority and license to perform spiritual works to direct and summon spiritual entities as we desire within the boundaries of the permission of that Sovereign, under whom are particular planetary and worldly powers that facilitate creation, manifestation, and materialization in the world we live in that ultimately is made by and ruled by that Sovereign.  That is my understanding of the bare-bones cosmology under which the DSIC ritual operates, apart and away from its Solomonic vocabulary and structure.  That notion of Divine Sovereign is the “God” in which you must believe in order to use DSIC, so if you can’t buy that, then yes, you’re screwed.

That being said, the Divine Sovereign of DSIC is not necessarily identical to the God of the Jews, the God of the Christians, or the God of the Muslims, or any one particular cosmocrator, all-ruling deity or divinity of any particular tradition or faith.  If you can look behind some of the classically-used terms that people (who happen to be Jewish or Christian or Muslim, or some variant thereof that includes traditional, indigenous, or otherwise pagan influences without being classified as outright heretical or apostate) used to refer to this Divine Sovereign and see the fundamental divinity behind any particular religious approach and see something that you can understand and work with, then no, you’re not screwed, and can use DSIC just fine.  You might have hang-ups with some of the language used, and that can be resolved or worked with, finding appropriate substitutions as necessary, but once you understand why some of those very same terms and names are used, you can begin to appreciate what purpose they fulfill in the grander cosmological scheme of things and can still apply them without necessarily having to buy into any individual religious tradition that you don’t like or agree with.  In that light, you could consider this Divine Sovereign as YHVH of Judaism, as the Triune God of Christianity, as ‘Allāh of Islam, as Zeus Pantokrator of the Hellenes, Iupiter Optimus Maximus of the Romans, the Good of the Platonists, the Nous of the Hermeticists, Viṣṇu of Vaishnavaite Hindus or Śiva of Shaivite Hindus, and so on.  (This is one of the mysteries, as I see it, of Hermeticism as a spiritual practice: being able to see through the different interpretations to get to that which is interpreted directly.)

That’s where we need to be careful when changing the language and divine names used in DSIC—or, for that matter, any Solomonic or Hermetic ritual—because they typically fulfill some spiritual function at least as often as they fulfill some poetic or literary function.  While the phrases I replaced in my simple dechristianized DSIC alternative above were pretty easy, they also filled more-or-less the exact same role as the original Christian language, but I didn’t touch the divine names used on the tools because there was no need to and fit just as cleanly with the adapted ritual text as it did the original.  As Fr. AC says in GTSC, at least where it comes to the prayers themselves, that if the Christian language of the prayers used in DSIC “are too much of an aversion to your spiritual nature”, then you should make alternative prayers that—and he emphasizes this strongly and in no uncertain terms—”match [the original prayers] as closely as possible“.  This is most easily accomplished by simply changing some of the language, but you would need to do so in a way that matches the function of the original language as well as maintaining the underlying cosmological framework, as well.

I’m suddenly reminded that, back in February 2009, Fr. RO put up a post on his blog (a single post, unlike…what, is this the 21st post in this series?) that was basically a synopsis of how to conjure spirits using a very pared-down, fast-and-loose version of DSIC.  In it, he describes some non-Christian, and even non-Abrahamic things one might use for a combined lamen-cum-Table of Practice and some of the prayers:

You’ll need to draw the spirit’s symbol inside a hexagram, underneath it’s name. A Hexagram is a Star of David, made of two triangles, one pointing up and one pointing down. Each little triangle formed by the points should be the same size.

Around this hexagram, draw FIVE Pentragrams (five-pointed stars). Four of these stars represent the four Angels of the Corners of the Earth. The Fifth represents the Spirit you are conjuring.

Next write the spirit’s name above these stars. In the Fourth Book, you write them in Hebrew.

Next, draw an equilateral triangle around everything you’ve drawn so far.

Next, draw a circle around the Triangle. It should touch the three points of the triangle.

Draw another circle around that circle, about a half-inch or so out from the first circle. In the border you have created, write the Names of God. These Names will vary depending on your source. If you’ve studied the Golden Dawn version of the Tree of Life, and have performed the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram a time or two, and the Middle Pillar on occasion, then you should probably use the Names of God that are assigned to the ten Sephiroth.

In my opinion, you can write IAO, LOGOS, Chronos, Zeus, Apollo, Aries, Aphrodite, Hermes, Artemis, and Hephaestus. You can throw in Hecate instead of Hepaestus too, but I’d keep Hephaestus in there anyhow. Now these are Greek manifestations of the faces of God that were revealed to a set of people that were not given the Law the way God gave it to the Jews. Instead, they were given the Logos in the form of Philosophy and other weirdness.*

Either way, or any other way, you’re representing in the outermost circle the manifestations of God that represent the different phases He went through in his emanation of the physical world. By listing these secret names, you the magician are pointing out to the servants of the Most High that you’re in on the secret, you understand the way things work, and that you’re an initiate. It’s like a badge that a sheriff wears. There’s no magic in the star of the cop, it’s what it represents that makes a criminal have to listen.

When I trace a Circle, I say, “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I consecrate this ground for our defense!” You can say, IAO, LOGOS, and Spiritus Mundi/Spiritus Sancti if you’re not feeling particularly comfortable with the names of God from the Christian tradition. I strongly urge you to stick with the neoplatonic system though. You’ll need a representative of the Monad, the Intercessor, and the Spirit that maintains everything in your world, like the name of your Nativity Angel, Genius, Agathadaimon, or HGA. By touching on these three things, you’re retracing your path up through the spheres, and acknowledging who you are and what your status is. You’re affirming that you are indeed the magician in the center square of the Circle of the Goetia with these simple words.

In some ways, I agree with his logic, and as a result, I’m reminded of some of Satyr Magos’ old work from a few years back in a custom Table of Practice to conjure the spirit of the plant cannabis, as well as a unique lamen-based pentacle incorporating PGM elements of the spirits of Saturn and Venus, all taking the fundamental techniques and technology of DSIC (based on Agrippa’s Fourth Book as well as fundamentally Solomonic ideas) and applying them in his own way.  These are by no means pure implementations of DSIC, Agrippa, or Solomonica, but they don’t have to be, because Satyr Magos (definitely not Christian or Abrahamic) took the fundamental notions of what was going on, went past the Abrahamic language, adapted DSIC to work within a Hellenistic pagan and magical method using the same fundamental underlying cosmology, and made something great with it.

But at the same time, I also know that Fr. RO took care in specifying what was being done, as did Satyr Magos.  You can’t just slap the names of the Twelve Olympians on top of the seven planetary angels, because they don’t fulfill the same function…unless you know to approach and conceive of them in that way: that the Olympians preside over the celestial and heavenly forces that produce creation.  (This is the same reasoning, by the way, that allows some people to successfully adapt DSIC tools to forego the use of the four kings and use the four archangels instead, because for them, in their manner of working and cosmological need, the four angels fill the same purpose as the four kings, and depending on how far back you want to reach, as we touched on before, can be considered interchangeable or identical with them.)

Basically, if you want to adapt DSIC not just in how you design the tools but how you construct and recite the very prayers of the ritual, you need to be careful that you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Yes, in order to use DSIC, you do need to buy into the fundamental cosmological framework upon which DSIC is founded and within which DSIC operates.  So long as you can do that, and recognize what the individual components of the ritual (prayers, divine names, sigils, symbols, arrangements, etc.) are doing, then you are entirely and absolutely able to adapt DSIC to your own personal religious or spiritual needs; thus, you could come up with a Neoplatonic Hellenic DSIC, a PGM-style DSIC, an Islamic DSIC, and any number of other variants that both click with the underlying framework of DSIC as well as being adjusted to the needs of specific spiritual or religious traditions.  However, even though this boils down to just a change in aesthetics, extreme caution is still needed that you keep all the things that need to be kept.  Otherwise, you end up either jeopardizing the functionality or safety of DSIC, or end up with something so completely different that it cannot be considered DSIC anymore.

So, for example, let’s say we wanted to come up with an adaptation of DSIC in the style of the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM).  Honestly, given how some of the texts are phrased in the PGM itself, the general theist adaptation of the prayers given above would suffice just fine for them; the only thing it really lacks are strings of barbarous words of power or other humanely-unintelligible divine names, which we could put in when referring to “the ever-blessed and righteous Trinity” or “swear upon the blood and righteousness of Christ” or wherever, as necessary.  However, the generic dechristianized prayer adaptation above would work fine.  The real issue in getting DSIC to fall more in line with PGM stuff would be the design of the tools and implements…sorta.

  • I mean, if you consider the divine names used on the pedestal and wand to just be a type of generalized barbarous word of power that happens to have Hebrew or Greek origins (much as the popular barbarous word ΣΕΜΕΣΕΙΛΑΜ comes from Hebrew for “eternal sun”, shemesh `olam), and the three symbols on the pedestal/wand to just be forms of characters generally.  I mean, wherever “Tetragrammaton” occurs, you could just keep that but written in Greek (which wouldn’t be utterly uncommon), or substitute it with ΙΑΩ (which is a Greek rendition of YHVH, the actual Tetragrammaton).  Alternatively, instead of referring to Jesus, one might call upon Abrasax (whose name, ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ, adds up to 365) as another divine figure, especially considering that they’re both solar entities at heart.
  • The only thing that you might want to consider changing would be the names of the four angels, four kings, and seven planetary angels.  But would that even really be necessary, either?  I mean, there are references to the angels in the PGM, as well, so their inclusion—at least for the four archangels on the pedestal—in a PGM device would fall within the realm of plausibility.
  • The four kings, likewise, even though they’re not purely part of PGM, could be included all the same, or we might substitute them with e.g. my four Solar Guardians of the Directions.
  • The seven planetary angels could be substituted with the seven planetary titans (e.g. Hēlios, Mēnē, Stilbōn) or their corresponding deities (e.g. Apollōn, Artemis, Hermēs), or (using an alternative interpretation of the DSIC instructions) we could omit the planetary angels entirely and just use the seals and characters of the planets without making reference to angels at all.
  • Or, if you wanted to stick with the seven planets, or something related to them, there are the names of the Fates of Heaven (PGM IV.662—674), the Pole Lords of Heaven (PGM IV.674—692), and the Images of God (PGM XIII.880—887) we put together when we discussed the seven stars of both Ursa Minor and Ursa Maior, and the seven planets and how they might relate to each other in a structure of high-cosmic rulership.  No characters for these, it’d seem, but PGM stuff always focused far more by far on names and words of power than characters generally.
  • Instead of using seven planets on the outer ring, depending on whether you consider the planets the primary celestial generators of the cosmos or the stars, you could use the twelve signs of the Zodiac instead, perhaps replacing their names and glyphs with those from Demokritos’ Dream Divination ritual from PGM VII.795—845.
  • For the lamen, the general form could remain the same, perhaps just replacing the string of divine names on the ring if you wanted something less Abrahamic, even if they still qualified as barbarous words of power on their own, some of them appearing in the PGM itself—perhaps using the divine names in the PGM that add up to 9999 (ΦΡΗ ΑΝΩΙ ΦΩΡΧΩ ΦΥΥΥΥ ΡΟΡΨΙΣ ΟΡΟΧΩΩΙ and ΧΑΒΡΑΧ ΦΝΕΣΧΗΡ ΦΙΧΡΟ ΦΝΥΡΩ ΦΩΧΩ ΒΩΧ, respectively), the “six names” from the Headless Rite (ΑΩΘ ΑΒΡΑΘΩ ΒΑΣΥΜ ΙΣΑΚ ΣΑΒΑΩΘ ΙΑΩ, but remember that ΙΑΩ is a Greek rendition of YHVH, i.e. the Tetragrammaton itself, ΣΑΒΑΩΘ a rendition of Tzabaoth, and ΒΑΣΥΜ ΙΣΑΚ can be interpreted as Aramaic or Hebrew for “in the name [of] Isaac”), or other divine names as desired, especially if they have planetary connections for the planet of the spirit being conjured.  Another good set of names to use here are those from the Royal Ring of Abrasax: ΦΝΩ ΕΑΙ ΙΑΒΩΚ, ΑΔΩΝΑΙΕ ΣΑΒΑΩΘ, Ο ΠΑΝΤΩΝ ΜΟΝΑΡΧΟΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ, ΚΡΥΠΤΕ ΑΟΡΑΤΕ ΠΑΝΤΑΣ ΕΦΟΡΩΝ, ΟΥΕΡΤΩ ΠΑΝΤΟΔΥΝΑΣΤΑ.
  • As for general ritual process, I would (of course) recommend my PGM-Style Framing Rite as a way to “do the usual” for such a PGM-style DSIC, or parts of it could be used to hack up a PGM-style DSIC process.

What about if we were to come up with a more Islamic variant?

  • Again, although the prayer variation given above works fine, more epithets could be used from the 99 Names of ‘Allāh, or similar invocations of jinn or spirits from a variety of Islamic texts on magic could be used.
  • Although the Picatrix has two sets of angels for the planets (one used in the lengthy and beautiful prayers that doesn’t match up with any other system commonly known or used, another used for the Mirror of the Seven Winds which do match up with what we later find in sources like Liber Juratus Honorii or the Heptameron), I might recommend instead using the Shams al-Ma`ārif instead, which uses a set of angels that’s more well-attested in Islamic and Arabic planetary magic.  In my estimation, the seals of the angels could reasonably be kept the same, changing the names out to be Arabic instead of Latin or Hebrew (or, realistically, pseudo-Hebrew or Hebrew-derived).
  • Jinn lore (cf. this website on these topics), but also Tewfik Canaan, “The Decipherment of Arabic Talismans” in The Formation of the Classical Islamic World (vol. 42), Magic and Divination in Early Islam, ed. Savage-Smith, 2004 Ashgate Publishing Ltd.) describes “four Heads” or “four Helpers”, spiritual entities who preside over the four directions: Māzar in the East, Qasūrah in the South, Kamṭam in the West, and Ṭaykal in the North (though properly “the sea”).  These four serve under (or are served by), respectively, the jinn lords El-Aḥmar, Shamhūrish, Mudhhib, and Murrah.  I’m not sure whether the four Helpers are better than using the four jinn lords here, because the jinn lords count among their number the jinn Maymūn—who would later become the Western Amaymon.  Within an Islamic or Arabic context, however, perhaps the four Helpers would be better.
  • Canaan above gives four angels for the four directions: Daniā’īl for the East, Ḥazqiā’īl for the South, Dardiā’īl for the West, and ‘Asiā’īl for the North.  However, I’ve also seen it attributed that the four main angels in Islamic lore are given such that Azrael (`Azrā’īl) is given to the East, Gabriel to the South, Raphael (Isrāfīl) to the West, and Michael (Mīkā’īl) to the North.  And, to offer another variation, we could use the angels of the planets that rule over the jinn lords above when connected to the four Helpers, leading to Samsamā’īl (Mars/Tuesday) for the East, Ṣarfyā’īl (Jupiter/Thursday) for the South, Rūqayā’īl (Sun/Sunday) for the West, and Jibraīl (Moon/Monday) for the North.  Any one of these sets could be used for the pedestal, though I like using the four main angels, myself, perhaps replacing Azrael with Uriel (‘Ūriāl).
  • I’m not sure what good replacements would be for the divine names used on the wand, pedestal, or lamen.  We know that some of the famous 99 Names of ‘Allāh in Islam have planetary uses or associations (see the link to the Shams al-Ma`ārif above), but perhaps other texts such as the Berhatiah might contain other divine names for consideration.

I don’t mean to say that these are the only possible ways to vary DSIC, or even for these specific traditions, but they should give some food for thought to those who would want to change DSIC up a bit to suit other traditions and spiritual practices, without using a fundamentally different conjuration ritual that involves other or different tools.  DSIC, as has been shown in the past 15 years or so, can prove to be a highly flexible system, especially if you play more fast-and-loose with it as Fr. RO likes to do, because the fundamental technology and approach works to conjure spirits into crystals.  That’s all we’re trying to do; everything else is aesthetics and design choices.

Summer update: Jailbreak the Sacred, the Salem Summer Symposium, and more!

I hope everyone’s been enjoying the Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration posts that have been going up lately!  There are still a few more to go, but in the meantime, I didn’t want you all to think that I was just relaxing taking a vacation (as much as I might want or need to).  Rather, things have been as busy as ever, between commuting and working and Working and writing and Writing and this and that and the other, and I wanted to take a quick moment to fill you guys in on some of the things that have been happening lately.

First, a few updates about the website structure.  I decided to go through my blog archives and make things a bit easier to navigate for some of the more fun or interesting posts I’ve made, and while there’s too much to outright do a whole highlight reel of posts, I have made a few new pages for ease of navigability and readability, including adding a few goodies to the Rituals pages from old posts that discussed some rituals I apparently forgot about.

  • The About page has been updated with links to all the different categories of posts (which are also accessible on the right side of the blog page, at least while using the desktop view of the website blog).
  • Several new pages have been added to the top navbar:
    • About → Geomancy Posts: an index of all the important posts I’ve done about geomancy, geomantic divination, geomantic magic, geomantic spirituality, and divination generally.
    • About → Post Series: an index of all the different multipart series of posts I’ve written about over the years, with a summary of each series and links to each of the individual posts in each series.
    • Rituals → Candle Blitzkrieg Blessing: a ritual that utterly fills a house or dwelling with divine light for the sake of blessing it.
    • Rituals → Dream Divination Ritual: a ritual to be done while the Moon is in your ninth house for dream divination, lucid dreaming, or other forms of dreamwork.
    • Rituals → Uncrossing of the Mouth: a ritual to uncross, unbind, and free the mouth from any maleficia, cross, or curse that has settled upon it so that you can speak freely and easily once again.
  • The page Rituals → Classical Hermetic Rituals → The Headless Rite has been (finally) updated, with much of the Greek being corrected, a full transcription of the Greek provided, and more information provided on carrying out the ritual itself.

Second, I was on another podcast!  The wonderful, amazing, and handsome astrologer Nate Craddock of Soul Friend Astrology started a podcast earlier this year, Jailbreak the Sacred, where he sits down to talk with leaders, thinkers, practitioners, and activists about the intersection of mainstream religion and alternative spirituality.  After all, as he says, “spirituality in the 21st century is only getting weirder from here on out, and there’s no better time to team up with people who have walked that path before”.  It’s a wonderful and refreshing thing to listen to, and there are some great speakers already in the lineup, and it’s an honor for me to be included among them!  We spent a good hour and more talking about the intersection of my magical and religious practices, what it’s like being an orisha priest in the Afro-Cuban tradition of La Regla de Ocha Lukumí, and how that impacts my philosophy, ethics, and morality in how I approach my life and Work.  Head on over to JTS and take a listen!  And, if you use iTunes, be sure to subscribe to JTS through that platform, too!

Also, for his patrons over on Patreon, there’s an extra bonus episode of Nate and I talking about geomancy, where I give a very rough-and-fast explanation of the origins of geomancy, and I read for Nate on the air and give a full explanation of what a geomancy reading with me is like on the spot.  You’ll also be able to listen in on a special prayer I’ve written for divination, what I call the Praise of the Lord of the Unseen, which has hitherto not been published anywhere (yet).  If you’re interested, help Nate with his podcast, pitch in $10 a month, and get access to this and all sorts of other goodies and bonuses Nate has for his subscribers!

Third, I’m really super excited to announce that I will be in Salem, Massachusetts in early-mid August this year to attend, present, do readings, and generally have fun at the Salem Summer Symposium!  This is the first major event of its kind hosted by the good folk at the Cauldron Black, with the main show of events lasting from August 7 through August 11, but with other activities occurring around the city of Salem as early as August 3.  I’ll be teaming up with the wonderful Dr Al Cummins for a Double Trouble Geomancy Power Hour on Friday, August 9 from 10am to 12pm, and later on that day I’ll be presenting on my own about my recent development in geomancy-centered theurgical practices from 4pm to 6pm.  Tickets are still available, and I heartily encourage those who are able to attend to do so; there’s a massive list of fascinating talks, presentations, workshops, and other delights for the eyes and heart and mind to partake in, and that’s besides just the social fun to be had in a spot of great renown in old New England!

Last but not least, I mentioned a bit ago that the Russian occult website Teurgia.Org is working on translating some of my writings and works into the Russian language.  They’ve done it again, this time translating my old post on Ancient Words of Power for the Directions (April 2013) into Russian on their website.  If you’re a speaker of Russian, go check it out!

Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say for now.  I hope the weather is treating you all well, and that the upcoming summer solstice (or winter solstice for those in the Southern Hemisphere) is blessed and prosperous for us all!  And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

A PGM-Based Jewish Hermetic Prayer of the Patriarchs

It’s fascinating to see what you can find when you dig through your old notes and drafts.  Interesting insights that slipped your mind, funny stories you’d want to tell again, and wonderful accomplishments that remind you of better times and better techniques than what you may have slipped into using.  But, perhaps most fun to find?  Unfinished drafts and projects that you couldn’t finish for one reason or another at the time, but have since come into the right knowledge and tools to do just that.  This post is one such example of that happening, and I’m glad to finally share it with you, dear reader, after so long.

As many of my readers know, the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM) is such a wonderful collection of texts that have, somehow, miraculously survived to our care in the modern day.  It’s on the same level as the Nag Hammadi Scriptures or the Dead Sea Scrolls, but which focuses instead on the so-called “practical Hermetica”, the spells, rituals, ingredients, and ritual processes of theurgy and thaumaturgy as used by actual living mages and priests from roughly 100 CE to 500 CE, largely residing in that philosophical-academic-spiritual orgiastic environment of Alexandria, Thebes, and other parts of Hellenic Egypt.  It’s important to remember, though, that the PGM isn’t just a single “grimoire”, but rather a collection of smaller grimoires, notes, tablets, and other texts from a variety of magicians that happened to be clustered together under a single volume.  There’s quite a lot of variation in there, and if different entries seem counterintuitive or contradictory to each other, that’s because they are.  It’s not proper to treat the PGM as “a single text”, but rather a collection of numerous texts that happened to be collected over the centuries and only recently compiled into a single volume (specifically, the Betz version of the PGM, though Preisendanz’s texts, volumes one and two, is still considered the earlier and other major version).

Although many of the fun rituals that are more commonly known come from the earlier PGM entries, such as the Headless Rite from PGM V or the Heptagram Rite from PGM XIII, the Betz version of the PGM has over 130 sets of PGM texts, including a number of Demotic ones, too.  Not all of them are well-preserved, and some are incredibly fragmented with extensive lacunae, but there are still plenty of gems in some of the lesser-known texts.  One such text is PGM XXIIb.1—26, headlined as the Prayer of Jacob.  The term used for “prayer” in the headline, προσευχή, can also be used to refer to a temple or sanctuary, especially of the Jews, so perhaps a better headline for this might be, if we can be granted a bit of translator’s license here, the “Holiness of Jacob”.  Given its structure and its placement, the attribution is (as it almost always is) spurious, but the fact remains that it’s primarily a Jewish, or at least heavily Judaically-inspired, prayer with some Gnostic elements as well as some elements of Merkabah and Heikhalot literature or proto-literature.

In any case, it’s mostly complete, but isn’t wholly so due to the large number of lacunae.  Most of the lacunae appear in the strings of barbarous words, though when looking at the actual text, the size and location of these lacunae become clearer, offering hints of what may have gone into them.  After all, the whole section is only 26 lines of text long, and the rest of the PGM is replete with invocations, strings of godnames, and a variety of other clues that can help fill in some of the lacunae in the text.  One of my earlier projects from a number of years ago (2013, according to the original draft post) was going to attempt a reconstruction and repair on this entry, but I didn’t really know where to go or how to attempt it, and so I just left it to get buried in the drafts folder.  But now that I’m a little older and a little more comfortable with this project, I want to try tackling it again.

To start with, this is what the original entry looks like in Betz:

O Father of the Patriarchs, Father of the All, Father of the [cosmic] power,
[Creator of all], … , creator of the angels and archangels, creator of the [saving] names!

I invoke you, Father of all powers, Father of the entire [cosmos] and of all creation inhabited and uninhabited, to whom the [cherubim] are subjected [who] favored Abraham by [giving the] kingdom [to him] … hear me, O God of the powers, o [God] of angels [and] archangels, [King]…

ΛΕΛΕΑΧ … ΑΡΩΑΧ ΤΟΥ ΑΧΑΒΟΛ … Ο … ΥΡΑΜ ΤΟΥ … ΒΟΑΧ ΚΑ … Θ … ΡΑ … ΧΑΧ ΜΑΡΙΡΟΚ … ΥΡΑΜ … ΙΘΘ ΣΕΣΟΙΚ, he who sits upon [holy] Mount Sinai;
… Ι … ΒΟ … ΑΘΕΜ … , he who sits upon the sea;
… ΕΑ … ΒΛ … Δ … Κ … Ε … ΘΗΣ … ΠΑΡΑΧΘΗ … , he who sits upon the serpentine gods;
The [god who sits upon the] Sun, ΙΑΩ, he who sits [upon] … ΤΑ … Ω … Ι … Χ!
He [who sits] upon the … ;
[He who sits upon] the … ΜΑ … ΣΙ, ΑΒΡΙΗΛ ΛΟΥΛΗΛ … Μ!
… ΧΙΡΕ … ΟΖ … Ι … resting place of the cherubim
to the ages of ages, God ΑΒΑΩΘ ΑΒΡΑΘΙΑΩΘ [ΣΑΒΑΩΘ] ΑΔΩΝΑΙ star … and ΒΡΙΛΕΩΝΑΙ ΑΔΩΝΑΙ ΧΑ … ΑΩΘ the Lord of the All.

I call upon you who give power [over] the Abyss [to those] above, to those below, and to those under the earth; hear the one who has [this] prayer, O Lord God of the Hebrews, ΕΠΑΓΗΛ ΑΛΑΜΝ, of whom is [the] eternal power, ΗΛΟΗΛ ΣΟΥΗΛ.  Maintain the one who possesses this prayer, who is from the stock of Israel and from those who have been favored by you, O god of gods, you who have the secret name ΣΑΒΑΩΘ … Ι … Χ, O god of gods, amen, amen!

You who produce the snow, who presides over the stars,  who live beyond the ages, who constantly traverse the cosmos, and who cause the fixed and movable stars to pursue all things by your creative activity, fill me with wisdom.  Strengthen me, Master!  Fill my heart with good, Master, as a terrestrial angel, as one who has become immortal, as one who has received this gift from you, amen, amen!

This entry, further, is ended with a single direction: recite it seven times facing north and east.  I interpret this as meaning northeast, which would have been the direction of Jerusalem (or other places in Israel) from most places in Egypt, but there are other rituals in the PGM and other texts of that time like the Sepher haRazim that discuss how to conjure or pray to the powers of the Sun towards the East in the daytime or towards the North at nighttime, so it could be a synthesis of that, too.  I lean towards the Jerusalem theory, personally.

For reference, here’s the original Greek transcription as given in Preisendanz, taking his corrections and emendations as a given and putting the barbarous words and godnames, or the letters that are presumed to be parts of such, in capital letters:

Προσευχὴ Ἰακώβ.

Πάτερ πατριὰρχῶν, πατὴρ ὅλων, πατὴρ δυνάμεων τοῦ κόσμου, κτίστα παντὸς …
κτίστα τῶν ἀγγέλων καὶ ἀρχαγγέλων, ὁ κτίστης ὀνομάτων σωτηρικῶν
καλῶ σε, πατέρα τῶν ὅλων δυνάμεων, πατέρα τοῦ ἄπαντος κόσμου και τῆς
ὅλης γενέσεως καὶ οἰκοθμένης καὶ ἀοικήτου, ᾡ ὑπεσταλμένοι οἱ χερουβίν, ὅς
ἐχαρίσατο Ἀβραὰμ ἐν τῷ δοῦναι τὴν βασιλείαν αὐρῷ
ἐπακοθσόν μοι, ὁ θεὸς τῶν δυνὰμεων, ὁ θεὸς ἀγγέλων καὶ ἀρχαγγέλων, βασιλεύς …
ΛΕΛΕΑΧ … ΑΡΩΑΧ ΤΟΥ … ΑΧΑΒΟΛ … Ω … ΥΡΑΜ ΤΟΥ … ΒΟΑΧ ΚΑ
Θ … Ρ Α … ΧΑΧ. ΜΑΡΙΟΚ … ΥΡΑΜ … ΙΘΘ ΣΕΣΟΙΚ …
ὀ καθήμενος ἐπὶ ὄρους ἰεροῦ Σιναΐου Ι … ΒΟ ΑΘΕΜ
ὀ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης … ΕΑ … ΒΛ … Δ … Κ … Ε … ΘΗΣ
ΠΑΡΑΧΘΗ … ό καθήμενος ἐπὶ τῶν δρακοντείων θεῶν, ὀ θεὸς καθήμενος ἐπὶ τοῦ
Ἡλίου ΙΑΩ, ὁ καθήμενος ἐπὶ … ΤΑ … Ω … Ι … Χ, ὁ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τοῦ … θε …
… ΜΑ … ΣΙ ΑΒΡΙΗΛ ΛΟΥΗΛ … Μ … τὸν κοιτῶνα χερουβὶν … ΧΙΡΕ … ΟΖ … Ι …
εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰῶνων θεὸς ΑΒΡΑΩΘ ΑΒΡΑΘΙΑΩΘ ΣΑΒΑΩΘ ΑΔΩΝΑΙ, ἀστραπηφόρε
καὶ ΒΡΙΛΕΩΝΑΙ ΑΔΟΝΑΙ ΧΑ … ΑΩΘ, ὁ κύριος των ὅλων. Ἐπικαλουμαί σε, ἐπὶ χάσματος δὸντα
δύναμιν τοῖς ἄνω καὶ τοῖς κάτω καὶ τοῖς ὑποκάτω τῆς γῆς. Ἐπὰκοθσον τῷ ἔχοντι τὴν
εὐχήν, ὁ κύριος θεὸς τῶν Ἑβραίνων, ΕΠΑΓΑΗΛ ΑΛΑΜΝ, οὗ ἡ ἀέναος δύναμισ, ΕΛΩΗΛ
ΣΟΥΗΛ. Διόρθωσον τὸν ἔχοντα τὴν εὐχὴν ἐξ τοῦ γένους Ἰσραὴλ καὶ τῶν
χαριζομένων ὑπό σοθ, θεὲ θεῶν, ὁ ἔχων τὸ κρυπτὸν ὄνομα ΣΑΒΑΩΘ
… Ι … Χ. Θεὸς θεῶν, ἀμήν, ἀμήν, ὁ χιόνα γεννῶν, ἐπὶ ἀστέρων ὑπὲρ αἰώνων καὶ ἀεὶ διοδεύων καὶ ποιῶν τοὺς
ἀπλανεῖς καί πλανωμένους ἀστέρας διώκειν τὰ πάντα τῇ σῇ δημι-
-οθργίᾳ. Πλήρωσόν με σοφίας, δυνάμωσόν με, δέσποτα, μέστωσόν μου,
τὴν καρδίαν ἀγαθῶν, δέσποτα, ὡς ἄγγελον ἐπίγειον, ὡς ἀθάνατον
γενὰμενον, ὡς τὸ δῶρον τὸ ἀπὸ σοῦ δεξάμενον, ἀμήν, ἀμήν.

Λέγε ἐπτάκις πρὸς ἄπρκτον καὶ ἀπηλιὼτην τὴν προσευχήν τοῦ Ἰακώβ.

Happily, at least this part of PGM XXIIb (P. 13895 in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin) has been digitized, but between the lacunae and the faintness of the ink in places, it’s still awfully hard to read, even if we can get a sense for how long some of the barbarous words should be.

We can kind of get a notion for how many letters are missing from the lacunae, based on the width of the letters generally in this otherwise cleanly-written papyrus, as well as some of the other notable gaps, but it also makes it clear how much of Preisendanz guessed at some of the barbarous words, too.  Incorporating Preisendanz’ bracket and blank notations and comparing with the above, we get something like this for the parts that really catch our interest for the lacunae, where the underscores indicate the relative amount of letters that are missing which may or may not be barbarous words:

ΛΕΛΕΑΧ____ΑΡΩΑΧ ΤΟΥ__ΑΧΑΒΟΛ [Ω]_______[ΥΡΑ]Μ ΤΟΥ___ΒΟΑΧ ΚΑ__________
Θ__ΡΑ_______ΧΑΧ.  ΜΑΡΙΟ[Κ]____ΥΡΑΜ_________ΙΘ Θ_______ΣΕΣΟΙΚ________
ὀ κ[α]θ[ήμενος] ἐπὶ ὄρους ἰ[εροῦ Σ]ιναΐου_________Ι_ΒΟ______ΑΘΕΜ__________
[ὀ] καθήμενος ἐπὶ τῆς θα[λάσσ]ης _ΕΑ___ΒΛ______Δ_Κ________Ε_ΘΗΣ_________
ΠΑΡΑΧΘΗ_ ό καθήμενο[ς ἐπὶ] τῶν δ[ρα]κοντ[είων] θεῶν, ὀ [θεὸς καθήμε]ν[ο]ς [ἐπὶ τοῦ]
[Ἡ]λίου ΙΑΩ, ὁ καθήμε[νος ἐπὶ]_____ΤΑ_Ω_Ι___Χ, ὁ [καθήμ]εν[ος ἐπὶ τοῦ]__θε____
__ΜΑ__ΣΙ ΑΒΡΙΗΛ ΛΟΥΗΛ_____Μ__[τ]ὸν [κ]οιτῶνα χε[ρο]υ[β]ὶν____ΧΙΡΕ___ΟΖ_______Ι _

[κ]αὶ ΒΡΙΛΕΩΝΑΙ [Α]ΔΟΝΑΙ ΧΑ___ΑΩΘ, ὁ κ[ύρ]ιος των ὅλων. Ἐπικαλουμαί σε, ἐ[πὶ χ]άσ[μα]τος δὸντα

_Ι_Χ. Θεὸς θεῶν, ἀμήν, ἀμήν, ὁ χιόνα γεννῶν, ἐπὶ ἀστέρων ὑπὲρ αἰώνων καὶ ἀεὶ διοδεύων καὶ ποιῶν τοὺς

My original goal, a few years ago, was to try to see what barbarous words would fill in these gaps through a combination of comparative analysis between this and other PGM entries, as well as through straight-up divination and trancework. But I realized, after looking at these lacunae, that it’s not possible to figure out what might just be a barbarous word and what actually might be legitimate Greek, and Lord knows my Greek is awful at best.  Some of the natural impulses I have, like replacing ΧΑ___ΑΩΘ with ΧΑΧΒΑΡΑΩΘ by adding in a few letters (in bold) to make it sound fairly appropriate based on what we see elsewhere in the PGM, make sense, but then there are others that just wouldn’t go along with that, or where there’s just not enough available to sensibly reconstruct, especially when we don’t know whether, for instance, ΚΑ__________ (in the first line) is a barbarous word (it probably is!) or one of the almost 5000 Greek words (according to Perseus-Tufts) that start with kappa-alpha.  My original approach just wasn’t going to work in any way I was going to be comfortable with or competent at, which is why I put this project off for so long.

Skip ahead a few years.  This prayer caught my attention again, so I decided to do some actual research in academic literature about it to see what might turn up.  As it turns out, there’s a bit of commentary here and there about this particular entry of the PGM, and of them, that in Pieter W. van der Horst and Judith H. Newman’s Early Jewish Prayers in Greek is an excellent one, especially about the purpose of this prayer:

“As one who has become immortal”: Goodenough assumed that the reciter of the prayer becomes angelic and immortal as a result of  saying the prayer: “Through knowing it and using it, the devotee has become an angel upon earth, an immortal, and has received the final ‘gift,’ which would seem to be the supreme mystical gift, participation in divinity.” Goodenough’s phrase “participation in divinity” begs the question of what that experience would mean exactly in the context of this prayer and cannot be answered on the basis of this prayer alone but rather within the context of angelic transformation within the Jewish and Graeco-Roman traditions. …

The final line of the prayer contains instructions to recite the prayer seven times. The number seven was of course of symbolic importance. The final line is governed by aorist middle participles which agree with the aorist imperatives. This would indicate that at the moment God fills the petitioner with wisdom, empowerment, and good, he or she becomes an angel and receives these as God’s gift. Some ambiguity remains as to when the transformation was thought to occur, whether it is during the process of repetition that the reciter is transformed into an immortal angel or if the one offering the prayer must wait until the seventh round of repetition and thus the ritual is entirely complete. The directions of north and east suggested by the rubric are understood by Reimund Leicht to be a “clear hint that it was conceived of as an invocation of Helios-Yao-Yaoil at night,” but this is a problematic claim because our prayer is addressed not to Helios-Yao, but to the God of Israel who is enthroned above Helios-Yao.

There’s also a wonderful paper by Reimund Leicht on the entry, too: Qedushah and Prayer to Helios: A New Hebrew Version of an Apocryphal Prayer of Jacob.  Although Leicht is concerned with a different “Prayer of Jacob”, he touches on this one from the PGM, too, and compares it to other entries in the PGM as well as to other prayers from the Jewish and Christian traditions much later:

In this point, our Prayer of Jacob is very similar to the PGM Prayer of Jacob (PGM XIIb). Although both texts largely differ, they have crucial elements in common: Both are prayers directed to Yaô, the creator of the world, and both adapt motifs of the celestial throne with the cherubim (PGM XXIIb 8). The two sentences “(You who) give power ov[er (the) cha]sm (to those) above and those below and those under the earth” and “[He] who is upon (the) stars abo[v]e (the) ages” remind us of the adaptation of Is 6:3 in 2:20 (fol. 2a/13 f.). Finally, the request for “wisdom” (XXIIb 17) is not very far removed from our Prayer of Jacob. The instruction to “say the prayer of Jacob seven times to (the) North and East” (PGM XIIb 20) is a clear hint that it was conceived of as an invocation of Helios- Yao-Yaôil at night.*  These similarities are certainly not sufficient proof of a direct dependency, but they can be taken as hints that the two prayers may be rather remote relatives.

* The North is the place where the sun is at night and in the East it rises.  For an invocation of Helios at night from the North cf. Sefer ha-Razim IV/43; for an invocation of the sun from the East cf. PGM XIII 254.

So, we have this wonderful little prayer that, although the majority of it is there, there are some gaps that make it just barely unfit for use.  That’s where looking at other entries from the PGM comes in.  Although the Prayer of Jacob might be unique in the PGM, some of its phrasing, barbarous words, invocations, and supplications are not, and we can find some strikingly similar examples in other parts of the PGM and other texts:

  • PGM XXXV.1—42: another Judiacally-inspired prayer, addressed to God or an agent/angel of God for power and favor, notable for its similar list of “who sit over…” attributions
  • PGM V.459—489: “Another way” to “loosen shackles, makes invisible, sends dreams, [and is] a spell for gaining favor”.  Again, with heavy Jewish influences, including the barbarous words ΒΑΡΟΥΧ ΑΔΩΝΑΙ ΕΛΩΑΙ ΑΒΡΑΑΜ, which can be easily read as Hebrew for “Blessed be my Lord, the God of Abraham” (“barukh ‘Adonai, ‘Eloah ‘Abraham”).
  • PGM IV.1227—1264: “Excellent rite for driving out daimons”, another Judaically-influenced but also Christianically-influenced prayer of exorcism, with references to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, along with the Christian Trinity.
  • PGM XII.270—350: “A Ring, a little ring for success and favor and victory”.  A ring consecration ritual with a lengthy prayer including a long string of barbarous words with references to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though this shows far more Egyptian influence than anything else.
  • PGM III.1—164: “The ritual of the cat”, a lengthy and highly syncretic quasi-grimoire with some Jewish and Abrahamic elements.

Based on these texts, what I did was basically synthesize parts of them together, using the incomplete Prayer of Jacob as given in PGM XXIIb as a base, and overlaying it with parts from other prayers that fit well, especially those with similar purposes as the Prayer of Jacob.  After a few rewrites, reorganizations, and slight additions to the text for flow and content, what we end up with is a new prayer.  As a result, however, due to how badly preserved the barbarous words are from the original text, sometimes I went with replacing them entirely from another source rather than trying to see what might fit in the right places.   Now, I’m not exactly a fan of swapping out one set of barbarous words for another—Tobias over at Sublunar Space and I have discussed doing that and how it can lead to some disastrous consequences—but some of these entries are so similar to the Prayer of Jacob in approach and style that I think we can do so safely here, so long as we’re smart about it.

However, there’s a weirdness here; in all the texts that have a similar list of barbarous words, or a similar arrangement of qualities such as “you who sit upon X”, including PGM XXXV.1—42 and the Beirut phylactery for Alexandra daughter of Zoē (cf. D. R. Jordan, “A New Reading of a Phylactery from Beirut”, ZPE 88, 1991, pp.61-69), it would seem like these refer to different spirits or angels of particular things rather than attributes of God, yet the Prayer of Jacob from PGM XXIIb treats them as just that: attributes and names of God.  There’s definitely a tradition of prayers going on here, but it would seem that the Prayer of Jacob is an outlier in how it treats these lists of names and dominions.  That said, when we read “you who have the secret name ΣΑΒΑΩΘ”, with ΣΑΒΑΩΘ being a rendition of Hebrew Ṣabaot or “Hosts” referring to the innumerable angels…well, it kinda makes sense, either which way, at least to the mind of the practical Hermeticists of the PGM.  The fact that the same structure and form of prayer is present in a number of unrelated sources is significant, but equally so is the vast disparity between the divine names used.  It’s my hunch that the names are less important than the structure, and as such, the sets of names can largely be interchangeable with each other.  It’s not an ideal situation, but it does allow us some wiggle room for experimentation, and given that the barbarous words are so incomplete and damaged in PGM XXIIb, we can’t really use them anyway—but I claim that we can use those from near-identical prayers elsewhere with as good a result.

As a result of all the above and my own tweaks, I won’t call what I ended up with a “Reconstructed Prayer of Jacob” like I originally intended, because what was “reconstructed” is so different from PGM XXIIb.1—26 to the point where I can’t honestly say that it’s a reconstruction.  However, the underlying text, organization, and purpose of the prayer is identical, so what I’ll call it instead is the “Prayer of the Patriarchs”, a Jewish-Gnostic Hermetic prayer with notions of solar piety that seeks for incarnate divinization of the self as a theurgical practice in line with the Jewish mystical practices of Merkabah and Heikhalot:

In the name of ΣΕΜΕΣΕΙΛΑΜ who is above all the heavens!
I call on you who sit in the first heaven, ΜΑΡΜΑΡ
I call on you who sit in the second heaven, ΡΑΦΑΗΛ
I call on you who sit in the third heaven, ΣΟΥΡΙΗΛ
I call on you who sit in the fourth heaven, ΙΦΙΑΦ
I call on you who sit in the fifth heaven, ΠΙΤΙΗΛ
I call on you who sit in the sixth heaven, ΜΟΥΡΙΑΘΑ
I call on you who sit in the seventh heaven, ΚΑΧΘ
by the power of ΙΑΩ, by the strength of ΣΑΒΑΩΘ,
by the garment of ΕΛΟΗ, by the might of ΑΔΩΝΑΙ, by the crown of ΕΙΛΩΕΙΝ!
Protect me from every daimōn and every power of daimones and from daimonia and from all pharmaka and katadesmoi!

O Father of the Patriarchs, of the All, of the powers of the cosmos!
O Father of the angels and archangels, of the redeeming names, of all the powers!
O Father of the whole cosmos and all creation, both uninhabited and inhabited!
O Father to whom the cherubim and seraphim are subjected!
O Father who showed favor to Abraham by giving the kingdom to him!
O God of the angels and archangels, o King of kings, o Lord of lords!

O King of Heaven, ΑΡΣΕΝΟΦΡΗ
O Possessor of righteousness, ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ
O gracious God, ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ
O Ruler of nature, ΣΑΝΚΑΝΘΑΡΑ
O Origin of the heavens, ΣΑΤΡΑΠΕΡΚΜΗΦ
ΑΘΘΑΝΝΟΥ ΑΘΘΑΝΝΟΥ ΑΣΤΡΑΦΑΙ ΙΑΣΤΡΑΦΑΙ
ΠΑΚΕΡΤΩΘ ΠΑΚΕΡΒΙΩΘ ΗΡΙΝΤΑΣΚΛΙΟΥΘ ΕΦΙΩ ΜΑΡΜΑΡΑΩΘ
You who sit upon the holy mount, ΣΙΝΑΙ
you who sit upon the snow, ΤΕΛΖΗ
you who sit upon the sea, ΕΔΑΝΩΘ
you who sit upon the serpents, ΣΑΕΣΕΧΕΛ
you who sit upon the Sun, ΙΑΩ
you who sit upon the Abyss, ΒΥΘΑΘ
you who sit upon the rivers, ΤΑΒΙΥΜ
you who are ΒΙΜΑΔΑΜ who sit upon the fiery throne of glory, borne by Abriēl and Lūēl;
you who are ΧΑΔΡΙΥΜ who sit in the midst of ΧΑΔΡΑΛΛΟΥ upon the resting place of the cherubim and seraphim as they praise you,
you who are the Lord of the Heavenly Host,
you whose name is blessed and holy unto the ages of ages!
The Lord ΣΑΡΑΧΑΗΛ of Bil`ām,
the God who made Heaven and Earth and all within it,
the Lord of the All!

I call upon you, you who give power over the Abyss
to those above the Earth, to those upon the Earth, and to those below the Earth!
Hear your servant who prays to you in your name with your names!
O Lord God of the chosen people, God glorious unto the ages of ages,
to whom is eternal might, God who is God of all gods!
Rectify your servant who gives unto you this prayer,
make straight him who is of your people,
maintain him who is of those who have received your favor, o God of gods!
O Lord God, Lord of Hosts, blessed are you forever,
o God of ‘Adam, o God of Shet, o God of ‘Enosh,
o God of Qeynan, o God of Mahalal’el, o God of Yared,
o God of Ḥanokh, of God of Metushelaḥ, o God of Lemekh, o God of Noaḥ,
o God of ‘Abraham, o God of Yiṣḥaq, o God of Ya`aqob, o God of gods,
you who have the secret name ΣΑΒΑΩΘ!

O you who are upon the stars and above the ages,
o you who brings forth snow and constantly traverse the entire cosmos,
o you who make the stars and planets marshal all things by your creating power!
Fill me with wisdom and empower me, o Lord,
fill my heart with good, o Lord,
that I might become your angel in this world,
that I might become immortal in your wisdom,
that I might be given a share of your strength and power,
that I might be shown your favor and peace,
that I might receive this gift from you!
Amen.

And, as an alternative, another version that omits the barbarous words entirely, replaces some of the more obscure magical terms with more common ones, and uses the more common English spellings of the Hebrew names used in the prayer:

In the name of the Eternal Light who is above all the heavens,
I call on you, angels of the seven heavens,
by the power of God,
by the strength of God,
by the garment of God,
by the might of God,
by the crown of God!
Protect me from every spirit, every power, every phenomenon, every spell, and every curse!

O Father of the Patriarchs, of the All, of the powers of the cosmos!
O Father of the angels and archangels, of the redeeming names, of all the powers!
O Father of the whole cosmos and all creation, both uninhabited and inhabited!
O Father to whom the cherubim and seraphim are subjected!
O Father who showed favor to Abraham by giving the kingdom to him!
O God of the angels and archangels, o King of kings, o Lord of lords!

O King of Heaven!
O Possessor of righteousness!
O gracious God!
O Ruler of nature!
O Origin of the heavens!
You who sit upon the holy mount,
you who sit upon the snow,
you who sit upon the sea,
you who sit upon the serpents,
you who sit upon the Sun,
you who sit upon the Abyss,
you who sit upon the rivers,
you who sit upon the fiery throne of glory, borne by Abriel and Luel;
you who sit upon the resting place of the cherubim and seraphim as they praise you in the midst of your glory,
you who are the Lord of the Heavenly Host,
you whose name is blessed and holy unto the ages of ages!
The Lord of Balaam, the God who made Heaven and Earth and all within it, the Lord of the All!

I call upon you, you who give power over the Abyss
to those above the Earth, to those upon the Earth, and to those below the Earth!
Hear your servant who prays to you in your name with your names!
O Lord God of the chosen people, o God glorious unto the ages of ages,
to whom is eternal might, o God who is the God of all gods!
Rectify your servant who gives unto you this prayer,
make straight him who is of your people,
maintain him who is of those who have received your favor, o God of gods!
O Lord God, Lord of Hosts, blessed are you forever,
o God of Adam, o God of Seth, o God of Enosh,
o God of Kenan, o God of Mahalalel, o God of Jared,
o God of Enoch, of God of Methushelah, o God of Lamech, o God of Noah,
o God of Abraham, o God of Isaac, o God of Jacob, o God of gods!

O you who are upon the stars and above the ages,
o you who brings forth snow and constantly traverse the entire cosmos,
o you who make the stars and planets marshal all things by your creating power!
Fill me with wisdom and empower me, o Lord,
fill my heart with good, o Lord,
that I might become your angel in this world,
that I might become immortal in your wisdom,
that I might be given a share of your strength and power,
that I might be shown your favor and peace,
that I might receive this gift from you!
Amen.

Most of the changes, especially in the barbarous names, come from other PGM sources; while the Prayer of Jacob from PGM XXIIb is the most important part of the Prayer of the Patriarchs, the initial invocation of the angels of the seven heavens came from PGM XXXV and the Beirut phylactery (the PGM section in question lacks an angel for the seventh heaven), and the godnames preceding the “You who sit over…” invocations came from PGM XII.  Besides those, the only other major structural change is the addition of the full lineage of pre-Flood Patriarchs, from Adam to Noah, then ending with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  I personally like doing this, because it implies a descent of divinity and spiritual heritage from the first man down to the forebears and founders of the Israelites and Jewish people.  Although none of this is in the Prayer of Jacob proper (I mean, if it was said by Jacob, then we wouldn’t expect to find his own name used in his own prayer praisingly), we do see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob put together in other sections of the PGM.  By throwing in the pre-Flood Patriarchs, I though I would be able to tap more into the raw divinity that they had from a time immemorial.  Additionally, from PGM XXXV.1—42, I also added in the prophet Balaam, a contemporary of Moses and the only non-Israelite prophet in the Old Testament.  The inclusion of Balaam is significant, because God made Balaam, a non-Israelite and thus not one of his chosen people, a prophet so that the non-Israelites couldn’t say “if only we had our own Moses, we would be as pious as the Israelites”; more than that, Balaam was blessed with the gift to know the exact moment God became angry or wroth, a deep and emotional intimacy which no other prophet or creature was given.  By including Balaam among the patriarchs here, we’re able to include Jewish heritage as well as non-Jewish heritage, giving us a bit more wiggle room for those who aren’t Jewish or even Noahide in their lifestyle.

Still, there are a few other changes I made here and there, and there’s one interesting bit in the original phrasing that I intentionally changed.  Betz has one of the supplications as “Maintain the one who possesses this prayer, who is from the stock of Israel”, which I changed to “rectify the one who gives unto you this prayer”.  There are three things going on here:

  • I changed “who is from the stock of Israel” to “who is of your people”, making the prayer a bit more general for people who aren’t of Jewish descent to use while still establishing the mage as a person of God, godly in his works and faith, regardless of their Jewish birth heritage in favor of their Hermetic spiritual inheritance.  However, for mages who actually are Jewish, I would recommend the original phrasing instead of my correction.
  • I changed “who possesses this prayer” to “who gives unto you this prayer”.  The Betz translation, taking a cue from Preisendanz, would suggest that this whole prayer might not be recited at all, but instead written as an amulet like many of the other charms and ritual apparatuses of the PGM, but this goes against the ritual instructions at the end of this part of PGM XXIIb, so I don’t think it’s meant to be written and carried around (though doing so wouldn’t hurt, if you were to go the extra mile).  One alternative is to write down the first two paragraphs of the prayer as an amulet, while reciting the rest; that might be one possible breakdown, though I think it’s still better to recite the whole thing, with “possession” here meant metaphorically rather than literally.
  • Really interesting here is the use of the word “maintain” here, which in Greek is διόρθωσον, the aorist imperative form of διορθόω, which literally means “make straight”, in the sense of correction, revision, amending someone, reconciling, redeeming, or restoring to order.  The word has a medical connotation, too, of setting broken bones back in place, as noted by Phillip J. Long over at Reading Acts.  Instead of using “maintain” which doesn’t really have many of those connotations, I opted for “rectify”, which literally means “make right” or “make straight”, and gives more of those connotations of διορθόω.

Then there are the barbarous names ΕΠΑΓΑΗΛ ΑΛΑΜΝ and ΗΛΟΗΛ ΣΟΥΗΛ.  Though I’m not in the habit of leaving out barbarous words, I did I just that here, rendering them instead as “God glorious unto the ages of ages” and “God who is God of all gods”, respectively.  Though these can definitely be left as barbarous words, I think these ones can actually be translated.  As to how I translated them and why:

  • ΕΠΑΓΑΗΛ ΑΛΑΜΝ: There are a few Greek words that start with έπαγα- that all have to do with glory, exulting, or dignity, and I think this might be a synthesis of a Greek word with the Hebrew godname ‘El, literally “glorious ‘El” or “glorious God”.  ΑΛΑΜΝ, on the other hand, is strange, but van der Horst and Newman in their commentary on this prayer instead read its as “ALAMAN”, which they consider to be a corruption of Hebrew “`olam” or “`olamim”.  This word is common in the berakhot of Jewish practice, where every blessing begins “barukh atah ‘Adonai ‘Eloheinu, melekh ha-`olam…” or “blessed are you, my Lord, our God, king of the world…” or, alternatively, “…sovereign of the universe…” or even “…ruler of the cosmos…”.  However, in its plural form, `olamim can also mean “eternal” or, more poetically, “ages of ages”, and van der Horst and Newman note that ‘El `Olam would mean “God of Eternity”, suggesting also that we should read this as ΕΠΑΓΑ ΗΛ ΑΛΑΜΑΝ.  Thus, I translated these divine names as “God glorious unto the ages of ages”.
  • ΗΛΟΗΛ ΣΟΥΗΛ: Unfortunately, I’m not as clean here as with the above names, but I don’t want to read them as barbarous words, either.  If we break this up into ΗΛ Ο ΗΛ ΣΟΥ ΗΛ, then we could read it as “God, the God, your God” or “God, the God of you, God”.  ΗΛΟΗΛ is a weird theophoric name; although well-formed, like Μιχαηλ or Σαμουηλ, we don’t often see two divine elements put together, especially the same element, in the same name.  If we break this up into several words, then we can get a reasonable Greek construction: Ἠλ ὁ Ἠλ, literally “God, the God”.  Likewise, we can break up ΣΟΥΗΛ into σου Ἠλ, the second person singular genitive pronoun (i.e. “your”) and God.  It all comes together as “God, the God of you, God”, which implies a divinity-within-divinity or divinity-upon-divinity.  For clarity, and to imply a kind of hierarchy, I’m translating these as “God who is God of all gods”.  It’s not an exact translation, but I’m comfortable in its meaning.

And one more note: the barbarous word ΣΕΜΕΣΕΙΛΑΜ used at the start of the prayer is rendered as “Eternal Light” in the version without barbarous words.  This is due to rendering the word as Hebrew “shemesh `olam”, or “sun of the world” or “sun of eternity”.  This is translated as “Eternal Light” to avoid too heliocentric a focus of the prayer, despite the Prayer of Jacob’s and related prayers’ heliocentric theurgical focus, but bears an equivalent meaning.  This isn’t really used in any of the source texts I was working with, but it’s a word I like using with a beautiful and appropriate meaning, so I used it in a place that seemed useful for it.

And…that’s it.  This is a project that was delayed for almost six years, but I’m glad to finally remove that entry from my post drafts folder, and to present it publicly.  Now to say it seven times facing northeast.  (Or whatever direction faces Jerusalem, I suppose.)