Praise of the Seven Ladies

Over the years, some parts of my practice have become staples that I maintain in one form or another regardless of what else I might be doing, but much else I’ve done has been experimental where I try something new or attempt worship or work with some new spirit or spirits.  Looking back, with some frequency, some of those experiments are successful enough to make such practices become staples, but more often than not, they don’t.  I’m not one to go out of my way to try to establish some “grand unifying practice” where I have to get everything to match up and agree with each other in every possible regard from the get-go, but sometimes things just stick out too much in one sense or another where they just can’t find a proper foothold in the rest of my spiritual life, or where I already have enough going on in other ways that I can’t really accommodate a new practice for long in tandem with everything else.  It’s unfortunate, given how excited I can get about some of these experiments and ventures at times, but it is what it is.

One of the things I’ve always wanted to experiment with and dig into more is venerating the northern stars, not just Polaris but the seven stars of Ursa Minor and the seven stars of Ursa Maior more generally.  I’ve gone into some depth regarding these before from a PGM standpoint (my Pole Lords and Northern Stars post series from October 2018, part 1, part 2, part 3), but there’s honestly just so much with northern star veneration in so many cultures that it’s honestly astounding.  Some of the richest and most fascinating stuff I’ve seen along these lines is how a variety of East Asian cultures and religions developed and incorporated such veneration practices into Taoism, Buddhism, and other indigenous traditions.  Once I picked up on a few threads there, this sent me on a round or four of binge-researching to see what I might find (in English, at any rate).  A few of the neater things I came across were:

There’s plenty more along these lines, but I think these three resources give a good start to those who are interested further.  This is definitely one of the fields I’d like to experiment with more, since I’ve already done a few things for the northern stars even in my own practice from time to time.  I’d love to do more, but it’s sometimes difficult to get it all to correlate in my own practice without just leaving it sorta…hanging there, untethered to much else that I do.

That said, it’s easier to find things related to the stars of Ursa Maior (the Big Dipper) in contexts like this than it is for the stars of Ursa Minor (the Little Dipper), which is somewhat annoying.  Even still, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t PGM versions of this situation, too; there are plenty of bear charms or other bear-related spells in the PGM (e.g. PGM IV.1257—1322, PGM IV.1323—1330, PGM IV.1331—1389, PGM VII.686—702).  As I mentioned in my Pole Lords and Northern Stars post series I mentioned above, we also see a fascinating deification of the stars of Ursa Maior and the stars of Ursa Minor, too, in the famous Mithras Liturgy of PGM IV.475—829, where there are “seven virgins…dressed in linen garments with the faces of asps[;] they are called the Fates of Heaven and wield golden wands” for Ursa Maior and “seven gods who have the faces of black bulls, in linen loincloths, and in possession of seven golden diadems[;] they are the so-called Pole Lords of Heaven” for Ursa Minor, each of which having their own name.  It may not be a whole lot in the PGM to develop a full or complete practice of veneration of the northern stars, but there’s certainly enough to consider and get started with.

To that end, I decided to take a somewhat eclectic, syncretic approach to devising my own lengthier invocation of the stars of Ursa Maior.  By picking at a combo of Taoist star lore, Buddhist correspondences and veneration, and some of the stuff from the PGM (specifically PGM IV.475—829), I put together the following prayer, “Praise of the Seven Ladies”, which invokes and salutes the seven stars of Ursa Maior using their names from the Mithras Liturgy for their aid and succor in our lives.  It’s definitely a hybrid spiritual approach (one might even reasonably call it a mutt of prayers) to these entities as a cluster of deities in their own right, but by grafting on influences from several traditions, it’s something experimental that I hope might one day be useful, at least to get a foothold of my own with more advanced or in-depth northern star veneration practices.

Without further ado, my “Praise of the Seven Ladies”:

I give honor to the sanctity of ΧΡΕΨΕΝΘΑΗΣ!
First amongst the blessed nobles, first among the bright seven,
leading your entourage in the twisted twistings of Fate,
penetrating the most sublime wisdom and light of the mind!
Be kind to me and protect me, o heaven-ruling goddess!
Keep your anger far from me, o insatiable eye of Heaven,
and turn all my enemies’ anger back upon themselves!

I give honor to the sanctity of ΜΕΝΕΣΧΕΗΣ!
Second among the blessed nobles, second among the bright seven,
the gate by which all powers and spirits flow free as you will,
whose voice flashes and shines as jewels with power and sublimity!
Be kind to me and protect me, o pole-ruling goddess!
Grant me your medicine, o stable wall of Heaven,
and let the poisons and plagues of my enemies flood their own homes!

I give honor to the sanctity of ΜΕΧΡΑΝ!
Third among the blessed nobles, third among the bright seven,
the commander and director of light from your blessed abode,
surpassing all glory and beauty to shine light upon the whole cosmos!
Be kind to me and protect me, o highest goddess!
Keep me happy and safe from all disaster, o strong support of Heaven,
and let whatever disasters other plan for me befall those who plan them!

I give honor to the sanctity of ΑΡΑΜΑΧΗΣ!
Fourth among the blessed nobles, fourth among the bright seven,
the supreme balance and assistant between those before and behind,
granter of supreme bliss, bestower of holiest wisdom!
Be kind to me and protect me, o beautiful-shining goddess!
Let me remain whole for the whole of my life, o firm foundation of Heaven,
and turn the blades of my enemies away to cut only themselves!

I give honor to the sanctity of ΕΧΟΜΜΙΗ!
Fifth among the blessed nobles, fifth among the bright seven,
the measure of the cosmos who views all things from your tower,
who breaks obstacles through intelligence, wisdom, and the purest of virtue!
Be kind to me and protect me, o incorruptible goddess!
May I always remain strong with you at my side, o whip and club of Heaven,
but may those who seek to weaken me instead be weakened themselves!

I give honor to the sanctity of ΤΙΧΝΟΝΔΑΗΣ!
Sixth among the blessed nobles, sixth among the bright seven,
the opener of power, of opportunity, of crisis in all things,
who delights in justice, in law, in righteousness in all things!
Be kind to me and protect me, o all-illuminating goddess!
May I live long and free without danger, o modest covering of Heaven,
but may those who seek to endanger me instead be surrounded by danger!

I give honor to the sanctity of ΕΡΟΥ ΡΟΜΒΡΙΗΣ!
Seventh among the blessed nobles, seventh among the bright seven,
the enforcer who ensures our compliance with Necessity,
supreme in the subtleties of health and wholeness from profundity!
Be kind to me and protect me, o goddess holding all things together as one!
May I be kept ordered and right on my way, o leader of the cries of Heaven,
but may those who march against me be broken and defeated!

Hail, o queens of mortals and of gods, o heavenly rulers!
Hail to you, o seven Fates of Heaven, o noble and good virgins!
Hail to you, ΧΡΕΨΕΝΘΑΗΣ!
Hail to you, ΜΕΝΕΣΧΕΗΣ!
Hail to you, ΜΕΧΡΑΝ!
Hail to you, ΑΡΑΜΑΧΗΣ!
Hail to you, ΕΧΟΜΜΙΗ!
Hail to you, ΤΙΧΝΟΝΔΑΗΣ!
Hail to you, ΕΡΟΥ ΡΟΜΒΡΙΗΣ!
For you are the most holy guardians of the four pillars,
the sacred ones and companions of ΜΙΝΙΜΙΡΡΟΦΟΡ,
who rules over the heavens, the stars, and the whole world,
greatest goddess, ruling heaven, reigning over the pole of the stars,
highest, shining beautifully, incorruptible,
all-illuminating bond of the whole cosmos,
who turn all things with a strong hand,
who are appointed to raise and lower all things!
Be kind to me, protect me, and grant me your blessing,
o mistress of water, o founder of earth, o ruler of wind, o lightener of fire!

If you have a veneration practice to the northern stars of your own, feel free to talk about it in the comments!  I’d love to hear from you, your experiences and your background and your practices, and the like.  If you’d like to give the above prayer a whirl, feel free, and let me know how it works for you!

Four Names, Four Visions of the Sun

Yeah, yeah, I know I’ve been quiet here lately over the past few months.  I’m shaking myself out of it, as this past winter has been a bit more stressful than others on several fronts, but all told, I’ve been making do and getting by.  I haven’t come through completely unscathed, and as it happens, some aspects of my spiritual practice has suffered as a result.  It can be hard to rely on motivation alone when you have plenty else to deal with or worry about, but what matters more than motivation to do something is discipline to keep doing it.  Motivation might be what gets you excited about something, but discipline is what keeps you engaged with it even when you’ve lost all motivation.  (Which isn’t to say I’m particularly disciplined, either, of course.)

Even on my worst days, I still make time to do at least a little bit of routine spiritual observances, mostly in the form of saluting my orisha and also offering a salutation to the Sun; on days when I make it to my temple room, this takes care of my pre-temple stuff I get around to.  Ideally, every morning when I wake up, my ideal routine is to get out of bed, brush my teeth, and wash my face.  Being initiated to orisha, I then praise my orí (my head-spirit or destiny) to pray for a good day and a good life, and then I salute my orisha (at least Elegba and Ogún, the latter of whom I’m specifically initiated to).  After saying hello to the rest of the spirits and shrines around the house generally (and closing or opening windows/blinds as necessary to prepare for the day’s weather), I then salute the Sun.  In the colder time of the year, I’ll just do it from an eastern-facing window in the house, but when it’s pleasant enough to do so outside, I’ll head out and stand in the yard to do it instead.  (It’s super nice that I’m able to work from home perpetually now, given both the ongoing pandemic as well as my work’s office being moved to an inconvenient place, but in the Before Times, I’d salute the Sun once I got to my train station’s parking lot.)

The specific prayer I use to salute the Sun ended up developing organically over the course of a few weeks.  As I’d get to the train station parking lot in the mornings, I started just saying off-the-cuff supplications and simple praises, but over time, they settled down into a regular formula that I didn’t have to memorize for it to be repeatable and recitable easily.  Of course, me being me and wanting to make sure all things I do can be expanded in a fancy way if necessary, I ended up polishing and refining my daily organic salutation to the Sun and reworked it slightly into something I’ve fancifully titled the “Grand Supplication to the Sun”.  The prayer as a whole (even in its original organic form) relies on some subtle references to the Prayer to the Sun of Emperor Julian, Orphic prayers and ritual documents, and a few PGM references, but all told it comes together fairly nicely.  I’ve included the prayer as part of my Preces Templi ebook, but I’ll share it here, too:

Hail to you, Lord Hēlios, Lord of the All!
O Spirit of the Cosmos, Power of the Cosmos, Light of the Cosmos,
o celestial Fire, Craftsman of creation, greatest of the gods in Heaven,
o far-reaching, wide-whirling, encircling the heavens forever turning,
o Father of Sky, o Father of Sea, o Father of Earth,
o all-maker, all-shining, all-radiant with golden glory!
Be kind to us, be gracious to us, be propitious to us all!

Shine upon us, your children, the children of starry Heaven and fertile Earth,
o you whose light enables us to see that which is good and true,
o you whose light is forever unconquerable,
o you whose light binds Heaven and Earth together,
o you whose light reaches even unto the deepest reaches of the abyss!

Bless us, your children, the children of starry Heaven and fertile Earth:
grant us your Spirit that we might live,
your Power that we might work,
your Light that we might see,
and your Fire to fuel and temper the flames of want and will in our own hearts!

Hail to you, Hēlios, this and every day of all creation!

The last few words written in Greek script can be transliterated instead as:


While the bulk of the prayer is just spoken normally in whatever prayer-voice one might find conventional, and while I often end up abbreviating the whole thing to a slightly more condensed version, the last barbarous bit is something I always set aside a moment to intone and sing:

The stuff in English and that last few lines in Greek are all pretty bog standard praises for the Sun, I’d claim; there’s very little to mention there beyond the usual stuff to point out, how we rely on the Sun for all things in life, how the Sun is among the most holy things in the cosmos, how the Sun is essentially a demiurge of our world, and the like.  I mean, Hermēs Trismegistos himself notes how the Sun is something he himself worships in the Stobaean Fragments (SH 2A.14):

Tat: “What then, father, would one call true?”

Hermēs: “Only the sun, which is beyond all other things unchanging, remaining in itself, we would call truth. Accordingly, he alone is entrusted with crafting everything in the world, with ruling and making everything. I indeed venerate him and worship his truth. I recognize him as Craftsman subordinate to the One and Primal (Deity).”

The Sun is also particularly praised and discussed in CH V, CH XVI, and CH XVIII, and I suppose it should come as little surprise to anyone when you consider the Greco-Egyptian roots of Hermeticism.  Sun-worship is something common the whole world round, but it was especially taken to a huge degree in Egypt, as evidenced not only by the survivals of it in Hermetic texts but replete throughout ancient Egyptian religious documents and slightly-less-ancient (Greco-)Egyptian magical documents.  And it’s from that sort of magical documents, in the form of a few entries from the PGM, that I came up with the barbarous bits at the end of my invocations from, which I’d like to break down in this post.

First, there’s those final three lines of “KHAIRE HĒLIE PANTOKRATOR”, “PSOI PHNOUTHI NINTHĒR”, and “I I I I I I”.  The first is just Greek for “Hail, Sun All-Ruler”; the last is just six intonations of the letter Iōta, the vowel I associate with the Sun itself in a number commonly given in a lot of modern magical practices to the Sun.  The middle line is Egyptian transliterated into Greek from PGM IV.1596—1715 (the Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios), which would be the equivalent to “Pshai, the god of gods”; Shai in this case is the ancient Egyptian deity (or divine personification) of fate, later syncretized with Agathos Daimōn, which PGM IV.1596 renders equivalent to the Sun (“come to me, you who rise from the four winds, joyous Agathos Daimōn, for whom heaven has become the processional way”).

For the preceding four lines, each of which contains the “ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ …” formula itself.  That comes from PGM XII.351—364, a ritual to create a ring for success and victory, but which also includes the OUPHŌR ritual, which is a sort of diminished/diminutive opening of the mouth ceremony.  It’s a fascinating thing, but towards the end of the ritual, there’s a series of statements that all have “ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ …” followed by a divine name or two.  The footnotes in the Betz version of the PGM say that “ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ …” corresponds to Egyptian i iꜣw “o hail”.  Following this, this would mean that “ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ …” is a formula to invoke or salute something.  I’ve used it as a sort of Greco-Egyptian parallel to a more Greek ΙΩ or Latin AVE (or even a parallel to the Buddhist Sanskrit namo) in chants or formulaic greetings to gods in prayers or offerings.  Although I can’t personally attest to the linguistic basis of Egyptian i iꜣw becoming Greekified ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ or to i iꜣw actually meaning “o hail”, I’ve gotten good mileage out of it in practice.

That leaves us with the four barbarous names ΑΧΕΒΥΚΡΩΜ, ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ, ΣΕΜΕΣΕΙΛΑΜ, and ΜΑΡΜΑΡΑΥΩΘ.  What of these?

  • ΑΧΕΒΥΚΡΩΜ: This name appears chiefly throughout PGM XIII as a divine name, but is actually explained in PGM XIII.343—646 as signifying “the flame and radiance of the [solar] disk”, specifically in the context of an invocation to Hēlios as an epithet of his, and also appears in the variant spelling ΕΧΕΒΥΚΡΩΜ in PGM XIII.1—343 as some sort of power of Hēlios.
  • ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ: I don’t think I really need to say much about this name, mostly because there’s already so much research about it in general.  Whether conceived of merely as a divine word of power or as a divinity unto itself, ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ (sometimes ΑΒΡΑΞΑΣ “ABRAKSAS”) appears throughout so much magical and religious literature of the Hellenistic Egypt period (both pre- and post-Roman) and on so many magical talismans that so-called Abrasax stones are a common-enough phenomenon to deserve their own field of study.  What suffices for our needs here is that ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ is a common-enough divine name used in a number of solar contexts, which is appropriate since one of the most famous things about this name is that its numerological value is 365, the whole number of days in a solar year.
  • ΣΕΜΕΣΕΙΛΑΜ: The Mithras Liturgy of PGM IV.475—829 gives an interesting (albeit incomplete) list of barbarous names with their “translations” or meanings, like ΑΖΑΙ being “beautiful light” or ΕΛΟΥΡΕ being “fire-delighter” or ΦΝΟΥΗΝΙΟΧ being “fire-body”.  In such a list, we see the word ΣΕΜΕΣΕΙΛΑΜ being given the meaning of “light-maker” with an alternative meaning of “encloser”.  That said, this is a name (sometimes in the form ΣΕΜΕΣΙΛΑΜ) that occurs with tolerable abundance in the PGM.  The most straightforward derivation of this word is from Hebrew or a related Semitic language, specifically from the phrase שמש עולם šemeš `olam “eternal Sun”, “hidden Sun”, or perhaps even “Sun of the world”.
  • ΜΑΡΜΑΡΑΥΩΘ: This is a word that we find in PGM IV.930—1114, which I’ve discussed before as the Conjuration of Light Under Darkness, overall a lamp divination ritual to produce a divine vision of a god.  This name occurs as a “mystic symbol” in a solar hymn.  In her amazing Magical Hymns from Roman Egypt, Ljuba Bortolani offers an explanation as “lord of lights” (if taken from Aramaic מר מאורות m’r m’r’wt) or as “lord of lords” (if taken from Syriac מרא דמרותא mr’ dmrwt’), either way “certainly a name with solar associations”.  This name also appears in a number of other gnostic texts, magical items, and the like, sometimes appearing as a name of the a god of the first or second heaven, sometimes appearing as a name of one of the decans.  Some have noted a similarity to the Greek word μαρμαίω “to shine/sparkle/gleam” and an appearance of the word ΜΑΡΜΑΡΑΥΓΗ (MARMARAUGĒ) in PGM XIII.1—343 (the Eighth Book of Moses).

(If this sort of discussion seems familiar, dear reader, it should.  I once discussed this same thing some years back in another post from April 2020, same invocation and all albeit in a slightly earlier form.  I had the nagging suspicion that I had written about this before, and I only realized that I actually had when I was already more than halfway through writing this post.  Oh well!  Consider this an update, then, and an expansion of what I had said before.)

When I recite this last bit of my daily solar salutation, I don’t just intone or sing these names, but I engage in a bit of light visualization to accompany them, as well.  Consider what I’m doing: in the morning, I’m standing facing the sunrise (or at least the rising Sun), basking in its light and praising it for its light.  As I get to each of the lines in the last barbarous bit, I close my eyes (if not already closed due to standing in the sunlight) and visualize the following:

  1. ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ ΑΧΕΒΥΚΡΩΜ: I see the solar disc (in the form of the modern astrological glyph for it ☉ or the Egyptian hieroglyph for it 𓇳, the dotted circle), and imagine a single ray of pure sunlight descending from the Sun and connecting it to me.
  2. ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ: The ray of Akhebukrōm that connects me to the Sun swings wide in a vast arc, connecting to itself to complete a cosmic circle, the orbit of the Earth around the Sun that takes 365 days (the enumeration of the name ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ) to complete.
  3. ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ ΣΕΜΕΣΕΙΛΑΜ: The circle of Abrasaks expands and grows to an immense, infinite sphere, not just becoming a circle of the solar system but a circle of the endless and unbounded cosmos itself, with all the cosmos itself becoming its center.  This is very same sphere described in statement #2 of the Book of the 24 Philosophers: “God is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere”.
  4. ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ ΜΑΡΜΑΡΑΥΩΘ: Within the sphere of Semeseilam becomes filled with a pure light; just as the ray of Akhebukrōm connected me (and the Earth) to the solar disc itself, the light of Marmarauōth joins all thing indiscriminately together, linking finitude to infinity, boundary with center, into the purest divine Light of God itself.
  5. ΧΑΙΡΕ ΗΛΙΕ ΠΑΝΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡ / ΨΟΙ ΦΝΟΥΘΙ ΝΙΝΘΗΡ / Ι Ι Ι Ι Ι Ι:  Dwelling in such light that the Sun gives to me, to the Earth, and to all the cosmos from the very divine Source of all Light itself, I let myself be permeated with such light that I become dissolved within it, joining my own praise of the Sun to the cosmic praise sung constantly and silently itself, letting my praise become identical with the light itself that reaches, covers, surrounds, supports, ands fills all things.

In a way, this sort of progressive visualization proceeds along geometric notions: we start from the single point (0D) of the Sun, extending forth into a line (1D) of sunlight, curving upon itself into a circle (2D), and expanding upon itself infinitely into a sphere (3D), only then being filled with itself so that all of existence in space is permeated with Light.  We see something similar in the “light-bringing spell” and “light-retaining spell” of PGM IV.930—1114, the Conjuration of Light Under Darkness: “let there be light, breadth, depth, Length, height, brightness, and let him who is inside shine through…” and “I conjure you, holy light, holy brightness, breadth, depth, length, height, brightness, by the holy names I which I have spoken and am now going to speak…”.  All in all, it’s a simple sort of contemplation, but it’s one that I find helps orient me each day when I do it, and gives me a sort of “dimensionality” or vision when I contemplate these four names of the Sun themselves.  In a sense, it’s not unlike the four names of the guardians of the Sun, except instead of reflecting four “faces” of entities for different directions or temporal nodes of the Sun, this is something higher and more about the manner and means of the Sun’s power itself reaching us and the whole of the cosmos itself.

Every year, when the seasons turn and winter begins to give way to spring, I always struggle a bit.  In addition to finding the transition from cold weather to warm weather more physically troublesome than the other way around, although I revere the sunlight as an ever-present abiding of divinity with us, I’m more of a nocturnal person myself, and the lengthening of the daytime at the expense of the nighttime has a tendency to sour my mood.  Then again, there’s always something special, something holy, something gladdening about dawn and daybreak, whether it happens at 7am or 4am.  Although it might be facile and hackneyed nowadays to say that “it’s always darkest before dawn”, there’s a truth in it, too: the Sun will continue rise in the East, just as it always has and just as it always will.  No matter how dark or difficult things get, there is always something for us all to rely on or turn to to remind us that we, too, can get up and continue along our path just as the Sun does itself.

Lighting the Shrine to Light the Way

Once again, I’ve found myself in the doldrums when it comes to regular practice, and once again, I periodically check in on my temple room and get a profound urge to organize, downsize, and redo so much of it.  Spirits that no longer serve, shrines I no longer tend to, tools I’ve collected but have long since forgotten what purpose they were supposed to get to—eventually, bit by bit, it all compounds upon itself, leading to a massive feeling of obligation and no means to resolve it, and thus also leading to a complete paralysis and inability to even want to do anything about it.  It is, of course, a familiar cycle, and it turns on again and again, as it ever has.

Part of the usual turning of this cycle, as it seems to turn out, is where I reconsider my main shrine, the point at which I do the bulk of all my Hermetic prayers.  I’ve had one ever since I started all this stuff back when I got into Rufus Opus’ Red Work Course way back when in 2011, and have kept it in some form or another ever since, ranging from a simple nightstand at the foot of my Ikea folding bed in my old apartment to a long sidetable in a temple room in my old place to a much wider and taller desk-type setup in the temple room where I live now.  Just as the shape and size of the surface itself has changed, so too has what’s gone on it, from a simple candle and corner for my HGA to a candle with the seven archangels and my HGA and Mary as Queen of Heaven, to a…well, much more elaborate setup I had involving the four progenitors of geomancy with the Sun and Moon, or alternatively angelic representations of the North and South Nodes of the Moon, etc.  That I’ve always had a shrine to do my Hermetic stuff at hasn’t changed, but the shape and format of my shrine has, reflecting different stages of my spiritual development, experimentation, and thinking about what it is I’m actually doing.

In addition to the various things I’ve already tried, I’ve also considered a bunch of other things, too, that I thought about as incorporating as devotional elements that might be nice for a Hermetic practice:

  • A natural tall-ish stone, or a brick/stone pyramid, situated and rising from a bowl of water to represent the Benben mound of Egyptian cosmogonic myth
  • An image (statue, scroll, painting, etc.) of Hermēs Trismegistos, either with or without accompanying (and perhaps smaller) images of his students Tat, Asklēpios, and Ammōn
  • An image of the Agathodaimōn or HGA
  • An image of the Divine Cosmos or of Divine Nature (much as one might find in Jeffrey Kupperman’s excellent Living Theurgy: A Course in Iamblichus’ Philosophy, Theology, and Theurgy)
  • A small abstract model of Adocentyn (or, as one might consider it, Hermopolis Theia) from the Picatrix
  • A pair of images to represent the Sun and Moon, or of the seven planets
  • Images or symbols of one’s general faith and religion, especially if one syncretizes Hermeticism with another religion or practices it as a mystical approach to another religion (e.g. a crucifix for Christian Hermeticists)
  • Calligraphy of sacred words, verses, or statements of faith

All of these are nice, I admit, and they all reflect different ideas, approaches, and meanings that can be used towards Hermeticism.  However, despite all of these things that one might feasibly use, I’ve always felt strongly about one thing that one must use in such a Hermetic shrine, and that’s a sacred light burning on the shrine: the shrine lamp itself.  All else is effectively up to the individual’s choice, but the shrine lamp must be present, I’d claim.  It’s something I’ve always had going for my own shrines, to be sure, in one form or another, whether a plain glass-encased white novena candle in the center and back of my shrine or a Moroccan tealight lantern hanging above my shrine.  More than that, it’s not just that it’s a habit of mine, but rather that it makes sense to have it.

So, why a shrine lamp at all?  In my view, this lantern or candle or whatever burning with a sacred flame represents the pure light and holy presence of God.  I mean, light as a thing is a hugely important notion in the classical texts of Hermeticism, like the elaborate revelation of Poimandrēs to Hermēs Trismegistos in book I of the Corpus Hermeticum, how all things were originally light and it is from this light that all creation came to be and that light is the origin of mind itself.  I’ve not just explored the sacred notion and use of light in my own home and life before, but also in how it can be used in a religious sense in geomancy with its Islamic origins, but there’s also an interesting notion at play that I really want to focus on today: that of the story of Hermēs Trismegistos and the Perfect Nature from the Picatrix (book III, chapter 6).  I wrote a five-part series of posts about it a ways back (The Spiritual Nature(s) of Perfect Nature, Analyzing the Vignette and the Names, Ritual Prep and Setting the Altar, Associations of the Four Powers, and The Ritual Itself, and Why Do It Anyway), and the story there is a really interesting one (using Warnock/Greer’s translation):

When I wished to understand and draw forth the secrets of the workings of the world and of its qualities, I put myself above a certain pit that was very deep and dark, from which a certain impetuous wind blew; nor was I able to see anything in the pit, on account of its obscurity.  If I put a lit candle in it, straightway it was extinguished by the wind.

Then there appeared to me in a dream a beautiful man of imperial authority, who spoke to me as follows: “Put that lit candle in a lantern of glass, and the impetuosity of the wind will not extinguish it. You should lower the lantern into the pit, in the middle of which you should dig; thence you may draw forth an image by which, when you have drawn it forth, the wind from the pit will be extinguished, and then you will be able to hold the light there. Then you should dig in the four corners of the pit, and from there you may draw out the secrets of the world and of Perfect Nature, and its qualities, and the generation of all things.”

I asked him who he was, and he replied: “I am Perfect Nature; if you wish to speak to me, call me by my proper name, and I will answer you.” I asked him them by what name he was called, and he answered me, saying, “By the four names mentioned above I am named and called…”

In my second post on the series, I explored this little vignette, and tried to analyze it in the context of what I knew, seeing it as a mirrored version of Hermēs’ ascent into the heavens in classical pagan literature with here a chthonic descent into treasure realms in later Islamic literature.  However, what I was unaware of when I wrote that post series is that such an interpretation (which I still think has some merit as a symbolic reinterpretation) isn’t quite reasonable when one takes a broader view of the literature and myths available to the writer(s) of the Picatrix.  For instance, if we were to turn to, say, the Kitāb sirr al-ḫalīqa, or the Book of the Secret of Creation and the Art of Nature attributed to Balīnūs of Tuaya (aka Apollonius of Tyana), which the first text we know of that contains the short text of the Emerald Tablet, we see a super similar story, indeed.  Turning to Jason Colavito’s translation:

I was an orphan of the people of Tuaya, totally indigent and destitute of everything. There was in the place where I lived a statue of stone raised on a column of wood; on the column one could read these words: “I am Hermes, to whom knowledge has been given; I have made this wonderful work in public, but afterward I hid the secrets of my art, so that they can only be discovered by a man as learned as I am.” On the breast of the statue one could similarly read these words written in ancient language: “If anyone wishes to know the secret of the creation of beings, and in what way nature has been formed, he should look under my feet.” They came in crowds to see this statue, and everyone looked under its feet without seeing anything.

As for me, I was still a weak child; but when I was stronger, and I attained a more advanced age, having read the words that were on the chest of the statue, I understood the meaning, and I undertook to dig the ground under the foot of the column. I discovered a subterranean vault where a thick darkness reigned, and in which the light of the sun could not penetrate. If one wanted to carry in the light of a torch, it was immediately extinguished by the movement of the winds which blew ceaselessly. I found no way to follow the path I had discovered, because of the darkness that filled the underground; and the force of the winds which blew through it did not allow me to enter by the light of the torch. Unable to overcome these obstacles, I slipped into depression, and sleep took hold of my eyes.

While I slept an anxious and restless sleep, my mind occupied with the subject of my pain, an old man whose face resembled mine appeared before me and said to me: “Arise, Balīnūs, and enter into this underground path; it will lead you to knowledge of the secrets of creation, and you will come to know how nature was formed.” “The darkness,” I replied, “prevents me from discerning anything in this place, and no light can withstand the wind blowing there.” Then this old man said to me: “Balīnūs, place your light under a transparent vessel. It will thus be sheltered from the winds which will be able to put it out, and it will illuminate this dark place.” These words restored joy to my soul; I felt that I would finally enjoy the object of my desire, and I addressed the man with these words: “Who are you,” I said to him, “to whom I am indebted for such a great blessing?” “I am,” he replied, “your creator, the perfect being.”

At that moment I awoke, filled with joy, and placing a light under a transparent vessel, as I had been ordered to do, I descended underground. I saw an old man sitting on a throne of gold, holding in one hand a tablet of emerald, on which was written: “This is the formation of nature”; before him was a book on which this was written: “This is the secret of the creation of beings, and the science of the causes of all things”” I took this book boldly, and without fear, and I departed from this place. I learned what was written in this book of the Secret of the Creation of Beings; I understood how nature was formed, and I acquired knowledge of the causes of all things. My knowledge made my name famous; I knew the art of talismans, and marvelous things, and I penetrated the combinations of the four elementary principles, their different compositions, their antipathies, and their affinities.

The similarities here are beyond happenstance; to my mind, it’s clear that the Picatrix’s account of Hermēs coming in contact with Perfect Nature so as to enter a dark pit falls into the same lineage of myths and vignettes as this one of Apollonius coming in contact with Perfect Nature so as to enter the tomb of Hermēs himself.  In either case, note the crucial thing that this spirit suggests so as to enter the windy darkness and see what is within: a light encased within glass, the line to shine into the darkness and the glass to protect the light.  In my earlier analysis of the vignette from the Picatrix, I understood this to be a metaphor for protecting one’s own mind:

In a dream, Perfect Nature came and told Hermēs to protect the candle from the wind in a lamp so that the wind will not extinguish it.  Seeing how encased lamps are a truly ancient invention, I’m surprised that this had to be pointed out to Hermēs.  However, this is also symbolic…By using the candle as one’s awareness, Hermēs trying to ascend into the heavens without preparation and protection, shutting himself off from the violent passions of the world and the influences of fate produced by the planets.

I arrived at this interpretation with help from the Chronos Speaks blog on this very same topic:

This in mind, Hermes’ mysterious description of the method of contacting Perfect Nature starts to make a lot more sense. The “deep pit” is sleep itself which drags one down into the oblivion of unconsciousness if we are not successful in achieving lucidity, the “impetuous wind” is the mental noise that prevents both sleep and lucidity (and which seems to get much stronger at the critical point), the “candle” is the light of awareness itself, and the “glass lantern” that protects awareness from being blown out is the recitation of the names of the Perfect Nature itself.

Of course, this is all in addition to what I said before about the light itself being representative of God, and the use of a sacred fire to do this is far from uncommon.  There is, of course, the holy fires of Zoroastrian temples who see the ātar as the visible presence of Ahura Mazda, as well as the ner tamid of Jewish synagogues and the altar lamps of Christian churches, but even other early monotheistic movements in the early Roman Empire period had similar practices, like those of the Hypsistarians.  And, of course, from Islam, there’s the famous Āyat an-Nūr, the Verse of Light from the Qur’ān 24:35:

God is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth.
The image of his Light is that of a niche.  In it is a lamp.
The lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a brilliant star.
Lit from the oil of a blessed olive tree, neither of the East nor of the West,
whose oil would almost glow on its own even if fire had not touched it.
Light upon Light!
God guides to his Light whom he wills.
God gives images to follow for his people.
God is All-Knowing of all things.

This is a beautiful praise of Allah, and is a qur’anic verse that I myself like to contemplate and use in my own prayers, given the harmony it has with so much else I do.  If you can get past the formatting, this webpage from The Ideal Muslimah contains not just practice for learning it by heart, but also includes a bunch of exegetical commentary and interpretations of the verse, which I think are also super neat to expand on.  I mean, while I don’t think lamps are used in the same symbolic way in mosques as they are in synagogues or churches, there is a history of mosque lamps used for illumination in mosques generally, and it’s a tradition that such lamps are also themselves decorated with the Verse of Light.

All this to say that I think that the use of a shrine lamp for a Hermetic shrine/altar/temple/prayer-space/what-have-you is crucial, above and beyond anything else one might have, and—taking a cue from the Islamic Hermetic literature—we can give it a form: a flame in glass.  This can be as simple as a tealight in a glass votive holder or a glass-encased novena candle on its own, but I’d prefer to make it a proper enclosed lantern, like a Moroccan lantern or something, where the enclosure not only allows for the flame to be carried about but also offers it protection from wind, breath, splatters, and other environmental hazards (and, likewise, protects the environment from it).  Sure, a candle in such a lantern would work totally fine (it’s what I myself have been using for quite some time), but I think there’s something more potent in using an actual oil lamp, not least because candles can be expensive and hard to maintain a continuity of flame with, while oil lamps are easier to refill and keep going endlessly.  Oil-wise, olive oil would be great, and while I’m not opposed to the use of animal products for such a thing, I’d personally find value in sticking to plant-based oils, if at all possible.  Barring either candles or oil lamps, of course, an electric lamp would also suffice—it, too, is a burning of energy to provide light, and it’s not like it’s any less useful than other things while also being generally safer to maintain; however, I prefer the care and glow of an actual flame whenever possible, viewing its maintenance as a devotional and meditative gesture in and of itself.

As for the lamp itself, while a traditional kind of terracotta-handled low lamp we think of from the classical Mediterranean world would work (like as I’ve described before), a Hindu-style akhand diya, Buddhist-style butter lamps, or Chinese-style oil lamps of a cup of oil layered on top of water with a floating wick would all be great, since it can be more easily be refilled, and a plain glass hurricane chimney could be placed around it.  Of course, for those who would want a more modern approach, there are a variety of mineral oil/paraffin oil/kerosene oil lamps that were common sights prior to the mass spread of electricity, which would also work great (though require different handling than natural oil lamps that don’t flow as easily or quickly as kerosene), or even better, modern battery-operated/rechargable LED-powered butter lamps that do a decent job at simulating the feel and appearance of an actual lamp flame.   In any case, taking a symbolic cue from the Verse of Light and a practical one from the Picatrix/Book of the Secrets of Creation vignettes, whatever the source of light would be, the glass itself that surrounds it should be clear and clean, preferably uncolored and unpatterned so as to allow the pure light of the flame to shine out.

For me, the shrine lamp would need to be placed in a position of relative importance.  Right now, my shrine lamp (a Moroccan metal tealight lantern) is suspended above the surface of the shrine by about two feet or so, but with my earlier shrines from before, I’ve always had a tall candle or other lightsource burning on a stone trivet in the center and towards the back of the shrine.  I might end up going back to that older format, since I find having the lamp at a more convenient height to gaze upon to be a benefit to my practice, though I do like the notion of having some elevation for it, as well.  So long as it’s at a comfortable height at least above the heart’s position, based on how one would normally pray at such a shrine, that would be fine; keeping it at eye-level when standing may also be appropriate, depending on shrine (and temple) layout, but that might be too high if, for instance, one usually prays while kneeling without getting a crick in the neck.

And then, of course, there’s the actual lighting of the lamp.  For such a thing with such central importance to my devotional space and mystic work, the shrine lamp deserves a bit of extra thought and care when lighting it, as it’s no mere candle or anything.  There are plenty of ways one might go about consecrating a flame for some holy work or other; I’ve offered such prayers in my Preces Castri and Preces Templi ebooks, but one might also reasonably use a modified form of the consecration of the fire for incense from Drawing Spirits Into Crystals, an example of which I’ve already shared as part of my own candle consecration procedure on my website and which has similar parallels in other grimoiric texts like the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano.  Heck, if the Abrahamic and grimoiric stuff doesn’t cut it, there’s always my PGM framing rite approach, too.  If long prayers like that don’t feel right, there’s always the recitation of scripture, too; while the quranic Verse of Light is a great one, there’s a bunch from the Tanakh and the New Testament, too, like Psalms 119:105 (or the entire verse, Ps. 119:105—112, all given to the letter Nun, which is the same letter that starts of the word ner or Light) or Matthew 5:14—16.  Of course, all these things are great to say for lighting the lamp, but not everyone can (or feels comfortable to) leave a burning lamp untended or to let it burn out; in cases where the flame cannot be kept going, the lamp must be extinguished, and there are plenty of prayers one might also say when doing that, too.  Lots of options abound, as ever.

In the end, all of this is really just to say that I think that a shrine lamp is really the quintessential part of a Hermetic shrine, the sine qua non that not only represents the presence of God in our lives and which gives us a focus to which to pray as an aid for ourselves, but also which represents us in our own work.  Just as in CH I where it is written that mind comes from light and in CH VII where a holy place is described where “the light cleansed of darkness” shines, or even in CH X where Hermēs describes to Tat the holy light of the Good that shines forth without blinding or harming us, the presence of a sacred flame should be immediately understood to a Hermeticist in the context of a shrine.  Encasing it in glass, rendering a lamp or candle into a lantern, protects the flame, and so too should it be a reminder to protect ourselves in the quest for this selfsame light, while also serving to magnify and beautify the flame itself for all who can gaze upon it.

I suppose I have more cleaning to do of my temple room to get to that point, and a lot of reconsidering to do of what I really need to get there, but at least I won’t do so in darkness.

On Prayer Beads, the Number 108, and Chants for PGM and Hermetic Works

I’ve always had a thing for prayer beads.  I’ve got a few posts dedicated to the use of misbaḥa, sure, and my Preces Castri prayerbook contains quite a few such prayers adapted to the prayer beads of Islamic practice, but it goes well beyond just that set of 99 beads.  I’ve played around with Christian rosaries before, too, though I never really stuck much with them given my lack of Christian practice, although I’ve created a few chaplets here and there using the usual Roman Catholic format of beads; besides the rosary, I’ve also made good use of a prayer rope, the customary prayer-counter tool of Orthodox Christianity.  While I’ve also experimented with making my own custom sets of prayer beads, none of them really hold up to the simplicity and stalwartness of using the mālā, the prayer beads common to a variety of dharmic and Asian religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.  I’m sure most of my readers are familiar with them, but for those who aren’t, a mālā is most commonly a set of 108 beads, with a single separate “guru” bead that marks the start and end of the mālā, itself usually decorated with a tassel or similar bead-based decoration.  Depending on the specific tradition in which they’re found, other separator beads may be found on the mālā as well, like in some Tibetan Buddhist practices.

Why 108 beads on a mālā?  108 is a sacred number in a lot of dharmic and Asian religions; I’m certainly no expert, but the number pops up repeatedly in these spiritual traditions: the number of attendants of Śiva, the number of saintly devotees of Kṛṣṇa, the number of mental afflictions as well as the number of dharmic phenomena according to Buddhism, the number of sins people are born with in some forms of Japanese Buddhism, and so forth and so on.  As a result, the number 108 has become popular in a wide number of religious or spiritual contexts, even in Western ones, and even makes appearances in pan-spiritual fiction nowadays (like in one of my favorite webcomics, Kill 6 Billion Demons).  Even on mālās that don’t have 108 beads (excluding the guru bead or other separator beads), they’re usually set so that it’s a clean divisor of 108, like 54, 36, 27, 18, or even just 9, so that some number of repetitions of them gets you to 108 (so twice on a 54-bead mālā, three times on a 36-bead one, etc.).  Given the abundance of reasons for this numbers sacredness in Asian religions, or at least given how often it pops up in them, it makes sense for prayer beads related to these traditions to have this number of beads on them.  Plus, it’s just a good number with a lot of factors: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 18, 27, 36, 54, and 108 (with a prime factorization of 2 × 2 × 3 × 3 × 3).

Still, despite the simplicity of mālā and my affection for them (they’re honestly just so simple and clean compared to the other prayer beads I’ve ever used), I’ve had a hard time justifying their use in my own non-dharmic Work.  I mean, prayer beads of 100, 49 (7 × 7), 120 (being a third of 360), and the like, sure, I guess—but I never really got the hang of them, and something always felt off using such things, even when I custom-built prayers or chants that made explicit use of those numbers.  It’s always something about the 108-bead mālā that keeps drawing me back to it.  Given the proliferation of strands of 108 beads for prayers and repetitions across, like, a third of the world’s landmass and religions in so many freely-exchanged and open practices, it’s not a concern over cultural appropriation about using the mālā for my own non-dharmic devotions or work, but more that I’ve never consciously found anything that could make the number 108 stick for me.  Sure, I could go with 36, being the number of decans, and then multiply that by three to get 108, but that seemed to be a bit of a stretch, especially given how much of my work isn’t necessarily decan-related.  I just…couldn’t easily get the number to fit, and since I like things being plugged into each other whenever and however possible so long as it’s a strong enough connection to use, I’ve never put 108-bead mālās to use in my Hermetic and personal spiritual work.

And so it was a bit ago when I was reading some scholarly book or text on Hermeticism—I forget exactly which, unfortunately, but it came up all the same in the context of classical Hermetic and Greco-Egyptian religion—when something so completely, gloriously obvious smacked right into my face: that the number 108, when counted in Greek numerals, is ΡΗ, transliterated as Rē.  Those who are familiar with Greco-Egyptian spirituality or the Coptic language would immediately pick this out as a late form of the name for the Egyptian solar god Ra, and indeed is one we find time and again in texts like the Greek Magical Papyri.  Such a small thing, perhaps, almost coincidental, but the moment I saw this enumeration literally spelled out for me, it just made the mālā click for me.  To be sure, my work involves the planets and stars in general in all their heavens, but it cannot be denied that Hermeticism as a whole has such a huge solar focus in it, given the Sun’s role as demiurge and the most natural physical symbol of divinity present in the cosmos, to say nothing of the most commonly-accepted etymology of the name Poimandrēs (yes, the divine teacher of Hermēs Trismegistos from CH I) being Coptic ⲠⲈⲒⲘⲈⲚⲦⲈⲢⲎ (p-eime nte-rē) or “the mind of Rē”.  I mean, heck, from SH 2A.14, we have this little gem:

Tat: “What then, father, would one call true?”

Hermēs: “Only the sun, which is beyond all other things unchanging, remaining in itself, we would call truth. Accordingly, he alone is entrusted with crafting everything in the world, with ruling and making everything. I indeed venerate him and worship his truth. I recognize him as Craftsman subordinate to the One and Primal (Deity).”

Sure, we can also find other reasons for why the number 108 might be important for Hermeticism: it could be considered the sum of 12 + 36 + 60 (signs, decans, and terms of the ecliptic), as 1¹ × 2² × 3³, having 12 factors total, roughly the number of diameters of the Sun between the Earth and the Sun itself, roughly the number of diameters of the Moon between the Earth and the Moon itself, and so on and so forth.  All these are extra things to consider, but it was really the numerology of Rē and its enumeration of 108 that did it for me.  Plus, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the presence of the number 9 in 108 (being present in many of the factors, as well as being the sum of 1 + 8); being the triple-triple, this number has connections to the Moon, both to the goddess Selēnē (and to Hekatē, Artemis, and Persephonē as she appears repeatedly throughout the PGM) and to Thōth as a lunar deity himself.  As it turns out, there really are enough connections between the number 108 and various bits of classical Hermetic, Egyptian, or Greco-Egyptian practices that enable this number to be used for sacred purposes in such works, and this extends to the use of a strand of 108 beads for chants and prayers as well.

To that end, I’ve got my good old rosewood mālā ready to go—but what about what to chant?  In my Preces Templi prayerbook, I have one section called “Meditations on Piety”, selected one-line statements on divinity and piety from various Hermetic texts, like “God is the glory of all things, who is both the Divine and divine Nature” from CH III.1 or “I think; I remember; I am thankful” from CH I.20.  I have about 25 such one-liners there, which I intended to be used as brief meditations or fodder for contemplating and holding in mind the teachings of Hermēs from the Hermetic texts like CH, SH, and DH, but these also work brilliantly as chants to be used on prayer beads, too.  This is a great start, to be sure, but something that I did my best to not include in that prayerbook were strings of barbarous names and words of power, especially those from the PGM, PDM, and PCM.  Sure, there are a few such prayers (generally those included in the “Hymns to Aiōn” section) which did include them, but as a rule, I tried to keep the prayerbook a book of prayers and not a book of incantations, and so I elided out such divine language when and where possible.  However, for the purposes of chants, barbarous words actually are rather useful, and many of those of the PGM and similar texts give us a Greco-Egyptian parallel to the use of mantras in dharmic religions, some of which are simple statements which can be understood in one language or another, others which are as mysterious and sensical as the barbarous words from the PGM.

To that end, I’d like to bring up a few that I think would be good for use.  We know that, although a good few barbarous words that come up in Greco-Egyptian magical texts are once-off things, there are many others that come up time and time again as specific formulas.  It can be hard at times to figure out their etymologies or what they might mean in human terms, but we can sometimes get a sense for their purposes or function based on the contexts in which they arise.  Of course, there are times when we can figure out their origins, as some of these barbarous words were only barbarous to the Greeks, but make (sometimes) perfectly good sense in Egyptian, Hebrew, Aramaic, or other languages spoken at the time (especially the barbarous words that are really just late Egyptian/early Coptic, making these languages something like a Hermetic parallel to how Sanskrit is used in Buddhist chants).  And, of course, though I’d like to experiment more with them using my 108-bead mālā, there’s nothing mandating you have to do such chants 108 times; rosaries or misbaḥa would work just as fine, depending on your sense for number mysticism and numerology, or you could make other custom numbers of prayer beads (such as a 120-bead strand done three times with five counter beads on the end to finish it for a total of 365 chants).

One final word of caution, however, before we get into these chants.  Although I encourage many of my readers to try these out and experiment with using them for chants or prayers, and although I haven’t gone through and just picked out phrases of barbarous words willy-nilly from the PGM, it should be noted that these words did (and still do) have functional power, which is why they were used as part of ritual invocations and incantations to begin with.  Whether they serve as names by which we call the gods or whether they effect certain changes in the cosmos merely by their being spoken, it’s always good to be familiar with where and how they appear in the PGM and similar texts because we can get an inkling as to what they were used for.  Although the PGM is a nigh-endless treasure-house of barbarous words, I tried to focus on ones with a general-enough appearance so that their being taken out of context may not cause problems for those who use them in this manner given how many disparate contexts they often appear in.  While this list shouldn’t be considered a definite or final one for potential chants from the PGM but merely my thoughts on what might make good chants, take care as to what else you might use for such chants and that their being used as such won’t threaten to cause problems.

ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ … (ĒI IEOU …) from the end of PGM XII.270—350.  There’s a long string of barbarous words, each segment starting with these two words; the translator of this in Betz notes that these two words correspond to Egyptian i iꜣw meaning “O hail!”.  To that end, I’ve personally taken this phrase as a brief invocation and greeting to a god, such as ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ (“ĒI IEOU ABRASAKS”) meaning loosely “O hail to you, Abrasax!”.  In a way, chanting this can be thought of akin to the Sanskrit chant “om namaḥ NN” like in “om namaḥ Śivāya”, or to the Buddhist refuge chant “namo Buddhāya”, and can be a great way to invoke or salute any deity.  In this, I think this chant is probably among the most useful and most flexible; just insert the name of whatever god you want to salute, and you have a simple chant.

ΨΙΝΩΘΕΡ ΝΩΨΙΘΕΡ ΘΕΡΝΩΨΙ  (PSINŌTHER NŌPSITHER THERNŌPSI) The “THERNŌPSI” formula so called by Betz, as seen in PGM III.186, PGM IV.828 (aka the famous “Mithras Liturgy), and (maybe) PGM VII.216, as well as in the Pistis Sophia (book IV, chapter 136; book V, chapter 142).  Nine syllables, permutations of the three syllables ΨΙ, ΝΩ, and ΘΕΡ, which can be translated (as far as ΨΙΝΩΘΕΡ) as either “the high/highest God” or “the sons of God”, or perhaps even as “the son of the (female) falcon” (in some cases where a bēta is present, as in PGM VII, though this translation seems unlikely).  In PGM III, it’s used as part of an offering; in PGM IV and VII, it’s used as part of a phylactery, and in PGM IV specifically as part of a phylactery used in a process of spiritual elevation, immortalization, and revelation.  In the Pistis Sophia, Jesus uses it in invocations to God as the Father of the Treasury of Light, a highest-of-the-high kind of divinity, for forgiveness, purification, and salvation in the course of spiritual ascension.

ΑΒΕΡΑΜΕΝΘΩΟΥΘΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞΕΘΡΕΛΘΥΟΩΘΝΕΜΑΡΕΒΑ (ABERAMENTHŌOUTHLERTHEKSANAKSETHRELTHUOŌTHNEMAREBA) The ABERAMEN formula, which appears in a number of PGM rituals (sometimes with variant spellings) like PGM I.262—347, PGM III.67—68, PGM V.172—212, PGM XXXVIII.20—21, and others.  This is a palindrome around the centermost N, and in this name can be found the name of Thōth (as ΘΩΟΥΘ) as well as ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ which is one of the forms of the Sun in PGM II.64—183 (and one of my own so-called Solar Guardians, specifically that of the south who takes the form of a fiery falcon), though it also appears in a number of Sēt-focused rituals, as well.  The old Voces Magicae blog (now defunct, but the Wayback Machine has an archive of some of the pages including this one) talks about this word abundantly, and it seems to have some meaning to the  effect of “power of the waters” or “lord of the waters and of the formulas controlling the cosmic powers”.  It also has a presence in the Pistis Sophia and is used for Jesus in a sort of merged entity with Hermēs-Thōth.  To break this name up to make it more pronounceable, I’d say something like: ΑΒΕΡΑΜΕΝ ΘΩΟΥΘ ΛΕΡΘΕΞ ΑΝΑ ΞΕΘΡΕΛ ΘΥΟΩΘ ΝΕΜΑΡΕΒΑ (ABERAMEN THŌOUTH LERTHEKS ANA KSETHREL THUOŌTH NEMAREBA).

ΧΑΒΡΑΧ ΦΝΕΣΧΗΡ ΦΙΧΡΟ ΦΝΥΡΩ ΦΩΧΩ ΒΩΧ (KHABRAKH PHNESKHĒR PHIKHRO PHNURŌ PHŌKHŌ BŌKH) This is one that was noted by SUBLUNAR.SPACE as being a series of words whose enumeration adds up to 9999, which is hugely significant and holy on its own right (being the maximum number before increasing in magnitude by an order).  This appears in several PGM spells like PGM I.42—195, PGM II.64—183, and PGM III.165—186, as well as on several Abrasax stones from contemporary periods.  This string of names keeps coming up in solar contexts, and can be considered a powerful sacred chant on its own to call upon the power of the Sun.

ΦΡΕ ΑΝΩΙ ΦΩΡ ΧΩ ΦΥΥΥΥ ΡΟΡΨΙΣ ΟΡΟΧΩΩΙ (PHRĒ ANŌI PHŌR KHŌ PHUUUU RORPSIS OROKHŌŌI)  Another string of barbarous words which also comes out to 9999, as found in PGM IV.2373—2440.

ΑΩΘ ΑΒΑΩΘ ΒΑΣΥΜ ΙΣΑΚ ΣΑΒΑΩΘ ΙΑΩ (AŌTH ABAŌTH BASUM ISAK SABAŌTH IAŌ) Although SUBLUNAR.SPACE above disagrees, these are the usual choice for the “six names” to be used on the crown and recited as part of PGM V.96—172, the famous Stele of Jeu or the Headless Rite.  (Although ΑΒΡΑΩΘ is given in Betz, this is a typo, and should be ΑΒΑΩΘ instead when the original papyrus is consulted.)  ΑΩΘ, ΑΒΑΩΘ, and ΣΑΒΑΩΘ can all be seen to be connected, in the sense of the heart/wing-patterns of building up or disappearing away a sacred word that we elsewhere see in the PGM, and which Baal Kadmon pointed out as being a formula in its own right, with ΒΑΣΥΜ ΙΣΑΚ being a garbled Hebrew phrase for “in the name of Isaac” (ba hašem Yiṣḥāq), so the whole thing could be interpreted as an invocation of the god of Isaac, the God of Israel.  Its presence here in the PGM doesn’t detract from its Jewish origins or meaning, but rather expands it into another form of the pancosmic pantokrator deity, and although SUBLUNAR.SPACE may well disagree with this being used for this purpose (and his logic is definitely sound in doing so, even I have to admit!), invoking these names as a chant may help those who wish to do further work with Akephalos generally or the Headless Rite specifically.

ΨΟΕΙ Ω ΨΟΕΙ Ω ΠΝΟΥΤΕ ΝΕΝΤΗΡ ΤΗΡΟΥ (PSOEI Ō PSOEI Ō PNOUTE NENTĒR TĒROU) From PGM III.1—164, this invocation comes towards the end to refer to “the brilliant Sun who shine[s] throughout the whole inhabited world, who ride[s] upon the ocean”, but the translator notes that this phrase is equivalent to the Egyptian pꜣ šy ꜥꜣ pꜣ šy ꜥꜣ pꜣ ntr nꜣ ntr w tr w or “Pšai, Pšai, o god of all the gods!” with “Pšai” being the Egyptian god of fate corresponding to the Agathos Daimōn.  This is similar to what we also see in PGM IV.1596—1715 (the prayer for the Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios), ΨΟΙ ΦΝΟΥΘΙ ΝΙΝΘΗΡ (PSOI PHNOUTHI NINTHĒR), meaning “Pšai, the god of the gods”.  Either would be a good invocation-chant for the Agathos Daimōn/Pšai.

ΑΧΑΙΦΩΘΩΘΩΑΙΗΙΑΗΙΑΑΙΗΑΙΕΗΙΑΩΘΩΘΩΦΙΑΧΑ (AKAIPHŌTHŌTHŌAIĒIAĒIAAIĒAIĒIAŌTHŌTHŌPHIKHA) A palindromic name from PGM I.262—347 and PGM IV.436—461 among others as a name for Apollōn-Hēlios-Horus, one that is “in number equal to the very Moirai”.  The translator in Betz notes the presence of ΘΩΘΩ twice, meaning “Thōth the great” (Egyptian dḥwty ꜥꜣ), though Bortolani talks about this name more: it could be read as having 36 letters, and thus the same number as the decans (which could be seen as an interpretation of fate-gods like how the Moirai are), or which can instead be broken up into three names ΑΧΑΙΦΩΘΩΘΩ ΑΙΗΙΑΗΙΑΑΙΗΑΙΕΗΙΑ ΩΘΩΘΩΦΙΑΧΑ to represent the three Moirai from Greek mythology themselves or, instead and in a more solar light, as the Sun in its dawn, midday, and sunset phases and thus as divine representations of the three times of past, present, and future or birth, life, and death.

ΑΧΘΙΩΦΙΦ ΕΡΕΣΧΙΓΑΛ ΝΕΒΟΥΤΟΣΟΥΑΛΗΘ ΣΑΘΩΘ ΣΑΒΑΘΩ ΣΑΒΡΩΘ (AKHTIŌPHIPH ERESKHIGAL NEBOUTOSOUALĒTH SATŌTH SABAŌTH SABRŌTH) A phylactery to be said to the Moon from PGM VII.317—318, which I’ve mentioned before as part of a simple lunar ritual that can be done, but which appears in other prayers like from PGM IV.1399—1434.  Betz notes that ΝΕΒΟΥΤΟΣΟΥΑΛΗΘ is a common word used in conjunction with both the names Aktiophis and Ereshkigal, and is generally tied to the lunar goddesses of the underworld, especially Hekatē, in the PGM, though its origins are otherwise unclear (but may have connections to the Babylonian god Nebo or the Egyptian “lady of Uto” nbt-wꜣdt).  Ljuba Bortolani, in her Magical Hymns from Roman Egypt: A Study of Greek and Egyptian Traditions of Divinity, notes that these three words ΑΧΘΙΩΦΙΦ ΕΡΕΣΧΙΓΑΛ ΝΕΒΟΥΤΟΣΟΥΑΛΗΘ would correspond to the three phases of the Moon: waxing, full, and waning.  Whether one choses to use just these first three words (which can be found repeatedly throughout lunar-related spells in the PGM) or the full string of six (only given in PGM VII.317—318), both would be an excellent lunar-related chant.

ΜΑΣΚΕΛΛΙ ΜΑΣΚΕΛΛΩ ΦΝΟΥΚΕΝΤΑΒΑΩ ΟΡΕΟΒΑΖΑΓΡΑ ΡΗΞΙΧΘΩΝ ΙΠΠΟΧΘΩΝ ΠΥΡΙΠΗΓΑΝΥΞ (MASKELLI MASKELLŌ PHNOUKENTABAŌ OREOBAZAGRA RĒKSIKHTHŌN HIPPOKHTHŌN PURIPĒGANUKS) The famous “MASKELLI” formula, which appears in many different parts of the PGM, sometimes in full and sometimes just as “MASKELLI-formula”, indicating that it was a common enough magical formula to be known by many different authors of the PGM and similar texts.  Again, Voces Magicae wrote about this formula, too, and notes that it’s found in love spells, coercion spells, curses, and other rituals; it has ties to Hekatē and other lunar goddesses, as well as to the deity Anankē/Necessity.

ΙΩ ΕΡΒΗΘ ΙΩ ΠΑΚΕΡΒΗΘ ΙΩ ΒΟΛΧΩΣΗΘ ΙΩ ΑΠΟΜΨ ΙΩ ΠΑΤΑΘΝΑΞ ΙΩ ΑΚΟΥΒΙΑ ΙΩ ΣΗΘ ΦΩΚΕΝΣΕΨΕΥ ΑΡΕΚΤΑΘΟΥΜΙΣΑΚΤΑΙ (IŌ ERBĒTH IŌ PAKERBĒTH IŌ BOLKHŌSĒTH IŌ APOMPS IŌ PATATHNAKS IŌ AKOUBIA IŌ SĒTH PHŌKENSEPSEU AREKTATHOUMISAKTAI) This string of words appears in a number of rituals in the PGM, like in PGM III.1—164 and PGM XII.365—375, generally in invocations to Sēt.  Admittedly, such rituals also tend to be malefic and malevolent in nature, such as to cause “evil sleep” or death, so invoking this series of barbarous words shouldn’t be taken lightly.  That being said, although Sēt had some rough parts to play in some Egyptian myths, he was far from an evil deity (even if the most common interpretation of the word ΠΑΚΕΡΒΗΘ is “the evil doer” but which also appears in solar contexts), and often had a strong protective or defensive aspect to play in a number of other myths and cults throughout Egypt.  A good example of Sēt, at least in his syncretic form as Sēt-Typhon, being worked with as a deity of high mystery can be found in PGM IV.154—285, though I also note that this formula doesn’t appear in that text.