Genius in the Picatrix: The Spiritual Nature(s) of Perfect Nature

Not too long ago, I was flipping through my copy of the Picatrix, and came across a fascinating little bit.  It’s something I recall having seen (but glossed over) in M. David Litwa’s Hermetica II (an amazing, though annoyingly expensive, follow-up to Brian Copenhaver’s Hermetica, focusing on the Stobaean Fragments and a number of other Hermetic texts and later references to Hermēs Trismegistus).  There’s lots in Litwa’s book which is great, most of it classical and definitely part of what I’d consider the “Hermetic canon”.  For me, that’s basically stuff written during the Roman Empire, and what separates the two in my mind is basically the Emerald Tablet (which first appears written in Arabic between the 500s and 600s); depending on how you look at it, you might consider it the last instance of classical Hermetic canonical texts, or the first of post-/neo-Hermetic texts.  Personally, my Hermetic focus is on the stuff predating the Emerald Tablet along the lines of the Corpus Hermeticum.  So, when Litwa’s book goes into neo-Hermetic texts that either talk about Hermēs Trismegistus or have things attributed to him, I admit that I glazed over that a bit easier and faster than I did the Stobaean Fragments.  Besides, so much of what was said later tends to be derivative or repetitive from earlier works.

Enter the Ġāyat al-Ḥakīm, the “Goal of the Wise”, sometimes just known as the Ġayah, but definitely better known in the West as the Picatrix, most likely written in Arabic sometime in the middle of the 11th century CE, and based on the history of Ibn Khaldūn, the author of this text is supposedly one Maslama al-Majrīṭī, a Muslim Andalusian scholar, mathematician, and astronomer.  Everyone knows the Picatrix, everyone loves the Picatrix; it’s a fantastic text of astrological magic, and among the earliest of true grimoires in Europe, being among the great granddaddies of them all.  As many people know, it’s primary focus is on what we nowadays call stellar image magic (the creation of astrological talismans under specific stellar configurations of planets, signs, lunar mansions, and stars that often bear a particular scene or image on them) along with early alchemical concoctions for love and hate and many other purposes (many of which are bizarre and not a few of which are outright toxic or poisonous), and which also contain some fantastic ritual prayers and processes for adoring and communing with the spirits of the planets themselves.  It also contains, hidden among its many leaves, wonderful examples and preservations of older pagan practices from the Hermetists, Sabians, Nabataeans, and various other Mediterranean peoples.  It is not, however, a particularly theurgical text on the whole, even though it contains a wealth of information on philosophy, spiritual and cosmic frameworks, and the like in how and why magic works the way that it does.

Just to get this out of the way up front, we’ll be looking at several different editions and translations of the Picatrix, so I wanted to get a list of resources set up for those who want to do their own research as well:

I was looking through my well-worn copy of the Picatrix (I mostly rely on the Warnock/Greer translation) for more resources on prayers and prayer methods (always on the lookout for more tech!), and there was something that caught my eye as I was breezing through its pages looking for keywords of interest .  Nestled between other bits and bobs of magic, there were two phrases that caught my eye: “Hermēs Trismegistus” and “Perfect Nature”.  In Latin, this is phrased Natura Completa, as in one’s nature that is fulfilled, whole, complete, and, well, perfected.  Admittedly, I had basically already seen this section before from Litwa, but this time, it hit different—and it turns out that Litwa didn’t include the entire section, either.

From the end of book III, chapter 6 of the Picatrix (Warnock/Greer translation):

Certain people inquired of Hermes the sage, asking: “With what are science and philosophy joined?” He answered, “With Perfect Nature.” They asked again, saying, “What is the root of science and philosophy?” He said, “Perfect Nature.” Then they questioned him more closely: “What is the key by which science and philosophy are opened?” He answered, “Perfect Nature.” They then asked of him, “What is Perfect Nature?” He answered, “Perfect Nature is the spirit of the philosopher or sage linked to the planet that governs him. This is that which opens the closed places of knowledge, and by which is understood that which cannot otherwise be understood at all, and from which workings proceed naturally both in sleep and in waking.”

Thus it is clear from the foregoing that Perfect Nature acts in the sage or philosopher as a teacher toward a student, teaching the latter first in simple and easy matters, and then proceeding step by step to greater and more difficult ones, until the student is perfect in knowledge. When Perfect Nature works in this way, according to its own virtue and influence, the intellect of the philosopher is disposed according to his natural inclination.

You should understand this, committing it to memory, because from the foregoing it may be concluded that it is impossible for anybody to attain this science except those who are naturally inclined to it, both by their own virtue and by the disposition of the planet ruling in their nativity.

The Atallah/Kiesel translation gives a slightly more clear version of that second paragraph, at least in my mind:

The Perfect Nature for the philosopher is like the good teacher that teaches the boy word for word, and every time [the boy] gets done with one door of knowledge, he enters with [Perfect Nature] to another door, and that boy will never fear missing any knowledge as long as he has such a teacher that lasts with him forever.  Because the teacher always reveals to the boy everything that troubles him and teaches him what is hard, this is the philosopher’s Perfect Nature.

At the beginning of this chapter, the Picatrix introduces this notion of Perfect Nature in its own way, that Perfect Nature “fortifies those who philosophize and strengthens their intellect and their wisdom, so that in all their works they may quickly attain fulfillment”.  And, compounding the role of Perfect Nature, at the start of that first excerpt given above, the author of the Picatrix states that Socrates had his opinion that the Perfect Nature is the “Sun of the Wise”, i.e. the personal Sun of individual sages and philosophers.  Given these connections, it’s starting to sound an awful lot like Perfect Nature being a spirit akin to one’s own agathodaimōn or genius, especially as the Picatrix explicitly links one’s Perfect Nature to one’s ruling planet.  There are also hints later on—we’ll talk about them when we get there—that this spirit also can be a protector as well, making this in all cases much like the later notion of the guardian angel, or even Holy Guardian Angel, as both defender and teacher.

The Picatrix gives a little vignette, a vision of Hermēs Trismegistus and how he found his own Perfect Nature.  Supposedly, all this comes from the book Kitab al-Isṭamāḵis, or the Liber Antimaquis (which I myself have translated from Latin, but which didn’t appear in what I had access to), which the Picatrix attributes to Aristotle.  The vignette of Hermēs Trismegistus encountering Perfect Nature goes like this (Warnock/Greer 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…”

“Four names”?  Towards the start of this chapter, the Picatrix says that the ancient sages gave a string of four names to Perfect Nature: Meegius, Betzahuech, Vacdez, and Nufeneguediz.  These are corruptions of Arabic names, and cross-checking with the Arabic Picatrix, these names are properly Tamāġīs (تماغدس), Baġdīswād (بغديسواد), Waġdās (وغداس), and Nūfānāġādīs (نوفاناغاديس).  At least, these are my own transcriptions of the names; Atallah/Kiesel give them as “Tamaghees, Baghdiswad, Waghidas, Nufanaghdees”, which are fairly close (though I’m not sure where they got the extra vowel in Waġdās from, or where one of the vowels in Nūfānāġādīs went).  To get from the Arabic “tamāġīs baġdīswād waġdās nūfānāġādīs” to the Latin “meegius betzahuech vacdez nufeneguediz”…well, it’s actually fairly close as it is, especially Vacdez/Waġdas and Nufeneguediz/Nūfānāġādīs, and Betzahuech/Baġdīswād is kinda close (though I’d expect something like “Bagtezued”), but it’s the shift from Tamāġīs to Meegius that’s most perplexing.  Perhaps if we read تماغدس as “tamāġyus” instead of “tamāġīs” (reading the yā’ here as a consonant rather than a vowel), that’d get us closer, though there’s still the perplexing issue of what happened to that initial “ta-” from Arabic into Latin.  Oh well.  We’ll talk more about the origins of these names in our next post (of course there’d be a next post).

(Also, can I just say that I would absolutely join in on a new, more easily-accessible translation from the Arabic of the Picatrix, or even just a list of barbarous words and divine names from the original Arabic?  One of my greatest frustrations when having to deal with translations of Arabic works into Western languages is a lack of faithful transliteration from Arabic script to Roman script.  I know it’s a hard habit to break, but nowadays, we absolutely have the technology to faithfully produce many diacritics on letters easily, so there’s no reason why we should perpetuate bad transliterations like Atallah/Kiesel “Tamaghees” as opposed to a more faithful “Tamāġīs” where you can more easily figure out the original Arabic spelling, which is so important for pronunciation, etymology, and numerology, all of which are crucial for occult researchers.  Heck, even if you don’t want to use all sorts of diacritics, there are so many good forms of romanization for Arabic that there’s just no excuse for this.)

The Picatrix somewhat goes back and forth on this, but it seems that these are actually the names of four component spirits of Perfect Nature, or alternatively the four powers of an individual’s spirit of Perfect Nature (Warnock/Greer translation primary):

  1. The spirit/power of the senses “which are said to be joined to the world” (Atallah/Kiesel: “spreading intentional power in the world”)
  2. The spirit/power of things “to which spirit is attracted” (Atallah/Kiesel: “the spiritual instrumental power that pulls the spirits”)
  3. The spirit/power of perfect, sane, and unbroken contemplation (Atallah/Kiesel: “the right spiritual power”)
  4. The spirit/power “by which works are done by the hands” (Atallah/Kiesel: “handmade spiritual power”)

Moreover, “these three spirits in matter” (as opposed to the spirit of contemplation, i.e. the spirit of senses, things, and works done by the hands) “which exist in intention and effect, are coadunated in perfect contemplation with the sense, which we have said are joined to the world”.  In this, the Picatrix goes on to explain that the senses do not merely perceive the world passively, but like in the medieval understanding of how the eyes see in terms of lux and lumen, the senses “attract rays and bring them to those things towards which they are directed, like a mirror that is raised up to the light of the Sun”.  This is to say that, in focusing our senses on something, we not only receive those influences into ourselves, but also fill the thing with more of its own influence, or direct those influences elsewhere, as a mirror reflecting the rays of the Sun “projects them into shadowy places, and those shadowy places become bright and illuminated” without the Sun being diminished.  (It’s probably important to note the Sun and light connections here with Socrates’ own description of the Perfect Nature as the “Sun of the wise”.)

By directing the powers of the cosmos by means of the senses, we facilitate joining those powers from their sources to our targets: “when the spirits of motion and rest are joined to the superior world while in contact with the senses, they attract the powers of the spirits of the superior world and pour them out upon matter”.  It is this, fundamentally this very action, that allows the consecration, empowerment, and ensoulment of talismans (“images”) to function; images are, after all, things we look at, and this is why they often have some sort of scene, person, or figure on them to bring about a particular influence or effect.  And, in looking at something, we contemplate it, and contemplation “goes into anything in which the virtue consists of a hidden spirit”.

In this light, assuming that the names of the spirits given at the start of this chapter and this list of what the powers are at the end of it are in the same order, we can consider the four names of the four spirits of Perfect Nature and what these spirits do a little more closely:

  1. Meegius/Tamāġīs: the spirit/power of our senses that join higher things to lower ones.  This is our ability to spiritually perceive the cosmos and its various spirits, energies, and powers in their ebb and flow.
  2. Betzahuech/Baġdīswād: the spirit/power of the lower things that we work upon to infuse with higher things.  This is the actual physical substance we work with to create images, talismans, confections, and other sacred objects, including the supplies of herbs, stones, incense, fabric, paper, ink, paint, and the like, as well as our understanding of them.
  3. Vacdez/Waġdās: the spirit/power of our own mental and spiritual contemplation.  This is our ability to mentally and spiritually process information and power, the strictly internal aspect that can best be thought of as our reliance upon our divinely-granted faculties and our connection to the Divine itself.
  4. Nufeneguediz/Nūfānāġādīs: the spirit/power of labor and works that we do in the world to implement.  This is the actual work we do, both in terms of the physical labor involved to create things as well as the rituals we do around, upon, or for them.

There seems to be a natural dichotomy that results from these four spirit/power seen in this light.  Meegius/Tamāġīs is the non-physical and passive way we integrate the spiritual and material, while Nufeneguediz/Nūfānāġādīs is the physical and active way we do so (a dichotomy of perception versus interaction).  Betzahuech/Baġdīswād is the external and material component of the works we carry out, while Vacdez/Waġdās is the internal and spiritual component of those works (a dichotomy of substance and essence).  I like this sort of categorization, but we’ll return more to this idea later.

The trouble now is figuring out the precise relationship of these four spirits to the spirit of Perfect Nature itself.  In the vignette, Perfect Nature says that “I am named and called” the four names “by which I shall respond when you call”.  There is a difference, however, in how the Latin Picatrix (via Warnock/Greer and Attrell/Porreca) and the Arabic Picatrix (via Atallah/Kiesel)  actually talks about these spirits.  The Latin Picatrix makes it sound like these are four names for four individual spirits (“they gave to the spirits of Perfect Nature these four names”), while the Arabic Picatrix makes it sound like this is all just one name for one spirit (“these wise men called the hidden secret of the complete inborn spiritual nature…”).  Thinking about this some more, I think the notion of each of these being a distinct spirit unto itself is faulty, and a misunderstanding of the grammar here.  I think it’s better to understand Perfect Nature as a single spirit that has four powers, rather than as a sort of collective of four separate spirits.  However, I don’t think such a view is necessarily wrong, either; if they are separate, then they operate together as a synaxis, where if you call one, you basically get them all, all mutually supportive of each other and all mutually involved with each other (cf. the orthodox view of the archangels as all distinct entities but all working together for the same ends at the same time).

Before wrapping this post up, I should also note that the Moonlit Hermit wrote two posts some years ago, back in December 2014 and January 2015, that also explored this same chapter and this same topic, as well as another post regarding a daily practice of calling on the four names of Perfect Spirit.  I came across their posts in the research for these, and I thought they were interesting.  We arrive at some similar conclusions and some different ones, but I think they’re good to read for others who are interested in this same topic, as well.

I think this is a good place to take a break for now, having introduced Perfect Nature, its role, and its powers.  There’s plenty more to talk about, though, starting with really looking into that vignette of Hermēs Trismegistus standing above the pit and being taught by Perfect Nature how to conquer it.  We’ll talk more about that next time, so stay tuned!

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.

On the Dragon in the Ninth Sphere

There’s always plenty of research that goes on in my Work—as it probably should.  After all, much of my practice comes about from my own research, not just novel stuff through experiment but also through the experience of those who have gone before me.  In building upon the Work of others, I (and all others who do the same) get to stand on the shoulders of giants, and can reach up ever higher into the heavens.  So, even if you’re working in a strictly auturgic practice, unless you’re going a purely feral route where literally everything you do is based entirely and only on your own experiments and experience, you still owe a debt to those who have gone before you.  Of course, we can’t always rely on the works of the past to answer questions we have now, and given how things corrode and decay over time (as all things in the world do), we sometimes end up with more questions than answers.

A while back, I was doing research for the sake of coming up with my own prayers for the seven days of the week.  These prayers are specifically weekday prayers, not planetary ones, and were intended to be used more for devotional, almost liturgical purposes than for the sake of communing with the planets, but there are certainly some planetary hints scattered here and there among them.  Besides, many of the texts I was researching, like the Heptameron, explicitly link the days of the week to the planets—and why not?  It’s a useful system, after all, of simple magical timing, and though I didn’t want to make the planetary stuff an explicit focus of the prayers, it still factored in.  It was hard to avoid, at any rate, given that many of my sources did just this.  I ended up settling on a mixture of Islamic supplications to be said for the weekdays combined with a slew of other grimoiric sources, and after about eight months of using them, I find them to be a wonderful addition to my prayer practice.

One of those sources are the various versions of the Hygromanteia, aka the Magical Treatise of Solomon, an important landmark in the development of Solomonic magic and a strong influence in later Solomonic texts like the Key of Solomon.  The various manuscripts of this text date to the 1400s CE, and contain various bits of magical practice such as talisman creation, consecration of items and tools, a variety of different divinatory operations, and the like.  One of the more fun bits of these texts is an explicit description of the ruling angel and demon of each hour, not just of the 24 hours of the day but all 168 hours of the week, along with the best specific purpose to put to each hour (e.g. the fourth hour of Saturday is good for causing fights between lords and is presided over by the angel Abael and the demon Keriak).

There are plenty of other techniques and methods given in the Hygromanteia, but one of which is seen in only two manuscripts.  While I was flipping through my copy of Stephen Skinner’s Ioannis Marathakis’ excellent book on the subject that offers translations of various manuscripts of the Hygromanteia, there was an interesting section I came across about “the dragon in the ninth heaven”.  We’re all familiar by now with the notion of nested heavens in the geocentric view of the cosmos, with the Earth at the center, the seven planets in the seven heavens above the Earth, and the eighth heaven of the fixed stars above the planets, but I’ve been getting more and more interested in a ninth heaven above the fixed stars yet is not quite at the domain of God just yet.  After all, we know of such notions from classical Hermetic writings (e.g. the Discourse on the Eighth and the Ninth and a latter part of Book I of the Corpus Hermeticum that references it), but it’s never factored prominently in my own practice or cosmology until recently.  This also ties in with a few other draconic things I’m toying with in my own practice, and so I wanted to discuss some of these things a bit and bring up some questions that I hope to return to in the future.

In Marathakis’ book, it’s MS Atheniensis 1265 that gives us the most detail about this celestial dragon in general:

  • On the Head and Tail of the Dragon
    • The “star” called “Head and Tail” (referring to Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis, aka the North Node and South Node of the Moon, found directly across from each other on the ecliptic at all times) moves along with Saturn.
    • The Head of the Dragon rules from the first hour of Saturday night for the next 24 hours until the first hour of Sunday night.
    • The Tail of the Dragon rules from the first hour of Sunday night for the next 24 hours until the first hour of Monday night.
    • Avoid traveling during the time of the Head of the Dragon, as this is a time of much trouble and danger.
    • Avoid traveling by land during the time of the Tail of the Dragon, as this is a time of bloodshed and murder.
  • On the Dragon in the Ninth Heaven
    • There is a single star in the otherwise starless ninth heaven, “in the likeness of a snake”, which surrounds this heaven completely.
    • There are four actions that can take place within this star: opening its mouth in a yawn, moving and clicking its tongue, shaking its tail, and quivering its middle parts.
      • Yawning signifies death, as “the Earth will receive human bodies” (in the sense of graves, especially mass graves, opening up like a hungry maw to be filled with corpses).
      • Clicking its tongue signifies war throughout the whole world, as “the tongue is sword-like”.
      • Shaking its tail signifies hunger taking place on the whole of the Earth.
      • Quivering its middle parts signifies great earthquakes.
    • To determine the action of the snake, observe its position for the solar year starting on the spring equinox.
      • The Moon in Cancer on the spring equinox is the snake yawning (indicating death).
      • The Moon in Leo on the spring equinox is the snake clicking its tongue (indicating war).
      • The Moon in Scorpio on the spring equinox is the snake quivering its middle parts (indicating earthquakes).
      • The Moon in Capricorn on the spring equinox is the snake rattling its tail (indicating hunger).

There’s also MS Gennadianus 45, which gives basically the same information as above, albeit in an abbreviated format, and with a switch: this manuscript says that the Moon in Scorpio is the snake shaking its tail (hunger) and the Moon in Capricorn is the snake quivering its middle parts (earthquakes).

Marathakis also identifies another manuscript, MS Atheniensis 115, as also talking about the predictions related to this dragon, but does not give a translation for this particular part , as he only gives excerpts of this manuscript in his book as it’s otherwise basically the same text as MS Atheniensis 1265.  However, he also identifies similar passages in the following manuscripts, all of which are in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and thus all of which are digitized online:

Unfortunately, my ability to read medieval Greek is poor, so I can’t really attest to what these other texts have, and whether they agree with MS Atheniensis 1265/115 or with MS Gennadianus 45.  Given the prominence and extra explanation of the Athens manuscripts, we’ll go with them.

So, seeing what we see from the Athens manuscripts, what can we note?

  • That the Head and Tail “moves along with Saturn” is an odd observation to make.  The nodes complete a revolution every 18.6 years, while Saturn makes a revolution every 29.4 years.
  • The sole star in the ninth heaven is somewhat ambiguous.  We might be inclined to interpret this as the lunar nodes generally, but this may also well be a reference to the constellation Draco or to its primary star Thuban (α Draconis).
  • The words “snake”, “serpent”, and “dragon” are all interchangeable as far as this goes, it’d seem.  They’re all fundamentally referring to the same thing in this case.
  • Personally, I like the MS Gennadianus 45 association of Capricorn relating to earthquakes (Capricorn being a sign of Earth) and Scorpio relating to hunger (since classically the constellation Scorpio was considered to be the body and tail of the Scorpion, with Libra being its claws).  But, without knowing the origin of this whole technique, it’s not clear whether this is a better-preserved version, or whether this sort of logic is just appealing though spurious on my part.

Beyond these observations, there’s an even more important one I want to make.  That the position of the Moon in these four zodiac signs only matters for Cancer, Leo, Scorpio, or Capricorn is weird; there’s not a lot tying these signs together, when we might expect an equal balance between all four elements from one of the three quadruplicities (cardinal, fixed, mutable).  However, note the ruling planets of these four signs: we have the two luminaries of the Sun (Leo) and Moon (Cancer), and the two malefics Saturn (Capricorn) and Mars (Scorpio).  The Sun and Moon are crucial for eclipses in general with respect to the lunar nodes, which were altogether considered dangerous, and the malefics are, well, the malefics.  It’d make sense, then, that we don’t see associations for calamities regarding the signs ruled by the benefics (Jupiter for Sagittarius and Pisces, Venus for Libra and Taurus) or for the neutral planet Mercury (Virgo and Gemini).

Even then, I don’t particularly think that the choice of calamity for these signs is necessarily planetarily-based.  I mean, consider that the “snake clicking its tongue” indicating war is given to solar Leo, when it would make more sense to be given to martial Scorpio.  Also, if it were planetary, why wouldn’t Aries also be a sign of the snake quivering its middle parts, or Aquarius rattling its tail?  Also, it’s weird to me that shaking the tail would be a sign of hunger and quivering the middle parts a sign of earthquakes; I mean, I get the quivering bit, sure, but seeing how the stomach and belly are in the middle part of the body, I feel like that’d be a more natural association for hunger, with the tail (being the foot) indicating earthquakes (also think of the loudness of the rattlesnake which can be associated with the din of buildings shaking and falling down).

Given the importance of the Moon here, we might consider that this is a relic of lunar mansion forecasting.  In that case, the most reasonable lunar mansions that could be found in these signs that make sense would be these:

  • Al-Ṭarf (12°51′ to 25°42′ Cancer)
  • Al-Zubrah (8°35′ to 21°25′ Leo) or Al-Ṣarfah (21°26′ Leo to 4°17′ Virgo)
  • Al-Qalb (8°34′ to 21°25 Scorpio)
  • Sa`du al-Bul`a (12°51′ to 25°42′ Capricorn)

It’s convenient that we can find lunar mansions in these signs that could generally be interpreted to be like the calamities these manuscripts suggest (especially Al-Qalb, the talismanic image of which is “an adder holding its tail above its head”, which is definitely a point in favor of Scorpio being the snake shaking its tail).  However, this could still just be a fancy coincidence, I suppose.

If we wanted to go with an even more stellar theory, we could inspect the ecliptical positions of the most important stars in the constellation, accounting for precession and star motion, but even then, that doesn’t get us much; even in the year 500 CE, Thuban (which we’d expect to be more to the middle or tail of the constellation) is in Leo, Rastaban (β Draconis) and Eltanin (γ Draconis) (both at the head of Draco) are around the cusp of Scorpio and Sagittarius, and Giausar (λ Draconis) as the tail star of Draco is at the end of Cancer.  While this doesn’t seem all too bad, we just don’t really see any specific star in Capricorn, or any part of the constellation at all in Capricorn (given that the head of Draco can be found at the Scorpio/Sagittarius cusp and its tail in Cancer, preceding through the signs through Leo).

Even if we put aside the issue of why we’re looking at these signs at all, why are we even looking at the Moon, considering the obviously known existence of the North and South Nodes of the Moon?  I mean, given the slowness of these points and their general destructive nature (or, if nothing else, a nature indicative of great change and upheaval), it’d make more sense to look at their position instead of the Moon.  At the same time, many of the texts that Marathakis references include plenty of timing for magical acts according to the Moon, based on its general zodiacal position or the particular day of the lunar month, sometimes on its own, sometimes as part of other placements (e.g. Sun in Virgo, Moon in Cancer) for talismanic work.  Plus, the lunar nodes move much more slowly through the Zodiac than the Moon (about every 1.5 years or a bit more than 18 months for the nodes to move one sign), and it’s not clear which node we should focus on, whether using either one (e.g. if either node is in a given sign) or just one, or whether we would split the nodes such that we’d account for Cancer and Leo (which describe more head-related actions) to Caput Draconis specifically and Scorpio and Capricorn (which describe more body- and tail-related actions) to Cauda Draconis.

Ah well.  There are too many questions here without enough information to answer them.  Instead, let’s take a more practical approach and consider what the next few years will look like according to this.  Looking ahead to this year and the rest of the decade:

  • March 19, 2020: Moon at 13° Aquarius
  • March 20, 2021: Moon at 16° Gemini
  • March 20, 2020: Moon at 29° Libra
  • March 20, 2023: Moon at 18° Pisces
  • March 19, 2024: Moon at 3° Leo
  • March 20, 2025: Moon at 6° Sagittarius
  • March 20, 2026: Moon at 20° Aries
  • March 20, 2027: Moon at 1° Virgo
  • March 19, 2028: Moon at 23° Capricorn
  • March 20, 2029: Moon at 26° Taurus
  • March 20, 2030: Moon at 11° Libra

Based on this, it seems that the solar year starting at spring equinox 2024 will be marked by war, and in 2028 by hunger (or earthquakes).  Or, I suppose, marked as exceptionally bad for those things.  I guess it’s something to keep an eye on, yes?

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.

A Follow-up on the Chaplet of the Eight Dragons

After I put up that post not too long back about the “Chaplet of Eight Dragons”, I’ve been trying to figure out more about it.  There’s really not a lot out there, and even after making a pair of them for myself and my shrine, it’s a pretty mysterious thing.  Happily, we did have a lead for more information: from Francis Warrain’s 1968 Physique, métaphysique, mathématique, et symbolique cosmologique de la Géomancie we get to the 1949 text De l’Architecture Naturelle, ou Rapport de Petrus Talemarianus sur l’établissement, d’après les principes du Tantrisme, du Taoïsme, du Pythagorise et de Cabale, d’une «Règle d’Or» servant à la Réalisation des Lois de l’Harmonie universelle et contribuant à l’accomplissemenet du «Grand Œuvre» (or, in English, Natural Architecture, Or, a Report by Petrus Talemarianus on the Establishment of a “golden Rule” According to the Principles of Tantrism, Taoism, Pythagoreanism, and the Kabala, Serving to Fulfill the Laws of Universal Harmony and Contributing to the Accomplishment of the GreatWork).  This book is pretty hard to find, but with the loving-kindness of my friends who let me use their academic institution interlibrary loan benefits, I was able to get a copy of the thing—and in an English translation put out in 2007, no less!

It is a cinderblock of a book.  And…well, it’s certainly eclectic and syncretic in its approach to everything, that’s for sure.  It’s a dastardly slog of a read, and it flips back and forth between topic to topic to topic.  The prefaces done by the translators describe much about the text:

Véga’s publication of [this book] in 1949 was another act of positive defiance.  The extravagance and gigantic size of the book, its superb typography and hundreds of illustrations, and the declared intention of teaching architects how to build houses and palaces, churches and temples with natural materials, in accordance with natural laws, were as contrary as possible to the drabness and shoddiness of the postwar world

The whole atmosphere of L’architecture naturelle seems in accord with its authorship by an aristocratic recluse, who chose as a pseudonym a Latinization of his ancestral home, while [Alexandre] Rouhier, the pharmacologist-editor, inserted the incongruous references to the personalities and interests of the Wronksian circle.  There is evidently room for further investigation of this enigmatic character.

The text truly is beautifully illustrated, blending elements of Indian, Chinese, Japanese, European, Egyptian, Greco-Roman, and other architectural disciplines along with no end of alchemical references.  Disappointingly, however, the “Chaplet of Eight Dragons” only appears once in the entire book: that of the printer’s mark itself, which in the translation is the very last image in the entire book:

 

Likewise, the only reference to the thing I could find in the book was in the addenda, which offers notes and observations about some of the minor illustrations in the book, namely the frontispiece, various prayer beads used to line the table of contents, and other small decorative but symbolic details about the book, finishing up with a bit about the printer’s mark itself:

The geomantic necklace or rosary which surrounds the printer’s mark is constituted by the juxtaposition, end to end, of 8 rosaries, each formed of 16 rows of beads, 8 even and 8 odd, i.e. of 24 (= 8 × 3) beads.  The whole necklace therefore comprises 192 (= 8 × 24) beads, which is a third of the number of lines which constitute the 64 hexagrams of Fou-Hi.

These 8 rosaries, constituting one larger rosary, are linked together according to positions which can be variable but which are always strictly ordered and precise.  On this rosary, which forms a closed circuit, the alternation of even and odd rows is such that, if taken in successive groups of 4, progressing by one rank each time, one obtains in each smaller rosary the 16 elementary figures of geomancy, without any figure ever being missing or repeated.  The order of succession of these 16 figures varies with each of the smaller rosaries.

Depending on whether one “reads” the rosary in clockwise or anticlockwise direction (and now the total number of beads becomes 384, which is the number of the beginning of the composition of the Soul of the World according to Plato), one may observe that there are, in reality, two rosaries perfectly distinct from one another but contained within the same object; this rosary therefore represents Duality within Unity, the “Yin-Yang” of Taoism.

On this geomantic rosary there are, 8 times over, distributed in a uniform manner in all the 16 ranks, an identical series of 6 ranks: 4 consecutive odd ranks of beads, preceded and followed by an even rank, which thus yield, in an invariable order, the succession of the 3 following figures: Caput draconis, Via, Cauda draconis being, according to their astrological correspondences, the North Node, Moon, and South Node.  Being distributed regularly on the necklace, they can be taken as points of departure for each rosary, which results in the Rosarium geomanticum being given its name, “Rosary of 8 Dragons.”  These dragons are amphibian, because if one “reads” the rosary in the opposite direction from the preceding, the succession of the 3 figures becomes Cauda draconis, Via, Caput draconis: the head of the dragon takes the place of its tail and vice versa.  On the north spire of the cathedral of Chartres, the weathercock bears the alchemical sun (pictured to the right of the Bottle, p. 361), the Virgin with the Child is seated upon a lead finial; and at her feed are 8 serpents, each facing in the 8 directions of space.

To this octuple succession of amphibian dragons uniformly distributed on the necklace, there is opposed by complement another octuple succession not uniformly distributed, which is comprised of 4 consecutive even rows of beads, preceded and followed by an odd row, and which thus yields, in an invariable order, the succession of the 3 following figures: Lætitia, Populus, Tristitia, according to the astrological correspondences Jupiter, Moon, and Saturn.

The metaphysical meditations that one can obtain by means of this rosary are, like those obtained with the aid of other rosaries, practically limitless.

No references to calling it the “Rosary of the Geomancers of Allahabad” that I could find, as Joël Jacques called it in his eclectic book on geomancy, and as far as I could tell skimming through this behemoth of a text, there’s nothing to back up Francis Warrain’s claim that “[t]hese ‘rosaries’ are commonly used, it seems, in certain and highly secret tantric sects as supports for very complex metaphysical meditations, as well as for geomantic divinatory uses, and also for subtle purposes of ‘recognition initiation'”.  However, it is known that the author of D’architecture naturelle and Francis Warrain were in contact with each other, so perhaps Warrain had some other information at his disposal that isn’t otherwise published—along with the tantalizing final line from the addenda of the book itself.  After all, as the section in the addenda describing the illustrations of prayer beads says:

The use of the rosary as a material support for the recitation of the formulae of prayer (mantras), undoubtedly originating in India, is common to all the doctrines which use the “Shakti” (Word) as a basis; its effect is to cause the awakening of “Kundalini”; it is completed by the use of the mystic diagrams (yantras), which are like a visual representation of the Mother under her subtle aspect.  The repetition of the “mantras”, following the numbers and mutations subject to the laws of the regular partition of the sphere, which are of cosmic harmony, aided by the contemplation of the “yantras” subject to the same laws and by a devoted attitude (mudras), causes rhythmic vibrations which have their repercussions throughout the series of multiple states of being, and serving to realize the interior illumination which is the goal of all “incarnation.”.

There are otherwise scant few references to geomancy in general in D’architecture naturelle, so despite the massive undertaking of this book and despite a few references to the Qur’ān, the ancient Egyptians, or Gilgamesh and Enkidu here and there, it would seem that topics of generally Middle Eastern or African origin didn’t seem to be of much interest to the author, instead focusing on European, Greco-Roman, Chinese, and Indian topics of spirituality and occult architecture.

It’s honestly unclear to me at this point what the real origin of the “Chaplet of Eight Dragons” is; though there are suggestions there are Persian or South Asian origins to the thing, without people from Iran, India, or Pakistan to corroborate this or flesh it out some, there’s not a lot going on here for that.  Happily, one of my Pakistani friends says he’s seen such a thing in use, so it doesn’t seem to be an outright invention by fanciful Western authors, but I can’t say much more about it at the present time.  Outside of these modern French geomantic and occult texts, the only other thing I can find it is this French geomancer’s blog, where she makes such rosaries based on similar resources as what I’ve already seen.  I suppose time will tell what other resources might arise to flesh out this little geomantic apparatus.

Updates to Divination Services (also, happy 10th birthday to me!)

So, first things first: happy birthday to the Digital Ambler!  As of today, the Digital Ambler is 10 years old!  This has been a wild ride, and I honestly had no idea that this is where I’d turn up, though it’s undoubtedly better than anything I could have imagined on that winter day back during my last semester of college when I started this blog as a tributary writing project for XaTuring.  From delving deep into classical Hermetic stuff to exploring the expanse of geomancy, from researching Greco-Egyptian magic to refining any number of other magical and spiritual approaches to making our lives better, I’m thrilled to have gotten this far, and I’m even more thrilled you all have stuck around for it.  Thank you, my amazing and lovely readers, for ambling along this path with me; let’s see where our path continues to take us.

UPDATE (2020-02-10): It turns out that this is my 777th post, and I’m upset I didn’t catch that when I made it.  I would’ve made something fancier had I been more aware, but of well.  Ten years and 777 posts between them; not a bad stretch!

Anyway, now that I’ve finally caught up on sleep from the gauntlet of divination readings from last month, I’ve been reconsidering how I want to continue offer divination services, and I’ve been rethinking my services and how I want to go about them.  I’m still offering them, no worries there, but I figured it’s time to get rid of the services that I don’t use and add the ones I’ve been using more as of late.  To that end, I just wanted to put out a quick update about the divination services I provide, both here on my website’s Services page as well as on my Etsy and my Ko-fi:

I’ve added a new divination service, “Domino Reading”.  This is a form of divination I’ve been experimenting with for some time since last year, and started doing readings for others through my Ko-fi as a test for client work.  I’m happy to say that I (and my clients) have been extremely pleased with the results, and I’m happy to make it a more formal thing.  The price for a domino reading is US$21 per reading, a three-bone reading that will address the situation, what to expect, what to accept, and how to conduct yourself through actionable advice both mundane and spiritual.

For reasons that will soon become clear, I’ve renamed the “Full Geomancy Reading” to just “Geomancy Reading”.  It was just the name that was changed, with the rate being the same (US$44 per reading).

I’ve taken down the “Horary Geomancy Reading” service entirely.  This was a rarely-used service, and there honestly wasn’t much need to have this up.  This style of reading is mostly an extension of the usual geomantic method by overlaying a horary astrological chart on top of a normal geomantic chart, per the method given by Priscilla Schwei and Ralph Pestka’s The Complete Book of Astrological Geomancy.  While a fun technique, it’s a lot of extra work for not a lot of extra gain, and I’ve generally encouraged people to go with the usual geomantic style of divination anyway, so I didn’t see much of a point in keeping this up.  Besides, the geomantic methods I use are already so encompassing that throwing in a halfway-horary chart doesn’t add much further detail.

I’ve also taken down the “Mini-Divination” service entirely.  Like with the “Horary Geomancy Reading” service, it was rarely-used, and, to be completely honest, that’s probably for the best.  This was a sort of mixed dice reading, using polyhedral dice (much as one would use for tabletop RPGs a la Dungeons & Dragons) to combine grammatomancy (Greek letter divination) with a short form of geomancy.  It’s a nifty technique, and while it was useful for a nudge in the right direction, that’s all it was really good for, either as follow-ups to earlier divinations for clarity or for a quick pointer in the right direction.  In the future, I may bring something like this back as a proper grammatomancy reading, but I haven’t yet decided.  While I adore the use of grammatomancy, between geomancy and dominoes, there are just better systems to use for almost all cases in general.  For now, I’ll keep grammatomancy with astragalomancy as part of a more devotional approach to Hellenic works; if this interests you, contact me and we can see about working something out.

So, with that, I offer two forms of divination readings: Geomancy and Dominoes.  In that light, what sort of reading would be best for particular circumstances?

  • Geomancy readings are the most complete form of divination I provide, and go into depth on a particular situation, choice, or event in your life, whether making a single choice or for a whole forecast.  These can be fairly involved, but also discuss matters put to divination in depth and at length with a high level of specificity.  This is my classic form of divination that I have the most expertise and study in, and it’s rare that I would recommend anything else to top this.  Whether you want to start small or start big, starting with geomancy is always a good idea.
  • Domino readings are the closest I get to card readings, and for the price, can’t be beat as far as bang for your buck if you’re strapped for cash.  They’re fast and easy to do, and though they can get pretty in-depth, it doesn’t have the absolute specificity that geomancy provides.  Still, they can be pretty up-front (sometimes with an amazing bluntness and frankness) with the details regarding a situation, the causes of it, and how to proceed with it.  A three-bone reading is both a good prognostic as well as diagnostic tool to determine what will happen and the best way of approaching it.  The traditional rule is that one should not have more than three bones read for oneself in the space of a month, and while I’m still feeling out that rule, it sounds like a safe one to go with.  Since my style of domino reading uses three bones in a single sitting, this means that it’s best to space out your concerns—though, if we find that we can break those concerns down into several topics, we could also do one bone per concern, which still manages to get a wealth of detail and information for this.

As a reminder, I charge each reading per query, not per session or time-block; some readings can take five minutes, some take fifty or more, and while I do my best to give as much detail as necessary and as desired, I don’t like throwing in a lot of filler to waste time or bandwidth.  As a result, each reading is charged per query—but, because of that, I also dedicate some time ahead of the reading working with the client to review, understand, and (if necessary) to refine the query, both for my sake so I understand exactly what the client would like to know, but also for the client’s sake to make sure the query is clear, concise, and concrete enough while also able to touch on as much as possible.  In the case where the client has multiple concerns or queries, we can rephrase and refine the query a bit to try to cover as many bases as possible so that I can touch on or address as many concerns as possible in my report, but things that are too unrelated to our chosen approach may best be put aside for a separate reading afterwards.

Also as a reminder, how the reading process starts will differ based on what medium you get it from:

  • If you get a reading directly through my website’s Services page (with PayPal as the only payment option, but using whatever other payment options PayPal themselves provides you), I’ll reach out to you at the email address used for your PayPal account and we’ll go from there.
  • If you get a reading through my Ko-fi page (with PayPal or Stripe), put your query in the commission request box when you make the commission, and when I receive the request, I’ll send you an email at the email address used for the commission request, and we’ll go from there.   Be sure you actually make a commission and not a donation; donation messages are generally publicly visible!
  • If you get a reading through my Etsy store (with all the forms of payment that Etsy accepts), Etsy will automatically send you a PDF download “ticket” to your email address with instructions on how to contact me and with what information.  Once I receive that information from you, we’ll go from there.

As always, if you get a divination reading from me, feedback is always deeply welcomed, whether up front or after the fact, and if you feel like you have something nice to say, feel free to leave a review for me on my Facebook page or by sending me an email and letting me know you have a review you’d be okay with me sharing.  If you find that my services are undercharged, you’re always welcome to leave me a tip through my Ko-fi, whether as a once-off donation or on a monthly basis, all of which helps keep my webhosting and other tools paid for as well as keeping my services’ prices low for those who need them most.

Thank you again, everyone!

A Simple Hermetic Prayer Rule

I’m not sure what a Hermetic parallel to Christian primitivism would be, especially given how little we know about actual Hermetic practices on-the-ground in the early part of the first millennium, but maybe something like this could be considered.

Like how I recently introduced a new prayer, the Praise of the Invisible and Invisible God based off Book V from the Corpus Hermeticum, I’ve been combing through other parts of the classical Hermetic corpus to come up with other prayers to recite.  What survives is largely philosophical, but there are occasional praises of God, exhortations of praise or prayer, and other exclamations of faith that dot the Hermetic literature.  We already pointed out a lengthy one from Book V not too long ago, but there are others, as well, and a few outright prayers, too, like the famous prayer from the end of Book I from the Corpus Hermeticum to the Prayer of Thanksgiving from the Asclepius, or the Perfect Sermon which also makes an appearance in the Nag Hammadi texts.  I’ve been experimenting with the explicit prayers that appear in the Hermetic canon, but I’ve even been coming up with others only based on it, even making my own kind of “Hermetic Mass” based on Book XIII (which talks a lot about the tormentors and blessings of the various spheres of the cosmos).

So far, as far as raw material to come up with new prayers goes, Book I is probably among the most fruitful.  It’s this very book of the Corpus Hermeticum that is named after Poimandrēs itself (though many translate this to “Shepherd of Men”, following Ralph Marcus, I favor a Coptic interpretation of this as “Reason of Sovereignty”), a testament of Hermēs Trismegistos himself when he obtained the divine vision of the creation of the cosmos and passage of souls, and how to achieve henosis both in this life and in the afterlife.  It’s at the end of this that Poimandrēs exhorts Hermēs to go forth and save the human race from the torments of their mortality (Copenhaver translation, and also note my italicized text in that last paragraph):

As he was saying this to me, Poimandres joined with the powers. Then he sent me forth, empowered and instructed on the nature of the universe and on the supreme vision, after I had given thanks to the father of all and praised him. And I began proclaiming to mankind the beauty of reverence and knowledge: “People, earthborn men, you who have surrendered yourselves to drunkenness and sleep and ignorance of god, make yourselves sober and end your drunken sickness, for you are bewitched in unreasoning sleep.”

When they heard, they gathered round with one accord. And I said, “Why have you surrendered yourselves to death, earthborn men, since you have the right to share in immortality? You who have journeyed with error, who have partnered with ignorance, think again: escape the shadowy light; leave corruption behind and take a share in immortality.”

Some of them, who had surrendered themselves to the way of death, resumed their mocking and withdrew, while those who desired to be taught cast themselves at my feet. Having made them rise, I became guide to my race, teaching them the words—how to be saved and in what manner—and I sowed the words of wisdom among them, and they were nourished from the ambrosial water. When evening came and the sun’s light began to disappear entirely, I commanded them to give thanks to god, and when each completed the thanksgiving, he turned to his own bed.

Within myself I recorded the kindness of Poimandres, and I was deeply happy because I was filled with what I wished, for the sleep of my body became sobriety of soul, the closing of my eyes became true vision, my silence became pregnant with good, and the birthing of the word became a progeny of goods. This happened to me because I was receptive of mind—of Poimandres, that is, the word of sovereignty. I have arrived, inspired with the divine breath of truth. Therefore, I give praise to god the father from my soul and with all my might:

After this, Hermēs recites his famous prayer itself, which has been a staple of mine and many other Hermeticists’ practices, a beautiful bit of devotional speech and supplication.

It’s the latter two paragraphs there that I took another look at, and considered that those would be excellent to base a prayer on.  Consider: Hermēs reaches out to those who seek after Truth, and “sowed the words of wisdom among them, and they were nourished from the ambrosial water” (i.e. water of immortality), after which those same people give thanks to God.  And after that, Hermēs himself gives thanks for “what [he] wished” (or prayed) for: his bodily sleep became sobriety of the soul, his eyes’ closing became true vision, etc.  And then, because of all that, he gives his famous “Holy is God…” prayer, a kind of “Threefold Trisagion”.

So I sat with this a bit, extracted the important bits, compared the translations of Scott, Copenhaver, and Salaman along with the original Greek given in Scott, and, after a good bit of writing and rewriting, I came up with the following prayer:

Sow in me the words of wisdom, and nourish me with the water of immortality.
By this, for this, and for everything, I give unto you my thanks.

May the sleep of my body become the sobriety of my soul.
May the closing of my eyes become true vision of Truth.
May my silence become pregnant with the Supreme Good.
May my birthing of the Word become the generation of true wealth.

Let me be receptive to the Nous, the Sovereign Knowledge,
that I may be inspired by the divine breath of Truth,
that I may praise God with all my soul and all my strength.

This actually works fairly well, in my limited experience trying it out, as a prayer in its own right, especially before using before the Threefold Trisagion.  The thing is that it’s very much directed towards being used before one retires to bed at night, what with the references to sleep and closing one’s eyes, as well as the original context of the content being used before people “turn[ing] to [their] own bed[s]”.  If this is a prayer that would best be used in the evening before sleep, what about one in the morning when one rises from sleep?  Easy; note the italicized parts below:

Sow in me the words of wisdom, and nourish me with the water of immortality.
By this, for this, and for everything, I give unto you my thanks.

May the rousing of my body become the awakening of my soul.
May the opening of my eyes become true vision of Truth.
May my speech become fruitful with the Supreme Good.
May my birthing of the Word become the generation of true wealth.

Let me be receptive to the Nous, the Sovereign Knowledge,
that I may be inspired by the divine breath of Truth,
that I may praise God with all my soul and all my strength.

This also works well as a morning prayer unto itself, but again especially so when followed by the Threefold Trisagion.  But there’s something else we can add, as well: the Prayer of Thanksgiving from the Asclepius.  Note how in that penultimate paragraph above from Book I that, after Hermēs gives his teaching to people, he “commanded them to give thanks to god, and when each completed the thanksgiving, he turned to his own bed”.  This means that, after the first two lines of the two derived prayers above, we could recite the Prayer of Thanksgiving, then continuing with the rest of the prayer, then finished by the Triple Trisagion.

On top of all this, we can take inspiration from the last part of the Asclepius that gives instructions on prayer (Copenhaver translation):

As they left the sanctuary, they began praying to god and turning to the south (for when someone wants to entreat god at sunset, he should direct his gaze to that quarter, and likewise at sunrise toward the direction they call east), and they were already saying their prayer…

My big issue with this is turning to the south, since the Sun doesn’t set in the south, yet the Asclepius says to face the south while also saying one “should direct his gaze to that quarter” where the Sun is setting.  My guess would be that the use of “south” here was a mistranslation or mistransmission in the text, and it should say “west”, maybe “southwest” to reflect a more realistic setting of the Sun for places in the northern hemisphere, especially between the autumn and spring equinoxes—yet in Book XIII of the Corpus Hermeticum, Hermes tells this same thing to Tat before he imparts the Secret Hymn, the Initiatory Hymn of Silence (note the italicized part):

Be still, my child; now hear a well-tuned hymn of praise, the hymn of rebirth. To divulge it was no easy choice for me except that I do it for you, at the end of everything. Hence, it cannot be taught; it is a secret kept in silence. Therefore, my child, stand in the open air, face the south wind when the setting sun descends, and bow down in adoration; when the sun returns, bow likewise toward the east. Be still, child: …

So, yeah, we really should be facing the south for sunset/evening prayers.  In this light, keeping in mind the Egyptian context here of Hermetic texts, it makes sense: the Way of Truth of Hermēs Trismegistos is also a Way of Life, and the direction of the West was the direction of the lands of the dead, and so inappropriate for prayers of immortality to the immortal God.  (Why, then, the direction of North wasn’t used, the direction of immortality itself, is not something I’ve puzzled out yet, but I’m tired, so it can wait.)

In either case, let’s take inspiration from this for our prayer routine above.  In the morning (ideally at sunrise), we’d say the morning prayer (with Prayer of Thanksgiving in the middle and Threefold Trisagion at the end) facing the east, and in the evening again (ideally at sunset) with the evening prayer (again with the Prayer of Thanksgiving and Threefold Trisagion) facing the south (though, if one is in the southern hemisphere, one should probably face the north instead).  Following the practice given in Book XIII as noted above as well as in the Asclepius, prayers are best made “in open air” (cf. “as they left the sanctuary” in the Asclepius), starting from a standing position, and bowing during adoration (e.g. the Secret Hymn, the Threefold Trisagion, etc.); prayers with words should be said aloud, audibly if not in a low voice, while prayers without words would be said in silence.  If standing is not possible, kneeling would be fine, prostrating instead of bowing at the appropriate times; which is my own personal preference, especially if indoors, and even more so if meditation, contemplation, readings, or other prayers are to be said either before or after this.

So there’s that: a simple prayer rule for devotional Hermetic practice, derived entirely from the classical Hermetic canon.  Short, elegant, straightforward, earnest; what more could one want, even if only to start with as a seed for extended or more elaborate prayer practices of Hermetic theurgy and henosis?  It’s something otherwise detached from any other religion or spiritual practice, and, perhaps most importantly, uses the actual words of Hermēs Trismegistos for our own prayers, and to repeat those same words (or to use them in a similar way) for following the Way of Hermēs is a powerful practice, indeed.

Speaking of “following the Way”, there’s something else I was considering.  We used that excerpt from Book I of the Corpus Hermeticum to create those evening and morning prayers above, but we focused on the latter two paragraphs of the excerpt for that.  The first two paragraphs, on the other hand, take a distinctly different tone: that of a call to wake up, a call to the Way of Truth that Hermēs Trismegistos began to teach at the instruction of Poimandrēs.  Like Buddha going around from town to town with the call of “Anyone for the other side?” or the Islamic adhān calling Muslims to prayer, similar language could be used as a preliminary…perhaps not “prayer”, but reminder of what it is to follow the Way and why we should do so.  Though I doubt there are many communities that would need such a grand call, it could be useful before both individual or group practice before any major Hermetic theurgic undertaking, even (or especially) those that rely on heavier PGM-style magic and ritual.  To that end, I figured I’d end this post by sharing my rewrite of Hermēs’ original call, based again on comparing the older translations of Scott, Copenhaver, and Salaman amongst each other:

O all you children of mankind, o all you born of the Earth, o all who you have given yourselves over to drink and sleep in your ignorance of God! Make yourselves sober, cease your drunken sickness, end your bewitchment by unreasoning sleep! Why have you given yourselves over to death, since you have the power to partake of immortality? You who have wandered with Error, you who have partnered with Ignorance: think again, and repent! Be released from the darkness, take hold of the Light, take part in divine immortality, leave behind your corrupt destruction! Do not surrender to the way of death by your mockery or distance, but come, rise, and be guided on the way of life!