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!
ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ ΑΧΕΒΥΚΡΩΜ
ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ
ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ ΣΕΜΕΣΕΙΛΑΜ
ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ ΜΑΡΜΑΡΑΥΩΘ
ΧΑΙΡΕ ΗΛΙΕ ΠΑΝΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡ
ΨΟΙ ΦΝΟΥΘΙ ΝΙΝΘΗΡ
Ι Ι Ι Ι Ι Ι
The last few words written in Greek script can be transliterated instead as:
ĒI IEOU AKHEBUKRŌM
ĒI IEOU ABRASAKS
ĒI IEOU SEMESEILAM
ĒI IEOU MARMARAUŌTH
KHAIRE HĒLIE PANTOKRATOR
PSOI PHNOUTHI NINTHĒR
I I I I I I
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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.