An Alternative System of Stoicheia

Far be it from me, a ceremonial magician, to take something simple without introducing some complexity or confusion into it.

In continuing and reviewing my mathesis and Greek language-based mysticism research, there’s one modern book that’s invaluable to my studies: The Greek Qabalah (1999) by Kieren Barry.  Barry’s scholarship is excellent, and he wrote the book as a hybrid between pure academicism and applicability for occultists and magicians, so it’s highly accessible for most people but with plenty of inroads for deeper analysis.  Of course, I’d love to read Franz Dornseiff’s “Das Alphabet in Mystik und Magie” (1925) since it has plenty more raw information, but that’s all in German, and alas, nope.  Anyway, Barry’s book is a good start, and it’s one of the original influences that led me to go against the “Alexandrian Tree of Life” and start over fresh.  From chapter 6 (emphasis mine)

On the evidence we have seen, it is plainly incorrect to state that there are only a few correspondences to the letters of the Greek alphabet along the lines of those found much later in the Hebrew Qabalah.*  It is also anachronistic, as well as completely pointless, to attempt to project Hebrew Qabalistic symbolism onto the Greek alphabet, or to imagine anything so historically impossible as an “Alexandrian Tree of Life,” as has been done.*…

* (48) See for example, S. Flowers, Hermetic Magic (York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, 1995), a forgettable mixture of historical fact and personal fantasy.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I claim that when a scholar is throwing those kind of footnotes at you in an academic work, you prolly dun’ fucked up.  But I digress.

So, of course, Barry mentions the property of stoicheia in several parts as he begins to discuss the mystical associations of the letters with other well-known forces or powers in the cosmos; the seven planets are a given, as well as all the permutations and wing- or heart-shaped formations of letter triangles that are formed from having rows of letters with slowly increasing or decreasing numbers of letters in each line.  However, the system of stoicheia Barry shows is much different than the one I use when it comes to the association of letters with the planets and elements.  Not that it matters much to me; I’ve gotten used to my system, and I’ve gotten good results from using it, but just in case anyone wants to start a meaningless argument with me saying that my way isn’t the only way, lemme preempt that and discuss what Barry talks about.  First, if you’re forgetful or unclear on what my system of stoicheia is like, read more here.  I honestly don’t know how far back the system I uses goes, but it’s at least as old as Cornelius Agrippa (book I, chapter 74); if it’s not any older than this, at least I know it works and makes sense to me.

The Greek words for the five elements are ΓΗ (earth), ΥΔΩΡ (water), ΑΗΡ (air), ΠΥΡ (fire), and ΑΙΘΗΡ (rarefied air, ether, spirit).  Note that there are only five consonants used between all of these words: Γ (used only in γη), Δ (used only in υδωρ), Π (used only in πυρ), Θ (used only in αιθηρ), and Ρ (used in all except γη, but the only one used in αηρ).  Thus, we can associate each of these five consonants with the five elements:

  • Gamma with Earth
  • Delta with Water
  • Rho with Air
  • Pi with Fire
  • Theta with Spirit

This method of assigning the letters to the elements, which I call the acronymic method (though this isn’t a true acronymic method), seems to have more truck in really old antique and classical systems than the phonologic method I use, which is based on the comparatively recent Cornelius Agrippa.  However, since the system of vowels connected to the seven planets remains the same in both the phonologic and acronymic systems, we can also complete this system of stoicheia by associating the other letters to the zodiac signs in the same way.  Thus, Beta in both the phonologic and acronymic methods is given to Aries, but in the phonologic system Taurus is given to Gamma (the next simple consonant), while Taurus is given to Zeta in the acronymic method (since Gamma is given to Earth, Delta to Water, and Epsilon to Mercury).

There’s also another method of stoicheia introduced by the classical Hellenic astrologer Vettius Valens, who associated the entire Greek alphabet to the 12 signs of the Zodiac.  This doesn’t assign letters to the planets or elements themselves, just the Zodiac, and since we have 24 letters and 12 signs, the associations are very straightforward: start with Alpha and Aries and continue on to Pisces associated with Mu, then Nu with Aries again until Omega with Pisces again.  This was used in a system of “onomatic astrology”, less astrology than numerology-like stoicheic interpretation of names, where yes/no divination on a matter involving multiple people can be performed based on how their names compare based on number and stoicheia.  Perhaps eventually I’ll get around to finding more about this, as there exist similar things at least as far back as the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM XII.351) and at least as recent as Christopher Cattan’s “The Geomancy”, but we’ll see.

So, if we compare these three systems of stoicheia (the full phonological stoicheia, full acronymic stoicheia, and zodiac-only stoicheia), we get the following system:

Letter Full Stoicheia Zodiac-only
Stoicheia
Phonologic Acronymic
Α Moon Aries
Β Aries Taurus
Γ Taurus Earth Gemini
Δ Gemini Water Cancer
Ε Mercury Leo
Ζ Cancer Taurus Virgo
Η Venus Libra
Θ Earth Spirit Scorpio
Ι Sun Sagittarius
Κ Leo Gemini Capricorn
Λ Virgo Cancer Aquarius
Μ Libra Leo Pisces
Ν Scorpio Virgo Aries
Ξ Water Libra Taurus
Ο Mars Gemini
Π Sagittarius Fire Cancer
Ρ Capricorn Air Leo
Σ Aquarius Scorpio Virgo
Τ Pisces Sagittarius Libra
Υ Jupiter Scorpio
Φ Air Capricorn Sagittarius
Χ Fire Aquarius Capricorn
Ψ Spirit Pisces Aquarius
Ω Saturn Pisces

So, how does this impact my work with mathesis or Greek letter magic (grammatomageia as opposed to grammatomanteia)?  Well, not much.  It’s like the use of different house systems for astrology or different ways to assign the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart in geomancy; it’s just a different way of using the same tools and the same symbols.  While the system overlaps for 1/3 (8 of 24) of the Greek letters, the system is notably different.  But, if the only thing that really changes is what forces we associate them to, then the only thing that really changes is, maybe, the association of letters to the odoi of the Tetractys.  Remember, we assigned the letters to the paths based on their stoicheia.  The path of Taurus is still going to be the path of Taurus, the path of the Moon is still going to be the path of the Moon, and so forth; it’s just that, in my system, the path of Taurus is given the letter Beta, but in the acronymic stoicheic system, it’d be given the letter Zeta.  The letters alone change on the paths, as well as any tangential associations the paths receive based on the shapes and non-stoicheic associations of the letters; otherwise, the structure is pretty much solid.  Then again, like I said, I’ve gotten good results with my phonologic stoicheic system, so I see no reason to switch.

And no, I’m not going to redraw up that lettered Tetractys picture again for this.

As for Valens’ zodiac-only stoicheic system?  That’s almost neither here nor there; it’s geared for a different purpose, although it is one that’s interesting and bears further exploration.

Search Term Shoot Back, September 2014

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of September 2014.

Before I start with the actual search terms, I’d like to point out that September is generally the month of Virgo.  And yes, if you’ve kept up with the other Search Term Shoot Back posts, then you can probably guess that I’ve gotten a large number of queries involving the Greek god Hermes, the Zodiac sign Virgo, men, and huge dicks.  These search terms are a thing (though I can’t fathom why).  I can’t really speak to whether Virgo men generally have huge dicks; I have my reasonable sample size of them (that I’ve sampled in more than one way, ohhh my), of course, and I can’t draw any good conclusions one way or the other.  Hermes is a god, and generally speaking everything involving the gods is big, so, yeah.  Anyway, onto the more legitimate queries!

“how the moon affect the invocation of angels?” — In my experience, not much, but it depends on the angel you’re calling and for what purpose.  The only times astrological phenomena have negatively interfered with my conjurations of the angels is during periods of Mercury retrograde, when the voices of the angels tends to be more distant or unclear or I might get the wrong spirit in the crystal, but it’s a problem that’s easily worked around.  I’ve also noticed that the angels of the zodiac tend to like being conjured when their sign is rising or culminating, but that’s another issue.  Rather, the Moon affects the purpose of conjuration.  Generally, you want the waxing Moon to bring things into manifestation or achieve worldly ends (since the Moon is reflecting more of the Sun’s heavenly light to the Earth), and you want the waning Moon to take things away from the Earth or achieve spiritual initiations (since the Moon is reflecting more of the Sun’s light away into the heavens).  The Full Moon is good for opening up clear communication and all matters generally, while the Dark Moon is good for obscurity, binding, and hidden matters generally.  I haven’t noticed Void of Course Moon affecting conjurations themselves, but again, consider it as part of a larger project rather than in conjuration alone.

“crucible omnimancers” — The Omnimancers are good people who do good work, and I’m hanging out with them this coming weekend at Crucible Convention 2014 in Princeton, NJ.  More than that, I’m speaking there this year on my mathesis research!  You should totally come by if you’re anywhere in the mid-Atlantic US region during this weekend of October 4.  Not only will you get to meet me and the Omnimancers, but you’ll also get to meet a slew of other awesome people and magicians!

“the great book of saint cyprian pdf download” — You can do so for $10 off my Etsy!

“roman alphabet with english translation” — Technically, English already uses the Roman alphabet.  We use the same letters, generally speaking, as the Romans did for Latin, and have for at least 2500 years or so.  We’ve developed a few extra letters since then (J which is a variant of I, and U and W which are variants of V), and other languages written with the Roman script have developed others (like Nordic and Germanic languages, which use Æsh, Þorn, Eð, Ƿynn, among others).  Still, for a comparison between how the Romans used the alphabet and how we English-speakers use it, compare their corresponding pages on Omniglot.

“greek god sigils” — The Greeks didn’t use sigils for their gods; they may have used special characters to represent the language of the gods or the barbarous words of magic, but they didn’t have seals or sigils like how we developed them for the angels.  The more traditional way is to use isopsephy, or Greek gematria, to reduce their name to a number and use that as an esoteric symbol for them, or you might use my Greek Sigil Wheel to make a sigil for them much as how the Golden Dawn uses their Rose Cross wheel for Hebrew sigils.

“venus conjuration to bind someone to love you in angel magic” — So, while I understand what you’re trying to say, the way this is phrased irks me.  Technically, Venus is not an angel, so you can’t directly use Venus in angelic magic.  Venus is either a Roman goddess or an astrological planet, magically speaking.  Depending on your mythology and theology, you might consider the goddess Venus as an angel or deity subservient to the One, but this is somewhat rude and a little brusque when approaching her.  Instead, you’d want to contact the angel presiding over the sphere of Venus, whose name is Haniel (in Cornelius Agrippa) or Anael (in Pietro d’Abano’s Heptameron).  That’d be the spirit you’d be conjuring.  Second, binding someone to you in love magic does work, but logistically speaking, if you have to compel someone to stay with you, it’s probably not that great.  It’s like how the saying goes, “love is like a fart; if you have to force it, it’s probably shit”.  Rather, while Haniel (or Saint Cyprian, for that matter, since he’s known for love spells) can do love-bindings, you’d be better off smoothing things out so they’d willingly want to stay without the need for compulsion or impelling them, or using Venereal energies to put you in the right place where you’d find the truly right person for yourself.  But hey, if you know what you want, by all means, reach for it however you want.

“joseph lisiewski vs poke runyon” — I’d pay to see this cagematch.  If I recall correctly, Poke Runyon was in the Army, so if his radio show and magical lifestyle haven’t kept him too sedentary, I’d put my gold lamen on him (even if he can be delightfully crotchety).

“the greek way to bless your house from spirits” — So, an ancient Greek household would have three principle gods: Hestia (Lady of the Hearth), Zeus Ktesios (Zeus of the Property), and Hermes (protector from thieves).   What you’d do is have a small herm, a square pillar with a phallus on the shaft (heh) and a bust of the god on top and place it at the gate or entry to the property; this represents Hermes, and he’d watch out for thieves and robbers and keep them away; after all, he rules and leads them, so he can also lead them away from your house.  You’d have Hestia’s shrine set up at and as the hearth of the home, and a bit of every meal as well as a bit of every sacrifice made to any other god was always reserved for her both at the beginning and the last of the worship.  Zeus Ktesios watched over the property in general and its prosperity, but specifically over the pantry, and he’d have a special ktesios jar made as an offering to him as a matter of prosperity.  I really should get around to making a herm for my house and driveway one of these days, and I’ve already written about Hestia earlier this month; I haven’t gotten around to experimenting with Zeus Ktesios yet or ktesios jars, but I may in the future.  Beyond that, it helps to do a monthly cleansing ritual on the Noumenia or on the date of the new moon itself by sprinkling holy water around the house, lighting incense, and making offerings to one’s ancestors and household spirits besides Hermes, Hestia, and Zeus.  I keep thinking that there’s a ritual to get rid of unclean spirits by throwing beans and the like from the entry of the house outside into the street, but I may be conflating traditions here.  Generally speaking, if you have a good relationship with Hestia, Hermes, and Zeus, your house is basically going to be protected and blessed.

“isidore seville chaplet” — Chaplets, or a short prayer rule often done with a set of prayer beads, are an excellent devotion that the Catholic Christian tradition uses, and I’ve written up chaplets for the archangels Jehudiel, Barachiel, and Sealtiel as well as for Saint Cyprian of Antioch before.  However, not all saints and angels have their own chaplets, and there’s no set rule on how to pray them or make them; they’re basically personal devotions.  The most common form of chaplet is the “niner” chaplet, which consists of a medallion of the saint, three sets of three beads, and sometimes a crucifix; you pray the Lord’s Prayer, the Glory Be, and the Hail Mary on the three beads of each set in the honor of and seeking the intercession of whoever is on the medallion.  You can use this as a chaplet for Saint Isidore of Seville who, as far as I know, doesn’t have a specific chaplet form for himself.  I may get around to writing one up one of these days, however, since he’s the patron saint of the Internet and is pretty important in most of our modern lives.

“how big is the magical circle to be draw by trithemius” — Interestingly enough, Trithemius (really, Francis Barrett, since this ritual historically wasn’t likely to have been written by the pre-Agrippan Christian abbot) doesn’t specify how big the magic circle should be.  He specifies that the Liber Spirituum (Book of Spirits) must be about seven inches long, and that the crystal ball should be about an inch and a half in diameter, but those are the only concrete sizes he offers.  Presumably, the magic circle should be large enough to comfortably fit two people, one to conjure and one to scry, though I’ve only needed space enough for the altar and myself.  Thus, a circle about 6′ in diameter should be made at minimum if you’re including the altar in your circle, like I do under Fr. Rufus Opus’ instruction; alternatively, if you’re like Fr. Ashen, you might want the altar outside of the circle, in which case you don’t need as big a circle.  The most well-known size of circle is that from the Lemegeton Goetia, which specifies a circle 18′ in diameter, which is huge.  The rule of thumb I’d go by is, so long as you have enough space to expand your arms without breaking the circle and as long as you have enough space to hold all the gear you need, you have a big enough circle.

“big grids penis image” — …I don’t even.  Like, what, are you looking for low-resolution pictures of penis? Do you have a video compression fetish?

“saint cyprian nine days novena” — Yes, there are novenas for this good saint (as I’m sure many of us are now aware, now that the season of Saint Cyprian is done), and you can find a collection of them in my Vademecum Cypriani ebook, which you can buy off Etsy for US$9.00.  Just a note, however: traditional practice says that, when you’re timing a novena to a saint’s feast day, you normally coincide the final day of the novena with the feast day itself.  The process is a little different for Saint Cyprian, since people culturally do his novenas on the nine days before and not including his feast day (the Days of the Cyprians, the nine days between the Feast of Saint Cyprian of Carthage and the Feast of Saint Cyprian of Antioch).  Generally, time the final day to the feast day itself.  However, both of these rules are superseded by the more important rule of novena timing: whenever you need to do one.

“st cipriani evil saint magic” — I detest the notion that the saints can do “evil magic”.  They’re saints; by definition, they’re holy, and what’s holy is not evil.  That said, depending on how you ask, they might be more lenient to granting certain favors.  I mean, some of the saints are morally flexible.  Some are so morally flexible as to be part of a philosophical Cirque du Soleil.  After all, when you have the power of God to intercede with, theodicy becomes less a problem to puzzle out and more a resource to exploit for profit/prophet.

“hours and days for conjuring oriens” — Oriens is commonly known as a demonic, daemonic, or hellish king of spirits in the East (his name means “East” in Latin), and Cornelius Agrippa mentions him in his Scale of Four as a prince of spirits associated with Fire under the archangelic king Michael (book II, chapter 7).  Since Oriens is a sublunar spirit, planetary days and hours don’t need to be used for him, though since he’s associated with Michael who also happens to be the angel of the Sun, you might consider days and hours of the Sun for him.  Beyond that, though, I don’t think there are any special times associated with this spirit beyond what you might need for other works involving him (cf. the moon/invocation query above).

“enochian angels seals, digital-ambler.com” — You won’t find any of those on this site, I’m afraid.  Partially it’s because I have my hands full with so much other stuff, angelic and otherwise, but mostly it’s because Enochiana freaks me the fuck out.  I honestly can’t say why; it’s not the stories that people have told about furniture getting upended by Enochian angels (that’d actually be kinda awesome), or how people go crazy (they probably already were), or whatever.  Something about Enochiana just wigs me out and makes me uncomfortable, and I’m not sure why that is, nor do I particularly care to explore the reasons.

“can i use solomon seal drawing to summon spirits” — Absolutely not.  The Seal of Solomon is used to bind, constrain, and constrict spirits, like keeping them trapped in a prison.  You do not use it to summon them.

Alright.  Now that September is done and the Season of Saint Cyprian with it (though of course there’s always more Work to do), now I get a few days of rest before heading to Crucible this weekend.  Hope to see you there!

Towards a Greek Kabbalah: Letters on the Paths of the Tetractys

Where do we stand on our system of kampala, or Greek kabbalah?  We have letters, we have spheres, we have paths.  We’ve combined the paths with the spheres, and now we need to combine the paths with the letters.  This is the last big thing we have yet to do in order to fully develop our use of Greek letter-number-stoicheia mysticism into a full-fledged theurgic framework, turning simple grammatomancy into grammatotheurgy.  Last we checked in on our Tetractys of Life, we have the following ten spheres linked together with a set of 24 paths: alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths Each sphere is associated with a particular alchemical concept as well as a cosmic heaven, all coming down from the single, divinely simple, undifferentiated, all-generating Monad.  Seven of the ten spheres are moderate enough in their forces to be connected as completely as they can, while three are too extreme to be connected to any except their closest two forces.  So far, so good.  Now, let’s talk about the letters of the Greek alphabet.  It’s hard to assign the letters to these 24 paths based on their symbolic looks alone, and although the Greek letters are number, it’s also difficult to assign pure number to the paths by virtue of their cardinality, parity, or magnitude.  However, we have another route: using the stoicheia, or occult associations, of the Greek letters, which provide many more qualities and concepts on their own which can help us to figure out which path might best be represented on our Tetractys of Life.

Recall that the practice of stoicheia assigns one of the 12 signs of the Zodiac, one of the seven planets, or one of the five elements to each letter of the Greek alphabet.  After all, 12 + 7 + 5 = 24, so this can easily be done.  And, lo, it is!  Recall that there are three groups of letters in the Greek consonants: vowels, simple consonants, and complex consonants.  There are seven vowels (Α, Ε, Η, Ι, Ο, Υ, Ω), twelve simple consonants (Β, Γ, Δ, Ζ, Κ, Λ, Μ, Ν, Π, Ρ, Σ, Τ), and five complex consonants (Θ, Ξ, Φ, Χ, Ψ).  In that case, our division has already been made for us.  We give each of the vowels to one of the seven planets, starting with Alpha as the Moon and Ōmega as Saturn; we give each of the simple consonants to the twelve signs of the Zodiac, starting with Bēta as Aries and Tau as Pisces; we give each of the complex consonants to one of the five elements from most dense to least dense, from Thēta as Earth to Khi as Fire and Psi as Spirit.

The simplest way to assign these forces and their corresponding letters to the Tetractys of Life would be to base the selection on the geometry of the paths itself.  For instance, in the Jewish kabbalah’s Tree of Life which uses the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, there are three sets of paths: twelve diagonal paths, seven vertical paths, and three horizontal paths.  The diagonal paths are given to the zodiac signs; the vertical paths are given to the planets; the horizontal paths are given to the elements (Hebrew mysticism recognizes only Air, Fire, and Water as elements, with Earth and Spirit not being considered).  Kalagni over at Blue Flame Magick describes how he developed his own set of qabbalistic correspondences between the paths and the Hebrew letters based on their stoicheia, finding a closer resonance to the Jewish practice using the Hermetic Kircher Tree, which is different from the traditional Jewish kabbalah Tree of Life.  The Golden Dawn’s use of the Tree simply plots each path in a particular order from 11 at the top to 32 at the bottom, and gives each path a letter based on its order in the alphabet.  Kalagni and I agree in that this doesn’t suit the actual significance of the letters, so I should find some way to assign the Greek letters to the Tetractys of Life based on the geometry of the paths themselves.

Unfortunately, the 24 paths on the Tetractys don’t split up well into groups of 12, 7, and 5, so of course I’m going to have to think about this and figure out deeper connections that aren’t immediately apparent.  However, 24 is a nice number and can be easily and evenly divided into many smaller numbers: 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12.  Is it possible to use any of these factors to devise a scheme to divide the zodiac signs, elements, and planets into even groups?  And, if so, is there a coherent way to assign these groups to different groups of the paths? Recall from our meditations on the Greek divine name ΙΑΩ that we were able to divide the paths up into four groups of six: horizontal, right-going, left-going, and hexagram:

The number four immediately brings to mind the lowest rank of the Tetractys, the realm of the four elements: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire.  It might be possible that each of the paths in each set given above shares something about one of the elements in common, but how might we discern what those connections and relationships might be?  Let’s take a closer look at what the paths are actually connecting, again going back to our meditations on ΙΑΩ.

  • The paths that go right increase in activity; they are an expression of the masculine or active principle between levels of manifestation.  The Monad, as it differentiates itself into a Dyad, becomes the active force of Light; as Light differentiates itself, it becomes the active force of Sulfur; as Sulfur differentiates itself, it becomes the active force of Fire.  Fire is the lower-rightmost sphere on the Tetractys, indicating that the active principle as represented by an element is Fire.  The paths that go right are thus best associated with the element of Fire.
  • The paths that go left increase in passivity; they are an expression of the feminine or passive principle between levels of manifestation.  Thus, as the Monad descends into the elemental world, it becomes first Darkness, then Salt, then Earth, which is the lower-leftmost sphere on the Tetractys.  The paths that go left are associated with Earth.
  • The paths that are horizontal change in activity or passivity depending on which direction you’re going, but do not change in a level of manifestation.  The Monad, being undifferentiated, cannot change from itself except into itself; Darkness becomes Light, and vice versa; Salt becomes Mercury, and Mercury becomes Sulfur, and vice versa; Earth becomes Water, Water becomes Air, and so forth.  These horizontal paths demonstrate fluidity in energy while maintaining manifestation, which I understand to be the primary quality of Water, which flows from place to place.  The horizontal paths are associated with Water.
  • The hexagram paths change in diverse ways, some only in manifestation level while preserving the active/passive balance, some in drastic active/passive ways while changing manifestation only slightly.  The ability to change in such dramatic ways that should normally take several paths speaks of the quality of Air to me, since Air allows communication over long distances as well as rising and setting among and filling the gaps between the many heavens.  The hexagram paths are associated with Air.

Okay, so now we have four sets of paths that each share an element.  Thus, there should likewise be a way to divide up the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet into four groups of six by respecting their elemental associations.  We know that there are four letters for the four elements of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire; we also know that there are 12 letters for the signs of the Zodiac, which can be divided up by triplicity (elemental quality) into four groups of three.  Thus, we already have four groups of four letters for a total of 16:

Earth Water Air Fire
Capricorn Cancer Libra Aries
Taurus Scorpio Aquarius Leo
Virgo Pisces Gemini Sagittarius

This leaves seven planets and the leftover element of Spirit for a total of eight more letters.  Spirit, for the purposes of this analysis, can be considered a planet, since Spirit is not truly an element, nor is it truly a planet or zodiac sign, but a type of meta-force that can fit anywhere and accomplish anything as a foundation for other forces to combine and work with it.  Since Spirit is kinda-sorta higher than an element and kinda-sorta lower than a planet, yet can fit amongst either, we can think of these as a group of eight forces, which can be divided up into four groups of two based on their element.  Happily, by our association of the planets with the elements in our alchemical Tetractys of Life, we already know that Saturn is of Earth, Venus of Water, Jupiter of Air, and Mars is of Fire.  This leaves the Moon, Sun, Mercury, and Spirit:

  • The Moon, being on the direct descent from the Monad along the Earth paths to Saturn is given to the element of Earth.
  • Similarly, the Sun is given to Fire, since it’s on the direct descent from the Monad along the Fire paths to Mars.
  • Mercury is present in the center of the Tetractys, able to change in many ways to many other forces but never in the same ways that the Air paths do, leaving Mercury assigned to Water.
  • Spirit, being leftover, is given to Air.  However, Spirit as a raw force can transform anything into drastically different forces, performing miracles and works that no other element can, so this attribution is also fitting.

So now we have four groups of six forces, zodiacal and planetary and elemental, divided up along elemental lines:

Earth Water Air Fire
Saturn Venus Jupiter Mars
Moon Mercury Spirit Sun
Capricorn Cancer Libra Aries
Taurus Scorpio Aquarius Leo
Virgo Pisces Gemini Sagittarius

Alright, so now we need to find a way to assign the forces to the paths.  Of the four groups of paths, the Air sign is the odd one out (since it doesn’t fit the pattern of the other three), so let’s leave that aside for now and focus on the Fire, Water, and Earth paths.  We know that we can divide up these groups of six paths into a kind of partial-tetractys of their own consisting of three ranks (a trictys?): the first row has one path, the second row has two, and the third row has three.  We know that, among each division of our forces, we have one element, two planets, and three signs:

Element Earth Water Air Fire
Planet Saturn Venus Jupiter Mars
Moon Mercury Spirit Sun
Sign Capricorn Cancer Libra Aries
Taurus Scorpio Aquarius Leo
Virgo Pisces Gemini Sagittarius

So, based on this 1/2/3 division of both paths and forces, we can assign the single element to the single path of each group, the two planets to the row of two paths in each group, and the signs to the row of three paths in each group.  Assigning the element to the single path is trivial: give Water to the topmost horizontal path, Fire to the leftmost right-descending path, and Earth to the rightmost left-descending path: Tetractys_paths_elements_AWE We know that we have three sets of two planets, and one set is attributed to the elemental spheres directly on the lowest rank of the Tetractys of Life.  The other three appear higher up, indicating a more unmanifest or rarefied nature.  The Fire and Earth planetary paths have an upper path that link the Dyad and Triad and a lower component that link the Triad and Tetrad.  The lower path is given to the “lower” planet, lower as in the sense of manifestation according to the Tetractys, while the upper path is given to the “higher” planet in the same sense.  Thus, the upper path of Fire is given to the Sun, and the lower path to Mars, and the upper path of Earth is given to the Moon and the lower path to Saturn.  The Water path only has two horizontal components within the same rank, though one connects to a passive reagent and the other to an active reagent.  The path that connects to the passive reagent is considered “lower” in the same sense as above, as the path that connects to the active reagent is considered “higher”; thus, the leftward path of Water is given to Venus, and the rightward one to Mercury.

So far, so good.  This only leaves the three paths of each set to be given to the three signs of the Zodiac for each element.  Each of the three Zodiac sign belonging to the same triplicity (element) is assigned a different quadruplicity, also known as a modality: cardinal, fixed, and mutable.  Cardinal signs initiate and begin; fixed signs maintain and hold; mutable signs degrade and prepare for transformation.

Element Earth Water Air Fire
Planet Saturn Venus Jupiter Mars
Moon Mercury Spirit Sun
Sign Cardinal Capricorn Cancer Libra Aries
Fixed Taurus Scorpio Aquarius Leo
Mutable Virgo Pisces Gemini Sagittarius

It’s a staple of astrology that the fixed signs best represent their element, and we know from our meditations before on the name ΙΑΩ that the central path in the row of three paths “maintains” or holds the same essence as the single path on the far side of the tetractys.  Thus, since that single path represents an element, the middle path on the other side of the tetractys should be the Zodiac sign that best represents that element, i.e. the fixed sign.  Thus, the middle path on each side of the Tetractys should be given to Taurus for the Earth paths, Scorpio for the Water paths, and Leo for the Fire paths: Tetractys_paths_elements_FWE_fixed From this, it remains to assign the cardinal and mutable signs.  Much as how we assigned the “active” planet to the upper or leftward-horizontal path and “passive” planets to the lower or rightward-horizontal paths based on whether they were more manifest or unmanifest in the Tetractys, we can apply a similar method here based on whether a zodiac sign is cardinal (more active) or mutable (more passive).  Thus, as we read the Earth zodiac sign paths from the Monad down to the bottom, we read Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo; as we read the Fire zodiac sign paths from the Monad down to the bottom, we read Aries, Leo, Sagittarius.  The Water paths are more active on the right and more passive on the left, so if we read the Water zodiac sign paths from left to right, we read Pisces, Scorpio, Cancer: Tetractys_paths_signs_FWE Alright!  That covers it for the Fire, Water, and Earth paths of the Tetractys.  That only leaves the confusing hexagram paths of Air, where we can’t use the above system as cleanly anymore.  For one, instead of having three groups of 1, 2, and 3 paths, we have two cyclical sets of 3 paths each.  Both of these cycles have one vertical path, one right-going path, and one left-going path, so neither of them have an imbalance of passivity or activity.  We know that there are three signs of the Zodiac, though, so we can say that the Zodiac signs should all belong on one triangle and the element and two planets (really, the one planet Jupiter and the one meta-element of Spirit) go on the other.  So which should be which?  And, moreover, how do we figure out which line of the zodiac triangle paths is cardinal, fixed, or mutable?

Remember that, in our meditations on the name ΙΑΩ, we linked the long hexagram paths to the different sides of the Tetractys based on how the middle path of the side of the Tetractys linked to the single apex path on the far side.  These long paths then shared the same letter of ΙΑΩ as their shorter rectangular-end paths.  We can apply something similar here, too.  Also remember that 24 is divisible by many numbers, and we’ve so far been thinking about it as 4 × 6.  However, if we link the long paths of the hexagram with the Fire, Water, and Earth sets of lines as we did before with the name ΙΑΩ, we end up with 3 × 8, or three groups of eight paths:

Now, instead of thinking about the groups of paths in terms of four elements, let’s think about them in terms of the three modalities: cardinal, fixed, and mutable.  Cardinal signs are the most active; fixed signs are between active and passive; mutable signs are the most passive.  Thus, if we link these notions of activity and passivity to the three non-Air elements, we get cardinal signs associated with Fire (since they increase in activity), fixed signs with Water (since they hold the level of activity or passivity just as Water maintains manifestation across a rank of the Tetractys), and mutable signs with Earth (since they increase passivity).  Thus, on the triangle that gets the zodiac signs of Air, the paths linked to (at right angles with) the paths of a particular element receive that element’s modality.  So which triangle is the zodiac triangle, and which is the element/planet triangle?

Looking at the triangles, we notice that the one that “points” to the left has a “base” (connecting Light and Air) on the right side of the Tetractys, giving it a foundation of activity tending towards passivity.  Similarly, the triangle that points to the right has a base (connecting Darkness and Water) on the left side, giving it a foundation of passivity tending towards activity.  The type of forces that we’re looking at is the key here: the fixed stars do little on their own besides radiate power, while the planets and elements actively manifest and create far down below.  The fixed stars, then, emit power but do not control it, letting their power and presence be used rather than actively using themselves; the planets and elements emit and radiate their power in the ways they find best for them, acting more than being acted upon.  Thus, the zodiac signs are best given to the triangle pointing to the right, since they’re mostly passive with tendencies towards action, while the planets/elements are best given to the triangle pointing to the left, since they’re mostly active with tendencies towards being acted upon.

So, if the Air signs of the Zodiac are given to the right-pointing triangle, and we know that the vertical line is fixed, the right-going line is mutable, and the left-going line is cardinal, we end up with this arrangement: Tetractys_center_triangle_right_signs Therefore, the left-pointing triangle is given to the forces of Air, Jupiter, and Spirit.  These don’t really fall into the scheme of cardinal/fixed/mutable, but we do know that for the Fire, Water, and Earth sets of paths, the path for the element is always on a “higher register” directly above the fixed sign on the far side of the Tetractys.  If we apply that same logic here, we see that the fixed Air sign Aquarius is on the vertical path of the right-pointing triangle, so the element of Air itself should go on the vertical path of the left-pointing triangle.  Between the planet Jupiter and the quasi-element Spirit, we can argue that Spirit is the more malleable, pervasive, and changeable than the firm and lofty power of Jupiter, which would make Jupiter more active than Spirit.  Since the only two choices we have left here are for a cardinal-active path and mutable-passive path, that would set Jupiter on the path opposite Libra and Spirit on the path opposite Gemini, with the result like this: Tetractys_center_triangle_left_forces And that’s it!  All told, now we have all 24 paths assigned to the 12 signs of the Zodiac, the seven planets, the metaelement Spirit, and the four classical elements in a logical and coherent manner.  This means that we can finally associate each path of the Tetractys of Life with a letter, and with it a number and stoicheic force, in a manner like the following:

 

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths

You’ll note that there’s some criss-cross of the paths in the center where the hexagram paths overlap with the others.  In cases like this, the path on top is going to have its associated letter’s numerical value odd (if the one on the bottom is even) or greater than the one on the bottom (if they’re both odd or both even).  To determine an odd number or even number, I ignore the magnitude of the number and reduce it to a number 1 through 9; thus, Kappa, given the value of 20, is reduced to 2, so Kappa is even.  Likewise, Tau, given the value of 300, is reduced to 3, which makes Tau odd.

For the more tabularly inclined, here’s a helpful table plotting out each of the 10 spheres and the 24 paths of the Tetractys of Life, along with a bit about the Pythagorean virtues associated with each sphere on the Tetractys:

Sphere Lambdoma Alchemy Cosmological Virtue
1 1 Monad Infinite Light Henosis
2 2 Darkness Mundus Intuition
3 3 Light Fixed Stars Love
4 4 Salt Moon Satiety
5 6 Mercury Mercury Detachment
6 9 Sulfur Sun Submission
7 8 Earth Saturn Fortitude
8 12 Water Venus Prudence
9 18 Air Jupiter Temperance
10 27 Fire Mars Justice
Path Letter Number Stoicheia Spheres
1 Α 1 Moon 3 5
2 Β 2 Aries 1 3
3 Γ 3 Taurus 2 4
4 Δ 4 Gemini 2 6
5 Ε 5 Mercury 5 6
6 Ζ 7 Cancer 9 10
7 Η 8 Venus 4 5
8 Θ 9 Earth 6 9
9 Ι 10 Sun 2 5
10 Κ 20 Leo 3 6
11 Λ 30 Virgo 4 7
12 Μ 40 Libra 6 8
13 Ν 50 Scorpio 8 9
14 Ξ 60 Water 2 3
15 Ο 70 Mars 5 9
16 Π 80 Sagittarius 6 10
17 Ρ 100 Capricorn 1 2
18 Σ 200 Aquarius 2 8
19 Τ 300 Pisces 7 8
20 Υ 400 Jupiter 3 4
21 Φ 500 Air 3 9
22 Χ 600 Fire 4 8
23 Ψ 700 Spirit 4 9
24 Ω 800 Saturn 5 8

As it turns out (and this was entirely unplanned), this is the tenth post in the series on developing a Greek kabbalah, kampala, Pythagorean framework, tetractean theurgy, or whatever.  In Pythagorean mysticism, the number ten itself is holy, being the number of completion and the number of points in the tetractys, as well as being a unity of a higher order (tens instead of ones).  This post then completes the first cycle of this study, where we now have the basic framework, tools, and understanding needed to progress further in working this system and seeing where it can take us.  At the beginning of this project, I wanted a kabbalah-like system of theurgy and mysticism that would replace the use of Jewish kabbalah or Hermetic qabbalah in place of something that felt closer to what I actually study and practice, and outlined a series of goals to that end:

  1. Provide a cosmological framework that allows for the ten spheres of the cosmos (Earth, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Fixed Stars, Divinity)
  2. Provide a cosmological map that allows for traversing the spheres of the cosmos with paths that connect them together
  3. Provide a mapping between the paths of the map with the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet
  4. Provide a means of starting from awareness on the Earth sphere (where the majority of us live and operate on a day-to-day basis) and reaching any other sphere by means of the paths, especially that of Divinity
  5. Provide a description of the creation of the cosmos by means of the cosmological framework and mapping
  6. Provide a means of correspondence to link other forces, concepts, objects, etc. to the paths and spheres on the framework and map
  7. Be rooted primarily in Neoplatonic and Pythagorean thought, referencing Hermeticism as necessary without relying on explicitly Jewish principles that are not also present in Hermeticism

How did we do?  For the most part, we hit nearly all of these targets, and most of them dead center in our targets.  The only things that really need to be explored now are, well, the Tetractys itself.  Sure, we’ve analyzed it and meditated on it and written a lot about it, but all this has been an intellectual exercise.  Now that we have a map of the cosmos, we need to start exploring the cosmos with the help of our map.  All this is theoretical, based on relationships between alchemical and astrological principles, and now we need to put the theory to the test.  How is it that we can use the Tetractys of Life to rise through the spheres, both of the heavens as well as of reality itself, and refine ourselves to reach the One?  For that, we now get to apply our meditations and go deeper into new worlds.  In the future, as I discover more about this system and apply any necessary tweaks or refinements, or perhaps come up with a better name than kampala or Greek kabbalah (though I like the ring of “tetractyeon” more and more) I’ll discuss more about it, but I’m going to bring this series to a close for now.  As one of my favorite games has said, perhaps the ending has not yet been written.

Also, I want to give a shoutout to my good friends Rev. Michael Strojan and Kalagni for helping me out with this.  Without them, I’d still be fighting over some of the petty details and quibbling about path arrangement and such, but their vast knowledge and sharp ingenuity really guided me along the way.  Guys, thank you.

Towards a Greek Kabbalah: Symbolism of the Greek Letters

From before, a letter has four parts: a name, a glyph, a sound, and a meaning.  The first three were discussed last time, along with a basic set of meditations to get us familiar with the first three of these parts.  We didn’t discuss the final part of the letters, however, which is the meaning of the letters.  Unlike the name, glyph, and sound for a letter, of which there tends to be only one of each, there are many layers of meaning for each letter: numerical, astrological, divine, oracular, Phoenician, Greek, and more.  This is what makes the divination system of grammatomancy so powerful, in that a whole world of knowledge can be unlocked with a single letter.  So, even though the meaning of a letter is the fourth part, there are many parts to the meaning of a letter.

What are some of those meanings?  Honestly, if I had to indicate all the meanings of the letters, this blog post would become a whole blog in and of itself, so I’ll simply list a few sets of meanings along with links or links to books for further reading, though my ebook on grammatomancy lists many of them:

  1. Numerical:  my page on isopsephy and gematria, Kieran Barry’s The Greek Qabalah
  2. Astrological: my page on stoicheia, Agrippa’s table of letters (book I, chapter 74, though I reverse how he arranges the planets to the Greek vowels)
  3. Oracular: Apollonius Sophistes’ Greek Alphabet Oracle
  4. Divine: a post linking the Greek gods to the letters for purposes of a lunar grammatomantic ritual calendar

Honestly, with all that down, we already have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips, but there’s another way to give meanings to the Greek letters: their original Phoenician names, and Greek words related to the letters.  Even the Greeks were aware, to an extent, of the Phoenician origin of their alphabet, which doesn’t diminish its importance in the least for our purposes.  After all, the Phoenician script was the origin of many of the world’s writing systems (especially if you buy the argument, as I do, that it formed the origin of the Brahmic script in India, which connects it even to the Far Eastern Korean).  The diagram below shows Phoenician in the center column, Hebrew to the right of Phoenician and Arabic to the right of that, and Greek to the left of Phoenician and Latin to the left of that.  Letters of different scripts in the same color boxes show the origin of the letter, while arrows show derivations of other letters.

Origins of Letters from Phoenician

 

Phoenician script has 22 letters, the same 22 as modern Hebrew; there’s a 1-to-1 mapping between those two scripts.  The Ionian Greek script, however, got rid of three of the letters (digamma/waw, qoppa, san/sampi), added four (phi, khi, psi, omega), and moved the position of the derived form of Waw (which became Upsilon) further back in the alphabet.  Each of the Phoenician letters had their own name, many of which provided the names for their corresponding Greek letters.  These names referred to, in many cases, earlier Egyptian hieroglyphs or related words that provided a basis for what the letter looked like.  Many of these names were maintained in Greek, often in derived forms, such as Alpha from ʾĀlp, Bēta from Bet, Gamma from Gimel, and so forth.  For the Greek letters that have Phoenician origins, either in name of the letter or its form, their Phoenician meanings might include the following:

Letter Phoenician Meaning
Α ʾĀlp Ox
Β Bet House
Γ Gimel Throwing stick weapon, camel
Δ Dāleth Door
Ε He Window
Ζ Zayin Weapon, sword
Η Ḥeth Wall, courtyard, thread
Θ Ṭēth Wheel, good
Ι Yōdh Hand, finger
Κ Kaph Hand, palm of a hand
Λ Lāmedh Goad
Μ Mēm Water
Ν Nun Fish, serpent, whale
Ξ Simketh or Sāmekh Fish, tent peg, prop support
Ο ʿAyin Eye
Π Mouth
Ρ Rēš Head
Σ Form from Šin
Name from Simketh
Tooth
Τ Tāw Mark, cross
Υ Wāw Hook
Φ Form from Qōph Back of the head, sewing needle, eye of a needle, monkey
Χ
Ψ
Ω Form from Omicron

Of course, by the time the Ionian Greek script was adopted and spread throughout Greece, many of the letter forms were so far removed from their Phoenician counterparts (if any existed) that many of these meanings became meaningless or detached from the letters.  However, the Greeks themselves often found new symbolism for the names, often from a variety of sources.

  • Words or names that started with the letter itself
  • Images or concepts that bear a resemblance to the shape of the letter
  • Words that bear a strong resemblance or things that have a connection to the name of the letter
  • Assigning a letter to parts of the body, starting with Alpha at the head and going down to Mu at the feet, then starting again from Nu at the feet and going back up to Ōmega at the head (cf. the Body of Sophia)
Letter Meaning
Initial letter Graphical Importance Body
Α  Man, air, Apollo  Beginning, invention, source, God  Head
Β  King, help  Duality  Neck
Γ  Earth, birth  Shoulders and hands
Δ  God, ten  Breast
Ε  Build  Justice, Apollo  Diaphragm
Ζ  Life, Zeus  Back
Η  Hera  Belly
Θ  God, death, Mars  The world/universe  Thighs
Ι  Jesus, jot, single  Line, perfection, Rod of Moses  Knees
Κ  Lord, Caesar  Lower legs
Λ  Lion  Ratio, progression  Ankles
Μ  Mary, myriad  Middle  Feet
Ν  Feet
Ξ  Ankles
Ο  Circle, heaven  Lower legs
Π  Father, fire, five, Mars  Knees
Ρ  Thighs
Σ  Savior  Belly
Τ  Cross, crucifix  Back
Υ  Son  Moral choice, dilemma  Diaphragm
Φ  Voice, sound  Breast
Χ  Time, Christ  World soul, cross  Shoulders and hands
Ψ  Psyche, soul  Holy Spirit  Neck
Ω  Ocean, Orion  End  Head

You’ll note that I’ve started to include Abrahamic and Christian references; this is intentional, and not simply me copying entries blind from Kieran Barry’s “The Greek Qabalah”.  After all, as a Hermeticist, I’m not opposed to including Christian or Jewish references here (despite my trying to distance myself from Jewish kabbalah); rather, including them reaches back and allows for more access to much of Renaissance and Medieval development of Hermeticism as well as its classical and pagan origins.

So, where does all this leave us?  Between the graphical shapes and names of the letters, along with their oracular meanings, divine connections, numerical and isopsephic connections, and astrological or planetary or elemental connections, we have whole worlds of meaning for each of the letters.  These can all be incorporated into the meditations on the letters by visualizing or contemplating on them while intoning or repeating the letters.  The images and symbolism of the letters, coupled with their pronunciation, will further open up more doors in exploring the worlds and meanings of the letters and how they affect the world through their presence and, by their presence, the will and presence of the gods and God.

In fact, speaking of doors, let me share a method of scrying I like to use for deeply exploring a particular symbol.  Once the meanings and symbolism of the letters in all their complexity and layers have been learned and reviewed, and after meditating briefly to calm and clear the mind but before leaving the meditative state, I visualize a doorway with a particular symbol inscribed on it.  In our case, that symbol would be one of the letters of the Greek alphabet.  Knock on the door, mentally intoning the letter itself, and open it up.  Everything inside is a representation and symbol connected to that original symbol; explore the world, perhaps calling on the genius or spirit of the symbol to guide you or to send you a guide, or calling on your own HGA or personal tutelary spirit to guide you through it.  Explore the world as deeply as you care to, and when you’ve decided you’ve had enough, take the same route back through the world, passing by all the things you passed by before, and exit the same way you came.  Close the door, clear the mind again, and exit the meditative state.  I’ve used this skill to great efficacy before, notably on my meditations on the geomantic figures and the elemental archangelic kings, and it can be adapted to any number of symbols.  Using this method with the Greek letters can increase one’s deeper knowledge of them by exploring the deeper symbolism and worlds behind the letters which wouldn’t be apparent from simply reading up on their symbolism, and can indicate other symbols not listed above as well as connections to other letters that might not be apparent.  Further, the technique can be augmented by having it take place in one’s astral temple, or astrally projecting into the world itself.