Diviner’s Syndromes: Prometheus, Tithonos, Teireisias

Recently in the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook, there were a few discussions about how long one should study and practice before charging for their services.  As always, these conversations are enlightening, and occasionally entertaining; I’m also pleased to note that such conversations never seem to get overheated or rage-inducing anymore, neither for myself nor others.  This conversation did take an interesting turn, however; someone brought up an interesting view, apparently common in some Asian worldviews, which is another argument for why diviners ought to charge at all:

…diviners tend to have “shortened” lifespans due to their profession of revealing the heavenly secrets to others. Therefore, it’s only right to charge a fee, in return for revealing the heavenly secrets. This resulted in people charging, regardless in the level of skills…

…There’s often a belief that diviners often suffer some sort of disability or misfortune, as a result of being in a profession that goes against the Will of the Heavens.

It’s a fascinating viewpoint, and I immediately chimed in with two points from ancient Greece as a sort of circumlocuitous approach to my answers and thoughts:

  1. There’s a division of these arts between the gods Apollo and Hermes, according to that fun classical read the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. They both deal with foresight, sure, but they do so in different ways: Apollo is, properly speaking, the divinity of prophecy, while Hermes is the god of divination. The two are not the same. Prophecy is actually knowing the mind and will of Zeus (i.e. true and unadulterated knowledge of fate), while divination is simply reading and extrapolating from patterns in natural things or randomly generated patterns aided and assisted by the gods, which may or may not necessarily match up with the will of Zeus. Only Apollo could grant prophecy, but Hermes was given divination because Apollo (the previous “owner” of the art) had no need for it once he had prophecy as his Thing. Going to Apollo was a hard time indeed, but anyone could easily approach Hermes.
  2. It was commonly known that the Pythia, the sacred oracle and prophetess of Delphi under Apollo, would tend to lead shorter lives than other women of the same area due to her sacred work. Whether this can be attributed to the potentially psychotropic gases that inhabited her sacred cave or to the nature of her spiritual work is unknown, but it was believed to be the latter, not as retribution for speaking the will of heaven but because of how hard it is on a mortal body to contain the spirit of an immortal, especially repeatedly as a kind of career.

Eventually, after a bunch of other people put in their excellent points and I had some time to actually think and write out my thoughts, this is what I replied with:

… [regarding how money is passed from client to diviner in] divination in Santeria, there’s a lot more going on than just an exchange of money for getting the tools familiarized with the energy of the client; there’s a whole process to sanctify the area for the divination, and there are protocols involved for if the reading gets too “hot”, or energetically excited to the point of danger, or just to ward off negative omens so that they can be more effectively dealt with and so that nothing “sticks” to the diviner. Plus, for some priests, they need to undergo a light purification ahead of the reading to make sure they’re clean and focused enough to do the reading properly, and it’s almost always considered good practice to do a cleansing afterwards of the space and reader themselves to make sure no “ick” was left behind. In other words, we clean up after ourselves.

Plus, in the first year of being initiated in Santeria, there’s generally a blanket ban on…quite a lot, but that also includes spiritual works such as divination for oneself or others. This is because the new initiate requires a year of isolation from anything that could pose physical or spiritual danger, and this includes tapping into the energies, lives, and minds of others, which may not be always so pure or kind as we’d otherwise like them to be. When we perform divination for someone, we get at least a little mixed up in their life, a little entangled in their energies, which can rub off on us or leave us “stained” with their spiritual activities. If other spiritual hygiene isn’t implemented, those effects build up over time into a spiritual miasma that can really put us under.

There’s also the idea that, when we do divination, we’re using a little of our own spiritual power to fuel the act, even if it’s not “us” doing the real Talking. Just how a day of investigating papers and books to do research can leave us with a headache and eyesores, prolonged divination or doing lots of successive divinations in short order can leave us drained, which is a state of weakness, which can make us more vulnerable to spiritual miasma or other negative afflictions, which can lead very well to encountering physical dangers.

Do I think we’re revealing some cosmic secrets which are not to be known by mere mortals and which which the gods jealously guard? Not necessarily. Do I think there are other risks and dangers inherent to the act of divination? Absolutely! Having an active spiritual practice that includes proper rest, recharging, cleansing, hygiene, and spiritual upkeep is important for everyone, but especially so for diviners, who can often end up facing some real pieces of work out there which can really leave us a mess as we try to help others with theirs.

For the supplies we consume and the time we take preparing and maintaining our own well-being, I think that alone deserves compensation, for sure! And that’s not including the cost of tapping into and expending our spiritual power for the reading, the years of training and expertise we’re calling on, travel expenses, and so on, all of which deserve at least an attempt to pay for.

This led me to think of three “diviner’s syndromes” to tack onto my older notions of divinaddiction and divinaversion, the latter two affecting the person receiving divination and the new three affecting the person doing divination.  For the sake of art and whimsy, I’m naming these three diviner’s syndromes after three figures from Greek mythology:

  • Prometheus (Προμηθεύς) was the Titan god of forethought who, after sculpting humanity out of clay, wanted to make their lives better and thus tricked the gods out of meat for their sacrifices and stole the secret of fire from the gods, both for the sake of humanity.  As punishment for this, the theoi bound him to Mount Kaukasos, condemned to have his ever-regenerating liver plucked out by an eagle for the rest of time…at least until Herakles rescued him.
  • Tithonos (Τιθωνός) was a prince of Troy, and beloved of the goddess of dawn Eos.  Eos wanted to take Tithonos as her lover, and wanted to make him immortal.  However, she could not do this herself, and so asked Zeus to do this.  Zeus did so, but it only became apparent later that Eos made a critical misstep and forgot to ask for eternal youth along with immortality.  Tithonos grew old and older, never dying, but losing all his strength and sense and sanity.
  • Teireisias (Τειρεσίας) was one of the most famous seers in ancient Greece.  Having lived life as both a man and woman due to some incidents involving snakes, Zeus and Hera decided to use him as a judge in one of their debates regarding who had more pleasure during sex, the man or the woman; Zeus said that the woman did, and Hera argued that the man did.  Teireisias agreed with Zeus, giving him victory; Hera, in her rage, blinded Teireisias.  Zeus, unable to undo another god’s actions, gave Teireisias the power of perfect foresight to make up for his being deprived of eyesight.

I think you can see where I’m going with this, dear reader, if you’re at all familiar with how adopting the signs and symbols of myth can play out in our real lived lives.

  • Prometheus syndrome is an affliction of the diviner that comes about as an honest-to-god theft of secrets and revealing of information that cannot be known, causing offense to the gods or other spirits and which causes them to act upon you offensively.
  • Tithonos syndrome is an affliction of the diviner that results in decreased vitality, strength, intellect, health, and overall well-being due to being neglectful of one’s own physical and spiritual hygiene and maintenance.
  • Teireisias syndrome doesn’t really fit in with either of the two above; it indicates that a physical handicap of some sort allows for a greater spiritual strength, sort of how like those who are blind often have increased senses of hearing.  Like Teireisias, who gave up physical sight for spiritual foresight, those who are often outcast make the best of their situation and rise above their mundane problems through spiritual development.

Of these three, I think Tithonos syndrome is probably the most hazardous, and also the most likely we as diviners encounter.  I know that from my own experience and from the reported experience of others, doing a string of divination readings in a row can often tire me out and wear me down, causing me headaches, fatigue, light-headedness, or just making me more predisposed to being hangry.  And that’s the ideal case, too; if I do readings for people who have some really heavy shit going on, or who are being meddled with on a spiritual level by people throwing curses at them or by spirits obsessing over them, or if mental illness comes out in the reading or in their behaviors that play out on a spiritual level, then the problems ramp up real quickly.  And that’s all on top of the actual personal interactions I have to work with to act, not just as seer, but as counselor to make sure the person can integrate my advice in a healthy, productive way that isn’t threatened by fear, jealousy, anxiety, mental illness, or the like.  Between the energy I’m putting out, the energy I have to put up with, and the constant personal investment I have to make to accomplish the reading, it’s truly no small matter.

So, to prepare myself for a divination (and especially any string of divinations, like for a psychic fair or if I have multiple appointments lined up on the same day), I’ll be sure to take a special bath to protect myself while enhancing my sight and quickening my tongue, warding the reading space to make sure the information comes out clear without spiritual interference, and wear my preferred diviner’s charms and recite my prayers to make sure all goes well; to wrap things up, even if I’m dead tired from doing everything above, I’ll make myself cleanse the area of the divinations along with myself, lock everything down, cut all loose threads that didn’t want to be tied up earlier, and then get a good meal and a good night’s rest.  It’s a lot to handle, but it’s absolutely necessary, because without such precautions and postactions, it’s almost laughably easy to get so tired you get vertigo, faint, pass out, fall sick, or come to some other bad end that results in physical illness or injury.  It’s not worth it to ignore these ameliorating actions, because the cost will always be higher in the end.  Over time, with practice, your spiritual stamina can be lengthened, your focus sharpened, your defenses strengthened, and so forth through routine meditation, warding, energy work, prayer, and so forth, but this only lessens the harm because you can deflect more of it at a time; it doesn’t eliminate the threat or effects of it entirely.  Tithonos syndrome is no joke, dear reader; if you engage with divination, this is a real risk you bring upon yourself.  Take care of yourself.

Then there’s Prometheus syndrome, which…I’ll be honest, I don’t think it plays out like this.  If the gods didn’t want us to speak about the future, they wouldn’t let us know it to begin with.  Consider what Apollo says in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, where Hermes tries to strike a bargain with Apollo so that he could get in on the sweet, sweet gift of prophecy (emphasis mine):

But as for sooth-saying, noble, heaven-born child, of which you ask, it is not lawful for you to learn it, nor for any other of the deathless gods: only the mind of Zeus knows that. I am pledged and have vowed and sworn a strong oath that no other of the eternal gods save I should know the wise-hearted counsel of Zeus. And do not you, my brother, bearer of the golden wand, bid me tell those decrees which all-seeing Zeus intends. As for men, I will harm one and profit another, sorely perplexing the tribes of unenviable men. Whosoever shall come guided by the call and flight of birds of sure omen, that man shall have advantage through my voice, and I will not deceive him. But whoso shall trust to idly-chattering birds and shall seek to invoke my prophetic art contrary to my will, and to understand more than the eternal gods, I declare that he shall come on an idle journey; yet his gifts I would take.

In other words, Apollo cannot give prophecy to Hermes because Zeus has ordained that prophecy belongs only to Apollo, and that all those who seek to trespass on prophetic powers or augury or other omens without the proper license do so in vain, no matter what they try to bribe or tempt Apollo with.  Only those who are true and truly guided by the proper channels can obtain such truth from Apollo; all others will fail in the attempt.  In this light, I find it less likely that one suffers the fate of Prometheus in stealing fire from the gods for speaking what ought not be spoken, and more likely that one just says wrong things; at best, such a bad prediction is useless and without effect, but at worst, it can truly mislead someone into ruin of their own doing for paying heed to the wrong people.

That said, I think that there are three cases where Prometheus syndrome could actually take place:

  1. One has a pact with a particular spirit who acts as a familiar or tutelary divinity of divination, and that pact allows the diviner to rely on that entity for divination in exchange for honoring that spirit through sacrifice and payment, and relying on that entity only as much as that entity agrees to share.  To press that entity further than what they agree to can end up angering that spirit to the point of causing punishment, just as neglecting one’s own end of the deal by ignoring or foregoing sacrifice and payment to them.  Still, this would less be a case of “speaking what ought not be spoken” and more a matter of “violating spiritual vows”.  If you rely on such a spirit for aid in divination, work such boundaries out for yourself, then stick to them; if you have a taboo or prohibition on divining for a particular topic (e.g. one’s eventual date of death), don’t try to pry into those secrets.
  2. While all the above makes sense to me from my Western perspective, I can’t discount that there may very well be cultures and traditions where divination is truly seen as a means of theft from the gods, and the methods they use actually work out in that way.  I can’t speak to this, but it may well be that any such form of divination is truly like Prometheus stealing fire from Olympos, which would them open them up to punishment.  I can’t say for sure, but it’s not something I can discount.  To avoid this, try a different system of divination and cosmological worldview that doesn’t see it this way, I guess?
  3. The last case would technically be considered an inverted Prometheus syndrome; rather than suffering punishment for speaking what ought not be spoken, I find it a very real threat to not speak what ought to be spoken.  In other words, if you see something in a divination, you as the diviner are obliged to inform the client about it, especially if it’s about a danger or risk to their well-being.  The idea goes that whatever you don’t inform the client of comes back to hurt you instead; it’s thus in your best interest to speak everything that you see and can correlate into a cohesive story (and the once-off “just popped into my mind” bits, too) to the client.  That way, the client has as complete and thorough understanding as can be given to them at the time, and the diviner can say that they did their best to help the client.  After all, knowing is half the battle, but if the diviner withholds knowledge that they’re privy to from a client that the client is paying for, not only is it dishonest, it also opens up the diviner to either punishment or “taking the hit” for the client simply from whatever is coming for the client.  Of these three cases, it’s this inverted Prometheus syndrome I’m most concerned about, but that can be resolved pretty easily: don’t lie in divination, don’t hide in divination, don’t mislead in divination.  If you speak what you see and all that you see as best as you can, then not only do you uphold your own professionalism in divination, you also hold yourself clean and free from the repercussions of problems that you’d otherwise stand in the way of.

So much for Prometheus syndrome and Tithonos syndrome.  Then there’s Teireisias syndrome, which…I dunno.  Like, I know plenty of diviners of all kinds: male, female, trans, nonbinary, straight, gay, queer, old, young, abled, disabled, of every race and every socioeconomic class and every attractive quality (or lack thereof).  I haven’t really noticed much of a pattern in seeing whether “disabled people make better diviners” or “gay men make better prophets” or whatnot, so for me, I’d probably chalk Teireisias syndrome up to more of a myth than something to actually consider as a thing.  I suppose it’s more like self-selection or selection bias; consider, after all, that many people who get involved in the occult arts and sciences tend to already be outcasts, and being different in some way (queer, nonbinary, disabled, poor, neuro-atypical, etc.) is a big cause of being considered outcasts.  I guess it’s like how many men think women talk more than they do; if they see queer/nonbinary/otherwise-different people doing divination, then it’d be a matter of overrepresentation becoming rumour becoming fable rather than something mystically inherent in different people.  But, hey, if it helps us with getting more business, you can bet I’ll play my asthma, bad knee, and gayness up for as much as it’d be worth, and I’d encourage everyone else to do the same with whatever makes them different (so long as they’re also, yanno, competent enough to be worth it).

Those are my thoughts on diviner’s syndromes that we might encounter, along with some of the dangers and problems we face and how we might begin to rectify them.  What about you, dear reader?  If you’re a diviner yourself, have you noticed any problems that you encounter with divination that affect you on a spiritual or physical level?  Do you know of any tales, cultures, or myths where divination is taken as a last resort out of fear of divine punishment (besides the whole Witch of Endor thing from the Book of Samuel)?  How do you try to keep yourself in as good a condition as you can before, during, and after divination?  Let us know down in the comments!

Mathetic Ritual of the Sun’s Ingresses

I was settling down this past Monday thinking of how to better explore the paths of the Tetractys.  Pathworking is fine and all, and I will never swear against it; it’s a powerful method in its own right, and when tweaked for the purposes of mathesis, will provide valuable experience in developing oneself theurgically.  The thing is that…well, I hate pathworking.  It’s a personal opinion of mine that physical, enacted ritual is superior for initiations and transformation compared to pathworking, which is more meditative and exploratory but also too mental and ungrounded to achieve the same ends.  Any physical addition to pathworking, such as using gestures or chanting, can definitely help empower the pathworking, but in the end it’s still primarily pathworking.  I tried coming up with different kinds of chants or seed syllable-type intonations to focus oneself on a manifesting or manifested version of a path to little result (I’ll keep those notes as a draft post for future reference just in case), but something kept nagging at me to think of something better.

Looking through my old drafts I had saved, I noticed that I started an idea a while back but never really fleshed it out any.  The idea was to have a stellar type of ritual, not focused on the planets or elements themselves but on the passage of the Sun as it travels from one sign of the Zodiac to the next.  After all, the whole point of the Gnosis Schema is to develop the self theurgically by using a set of twelve paths to traverse the ten sphairai of the Tetractys, and these twelve paths are given to the signs of the Zodiac.  If we consider ourselves as Suns, then the passage of the Sun through the Zodiac represents our own passage through Gnosis.  By celebrating the ingress of the Sun into each sign of the Zodiac, we celebrate and open ourselves up to a whole new stage of our development, formally opening up new gates and roads for us to travel.  This is an idea I wanted to develop, but I had little idea back then of how to actually go about building or thinking about such a ritual.  I think it’s time now to do just that.  Thus, at the beginning of Cancer 2017 and close to the start of a new mathetic year, let us now discuss αι Τελεται των Ηλιεισοδων (hai Teletai tōn Hēlieisodōn), the Rituals of the Solar Ingresses.

tetractys_paths_gnosis_signs

So, first, just because we like things in Greek, let’s list what the names of the Zodiac signs are in Greek for reference’s sake:

  1. Aries: Κριος (Krios)
  2. Taurus: Ταυρος (Tauros)
  3. Gemini: Διδυμοι (Didymoi)
  4. Cancer: Καρκινος (Karkinos)
  5. Leo: Λεων (Leōn)
  6. Virgo: Παρθενος (Parthenos)
  7. Libra: Ζυγος (Zygos)
  8. Scorpio: Σκορπιος (Skorpios)
  9. Sagittarius: Τοχοτης (Tokhotēs)
  10. Capricorn: Αιγοκερως (Aigokerōs)
  11. Aquarius: Υδροχοος (Hydrokhoos)
  12. Pisces: Ιχθυες (Ikhthyes)

When might we celebrate this kind of event?  As I reckon it, there are three options for us, each with their own pros and cons:

  • The first day after the Sun has astrologically entered the sign proper.  This is probably the most straightforward and obvious option, but we’d be careful to note that we’d mark this as the first sunrise coinciding with or falling immediately after the Sun’s entry to the sign.  Thus, if the Sun enters Taurus sometime on a Monday night after sunset, even though Monday is the first day of Taurus according to the modern Western sense, we’d only celebrate this starting at Tuesday morning, at the start of the first full day of Taurus.  The drawback is that such an ingress could occur at any time of the lunar month, which much of the rest of mathesis relies upon for its ritual timing.  After all, the solar year and lunar year are not easily synced and need constant corrections to keep roughly together.
  • The first Noumenia (start of the lunar month) while the Sun is in the sign.  This makes sense from a grammatomantic calendar standpoint, as we could then dedicate the whole rest of the month to works relating to the specific sign that the Sun has entered into.  However, this has a bit of a problem; the Noumenia could occur several weeks into the solar month of the zodiac sign, so we’d lose the “freshness” of the previous option.  Additionally, with lunar months being shorter than a solar month, there is the possibility of having two Noumenias within a single solar month.  In such a case, we’d only use the first one for our ingress ritual, but we’d know then that, if there’s another Noumenia just before the Sun changes sign, then the next one after the Sun enters the next sign would be late indeed.
  • The day of the letter of the sign while the Sun is in the sign.  For instance, if we’re celebrating the entry of the Sun into the sign of Taurus, we’d wait until the day of Γ, the letter associated with Taurus.  Just as with the Noumenia, there is the possibility that there might be two such days with the same letter while the Sun is in the same sign due to the fact that the lunar month is shorter than a solar twelfth of a year.  Further, just as with the Noumenia, this might position the day of the ritual rather late into the Sun’s travel into the sign.  However, this has the benefit of associating the natural power of the lunar day of the month with the sign of the Sun itself, and with the “offset” this would introduce since each sign has a different letter, and thus a different day of the month, we could sidestep some of the issues introduced by using a fixed date of the lunar month viz. the Noumenia.

To compare these options, here are the dates of the first sunrise of the solar ingresses into the signs of the Zodiac starting with Aries 2017, and the corresponding dates of celebration according to each of the three methods above, along with a comparison of how much of the lunar month has elapsed since it last began or how much of the Zodiac sign has already been traveled through by the Sun:

Ingress Day of
Ingress
First
Noumenia
First Lettered
Day
Sign Date
Aries
Κριος
March 21, 2017  3/21
Day of Υ
3/28
24%
3/29
26%
Taurus
Ταυρος
April 19  4/19
Day of Τ
4/26
23%
4/28
29%
Gemini
Διδυμοι
May 20  5/20
Day of Φ
5/26
19%
5/29
28%
Cancer
Καρκινος
June 21  6/21
Day of Ψ
6/24
10%
6/30
29%
Leo
Λεων
July 22  7/22
Day of ϡ
7/24
6%
8/4
42%
Virgo
Παρθενος
August 22  8/22
Day of Α
8/22
0%
9/3
39%
Libra
Ζυγος
September 22  9/22
Day of Β
10/20
90%
10/4
39%
Scorpio
Σκορπιος
October 23  10/23
Day of Δ
11/19
90%
11/3
37%
Sagittarius
Τοχοτης
November 22  11/22
Day of Δ
12/18
90%
12/6
48%
Capricorn
Αιγοκερως
December 21  12/21
Day of Δ
 1/17
90%
1/7
57%
Aquarius
Υδροχοος
January 20, 2018  1/20
Day of Δ
2/16
93%
2/7
62%
Pisces
Ιχθυες
February 18  2/18
Day of Γ
 3/17
90%
3/10
69%

This is just a small sample, but indicative of how close or far these lunar methods of reckoning a ritual date for the Sun’s ingress can vary compared to the exact solar date.  Given these three methods, I’m most inclined to go with the first option, with the third a close contender.  It would be nice to have this set of rituals synced to our already-established lunar calendar, but there’s too much variance with the lunar calendar to make it stick right.  Plus, according to even the most basic of principles of astrological magic, the most powerful time for a zodiacal-solar ritual is (barring a proper solar election) at the first degree of the sign, considered its strongest, with its last few degrees considered its weakest.  On these days of ingress, the ritual should be performed at sunrise, or as early in the day as possible; barring that, as close to the day of ingress as possible.  I’d suppose that, so long as the ritual is performed sometime in the first ten or so days of the Sun’s ingress into the sign, the ritual can be considered valid, though it is best to do it ASAP.

So, we have a set of twelve “holidays”, as it were, or high ritual days for those on the Gnosis schema.  It would be excellent, then, to celebrate all twelve, but if we were constrained for time or resources, could we rank them or group them together in terms of importance?  Absolutely, and this is based all on how we think about the groups of paths on the Gnosis Schema:

  • Of all these twelve days, it’s the day of the Ingress into Aries that is the most important.  This day celebrates the Sun’s rebirth, and our own renewal into a new cycle of the Gnosis Schema from an old one.  If only one ingress could be celebrated, it is this one.
  • With a little more resources and time, the days of the Ingress into Aries, into Leo, and into Sagittarius are as important as each other and should be celebrated if all twelve cannot.  Each of these ingresses marks the departure of the Sun from one set of four signs of the Zodiac into the next four after completing a whole elemental cycle; for us on the Gnosis schema, these ingresses mark our transition from one cycle to the next (Hot to Cold, Cold to Cosmic, Cosmic to Hot).
  • With enough resources and time, each ingress day could be celebrated on its own as they arrive, each ingress marking the transition of the Sun from one sign to the next, and our own transition from one path to the next on the Gnosis Schema.

Thus, to offer a kind of neopagany parallel, the Ingress into Aries would be as important to mathesis as Samhain is to neopagans, the ingress into fire signs as a group as important as the cross-quarter days including Samhain, and the ingress into all twelve signs as a group as important as monthly sabbaths of the cross-quarter days, solstices, and equinoxes.  (I can’t believe I just used that sort of reference, since I’m about as far from neopagan as you can get, but I suppose it works for getting the point across.)

Like with my self-initiation ritual into mathesis I discussed a while back, I’ll refrain from posting the specifics of what the ritual of solar ingress would specifically contain.  I’ve got my reasons for doing so: this is all still highly experimental, this is still a mystery path, and…well, I’m far from done designing a complete ritual for such an event.  However, I’ve got my ideas, and I’ll definitely detail those at a high level for the sake of discussion and thinking out things aloud.  Unlike the solar rituals of the Egyptian priests who guided the Sun through the underworld, and unlike the harvest festivals of the old pagans and heathens, and unlike the celebration of neopagans who reflect on the story of the God and Goddess throughout the year, these rituals of solar ingress use the outer world as a symbol for internal development, and will be used to link one’s self to the cosmic forces at play as the Sun travels through the skies.  In other words, by bringing ourselves into stronger alignment with the natural flow and rhythm of the cosmos, we take on the same development and live in a spiritually natural, balanced way that follows the course the gods themselves take.  We do this by, yes, celebrating the entry of the Sun into a new zodiac sign every month to mark the passage of time, but this is just the external aspect of it; we emulate and, eventually, become the Sun itself as it opens each new gate and takes its first steps along each new path.  By sharing in the work of the gods, new possibilities are opened unto us, granting us new power and responsibilities each step of the way.

As the Sun ages through one sign of the Zodiac, the power of the Sun is generally seen to decrease slightly; the final degrees of a sign are the weakest and darkest, and generally bode no good things.  As the Sun enters a new sign, the Sun’s light is strengthened and renewed each and every time; further, this whole process is repeated on a grander scale of the whole year as the Sun shines brightest in summer, diminishes in autumn, becomes darkest and feeblest in winter, and becomes renewed in the spring.  Just as Apollo is pulled ahead by the horses of his chariot, so too are we pulled forward by the powers of time and growth; just as Apollo is led by Hermes to his destinations hither and fro, so too are we pulled ahead by Hermes as guide and protector.  It is these two gods that mathesis works intensely with, and we can already see roles for them appearing in these rituals of solar ingress: Apollo to cleanse and renew us for entering a new gate, and Hermes to guide and lead us as we take our first steps on a new path.  Thus, each ritual of solar ingress must be preceded by a purification, either by khernimma or katharmos, so that we can enter a new stage of our lives clean and proper.  We must then call on Hermes to open the gate itself and set us on the right path so that we do not get waylaid, lost, or trapped by the darkness that surrounds us.

What I don’t yet know about including, and this is where pathworking will come in help, is the notion of a guardian or gatekeeper for each of these gates.  After all, all gates have some sort of protection for themselves, and the notion of a being or god dwelling within each path against which one must pass a test is not precisely new; yes, the idea is common in Golden Dawn practices, but the idea of a Sphinx posing riddles is old.  We do know that each of the twelve signs of the Zodiac is given to one of the twelve gods of Olympus, saith Cornelius Agrippa in his Orphic Scale of Twelve, but I’m not sure if these would be the same thing.  Additionally, I’m uncertain of what specific offerings should be made as part of the ritual besides the usual ones.  This is all for future development, planning, and pathworking to see what I can see and find out what can be found out and pieced together.  After all, while I may experiment with different ritual layouts, I’d like to start doing these in earnest starting at the spring equinox next year for Aries.  This gives me more than half a year’s time to try things out, which sounds like a lot of time, but…we’ll see.

These rituals of solar ingress are intended to open the gates and let flow the power along the channels indicated by the paths on the Tetractys.  What they allow us to do is to help guide us along the Gnosis Schema around the Tetractys, but they do not open up each of the sphairai to us.  These rituals can open the gate to a new path, and can bring us to the gate at the end of the path to a new sphaira, but without us unlocking that final gate, we are not able to continue along the Gnosis Schema.  Merely celebrating the rituals of solar ingress is not enough to deliver us to gnosis; these rituals are monthly rites of passage, but like any rite of passage, they only give us license to do more things without specifying how or in what timeframe.  Anyone in a culture who undergoes the rite of passage into adulthood does not have their entire lives mapped out for them from that moment on; it only gives them the ability and recognition of adulthood, with all its privileges and responsibilities.  Over the course of the year, as we celebrate the rituals of solar ingress, we open the ways for us to travel to each sphaira in turn, but we must still walk the path and, moreover, undergo the process of unlocking and experiencing each sphaira on the Tetractys, each of these ten stages of life and development.  This would be a separate ritual, which I’ve not quite yet had plans for, but it makes sense.

In addition to the usual pathworking and astral crap that goes along with all of this, of course.

 

Mathetic Exercise: Light-bringing Breath

Today, while making an offering to Apollo, he (if you’ll forgive the pun) shed some light on a bit of mathetic practice.  I’m still dusting off some of the tools and prayers I was working on, but he’s given me some ideas to work with.  While he’s still pretty stoic and detached in his approach to me, he’s generously helped me begin the process of refining and applying some of the things in mathesis I’ve been wanting to develop.  Of this, in addition to the usual daily mathetic stuff I would be doing, he’s given me a breathing exercise to do.  I don’t know if you’ve seen this one particular GIF around the Internet recently, but it suddenly popped in my mind when I asked him what should be done.

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So, I took that idea, hashed it out a bit with Apollo, and applied it.  It fills a need I wasn’t aware I needed, but it makes complete sense in retrospect, especially with some ideas I’ve gotten from the late Neoplatonic philosopher and theurgist Iamblichus as of late.

Before we get into the exercise, though, let’s go over a bit of geometry.  We all know the Tetractys, right?  We all know the Tetractys.

Tetractys

One of the many mathematical interpretations of the Tetractys is that it can represent the first four dimensions of geometry, starting with with the zeroth dimension:

  1. A single point, with neither length nor breadth nor depth.  No measure, only location.
  2. Two points, forming a straight line segment with length.  With a line segment, we can identify an infinite line extending in two directions: forward and backward.
  3. Three points, defining a triangle with length and breadth, together known as area.  With a triangle, we can identify an infinite area (a plane) extending in four directions: forward and backward, left and right.
  4. Four points, defining a tetrahedron with length and breadth and depth, together known as volume.  With a tetrahedron, we can identify an infinite volume (a space) extending in six directions: forward and backward, left and right, up and down.

Dion Fortune in her Mystical Qabalah (chap. 28, para. 25) says as much, in more sephirotic terms:

The point is assigned to Kether;
the line to Chokmah;
the two-dimensional plane to Binah;
consequently the three-dimensional solid naturally falls to Chesed.

We can see this using the ten sephiroth of the Tree of Life by dividing it up into four groups of points: one (Kether), two (Chokmah and Binah), three (Chesed, Geburah, Tiphareth), and four (Netzach, Hod, Yesod, Malkuth).  Such a diagram illustrates this idea of emanation in both a geometric way as well as a qabbalistic way.

A11p12fig10.1

In a Hermetic, Neoplatonic, Iamblichian, Pythagorean, or whatever sense, the Monad (a.k.a. Kether, the Source, whatever) is the fundamental principle that defines and underlies everything that exists.  (Whether it’s a distinct entity/non-entity/process is something of a debate in the blogosphere and I don’t presume to get into it here.)  Looking at the Tetractys, the Monad is the first step in the process of manifestation: from the Monad comes the Dyad, from the Dyad the Triad, and from the Triad the Tetrad.  The Tetrad is what gives us body and form, but it comes from a higher principle, and that principle comes from a higher one, and so forth.  If we really want to bring change from above down to here, we have to give it form in some sense, or we have to align some part of our being with the process of bringing power from the Source to us.

However, although four points identifies the minimal solid there can exist, we are far more than just four points.  Yes, we are a combination of fire and air and water and earth, but not in equal measures, nor in a regular fashion.  Our bodies are animal, but our spirit partakes in something of the Divine; in order to better make our lives and bodies more appropriate to interacting with the divine, we should try to induce a slightly different body in ourselves that makes ourselves more divine.  For the Neoplatonic Iamblichus, this is the form of the sphere, the most ideal solid there can be, and the body of the heavenly entities.  A sphere is not a tetrahedron, but they are both bodies.  We don’t want to be content with a tetrahedron, as we’re already far too complex to abide in it, but we want to get to a sphere.  In one sense, going from a tetrahedron to a sphere is nothing, after having gone and passed through the point, line, and shape in order to get a form; in another, going from a tetrahedron to a sphere is the most daunting thing of all, as we go from one point to two to three to four is one thing, but to go from four to an infinite number of points is daunting, to say the least.

In addition to all this, it’s known that part of the theurgic practices of Iamblichus involved a process of “light” and filling oneself up with it, which we can also see in other theurgic rituals, like that of the Mithras Liturgy from PGM IV.475-834.  In that, we find the following:

Draw in breath from the rays [of the Sun], drawing up 3 times as much as you can, and you will see yourself being lifted up and ascending to the height, so that you seem to be in midair.  You will hear nothing either of man or of any other living thing, nor in that hour will you see anything of mortal affairs on earth, but rather you will see all immortal things.  For in that day and hour you will see the divine order of the skies…

…So stand still and at once draw breath from the divine into yourself, while you look intently…

The whole Mithras Liturgy is a spiritual astral travel-type of initiation, where one ascends into the heavens and deals directly with the gods and guards of heaven.  However, important to this ritual is an act of ritualized breathing, where one breathes in rays of light or the breath of the divine, and in doing so changes or alters one’s nature or consciousness.  This is also similar to the Howl of Orpheus rite I found a bit ago, with its own special type of breathing and bellowing.  Breathing in divine light is not just the light of a particular planet or a star or fire, but to breathe in the light of the Divine itself, that of the Monad, the fundamental essence that undergirds all things that exist.

So, let’s put this all together into a coherent ritual, shall we?

  1. While sitting or standing, breathe out completely, from the head to the toes, completely exhaling all breath from the lungs.  Make a popping sound to expel all breath once the normal exhale is done.
  2. Breathe in deeply from the toes to the head, picturing a point of Light in your heart.  Hold the breath for four counts, then exhale completely, this time with a hissing sound towards the end.  Maintain the point of Light in your heart as you keep your lungs empty for a few counts.
  3. Breathe in deeply, picturing the point of Light in your heart splitting into two points, one at the crown of your head and one at the soles of your feet, connected by a line of Light rising from the feet, through the spine, to the head.  Hold the breath for four counts, then exhale completely with a hissing sound.  Maintain the line of Light in your body as you keep your lungs empty for a few counts.
  4. Breathe in deeply, picturing the line of Light extending by another point from its middle into a triangle that envelops your body, aligned side-to-side through your body, with its base at your feet and its apex at your head.  Hold the breath for four counts, then exhale completely with a hissing sound.  Maintain the triangle of Light through your body as you keep your lungs empty for a few counts.
  5. Breathe in deeply, picturing the triangle of Light extending by another point from its center into a tetrahedron, with its base at your feet and its apex at your head, completely enveloping you inside.  Hold the breath for four counts, then exhale completely with a hissing sound.  Maintain the tetrahedron of Light through your body as you keep your lungs empty for a few counts.
  6. Breathe in deeply, maintaining the pyramid of Light around you, as you hold the breath, exhale completely, and hold your lungs empty several times.  Silently call out to the Divine Source until you can form some sort of connection, until you can sense the Source of the Light that has been forming within and around you this whole time.  Repeat this step until you have sensed it and formed a connection with it, then continue.
  7. With the lungs completely empty, breathe in deeply, but this time, breathe in the Light from the Source.  As you do so, picture the pyramid around you swelling up slowly, bulging at its sides, until it becomes the shape of a perfect sphere that completely surrounds you.  Repeat this step until you can form a stable, perfect sphere of Light.
  8. Once you’ve formed a stable sphere of Light that surrounds you completely, let your image of yourself dissolve and merge into the sphere, becoming one with it, letting the sphere become your entire body.  Maintain this mental state as a form of meditation as long as desired.
  9. When finished with the meditative sphere of Light, let the image of your body form from the Light within the sphere, maintaining the boundary of the sphere around you as a shield or shell.  Exhale slowly with another popping sound to finish.

When the lights go dark, look to the Sun.

As you might be aware, dear reader, the planet Mercury went retrograde a few days ago on September 17, and will be in retrograde until October 9.  It’s cute how this retrograde ties in oh-so-well with commuting issues (the Pope is coming to visit my area, causing huge traffic and building closures) as well as other large-scale events (e.g. upcoming government shutdown), but it also means I have some insulation and introspection to do in the meantime.  Mercury retrograde periods are good for review; as the planet goes backwards, it behooves us to look back and take stock of what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished, and the like.  Conjuration and some divination of mine can get a little hairy during these periods, but it’s not insurmountable with a bit more dedication and practice; Hermetic magic, though based on Hermes-Mercury-Thoth, provides many tools to get around the currents and ebbs and flows inherent to the tradition when they on their own don’t go your way.

One of the things I do during Mercury retrograde periods is wrap my Hermes statue in fine black cloth, although loosely.  It’s not that I want to completely cut myself off from him or his effects, but doing this keeps some of the worst of retrograde issues at bay, like a layer of sunscreen on a hot and bright summer day.  Meanwhile, I restrict my offerings to him to silent and short ones done only at night, and when I do make a prayer aloud to him, I switch from using the usual Orphic Hymn to Mercury to the one for Terrestrial Hermes, as befitting his complete change in the heavens above.  I keep my explicitly Hermaic things to a minimum during these times, which can be a little awkward, given how big he is in my life.

Earlier this week, though, even before Mercury went retrograde, I was making an offering to him, and we had a bit of a chat.  He reminded me of the other gods I have in my temple, some of whom haven’t gotten an offering made to them in quite a while due to my eight-month hiatus from Work, and most notable among these was Apollo, the son of Zeus and Leto.  Hermes told me that, in the future, I should keep Hermes primary in my devotional work when it comes to the θεοι and with mathesis, and I should definitely involve Apollo more in my life and Work.  However, when Hermes is “retired” into retrograde, he told me that I should then shift my gears into working explicitly and primarily with Apollo—not as a substitute patron, mind you, but as a substitute guide and teacher.  Divination with knucklebones confirmed this explicitly, and since Apollo hadn’t gotten an offering in…well, too long, I decided to make an offering to him last night and call him down.

I forgot how much of a douche he can be.  He’s truly awesome, of course, as only a god can, but goddamn is he ever the frattiest and most brotastic of gods I’ve had the privilege of working with.

Still, after the jokes and haughtiness of the god were worked through, it hit me how badly I’ve fucked up by not incorporating him into my regular worship and Work for so long, even before the end of last year.  He’s instructed me in a way to approach him and, after more divination to confirm a few things, will continue to do so by my regular honor of him.  It’s not exactly what I’m used to, but it’s something that I really do need.  This is especially true with mathesis, that art I’ve procrastinated on developing for so long, since Apollo is truly supposed to be a part of it; this is something confirmed by both the god himself and Hermes, and in a way far greater than thorough purification.  I’ve become stagnant with mathesis, and after my own self-initiation under Hermes, I was looking forward to exploring the roads of the central six-way crossroads of the Tetractys I developed, but instead, I got stuck on an island with no way out.

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths

Part of this was the set of tools I’ve developed to work in mathesis.  They’re not much, but they’re something I had designs to use and…never got around to using them, partially because I knew I needed to have them but had no idea how to do so.  In my offering to Apollo, I was given a first glimpse and some very basic practice in using them; they felt a little awkward-yet-right, if that makes sense, and in getting more used to them, I can finally get off my ass and get back to mathetic exploration.  This is good, since Hermes is directing me to do a full mathetic ritual later on in October and I’m still stuck as to how to set that up.  With Apollo’s guidance, I may just be able to figure that out in time, at least in a preliminary and exploratory way so as to get started with other types of mathetic ritual and development.

So, why Apollo?  Well, he is Hermes’ half-brother by Zeus, and shares in the arts of divination and prophecy, that much is obvious.  Still, with Apollo’s connection to the Sun, especially as a rational force that drives the Sun’s light as opposed to Helios who is the Sun, we have a great wellspring of power and direction that can illumine much in our lives.  This is different from Hermes who guides, who walks along with us on a road and leads us hither and thither; Hermes guides, but Apollo directs.  There’s a subtle difference between the two in terms of scale and scope.  Besides, going by planets, both Hermes and Apollo could be recognized in the Triad.  But…this would mean a third deity, linked to the Moon, would be called upon as well for another purpose.  Can’t get the Tetractys all unbalanced, after all, but I’m unsure whether this would be Artemis or another deity, especially as I have no experience with the Lady Huntress.

For now, one thing at a time.  Take this time of Mercury retrograde and call upon the forces of the Sun in your life, and honor Apollo and his progeny and allies.  You may be pleasantly surprised to see where it leads you, as well!

On Mathetic Purification

Put simply, mathesis is theurgy, literally “god-working”.  While this can mean several things, the sense I use it is in the sense of elevating oneself to the level of the gods and beyond to henosis, a mystical union with the Monad, the Source, the Good, the All, God, or whatever you want to call It.  The whole purpose of mathesis is to perfect the self both in body, soul, spirit, and mind, and in that sense it takes mathesis as one would a spoonful of medicine to encourage healing and health.  After all, in Agnosis we are trapped in a disease of ignorance, but it is by Gnosis that we begin the process of healing ourselves.  If we falter in Gnosis, we lapse back into Agnosis, much as one relapses into disease if one forgets to take their medicine or skips their physical therapy or exercise.  It’s hard, but it’s worth the effort.  The purpose of mathesis is seen in many Hermetic or Hermetic-related disciplines from the spiritual alchemy of the Rosicrucians to the theoretical kabbalah of the Jews, and to that end we have plenty of Work to do.

However, in order to engage in the practice of theurgy, we need to prepare ourselves for engaging with the gods and the forces of divinity.  This is no light task; while some people can just easily walk up to a temple and go “sup”, being on that casual level of entering into the presence of the gods is difficult.  Often enough, not only are we trapped in Agnosis, but we’re just simply too dirty to engage in their presence.  The gods, after all, hate miasma and flee it as we’d flee the plague, and we incur miasma in any number of ways.  Christians, similarly, have their notion of sin, which impedes the progress one makes to Christ and inhibits the spiritual medicine of the Eucharist.  In these traditions, as in many others, there’s a process of purification involved to prepare ourselves to walk more properly into the presence of the gods.  In the ancient Hellenic practice, one would lustrate themselves with khernips as well as living in a proper manner of piety as well as making the right sacrifices in the right way; in Christian practice, one would anoint themselves with holy water and holy oil, undergo confession and penance, and carry out good works in addition to partaking in the Eucharist.  Even the low-down dirty ATR I’m involved with has their purification and purging practices which need to be undergone before major initiations, if for nothing else than to prepare the body to receive something Bigger.

There’s a similar role that purification has in mathesis, as well.  During the ritual of initiation, one has to undergo the Mathetic Rule of Observance to help direct the body and mind to live in a proper way, and the ritual itself involves a cathartic freeing of the self from ignorance as well as purifying the scene with lustral water.  Add to it, one should always be spiritually washed before engaging in mathetic practices, hence the role of making and using khernips on a daily basis.  Even though the daily use of khernips helps raise our standards of spiritual hygiene and keeps us there, however, on occasion khernips simply isn’t going to be enough.  After all, sometimes a stain can be gotten rid with a cloth damp with water wiped once or twice, but sometimes it requires lye, bleach, and a lot more effort.  If we want to undergo the process of mathetic theurgy, then we need to make sure we’re in a suitable state at all times, or as often as we can, to engage with the forces of divinity, and if we’re in such a state that khernips itself doesn’t wash away our stains, then we need something stronger.

Thus, mathesis should have a heavy-duty purification ritual, something like a banishing ritual as used by magicians (e.g. the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram/Hexagram) and something like a healing ritual (e.g. the Christian Anointing of the Sick) as used by other religions.  The question is, how would we formulate such a purification ritual?  To have one purify themselves is possible, though it’s preferred to have one already pure to perform the purification.  Since there’s no Matheteion or association of Mathetai set up just yet, a self-purification will have to do for the time being for those of us who want to engage in mathesis.  The idea and reason for a self-purification is the same; much as we call upon Hermes as mystagogue when there’s no initiator into mathesis for a candidate, we need to call upon a god to act as καθαρτης (kathartēs, purifier) for us in the stead of a human priest or purifier.  For that, instead of turning to Hermes, we call upon his half-brother Apollo, the unparalleled god of purification and himself the god of καθαρσις (katharsis, purification or purgation of miasma), which is accomplished through the ritual of καθαρμος (katharmos, the ritual of purification).

The role of Apollo here is pretty much straightforward.  As a solar god, he shines his light and burns away the darkness, dispelling shadows as easily as he does lies; he illuminates and enlightens, not only with his solar chariot or oracles, but even spiritually so, as lies and deceit incur a kind of miasma on ourselves.  Plus, he’s the father of Asklepios, the god of healing and healer of gods, men, souls, and heroes; Asklepios takes care of the physical body, while Apollo takes care of the spiritual self, and both tie in together holistically to ensure a proper life and lifestyle.  Moreover, Apollo concerns himself with the health and well-being of humankind, while Asklepios concerns himself with the health and well-being of individual humans.    However, Apollo is notably connected with katharmos, especially caused by murder, because he himself underwent purification as a result of killing the Python at Delphi before he set up his oracle there and so that he could be pure enough to do so and to purify others as Apollo Katharsios.  The Pythian herself, all her priests, and all her supplicators purified themselves in a similar manner to Apollo, by bathing in a special spring and suffumigation with barley.

One of the more dramatic instances of Apollo’s concern with the well-being of humankind via purification is the role he plays for Orestes in Aeschylus’ triology Oresteia; there, Orestes kills his mother Clytemnestra who had killed his father and her husband Agamemnon who himself had sacrificed their daughter Iphigenia.  Having incurred the miasma of killing his own blood (his own mother!), Orestes is pursued by the Furies to Delphi to be purified by Apollo, who himself had helped Orestes carry out the vendetta-driven matricide so as to finally put the generational curse of Pelops and Tantalus to rest.  By bringing peace back to House Atreides (yes, the same one in Frank Herbert’s Dune, no less, though there’s more drama going on there a few tens of thousands of years after this point in history), Apollo helps not only Orestes but also all of Greece by introducing, with Athena’s help, the jury trial.  A little convoluted, but that’s what you get for involving the Far-Shooter into things.

However, Apollo plays a special part in mathesis for us beyond having a significant mythologic role in Greek paganism.  Apollo, after all, is the half-brother of Hermes, and Hermes’ best friend after they made peace over the whole cow-stealing incident, and the two team up often enough in a godly bromance in many myths and practices.  However, looking at Apollo another way, we find that he’s claimed to be the father of Pythagoras of Samos himself, you know, the dude who founded Pythagoreanism, one of the core traditions that mathesis has.  And, as we all know, Pythagoras had a major spiritual hard-on for purification, issuing lots of vows and rules one should undertake to make sure they’re spiritually and mentally and physically fit enough for engaging in his philosophical and theurgic practices.  My own Mathetic Rule itself is based on his stuff, too, and helps one purify the body and mind slowly.  By calling on Apollo Katharsios in a ritual katharmos, however, we can further engage the purificatory practices of the god and of mathesis.

While I won’t yet release my ritual of mathetic katharmos, the idea is fairly straightforward.  First we undertake the Mathetic Rule of Observance for several days, at least one day but preferably four or ten depending on the level of miasma incurred, along with regular physical therapy or exercise to get the body working again in a proper way.  After this period, we take a special ritual bath; lacking water from the Castalia Spring at Delphi, we use a batch of khernips made especially for this purpose and in a slightly different way from our daily-use khernips, something that packs a powerful purgative and purificatory punch.  After undressing and physically cleaning ourselves off, this special khernips (as icy-cold as one can stand it) is poured over the body while prayers are said to Apollo Katharsios and while a special incense of bay laurel and other herbs and plants is burning to surround oneself.  After air-drying, one dresses in all white and spends some time in contemplation of their actions, especially those that incur miasma; this is sort of a devotional conversation-cum-introspection to dig deep as to why thekatharmos was needed in the first place and how one can live better so as to avoid the cause and need for it again.  Readings of the Delphic Maxims, Golden Verses of Pythagoras, and similar texts can have a calming and directive influence on the mind to inculcate a better life.  Based on the reason for miasma, a special offering might be made to Apollo to act as a type of payment, votary, or personal sacrifice so as to help one overcome the miasma fully both internally and externally.  In this way, we develop a holistic treatment of purification: physical fasting and hygiene, religious cleansing and purgation, and spiritual counseling and guidance.  Having a trained therapist or priest playing the role of kathartes in the stead of Apollo Katharsios would help, especially to offer one a confidential and objective opinion on things, though that’ll have to wait until there’re more trained mathetai to do so.

This katharmos ritual isn’t something to be undertaken lightly, and it operates in a different way than simple lustration with khernips (χερνιμμα, khernimma) or an energetic/spiritual banishing ritual .  Those latter two types of ritual wipe away the spiritual grime we accrue through our day-to-day actions, like dust on a mirror; we can’t help but incur miasma through our daily lives, though we’re naturally in a pure (ish) state that these rituals help us return to time and again.  These simple rituals, as well, can help one in getting rid of harmful or negative spirits that cling on for energy or emotions, and keep them safe from them for a time.  However, katharmos operates on a different level; there are things that make us so impure, so jarred, so off-balance that we can’t easily return to our natural state of purity through the normal means, or we have let our day-to-day minor miasmas congeal into something that dominates our lives and prevents us from taking the steps necessary on our own to help ourselves.  The fasting with the Mathetic Rule helps begin the process of change in the body, the cleaning of the body prepares the soul, the ritual bath purifies the spirit, and the counseling elevates the mind in a holistic manner that gives us a total reset in every level of our body.  The presence and blessing of Apollo Katharsios helps initiate these changes and sees them through, and while I wouldn’t consider this an energetic ritual, the changes made are such that the energies of the body (either in the vague sense of subtle forces or winds or in the sense of processes of change and action) are altered, redirected, and purified to resume working in a proper way.

Of course, by the same token, the katharmos ritual is pretty heavy-duty and not something one could do on a regular basis.  I mean, you could, but generally speaking it’s not needed unless you’re, like, murdering someone every week or your family is having a child every month. Mathetic katharmos is going to be a high-grade thing, several steps above the daily or pre-ritual khernimma.  As of right now, there’s little place for a middle ground between the two.  Either:

  • You’re fit for ritual.
  • You’re not fit yet but can become fit with khernimma.
  • You’re not fit yet and khernimma won’t help without katharmos.

Khernimma is the general cleansing ritual for mathesis, not quite a banishing but accomplishing many of the same goals.  Sprinkling khernips around a room can do the banishing as well as cleanse other people, which in the majority of cases is all that’s needed to ritually prepare a space; however, just as katharmos accomplishes what khernimma cannot, perhaps a heavy-duty banishing or exorcism ritual for a space or place can be called for in the future.  This would perhaps fall under a different god’s jurisdiction, say Ares or Zeus, since it’s less that the area needs to be purified and more that it needs to be emptied of spiritual malignance; the area would be purified just fine if the spirits there would let it happen, but the spirits must be removed first.  Katharmos, then, deals with the person, while khernimma can be used for people and places; perhaps a ritual for εκβολη (ekbolē, throwing out/banishment) could be written in the future for dealing with places or even things.

While Apollo makes sense and is definitely useful in calling upon for katharmos, I’m wondering whether there’s a way or even a reason to mix Hermes into this.  At first glance, that wouldn’t fly; purification is definitely associated with Apollo and Delphi, and Hermes swore an oath to never go near the houses of Apollo.  Then again, we’re not necessarily involving ourselves with making a temple of Apollo, just calling on him for his help, and since our work is heavily influenced and guided by Hermes, he should have some hand in all this.  Although we do find the occasional votive offering given to Hermes in sacrifice for healing or helping one out from a tight spot, the vast majority of votive dedications are nothing related to this, more often connected to gymnastics, wrestling, marketing, and the like.  However, two things come to mind about Hermes that I picked up on from the Hermes/Mercury conference earlier this year: Hermes both gives speech and takes it away (mentioned on day one), and Hermes is the god of banter, cajoling, and “heart-cutting” words (day two).

  • By giving his scepter to someone, Hermes bestows the power to speak; by taking it away, he takes away their ability to speak.  Hermes is the god of both speaking and silence, and has been known to silence or put to sleep any dangers to his travels and exploits so as to preserve himself.  Speech and travel are intimately connected in Hermes, as is knowledge and motive, and we have to experience the same as we travel along the Gnosis Schema.  If we fall off, our journey is stopped and we’d do best to shut up and stop getting ourselves into more trouble; the longer we hold onto that scepter of speech, the more we mislead ourselves, and the more evident it becomes that Hermes needs to take it back so we’re lead back to the path we should go on instead of the one we’ve found ourselves on.
  • Hermes is the god most closely associated with hilarious, vulgar, obscene, and disturbing humor, all falling under the word κερτομον (kertomon, heart-cutting).  While we don’t need to go to the level of Hipponax, such humor points out cruelly and pointedly our flaws, our pretentions, our pride, and anything that makes us hilarious to others as well as to the gods themselves (and seeing a god laugh isn’t usually a sign of benevolent mirth).  Without paying attention to the heckling, groaning, and popcorn-tossing vulgarity of the gods, and especially Hermes, we sometimes get wrapped up in ourselves and either blithely ignore the miasma we’re incurring or puff ourselves up in overmodest wailing of how terrible we are.  We need to lighten up without making light of our situation, and the best way we can do that is by cutting to the heart of the matter and telling it how it is, often with a bit of humor.

To that end, this mathetic katharmos ritual can be done for anyone as a stand-alone ritual as they need it, but mathetai would need another ritual to be done afterward to ensure that they’re brought back spiritually and gnostically to the place they should be at, letting Hermes reorient them to the Path they should be on and keeping them from getting lost any longer.  At that point, the caduceus of speech and gnosis can be spiritually “returned” or renewed back to the mathetes, entrusting them once more with the authority to continue on the Gnosis Schema.  Of course, all this should be coupled with a good dose of hilarity and good-natured poking fun at yourself; the best medicine is laughter, they say, and Hermes can definitely pull that off as the god of heart-cutting wise-cracking and snarky comedy.  In addition to the kathartes who’d carry out the katharmos ritual, there should be someone else there to make sure things don’t get too serious or too out-of-hand with the purgation while, at the same time, pointing out objectively and offensively what it was they did and how easy (perhaps) it is to not fuck up.  By shedding a candid, common light on the situation, Hermes can also help us reorient ourselves through blunt and snarky comments, which helps to bring a bit of realism to our lives and to our situations in general.  After all, every tragedy play in ancient Greece was followed up by a hilarious and crude satyr play to lighten the mood and make sure the audience wouldn’t leave the festival sour and dour.  Likewise, the mathetes shouldn’t leave the ritual without being returned to good health, good life, and good humour; if the mathetes feels worse off or guilty for having needed and undergone katharmos, then the ritual wasn’t worth it or it was done badly.  Hermes Kertomios can help us laugh at ourselves while being cruelly instructive, and can help jeer us back into the Work we need to be doing.

Hermes and the Other Gods in Mathesis

You’d think that, from the past few weeks (months?) on this blog, the only two entities I work with spiritually are Hermes and Saint Cyprian.  A quick glance around my temple room indicates otherwise, of course, and I have healthy and strong relationships with a bevy of angels, theoi, and saints, not to mention the Divine itself.  Still, at least as far as mathesis goes, it seems like the only god I’ve been talking about is Hermes.  After all, we start with the sphaira of Mercury in the Gnosis Schema, and the initiation ritual into mathesis makes Hermes into our guide, if not our salvific figure, in being released from the Agnosis Schema into gnosis.  So what happens with all the other gods?

Well, let’s backtrack a bit and talk about Hermes a bit more.  When I went to the conference on Hermes at UVa this year, I learned quite a bit (see my first, second, and third posts for what was discussed).  One of the things that had struck me was the prevalence of herms, the four-sided pillars with a bust of Hermes at the top and often a phallus on the pillar, in many devotional scenes of work.  No matter the god that was being worshipped, it seems like herms were always present in devotional settings of ritual or sacrifice, as if they were a terminal to interact with the gods.  Given that some of the herms depicted the caduceus or other Hermaic paraphernalia, it’s unclear whether all of these herms are actually Hermes or if there were some non-Hermes herms out there.  I’m unsure either way, but it would make sense if Hermes was each and every herm and, thus, present in each and every rite of sacrifice and worship.  After all, Hermes is the messenger of the gods, but also their interlocutor; he is the one who ferries information between the world of mortals and the world of immortals, as well as sacrifice and praise.  Heck, the Homeric Hymn to Hermes even states that Hermes is the god who invented fire for sacrifice:

…Then, after he had well-fed the loud-bellowing cattle with fodder and driven them into the byre, close-packed and chewing lotus and began to seek the art of fire. He chose a stout laurel branch and trimmed it with the knife ((lacuna)) . . . held firmly in his hand: and the hot smoke rose up. For it was Hermes who first invented fire-sticks and fire. Next he took many dried sticks and piled them thick and plenty in a sunken trench: and flame began to glow, spreading afar the blast of fierce-burning fire.

And while the strength of glorious Hephaestus was beginning to kindle the fire, he dragged out two lowing, horned cows close to the fire; for great strength was with him. He threw them both panting upon their backs on the ground, and rolled them on their sides, bending their necks over, and pierced their vital chord. Then he went on from task to task: first he cut up the rich, fatted meat, and pierced it with wooden spits, and roasted flesh and the honourable chine and the paunch full of dark blood all together. He laid them there upon the ground, and spread out the hides on a rugged rock: and so they are still there many ages afterwards, a long, long time after all this, and are continually. Next glad-hearted Hermes dragged the rich meats he had prepared and put them on a smooth, flat stone, and divided them into twelve portions distributed by lot, making each portion wholly honourable. Then glorious Hermes longed for the sacrificial meat, for the sweet savour wearied him, god though he was; nevertheless his proud heart was not prevailed upon to devour the flesh, although he greatly desired. But he put away the fat and all the flesh in the high-roofed byre, placing them high up to be a token of his youthful theft. And after that he gathered dry sticks and utterly destroyed with fire all the hoofs and all the heads.

Add to the fact that Hermes is instrumental in sacrifice, Hermes was often known as almighty or παντοκρατωρ, “all-ruling”.  Sometimes this word was used to flatter a god being praised, but in Hermes, this isn’t too terrible a description.  The thing about Hermes is that, even though we know he is the god of messengers and of trade and this and that, Hermes is not just any of those things.  To be fair, no god is just one thing or another, but Hermes is especially the jack of all trades because he had no one sphere of influence; he was involved in everything.  This is why it’s surprising that it’s uncommon to find actual temples, or τεμενοι, dedicated to Hermes, not to mention a scarcity of cults that were often given regularly to all the other gods.  I mentioned this when a particular theme of talks dawned on me during the second day of the Hermes conference, that in working with Hermes, we gain the ability to approach and interact with all the other gods:

Hermes, although an Olympian, is certainly not among the important ones, but he’s still a vital god to work with and crucial in day-to-day living.  Hermes has no temple, because he’s in every temple; he has no rites, because he’s in all rites; he has no expertise, because he’s an expert in everything.  Hermes is the go-between that leads us on in anything and everything; he is the road between destinations, but is not the destinations themselves.  He only leads us along the roads, but the road is where we spend most of our lives and times.  The presence of Hermes is required by man to work with any god, and is required to communicate to man from the gods.

However, just as Hermes is god of the roads, he’s also the god of opening the roads, which is essentially what the ritual of mathetic initiation is about: opening the path to the Gnosis Schema from the Agnosis Schema, and proceeding onward from there.  This is fitting, because Hermes has told me that he will not lead me into the sphairai themselves, only along the odoi.  I have a few inklings here and there as to why that might be, but if we consider each sphaira to be a destination, an abode, then chances are it’s where a given divinity or family dwells.  They’re not places of exchange or trade, that’s for sure, else Hermes’d be all up in there.  It’s not a theater, either, since Hermes was often found in plays and can be considered a god of both comedic drama and cajoling song.  The sphairai are places of rest or respite, a pause where we must make the choice to leave, picking up the path again when we contact Hermes to get back on the road.

So, either we don’t need guidance in the sphairai themselves, or we do and Hermes simply isn’t going to be it for us.  It would logically follow that another entity would step in at that point, and to logically follow that, it’d be the other gods.  We only ever work with Hermes on the odoi of the Tetractys, never in the sphairai, and this includes the sphaira of Mercury (even to my own confusion).  Thus, although Hermes is a crucial figure in mathesis, helping us out during times of transition (which is where most of the work is focused), he is of necessity not the only one we work with.  Instead of considering the sphairai the destinations and the odoi the transitions, we might consider the sphairai to be transitions or changes in direction between the individual odoi.  After all, if each of the odoi on the Gnosis Schema is marked by a letter associated with a zodiac sign, then the sphairai are the cusps of the signs, the thresholds between the last degree of one sign and the first degree of the next.

Given this solar image, it makes me wonder whether the sphairai are intimately connected to the god Apollo in a way I hadn’t considered before.  After all, it would tie in with what Hermes said before about not entering into the sphairai themselves.  If Hermes is the god who can literally go anywhere, then why on earth wouldn’t he go to a particular place, and what would that place be?  Hermes himself tells us in the Homeric Hymn again:

Then the son of Leto said to Hermes: “Son of Maia, guide and cunning one, I fear you may steal form me the lyre and my curved bow together; for you have an office from Zeus, to establish deeds of barter amongst men throughout the fruitful earth. Now if you would only swear me the great oath of the gods, either by nodding your head, or by the potent water of Styx, you would do all that can please and ease my heart.”

Then Maia’s son nodded his head and promised that he would never steal anything of all the Far-shooter possessed, and would never go near his strong house; but Apollo, son of Leto, swore to be fellow and friend to Hermes, vowing that he would love no other among the immortals, neither god nor man sprung from Zeus, better than Hermes: and the Father sent forth an eagle in confirmation.

Hermes does not enter the house of Apollo.  Apollo is associated with the Sun, and the sphairai are the cusps, the thresholds, the stations of the Sun as it progresses through the zodiacal odoi.  Apollo, further, is the Μουσηγετης, Muse-leader, the head of the nine Muses.  Together, Apollo and the Muses are ten deities, perhaps one for each sphaira of the Tetractys.  So who are the nine Muses?

  • Kalliopē (“Beautiful Voice”), muse of epic poetry
  • Kleiō (“Make Famous”), muse of history
  • Eratō (“Lovely”), muse of lyric poetry
  • Melpomenē (“Celebrate with Song”), muse of tragic drama
  • Ūraniē (“Heavenly”), muse of astronomy and astrology
  • Polyhymnia (“Many Hymns”), muse of hymns and devotional speech
  • Euterpē (“Giving Much Delight”), muse of song and elegaic poetry
  • Terpsikhorē (“Delighting in Dance”), muse of dance
  • Thaleia (“Blooming”), muse of comedic drama

And if I had to guess off the top of my head which deity goes with which sphaira:

  • Monad: Apollo (leader of the Muses and source of art)
  • Light: Ūraniē (dance of celestial bodies)
  • Darkness: Terpsikhorē (dance of terrestrial bodies)
  • Sulfur: Kalliopē (poetry of action)
  • Mercury: Euterpē (poetry generally of all types)
  • Salt: Eratō (poetry of affection)
  • Fire: Polyhymnia (godly works)
  • Air: Thaleia (joyful works)
  • Water: Melpomenē (sorrowful works)
  • Earth: Kleiō (factual works)

Of course, this is a fairly late list of Muses and their attributes, but it’s an idea all the same.  Even if this little path of association leads us nowhere, it does show that the Tetractys is full of gods, not just of the individual zodiac signs but of everything.  The Tetractys, after all, is the “enformer of gods and men” and present in us all, so why not all of us within it?  I’m sure, over time, a more coherent theogony and theology of the Tetractys and mathesis will come together, and it’s still really early in the game to determine who goes where or what sphaira means what power more specifically than “salt” or “fire”.  I can definitely say, however, that mathesis will lead us to work, in at least some respect, all the gods of this world.

After all, “this world” is the world below Olympos, the cosmos under the rule and sight of the gods.  Every city, every forest, every river, every stone, every person is presided over by a god big or small.  By traveling the paths on the Tetractys, we come to be exposed to all parts of the cosmos, not just the parts that humans live in; we live in only one part of the world, though we have the ability (with practice and the blessing of Logos and Nous and all that good stuff) to go anywhere and everywhere.  In mathesis, that’s quite the point; we need to do that, instead of just getting stuck in a the fraction of the cosmos we know as the human world.  It is only by becoming all that we can become, knowing all that we can know, going all where we can go, and doing all we can do that we experience everything and in every way.

And while it’d be hubristic of me to say that we can conquer the world, we can certainly become unified with it and, while not escaping it (for who can escape the All?), we can certainly come to the All and be with it.  Note that I’m saying the All, and not the One or the Monad; these are generally the same concept and used interchangeably in philosophy, but it’s a slightly different nuance I’m using here.  Consider the Tetractys as a mountain, with the peak at the top.  This mountain is that of Olympus, the center of all divine activity and from which all rules, edicts, and cosmic decisions are made.  By ascending and descending Olympus, we come to know the gods and interact with them (assuming they allow us and they allow Hermes to guide us, lest we get struck by lightning on the way).  However, it is only by integrating all of them into ourselves, and by them all of the cosmos, that we can live in perfect accordance with them even when they themselves conflict.  After all, the Dyad isn’t just two Monads acting independently, but it’s the relationship between them that makes them into a Dyad.  Likewise, we should aim for acting as that which makes the ten monads of the Tetractys into a Decad, a complete whole, and nothing less.

Personally, this is starting to sound like a weird mix of Stoicism, Hermeticism, Buddhism, and Taoism.  Let’s see how it’ll turn out.