The Osirian Bindings

Looking through the PGM recently, I came across a delightful little entry from PGM VII.429—458, “A restraining [rite] for anything”.  The description of the effects of this binding ritual is impressive: “works even on chariots…causes enmity and sickness, cuts down, destroys, and overturns for whatever you wish…the spell, when said, conjures daimons and makes them enter [objects or people]”.  Impressive, indeed.  I figured we might talk about this ritual today, even if only because it has a bit of interesting description about the powers of the Moon and how it relates to the efficacy of long-term magical items buried underground.  Why am I deciding to share this one today?  Eh, why not?  Seems like we can always use good ritual tech, after all.  Sometimes it’s good to get back to your roots, and this type of restraining spell is a classic, an example of malefica we’d otherwise call defixio or katadesmos a.k.a. “curse tablets”, but this time containing some interesting Egyptian elements.  Why are we bringing this up today?  Well, why not?

The thing about this ritual, however, is that it’s not one binding, but two, each one operating in different ways using the same apparatus.  We’ll break down this ritual into several parts.

Creating the Binding Plate

The main implement of both of these binding rituals is that of a lead plate, ideally “from a cold-water channel”; in our modern day and age, any old lead pipe that was used for plumbing and carrying unheated water would be ideal.  You’d take such a bit of lead, hammer and roll it out thin, and there you go, but do what you can; you can also get pre-rolled sheets of lead just fine, or if you’re worried about toxicity, a soda can or beer can you drain out and cut up into a large rectangle will work, too, especially if you pour out the drink as an offering to the spirits of the underworld who’ll do the work.

On the plate, engrave with a “headless bronze needle” (i.e. a needle that does not have a hammer-flat “head” on it, like how railroad spikes do, or any sort of ornamentation) the following:

I conjure you, Lord Osiris, by your holy names: ΟΥΧΙΩΧ ΟΥΣΕΝΑΡΑΝΑΘ ΟΥΣΙΡΕΙ ΟΥΣΕΡΡΑΝΝΟΥΦΘΙ ΟΣΟΡΝΟΥΦΗ ΟΥΣΕΡ ΜΝΕΥΕ ΟΥΣΕΡΣΕΤΕΜΕΝΘ ΑΜΑΡΑ ΜΑΧΙ ΧΩΜΑΣΩ ΕΜ ΜΑΙ ΣΕΡΒΩΝΙ ΕΜΕΡ ΙΣΙ ΑΡΑΤΩΦΙ ΕΡΑΧΑΞ ΕΣΕΟΙΩΘ ΑΡΒΙΩΘΙ ΑΜΕΝΧΟΥΜ ΜΟΝΜΟΝΤ ΟΥΖΑΘΙ ΠΗΡ ΟΥΝΝΕΦΕΡ ΕΝ ΩΩΩ

I give over to you, Lord Osiris, and I deposit with you this matter: …

“Add the usual” at this point; write down what you wish to happen.  Transliterated into Roman script, the barbarous words are:

ŪKHIŌKH ŪSENARANTH ŪSIREI ŪSERRANNŪPHTHI OSORNŪPHĒ ŪSER MNEUE ŪSERSETEMENTH AMARA MAKHI KHŌMASŌ EM MAI SERBŌNI EMER ISI ARATŌPHI ERAKHAKS ESEOIŌTH ARBIŌTHI AMENKHŪM MONMONT ŪZATHI PĒR ŪNNEPHER EN Ō Ō Ō

Betz in his translation makes several notes about the barbarous words above and how much Egyptian can be spotted in them:

  • ΟΥΣΕΡΣΕΤΕΜΕΝΘ: wsir nfr, “Osiris the Good”
  • ΕΜ ΜΑΙ: “in truth”
  • ΕΜΕΡ ΙΣΙ: “whom Isis loves”
  • ΟΥΝΝΕΦΕΡ: either ḥwn-nfr “beautiful youth” or wn-nfr “Onnophris”

Anyway, with the lead plate engraved, it’s time to consecrate it.  It should be consecrated with bitter aromatics, such as myrrh, bdellum, styrax, aloes, and thyme, and with “river mud”; I would interpret this, personally, to mean that the plate should be suffumigated in an incense composed of herbs like the foregoing, washing it and smearing it with mud from a river in the process.  This is to be done “late in the evening or in the middle of the night”—midnight would be ideal.

At this point, we have one of two choices in how we want to go about this binding.

Approach #1: The Drowned Binding

All the foregoing would ideally be done at the place where the lead plate is to be deposited, but if not, do it in private and then take it to its place of deposition, into a stream or drain that leads away, preferably into a larger body of water.  The plate is to be tied to a sturdy cord or string and anchored or tied to where the person casting the binding can reach it; punching a hole in a corner and tying the thread through the hole would be good.  The plate is then thrown into the stream, reciting the above incantation that was written on the plate seven times.  Be sure the plate does not drift away, become untied, or otherwise unreachable; be sure this is done in a place where others will not interfere with the plate or string.

When you want to undo the binding, pull the plate out from the water using the string and untie the plate from the string.

Approach #2: The Buried Binding

Instead of throwing the plate into a river or stream, the plate may also be buried or left in a hole, well, coffin, or larger body of water.  In addition to writing the above, also write the Ephesian words (which this PGM entry says are “Orphic”):

ΑΣΚΙ ΚΑΤΑΣΚΙ ΛΙΞ ΤΕΤΡΑΞ ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ ΑΙΣΙΑ

Transliterated into Roman script:

ASKI KATASKI LIKS TETRAKS DAMNAMENEUS AISIA

Take the plate and tie and bind it all around on the outside with a black thread using 365 knots.  How to do this?  You could make 365 holes around the edge of the plate and tie the thread continuously through each hole and knotting each one, or make one hole in the plate to anchor the thread, tie the thread through that, then loop the thread all over and cocoon it in the thread, knotting it each time for a total of 365 times.  While doing this, recite over and over the Ephesian words (or at least ΑΣΚΙ ΚΑΤΑΣΚΙ) followed by your charge of binding (e.g. “Keep him held”, etc.).  This done, the plate may be deposited wherever you wish.

However, this should be done at a place where you have access to, ideally being able to stand directly over the place of deposition.  The reason for this is that PGM VII.429ff claims that “Selēnē, when she goes through the underworld, breaks whatever [spell] she finds”.  To circumvent this and keep her from breaking the binding, the above formula of the Ephesian words with the charge of binding should be recited at least once daily on the spot where the plate is buried.  In this case, the binding is considered to be in effect for as long as one maintains this daily practice.

Close of the Binding

Whenever you’re done with the ritual, whether binding or unbinding your target, leave the place of deposition.  Do not turn back and do not look backwards; do not speak a word to anyone for any reason until you get home.  Once you do get home, wash yourself thoroughly, making sure you can immerse every part of your body in water, then go to sleep.  Maintain a vegetarian diet for at least seven days in this process to maintain purity and holiness, and to ensure that your work will continue strong.

Technically, this close is only mentioned for the first method of binding, not the second.  However, it would also be a good practice to engage in it for the second option as well to increase both the general purity and the protection of the practitioner.  After all, when engaging with chthonic and underworld powers, it helps to be respectful.  I’d even take the extra step of taking a different route back to my home than the one I used to take to the place of deposition, but that’s just me.

An Ancient Queer Love Spell (because why not?)

(Update 1/9/2018: Interested in more about this ritual?  Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

Readers of this blog may have picked up on many things about me and what I tend to write about, specifically these two:

  1. I like old magical shit, being a Hermetic ceremonial magician.
  2. I like guys for fun and sex, being a guy who, well, likes guys.

With those in mind, it’s always cool to see queer or gay icons in the magical literature, since it makes me feel a little more comfortable.  After all, the recent talks in the blogosphere about the Scarlet Woman are nice and all, but don’t do me much good.  Granted that “going Greek” is what I like to go for, it turns out that this often wasn’t the case for magicians of yore (though who can say what the magisters would do with those young boy seers after the rituals).

I was browsing recently through a book I got for my birthday, “Ancient Christian Magic: Coptic Texts of Ritual Power” edited by Marvin W. Meyer and Richard Smith, which is like a Coptic version of the PGM and has texts that range from the 1st to 14th centuries A.D.  The texts and structure are generally the same, being old Mediterranean magic, though the holy names and pictures are a little unfamiliar.  All the same, I was browsing through the book and found a nifty little thing that some magi (magaysters?) might be interested in: the following is a love-binding spell used by one man on another (Papapolo son of Noe and Phello son of Maure, respectively) from the Ashmolean Museum Collection (1981.940), probably from around the 6th century A.D.  Like other old-school love spells, this took the form of a binding much like a defixio, forcing the target to seek out the worker and giving them rest only once they were both together, but this one is notable for being one explicitly from one man to another.

It was intended to be folded up and placed near the door or home of the target, and to cause them to seek out the worker endlessly until they found him.  The book says that “ring signs” were put between the “ROUS” line and the next paragraph, though doesn’t have an illustration; I assume one might put sigils of love or seals of spirits to help out in this matter.  I’ve edited the text slightly for spelling and format.

† SELTATALBABAL KARASHNEIFE ANNAS KNEKIE
By the power of IAO SABAOTH!
ROUS ROUS ROUS ROUS ROUS ROUS ROUS ROUS

† † † I adjure you by your powers and your amulets and the places where you dwell and your names, that just as I take you and put you at the door and the pathway of NN. son of NN., so also you must take his heart and his mind; you must dominate his entire body!

When he tries to stand, you must not allow him to stand.
When he tries to sit, you must not allow him to sit.
When he lies down to sleep, you must not allow him to sleep.
He must seek me from town to town, from city to city, from field to field, from region to region, until he comes to me and subjects himself under my feet, me whose name is NN. son of NN.,
While his hand is full of all goodness, until I satisfy him with the desire of my heart and the demand of my soul with pleasant desire and love unending,
Right now, right now, at once, at once!
Do this now, do my work!

Just as an aside, the bit in the last paragraph about “his hand is full of goodness”?  That could be taken two ways, depending on the cultural frame of reference: in Egyptian culture, this refers to one’s generosity as one lover to another, but in Hebrew culture, “hand” was a euphemism for the penis, so it really could go either way here.  Because of this, I don’t know whether the spell would work as well on a woman, but I don’t see why this wouldn’t work on a man for a woman, either.