On the Elemental and Geomantic Epodes

Ever since I wrote that post about how the physical body can be represented by geomantic figures, I’ve been trying to puzzle something out for myself.  At the end of the post, I introduce the concept of a system of geomantically-derived energy centers in the body based on four centers and four elements: the Fire center in the head, the Air center in the throat, the Water center in the upper belly, and the Earth center at the perineum.  This is based on the Geomantic Adam diagram given in MS Arabe 2631, which divvies up the geomantic figures to the parts of the body in a way that’s untied to any astrological method (which is the usual method used in European and Western geomancies):

In addition to proposing four such energy centers, I also propose three possible sets of intonations based on the obscure BZDH technique from some forms of geomancy, and also suggest that the sixteen geomantic gestures or “mudras” can be used in addition with these to form the basis of a kind of geomantic energy practice.  However, I didn’t really describe any implementation beyond laying these individual parts of such a hypothetical practice down, because I hadn’t yet come up with a way to put the parts together into a whole.  I’ve been puzzling over how to do just that since the post went up earlier this summer.  I mean, it’s not hard to just slap some energy into parts of the body and call it a day, but let’s be honest: I want to do this right and be able to incorporate it into my own practice in a way that’s not harmful, and as we all know by now, it’s just as easy to use energy to make a body awful as much as it can be made awesome.

Now, I was originally going to just write a post about a more-or-less solid energy practice that uses four energy centers in the body, one for each of the four elements.  I’m still going to write that post, because I already started it, but I realized that there’s a significant chunk of it that needs to be clarified in its own post, because there’s a number of options one might choose for it with different bits of logic and arguments for and against each choice.  This section kept growing and growing, and it eventually dwarfed the actual point of the post itself, so I decided to get this bit out of the way first, especially since I’ve already introduced the topic when I brought up the notion of a geomantic energy practice to begin with.

For me in my magical practice, the spoken word is important, especially when it comes to things that are intoned, such as barbarous words or particular chants.  For instance, the seven Greek vowels are absolutely vital to my work, because each vowel is associated with one of the seven planets.  In fact, each of the letters of the Greek alphabet has its own spiritual associations to the planets, signs of the Zodiac, and elements.  It’s the elemental letters that are the focus here now: if I wanted to intone a special word to attune myself to the power of an element just like how I’d intone a vowel to attune myself to the power of a planet, what would I use?  I can’t really intone a consonant, so I invented special “power words” for the four elements by taking the corresponding consonant for the element, intoning ΙΑΩ, and ending with the consonant again, as below:

• Fire: ΧΙΑΩΧ (KHIAŌKH)
• Air: ΦΙΑΩΦ (PHIAŌPH)
• Water: ΞΙΑΩΞ (KSIAŌKS)
• Earth: ΘΙΑΩΘ (THIAŌTH)

This method works, but to be honest, I’ve never really liked it.  It’s always felt kind of imbalanced and inelegant, especially compared to some of the more refined barbarous words of power or the simplicity and clearness of the vowels for the planets.  When I first started thinking of what I could intone for a geomantic energy practice, my routine use of these words first came up, but I quickly remembered that there are other options available to me besides just this.  All I need to find is some appropriate, elegant system of four words for intoning for the sake of attuning to the four elements.

Also, what am I calling this particular type of power word, anyway?  These are small, usually single-syllabled things to intone or chant to attune with a particular force.  I suppose that these are barbarous names of a sort, but the fact that they’re so easily constructed doesn’t seem quite appropriate to call them “barbarous”.  The closest thing I can think of are bīja, which is a Sanskrit term meaning “seed”, but referring to single syllable mantras that can be intoned and thought of as encapsulating or emanating particular elements or powers.  Think of the syllables oṃ, dhīḥ, hūṃ, or other single-syllable such mantras found in tantric Buddhism or Hinduism.  These are powerful syllables and contain some aspect of the cosmos or dharma in their own right, and many deities, bodhisattvas, buddhas, and other entities or powers have their own bījas.  That’s a good concept and term for this, but I can’t think of any Western or non-Sanskrit term to call them, like how we might have “chant” or “orison” for the word mantra, “gesture” for mudra, or “energy center” for chakra.  Since I like having Greek-based terms, here are a few I would think are appropriate:

• Odologue, which could come either from ᾠδόλογος ōidólogos meaning “song-word” or, alternatively, ὁδόλογος hodólogos meaning “road-word”, and either Greek word could be used here.  Odology, after all, can refer to “the study of the singing voice” or “the study of roads and paths”, and considering the purpose and use of these bīja-like words,
• Rhizophone, from Greek ῥιζόφωνη rhizóphōnē, literally meaning “root sound”.  This is about as close a calque to bīja as I could think, helpfully suggested by Kalagni of Blue Flame Magick (who has a new website now, go update your RSS readers and links!).
• Epode, which is simply the Greek word ἐπῳδή epōidé, meaning “song sung to something”, and more figuratively an enchantment, charm, or spell.  Unlike odologue or rhizophone, epode is actually a known word, both in Greek and in English, and though it can be used more broadly for spells or charms in general, the notion of something being sung here is important, which is basically intonation.  Though I like the above two words, let’s be honest: epode here is probably the best to go with.
• There are other words used in Greek to refer to magic spells or charms, like kḗlēma or thélktron or other words, so we can reserve “epode” for what are basically mantras.
• “Epode” could be used to give a useful Greek translation of “mantra” generally, as opposed to just bīja syllables, which are themselves considered single-syllable mantras.  For this, “root epode” or “small epode” could be used to clarify single-syllable epodes.
• Likewise, “epode” wouldn’t necessarily be of the same type of word as “names”, ὀνόματα onómata, referring to the barbarous words of power that may simply be spoken, shouted, or intoned depending on the situation.  Plus, the barbarous names themselves aren’t usually constructed, patterned after anything, or even understood as having distinct or intelligible meanings.

So, what we’re doing here is coming up with elemental epodes, simple words that can be intoned or sung to attune or call down the forces of the elements, just how the intonation of the seven Greek vowels can do the same for the planets.  In fact, those vowels, when sung in a magical way, would become epodes in their own right.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.  One straightforward option is to just use the Arabic or Greek words for the four elements themselves as things to intone:

• Arabic:
• Fire: nar (نار, pronounced “nahr”)
• Air: hawa’ (هواء, pronounced “HAH-wa” with a sharp stop in the throat)
• Water: ma’ (ماء, pronounced “ma” with a sharp stop in the throat)
• Earth: turab (تراب, pronounced “tuh-RAHB”)
• Greek:
• Fire: pũr (πῦρ, pronounced “pür” like with the German ü or French u, or as “peer”)
• Air: aḗr (ἀήρ, pronounced “ah-AYR”, smoothly without a stop in the sound)
• Water: húdōr (ὕδωρ, pronounced “HEE-dohr” or “HÜ-dohr”, again with that German/French sound)
• Earth: gē̃ (γῆ, pronounced “gay”)

However, I’m not a fan of doing this.  For one, the words themselves aren’t necessarily important if the resonance and link between what’s uttered/intoned and what’s being connected with is strong.  Here, all I really have to go is the semantic meaning of the words.  Plus, I don’t like how some of them are two syllables and others only one, and they all feel inelegant in some of the same ways as my *ΙΑΩ* words from above.  So, while the words for the elements could be used, it’s not one I’d like to use.

And no, I won’t use Latin or English for such things, either.  I don’t hold either to be a very magical language like how I’d hold Greek or Hebrew or Arabic, largely due to the lack of meaningful isopsephy/gematria or stoicheia of the letters for the Roman script common to both Latin and English.  I also didn’t list Hebrew here because, for the sake of my energy work, I largely focus on Greek stuff (for the Mathēsis side of things) or Arabic (for the geomantic side), and Hebrew doesn’t fit into either category.

However, there is another option for coming up with an intonation that is rooted in geomantic practice: the BZDH (or BZDA) technique.  This is a little-known technique in Western geomancy that seems to have had more use in Arabic geomancy.  As I said in the earlier post about the geomantic figures and the human body:

From my translation of the 15th century work Lectura Geomantiae:

By the Greek word “b z d a” we can find the house of the figures, which is to say in which house the figures are strongest, wherefore when the first point starting from the upper part of the beginning figure is odd, the second house is strong; when the second point is odd, the seventh house is strong; when the third point is odd, the fourth house is strong; when the fourth and last point is odd, the eighth house is strong. Thus we will find by this number the proper houses of the figures; by “b” we understand 2, by “z” 7, by “d” 4, by “a” 8, as in this example: “b z d a”.

This may not make a lot of sense on its own, but compare what Felix Klein-Franke says in his article “The Geomancy of Aḥmad b. `Alī Zunbul: A Study of the Arabic Corpus Hermeticum” (AMBIX, March 1973, vol. XX):

The best taskīn is that of az-Zanātī; it bears the key-word bzdḥ: according to the principle of Gematria, the transposition of letters of a word into numbers, in place of bzdḥ there result the numbers 2748. Thus the Mansions of the taskīn are indicated; each spot denotes one of the four elements; in the 2nd Mansion there is only the element Fire (Laetitia, ḥayyān), in the 7th Mansion only Air (Rubeus, ḥumra), in the 4th Mansion only Water (Albus, bayāḍ), and in the 8th Mansion only Earth (Cauda Draconis, rakīza ẖāriǧa).

Stephen Skinner clarifies this even further in his works on geomancy.  From his 1980 book “Terrestrial Astrology: Divination by Geomancy”:

Further specialized configurations or taskins are outlined together with mnemonics for remembering their order. Gematria, or the art of interpreting words in terms of the total of’ the numerical equivalents of each of their letters, is introduced at this point. Using the mnemonic of a particular taskin such as Bzdh, Zunbul explains that the letters represent the four Elements, in descending order of grossness. Each letter also represents a number in Arabic, thus:

b – 2 – Fire
z – 7 – Air
d – 4 – Water
h – 8 – Earth

This mnemonic therefore indicates House number 2 for Fire, House number 7 (Air), House number 4 (Water), and House number 8 (Earth). For each of the Houses indicated in this taskin, we see that the second is most compatible with Fire, the seventh with Air, and so on. Therefore, if the geomantic figure Laetitia (or in Arabic Hayyan), which is solely Fire, occurs in the second House, this would be. an extremely favourable omen. Likewise, the occurrence of Rubeus (or Humra), which is solely Air, in the seventh House would also be extremely auspicious. Further chapters are devoted to even more complicated combinations of the basic figures, and to labyrinthine rules for everything from marriage to medicine. Diagnosis by raml even became a lay rival of the latter, and tables were educed of the relationship between specific parts of the body and the geomantic figures.

In other words, based on these letters, we could intone a particular sound that starts with the letter “b” for Fire, “z” for Air, “d” for Earth, and “ḥ” (think of the guttural “ch” of German, but further back in the throat).

So, in this technique, we have four consonants that correspond to four elements.  We could use this BZDH technique to use these four consonants, each associated with one of the four elements according to an obscure technique in Arabic and early Western geomancy, to create a simple, clear syllable for each element when paired with a simple long vowel:

• Arabic method:
• Fire:  (با)
• Air:  (زا)
• Water:  (دا)
• Earth: ḥā (حا)
• Greek method:
• Fire:  (ΒΗ)
• Air:  (ΖΗ)
• Water:  (ΔΗ)
• Earth:  (Ἡ)
• Latin method:
• Fire: ba
• Air: za
• Water: da
• Earth: a

Note that I’m largely using the “ah” sound a lot for these.  For one, in Greek, this is the vowel Alpha, which is associated with the Moon, which is one of the planets closest to the sphere of the Earth and which is one of the planets most aligned with the element of Earth.  Additionally, this would be represented in Arabic with the letter ‘Alif, which has the form of a straight vertical line, much like the geomantic figure Via (or Tarīq using its Arabic name), which is also a figure associated with the Moon and which is important as it contains all four elements; in this case, the “ah” sound would be most aligned to that of the powers of geomancy as a whole, I would claim.  Note, also, how the Latin transcription of ḥ (to represent the element Earth) turned into “a”; if you wanted to think of geomancy as primarily being an oracle of Earth (which is a claim I take some issue with), then the “ah” sound would indeed be closest for phonologically working with the elements from a geomantic perspective and from our worldly, manifest basis.  Yet, we’re using Ēta for the Greek method given above; for one, this is because there’s no distinct vowel for “long a”, but “long e” is a close-enough approximation.  Using ΒΑ, ΖΑ, ΔΑ, and Ἁ for them would work as well, but using Ēta is also acceptable in this case.

Now, remember that these four consonants are used because they have their origins in being specifically labeled as elemental in the original geomantic technique from whence they come due to their numerological (gematria or isopsephic) significance. The mnemonic BZDḤ was used based on the numerological values of those letters in Arabic: bāʾ for 2, zāy for 7, dāl for 4, and ḥāʾ for 8.  Interestingly, these same consonants were used in the European version of the technique as BZDA (with A replacing Ḥāʾ, though it makes more sense to consider it H) even though it’s not technically the letters that were important, but their numerical equivalents.  If we were to simply go by their numerological (or numeric order) basis, then we should use ΒΔΗΘ for Greek or BDGH for Latin.  I suppose that one could use these letters instead for the BZDH technique-based intonation syllables, but I feel like using the original BZDH (or BZDḤ) is truer to the elements themselves, though the true Greek system could also work given their stoicheic meanings: Bēta associated with the Fire sign Aries, Delta associated with the Air sign Gemini, Ēta (used consonantally as an aspiration/aitch letter) representing the planet Venus which can be associated with the element of Water, and Thēta associated with the element of Earth itself.  So, one could also use a Greek ΒΔΗΘ system like this (using Ēta below, but again, Alpha would also work):

• Fire:  (ΒΗ)
• Air: (ΔΗ)
• Water: (Ἡ)
• Earth: thē (ΘH)

Or a Latin BDGH system as:

• Fire: ba
• Air: da
• Water: ga
• Earth: ha

Again, I’m not a fan of using Latin generally, but I can see an argument for using a BDGH system here because it’s not really words, isopsephy, or stoicheia here that are necessarily important.  However, if we were to use Greek isopsephy for determining which letters to use to represent the four elements for a Greek ΒΔΗΘ system, why not use the Greek stoicheia for them, instead?  It breaks with why we were using numbers to begin with, but we already know the letters Khi, Phi, Ksi, and Thēta work quite well for the four elements themselves, so if we were taking a purely elemental approach, it seems more proper to just use the elemental letters instead of the numerologically-appropriate letters and their natural vowels (specifically their long versions to keep with the theme of using long vowels for the epodes):

• Fire: khei (ΧΕI)
• Air: phei (ΦΕI)
• Water: ksei (ΞΕI)
• Earth: thē (ΘH)

There are definitely arguments for the use of the stoicheically-appropriate letters (ΧΦΞΘ) over the others, or the isopsephically-appropriate ones (ΒΔΗΘ), or the transliterated Arabic ones (ΒΖΔΗ).  In a more Mathēsis-pure approach, I’d probably go with the stoicheic letters, but in this particular case, I’d recommend most the transliterated Arabic ones, because that set of letters ties this energy practice closest to the original geomantic technique.  I suppose experimentation would show which is best, but I’m most comfortable sticking with the BZDH technique.

However, even using the BZDH technique as a foundation for this, an interestingly extensible system of syllables can also be devised where the BZDH technique of using different consonants is mixed with using Greek vowels that were similar enough in element to those four consonants.  For this mashup, I used my Mathēsis understanding of the planets and their positions on the mathētic Tetractys or the planetary arrangement for the geomantic figures to get vowels for the elements, and settled on using Iōta (Sun) for Fire, Upsilon (Jupiter) for Air, Ēta (Venus) for Water, and Alpha (Moon) for Earth.  Though Mars would be more appropriate for Fire and Saturn for Earth, their corresponding vowels are Omicron and Ōmega, which may not be distinct enough for this purpose, as I feel like it should be, so I made a sufficiently-acceptable substitution to use the Sun for Fire instead of Mars, and the Moon for Earth instead of Saturn.

What’s nice about combining the BZDH technique with the planetary vowels is that we can mix and match both systems and, using our system of primary and secondary elements of the figures, get a distinct epode not only for the four elements but also for each of the sixteen geomantic figures, which can be extraordinarily useful in its own right for other magical and meditative purposes.  (And here I thought that little innovation of mine was no more than “a few sprinkles on the icing of the cake of Western geomancy” when it’s come in use time and time again!)  So, let’s see about making such a full system for all sixteen figures using the three competing Greek systems (Transliterated ΒΖΔΗ, Isopsephic ΒΔΗΘ, Stoicheic ΧΦΞΘ):

Transliterated ΒΖΔΗ System
Primary Element
Fire Air Water Earth
Secondary
Element
Fire ΒΙ
BI
Laetitia
ΖΙ
ZI
Puer
ΔΙ
DI
Puella

HI
Carcer
Air ΒΥ
BU
Fortuna Minor
ΖΥ
ZU
Rubeus
ΔΥ
DU
Via

HU
Caput Draconis
Water ΒΗ

Amissio
ΖΗ

Coniunctio
ΔΗ

Albus

Fortuna Maior
Earth ΒΑ
BA
Cauda Draconis
ΖΑ
ZA
Acquisitio
ΔΑ
DA
Populus

HA
Tristitia
Isopsephic ΒΔΗΘ System
Primary Element
Fire Air Water Earth
Secondary
Element
Fire ΒΙ
BI
Laetitia
ΔΙ
DI
Puer

HI
Puella
ΘΙ
THI
Carcer
Air ΒΥ
BU
Fortuna Minor
ΔΥ
DU
Rubeus

HU
Via
ΘΥ
THU
Caput Draconis
Water ΒΗ

Amissio
ΔΗ

Coniunctio

Albus
ΘΗ
THĒ
Fortuna Maior
Earth ΒΑ
BA
Cauda Draconis
ΔΑ
DA
Acquisitio

HA
Populus
ΘΑ
THA
Tristitia
Stoicheic ΧΦΞΘ System using Vague Elemental Vowels
Primary Element
Fire Air Water Earth
Secondary
Element
Fire ΧΙ
KHI
Laetitia
ΦΙ
PHI
Puer
ΞΙ
KSI
Puella
ΘΙ
THI
Carcer
Air ΧΥ
KHU
Fortuna Minor
ΦΥ
PHU
Rubeus
ΞΥ
KSU
Via
ΘΥ
THU
Caput Draconis
Water ΧΗ
KHĒ
Amissio
ΦΗ
PHĒ
Coniunctio
ΞΗ
KSĒ
Albus
ΘΗ
THĒ
Fortuna Maior
Earth ΧΑ
KHA
Cauda Draconis
ΦΑ
PHA
Acquisitio
ΞΑ
KSA
Populus
ΘΑ
THA
Tristitia

Note that in the ΧΦΞΘ system below, instead of using Iōta for Fire and Alpha for Earth (as given in the “vague elemental vowels” table immediately above), I went with Omicron for Fire and Ōmega for Earth because, well, if we’re going to go all the way and stick solely to using stoicheically-appropriate consonants, it makes sense to follow through and stick to using the most precisely, stoicheically-appropriate vowels. However, it breaks with the other systems here, so while this is perhaps the most suited to a pure Mathēsis or purely-Western approach, it doesn’t fit with any of the others and it makes a total break with any BZDH system we have.  Additionally, the similarity between Omicron and Ōmega here can cause some confusion and difficulty for those who aren’t precise with their pronunciations, even if the system is precisely correct as far as stoicheia goes.

Stoicheic ΧΦΞΘ System using Exact Elemental Vowels
Primary Element
Fire Air Water Earth
Secondary
Element
Fire ΧΟ
KHO
Laetitia
ΦΟ
PHO
Puer
ΞΟ
KSO
Puella
ΘΟ
THO
Carcer
Air ΧΥ
KHU
Fortuna Minor
ΦΥ
PHU
Rubeus
ΞΥ
KSU
Via
ΘΥ
THU
Caput Draconis
Water ΧΗ
KHĒ
Amissio
ΦΗ
PHĒ
Coniunctio
ΞΗ
KSĒ
Albus
ΘΗ
THĒ
Fortuna Maior
Earth ΧΩ
KHŌ
Cauda Draconis
ΦΩ
PHŌ
Acquisitio
ΞΩ
KSŌ
Populus
ΘΩ
THŌ
Tristitia

deep breath

Okay.  So, that’s all a lot of tables and lists and examples and options to pick from, all of which are nice and all, but where does that leave us?

What we wanted to come up with was a set of four simple intonable syllables—our “epodes”—to work with the four classical elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth, much as how we have the seven Greek vowels to work with the seven traditional planets.  While a straightforward option would be to simply intone the words for the elements themselves, we can use an obscure geomantic technique that gives us four consonants to reflect the four elements, which we can then intone by adding a vowel to it.  However, we can make variants of this system based on how far we want to take the logic of why we have those four consonants to begin with, even going so far as to come up with a set of sixteen epodes for each of the geomantic figures.  These geomantic epodes work within the same overall system because the geomantic figures are compositions of the four elements, and the figures Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia are the geomantic figures that represent single elements unmixed with any other, which is a fact I’ve been able to use before for coming up with gestures for the four elements using the same logic.

Now, because of all the possibilities of what script to use (Arabic, Greek, Roman), what consonants to use (BZDH or the script-appropriate variants based on numerical order within that script’s alphabet), and what vowels to use (the “ah” sound, Ēta for Greek variants, or using stoicheically-appropriate vowels based on the planetary affinities towards the elements), we end up with quite a few different options for our elemental epodes:

Fire Air Water Earth
Words Arabic نار
nar
هواء
hawa’
ماء
ma’
تراب
turab
Greek πῦρ
pũr
ἀήρ
aḗr
ὕδωρ
húdōr
γῆ
gē̃
Latin ignis aer aqua terra
ΙΑΩ Names ΧΙΑΩΧ
khiaōkh
ΦΙΑΩΦ
phiaōph
ΞΙΑΩΞ
ksiaōks
ΘΙΑΩΘ
thiaōth
Transliterated Arabic با
زا
دا
حا
ḥā
Greek
Ēta
ΒΗ
ΖΗ
ΔΗ

Greek
Alpha
ΒΑ
ba
ΖΑ
za
ΔΑ
da

ha
Roman BA ZA DA A
Isopsephic Greek
Ēta
ΒΗ
ΔΗ

ΘH
thē
Greek
Alpha
ΒΑ
ba
ΔΑ
da

ha
ΘΑ
tha
Roman BA DA GA HA
Hybrid Transliterated ΒΙ
bi
ΖΥ
zu
ΔΗ

ha
Isopsephic ΒΙ
bi
ΔΥ
du

ΘΑ
tha
Mathēsis Natural
Vowels
ΧΕΙ
khei
ΦΕΙ
phei
ΞΕΙ
ksei
ΘΗ
thē
Vague
Vowels
ΧΙ
khi
ΦΥ
phu
ΞΗ
ksē
ΘΑ
tha
Exact
Vowels
ΧΟ
kho
ΦΥ
phu
ΞΗ
ksē
ΘΩ
thō

See now why I had to break all this out into its own separate post?

Originally, I was using the ΙΑΩ-based epodes, but I never really liked them, especially compared to all the other elegant options we have now based on the BZDH technique or its variants.  Of course, we have quite a few options now, and there are plenty of arguments for and against each one.  Here’s what I recommend based on your specific approach:

• If you’re using a strict Arabic or classically “pure” geomantic system apart from planetary or other concerns and want to stick to the root of geomancy as much as possible, despite any other advantages out there from the other systems, use the Transliterated BZDH system, most preferably the Arabic system (bā/zā/dā/ḥā) or the Greek-Alpha system (ΒΑ/ΖΑ/ΔΑ/Ἁ), depending on how good your pronunciation skills at pharyngeal consonants are.
• If you’re using a purely Greek system that wants to use the advantages of the stoicheia of the Greek alphabet as much as possible, use the Mathēsis system with exact vowels (ΧΟ/ΦΥ/ΞΗ/ΘΩ).
• If you’re a general Western geomancer with no particular leanings towards or against any particular niche, use the Hybrid system with transliterated consonants (ΒΙ/ΖΥ/ΔΗ/Ἁ).  This would be considered the middle approach between the two extremes of “original root source” and “Mathēsis-only stoicheia please”, and is probably appropriate for the largest number of people given its ease of use and pronunciation.

Likewise, for the use of the geomantic epodes:

• If you want a more general use, go with the Transliterated ΒΖΔΗ System.
• If you want a specialized mathētic use, go with the Stoicheic ΧΦΞΘ System with exact vowels.

Of course, given all the options above, there’s plenty of room for experimentation, and I’m sure one could extend the logic of the BZDH system (whether through transliteration, isopsephy, or stoicheia) even further and combining it with other vowel systems to come up with more options, or there would be still other ways to come up with elemental epodes (and maybe even geomantic epodes, as well) that aren’t based on the BZDH or ΧΦΞΘ systems!  As with so much else with geomantic magic, there’s so much to experiment and toy with, because it’s such a fertile and unexplored field of occult practice, so if you want to experiment with these or if you have other systems you use, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Meditating on the Abacedarian Ancient Words of Power

I think it’s been too long since I mentioned everyone’s favorite ancient grimoire, the Greek Magical Papyri, isn’t it?  Yes, it has been too long, especially when there are some real gems in there (and in the related Demotic Magical Papyri) that can help us out to this day, especially since I was reminded not too long ago of one particular selection from the PGM that can help us out in our mathesis work.

Although the majority of the well-preserved PGM spells are at the beginning of the collection, some of the later ones are pretty awesome, even if they’re fragmented.  PGM CI.1-53 contains a full binding ritual, a καταδεσμος or defixio, using the spirits of the dead to bring a woman in love to the magician.  The magician in question threatened the gods of the world with upsetting the cosmic order and constrained the spirits to carry out his will, and in the process used a series of barbarous words of power to constrain the forces of the cosmos to do his bidding.  That series of magical words is rather special, since we see almost nothing like it elsewhere: a list of 24 magical words, each starting with a different letter of the Greek alphabet.

Letter Word of Power
Α ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ Akrammakhamarei
Β ΒΟΥΛΟΜΕΝΤΟΡΕΒ Būlomentoreb
Γ ΓΕΝΙΟΜΟΥΘΙΓ Geniomūthig
Δ ΔΗΜΟΓΕΝΗΔ Dēmogenēd
Ε ΕΝΚΥΚΛΙΕ Enkyklie
Ζ ΖΗΝΟΒΙΩΘΙΖ Zēnobiōthiz
Η ΗΣΚΩΘΩΡΗ Ēskōthōrē
Θ ΘΩΘΟΥΘΩΘ Thōthūthōth
Ι ΙΑΕΟΥΩΙ Iaeūōi
Κ ΚΟΡΚΟΟΥΝΟΩΚ Korkoūnoōk
Λ ΛΟΥΛΟΕΝΗΛ Lūloenēl
Μ ΜΟΡΟΘΟΗΠΝΑΜ Morothoēpnam
Ν ΝΕΡΞΙΑΡΞΙΝ Nerxiarxin
Ξ ΞΟΝΟΦΟΗΝΑΞ Xonophoēnax
Ο ΟΡΝΕΟΦΑΟ Orneophao
Π ΠΥΡΟΒΑΡΥΠ Pyrobaryp
Ρ ΡΕΡΟΥΤΟΗΡ Rerūtoēr
Σ ΣΕΣΕΝΜΕΝΟΥΡΕΣ Sesenmenūres
Τ ΤΑΥΡΟΠΟΛΙΤ Tauropolit
Υ ΥΠΕΦΕΝΟΥΡΥ Ypephenūry
Φ ΦΙΜΕΜΑΜΕΦ Phimemameph
Χ ΧΕΝΝΕΟΦΕΟΧ Khenneopheokh
Ψ ΨΥΧΟΜΠΟΛΑΨ Psykhompolaps
Ω ΩΡΙΩΝ Ōriōn

With the exception of the words for Alpha and Omega, each word starts and ends with the same letter of the alphabet, and based on the structure of the words, it’d appear as if some of them were originally meant to be palindromes, words running the same in both directions.  Regardless of whether the words are supposed to be palindromes, they pack some power, and can be seen in echoes across the PGM.  Consider the words ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ, ΘΩΘΟΥΘΩΘ, and ΩΡΙΩΝ: the first is a well-known voces magicae meaning “cast off the nets” and can be used to dispel protections or wards; the second is a triple name of the Egyptian god Thoth, and the last is the hero from Greek mythology and one of the most well-known constellations in the sky.

Although these words can be used as magical names of the letters and, by extension, the world of correspondences to each letter (such that ΤΑΥΡΟΠΟΛΙΤ encompasses both the zodiacal world of Pisces as well as the divine realm of Poseidon, and more) and likely have many magical uses, the first one that came to my mind was in meditation and contemplation of these worlds.  After all, it’s part of my daily mathesis ritual that I do a meditation on the letter of the day of the lunar month, so when I have the time during the day, I’ll spend a bit longer after doing my letter chants and enter into a more contemplative state of mind.  In a way, this is basically scrying the letter, but it’s a little different from how I’ve done it in the past.

So, when I sit down to do my daily mathesis rituals, I start with some basic breathing exercises to calm down the mind and body; it helps that I usually do at least 15 minutes of awareness meditation before this, too, but you don’t strictly need that.  Then I recite the Invocation of the Tetractys, and I do my Tetractyean meditation and visualization.  Once I finish that, I’ll then begin what I call my letter chants, or (as I tentatively call it in Greek) γραμματωδαι (grammatōdai, sing. grammatōdē).  I’m still settling into the pattern I want to use for them, but I’ve broken it into several styles based on what type of letter it is.  Once I finish the grammatōdai, I’ll do some visualization to open up a doorway into the world of the letter using the mystical word associated with it, and see what comes out of that.

First, let’s split up the 24 Greek letters into four groups: vowels, stop consonants, continuing consonants, and complex consonants.

• The seven vowels (letters that produce a clear vocal sound) are pretty straightforward: Α, Ε, Η, Ι, Ο, Υ, Ω
• Stop consonants are those which are produced from one action in the mouth and stop the airflow completely: Β, Γ, Δ, Κ, Π, Τ
• Continuing consonants are those which are produced from one action in the mouth but can be vocally continued: Ζ, Λ, Μ, Ν, Ρ
• Complex consonants are those which are produced from two actions in the mouth: Θ, Ξ, Φ, Χ, Ψ

The first part of the meditation is to intone the name of the letter.  I’ll slowly and powerfully say the name of the letter (alpha, beta, etc.) at least once and no more than nine times, depending on the pythmenic value of the letter, but once usually suffices.  While doing this, I’ll picture the written form of the letter clearly in my mind.  I repeat this step until I get the “feel” and image of the letter solidly situated in my mind and body.

After this, I’ll start repeating the “simple” sound of the letter repeatedly at a quick pace.  For consonants, this just involves making the sound over and over again.  Thus, for Beta, I’ll go “buh buh buh buh buh buh buh”, for Kappa “kh kh kh kh kh kh kh kh”, for Theta “th th th th th th th”, and so forth.  Vowels are a little different, where instead of just intoning the vowel constantly I’ll separate out “repetitions” of the vowel with aspirations.  Thus, for Alpha, I’ll go “a ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha”, and so forth.  I’ll continue this for four or so full breaths, completely exhausting my lungs with each series of repetitions while maintaining my focus on the sound of the letter and the feeling it makes within me, making a note of any observation that arises from doing so.

This is followed by another set of repetitions, but much slower than the first.  Thus, for consonants, instead of going “buh buh buh buh buh” in a single breath, I’ll go “buhhhhhhh” and exhale completely, repeating again with a new breath.  For vowels, I’ll simply intone the vowel until my lungs are emptied, e.g. “ahhhhhhhhhh”.  I try to do at least four times as many slow repetition breaths as I do the fast repetition breaths, this time letting myself get completely absorbed in the simple sounds themselves.

The next step depends on whether I’m meditating on a consonant or a vowel, but the point here is to begin to vocalize the letter with vowels:

• For consonants, I’ll take the consonant and go through each of the seven vowels, mixing each with the letter in different ways.  Using the notation where C indicates the consonant and V indicates the vowel, I’ll intone the CV, VC, VCV, and CVC combinations with the consonant and every vowel, starting first with Alpha through Omega and then starting again with Omega and going through Alpha.  So, with Beta, I’ll intone: ΒΑ ΒΕ ΒΗ ΒΙ ΒΟ ΒΥ ΒΩ, ΒΩ ΒΥ ΒΟ ΒΙ ΒΗ ΒΕ ΒΑ; ΑΒ ΕΒ ΗΒ ΙΒ ΟΒ ΥΒ ΩΒ, ΩΒ ΥΒ ΟΒ ΙΒ ΗΒ ΕΒ ΑΒ; ΑΒΑ ΕΒΕ ΗΒΗ ΙΒΙ ΟΒΟ ΥΒΥ ΩΒΩ, ΩΒΩ ΥΒΥ ΟΒΟ ΙΒΙ ΗΒΗ ΕΒΕ ΑΒΑ; ΒΑΒ ΒΕΒ ΒΗΒ ΒΙΒ ΒΟΒ ΒΥΒ ΒΩΒ, ΒΩΒ ΒΥΒ ΒΟΒ ΒΙΒ ΒΗΒ ΒΕΒ ΒΑΒ.  Thus, for every consonant, there are 4 × 7 × 2 = 56 different words to intone.
• For vowels, I’ll intone different pairs of vowels, always focusing on the vowel of the day.  In this case, using X for the vowel of the day and Y for the other vowel, I’ll go through all different combinations of XY, YX, XYX, YXY.  Thus, for Alpha, I’ll intone: ΑΑ ΑΕ ΑΗ ΑΙ ΑΟ ΑΥ ΑΩ, ΑΩ ΑΥ ΑΟ ΑΙ ΑΗ ΑΕ ΑΑ; ΑΑ ΕΑ ΗΑ ΙΑ ΟΑ ΥΑ ΩΑ, ΩΑ ΥΑ ΟΑ ΙΑ ΗΑ ΕΑ ΑΑ; ΑΑΑ ΑΕΑ ΑΗΑ ΑΙΑ ΑΟΑ ΑΥΑ ΑΩΑ; ΑΩΑ ΑΥΑ ΑΟΑ ΑΙΑ ΑΗΑ ΑΕΑ ΑΑΑ; ΑΑΑ ΕΑΕ ΗΑΗ ΙΑΙ ΟΑΟ ΥΑΥ ΩΑΩ, ΩΑΩ ΥΑΥ ΟΑΟ ΙΑΙ ΗΑΗ ΕΑΕ ΑΑΑ.  Thus, for every vowel, there are another 56 words to intone.  I don’t have a glottal stop or an aspiration between vowels, so the sound changes smoothly between each vowel.

I’ll usually do the vocalizations once, but if they don’t seem to have kicked in yet and settled into my body and mind, I’ll start it over again another time.  After this, I’ll do another set of quick simple repetitions followed by long simple repetitions of the pure sound, followed by another set of repetitions of the name of the letter.  Note that, throughout this whole time, I’ll be holding the image of the letter itself in my mind, usually without color but occasionally fluctuating depending on the vowel being intoned.

Once I finish intoning the name of the letter for the last time, by this point I’m already in a good headspace for going into a trance session into scrying the letter.  To begin this, I continue visualizing the letter in my mind, but then I picture it being placed on top of a veil split down the middle, supported by a stone threshold.  Both the color of the cloth and the style of the threshold will differ based on the letter itself and the feelings it’s given me; some are simple linen supported by a few sticks, some are black velvet with gold threading supported in a temple entryway, and others are yet different. All the same, the veil hangs down flat, and I approach the veil in my mind.  I then intone, both mentally and physically, the full magical word for the letter, into the visualization of the letter on the cloth.  At this point, the veil tends to fly apart like it’s being blasted by a gust of wind from behind, and I enter into the veil.

This scrying method is a variation of a common technique to scry or contemplate symbols using a door with the symbol emblazoned on the door itself.  However, with other symbols, I’ve been able to explore full worlds of rich imagery and sensation and people.  The letters, on the other hand, are different: I see nothing.  It’s mostly visceral sensation and sounds, which, to be honest, make sense given what these symbols are: letters, graphical representations of human articulation made from the body.  If I try to conjure any sort of mental image, I usually get a close up of a particular sound and how it might be realized in my mind as an image, e.g. a sticky wet cool sensation as blood on grass.  Usually, however, there are no mental images, only sound and sensation.  I’ll perceive motion, weight, pressure, sound, acceleration, charge, and emotion; pretty much the whole gamut except for sight, and for that matter smell and taste, too.  I’m sure that, with deeper levels of meditation, I could eventually get those, but if I’m meditating on the letters qua letters, then my perceptions will be in the same ways letters make: through physical vibration and all the effects that entails.

At some point, once I’ve had my fill of the scrying session, I’ll “back out” of the world, though it’s hard to describe how do that without an image-based perception of the place to maneuver around.  At some point, I’ll exit out back through the gate of the veil, and I’ll intone the magical word of the letter once more to shut the veil and to calm the winds that blow it open.  Once the veil is closed, I’ll focus my attention on the letter itself until just that letter exists.  I close the meditation out by breathing in the letter into my body, dissolving it entirely within me, and intoning the name of the letter on the exhale.

If you’re interested, give the letter meditation and grammatodai a try.  How does the letter feel when you pronounce it?  How does it play with the vowels?  What kinds of emotions or sensations or objects does the sound of the letter call up?  What kind of veil and threshold do you see when you visualize it for the letter?  What kinds of sensations, feelings, and perceptions do you get while scrying the letter?  How does the magical word feel compared to the magical world its linked to?

Strength of Voice

One of the most difficult problems I had in starting my career as a magician was speaking.  I mean, I’ve always had a way with words; writing has always been my forte, and was one of the things that saved my ass in college when other projects didn’t go so well.  Speaking, however, was another story; I often speak too quickly for many people to follow, and according to my parents (though I have no memories of this) I had a speech therapist help me when I was really young.  Public speaking has always given me a minor case of stage fright, and I used some herbs now and then to calm the shaking of my knees and slow me down when presenting a topic to a class.  It’s gotten better over time, but the written word was always better than my spoken word for years.

In magic, of course, one can’t always get by with writing things out, despite the inherent magic in the written word (a la Thoth-Hermes).  Prayer, for instance, nearly mandates speaking things out loud, especially in a Hellenistic or pagan context, and making my prayers “feel” powerful wasn’t a matter of my word choice.  It was a matter of speaking things willfully, intentfully, and powerfully on their own using the here-and-now voice rather than preserving and enduring ink.  Saying a consecration of fire over my altar candles never really “felt” like it took effect, and though the angels came when I conjured them, it still felt like my words were empty though I was using the proper channels and ritual to back them up.  Speaking out loud is something that has been a weak point in my magical practice, though it’s gotten better with practice.  This practice is more than just focusing on the words.  This rings too close to contemplation and meditation, and that’s not always the proper thing to do in a conjuration or a quick blessing of something, especially if you’re pressed for time, and ultimately isn’t helpful if you’re already in a meditative or focused state.  Focusing on the words is important, of course; any ritual action can benefit from increased or single-minded focus, since having the mouth talk in one direction while the mind is running in the other never helps to complete a ritual successfully.  Still, focus wasn’t really the issue.

Recent studies of mine have pointed out where this practice really took off for me, though I’m thinking about it in a new way than I did before.  In my style of aikido, there are five disciplines, one of which is called sokushin no gyō, or bell purification.  You sit down and clear the breath, then ring a bell in tune while performing a simple but loud chant.  This is usually done for a substantial amount of time, often forty minutes or more, and chanting anything loudly for forty minutes can wreak havoc on the vocal chords.  That is, unless you chant in the proper way.  Aikido teachers call it “speaking from the one-point”, or the center of the body, which is energetically the same as speaking from the navel/svadisthana chakra or the lower dantian in Chinese medicine.  Although we speak using our vocal chords, if we merely chant “from” there, we end up stressing them and causing damage; if we speak “from” our center, the vocal chords are more relaxed and aren’t stressed out from the chanting.

This is an important part of aikido in any of its disciplines; one moves or pushes the individual parts of the body to change things, but always moves with the one point and letting the rest of the body follow with it.  Walking, for instance, involves moving the one point forward and letting the legs carry it in that direction, rather than just moving the legs one in front of the other.  It’s weird to think about, but it’s an important point in aikido.  By acting from the center, we end up acting with our whole body as well as our whole mind, since the center is both the energetic center of the body as well as its physical center of mass.  If we chant or speak from the center, then, we speak with our whole body and mind unified as one, which can be done for much longer and with less strain than if we spoke or moved from any other part of the body.  The kiai, or force shout that martial artists often use, is done in the same way; instead of shouting it from the vocal chords or lungs, one shouts it from the center which helps to coordinate the body better when executing a particular technique.  Moving and acting from the center projects energy and strength in a way that uses our entire being more than if we used an individual part of the body, which uses just the strength of that part alone.

This aikido-centric way of thinking about speaking from the center is what’s really being meant when other magicians talk about vibrating or intoning words or sounds.  Some magicians talk about this from a physical standpoint, where you feel your body reverberate or feel the words reverberate in your head.  What’s really being meant here is that you’re using your entire being to speak the word, not just the body with the lungs nor the thought with the mind.  By all means, of course, vibrate your godnames until the Sun sets for the last time; it helps, and producing these sounds in the world is enough to cause changes in it and in yourself!  It’s just like me speaking the prayers of conjuration without really saying them, as it were, since the prayers still worked when I merely spoke them.  But it’s the unification of the mind and body that really puts these prayers and names and sounds and chants on a whole different level than just saying them mentally or just saying them physically with no such unification.

Unifying the mind and body feels different, too, when speaking in this way.  Physically, it doesn’t feel like much, save for something much stronger than a simple reverberation in the head; it feels like everything goes comfortably fuzzy and fizzy, or like you’re entering a trance state.  Mentally, however, it’s a lot more noticeable.  You’ll probably be aware that the thoughts in your head “feel” different depending on who’s saying them and how; for instance, your own thoughts about something you’re actively thinking about “feel” different from the chatter going on in the back of your head about monkey-mind concerns, just as the thoughts that you think “feel” different from those that spirits speak in conjuration or communion.  Likewise, thoughts that are spoken with a unified and directed mind “feel” different from thoughts with a non-unified mind.  To me, it feels like these unified-mind thoughts are “higher up”, or clearer in some way that’s hard to put into words.  It’s really similar to how the Hymns of Silence feel, now that I have experience with those.  Speaking in this way, in a sense, is applying the Hymns of Silence to back up any prayer or speech you have, which can cause far more change in the world than merely spoken words, since you have the force of the cosmos backing up your own vocal chords at that point.

When you get this feeling even once, it’s easy to keep going with it, and soon it becomes second nature to speak with this.  Spirits come to your call more often and with less delay; blessings feel more assured and secure; people snap to attention and hear you out for longer.  It still requires practice, of course, and a lack of focus can easily take away from this style of speaking, but this is a strength of voice that rivals even what Dune’s Bene Gesserit can muster.  Channeling the sacred words and names, the sounds of the vowels, and prayers takes getting used to, and it’s important to build up a familiarity with the words themselves first so the mind can easily recognize them just as so the body can easily pronounce them.  Again, it’s like aikido: it’s important to learn what the name and ideas are of the technique as well as the proper hand, arm, foot, and body motions are before one can properly apply them from the center rather than from individual body parts.  In order to unify the actions of the body and the thoughts of the mind, it’s important to have the actions and thoughts known ahead of time; you can’t unify things without anything to unify together.

If you’re not in such a martial art that puts a focus like this on its motions, never fear!  I got the hang of speaking with unified mind and body without taking aikido, too, though aikido has certainly already helped me in that regard, as well.  When you pray, don’t just rattle the words out from a book; study the prayer, feel how each word feels in the mouth, understand what feelings are triggered in the heart and what thoughts come from the mind, and then put them all together praying, essentially, from the heart.  When you vibrate the vowels of the planets, don’t just sing them loftily; feel the energies of the planets within you being directed outwards in all directions from you just as your voice can be heard in all directions, unifying you with the planetary energies already around you and strengthening yourself as well as your environment.  When you intone sacred names in the LBRP or similar rituals, don’t just shout them out; connect, commune, and open yourself up to the beings and forces behind and within those words and bring themselves to you just as you bring yourself to them.  It takes practice, but then, no strength can be developed without a good and repeated workout.