On Hermetic Tormentors and Egyptian Sins

It’s weird how research can lead you in a direction, and land you in a place, completely different from what you anticipated.

I’ve been on something of a Coptic kick for a while now, courtesy of Tobias’ post regarding Helleno-Kemetic practice over at Sublunar Space, when he brought up the very good observation that the hymns and songs used in the Coptic Christian Church are a direct descendant of otherwise ancient Egyptian musical practices.  As a result, I started listening in to a variety of Coptic hymns, and beyond the sheer beauty of it, it got me thinking about the use of Coptic as another language for Hermetic magical and religious practice.  (As if I really needed yet another language to learn.)  This led me to look into the different dialects of Coptic.  The modern Coptic church and modern Coptic speakers, such as they are, use the Bohairic dialect, based in Lower (northern) Egypt, though classically speaking, it was the Sahidic dialect that was more common as the lingua franca of Coptic, based in Upper (southern) Egypt.  Being a popular dialect common for writing texts in, is well-attributed and attested enough to study as a religious language for Hermetic stuff.

Sahidic Coptic’s area would include Hermopolis, aka Khemenu in ancient Egyptian, aka Shmun in Coptic, aka El Ashmunein in Arabic.  The placement of Hermopolis in this dialect area is important, as this was practically the city for Thoth worship as well as the worship of the  eight primordial creator deities of the Ogdoad (hence Hermopolis “city of Hermes” and Khemenu “City of Eight”), and according to some modern researchers, is a natural locus for the development of Hermetic practice and texts as well as some PGM texts (especially PGM XIII).  This is a natural draw for my attention, so I began to look up the history of this city in ancient Egypt and some of its religious practices.  This led me to begin researching the system of nomes, administrative divisions used in ancient Egypt.  I suppose it’s good to know that Hermopolis was found in the Hare Nome, Nome XV of Upper Egypt, but that’s not all that important on its own.

It was when a separate line of research of mine, diving into Egyptian texts for material to write new prayers with, combined with this information about nomes that I hit on something fascinating.  Many people are familiar with the Egyptian Book of the Dead (aka “The Book of Coming Forth by Day”) and the various scenes and trials of the afterlife, including the famous scene of the Weighing of the Heart.  For those who don’t know, the story goes like this: upon dying, the soul of the deceased is lead from its body and set on a perilous path through the Duat, the Egyptian underworld, culminating in being led by Anubis into the presence of Osiris to be judged.  The judgment would consist mostly of having the heart of the deceased weighed on a scale against the Feather of Ma`at, the goddess of truth itself: if the heart is at least as light as the feather, then the soul was judged to be pure and was admitted into the afterlife of the righteous.  If, however, the heart was heavier than the feather, then the heart of the deceased would be devoured by the fearsome beast Ammit, condemning the dead to “die a second time” and never being permitted to the true afterlife and instead forever being a restless and wandering spirit.

Leading up to this judgment of the scale, the deceased is to recite the 42 Negative Confessions (or the “42 Declarations of Purity”), oaths that describe how the deceased refrained from committing particular sins, crimes, or errors while in life.  That there are 42 such confessions here is important: each sin that was denied (e.g. “I have not stolen”, “I have not uttered curses”, etc.) was linked explicitly to one of the 42 nomes of ancient Egypt, each with its own assessor (or the Ma`aty gods) who watched over the judgment of Osiris, Anubis, and Ma`at as a sort of witness or court.  In this, there was a sort of moral code that the whole of ancient Egypt upheld in unity, and which could be seen to exemplify what morality and goodness looked like to the Egyptians.  Of course, as might be expected, different funerary texts and different versions of the Book of the Dead describe somewhat different sets of sins, but there’s massive overlap between them all.  There is some unclarity, too, in our knowledge of which assessor is linked to which nome, but we do know the names of at least a good few of them.

The number 42 caught my eye: it’s a pleasing number, to be sure, and yes, it is the number of nomes in ancient Egypt.  It is also, however, the product of 6 × 7, and since there are seven sets of six sins, this naturally made the leap in my mind to the seven planets.  No, it’s not the case that all things that come in sets of seven can be linked to the seven planets, I’m not saying that, but the description of some of these sins did bring to mind the irrational tormentors from the Corpus Hermeticum like we discussed a few months ago.  Between Book I and Book XIII of the Corpus Hermeticum, we have a good idea of what the classical Hermeticists would decry as bad, immoral, or unethical behavior that results in our being tortured and hindered from achieving our true end.

My thought was this: what if we could look at the various sins of the Negative Confessions and organize them according to the tormentors associated with the seven planets?  So, I plotted out the various sins, and came up with my own little association of different crimes or sins of the Egyptians and mapped them to the seven planets based on where they fall along the tormentors described by Book I and Book XIII of the Corpus Hermeticum.  Because there are multiple sets of sins from different funerary texts, there’s no simple one-to-one matching, and there’s no clean division in some cases into seven groups of six (e.g. there are lots more crimes relating to temple observance as well as good conduct in speech compared to sexual missteps), so I tried to combine and collate them where possible, and filled in the gaps where necessary with equally viable entries in the sin-list of the Egyptians.

To that end, this is the list I came up with.  Note that each planet is described in a joint fashion as “The Sin of X with the Tormentor of Y”, with X being provided from the list of irrational tormentors from Book XIII of the Corpus Hermeticum and Y from Book I.  It’s kinda clumsy, as Book I and Book XIII aren’t precisely talking about the same thing, though it’s tantalizingly close.  In the cases of sins in quotes, e.g. “wading in water”, those are phrases from original Egyptian texts that I wasn’t really able to fully piece together, but had to either figure out contextually or give my own interpretation of such a sin.

  1. Moon ­— The Sin of Increase and Decrease with the Tormentor of Ignorance
    1. Causing pain in general through misbehavior generally or through unknown missteps
    2. Neglect of property, both in the carelessness of one’s own property and the lack of respect for the property of others
    3. Making ungainly distinctions for oneself, i.e. polluting oneself by hubris and having one’s name submitted to the authorities for good or evil out of hubris and self-acclamation
    4. “Destroying food”, i.e. the causing of affliction, tears, grief, and hunger through wanton destruction
    5. Taking more food for oneself than what one needs, including general indulgence and the stealing of food
    6. Depriving the needy, whether of food specifically or sustenance generally, including children, orphans, and the poor
  2. Mercury — The Sin of Evil Machination with the Tormentor of Sorrow
    1. Eavesdropping and prying into matters
    2. Sullenness, i.e. grieving uselessly or feeling needless remorse
    3. Transgression of human and mundane law
    4. Quarreling, i.e. violence by words or thoughts
    5. Crookedness, e.g. tampering with scales or other instruments used for measuring
    6. Disputing, attacking people for one’s own ends with words or law without care
  3. Venus ­— The Sin of Covetous Deceit with the Tormentor of Intemperance
    1. Babbling and needlessly multiplying words in speech
    2. Slighting others through through words, especially someone of a lower rank to someone of a higher rank
    3. Debauching another in any non-sexual way
    4. Disturbing the peace and stirring up strife
    5. Debauching another in any sexual way
    6. Adultery, i.e. deceitful or objectionable sex outside the bounds of what is agreed to within relationships
  4. Sun — The Sin of the Arrogance of Rulers with the Tormentor of Lust
    1. Damaging a god’s image or otherwise defacing or damaging the property of the gods
    2. Transgressing divine and cosmic law
    3. “Wading in water”, i.e. defiling the sacred springs, rivers, and other bodies of water of the gods, or otherwise messing with the natural world to defile and corrupt it
    4. “Conjuration against the king”, cursing or blaspheming against a ruler or leader acting with the divine license and power of the gods or otherwise acting appropriately and respectfully of the law both mundane and divine
    5. Killing the sacred animals of the gods, including the irreverent slaughter of sacred bulls as well as otherwise hunting, trapping, or catching animals from the sacred precincts of the gods
    6. Reviling the gods, e.g. cursing the gods or treating them with contempt, including blocking their processions
  5. Mars — The Sin of Impious Daring and Reckless Audacity with the Tormentor of Injustice
    1. Impatience, i.e. acting or judging with undue haste
    2. Terrorizing, including physical violence and threats of abuse to others
    3. “Being unduly active”, i.e. acting out of passion rather than reason, especially rage
    4. “Being loud-voiced”, i.e. speaking arrogantly or in anger
    5. “Being hot-tempered”, i.e. being angry without just cause
    6. Murder, i.e. the desired and intentional killing of those who do not deserve it
  6. Jupiter — The Sin of Evil Impulse for Wealth with the Tormentor of Greed
    1. Rapaciousness
    2. Wrongdoing, i.e. the general practice of evil against others for one’s own gain
    3. Stealing the property of other humans
    4. Stealing the property and offerings of the gods, the dead, and other spirits
    5. Robbery with violence
    6. Dishonest wealth, including the use of malefica against another for one’s own gain
  7. Saturn — The Sin of Ensnaring Falsehood with the Tormentor of Deceit
    1. “Being unhearing of truth”, i.e. being unwilling to know the truth or or willfully ignoring or remaining ignorant of it
    2. Falsehood, i.e. to not tell the truth to others (including exaggeration, depreciation, or omission) to mislead others for one’s own ends
    3. Lying, i.e. uttering untrue statements, including slander or libel of others
    4. Blasphemy, i.e. lying about divinity
    5. Hoodwinking, i.e. leading others into wrongdoing
    6. Perjury, i.e. to not tell the whole truth in a court of law whether mundane or divine

It’d be even cooler if there were 49 sins; this would give us a sort of primary-secondary planetary pair to arrange the sins by, such that we could say “such-and-such a sin is the sin of the Sun of Saturn”.  Alas, there’s just 42, for the reasons already described above.  But, if we consider the tormentor of the planet as a sin unto itself as a sort of primary, overarching, or root sin, then that would fulfill the same need: the tormentor-sin would be the root of all the other sins associated with the planet.  Thus, the list of sins above follow a more-or-less planetary order: the first sin of the Moon is given to Mercury (skipping over the Moon itself), the second to Venus, the third to the Sun, etc., and the first sin of Mercury to the Moon, the second to Venus (skipping over Mercury itself), the third to the Sun, etc.  It’s a loose scheme, honestly, and I’m not 100% sold on some of them, but it’s an idea to toy around with in the future.

Now, I’m not saying that these things are really Hermetic; there’s no real list of crimes or sins in Hermetic texts, nor have I found anything resembling a code of conduct for Hermetists/Hermeticists.  Still, it is nice to consider how to flesh out the things that trigger the various tormentors along Hermetic lines, and it’s also good to tie in Egyptian practices and beliefs back into Hermetic stuff given Hermeticism’s Egyptian origin and context, no matter how much Hellenic and Mediterranean philosophy gets mixed into it.  Besides, I’m not trying to rewrite or cop the Book of the Dead or other afterlife practices or beliefs here, but rather proposing a set of prohibitions for those who might consider taking their Hermetic philosophy to the next level through changes in their daily behavior.

One way we might apply this list of planetary sins, beyond simply observing the prohibitions regarding them of course, would be to take one sin from a given set each day, or each set as a whole day by day, and meditating on them.  I recall Arnemancy bringing up the practice of Mussar, using Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues as an example, but we could expand on that in this way.  For instance, we could dedicate a particular Wednesday, the day of Mercury, to one of the sins or to all six sins as a whole, contemplating it in the morning and dedicating oneself to observing that prohibition, and then contemplating and reviewing the day in the evening before bed to see how well one stuck to it and how one could improve on observing it.  Taking each sin day by day would take place across six weeks, or across seven weeks if we also include the arch-sin/tormentor of a given planet itself to bring up the total number of sins from 42 to 49.

If one were to use a whole set of sins for a given day, one could take a slightly more ritual approach to this by announcing a dedication to each of the six directions, e.g. saying “I will not engage in eavesdropping” to the East, “I will not engage in sullenness” to the South, “I will not transgress the law of this world” to the West, “I will not engage in quarreling” to the North, “I will not engage in crookedness” downwards to the Earth, and “I will not engage in disputing” upwards to Heaven.  This could be preceded and/or followed with the declaration of “I will not engage in evil machination” (the arch-sin/tormentor of Mercury) taking the place of the divine center, or this could be included in each of the six declarations said to the directions, e.g. “I will not engage in evil machination through sullenness”.  It’s an idea, at any rate, and could be good for a stricter spiritual practice that focuses on purity through abstinence of wrong behavior.

Something that struck me late in writing this post, I admit, is the lack of mention of drunkenness.  I did throw this in under the fifth (Jupiter) sin of the Moon, “taking more food for oneself than what one needs” as a form of indulgence, but that’s really more about stealing food than overindulgence in it.  Moderation is certainly a virtue, but this got me thinking a bit: overindulgence in a way that shifts the state of the mind doesn’t do much on its own, but it’s works that impact the well-being of other people and the world that matter.  Thus, being drunk isn’t a sin, but committing violence or adultery while drunk is—but it’d be as much a sin anyway even if you weren’t drunk.  After all, as Hermēs Trismegistus preaches in Book I of the Corpus Hermeticum, everyone is in a state of sloth and drunken stupor in their mindlessness as they are; what more could booze really do when we’re already at the bottom of the barrel?  Despite the noetic focus of much of Hermetic work, when it comes to day-to-day living, it’s generally the action that counts instead of the thought.  After all, without Nous, what true thinking could you have anyway that animals themselves wouldn’t already have?  And with Nous, why would you engage in wrong behavior to begin with?

As magicians and spiritual workers, obviously we have a variety of things to study as far as the practice, technology, and technique goes for our various disciplines and types of Work, but it’s equally as important to study the philosophy, theology, and cosmology behind the practice.  This goes hand-in-hand with living life in the proper way as a way to indirectly implement the philosophical components of our Work and as a way to assist and ground the practical components of it, as well.  Merely adopting a set of purity rules or fasting is good, don’t get me wrong, but considering broader notions of morality and good/right behavior should play a bigger role in this as well.  While I won’t ascribe cosmic importance to these rules above beyond a basic planetary correspondence, and while I’m certainly not saying that this is a good stand-in for what to deny while standing before Osiris, I think it’s a good set of rules to live by for a good number of people who want to lead a good life respectful of other human beings, the cosmos, and the gods themselves irrespective of the specifics of one’s religious tradition.

Correspondence of Spirits to the Greek Alphabet

Judging from my recent blog post history, you’d be forgiven if you thought that this whole damn blog, and my whole damn practice, was just about geomancy.  Technically, that’d be wrong, but I do, indeed, talk about geomancy a lot.  There’s just a lot to talk about when it comes to that topic.  One of the things I still keep up with, albeit not as much as I’d like or as much as I’d otherwise have time for, is my old Mathēsis practice, that whole system of Greek letter mystiticsm, a kind of neo-Pythagorean quasi-Hermetic system of theurgy and meditation that works closely with the Greek gods.  I’ve made some good innovations when it comes to developing this practice, from coming up with a Tetractys-based “map” of the cosmos, as well as various other meditative and purificatory practices that, even when I’m not working in a mathētic framework, still help out one way or another.  This whole thing came about through my interest and development of grammatomancy, the Greek alphabet oracle, which I’ve found to be an excellent system of divination that I also specialize in along with geomancy.  One of my finest innovations, I think, is the Grammatēmerologion, a lunisolar calendar that maps the days, months, and years themselves to different letters of the Greek alphabet for tracking feasts, holidays, rituals, and meditations, whether according to the days purely or overlaps between the letters of the days along with astrological and astronomical phenomena.  I’ve found it incredibly helpful, and I hope that others can, as well.

One of the things I find it especially useful for is arranging the days of the lunar month, from New Moon to New Moon, to the different gods of the Hellenic pantheon and other aspects of ancient Greek and Mediterranean mythos.  However, in a naïve or simple way, the Greek letters don’t really have very many associations to the various deities, divinities, and spirits, but I wanted to see how far I could take things.  For instance, it makes sense to honor Asklēpios along with Apollōn, his father, and by extension the goddesses of health like Panakeia or Hygieia or Iasō.  But what about the more obscure divinities, like Triptolemos or Amphitritē or Themis?  I began to expand the associations I was working with to associate the Greek letters to the gods, and I ended up with…well, quite a large set, especially because I wanted to be pretty darn complete or at least reasonably so.  Yanno, just in case.

That ended up in making a table so big even I wasn’t comfortable with it, so I ended up making four tables of correspondences of the various deities and spirits of a Hellenic, Pythagorean, or generally Greek pagan practice to the letters of the Greek alphabet.  I tried to make the associations as reasonably as I could, and despite the overwhelming number of entities present in Greek myth, I tried to focus on those that tended to receive cult in classical times.  Below are those tables, as reasonably complete as I could make them.  When gaps exist in the tables, that indicates that I couldn’t find anything to fit there, but that doesn’t mean that there can’t be; perhaps this table could be expanded upon over time, and I’d look forward to it.  Heck, even for the cells that are populated, I’m sure there can be additions or changes made.

What’s also nice is that these tables can also play well with the use of the Kyranides, a famous proto-grimoire “index” of the various minerals, animals, and plants of the world according to their initial letter by their Greek names; connections between those sorts of associations according to the Greek alphabet and how they might play well with the associations given by other authors and sources would be a great thing for me to (eventually) research.

Before we begin, let me share a few resources that were helpful, instrumental, or otherwise important in helping me devise these tables of divine correspondences to the Greek alphabet:

Table I: The Table of the Whole.  This table gives the high-level associations of the letters of the Greek alphabet, both the 24 letters in use from ancient times to modern times as well as the three obsolete letters Digamma, Qoppa, and Sampi, to their various associations: those of the various forces of the cosmos of the elements, planets, and signs of the Zodiac based on Cornelius Agrippa’s associations (book I, chapter 74); the singlemost important deity for that letter of the alphabet based on its corresponding force; a sacred word of power taken from PGM CI.1-53, a holy angel for each letter taken from the Coptic magical manuscript Berlin 11346, and a general part of the body commonly associated with the letters of the Greek alphabet apart from other zodiacal associations.  Note that the three obsolete letters Digamma, Qoppa, and Sampi lack most associations, and are instead given to three classes of spirits of the dead: Digamma has Ancestors of Kin (one’s own blood- and name-related family), Qoppa has Ancestors of Work (ancestors, founders, and forebears of one’s mundane and spiritual professions and lineages), and Sampi has Ancestors of the Great (culture heroes, legendary founders of cities and civilizations, as well as forgotten and wandering dead).  Other oddities, such as the presence of Eōsphoros and Hesperos for Ēta or Zeus Euēnemos for Phi are discussed below in tables for that specific class of letters.

Letter Force Deity Word Angel Body
Α
Alpha
Moon Selēnē ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ
Akrammakhamarei
ΑΧΑΗΛ
Akhaēl
Head
Β

Bēta

Aries Athēna ΒΟΥΛΟΜΕΝΤΟΡΕΒ
Būlomentoreb
ΒΑΝΟΥΗΛ
Banūēl
Neck
Γ
Gamma
Taurus Aphroditē ΓΕΝΙΟΜΟΥΘΙΓ
Geniomūthig
ΓΑΝΟΥΗΛ
Ganūēl
Arms
Δ
Delta
Gemini Apollōn ΔΗΜΟΓΕΝΗΔ
Dēmogenēd
ΔΕΔΑΗΛ
Dedaēl
Breast
Ε
Epsilon
Mercury Stilbōn ΕΝΚΥΚΛΙΕ
Enkuklie
ΕΠΤΙΗΛ
Eptiēl
Chest
Ϝ
Digamma
Ancestors
of Kin
Ζ
Zēta
Cancer Hermēs ΖΗΝΟΒΙΩΘΙΖ
Zēnobiōthiz
ΖΑΡΤΙΗΛ
Zartiēl
Back
Η
Ēta
Venus Eōsphoros and
Hesperos
ΗΣΚΩΘΩΡΗ
Ēskōthōrē
ΗΘΑΗΛ
Ēthaēl
Belly
Θ
Thēta
Earth Hēra Geēros ΘΩΘΟΥΘΩΘ
Thōthūthōth
ΘΑΘΙΗΛ
Thathiēl
Thighs
Ι
Iōta
Sun Hēlios ΙΑΕΟΥΩΙ
Iaeouōi
ΙΩΧΑΗΛ
Iōkhaēl
Knees
Κ
Kappa
Leo Zeus ΚΟΡΚΟΟΥΝΟΩΚ
Korkoūnoōk
ΚΑΡΔΙΗΛ
Kardiēl
Legs
Λ
Lambda
Virgo Dēmētēr ΛΟΥΛΟΕΝΗΛ
Lūloenēl
ΛΑΒΤΙΗΛ
Labtiēl
Ankles
Μ
Mu
Libra Hēphaistos ΜΟΡΟΘΟΗΠΝΑΜ
Morothoēpnam
ΜΗΡΑΗΛ
Mēraēl
Feet
Ν

Nu

Scorpio Arēs ΝΕΡΞΙΑΡΞΙΝ
Nerksiarksin
ΝΗΡΑΗΛ
Nēraēl
Feet
Ξ

Ksi

Water Persephonē ΞΟΝΟΦΟΗΝΑΞ
Ksonophoēnaks
ΞΙΦΙΗΛ
Ksiphiēl
Ankles
Ο
Omikron
Mars Pyroeis ΟΡΝΕΟΦΑΟ
Orneophao
ΟΥΠΙΗΛ
Oupiēl
Legs
Π
Pi
Sagittarius Artemis ΠΥΡΟΒΑΡΥΠ
Pyrobaryp
ΠΙΡΑΗΛ
Piraēl
Knees
Ϙ
Qoppa
Ancestors of
Work
Ρ
Rhō
Capricorn Hestia ΡΕΡΟΥΤΟΗΡ
Rerūtoēr
ΡΑΗΛ
Raēl
Thighs
Σ
Sigma
Aquarius Hēra ΣΕΣΕΝΜΕΝΟΥΡΕΣ
Sesenmenūres
ΣΕΡΩΑΗΛ
Serōaēl
Belly
Τ
Tau
Pisces Poseidōn ΤΑΥΡΟΠΟΛΙΤ
Tauropolit
ΤΑΥΡΙΗΛ
Tauriēl
Back
Υ
Upsilon
Jupiter Phaethōn ΥΠΕΦΕΝΟΥΡΥ
Upephenūru
ΥΜΝΟΥΗΛ
Hymnūēl
Chest
Φ
Phi
Air Zeus
Euēnemos
ΦΙΜΕΜΑΜΕΦ
Phimemameph
ΦΙΛΟΠΑΗΛ
Philopaēl
Breast
Χ
Khi
Fire Hadēs ΧΕΝΝΕΟΦΕΟΧ
Khenneopheokh
ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥΗΛ
Khristūel
Arms
Ψ
Psi
Spirit Dionysos ΨΥΧΟΜΠΟΛΑΨ
Psykhompolaps
ΨΙΛΑΦΑΗΛ
Psilaphaēl
Neck
Ω
Ōmega
Saturn Phainōn ΩΡΙΩΝ
Ōriōn
ΩΛΙΘΙΗΛ
Ōlithiēl
Head
ϡ
Sampi
Ancestors of
the Great

Table II: the Table of the Seven Vowels.  This table expands on the seven vowels of the Greek alphabet, which are given most strongly to the seven traditional planets.  Each planet has its own specific astral titan associated with it, such as Selēnē for the Moon or Hēlios for the Sun, but note that Venus has two astral titans for it, Eōsphoros and Hesperos, because historically this planet was reckoned as two separate entities, Eōsphoros as the Morning Star when Venus rose before the Sun and visible in the dawn hours before sunrise, and Hesperos as the Western Star when Venus set after the Sun and visible in the dusk hours after sunset.  Based on the directions associated with these letters as given in the Heptagram Rite of PGM XIII.734—1077, each of these planets may also be given to the four Elder Titans along with their mother Gaia and their father Ouranos.  Other deities may also be assigned to the planets, such as Artemis for the Moon, along with clusters of lesser deities and other spirits associated with those deities.

Letter Planet Star Titan Deities Cluster
Α Moon Selēnē Hyperiōn Hekatē,
Artemis
Mēnai,
Hōrai
Ε Mercury Stilbōn Koios Hermēs Dioskouroi
Η Venus Eōsphoros,
Hesperos
Iapetos Aphroditē Hesperides
Ι Sun Hēlios Kriōs Apollōn, Dionysos,
Eōs, Theia
Hēliades
Ο Mars Pyroeis Gaia Arēs, Hēphaistos,
Hēraklēs
Υ Jupiter Phaethōn Kronos Zeus,
Ouranos
Ω Saturn Phainōn Ouranos Kronos, Adrasteia,
Khronos
Erinyes,
Moirai

Table III: the Table of the Five Complex Consonants. This table expands on the five complex or double consonants of the Greek alphabet, which are given to the four elements plus the quintessence, the meta-element of Spirit.  Each of these is presided over by one of five gods, with the four classical elements associated with Zeus, Hēra, Hadēs, and Persephonē according to the Greek philosopher Empedocles.  To distinguish this specific Zeus and Hēra from their other forms, the titles “Zeus Euēnomos” (Zeus of the Good Winds) and “Hēra Geēros” (Hera of the Earth) are given specifically to them.  Along with these major divinities, other minor divinities who often received cult and are associated with these elements are given, along with important clusters of (often-named individual) spirits and lesser gods as well as general classes of various spirits.

Letter Element Major
Deity
Minor
Deities
Cluster Spirits
Θ Earth Hēra Geēros Gaia, Rhea, Kybelē,
Mēter Theōn
Kourētes,
Korybantes
Karpoi,
Panes
Ξ Water Persephonē Aphroditē, Ōkeanos,
Tēthys, Hekatē
Seirenēs Naiades,
Potamoi
Φ Air Zeus Euēnemos Aiolos,
Hēra
Anemoi,
Harpyiai
Aurai,
Nephelai
Χ Fire Hadēs Hēphaistos, Hestia,
Hekatē
Erinyes,
Nekrotagoi
Lampades
Ψ Spirit Dionysos Promētheus, Iakkhos,
Priapos
Mainades,
Satyroi

Table IV: the Table of the Twelve Simple Consonants.  This table expands on the twelve simple or single consonants of the Greek alphabet, which are given to the twelve signs of the Zodiac.  Each of these zodiac signs are assigned to one of the twelve Olympian gods according to the Orphic Scale of Twelve as given by Cornelius Agrippa (book II, chapter 14) as their prime divinity, along with lesser or alternate divinities who are closely associated with the functions, roles, and ideals of those gods.  Along with these, other sacred figures are given according to the specific body of the zodiac sign, such as the divine twins Dioskouroi to the sign of the twins of Gemini, as well as important clusters of (often-named individual) spirits and lesser gods as well as general classes of various spirits that are also associated with the major divinities of these letters.

Letter Zodiac
Sign
Maior
Deity
Minor
Deities
Zodiac
Deity
Cluster Spirits
Β Aries Athēna Nikē, Mētis, Pronoia,
Hēphaistos, Erikhthonios
Γ Taurus Aphroditē Erōs, Adonis, Harmonia,
Peithō, Parēgoros
Kharites,
Erōtes
Naiades
Δ Gemini Apollōn Aristaios, Lētō,
Hymenaios, Asklēpios,
Hygeia, Panakeia, Iasō
Dioskouroi Mousai
Ζ Cancer Hermēs Pan, Morpheus,
Maia, Hērakles
Pleiades Panes, Oneiroi,
Oreiades
Κ Leo Zeus Tykhē, Nemesis, Themis,
Ganymēdēs, Hēraklēs,
Bia, Nikē, Kratos, Zēlos
Moirai,
Hōrai
Λ Virgo Dēmētēr Persephonē, Triptolemos,
Hekatē, Ploutos, Iakkhos
Asteria Hōrai
Μ Libra Hēphaistos Athēna, Kēladiōn Dikē Kyklōpes,
Kabeiroi,
Palikoi
Kēlēdones,
Kourai
Ν Scorpio Arēs Phobos, Deimos,
Eris, Enyō
Graiai,
Gorgones
Π Sagittarius Artemis Lētō, Hekatē Kheirōn Nymphai,
Dryades
Ρ Capricorn Hestia Pan
Σ Aquarius Hēra Hēbē, Eileithyia, Iris Ganymēdēs Hesperides,
Kharites
Τ Pisces Poseidōn Prōteus, Amphitritē,
Tritōn, Nēreus,
Palaimon, Leukotheua
Tritones,
Nēreides

One of the fascinating things I find about this Table IV is that there’s a subtle logic in how the major divinities are assigned to the signs of the Zodiac based on the opposing sign.  Consider that Pan is the god most commonly associated with the actual form of the sign Capricorn, but Pan is also often associated with Hermēs in mythos, sometimes even being Hermēs’ own son; there’s an interesting dichotomy here between these two signs, with Hestia essentially being the goddess of what happens inside the home while Hermēs is the god of what happens outside the home.  Likewise, note how the famous centaur Kheiron (or Chiron in modern spelling) is the god of the form of the sign Sagittarius, the opposite sign of Gemini, which itself is associated with Apollōn, his adoptive father and also the father of Asklēpios, whom Kheiron later teaches as his pupil.  Ganymēdēs, too, was the famous cup-bearer taken up by Zeus and placed into the sky as the sign Aquarius, yet this sign itself is given to Hēra, who disapproved of Ganymēdēs, while the sign opposite of both Hēra and Ganymēdēs is none other than Leo, given to Zeus himself.  It’s kinda fascinating to see the logic and polarities going on with how the gods are given to the signs and how they play off each other in a coherent whole of reinforcing-oppositions.

And there you have it!  My system of correspondences I use to categorize and organize the various gods, demigods, daimones, and spirits of the classical and mythic Hellenic world according to the letters of the Greek alphabets.  I’ve personally gotten good mileage out of it, and I hope others can, too, inasmuch as a letter-based system of mysticism might be helpful, but also to just pick out associations and links between the different entities of Hellenic mythos.

Prayer for the New Year

It always makes me chuckle when I inadvertently stumble across something useful in the course of unrelated research.  Like, I’ll be looking for one thing, and even though I find something (maybe at best) tangentially related and ultimately unhelpful to my original goal, there’ll be something that just kinda screams “HEY, LOOK AT ME, I’M RIGHT HERE, LOOK AT ME”.

Lion GIF

One such thing happened recently, as you might be able to tell.  When I was thinking of ideas for geomantic holy days not too long ago, I was stuck on trying to come up with a feast day for Hermes Trismegistus.  Although I eventually settled on April 4 of the Gregorian calendar (which happily borrows the feast day of St. Isidore of Seville), I was briefly considering using an Egyptian calendar to calculate a celebration of Thoth, the Egyptian form of the god.  The idea didn’t quite work out, but I did learn a fun amount about the Coptic calendar, which is a direct descendant of the calendar used since ancient Egyptian times (even with fundamentally the same names!).

One thing about the Coptic calendar is that its New Year doesn’t match up with the European one.  Rather, it starts on 1 Thout, which historically coincided with the heliacal rising of Sirius and marked the beginning of the flood season on the Nile, but after the Julian calendar reforms, has slightly drifted away day by day over the many long years.  Nowadays, the Coptic New Year starts around September 11ish (and every century or three, the date will advance by a day or so).  Because of its connection with the beginning of the flood season, the Egyptian name for the New Year was originally Ni-Yarouou, or the “Feast of the Rivers”, but over time, this was confused with the name for the unrelated Persian New Year Nowruz (which happens at the spring equinox in their calendar).  As a result, the modern Coptic name for the New Year is Nayrouz.

In the course of trying to learn more about what’s done religiously according to certain dates of the Coptic and Egyptian calendars (which share more than a few festival dates, much like how the Europeans preserved old pagan festivals in the Christian calendar), I came across a discussion of the Feast of Nayrouz, which also included a prayer that stuck out to me and begged for meditation and use.  Given that our own calendar is coming to a close for 2017 and the New Year of 2018 is starting in a few days, I decided to adapt this prayer for something of a more general, Western use.

O God, grant us to celebrate the Feast of the New Year that we may ask for a blessed year for all humanity, and that every man and woman has the experience of Your marvelous day.  Thus will all enjoy the brightness of Your glory every day in the New Year.  Allow me, O God, to celebrate the Feast of the New Year; let me experience this joyful faith and the truth of everlasting unity with You.  Let me celebrate the feast of the martyrs as I am able, that I may testify for Your truth.  Change my life to be full of joy with You, even in the moments of my repentance.

Wondrous is the Son who paid the price of my passage to Your divine bosom!  I see You, my beloved Lord, coming to me; you have chosen me to share in Your glory; you offered Yourself as a joyful sacrifice of love.  Come quickly, o Lord!  Our hearts are enflamed with Your love; our hearts ask for nothing and no one except You.  Grant me to become an icon of You with a blessed heart full of love to all humanity, that I may become a font of joy to everyone.

Wondrous is the Holy Spirit who renews me into a heavenly bride, carrying me as if with the wings of a dove that Heaven may celebrate my wedding!  Your dwelling in me, o Holy Spirit, renews my nature; you transform my dark tomb into a holy sanctuary, you convert my darkness into exceeding brightness!  Grant me with all my brethren to fly and be with You in Heaven!

You see me, my Lord, rejoicing in You, and You become delighted in me.  The heavenly angels see me coming to You, and they welcome me.  They receive me with exceeding joy to join them in praising You.  The sinners see me full of joy, and they become filled with hope.  They see me rejoicing, and they join me in my continuous repentance.  The prophets and the apostles and all the martyrs see me, and they praise You for letting me accompany them in Your kingdom!

What a wonderful thing, that You delight in me, and all Your creation in Heaven and on Earth!  But the Devil runs away before me as he sees Your divine joy enlightening me and shining upon my face!  Glory to You, the source of joy and victory.

Grant, O Lord, that I may celebrate this and every new day of this and every new year all my life, that I may proclaim Your joyful renewal of us and the world, and that I may always be joined with You in Your tremendous love that I see You anticipating with longing for me.

Amen.

I would suggest reciting this prayer at sunset on New Year’s Eve (with sunset marking the start of the new day in most Abrahamic traditions) or at sunrise on New Year’s Day (as more Western magicians might reckon the start of the day), perhaps in front of a lit candle and crucifix facing the east, the direction from which the Sun rises and from which the Son shall come to us once more.  Besides that, however, I would also consider there to be potential in combining this prayer with a ceremony such as the Blessing of the Vessel (another Coptic ritual, but more in the vein of PGM magic) as a more magical means of bringing down the blessing of newness and freshness into a renewed water of life, to be used in refreshing the body and soul.

No matter how you use this prayer, or whether you do at all, I hope you all have a wonderful end to this year and a splendid start of the next!  Don’t forget to clean your house and put on some new clothes, too!

Blessing of the Vessel

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

In addition to Betz’s version of the Greek Magical Papyri, which is as indispensable to me as a good copy of Agrippa’s books, there’s another text I often reference when trying to find good source material from about the same time period of the early first millennium CE from the southeast Mediterranean.  Ancient Christian Magic: Coptic Texts of Ritual Power (1994) by Marvin Meyer and Richard Smith is an excellent text that uses more Coptic spells than Greek or Demotic, and although there’s some minor overlap between Meyer and Betz, there’s a hefty amount that’s only in this text.  I find that Fr. Michael Cecchetelli has also pulled or incorporated stuff into his Book of Abrasax from the same texts as are present in Meyer, so it’s a good text to read through.  It’s not formatted as nicely as Betz has done his version of the PGM, but it’s workable all the same.

One ritual from this text caught my eye recently as I was going through and rewriting my enchiridion, just to see if there was anything in it that I could use that I hadn’t already seen or glossed over.  Labeled as “Cairo, Egyptian Museum 49547”, it’s an ostracon (inscribed potsherd) described in Meyer as a “spell invoking Bathuriel and other heavenly powers”.  It’s got a distinct liturgical tone to it, and though it’s a manifestly Christian text, it also draws on Egyptian, Jewish, and Gnostic traditions.  It’s not particularly long and doesn’t seem to have any specific application, nor is there a ritual framework in which to apply it (because of course not), but it’s a good thing I’ve been experimenting with as of late.

I found another copy of the same text in an online publication, which you can find here; it’s far more academic and, accordingly, has far more footnotes and commentary to incorporate, and its author, the Mormon scholar Hugh Nibley, concludes that it’s far more than just a blessing of a cup.  Rather, he describes it as a Christian variant of the Egyptian Books of Breathing, funerary texts used to enable people to survive in the afterlife, similar to the Egyptian Book of the Dead.  Granted that Nibley translated and understood these texts with a Mormon agenda and interpreted this as an early Christian variant of the Mormon “prayer circle”, but he might be onto something interesting with that idea.

With that, here’s my interpretation and ritualization of the text.  Instead of going with Nibley’s rather stretched idea of the ritual as a thing of ennoblement or ascension of the dead in a prayer circle, I use the ritual as a more direct and obvious choice of blessing a vessel (like the Chalice) for holding the blessings of God and partaking of them in liquid form.  If you’re not doing anything else at sunrise, this is a good ritual to use first thing in the morning to prepare yourself for the day, or when preparing for some other holy act to confer blessing or initiation.

At sunrise, prepare a clean glass, chalice, or other vessel you can drink from.  Prepare an amount of either pure, clean water or holy water mixed with wine.  Use an amount that you can drink entirely in three, four, or five reasonably-sized gulps (three for the Trinity, four for the four directions, five for the five wounds of Christ), plus another dallop of water.  Set it in the middle of an altar or other clean surface, oriented towards the sunrise.  If desired, set on the altar a single white candle oriented to the East or four white candles, one for each of the four directions, as well as incense (preferably frankincense and/or myrrh) burning.

Begin by making the Sign of the Cross at each of the first six invocations:

+ Hail, El Bathuriel, who gives strength, who gives voice to the angels!
+ Hail, Adonai!
+ Hail, Eloi!
+ Hail, Abrasax!
+ Hail, Iothael!
+ Hail, Mizrael, who has looked upon the face of the Father in the power of ΙΑΩ!

Place both hands over the vessel.

I adjure you by the first seal, placed upon the body of Adam.
I adjure you by the second seal, placed upon the members of Adam.
I adjure you by the third seal, which marked the vitals and the breast of Adam when he was cast down to become dust, until Jesus Christ takes him by the hand in the embrace of his Father.

Raise both hands up to heaven.

The Father has raised him up!
He has breathed in his face, He has filled him with the breath of life!
Send to me your breath of life, unto this true and faithful vessel!
Amen, amen, amen!

Sousa, sousa, sousa!
I covenant with you by the three cries which the Son uttered on the cross: Eloi Eloi Sabaktani, “God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Holy, holy, holy!
Hail, David, the forefather of Christ, he who sings praises in the Church of the First-born of Heaven!
Hail, David, the forefather of the Lord, of the joyful ten-stringed lyre, the joyful one who sings within the the sanctuary!

Hail, Harmosiel, who sings within the veil of the Father!  They repeat after him, those who are at the entrances and those who are upon the towers.
When the Tribes of the Twelve Worlds hear what he says, they joyfully repeat after him:
Holy, holy, holy!  One holy Father!
Amen, amen, amen!

At this point, face inward and recite the Lord’s Prayer or some other exaltation of God in silence. Place the dominant hand above the cup, and raise the left one in adoration of heaven.

Hail Arebrais in Heaven and Earth!
Hail, o Sun!
Hail, you twelve little children who cover the body of the Sun!
Hail, you twelve vessels filled with water!  They have filled their hands; they have scattered abroad the rays of the Sun, that they may not burn up the fruits of the field.
Fill your hands, pronounce your blessing upon this vessel!

Pick up the cup.  In a clockwise motion, face the four directions and present the cup to the four directions with the cup up high in front of you.

Hail, you four winds of Heaven!

Again, face the four directions and present the cup to the four directions with the cup at chest level in front of you.

Hail, you four corners of the Earth!

Face the altar, holding the cup above your head in front of you.

Hail, you hosts of Heaven!

Hold the cup at chest level in front of you.

Hail, you Earth of the inheritance!

Raise the cup high above your head.

Hail, o Garden of the Saints of the Father!

Pour out just a small amount of water before you.  Drink the water from the cup in slow, measured gulps.  Holding the cup at your chest, take as many deep breaths as you had gulps of water, letting the water inside you fill your entire presence, turning into light that fills your spirit, becoming brighter with each breath.  Place the cup down on the altar.

One Holy Father +
One Holy Son +
One Holy Spirit +
Amen.

The ritual is complete.  If desired, follow up by singing hymns or psalms of praise, practice the Hymns of Silence, or perform some other empowerment ritual to build upon this.

Now, the ritual is designed above with one person in mind drinking from a single vessel.  If more people are present, a large bowl may be used, with all participants taking a cupful for themselves and practicing the ritual motions starting at “Hail Arebrais…”, drinking the liquid in unison at the end; I envision the ritual leader performing the initial few parts on their own, with everyone reciting the ritual once everyone has their own cup.

Alternatively, the use of the word “vessel” here is ambiguous; sure, it can refer to a drinking vessel like a cup or bowl, but it could also refer to a human being; instead of blessings from heaven filling a liquid, it could refer to the Holy Spirit filling a human.  This is, after all, the fundamental idea underlying both the idea of saints as well as of prophets, the word for which in Hebrew indicates hollowness or being hollowed out to hold the voice of God.  It bears experimentation to use this ritual without an actual cup, using oneself as the vessel to be reborn and filled with heavenly power and presence.

A few notes on the text itself:

  • The text begins with a Tau-Rho sign (not the usual Chi-Rho), similar to an ankh.  Meyer presents this as a cross, although Nibley says that this is supposed to be closer to an ankh than a cross.
  • The use of the name “Bathuriel” is odd; I wasn’t able to find particularly much online besides that it’s the moniker used for several gamers.  What I was able to find was that this is a name used in a few Gnostic texts to refer to God the Father, so when the text begins “Hail, El Bathuriel…”, it might be considered an epithet of God.  Nibley’s derivation of the name comes from Hebrew Bait-suri-el, or “the house of my strength is God”.  In other texts, this name is described as the “Great Power” or “Great True Name” of God.
  • Adonai and Eloi aren’t surprising appellations of God to find here, being Hebrew/Aramaic for “my Lord” and “my God”, respectively.  Abrasax, however, seems to be an appellation of God as well, not his own entity; this use of the name gives a distinct solar power to the God of this ritual, but also as divine mystagogue.
  • Mizrael (or Mistrael) may be considered an angel here, but as the embodiment of the divine authority of God, enabling him to see the true face of God behind the veil.
  • Sousa, sousa, sousa” isn’t translated from the original text, but given the context, it could be an ejaculatory cry for help, recalling the Greek σωζε or σωσαι, meaning “rescue”.
  • The use of Jesus’ cry “Eloi, eloi, elema sabaktani” (more canonically written “Eloi eloi lema sabachthani“) is a hugely popular phrase to use in many of the Coptic spells I’ve seen, including the translation of it into the language of the source text.  The original text had it in a very corrupt form on its own: “Eloi, eloi, ahlebaks atōnē“.
  • Harmosiel is another angelic entity, the one who sounds the trumpet of the presence of God and shares with Mizrael the privilege of beholding the face of God behind the veil.
  • In my view, the “Tribes of the Twelve Worlds” as well as the “twelve little children” and describe the twelve Zodiac signs and their embodiments as the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • The name “Arebrais” is lacking in full in Meyer (present as “Ab[…]ais”), but present in Nibley.  I instinctively filled the name as “Ablanais”, under the influence of the word ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, but to each his own, I suppose.
  •  The description of the “twelve vessels” with water that scatter the rays of the Sun to preserve vegetation is noted by Nibley has having a more mundane task than representing the high angels of the Zodiac; he describes them like the atmosphere and its moisture scattering the harmful rays of the Sun that would cause harm to living creatures.  This is a distinctly modern understanding, perhaps, but not a terrible way to see it.
  • “Garden of the Saints of the Father” could also be interpreted as “Authority of the Saints of the Father”, as the same word works for both.  Nibley notes that the garden is the sanctified inheritance of the saints, and the authority as that with which the saints have been invested.

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.