A Simple PGM Invocation to the Supreme Intelligence

Recently on my Curious Cat (which has been an ongoing thing that delights me endlessly, some 3300 questions later!), I was asked a simple question: “Do you know if in PGM there’s some sort of invocation of the Nous?”  Off the top of my head, I couldn’t recall any, given that the Nous is something more of a Hermetic and Platonic entity than anything typically common in the PGM, so I got out my copy and started searching through it for anything resembling it.  As it turns out, there is actually a short invocation along these lines to the Nous in the PGM that I wanted to explore a bit, especially in the slightly expanded context of where it appears.

Let’s look at PGM V.459ff, a short prayer found in see British Museum Papyrus 46, folio 7, both recto and verso.  This is my rendition of the prayer, using Betz’s version of the PGM as a base and transliterating the barbarous words back into Greek:

I call upon you who created earth and bones and all flesh and all spirit and who established the sea and suspended the heavens,
who separated the light from the darkness,
the Supreme Intelligence who lawfully administers all things!
Eternal Eye, Daimon of Daimons, God of Gods, the Lord of the Spirits,
ΑΙΩΝ ΙΑΩ ΟΥΗΙ who cannot go astray!
Hear my voice!

I call upon you, Master of the Gods, high-thundering Zeus, sovereign Zeus: ΑΔΩΝΑΙ
Lord: ΙΑΩ ΟΥΗΕ
I am he who calls upon you, great god, in Syrian: ΖΑΑΛΑΗΡ ΙΦΦΟΥ
You must not ignore my voice in Hebrew: ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ ΑΒΡΑΣΙΛΩΑ
For I am ΣΙΛΘΑΧΩΟΥΧ ΛΑΙΛΑΜ ΒΛΑΣΑΛΩΘ ΙΑΩ ΙΕΩ ΝΕΒΟΥΘ ΣΑΒΙΟΘ ΑΡΒΩΘ ΑΡΒΑΘΙΑΩ ΙΑΩΘ ΣΑΒΑΩΘ
ΠΑΤΟΥΡΗ ΖΑΓΟΥΡΗ
ΒΑΡΟΥΧ ΑΔΩΝΑΙ ΕΛΩΑΙ ΙΑΒΡΑΑΜ
ΒΑΡΒΑΡΑΥΩ ΝΑΥΣΙΦ

High-minded one, immortal one, who possess the crown of the whole world!
ΣΙΕΠΗ ΣΑΚΤΙΕΤΗ ΒΙΟΥ ΒΙΟΥ ΣΦΗ ΣΦΗ ΝΟΥΣΙ ΝΟΥΣΙ ΣΙΕΘΟ ΣΙΕΘΟ ΧΘΕΘΩΝΙ ΡΙΓΧ
ΩΗΑ Η ΗΩΑ ΑΩΗ ΙΑΩ
ΑΣΙΑΛ ΣΑΡΑΠΗΟΛΣΩ ΕΘΜΟΥΡΗΣΙΝΙ ΣΕΜ ΛΑΥ ΛΟΥ ΛΟΥΡΙΓΧ

The same, but with the barbarous words in my transcription:

I call upon you who created earth and bones and all flesh and all spirit and who established the sea and suspended the heavens,
who separated the light from the darkness,
the Supreme Intelligence who lawfully administers all things!
Eternal Eye, Daimon of Daimons, God of Gods, the Lord of the Spirits,
AIŌN IAŌ ŪĒI who cannot go astray!
Hear my voice!

I call upon you, Master of the Gods, high-thundering Zeus, sovereign Zeus: ADŌNAI
Lord: IAŌ ŪĒE
I am he who calls upon you, great god, in Syrian: ZAHALAĒR IPH-PHŪ
You must not ignore my voice in Hebrew: ABLANATHANALBA ABRASILŌA
For I am SILTHAKHŪKH LAILAM BLASALŌTH IAŌ IEŌ NEBŪTH SABIOTH ARBŌTH ARBATHIAŌ IAŌTH SABAŌTH
PATŪRĒ ZAGŪRĒ
BARŪKH ADŌNAI ELŌAI I-ABRAHAM
BARBARAUŌ NAUSIPH

High-minded one, immortal one, who possess the crown of the whole world!
SIEPĒ SAKTIETĒ BIŪ BIŪ SPHĒ SPHĒ NŪSI NŪSI SIETHO SIETHO KHTHETHŌNI RINKH
ŌĒA Ē ĒŌA AŌĒ IAŌ
ASIAL SARAPĒOLSŌ ETHMŪRĒSINI SEM LAU LOU LOURINKH

There’s a short note at the end in the usual PGM style referring to the use of the above invocation: “it loosens shackles, makes invisible, sends dreams; a spell for gaining favor.  Add the usual for what you want.”  The prayer has no other information associated with it, though it is prefixed with the label “Another way”; however, the preceding entry (PGM V.447ff) gives a ritual for a talismanic ring of Serapis for dream divination, so it doesn’t seem to be related to that, though given that the previous ritual is to Serapis (originally spelled “Sarapis”) and given the barbarious word ΣΑΡΑΠΗΟΛΣΩ (SARAPĒOLSŌ, as in Serapis; Betz and Preisendanz give this as two separate words, ΣΑΡΑΠΙ ΟΛΣΩ, but the scan of Papyrus 46 shows it as one word as given above) in the final line of this invocation, I may be mistaken, and that this invocation could also be used for dream divination.  For reference, the preceding ritual in PGM V.447ff prescribes the following:

  • Procure a “jasperlike agate” stone for setting into a ring.
  • Engrave on the front of the stone an image of Serapis seated and facing forwards holding an Egyptian royal scepter (a was scepter?) with an ibis atop the scepter, and on the reverse of the stone the name Serapis.
  • Set the stone into a ring (perhaps even have it so that the stone itself is completely encased and hidden within the ring?) and keep it secret and hidden away from anyone and everyone until you need to use the ring.
  • When you need to perform dream divination:
    • Wear the ring on the index finger of your left hand; in your right hand, hold a spray of olive and laurel twigs.
    • Wave the twigs towards “the lamp” while saying “the spell” seven times.
    • Without speaking to anyone, go to sleep, holding the ring to your left ear (perhaps most easily achieved by sleeping on your left side).

Oddly, PGM V.447ff doesn’t introduce “the lamp” or “the spell”, and this ritual seems well and truly disconnected from the preceding PGM V.370ff, which also doesn’t have a lamp, and the invocations there have nothing to do with this.  This makes me think that PGM V.447ff and V.459ff are actually part of the same ritual; the only thing that distinguishes them is the “Another way” that precedes the invocation from the latter, which is only present in the original PGM manuscript by a little squiggle on the left margin.  This same symbol, with the same “translation”, is present elsewhere in PGM V (like immediately before PGM V.172ff which follows the famous Headless Rite, folio 3 recto); granted, I’m no expert in Koiné Greek manuscript deciphering, but I’m a little doubtful of this meaning here.  I think it’s proper, rather, to read PGM V.447ff and V.459ff as one single ritual entirely, which would then mean that these two separate PGM entries are related, and that Serapis is a common factor in both; after all, the description of the invocation at the end does say that it “sends dreams”, which is exactly what the previous PGM entry aims to accomplish.

So, let’s think about both of these PGM entries, and combine them together a little more concretely.  If the whole ritual is designed to send prophetic dreams, then this is the process I would recommend.

  1. Procure a “jasperlike agate” stone, an oil lamp with a clean wick and pure oil, and a spray of olive and laurel twigs or branches.
  2. Engrave on the front of the stone an image of Serapis seated and facing forwards holding a royal scepter with an ibis atop the scepter, and on the reverse of the stone the name “Serapis” (ΣΕΡΑΠΙΣ).
  3. Either set the stone into a ring (preferably gold) or wrap it in a long band of clean, white linen.
  4. In the evening after sunset, light the lamp, and face east.
  5. With the ring on your left index finger, or with the stone bound to your left index finger with the linen wrap, hold the olive and laurel sticks in your right, and wave them in a clockwise circle towards the lamp.  While doing so, recite the invocation above seven times.
  6. Go to bed with the lamp lit, saying nothing more to anyone or for any purpose, and sleep on your left side facing the east and head pointed to the north with the ring/stone by your left ear.

In the above, a “jasperlike agate” is a little weird, since both jasper and agate are the same material (chalcedony), with the only difference being how translucent (agate) or opaque (jasper) they are.  In this case, “jasperlike agate” to me would be a chalcedony stone that is only barely translucent and mostly opaque, perhaps with only the barest of striations or bands in it.  Likewise, the scepter with an ibis on it could be a little difficult to understand; it could be the famous was-scepter, or the heka-scepter, i.e. the crook from the crook-and-flail combination.  Alternatively, given that the was-scepter itself is a rod with a stylized animal’s head on top of it, one could simply make an “ibis-scepter”, with the head of an ibis on a rod being held…though, with the long curve of the ibis beak, this would make it look awfully like a crook unto itself.

So that’s all well and good, I suppose, but what I really wanted to talk about is the invocation itself.  The whole reason why it came to my attention was the phrase “Supreme Mind” (ὁ μέγας Νοῦς, ho mégas Noûs), which is what the original anon on Curious Cat was after; the only other instances of this entity being present in the PGM are in PGM XIII (aka “the Eighth and Tenth Hidden Books of Moses”, the origin of the Heptagram Rite), but it’s more in a cosmogony/narrative sense than any invocation or ritual.  In Betz’s version, “Supreme Mind” is tagged with a footnote, that “[t]he concept of the divine Nus (Mind) is an influence from Greek philosophy”, followed by a list of citations where Nous is found in a philosophical-religious sense, including PGM XIII as well as the Corpus Hermeticum.  And it is most certainly true that Nous in the Corpus Hermeticum is a divine entity, sometimes being something divine that divine humans can attain and sometimes being the Divine Itself, so it’s tempting to view this particular entry of the PGM as being explicitly Hermetic in the Corpus Hermeticum sense.  The issue with that conclusion, however, is that I’m not sure the timeline matches up.  Historically speaking, I’m a fan of the theory that Hermeticism in the sense of the Corpus Hermeticum and related “Hermetic” texts came about as a philosophical-religious movement in the early days (or, really, centuries) of the Roman Empire, so the PGM may be roughly contemporaneous as the Corpus Hermeticum; it could be that this text was influenced by Hermeticism, sure, but it could be equally as likely that it was simply influenced by Platonism and was written either before or concurrently with Hermeticism.

Plus, there’s some other interesting stuff in this prayer I want to consider.  Do you recall our earlier talk about PGM XXIIb.1ff, the “Prayer of Jacob”, which I later redid and rewrote and augmented into a fuller Prayer of the Patriarchs?  That was an interesting bit of work, and certainly has some Hermetic (or close enough) influence, but is also surprisingly Jewish in its approach to divinity.  There’s a bit of that here, too.  There is the explicit call to the Divine (I guess the Nous, equivalent to Zeus as well as Serapis) in Hebrew (ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ ΑΒΡΑΣΙΛΩΑ, ABLANATHANALBA ABRASILŌA), but there’s also the string of barbarous words ΒΑΡΟΥΧ ΑΔΩΝΑΙ ΕΛΩΑΙ ΙΑΒΡΑΑΜ, BARŪKH ADŌNAI ELŌAI IABRAAM.  (Betz and Preisendanz just give ΑΒΡΑΑΜ, but the scan from Papyrus 46 shows ΙABRAAM.)  It’s clear, even to Betz, that this is just a Greek rendition of the Hebrew barukh [atah] Adonai, “blessed [are you], my Lord” and eloah-i Avraham, “my god of Abraham”, though “it is not clear whether or not the magician understood these words”, especially since ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ ΑΒΡΑΣΙΛΩΑ are most likely not Hebrew at all.  I mean, much of the Jewish content in the PGM is probably just aped from Jewish tradition and practices, without it being necessarily or properly Jewish in any sense, but the fact that it has a presence at all speaks to the influence of monotheistic and Abrahamic practices, even if just because of a general perception of their power.

As might be expected, many of the other barbarous words have other presences in the PGM, especially ΖΑΓΟΥΡΗ (sometimes along ΠΑΤΟΥΡΗ or ΠΑΓΟΥΡΗ, notably PGM LXXXVIII.1ff), ΛΑΙΛΑΜ, and others.  ΝΕΒΟΥΘ is unusual, in that it’s super close to ΝΕΒΟΥΤ, which starts the barbarous word ΝΕΒΟΥΤΟΣΟΥΑΛΗΘ, which is often found in contexts related to Set or Hekatē.  The first bit of the final set of barbarous words (ΣΙΕΠΗ ΣΑΚΤΙΕΤΗ ΒΙΟΥ ΒΙΟΥ ΣΦΗ ΣΦΗ ΝΟΥΣΙ ΝΟΥΣΙ ΣΙΕΘΟ ΣΙΕΘΟ…) is almost found identically in PGM XIII.734ff as well as in PGM I.232ff, PGM II.64ff, and PGM XII.96ff; there seems to be a regularly reoccuring formula consisted of duplicated words like these.  The “Syrian” name ΖΑΑΛΑΗΡ ΙΦΦΟΥ (Betz and Preisendanz give it as one word, but Papyrus 46 seems to show a space in it) is a weird one, and I can’t find anything resembling it in the rest of the PGM; while I don’t think it’s Aramaic or “Syrian” at all, I think it’d be interesting to see if there is an actual origin for this word, or if there is something close to it in the rest of the PGM, perhaps with some variation of spelling (though I couldn’t find any from the likely variations I came up with).

Given the various types of barbarous words in this invocation, the lack of asking for anything specific within the prayer itself, and how it’s described as a general-purpose invocation, this short little prayer seems to be a good PGM-style approach to invoking the Supreme Intelligence—whether as Zeus, Serapis, Nous, or even the Abrahamic God.  It’s something I want to try incorporating into some of my practices, and maybe even give it a whirl for dream divination itself.

Also, for ease of reference and for those who are interested, I already made a formal ritual page for this: the Divine Illumination of Dreams, accessible through the site menu (Rituals → Classical Hermetic Rituals → Divine Illumination of Dreams).

Basic Daily Practices of Mathesis

Since my self-initiation with Hermes, I’ve adopted something of a daily ritual practice that generally works with the forces I’ve been describing here.  It’s nothing too in-depth and nothing too difficult, but it does tie in a lot of both mathetic and grammatomantic practice (which is really what I was aiming for this whole time).  None of this is stuff that’s relegated to initiates of mathesis, either, and really anyone who’s interested can tap into this emerging current by engaging in a similar practice; ideally, I’d have anyone interested before initiation do a daily mathetic practice for some time well before I’d even consider initiating them to help them get adjusted to the forces and symbols of mathesis.  Still, a lot of this practice is stuff I’ve gone over before or at least mentioned, so it’s good to tie it all together into a coherent and cohesive practice.  Plus, it’s good for me to at least try out different things to do to see what works and what doesn’t, so that when I get around to teaching others this or writing a book or something, I can be more authoritative in what can help an initiate or seeker (or, to use my hypothetical school’s terms, the gnostai or hypognostai).

Now, I do a lot of ritual and magical work each day, so it’s interesting to see what exactly is mathetic in nature and what’s not; general awareness meditation, for instance, definitely helps with mathesis but itself isn’t mathetic, as is my routine energy work, but I don’t want to bring either of those into this discussion.  When it comes to mathetic practice, I do something like this each day, along with a rough minimum estimate of the time I spend on each and when:

  1. Invocation of the Tetractys and Tetractean meditation (15 minutes first thing in the morning)
  2. Meditation on the letter of the lunar date (15+ minutes in the morning)
  3. Daily grammatomantic divination (5 minutes in the morning)
  4. Offering to the god of the lunar date (optional, 5+ minutes preferably in the morning)
  5. Invocation of Hermes for sleep and dreams (5 minutes just before going to bed)
  6. Recollection of the day’s activities (5+ minutes when going to sleep)

So, let’s walk through each act of the day and when it’s done.

1.  Invocation of the Tetractys and Tetractean meditation.
This is something I was doing during my 10-day period of self-initiation, and Hermes has instructed me to maintain this practice.  Every day, usually in the early mornings, I pray the Invocation of the Tetractys and meditate on the Tetractys itself.  In doing this, I keep my practice focused on the overall symbolism, structure, and current of mathesis as it revolves around the Tetractys and the power of the numbers One through Ten, or the Monad through the Decad.  As I mentioned before, the Invocation itself is a specific prayer I’ve adapted from Pythagorean practice:

Bless us, divine Number, you who enform gods and men!  O holy, holy Tetractys, you who contain the root and the source of all eternal and eternally flowing creation! For the divine Number begins with the profound, pure Monad until it comes to the holy Tetrad, then it begets the mother of all, the all-comprising, all-bounding, first-born, never-swerving, never-tiring, holy Decad, the keyholder of all!

As for the whole process of invocation and meditation, the process goes like this:

  1. Brief breath awareness meditation to slow the breath and calm the mind.
  2. Invocation of the Tetractys.
  3. Clap ten times slowly, counting from one to ten as I clap.
  4. Perform the Tetractys visualization meditation.
  5. Brief breath awareness meditation to slow the breath and calm the mind.

2.  Meditation on the letter of the lunar date.
Like the ancient Greeks and most people before the widespread adoption of the Gregorian calendar, many people used the passage of the Moon around the Earth to time their months (and some people, like the Jews, Hindus, Chinese, and Muslims, still do this).  A lunar month has either 29 or 30 days, and each day of the lunar month can be ascribed its own Greek letter for divinatory and ritual purposes.  I described such a lunisolar grammatomantic calendar before,  and I’ve found it to be a tremendous help in my ritual practice generally and mathetically since I’ve developed it.  In a similar fashion to the symbols of the Mayan 20-day cycle calendar, every day of the lunar month can be given an overall “feeling” based on its associated Greek letter.  I meditate on the letter of the day, both in terms of phonological and symbolic nature of the letter.  The process I generally use is pretty straightforward and is a form of scrying or contemplation, though one could definitely experiment with using astral travel and trancework to do the same.  The meditation is similar to the Tetractean meditation, though since this usually comes right after the Tetractean visualization meditation, I’m already usually pretty calm and focused enough to jump right into the meditation.  But, if not, I start the whole process over:

  1. Brief breath awareness meditation to slow the breath and calm the mind.
  2. Intonation of the name of the letter, seeing the form of the letter clearly in my mind as a standalone image.
  3. Various pronunciation techniques of the sound letter, feeling how the letter feels in my mouth and lungs, how the air passes through my mouth and nose, how the letter sounds when paired with other letters (vowels and consonants together), etc.
  4. Another intonation of the name of the letter, seeing the form of the letter clearly in my mind, but this time emblazoned on a veil.
  5. Contemplation of the symbolism of the letter by walking through the veil into the “world” of the letter, noting what images, scenes, powers, and spirits are associated with the letter.  Once this is done, I walk out from the world taking the same path I took to get to where I was and pass through the veil once more.
  6. Another intonation of the name of the letter, seeing the form of the letter clearly in my mind as a standalone image, but this time “breathing in” the letter to harmonize my sphere with it.
  7. Brief breath awareness meditation to slow the breath and calm the mind.

3.  Daily grammatomantic divination.
Yes, of course, grammatomancy.  People who follow me on Twitter or my page on Facebook know that, whenever possible, I make a Daily Grammatomancy post, where I do a random daily divination using grammatomancy.  Specifically, I invoke Apollo and Hermes, the gods of divination, and ask the query:  “For myself and for all who come in contact with my words, on this day, on this very day, how best should we mortals live our lives in accordance with the divine will of the immortal gods?”  The query is phrased so that it’s as general as possible as a kind of newspaper horoscope-esque forecast for my readers and subscribers, but it works, and people have commented before that the advice I give through the daily grammatomantic divination has hit the nail on the head, more often than not.  My descriptions are, of necessity, shorter on Twitter than on Facebook, but (here’s a secret) I tend to customize the Twitter forecast based on my overall intuition while my Facebook post is more generalized but also more generally in-depth; as a bonus for those who follow my page on Facebook, I also talk about the lunar date letter.  By doing this, I understand what’s expected of me in the world, and how to respond to the different forces that the world presents me with every day.  If the lunar date letter meditation helps me understand what’s going on in the world around me based on the lunar date, then the daily grammatomantic divination helps me understand how best I’m to respond to it and act with those forces.  And, if you’re unaware of the divination method of grammatomancy, then you should totally buy my ebook on the subject from my Etsy, because a lot of mathesis is built up on the occult symbolism of the letters and I’ve already written at length about it in there.  Besides, while my Daily Grammatomancy posts can help, doing a daily divination with this system can help you specifically instead of being part of my general audience (awesome though you are).

4.  Offering to the god of the lunar date.
Based on the letter of the lunar date, I’ve also developed a method to arrange my offering rituals and worship of the Greek gods as well as a bevy of other spirits based on the lunar calendar; I’ve written about my lunar grammatomantic ritual calendar before, too, though I’ve refined the associations of each letter/day with the gods much since then.  The idea is that, as part of the symbolism of each letter in grammatomancy, we can ascribe a particular god or a set of gods to each letter based on their stoicheia (elemental/planetary/zodiacal force).  So, for example, if the day is ruled by Gamma, and we know that Gamma is associated with Taurus and Taurus with Aphrodite, then Aphrodite should be honored on the day of Gamma.  Now, I don’t make offerings to all the gods, though it certainly wouldn’t hurt; lighting a simple tealight and an invocation to honor the god of the day would probably be a good practice generally.  However, I do work closely with several gods, including Hermes (duh), Aphrodite, and Hephaistos, and it’s on the days ascribed to them that I break out the incense and wine and make a good offering to them, including praying their associated Orphic and (short) Homeric hymns, and generally spending time with them and asking for their blessing or doing work with them specifically.  In general, it’s best to do offerings to the gods in the morning at sunrise, though some gods prefer other times like midnight or noon, and generally my schedule isn’t flexible enough to allow for that, so I make offerings at some point in the day of the god.  As for the purpose of this practice, although not required, it’s good to get in good with all the gods above and below and develop good relationships with them.  Piety is a virtue for its own sake, and by living in accordance with the gods (as indicated by the lunar grammatomantic date and daily grammatomantic divination) and honoring the gods, we become closer to them, earn their blessing, and generally live better lives by and because of them.

5.  Invocation of Hermes for sleep and dreams.
This is another thing Hermes has instructed me to do, but unlike the rest of the daily activities, this is to be done just before retiring to bed for the night.  Just before bed, I go before Hermes’ shrine and invoke his darker, nighttime aspects of Hypnophoros and Oneirodōtēs, Sleep-bringer and Dream-giver, since these are jobs that are ascribed to him and, specifically, his caduceus.  Dream work, eventually, is going to be more important for me, which kinda sucks since my dream skills (recall, lucid dreaming, etc.) are shit.  However, I have noticed in the past that by going before him before sleep (and getting a decent amount of sleep, mind you, at least six hours) greatly increases the chance of vivid and remembered dreams.  To that end, Hermes has instructed me to approach him every night before going to bed as a way to formally close the day.  I take this time to touch base with Hermes, get out any urgent matters from my heart and mind to him, and perhaps ask for a specific omen in my dreams if he’s feeling gracious enough to grant me one.  As I rise the next day, I spend a few moments before doing anything else reviewing my dreams, whatever I can remember.  One can pray the Orphic Hymn to Terrestrial Mercury (Hermes Chthonios), which I usually do, but I also fine-tune my prayer with the following:

Hail, Hermēs Hypnophoros, you who bring sleep to weary eyes!
As I lie down, Hermēs, close my eyes with your wand and send me sweet sleep,
that I may rest tonight for a new day tomorrow, for this day is done.
Give me deep sleep, Hermēs, that my body may be rested and healed from this day’s work!
Help me preserve myself in darkness by ever walking in waking light, even in sleep, even in rest, even in healing.

Hail, Hermēs Oneirodōtēs, you who send dreams upon those who sleep!
As I sleep tonight, Hermēs, open my mind with your wand and send me dreams,
dreams that I remember, dreams that I know to be dreams as messages of the gods.
Give me true dreams for Truth, Hermēs; do not give me lies for lies, nor lies for truth, nor truth for lies, but truth for truth!
Help me come to understand the truth, reality, and power of the world, of the cosmos, of the universe, and of the gods.

Hail, Hermēs Nyktios! Hail, Hermēs Hypnophoros! Hail, Hermēs Oneirodōtēs! Hail, Hermēs Diaktoros!

6.  Recollection of the day’s activities.
Once I lie down in bed, I do something I picked up from John Michael Greer’s Learning Ritual Magic, but which was also done in a similar way by the old Pythagoreans themselves as well as other philosophers.  What I do is I walk through each event and action of the day, starting with going to bed and going backwards to the beginning of the day.  That way, I go from the most recent to the most distant memories of the day, walking them over and chewing on them to review my actions, whether I did things I was supposed to do, didn’t do things I was supposed to do, did things I wasn’t supposed to do, or didn’t do things I wasn’t supposed to do.  The same goes for things said or not said, thought or not thought, and the like.  Not only does this help out one’s memory skills, but it also plants the seed in the mind at a vulnerable time (drifting off to sleep) to improve one’s physical and mental actions in the future.  Generally, I tend to fall asleep well before I get to the beginning of the day, but according to JMG, the mind will keep going on its own; I don’t know about that, since I sometimes get distracted on tangential thoughts when I get to the threshold of sleep, but maybe that’s true.  If, however, your memory is so good that you get to the beginning of the day after everything else and you haven’t gotten to sleep yet, then return again to your dreams of the previous night (since, after all, they were things that happened, too!) and keep going from there to the previous day’s events, and so forth, until you get to sleep.

Now, this is just how my daily mathesis practice is shaping up to be; there’s nothing to say that I won’t add stuff to it in the future as I get deeper into this current, especially as I start working with the sphairai and odoi of the Tetractys.  For instance, it was also a habit of the Pythagoreans to take daily walks in the morning, and while I’d love to do that, I live out in the country where there are no sidewalks nor parks, just roads and fields in which I’d probably arouse suspicion by walking around in at 5 a.m. from the farmers; to substitute this, I might just do some light aerobic exercise, tai chi, yoga, or aikido katas to get the blood flowing and to wake up the body and mind.  Other magical practices often include a daily banishing ritual or energy work exercise, and I do plan on writing a mathetic version of both, but those are a little advanced while all the above is basic enough for anyone to pick up and start applying immediately.  Once I get to more magical and theurgical practices of mathesis, I’ll probably exchange the daily offering of the gods for something a little more personal and profound, perhaps expanding the daily meditation of the letter with a brief pathworking exercise, and so forth.  We’ll cross that bridge once we get there.

Dream Divination Ritual and Timing

The Sun enters Sagittarius today, the mutable fire sign and ultimate sign of Autumn in the northern hemisphere.  Among its many significations, Sagittarius rules any kind of higher learning or education: philosophy, theology, religion, mysticism, and the like.  Based on these associations, and there being so few institutions of higher education in the old days (e.g. colleges, seminaries, or universities), it’s perhaps not surprising that Sagittarius is also associated with foreign countries and exotic lands, as well as the people inhabiting them and those who taught high education.  Among the most distant places would be the stars and celestial spheres themselves, hence Sagittarius’ connection with astrology, celestial or high magic, divination, and especially dreams.  The ruling planet of Sagittarius, Jupiter in direct motion, bears many of these same significations, including nobility, greatness, and holiness.

It’s also the sign that rules my 9th house, with which it holds many similar associations.  So perhaps it’s fitting now that I start considering a ritual framework for working with dreams magically.  Dreams are not my cup of tea normally; my dream recall has been mediocre throughout my life, with many nights having no dreams to remember.

The Unlikely Mage during his Agrippa project recently summarized chapter 59 of Cornelius Agrippa’s First Book of Occult Philosophy.  I’ll leave you to read his post summarizing dreams and their significations (and, really, his whole amazing blog) for yourself, but Agrippa has this to say about divination by dreams:

… The rule of interpreting this is found amongst Astrologers, in that part which is wrote concerning questions; but yet that is not sufficient, because these kind of Dreams come by use to divers men after a divers manner, and according to the divers quality, and dispositions of the phantastick spirit: wherefore there cannot be given one common rule to all for the interpretation of Dreams. But according to the opinion of Synesius, seeing there are the same accidents to things, and like befall like; so be which hath often fallen upon the same visible thing, hath assigned to himself the same opinion, passion, fortune, action, event, and as Aristotle saith, the memory is confirmed by sence, and by keeping in memory the same thing knowledge is obtained, as also by the knowledge of many experiences, by little, & little, arts, and sciences are obtained. After the same account you must conceive of Dreams. Whence Synesius commands that every one should observe his Dreams, and their events, and such like rules, viz. to commit to memory all things that are seen, and accidents that befall, as well in sleep, as in watching, and with a diligent observation consider with himself the rules by which these are to be examined, for by this means shall a Diviner be able by little, and little to interpret his Dreams, if so be nothing slip out of his memory. Now Dreams are more efficacious, when the Moon over-runs that Sign, which was in the ninth number of the Nativity, or revolution of that yeer, or in the ninth Sign from the Sign of perfection. For it is a most true, and certain divination, neither doth it proceed from nature or humane Arts, but from purified minds, by divine inspiration. …

Basically, all those books with sets of symbols to be used in dreams?  Worthless; “there cannot be given one common rule to all for the interpretation of Dreams” because everyone’s spirit and soul is different and works in different ways.  Similarities may be observed, but these aren’t reliable enough to be made into rules for mass consumption and application.  The images in dreams are based on what happens in our lives and to ourselves, and so we should be aware of the constant activity going on around us and how we interpret it both consciously and subconsciously.  This helps us to not only understand our own minds and our awareness of the area around ourselves, but it helps to build up a conscious knowledge of the symbol set our minds are constantly building to help understand the world.

Agrippa gives several rules for when “Dreams are more efficacious”, and they all center around the 9th house in an astrological chart or horoscope.  Essentially, dreams for divination are best when the Moon is in the 9th house of someone’s chart; the other rules for yearly revolution charts or “the Sign of perfection” are a little more obscure, but since the Moon visits all the signs for about 2.5 days every 29 days, you’ve got a decent window for about two days running for good, honest, divinatory dreaming.  So, for instance, when the Moon is in Sagittarius (the sign ruling my 9th house), my dreams tend to be more potent and clear than otherwise.  Looking back through some of my journals, this actually makes sense, which is a surprise to me.

Because I don’t like to merely throw away dreams as I would trash, I figured I may as well approach them as any decent magician would: ritual and preparation!  Below is a simple ritual framework I’m gonna start using to work with my dreams more and see where this gets me.  It’s assumed that you know which signs rule over the houses of your natal chart, but if not, I’m sure you can find free astrology sites to do that for you.  Keep track of the Moon’s position, since that’s essential for this working.  Sure, the following ritual is a little involved, but then, it helps to dedicate oneself to dreaming when dreaming is Right for oneself, and it echoes the old asklepeions and temples where dreams were seen as holy messages sent to the worthy supplicant.

  1. The day before the Moon enters the sign of the 9th house, prepare yourself mentally and physically for dreaming.
    1. Banish, take a spiritual bath, and generally cleanse and clean oneself and your sleeping area.  
    2. Start winding down your food and drug intake: no caffeine, no heavy foods, light fruit or stomach-soothing foods only.  You can extend the fasting period as long as you like, but one day should be sufficient.
    3. Pray and ritual as you normally would.
    4. If you have a dream-conducive tea (mugwort, jasmine, rose, and valerian work well for me), start drinking this today and continue drinking it through the operation.
    5. Be sure to get a full night’s rest, at least 7.5 hours’ worth of sleep (or five sleep cycles).  Before resting, make an offering to Morpheus, the god of sleep: sing his Orphic Hymn, make an offering of opium or poppy incense, and light a black or dark candle to him.  Ask for his help in bestowing good and healthful rest, and protection in sleep and dreaming.
  2. The next day, the Moon should be in the sign ruling the 9th house before you go to bed at night.  Be sure you have at least ten hours to spare for proper rest and sleeping, with the addition of ritual.
    1. Fast.  Drink only water, and eat only white food with no salt.  Plain or vanilla yoghurt, bananas, and similar are suggested, if any food is to be eaten at all.  If you have a dream-conducive tea, keep drinking that.
    2. In an hour of Mercury while the Moon is in the sign ruling the 9th house, make an adoration to Hermes Chthonios or similar nighttime, underworld, or otherworld guide.  Say a prayer e.g. the Orphic Hymn to Terrestrial Hermes; make offerings of candles, incense, wine, or other preferred goods.  Ask for clarity, memory, truth, and direction in the realm of dreams and sleep.
    3. In an hour of the Moon while the Moon is in the sign ruling the 9th house, make an adoration to the Moon, a lunar angel like Gabriel, or any lunar deity.  Say a prayer e.g. the Orphic Hymn to the Moon; make offerings of candles, incense, wine, or other preferred goods.  Ask for help, guidance, and illumination in dreams and the realm of night.
    4. Set pen, paper, and flashlight by the bed for later.
    5. Meditate for at least twenty minutes before retiring for the night.
    6. Upon retiring, make another offering to Morpheus as before.  In addition, make an offering to his other role as the god of dreams: sing the Orphic Hymn to the Divinity of Dreams; make an offering of a white or lightly-colored candle, along with wine and sweet floral incense such as jasmine, rose, gardenia, violet, musk, or similar.  Ask for truth, understanding, memory, and power in one’s rest, that true and meaningful dreams be bestowed upon them, and similar.  If you have any specific requests that should be answered, now’s the time to do that.
    7. Go to sleep, but set a (quiet) alarm after 4.5 hours (or however long three sleep cycles would be).  Upon waking, write down any dreams that one may have had immediately.  Make another entreaty to Morpheus as God of Sleep as well as God of Dreams using prayer with more incense; their candles should not have burnt out yet, but if they have, light new ones.  If the request for a specific answer has not yet been answered, pray for it again; if so, and if another question needs to be answered, ask it; if no other questions need to be answered, ask for illumination, truth, and awareness generally in dreams.
    8. Return to sleep for at least another three hours; however much is up to you, since this second sleep is the final sleep of the day.  Upon waking, write down any dreams as before.  Make another offering of candles and wine to Morpheus as thanks for the previous night and dreams.
    9. Repeat the above for as as long as the Moon is in the sign ruling the 9th house, asking for more dreams along the way.

Happy dreaming!

Interim Notes

So, after the hurly-burly of the past few weeks, I’ve decided to take it a little easier on myself than I have been for a bit, at least until my birthday weekend in early October.  Once that’s passed, I’m going to adopt a regular five-week cycle of conjurations, going through each of the planetary angels, each of the elemental kings, and my natal genius every so often.  It’ll keep me in shape and good practice, to be sure, though I’ll be needing quite a bit more incense.  Good thing that frankincense is a good all-purpose offering.

Ever since I called up Gabriel, archangel of the Moon, two weeks ago, my dream recall has shot up.  I’ve never been much for dream recall, interpretation, or lucidity, to my occasional lament.  I’ve done better with getting hints through more direct means, though it’s not for lack of trying that I say this.  However, since meeting with Gabriel and having his influence begin to grow in my life, my suddenly and greatly improved dream recall is definitely one of the noticeable changes I’ve noticed.  To be fair, my dreams are more active and hectic than my day-to-day life and not some ephemeral, Enya-like menagerie of imagery, so that’s interesting.

In other news, the amazing fantabulous spledid A Bad Witch is starting a series of courses at the Open Path Sanctuary blog, including an introductory course on Hermeticism which you should TOTALLY get involved with.  It’s free, applicable to pretty much everyone interested in Western occultism, and yours truly is going to help out with mentoring and guiding people who need it.  (Dunno why she thinks me qualified to help with mentoring, but I’ll try to help all the same.)  The first course on the qualities of the elements and how they reflect in ourselves is online at this link.